8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) announced the receipt of communications from Senators Crawford and Earle tendering their resignations as members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
Motion (by Senator E. D.Millen) agreed to -
That Senators Crawford and Earle be relieved from further attendance on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
. - By leave - I desire to announce changes made in the Ministry in consequence of the resignation of the Right Honorable W. A. Watt, who held the portfolio of Treasurer. His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has been pleased to appoint the Right Honorable Sir Joseph Cook, G.C.M.G., as Treasurer; the Honorable William Henry Laird Smith, as Minister for the Navy; and Mr. Arthur Stanislaus Rodgers as Honorary Minister.
– I wish to ask whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate has observed that it is reported in the press that Mr. Storey, Premier of New South “Wales, in addressing a deputation, said: -
Unless all sections of the community helped, they would have a Black Wednesday. The Government had no money, and its obligations were enormous. He could not see where the money to meet Federal and State obligations was to come from.
If the honorable senator has noticed that statement, does he think it a wise thing to appoint a quasi-Ambassador to the United States of America, at further very large expenditure?
– I have seen the statement quoted. I hope that Mr. Storey will himself take to heart the lesson he has been preaching; but I fail to see its relevance to the suggested appointment of a Commissioner to America.
– Where is the money to come from?
SenatorE. D. MILLEN. - Economy does not always, or necessarily, consist in theavoidance of expenditure which may prove to be profitable.
Cash of Mb. H. L. Pratt
– Is the Minister for Repatriation aware whether Mr. H. L. Pratt, of Brisbane, has been refused assistance by the -Repatriation Department to complete his studies as a theological student? In view of his assurance that assistance would be granted when it could be proved that such studies had commenced prior to enlistment, will the Minister give instructions that will in- sure assistance being given in this case?
– Senator Foll is aware that a Bill was recently passed here placing the consideration of such cases in the hands of a Repatriation Commission. I suggest that the honorable senator should place the matter to which he has referred before the Repatriation Commissioners.
– Does that mean that the Minister for Repatriation has no power at all!
– I do not propose to override the Repatriation Commission in matters of that kind.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Administration- Report of Royal Commission (Mr. D. C. McLachlan).
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at -
Bexley, New South Wales.
Waratah, Newcastle, New South Wales (two notifications).
Customs Act. - Proclamation, dated 14th July, 1920, revoking proclamation of 23rd September, 1914, relating to the exportation of Mares.
Excise Act. - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 121.
Iron and Steel Bounty Act. - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 122.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1917, Senators Foll, Newland, and Plain be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– By leave, I move -
That until further ordered, so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent any sectional Committee of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works from holding meetings while the Senate is sitting.
The reason I have moved this motion without giving notice of it is that a sectional Committee of the Works Committee is already proceeding to Western Australia, and will sit there to-morrow. Had I delayed this motion until tomorrow, it would have been too late to enable honorable senators to attend and share in the work of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Second Reading. i Senator RUSSELL (Victoria - VicePresident of the Executive Council) [3.11].- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It amends section 20 of the Papua Act 1905, but does not in any way amend the principles of the existing Constitution of Papua. The object is to get over a difficulty ‘which has been created by a part of the existing Act. The Commonwealth Parliament in 1905 decided when establishing the Constitution of Papua that no further land in that Territory should be alienated. The idea was that all land there should in the future be held on leasehold. The fact was overlooked that a man named Wickham had, previous to 1905, secured from the British Commission, which was then . administering British New Guinea, a twenty -five years’ » lease, at a nominal rent, with the option of purchase at about 5s. per acre at any time during the currency of the lease, of some small islands called the Conflict group. Either the Commonwealth had no record of this contract, or ignored its existence when passing the Papua Act, with its prohibition against the alienation of further land. Only one case is involved, and, to meet it, it is proposed to insert in paragraph a of section 20 of the Papua Act, after the words “ disposed of,” the words “ except in pursuance of rights of purchase acquired under the law of British New Guinea before the commencement of this Act.” After the Act was passed, Mr. Wickham demanded his title, and it was agreed that he should be granted the fee-simple according to his contract; but we found that we had legislated in such a way that it was impossible for us to grant the feesimple without remedying the technical defect in the existing legislation. A dispute arose, not about the granting of the land, because that had been definitely promised, but about the area. The Government were wrongly informed that it comprised 3,000 acres. Mr. Wickham would not sign the contract for 3,000 acres, and subsequently, after investigation and survey, the area turned out to be only 1,800 acres. A contract having been deliberately entered into by the British Government, I do not think it was the intention or desire of this Parliament to cancel it.
– That might be a way out of the difficulty, but he has shown no desire for compensation; he simply wants the contract carried out. A contract made with a Government should be regarded as sacred, and carried out, although I am not enthusiastic about alienating further land in Papua. We feel bound to honour the contract which was deliberately made at the time, and we are introducing no new principle into our legislation. I have been through the whole of the facts, and find that an obvious mistake was made by the officers of the Department of that day. Parliament should not, by a subterfuge or misbake, deprive a man of any rights which he holds under a contract with the British Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
There is no vital principle involved. The object of the measure is largely to correct mistakes made in previous drafting, and, as far as possible, to facilitate the work under the Act of 1905. Under that Act, it is provided that at midnight on a certain day the head of the household is responsible for filling in correctly the details demanded on the Census card. It is also provided that boats, other than Australian coastal boats, if they are at a port, have to supply the Census particulars; but if they are sailing between two Australian ports they have not to do so. This seems to be unfair, because those on board, even if they are not Australians, are for the time being actually living; in Australia, getting their living here, and participating in the general work of the community. We provide, therefore, in order to make the law uniform, that, irrespective of whether the boat is British or otherwise, Census returns have to be made so long as the boat is in Australian waters at the time. I think that is a sound proposition.
Another difficulty is that under the Act as it stands people assisting in the collection of Census particulars in scattered districts are supposed, in order to insure fealty and secrecy, to make an affidavit before a Commissioner for taking affidavits. There may not be such a Commissioner within hundreds of miles, and as no great responsibility is involved, we believe that the method should be modified and permission given for a declaration to be taken before any responsible witness in such circumstances.
– Under this proposal a man may make a declaration without a witness?
– Yes, that is so. Another point has arisen, owing to faulty draftsmanship in the original Act. Under this measure authority is given for the collection of certain information, but there is no legal provision for its publication, and, as the information is obtained for this purpose, we desire to authorize the Chief Census Officer to obtain and prepare such information for publication! It would also appear that heavy penalties are to be imposed in respect of several technical offences, whereas the intention was to confine the imposition of this penalty to one particular section of the Act. In this Bill it is proposed to make the limitation definite, because there is no desire to impose heavy penalties for minor breaches. Then, again, there is no obligation upon the licensee of an hotel or keeper of a boarding house to observe secrecy in connexion with the taking of a census, and it is thought to be very desirable to remedy the Actin this particular. Other matters referred to are questions of detail which can be better dealt with in Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Debate resumed from 22nd July(vide page 2909), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time. Senator THOMAS (N/ew South Wales) [3.25]. - I am very pleased that, at last, the Government have made a beginning with the long promised amendment of the Public Service Act. I am employing no exaggerated language when I say that’ there is a great deal of unrest and disorganization throughout the Public Service at the present time. This, of course, is only to be expected, because there is a considerable amount of unrest in the general community as the aftermath of the war, and, of course, the Public Service is likewise affected. But much of this unrest could have been averted by the proper organization of the Department. For many years now we have had an Acting Public Service Commissioner, and most of his officers have been doing administrative work in an acting capacity. I have brought this question before the Senate on several occasions. When last I referred to it, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) was good enough to inform the Senate that one of the reasons why wo should have an Acting Commissioner and staff was that the Government were contemplating making some alterations in the Public Service Act, and, as the Public Service “Commissioner’s appointment was for seven years, it would be undesirable to make the appointments in view of the pending alterations contemplated. The Acting Commissioner has now been “acting” for over five years, and still we have had no alteration in the Act. I believe that, if a Commissioner had been appointed, instead of an Acting Commissioner, and if he had been assisted by a properly appointed staff, even if we had to compensate the Commissioner and his staff, the money would have been well spent by giving them, if necessary, full pay for the unexpired term of their office.
