8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the. chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence Department - Estimates of Expenditure, 1922-23- Explanatory Statement, prepared by direction of the Minister for Defence.
Railways, Report, with Appendices, on the Commonwealth Railways for 1921-22.
Ordered to be printed.
– 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 an automatic telephone exchange at Canterbury, Victoria.
Ordered tobe printed.
Motion (by Mr. Charlton), by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for one monthbe given to the honorable member forMacquarie (Mr.Nicholls) on the ground of ill-health.
Postal Assistants’ Award
– The Act makes it imperative that the decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator shall be laid on the table of the House within a given time. I ask the Attorney-General if he will lay on the table the recently, delivered award relating to . postal assistants!
– If thehonorable member will send me a personal noteon the subject, I shall have inquiries made about the matter.
Mr.CHARLTON.- As this is the last week in which proposed amendments of the Constitution can be presented, if they are to he referred to the electors in December, on the date which I understand is fixed for the election, I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Government has yet decided to introduce such amendments? If the honorable gentleman is unable to answer the question, will he tell us when the Prime Minister is likely to come down from the Mount of Olives, and state the Government’s policy in the matter!
-It is not the practice to make statements of policy in replying to questions. The Prime Minister is not very well, and is. trying to get a little rest, in the hope that it may restore his health.I expect that he will toe in his place within a day or two.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
I may add that the Government has also some other proposals under consideration with a view to assisting the copra trade.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for’ Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
South African Reciprocity
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether there is any possibility of the revision of the Tariff Reciprocity Treaty with South Africa in respect to maize before the harvesting of the coming season’s crop?
– It is considered that there is sufficient time to negotiate with the South African. Union Government on the question of Tariff reciprocity before the coming maize crop is harvested, and, as previously stated, the Tariff Board has the matter in hand.
Cost of “Bay” Liners.
On the22nd September the . honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked the following questions: -
In reply, I now furnish the following information: -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 3rd October, vide page 3102) :
Clause 11 agreed to.
The Chairman of the Board shall receive a salary of pounds a year and each of the other members shall receive a salary of pounds a year. . . .
– I move -
That the first blank be filled by the insertion of the words “Two thousand five hundred,” and the second blank by the insertion of the words “Two thousand”.
In New South Wales, where the Public Service Board consists of three Commissioners, the Chairman receives £2,500 a year, and the other members of the Board £1,500 each, but we think it unwise to make such disparity between the salaries of the Chairman and the ordinary members. We need three good men for these positions, because their duties will be very heavy and very important.
– For what term will the members of the Board be appointed ?
– For a term not exceeding five years.
– What are the powers of these Commissioners? Will they have power to finalize matters in connexion with the Public Service?
– We have already discussed that matter two or three times; but I may answer the question as it relates to their powers in connexion with the whole of the Public Service by saying “ Yes.” We shall deal with their powers when we come to clause 16, though I may explain shortly now that they have power to make certain recommendations, which are brought first under the notice of the permanent head, and if he does not deal with them, under the notice of the Minister. If the Minister does’ not deal with them, they are brought under the notice of Parliament. The reason for that provision is that there must be Ministerial, responsibility for all important work.
– The Minister is anticipating discussion on a clause not yet before the Committee.
– The honorable gentleman contends that the members of the Board must be good men, and should be paid high salaries, and yet on his own showing the Board will have no power to deal with important matters connected with the Service.
– I do nob say anything of the sort.
– They cannot discharge an office boy.
– Yes, they can, if he is incapable.
– That is so, but for no other reason.
– Officers cannot be dispensed with for no reason at all. However, what I am dealing with now is the salaries to be paid to members of the Board, and, incidentally, the class of men whose services we desire to secure.
.- The Minister is proposing to make provision for very good salaries for these officials, and his action merely shows how necessary it was for the Committee to decide in favour of one Commissioner rather than a Board of three members. If the Minister’s proposal is agreed to the Board of Commissioners will cost the country £6,500 per annum, in addition to the cost of the Public Service generally . We know that every Board or Commission that has been created has resulted in. the establishment of separate Departments, though we have been told on every occasion that the appointment of these Boards would result in very little additional expense. We may have a score of clerical workers on the staff of this Board, and the proposal will involve considerable cost to the country. At a time when we” are constantly calling fox economy, almost every piece of legislation that is introduced involves additional expenditure that in many cases is unwarranted. In this case the additional expenditure called for is quite unwarranted. There is no justification for the appointment ofa Board of three members. The Royal Commission who inquired into the subject reported that one would be quite sufficient.
– But the Committee has decided otherwise.
– That does not justify me in agreeing to the proposed expenditure of £6,500 of the taxpayers’ money om this Board without protest when I do not agree with the decision arrived at by the Committee. It is not to be contended that because a majority take certain action from time to time at the behest of the Government, honorable members who disagree with what has been done must hold their tongues.
– What amount of money is involved in the salaries of the officers of the Public Service who will be under the control of the Board?
– In salaries alone the amount involved is £5,500,000.
– It does not matter what amount of money is involved in the salaries paid to the Public Service. The Royal Commissioner who investigated the matter was a most competent man for the work. He was appointed by the Government .because of his qualifications, and he has reported that one Commissioner is quite sufficient.
– The Committee disagree with him.
– That is no reason why I should acquiesce in the payment of £6,500 to the members of the Board when, according to the Royal Commissioner who inquired into the management of the Service, the work which they will be called upon to do could be done by one Commissioner at a salary of £2,500. I do not object to the payment of a good salary to a competent man, but I do protest against the payment of high salaries to three men when one man would be sufficient. It seems to me that the Government are merely creating positions for officials, but they took good care, last night, that the members of the Public Service should not have the right to appoint one of their number to the Board.
– Those matters have already been decided.
– I know that they have, but I claim that I am perfectly within my .rights in ‘saying, in connexion with the salaries proposed to be paid to the members of the Board, that one of the positions should ‘be filled by a competent man from within the .Service. Surely we are not to be denied our rights because the Committee has arrived at certain decisions in connexion with other clauses. Have we reached such a stage because an election is approaching?
The CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman may discuss any matter connected with the salaries to be paid to the members of the Board.
– That is what I am doing. I say that I am not prepared to pay the members of the Board £6,500’ a year when a representative of the Public Service who would, perhaps, be more qualified than any one else for the position is not to be a member of the Board. I object merely because honorable members came to a certain decision last night to saddle the community with additional cost for a Board that is quite unnecessary. It will be staggering to the people outside when they learn that the Minister proposes this morning to pay £6,500 a year to three men as members of this Board. What was the use of appointing a man as a Royal Commissioner to advise us in regard to this matter if we are not guided by his advice? It costs this country a considerable sum to ascertain from a Royal Commissioner whether we should have one, two, or three Commissioners in charge of the Public Service, and yet, after receiving his advice, we discard it, and the Government propose to create positions at big salaries for three men.
– Parliament is not bound to act upon the report of a Royal Commission.
– I quite understand that. Parliament has its rights, and does what it thinks fit. lt will do so in this case, but as a unit of Parliament I also have my rights, and I protest against this sort of thing. I shall protest elsewhere in the very near future when, perhaps, a little more freedom will be accorded me in the matter. I am totally opposed to the payment of so much money in the form of salaries to the members of the Board, but as the Committee has already decided that it shall consist of three members, I intend to move that the Chairman of the Board -and other members shall receive a salary not exceeding £2, ‘500 per annum.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment temporarily in order to enable the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) to .submit the amendment he has indicated.
Amendment, ‘by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Charlton) proposed -
That after the word “ Board,” line 1, the following words ‘be inserted.: - “ and other members of the Board shall receive a salary not exceeding £2,500 per annum.”
. -I cannot accept the amendment. Its purpose, is that the three members of the. Board shall receive total salaries not exceeding £2,500 per annum. If that sum- is to be shared among the three, the whole position will become absurd. The amendment does not even suggest that £2,500 shall be the maximum of the three salaries.; it may be less. The Leader of tie Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is really endeavouring to reverse a previous decision of the Committee. It has been decided that the Board shall consist of. three persons, but the Leader of the Opposition desired’ that only one Commissioner shall be appointed. He now essays to fix an amount of annual salary which will be adequate for only one man. Reference has been made to the salaries paid, to the Commissioners in New South Wales’. In that State there are three Commissioners, and they haveto do with 16,621 public servants, who are paid annual salaries aggregating £2,375,000. The Commonwealth Commissioners, however, will have under their control - under the Public Service Act alone, and irrespective of exempt officers - 23,489 individuals whose annual salaries amount to £5,610,000. The Federal body is an enormous one; its salary bill is considerably more than twice the amount of the New South Wales Service. A comparison between the two bodies, therefore, is beside the mark. The amendment should be rejected, because its acceptance would reduce this measure to a farce.
– Inevitable trouble is already fallowing the introduction of this hybrid Bill. Had the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) accepted the suggestion of the Country party that there should be one Commissioner, in complete charge, with a well-paid assistant Commissioner, I am confident that Parliament would readily agree to pay the Commissioner a very big annual salary. But, as it has been decided that the Board shall consist of three persons, I see no reason why the amount to be paid to the Commissioners should be limited as the amendment proposes. If we are to expect good service from the Board, it must be paid for. . If the Commissioners aire to. be men of quality and. capacity, we must be prepared’ to pay accordingly. The amendment is not worthy of consideration except in the light that, if it were agreed to, it might have the effect of destroying the Bill, whereupon a new and more acceptable measure would’ perhaps be introduced.
– The amendment contains the nucleus of a sound principle. We have Inspectors in the various States carrying out their duties at present. A chairman could be appointed from outside the Service, and the two ablest from among the existing Commonwealth ServiceInspectors could be promoted to the Board, either at their existing salaries or with an increase. These, men are doing the work to-day, and know what is required; no better Commissioners could be selected. The amendment, in effect, would permit the Government to appoint an independent chairman at a salary of £2,500, and to transfer two Inspectors to the Board. The Board of three, if selected as the Government propose, will cost the country more than £10,000 a year. I hope the Government proposal will not be accepted. While they propose to pay the salaries set out in, the clause they are also seeking to reduce the salaries of the members of this House from £1,000 to £800 a year on the plea of economy. No one knows yet whether members of the Board will be selected from the Public Service or not. I trust honorable members will look at this from a practical point of view, and accept the amendment.
– I hope the advocates of this cheap and nasty proposal will not have their way. We have been told that the salaries paid to the Public Service total about £5,500,000 per annum, and yet the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) thinks we ought to have cheap men ‘ to control that expenditure. No business man would think of employing a cheap man to supervise and control expenditure of “ that magnitude. The honorable member has suggested that the Public: Service Inspectors should be able to do the. wort. Evidently he does not think there is any necessity for this Bill at all.
– Hear, hear! That is. right.
– The honorable member has asked -whether any saving is likely to be effected by the administration of the Board. He has only to see the Public Service at work anywhere to realize where savings may be effected. We ought to be able, by efficient administration, to save millions of pounds.
– By working longer and paying lower wages - yes.
– It is not high wages that I object to at all - I always pay my own men good wages - and the party I belong to does not stand for cutting down wages. What we want to do is to stop this cursed “go-slow” business that is ruining the country. The honorable member and his party are mainly responsible for all this “ go-slow “ trouble. No honorable member with the slightest business knowledge would hesitate to pay the salaries which the Minister has provided for in this clause to those who will be intrusted with the actual work of controlling the Public Service. We want fresh blood. We do not want these Inspectors. let us get a good man as chairman and employ good men with plenty of energy to assist him, and let u3 see that we get full value for our money. I hope the motto of the Board will not be to cut down wages at all, but to see that our public servants earn their money. I am opposed to anything cheap and nasty. I believe in good pay for the Public Service, and I believe, also; in efficient supervision.
– I am getting about tired of this “talk about business men running the Government Departments. We had experience of them during the war, not only in Australia, but in Great Britain, and they wasted hundreds of millions of pounds. Between them they ran the damned ship on the rocks.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Chairman, and apologize; but I repeat that during the war business men who were called in to assist the Government involved this country in the expenditure of millions that should not have been spent. The same thing occurred iti Great Britain. I would rather leave the affairs of this country to the officials of the Departments than to any business men. We are always having thrown at our heads the suggestion that we should get business men in to set things right, but we have never had much satisfaction from that policy. The Government propose to pay the chairman of the Board a salary of £2,500, and other members £2,000. I take it that they will be drawn from the Public Service. At all events they should be, because they understand the Service. But I am afraid that the Ministry will bring in their so-called business men and make a bungle of the whole show. Their only idea would be to run the Service on cheap lines, by paying low wages and making the men work longer hours. That is what the Ministry are after. Why is the information as to the persons to be appointed withheld from honorable members? We are dealing with a measure that, when assented to, will be an Act of Parliament, and yet we get no information at all about the men who are to administer it.
– I remind the honorable member that the amendment deals only with the salaries to be paid to the Board of Commissioners. He must know, from his long parliamentary experience, that it is entirely out of order to discuss that portion of the Bill which has already been dealt with, and which may be discussed on another clause. The only question before the Chair is whether the amount of £6,500 shall be paid to the Board of Commissioners or £2,500, which is incorporated in the amendment. The clause does not in any way deal with the personnel of the proposed Board.
– I am very much surprised that the Chairman is seeking to limit the discussion to the question of pounds, shillings, and pence, and denying the Committee the opportunity of saying anything about the class of men who should receive the proposed salaries. How can we discuss this question of salaries unless we discuss also the class, calibre, and qualifications of the persons who shall receive them ? The two matters are intimately associated. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) that there is a strong desire on the part of the Government to appoint two of the Commission from outside the Service. We are to have the wonderful, business man paraded in connexion with these positions as he was paraded in Great Britain. It is a well-known fact that some of the business men who were appointed to Government positions in the Old Land utilized them to line their own pockets, whilst others made a holy mess of the work they were appointed to do. In connexion with War Service Homesthe Government tried the policy of appointing business men-
– These remarks are entirely out of order.
– I suppose that I would be called to order for tedious repetition if I were merely to repeat over and over again the sums of money mentioned in the clause and the amendment. How can one discuss the amendment if he is not to be allowed to discuss the qualifications which should be held by men appointed to the Board? This is another instance of the hurry-up and hush-up policy adopted by the Government. The Bill deals with the control of nearly 30,000 permanent officers and 15,000 temporary or exempt officers, and is, therefore, one of the most important measures that has been submitted to Parliament for many years. Upon the class of measure we frame depends whether we shall have in future a contented and efficient Service, or a discontented and undisciplined rabble.
– Could we get a contented Service under £800 a year Commissioners ?
– The honorable member understands quite well the reason why the amendment is moved, and why I am supporting it. The men who will do the real work under this system will be those who occupy inspectorial positions, and who have done the work in the past.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the amendment. The Committee has already come to a decision in regard to the Commissioners.
– The Committee has decided how many Commissioners there shall be, and I am not discussing that matter. The amendment relates to the amounts to be paid to the appointees, and questions of character and qualifications must enter into consideration. The Victorian Railways, which have a revenue of about £11,000,000 per annum, are operated by a Commission, the Chairman of which is an imported man receiving a salary of £5,000 per annum. I heartily approve of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I fear that the men who will be appointed to these positions will be of the “ cut-down “ school, and that they will obediently carry out the behests of the Government.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Charlton’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the words “ Two thousand five hundred “ be inserted before “pounds” (first occurring), and the words “ Two thousand “ before “pounds” (second occurring).
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 15 -
If in pursuance of any delegation given to him any delegate of the Board makes any recommendation with regard to any Department, the permanenthead or a chief officer may request that the recommendation be referred to the full Board, and in that event the recommendation of the delegate shall not be deemed to be. a recommendation of the Board unless it is indorsed by the full Board.
.- I move -
That after the word” officer “ the words “oran organization “ be inserted.
It is acknowledged that certain decisions of the Board of Commissioners may have a . very far-reaching effect on the Service. This clause gives the permanent head or a chief officer the right of appeal to the full Board with respect to any decision by any delegate of the Board. The amendment seeks to secure the same right for the organization representing the members of the Service generally.
.- The clause gives very wide powers. Subclause 1 provides -
The Board may, toy writing under the hand of each member of the Board, delegate to any member of the Board or to any officer any of the powers of the Board under this Act (except this power of delegation) so that the delegated powers may be exercised by the delegate with respect to the matters or class of matters specified, or the State, part of the Commonwealth, or Territory defined, in the instrument of delegation.
I should like to hear the Minister (Mr. Groom) as to the necessity for this provision. There are to be three members of the Board, and they are to be well paid. They should be able to do their work without delegating their powers to, subordinates, who would practically have the same powers as themselves. If the members of the Board happened to be dilatory, they could appoint delegates to do certain work that they themselves should be doing. The amendment appears to be a reasonable one, because it seeks to give to the employees’ organization the same right of appeal as is accorded to the permanent head or chief officer. If the right of appeal to. the full Board were not granted to that organization, it might be placed in an unfair position, and discontent would result. The Minister would be wise if he accepted this slight amendment, which should have been included in the. draft Bill. It is generally desired that. we. should have a, contented Public Service.
– If honorable members will cast their minds back to a number of Statutes dealing with administration throughout the Commonwealth they will realize that it is essential, in measures of this description, to provide for the power of delegation. If honorable members will refer, for instance, to the Customs Act of 1901 they will find that similar powers of delegagation are provided. Section 9 of that Act reads -
In relation to any particular matters or class of matters or to any particular State or district, the Minister may, by writing under his hand, delegate any of his powers under any Customs Act. (except this power of delegation) so that the delegated powers may be exercised by the delegate with respect to the matters or class, of matters specified, or the State or district defined in the instrument of delegation.
It has been found necessary to have a provision of this nature because the Board will have to deal with the whole continent, and it would be impossible for individual members of the Board to carry out the whole of the duties.
– It will not relieve the Board of any responsibility.
– No. Many routine matters have to be inquired into, and it may be known to some honorable members that the first document presented to a Minister for Trade and Customs on taking office is one which relates to the delegation of powers to officers throughout Australia.
– Does the Minister not think that an organization should have the right to approach the Board as suggested by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) ?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has moved an amendment to insert the words “ or organization,” ‘ but it will be seen that this is not an instance in which the organization is concerned. According to the list submitted there are about fourteen or fifteen organizations, and even if the point, were con- ceded, the difficulty would arise- as to which organization should have the. right. The Board may be dealing with matters which do not concern organizations at all, and, therefore,, the necessity of inserting the words suggested ‘does not exist. Organizations have their rights, and their position is recognised because they can approach the Arbitration Court, if registered, and have all matters relating to wages and conditions dealt with. They have a right to appeal in connexion with the classification of officers, and also in the matter of salaries. In this instance, however, the Board will be dealing with the organization of the business side of Departments) and bringing matters under the notice of the chief officers or heads of Departments concerning the method of control in which an organization as such has no concern.
– Would not an organization have the right to make representations ?
– It would have the right, and its representations could be sent on to the Board.
– Certain important decisions may affect the members of organizations.
– Their rights are fully protected in the matter of wages and conditions of labour.
– An officer receiving over £310 per annum will not have the opportunity of approaching the Arbitration Court.
– Salaries are fixed, and there is a right of appeal. The words referred to in this clause relate principally to the business side of the operations of Departments, and do not materially affect the conditions of employment. In these circumstances I cannot accept the amendment.
– I do not know why the Minister (Mr. Groom) cannot accept . the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), because when the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) interjected, “Would not an organization have the right to make representations ? “ the Minister said, “ It would have the right, and its representations could be sent on to the Board1.” If we pass this clause in its present form the organization may not be permitted to do as we suggest.
– They should have some standing.
– The clause is very wide, and it will be seen that the word “any” occurs in several instances.
– It can only have reference to the matters being inquired into.
