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Thursday, 25 June 1903

Mr TUDOR (Yarra) - It is not my intention to deal with the case of Mr. Goldring, but to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister a matter which has been mentioned in this House many times previously, and to ask what are the intentions of the Government in connexion with it. On referring to Hansard of the 5th June, 1901, I see that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo asked the Minister representing: the Postmaster-General when the Victorian officers who were transferred were going to receive the salaries to which they were entitled under section 19 of the Victorian Public Service Act. To that question the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh, replied that the matter of determining the salaries to which the officers were entitled under this particular section was referred to the Public Service Board of Victoria ; that it was understood that the board was dealing with the question ; and that as soon as a decision was arrived at the salaries would be paid. Over two years have elapsed since that question was asked, and the matter has since been referred to many times by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and the honorable member for Bourke, and myself. The Victorian Public Service Board asked for the loan of a Federal officer to visit the several States, in order to inquire as to the salaries paid to officers occupying corresponding positions, and the report of that officer was presented to the Victorian Government in December, 1901. The honorable member for Bourke and myself have asked questions in reference to this report, but it was evidently so favorable to the men that it has never been presented to this House. I have seen the report, and, so far as I can understand it, and I have gone through it carefully, I consider it is favorable to the claims of the men. On the 13th February last year I raised the question in the House, and the Treasurer, in speaking of the Victorian Public Service Act, and of this particular section, is reported on page 9996 to have said -

I would have preferred that that provision had not been inserted, but the House was practically unanimous in the vie* that it should find a place in the Bill.

Then, referring to the officer who made the report, the Treasurer said -

The officer whose services were requisitioned hud been secretary of the Reclassification Board, and had a very full knowledge of all the difficulties of the position. Naturally he gained much information on these debatable points while acting as secretary to theReclassification Board.

It has been said that the Victorian Parliament was guilty of sharp practice in passing the measure to which I have alluded, instead of leaving it to the Federal Government to deal with the officers transferred from the Victorian service as they thought fit. It is not my intention to debate that matter now. It is sufficient for me that the Act was passed, and, that being so, the Victorian Government should have seen that the law was carried out while the men were under their authority. The Treasurer is reported on page 9998 to have stated -

In New South Wales a reclassification took place just before the transfer of the Departments, by virtue of their Act.

I have observed that, under the regulations governing the New South Wales public service, practically the whole of the transferred officers obtained increments about that time. Officers who have been transferred from the Victorian service have been waiting for what they consider the recognition of their just rights, and what I and other honorable members ask is that the Government should say whether they intend to give effect to the decision of the Full Court of Victoria. The honorable member for Bourke and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports both concur in the views which I am now expressing, though they have waived their right to speak on the question so as not to unduly detain the House. The men, finding that they could not obtain from the Victorian Government what they were entitled to under the Act, wrote to the Prime Minister and to the Premier of Victoria, stating that they were willing to take the case of any officer to the Supreme Court. A case in the Supreme Court went against the men, but the Full Court has on two occasions given a verdict in their favour. They are now anxious to know what their position is, and what action the Federal Government intend to take. I admit that I do not take very much notice of what the newspapers say, but it is quite possible that they may tell the truth sometimes, and it is very likely that they were telling the truth when, in October last, they published the statement that the Victorian Premier had waited upon the Attorney-General, who was then acting for the Prime Minister, and asked him not to give effect to the Act in question, because to do so would involve Victoria in a certain loss. To my mind, that is not the question with which we have to deal. We have not to consider the needs of any particular State in this connexion, but to ascertain what are the provisions of the law. I am surprised that a man of the legal knowledge and repute of the Premier of Victoria should have asked the Government to set aside an Act of the Parliament of this State. It is said, however, that he advised the 'repudiation of the Act while the case was pending in the law courts.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Was not he himself a party to the passing of the measure?

Mr TUDOR - Yes. The Treasurer has informed us that the Victorian Parliament was practically unanimous in supporting the measure, and I cannot learn from the Hansard reports that the Victorian Premier offered any objection to it. Many of the States increased their expenditure prior to federation, because they overlooked the fact that during the bookkeeping period the increase would have to be borne by themselves; but they are bound now to stand by what they did then. The men do not make threats, but they want to know what are the intentions of the Government, and they are quite willing, if the Government say that they will not give effect to the Act, to take their case into the law courts. We have heard a great deal this afternoon about the grievances of importers, but if the Full Court of Victoria had given a decision in favour of as many importers as there are' officers affected by the Act to which I refer, and the Government refused to give effect to it, we should have heard enough row in this Chamber to stir any Ministry.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable member think it fair to set one class against another in that way? Is that the way to obtain justice?

Mr TUDOR - I am not anxious to set one class against another ; I only wish to point out that these men have obtained a verdict in their favour from the Full Court of Victoria, and that the Victorian Government has, from the first, been reluctant to give effect to it. They are anxious to know now how their claims will be treated by the Commonwealth Government. I do not know how many men are affected, but I trust that justice will not be denied to them. I do not intend to go into the matter any further now, but I hope that the Prime Minister will give us the assurance that he intends to carry the provisions of the Act into effect.

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