12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W.Kingsmill) took the chair at 8 p.m., and read prayers.
– On 26th June, Senator E. B. Johnston asked the following, questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
– On 4th July, Senator Carroll asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
– On 26th June, Sena tor Pearce asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the right honorable senator with the following information : -
– On the 16th July, Senator E. B. Johnston asked, inter alia -
How many steamer passages from Darwin to southern ports had been granted, and to which ports, during the past twelve months?
I am now in a position to advise the honorable senator as follows: -
The number of passages granted for the year ended 30th June, 1930, and the places to which the persons proceeded, were as follow : - Wyndham,.6; Derby, 1; Carnarvon, 1; Oeraldton, 2; Fremantle; 8; Thursday Island, 1; Townsville, 8; Brisbane, 5; Sydney, 12; Melbourne, 30- total, 74.
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I am unaware of the circumstances, but will have inquiries made and will inform the honorable senator in due course.
Minister representing the Minister for Trade and- Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are-
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The Government has no official information on the subject.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets. upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Statement of British Prime Minister
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, -
– The answers are -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The whole question of shipping freights has been a matter of discussion between the Government and representatives of the shippers and shipping companies. Negotiations are still proceeding.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
On the basis of progress for the six months ended 30th June, 1930, the average monthly increase has been as follows: -
As stated in reply to 1, there is no reason to doubt that similar progress will be made for the ensuing six months. 3 and 4. Answers to these questions will be made as soon as the information is available.
Debate resumed from 16th July (vide page4162) on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.16]. - I do not propose to discuss this bill at length, as in the circumstances, I amin agreement with what the Government propose. There is, however, a matter relating to the conditions of employment of private secretaries to Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition which I wish to bring under the notice of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly), and I ask that he will be good enough to give it consideration. The Government has, I think, very rightly made some provision to meet the case of public servants seconded for duty as private secretaries to Ministers’ or to Leaders of the Opposition; but one point appears to have been overlooked, If an officer selected as a private secretary had remained in a department he would in the normal course of events, have been entitled to increments based upon length of service ; but when seconded as a private secretary to a Minister or to a Leader of the Opposition he receives only an allowance in accordance with the Public Service regulations. If he conducts his work as a private secretary with satisfaction he, of course, holds his position for some time ; but if his services are considered unsatisfactory he is quickly returned to the Public Service. Officers showing adaptability and ability are retained by Ministers, and consequently lose the opportunity to obtain thetherements or promotion they would have received had they remained in a department. A time comes when, in view of the years of service, the salary becomes inadequate - there is a limit to the salary to be paid to private secretaries - and they then have to return to a department.
Provision is made in the bill that the Public Service Board may appoint such officers to positions at salaries approximating those which they received as private secretaries. That is not mandatory upon the board, because a suitable position may not be available. Such an officer may have to wait some time before being appointed toa position in the Public Service at a salary approximating that which he received as a private secretary. I understand that in these circumstances he returns to the Public Service at the salary which he was receiving prior to being seconded for duty as a private secretary; but he does not receive the increments which he would have obtained had he remained in the service. I should like the Leader of the Government to inform the Senate if that position has been met in this bill. It seems to me that it is not. As an act of justice, the difficulty should be overcome, perhaps by an amendment of the Public Service regulations. These young officers - they are usually young - who take these positions should not suffer because they possess ability. If they do not, they are quickly returned to the Public Service. If they possess ability they should not suffer in consequence.
– The point raised by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) agitated the mind of the Government considerably when this bill was being drafted. The difficulties surrounding legislation affecting the Public Service are, however, so great that it could not see how the contingency referred to by the right honorable gentleman could be met. The point is not the period for which a particular man may be engaged on certain work, but the nature of the work on which he is engaged. A man who, in his proper avocation, would earn a salary of £2,000 a year might be employed on work which merits a payment of only £500 a year. Difficulty arises when a man in, say, the Postmaster-General’s Department, whose salary and increments are fixed in relation to his work in that department, is transferred to another position in which the sense of responsibility is entirely different.
