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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - There is almost certain to be difficulty and trouble in the management of one Department by more than one authority. Instead of setting up a Printing Department for ourselves, we took advantage of the fact that Victoria had already established a very excellent Government Printing Office. We found that we could make use of their machines and their type, and we also purchased some new machines for ourselves. It was decided that we could work conjointly, in such a manner that it would not be necessary for the Commonwealth to have a separate printing establishment and staff. The men employed do work partly for the Commonwealth and partly for the State Government, andthe method employed is that a computation is made under a system suggested by the Victorian Government Printer, by which computers keep a record of the amount of work performed by each man. The Commonwealth pays for the work performed for it, and the State for all work performed for the State. These men cannot be called Commonwealth officers, and so long as the present system continues, they cannot be classified as members of the Commonwealth Public Service. We cannot fix salaries and rates of pay for them, except in conjunction with the State authorities.

Senator Givens - Why do we do so in the case of the engineer?

Senator PLAYFORD - I suppose that is because the engineer is a special man, employed by the Commonwealth to look after the new machines, which belong to the Commonwealth.

Senator Croft - According to the honorable senator, he is working as much for the State as for the Commonwealth.

Senator PLAYFORD - The State employs men in connexion with other machines.

Senator Givens - The State has no linotype machines.

Senator Croft - What does the, State pay towards the linotype engineer's salary ?

Senator PLAYFORD - Nothing, so far as I know.

Senator Croft - And yet they have the use of his services.

Senator PLAYFORD - We have the use of the States men also.

Senator Croft - But we pay an allowance for that.

Senator PLAYFORD - We pay an allowance for the work done by States compositors, and the State has to pay for work done for it by men who are chiefly employed on Commonwealth work. I repeat that these men cannot be called Commonwealth servants, as they are only partially employed by the Commonwealth. They are being paid in accordance with the practice followed all along in the Victorian Printing Department. Senator Givens has said that some men outside make as much as £7 or £8 per week, but those men would be working on piece, and I do not know what hours they would have to work. The honorable senator also said that men in the Government Printing Office of Victoria are frequently employed for as long as fourteen hours in a day. I find on inquiry that whilst a man may in one day work fourteen hours, twelve hours, or eleven hours, no man works for more than fortytwo hours per week without receiving extra pay.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator must admit that they have to work very long hours.

Senator PLAYFORD - They may have to do so occasionally, but if they have not to work more than forty-two hours in the week, I do not think they can complain.

Senator Givens - In outside employment, if men are asked to go on after they have completed a day's work, they get overtime.

Senator PLAYFORD -Another point made is that the men are only paid the minimum wage, but I am informed by Mr. Brain that that is in accordance with the practice in the Victorian Government Printing Office. Further, so far as I can understand, the minimum and maximum are in this case the same, and I can therefore see nothing in the complaint. Then it is complained that only time-and-a-quarter is paid for overtime, and I am informed that that is what the State has paid for overtime all through.

Senator Givens - I can inform the honorable senator that the society rate is timeandonethird.

Senator PLAYFORD - I am informed that time-and-a-quarter is the overtime rate which has always been paid in the Victorian Government Printing Office, and that rate is fixed because of the very large number of holidays which these men get in the year. They get fourteen holidays in the year, for which they are paid. As the office is worked under a joint arrangement, we cannot increase the pay of these men, or bring them under Commonwealth Public Service conditions, without the consent of the State Government. The only solution of the difficulty, if there is one, is for the Commonwealth to have its own Government Printing Office. That is a question which, of course, must be looked into by the Minister in charge of the Printing Department of the Commonweal th.

Senator Croft - Does not the Minister think that it is a reasonable request that the men should be furnished with proofs of the matter they set, in order that they may be able to check the computation?

Senator PLAYFORD - Mr. Brain informs me that every man keens his own computation, and is paid according to it.

Senator Givens - Nothing of the kind.

Senator PLAYFORD - That is the information supplied to me. So far as I know, there is no objection to furnishing them with a copy of the computations, but I am informed that already they keep their own computations, and Mr. Brain is aware of no trouble arising in consequence.

Senator Croft - I am personally aware that they do not do so.

Senator PLAYFORD - I have given the Committee the information supplied to me. So long as the printing office is worked in conjunction with the State, we must expect that some difficulties will arise.

I agree that we should pay the highest rate of wages, and should be really good employers of labour. The State may not Hake the same view, and we cannot have two rates of wages paid to men doing similar work in the one establishment.

Senator GIVENS(Queensland).- The Minister of Defence is trying to blind us to the real facts of the case. He has endeavoured to relieve the Commonwealth Government of responsibility, on the ground that the authority governing the printing office is a divided one. We are told that nothing can be done, because these men are not working in our own office. Let me point out that some of the State printers are occasionally employed on Commonwealth work, but that does not' affect the right of the State Government to deal with them in any way they think advisable. On the other hand, the men working our machines, and engaged principally in our work may, although' occasionally thev do some work for the State Government, be treated by us in any way we think fair and desirable. These men are just as' much employed by the Commonwealth as is the engineer in charge of the linotype machines, and they are just as much entitled to have their salaries set down in these Estimates. As a matter of fact. the State Government does not own any linotype machines at all. Those machines are ours, and the services of our operators are occasionally placed at the disposal of the State Government. I have no fault to find on that score, but that is no reason why our employes should not be treated in s.ny way we deem fair without reference to the State Government in the matter. Why did we not get a separate building ibo. which to place our linotype machines, or a separate building for our officers ?

Senator Sir William Zeal - We are getting the buildings rent free, and we have made a very good bargain.

Senator Croft - Let us pay the rent.

Senator GIVENS - There need be no bickering between the State and Commonwealth Governments, and I am inclined to think that the arrangements which have been made are mutually advantageous; but there is no reason whatever why we should not treat the men to whom I have referred as Commonwealth servants, in just the same way as we treat the engineer in charge of the linotype machines.

Senator Sir William Zeal - The honorable senator would destroy all discipline in the office.

Senator GIVENS - We should do nothing of the kind. They are Commonwealth officers, and Mr. Brain is receiving an allowance of £150 a year from us to look after them.

Senator Playford - Mr. Brain is not receiving anything. The money goes into the coffers of the State.

Senator GIVENS - Very well, to that extent, we can make Mr. Brain a Commonwealth officer, no matter whose coffers the money goes into. He can look after our employes, and see that they do justice to the Commonwealth', and that the Commonwealth does justice to them. In the letter from Sir John Forrest, which I quoted, and which will go into Hansard verbatim, he stated, I suppose after consultation with' the Government Printer, that arrangements were being made by which any necessity for long hours and; overtime would be obviated. He said that arrangements were being made which would do away very largely, if not entirely, with the necessity of working these long hours and with overtime. But, as a matter of fact, no less than a week or so ago the men had longer hours to work than they ever had before ; and occasionally, while Parliament -is sitting, and its members desire to get Hansard as soon as possible, especially towards the week-end, the men are necessarily compelled to work very long hours. I must say, in fairness to the men, that they do not complain in that regard. They are willing to stretch a point in order that the work may be done, and they so express themselves. But they should not be asked to work for less than they would get for doing similar work outside. I hope that the Parliament will insist upon the men being given a fair, deal, as undoubtedly they follow the most arduous occupation which is pursued by any servant of the Commonwealth. Before the vote is passed I desire to ask Senator Playford whether the men were told bv Sir John Forrest that arrangements were being made by which they would not have to work excessive overtime, or excessively long hours, and, if so, whether that promise has not and cannot be carried out?

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