The most ungenerous critics of the Government cannot say that there has been any undue haste in the amendment of the Public Service Act. Two Bills have now been circulated. We have to thank the Minister for Defence for his lucid second-reading speeches. I thought at first that these Bills were the measures referred to, but I find that there is still another, and the main Bill, to .be dealt with. These are preliminary measures, no doubt important in their way, but it appears to me that if we pass them before we know definitely what are. the intentions of the Government with regard to their main Bill, we shall be placing- the cart before the horse. The Senate is legitimately entitled to know approximately the number of civil servants and the number of Departments that are to como under the proposed Board of- Management, and those which are to be exempt. The Bill we . are now discussing purports to dispense with the Public Service Commissioner, and appoint in his place a Board; and if that is so, we should be given some information on the lines I have indicated. When, dealing with the other measure relating to the Public Service, the second reading of which has already been moved, we should also be supplied with similar particulars. There are some Departments that cannot be dealt with by the proposed Board of Management unless there is an amendment of the principal Act; and if we hand over to the proposed Board only those Departments that are now under the Act, we can deal only with those Departments now controlled by the Public Service Commissioner, and not those that are exempt. This information should be at our disposal- before we are asked to agree to the appointment of a Board.
I desire to say, quite frankly, that I stand for the Public Service Act in its fundamentals and essentials, and’ honorable senators who have been here for the last three years will admit that on every occasion when I have had the opportunity I have championed its provisions. The principal Act is twenty years old, and we have to remember’ that it was framed by a Parliament composed of men representing States where, no Public Service Act was in force, and ‘ others where there was legislation with differing provisions. During the course of twenty years, many situations have arisen which have necessitated an amendment of the principal measure.
– I am not dealing with those Departments that do not come under the Public Service Act; bub, im. the main, I think the measure has. worked fairly well. The fact that the Government propose to appoint a Board, of three in place of a Commissioner shows that there is need of some change. I am strongly in favour of a permanent, staff, because I believe that when men have a security of tenure they are more likely to perform their work more efficiently. In the Government Service,/ however, there is more reason why we should provide for continuity of’ employment than in other work, because the experience gained in Government Departments, especially in those under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, is of very little use . to a civil servant if he should seek employment, elsewhere. If, for instance, a letter- ‘ carrier, or sorter, a” telegraphist or a postmaster, was dismissed; or for some other reason had to leave the Service, it would be difficult for him to find suitable employment elsewhere. A miner, an engi-neer, or any experienced tradesman, on ‘ leaving employment in one service can very easily find work elsewhere; but that is not so in the case of Government officials. It therefore behoves us, as a Parliament, to protect our servants by providing that their employment shall be continuous. On the other hand. Parliament has the right to see that the interests of the general public are conserved by maintaining an efficient Service, and it is the duty of Parliament, as far as possible, to see that these two interests are protected.
I do not hesitate to say that in the matter of dismissals the rights and interests of those in the Service should be most zealously and rigidly protected.
– Their dismissal is practically impossible.
– Perhaps the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) will permit me to explain. There may be honorable senators present who may not have had the opportunity of closely studying the legislation covering the Public Service that has been passed during recent years. When a person in the Public Service is deemed to be inefficient, he is suspended by the head of his Department; . and in1 this connexion I may quote as an illustration the case of a letter-carrier. He is held to be inefficient. The Deputy Postmaster-General may send him before an Appeal Board consisting of three members of the Public Service, one of whom must be a representative of the Division to which the accused officer belongs. This representative is elected to the position by the members of his own Branch once in every three years. Consequently the accused person is practically appealing to a tribunal consisting of three fellow employees, one of whom is the elected representative of his Division. In such circumstances it is obvious that at least one vote will be cast in favour of the alleged inefficient. Experience, too, has shown that it is very difficult indeed to induce one of the other two members constituting the Board, to affirm that he is inefficient. As a result he is restored to the Service, and the Commonwealth has to pay him for the time that he has been under suspension.
– That is rather an alarming state of things.
– I am merely stating what is the law at present. To ray mind, the existing position does not tend to efficiency. Again, .there are quite a number of officers in our Public Service who are deemed to be inefficient by their superior officers, but who are not cited to appear before an Appeal Board for the simple reason that those superior officers know that that -Board would not declare them to be inefficient. I will quote a case which is typical of my argument. ‘ Some time ago I had the pleasure of being a colleague of the present Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) in the Government of that day, and I have a very vivid recollection that the secretary of the Department over which I presided used frequently to come to me with a request that a very prominent officer of the general staff should be allowed to visit one of the States for the purpose of dealing with some matter of moment. So pronounced did this practice become that at length I began to wonder whether this particular officer on the general staff did not desire to fill in a weekend somewhere. Accordingly I remarked to the secretary of the Department, “ It looks as if this were a sort of week-end business. Cannot the officer in the particular State that is concerned deal with this work? “ and I was told “ No, he cannot be trusted.” Thereupon I remarked, “ Then he is not fit for his job,” to which the secretary replied, “I admit that. I confess that he is inefficient.’’ I then said to the secretary, “ That being so, why do you not suspend him?” His answer was, “ I will suspend him if you like. All that you have to do is to say that he is to be suspended, and I will go before the Appeal Board and testify that in my judgment he is inefficient. The head of his own Branch at the central office will say that in his opinion he is incapable of satisfactorily discharging his duties. But I want you to understand exactly what will happen. He will be tried by the Board appointed for the purpose, and the chances are ninety-nine or a hundred to one that two of the number of that body will say that he is efficient. Consequently he will have to be restored to his office ; and where then will be your position as Minister and my position as secretary of the Department?” In the circumstances it was useless for me to proceed further.
– Who are the other two members of the Board?
– I have already explained that all three members of that body are civil servants. One of those members is elected, bv the officers of the Branch to which the accused belongs. In : our Public Service there are three Divisions, namely, the Clerical Division, the Professional Division, and the General Division. The Clerical and General Division once in three years elect their own representatives to this Board. Like most representatives he desires to be re-elected, and the result is that instead of acting in a judicial capacity he invariably becomes an advocate.
– If the Appeal Board found against an accused officer it would be practically passing a vote of censure upon the head of his Department.
– Exactly. I know of cases in which the Deputy PostmasterGeneral has sent postmen before the Appeal Board on a charge of inefficiency, but the Board has declared them to be efficient, with the result that they have had to be restored to their employment. I recollect one instance in which an officer had been found guilty of pilfering through the Customs Department
– He had been convicted by the Courts. ‘
– Yes; then after that, he was brought before the Appeal Board, which affirmed that he had done no wrong, and so far as I know, he is still in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. Although he had been convicted in . the Courts of the country of pilfering, the Board declared that he was not guilty of that offence, and we had no power to dismiss him. These are matters of very serious moment. It is fair to assume that no Board worthy o£ the name will undertake the management of a big service unless its members know beforehand precisely the powers with which they are to be invested for the purpose of enabling them to satisfactorily discharge their duties.
When it was decided to establish the Commonwealth Bank, Mr. Fisher, the then Prime Minister and Treasurer, had to look about him to discover a man suitable for the position of General Manager of the Bank. He was extremely fortunate in being able to secure the services of Sir Denison Miller. But what did Sir Denison Miller say before he accepted the appointment? He said, “ I want to know the Act of Parliament under which I am to work.” The Act
Was shown to him, and he accepted the position of Governor of the Bank upon the condition that there was to be no alteration of the Act without his consent. Of course, Parliament could alter the Act if it pleased, but he would then be in a position, if he did not approve of the alteration, to resign and draw full pay for the remaining years of the seven years’ term for which under the Act he was originally to be appointed. Sir Denison Miller had a reputation as a banker to maintain, and very naturally be declined to undertake the management of the Commonwealth Bank without knowing exactly what powers he would have to carry out the duties intrusted to him.
It is generally understood that Mr.’ Curchin is, for some reason unknown to me, shortly leaving the Federal Service, and the 2Jew South Wales Government have been trying to secure his services to supervise shipbuilding on their behalf. Some difficulty has arisen in connexion with his engagement by the !New South Wales Government, and I understand that it is clue to the fact that Mr. Curchin requires to. know what powers he will have before he accepts the appointment offered to him. It is very reasonable that he should make such a demand, because he has to consider his reputation as a shipbuilder, and he may feel that, Unless he is invested with certain powers, he will not be able to successfully perform the duties of his office.
