8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T: Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator Senior presented the fourth report of the Printing Committee.
The following papers were presented : - (Quarantine Act. - Regulations amended -
StatutoryRules 1921,Nos. 98, 105, 106.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is he aware, whether it has been complained that, owing to the requirements of the Navigation Act of the Commonwealth -
– The answers are- 1.(a) There is reason to believe that the withdrawal of certain of the Union Company’s vessels from the New ZealandTasmaniaAustralia run and the substitution of a smaller vessel of another line is due directly to the world-wide trade depression, and not to the operation of the Navigation Act.
No, thereisno necessity under the Navigation Act to provide a library for the crew in any ship. If, ‘however, a library is provided for the use of passengers, and there is no separate library for the crew, the latter shall be given reasonable means of access to the library under the same conditions as the passengers.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th J uly, vide page. 9714) :
Clause 9 -
For the purposes of this Act, the GovernorGeneral may appoint a Board of Commissioners of three persons, and on the happening of any vacancy in the office of member of the Board, the Governor-General shall appoint a person to the vacant office.
In the making of appointments under the provisions of this section, preference shall be given, other things being equal, to returned soldiers or sailors.
Of the three persons first appointed as members of the Board, one person shall be appointed for a term of five years, one for a term of four years, and one for a term of three years.
Thereafter each appointment of a member of the Board shall be for a term not exceeding five years.
Every person who is appointed a member of the Board shall, . . .
.- I move -
That after the word “persons,” line 3, the following words be inserted: - “one of whom shall be selected from persons in the Public Service, nominated by the Public Service organizations.”
The object of the amendment is to provide that on the Board of Commissioners there shall be. a direct representative of the public servants, selected by the GovernorGeneral from a number of. persons to be nominated by the Public Service organizations. I wish to impress upon honorable senators the desirability of doing all we can to make the Public Service of the Commonwealth as effective, in the interests of the taxpayers, as possible. In order to makeit effective it must be a contented Service. If we give the public servants direct representation on the Board of Management, we shall be in a position to say to the members of that large body of employees that, to a very great extent, it will be in their own hands to make the Service effective and contented. The representation I suggest will be only a minority representation, but the direct representative of the public servants should be able to. do very fine work in conjunction with the other members of the Board. He would no doubtbe selected for his merits and experience, and his ex-: perience should be invaluable to the Board in enabling it to arrive at reasonable con-; elusions on all matters affecting the administration and effective control of the various Departments, The proposal is- not new, because in many large business concerns provision is made for admission to the boards of management controlling details of theiroperations of representatives of the employees engaged in them.
– Does the honorable senator propose that the representative of the employees should be selected by the whole of the Service.
– No, by the Public Service organizations. I should leave it to the organizations to make any arrangements they consider necessary to ascertain the feeling of. the individual members of the Service. However, that is merely a detail.
– Is it?
– I am afraid that Senator Thomas does not agree with me. Honorable senators will have an opportunity of discussing the whole matter on my amendment. It proposes an innovation, so far as the management of the Public Service in Australia is concerned. I am anxious that it should be fully discussed. I, personally, feel that if the proposal is adopted it will go a long way to bring about the result we all desire, namely, an effective and contented Public Service.
– In submitting his amendment, Senator Payne said that the suggestion to give the employees representation on the proposed Board was not new in Australia. It would not only be an innovation in Australia, but in every other part of the world, because I have had exhaustive inquiries made, and find that there is not a single instance in which public servants are represented on Boards which have the power to determine wages and classification.
– What is done in New Zealand?
– There they have three Commissioners, one of whom is the senior, and the other two act as his assistants. If we established the right of public servants to have representation on a Board which fixes salaries and classifications we would interfere considerably with our existing legislation, in which provision has already been made for wages to be fixed by Arbitrators and Arbitration Courts. When cases are submitted to an Arbitration Court they are dealt with by independent Judges, who come to a decision after hearing evidence from both sides. The proposed Board is to fix wages and adjust the classification, as well as place men in, certain positions. We have already provided that appeals can be made from the Board to an Arbitrator, and in that way the public servants have rights equal to those enjoyed by other citizens. If it is to be conceded that it is right to give a representative of the Public Service an opportunity to assist in fixing salaries, other workers will have the right to claim a similar privilege. Even after awards have been made by Arbitration Courts numerous complaints have been made, and industrial chaos has been caused in many directions. I have a very high opinion of the public servants, many of whom are quite capable of performing this work; but if a representative of the Service were to act asa member of the proposed Board he would be performing dutiesin which those he represented would be personally interested. It is unfair to give the Service the representation suggested; and, although a memberof the Public Service could be found who would perform the duties perhaps as well as any other citizen, he should not be placed in such a position, for the reasons I have indicated. Imagine 30,000 men saving to the selected representative, “What is your policy?” He would have to say that it would be his endeavour to fight for the highest wages for all, and the Lordhelp him if he did not stand by that. If the public servants were being sweated, such a proposal as that embodied in the amendment might be considered, but as we have a Public Service Arbitrator to whom dissatisfied public servants can appeal from the Board, I ask the Committee not to support the amendment.
– If the words of the VicePresident (Senator Russell) are of any value his objection wouldalso apply to the other two members of the Board, but in another direction. These two men would have to fix the salaries of the Public Service they would then be directly controlling on behalf of the Government, by virtue of the powers given to them by Parliament. Does the Minister fear that the representative of the Service would overpower the other two members of the proposed Board ? Does he think that the representative of the public servants would have more authority than the representatives of the Government? If honorable senators peruse clause 15 - which, I am not at liberty to refer to at this juncture - they will find that the question of wages is relatively small when compared with the duties to be undertaken in other directions. The Minister has admitted that there are men in the Service capable of performing useful work on a Board of this kind, and I cannot see that there is any foundation for his argument that because wages have to be fixed by the Board, such an appointment would be undesirable.
– It would not necessarily debar a public servant from being appointed to the Board - that will probably be done - but such a representative would not be elected by the Service. He might be nominated by the Government.
– The amendment of Senator Payne is that a representativeof the Service shall be selected by the Public Service organizations. The Public Service would not choose a man, but merely make a selection. The Minister has said that because the employees have not had representation on similar Boards before that it should not be done now. If that is the attitude to be adopted, all our legislation could be destroyed by a similar argument.
– It has not been done because it is unsound.
– It has not been tried. How can the Minister say that it is unsound when an experiment has not been made?
-It has been tried in connexion with returned soldiers.
– Not in the. way the Minister suggests. No argument has so far been advanced concerning why a representative selected from the Public Service should not have a seat on a Board designed to govern the Service. A representative of the Public Service who has grown up therein would be bound to know far more of its workings and requirements than the best commercial or specialist outsider. A Board having among its personnel a direct representative from the Service would certainly be better equipped to ascertain the requirements, to deal with the grievances, and reorganize the management, of the whole body of public servants.