– That may be so, but the clause has been drafted in such a way that it can cover any mortal thing in any Department.
– The matters inquired into will be bound by the terms of the delegation.
– The permanent head or the chief officer is given status, and he may enter a protest concerning the action of a delegate when his recommendation will be submitted to the consideration of the full Board, and I should like to know why the employees, through their organizations, should not have a similar right. Any one who knows anything at all about the working of the Departments realizes that in a technical branch the head of a Department is a veritable czar, and although he will have the right to make suggestions or lodge a protest, the public servants through their organizations have not the same privilege. If they are not affected they are notlikely to protest. If the clause is passed in its present form it will probably lead to a good deal of friction, but if the amendment is adopted it will avoid a good deal of irritation and inconvenience, and prevent any interference with the rights and privileges of public servants. If the Board received a communication from an organization in respect to recommendations made by a delagate, it could easilybe seen whether the complaint was trivial or not. I cannot see any reason why we should not include organizations, and if the amendment adopted it will, I think, assist in making the Public Service contented..
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Makin ‘s amendment) be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
cerned, and with the appellant, or, if he so desires, with a nominee of the Public Service organization to which the appellant belongs, or with an agent (who is an officer) of the appellant, and following upon such conference the Board shall determine the appeal.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 (Duties of Board).
– Did I understand the Minister (Mr. Groom) to say yesterday that the duties mentioned in this clause are those suggested by the Business Board appointed to inquire into the working of the Public Service ?
– They are taken from the report, and the clause in its present form was submitted to the Chairman, who said that it expressed the recommendations of the Commission.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 and 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 25 agreed to. Clause 26-
– I move -
That the following words be added at the end of sub-clause (1) : “ Provided that the classification of the whole Service shall operate from the same date.”
According to this sub-clause the classification of the Service may be gazetted wholly, or in sections, as the Board deems expedient. For instance, the Board may first classify the Customs Department, and then the Postal Department, and before proceeding with any further classification may gazette the result of its labours, upon which any classification undertaken will become law. The Public Service organizations ask that, should the classification of any section of the Service be gazetted in this way, all subsequent classifications should be brought into line, and made to operate as from the date of the first gazettal.
– What the honorable member seeks to have achieved by the amendment is already provided for. It is quite obvious that the work of classification must be done in sections, and the Board will have power to notify the result of its labours in sections, so that those who desire to appeal may have tho opportunity of doing so while the work of classification is proceeding in other sections of the Service. The honorable member will see that sub-clause (5) provides -
If .the Governor-General approves of the classification a notification of such approval together with a statement of any alterations made in the classification upon appeal shall bc published in the Gazette.
That gazettal will not take place until the whole of the sections are dealt with.
– Do I understand that all public servants will start off scratch after a classification ?
– Yes, I have the assurance of the officer representing the Public Service Commissioner that the Bill enables that to be done.
– With that assurance, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the following words he added to subclause 2: - “Provided that in the case of officers in remote districts the Board may extend the time within which a notice of appeal may be forwarded under this sub-section.
This is the provision which enables an officer dissatisfied with the action of the Board to forward to the Board within a certain period after the notification of the classification affecting himself a notice of appeal setting forth the grounds of his dissatisfaction. The time provided, namely, 30 days, may be too short for officers in remote districts, and so it is proposed to give the Board power to extend the time.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That after the word “nominee “ in subclause 3 the words (“who is an officer)” be inserted.
This amendment is moved with the object of providing that in the case of an appeal the nominee of the appellant must be a person acquainted with the work of the Service.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That sub-clause 3 as amended be left out, and the following inserted in lieu thereof : - “ Such appeal shall be’ forwarded by the Board to the Board of Appeal as hereinafter prescribed.”
As the sub-clause is printed in the Bill, the officer appealing against a decision of the Board in respect of his classification has merely the right to submit his case for reconsideration by the same Board in consultation with a representative of tha permanent head of the Department and with the appellant or a representative of the organization to which the appellant belongs. In these circumstances, the appeal will be heard by a body of five persons, four of whom have already taken part in coming to a decision upon the case. I do not think that the appeal is therefore likely to get that reconsideration upon it3 merits which might justly be claimed for it. No doubt the body sitting in judgment upon an appeal against a classification will be guided to a great extent by the decision already given. It will certainly be more satisfactory to the officer whose case is under consideration to have his appeal heard by a body quite independent from that . which has already made the classification against which he is appealing. The Public Service Act gives an officer a right of appeal to a special Appeal Board against any action taken under the Act which affects him. It can be urged very strongly that classification is just as important as remuneration, because it vitally affects the future career of an officer. I do not think that the importance of this matter can be overestimated. I hope the Minister (Mr. Groom) will be able to see his way to give to officers who may have reason to appeal against their classification a right to appeal to an independent tribunal.
– ‘What sort of tribunal does the honorable member suggest?
– That can be determined later. It should not be of the same personnel as the Board which made the original classification. The procedure which I suggest would give protection and a measure of satisfaction to members of the Service who wish, to appeal. It would make them feel that they were not making an appeal to a body that had already given judgment on their case, and might look at it from a biased standpoint.
.- ‘I ask the Committee to stand by the procedure laid down in the Bill. Honorable members know that at present the classification of the Service is carried out by the Public Service Commissioner. A right of appeal is provided for under section 50 of the Public Service Act, but it is only an appeal to a Board to hear the case, and make a recommendation to the Commissioner. ‘The section says -
The Board shall hear such appeal, and transmit the evidence taken, together with a recommendation thereon, to the Commissioner, who shall thereupon determine such appeal.
The Commissioner is the final authority for appeal, and that system, hitherto, has worked very satisfactorily. The Bill before the Committee provides that the ultimate decision shall rest with the Commissioners. The Commissioners are intrusted with the task of classifying a Public .Service of 24,000 men. They have to classify the officers and classify the positions, and .place the men according to .their capacity to held the positions. They will do that according to definite principles. They will have to consider what those principles will be. The matter, in justice to the Public Service, has to be dealt with as an independent -whole. If we were to have an outside independent tribunal today to deal with one case, and another tribunal to-morrow to deal with another case, and if those tribunals were to be the arbitrators, the scheme of classification would be torn to shreds. ‘“We would never.be able to get uniformity or finality. There would be ever so many Boards all over Australia dealing with details of classification. Is it not obvious that the classification can be made only on definite lines by one controlling authority? It is a peculiarity of the Public Service that the men have mutual rights with respect to one another, and if one man or one class is put ahead of another, injustice may be done.. There must be one controlling authority adjusting the_ equities throughout the Service. Before a classification takes place the Board will have before it all the reports of the inspector, and all the information that can be gathered. Having laid down definite principles, the. Board may delegate to individual members the task of classifying the .Service according to those principles. A provisional classification will be issued, which will stand for a certain time, and if, during that period, an officer is dissatisfied, he can notify the Board that he desires to appeal. The Board will hear his appeal, or it may delegate that duty to one member of lie (Board. The appeal will be heard in conference with the representative of the permanent head of the Department concerned, and the appellant himself, or, if he- so desires, a nominee, who is an officer of the Public Service. Eis nominee will be allowed to act as an advocate, and put his case completely before the Board. This is practically the same procedure as is now in force, except .that the method will be more direct. It will insure that every man will before his case is determined have the right to be heard.
– I think that the honorable member who has submitted this amendment fails to realize that we are to have a Board of three Commissioners, so that the position will be altogether different from what it was when we had only one. With a Board of three Commissioners there should be no danger of any issue being overlooked. By appointing a separate Appeal Board we shall only load the machine with another cog that may cause friction. I am convinced that the carrying of the amendment would not be to the advantage of public servants. The Board will practically be responsible to the Parliament. It ia provided in the Bill that where they disagree with the Minister they .may come to the Parliament itself, and that means that the Board’s decisions will always be subject to review by Parliament.
– The honorable member refers to clause 16, which provides that, if the permanent head does not adopt a recommendation made by the Board in regard te his Department, and the Minister also fails to approve or adopt it, the Board may report to Parliament.
– Quite so, that means that the Board’s decisions in certain causes may be reviewed by the Parliament. We may be sure that it will be most careful in the preparation of its classification scheme, and that the officers will be given every opportunity to put their claims before it. Another point is that- this, will be an independent Board quite free- from departmental interests-. I think it will be so constituted that, unlike the position in the old days, there will be very little cause for appeals on the part of the members of the Service. “ The old order changeth, giving place to the new.”
, - The appeal provisions of the existing Act are, to my mind, fairer than those in the Bill before us. Section 50 gives an officer the right of resort, to an Appeal Board against any action affecting him taken tinder the Act. If an officer is aggrieved he may go to another Court. A litigant who is dissatisfied with the decision of a lower Court may appeal to a. higher tribunal, and although the Judge who heard the original suit may be on the Bench, others sit with him, so that the person aggrieved is not appealing from Caesar unto Caesar.
– How would the honorable member constitute this Court of Appeal?
– The information 1 have before me-
– We all have the same information. The trouble is that once a public, servant appealed to the tribunal suggested he could go no further, whereas the clause, as it stands, gives him a right to go further. He may go even to Parliament.
– The honorable member is wrong. If we are going to allow every individual member of the Service to come to Parliament we shall have political influence in excelsis.
– That is not intended.
– It can take place under this Bill.
– Not at all. If that were so, tic Board would be robbed of the. independence- that we desire it shall have. The honorable member for Denison :(Mr. Laird Smith)’ has suggested that the whip of parliamentary authority may be applied to the Board.
– I made no such suggestion.
– The honorable member hinted at it. Such a thing would be most undesirable. The original motion su’bmit-ted in the Victorian Legislative Assembly for the passing of a Public Service Bill and the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner was moved bv the late Sir Henry Wrixon, who said that the Commissioner system was designed to do away with political patronage.
– No Parliament ought to be an Arbitration Court.
– No Parliament could be. We can only endeavour so to frame our legislation that every man will get a fair deal. A man’s classification, I would remind the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), is in one sense as important as is the question of his remuneration, since it affects his future promotion.
– The question is as to whether or not we have confidence in* the Board.
– I understand from the Attorney-General that the classification to be made by the Board will be the united determination of the three Commissioners.
– All the Commissioners will1 lay down- the principles on which the classification is to be carried out, but it may be that one Commissioner will work out the classification.
– But the final classification as issued will be the decision of all three Commissioners. Under the clause, as it stands, an appeal, by a member of the Service who is dissatisfied with his classification will be heard by the three Commissioners who determined the original classification, plus the: head of the Department concerned. There may be cases where the appellant or his rer :esentative will be able to convince the Commissioners that their original classification was wrong, but they will be very few. The head of the Department, acting with the Commissioners in hearing such appeal’s, will vote with them-. Make the Commissioners as independent as you may, I doubt if they, or any other set of men, especially if chosen from outside the Service, could successfully combat the opinions of heads of Departments. The departmental head knows the working of his Department and the abilities and duties; of his officers so well that the arguments he would be able to submit against changes to which he was opposed would be almost incontrovertible.
– I call attention to. the state of the Committee:
– What is- the use of dragging in honorable members who do not wish, to be here? [Quorum formed.’]
– I am perfectly satisfied that it will be in the interest of the Public Service to have the work of classification done in the manner proposed.
– The Minister if he had submitted a case for my judgment, would not feel satisfied to have no right of appeal against the decision except to me.
– Would the honorable member establish independent Boards all oyer Australia setting up different principles of classification?
– What takes place under the present law?
– Classification Boards hear evidence, and make recommendations to the Commissioner. At the present time, it is the Commissioner who determines appeals.
– But it would, be very strange, indeed, if the Commissioner set aside the recommendations of those who had investigated a matter and had heard evidence upon it. I wish to have substituted for sub-clause 3 a provision such as this: -
Such appeal shall be forwarded by the Board to the Board of Appeal as herein prescribed.
The Board which would then hear appeals would be differently constituted from the Board that had made the classification.
– Whose would he the final decision?
– That of the Board of Appeal.
– (What is it intended to prescribe? The honorable member’s proposal would set up a series. of independent Boards which might tear up the whole classification of the Commissioners.
– Will the Minister accept an amendment providing for a system similar to that obtaining under the present law?
– No; because I think the procedure set out in ‘the Bill is better.
– In that case I shall vote against the sub-clause.
Question - That sub-clause 3, aa amended, be omitted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the following new sub-clause be added: - “6. Notwithstanding any determination made under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920, upon the publication in the Gazette of the notification of the approval of the Governor-General of the classification (in this sub-section referred to as “ the approved classification”)] the classifications and salaries of the offices and of the officers assigned thereto dealt with in the approved classification shall, subject to this Act, be those respectively allotted to those offices and officers bv the classification:
Provided that nothing in this sub-section shall be deemed to affect the operation of any determination made by the Arbitrator of a claim relating to the salaries allotted by the approved classification.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 27 agreed to. Clause 28-
The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Board, after obtaining a report from the Permanent Head-
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the following words, sub-clause (c), be left out: - “the duties of which have been materially changed-.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 29-
Except in the case of officers paid at a specified rate by virtue of any Act, officers shall be paid -salaries in accordance with such amounts or scales as are prescribed.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That after “ officers,” first occurring, the following words be inserted: - : “of the First Division, who shall be paid such salaries as are provided in the Appropriation Act, and officers’”.
Clause further verbally amended, and agreed to.
Clause 30- . . . . (2.) The right to receive an increment in any year shall depend upon the good and diligent “conduct and efficiency of the officer and the period of attendance for duty during that year. (3.) If, in the opinion of the Permanent Head, an officer is not entitled to receive an increment, he may issue an order in writing depriving the officer of the increment for such time as the permanent head considers justified, and in that event the increment shall, subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, not be paid. (4.) Any officer affected by any such order may appeal to the Board against the order. (5.) The permanent head shall forward the appeal with a report to the Board, and tha Board .shall, after full inquiry, determine the appeal.
Amendment (by- Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the words “and diligent,” sub-clause (2), bc left out, and that after the word “ conduct “ the word “ diligence “ be inserted.
.- I complain of the power which is to be placed in the hands of the head of a Department to withhold an officer’s increment. By so doing, he not only punishes that officer at the time, but, since the increment has been stopped, the officer is penalized to the extent of the amount withheld for the remainder of his service.
– The inclusion of this clause will have the effect of liberalizing the Act. The particular provision dealing with the right of a permanent head to cause an increment to be withheld has been inserted on the recommendation of the Acting Public Service Commissioner. It will work to the advantage of public servants as a whole. The principle underlying the administration of the Service is that efficiency and ability must be recognised. As a matter of fact, the clause embodies no new departure, because, under present conditions, an officer’s increment may be withheld if he is deemed to have been guilty of misconduct or inefficiency or lack of diligence. I stress the fact that any officer affected by an order for the non-payment of his increment may appeal. The clause actually provides the method of appeal, and of determining it.
– How could a Board prove an officer’s inefficiency ?
– The permanent head is required to forward the officer’s appeal, together with his own report.
– The onus is on the permanent head to show that there has been inefficiency.
– Exactly ! One criticism directed against this provision has been that the permanent head is called upon to demonstrate that an officer is not entitled to his increment, whereas the latter should be required to show that he has not been inefficient or guilty of misconduct, and, therefore, ought not to have his increment withheld.
– The provision for appeal is useless.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there should be no appeal?
– i do not; but i point out that the only person who can be called upon to give evidence in support of an accusation of misconduct or inefficiency is the permanent head, who has already reported in that direction. The head of the Department has already judged the case.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– Only that the provision for appeal is worse than useless. I would not deprive an officer of his right , to appeal; but, as a matter of fact, if he has been reported for inefficiency or misconduct of the like it is a question whether he should be retained in his position. I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) that if an officer is deprived of an annual increment, under this clause, he is penalized for the remainder’ of his term in the Service.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension. In order to illustrate the exact position, I suggest that a postmaster in a distant town has been reported by an Inspector for absence from duty without cause, or for inefficient management, or for some other delinquency. The head of the Department in Melbourne has no personal knowledge of the circumstances. He acts upon the Inspector’s report, after having made every possible inquiry, and having taken every circumstance into consideration. In his order he recommends specifically that the officer’s increment be withheld for three months, six months, or twelve months, and at the expiration of that period, the amount due is paid, and subsequent increments are; bestowed in the. ordinary course.
– Does -tie Bill give the head of a Department power to say for how long an increment shall remain in abeyance ?
– Yes, specifically; and honorable members should not lose sight of the fact that his decision is given subject to appeal. There must be some such provision as this for the punishment of offenders. The proposal is that, first of all, the offence shall be dealt with by the head of the Department. There is a possibility that tie head of the Department may be too autocratic, or stern, or biased ; therefore, the. officer iB given the right of appeal, and on that appeal he will be entitled; to submit any evidence he thinks fit.
– And the Appeal] Board wiE have befob© them evidence on which- tie. head of the Department acted.
– The whole file relating to the case will be transmitted, to the Appeal Board, and the officer will have the right to know the grounds on which he has been punished. If he has fresh evidence which he thinks will show that the punishment was unjust, he can pro- duce it. Ample protection is given to the public servant.
.- I am’ satisfied with the Minister’s explanation, but T am in doubt as to the deprivation of increments. Suppose that an offender is deprived of his increment for this year, and in the ordinary course of events would be entitled’ to another increment . next year-
– He may only lose his increment for three months.
– Yes, for such time as the permanent head of the Department thinks fit, and the officer may appeal on the ground that the deduction is too great.
– I suppose that the Board will, be tie final arbiter as to what the amount of the deduction shall be.’
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 31 (Increments pending classification).
– I move -
That the clause be amended to read as follows: - “ Pending approval by the Governor-General of the classification of officers effected under section 26 of this Act -
The salaries paid to officers at the date of the commencement of this Act shall continue to be paid, and the permanent head may, from time to time, supplement those salaries by the grant of such increments as are determined by the Board; and (6) An officer who is promoted to a higher office, or the classification of whose office is raised, shall thereupon be entitled to receive the minimum salary payable in respect of that higher office or classification immediately prior to the commencement of this Act, and the permanent head may, from time to time, supplement that -salary by the grant of such increments as are determined, by the Board.”
This amendment involves the striking out of nearly all the clause as drafted, because it was likely to operate unfairly during the period of classification. The alteration will protect the right of officers to advancement pending classification. The classification may take a long time; supposing it were not completed for two years, it would be unjust to deprive officers of their increments for the whole of that period. The amendment will get over that possibility by enabling a man to be promoted, and even after promotion to get further increments pending the completion of the classification.
– Under the old Act certain officers were entitled to statutory increments, hut this Bill is giving the. Board power to say what the increments shall be.
– The present system of increments will be maintained and discretionary increments will be continued.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 32 (Admission to CommonwealthService).
Sub-clause 2 amended to read -
The Board may from time to time appoint such examiners as are necessary for the conduct of the prescribed examinations, and may at any time remove any examiners so appointed.
Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 33 (Entrance Examinations).
.- I move -
That the ‘following new sub-clause toe added: - “ (4) In addition to the examination prescribed for entrance into the Third Division, the Board shall from time to time, as new appointments to the Third Division are required, prescribe an examination for promotion from the Fourth to the Third Division, and the officers eligible to sit for such examinations shall be permanent officers who have served at least two years in the Fourth Division. In the making of appointments to the Third Division in the Commonwealth Public Service onehalf of such appointments shall be made by transfer of the officers who successfully pass the examination beforemention.”
The .purpose of the amendment is to give the younger men in the Service the opportunity to graduate into higher positions. There are in the employment of the Commonwealth many bright and promising young men, and they should be given every chance of advancing to a higher status, so that the Commonwealth may take the fullest advantage of the services of those who have proved themselves capable of undertaking more important duties.
