8th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk announced that he had received an intimation from the President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) that, owing to ill-health, he would not attend the sitting of the Senate to-day.
The Deputy President (Senator Bakhap) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory ‘Rules 1021, Nos. 202, 203, and 204.
Defence - Statement explanatory of Estimates of Expenditure - 1921-22.
Lands Acquisition Act. - Land acquired for Defence purposes in New South Wales at - Cootamundra; Mascot.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 200.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired in New South Wales at - Kogarah; North Bondi; Waratah; Wee Waa.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether he has seen a statement made by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), as a result of the recent Premiers’ Conference, to the effect that he has a plan in view for the unification of railway gauges likely to cost £51,000,000? Will the honorable senator give an assurance that before the Government commit themselves to any definite scheme for expenditure in connexion with this matter, the Parliament will be given a full opportunity of discussing it?
– I have not seen the statement.
Returned Soldiers in Taxation Department.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he has yet had an opportunity of bringing my remarks regarding returned soldiers in the Taxation Department under the notice of the Commissioner of Taxation; and, if so, whether he has received any reply?
– The day after the honorable senator mentioned the matter, I forwarded a copy of his remarks to the officer referred to, but I have not yet received a reply from him. I shall make further inquiries.
Disposition of. Plantation Properties
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Whether the Government will consult Parliament regarding the method of disposing of plantation properties in New Guinea and the Territories before seeking to give effect to the policy they may decide upon?
– The matter will receive consideration when the policy of the Government in this matter has been settled.
Continuity of Communication with Tasmania.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Has the Government decided upon any plan to secure the continuity of the passenger service between the mainland and Tasmania, should the present service he again interrupted through any cause during the next four months 7
-Every effort will bo made to secure continuity of service between the mainland and Tasmania during the period mentioned. It is not considered necessary to make any definite arrangement at present.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th November, vide page 12470) Clause 53 -
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 -
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 -
fine the officer any sum not exceeding Five pounds; or
reduce his salary; or
reduce him to a lower Division, class, or position, and salary; or
transfer him to some other position or locality, which transfer may be in addition to fine or reduction; or
recommend to the Board the dismissal of the officer from the Service:
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.
The Appeal Board constituted under this section shall comprise -
a permanent chairman, who shall be an officer of the Commonwealth Service, and shall have the qualifications of a stipendiary or police magistrate, and shall be appointed to the office by the Board of Commissioners;
an officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs (not being an officer concerned in the laying of the charge against the appellant), appointed by the Chief Officer for the purpose of the particular appeal to be heard;
the elected representative of the Division to which the appellant belongs in the State or part of the State in which he performs his duties.
Any two members of the Appeal Board may exercise all the powers of the Board for investigation and decision.
In the case of an officer of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, or of both Houses of the Parliament, any appeal under this section shall be made to the President of tho Senate, or to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, or to the President and Speaker, as the case may be, and the decision of the President or Speaker, or of the President and the Speaker, as the case may be, shall be final.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) to a statement which he made on the last sitting day, in connexion with a clause which I was anxious to have fully considered. It was to the effect that, after a conference he had with the high council of the Public Service organizations, their objection to the clause referred to had been withdrawn. 1” have since been informed by a representative of the Public Service organizations that that is not so, and I mention the matter now to give the Minister an opportunity to reconsider the clause at a later stage.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [3.8]. - The statement I made was that I had taken an opportunity of meeting representatives of the parties concerned. I saw the Central Executive of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League, and they informed me that proposals for the amendment of the Public Service Bill sent in by particular branches were to be ignored, and only those submitted by the Central Executive of the League to be considered. I appreciated that, because a number of proposals were sent in by branches in different States. I gave the organization all the time they wanted, and, finally, there were, I think, only four clauses in connexion with which their suggestions were not finally dealt with. I gave the executive of the Public Service Association an interview of over three hours. I agreed to certain concessions they demanded, and blankly refused some of their demands because they had already been voted upon in the Senate. I do not know to which particular clause Senator Payne refers, but I had no intention of stating that the Public Service Association accepted the Bill as a whole. I mentioned to the executive that the provisions of the’ Bill were considered by myself with other members of the Government, as a sub -Committee of the Cabinet. I said that I could not accept certain suggestions because the Government had considered and rejected them. They left me in a perfectly friendly way after shaking hands. . They took notes, and marked their copies of the Bill to show the concessions I was prepared to make, and I am redeeming my promises in that regard by the amendments I am proposing. They knew just as well that there were other proposals of theirs which the Government were not prepared to accede to. What I said was that I had met them, and conferred on nearly every clause. When they went away they expressed no dissatisfaction. They put up a good case; but I was quite candid, and told them what I would and what I would not accept. To-day I purpose redeeming the promises I made to the civil servants and the returned soldiers, but I shall not grant everything they asked for. Four suggestions, which I referred to Cabinet, were rejected.
– Are your concessions contained in your printed amendments ?
– Yes, and there are one or two additions. I snail have to recommit the Bill later on, so as to give the Committee an opportunity to deal with some of the amendments I promised to have made. For the purpose of clearing up the question as to what are major and what are minor offences, I move, as a compromise -
That in the proviso to sub-clause 3 the word “ fine “ be loft out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a fine not exceeding two pounds “.
That would mean that an officer who was fined £2 or more could, appeal, but against a fine below that amount there would be no appeal. I have endeavoured to meet the wishes of honorable senators.
– Will there be any right of appeal to a Board, apart from the officer who imposes the fine ?
– The appeal will be to an Appeal Board, whose decision shall be final.
– The point taken was that if a man was fined- £5, by his superior officer, the delinquent would have no right of appeal, except to the officer who fined him. I think that the Minister agreed to give the right of appeal, in the case of a fine over a certain amount, to a Board, rather than from Cæsar to Caesar.
– Yes, to an Appeal Board, whose decision is to be final in these matters. It would not be a very serious offence where the penalty was under £2. A person fined £2 or more will have the right of appeal to a Board, every member of which will be on oath to do his duty.
– Do I understand that the Minister leaves the question of reduction of salary, or reduction to a lower division, as at present, or are we dealing only with the question of money? Will there be an appeal in other cases?
– Yes, in some cases.
Amendment agreed to.
That in the proviso to sub-clause 3 the words “ as prescribed “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “in such manner, and within such time not less than seven days, as is prescribed”.
It will then be provided that the minimum time within which an appeal may be lodged will be seven days, and the period can be extended to give more time to officers in outlying places.
Amendment agreed to.
– I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that no period, during which an officer may be suspended, is fixed in this clause. There should be some limit, such as twenty-one days. I realize that we cannot return to the portion of the clause dealing with this matter, but there should be some limit to the period of suspension before the hearing of a charge.
– I do not think so.
– The laying of the charge might otherwise be deferred for a very long time. If an alteration is not made now, I shall return to the point later on.
– You can deal with it in the next clause.
– But that would not make the necessary alteration in the clause under consideration. The matter would be very important to an officer concerned. There should be some limit of time within which the matter would be determined.
– The time might be extended to six months.
– It is not right that any officer should be under a shadow for an indefinite period of time.
– There seems to be some misunderstanding on the part of honorable senators. The Courts will determine the issues that may be responsible for the suspension of an officer. The Act provides that an officer who may be suspended shall be entitled to receive his salary during his period of suspension unless he absconds, or unless otherwise ordered. The other day I quoted the case of a public servant who had been tried three times. The jury failed to agree. In his case the proceedings took eight or nine months.