– My first objection to the amendment is that it is too vague. It contains the phrase “nominated by the Public Service organizations.” Who are these bodies ? Presumably they exist, but certainly not under this Bill. It contains no definition of them, and’ has nothing to say as to who they are, how they are constituted, who brings them into being, and who controls them, or whether they comprise the whole or only portion of the ranks of civil servants throughout theCommon wealth. Nor is there any machinery provided in the Bill for conducting an election. This first objection, I submit, is fatal. Senator Senior says there is no reason why a member of the Public Service should not have a seat upon a Board of this description. I suggest that the honorable senator read the rest of the Bill. He might also recall what has been the character of our Arbitration Courts. The experience of all who have had to deal with these Courts confirms that they consist, in effect, of a Judge and a special advocate for each side; and that, in fact, neither of these latter interested parties is a Judge at all, but is purely a special advocate for the interests which he represents, and which has appointed him to his position. If one of the members of the proposed Board were the nominee of the Public Service, either by popular election or by selection of the organizations, he would be nothing but a special advocate for the Service. It would notbe his interest to safeguard the welfare of the general public; but that is what we want the Board for.
– It would be a case of 30,000 people having one representative, and of 5,000,000 people having two.
– Quite so, and the proportion is all wrong. If he will carefully read the remainder of the Bill, Senator Senior will discover that there is reference to a power of delegation on the part of the Board, so that any one of its members may carry out practically the whole of the functions of the Board. Should there be a special representative of the Service upon the Board, those powers of delegation could never be exercised, for it would be impossible to delegate the whole of the Board’s functions upon one individual solely and specially representing the 30,000 public servants. Should some specialcase arise, say, in Western Australia, wher.e ordinarily one member of the. Board could, attend’ to matters having the full powers, of the Board delegated upon him - the. whole of the> Board would- have- to: travel, to: Western Australia. In fact* the scheme generally would, break down.. If the power of delegation were placed upon the. one advocate whose special .and sole interests were those of the Public .Service, where would be the rights and interests of- the 5,000,000 people of Australia.?
– Had a division- taken place lastnight on this question, I would probably have supported the amendment -submitted By Senator Payne, not because I believed it would be an advantage to include it in the Bill, but because I thought that its inclusion would, lead the Government to see fit to drop their proposal for the appointment of a Board of Management, against which I have been fighting most strenuously. However, having slept over the suggestion, I find I am not prepared to support the amendment. If the purpose of. appointing a direct representative of the Service on the Board of Management is to do away with, discontent,, this-; can. only be done by having that rerpresentative elected1 straight out. by. all. the civil’ servants-,, temporary as, well as» permanent. The interests of temporary employees have as much right’ .to’ be- conserved as those of the’ permanent men- in the Service’. In a pamphlet sent to honorable senators’, the officials of the Public Service organizations are asking us tei provide in the Bill that no permanent official, however unnecessary he- may be, shall be dismissed . while one temporary, employee remains in the Service. As a matter- of fact, there are quite a- number of temporary employees rendering good service in the Commonwealth, some of them having been employed for years, others Having been merely appointed for periods of. six or nine months, and their interests must be considered as well as those of the permanent employees. Therefore, I cannot support Senator Payne’s amendment, unless he provides for an election by not only the permanent employees pf the Commonwealth, but also the temporary hands. Furthermore, if the purpose of the honorable: senator’s amendment is to abolish. discontent, he ought to [provide that the person elected may. be recalled. Dis-content cannot be removed merely by re, presentation.. If the giving of repre.sentation allays^ discontent,, then: the) people of Australia ought, to be the most, contented people in the world,, because; they have so many Parliaments and so. many representatives. The real point, is how the elected representative conducts1 himself. A striking illustration of the necessity for providing for.- the? right of recall in respect to the proposal to allow the Commonwealth employees to elect a representative on the Board of Management has just been furnished from New South’ Wales, where the railway em:ployees are asking for direct representation on the Board of Railway Commissioners. Mr. Butler, who has been freely mentioned as their possible choice, audi who. took a very active part in the recent railway strike, thereby possibly earn: ing a good deal of popularity among the. nien, was appointed to represent their, case before a. Royal” Commission which is . now sitting, but, for some reason or other, they seem to have’ become dissatisfied with- the way. in which he has been, representing them, and the executive of,’ the union has just recalled him.. Unless Senator Payne provides for the right of.’ recall I am not- prepared to support his. proposal. Have not our civil servants been’ represented in the past by civil servants ? When Parliament gave- away the- control of th’e_ Commonwealth’ employees it intrusted that- control ‘tot a Com-, missioner- Mr. McLachlan, a man- who! had been a civil servant from- hia, youth, upwards. I do not. suppose his successor, Mr. Edwards, ever did a day’s work outside the Public Service, and all of his six* inspectors, have- been chosen from the Public .Service* and know all about ‘it… Furthermore, after providing that every person: dealing with the classification^: the hours, of work and rates of pay of the public servants shall be a . public servant, himself, we have gone still further and given every man in the Service the right to appeal to a. public servant, sitting as Arbitrator. What more representation could be given.? If discontent prevails- in the Service, it cannot be because it isi not controlled by public servants.
– They- do. not want any person- in. a judicial capacity; they want him. to- be an. ad?,vocate
– If we are to have direct representation of the Public : Service, it should be as the result of a straight-out vote of the whole of the PublicService. If that course is adopted, in all human’ probability a member of the General Division will be selectedfor appointment to the Board. What the majority of the Public Service desire, according to the. cry we heard, is that the “ under dog “ shall be represented on the Board.
– I have never heard that cry.
– If that is notthe desire, what is the reason for the objection to the existing system, under which the Service is controlled by a representative of the other Divisions? I suppose that the number of employees in the General Division exceeds the number in the other Divisions by five or ten to one; and if there isanything in this proposal it means the selection of some member ofthe General Division for appointment to the Board. I do not suggest for a moment that, within their sphere, members of the General Division have not done good service; but if a member of that Division is selected he will have had no experience of administration. It should be pointed out that it is open to all members of the General Division who possess the necessary qualifications to secure positions in the Clericaland Administrative Divisions if they desire to do so. I cannot see how the proposal is going to remove existing discontent in the Public Service if the direct representative of the public servants is to be outvoted, as he may be, by the other two members of the Board. In my view, it would be a great mistake not to have on the Board of Management one, if not two, public servants, but the Government should have the right to select them.
– The last two speeches towhich we have listened, although intended in opposition to the amendment, have rather been in favour of it. It is true that Senator Drake-Brockman conclusively proved that there is no mention in the Bill of Public Serviceorganizations, and therefore they cannot be consultedinthis matter; but thehonorablesenator, I am sure, is aware that if the amendment is carried it will be thedutyof the Minister (Senator Russell) to recommit the definitionclause, in order to make allthe necessaryalterations which may bead- vised by the draftingspecialist ofthe Government. The difficulty raisedby Senator Drake-Brockman can bevery easilyovercome. Senator Thomas has said that the amendment would bring about disorganization and , chaos in the Public Service if it were adopted.
– I did not say so. I wanted to know how it would remove discontent, in view of the fact that, heretofore, the Public Service has been controlled by public servants.
– The honorable senator used all his eloquence to convince the Committee that it would be unwise to place a nominee of the Public Service organizations on the Board of Manage- ment. He explained that hitherto the administration of the Service has been in the hands of publicservants.
