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Wednesday, 2 November 1904

Mr MAHON (Coolgardie) - I have no intention to discuss the Public Service classification scheme, although, in justice, the Government should afford an early opportunity of doing so. It is generally understood that efforts are being made to minimize the number of appeals against the scheme. These appeals do not at all correspond with the dissatisfaction which that scheme has created in the Public Service.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member does not mean to suggest that Ministers have endeavoured to minimize the number of appeals?

Mr MAHON - No; but strong pressure is being brought to bear upon public servants to induce them to relinquish their right of appeal. We all know how these things can be worked. Probably a hint is thrown out that it will not be to the advantage of officers to exercise their right in this direction. In spite of the fact that the classification scheme has been completed, the total increased expenditure in this Department represents £1,834.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Probably the whole of the amount will not be expended.

Mr MAHON - Why is money placed upon the Estimates which is not likely to be spent?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member knows that very frequently there is an unexpended balance.

Mr MAHON - I know that upon some occasions, the. expenditure is in excess of the vote authorized by Parliament. I would point out that in one instance ,£800 was voted, and £1,482 expended. In another case, .£1,000 was appropriated, and £1,1 go was expended.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member should quote the total expenditure of the Department.

Mr MAHON - The total expenditure for 1903-4 was £9,125, whereas the estimated expenditure for 1904-5 is .£10,759.

Sir George Turner - The honorable member should recollect that £600 is provided this vear for examinations.

Mr MAHON - Why should not these examinations pay for themselves?

Sir George Turner - As far as I can recollect, there was a profit upon them last year.

Mr MAHON - I would point out that the total increase for clerical assistance in this Department is estimated at £1,056. An additional £20 is to be voted to the Registrar, £50 to the Examiner, £50 to the first clerk, £230 to four other clerks, and £500 for temporary assistance. Seeing that it was possible to formulate a huge classification scheme last year, I desire to know, where is the necessity for an expenditure of £500 for temporary assistance? I shall have something more to say upon these items at a later stage. ] would ask the Ministry if they have ever considered the duplication of work which the attachment of the Public Service Commissioner to the Department of Home Affairs has produced? The functions of that officer do not extend beyond the Public Service, and yet he is attached to a Department which contains fewer public officers than does any other.- I venture to say that threefourths of the Commissioner's time, and of that of his staff, is absorbed in dealing with postal officials. Would it not save a considerable amount of duplication in the matter of correspondence, if 'this officer were transferred to the Postal Department? Why was he removed to the Department of Home Affairs?

Sir George Turner - Because that Department occupies a similar position to the Chief Secretary's Department in some of the .States, and the Public Service Commissioner is usually under the control of the Chief Secretary.

Mr MAHON - Is there no better reason for it than mere red-tapeism

Sir George Turner - Do not talk nonsense.

Mr MAHON - I venture, to say that the Treasurer is talking nonsense.

Sir George Turner - Then, there are two of us at it.

Mr MAHON - I appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs, who has had a large commercial experience, whether it would not be far more economical to transfer the Public Service Commissioner to the Postal Department? At present a large quantity of work is being duplicated. If the Government wish to earn a reputation for economy, they should initiate a revision of the original arrangement. The reason advanced by the Treasurer for the continuance of the existing system is not one upon which any practical man would bestow two minutes' consideration.

Mr. HUTCHISON(Hindmarsh).- In connexion with this item', the Minister of Home Affairs has instanced the case of the letter sorters ; but he failed to supply the Committee with- all the information that he might have furnished. If he visited South Australia, he would see what the Public Service Commissioner has done there.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I merely replied to the instance which was cited by the honorable member for Maranoa.

Mr HUTCHISON - I asked the honorable member to furnish me with information as to why I should vote with him upon this item.

Mr Page - Have I not done so?

Mr HUTCHISON - No. The honorable member has not supplied the House with the slightest proof of the value of these officers' services, and consequently I am not prepared to say that those services have been overvalued. One of the reasons which will influence honorable members in voting either for or against this item is to be found in the manner in which officers in the lower grades of the service are being treated. Whilst, in his classification scheme, the Public Service Commissioner has not hesitated to recommend large increases to officers who are already in receipt of very fair salaries, no reason has been advanced by the Minister of Home Affairs why the lowerpaid officers have not been treated in precisely the same way. In South Australia, I would point out, the letter-sorters used to get an allowance of 6s. per day whilst travelling. That sum is not too much, seeing that they are required to pay for .three meals and a bed. The Public Service Commissioner has actually reduced that" amount to 2s. 8d. per day.

Mr Mauger - He ought to be made to travel upon it.

Mr McDonald - Is that all that they receive ?


Mr Page - Where?

Mr HUTCHISON - In South Australia, and probably in other parts of the Commonwealth. What makes the injustice so great is that officers who are in receipt of 10s. or 15s. a day by way of travelling allowances stay at the same hotels, and incur only the same expenditure, as their lowerpaid confreres.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The allowances do not come within the classification scheme.

Mr HUTCHISON - Undoubtedly they do. When I brought the matter forward upon a previous occasion I was assured that the Government could do nothing, because it was under the control of the Public Service Commissioner.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I repeat that the allowances do not come under the classification scheme.

Mr HUTCHISON - Then I hope that the Government will see that in this matter justice is done immediately.

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