8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– On behalf of the Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, I present its report and minutes of evidence relating to the proposed establishment of automatic telephone exchanges at East Sydney, Randwick, Waverley, and Gordon.
-I also present the report and minutes of evidence relating to the proposed establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at South Melbourne, and move -
That the paper be printed.
.- Motions for the printing of reports and minutes of evidence are made so frequently that the duties of the Printing Committee seem to be almost entirely disregarded. I do not know how much of the document which has just been laid on the table is evidence, and what it will cost to print this evidence ; but I think that all proposals for the printing of papers should be referred to the Printing Committee.
– This action is taken in accordance with an Act of Parliament.
– In these cases, the reports of the Committee must be printed, of course ; but there is a doubt in my mind as to the need for printing the minutes of evidence.
.- I would suggest to the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) that the Printing Committee has in its own hands a remedy for what he complains of. If the members of the Committee think that too much printing is being authorized, it can make a report on the subject to this House as to the need for restricting expenditure on printing. I would suggest that for the consideration of the Printing Committee.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [11.4].- I believe that the motion under discussion is being moved in accordance with the requirements of the Public Works Committee Act.
– That is so.
– The Printing Committee is merely a Committee of this House, and it is questionable whether it could, in any case, override the Public Works Committee. The minutes of evidence relating to the inquiry upon which the Committee has reported are already in print, and the ordering of the printing amounts merely to the ordering of a few more copies for the convenience of honorable members generally. On occasions when reports have been presented without the minutes of evidence on which they were founded, honorable members have complained of being deprived of the opportunity to peruse that evidence, and, there fore, it is now customary to have the minutes of evidence printed. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, acting for the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, is simply performing a function which, under the Public Works Committee Act, devolves upon him.
.- As Chairman of the Printing Committee I know that it is considered by the members of that Committee that if the House makes the order that a paper must be printed the Committee cannot interfere. An order for the printing of a paper ends the matter so far as the Printing Committee is concerned.
– I would remind the House that the Public Works Committee in the taking of evidence and the making of reports always pays due regard to considerations of economy ; in fact, it is the most parsimonious crowd that I have ever been associated with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Duty on Spirits.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he cannot make some arrangement for the reduction of the price of spirits used by the manufacturers of essences, such as essence of lemon, from Australian essential oils? Could it not be arranged that they should get the spirit they need at the same rate of Excise as is charged to the manufacturers ofscents and other commodities which are not of so much importance to a community as essences?
– The matter has had a good deal of consideration, but I shall confer with the Government Analyst regarding it, to see whether something cannot be done to cheapen the spirit used in the manufacturing referred to.
– The essential oil industry will be crippled if it is not cheapened.
– At the present time a fine propaganda in the interests of health is being undertaken, not only in Melbourne, but also throughout “Victoria and. I believe, the other States, too. The leading men of the medical fraternity are urging the people that for the mainten- ance of their health they should follow sane habits in the matter of work, diet, and other things. I should like to know from the Leader of the House, therefore, whether the Government intends to disregard the advice of the medical experts of Australia, and to overtax the physical and mental capacity of members of Parliament by requiring them to sit morning, noon, and night, leaving them in the end, perhaps, in a state of complete exhaustion ?
– It would surely be impossible to overtax the mental powers of the members of this House; while, as for physical capacity, one has only to look at the honorable member to see that he needs no certificate of fitness.
– Is the Acting-Leader of the House in a position to inform honorable members of the reliability of the information regarding the situation in the Near East which appears in this morning’s press, and indicates that better conditions are developing in that critical area?
– The latest information I have is to the effect that the position is easier. All I can say at the moment is that, if developments take place which materially alter the situation for the worse, the House will be immediately informed.
– In view of the dissatisfaction existing in the Defence Department of the Commonwealth because of the uncertainty of the position of those men who have long and faithful records of service, can the Government give the House any definite assurance as to what is to be proposed in regard to superannuation or pension benefits for them, and when something will be done on their behalf?
– I have already told the House as definitely as I can the proposals of the Government. We intend to bring down as soon as practicable proposals which will give men who have long -service records in the. Permanent Forces of the Commonwealth the benefits of superannuation; but I have explained that, because of the peculiar circumstances of their employment, it was found impracticable to link up these men directly with the scheme in the Bill which has been before the House. The whole matter is the subject of investigation at the present moment, and we hope to devise shortly a scheme which will be fair to all concerned. The Government will at the first opportunity submit its proposals to the House.
– I ask the Minister for Defence if men of the Permanent Forces submitted applications for discharge, in the event of no superannuation being provided for them, would they be granted compensation on the same lines as the compensation granted to those who went out of the Service on the 30th June ?
– No compensation willbe payable to anybody who voluntarily resigns, who is required at the present time to maintain the establishment that has been provided for in the Estimates.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if he will be good enough to make available to honorable members copies of the telegrams he has recently received in regard to the sugar industry ?
– I have received numerous telegrams recently from the Northern States in connexion with the sugar question. They refer, in particular, to a phase of it that has been committed to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. I do not think that at this juncture it would be advisable for me to place before the House material that is in the hands of the Tariff Board.
Officersin Receipt of War Pensions
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Defence Department is not receiving a war pension?
– I do not know. War pensions are paid purely on the medical assessment of applicants’ disabilities due to or arising out of war service. No information is sought from pensioners as to their places of employment nor the amounts of earnings received by them, as these are not factors in the assessing of the rates that shall be paid, and, therefore, no record is kept of the same.
Compensation to Officers on Retrenchment .
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether civil engineers retired from the Naval Works Department, Owing to the alteration in Government policy consequent on the Washington Conference, are to receive any compensation on their retrenchment?
– No. Compensation is only being paid to those officers whose appointments were approved by the Minister to be confirmed.
Mr. GREENE (for Mr.Bruce). On the 29th of September the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) asked the following question: -
Will the Treasurer furnish a return showing, separately, the amounts collected under the Land and Income Tax provisions in the Northern Territory during the years 1020-21.
The Treasurer then said that steps were being taken to obtain the information, and he has now received from the Commissioner of Taxation the following reply:-
The amounts collected under the Land and Income Tax Acts of the Northern Territory for the years ended 31st December. 1920, and 31st December, 1921, are as follow’: -
The following papers were presented : -
Administrative Offices (Provisional) at Canberra - Plans in connexion with.
Electoral Act and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 136.
Officers’ Hostel at Canberra - Plans in connexion with.
Debate resumed from 2nd October (vide page 2994), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill he now read a second time.
– Before the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) resumes the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I have to say that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) submitted an amendment to the motion, on which a point of order was raised, and a ruling was asked for. The ‘ proposed amendment contains an instruction to the Committee on the Bill which cannot be moved as an amendment to the motion for the second reading. An instruction to the Committee on the Bill cannot be accepted at this stage. In any case, the Standing Orders provide that notice must be given of an intention to move for such an instruction to a Committee. In order that the honorable member for Bourke may have an opportunity of moving his motion, I have placed his suggested amendment on the business-paper in the form of a notice of his intention to move it as an instruction to the Committee on the Bill, after the second-reading stage.
– I have no wish to delay the business, and would like, by leave, to withdraw the notice.
– No; leave it on the busi-ness-paper.
– I should like to thank the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) for his kind words of congratulation to me on my escape from the perils of death during last week. I regret that I should have escaped from one danger only apparently to be comfronted with another deadly peril owing to the fact that, as I was informed, the “ sword had been drawn from its scabbard.” Apparently, it has been returned to its scabbard this morning, arid I naturally feel a little more safe than I did.
I wish to protest against the consideration of this Bill during a morning sitting of the House at this stage of the session. If we are asked to work day and night we cannot expect to do our work efficiently. It is impossible for members to sit in the fetid atmosphere of this chamber from 11 o’clock in the morning to 11 o’clock at night without their minds becoming jaded, and rendered more or less unfitted for the work of legislation. The inevitable result must be the passage of ill-digested legislation that will do more harm than good. In moving the second reading of the Bill the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) referred to the consideration due to the members of the Public Service, and I may be allowed to say that I think they are entitled to a great deal more consideration than they are receiving, owing to the action of the Government in deciding to proceed with this measure in the dying hours of this Parliament. The Bill proposes practically to re-organize the whole of the Service, and certainly to make some very radical changes in the conditions under which it is to be carried on. At a time when the elections are approaching, and the minds of honorable members are disturbed, they are presented with a list of thirteen or fourteen Bills, many of which deal with matters of the most urgent importance. In the circumstances, it is impossible for honorable members to give them the consideration they require. The debate on this measure, which is of vital importance to the Public Service, was proceeded with yesterday, when the Minister in charge of it was not present to- answer the questions of honorable members who desired information. The Bill contains 113 clauses.
– And there are to be ninety-five amendments proposed.
– I do not know the exact number of amendments that are to be proposed, but it was suggested in a statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) last night, that the Government had some intention of getting the Bill through to-day, and going on with the next business on the noticepaper. The amendment of the Public Service Act has been left in abeyance for something like six years. During that period we have carried on with an Acting Public Service Commissioner. No officer was appointed permanently to the position because it was felt that it was necessary to deal with the conditions of the Public Service in a comprehensive way. It is not fair to the Service, nor is it fair to the people, that we should be asked to consider this measure at such short notice. “We are not given time to digest its provisions, or to appreciate the amendments of the existing law which it proposes. If, because so little time was given for the consideration of the measure, its results, when passed, are found unsatisfactory, it will be difficult to suggest how many years must elapse before steps will be taken to pass a satisfactory law for the control of the Public Service. When the Government decided to proceed with a measure of so much importance, why did they not call Parliament together early in March, in order that the business might be conducted in a proper way, and it would not be necessary to rush legislation through in the closing hours of the session.
– The honorable gentleman was in Java at the time he suggests that Parliament should have been called together.
– I would not have been there if arrangements had been made for the meeting of Parliament at that time. Parliament did not meet until the Supply voted last year had run out. We have done our best since the meeting of Parliament to deal with the measures submitted to us in the proper spirit. This is one of the most important Bills which Parliament could be called upon to consider. It deals not only with the re-organization of the various Commonwealth activities, but with their conduct generally. But I would like to see some definite provision in the Bill, calculated to prevent the present rate of increase in the number of public servants. The Bill should also make specific provision for improving the standard of our services right through. What is required is not quantity - not large numbers of men drawn from productive occupations - but a high quality of public officialdom thoroughly well capable of carrying out the most important functions of govern- ‘ ment. At present the Public Service is practically a dead-end occupation for about 80 per cent, of those who have entered it. This is singular, as compared with other avenues of employment, because of the fact that practically all entrants must pass a qualifying and competitive examination. The Public Service draws upon a very high average standard from among the youths of our schools. These have been attracted, in the main, by the fact that the initial rates of pay are comparatively good. But what is the position of the public servant after twenty, thirty, or forty years’ service? Generally, as I have said, he is at a dead end. Men who would have been very much better employed in other activities are unable, after a few years, to change their occupations, because they have weighted themselves, probably, with family responsibilities, and are in a cul de sac.
Honorable members should be afforded the fullest opportunities for discussing this measure in its every detail, and much more information should be made available to enable us properly to handle the whole subject. First, consideration should be given to the cause of the increase in our Public Services, both State and Federal. In the last twenty years, since the inauguration of Federation, there has been a total increase from 89,831 to 248,976. This represents something like 260 per cent. But the population, meanwhile, has grown to the extent of only 45 per cent.- from 3,373,000, in fact, to 5,416,000. In the Federal Service alone the increase of permanent public servants, outside of such trading Departments as the Postmaster-General’s Department - those especially under the control of the Public Service Commissioner - has been from 1,417 to 4,573, which represents an expansion of more than 300 per cent.
– Do those figures include railway servants?
– They are independent of them, altogether.
– Do the honorable member’s statistics take into consideration the various services which were taken over by the Federation from the States? For instance, 3,500 employees came over to the Commonwealth in connexion with the transfer of State activities alone.
– The present number of public servants, whose total I have just given, is exclusive of those who were taken over in that manner.
– That is not so. The honorable member’s total is inclusive.
– I have drawn upon those servants under the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the AttorneyGeneral, the Minister for Works and Railways, and the Minister for Trade and Customs ; and I have excluded those under the PostmasterGeneral.
– But the Department of Trade and Customs has taken over quite a number of services, which has entailed the transfer of 3,500 former State officers. That factor makes a tremendous difference in the honorable member’s comparisons.
– I have dealt with the employees of the PostmasterGeneral quite separately. I repeat that the total number of State and Federal servants has increased in twenty years from almost 90,000 to just under 249,000.
– Probably; the honorable member is including all those additional employees who have been required in connexion with the tremendous expansion of State railway services.
– The important fact is that the Public Service has expanded to the extent of 260 per cent., while the population of the Commonwealth in twenty years has increased only 45 per cent. - that is to say, the increase in State and Federal services has been six times as rapid as is the total of our population. Salaries paid to public servants have gone up from £11,733,000 to £55,000,000 in that same time, which represents an increase of 500 per cent. One among every twelve adults in Australia to-day is a publicservant; and since the greater proportion of our public servants consists of males, it would probably be correct to say that one out of every seven adult males in the Commonwealth is now a State or Federal servant. That is an enormous percentage, and it indicates a most serious withdrawal of our manhood from the active ranks of producers, and their utilization, in the main, in non-productive employments. What can be done to put a stop to further increase -in the same direction ? What can we do to diminish the total ? If duplications were eliminated there would immediately be brought about a marked diminution of these non-productive public employees. To-day we see duplication in the Electoral, Taxation, and Health Services; duplication, also, in respect of our Agency Services, and in the matter of Commonwealth and State Police.
– There are no Commonwealth Police.
– They are disguised at present under some other name.
– There are no Commonwealth Police even under disguise. I have said so over and over again, but the honorable member will repeat the statement.
– We have also duplication in respect of statistical work; and although Premiers’ Conference after Conference has been called, having this matter of duplication upon its agenda, we are still no better off. Now and again some small alterations are brought about, but these have never represented anything material. The only effective method of alteration will be in the direction of amendments of the Constitution, so that State and Commonwealth activities shall be more strictly defined. In this connexion, by the way, the people were promised, both before and after the last Federal elections, that the Commonwealth Parliament would be given an opportunity to deal with the matter of Constitution amendments. Apparently, however, that promise is not to be honoured, because the Prime Minister made no mention of the subject when he placed before the House his list of business to be dealt with before the end of the session. There will never be any very marked decrease in Government expenditure until we have some means of proper supervision - as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) suggested - secured by some method of reducing the unwieldy areas of our States. In those huge territories embraced in the larger States there is inevitable circumlocution, delay, and unwarranted cost in carrying on public concerns. In the smaller States - as Victoria and Tasmania - much less expenditure is incurred in removing public servants from one post to another. With a uniform, size of State, or the division of the Commonwealth into zones, approximately equal in size, it would be possible to make comparisons in standards of departmental efficiency in areas of something like the same size and population. At present we have such centres as Tweed Heads under administrative control from Sydney, though it is most difficult to get in touch with Sydney. Some of the Federal departmental heads have never been through the districts under their control, because of their inaccessibility and the fact that, though we are supposed to be a Federation, we are doing what Sir Robert Anderson pointed out in his report on the Postmaster-General’s Department seven or eight years ago - controlling areas as though we were a series of isolated States instead of a Federation. We axe keeping in existence for Federal administrative purposes the old. State boundaries, when, for Commonwealth purposes, there is no need whatever to do so. Altogether the present system interferes materially with the attainment of high standards of administrative efficiency combined with economy.
– Does the honorable member think that more authority should be given to the deputies?
– That is what I intend to suggest later, when we come to deal with the administrative clauses of the Bill, and that is what Mr. McLachlan urged in his report to the Government in 1920.
Apparently we are not going to have an opportunity to deal with Constitutional amendments in a way that will enable us, in the immediate future, to make the necessary alterations in State boundaries, and make possible a comparison of standards of efficiency and economy in the Public Service administration of smaller areas. In the absence of any such change, the time has come, with the present strangling taxation on the people, for some self-denying ordinance to be imposed by all the Governments of Australia on themselves with regard to the appointment of additional members of the Public Service in connexion with the ordinary business of government. It is impossible to prevent new appointments to such Departments as the Post Office and the railways, which are continually expanding, to meet the increasing requirements of the people, but in other ordinary administrative Departments there should be no reason for the present steady increase in the personnel of the Public Service.
– From day to day we are having representationsmade to us by honorable members to have the postal staff increased in different places. We find it very difficult to resist these requests.
– The Government should be strong enough to resist every request that is not fully justified by the circumstances. The important thing to remember is that we must in some way or other reduce the cost of government, and lighten the taxation burdens of the community. If we wish to bring additional people to this country, we must hold out some inducement to them. We should be able to show them that if they do come here, the taxation levied upon them will be less than in’ any other place, and that their opportunities here will be greater than elsewhere.
In addition, it seems to me that we could effect some improvement and secure increased efficiency in the service by the abolition, as far as possible, of the system of temporary employment. At present there are about 15,000 temporary employees in the various branches of our Public Service.
– The Bill contains provisions dealing with that matter.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should make all temporary employees permanent employees ?
– No; but I think the Government would get a great deal more efficiency if they re-organized the Service, and, instead of having such a large number of temporary employees, made the employment of those absolutely essential to the work of the various Departments permanent, and therefore continuous.
The Government might very well consider also the wisdom of increasing the hours of work in the Public Service to 5 o’clock in the afternoon, so as to bring them into conformity with the hours worked by employees in the Public Services of the various States. This suggestion was made by me last year, and I notice that it is also recommended by Mr. McLachlan. Let me read what the Commissioner had to say on ‘the subject -
As a general rule the hours of duty of officers engaged in clerical or professional work, and also those of many General Division officers, are from 9 a.m. to 4.’30 p.m.; with three-quarters of an hour interval for the midday meal. In two States these officers are allowed a meal interval of an hour, and remain on duty until 4.45 p.m. The actual working hours of these officers are six and three-quarter hours a day, Monday to Friday, and three hour’s on Saturday, or a total of 36f hours in a week. In four of the six States the practice in the public Departments controlled by the States Governments is to employ clerical staffs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday to Friday in each week, and from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday. Reasonable warrant exists for amending the present arrangement, and providing that the ordinary working hours for such classes of officers in the Commonwealth Service shall in future be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an allowance of one hour instead of three-quarters of an hour for a meal, and that on Saturdays the hours should he from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. The present provision as to meal interval is more honoured in the breach than the observance, as many officers actually take a full hour instead of the three-quarters prescribed, and the actual effect of the suggested alteration would he to obtain from such officers halfanhour’s daily extra service. It is recommended that in any amendment of Public Service regulations, following upon the passage of new legislation, the question of revision of hours of duty on the lines indicated should be gives consideration.
As the Minister has stated that he has en.A.nn….A to follow the ex-Commissioner’s recommendations in the main, I trust he will not neglect this phase of Public Service administration, which is so definitely commented upon by Mr. McLachlan. The proposed change would involve no hardship on anybody^ and probably it would do away with any necessity to reduce salaries as deflation progresses.
I have not yet been able to satisfy myself as to the exact purpose of the Board of Commissioners - whether the functions of that body are to be executive or not. I did not have the opportunity of hearing the Minister’s second-reading speech, but I have read his remarks, and I am not at all clear on this point. Will the Board simply replace the Public Service Commissioner in every respect, and will it also be a Board of Management, as was suggested by the Economies Commission, and, in addition, be charged with outside supervision? I think the House ;s entitled ‘to some explanation as to why the Government departed so definitely from the recommendation of the exPublic Service Commissioner.
– Does not the honorable member think that one man will be better than three Commissioners?
– Yes; Mr. McLachlan in his report dealt -with that matter very fully.
– Mr. McLachlan did not deal with the need for securing economy and efficiency as the Economies Commission did.
– His suggestion was to effect economy through a system of accountancy rather than by a Board of Management. His remarks on that ‘subject are worth putting on record. He said -
In my opinion there are strong reasons against alteration of the present system of management of the Commonwealth Public Service. Control by a Board of three members necessarily involves a more cumbrous procedure than by a single Commissioner, and consequent delays in settlement of questions of administration. In addition, the important factor of direct and personal responsibility would be sacrificed by the appointment of a Board. Moreover, the circumstances surrounding theCommonwealth Service differ very materially from those of a State PublicService, seeing that the former service is spread over all the States forming the Commonwealth, necessitating the location of a PublicService Inspector in each State, exercising delegated powers of the Commissioner. In providing for the future administration of the Public Service Act. it would be disadvantageous to establish a Public Service Board, with the consequent inelasticity of control and the diminution of personal responsibility.The existing system of management by one Commissioner will undoubtedly better meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Public Service, provided that the necessary assistance is given him to carry out the duties and extended functions to be conferred upon him.
He pointed out exactly what he had done as Public Service Commissioner, and then said -
It will be of obvious advantage to the Commissioner to have the assistance of a professional expert in aparticular section of the work of a department. At present, the Commissioner is at a disadvantage in combating the views of officers whoso interests may lie in the continuance of existing methods and whose professional knowledge of the subject might carry weight when expressed in opposition to the views of a layman.
In regard to the tenure of office, he said -
Under the provisions of the Public Service Act of 1902, the tenure of office of the Commissioner and Inspectors is limited to a period of seven years, and power is given to re-appoint these officers for a further term or terms. It is difficult to understand the reason for such a condition of tenure when it is remembered that no statutory limitation is imposed in the case of the Judges of the High Court or of the AuditorGeneral of the Commonwealth.While it is questionable whether any -advantage accruesfromthe existing provisionsofthe Act, I am convinced that serious disadvantageresults from the fact that experienced officers ofthe Federal andState Services, ormen of high standing outsidetheservice, willhesitate to accept appointments involvingalimited tenure. It is within my recollection that in 1902 a prominentofficerof thePost Office Service withdrew his application for.’ appointment as Public Service Inspector because of the condition imposed by the Act as to a seven years’ tenure. The limitation of the period of appointment is particularly unwise from the stand-point of independent administration, and although my own experience in this respect when holding office as Commissioner was satisfactory, and such as to giveno cause for complaint, it may readily be understood that the possibility of non-renewal of appointment is likely toaffect the independence of a Commissioner or Inspector, and to prove detrimental to the public interests. The Royal Commission on the Victorian State Public Service, reporting on this subject last year, stated : - “‘The Commissioner should in our opinion have real power and should be really independent. Nominally he is independent, but as he cannot be appointed for more than seven years at a time it will be seen that he is not really independent. He cannot help feeling that if he does not endeavour to please the powers that be, he may not get a renewal of his position when his term expires. And he should be paid a salary befitting his important office. There is no good reason, so far as wo can see, why he should not be appointed to hold office during good behaviour, as the AuditorGeneral is Of course, we do not suggest that the administration of the present Commissioner or any of his predecessors has been influenced in the slightest degree by their insecurity of tenure, butwe feel that the office should be placed in such a position of strength that there would be absolutely no colour for the suggestion that in some particular case or cases the Commissioner’s action was not altogether disinterested.”
In the report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service of Great Britain (1914), it is pointed out that the members of the Civil Service Commission (two in number) hold their appointments direct from the Crown, and that like other members of the permanent Civil Service, these officers hold office during His Majesty’s pleasure, this meaning in practice until they are retired owing to age or invalidity.
About 1918 or 1919 the Government of New South Wales appointed Mr. G. M. Allard a Royal Commissioner to report upon the Public Service of that State, and he reported as follows in regard to the tenure of office of the members of the Public Service Board -
The present limited tenure makes it possible for periodical pressure to be applied to the members ofthe Board,especially when the term of office is approaching completion . I consider it imperative that the tenure of office should be such as to make the Board independent in spirit aswell as in letter,and that, subject to removal by a vote of bothHouses of Parliament, the tenure of office should be from the date of appointment until the date upon which each Commissioner shall attain the age of sixty-five years.
In the face of such unanimous testimony it is strange that the Minister should bring down a Bill under which the maximum period of appointment will be five years. If the Government are determined to proceed with the appointment of a Board of Management we shall not get applications for appointment from men of wide outside business experience if they know that in four years’ time their appointment will be jeopardized if some act of theirs has rendered the Administration of the day hostile to them. If a single Commissioner is to be appointed, the length of tenure should be materially lengthened, even if it be not made continuous during good behaviour, so that he shall be independent of political pressure. It is hopeless to attempt to reorganize the whole Service if we are unable to secure the services of the best men available. We have already had experience of appointments that were unsatisfactory, largely because the salaries and conditions ofappointment were not such as to attract men of the right stamp for the work to be done. We cannot expect a manager of a big business firm to sever his present associations and accept an appointment under the Government for a limited number of years with the possibility that, at the end of that term, he may be compelled’ to go back to private employment, only to find the old avenue closed to him.
– Have we not had some experience of the placing of absolute control in the hands of Boards?
– Any Board appointed would require to be subject to control by Parliament, but I personally believe in the appointment of a single Commissioner.
– I thought the honorable member was suggesting that the Commissioner should be free from political control.
– The Commissioner should be independent in his outlook, but he must be subject to the control of Parliament. Only in the event of a very severe dereliction of duty on his part would Parliament take action against him.
– The honorable member is utterly opposed to the recommendationof the Economies Commission in favour of the appointment of a Board of Management?
– No; but I wouldprefer the appointment of a
Commissioner with very highly paid inspectors in each State. Most of all, I should like the Commonwealth to be cut into smaller areas and placed under the control of inspectors, who would be able to adequately acquaint themselves personally with the conditions throughout their province of control. Such familiarity as the inspector would thus get in handling smaller areas would tend to increase efficiency. I am also in favour of throwing responsibility upon the heads of the Public Service in each State, giving them very much wider powers than at present, and decentralizing to a greater degree their control in the various Departments. It seems absurd that an officer should one day be a Deputy Postmaster-General, and only able to spend a limited amount, while the next week, by accident of time, he might, as secretary to the whole Department, be called upon to deal with millions.
