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Thursday, 12 November 1914
Page: 517

Senator FERRICKS (Queensland) . - I wish to express my disapproval of the answer given to my question to-day by the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. It appears from the answer that the Postmaster-General himself has indorsed the attitude of the Deputy Postmaster-General in Queensland in refusing to recognise the Lettercarriers Association, or any of the combined bodies of post and telegraph employes. As I outlined in my question, it is precisely the same attitude as that which was taken by Mr. Badger, the Yankee boss who was running the Brisbane tramways when the representatives of fortythree unions ceased work and brought about the Brisbane general strike. The ground on which Mr. Templeton, the Deputy Postmaster-General, goes, is that the union he refused to recognise had participated in passing a resolution which he described as reflecting on himself in insolent terms.

Senator Millen - Have you the resolution?

Senator FERRICKS - The resolution, which appeared in the September issue of the Transmitter, reads as follows: -

That, owing to the severity of fines and abuse of section 46 of the Public Service Act by the Deputy Postmaster-General of Queensland, as disclosed by the figures in the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner's annual report for 1912-13, this meeting of Presidents and Secretaries, representing Telegraphists, Clerical Assistants, Mechanicians, Sorters, Linemen, and Letter Carriers, recommend to its members that in every case they refuse to allow the Deputy Pos'tmaster-General to personally, deal with offences. They further recommend that every officer should take advantage of a Board of Inquiry in every instance where they are so charged.

I think that that proves conclusively what I have said was the case. In his reply the Deputy Postmaster-General refers to the resolution as an insolent one, but I contend that the association has a perfect right to advise its members as to what course they should take for their own protection as a body. The pertinent part of the reply of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral is contained in this -

I have to inform you it has come under my notice, from pages 27 and 28 of the Transmitter, that a combined meeting of Associations of Officers employed in this Department was held on May 16th, when an insolent resolution was, at the instance of the President of the Post and Telegraph Association, adopted by such meeting. As your association was represented at that meeting and indorsed that resolution, I regret that it is not possible for me to grant the desired audience until your association repudiate their share in such resolution. I am not prepared to permit officials of this Department, combined as an association, to adopt towards me an attitude which they in their individual capacity would not for one moment attempt to adopt.

I have said that in my opinion the association had a perfect right to advise its members as it did, even in the terms of that resolution. I do not admit that the resolution was an insolent one. We know that prior to the general strike in Brisbane, Mr. Badger considered the resolutions of the members of the Tramways Union to be insolent, but assuming for the sake of argument the resolution in this case was indiscreet, I contend that there was some justification for the adoption of such a resolution. A reference to the report of the Public Service Commissioner for 1913 will show that the number of dismissals and resignations in the Post and Telegraph Department in Queensland was altogether out of proportion to the number of officers employed in the Department in that State when compared with what took place in New South Wales and in Victoria. The total number of officers employed in the Post and Telegraph Department in New South Wales at 30th June, 1912, was 5,942; the number in Victoria was 3,912; and the number in Queensland 1,888. It is necessary to remind honorable senators that voluntary resignations cannot in_all cases be accepted as such, because they are very often brought about at the point of the bayonet. A public servant is given to understand that if he does not retire voluntarily he will be dismissed. Notwithstanding the fact that Queensland has only about onethird of the total number of officers employed in the Department in New South Wales, the resignations for the twelve months in Queensland numbered 115, as against only 256 in New South Wales. The comparison is even more striking in connexion with dismissals, since there were twenty dismissals in Queensland, and only thirty-seven in New South Wales, with three times the total number of officers employed in the Department in Queensland. The Sydney Post-office has, in particular, always been held up as a place that was in a chaotic state, and I believe there has been very much cause tor complaint there, and yet the comparison between Queensland and New South Wales in the matter of retirement and dismissals from this Department is greatly against the former State.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator's figures might be used as an argument to prove that if there were a few more dismissals in Sydney there would be less chaos.

Senator FERRICKS - I am endeavouring to point out that there was an undue number of retirements and dismissals in Queensland, as compared with New South Wales.

Senator Pearce - But the honorable senator has said that the Sydney Postoffice was in a state of chaos.

Senator FERRICKS - Tes; and retirements and dismissals might have been expected there in far greater proportion than in Queensland, where there was no chaos. The comparison with Victoria is much more unfavorable for the Queensland Department. I have said that the total number of officers in the Queensland Department is 1,888, and the total number in Victoria is 3,912, or about double the number in Queensland. Yet in Queensland, in the course of twelve months, there were twice as many resignations as in Victoria.

