8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the representative of the Government present whether he is in a position to say what is proposed as the business of the Senate for to-day and next week. I understand that there is a garden party at Government House this afternoon. That I do not think interests the rank and file of the Senate.
– None of us have received invitations.
– There may be some favoured individuals who have received an invitation from His Excellency the Governor-General, and, so far as I am concerned, I shall have no objection, if it is thought desirable, to ask the
Senate to meet their convenience. I should like a statement on the subject from the Minister in charge?
SenatorRUSSELL. - If possible a statement will be made a little later today.
Carriage of Mails on State Railways- - Post Office, Leeton.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General,. upon notice -
-.- The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer is- 1 and 2. Provision is made on the Estimates 1921-22 for the erection of new post-office buildings at Leeton, and tenders are about to be invited for the work.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 3rd November’, vide page 12377) :
Whenever a vacancy occurs in any office other than in the First Division, and it is expedient to fill that vacancy by the promotion of an officer, the Chief Officer may, subject to the provisions of this Act, promote an officer of his Department to fill such vacancy, consideration being given first to the relative efficiency, and in the event of an equality of efficiency of two or more officers, then to the relative seniority of the officers of that Department.
If the Chief Officer is of opinion that it is expedient in the public interest to fill any vacant office, other than in the First Division, in . his Department by the promotion of an officer from another Department, he shall so advise the Board.
Thereupon the Board may, after considering the claims of all applicants for the -vacant office, promote thereto the officer who, in the opinion of the Board, is relatively the most efficient, or, in the event of an equality of efficiency among the most efficient, is the senior.
In this section “efficiency” means special qualifications and aptitude for the discharge of the duties of the office to be filled, together with merit and good and diligent conduct, and, in the case of an officer who is a returned soldier, includes such efficiency as, in the opinion of the Chief Officer or the Board, as the case may be, he would have attained but for his absence on active naval or military service.
Any promotion made in pursuance of this section shall be provisional, and shall be notified in the prescribed manner, and shall be subject to the right of appeal, in such manner and within such time as are prescribed, by any officer who considers that he is more entitled to promotion for the vacant office than the officer provisionally promoted, on the ground of -
superior efficiency, or
equal efficiency, and seniority.
Any appeal under this section shall be forwarded by the Chief Officer with a report to the Board.
On receipt of the appeal the Board. shall make full inquiry into the claims of the appellant and those of the officer provisionally promoted, and shall determine the appeal.
Where any appeal is upheld by the Board, it shall promote the appellant officer to the vacant office, and cancel the provisional promotion : ,
Provided that, in the case of promotions in or to the Second Division, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, refer the matter to the GovernorGeneral, who may confirm or disallow the determination of the Board.
Where any appeal has been disallowed by the Governor-General, a statement of the reasons for disallowance shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days of the receipt of the determination of the Board, if the Parliament is then sitting, and, if not, then within fourteen days of the next meeting of the Parliament.
Where an appeal is disallowed in pursuance of this section, or no appeal is lodged within the prescribed time,the provisional promotion shall be confirmed by the Chief Officer.
Upon which Senator Russell had moved by way of amendment -
That after the words” by the “, line 3, the words “transfer or” be inserted.
– I should like to suggest that the Minister in charge of . the Bill (Senator Russell) might be good enough to temporarily withdraw his amendment to give me an opportunity to submit the amendment of which I have given notice, which is to delete clause 48 altogether, and substitute a- new clause for it. If that course be followed, and my proposal is not accepted, I may probably then be in a position to support all the amendments of the clause which the Minister has given notice of.
– I have no objection to temporarily withdrawing my amendment.
– I point out to the Minister that if Senator Thomas’ proposal is agreed to, and the clause is struck out, no opportunity will be afforded him to move the amendments of which he has given notice; whilst, if the clause is amended as proposed by the Minister, Senator Thomas will later have an opportunity to vote against the amended clause.
– I can submit all my amendments, and Senator Thomas may then vote to have the clause as amended excised
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Yes.
– If that course be adopted, we may occupy a couple of hours in discussing the amendments proposed by the Minister; and if the Committee then decides to accept my proposal, all the time occupied in making the amendments proposed by the Minister will be absolutely wasted. If my proposal is first decided, that can be avoided.
– But the honorable member’s proposal is to delete the clause, and if that is carried, the amendments 1 wish to propose cannot he made.
If Senator Thomas will move the omission of all the words after the word “ Whenever,”a test vote on his . proposal can be taken on that motion.
– Very well, I shall adopt that course.
Amendment,by leave, withdrawn.
– I propose to move -
That all the words after the word “Whenever “ be left out, with a view to insert, in lieu thereof the words, “a vacancy occurs in any office, and it is expedient to fillsuch vacancy by the promotion of an officer, the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Commissioner, subject to the provisions of this Act - appoint to fill such vacancy an officer of the Department in which such vacancy occurs, regard being had to the relative efficiency, or in the event of an equality of efficiency of two or more officers to the relative seniority, of the officers of such Department; or appoint to fill such vacancy any qualified officer from any other Department whom, on the ground of efficiency, or in the event of an equality of efficiency of two or more officers whom, on the ground of seniority, it appears desirable so to appoint, if it appears that such appointment would result in the work of such office being more efficiently performed than by selecting an. officer from the Department in which such vacancy occurs; efficiency ‘ in this section means special qualifications and aptitude for the discharge of the duties of the office to be filled, together with merit, and good and diligent conduct.”
On this amendment we can discuss the priinciple.
– Of the Board versus the permanent head.
– Just so. If my amendment is carried, the Board will take the place of the permanent head in making promotions. I gave reasons yesterday why I prefer that system. I have been looking up a report by Mr. McLachlan, which, was made some years ago, and in which this matter is referred to. A Royal . Commission was appointed to deal with the Post and Telegraph Service, and did very excellent work. It occupied a considerable time in its investigations, and went very thoroughly into the matter. I had the honour, as PostmasterGeneral at the time, of being able to carry out quite a number of the recommendations of the Commission. It made one recommendation on lines somewhat similar to those adopted by (the Government in the clause now under consideration. I objected to that recommendation, and it was not given effect. Mr. McLachlan, who was then Public Service Commissioner, was asked to furnish a report on the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Those of us who know Mr. McLachlan, who entered the ‘New South Wales Public Service as a young man, rose to be head of a Department there, and was subsequently transferred to the Commonwealth Service, as Public Service
Commissioner, a position which he occupied for several years, will agree with me that there is no one in Australia who understands the conditions of the Public Service better than he does. I quote him as one who was in the Public Service, and was not an outsider. I wish to inform honorable senators of what he had to say about the promotion of officers within a Department in the way proposed by the Government in clause 48. Dealing with the arguments used by the Postal Commission in support of its recommendation on the subject, he said -
The reasons thus advanced for abolition of the existing system of control demand some consideration, seeing that this proposal involves a complete reversal of the policy hitherto existing, and a return to a system of departmental management now considered by all Public Service authorities as archaic and unsatisfactory. From a careful review of the evidence submitted to the ‘Royal Commission, it is found that no sufficient arguments had been adduced which would lend weight to the conclusions arrived at. In its recommendation on this subject, apart from the statement that divided control is undesirable and unnecessary, no reasons are furnished for such expression of opinion. It must be assumed that the Parliament, in placing the control of the personnel of the Service and the disposition of officers in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner, had in view the desirableness of some separate authority which would regulate the classification and advancement of officers throughout the Commonwealth, instead of their being subject to the capnice or prejudice of officers in charge in the several States.
