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Tuesday, 8 November 1904

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) - I would like to understand why these increases should appear on the Estimates if it is not proposed to pay them after Parliament has agreed to the Estimates?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Unfortunately the honorable member was not present when the explanation was1 mate.

Mr KENNEDY - I am present now, and I should like to have some information on the subject. With respect to the statement of the honorable member for Boothby that he feels some hesitation in voting for a reduction merely because of the reduction in the work of the inspectorial staff, if the honorable member will consult the Estimates he will find that there is actually an increase provided for the inspectorial staff. I wish to know whether there is any justification for these increases. Why should we give a passive assent to increases of salaries now when we are told that we shall consider only the merits of the matter on some future occasion?

Mr Tudor - The increases will be given, if agreed to, as from the first day of the financial year.

Mr KENNEDY - I am aware of that, and that is another, matter with which I have to find fault. If we decide to do something we should do it immediately we have made up our minds, rather thani make our future action retrospective. The honorable member for Coolgardie has1 said that members of the Public Service are precluded from doing other work, but I would remind the honorable member that the conditions surrounding their employment do not apply to those outside the service, who are exposed to the cold blast of the world's competition. They have permanent employment at, generally speaking, a fair rate of wages. In the particular case to which reference has been made, I recognise that Parliament is not a competent authority to judge as to what the proper salary should be. We have a highly-paid officer employed to advise us in such matters, and we can only review his decision in a general way. The honorable member for Hume has told us that amongst these officers there is one who was brought into the service only within the last few months at £200 per annum.

Sir William Lyne - I do not know whether it was £200 or not.

Mr KENNEDY - I do not question the statement that this officer is highly qualified, but it is now proposed to pay him £400 a year. I would ask whether honorable members think that it is possible for men of equal ability outside to expect to double their rate of pay within the same time? For the reasons I have given, I shall not support any proposal for increases in the salaries of highly-paid officers. There is always a difficulty in securing increases for those who are getting barely sufficient to enable them to live. But as soon as a man has become what is termed an officer, and is getting £300 or £400 a year, there appears to be no difficulty in raising his salary, even by 50 per cent. In the case of an unfortunate man who is receiving 6s. or 8s. per day - an amount which I consider barely sufficient to provide his family with the necessaries of life - if an increase of £5 or £10 a year be asked on his behalf, the reply is made that the conditions of the country are such that it cannot be granted.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - But all the officers whose salaries are under £160 are getting their increments.

Mr KENNEDY - That is the one redeeming feature of this business. We all know of the treatment to which the public officers of the States have been subjected during the last two or three years. Instead of receiving an increase, they have been compelled to submit to a very serious reduction. But throughout the ramifications of the Public Service of the Commonwealth there has been a considerable increase in the salaries. For these reasons I shall not commit myself to voting for an increase, especially in the case of highlysalaried officers. I am prepared to make an exception where it can be shown that a man is receiving what I term a mere pittance, for I consider that £150 a year is not more than sufficient to enable a man to provide his family with the bare necessaries of life. But in the case of those men who are fairly treated, and who received an increase last year, I cannot assent to a further increase.

SirWILLIAM LYNE (Hume).- The honorable member for Moira has given expression to the feelings I entertain on one or two points. The remarks I made on a previous occasion have been emphasized today by the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs, that, except in the case of salaries under £160, the increments are not to be paid until Parliament has had an opportunity of dealing with the classification scheme. In the first place, I wish to know when it is likely to have that opportunity ? Certainly it cannot arise until the appeals have been dealt with.

Mr Groom - When will they have been dealt with?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - So far as I can learn, considerable time must elapse before they can be completed.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - About six months.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Are we going to vote these increases with the possibility that it may not be decided until six months hence, whether they shall be paid or not?

Mr Reid - They are not going to be paid until the classification scheme has been completed.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Why vote the increases until that work has been done?

Mr Reid - Because it is necessary, in order to let the honorable members see what the classification scheme involves.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - If Parliament is to deal with the classification scheme six or twelve months hence, I presume that each increase will again have to be submitted separately, and dealt wilh. Why should Parliament be asked now to vote a sum of money for increases which may not in many cases be paid, especially when there is no necessity to take that course?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - They will date back. It is intended to pay the increments as for the financial year, and, therefore, they appear on the Estimates for the year.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - If the sums are not to be submitted until after next June, they could be put in such a way that they could be paid and debited to this financial year. They cannot be paid until the House has come to a decision.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - That would mean that we should have to make two years' payments in one year.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No. The proposed vote would lapse at the end of the financial year, and must be re-voted.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Not necessarily.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - So far as I can see, there is no object to be gained from submitting the Estimates in this way. We are asked to create a very bad precedent indeed. Until the last hour, I was not aware of the position which the Ministry are taking up. It is an improper act on their part to ask the Committee to vote these increases when they cannot be paid if the promise to the House is to be carried out.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - In the case of two Departments, the increases have already been voted.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - That may be the case. Unfortunately, I was absent through illness, and did not have an opportunitv of discussing the Estimates generally. But when the Committee comes to realize what is being done in this regard, it will, I think, hesitate to proceed further in the same direction. Although the increases for one or two small Departments may have been voted, still that is no reason why the increases for all the Departments should be voted.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - The Treasurer fully explained the reason for this proceeding when he delivered his Budget speech.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - So far as I can judge, the Minister of Home Affairs has furnished a clear explanation, but at the same time he 'has shown that it will be almost an impossibility to pay these increases during this financial year.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Not impossible.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE -I think so, if the promise of the Government is to be carried out If, in accordance with that promise, the Parliament is to deal with this subject again, it must deal with the increases in detail. Until the appeals have been heard and the revised classification scheme has been submitted, the Government should not ask the Committee to vote large increases which cannot be paid in this year. It will be quite time enough to vote the money when the classification scheme has been laid before honorable members. It is a very unwise thing to vote this money too soon. The increases which have been voted for one or two Departments do not represent a very large sum, and the time has arrived, I think, when the Committee should cease to vote any increases which cannot be paid in this year. I do not wish to take any step which would be antagonistic to the Government, but I am quite prepared to support any amendment to I omit all these increases until such time as the classification scheme can be dealt with.

Mr Reid - Another crisis ! One crisis a day!

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The right honorable gentleman is not fair in making that remark.

Mr Reid - That is what it means.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not desire the right honorable gentleman to point his finger at me - let it be pointed at some one else. I think I have shown clearly that I am not influenced by an antagonistic spirit in dealing with the Estimates. I have tried, in a reasonable way, to show that what is being done was never previously done by a Ministry. I shall support an amendment to strike out all the increases. I do not wish it to be understood that I shall vote against the proposed increases when they are submitted in a proper way, and at the proper time. My contention is that they should not be dealt with until such time as the Government are prepared to pay them. Last week the Minister for Home Affairs said that a deduction had been made at the end of the Estimates.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - I corrected that this afternoon.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable gentleman has admitted that he made a mistake, that the matter was discussed, but that nothing was done. Therefore, the objection I raised to the voting of a lump sum is removed. . I accept the statement made by the Minister as to what has actually taken place in regard to these Estimates. I would again urge the Committee not to pass these increases, not because I am opposed either to the increases or to the classification scheme, but because the present time is noi opportune. I should like all increases of salaries over £160 to be taken off these Estimates and submitted simultaneously with the classification scheme.

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