– And still there is said to be discontent.
– I am given to understand thatunder the proposed new organization of the Service there will be considerable discontent if the public servants are not directly represented onthe Board of Management. I do not anticipate any ill result from the representation of the employees of the Government onthe Board . I do not consider that he would necessarily be a delegate or advocate for the public servants generally.
– That is just what he would be.
– I do not think so. Iremind Senator Elliott that the Repatriation Department, and other Departments specially affecting the interests of returned soldiers, are very largely administeredby returned soldiers. Do those administrators act unfairly as between the general public and their previous comrades. I never heard any returned soldier complainthat they would receive more sympathetic consideration from outsiders than they receive from men who were their comrades at the. war.
– Those men were not elected.
– That is so, but they areadministering the Departments just the same. Does the honorable’ senator advance the argument that if. the nien who have been appointed by the Government to control the Departments I have reFerred( to had had to submit to a- vote of the returned soldiers they would have had no chance of ‘Selection ?
– One or two of them would have had no chance.
– I am reminded that they were nominated by returned soldiers.
– One out of three.
– The appointment of returned soldiers to control these Departments has not been attended with unsatisfactory results, a.nd we have no reason to anticipate that evil results would follow the direct representation of the public servants on the Board of Management. In my opinion, the effect of the proposal would be to bring about greater satisfaction amongst the public servants. We would get better service from them if they were more satisfied, and I am therefore willing to give the proposal a trial. If the amendment is carried, it will be necessary to include in the Bill provisions defining the method by which the Public Service organizations shall arrive at ai decision as to the person to be nominated for a position on the Board. I consider the proposal worthy of a trial, and I shall support the amendment.
– When the Bill was last under consideration by the Senate, I was inclined to favour this proposal: On further thought, and after listening to the arguments advanced to-day, I am not so keen about it; We have to consider who has controlled the. Service in the past. In the first instance, the heads of Departments possessed the . power of control, and I think they were untrammelled. It was considered that, under that system, members of Parliament exercised too much influence with the heads of Departments. The Board of Management is intended to be a body that will act fairly between the public servants and their employers, the community at large, who provide the funds for their employment/ The. Board must be a thoroughly impartial body. If we have an advocate of any particular section on the Board, that will probably tend to increase the discontent in the Service.
– I do not think the honorable senator should anticipate that the public servants’ representative on the
Board would be an advocate any more than would the other members of the Board be advocates for the Government.
– If the public servants’ representative is not an advocate for those who have nominated him he will not occupy his position very long. It will be expected of him that in all circumstances he will put the case of the employees of the Government. If his advocacy should be disapproved, there will be greater discontent in the Service than there will be if the Board is constituted of three impartial men. I understand that it is the intention of the Government to appoint one civil servant as a member of the Board.
– The chairman would have to be selected from the Public! Service.
– Those appointed to the Board will not .continue to be public servants. We require perfectly independent men on the Board to protect the interests of the public, and at the same time to see that the employees of the Government are properly looked after. Public servants differ from men in outside employment. They will still have the protection of their parliamentary representatives. When a member of the Public Service has a grievance he soon lets his parliamentary representative know about it. We bring pressure to bear on behalf of public servants, and are practically advocates of their interests. I cannot see my way to support the amendment, because I believe that ,we require a thoroughly impartial Board. There should be on the Board one man selectedby the Public Service whose knowledge of the Service will enable him to guide the other members. The other members of the Board should be business men who will understand how the different Departments may be run economically. Such’ men are specially needed. I feel sure that the 5,000,000 people outside the Public Service desire that ari absolutely independent Board shall be appointed.
– I intend to support the amendment. We have heard a great deal in previous discussions of this Bill about discontent in the Public Service. We have been told that the substitution of the Board of Management for the Commissioner would get rid of a great deal of that discontent; but if there is to be no representative of the Public Service on the Board, I do not think that we. can , expect to get rid of the discontent which has been referred to.
– Has the honorable senator ever known any one who was con.tented with his salary ?
– No. The condition of discontent is divine. Although the members of the Public Service are only human, they still have certain divine attributes. It is urged that a direct repre: sentative of the Public Service on the Board of Management might -regard himself as to some extent the advocate of the interests of the Service particularly. We might just as well regard the other two members of the Board as representatives of the Government and the general public respectively. It might be natural for the representative of the public servants to adopt the attitude of van advocate ; but I do not think it necessarily follows that he will disregard entirely the interests of the Government or of the public. I know the difficulties attendant upon control by a Board of Management, and I have dealt with this matter in connexion with a previous clause when I made it clear that Ave were not justified in changing from a Public Service Commissioner to a Board of Control. The Government have taken this responsibility, and have chosen to appoint a Board in place of a Public Service Commissioner. If a Board has been decided upon, I am certainly going to support the proposal that the public servants shall. have the right to nominate one of the three members. This principle has been adopted elsewhere, notably in Great Britain^ as during the war period great trouble arose between the Government and the railway employees. To some extent they were overcome by the management being vested in an authority, a portion of which was directly representative of the employees. Before the war, when the railways of G./eat Britain were under the control of private companies, there was a good deal of discontent, and it had been suggested that the employees should have some voice in the management. Later, when the Government controlled the various railway services, the employees had representation on the Board of Control. The same principle has been adopted in connexion with coal min- ing and other huge enterprises. One of the basic principles in the Whitley report was a participation in the management of industries by those who were actually doing the work. If this method has worked successfully in undertakings such as I have mentioned, I have reason to hope that it will be successful, and very little reason to doubt that it would prove effective in .connexion with the management of the Public Service by the proposed Board.
– I am indebted to Senator Drake-Brockman for. informing me that the Public Service organizations are unknown to him. If such is the case, the next deduction to be drawn from the honorable senator’s statement is that there is no such thing as a Public. Service. The honorable senator called attention to the fact that the proposed Board would act as a Court, but it would not be a Court in any sense, because the members of the Board are not to be advocates for one side or the other. They would act as administrators or managing directors of a commercial company. I cannot understand why it should be suggested that if one man were chosen as a representative of the Public Service the efficiency of the’ Board would be in any way impaired, and one of the opponents of the proposal submitted the strongest argument in favour of it. Senator Thomas, told us that the men who have been controlling the Service were drawn from the ranks of the Public Service; these men had never done a day’s work in any other sphere of activity. Is it to be feared that if one man were nominated by the public servants and the other two by the Government, chaos would prevail? Senator Fairbairn suggested that the members of_ the Board should be selected from hardheaded business men.
– Two of them should be.
– If it is , to be feared that the representative of the Service would watch the interests of public servants to the exclusion of others, it could also’ be said that the representatives of the Government would support only the interests of those who nominated them, in which case the Service would not get a fair deal. I cannot see how a . representative of the Service occupying a seat on the Board , of Management j would weaken, the authority* Senator:’ Drake-Brockman. called attention to the;: power of.- delegation,, bratcm. . the. clause.dealing with tjhist mat-tear- it is laidu down, that the. powersr of delegation can . be revoked in writing, and such: powers are distinctly limited to the. State* iooj. which- they are: to be used- and the object for which they are to> be employed. Senator Duncan said that the membera of the- Public Service numbered only 20,000 out of a population of o,,000,000 ; but he: must remember that many of the public servants are married men- with wives and. children, whose interests are similar. It is absurd to suggest that a representative from the General or Clerical Division would represent only the employees in that division. If a man. were chosen from the Public Service he would endeavour, to voice the best interests of the Service.
