18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Sale to New Zealand
– In view of the high public interest attaching to the matter and the controversy at present surrounding it,will the Minister for Supply and Shipping lay on the table of the Senate all correspondence, cablegrams and relevant documents leading up to, and dealing with, the’ negotiations in relation to the agreement to sell Australian wheat to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel for four years?
– Ishall confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the subject.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the agreement to sell 4,500,000 bushels annually for four years at 5s. 9d. a bushel to Hew Zealand was signed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, or his predecessor,the Vice-President of the Executive Council? Further, which Minister recommended the agreement?
– As press statements relating to an increase of 5s. a week in respect of certain classes of pensioners from the 1st July next contain no reference to war widows, can the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation say whether the increase will apply also to the pensions of war widows?
– War widows will receive the increase of 5s. a week.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether the “ outside parliament “ has come to a decision in respect of the ratification of the- Bretton Woods Agreement 1 If so, is it proposed that the matter shall be debated in this Parliament during the present sittings ?
– Whether the ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreement will be the subject of a d eba to. in this Parliament, and the time of such debate, if any, are matters for determination by the Government. When a decision has been made, I shall be happy to convey the information to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware of the great difficulty being experienced by people in Australia who wish to buy new motor cars,, mainly because of limited production at present? Is it correct, as I have been informed, that 50 per cent, of all new cars are being taken over by State and Commonwealth departments before the balance is made available to the general public? Will the Minister investigate this matter in order to determine whether an unduly large proportion of new cars is being taken by State and Commonwealth departments?
– I do not know whether the position is as has been stated by the honorable senator. Every one realizes that there is a shortage of motor cars in Australia just as there is in every other country, and that the allocation of new cars is controlled by the. State trans port authorities which distribute the vehicles on a priority basis with a view to maintaining essential services. For in stance, the State transport authorities consult with the British Medical Association in determining priorities in respect of the allocation of new cars to medical men. I shall investigate tie matter raised by the honorable senator and supply an answer later.
– For some years the Government has purchased and allocated all tinplate supplies in Australia. During the last six months there has been an acute shortage and the prospects of adequate supplies being made available during the remainder of this year are not favorable. In order to enable factories for the canning of mc-at, milk and fruit to plan ahead, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping make a statement sotting out in detail any action which the Government has taken to obtain adequate supplies of tinplate?
– There has been a world-wide shortage of tinplate for some years. About a’ year ago, the Government, realizing that the shortage of this commodity would cause dislocation in Australian industry, decided to send missions to the United States of America and to Great Britain, in an endeavour to secure supplies for Australia. Another such mission will leave for the United States of America within a few days. The shortage of tinplate is due primarily to the industrial dislocation that occurred in the United States of America some time ago, and although the position has cased slightly, I am afraid that ample supplies will not be available for some time yat. The Government has taken all possible steps to secure supplies of tinplate for this country.
– .Can the Minister say whether the Commonwealth Canning and Tinplate Board exercises control over the type of goods that are at present supplied in tin containers? Many articles that aro now packed in tins might well be packed in paper, or Some cellulose substance. Can the Minister say whether it is the duty of the board to ensure that the use of tinplate shall be confined exclusively to goods which cannot be packed in any other form of container, or for which other kinds of containers are not obtainable?
– Some considerable time ago the Government relinquished the control of tinplate in consequence of advice from the Commonwealth Canning and Tinplate Board, and from the trade generally. Since then the world shortage of tinplate, and the shortage in Australia particularly, has necessitated the resumption of government control. The Controller of Tin/plate during the war period was Mr. J. F. Toot, aid he has again been appointed Controller. In reply to the honorable senator’s suggestion that many products might well be packed in paper Or cardboard, the position has been examined and steps have already been taken to that end. However, in the case of some industries time has had fo be allowed for them to change over from the use of tinplate to some other package.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping give any indication of the size of petrol stocks held in this country at present? Is there any likelihood of the abolition of petrol rationing. in the near future? Can thi’ Minister give any indication of the cost to this country of the petrol rationing administration?
