Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 8 June 1904

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that the explanation which has been given of the items that appear upon the Supplementary Estimates is, upon the whole, a satisfactory one. Of course, we must recognise that the Treasurer is responsible for only a very small portion of those Estimates. I feel' sure that the Committee will consent to his request, and not unnecessarily prolong the discussion upon them, though there may be some items which require a fuller explanation than that which has been given. The matter to which I desire to direct special attention is that of the very difficult position which has been created by the decision of the High Court in regard to officers who have been transferred from the Victorian service. I presume that the matter has been tested to its last limit. If not, I think it ought to be. It places the whole of the servants of the Commonwealth in a condition of confusion, and in a most undesirable and unjust relationship to those who have been transferred from the State of Victoria. There is a large question to face. If £75,000 is to be paid to the servants of Victoria, are the servants transferred from the other States to receive nothing - no matter whether they may now be getting lower salaries than those paid in Victoria for similar services? I do not wish to say one word about the passage of the Act by the Victorian Parliament, because I do not desire to irritate any State susceptibilities. I am quite sure that the majority of honorable members representing Victoria recognise that it was a very improper thing to force that Act upon the Commonwealth. But, I understand that the position which has been maintained by the High Court is that officers in Victoria must receive the largest salary paid in any "State for a similar position, except where increments may have been paid to an officer in a State on account of -his long services.

Mr Watson - Miller, who was one of the public servants who appealed in Victoria, did not receive a full recognition of his claim, because bis services were very short.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that the decision of the High Court may also go to this extent : In certain States whose territories are partly within the tropical or semi-tropical area, high salaries are paid for climatic reasons.

Mr Tudor - The Court would not hold those to be "corresponding positions."

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand - the Prime Minister will correct me if I am wrong - that the Victorian officers mayhave to receive the higher salaries paid fur climatic reasons, if they hold positions corresponding to those held by officers in those regions.

Mr Groom - They will claim it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister does not indorse my statement absolutely.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Nor did the Chief Justice of Victoria.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Possibly the honorable member is right, but there is a very serious position facing the Commonwealth. A salary paid to an officer at Port Darwin is, naturally, fixed at a higher rate than a salary paid to an officer in a corresponding position at Adelaide.

Mr Fowler - And the relative values of the salaries differ according to the cost of living at each place?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course. Salaries paid in an arid portion of Western Australia may be much higher than salaries paid to an officer holding a corresponding position at Perth. But there is a very great danger, to my mind, that in Victoria officers may be able to claim the higher salaries under the terms of the Victorian Act. Then,, again, the claim was made by counsel 'for the plaintiff in Bond's case, that the plaintiff was entitled to £150 a year as long as he was in the service of the Commonwealth. He was then receiving £130. The Chief Justice of the High Court said that he would not go into that matter, but that, at any rate, Bond was entitled to the £150, until his salary was legally altered by the Commonwealth authorities.

Sir William Lyne - Would not that imply that the Chief Justice referred to the classification of the Public Service Commissioner ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Chief Justice said, in effect, that he would not decide whether that salary could be legally altered by the Commonwealth.

Mr Groom - It was not necessary to determine that, for the purpose of his decision.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was not raised in issue before him. Consequently, we do not yet know - it is a matter to be decided by the Court - whether a claim for the salary to be continued during the whole of the officer's service would be sustained or not. Honorable members can see the " sea of troubles " that surrounds this question. Whilst no one would for a moment object to Victorian officers being raised in classification to the same level as that of officers performing a similar service, and residing in like portions of other States, we have to face the possibility of these Victorian officers receiving salaries which were intended to be paid in other States under special conditions - for climatic rea-' sons, and reasons connected with the cost of living. We have also to face the danger, that these salaries will continue to be paid during the whole term of their service with the Commonwealth. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister is imbued with the necessity of this matter being most vigorously defended from the Commonwealth standpoint.

Mr Watson - We have already taken steps with regard to increments. We have refused to pay the increments based on the salaries received bv officers in other States.

Suggest corrections