.^Ihatve followed very closely the a-rgumente> adduced by those in favour of SenatorPayne’s amendment* and* I have, notheard, anything, that, has-, been. at. all con-, vincing.. This is an innovation, and on.e which. I am not prepared to support. The. Public . Service is a growing concern., ajid is ibecoming a bureaucracy,,, which is one of the greatest, menaces to Democracy. I’ have not the slightest objection-, to any’ proposal that will be the means of fmprov-, ing the Service and make public servants more contented; but I do not think this is one. It will be generally admitted that, a member of Parliament is not conversing’ with a public eervant very long -before he’ commences to air his grievances. I donot think there is any likelihood of the’ Public Service ever being- contented, owing, to the particular type of individual it employs. I do not “wish to speak harshlyconcerning the public1 servants; but they always appear, to be different f rom_ those men who are outside “ roughing “ it, and fighting for an existence. They always regard their position- as secure. If the- suggested representative of the Public Service ceased; to become a _ publicservant he Would not give satisfaction’ tor very long, unless the organizations -which, selected liimi had the power -to- withdraw him’ from the Board.. As a member of the Board, he- would ha.ve to concur in decisions that might not be- acceptable to thei Service generally, and there would. then be a general’ desire for hinr to withdraw. The- man- who- has1 to ‘shoulder responsibility’ should beable’ to carry out ‘biswork without the fear- of-losing - his job. It has been- stated that’ the Whitley schemes in England have been responsible for placing men in positions’- similar to membership of this proposed Board. Most of those bodies, however, may be described as shop- committees; they directly concern themselves with, the . interests of an industry^ and. the . practice is an excellent one. This Board,, however, will be administrative. Itsmembers should be quite free in the- expression of their views and the. perform’anee of their duties, and should not be subject . to recall. During’ the- activities of a Royal Commission-, to which I am attached, attention was called’ to the large number of temporary employees in the Service. These latter would have novoice in the . selection of the special representative. Neither would those other servants who, in l’arge numbers, refrain from attaching themselves to any of the Service organizations. B’oth the Parliament’s and the. Arbitration Courts have, in the past,, adopted an arbitrary attitude in laying down that, unless an. individual is a member of the specific union which has placed its case before the Court, he can claim no right to benefit under, an, award gained by the. union. That principle is contrary to British justice. Why. should any man.be coerced into joining: an organization? If the Service’ is to be represented as a Service, the . selection should be made, from and by the whole of the Service. Moreover, if a ballot istaken, of the whole- of the- Service, who will bear the expense? And would any such selection be really fair, in view of die. fact that the General Division claims the largest number of members, so that i’ts nominee would probably be selected’ by sheer weight of numbers ?» The result would be the selection of a man having, perhaps, no knowledge of administration,, although he might be an excellent officer.,, with a wide knowledge of the interests, of. his.. Department, and, possibly,- of bis division.
Senatorde Largie. - The best witness whom the Postal. Commission examined was a member- of the. General Division?a letter, sorter, . int . Sydney.’
SenatorREID. - That merely bears out mycontention. A man so selected from the General Division might be an excellent postal sorter; andhe might have a special gift for stating a case on behalf of the Postal Service; but would he also possess qualifications for an administrative post ? If I thought that the outcome’ of the amendment would be to increase efficiency, or was likely to provide the public with better value for the money expended on the Service, I would not hesitateto support it. As for the claim that a member selected from the Public Service would necessarily be .;the best possible representative of (Service interests, there is thisto be bornein mind : The experience of returned soldiers has shown that when they have (had to deal with fellow returned soldiers occupying administrative posts, they have frequently complained ofgettinga worse deal than they would have ‘had at the hands of a civilian. It cannot be gainsaid that, in regard to the Repatriation Department, returned soldiers are, in the main, the most discontented in the community. The theoretically excellent practice of placing returned men in positions of responsibilitytooversee the affairs of returned soldiers generally has not proved always successful. Inthe present instance, selection should be left entirely to theGovernment, who may be relied upon to choose the very best men from all points of view.
– I shall vote against the amendment, among other reasons for thosewhich have just been advanced by Senator Reid. The main object, in appointing the proposed (Board will be to secure the ablest men in the landin orderto bring about, the best possible and most economical management andadministration of -the Public Service. If theCommittee agrees that onemember of the Board shall be the elect of the Service, -the chief qualification of candidates for that post will concern their gifts of argument as special pleaders. That is not the type of man required. TheGovernment should be free to select men eitherfrom within or without the Service.
– Iregretthe smallamount ofsupport accordedmyamendment,although Iquite expected a divergence of view upon what is an innovation. The position ofthe
Service to-day is serious. The public are not gettingvaluefor the money spent upon this ‘huge organization,and I have moved my amendment because I believe that it would prove a step in the right direction. That has been the only consideration which has actuated me. It should be takenfor granted that the Public Service organizations - embracing, as they do, as large a proportion of keenly intelligent men asany other association or group of associations in theCommonwealth -wouldtake care to select arepresentative who would be accepted by the public asfair and competent. If there were complaints, however, Parliament could amend the Act at any time and withdraw the privilege of the Service to have a direct representative upon the Board. Senator Drake-Brockman referred to the fact that the Board will be equipped with powersof delegation. Clause 14, which deals with that matter, provides that if a permanent head or chief officer requiresthat a recommendation of any member of the Board shall be referred to thefull Board,that recommendation shall not be regarded as a recommendation of the Board unless the full Board has indorsed it. The Minister (Senator Russell) implied that, in endeavouring to make out a case for my amend - ment, I indicated that the New Zealand Board included on its personnel a direct representative ofthe Public Service organizations. I did not refer to New Zealand. In the pamphlet issued by the High Council of the Public Service organizations, it is stated in an explanatory note, that a representative of the New Zealand Public Service is directly appointed to the Board. I do not say that that is not so, but I have not found corroboration of the statement. The argument that no Public Service organization is mentioned intheBill is hardly worth replying to, because, . as already pointed out, thematter can easilybe dealtwith,byrecommitting the definition clause. I think Iwasjustified in submitting this amendment, because it would not beinthe interests of the public servants to abuse the confidence of Parliament apposedin them by giving them direct representation on the Board of Management, and Ifelt that what we gave we could take away at any time.
– Thehonorable senator claims. that his amendment, if carried, would allaydiscontent in the Service. What discontent would be created if this privilege were taken away from the public servants?
– The honorable senator evidently has very little confidence in his proposal if he suggests that in six months’ time the provision could be repealed.