As an illustration, it is only necessary to cite the unsatisfactory condition of Western Australian officers subsequent to Federation, and prior to the operation of the Public Service Act, when they were placed in the invidious position of being transferred to remote districts, merely because they happened to have incurred the displeasure of some one in authority, and when cases of manifest injustice towards officers were numerous. And, indeed, the indications are not wanting even to-day that a return to departmental control of staff matters would result in the inauguration of a system of favoritism and patronage. Officers of the Department have frequently expressed appreciation of the fact that their rights and interests are protected under the Public Service Act, and that they have been freed from domineering and unfair local control. It is most desirable that in determining matters affecting the official welfare, the controlling power should not be influenced by close personal association with the officers affected. The Royal Commission lays, the greatest stress on merit as governing promotion; but experience has proved that too much reliance cannot be placed on the opinions of responsible officers coming into direct contact with their subordinates, and, therefore, subjected to the disadvantages of local environment. It follows that under the proposed new system, while efficiency and meritorious service are to be the factors of advancement, all independent judgment as to relative merit is to be removed. Such a condition of affairs would undermine - if not absolutely neutralize - the merit provisions of the Act, and prove disastrous to the morale of the Public Service.
Those are the opinions of one who knows the Public Service. If promotions are to be made by people in the Department, it is feared that favoritism and prejudice will come into play.
SenatorRowell. - They would be subject to the approval of the Board.
– I admit that.
– And officers would have six months in which to appeal.
– Yes; during those six months they would be “only acting officers. In the report of the Commission very great emphasis is laid on the fact that there are a large number of officers acting in positions to which they have not been permanently appointed. I agree with the Commission that the period of probation should be less than six months. There is to be an appeal to the Board, but there is no provision for inspectors, and I do not know how the Board can tell what is the right thing to do without the assistance of inspectors. An officer, in making an appeal, may have behind him the permanent head of the Department, who may clash with the Public Service Commissioner. The official would have great support in having the permanent head of the Department behind him. An officer in the “backblocks “ may appeal and have practically no one behind him. The head of his Department may be in favour of another officer, and if there were no inspectors the Board would be in a hopeless position.
– Why do you suggest that there are to be no inspectors?
– If there are to be inspectors, they would be the eyes of the Board, and would enablethe Board to know the relative merits of the different officers.
– There is a clause that will give the Board authority to place full power, under special circumstances, in the hands of its assistants, but the Board will not be able to delegate its powers.
– That is a very brilliant idea. An officer in the backblocks may appeal, and there may be other appeals from persons in Tasmania and Western Australia. It would be necessary to get three different people to find out all about those officers. Under the present system we have a Public Service Commissioner, whose duty it is to know all the officers in the Service. Inspectors would know more about them than the heads of Departments. A man at the head of one Department would not know anything about the ability of an officer of another Department, but the Public Service Commissioner does.
– Would not the heads of other Departments recommend their own men for appointments?
– They might, or might not. The Minister stated yesterday - and quite rightly - that the head of a Department would often be very much opposed to an officer, whose services he greatly appreciated, being transferred to another Department.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired. While I have allowed Senator Thomas to deal fully with the clause, it will be necessary to take the amendments’ as they come.
– Senator Thomas might have brought his information up to date. The very first line of the report of the Public Service Commission for 1919 states - “ The following procedure should govern the making of promotions.” The Commission called the Public Service Commissioner (Mr. McLachlan) as a witness, and his first recommendation was that promotions, other than to the first division, should be made by the permanent head or the chief officer. I remember discussing the report with Mr. McLachlan, who was very strongly opposed to the arbitrator being the supreme authority. It was pointed out that that was more democratic,’ and that the objection to the Commissioner was’ that he would be the court of appeal from his own decisions. Subsequently Mr. McLachlan changed his mind, and gave full support to the principle of appeal from the Commissioner, or from the Board, to the Arbitra- tion Court. He showed that with his experience he had become more broadminded. At first the Public Service of the Commonwealth was a very limited body, but it now comprises many thousands of men, and one Commissioner cannot now effectively control all the Departments, as he did in the early days. I believe that the Public Service Inspectors have, in the circumstances which have surrounded them, done very good work. Both Senator Thomas and Senator Keating seem to be under the impression that the clause will not give applicants for promotion the opportunities accorded by the present Act. This is a misapprehension, as the new clause gives advantages not previously open. Senator Thomas says that at present all vacancies are advertised, and all officers have an opportunity to submit applications. This is not the practice. As a general rule only an original vacancy is advertised, that is, a vacancy which may be caused by death or retirement of an officer. Such a vacancy may be in one of the higher positions in the Service, say, the first class of the Clerical Division. The filling of that vacancy by the promotion of an officer of the second class would leave consequential vacancies in the second, third, and fourth classes. As a rule, these vacancies are filled without advertisement upon a nomination by the permanent head or chief officer after consultation with the Public Service Inspector, who submits an independent report to the Commissioner. “Under the present system, the permanent head makes his nomination. He will not do more under the proposed course; but the material difference is that at present before any officer has an opportunity of appeal the ‘Commissioner has already given a decision. Under this clause the permanent head will be required to publicly notify, in the case of every vacancy, the name of the officer he has selected for the position. The Board or the local representative of the Board will not be committed in any way by. the nomination of the permanent head. Every officer affected by the selection in every State will have a knowledge of the proposed nomination, and any such officer will then have a right to appeal to the Board. The Board or its representatives in every
State can then make inquiry into the claims of the appellant officers, and if in the opinion of the Board, the- permanent head has overlooked the claims of any appellant, the Board may upset the recommendation. The Board has full power to consider the claims of all officers, and any objection raised on the ground of “watertight compartments” is met by the fact that if the Board considers an officer of another Department has a better claim than the man selected by the permanent head on the ground of superior efficiency or equal efficiency and seniority, the Board may promote that officer.
– I am taking exception to the practice of the Department today. Some of these Melbourne officers ought to be sent to the remoter parts of the Commonwealth from time to time.
– I have just stated what is the practice. As honorable senators will see,, the final court of appeal will be the Board. Exception has been taken by some honorable senators to the possibility of promotions being provisional for a period of six months. That term, I take it, will be the maximum period. The time within which appeals may be lodged is to be prescribed, and probably in practice it will be about a fortnight.
– But. yesterday you said that officers would be promoted on probation for a period of six months.
– In practice, I said about a fortnight. Sub-clause 5 provides that promotion shall be provisional, and notified in the prescribed manner, and be subject to the right of appeal within such time as may be prescribed, by any officer who may consider he is more entitled to promotion for the vacant office. The time allowed for appeal will depend, I should say, upon circumstances. The provision must be more or less elastic in order that officers situated in different parts of the Commonwealth may be allowed sufficient time within which to state their case. I should like to place on record the recommendations submitted by Mr. McLachlan on this subject -
We have adopted Mr. McLachlan’s recom mendationsin globo, with the exception that, in the case of promotions in or to the second division, we have taken away power from the Minister and given it ‘to the Board. The general purpose is to insure adequate supervision, elimination of waste and overlapping in services.
– If we accept the amendments, will there he an opportunity subsequently of voting to eliminate the clause altogether?
– After the clause has been amended, it will be put to the Committee, and the honorable senator may vote to reject it.
Amendments (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That after the words “by the,” line 3, the words “ transfer or “ be inserted.
That the words “Chief Officer,” line 4, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Permanent Head.”