– There is a constant appeal onbehalf of men who cannot get all they want. They go to the PostmasterGeneral and ask for it. Hundreds of such cases arise, and very often honorable members are parties to the practice; in fact, honorable members are the biggest offenders.
– That is no reason why we should not appointstrong men to hold these positions.
– When the man is strong, it makes the member all the more insistent to obtain the car of the M’nister.
– Our actions should be guided not by expediency, but by principle. If my suggestion were adopted, we should have men standing up to their responsibilities much better than they do now. They would be more inclined to take independent views as to what they regarded as necessary in the public interests, rather than having to subordinate their opinions for other rea- s ons. If that system were adopted, not only with regard to the inspectors in charge of districts, but right down through the Departments, and a better system of devolution of responsibility were evolved, there would be a more effi- cient Service. It is ridiculous that postmasters, in quite big towns, should find themselves in such helpless positions as they are with regard to the amount of money they can expend on very urgent matters.
– You are an advocate of reform, but if we gave too great a power of expenditure to postmasters all over Australia the postal bill would mount up very rapidly.
– There; could be supervision by a proper system of checks and auditing, and there is no reason why there should be the vexatious delays now experienced. I shall mention a case that has come under my notice in connexion with a State Department, and the same thing is practically true of the Federal sphere. In a northern town the chairman of the Land Board receives about £750 per annum. He examines the whole of the applicants for lands; but ho has no right to spend any sum of public money above £1 without reference to his superior officers in Sydney. The counter accommodation in the office of the Board is not the best that could be provided, and an agent suggested that if the counter were cut into two, and made L shaped, instead of being straight, it would afford greater convenience to the public. The officer indorsed this alteration. An architect was obtained from Lismore to examine the counter, and altogether about £30 was spent in preliminary expenses prior to accepting a tender for 30s. for the necessary alteration. Such things are constantly happening.
– I do not think that would occur in a Federal Department.
– I shall now give an instance in the Federal sphere. Two and a-half years ago I secured from the Postmaster-General a promise that tenders would be called for the erection of a post-office at Wingham. After a long lapse of time tenders were called. Then suggestions were made for alterations to the building, involving an expenditure of something like £25 or £30, in order to provide greater convenience for the public. Owing to the system that obtains in the Federal Departments concerned, the whole scheme was delayed for about nine months to get proper official sanction at the source, and only now is the building being commenced. I went to three or four Departments in endeavouring to push the work ahead, and I was assured on every hand that, if there had been greater power to deal with the matter locally, it would have been attended to eighteen months ago. During the whole of that time the people have been inconvenienced, and no money has been saved.
– Do you suggest that local postmasters should have the right to deal with tenders? ‘
– No; but I think the local inspector who controls a district that is about twice as large as Tasmania, and has about the same population, should be able to deal with a matter of that kind. If it is not possible for men in receipt of large salaries to do such work, it is time we had a better system. Although at the beginning of an officer’s career the Public Service is moderately attractive as regards salary, compared with private employment, we find that at a certain stage officers come to a dead end. The number of civil servants receiving £600 a year is lamentably small, and we lose the services of the best men. Those officers who are tied up with family responsibilities probably remain in the Service; but we ought to be able to retain the services of the most capable men. We have been more fortunate than we deserve up to the present in the heads of our Departments, as many came over from the States, by reason of the fact that the Commonwealth Service should be, as it was expected to be, more attractive than State Government employment.
This Bill does not -deal with the grading of the Service at all. It simply alters the number of divisions from five to four, and these divisions practically include the whole of the officers. In each division there are various grades, and, if the present system were made somewhat more clastic, a considerable sum could be saved every year in the- matter of removals of officers.
– The Bill is drafted to provide that elasticity.
– I have known officers to be transferred to positions 500 or 600 miles away, and the whole of their removal expenses had to be borne by the public, simply by reason of the fact that for a time they were in a grade that was unable to give them tho rate of salary they were looked upon as entitled to receive. In a short time the officer would rise to the higher salary, and another transfer would take place. He would probably be shifted back to the starting point, and his removal expenses, of course, would again be paid by the Government. In one town alone there must have been £500 or £600 wasted in that way inside of two years. I remember the case of an officer who for about eighteen months, carried out with the greatest satisfaction the duties of a local postmaster who had become ill, and in the end he was sent to a position some 600 miles away, because he was about £10 too low in the salary his grade entitled him to, to still hold the position. I should like some explanation from the Minister in reference to increments, which, as I gather from the Bill, will be statutory and automatic. Though I am quite prepared to allow that public servants whose work entitles them to continuous increments shall receive them, there are many instances in which, if these men were in private employment, their work would not be considered worthy of the increased salaries. There ought, I think, to be some discretion exercised in the matter.
– To whom would you give the discretion?
– It should be in the hands of the Commissioner or the proposed Board, and if competent men are appointed to control the Service there should be no difficulty. Of course, conditions have been altered under the present arbitration system; but, quite apart from that, there ought to be some elasticity provided for when increments are considered. Mr. McLachlan in his report says -
In this provision of the Act for subdivisional promotion of officers in the fourth and higher classes lies one of the most difficult and troublesome problems confronting the Commissioner. The matter is complicated by the dissimilar nature of duties in the several Departments, and by the divergent views held by permanent heads, chief officers, and heads of branches, not only as to their obligations to the Commonwealth in making recommendations for public expenditure, but also as to the importance and value of officers’ duties.
Notwithstanding the varying views and personal idiosyncrasies of chief officers; it has been the aim of the Commissioner and his Inspectors to secure uniformity of treatment and of valuation of work, and in carrying out this policy the recommendations of chief officers have frequently had to be departed from, either in the direction of advancing officers who have been passed over or in not approving of advancement which has been recommended by chief officers.
As a result of that, there is a certain amount of discontent. Mr. McLachlan goes on to say -
These have been used as a basis of a general attack on the system of advancement of officers in the higher classes of the Public Service, and to such effect that, in the recent award of the Arbitration Court relating to officers of the Professional Division, increments to officers of corresponding classes to those of the Clerical Division have been made practically annual and automatic. There are many positions which must necessarily be classified in a particular class as being worth the minimum salary, although not worth the maximum salary, of the class. The object aimed at in the Commissioner’s administration has been to grant an appropriate rate of salary, and in this connexion the following extract from the report presented in 1917 by the Royal Commission on the State Public Service of Victoria is of interest: - “The neglect to give proper effect to an important provision of the law enacted for the first time in the Act of 1883, which enabled salaries to be fixed at a limit within a class, is another instance of faulty administration. When the Act referred to was passed: Parliament very properly recognised that the duties of a particular officer might not be worth anything like the maximum salary of his class and therefore gave power to fix a limit in that case below the maximum. But, except in a few cases - and it is hard to say why these particular cases have been singled out for special treatment - the will of Parliament has been set aside. Let us take an example. An officer in the 4th class - minimum salary. £216, maximum £336 - may be engaged in work that is not worth more than £250 per annum at the outside; yet, so long ashe behaves himselfand attends to his duties, he gets regular increments until he reaches the maximum of £336. In all the different classes the position is similar. We are satisfied that the neglect to administer the provision under notice in accordance with the intention of the framers of the law has greatly increased the cost of administration. Instead of fixing salaries as has been done in a few cases only the great majority should in our opinion, havebeen so dealt with, as the duties of a very large number of the positions in the various classes are more or less routine. No commercial institution run onbusiness lines would dream of paying its servants as the State does.”
– You would prevent a man getting his increment by keeping him at work that is not worth more than his present salary?
– I should like to see encouragement given to men who do their work well and conscientiously. I do not believe in nlacing all on a dead level whether a man gives his best or not. I have known cases in which public servants have gone out of their way, for instance, to increase the number of tele- phone subscribers in a district, only to find that, because of their zeal, the salary attached to their office has, by the altered circumstances, become greater than that to which they personally are entitled under the Act, and they are sent elsewhere. I know one particular case in which a man, after years of absence, had been transferred, at his own request, to a district in which all his associations were, and because of such circumstances as 1 have indicated, that is, by the excellence of his local work, he is now in danger of being moved. I am convinced that if. there were some degree of elasticity in this respect, and encouragement given to men who are prepared to do their duty thoroughly we should have a much more efficient and economical Public Service.
– The clause which deals with increments was recommended by Mr. McLachlan.
– “What I desire is. some assurance that proper, recognition will be given to men who are- zealous and conscientious in their work.
– I cannot give such an assurance - that is for the administration. The Bill is elastic, not nearly as rigid as the existing’ Act. It provides just what. Mr. McLachlan desires.
– Officers should be encouraged by a feeling of surety that they will get credit for work done. I hope that the fact that provisional men are included in the Bill does not mean that they will ultimately become permanent.
– The object of the Bill is to keep them provisional.
– So long as that is understood, it is all right. In my opinion, the functions performed by these provisional men are not those which ought to be within Departments of Government, and I trust it will not be long before they will automatically disappear. As to temporary employees, I should like some explanation of the extraordinary increase from 1,200 or 1,300 ten- years ago to well over 15,000 at the present time. What steps are being taken, to- lessen the necessity for the employment of so many temporary men? My own opinion is that an extension of the time of employment for half-an-hour, and the giving of more responsibility to subordinate officials, would enable the work of the Departments to be carried on much more expeditiously.
– It is the desire that the Board shall keep a strong control of the temporary Service, and prevent its undue expansion.
– I should like to see the Service and the expenditure reduced to dimensions commensurate with our population and present needs.
.- It is to be regretted that this measure should be introduced so late in the session, and that honorable members should have such limited time in which to discuss many of the important provisions it contains. It is not my intention to deal in detail with its numerous clauses, but to refer particularly to the proposed Board, which amounts to the appointment of three men to do the work of one. The reasons given for the appointment of the proposed Board is that it has been recommended by the EconomiesCommission ; but it must be- admitted that, although that body was appointed ‘ to advise the Government as to the direction in which economies could be effected in the Public Service, they suggested the appointment of quite a number of Boards, and their report contained the most extraordinary recommendations. There was, in the first place, the suggestion that a business Board should be appointed in connexion with the Defence Department and a similar Board for the Department of the Navy, and also a Board in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, which employs by far the largest number of public servants. In addition, they proposed, to- have a Board of. Management for the Public Service, and when the matter was first mentioned there was ah’ outcry against the appointment of such a Board in addition to the Public Service Commission. The Government have evidently decided to dispense with, the Commissioner, and to make the Board of Management carry out his duties as well whichreally means that three men will be called upon to-do the work, which has been efficiently carried out by one man. It is also going to lead to the creation of another big staff. The Economies Commission, in their report on the business management of Federal Government Departments, said’ -
Melbourne, noneofwhom carry out any inspecting works in the various Departments.
That is the real fault. We should have more than one inspector in each State. The Commission suggest a Board of Management of three members to do the work in all States. The report continues -
Yet a little further on they say -
Although, as I pointed out, they have just stated it was his duty to do it. The report goes on -
The most suitable method of securing economical working is by the exhaustive inspection of each office or section by Inspectors with the experience and mentality necessary to enable them to satisfactorily criticise and make helpful, constructive suggestions in regard to the staff employed and work performed.
In Departments such as the Works Department, the Naval Construction Branch, the Ship Construction Branch, and the Engineering Branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the economical performance of work can best be measured by a satisfactory and detailed system of costing. The costs of work performed should be closely scrutinized by the head of the Department; this duty should not be delegated to subordinate officers.
First of all, they say that the checking should be done by the permanent head, and then immediately point out the number of Departments in which he cannot do it; and then they say that the proper way is to secure the services of qualified inspectors. They then go on to say that the work can only be carried out by an efficient system of costing, which should be checked bythe departmental head. The report continues -
Attached to the staff of the Board of Management there should be a small staff of officers expert in the science of modern office systems and appliances. This staff should be utilized for the purpose of overhauling the office work of every Department periodically in order to insure -
Why should these three men be appointed when the Commission say that experts are required to do the work? What is the use of saying that inspectors must go through the Departments and do what they previously said should be done by the permanent head ? The Commissioners further report -
All that has been done previously by inspectors, and the real trouble is not due to having one Commissioner, but to the fact that there are not sufficient qualified inspectors. If we had qualified inspectors with a thorough knowledge of modern methods, we would achieve all we require under the present system and the appointment of a Board of three would be obviated. It is also suggested that the Board should consist of a member with outside business experience, but those appointed to the Board from inside the Service would soon prove to the other member that business methods employed outside could not be applied to Government Departments.
– Why not?
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has not, apparently, had .much to do with the administration of Government Departments or be would not ask such a question. The Government should appoint only one Commissioner, because when the Service was under the control of Mr. McLachlan the work was very satisfactorily pelformed. and if complaints have recently arisen it is because the chief officer? in the Public Service Commissioner’s office have been only acting. We have had an acting Commissioner, an acting Secretary, and an acting Chief Inspector. Ministers have been perfectly aware of the position for tome time past, but have experience-.! considerable difficulty in dealing with the situation; because they contemplated acting on the advice given by the Economies Commission upon this point, and could not, therefore, make any permanent appointments. I think the situation can be met quite well’ by having a thoroughly qualified Commissioner and thoroughly expert inspectors, intrusted with greater power than they now have. That system should give us exactly what the Government hope to secure by appointing a Board of Management, as recommended by the Economies Commission. The Board must spend most of its time in Melbourne. It cannot journey all over the Commonwealth. It will probably adopt the procedure of sending a. Commissioner to one State, and another Commissioner to a second State; and when a Commissioner returns to Mel’ bourne with his report, the Board must swallow it, otherwise tho Commissioner will §ay, “ Why are you making a fool of me by sending me away to furnish you with a report ? “ When’ a Board of three Public Service Commissioners was first appointed in the State of Victoria, they adopted this method of classifying tho Public Service. One Commissioner visited one locality, and a second Commissioner visited another. I have a distinct recollection of tho way in which one officer was classified. The Commissioner had visited Bairnsdale, and was on his return to Melbourne. It was his duty to classify the office of Receiver and Paymaster at Sale, but, as it did not suit his convenience to stay overnight at Sale and catch the train to Melbourne on the following day, he telegraphed to the officer who was filling tho ^position, and asked him to meet the train. During the twenty minutes’ train stop at Sale, among tho crowd on tho platform, the interview took place, and the Commissioner classified the office on that conversation, without seeing the work which was being done by this mau, who was in my opinion, one of the finest officers in the Victorian State Service. The contemptible way in which the position was classified rankled sorely in that officer’s breast for the rest of his life, if we appoint three Commonwealth Commissioners, they’ must not absent themselves from Melbourne at the one time, otherwise the general administrative work of the Department will be neglected. Their policy, therefore,will be to send one Commissioner to one locality, and a second to another. It is a system which must lead to delay and trouble. In my opinion, the only proper method of controlling our Public Service is to have one Commissioner. After experimenting with three Commissioners, the State of Victoria came down to one, and with the experience of various Statesbefore them, the CommonwealthGovernment in the early days of Federation deliberately set out by havingone Commissioner. As a matter of fact, no Commonwealth Government saw fitto alter that system until the report of the Economies Commission was submitted, embracing a recommendation that a Board of Management should be appointed to control the Public Service. The suggested Board will do no more work than one Commissionerhas shown that he can do. As a matter of fact, the Economies Commission admit that the practical work can only be done by the appointment of qualified experts and competent officers and inspectors. Is there any need for such men to report to threeCommissioners, when a report to one man should be sufficient? The appointment of a Board of Commissioners will necessitate the creation of a new Department, with two or three technical staffs and additional inspectors. Why cannot we keep the Department we have already? Let usappoint a permament Commissioner and a sufficient num- ber of qualified inspectors. I would not have one inspector only for each State. The system of having too few inspectors in each State is already leading to trouble in more than one Commonwealth Department, particularly in the Post Office. In fact, when I was Postmaster-General I found fault with the wide districtswhich inspectors were given to control with the idea of effecting economy. I found that a man could notget over a big district properly. He was obliged to spend most of histime in travelling. To secure expertsupervision, the sizeof theareasa man is called upon to inspectshouldbe reasonable, andifweare tohaveour Public Servicethoroughly inspected,the inspectors’ districts must be limited in area, and we must appoint a sufficient number of competent men in each State. But to get competent men, we must pay decent salaries. If this Parliament is to secure a satisfactory Service, it can only be obtained by appointing the best men, and honorable members will haveto back up the Government in determiningto pay those salaries which alone can attract the services of the best men. Big private establishments would never carry on their businesses successfully if they werelimited to the salaries to which Government Departments are limited. They know that it pays to employ brains.
– That is how we are losing some of our best officers.
– I know that we are losing a lot of our best men, and thatthose who have remained are reallywithus now simply because of their loyalty to the Service.They would do far betterfor themselves if they went outside. To secure efficient control, we must pay for the brains that are to exercise it. We cannot give greater power to the deputies in thevarious States unlessthey are highly qualified men, whose judgment we can trust. That, a.gain, will necessitate the payment of substantial salaries. We have only to look at the mess made in connexionwith the War Service Homes administration. Parliament forced the Government of the day to limit the Commissioner’s salary to £1,500. That limitation not onlynarrowed the horizon of applicants for the position, which ought really to have been a £3,000 job, but it also compelled the fixing of Deputy-Commissioners’ salaries at £600 or £700. The salary that the Deputy War Service Homes Commissioner should have drawn was £1,500 a year, and. if the Commissioner hadbeen paid £3,000 a year we should have saved money. The secret of improving the Public Service and its management is to have one Commissioner, with the powers exercised by the Commissioner in the past, to appoint a sufficient number of qualified inspectorsmen of good standing and ability - and give them increased powers, and also to have the experts spoken of by the Economies Commission. We do not want a Boardof three men, which will simply prove cumbersome.
– Are the inspectors available in the Serviceto-day?
– I think thatthere are com petent men available in the Servicetoday. In fact, Iknow that there are a lot of good men in it.
– We have good inspectors now. The only thing is that we ought to give them greater authority.
– Yes; we need good inspectors, and we should not be bound too much by the seniority racket.
– Can the experts men- tionedinthe Commission’s report be obtained in the Service?
– I think so. There are many expert officers already in the Service, and I would regard it as a mistake to get men from outside when there are plenty of competent officers already in the Service to whom we could intrust the exercise of extended powers. It is true that there are a great many red-tape rules in regard to promotions and transfers, but that is a matter of internal management. Some of the instances quoted by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) are perfectly true. We encountered them in the Post Office. It was a singular fact that if a man set to work and. worked up a tremendous business he lost his place. As a result of his energy he was sent away to some other office, and his place was filled by another man with a higher classification.
– Evidently he was in the same position as the man who improves his farm and has his rent raised.
– Exactly; but these are matters that can be re-arranged without the necessity of enacting the new machinery proposed in the Bill.
.- I join with other honorable members who have protested against the action of the Government in introducing this measure at such a late stage, and in seeking to place such undue limits upon its consideration that we will not be able to do justice to those to whom this form of legislation is to apply. When we recognise that the Bill was read a first time in this House on 9th December of last year, surely the Government have no excuse to offer for not giving this branch of the Legislature an earlier opportunity of considering it.
– It was fully considered in the Senate, and has been in the hands of honorable members ever since.
– The Government should have introduced it tothis House earlier.
– How could we do that when members of the Opposition obstructed business day after day?
– The Minister exaggerates that opposition, and it will certainly not relieve him of the responsibility of giving mature consideration to the provisions of the Bill. If the Government insists upon passing the Bill through this House within the limits of anything less than a’ fortnight or three weeks, justice will not be done to a most valuable and important item of legislation. The Bill affects 25,000 public servants, and its importance cannot be overestimated. To-day we are losing many valued servants for the reason that the provisions governing their appointments are unsatisfactory. They are unable to secure relief or to find the opportunities for advancement to which they are entitled. They find that there is not a proper opportunity for appealing against grievances. Instead of the Commonwealth Service being efficient and satisfactory, it is a breeding ground for dissension and dissatisfaction. This is no fault of those who are engaged in the Service, but it is due to the handicaps, the severe disabilities; and the restriction of opportunity that is created by the legislation that to-day governs the Service. This legislation is not able to meet present difficulties.. The Act that governs the Service has been in operation for about twenty years, and we know that during that time everchanging circumstances have demanded in the industrial sphere fresh legislation to meet various emergencies, but in our own Service we have done little or nothing to meet the anomalies that have presented themselves during an experience of twenty years. Even in its present form the Bill is most unsatisfactory, and that, no doubt, will be proved during its Committee stages in this House. Quite a number of amendments will be moved to its clauses, and it will be demonstrated that it by no means meets the circumstances of to-day. We shall require to reclothe it with amendments that will bring it up to date, and make it satisfactory to members of the Service.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) has imparted to this House some very interesting information. The information is certainly available to all honorable members, but to be reminded of the circumstances is most beneficial. It should be patent to honorable members that the Government, in shedding its responsibility and placing its mantle of power on Commissioners and Boards, especially if constituted on the lines proposed inthe Bill, is departing from the principle of responsible government. It seems that the Government, recognising that it is overwhelmed with sins of omission and commission, for which we hope it will shortly be required to answer to the people of this country, seeks as far as possible to be relieved of the responsibility that should rightfully belong to it. We ought to realize that we get no further by delegating our powers to another body that is responsible, practically, to no one. The Bill proposes to establish a Board of three Commissioners. In the form in which the Beard is proposed to be constituted it certainly does not meet with my approval, and will not have my support. I hope the House will give a very clear and distinct indication to the Government of its views, and will declare that it will not consent to the building up of a useless form of oversight of the Public Service that will only lead to further dissatisfaction, and will not give us that form of efficiency that we have a right to expect fromthis measure.
– It will build up one of the biggest and most costly Departments in the Service.
– I am satisfied that if it is allowed to pass in its present form it will create a bureaucracy. We cannot tolerate, or allow to be tolerated, circumstances which will, lead to the establishment of anything of that description. I hope the House wall see that we do not add to the overhead charges and make the Service top-heavy. If the House is determined to stand by the provision for the appointment of a Board of three Commissioners, then I think that the Board should be so constituted that employees in the Service will have a voice in the determination of the methods by which they are to be controlled. The general tendency on the part of large industrial concerns is to give the employees some voice in their control and management. The adoption of that course has been attended with a great measure of advantage to both employers and employees. In Great Britain the Public Service is now administered by a series of councils, consisting of direct representatives of the employees and the Government. In that way considerable dissatisfaction has been eliminated from the Service. If a representative of our public servants can be trusted with the responsibility attaching to membership of the
Board of Appeal, as well as to membership of the Classification Appeal Board, surely a member of the Service should be worthy of appointment to the Board of Commissioners. On behalf of the united organizations of the Commonwealth Service, I make the suggestion that the Government should provide in the Bill that one of the persons appointed to the Board of Management shall be nominated by the Commonwealth Public Service organizations. I understand that the High Council of the Public Service organizations is prepared to submit to the Minister a list of persons, the appointment of any one of whom would be satisfactory to them as being truly representative of the employees in the Service.
The Bill discriminates in a way that is not desirable, since it has one set of provisions governing the permanent heads or chief officer staff, and quite another relating to those lower down in the Service. This discrimination relates more particularly to appeals and to grievances that employees of the Commonwealth may have in regard to promotions and increments. Those lower down in the Service are not afforded the same opportunities to have these matters dealt with as are the permanent heads and the higher officials. So far as questions in regard to appeals, promotions, and increments are concerned, all should be on an equal footing. Any attempt to discriminate would create dissatisfaction, and would certainly bo unworthy of a Democracy. Then again the Board of Commissioners may give important decisions affecting large bodies of the Public Service.
– They certainly will do so.
– The Board of Commissioners will not only have to deal with individual cases, but to give decisions of a far-reaching character. There is no reason why the right, given by this Bill to a permanent head, or chief officer, to request that a recommendation made by an individual member of the Board under clause 15 shall be referred to the full Board, should not also extend to organizations representing the whole of the officers engaged in the work to which such a recommendation relates. As the Bill stands, this right is given to a permanent head or chief officer, but is withheld from those who arc lower in the Service, and who might be equally affected. I ask for an amendment extending the clause in the way I have indicated.
– The Bill provides for appeals.
– I am referring now to clause 15. We say that the word “or” in sub-clause 3, line 27, of that clause should be deleted, and that after the word “ officer “–
– The honorable member is not entitled to deal in detail with that matter at this stage.
– The honorable member might state in a general way what is desired.
– We desire that the right given to a permanent head or chief officer to request that a decision shall be referred to the full Board shall also be given to the Public Service organizations, which include the following: - The Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association, the Postmasters Association, the Australian Telegraphists Union, the Federated Assistants Association, the Australian Letter Carriers Assotion, the Postal Sorters Union, the Post and Telegraph Association, the Postal Assistants. Association, the General Division Telephone Officers Association, the Postal Linemen’s Union, the General Division Officers Union (Trade and Customs Department), the Commonwealth Artisans Association, the Line Inspectors Association, and the Postal Electricians Union. It is desirable that the High Council of these organizations, which is the custodian of the welfare of the public servants, should be represented on appeals from the decisions of the Board of Commissioners. Under the Bill as it stands, an officer appealing against a decision of the Board in respect of his classification has merely the right to submit his case for the reconsideration of the Board. I do not think that it would satisfy any of us to be told that we had the right to appeal to an authority that had already judged our case. We should not feel confident that any measure of success would attend such an appeal. The Board is to consider the appeal, so called, with a representative of the permanent head and of the organization. Thus an officer would have to appeal to a body consisting of five persons, four of whom had already taken an active part in regard to the classification against which he was appealing. In such circumstances there would be little hope of securing favorable consideration for an appeal against the decision of the Board.