SenatorPAYNE. - If at any time we find that legislation we pass proves ineffective or unwise, surely the honorable senator would not say we are not justified in repealing it. I have not the feeling towards public servants that some honorable senators seem to display - I. may not know them as well as others do - but from my knowledge of some members of their organizations I believe that there are in our Service really conscientious men who are doing the best they can for their Departments and the State. There may be a small minority who do not give satisfaction, but that is not sufficient justification for our having no confidence in the majority. I feel sure that if the public servants were given representation on the Board of Management their representative would render valuable assistance to his fellow Commissioners, not only in suggesting economies, but also by putting forward schemes for re-organization as the outcome of practical suggestions submitted to him by those who have’ known the workings of the Departments for many years.
-Would the honorable senator give the temporary employees a vote?
– We can only deal with the Public Service Act as we find it. Under that Act no temporary employee is recognised as a public servant. In the circumstances, therefore, it is useless for Senator Thomas to introduce : extraneous matter.
– Temporary employees are recognised under the Act. There is a distinction between temporary employees and casual hands - tradesmen who are engaged from day to day. Some temporary employees are classified as officers of Departments.
– Therefore, they should have representation.
– If the honorable senator feels so strongly on the point, why has he not already moved in that direction? I do not say that I would oppose any amendment he moves on those lines. It is sufficient for me to say that the matter he has introduced is extraneous.
– It is my intention to move -
That sub-clause (5) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “Every person who is appointed a Commissioner shall vacate his position on attaining the age of sixty-five years.”
Yesterday, I endeavoured to place before the Committee the fact that I did not favour the appointment of a Board of Management, but as the Senate has agreed to such an appointment my only anxiety now is to make the Board a strong one, which it cannot be if the respective Commissioners are to retire at the end of three years, four years and five years, and then every five years afterwards, although they may be eligible for re-appointment. My idea is that once a Commissioner is appointed he should hold office’ until he is 65 years of age, which is the retiring age provided for the Public Service. It will not help to secure a strong Board if every few years the Ministry had the right to re-appoint a retiring Commissioner, because it might be necessary for the Board if it did its duty to oppose Ministers, and it would be only human for a Commissioner subject to reappointment to play up to the Ministry possessing this power. When a Committee is investigating the way in which a Department has been administered, it always arouses the ire of the officials of that Department, and veryoften that of the Minister controlling it. Say a word against the Defence Department and see at once the look of pain on the face of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce).
Attack his Department for a little while and you will run the risk of making an enemy of the kindest-hearted man who ever controlled it. After reading the departmental replies to the criticisms of the Economies Commission, I have no hesitation in saying that if the Board of Management were to seriously criticise some of’ the Departments Ministers would not be in favour of the re-appointment of their critics. The Post Office was severely criticised by the Economies Commission, and Mr. Webster, who was PostmasterGeneral at the time, has replied in a pamphlet which he has issued to all of us. He writes : -
Had I ever dreamt that the inquiry was to be conducted on Star Chamber lines already described therein, I should not only have objected, but have taken other steps to prevent progress on such procedure.
A Minister of the views which Mr. Webster held would naturally object strongly to the re-appointment of a. member of a Board of Management which had sent in a report condemning the administration of his Department. The Economies Commission, in their report, compared service conditions in Queensland with those in Victoria to the disadvantage of the latter State, and the Victorian Minister immediately championed his own State.
– I thought that the honorable senator withdrew his amendment. He moved that the members of the Board should continue as permanent officers until they were sixty-five years of age.
– I prefer now to move that sub-clauses 3 and 4 should be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ any person who is appointed a Commissioner shall be appointed for seven years.”
– The honorable senator in opening his remarks dealt exclusively with a proposed’ amendment of sub-clause 5. I understand him to say now that he wishes to have sub-clauses 3 and 4 struck out.
– That is so.
– It will be necessary for the honorable senator to move for their omission one at a time.
– Very well. I move -
That sub-clause 3 be left out, with a view to insert in. lieu thereof “ Any person who is appointed a Commissioner shall be appointed for seven years.”
I want to prevent re-appointments to the Board at the close of three-, four, and five years, as proposed by the Government. I desire to make the Board as strong as possible, and that can only be done by giving its members a reasonable tenure of office. The Minister (Senator Russell) has urged in support of the
Government’s proposal that it will ecure continuity of policy. The same can be said for the amendment I submit. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), when introducing the Bill to provide for a Board of Management, which was previously considered by the Senate, urged that the members of the Board should be appointed first of all in the way here proposed in order that if the Government subsequently found that the plan was not so successful as they anticipated it would be, it might be altered within a reasonable time. That can scarcely be said to be a. strong argument in favour of the proposal. It does not say much for the confidence Ministers have as to its success. We are not here to pass legislation with the idea that we may repeal it after a little time. This Board of Management will have very important functions. Under clause 15 of the Bill it may be called upon to take strong action, even against the opinion of Ministers in the appointment of officers. If it is appealed to, it may have to stand up against Ministers and permanent heads, because both Ministers and permanent heads will, under this Bill, have more say in the matter of appointments than they have hitherto had. I want to provide for a reasonable tenure of office for members of the Board, and to prevent the necessity for . continual reappointments by the Government.
– I have heard several propositions from Senator Thomas, and they are rather confusing. His first proposal was that members of the Board should be allowed to retain their positions until they reach the age of fifty-five years. My opinion is that no man at sixty-five years of age will be capable of doing this work.
SenatorReid. - Question? Wait until the honorable senator has reached the age of sixty-five years, and then he will be able to express an opinion as the result of experience.
– We may assume that a member of the Board, when he reaches the age of sixty -five years, will be able to retire comfortably. The members of the Board, I point out, will be exempt from the provision dealing with the retiring age. They will be over the Act and not under it. As I have said, Senator Thomas first of all proposed that members of the Board should be appointed until they reached the age of sixty-five years.
– I havewithdrawn that in favour of a sevenyears’ appointment.
– Five years is a fairly long termof office to provide for. Some honorable senators are very enthusiastic about the’ nomination to the Board of a public servant, but they overlook the fact ‘that upon his nomination he will cease to be a publicservant. We must have a continuous Board and a continuous policy. TheGovernment, proposal is that at firstone member of the Boardshall beappointedforthree years, one for four years, and the third forfive years, and after thatmembersof the Boardare to be appointed for five years.
– Under that proposal it will benecessary for theGovernment to make three appointments to the Board infive years.
– That is so. But the Government will be responsible for givingreasonsif they do not re-appoint a member of the Board. If there is nothing against a member of the ‘Board who is retiring, he will in all probability be reappointed.
– If he is a member of this Board he is all right, but if he is a liftman, then he will have to go.
– There is some difference between a liftman and amember ofthisBoard. These men will be protected by an Act of Parliament. I shouldsaythat if they render good service therenewal of their appointment will be practically automatic. If it should be necessary to dispense with -the services of amember of the Board because of misbehaviour, that will haveto be done by Parliament, and not by the Government. I believe that a. five years’ term of office will be found quite long enough for members of the Board.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [4.51]. - I cannot follow the reasoning of Senator Thomas. I consider theproposal of the Government an excellent one. In the first instance, ‘themembers ofthe Board “are to haveterms of office of threeyears, four years, and five years respectively. After three years onemust retire, and if hehas proved to be a suitable man,and has done good work, the Government, who I am sure arenot looking for trouble, will reappoint him. The Government proposal affords an opportunity to put a new man in his place if he has not been found suitable. At the end of four years there will have to be another appointment, -and again at the end of five years. The Government plan provides for a continuous Board and a continuous policy, because, under it there will,after the first three years, be two members of the Board who will have held office longer than the third.
