9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Deputy President (Senator Newland) took the chairat 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Case of P. J. Farrell
– Is the Leader of the Senate in a position to answer questions -which I asked a few days ago concerning the claim of Mr. P. J.Farrell for a military pension?
– Yes. On the 25th July Senator Greene asked the following questions: -
The- following reply has now been furnished by the Treasurer: - 1, 2, and 3. Yes.
Senator Findley brought up the second report of the Printing Committee.
– (By leave.) - I desire to inform the Senate that the Honorable- P. G. Stewart has tendered his resignation of the portfolio of Minister for Works and Railways, and that His Excellency the Governor-General has accepted the resignation.
– Can “the Minister say Whether the Prime Minister in filling the vacancy will take into consideration the advisableness of apportioning to this chamber a fair quota of the administrative work and responsibility of the Government?
– I can assure the honorable senator that the Prime Minister, when making any appointment to the Cabinet, will take all such facts into consideration.
– It is about time he did.
The following papers were presented : -
Canned Fruit Bounty Act - Return of bounty paid up to and including 31st July, 1924.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 102.
Lands Acquisition Act - Notifications of land acquired for Postal purposes -
Naval Defence Act- - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1924, Nos. 110, 111.
Papua- Ordinance No. 4 of 1924 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 1), 1023-1924.
War Service Homes Act - Notification of land acquired in New South Wales at Kempsey, Parramatta.
Duty on Straw Paper.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in a position to reply to questions that I asked on the 31st July, concerning the departure of Mr. Herbert Brookes, a member of the Tariff Board,, for England?
– On the 31st July the honorable senator asked the following questions: -
The answer is as follows: -
The information has been obtained, but in view of the action taken in the courts of New South Wales, matters involved in the questions asked ore sub judice, and it is not thought proper that any statement on the subject should be made at present.
– I should like to know if the Minister . for Home- and Territories has any later information to give the Senate in - connexion with the expedition which it was reported was about to leave Darwin to search . for survivors of the Douglas Mawson? If it is a fact, as alleged, that the vessel- upon which the expedition had arranged , to travel is unseaworthy, and if the Minister places any reliance upon the statements that survivors of the Douglas Mawson are being detained by a tribe of aborigines, will he consider the advisableness of sending a destroyer in order that a prompt investigation may be made?
– We do not place reliance upon the rumours that the vessel engaged for the expedition is unseaworthy, because it has only recently been surveyed, and Lloyd’s certificate of seaworthiness is in the possession of the department. Even if credence is to be attached to the report that white women are being detained by aborigines, it would take too long to send a destroyer to Darwin. As the steamer engaged for the expedition is now, probably, on the scene, it is not considered necessary to take any further action.
– On the 1st August Senator Lynch asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions: -
I am now able to. furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senators questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that, in accordance with the provisions of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, when the arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and Mr. Dunk came before the court, the judge refused to ratify the agreement?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : - :
No. Mr. Dunk applied to the court on two occasions. The court was not asked to ratify the agreement on either occasion, and the court did not question the agreement. On the first occasion, the application by Mr. Dunk was dealt with by the court as an action on the agreement. The findings of the court in the first case were followed by the judge in the second case.
SenatorFOLL asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Has he seen a statement in last Friday’s press to the effect that a number of people from Australia and New Zealand have been refused admission, to the United States of America, and consequently have been caused great inconvenience and expense?
Will he, through the Prime Minister, enter into communication with the American ConsulGeneral, with a view to that gentleman keeping the Home and Territories Department advised when the Australian quota is full, so that the Department may decline passports under such circumstances?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a minor bill dealing with a very big sum of money. Its sole purpose is to appropriate £10,000,000 and pay it into a trust fund for the payment of pensions which have been, or may be, granted under the war pensions sections of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act. It does not deal with the rates of pension or with the conditions governing the granting of pensions. As honorable senators are aware, it has been the practice in the Commonwealth for some years to . appropriate sums of money from time to time, and pay them into trust funds for various purposes. The last appropriation granted by Parliament to the war pensions trust fund was towards the end of 1922, and the amount then appropriated was also £10,000,000. At the end of the last financial year the unexpended balance of this appropriation was £867,992. As this is barely sufficient to cover little more than three pay days, further provision is necessary. The budget papers distributed last week supply full information as to the amount of money paid out for war pensions and the total annual liability in this respect. They also show that the number of pensions in existence on the 30th June last was 236,761. I am sorry to say the number is increasing, although it is now six years since the war terminated. The increase is due not to additional claims from soldiers, but to the fact that the number of dependants of soldiers is increasing. New claims for pensions are being received at an average rate of 300 a week, mostly on account of newlymarried wives and children recently born. Within the last twelve months 14,166 new pensions have been granted, 7,554 pensions have been cancelled for various reasons, and 2,101 pensioners have died. It will be seen that, during the period, about two pensions were granted for every one that was cancelled. The net increase in the pension list for the financial year was 4,511. The total number of pensions granted since the inception of war pensions is 337,183. Deaths have reduced the number by 12,374, and cancellations by 88,048, leaving 236,761 pensions still in force. As there is nothing contentious in this bill, I trust that it will have a speedy passage.
– I join with the Minister (Senator Pearce) in trusting that this measure will have a speedy passage. I have a small amendment, which, if the Minister will accept it, will be a means of expediting the passage of the measure although it will possibly add to the total number of pensioners. In common with other honorable senators, I have found that a good deal of dissatisfaction exists in connexion with the amounts paid by way of pensions. The amendment which I propose to submit provides in plain language that one of the conditions under which we allow money to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue for pension purposes is that the widow of every soldier who served in the Australian Imperial Force shall be paid a. pension of at least £2 per fortnight. I take it that what is termed a living rate is being granted to widows, but there are quite a number of cases in which the department denies that the death of an exsoldier was due to active service, and their widows are refused a war pension. I wish to provide that, irrespective of the cause of death, the widow of an ex-soldier shall receive a pension of £1 a week. If honorable senators representing the various states are to support the professions of the people during the war period, provision must be made in the direction I have indicated. I do not think any one dreamt of the widow of any man who served at the front being left unprovided for. I understand the Minister is anxious to expedite business, and as he is preparing the ropes and tackle with which to bind and gag honorable senators, by , giving notice of his intention to move the suspension of the Standing Orders, we may take it that there is a possibility of Parliament being closed at an early date. I wish, so far as I can, to assist the Minister in that direction.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that a pension should be paid to a widow regardless of the cause of the death of the husband?
– I am.
– Even if the ex-soldier had been run over by a tram?
– I say quite clearly that I wish to provide that the widow of any soldier who served shall be entitled to a pension. That is the issue I wish to raise, and one which should be settled. I am conversant with the case of a man named Trainor, who served with the Australian Imperial Force, and died after receiving hospital treatment for three or four years. If his death had occurred six days earlier his widow would have received a full pension, but because he lingered a few days longer - and during this time he was under the care of medical officers of the Defence Department - she now receives. only 4s. 6d. per week. That kind of thing has to stop. So far as I understand the feeling of this community - costly and “ big as the bill may be - our promises must be honoured. “When the bill is in committee I intend to move that the following new clause be inserted : -
Provided that from the money so appropriated the widow of any member who has served with the Australian Imperial Force shall receive an amount not less than £2 per fortnight.
I have stated the fortnightly amount because I believe that is in conformity with the provisions, of the act. The Minister is quite right in asking if a pension would have to paid to the widow of a soldier who was killed as the result of a street accident. I believe the people of this country are not prepared to leave unsupported the widows of men who served in the Australian Imperial Force. Someone has to support them. It is quite extraordinary to find some people in such a frame of mind as to oppose a proposal of this kind on the ground that the additional expenditure that it would involve n ight amount to a very large sum. The Minister, in moving the second reading of the bill, said it was a minor measure; the amendment I propose to submit is of a similar character. I intend to submit it in order to give the Senate an opportunity to direct the Government to wipe off some of our indebtedness to the members of the Australian Imperial Force.
– The returned soldiers’ executive accepted the present pension system as satisfactory.
– There are some here who represent the returned soldiers’ executive, ‘but, fortunately or unfortunately, I represent a number whom the executive does not represent, and, in that capacity, I am going to submit an amendment which I think is necessary. I have indicated the nature of the amendment so that honorable senators will be able to record an intelligent vote when it is moved in committee.
– There is a considerable number of returned men who, when they enlisted, were in a fit condition, and who have either during the war or since its termination developed complications. Some of these ex-soldiers think that they have a legitimate, claim against the Repatriation Department for support, but when their cases are considered, the board, on the evidence before it, comes to the conclusion that the illness is not due to war service. I should like the Government to give an assurance that before the present session terminates they will bring down a small amending bill to meet cases of this description. A case was brought under my notice some time ago, which I have mentioned in the Senate, where the medical men in the department held one opinion and other medical men equally high in the profession held a distinctly opposite opinion. In cases of that kind the men concerned ought to have the benefit of the doubt. It was never contemplated by any one that men who served with the Australian Imperial Force should be treated in this niggardly fashion. Promises were made by governments, and by the people, that when men returned, broken in health as a result of war service, they would be properly treated. It seems that advantage is being taken of some technicality to deprive them of what they regard as their right. Before the present session terminates, an amending measure should be passed providing that where there is a division of medical opinion the men shall get the benefit of the doubt.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 3. Provided that from the money so appropriated the widow of any member who served with the Australian Imperial Forces shall receive an amount of not less than £2 per fortnight.”
I need add nothing to my previous utterances in this connexion. I consider that the widow of each man who died from injuries received in the recent Great War should receive a pension of at least £1 per week.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the new clause proposed by Senator Gardiner is not relevant to the subject-matter of the bill.
– Then the speech of the Minister was not relevant.
– This is not a bill which lays down the conditions under which the money shall, be expended, but a bill to appropriate, the money to a. trust fund. The Repatriation Act sets out the amounts that shall be paid in certain cases, and also the persons who are eligible to receive them. This bill does not purport to amend that act. This matter has already been decided by the practice of the Senate, following a ruling of the President in connexion with the Excise Tariff Bill 1907-8. That ruling, which was not disagreed with by the Senate, was to the following effect: -
Although the Senate has always exercised its right to request alterations in respect of Money Bills, whether such alterations may involve an increase of an item or amount named in a bill or not, it has been held that such requests, in accordance with the wording of the Constitution, can only deal with “ items or provisions “ already therein - that is, in the bill when received from the House of Representatives - and, therefore, when in connexion with the Excise Tariff Bill of 1907-8 a proposal was submitted in committee to request the House of Representatives to insert a new item, the Chairman ruled the motion out of order on the above ground; the President was appealed to, and gave a ruling upholding the decision of the Chairman for the following reason, viz. : - “ That the Senate could not ignore the provisions of the Constitution, which limited the powers of this House to requesting amendments to, or the omission of, items already in the bill. The proposal to which exception had been taken was not an amendment of any item in the bill, but rather a request for the insertion of a new item.”
This is a bill which we cannot amend, in so far as it provides for an appropriation of money and the payment of that money to a trust fund. It is clear that the purpose of the new clause is not to amend an item in the bill, but to put something new into it. It is, therefore, out of order on that ground. It is out of order also on the ground of irrelevancy, in that it purports to amend an act which fixes the amount of the pension, and sets out the persons who shall be entitled to receive the money. This bill does not purport to amend that act.
– The Minister’s point of order does not apply in this case. I move this new clause as a request. The purpose of the bill is to apply out of the Consolidated Revenue the sum of £10,000,000 for war pension purposes. My new clause proposes to place a condition on that appropriation, in that it provides that every widow of a soldier shall be paid at least £1 per week. If that suggestion should meet with the approval of the other House, I realize that an amending bill will be necessary to give effect to it. When a bill for the appropriation of money is before this chamber, surely we can suggest how the money shall be used! If the Minister persists in his attitude he will curtail the powers of the Senate.
– The ruling I have quoted was given in connexion with a request.
– The purpose of the bill is to appropriate £10,000,000. My amendment is to invite the House of Representatives to agree that the money shall be used in such a way that every widow of a soldier shall get at least £2 per fortnight. In so doing we are not trespassing on the privileges of the other House. The case stated by the Minister is not in accord with that which I have suggested. My proposal is to add to the bill a new clause to decide what shall be done with the money when appropriated. If agreed to by the other . House, an amendment of the act will be- necessary.
– That is the trouble.
– “While this question must be decided by yourself, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I point out that if Senator Gardiner’s proposal is in order other honorable senators also may desire to provide for cases which, they have in. their minds. I know of a returned soldier who has developed acute rheumatoid arthritis, which he considers was caused by his war service. Another returned soldier of my acquaintance has developed tubercular symptoms, and nothing will convince him that his condition is not due to his service in the late war. Another is suffering from debility, and ho also considers that he is entitled to a, pension. If Senator Gardiner’s claim is admitted, it must necessarily open the door for other honorable senators to make similar requests. In that case we should reach almost the position of absurdity.
– This is a bill to appropriate a certain sum of money, and to pay it into a trust fund for a certain purpose. I see nothing in .the bill to indicate the manner in which the money shall be expended. Having consulted the Standing Orders, I rule that at this stage, on the ground of irrelevancy, the clause is not in order.
– I move -
That the ruling of the Temporary Chairman (Senator McDougall) be dissented from.
I do not desire to hinder the passage of the bill, but I should like the question of dissent to be held over to enable me to consult the authorities.
– The question raised by the honorable senator could not be held over without blocking the progress of the bill.