– Was he paid for the whole of that time?
– No. I do not think that there was any one who did not believe he was guilty. Some honorable senators seem to think that we are out to hit the public servant. That is not so at all, but we must provide adequate protection for the Departments. If a man commits a criminal offence or misappropriates money belonging to the Government, it is not likely that he will be kept on full pay during his period of suspension. The extreme penalty is provided, because it is necessary to be in a position to deal with any officer who misbehaves himself.
– I have to remind the honorable the Minister that the Committee has already passed that portion of the clause. It may not be further debated at this stage.
.- I have much sympathy with the remarks made by Senator Senior.
– That part of the clause has already been dealt with.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The discussion is out of order. I prevented the Minister from continuing, and I must ask the honorable senator not to debate the sub-clause referred to.
Amendments (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the following new paragraph be inserted after paragraph (d) : - “ (e) If no appeal is made by an officer against a recommendation that he be dismissed, the Board of Commissioners may dismiss the officer or impose any other punishment specified in the last preceding paragraph.”
That the word “The” in sub-clause -5 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “An”.
– It will be noticed that in the constitution of the Appeal Board there is to be (1) a permanent chairman, (2) an officer of the Department tot which the appellant belongs, and (3) an elected representative of the division to which the appellant belongs. I think the personnel of the’ Board would be improved if the third member of it were the elected representative of the organization to which the appellant belongs.
– Does not a division mean a division of the Public Service, and an organization something else?
– No; there is a Public Service organization of which nearly every public servant is a member. The General and Clerical Divisions are branches of the Public Service; but that does not exclude the point I am submitting.
– Does the honorable senator wish to exclude a man who does not belong to the union?
– That is not what I desire.
– That would be the result.
– I do not mean that. The elected representative of the Clerical Division could not in any sense represent a person who was employed in the General Division, because if such were the case the, General Division would not have a representative.
– Each division will elect its own representative.
– If the Minister will satisfy me that the appellant will be represented on the Board by a person conversant with the conditions under which he was working, I shall be satisfied. At present the jury to try a man will comprise at least two members in favour of the Government.
– The three members of the Board are to be public servants.
– The permanent chairman is chosen by the Government, and the officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs will also be a Government officer. The person appealing is the one who has committed, or is supposed to have committed, some wrong. Is he not to have one on his side? Is it necessary that all the members of the Board shall be opposed to him ?
– The members of the Board are not on any one’s side. Does the honorable senator desire a biased individual ?
– I do not want anything of the kind . The honorable senator knows that in all such cases both sides should be heard, because the truth does not rest solely on one side.
– These are judges, not advocates.
– But is a judge less qualified because he knows both sides ?
– Very often.
Senior SENIOR. - I thought it was otherwise. If the Minister will satisfy me that one member of the Board will be a person conversant with the conditions under which the appellant has been working I shall have no more to say.
– Has the honorable senator ever known an advocate to occupy a seat on the bench?
– It is not a question of having an advocate, but of having a member of the Board conversant with the conditions under which the appellant has been working.
– There is a clause covering that.
– Provided that that division has elected a representative.
– The clause says it must do so.
– It is often provided in an Act that certain things must be done; but the statutory obligation is not observed. I know the ground on which I am treading, and what I am advocating. I am not arguing in favour of a public servant having an advocate, but reasoning from the point of view that the Board must consider the position from other than the official side if justice is to be done.
– I am ratherastonished at some of the statements made by Senator Senior, who seems to assume that the members of the Board will be biased. These gentlemen will be on oath, and will serve as members of an independent Court. Has the honorable senator ever known of an advocate occupying a seat on the bench? If those who have to come before the Court require an advocate, they can, if they desire, obtain the assistance of a King’s counsel. The suggestion of the honorable senator is unreasonable, because the Board will comprise three public servants conversant with departmental procedure. One will be a permanent chairman, anotheran officer of the Department, and the third an elected representative of the division to which the appellant belongs. If I had to appear before a jury I would prefer it to be comprised of members of this Senate, because they know my virtues as well as my sins. The impression seems to exist in the mind of Senator Senior that were desirous of punishing public servants.
– He did not insinuate that.
– We do not wish to be severe, but are anxious to prevent wrong being done. It is not likely that many cases will come before the Appeal Board - I doubt whether there will be more than twenty-five per annum - because the number hitherto has been comparatively small. The cases to be dealt with by the Board will relate largely to technical irregularities inside the Departments. These go before the Commissioner, or the head of the Department. I hear of cases’ practically every week, and I am bound to say that, unless there be a rare instance of a man bluffing, no difficulty is found in securing a, fair adjustment. Just treatment has always been meted out by the Commissioner, and I feel sure the same can be said with regard to departmental heads and inspectors. Under this Bill the proposal is that the right of appeal shall be to three members of the Public Service. What more generous offer could be made than to provide appellants with a jury drawn from their own ranks? Would a Board consisting of three outsiders, or including two, or one, be better from their point of view ?
– How does the proposed Appeal Board differ from the present Board ?
– The objection to the present Board appears to be that appellants lack confidence in it. I cannot understand the reason, but it may be either due to doubt concerning the merits of the appeal, or to actual cowardice on the part of the would-be appellant. I affirm that there isno reason to fear or distrust the Board. As for any question of bias, as I have just indicated, the members of the proposed Appeal Board will be put upon oath to undertake to perform, their duties without thought or fear of bias. That should be sufficient protection.
.- It is generally understood that the employees’ representative upon an Appeal Board has been elected specifically to look after the interests of employees. The latter certainly expect as much from him. I was once acting as secretary to the Queensland Railways Appeal Board, which consisted of three members. The chairman, however, was an outsider. It would be beneficial to the Commonwealth Public Service if the chairman of the proposed Board was also an outsider. In the Queensland Railways Board the chairman was a police magistrate; the other members were the head of the Department immediately concerned, and a person directly elected by the employees themselves. Appeals would generally be heard in a Police Court. After hearing evidence, the Board would retire to discuss the case. Comments, each from his own point of view, would be offered by the head of the Department and the employees’ representative, to which the chairman would carefully listen. Generally - unless, of course, the case was an obviously bad one - the appellant would gain some benefit from having gone before the Board ; and, naturally, it was popular with the railway service. I think it may be said of Appeal Boards, as a whole, that they are worth stating one’s case before.
– Especially if one can fix the bench.
– These Boards may be relied on to temper justice with mercy.
– The hope of appellants being, of course, that there will be shown rather more mercy than justice.
SenatorFOLL. - At any rate, the Queensland Board got plenty of work. Incidentally, I had a few enjoyable trips out of my duties connected with it; and, altogether, everybody seemed satisfied.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the chairman of the proposed Board should be an outsider?
SenatorFOLL. - Yes; and I am prepared either to support Senator Senior or to move, by way of an amendment, in that direction myself. The ideal Board would comprise a chairman from outside the Service, who would be uninfluenced, therefore, by years spent in public Departments; a. member of the Service, who would be familiar with conditions of employment and the like; and a specific representative of departmental interests.
– I propose to recommit clause 7 to provide that the chairman shall not be included among those to whom the exemptions are to apply. The effect will be to make the chairman of the Board a member of the Public Service. I have sounded the Public Service upon the personnel of the Appeal Board. Indeed, I suggested the name of an officer in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, and the proposition was received with pleasure; so that I feel confident that the Service will welcome the appointment of a Board consisting entirely of members drawn from the Service.