– It is an appeal from Caesar to Caesar.
– Quite so. Under the existing Act the provision for appeals against promotion is infinitely more just than the system provided in the Bill for appeals in regard to classification. Section 50 of the Act gives an officer the right to appeal to a special Board where action has been taken to his prejudice. It is strongly urged by the public servants that classification is a matter as important to them as the fixing of remuneration, because it vitally affects the careers of those in the Service. They think that an officer who is dissatisfied with his classification should have the right to submit his case to an independent Appeal Board; and I think the House will recognise the merit of this claim to have classification appeals considered by a tribunal which will be distinctly impartial and independent.
– So is the Board of Commissioners.
– I am referring to appeals against decisions given by the Board and affecting classification. If the classification of an officer does not give satisfaction to him, he has merely the right to appeal to the body responsible for that classification; but in the Act provision is made for appeals to a special Board, differing in personnel from that which arrived at the decision appealed from. The Bill makes the granting of increments to officers dependent on the recommendation of the permanent heads. This recommendation may be withheld if a permanent head thinks that there has been dereliction of duty, or that the officer’s conduct, diligence, or ability is not satisfactory. The withholding of an increment from an officer seriously interferes with his advancement, and, in addition to affecting his seniority, amounts to the infliction upon him of an annual fine. It is only fair, therefore, that he should have an opportunity to rebut any charge laid against him by the head of his Department. The effect of stopping an officer’s increment might be equivalent to fining him £20 a year. The right to interfere so seriously with an officer’s conditions and prospects should not be given to a permanent head without the establishment of an independent tribunal to determine, on appeal, whether the action taken was justified. Justice demands the establishment of Appeal Boards to which officers can appeal who think that the withholding of increments is due to the vindictiveness, misunderstanding, or mistakes of a permanent head. Any officer who might think himself aggrieved by the withholding of an increment should have the right to state his case to an independent Board. There are men who lose their heads when put in positions of responsibility, becoming absolutely autocratic towards their subordinates.
– Authority intoxicates some persons, it is said.
– Many of us have been subjected to indignity and embarrassment by the high-handed conduct of certain public officers, and we can estimate, by our own experience, the treatment to which the subordinates of those officers would be subjected. I hope that the Government will so amend the Bill that officers will be given an opportunity for appealing to an independent tribunal against what they may deem autocratic conduct on the part of heads of Departments; and that they will be given just representation on Boards whose decisions affect, not only their present conditions of employment, but also their future welfare.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– I join with other honorable members who have expressed regret that so important a measure as this should have been introduced at such a late hour in the session. The time is rapidly approaching, if it is not already here, when this House must adopt methods similar to those employed in the Legislature of the United States of America, where important Bills are referred to special Committees. That body examines each measure referred to it, and presents a. report to the whole House, upon which action is based. It is practically impossible for honorable members to deal with this Bill with the thoroughness which its importance demands. It is voluminous in itself, and there are sheets of amendments, the possible effects of which nobody has had an opportunity to gauge. I realize, of course, that this is, to a considerable extent, a Committee Bill. Nevertheless, it embraces important principles which are worthy of exhaustive debate.
With all its comprehensiveness, the Bill does not seek to mend anomalies in various directions which have created discontent in the Service. For example, cases have come under my notice having to do both with men and women in charge of post-offices. They have worked so hard and well that they have elevated their offices to a grade above that in which they are entitled to be employed, with the result that they have been transferred to some distant part. Any hard and fast system of classification must inevitably become absurd. I know of a postmistress, in the division of Denison, who worked faithfully and well for many years. Another post-office was opened in the neighbourhood, and the receipts of her office fell below the standard of its class, and thus she was ordered to another office. As her family had married and settled in the district she did not wish to be sentaway. She preferred to accept voluntarily a reduction in grade in order that she might remain. In the following year, however, her office regained its former business, and qualified itself to be classed in its original grade. The postmistress, however, had stepped down from her rank, and, so, was disqualified from remaining whereher energies and faithful work had made profitable business for the Commonwealth. Such a state of affairs is ridiculous, apart from its unfortunate effect upon the individual. The application of hard and fast regulations in this manner is not calculated to encourage the Public Service to do its best. In this specific instance there was a direct incentive to the official to reduce her energies in order that the office might not outgrow her classification. Any system which places a premium upon “ going slow,” and in earning less revenue for the Government, is a bad one.
Opposition to this measure will probably be chiefly shown with respect to the proposed appointment of a Commission numberingthree persons. I shall do all I can to secure provision for the appointment of only one Commissioner. One can do the work very much better than three. There is an old saying that one boy is a boy, that two boys are only half a boy, and that three boys are no boy at all. Three Commissioners will not do their work so quickly or satisfactorily as if it were concentrated in the hands of one. There are many first class men in the Commonwealth Service, qualified in every way to hold the post. I agree with other members who have said that the great fault of the Service is its concentration in the centre; decentralization of authority is wanted. For instance, the various Deputy Postmasters-General might well be clothed with much more power than they possess to-day, while still remaining responsible to their Ministerial head. The inspectors also should be given much greater powers. One inspector would be able to cover his job in a small State like Tasmania, but several should be appointed in each of the larger States. These should be permitted to make their reports direct to the State Deputy PostmasterGeneral or Federal Inspector, and that official should possess the power to act thereon. Honorable members, upon more closely examining this measure, may very well come to the conclusion that, instead of its purpose and intention being in the direction of improving the Service, revolution and chaos might well follow its enactment.
I have previously protested against Parliament surrendering any portion of its powers or permitting the Ministry to do so. In order to provide an illustration of my point, I need only refer to the War Service Homes muddle. No matter what may have been the blunders, Parliament is always met with the Ministerial excuse that it deliberately gave full powers to the Commissioner, and must now accept responsibility for what has followed. I may mention also the provision in regard to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. That official has been given authority to do almost anything he likes. Not long ago he tossed aside the whole of the plans which had been submitted by the Department of Works and Railways and approved by the Public Works Committee in connexion with the building of the Notes Printing Office; and he approved new plans, the acceptance of which will cost the Commonwealth several thousand pounds more than would the original proposition. When complaint is made, however, the Government say, “Why complain? Parliament deliberately gave away the power. Parliament must accept whatever is done under cover of that power.” If Parliament now places complete power of reclassification in the hands of three men, who will concentrate their task in Melbourne, trouble is bound to accrue. How can these three hope to gain the necessary information to enable them to deal, for example, with cases at important centres far away in the north of Queensland and Western Australia? How can the Commissioners secure requisite particulars of each case unless they employ an army of inspectors? And if inspectors must be employed, why should they not be given authority to do the whole of the work? The existing system has worked fairly well. for. the Public Service ; but, with the amendments proposed to-day, we run the risk of greatly harming the Service. It is essential that we should build up and maintain a first-rate Public Service. Governments come and go; Ministries continually change, and policies vary; but the Public Service must carry on its uninterrupted task of conducting the administrative machinery of government. I do not believe that this Bill will give the Service a greater measure of satisfaction than that which exists to-day. Rather, I see the risk of our, creating a great deal of discontent; and I see also the danger of our tremendously enhancing the cost of the Service with respect to automatic increases. It is an absurd system which will blindly transfer a capable and experienced man from one position in which he has proved a marked success, to another in which he has had no experience and of which he possesses no knowledge, merely because he has become automatically due for promotion. In business, and in the Army, chaos would follow.
– But that is the Army system of promotion.
– The Army does not promote a capable and experienced transport officer to the command of troops. Seniority deserves consideration, but seniority and fitness should be the guiding factors in every instance. Not only is a very great deal expected of an officer who has been automatically transferred to a position where he is entirely unused to and ignorant of the nature of his work; but it speaks volumes for the loyalty of public servants in the lower ranks that these automatic transfers do not arouse trouble. I warn the House against any further surrender of its powers. Control by one Commissioner will make for greater rapidity and accuracy in the settlement of all matters relating to the Service. Not one convincing argument have I heard in favour of the appointment of three men to do work which, in my opinion, can be done infinitely quicker and better by one. When the Bill reaches the Committee stage the opinion of honorable members will be tested as to whether we shall appoint a Board of three men or make permanent the office of Public Service Commissioner, and leave it to the appointee to carry out the reforms referred to by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), such as the appointment of highly trained and skilled inspectors. We have those inspectors already. Some of them are doing excellent work, and they could do hotter if they were given greater authority and responsibility.
– Anda much bigger salary.
– Yes, if they are worth it. To his credit the former PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise), very shortly after assuming office, increased the authority and power of his deputies with resultant benefit to the States, and the whole of the Service. I know it is the opinion of the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton) that the deputies should be given greater authority, and held responsible to the Minister for the success of the postal service in their respective States.
– But whenever a deputy turns down a proposal put before him by an honorable member, the latter appeals to the Postmaster-General.
– No system can be devised which will relieve members of Parliament of the obligation of doing what, they consider to be their duty. If by reason of their local knowledge they beli eve that a certain public work is necessary, and the deputy does not see eye to eye with them, it is quite proper that they should appeal finally to the Minister, who is responsible to Parliament. I see nothing wrong in that.
– The honorable member does not agree with the decisions of the deputies in respect of matters over which they have authority now.
-Most of the appeals made to the Minister probably relate to matters in regard to which the deputy has not power. I am quite sure that if they were given more power the Minister would be relieved of a lot of detailed work which should not fall upon him. If the present deputies are not competent to do the work, appoint others who are, pay them well, and give them full authority and responsibility. Only by a system of decentralization of authority can we hope to evolve a Federal Service that will be satisfactory throughout the enormous area of Australia. We sometimes forget that a centralized system, which is successful in England, France or Germany is quite unsuited to a country of such enormous extent as the Commonwealth. The Federal Service extends from Cape Otway to Cape York, and from Fremantle to Zeehan, and it is essential for its efficient administration that we should have in each State competent local officers exercising greater authority, and carrying increased responsibility. I can see nothing but risk to the Service and to the country in the proposal to appoint the proposed Board of Management. Every such appointment we have made has led to the creation of another Department. To-day common sense tells us that our every effort should be in the direction of reducing the number of Departments and public servants. My idea is that we should reduce unnecessary public servants as far as practicable, make no new appointments, pay well the men who are retained in the Service, and as far as possible decentralize the details of administration by giving increased authority to a well-selected deputy in each State. The country would benefit more from that policy than from a proposal to further centralize the administration, and create a new large and costly Department. In Committee I shall vote to retain the present system of control by one Commissioner.
.- Some people have reason to be grateful that an election is approaching, and none more so than the public servants, for I doubt whether this long-promised Public Service Bill and the Superannuation scheme would have seen the light of day for some time if an appeal to the people were not imminent.
Mr-. Bowden. - Does the honorable member believe that these matters should be further deferred ?
– No. I have been advocating their introduction for a long time, but they are brought forward only at the fag end of the session when we have not the opportunity to give them proper consideration. This Bill is really a Committee measure, but two or three features of it stand out prominently. I remember that when the proposal to appoint a board of management to control the Public Service came before the House some time ago it was rejected.
– There was no vote against it.
– No; but the consensus of opinion was opposed to the proposal. I see no advantage in substituting control by three men for control by one Commissioner unless the employees are to have ‘direct representation on the Board. Failing that, one Commissioner will be as capable of doing this work satisfactorily as will three men. Why the Government should insist upon a Board of three menwhen they do not intend to give representation to the employees is beyond my comprehension. If we want a contented Service we should endeavour-, as far as possible, to give the employees a voice in connexion with the administration. It would be a distinct advantage to the Service and to the country if the employees were granted representation on the board of management. In support of that view I shall quote from the report of the Whitley Committee. Lest it be said that that body had Labour sympathies, I put on record its personnel-
The Right Honorable J. H. Whitley, M.P., Chairman of Committees of the House of Commons, Chairman.
Mr. F. S. Button, formerly member of Executive Council, Amalgamated Societyof Engineers.
Sir G. J. Carter, K.B.E., Chairman Shipbuilding Employers Federation.
Professor S. J. Chapman, C.B.E., Professor of Political Economy, University of Man- chester.
Sir Gilbert Claughton, Bart., Chairman London and North-Western Railway Company.
Mr. J. R. Clynes, M.P., President National Union of General Workers.
Mr. J. A. Hobson.
Miss Susan Lawrence, Member of London County Council and Member of the Executive Committee of the Women’s Trade Union League.
Mr. J. J. Mallon, Secretary National AntiSweating League.
Sir Thomas A. Ratcliffe Ellis, Secretary Mining Association of Great Britain.
Mr. Robert Smillie, President Miners Federation of Great Britain.
Mr. Alan M. Smith, Chairman Engineer Employers Federation.
Miss Mona Wilson, National Health Insurance Commissioner.
The Committee was representative of all classes, but the majority of the members cannot be said to be Labour men. I quote from this report because of the criticism that is often levelled at the Labour party in regard to the very matter with which it deals. Mr. G. H. Roberts, Minister of Labour, in a letter to the leading employees’ associations and trade unions, on the 20th October, 1917, said -
Thirdly, it should be made clear that representation on the industrial councils is intended to be on the basis of existing organizations among employers and workmen concerned in each industry, although it will, of course, bo open to the councils, when formed, to grant representation to any new bodies which may come into existence, and which may be entitled to representation. The authority, and consequently the usefulness, of the councils will depend entirely on the extent to which they represent the different interests and enjoy the wholehearted support of the existing organizations, and it is, therefore, desirable that representation should be determined on as broad a basis as possible.
With that I agree. If there is to be more than one Commissioner, there should be representation of the public servants.
– Does the honorable member agree with the findings of the Whitley Committee as a whole?
– In many respects, I do.
– The majority of the honorable member’s party do not.
– I do not say that the report goes as far as I should like it to go; hut with many of its features I am in agreement. The Committee reported -
It is essential that any proposals put forward should offer to workpeople the means of obtaining improved conditions of employment, and a higher standard of comfort generally, and involve the enlistment of their activities and continuous co-operation in the promotion of industry. To this end, the establishment for each industry of an organization representative of employers: and workpeople, to have as its object the regular consideration of matters affecting the progress and wellbeing of the trade from the point of view of those engaged in it, so far as this is consistent with the general interest of the community, appears to us necessary.
That applies to the position in the Commonwealth. In the interests of the community it is necessary that the employees should have representation, so that they may place before the controlling authority their views in regard to improvements that are necessary. Nobody knows better than does the employee where improvements could be made that would lead to economy, but no advantage of his knowledge is taken; he rarely gets the opportunity of expressing his views, and very often, if he offers them, he is rewarded with a snub.
– Would not one of the duties of the Board be to obtain the views of the employees?
– That will not happen. Unless the employees have representation on theBoard, the policy followed will be the same as has always been adopted..
– But the members of the Board will prosecute inquiries in the Departments.
– Unfortunately, that is not the practice. A man who is appointed to voice the views of the Pub- lic Service will be charged with the responsibility of acting as their mouthpiece, and insuring that their views receive consideration. It will be useless to leave to three men appointed by the Government the responsibility of ferreting out little details that require attention. What is everybody’s business is nobody’s business. But a member of the Board directly representing the employees will keep in touch with the organizations of the public servants, bring under notice their complaints and suggestions, help to remove disabilities, and generally do much to bring about a more, contented and efficient service. The Whitley report continues -
With a view to providing means for carrying out: the policy outlined above, we recommend thatHis Majesty’s Government should propose without delay tothe various associations of employers and employed the formation of. joint standing industrial councils in the several industries, where they do not already exist, composed of representatives of employers and employed, regard being paid to the various sections of the industry and the various classes of labour engaged:
The whole of the recommendations contained in this report are on the lines I have indicated. There are further extracts I could quote to show that the Committee, after going exhaustively into the question, came to the conclusion that industrial councils should be appointed. We ought now to work along more modern lines. True, if that were done there might be criticism in the press and in this House to the effect that the action taken was extreme; but if we wish for progress, and for contentment both inside and outside the Service, there must be such Boards or Committees, call them what we may, to consider and settle troubles as they arise from time to time.
– Is it not true that the bulk of the industrial organizations of Australia repudiate the Whitley suggestion?
– I do not say that the Australian organizations adopt the suggestion, but I say that it is in that way we may get direct representation of the public servants.
– Why should not the industrial, councils originally suggested be approved ?
– I see no reason why there should not, be industrial councils, which I regard as a step in the right direction. As a matter of fact, we advocate such councils, and donot complain about them, and the honorable member no doubt will, perhaps, shortly be blaming me for having advocated them.
– I believe in them; my complaint is that the Labour party, generally, does not.
– Of course, there may be differences of opinion as to the operation of suck councils.
I understand that yesterday the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Greene) challenged a statement by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton) that a number of men had been appointed to the Public Service by the Government, apart from the Public Service Commissioner. That point requires clearing up, because I do not wishit to go forth tothe public that the statement made by the honorable member for Mari- byrnong is not according to fact. On 11th July last I wrote to the Prime Minister’s Department on the subject, and I received the following letter from Mr. Deane, the Secretary : -
With reference to your communication of 1st June, inquiring as to the appointments with salaries of £500 per annum, or more, made since the last Federal elections, I forward herewith the following statements: -
Positions under the Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments from outside the Service to newly-created positions.
Newly-created positions filled by transfer or promotion of officers already in the Service.
Positions not under the Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Accompanying the letter was the following list of appointments from outside the Service to newly created positions, carrying salaries of £500 per annum or over, during the period from the 13th December, 1919, to 30th June, 1922. The list contained, amongst others,the following:
– These are all Public Service appointments.
– According to the return furnished to me they are appointments from outside the Service to newlycreated positions, carrying salaries of £500 per annum or over.
– Two of these men came from the Hansard staff.
– And others had special qualifications.
– I know that men like Mr. Sholl, formerly of the Hansard staff, have special qualifications. I am now merely pointing out that if we wish! to have a contented Public Service we ought not to allow these “ plums “ to be monopolized by men from outside, when there are those already in the Service who are qualified to fill the positions. If this sort of thing goes on, what is to prevent the exercise of political influence, and those in power placing their friends in high positions?
– Take, for instance, the veterinary officers; they are all appointed under the Public Service Act, on the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner.
– The Government have to go outside the Service to get such men.
Me. CHARLTON.- I am free to admit that that may be so in some cases; but not in all. However, the list goes on -
Nobody will say that there was no one in the Service who could take the office of Deputy-Director of Navigation.
– I repeat that every one of these is a Public Service appointment.
– That may be, but I say that the appointments are made from outside the Service. As a matter of fact, at the present time there are former employees of the Navigation Department unemployed. There is one man in particular, whose case the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins)has in hand–
– That man passed his examination by 100 per cent. ! ‘
– Yethe is “ shelved “ and another put into a position. It is idle to say that these appointments are made by the Public Service Commissioner, because manyare appointed directly by heads of Departments. I. have not read the full list of appointments, but. I should like to refer to another and a different list supplied to me showing appointments made to positions - not under the Commonwealth; Public Service Act - with salaries of £500 and upward, from l3th December, 1919; to 30th June; 1922. That list contains a large number of names which I shall not read, but. it is well worth perusing: by honorable members. All these appointments have been made during the life of this Parliament.
– What class of men are they in that second list?
– I do not wish to read the whole of them, but amongst them are the Director of Shipbuilding and Chairman of Shipbuilding Board of Control. The Administrator of the New Guinea Territory, Technical Adviser in Mandated Territories, and Principal Medical Officer. Is it to be said that there are no men in the Service capable of filling such positions?
– What about the Principal Medical Officer?
– The vital point is not that these men were appointed from outside the Service, but that they were appointed outside the Act; is there any reason for that?
– These appointees do not come within the Act.
– The Territorial Services have never been under the Act.
– I contend that it is not right that men, who have given valuable services, and are quite qualified, should bo passed over when such appointments are made. It is apparent that such a practice leaves the way open to the Govermnentand the heads of Departments to make appointments by political influence. I do not say that those appointed are not men of special knowledge, but the appointments are made when there are surely men in the Service who are equally capable, but who get no chance.
– The appointments from outsido the Service are, of course, temporary, and men with permanent positions are not likely to give them up to take temporary ones.
– But many of the appointments are permanent. At any rate,it does not help to make the Service contented or popular if the former employees are now unemployed, and fresh appointments are made.
– As to the Navigation Service, we took from the States those whom we thought to be the best officers - we did not require them all.
-However that may be, if there is not to be direct representation of the Public Service on the Board, I do not see the necessity to appoint three members. A Board of the land proposed by the Bill means additional expenditure, the extent of which we do not know at present. I take it that it is left to Parliament to fix the salary of the chairman and members. If there is to be a Board of three, I submit that the public servants ought to be asked to recommend a representative, who should then be appointed by the Government. I do not think that the Government would be justified in asking the Public Service to submit a number of names, and then to select the representative from that number; public servants, as I say, should be at liberty to nominate their own representative.
– How if there is only one appointment to be made?
– That, of course, would then be the responsibility of the Government.
The Bill makes the double furlough provision retrospective to the year 1919. There are, however, a number of public servants who retired during recent years, and who do not come under the Superannuation Bill, though some of them have pensions under. State Acts. These men contend that they should be embraced by the double furlough classes. They regard it as unfair that, after they had given the best years of their life to the Public Service, they should suffer because of a difference of opinion on the subject. An endeavour is made by the Bill to do justice in this regard, but justice is not done if the Bill is retrospective only to 1919. It has been held on different occasions that there is no powerto grant double furlough; but I find the following opinion given by the then Attorney-General on 30th November, 1917: -
The Attorney-General has advised that an officer is entitled to a second term of furlough or to leave under Public ServiceRegulation 89a, or pay in lieu thereof, in respect of the period of service following upon the granting of a first term of furlough.
That makes it clear that a man who had served a given time was entitled to both furloughs, or. to payment for the time. In face of that opinion, the Bill is made retrospective only to 1919.
– Was that the opinion of the present Attorney-General (Mr. Groom)?
– I do not know who was the Attorney-General in 1917.
– The present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was Attorney-General all through 1917.
– There are other opinions on the point.
– The present AttorneyGeneral would not contradict the opinion which has been quoted.
– I arn sure that the Attorney-General would require no higher authority than that of the Prime Minister. I do not say that he is not liable to error, but nevertheless he was the highest authority in the Commonwealth at the time the opinion was given, seeing that he was not only at the head of the legal profession, but also at the head of the Government. The officers who have signed this memorial advance a number of reasons, which I need not detail, and they conclude as follows : -
For the above reasons it is respectfully submitted that, in relation to furlough or payment in lieu thereof, it would be just and equitable that the provisions of the Public Service Amending Hill, referring to the second term of furlough, should be made retrospective and applied to all officers who had served the State and the Commonwealth for over twenty years at the time of their retirement, and not to a portion only of the retired officers.
If the provision is to bo made retrospective in any respect, I concur that those who have given twenty years of their time to the Commonwealth and the State have earned their furlough, and should get it. But the matter should be dealt with on grounds of equity. I shall do all I can to help those officers to obtain what they have asked for in this reasonable way.
One other matter I wish to discuss briefly. It refers to the position of Mr. Speaker under the Bill. I have the utmost confidence in Mr. Speaker; I believe that he would give a fair deal to every one under his jurisdiction, but I am not too certain that the time has not arrived when those who are employed in Parliament House should be placed under the Public Service Commissioner. They are confined to this building. They may spend all their lives hero, and be unable to secure promotion outside. But the trouble is that they do not always get tho best treatment here. “While I know that Mr. Speaker will always treat them fairly, I am sorry to think that the same consideration is not always extended to the officers of Parliament by another gentleman in the building. I have a lively recollection of what happened recently to one young lad whom I always found was obliging and attentive to his duty. Because of some little trouble that arose between himself and the President of the Senate he had to go and take his chance in the cold world outside.
– It was a case of cruel persecution.
– I think it waa. I was never satisfied with the decision given by the President of the Senate in his case, and it is for that reason I mention this matter of dual control to-day. Although I would be quite prepared to leave such cases to the decision of Mr. Speaker, who will always give the officers a fair deal, there is another gentleman who has control over certain employees of this Parliament with whom Mr. Speaker may sometimes como into conflict. This dual control leads to endless trouble, and I take this opportunity of referring to it so that the gentleman on the other aide of the building may see that notice is taken of the treatment he is meting out from time to tone to men in the employ of Parliament.
The Bill is clearly a Committee measure, and when we get into Committee we must give its clauses every consideration with a view to improving them. Therefore, having dealt with the two cardinal points, namely, the creation of a Board of Commissioners and its personnel, and also the dual control of the officers of Parliament, I shall defer any other remarks I may wish to make until the Committee stage.