That after the word “Act,” line 5, the words “transfer or” be inserted.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That in sub-clause 2 the words “Chief Officer “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Permanent Head.”
Senator THOMAS (New South Wales) [11.451. - I have no objection to the amendment submitted by the Minister (Senator Russell); but we appear to be spending a tremendous amount of time in formally agreeing to amendments which are being submitted by the Government.
– There have been a number of conferences with the Acting Public Service Commissioner and representatives of the Public Service, and, as a result of the decisions arrived at at these gatherings, many of these amendments have been considered necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
Consequential amendments agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the proviso to sub-clause (8) be left out.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister (Senator Russell) to the fact that very slow progress is being made with this Bill. , There are 138 amendments to 107 clauses, and it appears to me that the sensible course to adopt would be to withdraw the measure and bring in one in which all these amendments have been embodied. It is difficult, to follow the numerous amendments, and if the course I suggest were ‘adopted the work would be facilitated.
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria - VicePresident of the Executive Council) [11.54]. - Quite a number of these amendments are trivial in character, and many have been necessitated by the Committee deciding that the functions exercised by a chief officer shall be performed by the head of the Department. It is impracticable to withdraw the Bill as suggested, and introduce it in a form which would enable it to be passed without any amendments being made. How can we bring in another Bill?
– You have a mixture of amendments now that it is impossible to follow.
– I have spoken on every clause where ‘an explanation was necessary.
– And it becomes more confusing the more you speak.
– Honorable senators have had these amendments before them for some months, and as many are unimportant, and do not involve any principle, no unnecessary delay should occur.
– The Minister must admit that it is difficult’ to follow them in the present form.
– I have not taken up the time of the Committee where only verbal amendments are concerned, but where any alteration of principle has been involved I have explained the position.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That sub-clause (9) be left out.
Senator PRATTEN (New South Wales) “1 1.55].- The Minister (Senator Russell) said that he would make an announcement in regard to the business of the Senate. Is it the intention to adjourn at 1 o’clock or at the usual hour?
– I do nob feel disposed to make a definite pronouncement in the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen), who is at present attending the Premiers’ Conference. I am having inquiries made, and hope to be in a position to make an announcement before 1 o’clock.
– I have no desire that the Senate should adjourn earlier than usual; but I understand that some honorable senators, perhaps more distinguished than myself, may desire an early adjournment.
– I understand that the Minister for Repatriation will be here before the luncheon adjournment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 49 agreed to.
Clause 50 -
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That after the word “ Board “ the words “ Chief Officer or Permanent Head” be inserted..
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 51 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 52 -
.- I move-
That before the word “Appointments,” in sub-clause (2), the following words be inserted, “ Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act.”
This amendment provides for the permanent heads of Departments being appointed by the Governor-General in Council, which means, ‘ practically, the Cabinet. It will be a continuation of the present system. ,
– I am rather opposed to this amendment. I recognise that if I call for a division I shall probably stand alone. There has been some doubt as to whether the Government have the power to make these appointments, but I understand that it has decided, on legal advice, that it has the power. The amendment will make it certain that Ministers will have the right to appoint their permanent secretaries. There was a time when I favoured that practice, but some appointments made recently have been ‘ somewhat unsatisfactory, and it is mainly because of them that I am not in favour of the amendment. Some people have wondered why certain recent appointments have been made.
– The GovernorGeneral in Council is not an individual Minister.
– The GovernorGeneral in Council will do what he is told.
– The decision will rest virtually with the Cabinet.
– It will be appointment by Cabinet. I do not suggest that a Minister will appoint the head of his Department -without consultinghis colleagues. To the extent that the appointments will be made by the Cabinet, they will be political appointments. The man who has got the ear of the Minister will probably receive the appointment.
– The amendment is limited to heads of Departments.
– That is so. The old Act was limited to administrative officers.
– I do not know of any appointments made under this clause that any one in Parliament has taken exception to.
– Members of Parliament do not always voice their objections, but there have been one or two appointments made lately which have caused people to talk. If a National Government can make appointments that are not altogether satisfactory, other parties, if they get into power, may do the same. It would be allright if the Minister were to be Minister for his life-time. I can understand that the permanent head of his Department is the one who has to carry out his policy, and it would be undesirable that such an officer should be opposed to him.
SenatorFoster. - Does the honorable senator think that if Senator Russell had a man under him who was not doing what he was told the Minister would put up with him?
– That man would go out very quickly.
– The Minister has not the power to dismiss anybody. He cannot dismiss an office boy.
– If I had a secretary who was running me, instead of me running him, he would have to get out.
-What reason is there for giving a Minister the power to appoint a permanent head if he has not also the power to appoint a chief clerk?
– Must the man who is appointed come from inside the Service?
– If the Minister is allowed to go outside the Service, that opens up another ‘aspect of the question. If that is done, as time goes on there will be a certain amount of amusement - I put it that way - in the Departments when persons are appointed from outside. I would like the Minister to give some reasons why these appointments should be made by the Cabinet.
– The amendment I have moved is in accordance with the time-honoured custom. Neither the Acting Public Service Commissioner nor any one else has made any suggestion for an alteration.
– Mr. McLachlan, who was formerly Public Service Commissioner, put up a great fight against Ministers having the right of appointment.
– The honorable senator is speaking of many years ago. Mr. McLachlan’s ideas have evolved considerably since ‘ that time. Senator Thomas has not followed Mr. McLachlan’s mind as I have. I have sat on a Committee with him. I can challenge Senator Thomas to show me any recommendation by Mr. McLachlan in his most recent report against the principle incorporated in the amendment that I have moved. I remember at one time, when I was in the Defence Department, I asked an officer to do something, and he replied, “ Don’t you think you had better do that yourself, sir? “ I said, “ Get out of the room.” He got out, and did not come back. When an officer commences to interfere, and will not take instructions, it is time for him to be shifted. I knew that I had no power to dismiss him, but he did not enter my office again.
– But why should the Minister have the right to appoint the permanent head, and not the chief clerk?
– As the honorable senator believed in that system at one time, he must then have been aware of the reasons for it.
– When I see men who were clerks a few years ago now in the position of heads of large Departments,I begin to wonder whether the methods employed in the past are the best.
– The permanent head of a Department is the chief administrator of the policy laid down by the Government, and He must be under Ministerial control.
– Yes, but another Government may come in, and another Minister. If the permanent head went out with the Minister the argument would be more sound.
– I have found the officers very loyal, as a rule; but there are, of course, exceptions.
– If the officers are very loyal, that is an argument in favour of not giving the Minister power to appoint them.
– I get a deputation once a week from returned soldiers contending that officers responsible for the administration of Departments are not giving effect to the Government’s policy of preference to returned soldiers. Sometimes this is due to misinterpretation of the Government’s policy on the part of the officers, and sometimes to carelessness. I find that in regard to the appointment of radio-telegraphic operators on Commonwealth ships, a contract was entered into with the Marconi Company which made no provision for preference to returned men. The company is not employing returned men in some cases in the radio service. The omission in that case was an accident, and I am taking steps to correct it. In nearly all constitutional countries the heads of the Departments are appointed by the Government, and I think it is advisable to continue that practice in Australia. The amendment is in conformity with a recommendation of the Economies Commission.
– I did not intend to obtrude myself into the discussion of this complicated measure, for the sufficient reason that I know very little about the intricacies of the Public Service. When Senator Thomas asks for some specific reason for a policy in which he himself at one time believed, I submit that there is an absence of that frankness which is ordinarily a characteristic of the honorable senator. As he believed in the theory at one time, I decline to assume that he believed in it without having carefully considered the reasons for it ; and he therefore knew, and must have in his mind now, the reasons which caused him to attach himself to that theory. The same reasons obtain to-day.