I have no doubt that it would be possible to find men willing to accept without any conditions positions as members of the proposed Board of Management of the Public Service by offering them £700 or £1,000 a year; but if we are to secure men of the type we require they shall need to know definitely the powers which will be given to them to enable them to carry out their work. The Minister may reply that no man will accept appointment as a member of the proposed Board until he knows what its powers are to be; but, in my opinion, we, as senators creating the Board, should not pass this Bill until we are informed as to the extent of its duties and powers. A private individual’ will object to take charge of a big concern unless he knows the scope of his duties, and the’ powers he will have, because his personal’ reputation may be at stake. We have our reputation as legislators at stake, and if we pass this measure without knowing exactly what it is intended to effect, we may not only lose the little reputation wo have, hut we may legislate in a way which may involve the squandering of millions and bring unhappiness to a great many people. Before I agree to the appointment of the Board, I want to know exactly what work it will be called upon to perform. Are we or are we not prepared to scrap a good deal of the machinery of the existing Public Service Act?
– Various powers are given under clause 11 of the Bill.
– That is so; but can we say that efficiency will be secured in the Public Service by the exercise of the powers given under that clause?
– ^Clause 11, on the face of it, is supplementary.
– Precisely. We shall only learn what the powers of the proposed Board will be when the provisions of the main Public Service Bill are before us.
How many watertight compartments are there to be in our Public Service ? We know that there is a tendency to establish such Departments. Under the Audit Bill, which we were recently considering, it is proposed to restrict the powers of the Public Service Commissioner over that Department. Will the proposed Board of Management have the same powers over the Audit Department as the Public Service Commissioner has under the existing Act, or is it intended that that Department shall be exempt from the supervision of the proposed Board? We know that some persons have very strongly advocated that the Postmaster-General’s Department should be removed from all control by the Public Service Commissioner.
– Some exPostmastersGeneral have recommended that.
– We know that Mr. Webster, am ex-Postmaster -General, was very strongly in favour of the adoption cf that course. In view of the fact that the Government are proposing a Board of Management instead of, a single Commissioner, it may perhaps be assumed that it is not the intention to remove Departments of the Public Service from the control now exercised by the Public Service Commissioner.
– I may set the honorable senator’s fears at rest by saying that it is proposed to extend the powers of the Board of Management beyond those of the existing Public Service Commissioner.
– We must not forget that after the Bill leaves the Senate some provisions of which we .approve may be rejected in another place. The Minister for Defence, in dealing with the powers of the proposed Board of Management to secure the efficiency of the public Departments, said- that the Board would be granted powers that are not vested in the present Public Service Commissioner. I should like to know whether these extended powers to be given to the Board of Management are to be exercised in respect of the Departments now under the Public Service Commissioner, or is the Board to have powers of supervision, inspection, or investigation over other Departments such as the Defence Department, which is not, under the existing law, subject to the Public Service Commissioner?
– The Defence Department will not be excluded.
– I am glad to hear that; but I think that it should be definitely embodied in the Bill. Will the proposed Board of Management have powers over the Repatriation Department? We have just appointed a Commission of three members to take charge of that Department, and I should like to know whether the Board of Management will have the right to go to the Repatriation Department and seek to discover whether that Department has been spending money properly or not? Is this Board to supervise the work of the three newlyappointed Commissioners, who, I suppose, represent the cream of the applicants for those positions t
– What about the Audit Department ?
– The consideration of the Audit Bill has. been dropped for the present, but it would be interesting to know whether the proposed Board’ of Management will -exercise any supervision over that Department.
I have on several occasions asked for Mr. McLachlan’s report on the Public Service. In asking for it last week I fa d that we should have the “report before we took up the consideration of these Pubic Service Bills. I wish to exonerate the
Minister for Defence from any blame in this connexion, because it was my mistake to assume that the two first Public Service .Bills introduced were the important measures dealing with the subject. I admit that, for the purpose of considering the two Bills now before it, it is immaterial whether we have read Mr. McLachlan’s report or not. It is with the matters to be contained in the Public Service Bill yet to be introduced that Mr. McLachlan’s report will be of most value. The report is now available to us, but” until the new Bill is introduced we shall not know to what extent the Government have accepted Mr. McLachlan’s suggestions.
– That is what we always said when honorable senators were pressing for the report to be laid on the table. We said that it would be of very little use to them until we were ready to submit the Public Service Bill.
– As Mr. McLachlan’s report has been in the hands of the Government for two years it cannot b© said that the Government have been rushed in connexion with its consideration. I do not think that it is a report which should be flung on the table one day. and that next day we should be called upon to deal with the measure with which it is concerned. Until we know exactly what is contained in the main Public Service Bill we must remain absolutely in the dark as to the notice which has been taken of Mr. McLachlan’s recommendations. I do not ask that the Bill now under consideration should be delayed until we have an opportunity of digesting Mr. McLachlan’s report, but I do ask that it should not be allowed to pass the second-reading stage merely until we know the provisions of the main Bill, but until that Bill has been considered by both Houses and has become an Act of this Parliament. Until we know what the main Bill will finally contain we shall be unable to say exactly what duties the Board of Management, provided for in the Bill now under consideration, will be called upon to perform.
I have dealt with the subject of dismissals from the Public Service. Another matter of very great importance is the condition’ upon which people may enter the Service. Entry into the Public Service under the existing Act is by competitive examination. I stand very strongly for the continuance of that policy. I do not believe in the exercise of personal, social, or political influence to secure admission to the Public Service. When I say that I stand strongly for the policy of examination, I do not mean that I am committed exactly to the present system. It is obvious that after twenty years’ experience it may have been discovered that that system is capable of modification and improvement. To this I do not object, but I want to know whether there is to be any alteration, and,, if so, what, or whether the system of entrance by examination is to continue exactly is it was before. I should rather have liked to discuss more particularly some parts of this Bill, but I have purposely foregone my right to do so, because I feel that, until we see the other Bill of which I spoke, and until that other Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, every senator who discusses this Bill will be doing so in the dark. I wish to say in general terms that I favour the principle of this Bill on three conditions. I cannot say that I support it until I know exactly what is going to happen under the succeeding Bill. If that Bill brings practically all the present civil servants under the Act, and if there is to be an amendment of tho section dealing with dismissals - because, while we ought fully and zealously to guard the legitimate rights of the employees, the law ought not to be so rigid as to prevent the dismissal of an inefficient employee - and if, also, entrance to the Public Service is to continue on somewhat similar lines to the present, although it need not necessarily be actually the same word for word, then, granting those three points, I shall be in favour of this Bill.
In what I am about to say now I am afraid that I shall stand almost alone so far as the Senate is concerned. I know that the Senate has the same right as the House of Representatives to initiate legislation, except in the case of money Bills. My view is that that right ought not to be used very often. I look upon the Senate, not only as the custodian of the rights of the States - which is an important function in itself - but as a second Chamber charged with the duty of review. It is our duty to deal with Bills calmly, coolly, and dispassionately when the** come to us from another place, where they have had to go through the heat and passion of partyism. If we are to continue to pass Bills for another Chamber to review, we shall be placing ourselves upon the level of that Chamber. If we carry out our true function of revision of legislation coolly and leisurely, then, when a Bill has passed through our hands and become an Act of Parliament, it will be as nearly perfect as human wisdom and ingenuity can make it. But if we initiate legislation and send it down to another place for revision by them, we not only lower the dignity of this Chamber, but furnish another strong reason for doing away with the Senate altogether.