.! - I cannot accept this amendment. A good deal of what it seeks to achieve is already conferred by the Bill. “ Clause 102 provides for the making of regulations for, inter alia, “ prescribing the conditions under which officers of a division may be transferred to any specified office or offices in another division, and fixing a maximum age for such transfers.” I think that is sufficient. As to the proposal that half the appointments to the Third Division shall be made from successful examinees in the Fourth Division, we shall not attempt to hamper the Board in its administration by fixing a statutory obligation of this kind regardless of the condition of the Service. The Bill already provides that if there are vacancies in the Third Division, men who have passed examinations for transfer from a lower division may be promoted. At the present time a man may pass an examination for a transfer! from the General to the Clerical Division.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 34 negatived.
Clauses 35 to 38 agreed to. Clause 39 (Appointment without examination to Fourth Division).
– I move -
That the words at the end of the clause “ and if the Board so orders, that person shall be exempt from compliance with the life assurance provisions of this Act,” ‘be omitted.
This is the first of a series of similar amendments. This Bill originated in the Senate last year before the Superannuation Bill had been introduced, and it reached us with these provisions in relation to life assurance in it. On the assumption that the Superannuation Bill will be passed, and that there will be no necessity for further compulsory life assurance, I shall move to omit all references to life assurance in this Bill, but a clause will be introduced providing that the existing provisions in regard to life assurance shall continue until a date to be proclaimed, which, of course, will be the date when the Superannuation Act comes into force.
– This clause provides that the Board may recommend that certain appointments may be made without preliminary examination. To what class of persons is this provision intended to apply ?
– I think this provision was introduced into the existing law some three or four years ago, and had special reference to office cleaners. It obviously was not necessary that they should undergo any examination before entering the Service. The clause generally will apply to those officers of the Fourth Division who are now included in the General Division.
– WJ11 it cover mail drivers ?
– It will cover everybody in the Fourth Division if the Board thinks fit. The Board will decide whether or not an examination is necessary.
– As a general rule, there will be an examination for entrance to the Fourth Division.
– Yes; but it would be absurd to hold an entrance examination for office-cleaners and employees of that’ class.
.- Some words of protection should be added to this provision requiring the Board to issue a certificate that there is no person already in tlie Common-wealth Service capable of filling a. position in regard to -which it is proposed to dispense with the necessity for passing an entrance examination. The Fourth Division will include many persons other than the office cleaners referred to by the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom). Therefore, I suggest the addition of the following words: -
Providing that the Board certifies that there is no officer of the Commonwealth Service who is capable of filling these specified positions Mr. Hector Lamond. - The positions are often given to the widows of deceased officers.
– But there are other officers in the Fourth Division. Otherwise there would be no sense in providing for an entrance examination. The exemption, however, provides too open a door for the admission to the Public Service of persons who have not passed an entrance examination. Therefore, I suggest the addition of the words which I have just mentioned.
– There may be an officer in the Service capable of filling a position, but he may not be fitted for it.
– Then he will not apply for the position. Our Public Service legislation has aimed at the abolition of political influence, but of recent years there has been a marked departmental patronage in connexion with the Service which is sometimes much more offensive in character than political patronage ever was. The politician who endeavoured to get his friends into the Public Service could be pilloried if found out, but there is no possibility of treating the head of a, Department in the same way. If we have a suspicion that heads of Departments are exercising patronage there will be no harm whatever in accepting my suggestion, and adding a proviso which would afford some protection to the Board of Commissioners.
– But the honorable member’s proposal would not go far enough. The position to be filled might be one for which there should be au examination.
– I do not claim that my suggestion would afford sufficient protection, and if the right honorable gentleman can recommend something which would give greater protection I am prepared to support him.. My proposal would at least give some safeguard against the open door permitted by the clause.
.- Honorable members perhaps forget the refer: ences to the divisions embodied in the earlier part’ of the Bill. In clause 3 they will find the loosest arrangement in this regard which can be found in any Public Service Act, and it will not be possible until the Board does its work of classification to say what officers will be included in the Third or Fourth Divisions. The First Division will embrace permanent heads of Departments, and the Second Division officers required to exercise certain executive or professional functions. The Third Division will include - all officers whoso offices the GovernorGeneral, on the recommendation of the Board, directs to be included in that division.
The Fourth Division will comprise all officers not included in the other three divisions. It will be impossible for the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) to tell the Committee who will be included in the Third and Fourth Divisions. If he could do so, I think we could afford to pass the clause with some such addition as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), has suggested. But as we do not know who will constitute the Fourth Division, a proposal that the Board shall have power to exempt any specified office in that division from the examination requirement is much too wide. I think the Minister might reconsider it. It is certainly right .that he should ask the Committee to cut out the words relating to life assurance, because they will be an anomaly if the Superannuation Bill passes, but I think that he should safeguard this clause, which gives a side door for entrance to the Public Service, and may cause trouble, injustice, and heartburnings, and dead to the improper use of influence as well as to exercise of wrong judgment in regard to the admission of officers to the Public Service. The proposal made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong would only partly cure the difficulty. I shall be satisfied if the Minister will look into the question, so that, at a later stage, if necessary, he may introduce into the clause the safeguard which- the Committee thinks is required.
.- I presume that the Fourth Division will include soldiers in the mail branch of the Postal Department, who are at present temporary employees, but have an excellent record of efficient service run- ning up to seven years. These men have been informed that if they wish ,to become permanent employees, they must pass an examination. I doubt very much if the majority of them could do so. A man who has been carrying mail-bags from the General Post Office to a railway station for the past three or four years, and has given satisfactory service, ought not to be required to pass a clerical examination to become a permanent mail driver. He has already passed what I regard as a sufficient qualifying examination. He has fought for his country. However, under present conditions he must remain a temporary employee because he cannot pass a clerical examination. I would not advance one argument in support of dispensing with the necessity of holding an examination if the men whose cases I am now mentioning were seeking to fill permanent clerical positions. But they are not anxious to ‘become permanent officers in clerical positions. They arc merely seeking to continue in the work which they have been performing efficiently for the past seven years. It was not the intention of this Parliament that men who are engaged as mail drivers should pass a clerical examination” before they can move from the temporary staff to the permanent staff. I ask the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) lo look into the cases I have mentioned, and see if they can be met.
– I will look into the cases that tie honorable member (Mr. Blundell) has brought under notice, but I think he will find that the positions in tho Service to which he referred are filled by persons who have come into the Service after passing the examination required for telegraph messengers and so forth. In any case, the regular system of examinations for entrance to the Public Service which has been in force for years past cannot be dispensed with because some persons who have been employed by the Commonwealth in a temporary capacity have done their work satisfactorily, otherwise it would provide a means of entering the Public Service which would be exceedingly difficult to administer, and I am afraid would lead to dissatisfaction. If it is a question of dealing with returned soldiers-
– It is.
– “We are dealing with returned soldiers in a different way, which I shall explain later.
This clause was inserted in the Bill passed in 1918, and is reproduced in exactly the same terminology in the Bill now before us. It has been applied to such persons ais lighthouse-keepers, and in Sydney has been useful in getting telegraph messengers.
– Has it been applied only to the General Division?
– It is applied only to the General Division. Clause 46 deals with the case of special professional men secured from outside and admitted to the Service for a particular purpose. The clause as it stands now is limited, to professional men, but we propose to make its scope a little wider.
– Who are to be included in the Fourth Division?
– Mr. Mclachlan recommended that it should include those who are now in the General Division. The classification of divisions referred to by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was recommended by Mr. McLachlan, who, in giving his reasons for his recommendation, said that the use of the terms “ Clerical Division “ and “ Professional Division “ created many difficulties, and that greater elasticity should be given. The clause immediately under review is necessary, but it will be administered only on the lines I have indicated. The certificate which the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) suggests should be obtained would be useless in cases where, say, a telegraph messenger was required immediately. It would be absurd to call upon the Board to certify that there was no one in the Commonwealth Public Service throughout Australia capable of filling the position of -a telegraph messenger. Without making any definite promise, I shall consider the position, but I again point out that the practical value of the* clause has been demonstrated in the operation of the 1918 Act.
.- I am not quite sure as to the position of returned soldiers who are temporarily employed.
– The honorable member, can raise that point on clause 83.
– That clause merely gives power to employ returned soldiers, and I believe that now is the time to settle all the questions that have arisen around this problem. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) and myself are interested in’ the case of a soldier in his electorate who has been in the Post Office for a number of years, and has there given general satisfaction, and yet at the end of every six months he is threatened with dismissal. There are many similar cases of the kind among men who are employed delivering the mails and so forth, and who are all doing their work efficiently. It was understood that this Bill would make definite provision for such men by appointing them permanent employees. Surely if they have been found good enough to employ for five or seven years, they ought to be given some security of tenure, and not regarded as temporary hands. It is not satisfactory to a man after ten years’ efficient service, to be dismissed. The men in whom I am interested missed their opportunity of getting into the Department by enlisting. It is true that they would not be able to pass a clerical examination, but the work on which they are engaged does not necessitate clerical knowledge. I think this question ought to be settled before we reach clause 83.
– The Minister has not given the honorable member* for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) and myself any satisfaction as to whether clause 39 is properly safeguarded.
– I said the clause had proved satisfactory in operation, but that I should look into the matter.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Fourth Division whose age at his last birthday previous to appointment was less than sixteen years, or, except as in the next subsection provided, more than fifty j-ears, unless he is at the time of his appointment already in the Commonwealth Service.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the words “ unless he is at the time of his appointment already in the Commonwealth Service,” be left out.
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That in sub-clause (3) the word “ employment “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “appointment”; that the word “ or “ be left out; that after the word “ messengers “, second occurring, the words “or in such other capacities in the Fourth Division as the Board determines” be inserted.
.- The Minister (Mr. Groom) has made it perfectly plain what verbal amendments he proposes to make, but he has not explained why those amendments are necessary, or what their effect is likely to be. In the first sub-clause of clause 40 there is a minimum age for the appointment to the fourth division, and the appointees may not be less than sixteen or more than fifty. In the next sub-clause, where the appointments are made for special duties, the age mast not be more than fifty-five. Then the Minister proposes that the age of fourteen shall stand in sub-clause 3, for such appointees as messengers, telegraph messengers, or any other specified officers.
– There is a desire to take apprentices into Departments, and that sub-clause is to cover their employment.
– Is it necessary to say that no person may be appointed above ohe age of fourteen when we do not say that they shall be under fourteen in any other part of the Bill ? We say that persons may not be appointed as messengers under the age of sixteen.
– And now we are adding a clause enabling us. to take .apprentices in carpentry .and so forth.
– I do not see the necessity for either the sub-clause or the amendment dealing with the cases .of boys above the age of fourteen.
– I am rather dubious about the suggestion that the Departments shall take apprentices. Am I to understand that it is intended .to take on a number of apprentices and train them ? If so, is there any law outside to lay down the maximum number of apprentices?
– The Commonwealth, is controlled by its own laws.
– The apprenticeship question is of first importance, and this practice has not been adopted in the Public Service in the past. I hope it is not intended to flood the Departments with apprentices, seeing that there is no law to control their number. The party to which I belong regard the apprentice question as a most serious one. I have known cases in which, through a shortage of work, there have been eight apprentices to one journeyman; and if that takes place in the Public Departments there is sure to be industrial trouble.
– And yet, probably, some apprentices are required.
– The honorable memberknows that thishas been a matter of great concern in the State Parliament of Victoria, and. that investigations have been made by Committees’ and Commissions! who recommended the greatest care in dealing with it. Mr. Lemmon, a member of the State House, has taken a keen, practical interest in this question.
– For years.
– Thatis so. As a matter of fact, the. problem is one almost impossible of solution. We admit that Australians must be trained to trades, but outside the Public Service the employment of apprentices is governed by State, laws. We are told now by the Minister (Mr. Groom) that the Commonwealth is governed by its own laws, but I see no provision for the regulation of the maximum number of apprentices to be employed.
Mr.BLUNDELL (Adelaide.) [3.28]. - I am not against any suggestion, that the Departments shall train young men because, indeed, I recognise that such training is essential. I may say that some- time ago I moved the adjournment of this House in order to bring, under the notice of. honorable members the disabilities of young men who undertake suck terms of, apprenticeship. ‘ They are received into Departments practically, as apprentices, and taught the mechanical side of the work in which they are engaged. On reaching a certain age, however; they find that, in accordance with, the regulations, they must be turnedout into the street, because them are no openings for them. Alltheir years of study at the technical schools and otherwise go for nothing, because outside the Service there is no similar employment for them. Nothing ismore harmful to the community than young men in such a position.
– Is the honorable member speaking of youths who have been dismissed from the Public Service?
-Yet and though I have- not the names here, I think I can supply the Minister with at least half-a-dozen. In only one case was it said that the dismissal was to enable room to be found for a returned soldier.
– Were these youths in the permanent Service?
Mr.BLUNDELL.- No. A. Department advertises that it is- prepared to take- on boys, and- to train them in certain work. As the result of such an advertisement a number of boys enter, say, the telephone workshops where the instruments are made and repaired. They receive certain technical training, and, in order to improve their knowledge, they attend classes at the School, of Mines. When they reach a certain age, however, they are told that there is: no opening for them in the Department, and out they go.
– Were the . boys of whom the honorable member speaks taken into the Service with a. view to their permanent employment)
– I presume the idea was to teach them a trade and to take them into the permanent Service.
– They certainly understood that they would be permanently employed.
– That is so. The Department is doing the proper, thing in training’ these young fellows, but I think that there is an obligation upon it not to take on more than can be permanently employed. The position would be different, if these lads were learning; a trade in which, they could find, employment later on outside, but these is no opening’ for them outside the Service.
– So- fas as my Department, is. concerned, they; are turned out only to make room for returned soldiers;
– That is. not the reason, that has been supplied to me. In fighting the case of these youths, with the Public Service Commissioner I’ have been told that,, having, reached a certain age, thev cannot be employed- any longer in the Service., In only one case was I told that a. lad. whose services had been dispensed with was being replaced by a. returned soldier.. I have always put up a fight forour returned men, and I am going to do so in connexion with a later clause in this Bill ;, but I do> not. think any Government Department is. entitled to take< on. youths on the understanding, that theyareto be taught a trade and then, after they have served a certain period and acquired a certain amount of knowledge, to throw them on the scrap heap. If there is no possibility of employing them permanently we should not take them on.
– Is the honorable member referring more particularly to telegraph messengers?
– I am referring, not only to telegraph messengers, but to boys who are employed in the telephone and telegraph workshops. I can refer the Attorney-General to the cases of dozens of boys who, after spending several years in these workshops, have been dismissed on reaching the age of eighteen years. They have been thrown out with a trade that is of no use to them outside the Service. It is unfair to take boys into the Service on the understanding that they are to be trained and permanently employed and then, after their training has been carried to a certain stage, to turn them into the street. If a private employer did such a thing honorable members would be up in arms about it.
– Private employers lake on apprentices.
– Why should not these boys be apprenticed ? The Department should not take on more than it can permanently employ. As it is, we are not setting a good example to private employers.
– I think that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) is under a misapprehension. A certain number of lads’ are taken into the employ of the Postmaster-General’s Department as temporary hands to do what is really inferior work, such as the coiling of wire. Those boys are not covered by the clause with which we are dealing. The minimum age fixed for entrance to the Public Service is sixteen years, but telegraph messengers may be taken on at the age of fourteen years. We are now proposing to amend this clause to enable boys under sixteen years of age to be brought into the Service other than as telegraph messengers, because it is desired to make provision for lads who are to be trained as carpenters, locksmiths, painters, &c. A limited number will be taken on for that class of work, while others will be brought into the telephone workshops. These lads will be permanent employees of the Service. It is not intended that, after they have received a certain amount of training, they shall be turned adrift.
– I do not want to say that the honorable gentleman is wrong, but if I submit to him letters from the fathers of two or three boys, as well as from the boys themselves, which contradict his statement, what attitude will he take up ?
– If the honorable member can show me that boys who have been taken into the permanent Service as apprentices have been turned out because there is no room for them, I shall say that he has made out his case. The honorable member made two points. He spoke, first of all, of young fellows who, after being employed temporarily in the Department and partially taught a trade, were turned adrift on reaching a certain age. My reply to that statement is that it relates only to lads who are brought in temporarily to do a certain class of inferior work. They are not apprentices.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– That, at all events, is the information supplied to me. I am giving the Committee the best information I can obtain, but if the honorable member can furnish me with papers showing that I am wrong, I shall inquire further into the matter.
– Does the honorable member say that the Postal Department has no apprentices?
– Apprentices will come underthis clause. We are taking them into the Service now, and they are covered by an award of the Court up to the age of twenty-one years. This clause is intended to enable boys less than sixteen years of age to enter the Service, and will prevent the very trouble that the honorable member has mentioned.
– So that the honorable gentleman now admits that what I said was right.
– No. I say that a boy will not be taken on and turned adrift after he has reached a: certain age. This provision will allow boys under sixteen years of age to enter the permanent Service and to be apprenticed.
– It will not cover those already in the Service?
– Those already in the Service are protected. If the honorable member for Adelaide can bring before me the case of a boy who was taken on as a permanent employee and, after he had” been partly trained, was turned adrift-
– I cannot cite such cases in respect of boys who entered the permanent Service. My complaint is that advertisements are published in the newspapers that a number of boys will be taken on and be taught a trade, and that, on- reaching a certain age, they are turned adrift.
– I shall be pleased to inquire into any case where a boy, after serving a certain term of apprenticeship, has been thrown out of the Service. That, however, is an administrative matter, and has nothing to do with this clause.
– It is most undesirable that boys should enter the Service on the understanding that they are to be taught the engineering or some other trade, and that they should be turned out on reaching a certain age. I know it is difficult to deal with the telegraph messengers and other lads temporarily employed in the Service, but I think action should be taken to avoid the treatment of youths in the way complained of by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell). Telegraph messengers and others in the Postal Department are employed for a certain time, and then discharged. They enter the Service at, say, thirteen years of age, and, on reaching seventeen years of age, are thrown out, so that three valuable years of their lives are wasted. It is to be regretted that lads should spend so long a period in what I might describe as a dead-end occupation. When the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) mentioned that the clause would apply to a number of apprentices, our suspicions were naturally aroused, but now that the honorable gentleman has assured us that apprentices who are taken on will be brought into the permanent Service, and that when they reach the age of twenty-one years they will come under an award of the Court, I am satisfied. I presume the award specifies that there shall be a certain number of adult workers to every apprentice.
– As boys they come under the award, and, automatically, as they reach the age of twenty-one years they become journeymen. The award to which I refer was made by Mr. Justice Higgins.
– Very well. I hope that our telephone workshops will be extended very materially. I should like to know what has been done at the railway workshops at Port Augusta. Are young men being apprenticed there, and thoroughly taught their trades? If the Government undertakes the responsibility of teaching apprentices, it should see that they are turned out competent journeymen. I do not believe in a system which turns men adrift after three or four years only half knowing their trade.
– It is delightful to hear some one speak in favour of apprenticeship.
– The policy of the Labour party and of the trade unions in regard to apprenticeship .has been fairly liberal. In the printing trade we have been sticklers for an apprenticeship of seven years; that applies in the Government Printing Office, as well as outside. Other trades have also insisted that apprentices shall be thoroughly taught their calling. The men who are turned out of Government workshops in which they have been apprenticed should be fit to compete with any workmen in the world.
