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Wednesday, 29 June 1921

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens (QUEENSLAND) - I am afraid that the discussion is becoming wide of the question before the Chair. It is not competent for the honorable senator, on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, to enter upon a discussion of the Tariff.

Senator GARDINER - I am particularly anxious,, sir, not to come into conflict with you. I . am dealing with that part of the Bill which covers the supplyasked for the Trade' and Customs Department, and I have it in mind to submit an amendment for the abolition of the whole of the officials connected with the Trade and Customs Department.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The officials or the officers?

Senator GARDINER - Officials, officers, and everything else connected with it. I am prepared, sir, to take your ruling as to whether, in proposing an amendment of that kind, it is not competent for me to say something about the absurdity of putting up a Customs barrier around Australia.

The' PRESIDENT.- I think the honorable senator should not discuss the Tariff on the motion now before the Senate.

Senator GARDINER - I suggest as a circumstance in mitigation that there is about to be an election in Queensland,, and I may not have the privilege of being here when the Customs Tariff Bill- is before the Senate. However, I shall accept your ruling, and as the Bill provides for votes for the Trade and Customs Department, I can refer to that Department, when we are dealing with the schedule in Committee.

There are several other Departmentswhich can be dealt with more effectively in Committee. I might refer to the Department of Works and Railways; and I am doubtful whether that' is- not a Department which might be abolishedwith advantage to the Commonwealth. Most of our Departments are top heavy. Their overhead charges are, far too great. I am not referring now to the salaries of individual officers, because, in my opinion, if there is one section of the community which more thananother is insufficiently paid in proportion' to ability and service, it is the Commonwealth Public Service. In the State which I represent the salaries of the public servants have been reduced by the State Government by about 6 per cent. I mean to say that they have been effectively reduced by that amount by the decision of the State Government to tax those salaries to that, extent. I think there is only one thing left for the Commonwealth Government to do, and that is to make the reduction good to public servants in New South Wales.

Senator Senior - That would be tak-% ing the money from one pocket and putting it into another.

Senator GARDINER - What is done now is to take the money out .of the pocket of the public servant and put .it into the pocket of the State.

Senator Foster - We might give a grant to New South Wales.

Senator GARDINER - Tasmania is the only State that is in receipt of a grant, and New South Wales pays half the amount from a feeling of friendship towards the people of Tasmania. The interjections of honorable senators are tempting me to get away from. the principles of the Bill, to which my remarks should be confined, and I shall therefore reserve further remarks until we are considering the schedule of the measure in Committee. I should- like again, however, to suggest that the Works and Railways Department is one which should be given strict attention by the Cabinet, to see that we are getting value for the money spent on it. I am not commenting on the officials, their salaries, ability, or services, but on the undue overhead growth of various Public Departments. This will have to be attended to by the present or by - some other Government. When a Department is brought into existence, the staff grows and flourishes exceedingly, though whether the work is accomplished more effectively is quite another question. I again ask the Economy party, now that we are beginning the expenditure for a new year, to give us some indication of what .they mean .by economy. I suggest to them . again that this is the Bill in connexion with ..which they should start their campaign.

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