I should, like to know what we are called upon to appoint a Board of Management to do. It will depend upon one or two of the matters which I have pointed out whether the Board is to be a useless and expensive, or a very useful, body. If we grant to these three men no more power than is granted to the Commissioner, even the payment of salaries of £10,000 a year will not make the Board effective, although its members may be pood men personally. I remember quoting some words uttered by Mr. Webster’, the ex-Postmaster-General. We must all admit that Mr. Webster made a very honest effort to obtain efficiency in the Service, although I do not hold with all he did, or with many of his methods. Yet, we must give him credit for the efforts he made towards efficiency. He said on one occasion that “ There were a number of inefficients in the Service holding prominent positions; he knew them, and he intended to dismiss them.” When I quoted those words of his, I said, “ He will not be able to do it. It is too big a task for him. He has not the power to do what he says.” I do not know who those inefficients are, but not one of them has been dismissed. Every one of them is still in the Service, and likely to remain there. To show that this is no new matter so far as I am concerned, I mav be pardoned’ for mentioning that when I was Postmaster-General Mr. Fisher, the then Prime Minister, .suggested to me on more than one occasion that we should engage the ablest maw we could get at a high salary to act as an organizer of the Post and Telegraph Department. I replied on each occasion that until the Public Service Act was amended to enable such a man to- deal with the inefficients in the Service I was not prepared to spend the money to secure him, because I felt that under existing conditions, even if we paid the ablest organizer available £10,000 a year, he would be powerless. I take it that we shall have to offer considerable salaries in order to get the type of men1 we want to constitute the proposed Board. Even if .we grant them the power to do what we want them to do, they will not be ordinary men, and cannot be easily found. I have no objection to the payment of good salaries in order to secure men who are able to do the work, because, after all, that is the cheapest way to get things done, but unless we grant them full power to carry out their ideas it will be a waste of money to appoint them. We might just as well allow the old machine to rumble along under medium-paid men as appoint a highly-paid Board to try to do impossibilities. In view of these considerations,- I sincerely trust that this Bill will not be proceeded with and passed before the other Bill is before us.
– With very much of what Senator Thomas has said about this measure generally, and our proceeding with it, I am in accord; but I entirely dissociate myself from the sentiment underlying one of his objections to. our dealing with it at the present time. I refer to his doubt of the expediency of the Senate originating legislation of this character. He argued that if a certain procedure were followed our legislation might be expected to go forth in the best form possible. I venture to question. that assertion. The history of this Parliament shows that in its earlier days much of the fundamental legislation of the Commonwealth, including the Public Service Act itself, wasoriginated in this Chamber, and if the! records of the Courts be investigated it will be found that legislation which originated in this Chamber has stood the test of time and criticism far better than any other legislation on the statute-book.
Now, as to this measure and its narrow scope - I use the word “ narrow,”’ not as referring to the policy incorporated in the measure, but to indicate that it touches only one feature of the administration of the Public Service - I. am at a loss to understand why the Government, in introducing Public Service legislation^ confine themselves, as they have done in this case, to one single feature,” namely, that of general control. Practically the whole of this measure reserves itself into the simple proposition that, instead of the Public Service in the future being administered as heretofore by a Commissioner, it should be administered by a Board. The different provisions of this measure deal -with the constitution of the Board, the delegation of its authority, and certain functions that it shall exercise.
– Which are not exercised by the Public Service Commissioner.
– The functions outlined in this measure are contained in a clause which is not exclusive. That is to say, it does not represent the whole of the functions which the Board will exercise. It is simply supplementary, conferring upon, the Board’ new functions which hitherto have not been exercised by the Commissioner. It is to be presumed that when the Board comes into existence it will exercise, not only these additional functions, but also those now and heretofore exercised by the Commissioner. Clause 11, therefore, is not exclusive. It is supplementary, or additional, to the functions of the present administrative authority.
– That ought to be made clear in the Bill.
– I think it is clear enough.
– It is made clear in the schedule.
– The powers put- lined in clause 11 are added to those now exercised’ by the Commissioner, but that is only a feature of the new system of administration proposed, and the Bill, in effect, simply “substitutes a new system of control for the existing system.
As Senator Thomas indicated, the Public Service Act- covers a large number of subjects, many of which are not touched by this Bill or by the Arbitration Bill which accompanies it. The main provisions of the Public Service Act are not touched, either in this Bill or in the other measure introduced by the Minister last week. Those provisions, we are led to believe, will be touched by another, or several other Bills, to be submitted subsequently. I am at a loss to understand why the Government have adopted this procedure.
Like Senator Thomas, I have endeavoured for some years to get an assurance from the Government as to when legislative attention would be given to conditions in the Public Service. I agree with Senator Thomas that for some years past, not because of any inherent defect in legislation, but due rather to the changed conditions under which we all find ourselves, there has been a considerable amount of unrest and apprehension throughout the Public Service. There is a feeling that our legislation has not been kept up to date; that, so to speak, it has become out of step with the changed conditions of recent years; and, like Senator Thomas, I have been endeavouring to ascertain when ameliorative legislation was likely to be introduced. In fact, one of my questions was as to the advisability of introducing such legislation in this Chamber, in view of the’ fact that another House would be called upon to deal with the Tariff and other important matters which could not be originated here; but the reply given to me was like so many of those characteristically evasive ‘answers furnished by Ministers. Therefore, I came to the conclusion that one of the reasons why the Government did not care to originate such legislation ‘ here was that it would contain a scheme of monetary provisions, such as those dealing with superannuation, which might possibly prevent its origination in this branch of the Legislature. In the measure now before the Seriate there will be monetary provision for members of the proposed Board; but those places in the clause dealing with this particular matter have been left blank, so that the amounts might be filled in elsewhere.
Stronger justification than has been given by the Minister should be forthcoming to justify this system of legislation by instalments. We are asked to legislate in piecemeal fashion on a very important matter - important not merely to the officers of the Service, but equally important to the whole of the Commonwealth, and I think there is a great deal of force in Senator Thomas’s argument that before we commit ourselves to changing the present system of administration by a Commissioner to administration by a Board, we should have some information as to the functions exercisable by this proposed
Board, and to what extent the general legislation will affect the new Service and the new regime. We have provisions in the existing measure dealing with suspensions, dismissals, promotions, transfers, furlough, leave of absence, and various other matters of that kind. Around every one of these questions there has been a great deal of discussion at some time or other. Wo matter what authority we create for the Public Service administration to the extent we legislate and lay down principles, rules, and laws for the carrying on of the Service, to that extent will the functions and authority of the Board be limited. For this reason we should have some idea of the limitations that may be imposed on the Board in the exercise of its functions.
– In effect, we are asked to appoint a general manager before we know what his duties will be.
– The present proposal amounts to that. Senator Thomas has. suggested that we should pass the main Bill before the measure now under consideration. He may be right, but I would be satisfied if the Government circulated the principal measure so that we would have information as to their intentions. No doubt the Government hold the view that this system of legislating by instalments will expedite consideration of the whole problem. I believe expedition will be assured by the circulation of the principal amending Bill.
– It would make the debate on these Bills more intelligent anyhow.
– Yes, and I believe it would lead to their more expeditious treatment. It is obvious that in the consideration of this Bill honorable senators will be unable to ramble into all those fields of debate open to them when considering the principal measure; and it will be impossible to introduce amendments that are not relevant to the scope of the Bill, namely, control and control only. For that reason I think the Government might very well circulate the principal Bill, so that in the debate upon the two measures now before the Senate we may know exactly what we are doing.
Senator Thomas made reference to the Public Service Commissioner’s report, which, I believe, has been in the hands of the Government for about two years. I can quite understand that the Government have not had an opportunity of dealing exhaustively with it, because, while nearly two years have elapsed since the signing of the armistice, there has been an immense amount of legislative and administrative work to be cleared up after the war. I do not blame the Government for undue delay, as I know every Minister’s hands have been very full of late; but it would be desirable, before we commit ourselves to any important changes in the administration of the Public Service, to have some idea of the general scheme which, we may presume, has been outlined by the late Commissioner. Mr. McLachlan occupied the position of Commissioner since the first Public Service Act was framed. He was a very efficient officer and saw the Commonwealth Public Service grow to its present dimensions, and his reports have always given honorable senators and members of another place food for serious reflection. It may be assumed that his report takes a very broad and comprehensive outlook of the future development of the Service, and, therefore, it would assist us considerably if we had an opportunity of considering Mr. McLachlan’s recommendations.
