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Friday, 8 December 1911


Senator WALKER (New South Wales) . - I should like the Minister in charge of the Bill to tell us, in his reply, why, in the definition of " Public Service of the Commonwealth," in clause 2, there is no allusion to the Public Service of Papua? Seeing that it is under the control of the Commonwealth, why should not the public servants of that Territory have the advantage of this legislation ? I notice that the definition includes the Public Service of the Northern Territory, and of the Territory of the seat of Government. Why should it not also include that of the Territory of Papua ?


Senator de Largie - Because its public servants are under another Parliament.


Senator WALKER - They have the same right, I presume,, to the benefits of this legislation as have other servants in the employment of the Commonwealth.


Senator McGregor - They have a Legislative Council, which is equivalent to a Parliament.


Senator WALKER - But everything which the .Legislative Council of Papua does is subject to the veto of the Government and the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I do not see why the principle of this Bill should not be applied generally. Surely the Arbitration Court has quite enough to do already, without casting upon it work of this kind. I think that we are overloading the Court. We shall have to appoint a second Judge shortly if we go on like this.


Senator de Largie - It is better to overload the Arbitration Court than to have so many strikes.


Senator WALKER - Clause ti provides that no costs shall be allowed in connexion with proceedings under this measure, and clause 12 that counsel or solicitors shall not be engaged. That seems to me to be unfair. The Government will have legal advice, and why should not the public servants be similarly equipped? If they have to consult lawyers, it is not fair to expect to get that assistance for nothing. It appears to me that much valuable time will be lost both on .the part of heads of Departments and the Public Service Commissioner, if they have continually to attend appeals before the Arbitration Court. I know from experience of other institutions that it is generally the lame ducks of the service who are continually bothering about more pay. In nine cases out of ten these persons have no cause for complaint.


Senator de Largie - Cases of that kind are not likely to be taken up by a union.


Senator WALKER - It would be better to give some men six months salary and let them retire than to give them these facilities. The last speaker said that the public servants owe more to the present Labour Government than to any previous Government. I am of opinion that the Commonwealth public servants owe much to the first Federal Government, which took care to put them in a comfortable position with regard to a minimum wage. It is nonsense to say that the present Ministry have done more than any previous Government. They have simply gone a little further than others were able to do, but the foundations were laid in the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. I have a lively recollection of the struggle we had for the minimum wage, and for the rights of the women employes. But all those past works are now looked upon as worthy to be forgotten. I believe that the Public Service Commissioner has honestly endeavoured to do what is right between man and man; and while the present Government are doing what they believe to be right, there is no reason whatever to suggest that previous Ministries did not strive to do the same. It is a great mistake to praise one Government at the expense of another to such an extent as has been done. As to Senator Ready's remarks regarding arbitration, I must observe that ever since we have had arbitration in the Commonwealth, .we have had industrial unsettlement. At Lithgow the men will not carry out the award given by the Court. There certainly has been more excitement in regard to labour during the past four years than ever before. I do not believe in strikes. I believe in sensible men meeting together to settle their differences amicably. We do that in private life, and why can it not be done in the industrial arena. I like to be a man of peace, and believe in friendly conciliation in connexion with all matters. I strongly object to the party to which I belong being looked upon as inhumanitarian. It is nonsense to make suggestions of the kind. We have just as kindly a feeling towards the public servants as have honorable senators opposite.







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