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Thursday, 6 September 1906

Senator CROFT (Western Australia) . - Last year and the year before I brought this matter under the notice of the Senate. In supporting what Senator Findley has said, I point out that, in addition to the value of the machinery which the Commonwealth has lying in the small building close to the Government Printing Office, we have scattered all over the office itself a large number of costly modern machines, which have become so valuable to the State that they are in constant use. But we have no one to supervise the working of them, no one to see that they are not damaged, and no one to act as a Commonwealth computer to check the State computer as to the amount of work done by the State for us. When these new Commonwealth machines were brought out and set up it naturally took a considerable amount of time to teach men to work them. Before they had learned to manipulate them properly, some damage was done to the machines. I have tried to find out whether under our system of bookkeeping any arrangement has been made whereby an amount for depreciation is annually written off the value of the machines. But I cannot ascertain whether there is or is not such an arrangement. As these machines are being worked by members of the State staff, we should find ourselves in this peculiar position, if it became necessary to set up an office of our own : That the machines were more or less worn out, that parts were broken, and that we had no men of our own to work them. It is obvious that the members of the State staff, some of 'them being entitled to pensions and other privileges, would not be likely to transfer their services to the Commonwealth. We have paid for teaching these men to work our machines.

Senator Trenwith - And to do our work.

Senator CROFT - But the greater part of the work done by the machines is, as a matter of fact, done for the State. We have no check on the State in respect to what it charges us for the work done. I do not for a moment suggest that it would wilfully treat us badly, but I complain that the present system is not businesslike. We have no check over the material used, and no allowance is made to the Commonwealth for the new labour-saving machinery which it has purchased to do its work, and wh'ich is used to do the State work also. The amount of money spent by the Commonwealth on printing machinery, according to a return supplied at my request last year, may be stated as follows: - Sixteen linotype machines cost ,£14,004 7s. 9d. ; three monotpye machines, £[2,633 I3S- 2d. ; four printing presses, £3,260; four book-bind: ing machines, £[771 ; general printing plant, ,£11,000. Almost as much money has been spent in general printing plant as in the linotype, monotype, and bookbinding machines. The expenditure includes a large number of modern machines, some small and some large.

Senator Millen - What is the total amount ?

Senator CROFT - £31,6690s.11d.

Senator Millen - Does that include type ?

Senator CROFT - I think not ; type is purchased from time to time as required. In addition to that unsatisfactory state of things, I wish to point out that at the time the Commonwealth proposed to purchase printing machinery of its own, the Government Printer advertised in the chief cities of the States for linotype operators. He mentioned the rate of wages that they would receive. It was announced, I think rightly, that applications would be received from linotype operators in all the States. Consequently, a number of men came over from the other States to work in the office. I know that some men came over from Western Australia. That was a very fair arrangement. But the first time there was any difficulty in connexion with their work, they approached the Federal Treasurer, in whose Department they were. But they were told that they were not Commonwealth employes. Consequently thev went to the State Government Printer, from whom they learnt that they were not wholly State employe's either. In fact, the position became so acute, that, although the wages were fairly good, the feeling of unrest was so great that the men who came over from Western Australia, with the exception of two, have returned. Several to my knowledge have gone back to Queensland. In my opinion, there ought to be an understanding that if they show ability, there will be some chance of their receiving permanent appointments. If we do not have some arrangement of the kind there will be a danger that, if at any time we desire to establish an office of our own, we shall experience considerable difficulty in obtaining the services of good operators. That may easily happen in the printing trade as it has happened in other trades through the demand for first-class men becoming great.

Senator Clemons - Have they not yet been definitely allocated either to the Commonwealth or to the State service?

Senator CROFT - No. They work, perhaps, for three or four hours on State work, and then for a couple of hours on Commonwealth work. At the end of each fortnight, each man receives a State docket and a Commonwealth docket with two par cels of money ; and they have to sign the two pay dockets for the money received.

Senator Dobson - Is there anything wrong in that?

Senator CROFT - But is it a businesslike method?

Senator Playford - They are paid by results.

Senator CROFT - If a better arrangement is not made, the Senate ought to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the work of the Government Printing Office, and to furnish a report, in order that steps may be taken to put our work upon a proper business-like footing.

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