– Cannot the Minister tell us what those reasons are?
– If the honorable senator will possess himself in patience, I will do my best to refresh his memory as to the reasons which at one time convinced him. There is in the Public Service, and perhaps there always will be, a conflict between two principles. With the idea of preventing any favoritism creeping in, a Commissioner has been appointed, who pays attention to loyalty of service, and, among other things, to seniority. I venture to say that, as a result of that practice, full recognition is not given to merit. -In the case of permanent head of a Department, it is admitted by everybody that all other considerations should be swept aside in the presence of the necessity of getting the best possible man for the position. In order to secure that best possible man, I submit that the ordinary conditions which rule the Public Service should be swept on one side; otherwise, the other factor, which may be necessary as a safeguard in the Service generally, becomes not a safeguard, and the Department may not secure the best possible man. I submit that, in giving this right of appointment not to an individual Minister but to the Cabinet, the Senate has a right to assume that an honest effort will be made to secure the best man. The best man is not always the one who would come next in order of seniority.
– It would not necessarily follow that the Board would appoint the next man in order of seniority.
– I would remind the honorable senator of the practice that is generally followed. I am not optimistic enough to believe that merit always gets its due reward in the Public Service.
– Nor in any other walk of life.
– Quite true. If one could receive a definite assurance that the Board would be likely to make a better selection than the ‘Government or an individual Minister, there might be some force in the contention.
– Taking the matter all in all, I should say that such an assurance could be given.
– I take it then that the honorable senator will vote in accordance with that view. However, the Governmentbelieve in having a free hand in selecting the best men available.
– And in going outside the Service?
– The . Bill provides that, in circumstances where the Board is able to give a certificate that the Service cannot provide the requisite man, selection may be made from outside.
– The fact is that the Government cannot choose from outside without the consent of the Commissioner.
– In effect, that is so.
– Then the appointment cannot be said to be the Minister’s ?
– Yes, with that modification.
– It is an appointment by the Minister, subject to the consent of the Commissioner, or of the Board.
– Nevertheless the selection is made by the Minister from the very best men available anywhere. The question, however, is whether it would be better that the person concerned shouldbe selected by the Cabinet, with full appreciation of the responsibility, or whether the choice should be handed over to a Board, which, after all, is largely guided by regulations.
– But this willbe a different Board.
– If the honorable senator expects that, he must have greater faith in human nature than I possess. One hears talk of securing the rewards of merit. The Public Service is largely routine-controlled. Men receive promotion by way of seniority, plus, in many instances, records of reasonably good service. But, with respect to the rapid advance of certain others, the suggestion underlying such progress is that the Government, having free choice, have selected and promoted men who have revealed outstanding merit.
– Is it a fact that a Minister may not even choose his own private secretary?
– There are limitations in making a selection. In response to a notification that a Minister desires a private secretary, the Commissioner will submit a name. I do not imply that a Minister has absolutely no voice. He can veto a candidate whom he may not consider suitable; and that right of veto is essential.
– But it is only a negative power.
– As a matter of actual practice, the power of veto can be exercised to produce positive results. It can be so used as ultimately to secure one’s own individual selection. In many years’ experience I have not heard of any greatevil arising from the present practice, but I can readily conceive of some unfortunate appointments being made if the system of Ministerial selection did not prevail. I ask honorable senators, therefore, to permit matters to remain as they satisfactorily exist.
– I should like to be shown, in this clause or any other, where it is provided that persons appointed by Cabinet as heads of Departments must be selected from within the Service. I do not know that there is such specific provision - whether, for example, it is set out in clause 46 - but, if the Bill does so provide, I desire to amend it. I should like to have it made perfectly clear that the Government shall have, and continue to possess, an absolutely free hand in appointing heads of Departments. Departmental efficiency depends in a very great measure upon the ability and character of the permanent head.
– I understand that the provisions of clause 46 are not held to apply to the appointments of permanent heads.
– I am glad to know that: and, if the position is not perfectly clear, itshould be made so. If a permanent ‘head makes a muddle of his Department, the responsible Minister must shoulder the public blame, and rightly so. But that would not be the case if the Minister had not some voice in the selection of his permament heads.
– Would the honorable senator tolerate the practice of every incoming Minister dispensing with the services of the previous permanent head and appointing a man of his own?
-BRQCKMAN.- If the new Minister was not satisfied as to the efficiency of the existing permanent head, he should have the power to “ sack: “ him, and appoint another.
– That would be going too far.
– Machinery is provided for ridding the Service of inefficient officers. If a Minister has availed himself of that machinery, and brought ‘about the dismissal of an unsuitable man, he should have a free hand in the appointment of a successor. The Government are responsible, and ‘ should possess control over the appointment and continuance in service of those who are administering Departments. So far as permanent heads are concerned, the power of selection, 1 maintain, should be in the hands of the Cabinet, and not a matter for any Board.
– If the honorable senator’s views were adopted, there would be frequent instances of “ spoils to the victors.”
, - I invite honorable senators to consider the position upon the retirement or death of a permanent head. The Minister controlling the Department could appoint any qualified individual to fill the vacancy, and the selected person would become permanent head of the Department. There might be a change of Government, however, and an incoming Minister might not like that permanent head. To-day he cannot dismiss him, however. If this clause provided as wide a scope as Senator Drake-Brockman advocates, there would be something in his arguments; but it does not do so. As for the policy of changing heads of Department with every change of Administration, even if the matter of an officer’s efficiency carried some weight, it should not be overlooked that the recognition of his qualificationsmight become a matter of purely personal consideration. I must admit, however, that there is a good deal to be said in favour of the practice - upon a new Minister taking over the administration of a Department - of permitting him to appoint one who was sympathetic with his policy, and would govern the affairs of the Department in accordance therewith. The Public Service is,’ in the main, absolutely loyal to the responsible Ministers. It has been said of the British Public Service that its personnel “ served both parties with equalfidelity, and, probably, with equal contempt.” I shall make no allusions to the local relevance or otherwise of the latterphase, but I am sure the Government are very deeply indebted to their heads of Departments.
– We do not wish to bring in a system of changing them with every change of Government.
– I am not advocating that; yet, if that is not to be the principle, there is no special reason for this clause.
– The matter of appointing permanent heads need not be, and is not, governed by any consideration of policy, but entirely of ability.
– Then, why not let the Board make the appointments? Cannot the Board be relied on to select able men? I have in mind one or two specific Ministerial appointments with which I have been far from impressed. The individuals concerned would not have been selected if the choice had been a matter for the Commissioner or the Board.
– Are the honorable senator’s views governed by what he regards as an unfortunate Ministerial selection of one or two individuals?
– Whether or not, that is not the point. I emphasize that what Senator Drake-Brockman advocates cannot be brought about in this measure. It may be taken for granted that selections would not be made by the Commissioner or the Board without first con- ‘ suiting the Minister.
– Does the honorable senator expect theBoard to consult the Government first?
– Of course!
– Then, what would be the use of the Board? Would not the practice of “spoils to the victor” still prevail?
– No. The Board would be outside all political influence or interests, and would make its selections accordingly, even though it consulted members of the Ministry.
– How can an inefficient permanent head be got rid of?
– Under the existing Act, I do not know.
– It is just as important that the Government should have power to get rid of an inefficient head as to appoint a new one.