SenatorFOLL. - I do not suggest that there may not be hundreds of men in the Service qualified to fill the position; but, in the interests of the Service, and of the Government, it would be well if the chairman were selected from outside. I do not want to suggest that there are not men in the Civil Service who are capable of taking the position. My object is to secure an ideal Appeal Board, and that object, I think, can only be achieved in the way that I have indicated. To save time, and to assist the Minister in securing the passage of the Bill, I move -
That in sub-clause (5), paragraph (a), the following words be left out, “ shall be an officer of the Commonwealth Service and “.
– The Committee has already decided in favour of the appointment of a man from outside the Public Service. That has been provided for by inserting certain words in clause 7, which states that “Unless otherwise expressly provided this Act shall not apply to . . . the Commissioner of Taxation.” The Committee inserted after “ the Commissioner of Taxation “ the Chairman of the Appeal Board as one of the officers to whom the Act should not apply. When interviewing representatives of the civil servants I gathered that they did not desire that an outsider should be appointed. The Government, therefore, proposes to revert to the original proposal. I intend to re-commit the Bill. When this is done, the Committee will have an opportunity of dealing with the clause’ as a whole, when there will be a straightout issue as to whether the chairman should be a civil servant or a man from outside the Service.
– I know it is somewhat tragic that we should be hammering out some of these clauses, and that our conduct as legislators in doing so should not be universally appreciated. At the same time I want to say that my perspective of the Bill is that it affects 25,000 civil servants throughout the Commonwealth, and that it is the duty of honorable senators, as far as possible, to see that they get a “ fair deal.” The Minister’s attitude in connexion with these apparently small matters is ever courteous and gentlemanly, and I am sure he will recognise that honorable senators are approaching the Bill from a proper standpoint. The Minister (Senator Russell) is redeeming the promises he has given to civil servants, and if honorable senators do their duty the Bill, by the time it has passed the Senate, will be as fair a deal to civil servants as this Senate can make it. In regard to subclause 5 I am somewhat inclined to agree with the Minister that the chairman of the Appeal Board should be a public servant. In view of what the Minister has said, I think we may assume that the chairman will be a civil servant not connected in any way either with the officer who has inflicted the penalty or with the Department in which the offender is employed.
– There is no appeal against the decision of the Board.
– In regard to paragraph b of sub-clause 5, the organization representing the employees want an amendment. They also desire an amendment in paragraph c. The effect of their amendment in paragraph b would be that the second person on the Board of Appeal would not be an officer of the Department. The paragraph specifically states that the second person on the Board “ shall be an officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs,” The effect of the amendment would be that the second member of the Board would not be an officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs. The organization representing the employees desire an amendment in paragraph c, along the lines suggested by Senator Senior, to provide that the third person on the Board shall be the elected representative of the organization to which the appellant belongs.
– I am quite prepared to leave it as an alternative by inserting’ the words “ or organization “ after the word “ division “.
– The effect of those two amendments, if inserted in the Bill, would be that the chairman of the Board would be an independent person; that the second member of the Board would be quite outside the division, organization, or Department to which the delinquent belonged; and that the third member of the Board would be the elected representative of the organization to which the delinquent belonged, and who, consequently, would probably be more of an advocate than a judge. As the clause stands, we have got two independent members of the Board of Appeal and one member who, it is reasonable to expect, would lean rather on the side of the officer who imposed the penalty. The suggested amendments would make the clause one-sided to the appellant. As the Bill stands, it is a little lop-sided against the appellant. The appeals are appeals against punishment inflicted by the chief officer. The second member of the Board of Appeal, as the clause stands, will be “ an officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs (not being an officer concerned in the laying of the charge against the appellant), appointed by the chief officer for the purpose of the particular appeal to be heard. The “ chief officer “ here referred to is the man who, in the first place, inflicted the penalty. If the clause is passed as it stands, we shall have an independent chairman, an officer of the division to which the appellant belongs, and a member appointed by the chief officer who has inflicted the penalty originally on the delinquent. I think that is just as unfair to the delinquent as the suggested amendments which I shall not move would be to the Department.
– Is not the Department to be protected at all? Is it to have no representation?
– I do not object to the Department being represented, but I ask the Minister whether he considers it a fair deal that one member of the Appeal Board should be appointed by the chief officer who inflicted the penalty appealed against. We have a Board of two independent members and a third member, who, it is reasonable to assume, because he has been appointed by the man who inflicted the penalty, will be biased against the appellant.
– The chief officer may not be the man who inflicted the penalty, but may be merely the channel through whom the charge proceeds. The officer who inflicted the penalty might be in Queensland, whilst the chief officer of the Department might be in Melbourne.
– We have seen that under the preceding clause a punishment is inflicted by the chief officer, and under this ‘clause it is proposed that the chief officer shall appoint a member of the Appeal Board. I mention the matter now that it may be more fully considered when, as I assume, the whole of subclause 5 will be recommitted.
– I do not wish the honorable senator to be under any misapprehension. I directed attention to the fact that by an amendment made in clause 7 the Chairman of the Appeal Board is exempt from the Public Service Bill. If that principle is affirmed the sub-clauses will have to be amended to meet it, but I propose to revert to our original proposal.
– There seems to be a great fear on the part of some honorable senators that the public servants will not be given a fair deal. I should like to direct attention to the composition of the Appeal Boardunder the existing Act. It is referred to in section 50. Under that section an appeal is submitted to a Board - consisting of an inspector, the Chief Officer of the Department to which such officer belongs, or an officer nominated by such Chief Officer, and the representative of the Division to which such officer belongs, elected under the regulations by the officers of the Division to which such officer belongs, in the State in which such officer performs his duties.
What is proposed in this Bill is a Board very similar to that at present provided for, except that a permanent chairman takes the place of the inspector under the existing Act. We have had some experience of the working of the existing Appeal Board, and it has shown that the chief officer or his nominee has appeared as the representative of the Department and of authority, as against the trade unions in the Service. We have found that not only is the man who is elected as the representative of the employees on the Appeal Board a member of the union, but also the officer from the Department to which the delinquent belongs is a member of the union. In actual practice the result has been that in the hearing of appeals by the Appeal Board under the existing Act there has almost invariably been two against one. I may inform honorable senators of one extraordinary case that occurred. There was an officer of the Trade and Customs Department in Melbourne who was charged before a civil Court and was duly convicted and sentenced for pilfering on the wharfs. Very naturally, he was suspended, and subsequently dismissed from the Department. He appealed to the Appeal Board as constituted under the existing Act, and the two representatives of his trade union on the Appeal Board insisted that he should be reinstated in the Department, and that man is in the Department to-day. ,
– After he had been found guilty ‘by a civil Court ?
– Yes. It appears to me that some honorable senators desire to strengthen the position of the trade union on the Boards of Appeal, which should really be Courts, and not specially representative of trade unions. I think that in all the circumstances honorable senators should be wary about accepting the suggestion made by Senator Senior, and it is for that reason I mentioned a case which has actually occurred under the provisions for an Appeal Board under the existing law. We know that under the existing Act it is practically impossible to get useless wasters and rotters out of a Department, and the good men in the Service, who are, of course, greatly in the majority, have to carry these men on their backs and do their work for them.
– The Queensland Government sacked 500 recently.
