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

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - There seems to be a necessity for a little more light upon this matter. As I understand the position, certain salaries are payable under the Public Service Act, with certain increments attached to them. Under the classification scheme of the Public Service Commissioner, another set of conditions has arisen. When the subject was discussed by the Treasurer some time ago he made it clear to me, and I think to honorable members generally, that- what he proposed to do was to pay the statutory salaries plus the statutory increments, and1 nothing more. That is to say, if an officer were receiving £130 a year, and were entitled under the Public Service Act to an increment of £10, that would be paid, giving him a salary of £140. But if the classification scheme proposed to increase his salary by £10 more, making the salary £150, the further increase would not be paid until such time as Parliament had pronounced generally on the scheme.

Mr McLean - That is the intention.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - If that be right, the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs must be wrong ; because what he said was that the Government intended to pay the classification increases as well as the statutory increases on all salaries below £160 a year. That would put the Committee in a very unfair position. We ought to have the right, in accordance with the Treasurer's promise, either to accept the classification scheme or to reject it, as a whole. We ought not to pay certain increases under the classification scheme, and leave other recommendations for increases untouched. We should have an opportunity to pronounce upon the whole scheme, and to approve or disapprove of it.

Mr McLean - That will be done; increases under the scheme are not to be paid until Parliament deals with the whole position.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I think we must pay the statutory increases, but Parliament ought to have an opportunity to say yea or nay to the Commissioner's scheme as a whole, before any increases are paid under it. The Minister of Home Affairs says that he proposes to pav increases under the scheme in part. To do so takes away our right to reject the scheme as a whole, and commits us to, perhaps, two-thirds of it. What I desire to know from the Prime Minister is, whether he adheres to the Treasurer's statement that statutory increases only will be paid, and that no classification scheme increases will be paid ; or whether he adopts the statement made by the Minister of Home Affairs, that both increases will be paid to a certain extent? If the Prime Minister accepts the former statement, I think there will be no trouble, and the Committee will vote the salaries without any more ado. But as to the rest of the increases, my view is that we certainly ought to have an opportunity to accept or reject the classification scheme as a whole. I could not, under the circumstances, vote for the reduction proposed by the honorable member for Maranoa. I think it is unfair to single out one individual. But if the Government regard the amendment as a test of the whole question. I shall cer.tainly vote for it, because, as I have said, I think we ought to have, a right to consider the whole scheme before any increases are paid under it.

Mr REID - There has been a little misunderstanding, and the speech of my honorable friend the member for Bourke gives me an opportunity to make the position clear. The Treasurer has made it clear,' and we do not propose to depart from his statement, that so far as the classification scheme leads to increases of salary, no payment is .to be made to any one until the House has approved of the scheme. That was stated by the Treasurer in his Budget speech. Unfortunately, he is now absent; but I am not aware of any statement that he has since made qualifying his original announcement. I took the opportunity of referring to my right honorable friend to ascertain whether he had since his Budget statement made any other statement at variance with that; but my colleague informs me that he has not at all departed from that position in any way. Consequently I can state absolutely to the Committee that the statement made by the Treasurer in his Budget speech has not been varied, and that no classification increases will be paid under these Estimates until the House has approved of the scheme. But there is one class of increase which seems to be mixed up with the classification, which I know every honorable member is thoroughly in favour of. As honorable members know, in the lower salaries until they reach a certain amount - I think it is j£i6o - there is an annual increase of £10 by process of law. In cases of that sort - supposing we find that there is no time to apply the classification scheme this year after all - for some reason or other the House may not have had an opportunity of discussing it during the currency of the year - of course, the legal rights of these officers in receipt of smaller salaries to statutory increases must not be taken away from them, because a classification scheme also involves the payment of increases. If there is no classification scheme adopted the statutory increases must be paid, but nothing else will be paid.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - No one objects to that.

Mr REID - I am glad to have an opportunity to make the position clear.

Mr. PAGE(Maranoa). - After listening, to the two statements of the Prime Minister on the classification scheme. I am quite satisfied that he does not wish to hide anything- from the Committee. But 'I wish the Committee fully to understand that when the classification scheme comes before the House, it will have ' to be accepted or rejected as a whole. We cannot accept it in part. The present is the only opportunity that honorable members will have to go into details.

Mr Reid - That is right.