– It is now necessary for me to leave the chair and report the matter to the Deputy President.
In the Senate :
– In the committee Senator Gardiner moved -
That the’ following new clause be inserted: - “ 3. Provided that from the money so appropriated the widow of any member who served with the Australian Imperial Force shall receive an amount of not less than £2 per, fortnight.”
A point of order was raised by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to the effect that the clause was not relevant to the bill, and he submitted authorities in support of his contention. Since the bill provides for the appropriation of certain moneys and for their payment into a trust fund, and since it does not relate to the manner in which the money shall be paid, I ruled that the clause was not relevant to the subject matter of the bill, and, “therefore, was out of order. Senator Gardiner has submitted a motion to dissent from that ruling.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the question requires immediate determination.
– The first point I take is that the clause is not relevant, and in support of my contention I rely on standing order 139. The bill is one to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue a sum for war pensions. The measure does not purport to lay down the conditions under which the pensions may be paid, or to whom they shall be paid. Another act on the statute-book deals with those matters. Senator Gardiner’s proposal certainly relates to the class of persons to whom the pension should be paid and the amount of the pensions. 1 draw attention to the ruling given on the Excise Tariff Bill 1907-8, in which it was laid down that -
Although the Senate has always exercised its right to request alterations in respect of money bills, whether such alterations may involve an increase of an item or amount named in a bill or not, it has been held that such requests in accordance with the wording of the Constitution can only deal with “ items or provisions” already therein - that is, in the bill when received from the House of Representatives.
There is no mention in the bill before, the Senate of the amount to be paid or the class of persons to whom it is to be paid, and I therefore submit that from both those aspects the request is out of order.
– I regard this point as most important. I always act with circumspection in matters affecting the constitutional rights of either branch of the legislature. Senator Pearce claims that my request is irrelevant because there is nothing in the bill concerning the amount of the pension, or to whom it is to be paid, but the Minister, in his own statement, furnished the Senate with the figures relating to the payment of war pensions, the number of persons participating in the distribution, the increases, decreases, deaths, ite. It is self-evident that £10,000,000 is to be granted under this bill, and I have moved to provide for the payment of £2 per fortnight to war widows. Surely if the Senate has any rights at all this is a moderate proposal to make. I value the rights of the Senate in this matter2 and honorable senators should see that their privileges are enlarged rather than curtailed. I did not dream that a point of order would be taken on this question. I claim that the proposed clause is perfectly relevant, since it relates directly to the £10,000,000 mentioned in the previous clause. The Minister, when introducing the bill, referred at length to the manner in which the money was to be used. If, therefore, I am irrelevant in doing so, the Minister also must have been irrelevant when he pointed out that 88,000 pensions had been cancelled. I submit that it is in order for the committee to accept my requested amendment. I hope, sir, that you will give this question careful consideration, because, in my judgment, it involves the constitutional rights of the Senate, and I am not prepared to allow any invasion of those rights without protest.
– I hope, Mr. Deputy President, that you will not uphold the ruling of the Temporary Chairman of Committees. The new clause proposed by Senator Gardiner is quite relevant to the subject-matter of the bill. The Minister, when introducing the measure, pointed out that certain expenditure was being incurred on account of war pensions, and the purpose of the proposed amendment is to make more liberal provision for certain widows. It is quite in order. Clause 1 provides that this measure may be cited as the “War Pensions Appro priation Act 1924” Clause ‘ 2 makes provision for the appropriation of £10,000,000 for war pensions, and I submit that the committee has a perfect right to express an opinion in regard to the distribution of that money.
– In the right way, yes.
– The Repatriation Act gives the Senate that right.
– Senator Gardiner’s proposal is to apply in a certain direction a portion of the amount to be appropriated. He wants to ensure that widows of men who fought in the great war shall receive at least £1 per week. Senator Pearce referred, in support of his argument, to a decision in connexion with the Excise Bill of 1907-08. I was in the Senate when that measure was passed, and I am satisfied that there is no analogy between the positions then and now. It is not a question whether or not this money shall be appropriated in the direction suggested by Senator Gardiner, but whether we are to contract the rights of this Senate. In my opinion, it is wise, wherever possible, to expand rather than to contract them.
– That is not the question.
– I venture to say that, if the ruling given by the Temporary Chairman is upheld, the rights of the Senate in relation to money bills will be restricted.
– Rubbish !
– That retort is not an argument. I hope, sir, that you will not endorse the ruling of the Temporary Chairman of Committees.
– Cases like this have occurred on several occasions. The present position is as if an honorable senator were to propose, on a bill imposing taxation, which, as everybody knows, is a very short measure, an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The positions are quite analogous. A bill imposing taxation is a money bill, whereas a taxation assessment bill is not. If Senator Gardiner wishes to secure the amendment he suggests, it is perfectly within his rights to bring down a short amendment of the Repatriation Act, and to effect his object in that way. The point we are now considering in no way involves the rights of the Senate. We do not forfeit any right in regard to money bills, either by nega- tiving or agreeing to the request. It has nothing whatever to do with the rights of the Senate, but it has a great deal to do with the question of relevancy. The proper place for an extraneous provision of this nature is in a separate piece of legislation. For this reason I hope that the ruling of the Temporary Chairman of Committees will be upheld. As I have said, on several occasions there have been attempts to insert in bills imposing taxation an amendment of the Taxation Assessment Act, but on every occasion amendments to that end have been ruled out on the very grounds that have been taken in the present case.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - The Temporary Chairman of Committees has intimated that Senator Gardiner has taken exception Vo his ruling in committee that the proposed new clause 3 is out of order. From my reading of the Standing Orders, and having regard to the decisions of various Presidents, I am bound to say that ‘ the ruling given by the Temporary Chairman of Committees is correct. In my opinion, it would have been competent for the committee on clause 2 to suggest, by request, an increase or reduction of the amount proposed to be appropriated. ^Senator Gardiner’s amendment introduces an innovation so far as this bill is concerned. His amendment suggests the right of the committee to apportion moneys appropriated for various purposes, under existing acts. I uphold the ruling of the Temporary Chairman of Committees.
In committee :
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to add the sum of £1,000,000 to the amount of the appropriation.
In the Senate the Deputy President ruled that it would be competent for the committee to take this course, and I presume I shall be in order. My desire is to provide for widows of men who served in the Australian Imperial Forces.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that as the committee has already passed clause 2,- it cannot now be amended. Senator Gardiner may, on the motion for the adoption of the report, move for the reconsideration of the clause, or at the third reading stage he may move for its recommittal. I ask for your ruling on the point.
– The Minister has taken the point that the request is not in order. I certainly would have directed attention to it but for the fact that recently the Chairman of Committees, after a clause had been passed, permitted it to be reconsidered. I hold that the course then taken was irregular. Since I am asked for a decision now I rule that as the committee has passed clause 2, it will be necessary for Senator Gardiner, at the report stage, to ask for its recommittal in order to submit his requested amendment of it.
– I am satisfied that honorable senators opposite are not in favour of widows’ pensions, so I shall let the matter stand.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Senator PEARCE’) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– Mr. Deputy President, would I be in order in moving to have the bill recommitted with a view to increasing the amount of the appropriation from £10,000,000 to £11,000,000 in order to provide pensions for widows of members of the Australian Imperial Force ?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newland). - The honorable senator can move to recommit the bill for the purpose of increasing the amount of the appropriation only. When I gave a ruling a few moments ago I did not remind him of the obvious fact that he had lost his opportunity to amend clause 2 of the bill at that stage because the clause had already been agreed to by the committee.
– I shall let the matter pass for the moment, and find some other means of bringing it forward.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Recommittal.
Consideration resumed from 17th July (vide page 2172), on amendment by Senator Grant -
That the following new clause be inserted to follow clause 7 : - “ 7a. Notwithstanding anything contained in section 27 of the principal act the awards made by the Public Service Arbitrator shall be observed by the board.”
– Having given this matter further consideration, I desire to withdraw my amendment and substitute for it the following : -
That the following new clause be inserted to follow clause 7 : - “ 7a. Notwithstanding’ anything contained in section 27 of the principal act the board shall not fix a lesser salary in respect of any office than that fixed by relative determination made by the arbitrator.”
– That is practically the same as the amendment circulated by Senator Pearce.
– If Senator Grant will give me the opportunity, I shall explain what the Government propose.
– The amendment circulated by the Minister can be moved by him at a later stage. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment with a view to moving another.
– Is it iSie pleasure of the committee that the honorable senator have leave to withdraw his amendment?
– Not at this stage. As the honorable senator has refused to extend the courtesy to me I refuse to extend it to him.
– Objection having been taken, leave to withdraw the amendment is not granted.
– I have no objection to Senator Pearce taking advantage of every possible form of the Senate, but (his is a non-party matter.
– That being so, why did not the honorable sena- tor give the Minister the opportunity to tell the Senate what the Government propose ?
– The Government did not wish to do anything in the matter a few days ago.
– The great majority of honorable senators are anxious to do the right thing for the Commonwealth
Public Service. It has been frequently stated in the press and elsewhere that the industrialists of the Commonwealth are not prepared to abide by arbitration awards, and that they strongly desire to indulge in direct action. To an almost negligible extent that is true, but the great bulk of the organized workers and the Public Service generally are anxious to work in harmony with and to observe arbitration awards. Are the Government equally anxious to observe those awards? I ask for . a straight-out answer to that question. Or are they anxious to see the members of the Public Service abandon their posts and go on strike in the good old-fashioned way 1 It costs, not only time, but also a good deal of money to submit a claim to an arbitration court. Sometimes I think that the fees extracted from the workers by professional gentlemen are altogether unjustifiable. However, the organized workers are prepared to suffer even this great injustice in order to have their claims heard by arbitrators. One branch of the Commonwealth Public Service affected by the classification of the Public Service Board has incurred considerable expense in submitting a claim to the Public Service Arbitrator, and the Arbitrator, after hearing the evidence, has given an award which the public servants in question are prepared to stand by. Are the Government prepared to uphold that award, or by side-tracking it do they seek to foist lower wages on certain public servants ? That is what I want to know.
– The honorable senator does not wish to know anything of the kind.
– Let Senator Grant read the amendment circulated by the Government. I think it gives all we want.
– Senator Pearce proposes to insert the following sub-section in section 27 of the principal act: - (7.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, where the salary allotted to an officer by the classification is less than the salary fixed for that officer byor under a determination made under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920, that officer shall, so long as he occupies the office to which he is assigned by the classification, continue to receive the higher salary fixed by or under the determination.
Surely the Government do not consider that any honorable senator of the Opposition would accept a proposition of that kind. I challenge Ministers to say what it means.
– Why does not the honorable senator give us a chance to do so?
– It means that under an award public servants cannot rise to a higher level.
– Surely Senator Pearce does not imagine that honorable senators on this side are foolish enough to be taken in by such transparent camouflage. The proposal is altogether too thin to deceive any one. The other day Senator Thompson pointed out that the classification basis was £240 as against £238 under the arbitrator’s award. It is true that under the classification the men would start at a higher minimum, but whereas the classification provides for annual increments of £6, the award of the Arbitrator provided for annual increments of £8. The position of the public servant at the end of the seventh year under the classification or the award would work out as follows : -
What the Minister proposes is that the award made by the Arbitrator shall not be interfered with by the classification of the Public Service Board, but that the employee affected is not to have an opportunity to rise to a higher classification. That is the most outrageous proposal I have heard in this chamber for a long time.
– It would be if itwere true.
– It means that, irrespective of a man’s industry and capacity, he shall, while occupying his present position, have no possibility of receiving a higher salary. That is my interpretation of the Government’s proposal. It may be said by the Government that we propose to limit the powers of the board, out, if we do, it is only to the extent of compelling it to observe the award rates. On careful examination of the amendment of which I have given notice, it will be found that it conveys exactly the intention that I have endeavoured to express. It means that the board shall not fix the salary in respect of any office below that fixed by the arbitrator.
– The honorable senator is dealing with a position which does not exist.
– I am not doing anything of the kind. If Senator Reid will study the position, he will find that under the classification public servants in the seventh grade will receive a maximum salary of £276, instead of £286 as provided for under the award, or a reduction of £10 per annum. As there are about 800 public servants in this section, the reduction would amount to about £8,000 per annum. I do not blame Senator Reid for advocating a reduction of that character if he thinks it justified, but I do not think he is conversant with the position. In any case, the Minister has objected to a withdrawal of my amendment to enable me to more accurately express what I desire.
– If the amendment is defeated, the honorable senator will be in order in moving the further amendment, of which he has given notice.
– A guilty conscience needs no accuser. The honorable senator was careful to explain that this was not a party measure, but it is obvious, from the tactics displayed by Senator Grant that an attempt has been made to make it so. What is the history of this matter ? This is not Senator Grant’s bill, but a measure brought forward by the Government. A discussion arose when the bill was last in committee because of a clash between the arbitrator’s award and the salaries which would be paid as the result of a reclassification made by the Public Service Board. The whole matter was discussed by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, and the opinions expressed were to the effect that, as a result of reclassification, the salaries of individual officers should not be reduced below the award rate fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator. Senator Grant jumped in with an amendment. Having listened to the discussion at that time, and having been impressed with the arguments used, I moved that progress be reported toenable the Government to see what could be done to meet the case. Progress was not reported at the instigation of Senator Grant or any other honorable senator opposite. The general impression to be gained from the arguments submitted was that, in the opinion of honorable senators, those public servants who had had their rates fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator should not have to submit to a reduction in salary. The motion to report progress was carried, and, in the meantime, the Government gave consideration to the matter, and circulated an amendment which embodied their views- The amendment provides for inserting the following sub-section in section 27 of the principal act: - (7.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, where the salary allotted to an officerby the classification is less than the salary fixed for that officer by or under a determination made under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920, that officer shall, so long as he occupies the office to which he is assigned by the classification, continue to receive the higher salary fixed by or under the determination.