– I agree, but if permanent heads were to come and go as
Governments secured office and were defeated, that would be another matter. I have no objection to appointments from outside, but I am of opinion that no reasons have, so far, been given why the Government should make these appointments of permanent heads any more than any other appointments in the Service.
– The honorable senator has saddled me with a desire for the introduction into the Public Service of the system of “ spoils to the victors.”
– I did not do so.
– I wish to make it quite clear that I do not in the least approve of the introduction of any such system into the Commonwealth Public Service. I wish to make it quite clear also that, in my opinion, it is very desirable that where new appointments of permanent heads are being made, Ministers in charge of the Departments concerned should have a say. In this connexion, I have had a little personal experience. I came into command of a Brigade on active service. It so happened that three of the commands within that Brigade fell vacant, and three, names were sent to me of persons who were to be appointed to those commands. I knew those three men, and my opinion of them was that they were not suitable for commands under me. It was pointed out to me that some one else had recommended them as being fit for the command of battalions. I then said, “Let those people have them. I do not want them. They are not suitable, in my opinion.” I was then told that I must take them. Then I said to my Divisional Commander, “ Who is responsible for the efficiency of the Brigade; am I responsible, or are you?” He said, “You are.”I replied, “Very well, sir, I am going to have men in command of my battalions whom I consider efficient, and in whom I have confidence. If I am head of the Brigade and responsible for it, I cannot have men under me whom I consider incompetent to manage my subordinate departments properly.” I got my own way.
– Suppose the honorable senator left his command for a higher one, and some one succeeded him who thought the officers whom he had appointed were not efficient, what would happen then?
– As soon as he found they were inefficient, he would take steps to get rid of them; and that, I. suppose, is what a Minister in charge of a Department would do.
– The Minister of a Department cannot do that.
– In theory, he may not be able to do so, but in the Army the same theory applies.
– We have been told that a Minister is not able to choose even his own private secretary, but that he can exercise a power of veto, ‘which, if he exhausts it sufficiently, may enable him to secure the type of assistant he desires. We have had considerable discussion and inquiry in the Senate concerning the difficulties of dealing even with junior officials, irrespective of whether they merit the positions they occupy or not. I understand that Ministers have not the power, to get rid even of their private secretaries or officers closely associated with them, whether efficient or otherwise ; and I want to raise the question of the power of a Minister or the Board to get rid of any inefficient officer. We shall enter shortly upon the consideration of clause 53, which may be regarded as the Army Act of the Public Sex-vice. It isa very long clause, providing punishments for offences, and we shall need to consider it very carefully as operating throughout the Service. The power of the Board or of the Minister to remove an inefficient permanent head should be defined when we come to consider that clause.
Amendment agreed to.
– I am not quite clear as to the effect of the amendment which has just been carried, but it appears to me that it will enable the Board to do practically anything, and its scope is very much wider than, I think, the Committee has realized.
– Senator Pratten raised the question as to the power of a Minister or the Board to get rid of an inefficient permanent head. I direct his attention to clause 54, which reads -
The honorable senator will see that that clause provides for a complete control over officers of the first or second division who misbehave themselves or fail.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 53 -
An officer (other than an officer in the First or Second Division) who-
Where there is reason to believe that an officer (not being an officer of the First or Second Division) has committed an ‘offence, other than a minor offence punishable under the provisions of the preceding sub-section -
Suspension may be effected prior to or at the time of, or subsequent to, the laying of the charge, and may be removed at any time by the Chief Officer pending determination of the charge, or, in any case where the charge has not ‘been sustained, immediately upon a finding to that effect.
transfer him to some other position or locality, which transfer may be in addition to fine or reduction; or
– I direct attention to the very wide range of paragraphs d and e of sub-clause 1 in connexion with penalties for offences by officers other than those of the first and second divisions. Under paragraph d it is provided that an officer who “ uses intoxicating liquors or drugs to excess “ and under paragraph e an officer who “is guilty of any disgraceful or improper conduct, either in his official capacity or otherwise,” shall be liable to the penalties provided in the Bill. So far as the use of intoxicating liquors or drugs is concerned this is a very sweeping provision. lt takes into consideration the actions of an officer whether on or off duty, and whether in or out of office hours. I am not going to contend that there is not a good deal to be said in favour of the provision, but* a tyrannical, arbitrary, or harsh administration of it might in certain conceivable circumstances and conditions be extremely unjust.
– If an officer is found repeatedly in a condition unfit for work, there should be power to deal with him.
– I agree that there is a great deal to he said for the clause as it stands.
– We have to be in a position to meet extreme cases.
– Another aspect is that there may be vindictiveness or animosity on the part of a controlling officer towards an individual member of the Service. This part of the measure could be administered in a very unjust way. It seems to be going a little too far in the direction of discipline when notice is taken of the life that an officer leads when he is off duty.
– There would be a Board to protect him.
– I hope the honorable senator will support an extension of the time allowed for appeal. If deliberate injustice is perpetrated, an officer should have every opportunity to remedy it. Clause 53 will really be the Army Act of the Service^. It will apply to the privates, but not to the high officers.
-brockman. - If you look at clause 54 you will see that officers of the first and second divisions are liable to be punished for the offences enumerated in the clause under consideration, but there is another way of dealing with them.
– Clause 53 covers more than two pages of the Bill. There are six sub-clauses and innumerable subparagraphs. If the clause opens the way to vindictiveness and harsh treatment an officer who thinks he has been unjustly treated should have ample right of appeal.
– I remind Senator Pratten that the Act which has been in operation since 1909 makes exactly the same provision in regard to offences. It is provided in section 46 of that Act that officers shall be liable to be dealt with by the head of the Department for being guilty of any disgraceful or improper conduct, or using intoxicating liquor to excess. Therefore, the clause we are now discussing is not an innovation. We should inquire whether the Act has been effective in maintaining the status of a body second to none in the Commonwealth, from the point of view of cost and importance.
– Will you add “efficiency?”
– I need not go into that aspect. No business organization or firm throughout Australia would tolerate improper conduct on the part of its employees out of office hours, or the excessive use of intoxicating liquor. Every officer in the Public Service must recognise that he is expected to be a gentleman outside of the Service, as he must be within it. Until I am shown that the present law is oppressive I shall support the clause as printed, so far as the first portion of it goes.
– It is not the practice to penalize an officer for a technical offence, but very often a small penalty will prevent an offender from giving trouble in future. I have met a number of public officers, who, on their way to work, appeared to be quite unfit for it. Sometimes officers in very responsible positions have been seen on duty in anything but a fit condition. In one instance, an officer was unable to do his work properly for years, and he was eventually dismissed; but such cases as that are rare. The Administration deals with such men in a generous spirit, but when an officer repeatedly offends there should be some power to remove him from the Service. I recollect the case of an officer who was suspected of stealing £2,000 in notes from the Post and Telegraph Department, and was suspended. He applied for his pay, but did not receive it. He was tried three times, and the jury failed to agree. Then he was sent before the Public Service Board and was dismissed. I cannot say that he was guilty of the offence, although I had no doubt of it in my own mind. I know that the £2,000 was never returned to the Department.
– You are just as likely to have extreme cases the other way.
– The administrative officers have some common sense.
– We know what human nature is.
– There is always an appeal to the Board.
Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.S0 p.m.
.- The Minister (Senator Russell) will remember, I think, that representations were made to him some time ago by a deputation from the Public Service Association, that the time within which to lodge an appeal is too short. Would he have any objection to extending the time from forty-eight hours to four days?