– Continuityofpolicy may mean that there willbe thesame Ministers andthe same political party in power.
– IftheGovernment went out of theirwayto make apolitical appointment that Would no doubt lead to trouble. Their desire will, Iam sure,be to avoid trouble, and a continuity of policy of the Board must be beneficial to the Service. I trust thatSenator Thomas will not press his amendment. Ifhe does, I shall have tovote against it.
SenatorDUNCAN (NewSouth Wales) [4.53].- I donot think that there isany other member of the Committee Who can at times ‘be so delightfully inconsistent as Senator Thomas. Yesterday the honorable senator drew a most harrowing picture of what would happen in the Public Service under -this Board of Management. It would lead to all kinds of confusion, the members of the Board would quarrel amongst themselves, and the honorable senator forecast that before many months were over the Governmentwould be faced With thenecessityof reversing their decision in this matter.To-day the “honorable senatorhasbeen ableto convincehimselfthatwhathesaid yesterdaywas so ‘far wrong thatinstead of giving the Government the opportunity to reverse their decisioninthree years,four years, or five years, he proposedthat the members of theBoard should be appointed until each attained the age of sixty-five years.Inthe courseof his remarkable speech the honorable senator againConvinced himself that hewas entirely wrong in whathe proposedto-day, andbeforehe sat down he amended his original proposal, and substituted for it one thatthemembersofthe Board should be appointed for a. termof “seven years.The chief argu- ment which thehonorable senator put forwardin support of his proposal to add two yearstothe term ofoffice proposed by the Government wasthe necessity for having a strong Board. Hewanted aBoard that would be able to stand up to the Departments to Ministers,, and to Parliament. He urged that itwas quite impossible to secure such a Board if the members were to be appointed for only five years. But if they were appointed for seven years that would give them an added strength and dignity which would enable them to stand up to everybody and defy the universe. I fail to see how an additional two years is likely to inspire the members of the proposed Board with the added confidence of which Senator Thomas speaks. I agree that the necessities of the situation demand a strong Board comprised of men , with courage to do what is right, but after all the onus of appointing such a Boardrests with the Government. The mere fact of extending the period for a couple of years will not tend to change the personality of the members in the slightest degree. If the members were unsuitable it would be infinitely better if they were appointed for a shorter term., because the Government would have the opportunity of replacing them by more competent representatives. The proposal to appoint a Board of Management is somewhat in the nature of experimental legislation, becauseit has not been tried before, and if the awful consequences which Senator Thomas forecast yesterday are likely to happen the Government should be in a positionto retrace their steps as quickly as possible. Ido not agree with the opinions expressed by Senator Thomas, buthis argumentsso impressed me that I am amazed to find him suggesting something so inconsistent with the conclusions at which he arrived yesterday. In fact I have been considering whether it would not be wise to move for a reduction in the term for which the members are to be appointed. But I have come to the conclusion that the proposals of the Government in this connexion are sound, and I think the period offive years is quite long enough., because by the time that has expired we shall be in a position to ‘judge whether the Board is likely to be a success or not.
– According to the statement of Senator Duncan, my actions may appear to be somewhat inconsistent, although they do not appear so to me. I did what I could to amend the proposals of the Government, but as the Senate in its wisdom decided otherwise, it is my en deavour to make the Bill one that will be generally acceptable, particularly if the provisions in clause 15 are carried out. It is unfortunate that there are varying periods of service,and I would prefer the three members of the Board’ tobe appointed for the same term, so that they would all retire at the same time. Under the proposals of the Government three appointments will have to be made in five years. A good deal ‘has been said concerning the advantages of continuity of policy; but that will be largely controlled by the Government of the day. I do not think the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) quite understood me when I was referring toreappointments to the Board. I was not dealing with dismissals, but with the reappointment of a member when his time had expired. A member of the Board may be doing his work extremely well, and for that reason may not be reappointed. Honorable senators, who are, of course, conversant with the position in New South Wales, know that Mr. Frazer, a Railways Commissioner in that State, and who is a very able officer, would not be re-appointed at the present time if his termhad expired. I believe that the Government would re-appoint a member of the Board, even if he had acted somewhat leniently towards the Departments. I am in favour of the three members being appointed for a. period of seven years, and to that extent there would be continuity of policy.
– It is not my intention to proceed with my other amendment.
Clause agreed to:
Clause 10- (1.) The Governor-General shall appoint one of the three members to bethe Chairman of the Board, and on. the happening of any vacancy in the office of Chairman the Governor-General shall appoint’ a person to fill that office: (2.). In the case of the illness, suspension or absence of the Chairman, the Governors General shall appoint one of the other members to act as Chairman during such illness, suspension or absence.
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause, be inserted: - “3. Subject, to the confirmation: of the Governor-General, in Council, the Chairman shall have power to overrule any decision of the other members of the Board.”
I was greatly impressed yesterday by the arguments of Senator John D. Millen and Senator Thomas, which were directed towards the fact that if the three members of the Board had equal voting power there would be a strong tendency towards dissension. I understand, from the Minister’s statements, that in the Dominion of New Zealand there is a Chief Commisioner and two Assistant Commissioners. The Chief Commissioner is paramount, and my amendment is to place the Chairman of the Board in a similar position. Although he would have additional powers, he would, of course, be guidedby the advice and assistance of the other members.
– He has, under this amendment, the power to override the decisions of the other two.
– Yes, and that is necessary if difficulties are to be prevented, such as those we have heard of in connexion with the. Board controlling the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I trust the amendment will have the support of the Committee.
– There appears to be a little misconception concerning the object of the Government in appointing a Board of three members. At present there is no suggestion to give the Chairman greater power or a higher salary than the other members of the Board, and the powers of delegation will be largely availed of. Each member of the Board will control a special branch of the work and submit his recommendations to the full Board for indorsement. It is not suggested that in the event of an inquiry being necessary in Western Australia, Queensland, or Port Darwin, the three members of the Board shall visit those places, but that one member shall conduct the inquiry, and make his report to the full Board. One of the causes of the failure of the Public Service Commissioners Act was the lack of power and authority vested in the inspectors. Any appeal had to be from Cæsar to Cæsar. No one can defend the principle of carrying an appeal back to the original party responsible. The Government cannot accept the amendment. What is desired in every instance is the full judgment of the Board, and not that of an individual member.
.- In New Zealand there is a Commissioner, who has two Assistant Commissioners, but the Minister (Senator Russell) is not accurate when he suggests that the Commissioner has greater powers than his assistants. In my investigation of the New Zealand Public Service Legislation I found no indication that the Chief Commissioner had a superior voice in the affairs of the Board.