Senator Grant did not extend the usual courtesy to a Minister in charge of a bill by informing me that he proposed to amend the amendment that he had moved when we reported progress some time ago. The amendment now circulated by Senator Grant is to insert the following new clause : - 7a. Notwithstanding anything contained in section 27 of the principal act, the Board shall not fix a lesser salary in respect of any office than that fixed by relative determination made by the Arbitrator.
Senator Grant now sees that his original amendment is unworkable, and he has abandoned it. I can only regard his action as an indication of hostility and an endeavour to gain some party advantage. Surely Senator Grant does not think I am not sufficiently alive to the situation to understand his intention. In the ordinary way he would have informed me that it was his intention to amend his amendment, and would have waited to see what the Government intended doing. That is the usual practice. In view of the attitude of the honorable senator, I refused to allow him to withdraw his amendment, and I now move to amend his amendment by leaving out all the words after the word “in,” and inserting in lieu thereof the amendment of which I have given notice, starting with the words “ the last preceding sub-section-
– The Minister will not be in order in moving to amend Senator Grant’s amendment at this stage. He will have to move for the recommittal of the bill.
– Senator Grant has moved to insert a new clause.
– The Minister’s amendment is to amend a clause already passed. The bill was recommitted to consider a proposed new clause 7a. Senator Grant’s amendment is to insert a new clause, 7a.
– If you rule, Mr. Temporary Chairman,, that I cannot amend the amendment submitted by Senator Grant, I shall ask the committee to reject it, because, if this subclause is to be carried, it’ must be amended in such a way that it Will give effect to what the committee desire. We do not know what is intended by Senator Grant’s amendment. I invite the committee to reject the amendment, on the understanding that I will move to have the bill recommitted to insert the proposed new clause of which I have given notice. The effect of -the proposed new clause I intend submitting is first of all that the classification stands. The Government say that it must stand, otherwise Parliament stultifies itself. We have appointed a Public Service Board, which has authority to classify the Service, but the effect of the amendment which I am proposing will be that the salary of any officer which has been fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator will not be reduced under the classification so long as that officer retains his present position. Senator Grant has suggested that certain public officers will not be able to rise to a higher classification. That is ridiculous, because, if that were the case in relation to the amendment submitted by the Government, a similar position would exist if Senator Grant’s amendment were adopted.
– Yes. The system is practically the same. The amendment submitted by Senator Grant applies to all salaries. The board has the power to reduce salaries as at present fixed by the arbitrator. “We are proposing that the classification shall stand where an officer has received from the arbitrator an award which gives him a salary higher than that fixed by the classification. Such officer shall receive a higher salary than those fixed by the arbitrator without coming back to the arbitrator. In order that the amendment may be in conformity with the drafting of the bill, and as Senator Grant has refused to extend to the Government the usual courtesy of supplying me with a copy of his new amendment, or informing me that it was his intention to submit it, I intend to treat the proposal as a hostile move on the part of the Opposition, and to ask the committee to amend the bill” in the direction desired by the Government. I ask the committee to reject Senator Grant’s original amendment. If that is done, I shall move that the bill be recommitted, and, if that is agreed to, I shall submit my amendment. The number of persons who will receive reduced salaries as a result of the classification has been grossly exaggerated. I have a statement from the Public Service Board that 1,200 letter carriers have had their salaries increased above the award rates and will reach their maximum two years earlier than under the award. At the age of 21, the award rate was £195 ; the classification rate is. £202. At 22 years of age the award rate was £200 as against the classification rate of £210. At 23 years of age the rates are respectively £206 and £218; at 24 years, £212 and £226; and at 25 years of age £218 and £234. Mail branch assistants to the number of 1,000 have had their salaries increased, and will reach a much higher maximum without promotion. The minimum of £195 at 21 years of age is increased by the classification to £202, and the maximum of £230 to £276. Thus 2,200 men in the mail branch, classified in the lower grade, will by the classification benefit to the extent of £20,000 per annum over and above the arbitration award rates.
– Will that classification operate this year ?
– It will operate from the time it was gazetted, but no reduction under it will take effect until after the expiry of a period of twelve months. Senior sorters number 850, 600 of them being at the maximum salary.
Their salaries have been increased or reduced by the classification as follows:–
The reductions range from £2 to £10 per annum, but, as will be seen from the salaries, no minimum award workers are included. The salary of £276 per annum, together with £39 child endowment, makes £315.
– Is there any child endowment under the award rate 1
– Yes. The classification provides for two tests - one when a salary of £230 is reached, and the other at £252. The’ first has been in operation for many years, and is therefore not new. The second test is prescribed in order to secure efficient officers. The sorters’ union professes to be indignant regarding these “ irritating tests,” but not one of the 850 members of that union will ever be called upon to pass the test. They must know that,’ as the classification Gazette, page 1356, clearly sets out -
Provided that officers who have passed an examination for promotion as seniorsorter shall be exempted from tests if the board is satisfied from reports furnished that the officers’ diligence, conduct and efficiency are satisfactory.
The whole of the members of the union now in the service passed for promotion as senior sorters as a condition of their promotion to that position, and are free from further tests, which will only apply to new entrants from the lower ranks. In view of the rash statements that have been made during this debate, it is well that these facts should be recorded. I invite the committee to reject Senator Grants amendment.
– I am sorry that the Minister read that last statement. He is evidently trying to cloud the issue and misrepresent the facts. I am endeavouring to keep this debate clear from rash statements, and should like, from the Minister, a clear statement concerning his amendment.. Some honorable members can read in it something which the Minister would not suggest to the committee in a straightforward way, namely, a reduction of salaries. His amendment reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, where the salary allotted to an officer by the classification is less than the salary fixed for that officer by or under a ‘determination made under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920, that officer shall, so long as he occupies the office to which he is assigned by the classification, continue to receive the higher salary fixed ‘by or under the determination;
I hope that the Minister will give me credit for acting in good faith when I express doubt as to the meaning of the words, “so long as he occupies the position to which he is assigned by the classification.” I give the Minister credit for endeavouring to give effect to the arbitrator’s award.
– And for endeavouring to see that no one should suffer a decrease of salary.
– I desire to know whether the words to which I have referred “would have the effect of providing a limit to which ‘a man may . go if placed in another position.
– No, because the classificationhas already been issued.
– There can be only one ‘classification.
– If he is^ : a senior sorter now, and the -‘classification provides for £10 a year less, he is continuing to occupy the office to which he is assigned by the ‘classifica’ti’on. But, if he takes s&me b’ther office, he will get the salary for that office,, even if Tt is less. This, matter should be made quite clearWhen ‘the question of the departure from the arbitration award arose, . 1 considered that it was wrong to bring about a reduction of salary suddenly. I . recqgnize that ‘SenatorPearce, withhis . multifarious duties, has not time to look ‘into all these matters–
– I have looked into this matter carefully.
– The honorable senator has not seen ‘the same side o’f it that I have. I’havei’t on good authority;, which I am willing ‘to . give., that in one union alone in Sydney 880 “men are a’ffected.
-^There are : ntft ‘880 men in one union “who nave suffered ‘reductions.
– This classification either reduces the salaries or prevents increases of salaries in the case of 880 men in one branch.
– To which branch does the honorable senator refer?
– Either the mail assistants, or the sorters’ branch.
– There are only 850 positions altogether, and as some of the men had their salaries increased, it is clear that that number could not have suffered, a reduction. The estimate of the Public Service Board is that there are only 60 men whose maximum will be reduced.
– I have spoken only after a most careful investigation of the position, and after consultation with -officers of the letter Sorters Association. They -showed me clearly that, in their union alone, the salaries of 880 men were to be reduced, or that they would lose their increments. One man said to me^ On the 1st September next I was due for a £10 increase, but that has now gone.” Any classification that reduces the actual salary, or robs men of increments, is a . reduction. If the Minister is -right in his interpretation of this doubtful part of the clause, what would ^happen if we were . to strike out the words, “ so long as he occupies the office ; to which he is . assigned by the classification.” His amendment would itheu ; read -
Notwithstancriiig anything eontained in ‘the test preceding . sab-section, where the salary aUeOfced to -an officer -by the iclassifi cation isless . thou the salary fixed for ‘that officer by Or under a determination made -under the Arbitration ‘(Public Service) Act 1920, that -officer shall -continue to receive -the higher salary fixed by -or . under . the . determination.
SenatorFindley. - Supposisng the officer got ‘a higher salary?
SenatorGARDINER.- There is noitliing to ‘prevent “that. My suggestion is made in all good faith, , and with ithe sole object of having . the matter cleared up so as to remove all doubt and suspicion from the minds of those -concerned. If %here ane imaginary grievances ‘in the !S’ervice, it is “wise to remove -them !as speedily -as -possible.
SenatorLynch. - How can -we remove something wnich does not ‘exist?
– There are two forms of grievance to be found among any large body of men - real, and imaginary grievances. If men can be convinced that there is no ground for any imaginary grievance they will be inspired with confidence, and any real grievances which do exist will more readily be settled. We should make the position so clear that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein Both Senator Grant and myself hold different views from those of Senator Pearce regarding this matter. I thank the Minister for his clause, and consider that the interpretation he has placed upon it is a right one. I disagree, how.ever, with that portion of it to which I have referred, as I feel that its effect may be to reduce the salaries of men who are removed to other positions. We should not only deal with real grievances, but should endeavour to inspire in men a feeling of confidence in the administration, so that there will be no room for imaginary grievances. I am not satisfied with the words “so long as he occupies the office to which he is assigned by the’ classification.” If the amendment means that in certain cases officers will be paid a higher salary than is provided under the classification, that could have been expressed in clearer terms ; but does it mean that an officer can be transferred from one classification to another? We know that the Public Service Board can move” an officer from one department to another.
– In any case he would have the right of appeal.
– No doubt; but I am still afraid that an officer may be moved from one classification to another, and thus lose the award. I do not think that is the wish of the Minister or of the committee. It is important for the Government to retain the goodwill of the members of the Public Service, since they will then give more efficient work than if they are under the impression that an attempt is being made to filch from them their rights. I ask the Minister whether or not I have reasonable ground for doubt on the matter?
, - It is not the intention of the Government, in any proposal it may make when the proper time arrives, that a person filling a position for which the salary has been- fixed by the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator shall by the application of the classification suffer a reduction of hie salary. The Government did not prepare this amendment; it asked the Crown Law Department to frame a clause to so amend the act that no officer in receipt of a certain salary fixed by the arbitrator should, by reason of the classification, receive a lower salary so long as he filled that office. A public servant can only be put into a lower office in the manner set out in the Public Service Act. An officer could be reduced for inefficiency, and that would involve the laying of a definite charge. The only other way in which it could be done would be by declaring the office surplus, in which case it would be necessary to see if there was any other position in the Public Service at a similar salary to which the officer could be appointed. If there were no such position, and no position at a lower salary to which he could be appointed, it would then be necessary to discharge him. If the amendment of which I have given notice is accepted, the classification cannot in any way reduce the salary of an officer holding a position that is classified by the board at a lower rate than that fixed by the arbitrator. But when another officer is appointed from a lower grade to that office he will not be entitled to the award of the arbitrator, but will be appointed at the salary fixed under the classification. His association, however, would have a perfect right to go to the arbitrator, if he thought that the salary was not a fair one, and ask the arbitrator to raise it. The intention of the Government is to protect the interests of those officers who, through their associations, have obtained an award from the arbitrator.
.- I am glad that the Government has been moved to do something which a few days ago it had no intention of doing. The Government, when the third reading of the bill was called on, had no intention to assist the men threatened by the classification scheme, for the Minister (Senator Pearce) called “Formal.” The Leader of the party to which I belong, however, called “Not Formal,” because he knew that I intended to speak on the’ third reading of the measure. If Ministers had had their own way on that occasion there would have been no discussion with respect to the grievances of those members of the Public Service who were to be reduced very materially in salary by the classification scheme.
– The matter was not brought under notice until the day fixed for the third reading of the bill.
– But the Government wished the third reading to be treated as a formal matter, and, had it not been for the activity of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, the third reading would have been formally carried. The fact that honorable senators on the Opposition side began this discussion aroused interest on the part of honorable senators opposite, and that caused the Government at a certain stage to report progress, in order that consideration might be given to the representations made by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. It is well known to us that the Government really justified the action taken by the Public Service Board. In effect, the Government said that if the men in the Service were dissatisfied with the classification they had the right to appeal.
– No. We outlined the position under the law.
– The Government was not prepared to do anything more than that. . It is clear that it had no desire to safeguard the interests of members of the Service until it was moved by us to do so.
– Then why did we report progress?
– Because the opposition was so strong that Ministers had no option. Although the board has been empowered to classify the Service, the Government now tells it that under the amended proposal it can classify only in the way the Government desires, and that the board must not fix a wage below an award of the Public Service Arbitrator so long as an officer occupies the office to which he is assigned by the classification. I am glad, at any rate, that the Government now intends to do something in the interests of the Service.
– The honorable senator wants his side to have the full credit.