– A Parliament dominated by a particular party can do almost anything. This Parliament, if it so desired, might dispense with the services of the whole of the public servants, but that does not affect the matter under consideration. What we are here to do is to give a fair deal as between the taxpayers, those in authority, and the public servants. We are not here to legislate for the benefit of the public servant any more than we are here to legislate against him in the interests of the taxpayers or of those in authority. Any suggestion to strengthen the Appeal Board in favour of the public servant should be considered very carefully. The Appeal Board now proposed is no more strongly against the interests of the public servant than that which is provided for under the existing Act. It is generally admitted that the gentlemen appointed to constitute an Appeal Board under the existing Act are on the Board to act as advocates rather than as judges.
– They will continue to do: so.
– An endeavour has been made to prevent that under this Bill, by appointing a Board, the members of which take an oath to act judicially, rather than as advocates for particular parties. I am not prepared at the present stage to support the suggestion made by Senator Senior, ncc do I view that made by Sentaor Pratten with any great favour.
– I have listened with pleasure to the statements made by Senators Pratten and Drake-Brockman. I feel somewhat keenly on this matter, because I have had something to do with some of these Boards. I feel, with Senator Pratten, that there is a danger that the chief officer of the Department will appoint some one as his representative on the Appeal Board who will advocate the cause from his stand -point. On the other hand, the elected representative of the division to which the appellant belongs will no doubt be approached to act as his advocate. In the circumstances, under the proposal made, we shall have but one officer acting as a judge in the case, and he will be the chairman of the Board. I think that the difficulty is one which can be overcome, and I direct the attention of the Minister (Senator Russell) to an’ Act passed by the United States of America Government for the purpose of dealing with industrial disputes. If my memory serves me aright, under that Act the Secretary for Labour makes up a panel of a certain number of names. . The Board of Trade also selects a panel of a certain number of names. There is a . final selection from both these panels of persons whom the parties to the dispute have no opportunity of approaching.
– Are the parties given the right to challenge the panel?
– The right of challenge is allowed. By adopting this method we should be able to secure an Appeal Board of three members, who would be unbiased, and could not be affected by either the chief officer or the appellant. It seems to me that if we have two advocates on a Bench we cannot expect it to give satisfaction. That has been the experience of the New South Wales Arbitration Court, where that system has not worked at all.
– It is exactly what they have in Western Australia at the present moment.
– Is it working well there? .
– It works very well.
– The system did not work very well in New South Wales. If panels are made up in the way I have suggested, and the members of the Board are selected from them, they will not be biased, and we can look for a verdict that will be fair alike to the Department, the appellant, and the public.
– I am satisfied that Senator Drake-Brockman is actuated in this matter by the purest motives, but I think the honorable senator should concede the same to me.
– I do so at once.
– The Commonwealth Public Service has representatives from the Commonwealth Service Clerical Association, the Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association, the Post and Telegraph Association, the Federated Assistants’ Association, the Postal Linemen’s Union, the Letter-carriers’ Association , the General Division Telephone Officers’ Association, the Postal Sorters’ Union, the General Division Officers’ Union (Trade and Customs Department), the Postal Electricians’ Union, the Commonwealth Artisans’ Association, and the Line Inspectors’ Association. If a charge was laid in connexion with the work of a line inspector, would the Committee debar a representative from the Line Inspectors’ Association being present at the hearing of the appeal? How would an officer, who was a representative of the Postal Sorters’ Union, understand the work of a lineman ?
– Do you mean to say that he could not weigh evidence ?
– The word “division “ alone is likely to exclude an officer who would have a knowledge of the conditions under which the offence was committed.
– We do not debar an appellant from calling evidence in his own defence.
– Why should “division,” which may exclude some, be accepted, and a representative of the organization be rejected ?
– “Division “ does not exclude anybody.
– I accept the argument of Senator Pratten to prove my case. The person to be. appointed under paragraph a is the permanent chairman, who is to be an officer in the Commonwealth Public Service, and is to have the qualifications of a stipendiary or police magistrate, but he is to be appointed to the position by the Board of Commissioners. Suppose he is independent. The next man is to be appointed by the officer who lays the charge; he certainly will be strongly biased. One cannot expect anything else. Will not the Committee have equal strength on the other side?
– Yes, or amend paragraph a.
– Either paragraph a or paragraph 6 must be amended. I do not want a biased verdict.
– The officer referred to in paragraph a is a, judge, pure and simple.
– Yes. What’ I am asking for is not the elimination of “ division,” but the addition of the words “or organization.” I think it will be admitted that my claim has something to commend it. I am not looking at the position having in mind the Ministers now in office; we have to legislate for years to come. I know how easy it has been under the present Act to prevent an officer from having a chance to defend himself, and I am glad that a charge must now be made in writing.
– The honorable senator spoke of the representative of the Department as being the subordinate of the chief of the Department who makes the charge. I would point out that the head of the Department very seldom makesthe charge,because it is chiefly laid by a deputy in one or other of the States. We are the protectors of public property. We have civil servants handling the note issue. Are the Departments to have no representation ? Suppose money is missing, and fraud has been practised. Is an officer of the Department not to lay a charge for fear he might be suspected of bias? The head of a Department should have the same right as a deputy to lay a charge. The Departments must be protected, and we are here as trustees of those Departments. I have always defended the civil servants. The three men to compose the Appeal Board will be civil servants, and that is a great compliment to the Service. What higher compliment could be paid to it? I suppose we could obtain the services of outsiders, but they would be lacking in experience of departmental methods.
– It would be a good thing in some cases.
– It might be; but we provide for the chairman to be practically independent.
– He is not being appointed from outside the Service.
– He may be. We may select an intelligent police magistrate from Queensland. All are eligible. The Government, and I, personally, wish to have a civil servant as chairman, because we do not think there will be enough work to warrant the appointment of a chairman to do that work alone. It is not anticipated that there will be more than twenty appeals a year. Ifthere were a larger number of cases than that, the Departments would be demoralized.
– It appears to me that the representative under paragraph 6 would be -the representative of the chief officer who inflicted the penalty. The representative under paragraph c would be the officer connected with the division in which the appellant was employed, but not necessarily the elected member of his organization. I move -
That in paragraph (b) of sub-clause (5). the word “ the “, first occurring, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ a “.
If the amendment is agreed to I shall move that the words “ other than that “ be inserted after the word “ Department.” That wouldpractically prevent the chief officer from nominating an officer in the Department to which the appellant belonged. It would widen the scope of the Board of Appeal, and help to secure what, in my opinion, would be an absolutely unbiased Board.
– It might mean bringing a Commonwealth railway servant in to inquire into a question connected with the Audit Office. The amendment would make the sub-clause too wide.
– If paragraph b remains as printed, I shall support the amendment indicated by Senator Senior to give the appellant special representation. If paragraph 6 remains, the chief officer imposing the penalty would have special representation, and in that case the appellant also should have it. There would be no necessity to amend paragraph c, because the three members of the Board would then be untrammelled and unbiased.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . .. 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That in paragraph (c) of sub-clause 5 the words “ or organization “ be inserted after the word “ Division “.
The division just taken shows emphatically how necessary it is that the appellant should have as his representative on the Board a person acquainted with the facts from his view-point. As the Minister (Senator Russell) has indicated, the other members of the Board, namely, the permanent chairman and the officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs, will really be in a position to determine the charge. In effect, the officer of the Department will be the representative of the officer who lays the charge. It is essential, therefore, that the appellant should have a chance of being heard by the appointment on the Board of a representative of his organization.