– There is no immediate prospect of the abolition of petrol rationing in this country. The cost of the petrol rationing administration is between £150,000 arid £200,000 a year. Present indications are that the policing of petrol rationing in the near future will be more strict than it has been in the past few months. Petrol rationing is necessitated in Australia in order to conserve our dollar funds. . Possibly, additional supplies could be obtained from sterling areas, but any demands made by Australia upon this source would reduce the amount of petrol available to Great Britain and other countries that depend upon the sterling areas for their supplies.
– Would it be possible to abolish the pool system now operating so that Australian motorists may bp able to get a higher grade of petrol than is now available?
– Only one grade of petrol is on sale in this country at. present.. The quality of petrol is deter mined by ingredients such at tetra-ethyl of lead, which is in short supply throughout the world to-day. lt is this chemical that gives petrol a high octane rating. ‘ So far as I can ascertain, there is no immediate prospect of an improved quality of petrol being available in this country at present.
– Will the POO be abolished?
– I think that it would be an advantage for the pool to bc continued. If it were abolished immediately and competition for the sale of various brands of petrol were restored, with all the additional difficulties that it would involve, the inconvenience to garage proprietors who are already burdened with the handling of various denominations of ration tickets, would be considerable, and I propose to have the pool continued.
Government Appointments to Public Positions
– As it has been the policy of the Government to find important positions for ex-members of the House of Representatives who were defeated at the elections, does the Government propose to continue that policy with regard to defeated members of the Senate who will retire on the 30th June?
– If any honorable senator, particularly Senator Gibson, should desire to secure some position in the future 1 shall be glad to give him any assistance that I am able to render.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate what number of defeated members of anti-Labour governments were appointed by them, to various positions during their last six years of office?
– The list i3 a long one, but I shall endeavour to secure the information sought by the honorable senator.
– Have any complaints been made to the Minister for Supply and Shipping regarding the difficulty of securing power kerosene in many country districts? Also, is the Minister aware of complaints that, in some places, lighting kerosene and power kerosene have apparently ‘been mixed, a procedure which makes the fuel useless in pressure lamps? This matter is of special importance at the present time, because crops must be sown and farmers will need ample supplies of power kerosene for their tractors.
– I have had a number of complaints regarding not only the shortage but also the quality of power kerosene. Officers of my department are examining the position with a view to ensuring that people who require kerosene for important purposes, such as farming, shall be able to secure all that they need.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that, in the Gippsland district of Victoria, large quantities of primary products, such as peas, beans, and bean seed, are waiting to be shipped to other States, particularly Queensland, but cannot be moved owing to the lack of shipping and rail facilities? Will the Minister take steps to ensure the removal of this unnecessary impediment to interstate trade?
– I was not aware that the transport of primary products from Gippsland had been held up owing to lack of cargo space. I assure the honorable senator that the Department of Supply and Shipping always give3 first preference in the allocation of transport facilities to primary products, particularly those of a perishable nature. I shall have the subject-matter of the honorable senator’s question brought to the attention of officers of my department.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a paragraph in the report of the first session of the Preparatory Committee of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment tabled in the Senate yesterday, which states that the preparatory committee was in general agreement to the elimination of import tariff preferences? Did the Australian delegation, which was led by Dr. Coombs, support that view or dissent from it? If it supported that view, does that mean that Australia has “sold out” as far as Imperial preferences are concerned?
– I have not seen the report mentioned by the honorable senator, but I can state definitely that if any such statement involving the Australian Government has been made it is absolutely incorrect.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. In the Senate this afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Mcleay) quoted from a report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment, which, he said, stated that the Preparatory Committee was in general agreement to the elimination of import tariff preferences. The honorable senator asked whether the Australian delegation supported or dissented from that view, and, if it supported it, did that imply that Australia had “ sold out “, as far as Imperial preference is concerned. I have not had an opportunity to read the report. I was under the impression that the honorable senator was quoting from a report of discussions in Australia on the subject of trade and employment conferences. It was on that assumption that I replied that the statement quoted was entirely incorrect. I have no definite knowledge as to the stand the Australian delegation took on the particular point to which the honorable senator has drawn attention. I do say, however, that any suggested alterations of the tariff must be agreed to by the Commonwealth Parliament. The Government has not “ sold out “, and has no intention to do that, so far as Imperial preference is concerned.