– The Government is not entitled to any credit. The present proposal can be attributed to the action of the Opposition, backed up by honorable senators supporting the Government. I disagree with the statement read by the Minister, who suggests that the advantages of the classification largely outweigh its disadvantages. From statements which we have received, it is evident that the classification has not given satisfaction to thousands of persons in the Service. I presume that other honorable senators, like myself, have received circulars and telegraphic messages from members of the Service informing them of this general dissatisfaction, and I remind honorable senators that public servants do not go to the trouble and expense of having, lengthy circulars typed, printed, and mailed; nor do they send urgent telegrams to members unless they have a substantial and legitimate grievance. The classification has caused very much dissatisfaction and uneasiness.
– Members of the Public Service are justified in taking up their present attitude.
– They are, but the Minister would have had the committee believe that there were so many advantages arising from the classification scheme that the disadvantages were as nothing. If the amendment of which the Minister has * given notice is carried we may take it, I presume, that the classification must be on the lines of the award made by the Public Service Arbitrator.
– That is only common sense.
– Apparently the board has not up to the present exercised common sense in the classification scheme, because in some instances it brings officers below the award of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– The board only carried out the law.
– May I ask, then, why the Government now comes along with this amendment to take away from the board the powers given to it by the act?
– Because this .is the first occasion when the two laws have clashed.
– The Government knew that the board was classifying the Service. Ministers knew also that there was a Public Service Arbitrator, but, apparently, they were unconcerned whether the classification was above or below the Arbitrator’s determination until honorable’ senators on this side of the chamber drew public attention to what was being done by the board. If the amendment circulated on behalf of the Government means what the Minister says it means, the board, in classifying the Service, must not classify any officer below the award rates fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator.
– The board can classify as it thinks fit.
– -The amendment proposed by the Minister will give a certain amount of relief to those who have’ felt very uneasy concerning the classification.
– Clause 7, it will be remembered, gave rise to a lengthy debate when this measure was last under consideration. Opinions expressed on the ministerial side were almost unanimously in favour of something being done to prevent the classification of the Service from operating in such a way as to effect a reduction in the salaries of any officers. It occurred to me that, instead of making professions, it would be far better to do something of a tangible character. An amendment which did not completely convey my ideas on the subject was hurriedly drawn. In the interim I framed an amendment which I desire to submit, but to which the Minister objects. I had not the remotest intention of being discourteous to the Minister. With the assistance of the legal officer attached to this chamber my amendment was put into proper legal shape, and it now conveys my idea of how the clause should read. The amendment circulated by the Minister is of such a character that it should be rejected. We are told that members of the Public Service, if they feel aggrieved, may apply to the. arbitrator. One would think that this was quite a simple matter. As a matter of fact, any one who goes to court, no matter in what capacity, finds it a most costly and unsatisfactory business. I want to avoid, as far as possible, the ‘necessity of members of the Service having to appeal to the Public Service Arbitrator after they have already gone to the expense of getting an award. I am informed that, after the Government reported progress on this clause a few weeks ago, the matter was discussed in caucus, and that Mr. Jackson, Sir Elliot Johnson, Senator Thompson, Mr. DuncanHughes, Mr. Mann, and Mr. Hurry, representing the six states of the Commonwealth, were appointed a subcommittee for the purpose of investigating the whole position and advising the Minister as to what had best be done in the matter. The Minister appears to fear that action taken by honorable senators on this side of the chamber would give us some political kudos with members of the Public Service. If it did, that would not matter very much. The mere fact that, as the result of our. action, the conditions of the Public Service are to be improved should not, in my opinion, prevent the Government from accepting a good idea when it is offered to them. That was the sole purpose I had in view when I submitted my proposal. The amendment circulated by Senator Pearce, and which, I understand, was suggested by the sub-committee referred to, is so worded as to require members of the Public Service to appeal to the Public Service Arbitrator. Let me remind the Minister that they have already done so, and have had an award. Why should the board or any other body interfere with that determination? I have not the detailed figures that have been furnished to the Minister, but I have been informed that those on the maximum will lose £10 each, or, approximately, £8,000 in all. Under the classification of the board, with, annual increments of £6, an officer rises in seven years from- £240 to £276. Under the arbitrator’s award, with annual increments of £8, the officer rises from £238 to £286 in the seventh year. It is true that in the first year the award rate is lower than the classification rate, but there are not many officers in the first year. In the second year, the award rate and the classification rate are the same, but in every subsequent year the award rate- is higher than the classification rate, until in the seventh year it is £10’ higher. Therefore, the classification means a very substantial reduction in wages. According to Senator Pearce, the remedy is for the men to apply to the arbitrator. I am opposed to the adoption of that course. The Minister admits that if the men are not to retain their present positions, frequent individual applications on their part to the- arbitrator will be essential. It will be a never-ending process that ought not to be foisted on them. The proposal which Senator Pearce has circulated is exceedingly vague. It will leave a number of loop-holes, by which the Public Service Board can effect substantial reductions in salaries at a time when noi reduction should receive the support of any honorable senator. I am very much surprised at the very low salaries now paid to many public servants. When we are so inclined, we can pass bills giving some men £3,000 a year. We leave others to the mercy of the Governor-General, and we realize that he will not fix their salaries at a nominal figure. But when it comes to men who do the everyday work of the world, we refer them to an arbitrator, or we appoint a board to classify them.. At any rate, we always keep them on the bread line. I gather that Senator Pearce is only opposed to the phraseology of my foreshadowed amendment. I can assure him that it meets with the approval of the men directly concerned, and that it crystallizes and puts into shape the expressions of opinion given in this Senate prior to the appointment of a subcommittee of the National party, and its consultation with the Minister. That being the case, I shall at the proper stage ask the committee to agree to it. It is free from ambiguity, and will be a direct instruction to the Public Service Board not to fix a lower salary than that fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator. On that point I am not prepared to give way.
Question - That the proposed new clause be inserted (Senator Grant’s amendment)’ - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted - “ 7a. Section 27 of the principal act is amended by inserting at the end thereof the following sub-section: ‘ (7) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section, where the salary allotted to an officer by the classification is less than the salary fixed for that officer by or under a determination made under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920, that officer shall, so long as he occupies the office to which he is assigned by the classification, . continue to receive the higher salary fixed by or under the determination ‘ “.
I have already explained the effect of this amendment.
SenatorKINGSMILL (Western Australia) [5.32]. - When the amendment just rejected was being discussed in this committee some time ago, I announced my intention of voting for it, and I have carried out my intention. At the same time I see very little to choose between the two courses laid down in the rejected amendment and in the proposed new clause now before us.
– Except that one made reclassification impossible.
– I do not quite follow the argument of the Leader of the Senate in that regard. Undoubtedly it must be because I do not appreciate the facts of the case. I do not think Senator Grant’s amendment would have made reclassification impossible, and that is one reason why I voted for it. At all events, it was a great deal plainer and less liable to misconstruction - involuntary misconstruction, of course, I am alluding to - than the proposal we are now considering. Having carried out what I considered to be my duty - having voted as I said I should - I am prepared to accept the Minister’s proposal as a substitute for the amendment just rejected.
– I give notice now that I shall move a further amendment to read as follows : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in section 27 of the principalact the board shall not fix a lesser salary in respect of any office than that fixed by relative determination made by the arbitrator.
– Is the honorable senator moving to amend the proposed new clause ?
– I propose to amend it because it does not meet with, my approval. It is too vague, too indefinite, and too unsatisfactory, and I wish to give the committee an opportunity to vote on a somewhat different proposal. I move -
That the- proposed new clause be amended by leaving out all the words after the word “ sub-section,” second occurring, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ the board shall not .fix a lesser salary in respect of any office than that fixed by relative determination made by the arbitrator.”
My only desire is that the proposed new sub-clause as submitted by the Minister shall clearly and distinctly convey the intention which he has expressed. As it stands it conveys to my mind .the intention that an officer whose salary has been reduced as the result of reclassification must apply to the arbitrator.
– That is not so.
– That is what the Minister stated. The proposed new clause does not convey the opinion expressed by the Minister. The board will be guided by the act, and not by utterances made in this chamber. The wording of the proposed new clause, unless amended as I propose, would lead one to conclude that the applicant will have to apply to the arbitrator when he feels that he is aggrieved.
– I trust the committee will not entertain for a moment the amendment submitted by Senator Grant, because it would mean that the arbitrator would become the classifier of the Public Service. If that is intended we should repeal sections 27 and 28 of the Public Service Act.
– Is not that what 5 s being done in this instance?
– No. The Public Service Board is to reclassify the Service, but by the new clause I have submitted we provide that whatever may be the salary fixed under . the classification for a particular office, the officer now occupying that office, so long as he holds it, shall retain the salary awarded to him by the arbitrator. If the Public Service Board in its work of classification fixes a lower salary he shall be paid the higher rate. Senator Grant’s amendment involves a proposal which would not be welcomed by the public servants, because it practically ties a public servant down to the rate awarded by the Public Service Arbitrator.
– In the figures I quoted, it will be seen that the Public Service Board has introduced some rates which are higher than those provided by the arbitrator. In a number of the different grades of the various branches I quoted the arbitrator made no provision for higher grades.
– My amendment would not prevent the board from classifying in such a way that higher salaries could be paid, but would prevent it from reclassifying in such a. manner that salaries lower than those awarded by the arbitrator could be paid.
– In these cases the arbitrator ha3 not made any provision at all, and the Public Service Board in its classification has introduced new grades which are higher than those adopted by the arbitrator. If Senator Grant’s amendment is adopted it will result in absolute confusion, because we have the classification of the Service on the one hand and the arbitrator’s awards on the other. It may be that to officers in, say, grade “ A “ the arbitrator awarded a salary of £250 per annum, and the board fixed a salary of £245 per annum. Under my proposal we are now providing that so long as an officer holds the position he shall receive £250, although £245 is the salary fixed for the office under the classification. Senator Grant wishes to provide that whatever the Public Service Arbitrator says is to be the’ minimum of all the grades is to be the minimum of the office. Under his proposal an officer appointed to an office two or three years hence would not receive the salary fixed by the board, but that fixed by the arbitrator for a person who held the office two or three years before.
– That is incorrect.
– The honorable senator wishes to prevent the board from valuing the office.
– It would be the rate fixed by the arbitrator.
– Tes, at the time the arbitrator heard the case.
– That is what I wish to do.
– The honorable senator’s intention is to make the arbitrator the classifier of the Service. In the clause I have submitted we shall prevent any injustice being done to any member of the Public Service who has spent his time and money through a union or association in getting an award. Wo wish to safeguard the award and make it the minimum. We provide that an officer can go above it, but he shall not receive less as a result of the classification than the arbitrator fixes.
– I think the Minister (Senator Pearce) has made the matter quite clear. I was prepared to accept his amendment because I thought it was a big advance. He has now given the committee further information to the effect that although his amendment will protect the individual under the classification to-day, it will allow the board to reduce the salary to be paid as a result of the classification to those who come in afterwards. I am not prepared to support such a proposal. The Minister has said that an officer will receive £252 per annum if that is the salary awarded by the arbitrator, but another officer coming in later may receive only £245 per annum - the amount allotted to the office under the classification.
– He will receive the salary which the board has fixed for such an office.
– If the Minister protects an individual under an award already given by the arbitrator that is all he desires to do. Later, the Public Service Board fixes another rate, which is probably lower. I do not want that. In my judgment, the Public Service Board is making a mistake in reducing the salary paid for the same service. Senator Pearce says that there will be no injustice to the individual, because he will get the same salary so long as he occupies the same position. But that is not sufficient, as a new occupant of the office would get a reduced salary in certain cases. I shall support the proposal by Senator Grant, because I believe that the wages fixed by the arbitration award should stand. The classification is getting under the award.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to accept the increase where there is one?
– Naturally, I am.
– Yet he says that justice has not been done?
– It goes almost without saying that any man who obtains promotion from the classification is entitled to the increase. I admit that I am in favour of arbitration, because it has the effect of increasing salaries. Never yet have I seen any body of men receive sufficient pay for the services they render. Senator Pearce accepts the principle that no individual shall suffer through having his salary reduced below that of the arbitrator’s award, but he is prepared to allow the salary for an office to be lowered. That would have a most undesirable effect. If his amendment is carried cases will arise where two men doing the same class of work will be paid different salaries. One man will receive £252 per annum, because the Arbitrator has said that the work he is performing is worth that amount, but because the Public Service Board says that the position is now worth only £246, a man who, in the future, is appointed to the position will only receive that sum. If the Minister is content to allow the award rate to stand in the case of an individual, but not in the case of his office, I am not satisfied to do so. The Arbitrator’s award was not given for individuals, but for a class of work. I believe in the principle that the award of the Arbitrator should not be altered, and shall therefore support Senator Grant’s amendment.