– I support the amendment. If the members are to have equal powers, there may be delays in the issue of decisions. I have not examined the New Zealand Act, but I know that in New South Wales the appointment of the Railways Commissioners is based upon the same principle as that contained in the amendment. The Chief Commissioner also receives ahigher salary than his colleagues, and the same applies to the Railways Commissioners in this State. Here, the Chief receives . £5,000 per annum, while the other Commissioners are paid £1,500 each. It would be ridiculous if the lower paid Commissioners could outvote their Chief. However, if the salaries of the proposed Board are to be identical, each of the members should have an eq ual say. The Chairman of the Board, I consider, should be more highly paid than his colleagues. The idea is to secure a. capable and experienced business man. But how many business men, qualified as I have just indicated, are likely to be attracted by the salaries which have been hinted at ? The amendment provides for notification of decisions to, Parliament, and the same holds good in respect of the. New South Wales and Victorian railways authorities.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Salaries and expenses of members of the Board).
– I understood the Minister (Senator Russell) to intimate that the salaries of the members of the Board would be equal.
-i said that no decision had been arrived at.
– I may have misunderstood the Minister’s remarks and applied them to salaries rather than to status. I anticipate that the Chairman will have to take a leading position. It is inevitablethat one member should do so.
– It will be for the Government to decide upon the salaries, but I, naturally, assume that the chairman will be paid more than his colleagues.
– Will the matter be left to the Government?
– Parliament . will decide, but the specific reference to salaries mustbe inserted in another place.
– I alsounderstood the Minister to say that the Government proposed to pay each of the members of the Board the same salary.
SenatorRussell. - There should be equality of votingpower, but in view of the responsibilities of the Chairman, and of the added functions attaching to that office, he ought to receive a little more than his colleagues.
– Then is the Chairman to be paid more merely because of the extra dignity of his office, and because to him will be addressed communications having to do with the Board’s affairs? Will the extra salary attach for those reasons and not because of any suggested superiority of qualification ?
– The Chairman will be really the manager, or controller, of the Board.
– I understood that it was to be a case of equal voting power, equal responsibilities, equal rights, and equal pay.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 - (1.) The Board may, by writing under the hand of each member of the Board, delegate to any member of the Board any of the powers of the Board. (3.) If in pursuance of any delegation given to him any member of the Board makes any recommendation with regard to any Department, thepermanent head or a chief officer may require that the recommendation be referred to the full Board, and in that event the recommendation of the member shall, not be deemed to be a recommendation of the Board unless it is indorsed by the full Board.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the word “ require “ in sub-clause 3 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ request.”
Senator SENIOR (South Australia) with the proposed powers of delegation. This clause specifically provides that power shall not rest in the chairman, but in each member, to delegate power to either of the other members. What is the intention of the Government ?
– If it is necessary to hold an inquiry into the conditions of, say, the Papuan Service, it ought not be necessary to send the Board to make that inquiry, and it would be extravagance to do so. In such case,the Board would probably depute one member to deal with the question, but he would require to be armed with the full powers of the Board to call for papers, and so forth. These powers would be delegated to him at a meeting of the Board. On his return he would probably report to the full Board, which would come to an ultimate decision on the matter.
– In view of the power of delegation, it is regrettable that my amendment to clause 10 was not accepted. A member of the Board may go to Papua and come to a certain conclusion with which the chairman and the other member of the Board may totally disgree. But, having delegated their powers to him, they cannot reverse his decision.
– There is a limitation to the delegated power of a member of the Board. If, in pursuance of any delegation given to him he makes a recommendation, the permanent head or chief officer of a Department may request that the recommendation be referred to the full Board, in which event it is not deemed to be the recommendation of the Board unless it has the indorsement of the Board.
– The chief officer is not bound to make that request.
– No; but we do not want the full Board to deal with details. A member of the Board who may be asked to furnish a report on a specific question may also be asked to settle other matters on the spot. I take it that under the operation of this clause every big principle will be considered by the full Board, but that in different localities the full powers of the Board may be exercised on the spot by one member of the Board with delegated power to do so.
– A member of the Board who may have delegated powermay go to. Western Australia and classify the officers in such a way that they may appeal against his findings.
– If he does, the officers will have the right to appeal to the full. Board against his decision.
– I think it would be better to provide that if any member of the Board deals with the matter of classification his decision shall not be deemed to be the decision of the Board until it is confirmed by the whole Board. As the clause stands, it merely gives the chief officer of a Department the power to request that the full Board shall take a matter under its cognisance, whereas the decision of the member of the Board may really suit that officer and not those under him.
.- The latter portion of the. clause practically gives to one Commissioner the power to act as the full Boards I think it would be wise to have the clause amended, in order to provide that the recommendation of the delegation must be confirmed by the full Board before effect is given to it. .
– The difficulty would be that the wholebusiness of the Board might bo held up through the absence of a member of the Board from ill-health.
– The- more one looks into the clause the mere one comes to the conclusion that it needs a good deal of revision.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 -
In addition to such. duties as are elsewhere in this Act imposed on it, the Board shall have the following duties : -
theimprovement of the training of officers;
– This clause lays down the whole of the more important duties of the Board. It providesin sub-paragraph v, paragraph a of sub-clause 1 that one of its duties shall be to devise means for - .
The limitation ofthe staffs of the various Departments to actual requirements, and the utilization of those staffs to the best advantage.
I move -
That after the word “limitation” the words “or extension’’ be inserted.
Honorable senators may know that one or two Departments of the Service are understaffed, and officers have to work back night after night throughout the year on that account.
– Will not clause 18 meet the honorable senator’s difficulty?
– I do not think that it will. So far as. I can. see there is no power conferred on the Board to provide for the extension of a staff where, upon inquiry, that is found to be necessary.
– Would not the word “limitation” include extension?.
– In pursuance of their inquiries the Board might find that in one or two offices, so far from there being any necessity for a limitation of the staffs, there was an actual necessity for their extension. Where that necessity is shown the Board should have the power to devise means to meet it. Under clause. 27 the Board on the recommendation of a permanent head may recommend the. creation of a new office in any Department, but that does not mean the extension of the staff of any office, which I think is a power that the Board should have.
.I point out to Senator Duncan that the word “limitation” may include extension. The sub-paragraph refers to the limitation of the staffs of the various Departments to actual requirements. We might have in a particular office a staff of ten men, whilst the actual requirementsof the office foreffective working might require a staff ‘ of twelve. In my view the word “‘limitation” as used in the paragraph under consideration would cover any extension necessary to meet actual requirements.
– Limitation doesnot necessarily mean reduction.
– That is so. Senator Duncan has assumedthat limitation can only mean reduction,but ifthe word isread with the context of the paragraph in which it appears I think it will be found that it covers any extension of a staff necessary to meet actual requirements.
– I understand that Senator Duncanwishes togive the Board power to suggest that more officers should be appointed.
– I ventureto say that that is not necessary. If the Board when inquiring into the working of’ an office say to the permanent. head,”I think you are under-manned in this office,” it will not be long before the permanent head will be asking for extra staff. I have never struck a Department yet that was under-manned.
– The honorable senatorhas met with Departments that are over-manned?