– Yesterday the unofficial leader of, or adviser to, the Government indicated that it intended to c-rant £25.000,000 as a gift to Great Britain. Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping able to make an official statement on the matter? “What form will the gift take? Will it be one of food or cash?
– There have been discussion with regard to a contribution to Great Britain, but I can only say at present that the Government will make an announcement on the matter in thi3 chamber and in the House of Representatives at the most opportune moment.
Debate resumed from the 5th March (vide page 346), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is an innocent looking hill concerning which the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) delivered a short secondreading speech, hut it raises an important matter. I fear that this legislation will do an injustice to a large section of exservicemen in the employ of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission. I do not propose to speak at length on the measure, but I suggest that if the report of the committee to which the Minister referred in his second-reading speech, as well as the minority report, were made available to honorable senators, they would be in a better position to know the attitude of ex-servicemen towards this proposal. If the minority report is not made available to honorable senators we can only assume that the employee who was selected to represent a large body of ex-servicemen in those two departments object to being brought under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. I am aware that it can be said that a majority of the members of the committee favoured the course proposed by the Government, but, obviously, they spoke for powerful organizations which are anxious to include as many persons as possible in their membership. From my knowledge of the rank and file of the employees of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission I can say that most of them desire that the original arrangement, whereby they had their own conditions of employment, shall he continued. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act to permit the staffs . . .
It would have been more appropriate to say “ compel “ instead of “ permit “, because the members of the staffs concerned do not wish to be brought under the Public Service Act. One of the most depressing aspects of the employment of ex-servicemen is that, in many instances, men who have been absent on war service for five or six years return to find that men who were previously their juniors have been promoted over their heads. That has a depressing effect on exservicemen. I realize that at times such promotions are unavoidable, but if the practice be persisted in, we shall find that the man who rendered the longest service in the forces is likely to be placed at a disadvantage. I know that similar conditions prevail in private employment. Many business enterprises have been compelled to promote juniors; and exservicemen, because of their lack of experience, find that younger and junior men have been placed above them.
When the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission were established the government of the day decided that it would be fitting to provide that the normal terms and. conditions applying to employees in the Commonwealth Public Service should not apply to employment with those bodies. That policy has been followed by successive governments and, therefore, I regret that the present Government has decided to introduce this bill which places a number of ex-servicemen in a difficult position. I fear that, in respect of promotion in the service of the Repatriation Commission, men who have had long service but are not returned soldiers will be promoted to positions above those held by exservicemen. Ex-servicemen generally fear that they will not receive the same sympathetic treatment from members of the Public Service who were sheltered during the war and did not experience the hardships associated with war service as from their fighting comrades, and that the satisfaction which exists to-day among employees of these two departments will disappear, with the result that the smooth working of the departments may be jeopardized. Those of us who have had dealings with these departments know that the problems associated with exservicemen are real. All kinds of men served with the forces, but notwithstanding their differences, they would be more satisfied if they knew that the staffs of the departments which deal with their problems consisted solely of men with war experience. In spite of the Government’s desire for uniformity of treatment of its employees, it would do well to leave the position of the men in these departments unchanged. The present policy has been in operation for a number of years and has given general satisfaction. The ex-servicemen now employed by the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission are in an invidious position; they fear that if they were to protest against this legislation their future in the Public Service might he jeopardized. 1 oppose the’ bill because I fear that ex-servicemen in the employ of the two departments will not receive the same consideration in the future as in the past, and that men who have served their country in various theatres of war will remain juniors to others who remained at home.