There must be a certain discretionary power in respect to private secretaries who are transferred back to their original departments, otherwise the whole scheme will be upset. That difficulty arose when certain officers were transferred from the Development and Migration Commission to the Public Service again. In its endeavour to treat those men justly, the Public Service Board had also to see that no injustice was done to other officers of the Public Service. In so far as it affects private secretaries who are returned to the Public Service, this particular’ provision is on all fours with another provision relating to public servants who may be seconded for any other work. The clause is in conformity with the general scheme which operates throughout the Public Service. While the Government would like to alter the position in order to better the conditions of these private secretaries, the terms of the Public Service Act render that impossible. The clause is the best that the Government can do to mete out justice to all the men concerned.
– If the language of the proposed new section 48a were altered slightly, the position might be improved.
– I am obliged to the honorable senator for his suggestion. When the bill is in committee I shall be prepared to listen to any suggestion for the betterment of these officers, consistent with the duty of the Government to the Public Service generally.
.- So far as I have been able to ascertain, this bill contains nothing that is objectionable. The amendments proposed appear to be desirable. As this is the natal day of the Minister in charge of this measure, I suggest that it would be a fitting compliment if the Senate made the bill a birthday present to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) After section forty-eight of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 48a. An officer seconded for duty as private secretary to a Minister or member of the Federal Executive Council or to the
Leader of the Opposition in either House of the Parliament, shall, upon the termination of his employment in that capacity, be entitled to appointment to an office in the Commonwealth Service of such status and salary as are determined by the board, having regard to the officeheld by the officer prior to his being seconded for such duty and to the period of his employment as private secretary.”. (2.) This section shall be deemed to have commenced on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty.
– It appears that the consideration of the board is limited by the language employed. The board is to have regard to the office held by the officer prior to his being seconded for special duty. To that extent the proposed new section is satisfactory. The only other thing to which the board must give consideration is the period of the officer’s employment as a private secretary. The duties pertaining to the office of a private secretary may be far more difficult and onerous than those which the officer discharged previously. I suggest that the position would be improved by the addition of the words “ and nature “ after the word “ period “. That would enable the board to deal with his case in a more generous way than at present. I feel that the special nature of the duties of a private secretary should be taken into account.
– The proposed new section has been copied from the Officers’ Bights Declaration Act.
– I am afraid that that is so, for I have a recollection that it was in connexion with that measure that the matter first came under my notice. I feel that the proposed new section, as printed, limits the field of inquiry by the board to that of time. I, therefore, move -
That after word “ period “, proposed new section 48a. the words “ and nature “ be inserted.
– We have no objection to the amendments.
Amendment agreed to.
– I draw the attention of the Minister to the arbitrary date that is fixed in sub-clause 2, the first day of January, 1930. The honorable senator will recollect that this legislation was in contemplation during the regime of the previous Government, and I am aware that some of the officers then acting as private secretaries had reason to believe that the amendment would date back to the 1st July, 1929. I do not think that that would impose any additional expenditure upon the Government, and, out of a sense of justice to those officers, I ask the Minister to accept an amendment dating the provision back to the 1st July, 1929.
– It is rather difficult to consider an amendment until one appreciates what its effect will be. This legislation was fully considered by the Public Service Board, and I know of no protests that have been lodged by anybody who claims to be entitled to be brought under the provisions of the measure. Unless the honorable senator can advise me of any case of hardship that is likely to occur from the retention of the date at present incorporated in the bill, I ask him not to press his suggested amendment. I could not accept an amendment simply to cover problematical cases. The committee is entitled to know what will be the effect of any legislation that is placed before it.
– Without naming any individual officer, I draw attention to the position of private secretaries to Ministers, and to Leaders of the Opposition, during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. Those officers were all seconded from their ordinary positions prior to the 1st January, 1930. Of course, when they accepted those positions, they took the risk with their eyes open.
– Would not the honorable senator’s objection be met by substituting 1st October for 1st July, 1929?
– Yes. I move -
That the words and numerals “ January, 1930 “, sub-section 2 of proposed new section 48a, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words and numerals “ October, 1929.”