– I have not joined in the discussion of this Bill, because I enjoy the unique experience of having been a member of the Senate when, during a period of some months, this measure was under discussion there. This clause then evoked a considerable amount of criticism. It was argued that lads who, at the age of fourteen, are engaged as telegraph messengers, and are discharged at the age of eighteen, suffer hardship, losing, perhaps, the most valuable years of their youth. But it was shown by the Minister that the number of telegraph messengers needed by the Department far exceeded the number that could be absorbed if the lads had to be kept on after the age of eighteen years. It seems to me that the amendments of the Minister will, to some extent, meet the difficulties of the case. They will enable the Department to absorb more of these youths than could be done under the Bill as it stands, because they widen the scope of the Commissioners’ powers. I would heartily support any proposal for the teaching of trades to our young men. We are beginning to reap now, and shortly will reap to a fuller degree, the Jesuit of the restriction of apprenticeship which has* taken place during the last seven to ten years. We axe being faced with the problem of the unskilled man on whom there is a family dependent, and who is at a dead-end. The Minister’s proposals should help young men to learn trades, and, therefore, I shall support it.
.- The question of apprenticeship is one that I have been trying to solve for many years. There are many reasons why lads will not be apprenticed to trades, the lack of apprentices being due not nearly so much to the limitations on apprenticeship as to the disinclination of lads to be apprenticed, and to the objection of some parents to their children becoming tradesmen. In the recent past, especially when Labour was in power, from 1910 to 1913, which ‘ was a time of prosperity, lads could obtain well-paid employment in occupations which, did not soil their clothes, and mothers preferred to see their children in such employment. Many parents think that there is a loss of dignity in being connected with the building trade, or with engineering or any other occupation that soils the clothing. Two years ago, when I was at Newcastle, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, during a boom period, was taking on boys at £1 a week for a start,, and, of course, it was not possible to get the parents of the lads to whom such an opportunity was open to consent to their apprenticeship to some trade, or calling. The occupations that are sought after are those which enable boys to wear all day the clothes in which they leave home in the morning., and employ them at some specific place, such as a warehouse-
– Are not the awards at fault ?
– Generally speaking, boys prefer to go into shops and warehouses; they do not “ cotton on,” as they would say, to trades. This objection to learning a trade is the more to- be wondered at because the most independent man in the world is the skilful and properlytaught tradesman. If a t>oy is going to learn a trade, he had best be put to- it at the age- of fourteen, when, under our public school system’, he has received a very fair education. Boys of sixteen or seventeen are often rather far advanced in their tastes and knowledge of the world to take kindly to the learning of a trade or calling, and are less likely than younger lads to become proficient workmen. I am glad to say that I learned a trade, and all my life I have been in the position of not having to care twopence for any master. While I was a workman, I knew that my boss could not give me the sack, because I was worth keeping on; and, if he had done so, there were always others who would be glad of my services. Of course, care must be taken that the Government Departments are not overloaded with apprentices; but, no doubt, the Board of Commissioners, who will be sensible men, will see to that. Some years ago, there was a tendency to fill the workshops with boys, which was all very well while there was plenty of work, but when business . became slack, there were more boys, than workmen.
– What is a fair proportion of apprentices to workmen?
– It all depends on the trade. In the building trades,. I would allow more apprentices than in other trades, because there is- more work to be had in- them.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 41 agreed to.
Clause 42 -
Clause consequentially amended.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That sub-clause (-2:) be left out.
-3.] There are occasions when the authorities must go outside of the- ‘Service to obtain certain technically skilled officers. These are already qualified for the work which they are to perform under the Government, and it is only right, of .course, that they should not he required to undergo the usual examination. I understand, however, that in regard to these matters, a certain standard is set in the ‘Service itself. Too much latitude should not be given ito the Board to appoint persons without examination, while, at the same time, discretion should be permitted. I may cite the selection of Sir John Monash to be the head of the great Morwell electricity scheme. There could have been no better qualified man in Australia, either in respect of experience as an organizer or in the matter of technical equipment. Sir John Monash was the ideal man for the job, and it would have been absurd to require him to undergo an examination upon entering the Victorian Public Service. That is a case foi discretion; and .there are others. There are men who were originally educated to a standard which enabled them to pass an examination ; and, as the years went by, they qualified still more thoroughly in the school of experience. Yet it is possible that .they would not be able to hold their own “in a departmental examination with young men fresh from the schools. Unless the Attorney-General can provide the Committee with satisfactory information upon the point, I shall move to add a proviso to the effect “ that such officer has passed an examination of equal standard to that prescribed for entrance to the corresponding Divisions of the Commonwealth Service.”
.- What is the position of Commonwealth officers who have resigned and entered the Territorial Service? I wish ‘to know if the provisions of sub-clause 2, which is now to be deleted, would have applied to officers who have been in the Territorial Service for several years past. The Committee should be careful not to do an injustice to those who have taken the risks and borne the strain of service in tropical climates. If they desire to reenter .the Commonwealth Service,’ they should be in no way penalized because of the period which they have spent in the interests of the Commonwealth in the Territories.
– In the first place, this clause deals only with officers of the Territorial Service or” the Commonwealth Railways Service. The opportunity to enter the Federal Public Service has been open to Territorial officers under the existing Act, and I may add that very little advantage has been taken of it. The opportunity will still remain; to be provided for now, however, in a separate clause. Men who have given years of faithful service in the tropics, where they have helped to carry the heavy burdens of the Commonwealth, are entitled to consideration. The Bill will not grant them any measure of preference ; but they are” to be eligible, as hitherto, for appointment to the Commonwealth Service without undergoing an examination; and, in a new clause - 48 - which I intend to move, special provision will be made for prior .service to be reckoned as Commonwealth service.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 43 agreed to.
Clause 44 -
Clause consequentially amended.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That sub-clauses (2) and (3) be left ont.
.-Certain Tasmanian officers were taken over by the Commonwealth at the inception of the Federation. In. that State, the first Act dealing with the Public Service was passed in 1900, with no retiring age fixed. The Customs and Post Office staffs were taken over in 1901, but the State Act did not receive Royal assent until July, 1901, whereas the officers of these two Departments had been transferred, respectively, on the 1st January and the 1st March of that year. In 1905, another Public Service Act Vas passed, with seventy as the retiring age, and officers who came into the Federal Service after that year did so with their existing and accruing State rights preserved. Thus they are in a somewhat better position than those who entered originally, as I have just described. I have already spoken to the Minister in regard to this matter, and I would be glad if he would explain the position.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) mentioned this matter to me. He stated the case of a man who was appointed in Tasmania before Federation, and then was transferred to the Commonwealth Service. After his transfer certain State laws were passed giving additional benefits to officers of the State Service. Obviously the transferred officer cannot gain all the benefits the Commonwealth Service offered when he entered it, and at the same time get the benefits of State Acts passed from time to time subsequent to his transfer. His position can only equitably be that all his accrued State rights up to the time of his transfer are preserved to him by the Constitution, and he gets all the subsequent benefits of the Commonwealth Service. He cannot claim any rights conferred on State servants by a State enactment after he left the State Service.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 45 -
Any person having at any time either before or after the commencement of this Act retired from any salaried office, not being of a temporary or casual character, in the Commonwealth or Territorial Service, or in the Public, Railway or other Service of any State, may, if not more than fifty years of age, be ap pointed by the Board to the Commonwealth Service without examination, and, if the Board thinks fit, without probation, and without compliance with the life assurance provisions of this Act.
– I move -
That .the following words be inserted after “ may “ in line 6 : - “ if he has passed an examination of equal standard to that prescribed for entrance to the corresponding division of the Commonwealth Service, and”.
I took no exception to clause 42, which waives the examination in respect of men already in the Service, but clauses 39, 45, and 46 seem to be departing from one of the finest provisions of the Public Service Act, namely, the competitive qualifying examination. If it were not for the examination for entrance into the Public Service the lives of members of Parliament would be a misery, and the Service itself would not be efficient. In the old days, when political and official patronage ruled in the State Service, inefficiency was rife, and it became a standing joke to advise a man to put a brainless son into the Public Service. I do not say that that stigma upon the Service was always justified. One of the finest features of the existing law is the competitive and qualifying examination.
– The examinations are not much good when the papers are secured beforehand.
– That can be prevented by careful administration and the taking of due precautions. The laws against burglary do not prevent burglary entirely, but they minimize it. Clauses 45 and 46 provide for the appointment of men without requiring them to pass examinations, and I am proposing that they shall not be admitted to the Service unless they have passed an examination of equal standard to that provided for entrance to a corresponding division of the Service. That is a fair provision. We must be careful to avoid opening the door to political ot official patronage.
– Does the honorable member’s amendment apply to an examination held by any other than a State authority?
– It is not necessary to prescribe the examination. It would be for the Board to say if the examination which an applicant had passed was of the proper standard. It does not seem fair to ask some men to pass a qualifying examination for entrance to the Service and allow the Board, in their discretion, to appoint others without examination, thus preventing the promotion of those who had entered the Service by examination.
– Would the honorable member accept as a qualification an examination conducted by a college or school ?
– That would depend on the standard of such examination, and whether it had been held by approved examiners. It would not do to allow any school to issue a certificate qualifying pupils for admissions to the Service. The persons to whom this clause relates are men who have already retired from salaried positions in the Service of the Commonwealth or the State, and it is natural to assume that a number of them have already passed qualifying, examinations. If those examinations were of equal standard to that now prescribed for entrance to a corresponding division of the Commonwealth Service, it is not necessary for them to be further examined. But if they have not passed such examination, it is not fair to appoint them, and thus prejudice the promotion of others who have passed the prescribed examina’tion.
– I ask the honorable member not to press the amendment. This clause is an exact replica of section 31 of the existing Act, and under it several officers have been appointed, and have rendered most useful service to the Commonwealth. It provides for the appointment, without examination, of persons who have previously been in the permanent Service of the Commonwealth or State, and have had to fulfil all the conditions of entry into such Service. The Board may appoint these men if they are not more than fifty years of age. I think that, under the provision in the existing Act, the Registrar of the High Court, Mr. O’H’alloran, who had special qualifications, was appointed. Nobody is appointed in this way unless he has some special qualifications. The clause is not altering the law in any way, except as to age of appointment.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Scullins amendment) be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause consequentially amended.
– The honorable member must seek another opportunity of dealing with that matter.
– I think we might take some steps to improve the atmosphere in the chamber. There is no escape for the carbonic acid gas.
– The honorable member’s remarks would be more applicable at another stage than the present.
.- i moveThat the following sub-clause be added : - “ Such appointment shall not be made to a position superior in classification to that occupied by an officer at the time of his retirement.”
This provision was in the Bill when it was introduced in another place, and was taken out at the instance of the Government. It is already to be found in the Public Service Act, and some strong reason must have existed for its inclusion in that measure; that is to say, the experience of the past must have shown that it was necessary to provide that any officer brought back to the Service should not be placed io a position superior to that which he occupied prior to his leaving the Service. It seems hardly fair to those who remain in the Service that one who has retired may be brought back again and given preferment1 over themCan the Minister inform, me why the provision was deleted from the Bill in the Senate?
– This provision was deleted because it was found impracticable in its application. Difficulty arises in comparing classifications. Those of the Commonwealth and those of the States differ, and the trouble is to ascertain which are the higher. The subclause has been omitted on the suggestion of the Acting Public Service Commissioner. Even in our own Service the system of classification will be altered.
– I imagined that stronger reasons would have been advanced for the omission of this provision. Its absence will leave the Service open to the troubles of the past, which must have caused its inclusion in the original Act, and as I fear that grave injustice may be done when a man is brought back to the Service, and placed in a position superior to those filled by men who have been working hard in a Department and looking for some reward in the shape of promotion, I must press my amendment.
Question - That the sub-clause proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 46 consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Clauses 47 and 48 negatived.
– I have asked the Committee to negative clauses 47 and 48 because I have a new clause to insert in substitution. I move - That the following new clause be inserted: - “ (1) Where a person becomes an officer of the Commonwealth Service and his service in the Commonwealth Service is continuous with -
Commonwealth, the continuous service of that person in any Service specified in paragraphs (o), (6), (c), or (d) of this sub-section, shall be reckoned _ for the purposes of this Act as service in the 14 Commonwealth Service.
This new clause enables prior service with another Service to be reckoned as Commonwealth service.
.- Do I understand from the Minister (Mr. Groom), that this new clause completely does away with the principle of clause 48 by which temporary service was reckoned as permanent service?
– The new clause deals only with permanent service. We exclude altogether the recognition of temporary service.
– Does the new clause cover the case of men who have gone into the Territorial Service from the Commonwealth Service ? Previously, such men had to resign from the Commonwealth Service before being appointed to the Territorial Service. I should like to know what is the position of men who, for special reasons, have been transferred from the Commonwealth Service to the Territorial Service.
– Clause 43, which we have already passed, enables us to transfer men for temporary purposes to the Territorial Service. If men resign from the Commonwealth Service, then, of course, they are out of the Service.
– The question is whether this proposed clause will be retrospective in the cases to which I have referred. They have arisen only within the last three years, and they are the cases of men who, after their return from the war, went into the Territorial Service.
– If those men have gone into the Territorial Service, and are there now, and if they come back to the Commonwealth Service, their time in the Territorial Service will be reckoned as continuous Commonwealth service.
– From the beginning?
– For any period they have served.
– Up to the present, it has been impossible for men in the Commonwealth Service to go into the Territorial Service without resigning from the Commonwealth Service. In the cases I have cited, will the seniority of the men be preserved as if they had . remained in the Commonwealth Service?
– The clause will not do that.
– Many of these Territories are tropical in character, and that fact should be considered. Many of the men, to my own knowledge, went into the Territorial Service under the impression that when any change was made their seniority in the Commonwealth Service would be preserved - that the two Services were practically interchangeable in regard to their vested rights. The Minister has stressed the fact that many of these Territories are tropical, and, that being so, the men who go there should receive some consideration. These Territories will be continually expanding, and if some provision of the kind I suggest is not made, we shall have great difficulty in inducing men to relinquish their rights in the Commonwealth Service to join the Territorial Service.
– They get certain benefits by joining the Territorial Service.
– That may be; but they also get malaria, amongst other things. Many returned soldiers joined the Territorial Service with the definite understanding and hope that they were not relinquishing their old rights; and they ought to receive the same consideration as is given to men who have come from the Territorial Service to the Commonwealth Service. The number of the men affected cannot be more than fifty, and most of them have seen active service. They passed their examinations, and had a certain standing in the Commonwealth Service; and I repeat that they are entitled to some consideration.
– All those who come within the four classes set out in the proposed new clause may have their service reckoned as continuous in the Commonwealth Service.
– I understand that some of these men obtained six months’ or twelve months’ leave of absence, instead of, .resigning, in order to join the Territorial Service; are the cases of those men covered by the clause?
– It all depends on the service they went from.
– What if they went from some other service than those set out in the clause?
– The case of a man who went from the Postal or the Works Department is not covered.
– In my view, the new clause, if accepted, will mean that an officer who is temporarily employed, and is made a permanent officer without examination, will have his temporary time counted as Commonwealth service.
– The temporary provisions go out altogether.
– Public servants who are fairly well versed in the drafting of this clause take the view I have expressed. I think that an officer who was temporarily employed, and has by examination become a permanent officer, should have his temporary time counted as service, especially in view of the fact that in the past temporary men who have become permanent officers without examination have had their temporary time thus counted. I should like to know whether I am right in my facts.
– Hitherto temporary service has been recognised as continuous with permanent service, but it is now proposed to recognise permanent service only as having continuity.
.- In the case of men who obtain leave of absence in order to go into the Territorial Service, there has been no interval in their service, or, at any rate, a very brief one; and I wish an assurance that they will not suffer bv reason of the proposed new clause.
– If the men are away on leave of absence they will be regarded, on their return, as having been continuously in the Service.
– That satisfies me.
Proposed new clause agreed to. Clause 49 -
– This clause provides that no married woman shall be eligible for employment either temporarily or permanently in the Commonwealth Service, unless the
Board certifies that there are special circumstances which make her employment desirable. Unless that provision is broadly interpreted, it may bear very harshly on many married women who have been deserted by their husbands and have families to maintain. I may be told that a woman so circumstanced could obtain a divorce, but I would remind the Committee that the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches are opposed to divorce, so that, because of her religious belief, many a woman would not seek relief in that way. I want to know whether the words “ special circumstances,” used in this clause, would meet the case of such women.
– The general rule is not to employ married women in the Public Service.
– A woman who has been deserted by her husband and who, because of her religious belief, will not seek a divorce, should not be placed at a disadvantage. Such a woman might have a family to maintain, and the whereabouts of her husband might be unknown, so that she could not obtain a maintenance order against him. I hope the Minister (Mr. Groom) will be prepared to so modify the clause as to provide for such cases.
– I am afraid it is difficult to provide for variations from the general rule. It has been the practice to give married women-widows, for instance - temporary employment in the Service from time to time, but I do not think we could reasonably amend the clause so as to provide for the permanent employment of married women.
– A good many married women are employed in the Service.
– But not in the permanent Service. They are only temporary employees.
.- I think the clause is too drastic and should be modified. It seems to me that it would apply to married women in charge of allowance post-offices. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) has said that the rule has been to exclude married women from permanent employment in the Service.
– The clause will not affect the position of married women in charge of contract post-offices. I would also draw attention to the fact that power is given the Board to grant exemptions to meet specially hard cases.
– Although I am generally averse to leaving matters to be dealt wilh by regulation, I think that a statutory provision of this kind is too rigid. In sub-clause 2 it is provided that “ Every female officer shall be deemed to have retired from the Commonwealth Service upon her marriage.” Under that subclause a woman who, within a month of her marriage and retirement from the Service had been deserted by her husband would not be allowed to return to her former employment. Why should she not be able in such circumstances to return to the Service of the Commonwealth? The provision is too drastic, and I shall oppose it.
– I invite the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) to consider the position of a woman whose husband is an inmate of a hospital for incurables, and can never again maintain her, as well as that of a woman whose husband is permanently insane. It seems to me that women so situated should be entitled to obtain employment in the Service. The women of Australia have the franchise, and have to conform to the laws of the Commonwealth, and yet we are here enacting that if they are married they shall be debarred from, employment in the Public Service.
– Is the honorable member referring now to a woman who has never been in the Public Service?
– Her age might render her ineligible for employment in the Service.
– A married woman of twenty-three might be in the position I have described. Why should married women be debarred from employment in the Service because of circumstances over which they have no control ?
– I am afraid that we cannot allow ourselves to be influenced by the harrowing picture which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has drawn. A woman of, say, forty-six years of age, who has been deserted by her husband, and who has a family to maintain, would not be likely to qualify for permanent employment by passing the prescribed entrance examination.
– Why should a female officer be deemed to have retired from the Service upon her marriage?
– Because it would be difficult for a woman to ‘ attend to her household as well as her departmental duties. There would be a conflict of duty. This clause is in accordance with the practice of all Public Services.
– But supposing a woman has an invalid husband?
– The Board may take into account “ special circumstances.” A married woman may in certain circumstances be given temporary employment in the Service, and, as a matter of fact, many widows are in many cases temporarily employed as office-cleaners. In this clause, however, we are dealing with the permanent Service, entrance to which is to be secured only by passing the prescribed examination. I do not think we could adopt any other course than that for which the clause provides.
– Under this clause a female officer on her marriage will be discharged from the Service.
– That has always been tha law.
– Is there any reason why we should perpetuate such an anomaly? Why should we not depart from some of these musty, old precedents? I know of a lady in the Public Service who wants to get married, but is told that if she does so she must retire. She has a splendid record, has done good work in the Service, and does not wish to leave it. It is not fair that she should be called upon on her marriage to retire.
– Is it not in the public interest that a female officer on her marriage should retire from the Service?
– Why ?
– Because if she remained in the Service she would have to neglect her home duties.