Senator Bil AND (Victoria) [3.34].- This is a bill to provide for the transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service of certain employees of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission. What is the reason for this proposal f Assuming that the rights and privileges of these employees, all of whom are ex-servicemen, are preserved after transfer, what of future appointments? Under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the War Service Homes Act, appointments are made from ex-service applicants by the respective bodies administering those acts. Their status and salaries are determined’ after trial of their capabilities to perform the duties of the positions for which they were applicants. What is the position now in respect of ex-servicemen seeking employment in other government departments iri the Public Service proper ? I had occasion on the 17th July last to draw attention in this chamber to the raw deal which temporary ex-servicemen were receiving in the Postmaster-General’s Department. There is no more disillusioned body of men than the ex-servicemen who are anxious to obtain security of employment as technicians in that department,. After satisfying an interviewer, they,, at the end of a month’s course, passed a written test and a practical technician’s examination. With the foundational knowledge gained as membersof signal and engineer units in thefighting forces, they have now entered upon a -six months intensive course with the object of adapting that knowledge to departmental requirements, and becoming skilled tradesmen according to departmental standards. Imagine their consternation when they were informed that,, irrespective of the standard reached, they would be classified as temporary technicians’ assistants until they had passed” a most searching educational examination. I have seen the syllabus for that examination, which is to take place in all capital cities on the 9th November next, I have also seen the papers set for the- 1945 examination. They are equal to,, and even beyond, the standard required for a leaving certificate. No doubt, young fellows with the educational qualification for entrance to ‘a university would pass the test; but it is too difficult for these ex-servicemen, who, during four, five or six years’ active service, have had no opportunities to study. Their average age is about 25 years. Some have been in Japanese prison camps. No one desires to lower the standard of education for entrance to the Commonwealth Public Service; but these ex-servicemen are in a different category from that of the ordinary young applicant who has been able to continue his studies.
In view of projected developments in the Postmaster-General’s Department, involving the expenditure . of millions of pounds, the number of exservicemen seeking permanency will bc small compared with the number which will be required in the future. But that is not the point I stress. When the Bpestablishment and Employment Bill was debated in this chamber, Ministers expressed the Government’s desire, as did all honorable senators, that every assistance should be given to ex-servicemen to rehabilitate themselves with some degree of stability. These men, whose case I row place before the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), have a just grievance. They think that they have been let down. Here is an instance where the Minister could rise to the occasion. He should bring the matter before Cabinet with the object of exempting these men from the educational examination. Otherwise, many ex-servicemen who might have gone into the Repatriation Department, or obtained employment with the War Service Homes Commission, will now have to go into some other department. I intend to vote against the bill unless it be amended to ensure that ex-servicemen, after a period of satisfactory temporary service, shall not be placed at a disadvantage in relation to more youthful applicants for permanent appointment. At the committee stage, I shall move an amendment to clause 9 in order to ensure that all appointees to the Repatriation Department and to the War Service Homes Commission, with the exception of certain classes of medical specialists, shall be ex-servicemen. In the House of Representatives, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction gave an undertaking that he would re-examine the proposed deletion of sub-section 7 of section 22 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in order to ensure that service in the armed forces shall count as service in the Public Service proper. 1 do not know whether the Minister for Health and Social Services (Senator McKenna), who is in charge of the measure in this chamber, has received instructions from his colleague on that point or what decision has been made in respect of it. However, such a provision is vital, and I shall endeavour to have it incorporated in the hill.
– I view this measure with grave misgivings. Action of the kind proposed under the bill is most inopportune at present, and quite unnecessary. Such action will have serious repercussions so far as employees. of the Repatriation Department are concerned. The Minister for Health (Senator Mc.Ken.na) made a very brief and vague speech when moving the second reading of the bill. He gave no cogent reason why these important changes affecting employees of the Repatriation Department and the War Service Homes Commission should be made. It is interesting to recall the origin of the Repatriation Commission which was set up in 1918 when most of the exservicemen of World War I. were still on service on the Western Front, or with Ailenby’s farces in the East. Later, in 1920, the War Service Homes Commission was set up. It is interesting to read the debate which took place in this chamber on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill which was introduced in July, 1917, by Senator E. D. Millen, who was the first Minister for Repatriation. He was entrusted with the gigantic task of setting up the commission. To-day we are again faced with a similar task. It Ls interesting to mention that Senator Foll, who is still a member of the Senate, took part in that debate 30 years ago. The point I make is that even at that time, when the Government had no precedent by which it could be guided, because relatively few men had returned from active service, the then Minister, and honorable senators generally on both sides of the chamber, realized the necessity to ensure that the staffs of those commissions which were to handle the problems of returned soldiers and sailors should consist of ex-service personnel. Speaking in reply to the second-reading debate on the original Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill, Senator Millen, then Vice-President of the Executive Council, said -
We are dealing with a problem in which human nature enters very largely. We must not act as military officials who give orders and expect them to be obeyed. We will be dealing with a large number of men - it may be a quarter of a million private citizens- each man with his own peculiar temperament and capacity. We cannot expect any set of hard and fast rules to operate satisfactorily, and, because of the tremendous amount of interest which the public takes in this matter, it seems to me worth while to make an experiment, to see whether we cannot secure some of the softening influences which will come from joining with the official organization some of the elements of our ordinary private life.