– The time limit mentioned has reference only to minor offences, which are usually settled by the head of a Department, who is expected to be in close touch with the officer concerned. For serious offences, of course, there will foe an extension of time for the preparation of evidence on appeal. This is in the interests of the Service, because obviously an officer stationed in the back country of
Queensland or Western Australia should have ample time within which to lodge an appeal against any decision, but if he replies by telegram, admitting the offence, the head of the Department will deal with the offence without delay.
– I can see the force of the Minister’s argument” as applied to minor offences, particularly if the appeal means an objection to the (penalty imposed, or a lodgment of the equivalent to “not guilty.” But as I read the clause, the context imposes an obligation upon the appellant, not only to appeal within fortyeight hours of the notification of his punishment or offence, but also to complete his appeal. That is the gravamen of the objection to the time limit of fortyeight hours. Even the imposition of such a small fine as 5s. presumes an offence against some regulation or other, and it would be extremely objectionable to a sensitive public servant if he felt that he were not deserving of the infliction even of a minor penalty. It is not fair to limit an appellant in this way. He may elect to seek legal assistance. Even a minor offence may be complicated in its nature. I hope the Minister will consider the point I have raised. There can be no objection to an extension of the time so far as the drafting of the clause is concerned.
– I have already explained the circumstances usually surrounding minor offences in connexion with which appeals must be lodged within forty-eight hours. The proviso to paragraph d of sub-clause 3 deals with the more serious offences. It states that if the punishment be other than fine, the officer concerned may appeal, as prescribed, to the Board.
– But paragraph c of sub-clause 3 provides than an officer against whom a charge has been laid must reply forthwith in writing, admitting or denying the truth of the charge, and giving any explanation he may deem necessary. If he does not reply within forty-eight hours he shall be deemed to have admitted the truth of the charge. That refers to serious offences.
– But, as I have already pointed out, if an officer denies the truth of a charge, he will have ample time within which to prepare his defence.
.- While I admit that the time within which appeals may be lodged is not so important in connexion with the offences referred to in sub-clause 2, dealing with minor offences, for which a small fine may be imposed, I am not prepared to pass the general question of the right of appeal in the case of major offences. If, on the arguments of the Minister, the Committee allows the time for appeal in minor cases -to be fixed at forty-eight hours, the same objection may be used against any extension of time for the right of appeal in the more serious offences. I am not insisting upon an extension of time for appeal in minor offences, (but I hope the Minister will realize that for major charges more time should be allowed.
– If an officer against whom a charge has been laid admits the offence, that will practically end the case, and the head of the Department may take whatever action is necessary. If an ofiiceT denies an offence, he will have practically an unlimited time within which to prepare his defence.
– The clause does not say so.
– Paragraph d of sub-clause 3 reads -
If the Chief Officer, after consideration of reports relating to the offence and charge and the reply and explanation, if any, of the officer charged, and any further reports he may consider necessary, is of opinion that the charge has been sustained, he may -
Provided that if the punishment so imposed by the Chief Officer be other than fine the officer may appeal, as prescribed, against the decision of the Chief Officer, and the appeal shall be heard by an Appeal Board constituted as hereinafter prescribed.
– There is no appeal against a fine.
– The maximum fine is £5.
– There is no appeal against that, although the offence is recorded.
– Under this measure no records of offences are kept.
– Surely that is extraordinary.
– When an officer is fined, the incident is closed. It would be unreasonable after the expiration of, say, twenty years to take into consideration a minor offence which had been committed, and penalize an officer on that account. It is not proposed under this Bill to keep any official record of offences, although they may be kept in the Departments.
– If they are to be kept at all, they should be recorded in an official way.
– An officer may be fined £1 for committing a minor offence, and I do not think it is fair that that should be recorded against him when his subsequent conduct has been satisfactory. If the Committee is of the opinion, that records should be kept, I. am prepared to give the matter consideration.
– But is the Minister sure that no records are kept?
– There is no statutory provision to that effect. A publicservant may have committed a minor offence many years ago, and subsequently, in addition to rendering good service to the Commonwealth, may also have been on active service. It would be unreasonable and unjust to raise the point that he had been fined for a minor offence many years ago. Although no official records are kept, offences are very often recalled. There is no special provision in the Bill, but reference is made in subclause 4 to appeals being made to the Appeal Board on the ground of innocence of the charge or excessive severity of the punishment, when the previous record of the officer will be considered. It is not the desire of the Government to penalize officers who committed a minor offence perhaps many years ago.
.- I think it will be admitted that, whether offences are recorded or not depends to a large extent upon the attitude of the officer in charge of the Department in which an offender may have served. We cannot very well prevent an officer being even ridiculously vindictive if he should, be so inclined. Quite recently, a striking instance of this character was brought before the Senate in connexion with the lift boy.
– I think the vindictiveness displayed was on the part of the honorable senator towards Mr. President.
– If the honorr able senator wishes to throw such insults across the chamber, VI shall be obliged to retaliate.
– Vindictiveness is frequently based upon untruths. -
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– To what does the honorable senator object?
– Senator Duncan said that I had made untrue statements.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said that I thought the vindictiveness displayed was on the part of the honorable senator towards Mr. President, which was frequently based upon untruths. I made no accusation against the honorable senator.
– I heard the word “untruths” used, but I did not know in what sense it was applied. If Senator. Duncan says that he did not charge Senade Largie with stating an untruth the honorable senator may proceed.
– I am prepared to accept the honorable senator’s assurance. The employee to whom I was referring was reprimanded for a trivial offence when engaged in the refreshment department in this building, and this was brought up against him in this chamber although it had occurred nearly ten years ago,notwithstanding that he left the refreshment department with a clean, record and received a recommendation.
– But I understood the Minister to say that no records were kept.
– I am not concerned with what the Minister said. I am merely quoting a case that has had my personal attention; I am stating facts which can be substantiated.
– Notwithstanding what has been said, I believe records are kept.
-Yes, and they can be brought forward at what may be considered an opportune time. If this practice is followed in connexion with the staff of this Parliament, it is easy to understand what oan be done in other Departments. It shows how careful we should be.
– I thought we were dealing with the question of appeals, and not of records.
– That may be so, but as the question of records has been introduced I consider it my duty to bring a striking instance under the notice of honorable senators. I believe there is some misunderstanding concerning the question of appeals, and the opinions I hold are somewhat different to those which have been expressed by other honorable senators. Sub-clause 2 reads -
If the Chief Officer, or any officer prescribed as having power to deal with minor offences, has any reason to believe that an officer has committed a minor offence, he may call upon the officer for an explanation as to the alleged offence, and if, on consideration of the explanation, he is of the opinion that the offence has been committed, he may caution or reprimand the offending officer, or fine him an amount- not exceeding 5s.
I take it that that ends the reference to minor offences. The sub-clause then goes on -
Any caution, reprimand, or fine by an officer other than the Chief Officer shall be forthwith reported to the Chief Officer, and where the offence has been punished by a fine, the officer affected may appeal to the Chief Officer within forty-eight hours of the notification to him of the punishment. Upon such appeal the Chief Officer may confirm, annul, or reduce the punishment, and his decision shall be final.
If that sub-clause is read in conjunction with paragraph c of sub-clause, 3 and the proviso, it will be seen that an officer charged with a grave offence may appeal. But there is no appeal in connexion with minor offences.
– Not where a fine is inflicted by a chief officer.
– That is so. The provisions in that clause should be separated, otherwise it may be misunderstood.