I am not averse to the constitution of a Board to act in the place of the Public Service Commissioner, though I do not know that the Minister gave any good reason why the office of Commissioner should be abolished. In other words, I do not think the demerits of the present system were pointed out by the. Minister during his second-reading speech. Nor do I think that he indicated the superlative merits of control by a Board; but there seems to be a disposition on the part of the Government and honorable senators to accept the new proposal, and, personally, I know of no good reason why it should not. At all events, we shall not be making a leap in the dark, because I think the Public Service, in more than one of the States, is ‘under’ the control of Boards, and I believe that the New Zealand Public Service is so controlled.’ Therefore the Board system is no new proposal, and perhaps, as the Commonwealth Public Service has grown considerably, there may be some advantage in placing it under the control of a Board of three.
But, like Senator Thomas, I would very much like to know whether the Board will have jurisdiction which the present Commissioner does not enjoy, and particularly in relation to such matters as suspension, dismissals, promotions, and transfers. These are all very important subjects upon which we should have some information before we commit ourselves to this important change. I do not know that I can add anything further. This measure is for one purpose only, but I hope the Minister will accept the suggestion made by Senator Thomas, and, before expecting honorable senators to pass this Bill, will make available to us Mr. McLachlan’s report, so that we may have some indication of general Public Service legislation contemplated for the future.
– I was very pleased to be present whilst Senator Thomas was speaking this afternoon, because I realized it is an advantage to have an opinion from one who has been behind the scenes. But I disagree’ with Senator Thomas’ suggestion that’ business should not be originated in this Chamber.
– I want to raise the dignity of the Senate.
– If we had not authority to originate Bills here, we would not have had. many of the laws that are now .on our statute-book. We have been referred to by the members of another place as the Minor cas, because we do not sit very often, and in pursuing that simile, it may be said that we do not produce many chickens. But the members of the other Chamber may be likened to broody hens, sitting on china eggs, which do not produce anything at ali.-
– Order! The honorable senator must not cast any disparaging remarks on another place.
– I am sorry if I have transgressed. My remarks, of course, were only made in a jocular sense. In this Chamber, we have passed measures which, on being submitted to another place, have gone through without amendment.
I desire to congratulate the Government on having brought this measure forward, because we are all viewing with alarm the great increase in public expenditure which, at times,- seems almost- un controllable. I have already referred tothe statement made by Mr. Storey to the effect that if the people of New South Wales do not work together, there will be a “ Black Wednesday “ before very long. By a Black Wednesday, I presume he means a crisis, and a possibility of the civil servants not being paid. I remember a “ Black Thursday “ in Victoria, which caused a great deal of distress, and I am sure we all earnestly hope that every effort will be made by those in authority to prevent anything of the kind again occurring.
The Government are to be commended for giving effect to some extent to the report of the Economies Commission. During the election campaign, it was promised that the recommendations of that Commission would be adopted, and that a Board would be appointed to control the Civil Service, with powers similar to those which are now provided, but which need amplification. It is very desirable to’ have an outside Board in control of the Civil - Service, as the great difficulty in the past appears to have been that no one was responsible for seeing that the work undertaken was efficiently and economically conducted. It was admitted in evidence before the Economies Commission that the Public Service Commissioner did not consider that he was in charge of the Departments, and that he did not regard himself as a person exercising control over any particular Department. He was asked if the heads of the Departments were responsible for the economical working of their Departments, and ‘ he replied that they were chiefly occupied in seeing members of Parliament. Ministers have admitted that they have not the time to look into the details of their Departments, and to see whether they are efficiently managed or not. The Bill is, therefore, the outcome of the recommendations of the Economies Commission, which suggested that a Board should be appointed to see that the work was done on business lines. Senator Keating has said that the Public Service Commissioner has done very well, and he has up to a point. I think it was his duty to examine applicants for positions, and make recommendations; and, so far as I have been able to judge, he was an excellent man for the position..
When I was a member of the State Parliament, I was scandalized because of the extraordinary conditions existing in the Lands Office, where practically every officer had a room to himself. The building was a three-storied one, and if an officer on the ground floor required information from one on the top floor, he had, until quite recently, to walk upstairs to obtain what he required, thu9 involving much loss of time. In our large banking institutions and merchants’ offices, the work is all undertaken in one large hall, and with the exception of heads of Departments, the officers are in close touch with one another. Some similar arrangement should be made in connexion with our big Departments, as there are too many rooms.
– That was the old idea.
– The system now adopted should be changed. I was glad to see that, when the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) authorized the construction of the Repatriation offices at Jolimont, he adopted an improved system.
We require in the Public Service a Board comprised of business men, familiar with modern developments, and the Bill contemplates the appointment of a Board of Management, and sets out the powers to be conferred .on it. We understand that three men are to be appointed for varying terms, but, up to the present, we know nothing of the personnel. Clauses 5 and 6 seem to contemplate the appointment of an officer from the Service itself. Honorable senators have today been supplied with a memorandum from the various bodies constituting the Civil Service, setting out that, in their opinion, the third member of the Board - who is to serve for a term of three years - should be an officer nominated by the Civil Service. This is following out the procedure which has been followed in many parts of the world, and also the recommendations of the Whitley Commission, and I earnestly suggest that the Government take this suggestion into consideration. The Public Service could nominate three men and the Minister could then select one from the three names submitted; but I would not like to see it made compulsory, because I do not know whether the system is one that would be beneficial.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there should be one representative for the Clerical, Professional, and General Divisions?
– Yes. I have not gone into the details, but I think that the request of the Service might be met by the Government.
– Would such a man he responsible to the Public Service Association or to Parliament?
– He would be selected, by the Government, and, therefore, responsible to Parliament. The Government would have power to dismiss him if they thought fit. My suggestion is that the person so appointed should hold office for only three years, as by that time we would be in a position to see whether the proposition was satisfactory or not.
– It sounds rather like a Soviet practice.
– I am not a Soviet by any means, but I think there is a good deal in the suggestion. The principle has been recommended by” the Whitley Commission, and- is being adopted in. Great Britain, Now Zealand, and in other parts of the world.
– Has the honorable senator checked that statement?
– No. But I hope the Minister for Defence will obtain further information on that point. I do not want to see such a provision incorporated in the Bill, because it is somewhat of an experiment. Perhaps the Minister for Defence will be prepared to look into the matter, and, if he cannot give good reasons to the contrary, will agree to appoint the third member in the way I have suggested. I understand that the members of the Board are to be appointed for three, four, and five years, to insure continuity of policy, and the appointment of a representative of the Service for a period of three years is, perhaps, an experiment worth trying.
– The Board is to consist of only three members - two business men and another.
– There would be no one on the Board to look after the Departments.
– One could be nominated by the Civil Service and the other two by the Government. It is understood that two business men are to be appointed, but not necessarily from public Departments, although I suppose the Government have some good business men in their employ.
I have not given great consideration to the question of the Civil Service, because it is a tremendous problem, and would take one’s whole time to investigate it thoroughly. If we are to avoid industrial unrest, we must be progressive, and, as the recommendations of the Whitley Commission have been adopted in England with much eclat, we should be prepared to test the system here. We must have industrial rest, and we cannot expect to achieve success in that direction unless we are prepared to move forward.
I feel very strongly on the point of the third member being selected by the Service, and I trust the Government will give the matter their close attention.
II of the Bill. I was very surprised to learn, .’from .the remarks of Senator Thomas, of the difficulty that is at present experienced in dismissing an incompetent officer from our Public Service. It seems to me that the very foundations of the Service are destroyed if an officer cannot be dismissed, either by the Minister or some other responsible authority. I quite agree with the honorable senator that we must jealously guard the rights and privileges of our public servants; but when an Appeal Board, composed exclusively of members of the Service, condones such grave offences as theft, we must realize how utterly impossible it is to countenance its continuance. Unquestionably, that is the reason why many inefficients are retained in ‘the Service.
– It is not fair to the honest man.
– Nor to the efficient man.
– That is so. If we desire that men shall be appointed’ to the proposed Board who will really do good work, we must clearly define their powers. I notice that the Bill provides that “ if the services of any officer in excess in any Department are not likely to be required in any other Department, the Governor-General may call upon the officer to retire from the Public Service, and the officer shall retire accordingly.”
– That power is conferred under the existing Act.
– And it does not relate to inefficiency.
– No, it deals with the cases of superfluous officers. If times get very bad, and Departments have to be reduced, that provision will enable them to be reduced.
