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Wednesday, 16 March 1927

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Whatever limit is fixed, some one will be financially prejudiced.

Senator PEARCE - That is true, and consequently this paragraph in the circular issued by the association contains no substantial argument in opposition to my motion. It is obvious that the relationship of any child endowment to the basic wage is a vital matter of policy, and clearly the authorities to undertake the task of dealing with the matter in both the Federal and State spheres should be the legislature itself, and not some subsidiary authority appointed by it. It is for the legislature, therefore, to say that it is in favour of the payment of child endowment, and to fix the limit of salary at which such endowment should operate. At this juncture the Commonwealth Government, beyond contending that it is a matter of policy, expresses no opinion as to whether the limit should be £500 or £600. But, in view of the fact that a conference will deal comprehensively with the question as it affects the whole of Australia, in view of the vital consequence any decision in this regard may have on the industries of our country, and in view of the effect the amount paid as child endowment must have onthe basic wage, we contend that this Parliament should not, by its inaction, be taken as having endorsed the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator increasing the limit at which child endowment ceases to operate from £500 to £600.

Senator Kingsmill - Have the words, "child endowment," any legal meaning in this connexion?

Senator PEARCE -I think so.

Senator Kingsmill -Is there any child endowment in existence, and, if so, is it known as child endowment?

Senator PEARCE - The awards of the Public Service Arbitrator make provision for a payment for each child, and this is spoken of as "child endowment." The Government asks the Senate to carry this motion pending the consideration of the matter by the Commonwealth and State Governments.

Senator Ogden - The Government is asking Parliament to become a wagefixing body.

Senator PEARCE - No, we are not doing that; we are merely saying that the payment of child endowment originated as an act of policy, and that Parliament ought to be consulted before the basis of the payment is altered by the Public Service Arbitrator. It is his duty to fix wages and salaries, hut not,we contend, to alter the basis laid down upon which these salaries and wages are paid. Provision is made in the Public Service Regulations for the payment of a minimum wage.

Senator Ogden - I suppose that the Public Service Arbitrator had authority for the action taken by him?

Senator PEARCE - I suppose that he must have had authority, otherwise he would have not done what he did, but wecontend that it is for Parliament to decide a vital matter of this nature. We are now asking the Senate to disallow this determination by the arbitrator in order to maintain the status quo, and enable the whole question to be explored without being prejudiced by the apparently tacit consent on the part of the Commonwealth Parliament to the fixing of the limit of £600. Various limits have been suggested in New South Wales. I believe that one is £300, and that another is £400. But if we allow this determination to lie on the table without taking action to disapprove it, the argument can be advanced that we have fixed the limit at £600, which would be most undesirable when the matter has still to be fully explored in co-operation with the States.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - This determination would not operate until 30 days had elapsed from the date on which it was laid on the table.

Senator PEARCE - It would not, in the ordinary course, but the trouble is that the Public Service Board, auticipating that the normal procedure would be followed, 'and that no action would be taken to disapprove the determination, has already passed a regulation covering it, and child endowment is being paid, not under the determination itself, but under a public service regulation.

Senator Duncan - Was that regulation passed by the ExecutiveCouncil?

Senator PEARCE - Yes, through inadvertence. At the close of the year a whole sheaf of consolidated regulations was submitted, and no attention was drawn to the fact that this vital amendment had been made. As a matter of fact, no attention was drawn to any amendment, and those payments have been made since the 2nd January last. In the circumstances, I have outlined, I think, the Senate will be justified in passing this motion. In doing so, it will not be deciding what the limit should be: it will leave the matter in abeyance until Parliament has had an opportunity to go into the whole question.

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