Senator Keating - The conditions in the services in one State as compared with another might be more congenial, and that might account for the discrepancy.-

Senator FERRICKS - That could not apply to the comparison with New South Wales.

Senator Keating - Has the honorable senator the figures for Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne ?

Senator O'Keefe - The average should work 'out' about the same.

Senator FERRICKS - I have not the figures for the capital, but only for the State, but I agree with Senator O'Keefe that the average should work out about the same. The dismissals in Victoria numbered nineteen for the year, and in Queensland they numbered twenty. I -say that these figures go to show that the members of the association were not without some justification for their protest. I contend that the attitude of the PostmasterGeneral in indorsing the action of his Deputy in Queensland is not in the best interests of the association or of the Post and Telegraph Department as a whole. It may be said that discipline is necessary, and I quite admit that it is. But there is a great difference between firmness and despotism. I consider that if he does not realize it, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Queensland should have it impressed upon him that an ounce of tact in the head of a Department is worth a ton of bounce. Any man handling a body oF men should know that he ought not to lay down hard-and-fast rules, that he should be prepared to listen to them., and that he should not be ungetatable and unapproachable. I am not unduly enthusiastic about the members of the Post and Telegraph Officers Association as unionists, because I realize that for the first ten years of Federation the post and .telegraph servants, as a body, were quite prepared to eat out of the hand of a Fusion Government, whilst as soon as a Labour Government came into power they wanted everything in twenty-four hours. But there is here, in my opinion, a big principle involved. It is the policy of the Labour party, and should be the policy of a Labour Government and of a Labour PostmasterGeneral, to encourage unionism. The servants of this Department of the Commonwealth Public Service have been encouraged to form an association, and to combine in union for the purpose of appealing to the Arbitration Court. I may admit, for the sake

Senator Turley - A contractor?

Senator FERRICKS - Yes ; he was a contractor. The belief may be true, but I do not know the circumstances of the case. I contend that this man should be told officially the reason why he is banned from further employment in the Department. He has repeatedly communicated with me in the endeavour to find out why he is prevented from obtaining work.

Senator Stewart - If he reads Hansard now he will be able to find out.

Senator FERRICKS - I have not mentioned the man's name, because the mere statement of the accusation might leave a stigma upon it. I say that in justice to this man, and to every other employe dismissed from the Department, the reasons for dismissal in each case should be given. The PostmasterGeneral has supplied members of this Parliament with a list of the new powers which have been given to the Deputy PostmasterGenerals in each of the States. I believe in decentralization, and that Deputy Postmaster-Generals should, in common with other heads of Departments in the Public Service, be given reasonable powers of administration. The added powers in this case I do not object toy but in the hands of a man like Mr. Templeton, the Deputy Postmaster-General of Queensland, any powers may be dangerous unless he modifies the attitude he has assumed. I should be very loth to endow with any great extension of powers the head of a Department whosets himself up as a small despot, and' says, " I will not receive the membersof a union." The mission of the union, in the case I have referred to was an important one, dealing with the questionof overtime to be paid to letter-carriers at the post-offices of Albion and Brisbane. They wished to state their case, but the Deputy Postmaster-General said, " No; you can work overtime. Your grievances will not be redressed. I shall not meet you or discuss the matter with you."

Senator de Largie - Has the honorable senator with him the resolution complained of by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral.

Senator FERRICKS -Yes ; I have read the resolution, and I have pointed out that even although it might be considered indiscreet, which I personally do not admit, the association had good, grounds, in the great discrepancy existing, in the matter of dismissals and retirements in Queensland as compared with New South Wales and Victoria, for theresolution . at which they arrived. I trust that the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in the State will present the matter to that honorable gentleman, and if he considers the matter calmly I think he will see thaihe is taking up a very indefensible position if the policy of the Government is recognition of unionism, and not recognition of non-unionism and Badger ism. We do not want any Badgerism in th® operations of the Commonwealth Labour Government.

Senator Stewart - Templeton is ten times worse than Badger ever was.

Senator FERRICKS - The indications are that if he only had Badger's power, he would out-Badger Badger. It should therefore be impressed on the PostmasterGeneral that while extended and additional powers might be very well, some of the departmental sub-heads must be told in plain terms that they cannot be allowed to override the vital principles of the Labour movement, especially when. there is a Labour Government in power. In many instances these gentlemen exceed their functions. I do not want to go into that question, and will content myself with recording my protest against the action of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral" in Brisbane, and the steps he has taken, and my regret that these have been indorsed by the Labour PostmasterGeneral.

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