Senator ADAMSON (Queensland) relation to offences, particularly minor offences committed by officers of the Service, the Government are inclined to take a kindly view. I am of opinion that to have too rigid, hard-and-fast, and “ ironclad” clauses and regulations often leads to the commission of offences rather than exerts any restraining influence. I remember that when the Railway Regulation Bill was before the Queensland Parliament a clause was put in to wipe out the record of all past offences. That clause had a good effect on the morale of the railway service. This Bill is a thoroughly humane and truly democratic Bill, for it is seeking to advance the truest interests of the Public Service. The Minister (Senator Russell), in accepting amendments, and in his pronouncements in relation to airmen, returned soldiers, and naval men, shows that the Government are anxious to place on the statute-book an Act of the most humane kind. I think that is what we want to aim at, particularly at a time like the present. We have had plenty of blood-shedding, hard discipline, and “iron-bound” rules, and we now want something humane to appeal to the better nature of men. I have listened to the discussion as carefully as I could - I am under a disadvantage in some respects - and I think that it has been of a high order. Many things have been made clear to me. I have not had a chance of reading carefully and minutely the Commonwealth Public Service Act, although I have read the Queensland Act. In future I hope to be able to take a , more decided part in the debates in this Senate than I have been able to take foi some time past. I am thankful to members of the Senate for the kindly way in which they have treated me during the last fourteen months. They have been terrible months to me; and, probably, only I know how terrible they have been. I want to do what I can in the future for the country that has done so much for me, and I hope I shall be able to do more than I have done in the past.
.- I have listened carefully to the explanation given by Senator de Largie of the true meaning of the clause. Honorable senators ought to be grateful to him for having discovered the true meaning, and for having explained it to the Committee. He has shown us that we have been somewhat misled, perhaps by the Minister (Senator Russell), regarding the true intention of the clause. The clause clearly shows that in regard to minor offences for which the fine does not exceed 5s. there is absolutely no appeal; but when we come to the major offences, for which a fine not exceeding £5 may be imposed, the officer may appeal to the chief officer, but he must lodge the appeal within forty-eight hours. For- other penalties imposed for major offences it is provided that an appeal may be made “ as prescribed.” That means that a regulation will be made prescribing the form of appeal and stating” the period of time that will be allowed for lodging it.
– The regulation will relate mostly to the time allowed.
– I will confine my remarks to the fining of an officer a sum not exceeding £5, in connexion, with which he has the right of appeal to the chief officer. I do not think that a period of forty-eight hours is sufficient time to allow for lodging the appeal. When Senator Pratten was speaking some time ago regarding the advisability of extending that period the Minister said. “This is only for minor offences for which the fine cannot be more than 5s. Surely forty-eight hours is ample time to allow in such cases for an officer to. appeal.” We have discovered now that the- stipulation, relates not only to minor offences, but also to major offences.
– I have made a note of the point that has been raised regarding the £5 fine. I think the figure is too high. It is a serious thing for an officer to be fined £5.
– I am going to move in that direction. * I think Senator Pratten will agree with me that the time allowed for an appeal for major offences should be doubled at least. A week would be little enough time.
– I have an amendment to move to sub-clause 2. I suggest that my honorable friend should allow me to move that before he moves the amendment which he has suggested.
– I am speaking now in regard to sub-clause 2. It deals with appeals against fines for major offences.
– An extension of time for lodging appeals against fines for major offences is much more important than for the minor offences.
– There is no appeal against a fine for a minor offence.
– Except in the case of a fine imposed otherwise than by the chief officer.
– If the honorable senator has an amendment to move to sub-clause 2, I will not move my amendment at present.
– The clause is misleading as it is worded.
– I congratulate the honorable senator on being the only one who read the clause carefully.
– I was extremely pleased to hear the considerate utterances of the Minister (Senator Russell) regarding minor offences. All honorable senators are extremely glad to have Senator Adamson again in active participation in the business of this Senate after his long and very trying illness. He, also, uttered sentiments that we all agree with in regard to the desirability of acting humanely towards, at all events, those who commit only minor offences. From my own knowledge, records of offences committed in the Service are kept, in some way or other. I am going to ask the Minister, in view of his utterances with regard to minor offences, and in view of the almost unanimous desire of this Senate to be reasonably humane towards the poor, frail members of humanity who sometimes make a slip, that is not serious, to accept an amendment to sub-clause 2. I move -
That after the word “final,” in sub-clause (2), the following words be inserted, “ Provided that the record of any minor offences shall stand against an officer for two years only.”
That, I think, is on all-fours with the most admirable sentiments that have been expressed in this Committee this afternoon. Those sentiments were expressed particularly by the Minister, and were indorsed most heartily by my friend Senator Adamson, and were agreed to, I believe, in essence and in fact, by every member of the Senate. The records of offences are, indeed, kept, and this amendment will place a limit upon the time during which reference may be made to a minor offence committed by any officer.
– May I direct the honorable senator’s attention to clause 96, sub-clause 1, paragraph g. This states that the Board may make regulations -
For providing for notification to the Board of punishments inflicted on officers by virtue of this Act or the regulations thereunder, and for keeping records thereof.
The Government has not drawn up any conditions governing the records of offences. That matter is left to regulation by the Board.
– I am obliged to the Minister for pointing that fact out. It seems to me to be an additional reason for incorporating my amendment in the Bill. There have been instances in the administration of the Service when minor offences of many years’ standing have been brought up against officers in connexion with boards of inquiry, appeal cases, and the like. I have been informed of this on the authority of the high council of the Service, and I hope, after all that has been said, that the attempt I have made to give practical effect to the admirable, humane sentiments uttered in this Senate this afternoon will be unanimously approved.
.- May I suggest to Senator Pratten that he ask leave to insert his amendment after the words, “five shillings,” in sub-clause 2. The amendment would then come at the end of the reference to minor offences. The amendment deals only with the record of minor offences, and if inserted where I suggest, it would separate effectively the portion of the clause dealing with minor offences from the portion dealing with major offences. It would thus meet the wishes of Senator De Largie to a certain extent, by placing something between the references to the two classes of offences. Sub-clause 2 deals with appeals by an officer who has been fined for the commission of a major offence.
– Will the honorable senator agree to the insertion of the amendment in sub -clause 2 in any place thought proper by the draftsman?
SenatorFoster. - The sub-clause referred to does not deal with major offences.
– It provides that -
Any caution, reprimand, or fine by an officer other than the Chief Officer, shall be reported to the Chief Officer, and where the offence has been punished by a fine, the officer affected may appeal to the Chief Officer.
– Does that not refer to a report on a minor offence?
– Of course it does, and it gives an appeal in such casesto the Chief Officer unless he is the person who inflicted the fine.
– Will the Minister accept the principle of the amendment, and leave it to the draftsman to decide where it should be incorporated?
, - I am willing to accept the principle of the amendment, and leave it to the draftsman, to say where it should be included. I consider that the record of a trifling offence should not be kept for a period of two years.
– The Minister might agree to a maximum period of two years, and under the regulations in particular cases, the time fixed might be less.
– I will accept the principle of the amendment, with a maximum period of twoyears.
– As the Minister has agreed to accept the principle of my amendment, and to incorporate it in the Bill . after consultation with the draftsman, I ask permission to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– As we are dealing with the question of appeals, I should like to know whether this clause covers appeals against wrongful dismissals or promotions.
– Yes, it does.