– The Government has no objection to the honorable senator’s amendment. I think that it will cover all of the people that he has in mind, upon whom an injustice might have fallen.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Section eighty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from the proviso to subsection (1.) the words “has been acquired or erected by the Commonwealth solely for the purpose for residence of the officer “, and inserting in their stead the words” is occupied by an officer solely as a residence “.
– I should like an explanation as to the effect of this clause.
.- Sub-section (1) of section 89 of the principal act reads -
If the whole or part of a building belonging to or occupied by the Commonwealth is occupied for the purpose of residence by an officer, the board may direct that a fair and reasonable sum, not exceeding 10 per centum of the salary of the officer, shall be chargeable as rent for such occupancy, and the amount of that sum may be deducted from the salary of the officer:
Provided that where any such building has been acquired or erected by the Commonwealth solely for the purpose for residence of the officer without an incidental obligation of supervision or general control by the officer over personnel or property, the officer occupying the premises shall pay such rent …
The explanation is obvious when the proposed amendment is read in conjunction with those provisions.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments: report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Business for the Senate - Primage
Duties : Launceston ComplaintDeferred Duty on Sheet Glass.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I have had the conference which I promised I would have with the Leader of the Opposition, and if honorable senators will refer to the notice-paper of another place they will see exactly what business the Government expects to deal with during the present sittings of Parliament. Since I have spoken to the Leader of the Opposition another measure, the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Bill, has been sent to me by the Prime Minister.- Although one or two of its provisions may be contentious, the principles of the measure were fully debated in this chamber when the late Government was in power, and I do not anticipate that its consideration will occupy much time on this occasion. I shall have another conference with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), because it may be necessary for me to ask the Senate to sit an extra morning next week, and an extra day the following week so that the Government’s legislative programme may bo completed by 8th August next.
.- To-day, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, a question in regard to the position of importers in Northern Tasmania who, through the imposition of primage duties of 2^ per cent., have had to pay duty which was not collected on goods lauded from the same steamer a few days previously in Hobart. The Hobart goods were discharged before the primage duties operated; they were imposed after the vessel left Hobart but before she reached Launceston. The question I asked to-day was whether the Government would consider the matter of remitting the primage duties which had to be paid by the northern importers of Tasmania and not by the southern importers on the same class of cargo. The answer I received was -
Under thu Customs Act, duty must he paid at the rate in force when the goods are entered for home consumption. The department has no alternative hut to carry out the law.
Everybody knows that the department has no alternative but to carry out the law, but I was anxious to know if the Minister would sufficiently interest himself as to remedy an obvious injustice.
– How can the Minister remedy it if the law does not permit him to do so? Does the honorable senator suggest that the Minister should break the law?
– It would not be the first time a Minister has broken the law in order to remove an injustice. The honorable senator knows of similar cases and that there is a general feeling that the Customs Act should be amended so that there may bo no differentiation between different parts of a State with regard to the incidence of customs duties. I hope, therefore, he will do something in the matter. Cases have occurred in which vessels have discharged at Sydney, and have not reached Melbourne before certain customs duties have been imposed, but I do not know of another instance of customs duties being imposed while a vessel is proceeding from one port of a State to another port in the same State. In all earnestness, I suggest that the Minister should, ascertain if it is possible to give relief to the Launceston importers, but if he finds that it is impossible for him to do it, I hope he will take early steps to prevent any recurrence of such a manifest injustice. The imposition of the primage duties at this particular time presses very harshly on a section of importers in Tasmania. In doing business with clients all over the State it handicaps them 2£ per cent, in comparison with the importers in the southern part of Tasmania.