– Under the principal Act, is it not necessary to abolish an office, before the officer filling it can be dismissed ?
– Yes. I would like to see tho power to which I have referred vested in the proposed Board instead of in the GovernorGeneral. Indeed, I think that the Board should consist of two business men and one representative of the Public Service, in order that the rights of our public servants should be adequately safeguarded. Most certainly, the Board should be clothed with the power to dismiss any officer who is inefficient. In the absence of such a power, we shall never get efficiency.
I am not quite clear whether it is the intention of the Government to abolish the office of Public Service Commissioner.
– Yes. The Board will take the place of the Public .Service Commissioner. Wherever the Commissioner is mentioned in the principal Act, the reference is to be read as meaning the “ Board of Management.”
– Then, there will be no room for the Public Service Commissioner under this Bill.
– The members of the Board will really be Public Service Commissioners.
– Yes. Obviously, the success or otherwise of the scheme will depend upon the personnel of the Board. If that body consists of two business men and of a third member who is elected by the Public Service, we shall give the recommendation of the Whitley Commission a really good trial. The Board will be able to introduce into our Departments modern ideas in regard to administration.
I agree with Senator Thomas that the appointment of our public servants should, as far as possible, be of a permanent character. Temporary appointments are responsible for a good deal of the discontent which exists at the present time. A man is appointed for six months, at the end of which period he has to retire to make room for somebody else. The Labour party was responsible for the introduction of that provision some years ago, but now I understand that its members desire to see it abolished. I repeat that temporary employees constitute a disturbing element throughout the Commonwealth Service. I hope that the proposed Board will assure permanent employment to the officers actually required, and that it will be able to substantially reduce the number of temporary employees.
– Many temporary employees eventually become permanent officers.
– A number of them do; but the regular permanent officers have had to undergo examination, and in order to get into the Public (Service a man has to enter it at about eighteen years of age.
– It depends entirely upon the Division which he joins. That is the age for admission to the Clerical Division, but not necesarily to the General Division.
– I am not aware that a great number of temporary hands eventually secure permanent appointments. When we come to examine the Budget which will shortly be presented, we shall doubtless find that hundreds and thousands of men have been appointed, year after year, merely for a tenure of six months. If their services are absolutely required, why not appoint them to permanent positions? If our Public Service were conducted upon lines similar to those which obtain in ordinary businesses, it would be found that a great many men, who could find a better outlet for their energies in other avocations, could be dispensed with. Instead of occupying a precarious position, and being at the beck and call of successive Governments, they would be able to find regular employment, and thus be substantially better off. Under existing conditions, we cannot have a contented Public Service. I hope that we shall introduce a few amendments in the Bill with a view to making it more effective, particularly in the direction I have indi cated. I trust that the proposed Board will be constituted on the lines I have laid down, and that it will consist of two business men of proved capacity, and one representative of the Public Service. This Board must be clothed with the power of dismissing incompetent officers, otherwise we shall never get good results.
.- After perusing this Bill which was so ably introduced by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) I have arrived at the conclusion that the object of its submission is to enable Parliament to determine whether the time has not arrived when a change should be made in the control of our Public Service. The language used by the Minister in moving the second reading of the measure caused me to look very carefully into the interim report of the Economies Commission with the result that I have been impelled to conclude that there is ample justification for its introduction. The Minister stated that -
The Acting Public Service Commissioner had intimated that he did not consider it part of his duty to keep a check upon the economical or efficient working of Departments.
I maintain that in view of the very heavy obligations with which Australia is confronted, and of the wonderful expansion of our Public Service, it is high time that every effort was made to secure not only the most efficient, but the most economical service. Notwithstanding all the protestations on the part of Commonwealth and State Governments regarding the need for economy, one cannot fail to notice that during the past few years economy in connexion with our Government Departments has not been the order of the day. I welcome a measure of this description, which has for its object the bringing about of a better order of things in our Public Service. I listened very carefully to the speeches which have been delivered this afternoon, and I agree with many of the statements contained therein. I recognise that in the best interests of Australia it is essential that we should have a contented Public Service. If we desire to secure efficient officers we must see that they are assured continuity of service under reasonably favorable terms. But at the same time there has been brought under my notice during the past few years the necessity not only for securing con- tinuity of service to efficient officers, but also of insuring to the taxpayers that where efficient service is not rendered, such service shall cease. Under existing legislation we have not been able to achieve that result. Senator Fairbairn stated that in his opinion any officer who is not rendering efficient service for the money he is receiving should be obliged to retire. The principal Act contains no provision of that character, but there is a clause in this Bill which sets out that where a Department is overmanned any officer in excess of the number required, may be transferred to another Department, and if there be no other Department requiring his service, such officer may be called upon to resign. That, I think, is a very good provision, and I certainly approve of the suggestion which has been made that the Public Service of the Commonwealth should be accorded some representation on the proposed Board. That appears to be only a reasonable thing. The suggestion put forward by Senator Fairbairn that the Public Service should have the right to nominate three of their number, of whom one should be selected to sit with the other two members of the Board, is an admirable one.
Upon page 85 of the report of the Economies Commission reference is made to some very important matters. Amongst other things I find the following statement -
Provided that the report of the Commission is based upon reasonable evidence I submit that that paragraph, in itself, is a sufficient justification for the introduction of this Bill.
I do not desire to speak at further length on this Bill, as I understand that the main measure dealing with the Public Service has yet to be introduced. It has been suggested that tie final consideration of this Bill should be delayed until the main measure is in our hands. I think that is a reasonable suggestion, because the two measures are so wrapped up one with the other that they ought to be considered together; The principle of this Bill, which is the appointment of a Board of Management to take the place of the present Public Service Commissioner, has my hearty support. If we can secure the right men to form the proposed Board and to supervise the ramifications of our extensive Public Service we shall serve the interests of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.
I express the hope that when the Bill gets into Committee some amendments will be accepted to make it more effective. I may refer to one amendment which, in my opinion, is essential. The Bill provides that if the permanent head of a Department does not approve of or adopt a recommendation, report, or suggestion of the Board he shall within a reasonable time inform the Board of his reasons therefor, and the measure then goes on to provide that the Board may, “if it thinks fit,” make the recommendation, report, or suggestion to the Minister administering the Department. My view of the matter is that the Minister should be kept informed’ of every recommendation made for the more efficient working of his Department, and it should be the duty of the Board of Management, if a recommendation by them is turned down by a head of a Department, to furnish the Minister with the reasons. We should not, I think, place in the hands of the Board the power to make recommendations, and at the same time make it optional with it to decide whether or not it shall report to the Minister recommendations turned down by the head of a Department.
– If the Board must go to the Minister in such cases, how is it to be kept clear of political control?
– I do not suggest that the members of the Board of Management should consult the Minister before deciding to make a recommendation, but I do say that if it is turned down by the head of a Department they should report the matter to the Minister.
– They have to do that in their annual report to Parliament.
– I cordially support the principle embodied in this measure, and I hope that the suggestion made by Senator Thomas to defer the final consideration of this Bill until we have an opportunity of dealing with, the main measure will be adopted.
.- My remarks upon this Bill will be very brief. I approve of the suggestion made by Senator Thomas to defer its final consideration. I am not an ardent believer in the present management of the Public Service. Within the last few ‘years, in connexion with the work of the Department so ably controlled by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), we have had a very good opportunity to form judgment as to the advantages of adopting a different method. None of the employees of .that Department are under the existing Public Service Act. Only recently we passed a Bill amending the Repatriation Act and establishing a Commission to deal with that Department, only I venture to say that if that experiment as applied to the Repatriation Department is proved to be successful, it might not be an altogether undesirable thing to appoint a similar Board of Management to control each Government Department. As honorable senators generally appear to favour the proposed substitution of a Board of Management for the existing Public Service Commissioner, I shall not deal further with that aspect of the question beyond saying that the Repatriation Department is carried on in a. business-like way, and has done such eminently satisfactory work in. the last few years that its example might well be followed.
