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Tuesday, 12 December 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . -It seems to me that this provision is not altogether fair. The Public Service Commissioner, or the Minister in charge of a. Department affected by a claim, who will be in the position of an employer, will have his costs paid by the country, but the organization of employes making a claim must put their hands in their own pockets.

Senator McGregor - Will they not be in employment all the time, and be supported by the country in just the same way as the Public Service Commissioner?

Senator RAE - If a man is not earning his living in the Public Service, he has no right to be in it; and, if he is, he cannot be said to be supported by the country.

Senator Millen - Will this not be a case of each side paying its own costs?

Senator RAE - Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, an outside employer, or the organization behind him,has to find the money to contest a claim ; and in a big case, such as that in which my own union, the Australian Workers Union, was concerned, the amount was so large as to involve a considerable levy upon each employer concerned. But in this case it is the general body of taxpayers who will bear the costs of the Commissioner or any departmental officers. A number of the employes in some of the Departments, particularly in the Postal Department, have made objections to the non-payment of increments, and also to the way in which some branches have been favoured as against others, and in order to get an adjustment, those who are aggrieved must put their hands in their pockets to find the necessary money. But the Commonwealth, which stands in the position of employer, will have the public purse to dip into.

Senator Millen - It will dip into its own purse the same as a private employer does.

Senator RAE - What I mean is that if the Commissioner or the Minister objects to a claim he will not have to dip into his own purse.

Senator McGregor - Because he will only be representing the country.

Senator Millen - Nor does the secretary to an employers' organization.

Senator RAE - The analogies which my honorable friends seek to draw do not work out in practice. It is technically correct that these persons will employ the public money in looking after the interests of the country. But the Commissioner may, in order to uphold his view of things and vindicate his attitude in certain matters, fight a claim quite apart from any question of wages which is raised by the employes, and he will be in the position of having a free hand. The employes will not be in a corresponding position because they will have to foot their own bill. The positions of the two parties to a case will be quite dissimilar. I do not consider that this is a fair clause. In my opinion the costs ought to go to the victor. I also think that in a trade union case the costs should go to the victor, and that the men should not go back to work until they have made the bosses pay the damages. That principle ought, I hold, to be applied to a case between public servants and the Commissioner.

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