.- It is my intention to vote for the second reading of this Bill; but I wish to emphasize one phase at this stage, that is, that every public servant should have an equal right to approach the Arbitration Court to appeal against anything lie may contend is wrong in the service in which he is employed. The B il limits the right of approach to the Arbitration Court to men drawing up to a certain salary; but I contend that, if it is right for an officer who is drawing a salary of £300 to approach the Arbitration Court to appeal against the conditions under which he is working, or against the salary fixed for his services, it is equally right that every other member of the Commonwealth Service should be entitled to approach tho Court irrespective of his salary. Therefore, when we are in Committee I shall vote against the clause imposing a limitation in this respect. When a measure dealing with a similar question was” before the Western Australian Parliament, of which I was a “member, it was strongly debated, and I did not hear any sufficient reason advanced for making the differentiation established in the Bill before us. The Premier of Western Australia said at the time that he would give consideration to the representations made for the abolition of the differentiation, and, although he did not make any alteration to the Public Service Bill itself, which was then under discussion, he subsequently embodied in a Public Service Appeal Board Bill the right for any civil servant, irrespective of his grade of employment, to approach the Arbitration Court set up by the State Government to deal with wages and conditions in the Public Service of the State. It was not the ordinary Arbitration Court that deals with every industry. It was a special Court, as I have described, and it has worked very well. Every one has a desire to see the public servants treated properly, but at the same time it should be every one’s duty to see that the public servant gives a fair return foi the remuneration he receives from the public of Australia. It is said throughout Australia that members of Parliament pander, to a great extent, to the public servant. I have a fairly big electorate, and there are a lot of public servants in it, but I have not been afraid to say anything to any section of the community when necessity arose. There was recently an upheaval amongst the civil servants in Western Australia as .a protest against the treatment they were receiving. It was a debatable question as to whether they were right or wrong, but I freely expressed the opinion that they were wrong, and never neglected .the opportunity to tell them so. However, the result of that strike was that the Government took steps to give public servants thi) right of appeal, irrespective of grade or salary; and I would like to see the Attorney-General put this phase of the question before his Government. If it is good to give the man on the lower scale of wages the right of approaching the Arbitration Court, it is equally good that the man receiving higher pay should have the same right. But the wiping out of the limitation would do more than that. When an officer goes into the Arbitration Court he has to put up a case to justify the rate of salary he is receiving. If the lower-pa;d officers are obliged to do this, why should not the public have, by the same means, a guarantee afforded to them that good service is being rendered for the money paid to the officer on the higher rate of pay? In these circumstances, even at this late hour, I would like the Attorney-General’ to discuss the matter with the Government with a view to doing something in the direction I am urging. Every honorable member who has spoken upon this Bill has complained that lack of opportunity has been given for its discussion. But I have not heard of any member being stopped from discussing it; in fact, we have had greater opportunity of debating this Bill and expressing an opinion on it than we have had upon many other measures. The subjectmatter of the measure has been before Australia for many years, and there may be some ground for suspicion in the fact that it has only been brought forward for enactment on the eve of an election ; but the same suspicion will apply to anything this Parliament probably may do between now and the forthcoming election. I should hope that there was sufficient loyalty among all parties in this House to combat such an accusation. I trust that, during the forthcoming campaign, those who are opposing one another upon the platforms will have very little to say in criticism of the manner in which the Government have introduced this legislation. We all know that at the end of every session the same thing occurs. At the end of last session I expressed my regret that this Parliament was following the same procedure that has been adopted by every Parliament in the British Empire, that is to say, we talk a lot in the first part- of the session and do nothing, and at the fag end of the session endeavour to get through a great deal of work, with the consequence that it is not done as well as it should be done in a National Parliament. k
.- A great deal has been said with reference to the fact that this Bill is being discussed so close to the end of the session, and I agree that this is a measure for the discussion of which plenty of time should be allowed, but I do not think it can be claimed we have not had sufficient time for its consideration. It is over twelve months since it passed the Senate, where the discussion upon its various clauses was long and ample, and we in this House have had the opportunity of perusing the Bill, not only when it was circulated in another Chamber, but also at a later date. In any case the principles embodied in it are not new. Ever since the last election the question of whether there should be one Commissioner or a Board and the other matters which we are now debating have been before us, so that whatever may be said in regard to the necessity for giving the provisions of such measures as the Income Tax Assessment Bill the fullest time for consideration and debate the argument does not apply in the same measure to the Public Service Bill, as introduced by the Attorney-General, because, as I have said, honorable members have already had twelve months to study the measure. I am with those who think that one Commissioner is sufficient. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) suggests that the powers to be given to the new Commissioners were so much greater than those given to one Commissioner that they should be able to do a great deal more work than one Commissioner was called upon to do.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) wanted to give them more power.
– Yes; .so that they might carry out the recommendations of the Economies Commission, and not only reclassify, but also re-organize, the whole Service with the idea ‘of effecting savings in the cost of administration and of bringing the Service up to date and on to more business-like methods and lines. So far as I can see, the Commissioners will have quite enough to do in the ordinary work which would fall to their lot without attempting to carry out such a huge scheme as that of re-organizing the different Departments, with the inner workings of which they cannot be expected to be very well acquainted. If this task is to be undertaken, and there seems to be a strong feeling in this House in favour of that, it will have to be carried out by some Commission altogether outside the Board of Commissioners. If the Board is to do merely the ordinary work that falls to the lot of Public Service Commissioners of the Commonwealth and the States one man could do it as well as three. In a Board of three there is always one strong man who practically dominates it. It is not so much a case of diffusion of power as it is of diffusion of responsibility. If one man is solely responsible for the steps taken by the Commission we know where the responsibility ought to be placed.
– If there are two other Commissioners, one controlling the professional and one controlling the clerical staff, each could look after his own Department.
– Our experience has been that one Commissioner, Mr. McLachlan*, did work quite equal to anything that three Commissioners could do. I recognise that the present Acting Commissioner is very much handicapped, and very -often cannot make the recommendations which he thinks are justified, not merely because he is merely Acting Commissioner, but for the reason that this Bill, which provides for .a complete reclassification, has been hanging over his head for twelve months. He would not consider it wise to make a recommendation which, for instance, would involve the removal of a man into a higher grade, since he has the knowledge that the whole matter will be reviewed as soon as this Bill is passed. The members of the Board cannot do the work of Public Service Commissioners effectively, and at the same time carry out the work required in regard to the re-organization of the Service on business lines and effecting the required economies. A separate body is needed to do the latter work satisfactorily. We ought to have a complete reclassification, and the argument advanced this afternoon that there ought to be more decentralization is a very strong and cogent one. In the differing circumstances of this great Commonwealth, we must have many variations of conditions, and I think the Service would be better managed if, instead of concentrating all power in tho hands of the Central Office, Melbourne, we were to give greater powers to the local authorities. I am glad to- note that in the Postal Department there has been a very , marked tendency in that direction. Within the last few years, the Deputy Postmasters-General have been given far more extensive powers than they held before, and they, in turn,” have transferred to their district officers and senior postal inspectors many matters which were formerly carried out by the deputies. This delegation of power has increased the responsibility of many officers in country districts. Such officers do not get into touch, to any extent, with the metropolitan areas, and have consequently to take upon themselves a great deal more responsibility than have those who are stationed within the metropolis, and therefore come under the immediate superintendence of the heads of their Department. The Senior Postal Inspectors in each State, having regard to their increased responsibilities, ought to be reclassified and raised in status. The Postal Department would do well if it established district superintendents, who could take complete charge of large districts, and in respect of those districts do work very similar to that which the Deputy Postmasters-General are at present transacting in the several States. Sooner or later, we shall have to face the question of whether or not, in connexion with the Postal administration, we are going to adhere to State boundaries. If we created postal districts independently of State boundaries, and increased the number of our deputies or superintendents so that they would have more immediate control over large districts, irrespective of the State boundaries, the administration would be very much better than it is. We should get a better service and better results.
The only other question with which I wish to deal is that of dual furlough. I recognise, with the Attorney-General, that there is always a difficulty in attempting to apply any provision in a Bill to a date prior to that on which the Bill will come into force. We shall be up against such a difficulty in the clause relating to dual furlough, since it goes back to 30th November, 1919. We have in the Public Service of the Commonwealth many men who have done good work, and who have contended all along that they are entitled to dual furlough. They have been fighting the Department for years on this very question. Some of them who, at the end of twenty years’ service, were entitled to take their furlough were requested by their respective Departments to postpone it from time to time. In other cases, they were told definitely that the departmental arrangements would not permit of their taking their furlough as it fell due. Their furlough, in this way, has been postponed from time to time, so that, on their retirement, they have been granted only six months instead of the extended furlough to which they were entitled. These men still have their case before the Government, and the fact that they may have retired before the date now fixed in the clause relating to furlough does not alterthe equity or justice of their claim. I hope that when we go into Committee the Attorney-General will be able to tell us what amount would be involved in making the clause wholly retrospective. I admit that the proposal is surrounded with much difficulty, because the moment we extend the provision for double furlough to retired public servants who are still alive, we shall probably have a suggestion that compensation in lieu of furlough should be given to the widow or next of kin of any deceased public servant who was entitled to dual furlough.
– It would be a fair thing to apply it to the widows of such men.
– I am suggesting at present only that retired public servants who are still alive should have the dual furlough provisions of this Bill extended to them, irrespective of whether they left the Service before or after 30th November, 1919. There cannot be a great number of them, and if that is so, the Government might well extend the dual furlough provisions of this measure so as to include all who have retired, irrespective altogether of the date of their retirement.
.- The remarks I have to offer on this Bill will bo brief, and will relate more particularly to the suggested appointment of a Board of three Commissioners. When a similar Bill was brought before us last year by the present Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), I expressed the opinion that one Commissioner would be better than three. I still feel that it would be better to appoint one Commissioner with ample power than to appoint a Board of three. I regret that the AttorneyGeneral saw fit to withdraw the previous Bill, because a great Service like that of the Commonwealth should be controlled by a Commissioner of considerable power and ability, capable of so guiding the responsible Minister as to enable him to maintain the efficiency of the Service. It is unreasonable to expect a Minister, who as a, rule does not remain very long in office, to have such knowledge as would qualify him to determine whether the various Departments were running as they ought - on economic and efficient lines. I believe that we should have only one Public Service Commissioner, and he should be highly paid. Australia should buy the services of the most capable man - no matter what the cost - that is to be found in the world.
– Would the honorable membergo outside Australia to find a Commissioner?
– If it were necessary in the interests of Australia I should do so. The Commissioner should be. empowered to choose an assistant, who also should receive a good salary. Neither the Commissioner nor his assistant should be subject to the Public Service Act and regulations, and should be subjected as little as possible to political influence. Unless we have as Commissioner a man whose knowledge qualifies him to advise the Government, and to take action wherever necessary, there is little use in making an appointment. It was said when the last Public Service Bill was before us that we should have a Board of three, so that it would be competent to deal with the various Departments. If we secured the proper man for the office of Public Service Commissioner he would be competent to determine whether or not the system in operation in any Department was up-to-date and effective. The appointment should be a permanent one, and a man of outstanding ability would soon put the whole of the Commonwealth Departments on a basis that would be satisfactory alike to public servants themselves and the country as a whole. No public servant is satisfied when his Department is simply bungling along or is in a chaotic condition. There is a certain degree of Freemasonry amongst all public servants. They do not “ split “ on each other if anything goes wrong, and so the trouble goes on. I am not blaming the Minister for this; I have already said it is unreasonable to expect the Minister to go into details such as a competent Public Service Commissioner would be required to consider. I would ask the AttorneyGeneral, therefore, to give serious consideration to the question of so amending the Bill as to provide for the appointment of one competent Commissioner at a salary high enough to insure his inde pendence, and to command the qualifications necessary for the occupant of such an office. If, however, the honorable gentleman still considers that a Board of three Commissioners is necessary to place the Public Service on the business footing that it should occupy, I shall not oppose the Bill. I am sorry that he saw fit to throw under the table the measure that he introduced last year, and I am glad that he has resurrected it. I hope he will at least make the experiment of placing the Service under one Commissioner. Applications for the position should be invited by public advertisement, and in order to secure a man of exceptional ability a salary approaching £5,000 per annum should be offered. He should also be given an assistant, with a salary of, say, £1,000 a year, to save the Commissioner’s valuable time by attending to the more minor details of his administration. Where so many millions are involved the Commonwealth, in doing that, would be taking a step that would make for efficiency. The appointment of a Board of Commissioners consisting of three members will amount to the creation of a Department which would be less efficient than one Commissioner. .
– Unlike many of those who have spoken during the debate, I take no exception to the introduction of the Bill at this time. Had it not been introduced, some other measures just as important would now claim our attention. Ever since I have been in Parliament measures have been introduced at the end of the session. That is the only time when a Government has much hope of doing business.
– Some measures must be brought in at the end of the session.
– This is a most important Bill, and will require most careful consideration in Committee if it is to . be the success that it is hoped it will be. There are in our Public Service an enormous number of employees, who follow many occupations, some of them highly technical. No private institution parallels the Commonwealth Public Service in the number of its employees, in the variety of the work it does, or in the capital which it handles. The highly-trained men who form the Service must be supervised by a highly-trained Board or by a Commissioner. The way to get efficiency is by giving careful attention to qualifications when considering appointments, and to appoint the best men available.. The most important part of the Bill is that which provides for the appointment of a Board of Commissioners, and I hope that, in Committee, the Minister will be explicit about this proposal. Within the lasthalf-hour I have been privileged to meet a retired public servant from New Zealand, who has given me most valuable information about the management of the New Zealand. Public Service. That Service, he told me, is controlled by a Board of Management having three members. The Board not only supervises appointments to the Service and determines the conditions under which the Service shall work, but it has also supervision of the Stores Department, and makes recommendations to the Minister on a number of matters. According to my informant, the Board has given great satisfaction, particularly to the public. He admits that the heads of Departments do not like the system too well. They naturally wish to exercise authority themselves, and in New Zealand their authority is curtailed to some extent. The Board has no one to serve but the Government and the public, and what it has done has given satisfaction to the public, and, generally, to the Service.
– Then, the heads of Departments can be done without.
– No. The head of a Department is necessary for the supervision of its internal working, which gives him quite enough to do. The conditions of our Public Service are much better than those of the Public Services of the States in the old days. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) will remember that, years ago, when the Tasmanian Parliament House was lit. by an electric installation of its own, a Bill for the inauguration of the hydro-electric scheme came up for discussion; and none of the members knew what an electric unit was. The honorablemember forFranklin appealed to the official in charge of the electric lighting, and he furnished a definition which was read to the Houseby Mr.Urquhart, then Attorney-General, and next day that officer; who was a subordinate official, was not encouraged to give information again. We do not desire that officers shall be kept back in that way. Our desire is that the best men shall be encouraged to put forward their best efforts in the public interest. An officer who enjoys’ the right of appealing from his Departmental head to a Board of Commissioners will know that he has an opportunity to get an impartial inquiry, and this will be encouragement to men to do theirbest. Few people realize the magnitude of the field over which the operations of a Department like that of the PostmasterGeneral spread. Let me read from the report of the Economies Commission this statement of the work of that Depart- m ent-
In 1917-18 the cash value of the business transacted was £70,000,000. How could any private business be compared with a Department handling such a vast capital, and carrying on so many technical services over such a wide area as the Commonwealth? The electrical branch needs the most efficient officers. Huge sums of money may be lost through inefficiency in that branch. Because the Victorian
Railways Commissioners have . been allowed to provide for electric traction by means of a very high potential current sent along a wire, which returns through the rails, an enormous amount of elec- trolysis is being set up in this city, and the day is not far distant When many pounds will have to be spent in repairing the damage done to cables in the vicinity of ‘the railway, to leaden water pipes, gas pipes, and other plant. Had there been a highly trained technical officer -of .experience in a position of authority, this would not have happened. You can ‘hear the induction whenever you take a telephone receiver off its hook. This is due largely to faulty construction. With a properly constructed system there would not be the cross-talk that now .causes so much trouble. In this branch the stores cost a great deal :of money, and many .pounds might be saved by proper buying- and supervision. Sin Victoria, the storekeeper, who was far-seeing, or -was .at an advantage in being at the centre of administration, purchased ahead a large quantity of supplies, with the result that when, during the war, copper wire rose to an enormous price, the Department had a large stock of it which had been bought at a very low figure. Had officers in other branches been encouraged to do likewise, the Government would have made: an enormous saving. Under a. properly managed system, a good deal of latitude is given to important officers, and they make it their business to provide for the future, so that there shall always be material enough on hand to allow continuity of construction. Immense loss occurs when large works are stopped for any cause such as the want of supplies. A Board -of Commissioners, or a single Commissioner, if the right appointments aru made, will exercise valuable supervision. P,r.oper: management, too, will do much to .prevent jealousy interfering with the work .of .the .officers. . It is deplorable that those who are .-at .the head <of important branches should often feel bitterly towards .each .other,, and allow , their personal squabbles to prejudice the Service. With proper supervision that would not be possible. I agree to what has. been said a’ to the need for inspectors; but t>e men chosen -should have the necessary qualifications. There are inspectors of two kinds - those who are continually ma’king ‘reports and causing trouble, and those who prevent trouble by seeing that the work for which they are responsible goes on smoothly. An inspector should be thoroughly competent to advise and direct those whose work he inspects. ‘I know an ‘inspector who, over a period of two years, did not report a single officer; but when the Chief Electrical Engineer went ‘.through his section, he found that it was the best equipped and best maintained in the system. That inspector was a capable man, and if he found anything wrong he used to say to the officer responsible, “You must put this right, or there will be trouble:” I recollect that, on one occasion, the inspector “ dropped down “ unexpectedly on a telegraph station. Its door was locked, but he could hear the operator at a distant station calling, “You are on my line,” and asking ,to be switched off. The inspector remained for about half.anhour until the operator came along and went into his room. Then he heard ‘this man tell the other that he had been there all the time, and that there had been no avoidable delay in clearing the line. The inspector thereupon stepped in quietly and said .to the operator, “ You are-wrong. I have been here for about half-an-hour listening to the -other station calling on you to clear your “line. You have ‘been absent; you have not been doing your work.” The operator fully expected to be reported, but the inspector took the opportunity ti> give ‘him a serious warning, and offer him another chance. That man took very good care not to offend again, and he (became one of the most reliable and ;energetic employees of the Service. The incident is typical of tactful and ‘sensible conduct on the part of an inspector. Had he chosen to .peremptorily report the delinquent, he would ha,ve done far Jess good .for the Service as a ‘.whole. An ‘inspector who ^considers that be must -always .be reporting somebody is *mot .acting in .the :best interests -of the ‘Service.
As for the proposal to run ‘the Public Service with a Board of business men, I am not at all sure that that would ‘be a success. The experiment was tried in N’ew Zealand-; but the authorities were not enamoured of it. Public Departments cannot be run, in every particular, like a private business. There are many duties required of public servants which - the average business man would not undertake. I can imagine how a business man placed at the head of a public Department would act if he were required, at the request of a member of Parliament, to prepare some voluminous or detailed return. A capable head of a Department keeps his staff up to the point of efficiency and preparedness, not only to carry on its daily duties, but to undertake, at short notice, intricate work of this character. I am not prepared to say that the average business man presents a model of the type of individual required to run a public Department; but there are undoubtedly some business concerns which set a splendid example. There are the cable companies, for example, and I may mention particularly, the Eastern Extension Company. It affords its officers far more, and more liberal, concessions than are available to public servants. The Cable Company’s employees are bettor paid, and are given longer furlough and more attractive working conditions than is the case in the Public Service. Such an example might well be f ollowed ; but I do not suggest that we should take business methods generally as a guide.
– Does the honorable member favour a Board to consist of three Commissioners, or the retention of the one Commissioner?
– If the Board is to carry out duties of a varied character, I should say that three Commissioners would be necessary; but, if its actions and responsibilities are to be similar to those of the present Commissioner, one man should be adequate for the task. In any case, the Board should be assisted by an efficient body of trained inspectors, for whom there would be ample work. But I would not have the inspectors placed in positions of authority where they could overrule departmental chiefs in technical departmental matters. Why should an inspector be called in to decide whether an additional operator is required in a Post Office? Should it not bo suffi- cient for the head of the Department to act in this respect upon the experienced advice ofhis senior branch officer?
In every instance care should be taken to provide the head of a Department with an adequate staff. It was probably a lack in this direction that I recently had cause to complain of the delivery of mails in the suburbs of Hobart. The suburban delivery was being made as late as 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and the first city delivery was not being completed until inordinately late. I have now been informed by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Poynton) that reform has been brought about, and that, for the future, the first city delivery will be over by 9 a.m., and the early suburban delivery by 11 o’clock.
I welcome the Bill for one reason - because it will embrace a greater number of servants than is covered by the Act to-day. Those to be included will feel, no doubt, that they are being properly treated as units of the Service; and, as a result, the loyalty and discipline of the whole should be enhanced. I trust that the Commission, or Commissioner, will appoint Boards in the various Departments to deal with the petty cases which continually crop up. I do not know of anything more dcplorablo than an experience which came under my notice in a State Department. There, the head had the power to fine men or order reductions in their salaries. When a public servant has committed a breach of the regulations he should be tried by a body of men who will not be subsequently responsible to the head of the Department in which they are employed. Officers cannot be expected to give unbiased consideration to a case if they are required to work afterwards under the head of the Department who has laid the charge. Considerable improvements and many savings should be effected if the right men, or man, can bo selected to sit upon the Board.
. -I desire to make a brief personal explanation. In the course of my speech on this Bill last night, possibly owing to my own want of lucidity, or due to interruptions in the chamber, my utterances were not correctly reported by the Age. That paper states this morning that I said -
State Governments in the past had had unpleasant experiences of the threecommissioner system, and many years ago the Berry
Government in Victoria, after long experience of this system, had reverted to one commissioner.
I have perused Hansard; and, in order to havemy exact statement historically recorded, I desire to correct the Dress report by repeating that what I said was as follows: -
I think I am right in saying that the first State Government to introduce the threecommissioner system was the Service-Berry Coalition Administration of Victoria; but, after an experience extending over many years, the State resorted to the one-commissioner system.
– I do not propose, at this stage, to go fully into the various points raised by honorable members; but I shall take them up at the proper opportunity, as the Bill goes through Committee clause by clause.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Existing officers, regulations, &c.).
. -I move -
That tho following sub-clauses be added : - “ (5) Any reference in any Act, except this. Act, to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902, or to that Act as amended by any subsequent Act, shall be read as a reference to this Act.
Upon the commencement of this A’ct, the following offices, and the persons occupying those offices, not being offices or persons which or whom are affected by or under section 14 of the Defence (Civil Employment) Act 1918, shall become, and bc deemed to bc, offices and officers of the Commonwealth Service with classifications, subject to the classification effected by the Board under section 26 of this Act, corresponding to their respective classifications at the commencement of this Act-
clerical offices occupied by persons employed under paragraph (db) of sub-section ( 1 ) of section 63 of the Defence Act 1903-1918 who were ap- pointed to those positions by the G overnor-General ;
offices occupied by persons who were, by virtue of section 15 of the Defence (Civil Employment) Act 1918, deemed to be employed in aci vil capacity in connexion with the Defence Force; and
clerical offices occupied by persons, employed under paragraph (c) of sub-section (1) of section 41 of the Naval Defence Act 1910-1918, who were appointed to those positions by the Governor-General.”
The purpose of this amendment is to bring certain officers of the Defence Department and Navy Department under tho Publi c Service Act. Parliament passed a Bill a few days ago extending the Defence (Civil Employment) Act of 1918 until a date fixed by proclamation. That was done for the purpose of continuing; the employment, under that Act, of certain officers of the Defence and Navy Departments until, by this Bill, they could be transferred to the Public Service. Under the Defence Act there are certain clerical officers who are known as military staff clerks, and under the Naval Defence Act there are other clerical officers. The object of this amendment is to bring under the Public Service Act all men in permanent positions doing; clerical work. The rights of officers thus transferred will be preserved by this clause.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 (Definitions).
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That in the definition of “returned soldier” the words “ (whether before or after the commencement of this Act)” bc omitted, and that after the word “employed “ first occurring in paragraph (c) the words “as a radio- telegraphist” be inserted.
– I understand that the amendment which the Minister moved to clause 5 safeguards the right of military staff clerks?
– Yes; we have already inserted an amendment to clause 5, and we propose to strike out of the Bill clause 100. Those two amendments will effect wnat the honorable member des’res.
Clause as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 consequentially amended by the omission of sub-clause 2, and agreed to.
Clause 8 (Officers of the Parliament).
Sub-clause 5 amended to read -
Provided that, if the President or the Speaker, or the President and the Speaker (as the case may he), by writing addressed to the Chairman of the Board, requests the Board to classify any officers and offices of the Parliament, the Board shall classify those officers and offices in the manner provided in this Act.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 (Composition of Public Service)
Mr.Fenton. - Will the AttorneyGeneral elaborate the explanation he gave on the second reading of the proposed division of the Public Service into (a) the Commonwealth Service and (6) the provisional service?
– The existing Public Service Act does not deal with the provisional service, but we propose to include it, because we think that it should be under a proper system of administration. I believe that this alteration will conduce to much greater efficiency. The Commonwealth Service will include all the main Commonwealth Departments, as set out in the second schedule, and any new Departments that may be created from time to time; whilst the provisional Service will embrace any Department or branch of the Public Service of a provisional or temporary character which by proclamation is brought under this measure.
Clause agreed to.
– At this stage, the Committee should decide whether the Service is to be controlled in future by one Commissioner or by three. Up to the present time, we have managed very well with control by one Commissioner. No doubt, the Attorney-General will try to convince a majority of honorable members that this Bill will allot so many and varied duties to the three Commissioners that it would be a physical impossibility for one Commissioner to perform the tasks which the Government propose shall be intrusted to a Board. He will require, however, to put forward stronger arguments than he advanced when moving the second reading of the Bill, to convince honorable members that it is desirable to have three Commissioners instead of one. I anticipate that there will be very little, if any, difference in the number of officers required to assist a single Commissioner and three Commissioners respectively. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), speaking from a wealth of experience as a public servant, said that sometimes interference by officers in the higher grades of the Service militates against the expeditious and efficient carrying out of work. Wise supervision of Public Service operations is very necessary, but undue interference and meddling with men who are carrying out technical work is unjustifiable and unprofitable. I do not believe for a moment that the number of public servants will be reduced by the appointment of three Commissioners instead of one. The chances are that the three Commissioners will require more assistance than the single Commissioner has required hitherto. Under the present system, the Commissioner delegates power to an Inspector in each State; in fact, the present Acting Public Service Commissioner graduated from the position of Chief Inspector, and he has, so far as I know, following the lead of his illustrious predecessor, carried out his duties faithfully and well. It may be true that the Bill is enlarging the duties of the controlling authority, but that authority, whether it be a Board of three Commissioners or a single Commissioner will be dependent, to alarge extent, upon the advice of subordinate officers in the different States. For the greater part of their time, the three Commissioners will be engaged in the administrative centre which to-day is Melbourne, and in a few years’ time may be Canberra; and, for their knowledge of what is being done in the different States, they will be dependent upon advice and reports submitted from time to time by subordinates. As control by a single Commissioner, with Inspectors in each State to whom he has delegated powers, has operated fairly well in the past, I see no reason for incurring the extra expenditure that will be involved in the appointment of three Commissioners. Each Commissioner may require a secretary, and each one when he goes on tour, may require a whole retinue of officers to accompany him.