– He may employ a King’s counsel if he wants to.
– A King’s counsel may not know so much about the circumstances surrounding a charge as a member of the organization to which the appellant belongs.
– But a member of the organization should not have a seat on the judicial bench - in this case, the Appeal Board.
– Upon the honorable senator’s own reasoning, the appellant should be directly represented. The Committee has already determined that one member of the Board shall be an officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs. To be logical, therefore, we cannot deny the appellant himself the right of direct representation. Suppose, for instance, an officer is charged with dereliction of duty, such as neglect properly to attach telephone wires to an insulator. The details of this work can be known only to men in his organization. An officer of the Postal Sorters Union, for instance, would have no knowledge of the circumstances, and yet he might be called upon to assist in determining the charge.
– In such circumstances, the appellant could bring in other linesmen as expert witnesses.
– That would make the procedure of the Appeal Board too cumbersome.
– Take the Treasury and Home and Territories Departments, what have officers in those Departments in common with one another? Or take employees on the transcontinental railway. They are in the Public Service. What would they have in common with officers of the Treasury?
– The Minister is proving my own argument. A division includes a very large number of Commonwealth public servants. If one member of the Appeal Board is to be the elected representative of the division to which an appellant belongs, the person appointed may know nothing whatever about telephones, and the charge may be some dereliction of duty in the fixing of telephone wires. A penalty may be inflicted for neglect of duty, and because it is considered excessive an appeal may be lodged.
– The three members of the Board should be able to weigh the evidence adduced.
– That is what I am asking for.
– They need not necessarily be attached to any particular Department or organization.
– But the members of the Board should know the value of the evidence submitted, and whether the fine inflicted was a just one or not. A person who was not acquainted with the work of examining telephones could not say whether the neglect of duty would have serious consequences or not. A person possessing a knowledge of the work performed by the appellant - not necessarily one in the same district - should have a seaton the Board, so that he could explain exactly what the failure to perform the duty meant.
Sub-clause 5 also verbally amended.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That after sub-clause (5) the following new sub-clause be inserted: - (5a) Every member of an Appeal Board shall, before proceeding to perform the duties or exercise the powers of a member of an Appeal Board, take an oath or make an affirmation in the form in the Fifth Schedule to this Act.
– The proposition I desire to place before the Committee is one which. I trust will receive the earnest consideration of honorable senators. This is a question that cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be regarded as Government business, and the amendment which I intend moving relates solely to a matter which should be in the hands of the Senate, and which should be decided by the Senate irrespective of party considerations.
– I have an amendment dealing with a similar matter which may meet the honorable senator’s wishes.
– That is in relation to another phase of the question, and refers to .clause 7.
– I thought perhaps it would be preferable to defer consideration of -the point at this juncture so that the whole question of parliamentary officers may be considered at the same time.
– I prefer to deal with it at this juncture, because I believe that if this sub-clause is passed in its present form we may not have the opportunity of considering an amendment in the direction I desire. This is a question which we’ should consider very carefully, because I believe there is a consensus of opinion among honorable senators that the principle which has been observed from time immemorial, at all events in all British Parliaments, is that Parliament should have control of its own officers. But there is a portion of this measure which may be construed in such a manner that that power may be taken away. In- this sub-clause we are dealing with parliamentary officers so far as they come within the control of an Appeal Board. This is the most essential portion of the Bill, so far as parliamentary officers are concerned, because, notwithstanding the fact that the Public Service Act has been in operation for many years, these officers have no Board to which they can appeal. We have heard a good deal this afternoon concerning the cases that may come before an Appeal Board, and the injustices that may be inflicted, and a good deal of time has been taken in discussing the pros and cons of this matter in order to provide that officers who have to approach the Board shall be fairly dealt with. It is not necessary, therefore, for me to repeat the arguments which have been adduced on this point, because honorable’ senators are fairly conversant with that aspect of the question. But we have to consider what kind of Appeal Board we should have for parliamentary officers. At present we Lave not any, and so far as this particular sub-clause is concerned, they will be left in practically the same position as they have been in for a number of years. I believe that Parliament wishes to provide for an Appeal Board for its officers such as is proposed in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, the Depart7 ment of Trade and Customs, the Department of the Treasury, and other Departments. If any parliamentary officers have a grievance, or have committed an offence, they should have some independent Board to which they could appeal. They should not have to appeal from Osesar to Cæsar. In the present circumstances the individual who fines them will either listen or refuse to listen to their grievances, according to his mood, and that is so opposed to the sense of fair play that we cannot allow this sub-clause to pass in its present form. We are em- bodying in this Bill what has been the practice in connexion with parliamentary officers for a number of years. I speak as a member of the first Joint Library Committee, and as a member of the second Joint House Committee, and the practice at that time - which was a good many years ago - was that if any officer had a grievance it could- be ventilated either before the Joint Library Committee or before the Joint House Committee when it was decided if any action should be taken. I can very well remember the first President of the Joint House Committee - the late Sir Richard Baker - who was very punctilious in regard to his duties, and who was very careful to see that everything done by him as President of the Senate was strictly in accordance with the Constitution and our Standing Orders. No man could have been more particular and no President has ever been more punctilious than the late Sir Richard Baker. The first Joint House Committee was appointed before the first Public Service Act was passed, and when the attention of the Committee was directed to the fact that some alteration had been made by Parliament, the late Sir Richard Baker said, “ I find in looking through this that it is going to be a very difficult matter for us to comply with the provisions of the Public Service Act as it is framed.” He further said that the Joint House Committee was to deal with parliamentary officers, and that that body would take the place of a Board of Appeal. That was found to be an eminently satisfactory procedure, and not one word was raised against it.
– A very wise one, too.
– Yes. I have merely referred to the practice in those days for the benefit of honorable senators who were not here then, and in the hope that they will admit that it was a reasonable attitude to adopt. During the whole of the period in which the late Sir Frederick Holder was Speaker in another place, and the late Sir Richard Baker was President of the Senate, that was the method followed, and I cannot recall a single instance in which the practice was unsatisfactory to those immediately concerned. My proposal is to insert, in subclause 6 specific references to the “Joint House Committee,” and the “ Joint Library Committee,” which will necessitate certain consequential amendments. These, if accepted, will have the effect of restoring to those Committees their rightful powers and responsibilities. I heard of an instance, only a little while ago, which will indicate the state of affairs in connexion with the Library Committee. That body went so far as to defy the wishes of one of its individual members, who had forwarded a protest concerning some action which was proposed to be taken. Members of these Committees do not wish to be embroiled in any clashes. I desire to see the House Committee restored to its original basis, and I know of no other way to bring that about except by the medium of my proposed amendment. I move -
That in sub-clause 6 after the word “Senate” the words “and House Committee” be inserted.
– I do not desire at this stage to discuss the merits or otherwise of the proposed amendments, but there is a great deal in what Senator de Largie has argued. I want to know, first, what is the actual position? What brings into being the House Committee? How is it formed ? Has it any statutory existence? Is the House Committee in any way defined in this Bill? What does that body really mean? Is this
Parliament bound, under the Constitution, to have such a Committee as a House Committee? And what would be the position if the Committee were not in fact appointed ? I am unacquainted with the facts of the position generally, but I think that there is no obligation upon any person or persons, body or bodies, to appoint a House Committee at all. In the next Parliament, there may be no such Committee.