Mr PAGE - I want to be thoroughly fair to the Government, and I believe that the Government want to be fair to the Committee. The cases of these three officers of the Public Service Commissioner's staff are the most palpable in connexion with the classification scheme. In one case there is an increase of £70. and in. another of £50. Last year one of the officers received an increase upon his State salary of £150, and in the next twelve months the Commissioner arrives at the conclusion that the services of the officer are worth £50 a year more.

Mr Reid - It seems that we had him too cheap before. .

Mr PAGE - I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made that interjection, because it enables me to point out how long it took Mr. Healy to get up to a salary of £200 in the State service.

Mr Reid - The honorable member would, I am sure, be the last man to block ah able man from coming to the front.

Mr PAGE - I have no one to thank for my own position but myself, and I like to see every other man get paid according to his merits. But I have a duty to my constituents, just as the Prime Minister, and also I myself, have to the public servants. I wish to see all men well paid; and, as I said before, any increments which become due should be paid without hesitation. But when a man receives increments amountingto £200 in two years, we know there is something wrong somewhere. The Prime Minister said that the Department found out in twelve months that the examiner was worth £50 more.

Mr Reid - I do not know what was found out. I only say that he must have been too cheap.

Mr PAGE - Then there must be "something rotten in the state of Denmark, 'r when, at the end of twenty years, his services were valued at only £200 per annum.

Mr Higgins - He was not then an examiner.

Mr PAGE - It does not matter what hewas; be accepted the position under theCommonwealth when it was advertised.

Mr Reid - There are honorable members .who received only £200 per annumas parliamentary representatives of the

States-; but who now receive £400 per annum as representatives of the Commonwealth.

Mr PAGE - In one State, parliamentary representatives receive only £100 per annum, if that is any news to the right honorable gentleman. But that is only by the way. The officers who are directly under the eye of the Public Service Commissioner are the only officers who receive such enormous increases. On the other hand there are poorly paid individuals who receive less than £160 per annum, and in Brisbane alone such men have had £2,200 deducted from their wages under the classification scheme. Such a deduction means to the individual a new frock for the child, or it may be butter for the meal in the morning. In many instances, men of this class may, throughout their whole lives, not receive increments amounting to £50 or £60.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - But the overtime which those men receive must be set against the sum deducted.

Mr PAGE - But this class of men are short the amount of money I have mentioned ; that is the information they give me. 1

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - I think they are wrong.

Mr PAGE - The Treasurer told us that the increases amount to £54,564. Of this sum the State and statutory increments represent £34,653, leaving a balance due to classification of £19,911-, or, roughly speaking, £20,000. Of the increases amounting to £541564, men receiving salaries under £200 receive £41,852, while officers with salaries of .over £200 receive £12,092. I want to know how much of this £19,911 represents increments to officers receiving over £200, and how much represents increments to men receiving under £200 per annum ? If we can obtain that information, we shall get at " something near the mark." As -to the statements laid before us by the Minister of Home Affairs, I have nothing to say about Mr. Healy's qualifications ; I think he deserves every -credit for the position he has attained. But when a position in the Commonwealth service is advertised, as the Public Sendee Act declares it shall be, the State servant who secures it knows very well what he is applying for, and to what extent the salary represents an increase on that paid in the State. What is the position in Queensland to-day? A Royal Commission has inquired into the whole question of the Public Service, and, in consequence, there have been reductions throughout, not only in numbers, but in salaries. We propose increases in the Federal Service in face of the fact that in Queensland men have had their salaries reduced as much as £100 per annum. Only last week the State Parliament of Queensland passed a special Retrenchment Act ; and we now propose increases in the Federal Service of £50 to £70, one individual receiving increments amounting to £200 in two years. Where is the fairness of such treatment of public servants? I protest that the Federal officers I have mentioned are more than overpaid. The States cannot bear the expenditure, and if increases are to go on year after year we shall have, as in Queensland, a Royal Commission, with the climax of a special Retrenchment Act. If the Public Service Commissioner is honest, and desires to do the Public Service Justice, let him give the men in the lower ranks, whether in the clerical or general division, the same ratio of increase that he gives to the officers in his own Department. I have no desire to block public business; my only object is to impress on the Committee that if we do not vote on these particular items now, there will be no further opportunity when the classification scheme is brought before Parliament.

Suggest corrections