When the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) was moving the second reading of this Bill, I asked him how many of the members of the proposed Board of Management would be appointed by the employees of the Public Service. I think it is not unreasonable to ask that the employees of the Public Service should have the right to appoint one of the members of the Board. Times out of number it has been stressed by members of the present Government, and by many honorable senators, that the problem of industrial unrest in this country may be solved by giving the employees in any industry direct representation on the boards of directors of companies carrying on that industry. After all, the proposed Board of Management will be practically a board of directors of the Public Service, and I. think it would he of advantage to the Service generally if one of its members were appointed by the public servants.
If no other member of the Senate does so, I shall be prepared when the Bill is in Committee to move that no member of the proposed Board shall be a person who has previously been connected with the Public Service. I think that the three men appointed should be persons who have never during the course of their lives been associated with the red-tape methods existing in the Service.
I think I shall not be prophesying wrongly if I say that the Government have already in mind the persons to be appointed to two of the positions on the proposed Board of Management. I think I could mention the names of two persons whom the Government intend to appoint to these positions when this Bill becomes law.
– The honorable senator knows more than I do.
– This is not the only occasion in connexion with which something similar might have been said. When several years ago we had under consideration a Bill proposing the establishment cif a Bureau of Science and Industry, which was opposed by some members of the Senate, I remember that, while the measure was before Parliament, it was practically known who were to constitute the Bureau. I think I am not far wrong in prophesying that what happened in that case will happen in this case also.
Senator Thomas referred to the fact that there is a percentage - I believe’ a very small percentage - joi inefficients in the Public Service. I venture to say that I am expressing the views of Commonwealth public servants generally when I assert that they are just as anxious that those inefficients should be cleared out as ure the Government or the Public Service Commissioner. I feel sure that the members of the Public Service realize that it will be in their own interests, and in the interests of Australia generally, that the Commonwealth Public Service should be thoroughly efficient.
If the Government would adopt the suggestion that one at least of the members of the Board of Management should be appointed by the employees of the Public Service, and be a man outside the
Service, the result would he satisfactory. I had some small experience of the advantage of having upon a Board a representative appointed by the employees themselves. On many occasions I acted as secretary to a Railway Appeal Board in Queensland. That Board was constituted of a police magistrate, the head of the Department concerned, and a representative of the employees of that Department. I am able to say that, in connexion with all matters dealt with by that Board when I was present, the representative of the employees gave an unbiased decision. The practice of having upon an Appeal Board a representative of the employees gave very satisfactory results indeed in Queensland.
When the Bill gets into Committee I shall submit the amendments I have now indicated, because I believe that their adoption would be in the interests of the Public Service. If the Public Service of Australia is to be efficient, it must be a satisfied Service. A Public Service seething with discontent is not likely to be efficient. If we have on the Board of Management a man of the type I have suggested, who will be a direct representative of the employees of the Service, I am sure that will give satisfaction to the Service generally.
I notice that the salaries to be paid to the members of the Board of Management are not fixed by the Bill. I think that good salaries should be offered, to insure the appointment of the right class of men. I hope that the salaries will not be fixed by the Government, but by Parliament. I indorse the remarks of Senator Thomas as to the wisdom of deferring the consideration of this Bill. The Government will, I am sure, meet the wishes of many members of the Senate if they will agree to defer its consideration until the other measures dealing with the Public Service are before us.
– I have listened this afternoon with a good deal of interest to speeches which have added to my fund of knowledge. Honorable senators have played a tune on the word “efficiency.” Every honorable senator getting up to speak on the Bill has spoken about the efficiency of the Service. Efficiency in the Service is utterly impossible, in my
Opinion, under the conditions depicted by Senator Thomas. I should like to know how any Commissioner proposes to get an index of efficiency unless he has under him a psychological laboratory and an efficiency engineer. I should be glad if it were possible for the Government to include in this measure provision for a psychological laboratory and an efficiency engineer. The tendency of these remarks appears to be to bring a smile to the faces of some honorable senators.
– Especially the reference to the psychologist.
– Probably the honorable senator is not acquainted with what has been done by psychological laboratories in Germany, America, and England. Honorable senators may not realize the results which may be secured by the efforts of an efficiency engineer such as Taylor, as they may not know what he achieved in connexion with some of the great organizations of America. If the efficiency which he pro- duced could be added to our Public Service, it would materially improve the outlook of the units of that Service.
What is the position to-day ? We have a man in the Launceston Post-office who has a record of twenty-two years’ service, and is receiving £189 per annum. I say that there is something seriously wrong about that. Where a man receives such a salary, dissatisfaction is inherent in him, because he cannot live upon such an amount. How are we to remedy that state of thing3? It may be done by the application of psychology, a term which seems to amuse some honorable senators, but it is a very important thing. Consider its achievements in the realms of education, law and medicine.
When Bice went into the matter of the application of psychology to education, he altered the system of spelling, very much to the betterment of the children. Where memory work is taught by the direct method, their powers of memory are very much increased. Read in Van der Donck’s Application of Psychology to Law, of a case in Belgium on 21st June, 3930. Three children were out playing. Onechild disappeared and the two other children came home. When those two were asked what had became of their playmate, they said that at a certain period in the afternoon she had gone away. The Police Commissioner appeared to the children at three o’clock in the morning, asking for information, with the result that one child said that at the particular moment when the other child disappeared “ there was a man there with a black beard who enticed her away.” That created a situation which allowed a considerable amount of suspicion to be thrown on the parents of one of the children. An anonymous letter to the Law Department caused the arrest of the man, and it appeared that he was likely to be hanged on the child’s evidence. As he was being taken to gaol he was nearly torn to pieces by an infuriated multitude. Van der Donck was employed, by the defence to go into the question from the psychological point of view. This is how he proceeded : He took twenty-two children and asked them to tell him the colour of the beard of one of the teachers of the school, naming a certain teacher. Seventeen children said he had a black beard, two said they did not know, and the other answers are not indicated. As a matter of fact, the teacher had.no beard at all. Another twenty children were taken, and the teacher said to them, “ Do you remember at d-ill time that a certain man came to. me and said something to me?” Seven said “Yes.” The rest were undecided. The teacher then asked, “ Do you not remember that Mr. 80-and-So came and .spoke, to .me?” Seventeen out of the twenty said “ Yes.” As a matter of fact no such incident happened. The application of psychology to that case conclusively showed that the child’s :”mirid had been acted upon, and that the man who had been arrested was liable to be “hanged on illusory evidence. The Judge found that the original statement of the child made at four o’clock in the. afternoon was correct, and the rest mere imagination. I -could give similar instances in medicine.
Now let me deal with industry. Several psychological laboratories Vere erected in America for the purpose of finding out definitely the dexterity of the employees of some of the big corporations. A board somewhat similar to a cribbage board, but with considerably more holes, arid not of the same pattern, is taken. At the én’d of the- board is ‘placed a box for matches -without -heads. The person to be tested is told that at a given signal he is to pick up the matches and put them into the different holes. At another signal he is to stop. The result is that some of those tested could put in only ten matches, some fourteen, and some twenty. The conclusion drawn from this test was that those who could put in only ten would not be efficient under any scheme of work which required dexterity of fingers, that those who could put in fourteen would be only average, while those who could put in twenty were segregated from the others, because they would be extremely efficient. Another way of testing in a psychological laboratory is as follows : A board is provided with certain holes, and above each hole is a number. On the wall in front of the person tested is thrown a figure which is visible for two seconds. He then has to take a match and put it into the hole which the figure indicates. That is a test of both perception and dexterity. Surely that would be a most effective way of finding out whether a telephone ‘operator was efficient or not.
Further, these laboratories deal with the questions of fatigue and motion study.- Gilbreth was invited’ _ by a large corporation of softgoods people to find an efficient scheme for folding handkerchiefs. That does not seem very difficult, but his scheme, .when put into operation, enabled the girls to multiply the number of handkerchiefs folded by three. Some people may object that that was speeding-up. I shall indicate later what my view of speeding-up^ is. Gilbreth worked in this way: He divided the hour into ten portions of six. minutes each. For the first four portions he made the girl sit down at a table on a chair that brought her arms within easy contact with it. She was to remain seated there for twenty-four minutes, and to. work for five minutes and rest one minute in each period. At the end of the twenty-four minutes she was to stand up fbr eighteen minutes and to work for five minutes and rest one during each sixminute period. For the next two periods she could either sit or stand, as she pleased, but she was to ‘work five’ minutes arid Test one. In the last period she was not to. work at all, but to allow the muscles to’ be, as” it -were, regenerated after the fatigue. The result was’ .that three times as much work was accomplished as previously.