– Members of the Joint House Committee are nominated generally as the outcome of a conference between the Government and the President and Speaker.
– Nevertheless, members are elected; and elections would be actually necessary, no doubt, if the jobs were paid ones.
– Obviously, there is a certain amount of confusion. I understand that the Committees are, in fact, elected by the two Chambers of the existing Parliament. But these Committees have no statutory existence’. They may, or may not, be elected ; they may or may not exist. Consequently honorable senators should be careful in inserting in this Bill certain references to Parliamentary Committees, in connexion with the appointment of a, Board of Appeal, in view of the possibility that there may not any such Parliamentary Committees in existence.
– For example, every member of the Senate might refuse to accept appointment to the House Committee.
– Just so. The Senate is not bound to elect members to act upon the Committee, nor is any other body, or person, bound to make such appointments. If an Appeal Board is to be appointed, which officers and employees of this Parliament may have the right to approach, care should’ be taken to insure that proper action is taken at this stage.
– I agree, in the main, with the points raised by Senator de Largie. Employees of this Parliament should have the right of appeal to some independent Board. As a member of the House Committee, I have felt my position keenly. Different statements have been made to the effect that the House Committee has been responsible for this ac- tion, notwithstanding that, as a matter of fact, it has no powers and hasno functions . to perform. Its members have felt themselves to be quite helpless. In considering the inauguration of an Appeal Board honorable senators should have regard for the employees of this Parliament, taking special care to see that they are given reasonable opportunity of appeal. While our officers remain permanently in the service of the Parliament, Presidents and Speakers may change. Senator Drake-Brockman has raised an important issue.
– Do not the Standing Orders provide for the election of Committees ?
– I understand so; but, at any rate, the point is important. As a member of the House Committee, I am able to say that greater service would be rendered by that body if it possessed wider powers and responsibilities. At present it has no responsibilities worth talking about; and that remark applies largely also, I understand, to the Library Committee.
– As a member of that Committee, I indorse the comment.
– If Parliament deems it necessary to appoint Committees to administer the functions of internal Departments, then, if such Committees are worthy of election at all, they are worth being clothed with authority. I do not wish to be misunderstood. While Parliament has placed the responsibility upon the shoulders of the President and Speaker, I am quite certain that those officials would be only too glad to be rid of it. The present position is most unsatisfactory. I say so from personal experience. In a recent case various letters were received and overtures were made to me concerning a person who was supposed to come within the administrative authority of the House Committee. Altogether, I found myself placed in an objectionable position, seeing that the Committee had no jurisdiction, but was at the same time held responsible by certain persons outside.
– It was a case of responsibility without power.
– It was. As a member of the House Committee, I do not object to accepting responsibility, but. unless the twoCommittees which have been mentioned are to have the last say concerning the employees under their control the members of those Committees cannot be asked to take any interest in the administration of the Departments.
– Parliament has the right to appoint those Committees, and to define their functions.
– Then Parliament should give them increased responsibilities.
-Brookman. - The Standing Orders need revising, but the measure at present before this Committee ‘ will not effect that end.
– That is so. Nobody can say who may be President and Speaker to-morrow. Surely the employees of Parliament are entitled to consideration, and to adequate protection. They should not be placed in the unfortunate position of having a man in the chair who is going to make their lives a little hell on earth. Whether Senator de Largie’s amendments will fully meet the position I cannot say, butI am willing to assist in bringing about more satisfactory arrangements, both in regard to members of the Joint Committees, the officers and employees of Parliament, and the President and Speaker themselves.
– Various proposals bearing upon this and associated clauses have been referred to me. It will be necessary to coordinate and place them before the Committee in detail, so that honorable senators may be made acquainted with the whole of them. Certain suggested amendments have come from the sub-Committee of Cabinet controlling the drafting of the Bill. Joint suggestions have been forwarded also by the President and Speaker.
– What is the nature of those suggestions?
– I can indicate their purport, but it would be preferable to postpone further consideration and place the whole position fully before the Committee.
– Is there a suggestion from the President and Speaker concerning an Appeal Board?
– I can only repeat that every suggestion will be fully set out and printed for the information and guidance of honorable senators. TheSenate has a right to control itself. Until I looked at the Standing Orders to-day, I was not aware how I had in the past been made a member of certain Committees of the Senate. There are the House Committee, the Library Committee, the Printing Committee, the Returns and Qualifications Committee, and the Standing Orders Committee. Nobody asked me to join any of those Committees. Somebody made the suggestion, and I was nominated. The nominations are submitted to the Senate, and any senator has a right to call for a ballot. What the Committee is discussing now is how to define the functions of these parliamentary Committees. It comes to me as a new question, and I would like to have an opportunity of looking into it. I suggest that all the provisions dealing with the Senate and with the officers of Parliament be postponed, or that they be recommitted later and a proper schedule of amendments printed so as to bring themclearly under the notice of all honorable senators.
– But the Minister will not need to recommit the clauses that are postponed.
– Amendments are suggested in clauses that have been passed already. If the Committee will let the provisions to which I refer go formally, I undertake to recommit them, and to bring them forward again in a form that will enable them to be dealt with as one subject.
– I have no objection to postponing the consideration of this provision if the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) can assure me that some of the amendments to be proposed will deal with the point I have raised.
– They do.
– I have not seen any amendment in print that deals with this point, although some of them deal with clause 7.
– I am in favour of defining the functions of these Committees. I am with you to that extent.
– I do not know whether this provision is dealt with in the amendments that the Minister has read.
– I think it would certainly be dealt with in the amendments.
– Then I will agree to my amendment being withdrawn.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– To put the matter in order, I move formally -
That the following new sub-clause be added - “ (7) In hearing an appeal under the last preceding sub-section the President of the Senate, or Speaker of the House of Representatives, or both the President and Speaker, as the case may be, shall have all the powers of the Chairman of a Board of Appeal under section fifty-five a of this Act.”
I do not want to discuss the matter, but can assure honorable senators that all the amendments set out in the list, whether I like them or not, will be brought before the Committee.
.- I think the Minister has dealt with the Committee very fairly in this matter. Perhaps I may be permitted to say a word or two to define my own personal position. Even if Senator de Largie’s amendment is accepted, in some form, by the Government, it will merely be the thin end of the wedge in connexion with giving the various Committees elected by Parliament some little control over the officers who serve them. It will only act when appeals are made by officers of the Senate against fines or penalties inflicted upon them; but it will lay down the principle that the members of the Committees concerned have at last some little responsibility. I am speaking as a member of the Library Committee, as well as a senator. Owing, I think, to the very long illness of Mr. Speaker, we have had no meeting of this Committee - at least Ihave received no notice of any meeting - for six months or more. The Library continues to exist just the same, as far as I know.
– The last meeting of the Library Committee was called when this Senate stood adjourned. That should not have been done.
– Ihave had no notice of a meeting of the Library Committee for at least six months. I understand that my position on that Committee is purely and solely a nominal one.
– Ornamental !
– Yes, ornamental. I indorse that expression.
– Is the honorable senator not asked for advice?
– Yes ; but members of the Library Committee have not the power to apply the advice that they give. I understand that there are other Committees which are in exactly the same position. . I have felt, and some of my co-members of the . library Committee have felt, that a position which, in the public eye, at all events, brings some little responsibility, should also carry with it some little power. Otherwise it is not worth having. I know that the Minister will understand that I make these remarks in a spirit of fairness.