– If the Government is charged with the responsibility of seeing that every woman attends to her home duties, that is another matter. Women in the Service are paid to attend, not to home, but to public, duties. What would the single members of this
Committee say if a Bill were introduced providing that on their marriage they should automatically cease to be members of the Parliament? In this clause the Government are merely seeking to perpetuate a silly tradition. Escape from such a provision will be possible only by the use of political influence. All that a woman in the Service should be asked when she is about to marry is, “ Can you carry on your duties satisfactorily after your marriage?” If she says that she can why should she be called upon to leave the Service?
.- I cannot agree with all that has been said by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman). Surely he would not contend that a female officer who marries a man with an income of £1,000 a year should be allowed to remain in the Service?
– Why should she be discharged?
– A woman who is maintained by her husband should not come into competition with single women or men desiring to enter the Service. i am surprised to find that the clause provides that no married woman shall be eligible for employment either permanently or “ temporarily “ in the Service. I hope that where there are special circumstances married women with families whose husbands have deserted them will not be debarred from employment. When a husband deserts his wife, and leaves to her the care and expense of bringing up tho children:, “ special circumstances “ are created which I think would bo considered by the Board. But a woman who is being maintained by her husband should not hold a position in the Public Service. In my view, there should be preference to men, in order that they may qualify to marry and maintain the women.
– Would not the clause prevent the employment of married women as cleaners?
– What about the case of tho woman who married a returned soldier who was incapable of doing much work?
– I take it that in such a case there would be “ special circumstances “ which the Board would consider.
– I know of three married women who are in the Public Service.
– Perhaps the present law does not prohibit a married woman from holding a position in the Service.
– Yes, it does. The clause under discussion is .borrowed from the Act.
– I take it that in a thinly (populated district ,the wife of a storekeeper .could act as postmistress.
– Yes. Allowance offices are not affected by the Bill.
.- I am in sympathy with the opinions of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). Where a woman is married to an incapacitated soldier, or has an invalid husband, and has a family dependent on her exertions, she should not be prohibited from remaining in the Public Service. On the other hand, we should not make it possible, when a man and his wife are both in good health, for the wife to remain in the Service, thus allowing two salaries to be drawn for the upkeep of one home, while other persons might be without employment.
– The case that the honorable member has in mind would be considered by the Board.
– A man might have been engaged prior to the war to a girl in the Public Service, and might come back incapacitated for active work.
Mr. Groom. We have made full provision for soldiers who are permanently incapacitated, and for their wives.
– The case put by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports should receive consideration from the Minister. I think that married women should be allowed to remain in the Service if, because of some misfortune, they are compelled to earn their own living.
– The Board has power to permit their employment in exceptional circumstances.
– And, of course, it isfor the Board to say whether the circumstances are sufficiently exceptional. Might it not, however, apply to cases like this the provision which says that every female member of the Service shall on her marriage be deemed to have retired from the Service?
– The Board would have regard .to the wording of the whole clause.
– We know what Boards are. i do not want it to he possible for this Board to say to every woman who applies for .permission to remain in the .Service, “ There is the law. It says that you shall be deemed to have retired on your marriage.” It may be thrown back in the teeth of Parliament that it was our intention that all women on marrying should be discharged from the Service. However, I accept the assurance of the Minister that the Board will consider cases of hardship such as arise when women are deserted by their husbands.
– I move -
That sub-clause (2) be left out.
Tho sub-clause which I wish to omit provides that every female officer shall be deemed to have retired from the Service on her marriage. It is all very well to say that some other provision modifies that to which I object; but I. know that last week a lady who .is in the Public Service, and who wishes to get married, was bluntly told that if she marries she must leave. There is no need for a provision such as this, and the only reason the Minister gave for its appearance in the clause is that it has been the custom of the past for women to retire on their marriage. Why should women be penalized? Why should they not be paid as much for their services as is paid to men ? Equal pay for equal work. . They are admitted to the legal and medical professions on equal terms with men, and I fail to see why they should be penalized if they enter the Public Service. 1 refuse to accept the Minister’s assurance that the Board will have power to conskier ‘ ‘ special circumstances. ‘ ‘ Those who are humble and poor, and cannot pull strings, will be differently treated from those who can use influence. If the Minister wishes to retain the sub-clause, he should give us good reasons for its retention. A woman who i« giving good service should not be dismissed merely because she is married.
– It is placing a premium on spinsterhood.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro proposes that women in the Service who marry shall be allowed to remain; but I do not think that at all desirable. Indeed, experience has proved it to be quite undesirable. The provision to which ha takes exception is one which applies generally to the Public Services.
– Why not sack a man when he gets married?
Question - That sub-clause 2 be omitted (Mr. Austin Chapman’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That, to sub-clause 2, the following words be added : - “ unless the Board certifies that there are special circumstances which make her employment desirable.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to. ° Clause 50-
.- This is one of the most important clauses in the Bill. It contains innovations which are. likely to create intense dissatisfaction throughout the Service. Power is to he given to the permanent head to fill a vacancy in his Department by the promotion of an officer in his own Department. But if he is of opinion that it is expedient in the public interest to fill a vacancy by the transfer or promotion of an officer from another Department, he must advise the Board; whereupon the Board, after considering the claims of all applicants, may transfer or promote the officer who, in its opinion, is relatively the most efficient. This task of dealing with transfers and promotions has hitherto rested with the Commissioner; it has formed, indeed, the greater part of his responsibilities. Now, the work of the one Commissioner is ‘ to be undertaken by three, but the heavy burden of dealing with transfers and promotions is to beractically taken from the Board andanded over to the permanent head3. As the clause reads, the permanent head will have the virtual power to confine promotions within his Department to the officers of his Department. Why should not all officers of the Service be entitled to equal right of selection to fill vacancies? All have passed a general examination, upon entering the Service - no matter to what Department he mayhave been originally appointed. In the course of the second-reading debate I called attention to certain undesirable features of the Bill; for example, in the direction of discrimination as between various classes of officers. This clause provides, “ whenever a vacancy occurs in any office other than the First Division. . .” Why should members of the First Division be exempt?
– They are the heads of Departments. They are- not influenced by any question of promotion.
– Why should officers of the First Division be removed from the control and oversight of the Board? The post of departmental head is one for which every ambitious nian in the Service seeks to qualify himself. Merit should be the factor in deciding promotions. No opportunity should be afforded for political patronage. In recent years there have been certain appointments to higher positions in the Service which could be seriously challenged on. the ground of merit. The Board of Commissioners will have power to enter into the various Departments, will be able to learn the qualifications of officers, and will know, from personal observation, whether or not they are fitted to be promoted to the highest places in the Service. As the first of two amendments, I move -
That the words “ other than in the First Division,” sub-clause 1 be -left out.
If the amendment be carried the method of appointment will be uniform; the Board will have absolute power in this respect, and appointments will be free from the political patronage and favour that have been characteristic of a number of appointments made in recent years.
– This is another of the clauses in a long complicated Bill that requires very serious attention, because it departs from a principle in regard to promotions that has been in force ever since the Commonwealth has had a Public Service. In my opinion the clause requires some amendment. ‘ I am not so much concerned in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) as I am in the very vital question as to whether we should practically confine promotion in the Public Service in watertight compartments or continue the present system of letting the best qualified man receive the appointment irrespective of where he works.
– Is that the present system ?
– Theoretically, at any rate, it is. I have had some experience which enables me to understand how this clause will affect some branches of the Service. In regard to a small Department like the Electoral Office, if promotion and transfers in
Departments are to be confined to the officers in thorn, what earthly chance will a village Cromwell, or some “mute inglorious Milton,” or a budding Napoleon in the Public Service, have of obtaining advancement? It is not fair to place promotion in the hands of heads of Departments when all other important functions in connexion with the Service will be dealt with by a Board for which we have voted salaries amounting to £6,500 per annum. I do not think it is equitable to close the door of promotion to everybody outside a particular Department in which the promotion is to be made. Following upon the amendment which has been proposed “by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, another amendment might be made to substitute the Board for the permanent head of the Department. It th at amendment were agreed to and consequential alterations were made throughout the Bill a fairer deal would be assured to the whole Public Service. The amendment now before the Committee refers to the First Division only, and, in effect, place.? in the hands of the Board, instead of in tho hands of the Government, the appointment of permanent heads of Departments. My vote upon this amendment will be governed by the arguments that can be adduced by the Minister in support of the proposals of the Government, but so far as I can see, the Government are proposing to place promotion within a Department in the hands of the permanent head, to the exclusion of officers of every other Department, and the amendments of which notice has been given by the Attorney-General moke certain my assumption as to the Government’s intentions. For instance, the Minister has given notice that he will move to delete from sub-clause 3 the words “ after considering the claims of all applicants for the vacant office.” That amendment, if agreed to, will make more watertight those compartments into which the Bill divides the Service. I shall listen with interest to what the Minister has to say in defence of the clause.
.- This is a very important clause, aud is based upon the recommendations of Mr. McLachlan. His vast experience of the working of
Departments has caused him to report in favour of the adoption of this system of promotion and transfers. In his report he said -
Careful consideration has been given by me to the question of transferring the authority for making promotions and transfers from the Public Service Commissioner to the permanent heads and chief officers of Departments’. Responsible heads of Departments who are charged with the duty of internal administration have now a clear conception of the principles that should govern the advancement of officers, and it appears to me that, keeping in view the educative influences of the past sixteen years under the Federal regime, the time has arrived when, subject to certain safeguards, the departmental heads may be intrusted with authority as to staff changes. It is imperative that action be taken to obviate the present unseemly delays and to provide moro businesslike methods, insuring at the same time that the claims of every officer are accorded proper consideration. The transfer of these functions to permanent heads and chief officers would mean the elimination of action by Inspectors and the Commissioner, as well as reference to the Governor-General. To further expedite action, chief officers should exercise authority in respect to promotions and transfers other than those to the more important positions; this would enable staff changes in the several States to be carried out promptly, and with considerable savings in the present cost of making temporary arrangements due to payment of travelling expenses and relieving allowances. Proper safeguards should, however, be provided against any possibility of outside influence being used in determining promotions.
Clause 50 applies to promotions and transfers other than those in the First Division; the latter are dealt with in clause 54, which provides that appointments and promotions in the First Division shall be made by the GovernorGeneral on the recommendation of the Board, but that appointments of permanent heads may be made by the GovernorGeneral without reference to the Board. Promotions and transfers other than in the First Division are to be made by the permanent heads, who must give first consideration to relative efficiency, and, in the event pf equality of efficiency, to relative seniority. In that way the principle of efficiency as the basis of appointments is preserved.
– The permanent head will be confined in his selection to officers within his own Department.
– No. If he is of the opinion that it is expedient to fill any vacancy by transfer from another Department, he will advise the Board, which. will arrange the transfer. In regard to appointments from amongst officers within his own Department, the permanent head will have full power. All appointments, however, will be provisional, and any person who may be dissatisfied will have the right to appeal.
– The same power is not enjoyed by a permanent head to-day.
– No. Mr. Mclachlan has pointed out the defects in the present system, and recommends its alteration. Honorable members will see that the clause is based on sound principles, and I believe that it will effect a great reform in the administration of the Service.
.- The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has very much to commend it, and I cannot understand why officers of the First Division should be exempted from being transferred. We have often heard complaints in this House regarding the overstaffing of different Departments. If the clause were amended as desired by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, provision would be made by which an excessive number of officers in one Department could be utilized to make up for a shortage in another. The Minister has not made it clear why officers of the First Division should be exempted from being transferred in this way.
– Clause 54 provides that all appointments and promotions in or to the First Division are to be made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Board.
– But why cannot vacancies in the First Division be filled by transfer in the ordinary way?
– Because the appointment and promotion of officers to that division are specially provided for elsewhere. The First Division includes only the permanent heads and such other officers as the Governor-General determines. Those other officers will be appointed on the recommendation of the Board, but clause 54 also provides that permanent heads may be appointed by the GovernorGeneral without reference to the Board.
– I can understand that the number of officers in the First Division will be very limited, but I can not understand the necessity for the exemption.
– If we included them in this clause, it would appear as if the promotion of officers of the First Division other than the permanent heads themselves would bo made by the permanent heads.
– But we are suggesting that that shall be altered by a subsequent amendment.
– Is this amendment then to be a test as to the whole question?
– Exactly. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh succeeds in having tho words “ other than in the First Division “ left out, ho will subsequently move an amendment to strike out that part of the clause which empowers the permanent heads of Departments to fill vacancies by the promotion or transfer of other officers, and he will provide that all appointments shall bc made by tho Board. It will lead to economy if provision is made to transfer oven a limited number of officers of the First Division to other Departments where their services may be utilized, instead of it being necessary to make a fresh appointment should a vacancy occur in any office in the First Division.
– The clause, as drafted, is based upon the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner, and it has the effect of providing that appointments will be made as desired by the honorable member.
– We think that the Commissioner has made a slight mistake, and we trust that the amendment will set the matter right. If all appointments are made subject to the Board, it will not only lead to economy, but it will also prevent the exercise of influence. It has often been said that some members of the Public Service have been passed over by others who have ‘been able to exercise influence. The amendment will obviate all that sort of thing, and will enable the Board itself to deal with all transfers and promotions. If the Minister give3 the matter fair consideration, he will see that it is a reasonable proposition, which will not only improve the measure, but also do something in the interest of the Public Service.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Makings) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived. Mr. PRATTEN (Parramatta) [6.15]. - I move-
That the words “ Permanent Head “, subclause (1), be left out with a view .to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Board “.
This amendment follows on the remarks I previously made, and is moved with the deliberate purpose of taking away from the permanent heads the power to promote their own officers only, at the expense of all the other officers of the Public Service. If this amendment be carried, there necessarily will be consequential amendments, which, I take it, the Minister will make. This amendment is submitted for the purpose of fighting a principle. i believe that Ihe whole of the officers of the Public Service are entitled to have their claims considered in respect of any vacancy in any Department, and it seems to ,me on the lines of equity and good conscience, that the Committee should accept the principle of this amendment, for otherwise we shall be making a retrograde step with regard to the esprit de corps, prestige and ambition of the services. I do not wish to stress this matter teo much, but I have, with other honorable members, received a communication with regard to the Bill from representatives of the whole of the public servants. They set out arguments, which, no doubt, the Minister has before him, why this clause should nob be passed as presented, and each and every one of the arguments appeals to me as sound, proper, and logical. If the Minister has not before him those arguments, I am quite willing to read them; if he has, I shall not delay the Committee, but will listen with some interest to what he has to say against my proposal. I submit the amendment for the reasons I have given, and I hope it will be accepted by the Committee.
– The amendment submitted strikes at the very foundation of the recommendations made by Mr. McLachlan. In dealing with the question of the re-organization of the Public Service, he considered the matter now under discussion, and made a very strong report regarding it. On page 27 of that report Mr. McLachlan says -
After a careful analysis of the position, and keeping .in view the necessity for bringing the whole of tho Commonwealth services under one general authority, I am satisfied that full justification exists for relieving the Commissioner and Inspectors of some of the detailed work at present required of them, and in particular that connected with promotions, transfers, and increments to salaries. [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 bc evident that if these requirements ave to be 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. lt 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 trans,fers 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 re-arrangement the Commissioner and his staff will be relieved from much of the minutiae 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.
At page 46 of the report honorable members will find the following -
Careful consideration has been given by me to the question of transferring the authority for making promotions and transfers from the Public Service Commissioner to the Permanent Heads and Chief Officers of Departments. Responsible heads of Departments who are charged with the duty of internal administration have now a clear conception of the principles that should govern the advancement of officers, and it appears to me that, keeping in view the educative influences of the past sixteen years under the Federal regime, the time has arrived when, subject to certain safeguards, the departmental heads may be intrusted with authority as to staff changes. It is imperative that action be taken to obviate the present unseemly delays, and to provide more businesslike methods, insuring at the same time that the claims of every officer are accorded proper consideration. The transfer of these functions to Permanent Heads and Chief Officers would mean the elimination of action by Inspectors and the Commissioner, as well as reference to the CoovernorGeneral. To further expedite action, Chief Officers should exercise authority in respect to promotions and transfers other than those to the more important positions; this would enable staff changes in the several States to bo carried out promptly, and with considerable savings in the present cost of making temporary arrangements due to payment of travelling expenses and .relieving allowances. Proper safeguards should, however, be provided against any possibility of out- side influence being used in determining .promotions.
Those safeguards are provided in the Bill. I trust that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) realizes the seriousness of the action he is taking, foi* it is a serious step indeed to remove the very basis of the recommendations in the ex-Commissioner’s report. Mr. MoLachlan gives his reasons for the reform he desires to be made, and the only question we have to ask. ourselves is whether we can, in carrying it out, see that no injustice happens to the officers in regard to promotion.
– I have previously pointed out that the Bill is not altogether consistent with Mr. McLachlan’s report.
– It is true that we have not adopted every one of Mr. McLachlan’s recommendations, the chief matter in which we have departed from them being the constitution of a Board of three instead, of the appointment of one Commissioner; and with the other recommendations that alteration is perfectly consistent.
– Why not give the Board all the responsibility we can ?
– Mr. McLachlan points out that the reason he does not desire the Commissioner to exercise the power dealt with in this clause is the resultant’ unbusinesslike methods, unseemly delays, and so forth.
– But there is to be a Board of three men instead of one Commissioner as hitherto.
– The creation of a Board of three is no reason why we should continue unbusiness-like methods, unnecessary cost, and undue delays.
– What is the custom in New South Wales?
– I am not in a position to say; in any case, that is not the question. What we have to decide is the right course to adopt for the ‘Commonwealth Public Service on the advice we have received. Is the system proposed in the Bill a fair one? Will it secure what we desire in the Public Service? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves. It is admitted that we should secure efficiency in the Public Service, and to that end, when promotions are made, efficient persons should be chosen. The clause expressly conserves the very basis of efficiency. In making promotion, consideration must be first given to relative efficiency.
– In one Department.
– That is practically what is done to-day.
– Does the Minister think that a subordinate officer will not incur the displeasure of his superior by appealing against the latter’s decision? Life will not be worth living in the Service under such circumstances !
– It does not necessarily mean that a subordinate will incur the displeasure of his superior officer.
– Does it not? I have seen the effects of such a system!
– Every act of the head of the Department may invoke hostility on the part of employees.
– Would it not be more advisable for the permanent head to recommend and for the Board to act?
– ‘The appointments are in the first instance provisional, and what is the difference between a recommendation and the provisional appointment, except, that the latter obviates any delay. Appointments may be made .promptly in outlying parts, and the work of the Service go on without interruption.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to impress upon honorable members the importance of this clause. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) asked whether there was a similar provision iu the New South Wales Act. I am unable to say, but I know that the procedure for which this clause provides has long been followed in the Public Service of Great Britain. There’ heads of Departments make promotions.
– What is the membership of the Public Service of Great Britain?
– The question is not as to. the number of persons concerned, but rather as to the correctness of the principle involved. It is generally admitted that the Public Service of Great Britain is one of the best in the world, and in connexion with it this principle has operated successfully. Mr. McLachlan, at page 47 of his report on Public Service administration, recommended that the following procedure should govern the making of promotions : -
This clause provides that efficiency shall be the first consideration.
– The amendment does not attack the second principle.
Mr. GROOM. But it attacks the first, the omission of which from the clause would strike at the very foundation of Mr. McLachlan’s recommendations. The. third recommendation made by him is -
We are giving that right of appeal.
– The amendment does not strike at that principle.
– No ; but if it were carried promotions would be made by the Board of Commissioners, and it would be unnecessary to provide for the right of appeal. The honorable member desires that we shall return to principles in the original Act which Mr. McLachlan has condemned. We have to ask ourselves whether, under the clause as it stands, an injustice is likely to be done to any public servant.
– Injustices may occur under it.