Let me give an example of Taylor’s work. Taylorism has been given rather a bad name in Australia, but I have learned that Lenin has asked Taylor to go to Russia and inaugurate his schemes there. Taylor was consulted in regard to the Bethlehem Steel. Works - a proposition which has to handle pig iron. The weight of the pig iron is about 95 lbs. After a considerable amount of work in a psychological laboratory, Taylor found that a man could only work efficiently 43 per cent, of his time, and must rest 57 per cent. He selected a man and ordered him to dp exactly what the timekeeper » instructed - “ You are to work seven minutes and rest ten.” The men up till then had been handling on an”’ average 12 tons per diem. After Taylor instituted his new ‘scheme they did on an average 47£ tons per diem, although they were working only 43 per cent, of their time. That is efficiency. People in Australia say, and have said, “Yes, but all this is only done by speeding up.” Let me indicate to the Senate what I consider to be speeding-up. I have here a paper on which is certain) printed matter that I want copied. I am not capable of copping it myself. The man who can copy it for me can do so only in block type, and it will take him, say, six hours. If I say to him, “I will give you a bonus if you do it in five hours,” then I am definitely and clearly speeding him up. But if I educate him to do this work for me in script, and he can do it in an hour, that is not speeding-up, but the application of psychology to industry.
Our Public Service absolutely requires the application of this system, and many of the corporations of Australia could well benefit by it also. When the American Federation of Labour mcc early last year, they said they believed that without the application of science to industry labour could not go beyond a certain point, but that, with it, they could look forward to a considerable addition »o their present rate of wages. So far as the Public Service is concerned, there, could be an index card showing each man’s efficiency. I do not say that when you find a man’s inefficiency is low for the work he is doing you should dismiss him. You will probably find that he is efficient in another branch. You should not confine this system only to the employees at the bottom. It should bc applied right up to the executive heads, in order to ascertain if they are giving the people efficient service. And you should see that those employed are well paid. I thoroughly believe that, if you adopted the card system and indexed every man after psycho-logical observations and under efficiency engineers, you would be able to pick out 98 per cant, of the men and tell definitely and exactly what they could do, in what way they could benefit themselves, and in that way they could benefit the Service. Surely this would be a step in the right direction. If the great steel works of America, which employ considerably more men than our Public . Service, can afford- to adopt a scheme of this description, and if some of the great German corporations found, it absolutely essential to take on something of the kind. Australia might well stand in and decide to try it in connexion with the Public Service of the Commonwealth. ‘ I want to see some method adopted whereby we can increase the comfort and better the conditions of. living of the men in the Service. I want to see their citizenship raised to the highest possible limit, but not altogether at the expense of the taxpayer. If w© can show that it is possible to produce certain results by adopting a system such as I have described, with efficiency engineers and the application of the results obtained in our psychological laboratories; if we can tell the people of Australia that by this means we can give them a much more efficient Service, which will go a long way towards doing away with the trouble and annoyance that sometimes exist between the Service and the public, surely we shall be conferring a benefit on the whole community. We have a great body of men to deal with, and we have been told by Senator Thomas that absolute inefficiency can exist in the Service without any power to cope with it. This shows that we are confronted by a most serious problem. If we appoint a Board of three, and they have no index to the efficiency of the employees in the Public Service, I cannot see how they can give the public efficiency except by guess-work. If we multiplied the members of the Board by twelve, we should be no better off than, under one Commissioner, unless the thing is worked on a scientific basis.
I compliment the Government on having brought forward this Bill. The Service is seething with discontent, and I believe that the measure is an attempt to move in the right direction. I sincerely trust that in Committee we shall be able to induce the Government to add a psychological laboratory to the existing equipment, and efficiency engineers to the staff, so that we may secure the most efficient Public Service possible.
.- I also congratulate the Government upon having introduced this measure in pursuance of their pledges, and I believe that .the Government should endeavour to get the best possible men for the proposed Board of Management, irrespective of where they come from. If * they are to be found in the Service, by all means let them be appointed. I disagree entirely with the suggestion that the Board should be constituted by election. The most important consideration is to get the very best men. I believe also that the fullest power should be given to the Board. Its members should not be hampered in any way in their administrative duties, and if for any reason the responsible Minister sets aside their recommendations, there should be an appeal to Parliament. Only in this way may we expect to bring about a rapid change from inefficiency, which is complained of, to efficiency. I also agree with the suggestion that authority to dismiss should be added to the other powers of the Board, whose hands should be strengthened to the uttermost in order to deal with any condition of inefficiency in the Service. With the main provisions of the Bill, I am absolutely in accord. I think Senator Fairbairn mentioned that associations formed within the Service should be on the lines of the Whitley Commission, and in regard to this matter, when the companion Bill is under consideration, I shall undoubtedly favour the inclusion of some provision whereby members of the different organizations-there may be dozens of them in the Commonwealth Public Service - may be associated with the Arbitrator, but I shall absolutely oppose any suggestion to associate them with the Board of Management, whose duty it will be to see that the Service is carried on efficiently.
.- I join with other honorable senators in expressing approval of the Bill, and particularly clause 11, which sets out in some detail the duties of the proposed Board. When one takes into consideration the fact that an educational test is required of candidates for the Public Service, one must give them credit for a certainamount of ability to start with, and so I think that some of the inefficiency that has been complained of may be due to the fact that certain officers of the Ser- vice have not been properly trained “for the jobs which, later in life, they are required to undertake. We have also to remember that, owing to the environment and the circumscribed nature of the work, an officer of the Public Service is not able sometimes to qualify for other duties to the same extent as a man engaged in the outside business world. And so when we, talk about giving the proposed Board power of dismissal, we should not forget that if there is inefficiency, the authorities jure, to some extent, responsible, if they have not made available to these men the opportunity to become efficient for the positions they are called upon to occupy from time to time. Then, as to the constitution of the Board. I hope the Government will see that the men to be appointed are of a calibre similar to that of those associated with the Business Board in the Defence Department. The men required for these positions are not those who are looking for such a job, but men who will have to be chased and to whom a large salary must be offered. It is quite possible that men at the top of the tree, so far as their occupation in the Public Service is concerned, will be quite unsuitable for a position on the proposed Board. Recently in my own State a change was, made from administration by a Public Service Board to administration by a Commissioner, and I know that one gentleman, highly qualified in the Service, had a chance for the position but declined to take it. When I mentioned the matter to him he said - “ Well, it’s this way. I have been brought up in the Service. I have been in it for twenty-five or more years, and if I were appointed Commissioner I should have to recommend a lower salary to certain men or else abolish their offices altogether, and they would then be pushed out of the Service. I have been in touch with these men for so many years that I coul’d not do a thing like that. I will not apply for the position.” To some extent the Public Service is a close corporation. At all events it is so far as the higher grades are concerned, and it would be extremely difficult for any man, appointed to .the Board from the Public Service to do his duty properly, as he might have to “come down” on somebody who had been in the Service with him for many years. I am rather afraid, also, that the Board will have to work a. good deal of overtime in the matter of reorganizing the Service without performing any of the additional duties to be imposed upon them. Some of the Departments could do with a Business Board to themselves, in order to shake them up. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has told us that this proposed Board will have authority lo go into the Defence Department. That is badly wanted, too.
– But they have a Business Board already.
– A Business Board was appointed, but I do not know whether it is operating to-day. I know that, during the war, a man in the Defence Department had seven different jobs to perform. He was getting £250 per year, and the Department did not treat him very well after the war. The work which he did in war time is now being done by several men who are costing this country £1,750 a year. I am not blaming the Minister, because he cannot be expected to know all the details of his Department, but I say, definitely, that we could well afford to have a Business Board attached to each of the big spending Departments of the Commonwealth. It remains to be seen whether the duties laid down will be within the power of the Board to be appointed. There are other matters to which I should like to refer, hut I shall take an opportunity to deal with them in Committee.
Debate (on motion by Senator Senior) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at -5.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 July 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200728_senate_8_92/>.