– Yes, that is not difficult.
SenatorDuncan. - The honorable senator should know that Central Administration of the Customs Office has been under-manned for the last twelve months.
– I do not know anything about it. If anoffice isundermanned, all that the permanenthead has to do is to ask for a larger staff.
– If he did there would be many “leaders” about it in theAge andin the Argus.
.-I hope the Committee will not agree to the amendment. The Board, under its general powers, can make provision for the extension of the staffs at any time. The word “ limitation “ in this sub-paragraph does not necessarily mean reduction. The object is to enable the Board to devise meanstoprevent the employment of excess officers’ in any Department. Imayinformhonorable senatorsthat,during the period of demobilization, it was necessary that ‘big reductions of staffs should be suddenly made in the Defence Department. The . staffsshould have beenreducedin proportion tothe number ofmenwho had returned. I could not get anyofficer, and particularly anyState Commandant, to undertakethisworkofreducingthe staffs! Ihad to put a man on specially to go round from State toStatewith thepower tosupersedethe “State ‘Commandant in the matter of reducingthe staffs. In ‘that waywe got ridof thousands of useless men who -were battening on the Department.
– Did the honorable senator retainthe State Commandants?
– I left the Department before the job was completed, but the job was done. In themiddle of theperiod of ‘demobilizationSenator Pearce returned and I left the Defence Department. I believe he continued the system I had initiated. I wantto say that General Ramaciotti did magnificent work in going fromone Military District to another to secure reductions ofstaffs. I gave him full authority to supersede the StateCommandants for this purpose.
– The honorable senator got nocredit for economy there.
– I ask permission of the Committee to withdrawmy amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SenatorELLIOTT (Victoria) [5.52].- I move-
That afterthe word” officers “ in subparagraph vi, paragraph (a) of sub-clause. 1, the following -words be inserted: - “ theremoval or dismissal of inefficient officers.”
The mainfunction ofthe Boardof Management is to devise means for effecting economiesand promoting efficiencyin the management and working of the Departments, and it seems to me that one of the very best meansof per- forming that duty isto get ridof inefficientofficers. No power is given in the Bill to deal with such persons. It is true that, under clause 64, if an officer appears to the Board, after report by the chief officer, to be inefficient or incompetent to discharge his duties, or incapable of discharging them efficiently, they may retire him, but that clause gives the Board no power of initiative. They must wait for a report from the chief officer, and they may have to wait a very long time for such a report in respect of a man who is in favour with his chief officer.
– Does not the provision in sub-paragraph v of paragraph a cover what the honorable senator desires, by providing for the limitation of a staff to actual requirements?
– Not necessarily. I am speaking of officers whose work is inefficient and, therefore, uneconomical. They maynot be in excess of the actual requirements of a Department, but they should still be removed to give placeto efficient officers. It may happen that even the head of a Department may be inefficient and incompetent, and, in such a case, the Board should have the power to deal with him.
– Provision has already been made in the Bill for what Senator Elliott desires. Clause 27 reads -
The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Board, after obtaining a report from the Permanent Head -
create a new office in any Division in any Department;
abolish any office in any Department; or
raise or lower the classification or grading of any office the duties of which have been materially changed.
Clause 64 also deals with the point raised by the honorable senator, and reads -
If an officer appears to the Board, after report from the Chief Officer, to be inefficient or incompetent, or unfit to discharge, or incapable of discharging the duties of his office efficiently, the Board may retire the officer from the Commonwealth Service from a date to be specified by the Board, or may transfer him to some other position with salary appropriate to such other position.
When this clause is before the Committee, I intend to move that the words “ after report from the Chief Officer “ be deleted.
– Is it the intention of the Minister to strike out those words?
– That will cover it.
– If those words are to be deleted, my objection is removed, and I therefore ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That paragraph (b) of sub-clause 1be left out.
This is a drafting amendment, and refers to the powers of the Governor-General, which are embodied in clause 16.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That paragraph (f) of sub-clause 1 be left out.
.- Will the Minister explain why this paragraph is to be struck out, because I think . it is necessary that the annual reports of the Board should be submitted to Parliament. In fact, we depend upon such a provision as this for any information concerning the recommendations of the Board which have not been given effect to by the Minister.
– The point is covered in clause 20, which we propose to amend, so that the Board shall furnish reports to the Prime Minister administering the Act.
– Does it mean that the reports will not come before the Senate ?
– No; the Prime Minister is responsible for the administration of the Act, and the reports will have to be submitted to him, and then to Parliament.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-clause 1 also verbally amended.
– I move -
That the following words be inserted at the end of sub-clause (3) - “ And if the Board does not agree with the reasons given, it shall so inform the permanent head, and request that the matter be referred to the Minister, and the permanent head shall thereupon refer thematter to the Minister accordingly.”
I shall then move to strike out sub-clause 4 with a, view to inserting three new sub-clauses 4, 5 and 6 as follows: - . (4.) The Minister shall thereupon, unless he shal forthwith order the approval or adoption of such recommendation report or suggestion or unless the Board shall at his request withdraw’ the some, within fourteen days after its receipt if the Parliament is then sitting, or, if not, then within fourteen days after the next meeting of Parliament, cause therecommendation report or suggestion, together with such reasons for its non-approval or nonadoption, to be laid before Parliament. (5.) If either House of Parliament shall within thirty days after the recommendation report or suggestion has been laid before Parliament as aforesaid pass a resolution disap proving of such recommendation report or suggestion, then such recommendation report or suggestion shall not come into force but otherwise it shall immediately be carried into effect. (6.) The Board may, if it thinksfit, although it has withdrawn its recommendation report or suggestion at the request of the Minister as above mentioned, report the matter to bothHouses of Parliament either by means of a speoial report or By inclusion in its annual report.
The new sub-clauses provide what is already in the Bill, but I desire to give the Beard greater power in bringing the matter directly under the notice of Parliament. It is provided in the Bill that the Board may bring a recommendation under the notice of the Minister, and if he does not adopt it the Board cannot compel him to give publicity to it by bringing it before Parliament. Many documents are laid upon the table, or axe placed in. honorable senator’s pigeon holes; and, unfortunately, but necessarily, the majority are overlooked or forgotten. This measure has been subjected to a great deal of criticism. It has been said, for example, that the Bill will ‘ do no good even if it passes as the Government have framed it; and, further, that the Board will have no real authority to enforce efficiency and economy. My amendments would remove much of the force of such criticisms. The amendment at present under consideration is designed to provide direct means for bringing recommendations before a Minister. If the Minister responsible chooses to disregard a recommendation of the Board, the onus will be thrown upon him to bring the subject-matter of that recommendation directly before Parliament. That procedure, I maintain, would be effective and infinitely superior to the method proposed in the Bill.
– I understand that three members of the Hansard Staff are sick. It is probable that a protracted sitting may occur in another place, in view of the desire of the Government to complete consideration of the Tariff to-night. In order that the strain upon the Hansard Staff may be reduced as much as possible, honorable senators have been consulted and are agreed that it is desirable that the Senate should not sit after dinner. I therefore move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 July 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210707_senate_8_96/>.