– This is our own cooperative job. It is not a question of a Public Service Bill, but of who shall control the servants of this Chamber. I am not making it a Government question, but a question for each individual senator.
– If sub-clause 6 is passed as printed, it will perpetuate a state of affairs with which I am not satisfied. When the clauses are recommitted I propose supporting an amendment on the lines suggested by Senator de Largie.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the following new sub-clauses be added : - “ (8) Where an appeal is made under sub-section (6) of this section by an officer against a recommendation that he be dismissed, the person hearing the appeal may impose any other punishment specified in sub-section (3) of this section. If the person hearing the appeal considers that the officer should be dismissed, he shall forthwith notify in writing his decision to the Board of Commissioners, which shall dismiss the officer.” “ (9) Where an officer has been suspended under this section and -
the Chief Officer, after consideration of reports relating to the offence and charge, and the reply and explanation, if any, is of opinion that the charge against the officer has not ‘been sustained ; or
an Appeal Board finds that the charge against the officer is not proved, the Chief Officer shall forthwith remove the suspension.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 54 agreed to.
Clause 55 -
– If the Appeal Board decides that the appellant has no grounds for his appeal, and that it was frivolous or vexatious, it may recommend to the Board of Commissioners that the appellant should be required to pay certain expenses. I want to make it quite clear that where it is provided that the Appeal Board may recommend to the Board of Commissioners that the officer be required to pay such sum as it thinks fit, the intention is that the sum to be paid shall be what the Appeal Board thinks fit, and for that purpose I intend to submit an amendment, substituting the words “ the Appeal Board” for the word “it” in line 6 of sub-clause 3.
– Will the Appeal Board recommend the payment of reasonable expenses to an appellant if his appeal is successful ?
– Yes. There is provision that witnesses who are proffered reasonable expenses shall be compelled to attend an inquiry, and if those persons are witnesses for the appellant and he is successful, I have no doubt that the payment of these expenses would be recommended.
.- It is clear from sub-clause 2 that evidence will be taken by the Board of Inquiry or Appeal Board. It has been suggested by the Public Service organization that some provision should be made in this clause to enable an officer charged with an offence to have access to a copy of the evidence taken from, day to day. That seems to me to be a reasonable suggestion, as in some cases it may take a week or longer to determine an appeal.
– I understand that no such concession is made in ordinary Courts of law. It might involve heavy expense’ for shorthand writers, and so on.
– I do not know what system would be adopted for the taking down of evidence by the Board of Appeal, but it appears to me that a, second copy of the evidence might be taken without extra expense, and the appellant should have access to it.
– I am informed that the evidence taken one day would not be available next day, as that would involve the shorthand writers working all night. There is no provision for supplying the parties with copies of evidence in ordinary Courts of law. That is done in Arbitration Courts, but the parties have to pay for the copies of evidence supplied to them.
– I think it would be only fair to give the person charged wit1 an offence, access to all the evidence taken during the hearing of his appeal. Some development might take place which he might require to call further evidence to meet. If the Board has all the evidence taken before it the advantage will be on one side.
– The members of the Board will not have the evidence before them, but they may take notes.
– If they rely on notes there is no reason why the appellant should not do the same.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria. - VicePresident of the Executive Council^ T5.361. - I understand from inquiries I have made that the procedure suggested by the honorable senator is not followed in any Court other than the Arbitration Courts, and I see no reason at present why it should be introduced in connexion with Public Service appeals. I take it that the appellant, or his representative, would take notes freely of the evidence given. I see no great objection to the appellant having access to the evidence; but I would not undertake to supply it from day to day. It is not done in ordinary Courts of law, and I should require some’ stronger reasons than I have so far heard for departing from the present procedure of tie ordinary Courts, in connexion with these Public Service appeals.
– The Minister’s reply to Senator Payne seems to me a fair one. I understood him to say that provided no extra expense is involved there will be no objection to letting an appellant have a copy of the evidence taken in connexion with these appeals at a convenient time. But the Public Service Associations have asked for something more than that. They have ‘asked that it be obligatory on the part of the Appeal Board to supply the appellant with a copy of the evidence taken from day to day. I can conceive of many circumstances which might make that extremely inconvenient and costly, whilst in nine cases out of ten it might be unnecessary. Sub-clause 1 gives the appellant the right to be represented by counsel, attorney, or agent, and that reasonably protects his interests. If, as the Minister says, what the Public Service organizations desire is not done in any Court but the Arbitration Courts, I cannot by my vote place an appeal against a conviction for some misdemeanour in the Public Service on the same plane as proceedings in the Arbitration Courts. I think the Minister made a fair reply to Senator Payne, and with it I shall at present rest content.
Senator SENIOR (South Australia) T5.421. - We have dealt in clause 53 with an Appeal Board for the trial of appeals from officers other than those in the first and second divisions. In clause 54 we have dealt with officers of the first and second divisions. We are dealing in the clause now under consideration with a Board of Inquiry, which, I assume, is entirely different from the Board of Appeal provided for in clause 53. The Minister is to nominate members of a Board of Inquiry which is to consist of three members. I want to know whether this Board is to inquire in order to report to the Appeal Board, or whether it is to report to the Board of Commissioners.
– Where a charge is made against an officer a Board of Inquiry hears the case and reports to the Governor-General in Council, which is really the Minister, and he must bear the responsibility for any action taken on the report.
– In sub-clause 2 of clause 55, reference is made to the duty of “ the Board of Inquiry or Appeal Board.” This clause deals with officers of the first and second divisions, as does clause 54. I am afraid there will not be sufficient clarity when these clauses have to be interpreted. It will be necessary to strike out the words “ or Appeal Board,” because the Appeal Board is the Minister, and the Board of Inquiry is simply the Board that reports to the Minister. An alteration in the verbiage is certainly needed.
– Clause 55 provides that it shall be the duty of the Board of Inquiry or Appeal Board to make a thorough investigation without regard to legal forms and solemnities.
– Clause 53 gives no power to appellants in the lower divisions to be represented by counsel. Subclause 3 of clause 55 provides that, if an Appeal Board is of opinion that an appeal is frivolous or vexatious, it may recommend to the Board of Commissioners that the appellant be required to pay such sum as it thinks fit. Does that apply to the Board of Inquiry?
– I wish the functions of the Appeal Board to be easily distinguishable from those of the Board of Inquiry.
– The clause seems to be a most comprehensive one. Sub-clause 1 provides that any officer shall be entitled to be represented by counsel at a Board of Inquiry or Appeal Board. The second sub-clause states that it is the duty of tho Board of Inquiry or Appeal Board to have no regard to legal forms and solemnities. The third sub-clause applies only to the Appeal Board, and naturally the discretion to order the appellant to pay costs would not be vested in the Board of Inquiry, because it is a preliminary Board. The clause is perfectly clear as it stands.’
– Referring to the Appeal Board for the lower divisions, if ‘it is the opinion of the Board that there is no ground for appeal, the appellant has to pay the expenses, but no such provision is ,made with regard to the Board of Inquiry for officers in the first and second divisions.
– Where a mistake is made, the Government will bear the cost.
– Then does the Minister admit a discrimination between the lower and higher officers?
– No. If the honorable senator looks at clause 57, sub-clause 3, he will find that where a Board finds that a charge is not proved, or upholds an appeal, it may recommend that the reasonable expenses incurred by the officer be paid.