– Will the Minister be good enough to say whether the amendment which he has submitted will meet the wishes expressed by honorable senators on this side of the committee. The Minister says that Senator Grant’s amendment will give to the Public Service: Arbitrator powers which should rest entirely with the Public Service Board. That he does not desire that those powers shall rest entirely with the Public Service Board is shown by his own amendment. The Government has, in effect, told the Public Service Board that, although it is empowered by the Public
Service Act to classify the Service, it must not begin with a classification which provides a salary less than that fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator, but only so long as an officer occupies the office to which he is assigned by the classification. “We, on this side, are glad that the Government has gone that far. Senator Grant has moved an amendment, the effect of which is to guarantee to the Service that when an award is made it shall be observed by the Public Service Board. Senator Pearce says that the Government will observe it, and then he qualifies his statement by saying that the Public Service Board should have the power to classify the Service in respect of offices. Let us suppose that in a certain branch of the Service there are two positions, one held by A, who is paid the salary fixed by the award, the other being vacant. The Public Service Board is told by the Government that the salary for A must remain at the figure fixed by the award; but when B is ap-“ pointed to the vacant position, which is classified at a lower salary, he will receive for the same work a lower rate than that paid to A. That will not make for efficiency in the Service, as two men would be doing the same work at different rates of pay. We should avoid that, if possible. If there be justification for the award in respect to A being adhered to, then B, who does the same work, should receive equal remuneration. In the absence of just. treatment, dissatisfaction is inevitable, and efficiency impossible. The Government should aim at uniformity in these matters, as uniformity tends to a united and contented Service. Unless the rights and interests of public servants are protected, those conditions cannot exist. The amendment proposed by Senator Grant is much better for the Service than that put forward by the Minister, and for that reason I hope that the Government will accept it.
’. - Notwithstanding that the Minister has spoken on this subject more” than once, and that a good deal has been said about the award rates and those fixed by the Public Service Board, there is one point which he has not emphasized with that degree of distinctness which is necessary to secure the support of members on this side. The Public Service Board has classified various positions at a salary of £240 in the first year, rising to £276 in the seventh year. For the same positions, the ‘ Public Service Arbitrator fixed salaries ranging from £238 in the first year to £286 in the seventh year. I understand that the Minister’s amendment does not interfere with those who are occupying positions which are classified by the board at a salary less than that now paid. That is to say, if the Public Service Board fixes - £264 per annum as the salary for the fifth year of service, and the officer holding that position is in receipt of £270 per annum, in accordance with the award rate, his salary will not be interfered with, and he will continue to receive £270 per annum. But for the sixth year of service the salary under the classification is only £270 per annum, as against £278 under the award. Thus, he would receive no increase of salary for an additional year’s occupancy of the position. Instead of receiving £286 in his seventh year, as fixed by the award, his . salary would be £276 per annum only. That shows a difference of £10 per annum for the seventh year of service. I assume that the various allowances for children are the same under the classification as under the arbitrator’s award. My amendment would mean that the Public Service Board could not interfere with the rates fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator, and that, in the seventh year of service, an officer would receive the salary fixed for the position by the arbitrator, and not that determined by the board. The Minister has been silent regarding that point. I do not know why that is so, as he does not pay the money. It comes out of the pockets of the ratepayers of this country. For a man with a wife and family, as well as a landlord, to keep, £286 is little enough salary in his- seventh year of service. My object is to ensure that salary for him. The amendment that I have submitted has been drafted by a member of the legal fraternity, and I believe that it is strictly in accordance with the requirements of the act. If the’ new clause proposed by the Minister, which has, no doubt, been brought forward at the instigation of the subcommittee to which I referred, is given effect to, it will mean a substantial reduction in the salaries of public servants. There is no justification for that. It would, moreover, lead to considerable dissatisfaction, whereas my amendment, if carried, would tend to restore peace and harmony where discontent now exists. The members of the Public Service are considerably underpaid and X, therefore, ask honorable senators to adhere to the rates set out in the arbitrator’s award. I agree with the Minister that this is not a party matter, and I hope that any honorable senators who may be inclined to respond to the call of the party opposite will seek; to retain for the members of the Service the salaries awarded by the arbitrator, which to my mind are not too high.
– I thought at the outset that the new clause submitted by the Minister would meet the needs of the case, but, on a closer scrutiny of the two proposals, I am inclined to think that Senator Grant’s amendment is preferable. It seems to me that the words “ so long as he occupies the office ito which he is assigned by the classification “ comprise the vital portion of the Minister’s amendment. As Senator Grant has pointed out, the man on the lower rung of the ladder would be affected by the Minister’s amendment, whereas under Senator Grant’s amendment the responsibility is left entirely with the arbitrator, who fixes the salary not so much for the officer as for the particular office. Having classified a position it is an easy matter for the board to determine who shall fill it. But under the Minister’s amendment, an officer who qualified to step into a higher position might not receive the salary that his predecessor waa paid. There might be a reduction of more than £10 a year, and it might even be as much as £100. I realize that the Minister has gone a long way to meet the wishes of the Senate, but his amendment does not go far enough. Parliament has decided that the Public Service Arbitrator shall determine the salaries of public servants, and we cannot have two determinations. The Public Service Board has plenty to occupy its attention in classifying the officers without in any way fixing their salaries. If the Public Service Board proposes to determine salaries, why should we employ the Public Service Arbitrator and his staff? And why put the employees’ organizations to the expense of obtaining awards from that quarter? .
.- When the Minister (Senator Pearce) read the statement con cerning the effect of his amendment, I was disinclined to accept it as accurate, and I believe that he has not given sufficient attention to the award and classification rates. Under the award of the arbitrator the postal sorters receive £238 per annum in the first year, and £246 in the second year. Under the classification the rate for the first year is £240, and for the second year £246. Seeing that there is an increase of only £2 in the first year, there would need to be 10,000* officers in receipt of the additional amount if the figures quoted by the Minister were accurate.
– The honorable senator has taken only one section. The statement referred to by me dealt with 1,200 letter carriers and 1,000 mail branch assistants, involving a total increase ©f £20,060.
– Accepting the Minister’s assurance that 2,200 officers were concerned, I am convinced that his statement was inaccurate. I have not formed my opinion hurriedly but I have based it upon a close investigation of the matter over the week-end.
– Some .of the increases are £16 over the award .rate.
– Let me read the classification rates as opposed to the award rates for postal sorters -
According to the foregoing figures, it would not be possible for a postal sorter to receive any advance unless he was in his first year of service. Under the Minister’s amendment, however, an officer in his second year of service would be protected against a reduction in salary. But what will happen in the third year? Instead of getting £254 a year, his rate of pay under the arbitrator’s determination, he will get only £252.
– What guarantee is there that the award rate will not be reduced in the meantime?
– I shall discuss that matter with the Minister later.
– The honorable senator is basing his argument on prospective awards.
– Perhaps I have not made myself clear. My point is that under the Minister’s proposal an officer of the Service will lose £2 in the third year of the classification, £4 in the f mirth year, £6 in the fifth year, £8 in the sixth year, and £10 in the seventh year.
– Is not that what is intended under this proposal?
– That is not a fair way of stating the case.
– I am aware that whilst the Minister wants to be quite fair, he does not see this matter as I do. He does not understand the position as the men in the Service understand it.
– Is their interpretation the correct one?
– The statement which I have read shows that it is absolutely correct as regards mail assistants and letter-sorters. They lose the amounts I have stated.
– Actually, they do not lose one penny. They may lose possible increments under the arbitrator’s determination.
– Then I shall put it in another way. Under the award given last November, a letter-carrier is entitled in the second year to £246 a year, the same as he would have received under the classification scheme; but in his third year of the classification he will get only £252 a year as compared with the £254 under the arbitrator’s determination.
– How is that?
– The classification reduces the salary as compared with the arbitrator’s determination. I admit that Senator Pearce wants to be perfectly fair. He says that the classification will not interfere with the award fate in rerspect of any employee in the Service while he holds his present office. But what I want the committee to understand, and I believe that in this matter the committee thinks as I do, is that under the classification a man in the third year of the classification will receive less than he would have received under the Public Service Arbitrator’s determination. I do not think any one wants that to take place.
I have endeavoured to eliminate all party feeling from this matter, for I am satisfied that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have no desire to see men in the lower grades of the Service still further reduced. In my state the Postal Sorter’s Union is a very active organization. I have discussed this matter privately with its executive, and I can assure honorable senators that during the interview no words of a party nature escaped my lips. I pointed out that all Parliament wanted was to get the facts, and that if any injustice was being done, to set it right. The facts, as given to me, I have furnished to the Senate. These show that under the Minister’s amendment the men will lose the amounts I have stated. We do not want that. I am satisfied that Parliament wants the arbitrator’s award rates to stand. That was the object of Senator Grant’s amendment, which represented the views expressed by Senator Duncan, Senator Kingsmill, and other honorable senators on the Ministerial side. So anxious am I to have the matter set right that I shall not object if the debate is adjourned now, and the Minister submits an amendment in his own words to give effect to what I believe is the wish of the majority in this chamber. The Minister’s amendment for the moment clouded the issue. When first I read it, I thanked him for having submitted it, but when I realized that after the second year the arbitrator’s determination would be affected, I saw its weakness. Parliament never intended that the arbitrator’s determination should go by the board. I am keenly interested in this matter on behalf of men in the lower grades of the Public Service. No one wants to see their salaries reduced.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– After listening very carefully to the last remarks made by Senator Pearce, I am convinced that, notwithstanding the efforts made by honorable senators on this side to place the position before him, he has not yet understood it. Our object is to make quite sure that in the classification arranged by the Public Service Board the employees will suffer no reduction. Notwithstanding the assertions of Ministers to the contrary, figures have been quoted by us showing conclusively that the classification by the board will bring about a reduction of wages in certain instances. It is quite obvious that under the Minister’s proposal the wages of those at present in certain positions will not be interfered with, but the point cannot be too strongly pressed that the object behind the Minister’s proposal is to ensure that if the present occupant of a position makes an advance into another grade, the board’s classification will operate to prevent him getting the advance in wages io which he would be entitled under the arbitrator’s award. The award rate rises by annual increments of £8, to £286 in the seventh year, and many men are on that maximum at the present time, but the classification provides for a maximum of £276. Although this will not apply to the men now on the £286 mark, those who have not yet reached that maximum will not be entitled to reach it. The classification will prevent it.
– They will have eight years in which to make an appeal to the arbitrator.
– Of course, public servants have the right to appeal to the arbitrator; they have already done so.
– But not on this point.
– It is useless for Senator Pearce to expect honorable senators on this side to believe his statement. As a result of an award given in November of last year, certain officers in the Public Service were given a scale of wages ranging from a minimum of £238, to a maximum of £286. Under the classification scheme the men on the maximum of £286 will not have their wages interfered with, but one who is now receiving £252 a year cannot expect to get beyond a maximum of £276. It is true that certain men will get the benefit of an increase under the classification scheme. Tt is only right they should do so; but, on the other hand, the classification will have the effect of substantially reducing the wages of some, and of preventing men- from getting the increases awarded by the arbitrator. Why does not the Minister accept the amendment I have submitted to conserve to the employees the rates fixed under the award ? In fairness to the employees, we should not make this a party question; therefore, those honorable senators who are anxious to give to the public servants the rates of wages they have secured at arbitration, should vote for my amendment.
– If I understand Senator Grant’s intention it is that the. Public Service Board must not fix a lower salary in respect of any office than that fixed by a relative determination made by the Public Service Arbitrator. The arbitrator has fixed rates of pay to the advantage of several grades in the Service, and in order to retain that happy - and just - state of affairs for the Public Service, the honor: able senator wants to insert in this measure a safeguard to prevent wages from being reduced below the rates fixed by the arbitrator. On the other hand, we have a declaration from the Minister that the classification of the Public Service Board, which collides with the determination by the arbitrator in certain particulars, is on the whole responsible for increases in salaries amounting to £20,000. I interrupted Senator Grant when he was speaking, and told him that he might be over-reaching himself since in trying in one direction to adopt a safeguard, he might at the same time expose the position to a very serious onslaught. If we do not adhere to the classification the £20,000 advance may have to go by the board, and wages will be reduced in proportion.
– That is not so.
– What other conclusion can we form?
– My amendment conveys to the Public Service Board a direct instruction not to fix salaries lower than the rates given by the Arbitrator, but that will not prevent them from fixing higher salaries.
– The two things cannot be done at the same time. A maximum must be laid down, and certain rules must be observed in order that one part of a proposal may not charge home against another. It is clear that under Senator Grant’s proposal the public servants may lose £20,000. Now, as to whether we should favour the one tribunal as against the other, I do not know that in the interests of the Public Service we should declare absolutely and irrevocably for arbitration. In’ this country arbitration does not always work, as Senator Gardiner would have it, on the upward scale. The honorable senator told us that so long as arbitration was responsible for increasing wages it was arbitration of the right kind. I disagree with him there. Arbitration has been responsible for substantial increases in salaries for one reason only, and rightly so, and that is because of the increase in the cost of living, and by the same reasoning, if the cost of living is reduced it should follow, as night follows day, that wages should be reduced.
– It ought to follow, but it does not.
– That is so. An arbitrator is a man who weighs the pros and cons of any proposition placed before him, and if he sees that the cost of living has been reduced, and that the economic or industrial state of the community or the enterprise will not stand the payment of higher wages, will he maintain a high rate for one section of the community and deny it to others ?
– Certainly not.
– I honour Senator Hoare for his statement. As we .accept and obey every arbitration award increasing wages when the cost of living has been increased, so we must also accept the bitter pill of having wages reduced when the cost of living decreases, and the economic conditions take a hostile turn. But what I wish to point out is that the classification of the Public Service may act as a barrier against the reduction of wages at a time when the Arbitration Court, following the practice of the past, may be reducing wages. When that time comes honorable senators will not be clamouring, “ Give us the award every time, never mind the classification.” Their cry will be, “ Give us the classification every time, and take no notice of the award.” Fair play is bonny play; we must take the good with the bad, the rough with the smooth. While we are attempting to put the public servants on a fair plane it is useless to play up to something that happens to work well for them for the time being, because the time may come when arbitration may not always be giving awards in favour of the worker. When that time comes the boot will be on the other foot, and honorable senators will be clamouring for the classification board and nothing else.
