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Tuesday, 12 December 1911

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I ask Senator McGregor to withdraw the remark.

Senator McGregor - I very humbly and respectfully withdraw it.

Senator ST LEDGER - In answer to our objections, Senator McGregor has quoted a statutory rule of an AttorneyGeneral of a Ministry I supported to show that the Industrial Registrar can summon witnesses, take their evidence on oath, and do certain other things. Then he claims that, on that ground, he is a judicial officer. There is not a Land Board Commissioner in any of the States who has not the same power to summon witnesses and put them on oath, but no one outside this Senate has so far had the audacity or the ignorance to contend that a Land Commissioner exercises judicial functions. Judicial functions can only be exercised by Courts of law under direct jurisdiction laid down in Acts of Parliament. It is to be hoped that when the Vice-President of the Executive Council next offers to reply-

Senator Millen - He will go to a dictionary and discover the difference between the words "administrative" and " judicial."

Senator ST LEDGER - When the honorable senator wishes to get out of a difficulty of this kind, involving the explanation of legal terms, it is to be hoped that he will consult some one having legal experience, and not some office lawyer.

Senator LYNCH(Western Australia) :{8-35]- - Senator St. Ledger was very sensitive in taking exception to a remark made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but he forgot the insult which he hurled at this side when he said that there was something " fishy " about this proposal. It is despicable to offer such a suggestion in connexion with a simple proposal for assessing the value of the services of a public officer.

Senator Givens - That is not the point. The objection is that it is proposed to fix the salary by an Act of Parliament.

Senator LYNCH - The great objection urged against this clause has again been mentioned by Senator Givens, and that is that it is proposed to increase the salary of this officer by an Act of Parliament. I refer honorable senators who have urged this objection to the Public Service Act. They will find that the Parliament of 1902 adopted the course of binding future Parliaments by fixing the salary payable to officers of the Fifth Class, and making provision that they should be increased automatically.

Senator Millen - We were not dealing with individuals there.

Senator LYNCH - If the principle was sound as applied to a section, why is it not equally sound as applied to an individual? Honorable senators complain that the Government are seeking to fetter future Parliaments in assessing the value of the services rendered by this officer, and in reply I say that the Public Service Act of 1902 very effectively fettered the hands of future Parliaments, so far as the Fifth Class of the Public Service is concerned. It is set down in that Act that a young man, on passing an examination, as I presume Mr. Stewart has already done, should receive a salary of £60 per annum, and that that salary should, with increments of £20 a year, be increased until it reaches a maximum of ^200. Many of these officials would still occupy, the same position, and be discharging the same routine work, when they had reached the maximum salary of their class. The Public Service Act of 1902 can be repealed only by an Act of Parliament ; and this Bill, if passed into law, can .only be repealed in the same way. Senator Stewart has referred to the fact that this official started at a salary of £200 a year, and he has suggested that it is marvellous that his salary should now be suddenly raised to £600. The provisions of the Public Service Act to which I have referred permit of a similar threefold increase upon the salary paid upon admission to the service, on an automatic basis. If honorable senators contend that this proposal is objectionable on the ground that it will fetter future Parliaments, my answer is that they have agreed to a similar proposal in the Public Service Act. I question very much whether higher qualifications are required for the office of Registrar of the Supreme Court in some of the States than are required for this office, and yet in Western Australia the Registrar of the Supreme Court receives a salary of£700 a year.

Senator Mcgregor - In New South Wales the Registrar receives £850 a year.

Senator Millen - Is the salary of the Western Australian officer included in the annual Estimates?

Senator LYNCH - Yes, it is ; and I am thankful to the honorable senator for reminding me of that matter, because I am able to inform him that the Registrar of the State Arbitration Court in Western Australia receives £315 a year, but that official has told me that he is just about embarking for himself in private business, as he is not satisfied with the salary paid to him in the Fublic Service. Upon the proper conduct of the duties of this office the interests of a very large number of our public servants and the smooth working of the arbitration law must depend, and in the circumstances we should not be niggardly in assessing the value of the services to be performed by the gentleman holding this office. It should be our aim to make our public officers satisfied with their positions. They should not have the feeling that they are ill-treated in the Public Service. Nothing can tend more to the unsatisfactory working of the Service than to have men in leading positions feeling that they might do better for themselves outside. This clause, in my opinion, proposes to put this office on a fair and reasonable basis, and I shall support it.

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