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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Senator STEWART (Queensland) - I quite realize the difficulty in which the Government are placed. We are, so to speak, carrying on our printing operations in the building, and, to a very large extent, with the machinery of the State ; and it is apparent that our employes cannot be put on a proper footing until the Commonwealth has its own printing office. It is, however, within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to alter the rule with regard to overtime. In the statements read by Senator Givens, it is mentioned that very often the men work fourteen hours at a stretch, but are not entitled to overtime until they have completed a full week of forty-two hours. I interjected when the honorable senator was speaking that that was the rule right throughout the service. To my mind, it is a very bad rule, which ought to be altered at the very earliest opportunity. It was framed by men who either Have had no experience as workmen, or who, if they have had such experience, nave entirely forgotten the fact, because if there is one thing, which is more clearly recognised by the average worker than any other it is that his working power is, practicallyspeaking, his earning capital, and that if it is to be conserved to him it must not be rushed out in periods of lengthened work. For that reason, the eight-hours' limit has been established in a very large number of occupations by the practice of the country; and when a man is asked to expend more of his labour in one day than he thinks is admitted by the rule to be proper, then the ordinary custom is to pay him at overtime rate. I claim that when these men work more than eight hours in any day they ought to be so paid.

Senator Mulcahy - Then let us knock off their holidays and treat them in the same wayas men outside are treated. Let us treat fairly the men who have to find the money as well as the printers themselves.

Senator STEWART - It is apparent that Senator Mulcahy is not very sympathetic towards these men.

Senator Mulcahy - They are paid for fourteen days in theyear when they do not work : but men employed outside do not get that concession.

Senator STEWART - Apparently my honorable friend objects to the men getting their holidays !

Senator Mulcahy - They are earning £.4or £5per week, and, in my opinion, are doing very well indeed.

Senator STEWART - Many public servants get twelve months' leave of ab sence on full pay, and why does not the honorable senator vote against that rule? He will ignore extravagance in any Department of the Commonwealth, but when it comes down to the working man he is out with his cheese-paring implement, and is ready to pare every time. The Commonwealth ought to be a fair employer, and when it asks men to work more than eight hours at astretch it ought to be prepared to pay at an extra rate for the excess time. I know that a similar arrangement holds good in other Departments of the Public Service, but it has been made by men who have no sympathy with the workers, or who, if they have passed through the mill, have forgotten the fact, and are now the petty tyrants of the working man. In order to test the feeling of the Committee on the question of overtime, I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item " Allowance to Mr. R. S. Brain, for services rendered in connexion with printing for Parliament,£150," by £1.

Senator PLAYFORD(South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - Since I addressed the Committee, I havehad an opportunity of seeing the Victorian Government Printer, and putting some questions to him. I asked Mr. Brain, " Are the men who are set down in the Estimates as compositors and so on Commonwealth or State employes, partly to do Commonwealth work, and partly to do State work, or did you engage them on behalf of the Commonwealth?" He said, " I engaged them on behalf of the State," and, in the. circumstances, we have nothing to do with the question of wages or overtime. We have a distinct arrangement that a certain rate shall be paid for the printing and the work which is performed.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator contends that the men are really State employes?

Senator PLAYFORD - Mr. Braininformed me that they are really State employes. We have an arrangement by which we pay the State for the work done.

Senator Mulcahy - Are the men fairly paid ?

Senator PLAYFORD - That is rather a question to be considered by the State Government, who contract with us to do our work at a certain rate, and employ the men. We repay the State for the work done.

Senator GIVENS(Queensland).- The information which has just been furnished by Senator Playford is satisfactory, because it helps to clear up the question. I have no desire to interfere with the working of the State Printing Department, and now that it is clearly understood, on the authority of Senator Playford, that these men are not Commonwealth employes, it will be satisfactory to the men themselves, inasmuch as they will know to whom to look for the redress of any grievance. In the circumstances, I do not intend to press the matter any further, though I think it would be well within the right of the Commonwealth to ask the State Government to see that the men who are partly employed on Commonwealth work should not be required to work unduly long hours1, or to submit to any worse conditions than those to which they would be subjected in doing similar work outside. If it should cost the Commonwealth a little more to get its work done in a satisfactory way, I feel sure that it would be willing to pay the additional sum. I intend to vote for the request in order to express my disapproval of men being compelled to work fourteen hours at a stretch without getting paid for overtime.

Senator STEWART(Queensland).- If it be correct, as the Minister says, that these men are the servants of the State, and that the Commonwealth has nothing to do with them. I would point out to him that the estimate is wrongly framed. What are the items which we are asked to vote?

Wages and overtime : -


If the Minister's statement be correct, and I have no reason to doubt it, the Estimates, ought to have been framed in quite a different fashion. Instead of being asked to vote the wages of compositors and others, we ought to have been asked to discharge an account to be rendered by the State Government for work done.

Senator Playford - The amounts are based on work done, and wages earned in doing the work.

Senator STEWART - This division is a jumble of the most comprehensive character. When it suits the Government, it is one thing; but when it does not suit them, it is something else. It is most adaptable in its character. It is almost anything which the occasion may demand. In any case, I suppose that it is not worth while to pursue the subject; but I shall call for a division on the question of overtime.

Senator GIVENS(Queensland). - In order to get the matter fully cleared up, I would ask Senator Playford to say whether, when pay-day comes round, the money to pay these men is drawn by a cheque on the -Commonwealth's bank or by a cheque on the State's bank? If the money be drawn from Commonwealth funds, undoubtedly the men are Commonwealth employes, otherwise they are State employes.

Senator CROFT(Western Australia).I wish to ask whether the operators sign a Commonwealth pay-sheet or a State paysheet? I insist that they are Commonwealth employes. I am surprised that a better business arrangement is not made.

Senator PLAYFORD(South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - The operators sign a double pay-sheet, showing the work done for the Commonwealth and the work done for the State. They are, therefore, jointly employed by the State and the Commonwealth, and my previous statement was not quite accurate.

Senator Mulcahy - Are they paid under the same conditions as are other men who do work for both State and Commonwealth ?

Senator PLAYFORD - Yes ; exactly the same.

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