– Does Senator Lynch believe that the cost of living will come down to the extent of the reduction of 9s. a week brought about by the recent arbitration award in the case of miners ?
– It is an extraneous matter to introduce, but I shall endeavour to answer the honorable senator. There has not been an arbitration court that did not have for its main consideration the cost of living, but coupled with that consideration has always been the capacity of the industry to pay. I quite appreciate the liberal sentiments of Senator Gardiner, who said that the whole Senate was trying to hit on a plan to put the Public Service on a fair and equitable basis; but arbitration will have to be looked at in a true light. It has never been regarded, even by its authors, as a means whereby one party would always be advantaged, and the other party collaterally disadvantaged. Under such a principle it is quite an easy matter to arbitrate very successfully. I remember a case in point in New South Wales. A gentleman was appointed to arbitrate in a mining dispute. He simply asked the men what they were striking for, and then he asked the owners what the men were “out” for. Having obtained his replies, he said at once, “ I am the arbitrator, and I say, ‘ Give unto these men all they are asking for.’ “ With colours flying he returned to Sydney, and declared that he had “settled” the strike, but next week the mines were closed down, and so the whole matter was settled in another way. I remember the words of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. No one in this chamber is more pleased than I am to see him Prime Minister of Great Britain. He said, “It was not for the workers to ask for a wage that would cripple an industry.” It is only right that he and others in responsible positions should take such a bold stand. Do we wish to see everything disorganized and turned topsy-turvey ? That would be the case if wages were granted in excess of what an industry could pay. We should hold the scales fairly and evenly between the different interests. We should give the worker on the one hand an opportunity to earn sufficient to support those dependent upon him, and always to put away a substantial sum for the inevitable rainy day, and also the employer an opportunity to make sufficient profit to show some return on his capital. If employers are not to be given that right, how can they carry on ? I entirely disagree with the maxim pronounced here and elsewhere that wages must always be on the upward . grade. What is nearly always forgotten is the purchasing power of the £1 or unit of value. Although it seems heresy to say so, high wages do not spell prosperity unless they are accompanied by a corresponding advantage in our being able to buy the things we want. I wish industry to be carried on in a proper way, and both parties given consideration. Who are the parties concerned in this instance? The taxpayers of the Commonwealth on the one hand and the public servants on the other. We have not heard much during this debate concerning the interests of the taxpayers, who are nevertheless vitally involved. Some appear to think it folly to speak on behalf of the taxpayer. But his interests are to be looked to. He is going about his business, but at the same time a tremendous bill is mounting up, the figures of which have been submitted to us in the Estimates, and which he will have to meet. And there is no well-affected public officer who wants to ignore or injure his interest. A man receiving a wage a3 a public servant, or in any other sphere, needs to realize that it is in keeping with the standard of equity, and is comparable with that available in the field of industry as a whole. The public servants have a fair means of having their, case adequately and justly treated. Why ? Because in this particular case we are their employers. They have a classification board, which, to all’ intents and purposes, represents the people. The classification board in a most unbiased way assesses the value of every grade of work, from the messenger boy to the senior officers. The board does not desire, as some people might think, to crush public officers. It is not bent on securing dividends. If it is found that the classification works unjustly against any individual, be he a messenger boy or a highly-paid officer, he can appeal to the Arbitrator. In addition he has this Parliament, to which an appeal can be made. I do not know of any other class of employees which is treated so well as the public servants of this country. Those engaged in private businesses do not have classification boards, and those conducting them would not tolerate them. When in Adelaide the other day I visited an establishment where 2,000 men are employed, and where there is no classification board to grade them. The men in that industry had the ordinary tribunal to which they could appeal, but there was no suggestion of any injustice being done, as there is in this particular case. The Ministerial amendment, while not all one would wish, is the best possible attempt to reconcile the powers of the board and the court.
– Because it is proposed to reduce the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– Have I not pointed out the folly of what Senator Findley and those who are with him propose, by showing that the time may come when the public servants may turn from arbitration.
– (Senator Payne). - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– Before I vote on this question I should like a little more information, which no doubt the Minister will be able to supply. I wish to know something about the form of the awards given to the public servants by the Arbitrator. Do these awards relate only to their present position, or do they purport to control a yearly, or every increment by which their salaries are to be increased ? Did the award, in the case of a man receiving £254 per annum, provide that his next increment should bring his salary to, say, £258, or did it deal only with the present rate of salary he was to receive? I voted for Senator Grant’s former amendment, which was rejected by the committee, because the bill, as it was before us, undoubtedly did away with certain awards given by the Arbitrator. If those awards were for the future as well as for the present, I shall support the amendment he has moved. If they were only for the present, and if the Arbitrator adjudicated only on the salary of the officer at the time when, the award was made, I shall undoubtedly vote against it. I am sure the Minister will see my point, and I am> relying upon him to give me some, information on the subject.
– In answer to the query raised by Senator Kingsmill, I shall take the case of the senior sorters, which has been most frequently quoted. When they came before the Arbitrator they asked him to award a certain rate of salary for each grade. The award he gave was as follows: - No. 1, £238; No. 2, £246; No. -3, £254; No. 4, £262; No. 5, £270; No. 6, £278; and No. 7, £286. There is a minimum of £238, and a maximum of £286. At the time that he .gave that award 850 positions were filled by the men in each of these various grades. What he really said was this: - To those of you in No. 1 grade I shall award £238. Obviously he had regard to something more than the living wage, because all these awards are above the living wage, which at that time was £204. The. Arbitrator awarded those in No. 1 grade something above the living wage, because the duties of those occupying positions in that grade were such that they deserved a certain amount over it. He therefore fixed the rate at £238. Those in No. 2 group are in a higher grade, and their work is more responsible. He made his award accordingly £246. In the course of time, as vacancies occur, or as these men are due for promotion, subject to efficiency and good conduct, they are raised from one grade to another. Then they receive the salary attached to that particular grade. In that sense it is not an increment, but a promotion from one grade to another, in which the salaries are fixed. They obtain the salary fixed for the next grade when they are moved up to it. The Classification Board does exactly the same thing. It classifies the office, without having any regard to the officer or his fitness for it. It adopts exactly the same grades as the Arbitrator, and fixes the rates that officers in the respective grades shall be paid, having regard not to seniority, but to the fact that those in higher grades perform more important work.
– Having a knowledge of the award already made by the Arbitrator ?
– Yes. The argument of the Opposition is that because the Arbitrator has fixed certain rates applicable to each grade, the men at the bottom who are receiving £238 and who may not reach the top grade for ten or fifteen years, have the right, when they get to the top, to receive £286, because the Arbitrator fixed that rate last year. ‘ ,-_-)
– That is so.
– Our contention is that it is not a just claim. The Classification Board has valued the work in each grade - it was authorized by Parliament to do that - and in my amendment we have provided that as the men in each of these grades to-day have been admitted as competent to fill the positions, and as the Arbitrator has given them an award at a certain rate, the Classification Board shall not reduce the salaries of the men in each of these grades below the amount fixed by the Arbitrator.
– The Government could not do less.
– We could not do more without giving rise to an injustice. Honorable senators opposite wish us to guarantee that those in the lower grades shall, when they reach the top, in, say, ten or fifteen years’ time, receive the maximum fixed last year by the Arbitrator for the highest grade, although the board has classified the positions and has assessed the value of the work in the highest grade at £276, as against £286 awarded by the Arbitrator. They contend that notwithstanding the value of the work, whenever an officer reaches the top, he must receive what the Arbitrator awarded last year, which is the amount now received by an officer working in that grade.
– A public servant told me he is receiving £276, and on the 1st September he will be entitled to £286. but if the Minister’s amendment is adopted he will never receive that amount.
– No, in this particular grade he will remain at £276. The reason is obvious. His salary has been fixed according to the value of the work he performs. If it is claimed that the value of the work has not been properly assessed, or that the rate of promotion fixed by the Classification Board is inadequate, public servants have the right at any time to ask the Arbitrator to review the minimum rates for the various grades and, if necessary, to fix them on the scale adopted last year. Officers who now receive the award of the Arbitrator will not receive less under the clause we are proposing to insert in the bill. They have no right to claim that because there is a prospective maximum to which they might attain in fifteen years wc should say that to-day they must get that salary.
– A most unsatisfactory arrangement from any point of view.
– Senator Lynch said that he had visited an establishment in Adelaide where 2,000 men were working in harmony, and that the absence of disruption was due to the fact that they had an arbitration court to which to appeal, and no classification board. Let us introduce a classification board to deal with those men, and see what will happen. Soon the harmony which now exists between employer and employee will disappear, and chaos take its place. We should do something which is fair to all. So far as I can see this classification board is an autocratic body, which, at the instigation of the Government, is creating a system of sweating in the Postal Department.
– I have never before heard a considerable increase of salary defined as sweating.
– I shall come to that directly. What has this classification done ? Before the system was introduced there was equal pay for equal work in the post office. Prior to 1911 female employees were granted by the Public Service Board the same conditions as applied to males. In 1915 that principle was accepted by the Arbitration Court. In 1920 Mr. Justice Powers granted equal rates of pay to both males and females.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his. remarks to the amendment before the Chair.
– I was endeavouring to prove that the classification board had lowered wages to the extent of £44 per annum in the case of female employees. Those who support the Minister’s amendment are endeavouring to show that it will prove to be of no detriment to the employees in the Postal Department. We on this side adopt the opposite attitude, and point out in support of our contention that the employees are dissatisfied with the classification system. Those employees should be the best judges of the effects of the classification. They are opposed to it, and regret its introduction.
– If those females whom the honorable senator has mentioned are now .paid the arbitrator’s award rates, and are receiving pay equal to that of the males, they will continue to receive equal pay under my amendment.
– That is; if they are now receiving the same salaries.
– How can we expect harmony in the Postal Department when we have on the one hand the award of the arbitrator, and on the other hand the classification system with its different award? It is no wonder that there is disruption in the Postal Department. We on this side desire only that the employees shall be treated fairly. In my opinion the classification system was introduced to bring about a reduction of : wages, whereas had the arbitrator been allowed to continue he would have dealt fairly with the employees. At one time the Government was in favour of the Arbitration Court, but now it is not. That is due to the fact that the court in every instance has favoured the employee as against the employer. The Government, therefore, thought it advisable to find other means to reduce wages. Senator Grant’s amendment, if carried, will give to the employees in the Postal Department that to which they are justly entitled. I do not think that Senator Pearce is correct in his statement that the female workers receive the same rate of pay as the males. The only way in which those female workers will obtain pay equal to that of the men is by a change of Government.
– I do not intend to permit Senator Pearce to furnish to the committee the explanation he has given without saying that he has now admitted every one of my contentions.
-brockman. - What more does the honorable senator want?
– I want to secure Senator Kingsmill’s vote. Senator Pearce has admitted that under the award rate the maximum salary after seven years is £286, whereas under the classification that maximum is reduced to £276. He stated, further, that in the opinion of the board, the rates fixed in the classification were fair remuneration for the work performed. But the Arbitrator, who took evidence in the matter, said something entirely different. He believed that for the seventh year of service in the seventh grade the salary should be £286 per annum, and not £276. The result of the adoption of the rates laid down in the classification will be to reduce salaries at every point except during the first year when there is an increase of £2, and in the second year, when the rates are the same. In every subsequent year the classification rates are substantially lower than those fixed by the Arbitrator, the difference in the seventh year being as great as £10. Senator Pearce has admitted that the classification means a substantial reduction. We on this side do not stand for that.
– I thank Senator Grant for his flattering anxiety about my vote. It seems to me that the present position has been brought about by foolish legislation. The Commonwealth Government is in an awkward position, as are also its employees, but why this unfortunate legislative body should be drawn into the trouble and made to suffer passes my comprehension. So far as I have been able to understand (the argument^ which have been put forward, my main objection to the course which was to be followed has been removed. None of the Arbitrator’s awards is to be set aside.
– That is not so.
– It is.
– The Arbitrator’s awards stand. If an officer is dissatisfied, it means that, because of bungling legislation, he has to go to the Arbitrator at more frequent intervals under this arrangement than he otherwise need have done. Surely these two bodies - the Arbitrator and the Classification Board - are not going to fight among themselves. If they do, it simply means that there will be an increase of work for the Arbitrator. Seeing that the Arbitrator’s award still remains my objection ha3 been removed. It is a pity that the awards will have to be repeated at frequent intervals, but that is the fault of the legislation. I 3hall not vote for the amendment.
– Senator Pearce’s amendment would interfere with the Arbitrator’s award. I can prove that easily, and in doing so shall confine myself to one branch of the Service, although my remarks apply equally to other branches. The Arbitrator’s award in the case of mail assistants covered various grades. Those in the lowest grade were satisfied with the award, because they saw opportunities for promotion before them. Under Senator Pearce’s amendment an officer’s present salary is not altered, but a man will be robbed of the benefit of the award on promotion, while those in the sixth grade will have their salaries actually reduced. The rate now for the sixth year is £278 per annum. Under the Arbitrator’s award they would reach £286 in the seventh year. That, however, under the classification, they will not reach.
– Unless there is another award.
– It is not a question of another award.
– Before that time there might have been another award fixing the maximum salary at £250.
– The present award for the first year of service is £238. Thereafter annual increments of £8 are provided. The men on the first grade were promised that. They knew that in the second year their salary would be £246, and in the third year £254, rising to £286 in the seventh year. Although Senator Pearce says that a man’s present salary will not be altered, his future prospects are altered.