– Why should not the expenses of a first or second class officer, who appeals, be met in the same way as the expenses of an officer in a lower grade? There is no Appeal Board for the first and second class officers. The Minister is the “Appeal Board.
– In the first and second divisions, there is no appeal. The Board of Inquiry precedes the final decision.
– Then there is no provision for officers of the first and second divisions, who may have been suspended, to appeal against the decision of the Minister. I desire that officers of the first and second divisions shall be in exactly the same position as those in the lower grades.
.- When a charge is laid against an officer of the first or second division, it is fully investigated by the Minister, who has power, after making due inquiry, to suspend the officer. If the officer is suspended, his case is dealt with by the Board of Inquiry, and that is practically a final hearing. The Minister will not suspend an officer without having an investigation made, and we are vesting in the Minister power to deal with officers of the first and second divisions. When, after full investigation, the Minister is convinced that the officer is guilty, he is suspended ; and, in order to have fair play, the case is referred to the Board of Inquiry. If the charge is not substantiated by the Board, the suspension has to be removed.
– The other appeal is from a decision of the head of a Department.
– Exactly. If the Board of Inquiry were the first tribunal before whom an officer appeared, there would be something to be said for Senator Senior’s point of view. But it is not. The Minister is the first tribunal.
– In this case the officer may approach the Board of Inquiry immediately. In the case mentioned by Senator Senior he approaches the Appeal Board after having been fined by the head of a Department.
– If the Appeal Board is of the opinion that an appeal is frivolous, it may recommend to the Board of Commissioners that the officer concerned be called upon to pay a sum not exceeding the cost of the hearing.
– If an officer has merely made a mistake, and is not otherwise unfitted for the Service, he may, on the recommendation of the Board, be reduced to, say, a third or fourth class position. We do not want to throw a man out of the Service for a genuine mistake.
.- I should like to know if members of the Appeal Board, before recommending that an appellant be ordered to bear the costs of an appeal, must be unanimously of the opinion that the appeal is frivolous, or whether this may be determined by a majority decision. In my opinion the decision of the Appeal Board on any point should be unanimous.
– Then in nine cases out of ten there would be no decision.
– That is clear proof in support of all I said with regard to clause 53, namely, that, in effect, the chairman of the Appeal Board will be the actual judge. The officer representing the Department will look after the interests of his Department, and the member of the Board elected as a representative of the division to which the appellant belongs, will naturally look after the interests of the appellant. This is why I suggested that the chairman should be appointed from outside the Service.
– Every day magistrates and Judges in our Courts are calling upon appellants to pay the costs of frivolous appeals.
– I do not see how we can compare the proceedings of the Ap peal Board with those of our civil Courts. The Appeal Board will be concerned only with the internal working of the Departments.
– It is not advisable to encourage the lodging of appeals that may be frivolous. For this reason I cannot accept the proposal.
– This clause provides for appeals against decisions which may involve the dismissal of an officer or his reduction from the first or second division to the third, fourth, or fifth division. The previous clause contains provisions for appeal against fines in any sum not exceeding £2, reduction in salary, reduction to a lower division, transfer to some other position, or dismissal. These matters will be very serious to any officer concerned.
– But still an appeal may be frivolous.
– It is not at all likely that any officer would lodge a frivolous appeal.
– Suppose an officer had been fined 5s., when he should have been fined £5, and he appeals. Would not such an appeal be frivolous?
– A fine cannot exceed £2. All the other offences are so serious that I cannot see that this clause has any relation to them, although there is a connexion, because the decisions of the Board of Appeal are mentioned.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the word “ it “ in sub-clause 3 (line 6) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “the Appeal Board.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by ‘Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 55a. ( 1 ) The chairman of any Board of Inquiry or Appeal Board may at any time -
summon any person whose evidence appears to be material to the determination of any subject of inspection, inquiry, or investigation being conducted by the Board;
take evidence on oath; and
require the production of documents. “ (2) Any officer who, without reasonable cause, neglects or fails to attend in obedience to the summons, or to be sworn, or to answer questions orproduce documents relevant to the subject of the inspection, inquiry, or investigation, shall be guilty of an offence against this Act. “ (3) Any person, not being an officer, who, after payment or tender of reasonable expenses, neglects or fails, without reasonable cause, to attend in obedience to the summons, or to be sworn, or to answer questions or produce documents relevant to the subject of the inspection, inquiry, or investigation, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Twenty pounds. “ (4) Nothing in this section shall be construed as compelling a person to answer any question which would tend to criminate him.”
Clause 56 agreed to.
Clause 57 (Proceedings on inquiry or appeal).
– (Provision is made in sub-clause 4 that where an officer has been suspended for an offence under this Act he shall be entitled to receive his salary during the period of suspension. Does that refer to a portion or to the whole of his salary? I understood that in the event of suspension an officer did not receive his salary.
– The Minister explained earlier in the debate that it means the whole of his salary.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 58 (Procedure- where address of officer unknown).
. -Sub-clause 2 provides that when any notice, order, or communication relating to any charges made against an officer is not acknowledged within any time specified in the . notice, the officer shall be deemed to deny the truth of the charges. That is rather indefinite, and some time should be specified. The subclause does not use the words “as prescribed,” so we cannot look to the regulations.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on the motion of Senator E. D. Millen) read a first time.
League of Nations -Financial Agreement with British Government - Pacific Islands Mandates.
Considerationresumed from 13th April (vide page 1356), on motion by Senator E. D. Millen -
That the papers be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Indisposition of the President - Telegraphic Facilities for Birdsvlllb.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bakhap). - I am sure honorable senators will join with me in expressing regret at what, I trust, willbe the temporary indisposition of the President (Senator Givens), and the hope that he will speedily be able to resume his duties as the presiding officer in this chamber.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) to the very isolated position of the residents in the south-western portion of Queensland, which I have recently visited. At Bedourie and Birdsvillo, in the south-west corner of Queensland, there have been a great many discussions at to which route should be taken in connecting those centres with the main telegraphic system, and honorable senators will readily realize the unfortunate position in which these people are placed when I inform them that the nearest telegraph station to Birdsville is over 240 miles distant. Birdsville has not been connected by telegraph because two factions have been at work, and it has been difficult to decide which route should be adopted. A line has been suggested from Marec, in South Australia, or one from Boulia, in Queensland. Bedourie and Birdsville are on the main stock route,’ and this year from 40,000 to 50,000 head of cattle have been sent to the Adelaide market. In the absence of telegraphic facilities those sending cattle to market Have been severely handicapped because they have been unable to ascertain the prices ruling in the southern markets while the cattle were coming down, and they have also been unable to order trucks in advance from the South Australian Railway Department. This question concerns South Australia as well as Queensland, but I have mentioned it because Birdsville is inside the Queensland border. In addition to the other disabilities experienced in consequence of the absence of telegraphic communication, medical attention of any description is not available, and when I was at Birdsville recently a child who could not have medical attention died. The parents had no possible means of rapidly summoning medical assistance by telegraph or of securing advice by telephone. It is my intention to deal with this matter more in detail at a later date; but I desire to urge upon the PostmasterGeneral the desirableness of connecting Birdsville by telegraph or telephone with the more populous centres in order to assist the settlers in that remote locality at the earliest possible date.
– I take it upon myself, with much confidence, to ask you, Mr. Deputy President, to convey to Mr. President the expressions of regret which you voiced just now.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I shall do so with pleasure.
– I shall see that a copy of Senator Foil’s remarks are brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211109_senate_8_97/>.