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Wednesday, 8 September 1920

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) .- I have always objected to public servants being treated as individuals who are not entitled to the rights that are enjoyed by their fellow citizens; and this Bill only pursues the infamous plan that has been carried out in every State in Australia. Time was when the public servants were called the " curled darlings " of the State, but they were not allowed then to take any action in political life. They dared not give their opinion on a political matter, but were treated as pariahs, not fit to exercise the rights granted to their fellow-citizens. No employees were ever sweated more foully, wickedly, and cruelly than have been the public servants. I am glad to hear the words that have fallen from the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), but by his action in supporting this Bill he is assisting to carry on the infamies of the past, and place the public servants in a corral away from their fellowcitizens. If the' honorable member does not vote for the amendment his words of sympathy are not of much avail - nothing speaks like acts. I recall a wonderful old miner, who, when an unfortunate man was imprisoned below, with no hope of rescue, was asked to offer up a prayer, and his reply was, " I do not know much about prayers, but I am willing to give a pound to his widow "- an offer worth an ocean of prayer. Public servants now can go on the political platform if they wish. In Victoria, at one time, a public servant would have been sacked at once had he dared to take any part in political life, and for years the railway employees could not affiliate with their fellow-unionists at the Trades Hall. Yet no one knows better than do honorable members of this House that it is by the efforts pf the working people themselves that their present stalwart position has been won. In this very Chamber, when it was the home of the State Parliament, the present Chief Justice of Victoria (Sir William Irvine), to his eternal disgrace, introduced a Bill which would not allow any railway servant, policeman, magistrate, or other public servant, to have full political rights. In fact, the policeman who arrested a criminal,' and the magistrate who sentenced him, did not enjoy the political power that the criminal could exercise when he had paid his debt for his fault. The public servants were allowed to vote only in a certain circumscribed way. That was one of the measures of Mr. Irvine, as he then was, and it was subsequently thrown out with ignominy, not only by the Legislative Assembly, under the Premiership of the late Mr. Bent, but wonder of wonders, by the Legislative Council also. It is now proposed to have a special Arbitrator for the Public Service of the Commonwealth. They are not considered fit to go into the ordinary Arbitration Court, but I say, " In the name of common sense let th.em have the right to go to any Court just as -the man in the street has," and I shall be very much disappointed if the younger members of this House support this proposal. I am sorry they are not in the Chamber now to hear what I am saying, because if they had only gone through the horror of that period when that vile legislation was placed on the Victorian statutebook, I am sure their vote would be against the Government on this occasion. That Victorian Act was far more drastic than the Coercion Act passed by the British House of Commons, and applied to Ireland: Who could blame the British Legislature for passing their measure, when, on the very day on which the Bill was introduced, the poor dead clay pf Cavendish and Burke was buried? But even that legislation was not as infamous as was the Victorian Coercion Act, which prevented the railway men from holding meetings, and prohibited any citizen from rendering assistance to women and children in want. However, out of that limbo of abomination, the public servant has been raised, until to-day he is, in most matters, the peer of any other citizen. But now we tell him that he is not fit to go into the ordinary Arbitration Court, and must have an Arbitrator for himself.

Mr Brennan - The Government did something as bad as that under the War Precautions Act.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Heaven knows what they have not done under that Act, and what they may do under it until the people who pay have, by the use of the Initiative Referendum and Recall, the full control of this Parliament. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has told us that there* are 14,475 men in our Public Service receiving less than £200 per annum. Honorable members have also heard the eloquent sentences of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), which might have been culled from one of the writers of the period of Gladstone, but were wrongly applied. The object of the honorable member was to impress on others the need for voting for this Bill, but I warn honorable members that the public servants are not fools. They will mark the men who vote to treat them as pariahs, unfit to go into the ordinary Courts of the land. In Committee I shall seek to amend sub-clause 1 of clause 7 to read as follows : -

The salary of the Arbitrator shall not exceed f 1,000 "a year.

I shall move in this way to secure economy, and because the people, who pay everything, have no voice in the matter. At every opportunity I shall divide the House on the payment of any salary of £1,000 or upwards, and I deeply regret to say that I believe the Minister, who answered a question submitted by me a little time ago on this matter of salaries, was misled by the head of the Department who supplied him with the answer. I use the word " misled." It is a mild way of putting it. Outside this chamber I would employ a stronger term. I asked for the number of public servants receiving £1,500 a year and .upwards, and the answer was that there were none receiving over £1,500 a year, and only five men - and they were employed in the Defence Department - whose allowances brought their remuneration to over that figure. There, alone, is sufficient room for economy, but I have since been informed that the Admiral of the Fleet is paid far more than £1,500 a year. If that is so, the answer supplied to the' Minister was certainly inaccurate. I would like the people of Australia to control, not only our salaries, but also- those paid to every public officer, right up to the GovernorGeneral. I would go further, and say it was about time that we chose our own Governor-General. Every time I have the opportunity I shall harp on the question as to who pays these salaries, and I am pleased to note the fact that the Age newspaper is educating, not only Victoria, but the whole of Australia, to realize that the people, who pay everything, should have the right to a say in all such matters. I have no objection to the appointment of a Judge as Arbitrator, although I hope he will nob be such a silly ass as to go to the tail of a horse for the decoration of hie head. No honorable member opposite will dare to say that those who are engaged in the education of Australians are treated properly. Certainly, education is not a Commonwealth matter, except in regard to the children in our own Territories; but my opinion is that no nation will become properly civilized until the cost of education exceeds the cost of equipping soldiers. The only country in which that has ever been done - and it was only for a brief period, I am sorry to say - is Switzerland, where the people control, not only Parliament, but the President, the Judiciary, and the whole Public Service. For three years Switzerland r>aid more for the education of its young than it paid to the soldiers engaged in the defence of the .country.

Mr Brennan - Education is the best kind of defence.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Yes , and if the people ever get a chance of voting on that matter, I am perfectly certain they will not be neglectful of their own interests and, above all, of the interests of those they love better than themselves - their children. I shall take the opportunity in Committee to move an amendment to limit the salary of the Arbitrator. T cannot be accused of having any personal animus against any individual, because I neither know nor care whom the Government intend to appoint. I impress on the minds of honorable members that we, who receive £1,000 per annum, have to face our creators one day in every three years. The public servant neverhas to do that. I admit that amongst the higher-paid members of the Service are men of genius. For his responsible work the Auditor-General gets £1,000 per annum. Mr. Knibbs, whose name is more widely known throughout Europe to-day than that of any other Australian, also receives £1,000 per annum. I make no complaint of that; but in connexion with some of the new appointments the Government are inclined to be a little overgenerous. Any man can live well on £1,000 per annum. I lived well on £600 per annum for a long time. I intend to endeavour to have the maximum salary fixed at £1,000 per annum until the people themselves have the power, by means of the referendum, of determining this question, and then they may pay what remuneration they think right and proper.

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