– Three Commissioners will create a big Department.
– A big Department is more easily manufactured by three men than by one, and. each one will, doubt- less, regard himself asan all-important individual. I move -
That the word “ three “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ one.”
I hope that the fullest information will be given to us, and that the Minister will not unduly stress the increased duties which he thinks the Commissioner will have to perform. This Committee will exercise its good sense if it agrees to the appointment of one official, because this, I am sure, would prove to be to the best interests of the Public Service and of the people of the Commonwealth.
– I cannot accept the amendment. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has said, this question has been pretty fully discussed, but I should like to add a few words by way of justification of the attitude of the Government. The amendment touches a fundamental provision in the Bill, a provision which was inserted in view of the experience of the working of the Public Service Acts of Australia. Since 1902 until the present time we have been carrying on with one Commissioner. There has been a natural growth of the Public Service with the growth of population and with the transfer from time to time from the States of various departmental activities which properly belong to the Federation. This has resulted in imposing increased duties on the Commissioner. Every Department transferred has created new work on different lines, involving transfers, promotions fixing of salaries, and a whole series of fresh obligations. We have had in Mr. McLachlan, and in Mr. Edwards, who is the Acting Commissioner, two men who have given the most faithful service to Australia. I find from inquiries that during the fourteen years Mr. McLachlan was administering the Act he was rarely able to visit any of the other States. He made only one visit to Western Australia, and in that time he was able to visit Queensland twice only. I mention this to show the difficulties of the Commissioner in dealing with the classification of duties, transfers, promotions, appeals and so forth and in obtaining first-hand knowledge of the conditions throughout the Service. Then Mr. Edwards, during the six years he has been Acting Commissioner, has been so tied down by his routine office duties that he has never been able to leave Melbourne. That is not because Mr. Edwards does not desire to visit the other States, but simply because his routine duties are so heavy.
– What are his assistants doing ?
– No matter how excellent the assistants may be, I am sure honorable members realize the difficulty of administering affairs in Queensland by means of assistants, while the responsible head is in Melbourne, and never sees the other portions of the Commonwealth. I take Queensland as an illustration, because there is a great diversity of settlement and population under temperate, semi-tropical, and tropical conditions.
– My idea was that the Commissioner might go to Queensland, leaving his assistants to carry on in Melbourne.
– That could not be done.
– If the Commissioner’s duties so tie him to Melbourne it means that one of the three members of the Board would always have to be here.
– I shall deal with that point presently; I am just now- asking honorable members to realize the enormous amount of work of an ordinary routine character that has to be performed.
– What does Mr. McLachlan himself recommend?
– He recommends one Commissioner only, but, while not doubting the value of his opinion, my reply is that there are duties necessary to the administration of the Public Service other than those of mere classification and routine work generally. The burden on the Commissioner grows as Australia grows in population, and as those activities increase which are the natural outcome of a healthy community,.
During the last twenty years there have been complaints connected with the administration of the Public Service. Questions have been raised in regard to duplication! and efficiency, and the coordination of duties; as to whether it is not possible to secure greater economy and efficiency by adopting some of the methods of business firms outside. All these matters were relegated to the Economies Commission, the chairman of which, Sir Robert Gibson, is one of the most capable and conscientious business men in Australia,, with great and wide experience in the conduct of financial matters and general management. I admit, of course, that Sir Robert Gibson had had practically no experience of the inside working of Government Departments, and that very often men from the outside do not sufficiently appreciate the value of the services rendered in the Departments of the Commonwealth. But many business men who were associated with Commonwealth administration in connexion with the war have expressed their unbounded appreciation of the high character and ability of the public servants of Australia; and it is a pity that the encomiums passed by men likeMr. George Swinburne and others have not been made known in the press and elsewhere. Where, during a long period, great Departments are growing up and covering the whole of the continent, it is necessary from time to time to have examination, revision and checking of the work of administration, in order to see whether Australia is getting the best results for her expenditure on the Public Service. The Economies Commission, with Sir Robert Gibson as chairman, wont into the various Departments, and gave us of their best in the inquiries they instituted. Clause 16, together with the proposal to make the Board act as Commissioner as well as a Board of Management, have the approval of the Chairman of the Economies Commission. The members of that Commission had no other desire than to give their best services to this country; and this is what they say on page 85 of their first progress report -
– The list of duties is only a placard after all!
– No, it is meant as a statutory direction as to what the specific duties are. On page 86 they say -
The clear suggestion is that there should be, throughout the Commonwealth Departments, some system of standardization, some uniform method of costing, and some means of checking waste, so that it may be seen that each Department is giving value for the money spent. This is necessary in such Departments as the Works and Railways Department, in the Postal Department, and in the subsidiary branches of the Defence Department. Those Departments have already systems in. operation. It will be the duty of the Board to see that a properly efficient system is adopted by every branch of the Public Service.
– Does not that make it quite obvious that we shall need a Commissioner to carry out classification work, and a separate Board of Management for doing the other work to which the Minister has just referred?
– The honorable member is quite right in one respect, but he will see thatunder the Bill it will bo possible for the Board of Commissioners to apportion the different classes of work among the individual members of the Board. For instance, matters relating to classification, promotions, and transfers could bo undertaken by one Commissioner, while matters relating to business administration and the examination of contracts, and the work of seeing that a proper system of costing is adopted, could be intrusted to another. Commissioner. The third Commissioner could take up another phase of work.
– The Minister has outlined tasks for three individuals.
– They will meet together and act as a Board, but the Board oan, if necessary, delegate authority to one of its members.
– And do all that was done bv Mr. McLachlan.
– No. Mr. McLachlan was not able to undertake all these duties, a fact to which the Economies Commission has drawn special attention.
– Mr. McLachlan has explained in his report why he did not do it.
– Yes, for the reason that neither he nor Mr. Edwards, the Acting Public Service Commissioner, could undertake work other than matters of promotions, transfers, &c. The Board will look at the work of each Department from the outside, and call upon the ad- ministration of that Department to justify its methods and procedure. It will also have power to hold an inquiry within each Department in order to ascertain oxactly how it is being conducted. It is obvious that where there are three Commissioners the Board will allocate to each individual Commissoner certain duties to facilitate the work at meetings of tho Board, and they will insure that when they meet as a body they will be able to do their work efficiently. Naturally, in the choice of a Board the Government will look for men with those qualifications which are most likely to secure a thoroughly efficient Board. Honorable members talk about trying to get economy and efficiency in public administration and about doing away with surplus officers. They make all sorts of suggestions for reform in that direction. The Board to be appointed will carry out the whole of those reforms which experience has shown that a single Commissioner cannot undertake. A single Commissioner could not carry out these reforms, for the simple reason that he cannot sacrifice his duty of dealing with promotions, transfers, &c., by devoting weeks of his time in an endeavour to ascertain whether mora efficient or economical methods of conducting their operations cannot be adopted by the various Departments. That will be the task of the Board, and it will be of advantage to the Departments themselves to have an independent body bringing outside criticism to bear upon them. Every permanent head who is anxious that his Department should be the best in the Commonwealth will welcome any suggestion tending to make it more efficient and adding to the kudos attaching to work that is being done in the interest of the public. Investigation by a Board of Commissioners is the only means I know of by which we can secure that efficiency and economy desired by honorable members. For instance, although there is a costing system in operation in tho Department of Works and Railways, there are different opinions as to who should be responsible for operating it, whether it should be the works officers or the Accountancy Branch. A question of this character would be determined by the Board, which will see that a uniform method is applied throughout the whole of the Public Service. A great reform should thus be brought about. At any rate the proposal carries the imprimatur of the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Economies. It may be contended that the appointment of a Board of Commissioners will lead to the creation of a new Department, and we may hear honorablo members repeating the old and familiar story of the appointment of some one who commences with an office and a desk and a messenger, and then proceeds to build up a huge staff around him. As a matter of fact, the Public Service Commissioner already has a staff - he could not do without one - and obviously the Board of Commissioners must have a staff. I may point out that it is proposed to repeal tho clause dealing with inspectors. We believe that the present number ofinspectors cannot make an adequate inspection of the Public Service
– Why not?
– Because the task is too great for them. We have as Public Service inspectors men of the highest quality who are carrying out their work as well as they possibly can, but a different system of inspection mustbe set up. The Public Service cannot be managed without some system of inspection, but the appointment of the requisite staff of inspectors is a matter that must be arranged by the Board of Commissioners when they are appointed.
– The inspectors arc the men who will do the actual work. They are the men who know the job.
– They are the men who will dothe work which is being done to-day. It is upon their reports that the Commissioners will act, but at the present time those reports are confined to matters of administration, whereas there is more tobe done under this Bill than the mereclassification or inspection of the nature of a man’s work. The Governmenthave been anxiousto intrust to the Board of Commissioners the tasks suggested by the Economies Commission, and these are set out in clause 16, which provides the other duties imposed upon the Board in addition to the actual examination of the Public Service.
– And whichhave not been done hitherto by the Public Service Commissioner?
– That is so. Some of them are duties which could not have been undertaken by him. I do not wish to be misunderstood. Some of the duties set out in clause 16 are now being carried outby the Acting Public ServiceCommissioner, but there are certain other matters which cannot be carried out by him, such as the following : -
To devise means for effecting economies and promotingefficiency in the management and working of Departments by -
The advising upon systems and methods adopted in regard to contracts, and for obtaining supplies, and upon contracts referredto the Board by a Minister.
That is merely one phase of the additional duties which one Commissioner could not undertake. Other duties are -
To exercise a critical oversight of the activities and the methods of conducting the business of each Department.
To maintain a comprehensive and continuous system of measuring and checking the economical and efficient working of each Department, and to institute standard practice and uniform instructions for carrying out recurring work.
If the lines suggested in the Economies Commission’s report are to be carried out, we shall need a ‘Board of ‘Commissioners undertaking thesedutiescontinuously, and endeavouring to secureefficiencyand economyinadministration.
– Itis obviousto me thattheremust be aBoard for fulfilling these functions,and also a Commissioner with expert knowledge of the PublicService to deal with classifications.
-We believe that the three men who are appointed as a Board of Commissioners can carry out both tasks. It is obvious that one man could not do it.
– That is obvious.
– We have no desire to multiply the number of Boards in existence. We are not anxious to have a whole series of distinct Boards. In any case, we believethat the whole administration of our Public Service should be under one control, and that it is better to have uniform administration and control under one Board than to have independent bodies each exercising independent control. We believe that each Commissioner will aid his fellows. While one man may seek to reform a Department from the point of view of classifying the duties and remuneration of the officers employed, another will bring to bear criticism of the business methods employed by the Department. In that way we hope to secure efficiency and better control, and 1 urge honorable members not to reject the proposal, which is intended to secure what we all desire, namely, a more efficient Public Service, and at the same time more economical administration in the operations of government in Australia.
.- I have listened with a great dealof interest to the Minister (Mr. Groom), but the longer he talked the more convinced I becamethatthe proposal submitted by the honorablemember for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton) is the proper provision for the Committee to adopt. The Bill is a hotch-potch. It is a mixture of the suggestions of the ex-Public Service Commissioner (Mr. McLachlan) and those made bytheEconomies Commission, without the good points of either. It is something liketheprogeny of the horse and the ass, which isahybrid - a sterile production to start with, ‘and a difficult one to handle as it lives.
Mr.Richard Foster. - It is recommended by the best business men in Australia.
Dr.EARLE PAGE. - It is not what was recommended by them.What they recommendedwaswhatthehonorable memberforFawkner(Mr. Maxwell) has just suggested, namely, that there should betwodifferent sets of people tocarry out these distinct functions.Likethe mule, this production will always be kicking. I am thoroughly in accord withthe proposal as put forward by Mr. McLachlan,and he gives very clear reasons why there should be a single control. I do not think that the arguments put ‘forward by the Minister have answered. his contention. In fact, the whole of the points advanced by the Minister are answered in full by Mr. McLachlan in his report, where he says -
In my opinion there’ are strong reasons against altera tion of the present system of management of the Commonwealth Public Service, Control by a Board of three members necessarily involves a more cumbrous procedure than by a single Commissioner, and consequent delays in settlement of questions of administration. In addition, the important factor of direct and personal responsibility would be sacrificed by the appointment of a Board. Moreover, the circumstances surrounding the Commonwealth Service differ very materially from those of a State Public Service, seeing that the former Service is spread over all the States forming the Commonwealth, necessitating the location of a Public Service Inspector in each State, exercising delegated powers of the Commissioner. In providing for the future administration of the Public Service Act, it would be disadvantageous to establish a ‘Public Service Board, with the consequent inelasticity of control and the diminution of personal responsibility. The existing system of management by one Commissioner will undoubtedly better meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Public Service, provided that the necessary assistance is given him to carry out the duties and extended functions to bo conferred upon him.
He then proceeds to describe exactly the difficulty that has been experienced in the preliminary work of making the Service thoroughly efficient. He says-
From the inception of the Act, the work of the Commissioner and Inspectors has been of the most onerous character, and has been carried out only at considerable self-sacrifice and the devotion of much private time to the interests of the Commonwealth. In the larger States the pressure upon Public Service Inspectors has been particularly heavy, and much of the inspection work has necessarily been sacrificed to the more urgent requirements of the administration in dealing with staff changes involving appointments, transfers, and promotions, and in reporting upon the many questions continually requiring settlement by the Commissioner.
He goes on to describe how this work should be dealt with in the future and explains that one reason for the difficulty experienced in the past is that the inspectorial staff is not sufficient. Additional inspectors, in his opinion, should be appointed -
It has, however, become evident that an inspection staff, which might have been numerically sufficient in the earlier years of Federation, has. with the large increase in depart- mental staffs and the greater complexity of Public Service questions, proved to be now inadequate. The pressure of official duties upon the Public Service Inspectors has reacted upon the Commissioner, who must of necessity pass in review much of the work of his Inspectors, and accept the final responsibility for all administrative action.
After a careful analysis of the position, and keeping in view the necessity for bringing the whole of the Commonwealth services under one general authority, I am satisfied that full justification exists for relieving the Commissioner and Inspectors of nome of the detailed work at present required of them, and in particular that connected with promotions, transfers, and increments to salaries.
These are matters the handling of which, the Attorney-General has just said, are likely to weigh down the three Commissioners who are to be appointed. Mr. McLachlan in his report went on to state 1,hat-
Later sections of this report dealing with the classification of the Service and promotions and transfers of officers will disclose the burdensome requirements of the present procedure in relation to promotions, transfers, and increments; and from these it will be evident that if these requirements are to he still demanded of the Commissioner and Inspectors, they can only be met either at the continued sacrifice of other important functions - a sacrifice which would be detrimental to the economical and efficient working of Departments - or else by making provision for an increase to the inspectorial staff to a far greater extent than will be required if the proposed new plan of organization be adopted.
It is mainly in the direction of largely transferring to heads of Departments existing responsibilities of the Commissioner and Inspectors in relation to promotions, transfers, and increments that the new plan of organization will operate. The responsible officers of Departments . have now the advantage of many years of experience of Public Service methods in dealing with staff conditions. They recognise, and are generally in full sympathy with, the basic principle of the Public Service Act, which makes efficiency the first essential of promotion; they realize the importance of careful administration in the matter of transfers involving, in many cases, heavy expenditure in the removal from one station to another of officers and their families; and, under the altered conditions which’ will be suggested, they will be placed in a position to deal with increments with an essential uniformity of action unattainable if they were vested with such authority under existing conditions. The exercise by departmental heads of these proposed responsibilities should be subject to the right of appeal being extended to officers under conditions to be prescribed, and the Commissioner being the final authority for determination of appeals. Under this rearrangement, the Commissioner and his staff will be relieved from much of the minutiæ of detail, and will be free to deal with the wider questions of policy and organization of Departments, and with measures for greater economy of administration.
The ex-Commissioner there recommended that there should be a rearrangement of the work of the Commissioner and his staff, so that the Commissioner himself would not be clogged with details. This Bill, as outlined by the AttorneyGeneral, however, means a continuance of the present centralization of control.
– No; as a matter of fact, many of the reforms suggested in Mr. McLachlan’s report are embodied in the Bill.
– Then I can only say that the honorable gentleman was most unfortunate in his explanation of this part of the Bill. I listened most cairefully to his second-reading speech, and I understood him to say that it was neoe3sary to have a Board of three Commissioners so that certain work could be allotted to each and the whole work of the Department handled in the one central office. That is altogether different from the procedure suggested by Mr. McLachlan.
– The reforms which he suggests for the simplification of procedure are included in the Bill. Notwithstanding that, there is still a heavy balance of work on the Board of Commissioners.
– The exCommissioner, in his report, points out that nearly all these matters which we are told will be attended to by the additional Commissioners to be appointed should be dealt with by the Public Service Inspectors. He says that there should be an. Assistant Commissioner, and that -
The Assistant Commissioner should be responsible for the carrying out of the details of administration as prescribed by regulations, subject to decision by the Commissioner as to policy matters; he should direct and check the work of Public Service Inspectors as well as that of the head office staff and in the absence of the Commissioner on official duties or during recreation or other leave he should discharge the functions of the Commissioner. The Commissioner should be empowered to delegate to the Assistant Commissioner any of -his duties or powers considered necessary from time to time, but only in his absence should his arbitral or appellant functions be exercised by the Assistant Commissioner.
Further on in his report he states that -
The duties of Public Service Inspectors should be primarily to inspect Departments and report as to improved methods of organization and possible economies; they should be responsible for the control of temporary employment, and generally act as representatives of the Commissioner in their respective States in all matters affecting the administration of the Act.
In another part of his report he suggests the utilization of the services of outside persons to discharge practically the additional functions of which the AttorneyGeneral has spoken. It seems to me, after a careful scrutiny of the reportof the Economics Commission, that the Board of Commissioners will be called upon to exercise functions different from those of a Commissioner in complete control of the whole Service. I tried this morning to elicit from the Attorney-General a statement as to whether the Board’s functions, from beginning to end, would be of an executive character - whether the Board would have complete control or whether it would merely report to the responsible Minister and have no executive power.
– It is to have executive power. It is to be responsible for the reclassification of the whole Service. That is set out in the Bill, and I distinctly referred to it in my second-reading
– The Board will be in complete control of the PublicService of the Commonwealth?
– Of course it is to be in complete control, according to the conditions laid down in the Bill.
– I did not understand from the report of the Economies Board that they suggested that that should be done.
– That Board was reporting more from the stand-point of economy and business administration.
– The point I wish to make is that the Board of Commissioners, as provided for in this Bill, is not such a Board as the Economies Commission recommended.
– It is to be a Public Service Board. It is to carry out the duties of a Public Service Commissioner plus these other duties.
– Then it is to be a hybrid.
– Not at all.
– In the Board for which this Bill provides we are to have a combination of the two ideas, and such a combination will spoil the effect of both. For. that reason I hope the
Committee will vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
.- I had intended to offer a few observations on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, but I thought the pointsI desired to raise might be adequately treated in Committee. The first of these relates to the question of whether or not the Public Service of the Commonwealth is to be controlled and managed by a Board as is now proposed or by an individual Commissioner. I am not convinced by the arguments of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) or by those of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) in support of the appointment of only one Commissioner. I welcome the change to a Board of three. We have suffered rather over much in this Commonwealth from dictatorship, and considering that we have in the Public Service now some 24,000 individuals-
– That is the number coming within the Public Service Act. There are also exempt officers.
– At all events, we have a very large number, so that the responsibilities of the Board are very great, and the effects of an economical administration of this great instrument upon the interests of the country as a whole are important and far-reaching. I can well understand the frame of mind in which the ex-Commissioner, Mr. McLachlan, approached this subject. He had held the office of Commissioner, and I have no doubt, although I have no particularly convincing evidence of it, that he was a very able administrator. On that point I accept the word of those who pretend to know. He was, no doubt, a very faithful officer of the Commonwealth, but he approached this question from the point of view of one who for a considerable time had exercised these dictatorial powers. The difference between a Board and an individual Commissioner is to me parallel with the difference between allowing a Judge to give decisions on certain questions of fact and having a jury to do so. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), by interjection, has anticipated me; of course, I would naturally stand strongly for the reten tion of the jury system. There is a feeling that a Commissioner with powers that are almost absolute is likely to be what is commonly known to the working classes as a “ boss,” and he sometimes becomes a very severe one. As to the general administration of the Public Service, whether it be by an individual or by a Board, there must be many delegated functions to be performed by representatives of the Commissioner or the Board in different parts of Australia. The Commonwealth is too wide, its Public Service is much too far flung, to permit of even the three members of the Board having immediate personal knowledge of its workings in every part of the Union. They must rely, as every other manager has to do, upon their representatives and agents, but in the last resort it is quite clear that the final word in the management of the Service must rest either with the Board, as is now proposed, or with the individual Commissioner, as has hitherto been the practice.
I think we should distribute the responsibility between at least three Commissioners. I need go no further for a parallel than to our own Victorian railway service. There we have, as , I understand is the case in the other States, a Commission of three gentlemen, who learn to apportion their work according to conditions and, possibly, according to taste and ability. Having discharged their separate functions in different parts of the State they meet to collate the information they have gathered, to compare notes, and to avail themselves of each other’s knowledge inorder that they may have a perfect system of administration. That system obliterates the tendency that any one man will have to give expression to his own prejudices, his own idiosyncrasies, and it better reflects what is best in the public mind in regard to the administration of the Service. I am opposed, therefore, to gathering these great powers into the hands of an individual Commissioner. I welcome the change proposed in this Bill.
– The chairman of the Board will be the one man!
– The chairman is not necessarily to be the one man at all; he will be, let us hope, one of three strong men. ‘There is no reason why his should be in any paramount sense the controlling mind. He acts, or should act, after assimilating the special knowledge which his colleagues must be assumed to have.
– Then he would not be altogether human.
– I do not know why the honorable member says that. Let me suppose that the honorable member himself was filling the position - and one could hairdly imagine a gentleman whose placidity and knowledge could more fit him for it - is it not clear that he would, as I have said, avail himself of the knowledge of his colleagues, which would, on occasion, modify his previous ideas and prejudices? The main point is this: Whatever officers we have carrrying out delegated functions throughout Australia, thelast word is to be remitted to this small jury of three. I suggest that the Board of Commissioners should not consist pf fewer than three members. A smaller number would be dangerous. Three makes for good administration, and gives, in the main, a sounder and better judgment in the decision of great questions of policy on the one hand, and of minute questions of administration on the other.
.- I agree with those who have spoken in favour of a Board of three Commissioners. In those States where there is only one Commissioner an assistant, or two assistant Commissioners, have been appointed to help him.
– There are three States in which there is only one Commissioner.
– But that Commissioner has assistants. The last State toappoint one Commissioner was Western Australia. When the matter was being discussed in the Western Australian Parliament, many members thought that a saving would be effected by appointing a single Commissioner; but the opposite has been the case. There one man is certainly Commissioner, but salaries are paid to two assistant Commissioners as well. The work of management is split up between the three. The Commissioner takes practically the whole responsibility, but he does not do the whole of the work. In my opinion, three men are not too many to control a large body of men like the Public Service of the Com- monwealth. If any man had a business proportionate with the Commonwealth Public Service, would he put it in charge of one manager?
– He would not appoint three having equal power. There must be a head.
– Big companies and corporations are managed generally by boards of not fewer than three directors, whose powers are equal.
– Nominally they are, but actually one man always has more authority than the rest.
– The law makes the powers of directors the same, though the chairman may have more to do with the executive work. There is not a man in Australia with sufficient knowledge of all the kinds of work done by the various branches of the Public Service to take on the job of sole Commissioner. If there were a man who had a complete grasp of all the intricacies of the work of the Public Service - and to my mind no such man exists - the job would be too big for him. If we have a Board of three Commissioners, the control will be divided among them. One man could take charge of one section of the activities of the Service, and each of the others could concern himself with other sections. The Bill provides for the reclassification of the Service.
– That will be almost the first duty of the Board of Commissioners.
– There is a Reclassification Board now in almost every State; but with a Board of three Commissioners the work of control could be sectionalized. Each Commissioner would become expert in regard to sections of the Public Service work, and would know everything about the conditions of those whom he had to control. With a Board of three Commissioners the cost of management will not be greater than with a single Commissioner, but the responsibility will be thrown on three men instead of on one. If we find that mistakes are being made in regard to one section of the Public Service, Parliament will not have to remove all three Commissioners; we shall be able to put our finger on the place where the mistakes are happening, and can remove the man responsible for them. I shall support the proposal to appoint a Board of three Commissioners.
.- I am in somewhat of a difficulty with regard to the clause. I understand that the amendment before the Chair provides that wherever, in the clause, the word “ three “ appears, the word “ one “ shall be substituted for it.
– That is the effect of the amendment.