– In what way? Under the existing Act, if a vacancy occurs in the Taxation Department, for instance, the position is advertised, but the head of the Department takes care to ascertain whether there is not already in the Department an officer suitable for appointment to the vacant office. That has been the practice of the Commonwealth Public Service for twenty years.
– Appointments under the existing Act are made by the Commissioner.
– The complaint made by the honorable member who has moved this amendment is not as to> that, but rather that the clause as it stands would make the Departments water-tight compartments. If this clause is passed as it stands the Departments will be no more water-tight than they are under the existing Act. If any officer feels aggrieved ho will have the right of appeal.
– -What chance will he have when the permanent head of his Department is against his appeal?
– ‘The Public Service Inspectors will ma’ke independent reports to the Board in respect of all such matters. The passing of the clause as ‘it stands will obviate delay. It is based on the experience of Mr. McLachlan, whose service as Commissioner has been lauded by honorable members generally.
– The Attorney-General has not always been willing to follow the views expressed in Mr. McLachlan’s report. ‘ *
– I have been, except where there has been a conflict between his report and that of the Economies Commission. His report has nothing whatever to do with the problem with which the Economics Commission had to deal. It is our desire ‘ that the Public Service shall be efficient. “We want to introduce into it business-like methods and to get rid of routine. In this clause we are providing the machinery recommended by the ex-Commissioner, Mr. McLachlan, to achieve those objects, and I ask the Committee to stand by it.
.- I cannot see my way clear to follow the advice given us in the eloquent address just delivered by the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom). This, to my mind, is one of the most important clauses in the Bill. It goes to the very kernel of the ServiceI voted for the appointment of a Board of three Commissioners in order that the Service should be controlled by men who would be free from departmental influences, and would ‘be able to give an unbiased judgment on all these great and important questions. The head of a Department is, after all, only human. He may have under him a man who serves him well, a man of ability who will carry out effectively the work intrusted to him, and when a vacancy occurs in his Department he will naturally be prepared to promote such a man. There may be in another Department a man of equal capacity, but what chance will he have against an applicant for the vacancy who is in close touch with the head of the
Department in which that vacancy exists? The head of each Department has his office in Melbourne, and cannot keep in touch with every officer in his Department throughout Australia. When filling vacancies in the other States, he will have to rely on the advice of the officers in charge of his State branches. The clause, as it stands, lends itself to the very worst thing that could happen in a public Department. The “ Uriah Heep “ who will “smoodge” .to the head of his Department - who will open the door for him when ho enters and close it for him as he leaves - under a provision such as this, will progress in the Service by leaps and bounds, while the man of real ability who does his work quietly and efficiently, but will not “smoodge” to any one, will find promotion most difficult. Wo are practically being asked to return to the “ good old days “ when the head of a Department was all-important. As a public servant, working overtime with others, I have seen the head of the room look up from the work at which he was busily engaged when the head of the Department has entered, and have heard him say, “ Good evening, sir.”- And I have known the head of the Department to carpet that man for failing to rise and salute him as he entered. I have known the head of a room to be told in such circumstances, “If you do not rise and salute me when I enter the office, I shall teach you your duty, and you will soon find yourself somewhere else.” That is the sort of thing that was done in the “good old days” to which we are asked to return. I speak feelingly on this question, because I am convinced that it is not in .the interests of the country, the Service, or the heads of Departments that the responsibility for making promotions should be thrown upon heads of Departments. If promotions are to be made by heads of Departments, what are the three Commissioners to do? We are told that, under this clause, a dissatisfied officer may appeal to the Board, but he would hesitate to take action. He would know that it would be within the power of the head of his Department, under whom he would continue to work, to do him an injury if, in the course of his appeal, he made statements to which his chief took exception. The head of .the Department would not “ deal “ with him straight out, but there are a hundred ways of killing a dog besides that of choking him with butter. I know of lots of cases where promotion has been denied. I know of a returned soldier who, on resuming his work in the Service, was kept back because, although he was efficient, he was quiet and easygoing and would not push himself. That sort of thing will not occur if promotions are made by the Board of Commissioners. The Board will be free from departmental influences; applications for vacant positions will be gazetted, and the Commissioners will obtain full information as to the merits of all applicants. The work of the Commissioners will occasionally come up for review. What is the Board to do if it is not to deal with important questions of this kind? I have the greatest respect for heads of Departments, and as a member of Parliament have always treated them well, just as I have endeavoured to treat every subordinate officer. But power intoxicates some men. There are men who do not presume on their authority, while there are others of whom it may be said, “God help those who come up against them” as soon as they get into power. Heads of Departments may be either men who ! have climbed every rung of ‘the; ladder and know every branch, of the work, or men who have come into the Department, perhaps through influence, knowing nothing about the details of its administration. Those of the first kind know what is a fair day’s work for the men under them, while the others generally feel that they must make their position sure by exercising, what they call discipline, which often means the Harsh treatment of subordinates, and the setting of jobs for them which the (head -cannot do himself, and for which he has to fix a time limit without knowing how long should be occupied on it.
– How would the honorable member determine promotion?
– By merit. I would promote those most capable of doing the work required to be done.
– How is merit to be determined ?
– The Board will be able to arrive at that. When I took charge of the Department of the Navy, the secretary of the Clerks Union was continually complaining because there was no classification. I therefore got an officer, one of the best obtainable - he has since left the Service and is making twice as much by practising law as he got in salary - and made him chairman of a Board to which I appointed a man from each branch, instructing them to draw up a scheme of organization. This they did, basing it largely on the classification scheme of the Public Service. Their classification was satisfactory to the Department generally, and I received a letter to that effect. Some of the men in the Department were, of course, reduced by the classification, but I went into all the complaints that were made, dealing with them individually. If you appoint the right man to the right place you soon make your task of administration very easy. .
– The honorable member waa the right man in the right place.
– An inspector may know nothing about telegraph operating, but if he gets hold of an expert, and is instructed as to the cardinal points on which to judge operators, he can easily, after a trial of ten minutes or so, determine which of a number of candidates for promotion is the best operator. The Board of Commissioners, I presume, would be instructed by experts. The head of a Department could not rely on. his own knowledge in the making of promotions. The vacancy to which .the promotion (had to be made might be in the Sydney office, and tha departmental head in Melbourne could not afford the time to go to Sydney to judge of the abilities of the candidates for promotion there. Whatever may be said for this beautiful city, it must not be thought that it is the whole Commonwealth. A departmental head is fully employed in watching over the conduct of his own Department if he is to prevent such deplorable things as were happening in my constituency recently, which made it necessary for me to draw attention to the manner in which mails were being delivered there, a duty which should never have fallen upon ,me. Owing, however, to the promptitude of the Postmaster-General in attending to my representations, the difficulty has been got over, and we have now a much better delivery of mails than we used to have. The proposal to- which I object would give to the heads of Departments enough work to engage the whole of their attention, to the neglect of all their present work. At the present time the responsibility for promotion does not rest with the head, of a Department, and the inspector, who is responsible probably knows nothing of the man concerned until he inquires into the action that has been taken. I do not say that heads of Departments are worse than other men. I have had men working under me whom I have learned to love for their efficiency, but would it have been right for me to determine, without any check, what promotion those men should have ? I wish to see these matters dealt with by independent Commissioners. For what else are we creating the Board of Commissioners? How could the head of a Department like that of the PostmasterGeneral say whether- an office boy should be promoted or not? In the Board’s office there would be a man who was constantly dealing with these matters, and who would have all information. I do nob see why all the promotions made in Melbourne should go to the public servants who are living here. Why should not men from other cities, such as Hobart, have a chance?
– On what, evidence as to eligibility for promotion would the Board act?
– The Board would get information from the head of the branch in which the promotion was to be made. In. the Department of the Postmaster -General there is. a ‘ departmental head in Melbourne, and in Hobart t(he chief officer is called the head of a branch,. if a promotion were to be made under the system, proposed, the branch head would get a report from the head of the section concerned. I think it would be better if, instead of the head of the section reporting to the branch head, and- the branch head reporting’ to the departmental head in Melbourne, the head of the section should report through the head of the branch to the Commissioners’ representative in Hobart. I speak feelingly on this subject, because.- I know that great injustice may be done to the public servants if we agree to the proposals of the ‘ Government-. We do not leave to the Board of Commissioners the promotion of heads of Departments. Why ?’ Because, I suppose, we think that the heads of the Departments are almost the equals of the Commissioners. I wish to have matters like promotions dealt with by men who will be wholly unbiased and directly responsible to the Commissioners. Where the -matter is an important one, the three Commissioners will look into it.
– They will have a reserve power in any case.
– Should it happen that a man who was not efficient was appointed or promoted by the permanent head of the Department, of what effect would parliamentary criticism be? The departmental head would merely read it and smile, knowing that nothing would happen to him. I have heard bitter criticism of departmental heads uttered in this Chamber, but I have not known any departmental head to be removed from his office. In Tasmania., as in the other States, ‘in the old days, men who in the first instance had obtained their appointment because they were related to some one of influence, in the State, would, remain in office until they had long outlived their usefulness; that is no,w a thing of the past - let it remain so. I ask honorable members to give the Board of Commissioners something; to do. If the Board does not do its work well,, we can change the Commissioners. What would be the need of a Board if every departmental head could be intrusted wholly with the organization of his Department, the regulating of promotions, and the like? Do honorable members propose to- do without the Board, and get back to the old. State practices ? I would not have voted for a Board of three Commissioners, had I thought that they would be dummies, without responsibilities,, and with not, much to do. Let them have responsibilities,, and let them carry out the work intrusted to. them:.
,- The transfer and promotion of officers is one of the most important features of Public Service administration. I heartily support the honorable member for Parramatta (‘Mr. Pratten). The Government, however, have apparently set their- face against amendments emanating from private members. Grave injustice will be dome to many excellent officers if this clause is not amended. As it stands, there may be a> first class, man ku’ the Trade and Customs’ Department who is due for promotion. A vacancy may occur in the Home and Territories Department - one which he could fill with, credit to himself and satisfaction to the Commonwealth. But, because the filling of that vacancy is left in the hands of the permanent head of the Home and Territories Department, the officer in the Trade and Customs Department has . no hope of being selected, no matter how much greater may be his qualifications than those of any officer in the Department where the vacancy has occurred. I hope the clause will be amended to provide that all vacancies shall be gazetted, and the position thrown open to eligible officers throughout the Service; and I trust that all selections will be made on merit alone. By appointing a Board of three, we are instituting a costly form of administration; but if we delegate, one of its most important functions to persons subordinate to the Board there will be discord. I am confident that in practically every instance vacancies will be filled by departmental heads solely from officers within the Departments concerned.
.- -What will be the use of the Board if its most important duties are undertaken by the heads of Departments? Hitherto one of the foremost tasks of the Public Service Commissioner lias been the selection of officers in connexion with transfers and promotions. The fact that the Commissioners are not to be given this duty, and’ that departmental’ heads are ta undertake it, suggests that the Commissioner in the past has not been successful in this direction. i do not say that such is the case; but one would naturally be led’ te infer it. Where have those officers come fr-arm who occupy the important positions at Canberra;?. They are all Victorians.. How have they “picked all the plums.” at the .Federal- Capital? It is because they have had a “ pull- “ at headquarters, in Melbourne. That fact applies even- to those in. the humbler positions.
-. - The officers, ali Canberra are- such excellent men that. I do not care.- where. they came- f r-am>..
Mr. AUSTIN, (CHAPMAN;. - I db not deny- that they are excellent men merely, because they happen to- be Victorians,, and have had the good fortune to exercise a “ pull “ at head -quarters-. This system has been bad enough under a Commissioner-, but when the departmental heads are given the right of making promotions there will be a great deal more “ pulling “ at head-quarters. The favorites of the permanent head - those closely around him - will’ get the jobs every time. Promotions and transfers should be decided absolutely on merit. Political and every other kind of “ pull “ should be ruled out. Honorable members have spoken of the evils of centralization ; this clause will place a premium upon the evil. Until, recently there was at the head of the Pensions Branch in New South Wales a very excellent officer, who incidentally was a Victorian. He was a most thoroughly competent man, and he gave great satisfaction, both to the public at- large and to the pensioners particularly. I understand that this officer recently received notice to report, himself to head-quarters, in Melbourne, and that another officer, from the Central Office, was appointed in his stead. Whether that was an instance of departmental “ pull,” or whether the head of the Department had some grievance against the man who was until recently in charge in Sydney, I do not know ; I intend to make it my business to find out. Probably the reason for the transfer was that the permanent head considered that his deputy in Sydney was making too much headway.
– No; he was transferred because he was too sympathetic.
– Anyhow, the case provides a scandalous illustration of what will, happen generally when heads of Departments are given the power to make promotions and to have free scope to favour those who are “ in their- good books.” It is. only human nature that the departmental chiefs should show the greatest fa.voj.i-r to men in closest contact with them., Other officers of the same Department, who have not the same opportunity for daily bringing, their personal capacity under the notice of the head’, will generally be ignored’.. Promotion should’ be; in. every case, en merit..
– A fair field and no favour !
– Exactly. The only concrete reason: which’ the Attor-ney-General. has so far advanced in; support of the principle underlying the- clause is that this- system of promotion- has been . extant in England for the past 100 years. I am proud to be a good Britisher, but these hoary old practices do not commend themselves to me. What control will the Government have over the conduct of heads of Departments who are about to retire? They are independent. They will do as they like, and promote whom they like. As they are about to step out, they will probably take good care to do the last favour at their command to their best friends. I know of one permanent head who will have retired in a short time. What does he care for the Government, or for anybody else? I am told that he is making some of the most audacious alterations in his Department. What do these men care for what Parliament may say? The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) says that these officers smile at members of Parliament. My experience has been that they sneer at us. Parliament will retain some measure of control over the Board, bub permanent heads can be autocrats. I do not wish to be regarded as attacking all our departmental chiefs. Numbers of our leading officers earn much more than their pay. They are most excellent and enthusiastic men. Their capacity is such that they would be doing far better for themselves if they were out in the open field of competition. Thank God I We have public servants who will “stand up” to members of Parliament. But let us not place the power in their hands to extend the curse of centralization. It has been said that if a man wants a job at the Federal Capital he must be a Victorian.
– But that is not true.
– It certainly is not fair. Thank God ! We shall be out of Victoria before long.
– They have treated the honorable member very well.
– I, personally, have nothing to complain about, but the provincial atmosphere is becoming more pronounced every day. I do not blame the Victorians for exercising a “ pull,” but I support the amendment as a means of taking away all “ pull.” It is proposed to appoint highly-paid Commissioners to do certain work, of which promotions and transfers are one of the most important parts. Yet the Minister asks us to delegate the work to men who often in the past have made a failure of it. i have already stated what happened to an officer in New South Wales who has an excellent record, and had given satisfaction to the public and consideration to tho pensioners. Why should the head of a Department be allowed in this autocratic way to bring an efficient officer from New South Wales, which contributes practically half of the revenue of the Commonwealth, to Melbourne for no apparent reason, except that honorable members have in this House praised that officer’s administration.
– Was he not entitled to promotion ?
– I do not know. Evidently he was due for penalization. Here is another Victorian who does not like mv remarks. I am not condemning Victorians, but some change is necessary, and the amendment will mean that instead of the men at headquarters getting positions that should be filled by the best, eligible men, whether in the isolation of the bush or in the big cities, will have a chance of appointment on their merits.
.- I never hear a speech from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) without thinking of Moses, the leader of the ancient Israelites. It must have been with such bristling and commanding eloquence as the honorable member has just employed that Moses rose to the supreme command of his distinguished race.
– But the Book says that he was slow of speech.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is slow and incorrect of speech, but, nevertheless, picturesque and illogical. Moses was at least logical. But let me put a finger upon the gleaming fallacy that ran through the whole argument of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. He objects to the centralization of authority. The Minister’s proposal, whether it be right or wrong, seeks to destroy centralization, whilst the proposal of the honorable member for EdenMonaro seeks to concentrate authority at the seat of government, whether Melbourne on Canberra. Surely, if we give to the heads of Departments power over transfers and promotions we diffuse authority over eight or ten men residing in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, or elsewhere. If, on the other hand, we’ confine that authority to one Board, whose head-quarters must necessarily be at the seat of government, that will surely be concentrationeconcentrated. What has the honorable member ffor Eden-Monaro to say to that? Let us turn away from the outburst of passion which characterized the honorable member’s speech to the restrained atmosphere in which the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) launched his amendment. This is not an easy matter to settle on its merits; it is important, and has been argued from both sides in Public Service quarters for well nigh a generation. It is a problem of whether the efficiency of the Service - and I am considering the efficiency of the Service more than the rewards of individuals in the Service - is test served by allowing promotions over the whole area of the Service or by putting it into watertight compartments known as Departments. In other words, if a man joins the Customs Department., is he to be able to climb the Customs ladder only all his days or, if he shows peculiar aptitude, will ho be able to climb higher and faster the ladders of other Departments.
– The Departments are not quite as watertight as that.
– That is what the system means in practice. If the heads of Departments have the right to promote, in ninety-nine cases out of 100, particularly where discretion or executive ability is desired, the man trained in the Department in which the vacancy occurs will be given the preference. As a matter of practice that principle is growing, even in those services in which promotion is supposed to extend over the whole area.
– That has been the practice all along.
– It is the practice, although theoretically promotion roams the whole Service. If a vacancy of a certain class in a Department is gazetted nil the men in that class throughout the Service have theoretically a right to apply for the position, and to be appointed to it in preference to an officer in the Department who is junior to them in their class. But in actual practice familiarity with the routine of the Department and tried efficiency in the discharge of its work usually determine the appointment.
– So they should.
– The question is whether efficiency in the Service can best bc secured by compartment promotion or by broadcasting promotions throughout the Service. I have known many cases of transfers from Department to Department that proved unexpectedly beneficial. I speak more particularly of the Public Service of the State of Victoria, with which I I am more familiar. I know of a man who was taken from the Postal Department to perform most important administrative work at the launching of the income tax branch in that State. Ho performed his task with wonderful efficiency, and later was transferred to other Departments. If he had been confined to the Postal Department he would have had no opportunity to do the important work which later he performed, and would have been deprived of promotion.
– That is exceptional
– Only recently a man was brought from the Post Office in Brisbane to the Taxation Department in Melbourne.
– Yes. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Queensland has been transferred to an important branch of the Treasury.
– Under the Bill transfers may bo made by the Board. Mr. WATT. - But when promotion is given into the hands of the permanent heads any other system is discouraged.
– The procedure to be followed wider the Bill will be practically the same as it is now..
– Then why does the Minister suggest an alteration in words if there is to be no alteration in practice? Broadly, the Public Service law of the States is what the amendment before the Committee 1V11i provide, namely, that promotions shall extend all over the Service and be made by the Commissioners. That is so in Victoria.
– And New South Wales.
– I believe it is so in most of the States. This is not a matter upon which honorable members can dogmatize, but those who have had administrative experience have more practical acquaintance with the way in which the Act operates to-day than have those who have not had that experience; and, favorable to the amendment though I am, I say broadly that if the system of broadcast promotion is not pushed too far, but is operated with discretion, we shall -probably get a more contented and more efficient Service than by compartment promotion. I fear a proposition which will confine promotion in a Department to officers within that Department, with the result that when a man gets into one Department he will have no chance to rise beyond its limits, no matter what his abilities may be. That is not the way to attract the best men to the service of the nation.
– Does not the honorable member think that, in regard to important promotions, the head of the Department would consult the Board?