– He will have to go to the Arbitrator again.
– Do honorable senators want the public servants to be continually going to the Arbitrator ? The Arbitrator has given his award, and the fact cannot be disguised that his award is altered under the classification.
– The men in every grade get the award rates.
– The award of the Arbitrator did not deal with individuals only, but with classes of employment, and it provided for increments in each year. What man would remain in the Service if he knew that hi3 right to increments was gone? The Arbitrator classified the officers according to their positions in the Service, and also set before them other positions which they might hope to reach. That is an important point which should not be lost sight of. The Public Service Board, in a most unjust and foolish way, seeks to reduce the award immediately it has been obtained.
– Although, at the same time, it has increased it?
– To what classes of employees have increases been granted ? I read a letter from the Prime Minister’s Department in which it was stated that ultimately there would be an increase of £20,000 per annum in the mail branch, and. the organization from which I have obtained my information pointed out that there was no possible chance of an increase in the next year. I challenge the Minister to show where the increase will take place this year, next year, or the following year. It is poor consolation to a postal sorter for him to be told that the £10 increment he expects on the 1st September next will be taken from him, but that the Public Service as a whole will benefit to the extent of £20,000 per annum. I have always considered that the people who do the world’s work are not sufficiently remunerated. Considering the value of their services, public servants are poorly paid compared with private employees, for they receive little more than a subsistence. I admit that their employment is constant, and that they are sure of retaining their positions, provided their conduct is good.
– That makes a vast difference to men working for a living.
– Yes, but there are prizes to be won outside the Public Service. In a few months some men earn as much as the ordinary public servant gets in a lifetime. The highest amount paid to the postal sorters under the Arbitrator’s award is £286, but under the board’s classification the maximum rate has been reduced to £276.
– The mail assistants’ award was £238.
– I have already pointed out that under the Arbitrator’s award a postal sorter was to receive £238 for the first year, with yearly increments of £8. The Minister, however, has cleverly introduced an amendment under which he says, in effect, to this officer, “ “While you are in your present position the award of the Arbitrator will be observed; but when you are due for the increment promised by the Arbitrator you will not get.it, because the rate has been reduced by the Public Service Board.” No matter how much the Minister attempts to camouflage the position, the officer who is to lose his increment will not be reconciled. Surely Parliament can give a definite instruction to the board that the awards of the Arbitrator shall stand ! The justice of arbitration in fixing wages and working conditions was recognized 30 years ago, and eventually that principle was applied to the Commonwealth Public Service. In November the postal sorters obtained an award, and it became operative in April last, but as early as July the Public Service Board proceeded to deprive the men of the benefit of that award. A board that so flippantly ignores an arbitration act ought to be severely reprimanded.
– Yet Parliament has given the board that power.
– It has given it almost unlimited power ; but a board that so flagrantly departs from the accepted principle of arbitration is not fit to occupy its position. The Arbitrator took evidence on the cost of living. What did the Public Service Board consider? It has not gone into that aspect of the matter. I invite members of the committee to stand for arbitration. If the board thinks that these public servants are too highly paid, let it go to the Arbitrator and prove that the salaries should be reduced; but it should not attempt to override the decisions of the Arbitrator, for he assessed the salaries to be paid, and he alone should be the judge of whether or not there should be any reduction.
-^The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Grant’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Bill reported, with a further amendment.
Bill received from the House of Repre-. sentatives, and, on motion (by Senator Pearce), read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The encouraging reception given to the measure inspires me with the belief that it will have the unanimous support of the Senate. There was a time, during the war period, when many of us thought that, at the close of the war, Australia would be in a position to curtail materially her expenditure upon defence. When the call came for Australians to assist in the defence of the liberties and privileges which we enjoy as a component part of the Empire, all sections of the community readily responded. The Government of the day realized that it was essential to furnish the best equipment, and provide men of experience to control the military affairs of the Commonwealth. The Government to-day takes the same view with regard to this measure. The desire is to provide, within the resources at our disposal, the best equipment for the defence of this portion of the Empire. I was privileged recently to proceed to London as one of the representatives of the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conference, where this vital question of Empire defence was carefully considered from every point of view. One could not but be impressed with the desire on the part of every representative at that gathering to do something to ensure permanency of peace in the world. But honorable senators will, I am sure, realize that, just as we must have a welldisciplined police force to ensure peace in our civil life, so there can be no permanent peace among the nations of the world without a definite determination on. the part of each country to defend that peace if ever the need arises. The Government, in this measure, has no intention of being extravagant. It proposes to do the things that are essential for the defence of Australia. The Imperial Conference, acting upon the advice of men best qualified to speak concerning this vital question, came to the conclusion that each of the dominions, should do all that was possible to ensure the defence of its own territory. When the change of go- vernment came in. England, and when Mr-. Ramsay MacDonald became Prime Minister, many people thought that, since in season and out of season he had preached peace almost at any price, he would depart from the policy laid down by previoius governments for the defence of the Empire. But Mr. Ramsay MacDonald rose to the occasion.
– He did. He dropped the Singapore base swindle.
– I shall deal with that before I resume my seat. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald decided to increase, if anything,- the naval expenditure of Great Britain by making provision for the most efficient war vessels. The right honorable gentleman surprised many of his friends. When, for instance, he was required to attend an importantRoyal function, he appeared in full Court dress, with a sword dangling by his side, instead of attending the gathering as some of his friends had expected, with a plough-share under his arm. They overlooked, ofcourse, that since attaining the Premiership of Great Britain, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald had assumed larger responsibilities, that he had inside information of world affairs, and had become convinced that if the Empire was to be kept intact and to continue its present, position amongst the nations, it would be necessary to do all these things, which previously he had deprecated. The advice tendered to representatives of the Imperial Conference was the opinion of men competent to express reasoned views on this important question. In pursuance of, the understanding then arrived at the Government has decided to proceed with the construction of two 10,000-ton cruisers. Though my honorable friends opposite may disagree with me concerning some of the details of our defence proposals, they will, I feel sure, endorse the view that any defence scheme to be effective must be up-to-date. The intention is that the cruisers shall take the place of the Sydney and Melbourne, which will become obsolete in the course of a year or two. It is of supreme importance that we should replace those vessels with up-to-date cruisers, capable of defending the Australian trade routes.
– Will they be constructed in Australia?
– I shall come to that in a moment. No doubt it will be said by honorable senators opposite that every war vessel must, within a few years, be out-of-date. If we followed that reasoning to its logical conchision we should never build a warship. Australia, with important trade routes to be defended, is not likely to accept that view. Naval defence for a country like Australia, 12,000 miles distant from the Mother Country, is essential. Critics of the Government proposal will, perhaps, emphasize the importance of the aeroplane in modern warfare. That view was not lost sight of at the Imperial Conference. I was astonished, on the occasion of my visit to the Croydon aerodrome, at the number of machines - there were probably 100 there - taking part in aerial evolutions.
– Did the Minister go aloft?
– Not on your life ! Good men are scarce. I witnessed the different stunts, and when I saw how simple it. was it made me feel that one would he as safe in the air as down below, and that one did not run a greater risk of falling from above than he would of having something fall on him from above. After witnessing all these things we were asked by an officer to go to a dais, where he told us that he had arranged for a plane to leave Dover 50 or 60 miles away, and said that he would ring up and ask how the pilot was getting on. He had a loud speaker there, and rang up the machine that was then travelling from Dover. When he got in touch with it he asked, “How are you going?” The reply, which we heard as distinctly as honorable senators can hear me now, was “ All right, sir.” The officer asked, “ At what pace are you travelling?” The reply came, “At about 80 miles an hour, sir.” A British Minister who was standing alongside asked me what I thought of it. I simply replied, “It is wonderful.” That a man travelling in the clouds at 80 miles an hour can talk to any given- spot is almost beyond imagination, and my summing up to a friend who was with me was, “ It will be a waste of time for you to make your will. You will be able to ring up from above and ask what is being done with the goods you have left behind.” The Government are ambitious to live up to the Imperial Conference suggestions so that Australia may do its share in the defence of the Empire. We . all realize that we are not in a position to defend ourselves to the fullest extent. I do not think that we shall be able to do so in our time. The lea3t we can do is to lend sufficient aid to those who are assisting in the defence of Australia. That is the ambition of the Government, and to that end £2,000,000 has been appropriated from last year’s surplus for naval construction and £500,000 for general defence, the latter including munition supplies and air force development. The Government’s proposal is to build two 10,000-ton cruisers to take the place of the Sydney and Melbourne. It does not mean an expansion of the existing fleet unit, but is simply a replacement, or the maintenance of the existing unit in sufficiently good order.
– But it means an expansion of the tonnage.
– That is so. When the Prime Minister was in London, the matter was gone into very carefully. The British Government offered to build one of these cruisers for £1,900,000, and it was regarded as a good offer so far as Australia was concerned; but, of course, Mr. Bruce was not in a position to accept it without the authority of the Commonwealth Parliament. On his return to the Commonwealth it was gone into very carefully. It had already been held back for twelve months in order that the Government might be guided by the recent experience of the naval authorities at the other side of the world, and, in the light of that experience, the Prime Minister asked the Commonwealth Shipping Board and the Naval Board to submit to him estimates of the cost of constructing one of these cruisers in Australia. The estimate of the Shipping Board was £2,898,000, and that of the Naval Board was £3,400,000.
– I will back the Naval Board’s’ estimate.
– I do not know that I would do so. The honorable senator should not be led away by his experience of what he saw at ‘ Cockatoo Island. Things may have altered a little.
– In what direction ?
– For the better. I admit that there was plenty of room for improvement.
– The honorable senator is an optimist.
– Since these estimates were furnished, several suggestions have been put forward” for improving the cruisers, and cablegrams have been passing between here and Great Britain. The latest quotation of cost from London is between £2,100,000 and £2,200,000.
– Those figures are very close to the Australian estimates.
– There is a long way to go before the price reaches the Australian estimates. The British offer allows a set-off of £50,000 on each cruiser, provided an order is given for the two. But with the suggested improvements the prices submitted by the Shipping Board and the Naval Board must be revised, and, going carefully into these we find that the Shipping Board’s estimate would be increased to £3,300,000, and that of the Naval ‘Board to- £3,960,000, a veryconsiderable difference as compared with the overseas offer.
– I suppose that is- not the result of the investigations of the* special committee the Government have - just appointed to go into the question of costs.
– No. Time is a very important factor. It may be possible to build one cruiser in Australia within reasonable time, but it would be economically impossible to build two in a reasonable time. On the other hand, if the cruisers are built in Great Britain, the first can be delivered in 27 months,- and (he second in 30 months. Honorable senators will realize, as I do, that it is very important to have a cruiser built in Australia if it can be done at a reasonable cost and within reasonable time. We have a shipyard at Cockatoo Island. Honorable senators may remember that, speaking on a bill in this Chamber, I emphasized the fact that it was useless to have m’achinery if we had not a sufficient number of trained men to operate it. Although it may be the ambition of the Government to build a cruiser in Australia, at the same time it has a responsibility to the people in regard to the cost of the vessel.
– And also in regard to the time of delivery.
– Yes, time is a very important factor. The Government are so anxious to have a cruiser built in Australia, that the Prime Minister has. appointed a member of the Shipping Board, a member of the Naval Board, and Sir John Monash, as chairman, to form a committee to> go- very thoroughly into the estimates submitted by the Shipping Board and the Naval Board, and to con- sider in what time a cruiser could be built in Australia, as also the matter of efficiency. Every one: will admit that the representative of the Shipping Board will be exceedingly anxious to have a cruiser built in Australia. Some may declare that the representative of the Naval Board will not be anxious to have a cruiser built in Australia, and I am not in a position to say whether he will or will not. But we all know that Sir John Monash is an Australian of the first order, who will do everything he can to have one of the cruisers built in Australia, if it is at all possible. At a later date the details of this committee’s investigations and its finding will be submitted to Parliament for its guidance. Honorable senators opposite contend that both these cruisers should be built in Australia. I do not think it would be possible to do so, if we are to be guided by the opinion of those who advise the Government in regard to naval matters, and their opinion is that the two cruisers, when built, will virtually go out of commission in three years. No one is more anxious than I am to see the works at Cockatoo Island make good. I put in a good deal of work in the royal commission of inquiry into the Cockatoo
Island Dockyard, and tried to the very best of my abilities to put it on a business footing, so that ship building might be successfully established in Australia. I am anxious that the men employed at Cockatoo Island shall be fully trained in building cruisers, so that their services may be availed of in time of war. If we entrust to unskilled men the .task of handling the delicate machinery ‘ in vessels of war that may be docked at Cockatoo Island, it must lead to trouble. Therefore, I am exceedingly hopeful that we shall have at least one cruiser built in Australia, so that our own men may be trained in this very necessary part of Australia’s defence work. The evidence is against our having two cruisers built here, mainly on account of that very important factor - the time likely to be occupied in building. There is no division of .opinion in the Senate in regard to defence, and more particularly in regard to the importance of naval defence.
– There is certainly no division of opinion in regard to the importance of avoiding waste of public money.
– Senator Gardiner cannot charge me with being a party to any waste. I have in me a little Scotch blood which makes me very careful.
– Is it proposed to build a second cruiser in Australia after the arrival of the first from Great Britain?
– If the committee to which I refer reports that we can build a cruiser in Australia, there will be no delay in starting to build it here. I wish again to emphasize the point that time is the essence of the contract, and as that is the case, I ask honorable senators opposite to assist the Government by supporting the proposals submitted.