– My difficulty is this: One man cannot do all that is provided for in the Bill, and therefore I shall vote against the amendment. So far as the reclassification of the Service is concerned, Mr. McLachlan, who speaks out of a long and great experience, says that) it can be most efficiently done by a single Commissioner, and, on the other hand, the members of the Economies Commission, looking at the matter from a different point of view, and considering rather the efficient working of the Departments than the classification of the Service, recommend the appointment of a Board of three Commissioners, whose duties should be to supervise the Service and to make recommendations in regard to various matters, with a view to its more efficient and economical working. It seems to me that the work of classification is distinct from that of management, and I should think the ideal arrangement would be to have one Commissioner charged with the duty of classifying the Service. He should be a man possessing an intimate knowledge of the Public Service and of all its intricacies and peculiarities, who would be able to do this work efficiently. There should also be a Board of Commissioners charged with the other functions that are specifically set out in the Bill. The result of that arrangement would benefit the whole Service. I understand that, in the past, the one Commissioner system has, on the whole, met with the approval of the Public Service. Certainly I have heard no general dissatisfaction with it expressed by the public servants themselves.
– Could not one of the three Commissioners undertake the work of classifying the Service?
– As I understood the Minister, the present Public Service Commissioner finds himself practically tied to Melbourne from one year’s end to the other., attending to the particular duties of his office, without regard to the additional duties whose performance- is contemplated by the Bill. The Minister in answering my question whether, in the event of a Board of three Commissioners being appointed, it would not be found necessary to apportion the task of classifying the Service to one of the Commissioners, who would not be tied to Melbourne, said that the work ‘ would be apportioned among the three Commissioners, and that one would probably be set apart for it, another undertaking a different class of work, and the third something else.
– But the three Commissioners would, of course, sit as a Board.
– -I fail to see bow they could do that, each man being saddled with a very important set of functions. Each man’s work would be all-engrossing to him. He, like the present Commissioner-, would be absorbed in that work from one year’s end to the other, and the three Commissioners would have no opportunity to meet to discuss matters common to them all ; indeed, they would have nothing in common. / the Commissioner to whom the classification of the Service had been assigned were to ask his fellow members to meet him, of what use would their advice be to him unless he had put them into possession of all the information that was before him, which would be quite impracticable.
– They would only have an ex parte statement.
– Quite so. It seems to me that if we agree to the appointment of a Board of three Commissioners, and allot specific duties to each, all of them will be working on their own.
– The Boards of Railways Commissioners are in the same position as these Commissioners will occupy.
– I do not know about that.. Their duties as Railways Commissioners would not be as dive-se as those pertaining to the members of the proposed Board. The tasks of the latter would be so varied that it would be impossible for the three to take counsel together with respect to the results of the work of any one of them. I submit that it will be impossible for any honorable member to vote for the amendment as it stands - namely, that the word “ one “ shall be substitutedwherever theword “ three “ appears - because of the character of the work contemplated for accomplishment by the Board of three.
.- Possibly, the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) would be prepared to accept a compromise. The Acting Commissioner is, presumably, carrying out his duties in the matter of classification, and the like, with adequacy and general satisfaction to the Service. But Parliament and the public have expressed a desire to import business methods into the administration of Government Departments. It would be impossible for the Acting Commissioner to undertake that task. I suggest, therefore, that he be permitted to remain where he is, and to carry on his particular functions of classifying the Service, but that a business Commissioner be appointed also, who will insure that the Service shall be run on business-like lines. With that provision, the one Commissioner for each function would be better than three. “
– But the honorable member is now suggesting two.
– I propose the appointment of one man - a “ big “ man, not a man for detail, but one who will be capable of putting his finger upon defects in any and every Department, and who would have the capacity to reconstruct the Service upon strictly businesslike lines.
– Does the honorable member know of any one man in Australia who could “ stand up “ to such a job ?
– There are quite a number, I am sure. I do not suggest that this individual should have intimate personal knowledge of every Department and branch of a Department; but he should be capable of applying business methods in any and every direction. I may mention the case of an accountant who can step into any class of business and point to weaknesses of business administration. An accountant will come in from a softgoods house and audit the books of an insurance company, and thence he will go to a shipping company. He knows in every instance whether the business is being run on sound lines.
– Only from an accountancy view-point.
– No; but from the point of view of economical business management. That is the type of man who should be appointed in this instance. If several men of outstanding capacity are appointed they will not be likely to agree; and, the greater their individual capacity, the more likely will they be to differ in their opinions.
– Does the honorable member suggest that his proposed two Commissioners shall be of equal standing?
– The one could continue his own special work of classifying and the other could enter into the business side of the Service. There could be conferences between what I might call the “ business “ Commissioner and the “ clerical ‘’ Commissioner. The former, in the course of his business investigations, might be of opinion that a Department was over-manned, and he could bring that point under the notice of the other.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) [5.371. - How the Attorney-General can disagree with those members who advocate the appointment of one Commissioner, in view of the fact that the Bill proposes that one of the three shall receive a higher salary and be regarded as the superior of the others, I cannot understand. Some honorable members have contended that one Commissioner could not possibly do all the work required of him. Mr. McLachlan carried out his duties very ably ; but I doubt if he, with all his experience, or any other individual, could take up the task outlined by this measure. If three Commissioners are decided upon, the Government will select one as Chairman, who will receive more pay than the other two. The Chairman will at once be stamped as the “ Chief “ ; he will run the Board, and that means that the Board will be a one-man Board. In addition to a Board of that character, there would certainly need to be a body of advisers for every branch of the Service.
– My experience of the honorable member upon the Public Works Committee was that he had just as much “ say “ as the Chairman.
– The Public Works Committee is not a one-man “ show,” for the reason that its members select a Chairman from among their own number. I suggest that the three members of the proposed Board take turn to hold the chairmanship.
– That would be like passing a municipal mayoralty round to the various wards in rotation.
– Yes; and where a municipal council is composed of exmayors there will be found efficient organization, for the reason that each member has had executive experience. If the Government agree to select only one man for the task of administering this measure, I suggest that they draw up complete plans and specifications, and submit them to a patternmaker and watchmaker. These two could enter one of the foundries in my district, and mould their man out of iron, with the clockwork arrangements inside. That is the only way in which the Government will be able to get over the one-man difficulty. This is not an age of supermen. I was amazed at the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). The right honorable gentleman has had Ministerial experience, both State and Federal, yet he suggests that the scope of the Board’s duties should be so comprehensive than there would surely be no need either for heads of Departments or Ministers; the Board would have complete control of the affairs of the Commonwealth. The honorable member’s views are absurd. The Government’s proposals, as outlined in this clause, will satisfy nobody.
– I am of opinion that the duty of classifying the Service, and of controlling the machinery for promotions and the like, should be separated from the function of recommending economies and efficiency in the various Departments. To that extent I agree with the remarks of the honorable members for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and Swan (Mr. Prowse). No doubt there has been a demand for the appointment of a Board to investigate the Commonwealth Service and recommendwhere and how so-called business methods can be applied. The suggestion that business methods should be introduced into the Commonwealth Service is rather overdone. The adoption of the same methods as are operated by business firms would not give satisfaction to the public. The function of a Government Department is to give to the people facilities that they demand, but the methodsemployed by business men are very different. They certainly achieve efficiency, but gain for the individual is the objective. The Public Service is not operated for the sake of making profit, but we do require efficiency in the rendering of service to the public. I am doubtful whether control by a Board of three Commissioners will improve the Public Service to any great extent. Economy and efficiency should be insisted upon by the Ministerial head of a Department, but he is dependent upon advice that can be given only by experts in the Department. How can a man lacking expert knowledge of the functions and methods of a Department make recommendations to the departmental heads as to how greater efficiency and economies can be achieved? I am not convinced that we would be justified in placing the control of the Service in the hands of a board of management. Such a Board would take several years to go through the whole of the public Departments and understand them sufficiently well to make recommendations that would be worth while. If the Committee decides to continue control by one Commissioner, the duties of his office must be confined within present limits, namely, appointments, promotions, and classification, and the idea of control by a business Board must be abandoned. If business control is necessary, it will have to be introduced in some other form. The two functions - administrative control and business management for the sake of economy - cannot be combined. For that reason I shall support the amendment.
Mr.GROOM (Darling Downs- AttorneyGeneral) [5.50]. - The . honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has suggested that there should be a Commissioner to do the classification of the Service and to make appointments and promotions, and that, in addition, there should be a business board of management. We could not have two authorities over the Public Service, each with distinct functions, which, however, would be liable to come into conflict. The Public Service Commissioner would appoint and classify his officers. It would not do to have another authority coming in and saying that in order to secure coordination and economy this office and that office should be abolished. Conflict of authority would be inevitable.
– The position would be much the same if one of the three proposed Commissioners were told offto classify the Service.
– No. Every Board of the kind allots phases of its work to different members, but the recommendations of those members will probably be considered by the Board as a whole. Classification is one of the duties which will require its underlying principles to be determined by the whole of the Board. That body will also hear appeals, except where a delegation takes place. If we try to give half the proposed duties to a Commissioner, and another half to a Board of Management, practical administration will be almost impossible.
– Would not the two authorities work in harmony?
– Not necessarily. Ultimate power and authority must rest with somebody.
– Under the Bill it must rest with the Minister.
-Certain duties are cast upon the Commissioners, but the carrying out of the reforms must become ultimately a matter of Ministerial responsibility. If two authorities are appointed to carry out different duties relating to the same service, there may be conflicting recommendations, and efficient administration will be difficult. If the Committee decides to strike out the provision for the appointment of three Commissioners, I cannot see how all the duties that are set out in this Bill can be performed by one Commissioner. We shall practically have to fall back upon the existing Act, and adopt a certain number of recommendations that will facilitate administration. All the talk about business methods, economy, and greater efficiency will have to be cast to the wind. One of the vital issues involved in this amendment is whether we are to try to introduce into the Public Service administration business methods which will insure greater economy and efficiency. If the Committee decides upon control by one Commissioner instead of three, we must of necessity drop many of the other provisions in the Bill and practically continue the present Act with necessary amendments.
– What power will the three Commissioners have over and above that which the present Commissioner has?
– The duties of the Commissioners’ will be to go through all the Departments, revise their methods, and consider questions of costing, contracts, methods of obtaining supplies-
– Cannot the Commissioner do those things under the existing Act?
– They are not his duty, and he has not sufficient authority to do them.
– I think the three Commissioners will play “ Old Harry “ with the Service.
– They will not. They will bring about a more equitable administration and a more contented Service. On the whole, the administration will be found to be more liberal than under the present law, because this Bill introduces provisions which will facilitate administration. I ask honorable members to bear in mind that one of the first duties to be performed by the Board will be the reclassification of the whole of the Commonwealth Public Service. That will be a very big responsibility, and the Commissioners will have to bring their special knowledge to bear upon it.
– How long does the Minister anticipate the work of reclassification will take?
– At the very least, twelve months.
– Then they cannot begin to think of other duties until the reclassification is complete?
– Yes ; a lot of inspection and other preparatory work will have to be done. The Commissioners will have to study the character and functions of the various Departments in order to arrive at a reclassification. That is very important work, which will involve the fixing of rates of wages, salaries, conditions of employment, andthe rights of officers. Appeals by individual officers may be heard by the Commissioners.
– Why should they notbe referred to arbitration?
– The right of arbitration is not taken away by this Bill; but there is a proposal to take away from a limited number of public servants - those in the higher grades only - the right to approach the Arbitration Court. Because of the. reasons I have stated, I ask the Committee to stand by the clause.
– The Attorney-General should have* been more frank, and told the Committee that if we substitute one Commissioner for three the Bill will require to be remodelled. It is constructed to be administered by three Commissioners, and the fact that the amendment if carried will render the Bill useless shows the absolute necessity of submitting important measures to a Committee as is done in other Parliaments. As a rule, I believe in single judging, and that is what the amendment really proposes,’ but we cannot have single judging when the duties prescribed are such as to require three men for their performance. I prefer the wisdom of one good man to that of three men, but what is the sense of putting one horse in a vehicle that is designed to be drawn by two? The Bill is based on the idea of control by three men, and it is only clouding the issue to say that such control will interfere with classification. That may be a good election cry, but will not cut any ice with men who read and think. We should not decide offhand to reject this Bill. The measure prescribes duties to be performed by three men, and what is the use of tho honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) Proposing an amendment which aims at one-man control when only a superman could do all that the Bill will require him to do? It should be our desire to create in the Public Service a feeling of contentment and security.
– Refer the Bill, to a Committee.
– I am afraid the honorable member makes that suggestion merely to gain time. He evidently cannot collect his thoughts and make up his mind. Personally, I stand for the Public Service pf the country,, and for a square deal, and good pay; and it is not fair for the honorable member to attempt to draw a “ red herring “ across tho trail in that way.. If we carry the amendment, it will simply mean a recasting of the whole Bill, and .starting afresh ; and, as 1 believe that the time at our disposal is not sufficient to enable us to do that, and because we require legislation of this kind, I feel it my bounden duty to support the Minister.
.- I can quite understand that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro can find reasons for not supporting any proposal from this side. The honorable member objects to the amendment on the ground that it is an “ election cry,” though I cannot see in what way it is so. He believes in justice and a “ square deal “ for the Public Service; and, of course, we have to take it that that is not an “election cry” in any shape or form.
The original Act provides for one Commissioner and half-a-dozen inspectors, who are really subCommissioners, and carry1 out the duties of the Commissioner. All that is now proposed is to increase the number of Commissioners by two - to make two additional jobs, and add to the expenditure of the country - and to give those Commissioners no additional powers or prerogatives. The Bill provides that the new Commissioners shall devise means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the managing and working of Departments by improved organization and procedure. It was for that purpose that the old Commissioner was appointed. The new Commissioners are called upon to effect closer supervision; and so was the old Commissioner. The new Commissioners are called upon to bring about the simplification of the work of each Department, and the abolition of unnecessary work; and so was the old Commissioner. The new Commissioners are empowered to declare the number of officers to be in excess of those required; and so was the old Commissioner. The new Commissioners are to carry out the work of reclassification; and so was the old Commissioner. The old Commissioner did not carry out all the work,, and neither will the new Commissioners, whether they number three or half-a-dozen; the work will be carried out by subordinate officers, acting under instructions. The new Commissioners have to see to the co-ordi-nation of the work of the various Departments, and so had the old. Commissioner, though not by himself, but by others on his instructions. In fact, there is nothing that the new Commissioners will be called upon to do that the old Commissioner has not done for many years, through the instrumentality of his inspectors in the various States. The new Commissioners are to advise upon systems and methods adopted in regard to contracts for obtaining supplies, and upon contracts referred to the Board by a Minister, and to see to the establishment of systems of ‘check in order to ascertain whether the return for expenditure is adequate. In this the new Commissioners are called upon to enter into the work of the Audit Office; so that, after all, they are only to do what is now supposed to be done by an existing Department. There is no reason why there should be any increase in the number of those called upon to supervise the Public Service; and I shall vote for the retention of one Commissioner only.
– I have given some consideration to this subject, and I dealt with it fully last night. I have no hesitation in accepting, in this all-important matter, the advice of the man most capable of all in Australia to advise, and that is Mr. McLachlan, who has had great experience as Public Service Commissioner. He reorganized the Public Service, and conducted it for many years with great ability, skill, and efficiency, and he commanded the confidence alike of the Government, and Parliament, and of the Public Service itself. He took the opportunity presented by his report to carefully weigh in the balance the respective value and efficiency of a Board of Management and of a single Commissioner, after a careful study of the working of both systems in the various States. He referred to the case of Victoria, where the State Public Service was under a Board of Management of three for some time. Subsequently, however, a State Royal Commission was appointed to review the whole matter, and that Commission, while it admitted there was some advantage on the side of a Board of Management, decided that a single Commissioner, in the person of a good, strong man, was preferable to three Commissioners.
– Victoria is a small State.
– But Mr. McLachlan came to that decision because he regarded one Commissioner as essential to a country of the great area of Australia. He prefers a single Commissioner, represented in the several States by permanent inspectors, who are responsible, in consultation with the Commissioner, for the administration of the Public Service. Mr. McLachlan says that, particularly for a continent like Australia, a single Commissioner is the most efficient means of governing the Service. Some honorable members have said that when Mr. McLachlan furnished his report he had not before him the suggestions of the Economies Commission. To tbat, however. I attach no importance at all. I know that the pronosed duties set out, on the suggestion’ of the Economies Commission, in clause 16, are of a wide and comprehensive character; but I would sooner concentrate on a strong, able and experienced man than on three indifferent men-
-Are these beings going to be “indifferent”?
– While we can afford topay for three men, I do not think we could pay for three experienced men of the high clays reauired.
– Would they not be worth the money if they could do the job?
– I apprehend that the proposal will be to give the Chairman, perhaps,£1, 500 per annum, and the other two members of the Board £1,000.
– More than that, surely?
– The Government are not guiding; us in the matter. In any case, my point is that I much prefer one highly-paid experienced man to a Board of three. Let us secure the right man, who, I venture to say, will be of infinitely greater value than one man with two assistants, for that is practically what the Board of Management means. We ought to buy the best brains we can for a responsible position such as this; and if Mr. McLachlan himself were available I would be only too glad to see him appointed. At any rate, let us have one strong man assisted by an inspector in every State; for that, according to
Mr. McLachlan, is the best, means of securing the greatest efficiency. Every one of the duties set forth in clause’ 16 can be performed by one high-class man with greater efficiency than by an ordinary Board of Management such as that suggested. Further’, I venture to say that the Board of Management, if constituted, will simply mean another Department added to the Public Service; and it is only a matter of time when it will fall into the same rut and routine as other Departments. In view of Mr. McLachlan’s advice, and in view of the experience in Victoria and other countries, I have no hesitation in supporting the idea of a. single Commissioner, relying on the Government to obtain the services of the best brains for this very important position.
.- I wish to say a few words in reply to the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). His reason for disagreeing with the proposal of the Government is that we are going right’ in the face of Mr. McLachlan’s opinion as expressed in his report, who, he contends, advised against a Board of Management. I submit that Mr.McLachlan never did anything of the sort. What he did advise us against was three Commissioners to manage the Public Service.
– What is the difference?
– -If the honorable member does not see the difference between what Mr. McLachlan advised the Government against and what the Government are proposing, I cannot help it; but there is a difference as wide as the two poles are asunder. During the secondreading debate the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) complained that the Public Service is overmanned. That may be, but I submit, as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) pointed out last night, that if is impossible for a Minister in control of a Department to really know definitely whether that Department is or is not overmanned. I do not care how hard-working a Minister may be, or how closely he devotes himself to his duties, it is utterly impossible for him to grapple with the details of the situation in that regard. Before honorable members commit themselves on this Bill, I should like to remind them how these decisions of the Government were arrived at, and I particularly wish the attention of the honorable member for Kooyong, because he is still relying on the advice of Mr. .McLachlan. I have not a word to say against the exCommissioner, who was a very valuable public servant of the Commonwealth. To the utmost of his power he devoted himself to the performance of his duties, and, no doubt, did his job as well as it was possible for any man to do it. But when the Government, believing that it was desirable to amend the Public Service Act, asked. Mr. McLachlan to tell what it was best to do by way of amendment, they also asked some other gentlemen taken from the business community to investigate the Departments and th» Public Service methods, and pass judgment on Mr. McLachlan and the system he had built up: We asked Mr. McLachlan to do one job, and those other gentlemen. who, as I say, were taken from the business community, to do another. I venture to say that those gentlemen stand as high as any business men can in the community ; and we asked them to investigate the whole question of the administration of the Departments and to suggest to us ways and means of tightening up the administration of these Departments and putting in the hands of Ministers the means by which they could exercise that due economy we all desire. I do not believe that there is one person in this Chamber, or outside, who does not desire to have an efficient Public Service, and at the same time does not wish to have that due economy exercised in the management of our Departments which will give the very best results with the .minimum of expenditure. We asked the members of the Economies Commission not only to give us the wealth of their business experience, but also to suggest some better method, if they could, of running the Departments than that which was in existence. It did not take them very long to discover what we have all discovered when we have had thrown on our shoulders the responsibility for the management of the vast Departments of the Commonwealth, namely, that it was impossible for Ministers to form a deliberate opinion except on the advice of their officers in regard to the hundred and one details which come up for their decision, and upon many matters which do not come up for their decision. Broadly speaking, no doubt the public servants at the head of our Departments do give Ministers their honest opinion; but, after all is said and done, men’s judgments are swayed, to a certain extent, by their own personal desires; and however zealous a Minister may be in checking the advice which is put up to him from time to time by his officers, there is not the slightest doubt that proposals do slip through which, if there were some other body to which he could submit them - some other body with no interest in the matter than to safeguard the public interest - would probably not be sanctioned.
– How would the Board of Commissioners get sufficient information to guide them in reference to those questions?
– With a little experience they should be able to investigate a number of subjects in connexion with the management of Departments in a way it is quite impossible for a Minister to do. They should be able to overhaul the Departments and ascertain from the officers of the Departments their views upon the matter. I have not the slightest doubt that they could, by a close investigation of the circumstances, come to a determination at which it would be impossible for a Minister to arrive. The Economies Commission made deliberate recommendations to us which we have embodied in this Bill.
– If I remember rightly they made no proposals, on their own account, for reforms, but proposed that this Board of Management should be appointed for the purpose of giving advice to the Government as to reforms.
– The clauses in the Bill were submitted to the Chairman of the Commission, and he approved of them.
– If the Commission put up to the Government a deliberate recommendation and we submitted to its Chairman the proposals which we have embodied in this Bill, asking whether they carried out the suggestions made by the Commission, and if he said that they did so, I submit, with all confidence, that it is a sufficient answer to the assertion which the honorable member for Kooyong has just made. These men passed judgment upon the work which Mr. McLachlan had done.
– Is not that statement a bit ludicrous?
– No. They went into the Departments and saw the result of his work. In saying this I have no desire to say anything derogatory to the herculean task which Mr. McLachlan per formed. He did all that it was possible for one man to do. But the Economies Commission said that, notwithstanding the fact that the Commonwealth had had in the administration of the Public Service the benefit of the experience of this trusted public servant, who, as the honorable member for Kooyong admits, was probably as good a man for that particular class of work as it is possible for money to buy, abuses had crept into the Service which it was desirable to remedy, and they suggested the means which have been embodied in this Bill. If the Committee decides to strike out the word “ three,” and insert “ one “ in lieu thereof, thus re-establishing the old system, it is deliberately putting its imprimatur upon a system which a Commission of business men has said has already produced the very abuses the Commission was appointed to point out and recommend means of remedying. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) complained to-day that the Public Service was overmanned. I do not think that the figures he quoted prove his case. On the contrary, I think they proved the opposite. He said that the number at the beginning of Federation in the particular Departments he mentioned was, say, 1,111.
– I quoted both State and Federal figures.
– The honorable member took four Departments, and pointed out the increase in the number of officers, but, as a matter of fact, the number of officers taken over from additional Departments absorbed since Federation, together with the number employed by the Commissioner of Taxation, whose staff has come into existence since then, practically account for the whole of the increase. The honorable member was complaining that the Public Service was overmanned, yet I understand he is supporting an amendment which would, if carried, deliberately resurrect the very system under which the abuses about which he has complained have grown up, and would place on the shoulders of one Commissioner a task utterly impossible for him to perform.
– But the Minister must see the difference. The Bill would deliberately lay down the increased duties of the new Commissioner.
– I was just about to come to that point. If one man in control of the Public Service found his duties so onerous that these abuses have crept in, how in the name of fortune are we to put all these additional duties on to one Commissioner and expect him to do his job ?
– The Minister misunderstands what I said this afternoon, and that was that the Government in combining two propositions, that submitted by the Economies Commission with that recommended by the ex-Public Service Commissioner, have not produced the result which either desired.
– My answer is that we have submitted to the Economies Commission the recommendations made by Mr. McLachlan; and have told them exactly what we propose to do, viz.,to incorporate their recommendations in the Public Service Act - that is to say, we are embodying in this Bill proposals which carry out their deliberate intention. I cannot see that the honorable member for Kooyong has made his case very clear. He commenced by saying that he was relying on the advice of Mr. McLachlan, who had advised against a Board of Management, but I submit that Mr. McLachlan did not in his report refer to any Board of Management. He did refer to a body proposed to be created to do the one job which he had been doing.
– Hear, hear!
- Mr. McLachlan made no reference whatever to the additional functions we are endeavouring to place on three Commissioners.
– Would it be well to have two Commissioners, one to run the ordinary functions of the Public Service and the other to control the business side?
– Thatwould not be a good division of labour. I have not the slightest doubt that when the Commissioners get to work one man among them will probably specialize on the management of the Service.
– One man will stand out more prominently than the others and control the Board.
– It will be a “ one man show “ after all.
– I cannot see that for a single moment. There is no doubt that the Commissioners will specialize on particular jobs. If we created separate bodies dealing to some extent with the same body of men their work would overlap, and instead of having accord, coordination, and smooth working, we should probably have the two bodies up against each other, and fighting one another all the time for their own ends, which is exactly what we want to avoid. In creating this body of three men, and giving them the powers of management which are proposed, Ministers will have available to them a body to which the hundred and one questions that crop up in the administration of Departments from time to time may be referred. All sorts of recommendations will filter through their hands, and I feel confident that, although the cost to the country may be a little more, that money will be saved many hundreds of times over in the course of the year. The honorable member for Kooyong has also referred to the position in the State of Victoria, in which there is only one Public Service Commissioner, but he has forgotten to mention the fact that there are only a little over 3,000 public servants in the State Service who come under his control. On the other hand, there is a Board of three Public Service Commissioners in New South Wales, controlling over 16,000 public servants and we are proposing to appoint three Commissioners, and to give them additional duties for the purpose of controlling 23,500 Commonwealth servants.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 8 p.m.