– Of course; but the Board should take the responsibility. In the State of Victoria, the Public Service Commissioner has to make all important promotions and transfers, except of heads of Departments. These are appointed by Ministers, who, of course, are responsible to Parliament. But for all other appointments, from the 1st Class to the 5th Class, the Commissioner is responsible, and he acts on the recommendation of, and in consultation with, the heads of Departments. I think it is best to adhere to that system. Ministers may seek to amend Acts and alter practices, but they should keep their hands off those practices which experience has proved to be beneficial. In spite of small salaries, the Public Services include some of the finest brains in Australia. It has been my privilege,- as a member of Victorian State Governments, to work with officers ranging from the middle to the senior ranks, and frequently I have told men that if they would leave the Public Service and go into business they would earn infinitely more than if they remained in a Government Department. Men are attracted to a kind of service that gives permanence and the possibility of advancement; but the most important thing of all is to open wide the doors of inducement if we want to attract to the service of the nation the best brains that young Australia can offer. I suggest to the Minister that he may probably find the opinion of the Committee against him on this amendment, judging by the speeches that have been made. He is malting wondrous progress with this Bill, although he may not know it. It is a measure which, in ordinary circumstances, might well be under consideration in “this Committee for a month. The problems surrounding the Public Service are such that Governments and members of Parliament can with propriety give them the fullest consideration. Yet we are probably expected to put this Bill through in two or three days. I trust that the Minister is not discontented with the careful consideration that honorable members have shown for the Bill, or with their desire to improve it. Therefore, I hope that he will not resist the appeal made by the Committee that he should agree to this alteration. We do not make laws like the laws of the Medes and Persians. If, after establishing this triple Board, it should come back to us saying, “ Parliament altered our charter and gave us too many duties, and we desire to place this and that function on the shoulders of heads of Departments,” we should listen, because, the experiment having been tried, a better method will have been suggested by experience. I, therefore, suggest that the Minister should accept the amendment and give to the Board of three Commissioners, which will have sufficient personnel to devote one man especially to the routine work of transfers and promotions in the Service, a chance of fashioning and functioning in a way which I think will be to the lasting advantage of the Service.
.- I hope that the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) will yield to the desire of the Committee that the Board of Commissioners shall control all promotions. I want to indorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman). Mr. Mcpherson, an officer in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions office in Sydney, was giving universal satisfaction, but because Mr. Collins, the head of his Department, wanted him transferred to Melbourne, he was taken from his home and his family in Sydney and brought to Melbourne, where greater responsibilities were placed upon him, although his remuneration was not increased. Honorable members interviewed the Treasurer, and asked that Mr. McPherson should be kept in his position, but their efforts were of noi avail. If the matter had been referred to a Board of Commissione>rs I am sure the transfer would not have taken place. The treatment meted out to Mr. Mcpherson induces me to vote for the amendment.
– Honorable members have laid considerable emphasis upon several points, but I ask them first of all to consider the existing practice in regard to appointments and promotions. In his report Mr. McLachlan points out the defects of this system and. gives reasons for making the alteration he recommends. There are two classes of positions to be filled - those which are made after advertising in the Gazette, and those which are made without advertising. Mr. McLachlan says -
In the case of an advertised vacancy two weeks’ notice is usually given, and upon receipt of applications the Public Service Inspector confers with the Chief Officer. After conference, the Inspector and Chief Officer submit separate reports to the Commissioner, the Chief Officer forwarding his report through the Permanent Head. Upon these reports the Commissioner makes his recommendation to the Governor-General., such recommendation being transmitted through the Minister of the Department concerned. The Governor-General’s approval is conveyed through the customary channels back to the Department, when the promotion is gazetted. In regard to nonadvertised vacancies the procedure is similar, excepting that consideration is not limited to the claims of applicants as in the other case. The time and labour involved in this complicated and circuitous procedure is evident, and, although efforts have been made to shorten the process by delegation of authority in certain classes of “cases to Inspectors and Chief Officers, nothing loss than an amendment of the law will suffice to place the matter on a proper footing.
Tho provisions of the law requiring a report from the Permanent Head or Chief Officer, recommendation by the Commissioner, and approval by the Governor-General, were designed no doubt as safeguards against unfair discrimination in the selection of officers for promotion, but in the application of these provisions excessive delays have occurred in filling vacant positions and consequent expense and inconvenience to Departments because of the necessity of making temporary arrangements pending the .permanent promotion of officers. It is not unusual for months to elapse between the notification of a vacancy and the filling of the position, and in cases where the vacant office is in the higher grades of the Service, the consequential changes following upon the initial promotion can only be made long after the occurrence of the original vacancy, with hampering effects upon Departments which call for rectification. The time and attention of Public Service Inspectors, especially in the larger States, are absorbed in dealing with promotions and transfers of officers to such an extent as to militate seriously against their usefulness in other directions, particularly in regard to the general organization of Departments and the disposition of offices and officers to insure efficient and economical management.
Mr. McLachlan’s recommendation was based on hia actual experience of . the working of the existing system, to which honorable members desire to revert. If all promotions and transfers are to be effected by the Board, the delay, the inconvenience, the cost, and the harassing conditions which Mr. McLachlan recommends should be avoided, will continue. Honorable members are apparently willing to go against the recommendation of the ex-Public Service Commissioner simply because they do not wish promotions to be made by heads of Departments. Do they think that there is any likelihood of the head of a Department acting unfairly ? If so, let me point out that at the present time, in substance, promotions are made upon the recommendations of the heads of Department. That must .be so, because the recommendations of the heads of Departments could not be disregarded by the Public Service Commissioner. If the clause i3 allowed to stand, all the existing machinery requiring the furnishing of reports by inspectors will be done away with, and promotions will actually, and not in substance, as at -present, be made by the heads of Departments, who . will know who are best fitted to fill vacancies. In any case, the decision of the head of the Department is subject to an appeal. Again, the Commissioners, instead of having to deal with all the machinery relating . to every promotion and transfer throughput Australia, and snowing themselves up with unnecessary work, will simply handle appeals and transfers from one Department to another. According to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), I am attempting to buttress the method outlined in the clause by an appeal to British precedent. As a matter of fact, I gave the illustration of the system adopted in Great Britain because that country has a firstclass Public Service. It is the honorable member himself who is taking the conservative attitude by asking for the perpetuation of a system which stands condemned, and by objecting to a change which. I contend, will lead to greater efficiency.
– If a vacancy occurs, say, in tho Home and Territories Department, for which there are three or four applicants from other Departments, who will determine how the vacancy is to be filled?
– It will be the duty of the head of the Home and Territories Department to look through the officers in his own Department and find if there is among them any person who, in his opinion, is efficient and capable of filling the post. If he finds such a person in
– Is it not possible that there may be more qualified men in other Departments?
– There may be; but if in the Department itself there is a man with the_ ability, and, in addition, the qualifications of knowledge and experience, it is natural that he should be recommended by the head. The Bill preserves the right of securing appointments from without the Department where it is expedient. Under the circumstances, I ask the Committee to stand by the clause.
.- I do not propose, Mr. Deputy Chairman (Mr. Watkins) to attempt to follow the his Department, he can appoint him toy honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr, the vacancy. On tho other hand, if he finds that there is no one in his Department who is, in his opinion, capable of filling the post, or if he considers that it is expedient to secure the services of an officer from outside the Department, he advises the Board of Commissioners, and the Board makes the appointment.
– The Minister has not answered my question. . If the applicants for a position in the Home and Territories Department are mcn from other Departments, who will make the appointment?
– The selection is made by the head of the Department in which the promotion is to ‘be made.
– But what evidence will he have to enable him to say who is best fitted for the position?
– He will do exactly what he does now. At the present time, if he makes a recommendation to the Commissioner, he recommends any officer in his own Department he considers capable of filling the post, and his recommendation always holds.
– And the officers in other Departments, who may be fully qualified, have no opportunity of securing the position.
– They have the opportunity of doing so, but the practice has always been to fill positions by officers in the Department in which the vacancies occur, so long as there are competent men in the Department to occupy the positions. The reasons for this are obvious. The men appointed will have not only ability, but also a thorough knowledge of the routine work of their Department.
Austin Chapman) in his incursions upon electioneering provincialism in connexion with this matter. I could not hope to have from you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, that sustained toleration with which your predecessor in the Chair allowed that honorable member to discuss matters which were really irrelevant to this clause.
– “These Victorians” do not like it.
– As a mere Victorian endeavouring to look at this matter from the stand-point of an Australian, and as the matter is not one in which there is any question of competing States, but one which may be looked at on its merits without dragging in King Charles’ head, or Canberra, or anything of the kind-
– Even Moses! Mr. BRENNAN. - Even the introduction of Moses was not essential to enlighten the discussion of the subject; while I may be prepared to grant that our own local and modern Moses is an important accessory to all debates in this Chamber. However, Mr. Deputy Chairman, I shall not strain your toleration by going any further wide of the subject. I cannot understand why it is that the Minister (Mr. Groom) opposes this amendment, unless it be that, as it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose, so, apparently, it is conceived to be the duty of a Minister to persistently, and, I would say, even obstinately support a clause when it has been shown by wealth of argument and illustration that, as proposed, it is out of harmony with the purpose of the Bill, and with what justice demands. We. are asking bv this amendment that the question of the transfer of officers to particular Departments shall not be governed solely by the judgment, or, it may be, the whim of the head of that Department. It can be seen at once that the head of a Department may well be the last person likely to part with a valuable officer who suite him admirably, but who may very well be in great demand for some important position outside his particular purview. It is in order that we may have a body capable of taking a wide survey of Public Service requirements that we have created this Board. I was one of those who supported the creation of a Board of three, and I am very glad that, in spite of my advocacy, that policy was adopted. I pause for the laugh I expected to greet that statement; however, honorable members do not seem to see the joke, or worse still, do not regard it as such, and so I shall go on. We did hope that, having established this Board of three - this special jury - for an informed survey of Public Service requirements, we should have the benefit of the Board’s special knowledge and experience In the matter of transfers of the kind contemplated. I cannot understand why the Minister, when this elaborate and somewhat expensive machinery of a Board, with its high salaries, has been created, should not be prepared to make full use of it. I may add that I was one of those who supported the higher pay for the members of the Board, because I believe that men discharging onerous and important public functions like members of Parliament should be adequately paid. I hope that the Minister will give way to argument on this matter, because I promise him that, if he does not give way to argument, he may probably very soon have to give way to weight of numbers, and it is more graceful and pleasant to give way to argument than it is to unwillingly give way to numbers. There is no logical answer to the arguments adduced by the mover of the amendment (Mr. Pratten) in his most logical and incisive speech, though I may admit that I did not hear it. Wow that we have this Board, let us make full use of it. I appeal to the Minister not to “ stonewall “ his own Bill, but to let us get on with it, and, where obvious improve ments are suggested,, to accept them in a proper, instead of a carping, spirit. I appeal to the Minister not to persistently bang out against amendments until he has taken the numbers, and then to endeavour to make us believe that he is impressed by argument when he is really impressed by the counting of heads.
.- The Minister (Mr. Groom) has endeavoured to show that the amount of work to be performed by the members of the Board is so great in connexion with promotion that they will have little time in which to carry out their other duties. I am not at all sure that that view i3 a correct one. I see no reason why the members of the Board should associate themselves with at least 90 per cent, of the promotions in the Public Service, for minor promotions may safely be left in the hands of departmental heads, in the same way as the Minister would leave to them all promotions. In the case of the remainder of the promotions it is, in my opinion, essential that the Board should be in control. It is not unlikely that when a vacancy occurs there is a man in some other Department far better fitted for the position than any in the Department itself. Under the circumstances the Committee would be well advised to support the amendment, as it is my intention to do.
– I do not propose to -address myself further to the merits of the question. I am still satisfied that we shall make a great mistake in not adopting the recommendation of the man who knows more about the subject than any other person in Australia - a man whose judgment we may act on with confidence, and whose high motives in connexion with the Service no one can question. It is obvious that the consensus of opinion is against the clause as it stands, and I shall not press it further. All I can now do is to move that clauses 50, 51, and 52 be postponed in order that I may introduce new provisions to continue the practice which has beon condemned. .
– That is, you accept my amendment.
– The honorable member desires, by his amendment, to continue the old system; and to have pro- motions made by the Board which takes the place of the Commissioner.
– The sense of my amendment is to substitute the Board for the Permanent Head.
– That is to continue the existing practice.
– The Minister accepts that.
– I say that I shall have a clause drafted to embody that idea, though I do so with the greatest regret. I move -
That clauses 50, 51, and 52 be postponed.
Motion agreed to; clauses postponed.
Clause 53 -
– I ]nov -
That after the word “ offices,” line 3, the words, “where professional or technical knowledge is required,” be inserted.
In the case of ordinary clerical positions, for which professional or technical knowledge is not required, an officer, once having passed a qualifying examination, can manifest his efficiency for promotion by the general performance of his duties. His qualifications can always be gauged satisfactorily by the Department, and I think the Minister will recognise the merit of the amendment.
– I cannot accept the amendment. It is rather peculiar that the honorable member (Mr. Makin), who has been insisting on examinations of all kinds, should now seek to remove the system of examinations at present in existence. The object of the clause is to enable the Board, by regulation, to provide that the transfer or promotion to any specified office shall be dependent on the passing of an examination. This, of course, makes for efficiency and for the improvement of the Public Service generally. The honorable member, however^ desires to restrict examinations to cases where special or technical knowledge is required.
– You would not require a man to pass an. examination for the position of watchman ?
– Certainly not, and no such thing is intended. . There must be some system by which we can test efficiency and fitness, and, in my opinion, the amendment, if adopted, would make for weakness in the Public Service.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 54 -
– Will the AttorneyGeneral explain the reason for sub-clause 2 ?
– The object of subclause 2 is to retain in the hands of the Governor-General in Council the appointment of permanent heads. That is the law as it exists at the present time. The sub-clause leaves in the hands of the Executive of tha day the serious responsibility of appointing heads of Departments, The Executive will have the right to take the advice of the Board if it thinks fit with respect to the filling of such a position, and I think it right and proper that such appointments should be made by the Governor-General in Council.
.- I do not hold with the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) that this power should be vested in the Executive. Why should we appoint a Board of Commissioners if we cannot intrust them with the power to appoint permanent heads of Departments? The Executive has power over all -Boards, and we know exactly what happens when an appointment is made by it. The papers are put before the Governor-General in Council by the responsible Minister, and he signs them as a matter of form. We should not hamstring the Board of Commissioners in this way. I, therefore, move -
That sub-clause (2) be left out.
.- I hope that sub-clause 2 will not be omitted.
– It provides for purely political appointments.
– I would trust the Government of the day rather than the Board to appoint the head of a Department. The Government of the day is responsible to the Parliament for its acts, but we shall have no power over this Board. We are responsible to the people of this country, and if a permanent head has to be appointed, the Government, which is responsible to Parliament, should be charged, with the duty of selecting a suitable man for the’ position. In that way we shall obtain a better Service.
– I support the amendment for the reason that I desire that this Bill shall be as far as possible full and complete in every detail. By practically accepting the amendment that I moved on a previous clause, the Minister has given to the Board a’ reserve power in connexion with promotions in the Service, and I believe that reserve power, from a businesspoint of view, will be found df great importance in connexion with the matter under discussion. In a great industrial undertaking, such as that of Vickers, England,’ which has various departments - drawing offices, moulding, engineering, shipbuilding, and aeroplane works, &c. - each department is controlled by, say, a manager. But the managing director also has a reserve power in respect of all that goes on, including the appointment of the managers of departments. If the board of directors attempted to interfere with the managing director’s administration in connexion with the working of that big industrial undertaking, he would say at once, “ I have control of this undertaking; it is my responsiblity to make it a success.” He would not tolerate such interference.
We have started on this work by providing for the appointment of three highly competent men as Commissioners, who are to receive, in the aggregate, £6,500 a year for the responsibilities they are i assuming. I believe that our Public Service will be the better for it. It will gain in prestige. Ambition will be promoted, and, what is very important to us, we shall perhaps rid ourselves in this way of a lot of trouble and work we now have in connexion with the administration of the Service. i
– Does not the honorable member think that the Government of the day should control the appointment of heads of Departments f
– Why should they have more control over such appointments than men who will be better qualified to determine how these positions should be filled?
– That is a reflection on the Ministry.
– I do not think so. 1 am somewhat doubtful whether a Minister can even dismiss an office boy without some control being exercised by the Public Service Commissioner. If that is so, I do not think we should give a Minister power to go over the heads of three Commissioners who will receive in the aggregate £6,500 a year, and whose duty it will be to mate the best possible appointment in every case.
– The appointment of permanent heads should be in accordance with the principles laid down for the appointment of all other officers in the Service.
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection. The amendment will give effect to a principle which the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has already accepted. Sub-clause 2 certainly opens the door to favoritism.
– And nepotism.
– Even to nepotism. If we are going to make a complete job and put the Public Service of the Commonwealth on the basis of “ a fair field and no favour,” efficiency being the only ground for promotion, then we shall do well to carry this amendment.
– Even if the sub-clause 2 be omitted, the power of tho GovernorGeneral in Council to make what appointments he thinks fit will not be affected.
– No, but by omitting the sub-clause the Ministry for the time being will not be able to make appointments over the heads of the Commissioners.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the GovernorGeneral in Council may not appoint whomsoever he pleases to any branch of the Public Service? I say that he ma)7. Mr. Maxwell. - He may, but he will not.
– My honorable friend (Mr. Brennan) suggests that sub-clause 1 gives power to the Government of the day to override any recommendation by the Board of Commissioners. If that is so, what is the reason for inserting subclause 2, which specifically provides that-
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, appointments to any position of permanent head may be made by the GovernorGeneral without reference to the Board.
Sub-clause 1 states that all appointments and promotions in or to the First Division shall be made by the Governor-General on the “ recommendation of the Board.” It seems to me nhat the amendment is clear cut and well defined. In effect it means that without some recommendation, some control, some reserve power by the Commissioners whom we have deliberately agreed to appoint, no Government shall be entitled to make an appointment to the Service. I think the Committee would be well advised to once and for all put it as far as possible outside the power of any Government to interfere with the efficiency of the Service.
.- Having regard to the decision of the Committee on clause 50, I think that if we are to be consistent, we .must support this amendment. There are within the Commonwealth Service men who by reason of their merit have claims for consideration when any permanent head is to be appointed. Sub-clause 2, however, would allow of a party political appointment to be made. In the interests of the efficiency of the Service that is not desirable. If we allow the sub-clause to remain, we shall stifle the ambition of those in the Service who desire to qualify for the higher appointments, but who, having failed to catch the eye of the Government of the day, would not, under the clause as it stands, have an opportunity to secure the more privileged positions in the Service. As one who desires to see equality of opportunity and the adoption of a uniform procedure in making appointments in the Service, I cannot agree to a provision that would allow appointments to the higher positions in the Service to be determined on grounds of political expediency. I hope that the Attorney-General will agree to the omission of sub-clause 2 so that in the making of these appointments merit alone will be considered.
– I draw attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I would remind thehonorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that the clause is merely the codification of the existing law. It does not introduce any new proposal. Furthermore, none of the dire calamities of which the honorable member has spoken have occurred during more than twenty years’ experience of the present Act.
– I commend the Minister for the unusual brevity and conciseness of his speech. I see no reason why he should not accept the amendment with the graceful acquiescence with which he accepted the last one. It is rarely that the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) makes so sensible a speech as he has made on this matter. That alone is a reason why the Minister should give way. The first- part of the clause provides that all appointments to the First Division must be made on the recommendation of the Board. I am satisfied that, whatever that may mean, the Government does not intend to derogate from its unlimited power to make ‘any appointment to the Public Service that it may think fit to take responsibility for. That power has been with every Government, and has been exercised by every Government with a good deal of freedom. Perhaps the provision to which I have referred was framed merely to quieten criticism. Would any honorable member suggest that it means that the Government is bound in its choice by the recommendation of the Board? If so, why is it notprovided that appointments shall be made directly by tho Board ? Whatever respectful consideration may be given to a recommendation of the Board, the responsibility for an appointment must, in the last resort, rest with the Government. Then, for some recondite reason, it is provided that, notwithstanding anything in the Act, appointments to any position of permanent head may be made by the GovernorGeneral without reference to the Board. I think that the polite concession to the Board in sub-clause 1 might be extended to the cases covered by subclause 2, and I hope, therefore, that the Minister will allow sub-clause 2 to be struck out as redundant and unnecessary.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN (Eden.