– I know that this matter was the subject of considerable discussion in the Queensland Parliament in dealing with the Railway Bill, and public servants have asked me from time to time to interest myself in it when this Bill was under consideration.
– I wish to refer to the time within which an officer shall reply to a charge made against him. The time provided for under the clause is fortyeight hours, even in connexion with a major offence, which might, and probably would, necessitate consultation with a legal adviser and with friends, the collection ofevidence, and a somewhat exhaustive inquiry into the circumstances under which the officer charged might successfully appeal against a possible act of injustice. We have considered the time allowed for an appeal against a fine or reprimand, or other minor penalty imposed by an officer other than the head of a Department, and during the consideration of that matter the Minister (Senator Russell) agreed that that time might not be long enough for the preparation of an appeal in the case of a major offence. I have discussed the Bill in a somewhat cursory way with one or two officers of the Commonwealth Public Service in my own State. They suggested to me that in the case of major offences four days would be a fairer time to allow for an appeal. The high council of the Commonwealth Public Service that has gone very minutely into this Bill, has suggested that seven days should be allowed in which to lodge an appeal where an officer is charged with a major offence. We have to decide as between forty-eight hours, four days, and seven days which would be the fairest time to allow.
– I intend to propose that the words “ as prescribed “ be left out with a view to inserting the words, “ in such manner and after such time not exceeding seven days as may be prescribed.” That should meet the honorable senator’s objection.
– I agree that the amendment suggested by the Minister is an improvement upon that which I intended to propose.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That after the word “ imposed,” in the ‘proviso to sub-clause 3, the words “ or recommended “ be inserted.
– There is a matter in connexion with procedure on appeals which I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister. The proviso to sub-clause 3 reads -
Provided that if the punishment so imposed by the Chief Officer be other than fine,the officer may appeal, as prescribed, against the decision of the Chief Officer -
There is a right of appeal against all punishment other than the imposition of a fine. But Iam inclined to think that the right of appeal should be extended. If an officer charged with an offence pleads not guilty, I think his case should go straight to the Appeal Board instead of being dealt with, where a fine is imposed, by the chief officer.
– A man in charge of a branch of a Department; in an outside district, may fine an officer under his control, and that officer, under the Bill, would have a right to appeal to’ the head of the Department.
– I do not think that is provided in the sub-clause, but I did not fully understand the Minister’s statement with regard to the redrafting of the sub-clause. Perhaps he will make a fuller explanation. I may then- have nothing further to say, or I may bring the matter up again.
– I mentioned that, in my opinion, there could be no objection to permitting an appeal in a case where the fine imposed is as high as £5. I think that is too high a sum to allow without the right of appeal.
– Compared with a reduction of salary, or to a lower division in the Service, a fine of £5 might be a trivial penalty.
– That is so; but it has occurred to me that it is not quite fair to permit a fine of £5 to be imposed without a right of appeal.
, - I am not quite clear regarding the promise given by the Minister to extend the time during which an appeal may be lodged.
– I suggested omitting “as prescribed,” and inserting “ in such manner and within such time, not Jess than seven days, as may be prescribed.” An extension fromforty-eight hours to seven days is a big increase, and I think it is very generous.
– Then the question is whether we shall omit or retain the words in the proviso to sub-clause 3, “ be other than fine.” There is a feeling in the Service that, inasmuch as State awards provide for a direct appeal to a Board, over the head of an officer who has imposed a penalty, the same provision should be made under this Bill. It is for the Committee to say whether an appeal against such a finding shallbe adjudicated upon by the chief officer or by the Appeal Board.
– Under the present law the head of the Department can fine an officer up to £10 without an appeal. I am now offering to make the amount £5 with an appeal.
– I suggest that, if it is not desired to force a delinquent to appeal to the officer who imposed the fine, the words “ be other than fine “ be struck out.
– If you let that go, I shall draft the clause so that when the fine reaches £5 the officer can appeal.
.- I cannot find anything in the clause providing for the imposition of a fine between 5s. for a minor offence and £5 for a major offence. I want to know what constitutes a minor and what a major offence. Am 1 to understand that if an officer is fined 5s., it is a minor offence; and if he is fined any other amountupto £5, it is still a minor offence? .
– Yes, if there is no other penalty attached.
– Then it seems to me that the definition is absolutely wanting, and it would depend on the chief officer as to whether the offence would be considered a minor or major one.
– That is why I suggest that the Board should have discretion. A fine of, say, 2s. 6d. should not be recorded. I have agreed to Senator Pratten’s request that where such a slight penalty has been imposed it shall . not be recorded.
– Nobody will know until the regulations are framed what constitutes major and minor offences. If an officer has a charge laid against him, and has to appear before the chief officer, he ought to be informed whether he is charged with a petty offence, or with something which may be magnified into a major offence.
– In the case of a minor offence he is not charged, but in other cases he must receive the charge in writing.
– If he is formally charged by the head of the Department, he may not be fined more than as.
– Some people cannot be dealt with in a kindly way. They might prefer trial, and the charge would then be sent on to them in writing.
– If a- man receives a notification to appear before the chief officer, is that, a formal charge? Subclause 3, paragraph a, shows that officers may be charged with certain offences, and, they are not so charged unless they are considered to have committed major offences. If an officer is charged with, a major offence, and is fined the nominal sum of ls., there should be some definite understanding as to whether that automatically becomes a major offence.
– I have suggested that discretion should be given to the Board, so that there need be no record made where- a very minor offence has been committed, and a nominal penalty imposed.
– To have two sets of offences is an excellent idea, but we should make the question clear, irrespective of whether they are major or minor offences. It would be absurd if the Bill did not provide for trivial offences to be dealt with by the permanent head of the Department. Therefore the clause, so far as it relates to minor offences, should be adopted. Offences which are dealt with in paragraph a of sub-clause 3 would be of such a serious nature that the officer charged would probably be deemed not fit to continue in ‘the performance of his duty, and would be suspended until the charge had been investigated.
– Suppose an officer were charged and suspended on what appeared, on the face of it, to be a major offence. Upon appeal the Board might declare that the offence was not one punishable with a fine of £6, and might fine him only ls. The mere fact that he had been charged on a major offence would leave a black mark against his record.
– I do not see how that position could be met until the merits of any particular case had been dealt with by the Board.
– We could provide by regulation that a nominal fine should place what might be regarded as a major charge in the category of a minor offence.
– I think that is already provided for. The maximum fine is fixed at £5, but there no minimum is stated. Therfore a a fine may be only a few shillings.
– I think . the position will be met by a proviso in paragraph ) of clause 96, to the effect that nothing in the regulations shall require the keeping of a record when the fine is less than 5s.
Amendment agreed to.
– We have dealt with that portion of the clause concerning the infliction of a fine, and we come now to the consideration of that portion of it which provides for an appeal to the Board as prescribed. I canfind no reference to any appeal being permitted against a fine imposed for a major offence.
– I am arranging to insert a provision that an officer fined £5 for a major offence may have the right of appeal.
The- following papers were, presented :_
Taxation. - Statement and Recommendation of Dissentient Commissioners and Supplementary Statement by Majority Commissioners in respect of section 1 (Special Consideration to Primary Producers) of First Report of the Royal Commission.
Ordered to he printed..
Inscribed Stock Act. - Dealings and transactions during year ended 30th June, 1921.
Public Service Act. - Promotion of A. M. Cameron, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Senator BUZACOTT, on behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, presented the third progress report of the Committee on the administration of the War Service Homes Commission (Western Australia) .
Senate adjourned at 3.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211104_senate_8_97/>.