– Is it not a fact that an honorable member in another place stated that one cruiser was already under construction ?
– I am kept sufficiently busy in answering the interjections of honorable senators, without being called upon to verify the accuracy of statements made by honorable members in another place. I wish, however, to assure Senator McDougall of the point which I emphasized in my opening remarks, that an offer was made to the Prime Minister when in Great Britain, of a cruiser at £1,900,000, which offer he was not in a position to accept. The right honorable gentleman returned to Australia and placed the matter before Parliament. An order for a cruiser has not been placed in Great Britain, and the Government are not committed in any shape or form.
– There is nothing to prevent the Government taking over one of the cruisers at present in course of construction in Great Britain.
– No, I understand they are similar in design. The matter is entirely in the hands of Parliament, and to a large extent in the hands of the committee, which will consider the whole question. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will appreciate the fact that a committee such as that which I have mentioned will do what it believes to be the best in the interests of Australia. Provision has also been made for the expenditure of £500,000 on equipment and munitions, and materials. There is also another important matter with which Senator Greene is conversant, as it was raised when he was a Minister, and that is the survey of the Great Barrier reef. A portion of this money will be used to carry out that work, which is considered by the British and Australian naval authorities to be essential.
– Is it a survey from the air ?
– A survey of the Great Barrier reef is to be undertaken.
– Is it not now being made?
– I understand that preliminary work is being undertaken, but the general survey is not at present proceeding. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable senators. We are at least trying to do our part, and, although the Leader of the Opposition may not agree with all it purports to do, I can assure him that Australia, with its present meagre population, and vast extent of undeveloped territory, must do her share in the matter of defence. I trust the bill will have a speedy passage, and that it will be given the consideration which it deserves.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
. - I move: -
That the hill he now read a second time.
This is a very short measure, consisting of two brief clauses, one of which provides that meteorological telegrams shall be transmitted free to or from all Commonwealth meteorological offices or stations, and the other that the act shall be deemed to have commenced on the 1st day of July, 1923. The free transmission of meteorological messages is not an innovation in Australia, as prior to federation- such telegrams were transmitted without charge by the Post and Telegraph Departments in the several states. The Commonwealth Act passed in 1902 also provided for the free transmission of meterological messages on behalf of state meteorological departments. From 1907, when the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau was established, and for years afterwards no charge was made in respect of these telegrams, but early in 1920, at a conference consisting of the permanent heads of the Treasury, the Home and Territories Department, and the Post and Telegraph Department, it was recommended that these telegrams should be charged for. This recommendation was adopted and the messages ‘ were charged for, from the 1st July, at ordinary telegraphic rates.
– It is very largely a bookkeeping arrangement.
– Yes. It is one which entails a good deal of work, and for which practically nothing is received as revenue. It is merely a question of taking money out of one pocket and placing it in another.
– Why is it proposed to make it retrospective?
– If it is desirable to make it apply to this year and succeeding years there is no reason whyits provisions should not be made retrospective. As a matter of fact, an arrangement was made to that effect, but it was subsequently found it could not be legally done without an amendment of the principal act. That is what we now propose.
– This is to make legal what has already been done.
– Yes. This class of business does not entail any expense on the Post and Telegraph Department, because it consists mainly of very short telegrams despatched early in the day when there is no rush of other telegraphic business. The arrangement is considered desirable from every point of view, as the weather forecasts are of interest to almost every one, and particularly to primary producers. I trust the bill will commend itself to honorable senators, and that there will be no delay in allowing it to become law.
– This is not a measure . on which I intend to ask for the adjournment -of the debate. I think, however, that it is a mistake to make the legislation retrospective. The principle is a bad - one, but coming as it does from a Government such as is in office at. present, we must not be surprised if it is twelve months behind time with its legislation. The Acting Postmaster-General (Senator. Crawford) endeavoured to explain the retrospective provision by saying that if it is good to apply the principle to- this and succeeding years it should also be applied to the past year. If we were to apply that principle to other legislation one naturally wonders where we would be. I agree with the Minister that meteorological information should be spread as rapidly and freely as possible”. It does not, we know, cost the department very much, because the messages can be transmitted during slack periods.
– I do not think there is any service which the Commonwealth renders to the rural community that is of greater importance than that of the weather reports issued from time to time. If I have any criticism to level against the department it is that it is not as generous as it might be in establishing stations, sometimes at points which are not very far removed from those already in existence, but at which the records vary very materially. I know of places separated by not more than 20 miles, where there is a difference of 20 inches in the average annual rainfall, and yet the department refuses to establish another station at a point where it is needed, because it is within a comparatively short distance of one already in existence. I have often wondered why these new stations are refused.
– The Government are restricted by the vote.
– That is the reason always given.
– Last year we had not sufficient money to provide rain gauges.
– I wish to ascertain from the Minister whether, as a result of his department being relieved of this very heavy charge for telegrams, he will see that greater consideration is given to the establishment of additional stations in country districts. I am quite aware that the bill is little more than a gesture. It really accomplishes nothing, and so far as the Consolidated Revenue is concerned, it is really a matter of taking money out of one pocket and placing it in another. It relieves the gross expenditure on one side of the ledger of one department, and removes the receipts from the assets of another department. It does not. do any more. I remember very well when the conference to which the Minister referred was held. The Postmaster-General of the day complained that his department was carrying out, for other departments, many services for which it was not being paid, and therefore showed a loss. The net result was that a conference of departmental heads was called, when it was decided to establish a bookkeeping system whereby every department was charged for, and the post office was credited with, the services rendered. The same rates were charged to other departments as to the general public. By this measure the Government is wiping out of existence that purely bookkeeping arrangement.
– It involves considerable work.
– It does not cheapen the service to the public in any way, nor does it assist the rural industries of Australia.
– It will probably lead to a better meteorological service.
– I hope so; but that will only be done by an extension of the service. While the number of stations remains as at present, and the vote for the service is not increased, there will be no extension of the country weather reports. In view of the fact that this amount has been taken off the Estimates of the Home and Territories Department, I ask the Government to see that some further grant is provided to enable an extension of those services to be made to many districts where they do not exist to-day. I know the financial difficulties in the way, but this, is a case where a comparatively small expenditure will do a vast amount of good. These small country stations are not costly to run, as the work is generally performed by some residential government officer, such as the schoolmaster or the postmaster. The- real cost is in the provision of the instruments, which, however, are comparatively cheap. The reports are of considerable assistance to the meteorologist in preparing his forecasts. The more reports he obtains the more accurately can he forecast, thus making the service of more value to the rural industries of this country. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to treat the country districts of Australia more generously in this matter than has been the case in the past.
– I am pleased that the Government has introduced this bill, and, speaking meteorologically, may I be allowed to express the hope that it is a straw which shows that the wind has set fair in the direction of the government employing a little more money, time and trouble, and using to a greater exton*, the scientific methods at their disposal, to encourage our industries. Any one who has studied, even as superficially as I have, the importance which attaches to meteorological observations in the United States of America, and the important part they play in the life of the community there, must be convinced that we neglect our opportunities. By releasing, as this bill proposes to do, a little more money for the provision of proper facilities for our meteorological department, I think that the. Government is acting wisely. I hope that they will not stop there. In my own state it is important that we have proper weather forecasts, but such forecasts are extremely difficult to obtain. I should like the
Government to give this matter very careful consideration. “We know from our weather reports that nearly all our changes of weather come from the west. To the west of Western Australia there is no station under the control of the Federal Government. If a meteorological station were established at, say, Christmas Island, or on one of the outlying islands off the Western Australian coast, we should get very much better information concerning ‘ approaching changes of weather. The cost would not be great, and as it is of great importance to our primary producers, all of whom are dependent on the weather, I hope that the Government will not neglect this aspect of the matter. The more our primary producers know of approaching weather conditions the better provision will they be able to make, both for wet and dry seasons. I have pleasure in supporting this small bill. I wish that it were larger. I hope, however, that the Government will see its way clear to make better provision for supplying this important public need.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Some two or three years ago the Governwas compelled to go to the rescue of the beef and cattle industry in various parts of Australia. Most honorable senators are conversant with the fact that those engaged in the cattle industry have passed through very hard and trying times.
– So have those engaged in the mining industry.
– Let me take one subject at a time. At the moment I have not the time to spare nor would the Standing Orders permit me now, to deal with mining. The action taken at that time was fully ‘ justified, as it preserved to this country an important industry, and gave to I hose engaged in it an opportunity to win through. We are pleased to know that the cattle industry to-day, although still anything but prosperous, is in a decidedly better position than it was. We have endeavoured to assist those who. have gone into the central portions of Australia to engage . in the cattle industry. While a short time ago fat cattle were very difficult to dispose of at any price, the position has improved recently te a very great extent. I shall give a comparison of the prices in Queensland this year with those of last year. The latter prices include the bounty. In Northern Queensland in 1923. for good average quality beef 16s. 4d. per 100 lb. was obtained. This year the price is 17s. In 1923 fair average quality beef brought 13s. 4d. per 100 lb., as against 14s. 6d. this year. In Southern Queensland in 1923 the price of good average quality beef was 18s. 6d. per 100 lb., whereas this year it ranges from 22s. to 24s. for the same weight. For fair average quality beef the price in 1923 was 14s. as against from 17s. to 19s. per 100 lb. this year. I am assured, also, that this year as high a price as 21s. per 100 lb. has been reached for prime beef by the meat works in Northern Queensland, and that 26s. per 100 lb. has been paid in Southern Queensland. That very satisfactory result shows the wisdom of the action of the Government in carrying this industry through the trying period of a year or two back. Further proof of the improvement which has taken place in this industry is supplied by the Wyndham works, where last year the price per head of live cattle was £3 3s.. plus a bounty of 7s. 9d. This year, without the bounty, the price is £3 Ils. It is satisfactory to know that threefourths of this year’s output from Wyndham has been sold to Belgium.
– We should be glad that a National Government has been in power.
– The Government has done very good work in this connexion.
– What about the Country party?
– That party is well represented in the Senate, which, possibly, is the reason for the good work performed.
– Does the honorable senator represent the Country party?
– I should not like to think that the Country party was represented by the honorable senator who asked the question. Before the question of bounties was settled in 1922, a reduction in freight of £d. per lb. and £d. per lb. in meat works treatment charges in the case of beef for export was insisted upon by the Government. In 1923 further reductions were insisted on, namely £d. per lb. in freight charges, and a similar reduction in the treatment changes. Honorable senators will realize that the beef industry has passed through a very trying period, and that it has been very difficult for the pastoralists to sell their output or to get rid of their fat stock. The action of the Government in carrying the pastoral, industry over a trying period has been amply justified. Now, after careful consideration, the Government does not intend to continue the payment of the bounty on beef, but, as it is believed that there is a tremendous market for beef on the hoof, it is proposed to give a bounty of 10s. per head on the export of live cattle. The following figures show the exports of live cattle for slaughter for 1922 and 1923: -
There has been no export to Manila and Java during the present year owing to the prohibition against Australia, but the ports are now open, and steps are being taken to resume the shipping of cattle. Only 100 head of cattle have been exported to Hong Kong this year. The Darwin meatworks will not be opened by Vestey Bros before 1925, and even then they may not be restarted. It will, therefore, be realized that if the cattle industry is to be kept going in the northern portion of Australia encouragement will need to be given to the export of beef on the hoof. It is understood that Java is likely to increase its demand for live cattle to a considerable extent, and it is also thought that Singapore will come into the market. Hong Kong, too, is now endeavouring to open up this trade.
It is estimated that the proposed bounty will not be paid on more than 15,000 head of cattle. To-day there is only one steamer engaged in the trade, and, if the rate of export exceeds 5,000 head per annum for any considerable period two steamers will be required. It is estimated that there are in the Northern Territory and Western Australia 30,000 head of fat cattle ready for the market. In 1922 the Run of £123,160 was expended by way of bounty on the frozen beef and cattle export trade; and, in 1923, £141,300, of which £3,633 waa for live cattle, was paid.
– Is the Government not going to continue the payment of the bounty on frozen beef?
– -No; the price does not justify it.
– The works at Wyndham and elsewhere would not have remained open had it not been for that bounty.
– That is so. We have seen markets collapse before. I recollect buying a sheep for 2s.
– I remember when the price was down to ls. 6d.
– At one time wheat could be purchased at ls. 9d. or ls. lOd. a bushel. I have long held the belief that, when the cattle industry passes through the trying period experienced of recent years, those who remain in the industry will enjoy prosperous times. I recall the fact that there have been failures in the pig market, but I do not know anybody who has persevered with the pig industry without making money out of it. I firmly believe that the cattle industry in the north of Australia will yet be crowned with success. I have no hesitation in asking the Senate to agree to the proposed expenditure for the purpose of assisting the industry in its time of dire need.
– Do I understand the Minister to say that the exporter will receive the bounty 1 If so, what is- there to prevent Vestey Brothers from buying up all the stock in the Northern Territory and receiving the whole of the bounty 1
– I shall deal with that point in committee.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mcdougall) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 31st July £vide page 2655), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That tb e papers be printed.
.– Honorable senators have had an opportunity to look through the budget papers, and I do not intend to add anything to the remarks I have already made.
Debate (on motion by Senator Hannan) adjourned.
Order of the day for the second reading of this bill read and discharged, and the bill withdrawn.
Senate adjourned at 10.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 August 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240806_senate_9_108/>.