Monaro) [9.50]. - Sub-clause 1 provides that appointments shall be made in ac- cordance -with efficiency, and that where there is equality of efficiency, seniority shall count. That seems a reasonable provision. But in sub-clause 12 Ministers say, in effect, “ We may desire to make a political appointment.” That is a most unfortunate declaration to put into cold type. The Bill is designed to give confidence to the public servants by making them think that merit is to be the reason for promotion, and that political influence is not to be used. Sub-clause 2, however, is a placard saying that where the Ministry sees fit, it will disregard efficiency and merit in the making of appointments. The members of the Board are to be picked men, appointed for a term of years. Ministries, on the other hand, come ‘and go; and we have already seen many of them. The adoption of my amendment would bring the clause into accord with preceding clauses. I hope that the Minister will agree to postpone this clause. If he does not, I shall press the amendment to a division.
.- If sub-clause 2 is struck out it will be necessary to go back to the first line of the clause and strike out the words “‘Subject to the next succeeding sub-section.”
– I am standing by the clause. We can always re-commit the Bill if necessary.
– Then I must say that I agree with honorable members who have spoken against sub-clause 2, and I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
– It is the existing law.
– Then we ought to improve upon it. Why should we drive a wedge of political patronage into a Bill that is supposed to do away with it? That consideration should in itself be sufficient to warrant honorable members in voting against the inclusion of this sub-clause.
Question - That the amendment (Mr.
Austin Chapman’s) be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative. Amendment negatived. Clause agreed to. Clause 55 -
– I intend to move that paragraph (b) of sub-clause 1, making an offence the “use of intoxicating liquors or drugs to excess” be left out. I can quite understand that provision should be made that a public servant shall not be intoxicated or give evidence of drinking to excess while on duty, just as I can understand that objection would be taken to his flirting with the typiste of the Department. But I cannot understand why those in charge of a Department should follow a man to his home, to his club, or amongst his associates to discover whether or not he has been drinking there to excess. What is excess in the use of intoxicating liquors?
– If I were asked to express an opinion as to the amount of liquor the honorable member would have to consume in order to drink to excess, I should name a substantial quantity.
– Does the honorable gentleman not think that this provision is playing to some extent into the hands of the “ gimlet brigade “ ? I can understand an unfortunate civil servant, residing in a terrace, wedged in between two members of the “ gimlet brigade,” who would bore hole3 in the fence to see whether he was intoxicated when he came home at night, or would listen to discover whether he raised his voice with a view to laying a charge against him of using intoxicating liquors to excess. My opinion is that a man’s wife is sufficiently able to judge whether he has been drinking to excess without the woman next door being allowed to do so. It is my intention to move that the words “ use of intoxicating liquors or drugs to excess “ be left out with a view to inserting the words “ is under the influence of intoxicating liquors or drugs when on duty.” Who is responsible for this dragnot provision? Is it not sufficient ‘ that we should exercise control over a man while he i3 on duty? I am willing to admit that if a public servant, comes to his duty suffering from an excess of drinking that should be a ground of complaint, but even then it might be difficult to decide whether or not he was suffering merely from a bilious attack. Tinder the clause it will be possible for certain persons to persecute a member of the Public Service. . In. the past it lias been found possible to manage the Public Service without such a farreaching provision.
– I understand that “ Pussyfoot “ J ohnson had dinner with the Commissioner while he was here.
– The gentleman referred to may be doing quite right. 1 have no wish to go into that aspect of the matter. I have no desire to provoke a controversy in this Chamber between honorable members who use intoxicating liquors and those who do not. I object to the power given under this clause to heads of Departments or of sub-Departments to make inquiries into the consumption of liquors by a public servant in his own home. The thing is preposterous. I doubt whether a civilized community would stand it. We know that in the United States of America Mr. Ford, the builder of motor cars, has laid it down that the men in his establishment shall not consume intoxicating liquors, and he has closed his works because they said that they would do so if they pleased. Is the Minister not aware of the fact that any attempt to impose unreasonable conditions on men must be attended by failure? If this clause is to pass in its present form we might as well make soldiers of the public servants at once, and tell them at what time they shall go home. The next thing the Government will propose is that they shall be followed up in their flirtations after hours. How would honorable members like their neighbors to report them to Mr. Speaker for alleged excessive consumption of intoxicants in their own homes? ‘Honorable members may laugh. The provisions of this clause are equally laughable, and no more objectionable than would be the behaviour of one of our neighbours if he came running to Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the point that a public servant should keep himself fit to do his duty during his hours of duty. But why should the Government seek to be the guardian of his morals after hours”? This provision is altogether too “ WOW.seristical.”-Do the Government propose that the Public Service shall consist exclusively of teetotallers? Who is to be the judge? May an officer be permitted to enjoy one glass of beer a day ? An anti-liquor extremist would say that even that quantity amounted to excessive drinking. I shall test” the
Committee upon this unreasonable clause, and every member who regards his home as his castle will be bound to support me. I move -
That paragraph (d) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ (d) is under the influence of intoxicating liquors or drugs when on duty.”
– I ask the Committee to reject the amendment. If the sub-clause contained some new principle, the arguments of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) might carry some weight, but this provision has stood the test of time. Section 46 of the Public Service Act provides that an officer shall be guilty of an offence if he uses intoxicating beverages to excess.
– Is the provision applicable to the whole of the Service or to only a portion ?
– I think, to the whole of the Service.
– Then what is the meaning of the exception at the beginning of this clause - “other than an officer in the First or Second Division ?”
– I presume that there are other means of dealing with officers in those divisions. I have never heard of any objection to this specific provision for the protection of the Service against the inefficient work of officers who may be addicted to liquor or drugs. It is true that neither the original section nor this clause confines itself to the oversight of an officer during his hours of -duty. But let us suppose that a man has contracted the nightly habit of excessive drinking. Can he possibly give his country efficient service during the daytime? Honorable members should not forget that in every circumstance officers are protected by the right of appeal.
– What need is there for sub-clause d in view of the fact that subclause c provides against inefficiency or incompetency “ through causes which appear to be within “ an officer’s control?
– I admit that a drunken officer could also be dealt with under sub-clause b, which provides against the negligent or careless discharge of one’s duties. However, the point is that reference to the excessive use of intoxicating liquors or drugs is to be found in the Act under which the Service has been administered for years, and that, never to my knowledge, has there been complaint.
.- No one will accuse me of holding a brief for the hard drinker or the drug fiend. But, while the public have a right to demand sober and efficient service from a public officer during the hours in which he is on duty, I fail to see what right the Government can have to intrude upon his own time. This discrimination between the higher and lower grades in the Service is something which we cannot sanction.
– If the honorable member will look at the Bill again he will see that officers in the First and Second Divisions are treated in the same way, the only difference being in procedure. The offences are the same.
– Why should there be any difference in procedure? The Minister’s justification for this discrimination is not very convincing. It would -be well for him to explain the merits of the Bill, which he professes to understand. It is unfair for the Government to presume upon their authority oven the Public Service to such an extent as to regard themselves as the custodians of a public servant’s conduct during the time when, he is, not actually engaged in the service of the Comonwealth. I have in mind a most unfortunate incident in South Australia, the ‘case of a man who gave very good service in the South Australian Railway Department, but who, six months after the commission of a certain minor civil offence, was dismissed. There should be no discrimination. If an officer of the Public Service commits any breach of the law by reason of his excesses after office hours, there is the law to deal with him, and he may be punished accordingly. But to add to that punishment dismissal from the Service, because of minor misconduct during his private time, is going beyond the authority that should be enjoyed by any employer over their employees. Whilst I am a strong temperance advocate myself, I cannot sanction this proposed intrusion.
– There is no discrimination between the two classes of the Service, so far as the offences are concerned’. If the honorable member (Mr. Makin) will look at clause 56 lie will find this provision: -
Where any officer of the First or Second Division is charged by any person with any of the offences mentioned in the preceding section, the Minister may suspend the officer, and upon such suspension shall forthwith report the charge and suspension to the Board. . . .
The clause then goes on to show how the case will he dealt with. It is perfectly clear that there must be a different procedure, but the offences are the same, and the punishment may be the same.
.- It is quite true, as the Minister (Mr. Greene) says, that this question of discrimination is easily disposed of. The two classes of officers are dealt with under different sections. But that does not touch the important principle which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has raised. I say, seriously, to the Minister, and to the Committee, that it is not the business of the Government to become social reformers in connexion with the administration of the Public Service. If it is the business of the Government to follow an officer of the Service to his home and to note his conduct, when there, in regard to the use of intoxicating liquors, it is equally the duty of a Government to observe his moral conduct in every other aspect of his daily life. There is no logical reason why their observations and study of his habits should be limited to the question of whether or not he is the user to excess of alcoholic beverages or drugs. I commend the honorable member for Melbourne Ports for having the courage to move this amendment, and I commend also the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) for having supported him, because, if I may say so, their attitude lays them open to such ill-considered and uncharitable remarks as that made by the Honorary Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie), who ought to know better, when he said sneeringly, “ Let them get drunk as often as they like.”
– That is what the honorable member’s party says. I do not say that.
– I know that the Honorary Minister most uncharitably and unjustly suggests that the honorable members on this side, by their support of this amendment, want an inefficient Service; that they are champions, or if not cham pions, at least apologists, for intemperance. Now, I associate myself with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Hindmarsh in that so far from being an apologist for intemperance, I have, I am afraid with some truth, more than once been called a “ Wowser,” and a more deadly thing than that cannot be said against any man representing the division I have had the honour to represent for so many years. Although myself open to the taunt of having practised temperance with wonderful persistence from my earliest youth - possibly it is one of the few virtues to which I have given sustained devotion - I contend with earnestness that we should not invade the rights of members of the Public Service as is proposed in this clause. Why should we inquire how many drinks ( a man may have had during the evening? Does it not follow that if we are to do this, we should also follow a public servant to the racecourse and see how much . of his hardearned money he places upon some illusive racehorse? Does it not follow that we should have some sort of committee to keep constant supervision over the manners and morals of members of the Public Service? This proposal has only to be stated in that way to expose the absurdity of the provision in this Bill. The duty of members of the Public Service is to do efficient work for the community which employs them. They are expected to perform their work with sobriety, decorum,and efficiency, and the AttorneyGeneral knows the futility of his argument that a person who drinks to excess out of office hours cannot give satisfactory service to the Department. The answer to that argument is that, if an officer does not give satisfactory service, . there arts other provisions in the Act for dealing with him. We know that there is very great diversity in the quality of work done by servants of the State. Some practise to perfection the gentle art of “ going slow,” others are remarkably diligent and attentive to duty. Those differences are to be found amongst members of the Service, as in every other section of the community. But, so far as it is necessary to supervise the conduct of public servants, the Bill contains adequate provision for insuring that their conduct shall be such as to secure to the Commonwealth an adequate return for the salaries paid to them. I repeat, therefore, that wo’ should not seek to be social reformers by allowing the anomalous provision to remain of which complaint has been made. “We stand for a temperate and honorable service, and we have got it.
– Can the honorable member say whether the public servants have offered any objection to this provision?
– I presume that there must be objection to it. For the moment I am not concerned with what the Service thinks, but with the question as to whether this principle is sound. It is for Parliament, and not for the Public Service, to decide this issue. The Minister mentioned, amongst numerous platitudes which he uttered with an appearance of sincerity, that this provision has been in the Public Service Act for some years. That is beside the question. This House is not working twelve hours per diem for the purpose of retaining Acts of Parliament in their present form. We are here to make the laws better than we find them, and the fact that this excrescence hae been on the statute-book for many years is no reply to the logical and considered objection made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I hope that the Minister will gracefully agree that this reproach on the public servants shall be removed, and that they shall be placed in the same category as are other members of the community.
– I should like to go further than the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has suggested. Paragraph c reads - “is inefficient or is incompetent through causes which appear to bc within his own control.” It appears to me that that provision will cover almost anything; why then put a slight upon both the temperate and intemperate members of the Service by including paragraph d - “using intoxicating liquors or drugs to excess “ ? I am sure that if any honorable member who was in charge of a Department found an officer suffering from the effects of intoxicating liquor, although imbibed on the previous night, to such an extent as to be “ incompetent through causes within his own control,” he would know how to deal with him.. Therefore, why retain paragraph <i?
– At the present time a prominent officer of the Postal Department is charged with having purchased certain articles in Germany and taken them into England without declaring them, in consequence of which he was charged under the Customs Act and fined. The Postal Department is laying a charge against him for something which happened outside Australia, and it is possible that he will be discharged.
I know of a public servant who, when going to his Government employment some fourteen or fifteen years ago, was assaulted. Being a man, he retaliated, but got the worst of the fight, and was knocked about to some extent. When ho presented himself at work he was suspended on account of his appearance, and only the intervention of friends saved him from punishment. Are we to permit a law to continue which would prevent a man from resenting a blow lest he might present an unbecoming appearance when he arrived at his work? The Minister has argued in defence of paragraph d that the same provision is in the present Act. That is so, and the Public Service objects to its re-enactment. I assure the Committee that the council which met to consider the disabilities which the present Act places upon public servants formulated the amendment I have moved. Have these men no right to take into consideration the way -in which they are treated, even though they are public servants?
– You want them to ‘be able to say how drunk they shall be allowed to become.
– I know I am addressing a House largely composed of “ water lilies,” but it is possible to get as much justice from honorable members who are “ water lilies “ as from those who are not. We are framing new legislation, and surely members of the Public Service, if they have been subjected to intolerant treatment in tho past, have a right to say so. It is not sufficient to have the old Conservative argument brought up that a provision such as this has been in force in the past. I hope a majority of honorable members will accept my amendment, which simply says that members of the Service suffering from the effects of alcoholic liquor while on duty shall be punished accordingly.
– I have always endeavoured to assist the oppressed, and the laws we pass should be liberal, because nobody will obey tyrannical legislation. The proposal embodied in the clause under consideration will insult the Public Service. It really amounts to saying that members of the Service shall, not take alcoholic drink. Many people who claim to be teetotallers adopt that stand because they have- no will of their own, and cannot take liquor without making beasts of themselves. When I was a youngster, I belonged to the Band of Hope, and one of the pledges the members had to take was that they would not handle or taste strong drink, and would not give it to others. I know some honorable members of this House who have taken trips to London to seek the advice of Harley-street specialists, aud in nearly every instance they have been told that a certain quantity of alcoholic liquor would be beneficial to them. They have carefully followed the advice given, and they are all the better for it. The clause under consideration would give the Board of Commissioners a power that it should not be permitted to exercise. There should be no interference with members of the Service after they have finished duty. I admit that I have taken intoxicating liquor. The clause would permit a departmental official to smell an employee’s breath, and he might then be able to report the employee for having taken intoxicating liquor. I have never known any one who could define the condition of intoxication. Some say that a man is intoxicated when he does not know the door of the house in which he lives. Yet we are asked to give an officer of a Department an opportunity to report a subordinate whose breath may indicate that he has. been drinking intoxicating liquor, although it may be essential to his health for him to take a little stimulating drink, or a little stimulant may enable him to render efficient service. We ‘ ought not to deprive any officer of the opportunity of taking a glass of intoxicating liquor simply because a few fanatics cannot touch drink without making beasts of themselves. I have too much confidence in our public servants to insult them by the insertion of this objectionable provision. My particular objection is to the use of the word “ use.” It would certainly be right to punish a public officer who has been drinking to such an extent as to cause him to wobble about all over the place interfering with other people, but the Bill provides other means of doing so.. One very serious objection to the subclause is the possibility of injustice that may be done through spiteful and unfounded charges being laid against officers.
– I protest against the inclusion of a subclause which is unnecessarily offensive to a large body of men. How would honorable members care to have conditions such as these imposed upon their admission to this House? They would regard them as unnecessarily offensive. The fact that the provision has been the law for some time past does not justify its retention. A sober and efficient Service which we all desire to have can easily be secured by the application of the other sub-clauses, which provide that officers must not become incompetent from any cause due to their own actions. Thus inefficiency or incompetency brought about by excessive drinking is quite sufficiently covered without this objectionable sub-clause, which would provide opportunity to mischievous busybodies to declare that an officer of the Public Service was drunk on a certain day on which he was off duty, and so cause the officer to be discharged or severely punished. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has had some hard things to say about men who do not touch drink, among whom I am to be included. My main objection to- the subclause is that it assumes that when a man is paid for his services he is bought body and soul, and that we are entitled to pry into his private life. In agreements relating to the appointments of people to very high positions, where of necessity sobriety is expected and where the holders of the positions are nob expected to sap their brains by unnecessary drinking, no such provision as is contained in this Pill could be found. The Minister would be well advised to leave out this sub-clause, which, while it will get us nowhere, will prove unnecessarily ‘Offensive, and will afford to busybodies the opportunity- to pry tate) the private lives of public servants.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Mathews’ amendment) stand par,t of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move - - That paragraph (g) be left oat.
If a public .servant has taken the oath - personally I do not Bee ‘the necessity of the oath or affirmation, because ‘it does not make a man a better public servant - in .the form of the Fourth .Schedule, and he does or says anything in violation 01 the oath or affirmation, ne immediately becomes .subject to the inquisition, or the Council of Ten, since that is what it really means. A man’s private life is to be inquired into. He cannot have a drink,, and he cannot do other certain things. We are placing power in the bands of a man to denounce hia fellow men. We ‘©an imagine this provision being made in Ure hysterical days of a few years ago, but there is no justification for the Government now submitting such an extraordinary ‘provision. Tie days df hysteria are past, and, as the -paragraph is altogether unnecessary, I trust that it will be deleted. Progress reported.
Bill received from the Senate* and (on motion by Mr. Hector Lamond) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment
Shearers’ Strike : Ventilation of CHAMBER.
Motion (by Mr, Greene) proposed - That the House do now adjourn.
.- A statement appears in the Argus to-day to the effect that the shearers’ ‘Strike committee propose -te declare the strike Off? in a few days. No such decision has been arrived at, nor is such a determination likely to .be reached, as the men absolutely refuse to work under the award. ‘The statement in question ‘is a pack of wilful lies and part of the propaganda of die Graziers Association.
Sr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [11.3]- Mr. Speaker, I would like .to ask if tt is possible before we meet to-morrow for something to te done whereby this chamber will be more adequately ventilated and cleansed ? I understand there is provision on the : roof to remove or wash the air, and I trust that an effort will be made to make the conditions ‘more sani*tary.
– What the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) desires is done every day, as the chamber is as thoroughly ventilated and cleansed as is possible with the appliances and in the time at our disposal. After the House rises and before it meets, and also during the meal adjournments, every effort is made to allow the vitiated air to escape. Before passing into the chamber the air which is drawn from outside passes through a water screen. But there is no doubt the atmosphere of the chamber, especially after a long sitting, and when the galleries are full, becomes very foul. There is also an installation of fans in the roof to draw up the vitiated air.
Mr. FOLEY (Kalgoorlie) [ll.5j.-i should like to know whether were is a record kept of the temperatures shown by the wet and dry bulbs at the back of 3£r. Speaker’s chair. I have worked a great deal in mines, and i know how valuable such records are as showing the atmospheric conditions.
– The engineer looks to these matters every day. I shall inquire whether records are kept.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19221004_reps_8_101/>.