Then he went on to elaborate that statement. Generally speaking, honorable senators agreed that the problems of exservicemen could be handled best by exservicemen. Why were the Repatriation Department and the War Service Homes Commission not placed under the Public Service Board when they were created in 1917? There were very good reasons for that. In his second-reading speech- on this measure, the Minister said - lt will bo generally agreed that, unless there are special reasons for a contrary course, ho Commonwealth activity should stand alone, and; in effect, be excluded from the oversight and review of its organization, methods, &c, on lines which Parliament has laid down in section 17 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act . . .
I suggest that there are many special reasons for the adoption of a contrary course, and in this connexion I should like to quote Senator Millen once more. He said -
It is advisable that the treatment to be meted out to the individual soldier should be lifted as much as possible out of the hands of departmental officials or of parliamentarians.
So, the Repatriation Department was set up and, as the years have gone by, its entire staff, from the chairman down, has consisted of ex-servicemen. It is true that from time to time in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, there has been criticism of the handling of individual cases by the Repatriation Commission, but broadly speaking, it has done an excellent job, and is doing an excellent job to-day. I believe that I am right in saying that much of the success that the department has attained has been duc -to the fact that its staff has consisted entirely of ex-servicemen. I shall be extremely sorry indeed, if, as the i-esu.lt of the passage of this measure, men who have not seen war service are charged with the tasks of handling the affairs of ex-servicemen. There is a vast gulf between the two. It cannot be otherwise.
The ex-serviceman, particularly the fighting soldier who has had to take the rough and tumble of front line service, has acquired something from his experiences <and comradeship that cannot be bought. It is essential for the smooth working of the Repatriation Department and the War Service Homes Commission that they should be staffed by exservicemen. The functions of these instrumentalities are unique. Most government departments deal with the community at large, but they deal with one section of the community which has its own peculiar problems. This bill should include a clause providing that only ex-servicemen may be employed in these instrumentalities. The Repatriation Department’s record over the last 30 years has been outstanding. It has established worthwhile traditions. Its sole aim has been to serve ex-servicemen, and I believe that it has accomplished this task well. Not only has it protected ex-servicemen, but it has also guarded the public purse. I fear that this bill will do a great disservice to the fighting men of the country. So far, no sound reason for its introduction has been advanced. The claim has been made that to have two public bodies such as these standing alone is not desirable; but I suggest that the problems that they are called upon to meet also stand alone. They are problems peculiar to exservicemen and they should be handled by exservicemen. On at least three occasions in the last twenty years pressure has been brought to bear upon governments to do what is proposed in this measure. It is difficult to understand the reason for that pressure. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act to permit the staffs of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission, other than those permanently holding statutory offices, being brought under the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
The words “ to permit “ suggest that the request for this transfer came from the officers of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission. I have many friends on both staffs, and, knowing their views, I consider it to beexceedingly unlikely that such a request would come from them. The transfer will be a step in the wrong direction. A report on the proposed transfer was made a long time ago by the Pinner Committee. Mr. Pinner and Mr. Fitzgerald were appointed to examine various Commonwealth departments. They were assisted in their investigations by a representative of whichever department was being investigated at the time. As far as I have been able to ascertain, a majority report by Mr. Pinner, who is now a mem her of the Public Service Board, and Mr. Fitzgerald recommended the transfer of the staffs of the two commissions to the Public Service, whilst a dissenting minority report was submitted by the representative of the commissions. I should like very much to read the minority report. I have tried to obtain a copy of it, but apparently it is regarded as a highly confidential document and is not available for examination by members of Parliament. Of course, the majority report was endorsed by the Public Service Board. That was only natural, because the transfer would increase the scope of the board’s functions and thereby enhance its importance. I should like to know whether the Government consulted representatives of any exservicemen’s organizations regarding the proposed transfer before the bill was framed. The transfer of these staffs willy-nilly into the ranks of the Public Service will involve a radical change from the regime of the last 30 years. The preamble to the bill states that it is designed “ to provide for the transfer to the Commonwealth Service of certain employees of the Repatriation Commission and of the War Service Homes Commission, and for other purposes “. The words “ and for other purposes “ have a sinister sound to me. The Minister’s second-reading speech ended with the following priceless bit of sophistry : -
In respect of the staffing of the commissions the existing legislative provision regarding preference to ex-servicemen is not being altered.