– I intend to vote for the appointment of one Commissioner instead of a Board of three. It seems to me that there is no force in the argument advanced by the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) that we have in this clause a proposal to appoint a business Board to conduct the affairs of the Public Service on business lines. This Board will not have to engage in the business of buying and selling ; it is not to manage a business undertaking. The work of the Public Service is regulated by this Parliament, and it seems to me that the proposal to appoint a Board of three Commissioners is merely an attempt to relieve Ministers of their responsibility.
– Not at all. The Board is to do something which Ministers cannot do.
– It is remarkable, then, that we have been able to carry on the Service up to the present time without a Board of three Commissi oners. The Commonwealth Bank, whichhas branches in every State, as well as an office in London, is controlled by one man. The Governor, Sir Denison Miller, has made a success of it.
– And the gets £4,000 a year.
– We do not know what salaries the members of this Board are to receive. The Commonwealth Bank has to compete with privately owned financial institutions, and yet one man, without eventhe assistance of a board of directors, is able to conduct it with success. Then, again, the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers is controlled by one man. ‘ The general manager, Mr. Larkin, is in London.
– It is proposed to have a Board of Management in that case.
– That may be; but up to the present time the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, which has to compete with company-owned lines, (has been fairly successful, and it is controlled by one man.
– The great Shipping Combine is controlled by one man - Lord Inchcape.
– Quite so. There is one man - one dominating influence - controlling all these big business undertakings. By dividing the functions of management among three Public Service Commissioners, we shall run the risk of failure. The Railway Department of New South Wales was never better conducted than when it was controlled by one Commissioner, Mr. Eddy. The State reverted to the three Commissioner system, but I cannot say that there has been any improve ment. If we are to have a Board of three Commissioners to control the Public Service of the Commonwealth, we should insist that one shall be a representative of the public servants themselves. The public might, be represented by an outside business man if honorable members so desired, and the chairman should be appointed by the Government. No such provision is made in the clause. We are told that the Service is over-manned and that the three Commissioners will reorganize the whole of the Departments. What are the functions of heads of Departments atthe present time? Surely it is their duty to carefully organize their Departments and to reduce their staffs where reductions are necessary. If they have failed to do that, what guarantee have we that the three Commissioners will not also fail in the. same respect? I am not prepared to vote for a Board of three. They will receive big salaries and will create another Department of secretaries, clerks, and typists. I do not know Mr. McLachlan, the exCommissioner, but I am told by honorable members that he did well.
– He did.
– I question whether the same success would have been secured by a Board of three Commissioners. If we have such a Board, the chairman will have the controlling power. Our object should be to obtain the services of the best man available in Australia for the office of Public Service Commissioner. I should not begrudge the payment of a good salary. A capable man is worth a good salary, and can quickly save it. The Bill is full of complications; the AttorneyGeneral has circulated a sheaf of amendments.
– They are only draft amendments; they are not serious.
– To my way of thinking many of them are of considerable importance. I shall best conserve the interests of the country by voting against the appointment of a Board of three Commissioners. Already we have Assistant Commissioners in the several States, and we are asked now to appoint over their heads three Commissioners, who will create another central office, and will travel all oyer the country drawing travelling expenses in addition to their salaries. At a time like the present, when we are asked to economize, surely we should not be justified in voting lor this proposal on the part of the Government.
.- Ever since the present Government have been in office I have been complaining of their readiness to appoint Boards and Commissions. They have appointed a sufficient number of Boards to run the whole of the business operations of the United Kingdom. Their object, it seems to me, is to rid themselves of Ministerial responsibility. No honorable member is opposed to decentralization; and, that being so, I fail to understand why any section of the Committee should be prepared to vote for a Board of three Commissioners, who will centralize in Melbourne the management of the whole Service of the Commonwealth. Every proposal affecting the Service - even a proposal by the head of a Department in one of the States to purchase writing paper and envelopes;will have to be sent to Melbourne for the approval of the Board. If we are to have efficiency and economy in the Public Service of this great Commonwealth we must have decentralization. There should be local control, with the right of appeal to the Commissioner at the Seat of Government. Listening to the appeal made by the Minister just before we adjourned for dinner, one would have thought that the very existence of the Government depended upon the passing of the clause as it stands. So many Boards are being appointed by the Ministry that they will soon have a difficulty in finding friends to appoint to them, and it seems to me that they will soon be seeking to make appointments from the Opposition ranks. There is an ulterior motive behind’ these constant proposals on the part of the Government to create Boards. Their real object is to rid themselves of Ministerial responsibility. My reading of Constitutional history is that every Government must take direct responsibility for its administrative and executive acts. That is a sound principle, but attempts are being made almost daily by the Government to break away from it. My voice’ will always be raised against such tactics. During the war things were done by virtue of the provisions of the War Precautions Act that were almost appalling. In 1921, the Government by means of three loans raised £18,720,000 on terms which no Committee of members of this House would have recommended. The Government, however, acted on the advice of a Board of outside business people, and issued two 6 per cent, loans at 96, with. the result that we shall have to return to the lenders something like £38,000,000. Responsible officers of the Public Service would not have sanctioned the flotation of loans on such terms. When Mr. McLachlan was Public Service Commissioner I had to see him on several occasions, and I am sure that a Board of three Commissioners will not be able to do more than he did. The press is advocating economy, and yet Ministers’ are proposing to increase expenditure. The Economies Commission appointed by the Government was an absolute farce. It was appointed when one individual was King of Australia, and if we increase the number of Boards we shall make it easier for a man to keep in that position. The appointment of three Commissioners will not give us a better Public Service. We are very fortunate in our public servants.. I know many of them to be most able and sincere, and desirous of serving the Government, whatever party may be in power. Why appoint a Board to inter- fere and meddle with them. If three Commissioners are appointed they will not be of my political colour. Were my son’s name to come before them, they would find out who his father was, and act accordingly. I have sat on’ a great many Boards- unpaid Boards - and have a long experience of Board control, and I hope that the Committee will put its foot down on the Board system. Apparently the public is realizing the seriousness of proposals like this. I have had to send copies of the Bill to several public bodies. Parliament has no control of the Boards it creates. Members may question their actions, but can get no satisfaction. It is different where there is Ministerial responsibility. I am a strong believer in the constitutional principle of Ministerial responsibility, because my long experience in politics, both in New South Wales and in the Commonwealth, has taught me its value. When in the Queen’s Hall I see the portrait of Sir Henry Parkes, I am inclined to raise my hat in reverence to him because he and others like him so strongly upheld the principle of Ministerial responsibility. The members of the present Government would not appoint to the proposed Board any man of the same political colour as myself.
– And if your party got into power it would act similarly.
– The Labour party made Sir Denison Miller Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, yet I do not suppose he ever voted for Labour. In almost every Bill that the Government introduces the word “ Board “ appears. The other day I heard a man say to another, “ You are acting very strangely. Have you got paper brains?” It seems to me that the Ministers have “ Board” brains. If a Board of three Commissioners is appointed, there will have to be a luxurious Board room, and private offices for each one of them, and each will need his secretary, typist, and messenger. If Ministers had money to throw away, they could do better with it by increasing the pay of some of our public servants. Nothing tends more to produce economy and stimulate energy than to pay liberally. I admit, however, that we have men in the Service that we could not get any more out of than they give at present, because they are doing their very best now. The Treasurer, in delivering his Budget, took credit to himself for reducing expenditure. But the measures that have been introduced since the Budget was delivered all tend to increase expenditure largely and if this sort of thing goes on, taxation will have to be increased threefold to make goodthe deficit that will result. In opposing the appointment of a Board of three Commissioners, I am acting on my own responsibility. I do not know whether the members of my party agree with me or not. On questions of £ s. d. I take my own course. Next year loans amounting to over £38,000,000 will have to be redeemed. The money was lent at 41/2 and 5 per cent., and an increase of 1 per cent. will greatly swell our expenditure. It is the duty of every member of Parliament to see that the public gets a good return for the revenue which it pays. But no advantage will be gained by paying for three Commissioners instead of one. The members of the Corner party favour the creation of new States. They must not forget that new States, if created, would have to take over their share of the Commonwealth’s liabilities, and that is a reason for not increasing those liabilities. The Public Service would have no reason to cry out if the Bill were not passed. It is not likely to be treated with any great humanity by the members of the Board. The Government proposes to reduce the allowance of members of Parliament from £1,000 to £800 per annum, and I shall vote against that, because if such a reduction were made, the reduction of Public Service salaries would follow. We cannot very well reduce the salaries of the public servants until we have reduced our own. I should be afraid to say how many years I have known Mr. Atlee Hunt, the Public Service Arbitrator. He is an excellent official, but his appointment was wrong. And so will the appointment of this Board of three be wrong. I trust the amendment will be agreed to. If its working principle is accepted the effect will be to do away with centralization; and, for that reason, honorable members on this side look for the full support of the Country party.
Question - That the word “ three “ proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause (Mr. Fenton’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . ..11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That, after the word “ persons,” in subclause (1), the following words be inserted : - “ one of whom shall be selected from persons nominated by Commonwealth Public Service organizations.”
Now that the Committee has determined to accept the original proposal that the Board shall consist of three persons, I contend that the members of the Commonwealth Public Service organizations should be given direct representation thereon. The representative would prove a valuable addition. His presence would assist in establishing better understanding between public servants and their employers, the Government. His helpful advice should obviate many difficulties which might otherwise lead to appeals. Public servants are considered to be worthy of direct representation upon the Board of Appeal, and on the Classification Board. Therefore, the Government, if they desire to be consistent, will accept my amendment. I cannot foresee any reasonable arguments against the representation of the Service upon the body which will be required to administer it.
– Whom does the honorable member suggest?
– The High Council of the Commonwealth Public Service Associations propose to tender a list of names of members of the Service whom it regards as acceptable. Prom that list the Government themselves would be free to make a choice. There is a tendency, in many industrial enterprises to-day, of providing for a voice in the boards of management by those employees engaged in the industry itself. My amendment, if accepted, would amount to a recognition of that principle on the part of the Government. Surely no one can be more competent to deal with the problems and difficulties which the Commissioners will be required to solve than an experienced public officer. He would have long practical working experience under Service conditions, and would know what was required in order to secure greater efficiency. He would be familiar, in fact, with all matters likely to come before the Board.
.- In order to test the Committee upon my suggestion that there should be two Com missioners - the one, in effect, to be the clerical Commissioner, and to carry out the duties of the present Acting Commissioner, and the other to be a kind of business Commissioner - I desire to move a prior amendment - that the word “ three” be left out, with a view to insert “ two “ in lieu thereof.
(Mr. Watkins). - I cannot accept the amendment, for the reason that the Committee has already decided upon the number of the members of the Board.
– I cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The Board will be intrusted with the administration of the Public Service Act and with the discharge of certain specified functions. The Commissioners must be men chosen on account of their fitness for those duties. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has suggested that one of their number should be nominated by the public servants. Obviously, a’ man appointed in those circumstances could not be an independent Commissioner; he must of necessity be merely a representative of the public servants.
– That is what we want.
– Members of the Board must not be advocates of any party. They will be there to administer the Act in the interests of the public, and to do justice to the Service. Where public servants are entitled to representation, it is to be given to them under this Bill - for instance, in regard to appeals against classification and punishments. In regard to classification, the Board may in a judicial capacity consider the appeal of a dissatisfied officer in conference with a representative of the Department concerned and with the appellant, or a nominee of the organization to which he belongs, or with an agent of the appellant. Also, if the public servant desires to appeal from the punishment imposed upon him for an offence, he may do so to a Board comprising a stipendiary or police magistrate, a representative of the Department, and an elected representative of the division to which the appellant belongs. In that way full recognition is given to the right of the public servant to be represented in certain circumstances. The basis of the Board of Commissioners will not even be like that of the Whitley Councils, which are sometimes appointed to consider questions relating to conditions of employment. As a matter of fact, even if the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill which the Government intend to introduce is carried, nearly the whole of the public servants will have the right to state their case in regard to wages and conditions of employment to an Arbitrator.
– Does not one part of the Bill provide that, notwithstanding anything done by the Arbitrator, the Board of Management shall from time to time determine certain things?
– That relates only to the cost-of-living allowance. There must be, first of all, the classification of the Public Service, which may, of course, involve alterations in the terms of an award, but when the classification is completed the Arbitrator will continue to make his awards as at present. Only those servants drawing salaries of £310 per annum and upwards will be excluded from the Arbitrator’s Court. For the reasons I have given I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.
.- The amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh anticipates one that 1 had intended to propose. The AttorneyGeneral has not offered the slightest reason why the amendment should not be accepted. He has told us about the representation to be given to the employees in connexion with appeals against classification and penalties, but he has not dealt with the principle underlying the amendment. The public servants of the Commonwealth are in the same category as employees in the State railways.
– But the employees in the railways do not appoint one of the Commissioners.
– So far, the honorable member’s friends have prevented them from doing so, but I am hopeful that in the course of time the friends of the railway employees will take their seats upon the Treasury bench in the State Parliament, and will give to them the right, which we are claiming now for the Commonwealth public servants, to appoint a representative on the body which controls them. It is a very small thing to ask that the employees should have a consultative voice on the Board which will control their every-day lives, and lay down the conditions of their service gene rally. The public servants are so modest and moderate in their request that all they ask for is representation. The AttorneyGeneral rightly said that the proposed Board of Management will not be on a par with the Whitley Councils. The latter were introduced as a sort of social insurance scheme - as another red herring to be drawn across the economic path in order to divert the activities of the industrialists. The trend of development in other countries, especially in Europe, is for employees to be given a share in the control and management of industry: and I welcome the amendment before the Committee as a step in the right direction. I remind the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that in Italy the railway employees have representation on the body that controls the railways.
– What about Russia?
– In Russia they have not one representative; they have complete control. But if the honorable member is not in favour of the Red objective at this stage he may be disposed to attach some weight to the Italian approximation. I understand that the Italian workmen also have a say in the control of the Post Office.
– I understand that it is a very bad Post Office.
– It is by no means an innovation for employees to claim a share of the representation on the Board controlling their employment.
– In connexion with the Public Service of Great Britain the same principle is applied.
– Nothing of the kind. Representation is given on the appeal Boards only.
– The British Public Service is governed by a Council, on which the public servants have representation.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement. But, irrespective of whether or not this principle obtains in Italy, Russia, or Great Britain, it is a proper one and should be applied here. The Attorney-General has not stated one valid reason why the amendment should not be accepted, nor did he touch upon the principle of conceding the right of the public servant to be represented on the Board of Management. It is not a favour we are asking, but a right we are demanding.
– The honorable member seems to be taken a little aback.
– If you make a demand, you are certainly not asking a favour.
– We, who claim to represent the working classes, claim the right of representation for the working classes; and I think we are very moderate, for what we ought to demand is the whole control.
– Syndicalize the Service!
– If the honorable member prefers a French term to a Russian term, I do not quarrel with him. If he thinks “ syndicalism “ sounds better than “ sovietism,” he is welcome to the term. I am not going to argue about terms, for it is results that we desire. If the honorable member prefers workmen’s councils to Soviets, he is welcome to them - “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” If what we desire is given by the Government, we will not quarrel in regard to the term by which it is described. I am glad that the Public Service is putting forward this request, for it shows that they, in common with the rest of the workers in this country, are raising their voice and making their demands known. We desire that the workers employed in the Public Service, like the men in the mines and factories, and on the farms, shall assert themselves, so that they may have a controlling say in the destinies of the country, for it is they who make the country what it is. The public servants are just as necessary as are the workers in other industries, and it is quite right that they should have representation in the management and control of the services they render, just as it is right that miners, railway men, transport workers, seamen, or any others who carry on the industrial life of the country should have a say as to the conditions under which they shall work and the governing of an industry. It goes without saying,I think, that those who claim to represent the workers must vote for this amendment. I have no doubt that the Government majority will be registered against it, but the discussion to-night will show the workers outside that their representatives here, at any rate, are voicing their demands even though they be couched in such moderate language as the amendment presents.
.- I hope the Minister (Mr. Groom) will give the amendment further consideration. 1 am disappointed with the honorable gentleman’s reasoning in favour of its rejection. He sought to make it appear that the Bill as drawn did not necessitate any direct representation of the public servants; but, in my view, the day has arrived when it must be recognised that the Government, as well as private employers, if they wish to get the best out of their employees, must give them recognition in cases of this kind. We cannot hope to make a success of the Public Service without due recognition of the public servants, who are the men best informed as to the condition of the various branches. It has been decided that there shall be a Board of three men, and we ought now to decide that at least one shall be appointed by the public servants to look after their interests. It is idle to deny that this Bill touches matters which not only affect the interests of the public servants but also vitally affect the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. Quite a number of the duties allotted to the Board practically necessitate the appointment of a man with practical knowledge of the Service. The Government may appoint three men who are really not in touch with many branches of the Service, and possibly know little or nothing about the whole business. Such appointments are often made because those appointed hold some high position, and are, therefore, considered to be suitable. There has been too much of this sort of thing for a considerable time past, and men have been appointed to responsible positions at high salaries for which they are absolutely unqualified.
– That is the worst thing that has been said against the Government during these discussions.
– It is correct, and it is well known that such has been done in many cases. The Bill provides for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the working of Departments, and who is better able to advise in such a matter than a direct representative of the employees?
– An employee is acquainted with all the ramifications of his Department.
– If he is Dot in touch with the whole of the branches, he has knowledge of a great many; at any rate, be is in touch with the workmen of every branch, and, consequently, would go to the Board with knowledge derived from personal contact with those he represents. Such a man would be able to put the position before the Board just as he and the Public Service generally see it. The Board has to devise means for improving organization and procedure; and, again, who is better able to advise than the man who has been, perhaps, for years identified with the Service, and has , the confidence of his fellow employees? Such a man on the Board must prove of advantage to the administration, bringing, as he does, first-hand information to bear.
– The Board does not desire information !
– That is true, and the Government wish to see that the Board does not get it.
– Such representation has been granted in the case of the returned soldier.
– I have no objection to a returned man being appointed, if he is qualified, but when large expenditure is involved we must be sure of the qualifications of the appointee. The Board has to see to the simplification of the work of each Department, and the abolition of unnecessary work; and who can advise on such a matter better than one of the workers? Unless there is first-hand information from some one who understands the position there is great liability to mistakes, and there will not be that economy so necessary in the interests of the public. Men with no practical knowledge of the working of the Departments may, with the best of intentions, issue regulations which have an effect contrary to that desired; and, unless improvement is obtained, we are not justified in spending money on a Board of three. The Board has to undertake the co-ordination of the work of the various Departments, and that, of course, is an important responsibility. It is because of lack of co-ordination that the Service now costa more than it should; and here the workers’ representative could give valuable advice. Such a man is able to put his finger on the weaknesses, and suggest the best means for their removal. If it is deemed advisable to limit the staffs of Departments, a direct representative of the employees is able to advise wisely, whereas if it be left to three men without practical knowledge, they are liable to get into a “ mix,” and make matters worse than before. Another thing that the Board has to undertake is the establishment of a system of check, and on this, the direct representative of the employees will be able to provide valuable information. With several other honorable members I took part in inquiries, and we found that in many instances, because there is no direct representative of the employees, things are conducted in a loose way. there is no proper check, and those in charge, apparently, do not know how to set about to devise one. The Public Service is like every other large body of employees. Once the members know that inducements are being held out to them to make the Service better, they will readily respond. The Minister has said that the amendment is not on the same lines as those suggested in the Whitley report; but I think it is, to a large extent. The Whitley Committee found that in the best interests of public and - private business it waa advisable to constitute industrial councils, and to place representatives of a particular industry affected on the councils so as to create an interest in the matter amongst employees, And provide firsthand knowledge that would tend to economy and efficiency. All we ask is that a similar concession will be made in the case of the Public Service. The amendment represents a very fair request, and I am more than surprised that the Minister should turn it down as he does, without showing ample reason. The Board has also to deal with questions of expenditure; and, after all, we may depend that any representative appointed by the Public Service will be a man of ability who has probably been in the Service many years, and in whom we have confidence. No one can deny that such an appointment would be for the benefit of the Government and the country. No one can say that the amendment is unreasonable; and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), in submitting it, is acting rightly in the interests not only of the Public Service, but of the country. I appeal to tie
Minister to give the proposal further consideration.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has in his own speech given the very strongest reason against appointing a nominee of the public servants. I have in my remarks pointed out the danger of the adoption of such a course. I have shown that the person nominated by the Service would become an advocate of the claims of the Service. Yet the Leader of the Opposition advances this as the very reason for making such an appointment. He says that this man will be there to look after the interests of the Service.
– And also the interests of the country. The two are identical.
– But they may not always be identical. The honorable member has indicated directions in which he says such a nominee would be useful; for instance, in regard to the abolition of unnecessary work.
– A good public servant who has had experience ought to be an acquisition to the Board.
– But he may not be if he is there in a representative capacity. His knowledge may tell him that it is in the interests of the Public Service to do a certain thing, but to do it may not be in the interests of some organization of the Service of which he has been a member. Take, for instance, the case of unnecessary work. If he is appointed merelyto look after sectional interests his natural desire will be, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, to look after the interests of certain persons who put him in his position. That is one danger attaching to theamendment.
– The Minister is always putting forward the view which is always advanced by employers.
– But in this instance the employers are the Commonwealth of Australia, the people who are endeavouring to have their Service managed and controlled in the public interest. The honorable member has made reference to Whitley Councils, but those bodies have nothing whatever to do with the management of an industry. Those councils may consider certain matters relating to employment in an industry- for instance, wages and working conditions - but they do not control the management of an industry, nor do they fulfil similar functions to those which this Board will have to undertake, namely, the complete control of the hundred and one matters which relate to the administration of the Commonwealth Public Service. For this purpose we must not appoint men who are advocates of any particular class. The danger of appointing an advocate of the interests of one particular class is that there may be a conflict between his duty and his interests. We should not put any one in such a position. The persons who are appointed to the Board of Commissioners will be expected to fulfil the purpose for which they are appointed, and will not be expected to represent the interests of any particular section of the community. The honorable member has also referred to the British Public Service, but he was wrong in implying that there is any nominee of the public servants in charge of the management of that service. There are certain departmental committees and councils upon which the employees are represented, but no such body is in charge of the whole of that service in the manner in which our Board of Commissioners will be in charge of the Commonwealth Service. It is the British Treasury which controls the British Public Service. Again, under our Bill power is given to the Board to delegate to one Commissioner the power to investigate certain matters and carry out special functions. . If the Commissioner having such delegation is merely to pay regard to the interests of the public servants, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests-
– I did not say so; I said that he would look after their interests and also those of the nation.
– The Commissioner’s first feeling would be to look to the source of his authority and to advance the interests of those who had secured him his appointment. This would mean his continual association with sectional interests for the purpose of safeguarding them.
– Will not the Government nominees do the same?
– Certainly not. It will be their duty to carry out their functions independently of the Government or of any organization.
– The Minister is very trusting.
– My trust is based on experience, seeing that we have had men like Mr. McLachlan and others who have carried out their duties quite impartially.
– Why should not a representative of the workers be impartial?
– There is no reason why he should not; but if he is appointed to look after the welfare of a certain section he will do so. It is only natural that individuals should have different political views, but there are honorable members on both sides of this House who are, nevertheless, capable of giving an impartial judgment upon facts. That, however, is not the point at issue. Where a Board is appointed to carry out very important public and judicial duties; and to hold the balance impartially, it would be falsifying its position if we were to have one of its members representing the interests of one particular section only.
– Have you not done so in respect of other Boards?
– No. We have given representation to the public servants on the Superannuation Board, but they are entitled to it, since they are equal contributors with the Government to the Superannuation Fund.
– Do you not think that the public servants have an interest in the administration of the Public Service?
– Yes; but their interest is of a different character from that which they have in respect to the administration of the Superannuation Fund. The trouble is that an organization of the public servants may be advancing certain claims which may or may not be in the public interest, and it is only human nature that their nominee on the Board of Commissioners would be inclined to support those claims. We are all liable to make demands which we believe to be right, but which others may not consider to be right. In any case, as far as the Public Service is concerned, we provide an Arbitration Tribunal to deal with matters relating to wages, salaries, and so forth, so that there is really no necessity for the application of the Whitley Council system on that account.
– We are not asking for the whole of the representation. We are simply asking for one man out of three.
– But I have already indicated the duties which the Commissioners will be asked to perform.. They will be of a varied character, and the power of the Board may, in certain cases, be delegated to one Commissioner. If we appoint a nominee of the Public Service whose principal duty will be to safeguard the interests of the employees, he may be the Commissioner chosen to carry out the task of safeguarding the interests of the public. That would obviously lead to a conflict of duties and place him in a position which he should not be asked to occupy.
– But the permanent head, or chief officer, would have the right of appeal to the full Board of Commissioners.
– That does not affect the argument. We are discussing the fitness of acertain person to occupy a certain position. I contend that the man selected should be absolutely free to give a judgment according to what he believes to be in the public interest, whereas the honorable member would appoint some one who, instead ofkeeping the public interest solely in mind, would be constantly swayed by the fact that he had been appointed to represent a certain class interest and whose first thought would be whether he was serving properly those who had nominated him. In the circumstances, I cannot see my way to accept the amendment.
.- The Minister (Mr. Groom) has demonstrated forcibly that he is quite out of touch with all modem thought on this question. His arguments are such as should not be seriously put forward on a proposition like this. The only criticism I have to offer upon the amendment is that it is rather moderate. I think that the employees should have equal representation on the Board with the Government. The Minister has certainly not met the argument advanced by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), by way of interjection, that he is merely asking for one Commissioner out of three. He has only attempted to do so by saying that this one Commissioner might be the one chosen to function on behalf of the whole Board. The Minister says that the nominee of the employees would be an advocate of one party, but he admits the same principle in the appointment of the Classification Board and of the Appeal Board. Having practically approved of the principle in these two Boards he then proceeded to say that a man nominated by the Public Service to a position on the Board of Commissioners could not be expected to be judicial ; that is to say, he could not be expected to take a place on a Board having a judicial function to perform. But will not the Appeal Board have judicial functions to perform ? Does the Minister suggest that the nominee of the employees, when acting upon the Board, will be absolutely partial and onesided on every question ? I cannot understand the attitude of the AttoneyGeneral, and would like him to reconcile the two views.