The Tariff Board Act which was passed by both Houses of Parliament in 192:1, provides that the Tariff Board must, from time to time, report to the Minister for Trade and Customs upon the capability of Australian manufacturers to supply reasonable quantities of goods for which deferred duties are provided in the customs tariff, and if it reports that any Australian manufacturer is in a position to supply a reasonable quantity of a commodity, for which a deferred duty is provided, the Minister may make that duty operative. It is not obligatory upon him to do so. The 1926 tariff imposed a duty of 2s. per 100 square ft. on sheet glass and a deferred duty of l£d. per lb. or 12s. 6d. per 100 square ft., which deferred rate was subsequently imposed on the report of the Tariff Board that evidence taken by it disclosed that a certain manufacturer in Australia would, in a very short- period, be able to provide a reasonable quantity of window glass for Australia.
– I understood from the honorable senator that he did not propose to discuss the tariff.
– I am not discussing the tariff. This preliminary explanation is necessary in order to make myself understood. It was provided that on and after the 1st July, 1926, the duty should become operative, presuming that glass was then being manufactured. From year to year, the duty was further deferred, and only a few months ago, by a Commonwealth Gazette notification, itwas deferred until August, 1930. Notwithstanding the publication of that notice, the Minister for Trade and Customs took it upon himself on 19th June to bring into operation that duty, although not one square foot of such glass has been manufactured in Australia. Surely the Minister should not be above the law. 1 enter my vigorous protest against this action of a member of the Commonwealth Government in setting an example to the people to break the law.
– I do not think that the honorable senator is in order in accusing a member of the Commonwealth Government of breaking the law.
– A proclamation was published in the Commonwealth Gazette deferring the duty until August, but in June the Minister brought down a schedule which had the effect of rendering that proclamation null and void, notwithstanding the fact that no glass of the class in question has yet been manufactured in Australia. Moreover, without any report having been received from the Tariff Board, he has increased the duty on British figured glass from 15 per cent., ad valorem, to 75 per cent.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in discussing the tariff schedule?
– The honorable senator is not out of order,but he is taking a very unusual course. However, I presume that he deems the matter to be of sufficient importance to bring it before the Senate in this manner.
– Perhaps the method is unusual, but I never hesitate to follow an unusual course in this chamber if I think it is necessary in the interests ofthe people of Australia, provided I am not outside the Standing Orders. I protest against the high-handed action of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) in ignoring the proclamation deferring the duty on this glass until August, and in completely ignoring the surrounding circumstances. Deferred duties are imposed so that protection will be given to an industry when it is needed.
No glass of this kind is yet being manufactured in Australia, and this duty is an unwarrantable imposition on the people of Australia, who, goodness knows, are burdened enough as it is. Ignoring the direction of the Tariff Board Act, the Minister, at his own sweet will, or at the instigation of some one outside Parliament, has imposed this further burden on the community. I shall leave it at that for the time being, though I shall have a great deal more to say when we are discussing the Tariff Bill, if we are ever given an opportunity to do so.
– If the honorable senator, who has just resumed his scat really appreciated the significance of what he has said about the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), I should take very strong exception to his remarks. The Minister has done nothing unlawful, as the honorable senator would learn if he studied the system of legislation by proclamation. Constitutional provision exists for the repeal of any proclamation. I advise him, before placing on record in Hansard, a statement which might be misconstrued outside Parliament, to he more careful of his facts, and of his language.
– My next statement will be stronger.
– So long as the honorable senator keeps within the Standing Orders he may make his statement as strong as he likes. It is not the statement itself, but its cogency, which affects the matter, and influences the mind of honorable senators.
– It is an absolutely shocking thing.
– The Government is used to abuse, and a small item of abuse from Tasmania will not affect it.
– Is not Tasmania part of Australia?
– It is, and that is why I am anxious that a representative of Tasmania should address the Australian Parliament in an Australian manner.
– What is meant by an Australian manner?
– It is not usual for representative of the Australian people to describe the constitutional action of Ministers of the Crown as unlawful.
Since moving the motion, I have ascertained the nature of the business likely to come before us from another place, and 1 advise honorable senators that if the Senate meets to-morrow it will he a very thin day. Therefore, in order that the Senate may adjourn until next week I ask leave to withdraw the motion that the Senate do now adjourn.
Leave granted ; motion withdrawn.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to -
That the Senateat its rising adjourn till Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300717_senate_12_125/>.