– An Appeal Board is presided over by a magistrate, and each side is represented. It has to deal with a purely judicial matter - an appeal relating to an offence.
-I take it that we expect the three members of the Appeal Board to exercise judicial functions, and to take an honorable and impartial view of the matters submitted to them. The honorable gentleman’s argument is that the representative of the employees must necessarily be biased - that he must necessarily be an advocate; but that the representative of the Government in every case will be absolutely impartial. If the Attorney-General says that only one side can be impartial, his argument is not sound.
– I have not said that. I have said that if a man is appointed to represent a special interest, he will naturally do so.
– Arepresentative of the Public Service would not be appointed to this Board as an advocate of the Service any more than the Government nominee would be appointed to advocate, in the interests of the Administration, or of economy, something unfair to the Public Service. I wish, however, to come to what is a bigger question than that relating to conflicts that may arise between the Public Service and the Commonwealth. If it is fair that the Public Service shall be represented on the Appeal and Classification Boards, where conflicts will arise, there is a stronger reason why the Public Service should be represented on the Board of Commissioners.
– The appointment of a representative of the Public Service on the Board of Commissioners might obviate a number of appeal cases.
– I believe there is scarcely a thinking man in Australia today who does not recognise that it makes for efficiency to call into the councils and the administration of his business a representative of his employees. I have been reading lately a good deal of what is taking place in Germany. Germany is out. not only to recapture her old trade, but to secure much of the new trade of the world; and whilst she may have done many things that we would not like to copy, we cannot afford to treat with contempt her methods of efficiency. We have been dealing in this House with legislation to meet particularly the dumping of German goods in Australia; but one of the things we have to fear far more than Germany’s depreciated currency is the efficiency of German methods. I read that German manufacturers, although they dislike the principle even more than the At-“ torney-General dislikes the principle embodied in this amendment, have decided to take their employees into consultation. They are forming throughout Germany Workers Councils, and the workers are being represented on Boards and Councils controlling German industries. That procedure is being enforced by Statute in many parts of Germany,’ and manufacturers there are accepting it only because they know that when the currency question rights itself they will have to competewith the rest of the world.
– Then it is an absolute benefit to the “ boss.”
– It is. In this case, the”boss” is the people of Australia. We are asking for the recognition of the principle in respect of a Commonwealth concern. If it is good, sound business for keen business men to bring their workmen into their councils, it is good, sound business for us to do so in this case.
-The AttorneyGeneral is taking the view of the short-sighted capitalist.
– That is so, but the keen capitalist who knows his business and is out to capture the trade of the world is taking the view put forward in this amendment. The suggestion as to the danger that would attend the adoption of this principle is met by the simple argument that the carrying of the amendment would merely mean that the Public Service of the Commonwealth would have only one third of the representation on the Board. The Attorney-General, in refusing to concede the principle, is out of touch with the whole progressive thought of the world. From the point of view of efficiency, better control, and management, we should act wisely by appointing to this Board a man who has the confidence of the whole of the Service. “ Such a , man, on many occasions, would prevent friction arising by saying to the men, “ I understand the position from within. I know the real position better than vou do, and if you have confidence inme you will take my advice and do so and so.” I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say that one of the three members of the Board would be selected from a list of names submitted by the Public Service organizations.
– I did not say that.
– Then the position taken up by the honorable gentleman is infinitely worse than I thought it. was. In respect of matters relating to efficiency, economy, and the coordination of the Service, as well as dismissals, the advice of a representative of the Public Service is desirable. I would infer from the way in which the AttorneyGeneral stressed his reference to the question of dismissals that he has in mind wholesale dismissals from (he Service.
– That is not so. I mentioned that matter only in reply to the Leader of the Opposition.
– If it is right to have on the Appeal Board which deals with the grievances of men, and on the Board dealing with classification, a representative of the Public Service, is it not equally proper to have a representative of the Service on a Board that will have to do with the all-important question of dismissals, compared with which the question of classification is relatively small. Wholesale dismissals in the interests of retrenchment may have to be considered by this Board. If the honorable gentleman were a public servant and knew that his wife and family were dependent on his daily wage, he would realize how im portant it is that the Public Service as a whole should have representation on the Board which will have to deal with dismissals. If the Board is to deal with the question of retrenchment on a large scale, that is all the more reason why the Service should have representation on it.
– It was the Leader of the Opposition who brought up that matter. My remarks were only in reply to those made by him on the subject.
– The honorable gentleman said that there might come a time when a number of dismissals from the Service would be necessary, and that a representative of the Service on the Board, because of the power of the organized Public Service, might not do what should properly be expected of him. The only real objection that he raised to the amendment was that a representative of the Service on the Board would come into conflict with his fellow-members on the question of dismissals. If there is one question in the determination of which public servants should have some voice, surely it is that which involves their bread and butter!
– The reference was not to dismissals, but to excess officers.
– If you have excess officers you will get rid of them.
– What would the honorable member do with excess officers in the Service ifhe were in power?
– I hold that a Board which will have to decide the question of whether or not there is an excess of officers in the Service should have on it a representative of the men. It is just as important that a Board that will decide the question of whether or not there are excess officers in the Service should have on it a representative of the men as it is that the Service should be directly represented on a Board which will have to decide questions of dismissals for misconduct. After all, the question of whether or not there is an excess of officers is a matter of interpretation. A great deal of retrenchment sometimes takes place in the ranks of the lower paid men in the Service where there are no excess officers, but there is no retrenchment in the higher ranks of the Service where there are excess officers. I am disappointed that the Attorney-General cannot see his way to accept the amendment, but I hope that the Committee will carry it.
.- Does the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) suggest that a member of the Public Service ought not to be eligible for appointment to the Board ?
– I have not suggested anything of the kind.
– Having regard to the honorable gentleman’s spirited argument against even the possibility of a member of the Public Service being elected to this Board, he might almost have inserted in the Bill a direct prohibition. He seems to take up the attitude that the Board should be an external body dragooning the Public Service. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that we have got beyond a condition of that kind, and that we have to-day, and should encourage, a spirit of absolutely loyal co-operation throughout the Service. The Commonwealth Service should be trusted. There should be cultivated amongst its members an esprit de corps, so that they would realize, as I believe they do already, as an appeal to their honour, that the country looks to them to give loyal and devoted service. But the Minister says, “No. We must beware lest we should have to exercise disciplinary measures upon the Service. A representative of the Service on the Board could not be depended upon for disinterested or impartial advice or administration.” The Minister is taking an entirely wrong stand, and his case is undermined by the fact that already in connexion with Appeal Boards we have admitted the principle of representation of the Service. I would be content, and so, no doubt, would the mover of the amendment, to have this representative chosen, not necessarily from the members of the association, but by a plebiscite or any other method of ascertaining the will of the whole Service. I would allow every member of the four divisions created by the Bill to vote in his selection. I do not know whether the Minister is immovable on this point, but I suggest that his determination to make the Board a body external to the Public Service is a clear indication that he expects that it will be composed of men who are not in sympathy with the Service, and possibly do not understand it ; that they will be the representatives of persons outside the Service, looking to effect economies for the general public without regard to the efficiency and good feeling of the Service. The time has gone when we should attempt to rule the Public Service as some gaffer or ganger might rule a body of workmen - a method of rule that I do not approve of in any circumstances. I was favorable to the appointment of a Board of three Commissioners, and I hope that one of the Commissioners will represent the Service. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has pointed out, the representation may not be adequate, but it should be efficient. In this way alone can we do justice to the Service, and secure an efficient Board qualified to improve its already high standard.
– I am very much surprised at the attitude assumed by the Minister towards the amendment, though I suppose he feels that he is bound to respect the wishes of his colleagues. My advice to him is to postpone the consideration of the clause to enable Ministers to consider this matter.
– It was considered long ago, when the Bill was in the Senate.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has changed the opinion of members opposite, although that is a very hard thing to do.
– Their opinions, but not their votes.
– Perhaps it is the Minister’s legal training that makes his mind inelastic to modern ideas. In New South Wales, on both the Water and Sewerage Board, which serves 500,000 or more persons in and around Sydney, and the Sydney Harbor Trust, the employees are represented, and the present Government of the State has found this to work so well that it would not remove the workers’ representative from the Harbor Trust even at the instance of the other members of the Trust.
– It is not provided in the Acts constituting the bodies to which the honorable member has referred that their employees shall be represented on the Boards of control.
– Apparently, the honorable gentleman fears that some person who has graduated from the lower ranks of the Clerical Division of the Service, and has raised himself by his abilities, may be elected to the Board. Sir Charles Lilley once Chief Justice of Queensland, a very able man and a student of social questions, said years ago, at a gathering which I attended as a representative of New South Wales, that tie men in the future public life of Australia would be the sons of the industrialists, and that this would benefit the community, because of the new ideas that they would bring with them. All authorities maintain that it is the children of the toilers who inherit health and strength from their parents, and, therefore, possess sound, strong brains. Many of the members of the Public Service have this inheritance. They are not mere hewers of wood and drawers of water. But, apparently, the Minister would think it wrong to raise any wage-earner to a higher position. Yet what is the good of our expenditure on education if we are not to take advantage of the talents qf those whom we have educated? A nation should promote those who are worthy of promotion. On a hundred and one matters the representative of the public servants could give valuable advice to his colleagues. His whole duty would not be to watch the interests of those he represented, and to disregard those of the people of the country. The Government will be well advised if it adopts the modern proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Lord Leverhulme is not above promoting workmen to managing positions in his business, which is one of the big businesses of the world, and Ford and other big capitalists take advantage of the abilities of those whom they employ. Then, too, in the dockyards of Deptford and Woolwich there are workmen whose advice the Admiralty or the Military authorities are glad to have on subjects such as the making of ammunition and the like. If the Government is to stick by every provision of the Bill, refusing to allow it to be altered, we might as well remain at home. If, on the other hand, the Government accepts the amendment, it will do much to remove discontent from the Service, and its example may be followed outside. Men do not give the same efficient service when ordered harshly to do this or to do that as when they are treated with consideration. We are an educated Democracy, and will not allow any one to ride rough-shod over us. This is a very serious matter, and I would not allow my views regarding it to go unrecorded. We were told that all sorts of tilings would happen after the war, and one of them has been the movement for the representation of employees on the bodies controlling the industries in which they are engaged. This movement has taken place all over the world. At the Eight Hours demonstration at Sydney we sang “ Advance Australia.” But how can Australia advance if the Public Service is discontented ? ‘
.- -If I thought that the Public Service would have no opportunity of being represented on the Board I would vote for the amendment. But there is scarcely a shadow of doubt that one of the members will be a public servant, either of the Commonwealth or a State, for this clause makes special provision to protect the rights of such servant in the event of his selection to the Board. To every Board of this character throughout Australia a public servant has been appointed. To that extent, therefore, I am in sympathy with the principle of the amendment; but I object to the electioneering practices which are being resorted to by honorable members opposite. It was the obvious intention of the framers of the Bill - that is to say, of the Government themselves - to provide for the appointment of a public servant to the Board; and the chances are a million to one that such a selection will be made. It should be for the people, through their representatives in the National Parliament, to say who shall comprise the personnel of the Board. After all, it is the people who pay the salaries of the public servants; and it is the duty of the representatives of the people to frame the conditions under which public servants shall work. One of the many important tasks of the Board will be to bring about closer supervision, for we have a right to expect the very best services from our public officers. - I do not intend to auction my opinions, in the light of a coming election; but, as a. representative of the people, I shall not shirk my share of duty in seeing that the people get the best return possible for their outlay upon the Public Service. If the Board is to secure the very best from the Service, it will be a mistake to have, as a member of that Board, one who is serving two masters. A direct nominee of the Public Service would be unable to serve both the Government - which, in this instance, means the people - and their- employees, the members of the Service. Wherever there has been direct representation of either side upon a Board, that factor has proved a source of weakness. Almost every member opposite is now against the principle of arbitration.
– I am not against arbitration.
– Many honorable members opposite have publicly announced themselves opponents of arbitration, on the ground that it has proved a failure.
– The honorable member is not correctly interpreting our views. The policy of this party is arbitration.
-The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) does not believe in arbitration.
– And what of the views of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley)?
-No matter what may be the individual views of certain members present, I know what other members of the Labour party have not hesitated to say. The weaknesses of direct representation upon Boards of this character is that the representatives both of the employers and the employees find it well nigh impossible to be impartial. They cannot serve two masters. They concentrate upon the interests of those whom they directly represent. The proposed Board may be called upon to discuss the question of reduction and limitation of staffs. There is not a man in the Service of the States or the Commonwealth who, if he were appointed to the Board, would be strong enough to stand out impartially in debating the question of staff reduction or limitation.
– Then the honorable member must have a very poor opinion of the Public Service.
– The honorable member is putting up a bid for the votes of public servants. I believe that one of the three Commissioners will undoubtedly be a public servant.
– But, in the light of what the honorable member has just said, he should object to such an appointment, whether it be direct or indirect.
– The honorable member is also putting up a bid for the votes of public servants. After three men have been appointed to this independent Board and after it has begun its task of making and mending conditions for the Service, if any member of the Service feels that he is being done an injury he will have the right of appeal to an existing Board on which the Service has a direct representative. In that manner he will be safeguarded. I am confident that if a public servant is appointed by the Government, under the provisions of this clause, he will work in the. best interests of the Commonwealth and will not be tied down to sectional interests.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) has raised a number of bogies, apparently, for the sole purpose of knocking them down again. At one time there was a Public Service Board in Tasmania., consisting of three individuals. One of these was selected directly by the Public Service. I am bound to say that while that Board remained in existence the Service representative did his duty fearlessly! and honestly; and, to give point to my remarks, I may add that the functions of that Board were largely the same as will be those of this proposed Board. But the Tasmanian Board of three broke down; not because of any injury arising from the fact that it embraced a direct representative of the Service, bub from sheer weight of numbers concentrated upon the work of one man. A one-man Board is now operating in Tasmania. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggested that if there were a direct representative of the Public Service upon the Board there might be all manner of intrigue. He suggested that it would not be possible for the Government to secure a man, either from a State or the Commonwealth Service, who would be able to rise above sectional interests to the truest responsibilities of his office. Such an accusation amounts to a slander upon our Public Services.
– It would be a slander if I had said anything of the kind, but I advise the honorable member to refer to Hansard.
– The honorable member undoubtedly said that no man could serve two masters. He said also that there could not be found a man in the Public Services, all over Australia, who would be able to give an unbiased decision if he were a direct representative of the Service.
– On a point of order,I call your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that the honorable member for Franklin has accused me of making a statement which amounts to a slander on the Public Service. That remark is offensive and I desire that it be withdrawn
– If my interpretation of what the honorable member said is regarded as offensive, I withdraw it, of course. But if the honorable member did not mean whatI have indicated, he certainly meant nothing. If the argument of the honorable member meant anything, it was that it was not possible to get in the Public Service a man who could do his duty on the Board honestly and fearlessly. The honorable member said that no man could serve two masters, and that a representative of the Public Service would truckle to those who had appointed him, to the detriment of his position and the public interest. I believe the Committee has made a fatal mistake in deciding upon control by three Commissioners, but if there are to be three it will make for the benefit of the Commonwealth and contentment in the Public Service if the employees know that there will be at least one man on the Board who will be able to state their views with knowledge and without fear. I hope the Minister will accept that amendment.. Everybody who knew the representative of the Public Service on the Board in Tasmania knew that he would do his duty fearlessly on any body to which he was elected. And there are, in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, hundreds of men of similar capabilities and integrity. If one thing would give the public servants confidence that they would be treated fairly by the Board it would be the fact that, at least, one member of the Board could state their claims in regard to any issue that arose. Good work cannot be got out of any discontented body of men, and because I believe that representation of the Service on the Board would conduce to efficiency and contentment amongst the public servants, I support the amendment.
. -I am surprised that a reasonable and sane amendment was not accepted readily by the Government, or alternatively, that they were not forced to do so by their supporters. I remember sitting on the Ministerial sidea few years ago with some honorable members who are there now, and on more than one occasion forcing the Government to do things which they did not want to do. But now it seems sufficient for the Prime Minister or the Minister in charge of the House to say, “ I must have the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill,” or “ I must have the whole clause and nothing but the clause as printed” for Ministerial supporters to troop behind the Government when the division bells ring. A request has been made by fourteen Public Service Associations that if the Board of Management is to comprise three members one shall be a representative of the public servants. Throughout the whole of the State Public and Railway Services that principle has been applied. Nearly everything that has to do with the welfare of State school teachers in Victoria is administered by a classification Board to which the teachers tri- ennially elect a representative. The new Victorian Railways Act provides for a Board to determine many of the most important matters in connexion with the operation of the railways, and upon that Board are representatives of the railway servants. It would appear that the Government are afraid to select any Commissioner from the Public Service. O cannot help coming to the conclusion that the Government have made up their minds in regard to two of the appointees who they expect will prove to be strong men, but, in my judgment, the public servants may look out for trouble if those two men are appointed. I can read in between the lines, and I foresee the cry of “ excess of officers.” That is the usual cry raised by a Government, and some Boards who are under them, when they wish to bring about a reduction of the Public Service. That was the cry when the land boom in Victoria collapsed, and what did the Government do? They sent notes to hundreds of public servants advising them that, owing to the imperative necessity for retrenchment, their services would not be required after a certain date. Those men were thrown out of permanent positions, but within a week of their services being dispensed with they were asked to return to temporary employment. They had been deprived of all the privileges that they had gained as permanent members of the Service. The same policy is contemplated now by a fusion Government. We have had a recent illustration of that procedure in connexion with the retrenchments in the Defence Department. The cry of excess of officers was raised, but was one prominent man in the Department dismissed ? No: but a number of the men who went overseas were dismissed. The sound of the words “excess of officers” flowing glibly from the tongue of the AttorneyGeneral to-night is enough to bring to mind thoughts of Black Wednesday and other distressful occasions in the history of public servants. The Government are courting failure for the proposed Board when they refuse to give to nearly 40,000 men and women a voice in regard to the management of affairs in which they are vitally interested. Is this not the same old Tory policy of separating the public servant from the rest of the community as if they were a class apart? The public servants are taxpayers, like ourselves; and in those dire days of distress that struck Victoria thirty years ago every one of them and every member of the Railway Service paid a special tax in the form of retrenchment, and did more than any other section of the community to balance the ledger. After contributing heavily to State taxation many of them were dismissed from the Service. The representation of the Public Service on the Board of Management is a fair request. I say this, not because there may be in my electorate a number of public servants; I have always fought this battle, because I have been through the mill. I have experienced unemployment, and I and my family have suffered want through my services being dispensed with in order that I might later be offered temporary employment. I left the Public Service intending never to re-enter it, and I did not re-enter it until the people elected me to represent them in this House. Have not honorable members declared that one of the greatest blessings to a community is a contented Public Service, and would not representation of the public servants on the Board of Management minister to such contentment? The public servants cannot have a majority on the Board that can influence the decision upon any vital matter. I do not know of a single objection to that policy, and I believe it would lead to harmony in the general working of the Service. If the Board of Commissioners are to administer the Service correctly and equitably they must have certain information in regard to the Service placed before them.
– How could representation of the Service have been procured if the amendment to substitute one Commissioner for three had been carried?
– The Service would not have been represented; but I pinned my faith to the Appeal Board. I believe in control by a single Commissioner, because several States which have tried the system of control by three Commissioners have reverted to a single Commissionership. Moreover, the greater the number of Commissioners the greater will be the number of public servants. I believe that each one of these Commissioners will acquire his own little personal staff, in addition to the general staff for the Board. But as the Committee has decided that there shall be three Commissioners, one should certainly be a representative of the Public Service. However, one might as well argue before the Sphinx as before an adamant Minister. The Government have made up their minds, and there are a sufficient number of slavish followers who will vote with them right or wrong, and keep the party together by hook or by crook.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Makin ‘s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- We do not wish to increase the number of public servants, and as I believe there are men in the Service quite capable of filling the three positions on the Board, I move -
That after the word “ persons “ in subclause (1), the words “ from within the Commonwealth Public Service “ be inserted.
– I cannot accept the amendment.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . .. 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause verbally amended, and agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
.- If the Ministry insist that the House should meet at 11 o’clock to-morrow morning, it is only fair that we should not be expected to sit up till this hour at night. From 11 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night is too long a sitting. The business would be just as far forward if the House had met at 2.30 o’clock to-day. At any rate, the atmosphere in the chamber is not at all conducive to good health, and I am sure that if the convenience of honorable members were consulted they would be more inclined to help things on. By meeting at 11 o’clock in the morning insufficient time is given to honorable members to peruse the various measures brought forward.
– I also ask the Ministry to reconsider the question of meeting at 11 o’clock in the morning. Business would be dealt with much more expeditiously if the House met at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. In any case, I suggest that some steps should be taken to clean out the bad air in the chamber before we meet to-morrow. Honorable members cannot be expected to sit here flay after day in the week and carry on their work in a proper way under present conditions.
.- As a very humble member of the rank and file of this House I protest against this way, not of doing, but of misdoing the business of the country. The Government have not taken any one into their confidence as to the reason for this extraordinary conduct on their part. They know perfectly well that a considerable time ago it was decided that, in order to give honorable members an opportunity of perusing and understanding Bills, and of doing their duty to their constituents, it would be a fair thing for the House to meet at 3 o’clock on Wednesday afternoons, and to sit on Wednesday evenings, Thursday afternoons and Thursday evenings, and again on Fridays. Now we are told that we are to sit on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and to meet in the forenoon of each day, and we are given no reason for doing this, other than the statement that the Government propose to put through a certain programme before the House rises. All I can say is that it is just about time honorable members asserted themselves with a little more firmness than they have displayed so far in regard to this matter. I do not treat it as a joke. I think that it is an iniquitous misuse of power on the part of the Government, and the mildness of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), my own leader, is to be marvelled at in the circumstances. I am not permitted to say that we would think of obstructing the business of the House or of obstructing the Government, but I suggest that from this moment forward we might employ the forms of the House in trying to correct this nervous insanity the Government are manifesting in regard to the affairs of the country. There is no honorable member of the House tonight but is jaded and worn after sitting three days this week.
Honorable Membebs. - Two days.
– Well, it seems like a week to me sitting as we have done in the morning, afternoon, and at night.
– It is nothing to what we have had to do in the past.
– Such conduct is absolutely unprecedented. If the Minister would say that the Government are in such a dreadful state of nervous apprehension that they are holding out a different olive branch every day to the Leader of the Country party, and that they are living in such a constant state of alarms that they are claiming the indulgence of the House until they are able to control their nerves and proceed in the ordinary way with the public business, they may excite a certain amount of sympathy, hut for the Acting Leader of the House to get up at this late hour of the night and propose that the House should meet at 11 o’clock in the morning while his distinguished and right honorable Leader is having a holiday at Sassafras and growing olive leaves for presentation to the Leader of the Country party is absurd. At least it would be absurd if it were not tragic. At all events, it is a very serious matter, and I promise the Minister, in a proper spirit of recog nition of the kind of thing he is doing, that, although I will not transgress the rules of the House, which I never have done, I shall endeavour in the next few clays, if he goes on in this way, to give him as lively a time as possible consistent with due decorum and order.
– The honorable member will be too exhausted to do so.
– I am nearly exhausted already, and if I fall in my tracks I will have done my part, and will have fallen in a good cause. I merely
Bay that I am not submitting meekly any longer to this treatment, so that the sooner the Acting Leader of the House declares what he means by all this speeding up to the point of exhaustion, the better it will be for him and the Government. We on this side are in a minority, but we have some rights. I have myself made a number of engagements with my constituents. My political opponents, who are numerous, have also made engagements. 1 do not know the purpose of all this haste, but I think we should be told. I do not propose to keep honorable members out of their beds any longer. They have all a very worn, jaded, and sleepy appearance, especially the Acting Leader himself (Mr. Greene), whose customary nonchalance is giving way to an expression of bored inconsequentiality. It is all very well for the Acting Leader to laugh. It is the first time I have seen him laugh for several days, so to that extent at least I have served a good purpose. I am deeply in earnest in this matter, and I hope that we shall have the support of honorable members generally in making this protest. I would ask the Minister to tell us, “ How long,O Lord ! how long’’ is this to continue? The newspapers, in their frenzy of inexactitude, tell us this morning that the elections are to take place on the 16th December. It has already been announced that they are to take place on the 9th December. Is there to be only one set of elections, or are there to be two? At all events, let us know the worst up to election day, and really the worst will occur on that day. I see, Mr. Speaker, that you have a pained expression, and that you are feeling your position acutely. You have my deepest sympathy, for you have to listen to members of the
Government wearying members of the House, and imposing upon them obligations which they should not have to bear, and giving them tasks which are too heavy for the ordinary mortal to carry. You have also to preserve order amongst members of the Nationalist party. With these few parting words, I now, in a spirit of pacifism, deliver an ultimatum to the Government. Hitherto 1 have spoken in a spirit of Christian meekness and charity. To-morrow it shall be different. I have tendered to the Government one of the few olive branches left after the Prime Minister has handed out all he can find to members of the Country party, and I tell them that if they do not treat us more justly from this night forward they will know what to expect from the honorable member for Batman and such of his colleagues as he can gather about him in a spirit of militancy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.65 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 October 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19221003_reps_8_101/>.