The existing legislative provision is contained in the Re-establishment and Employment Act, which was passed by the Senate in 1945. In that measure, the Government slogged away and repealed section after section of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and other acts which provided for preference to exservicemen. The degree of preference provided for in the Re-establishment and Employment Act, to the continuance of which the Minister referred, is farcical. lt is not worth a “ cracker “, as has been proved time after time during the last eighteen months. For the reasons I have stated, I have very grave misgivings about this bill. I do not like the proposal, and I see no need for it. The Repatriation Commission is functioning well and doing a good job, notwithstanding the many repatriation problems that arise almost daily. It is . a jolly good show and, on the whole, it is working smoothly. I am convinced that great pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government to bring about the transfer of these staffs to the Public Service, particularly by a body known as the High Council of the Commonwealth Public Service Organizations. I have not the slightest doubt that this body has been “ putting the boot into the backside” of the Government. That is why this bill, ‘to which I am utterly opposed, has been introduced.
.- Like other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, I am not fully conversant with the reasons why the Government considers the transfer of the staff? of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission to the Public Service to be necessary. As Senator Sampson has said, I had the privilege in 1917 to take part in the debate on the bill introduced at that time by the late ex-Senator E. D. Millen for the purpose of establishing the Repatriation Commission. Various honorable senators at that time raised the question whether the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission should be made part and parcel of the Public Service. Senator Millen explained that they had been deliberately excluded from the Public Service for special reasons. The government of the day believed that World War I. was the “ war to end wars “, and that, therefore, after the lapse of a number of years, the commissions would not be needed any longer. That was one reason why it was thought wise not to include them in the Public Service. But there was a very much stronger reason than that. It was considered that because of the peculiar nature of the problems of ex-servicemen, due to war disabilities, ailments and their service generally, these two departments should be staffed and controlled entirely by men who had themselves had war service. Throughout the entire history of the Repatriation and War Service Homes Commissions, those bodies have been administered by ex-servicemen. The only exception was that, in the case of the Repatriation Commission, where it was found necessary to engage a number of highly qualified specialists. This action was taken for the benefit of servicemen. If the proposed new system is introduced there will be, presumably, a free interchange of officers between other government departments and these two commissions, so that the administration may pass into the hands of officers who are not ox-servicemen.
Another cause for criticism is that the Minister has not given us much information as to why the proposed change should be made. This is purely a nonparty measure, and I think that the Government should have made available to Parliament the report of the departmental committer which recommended this change. Senator Sampson referred to the fact that the representative of the Repatriation Commission on the committee had submitted a minority report. Ordinarily not much attention is paid to minority reports, but this one was submitted by a representative of the commission and cannot be brushed aside. After all, the representative would be in possession of all the information required, and could put forward arguments why the control of the commission should not pass to the Public Service Board. It is to be regretted that this document has been withheld from the Parliament and from the people generally. If we had the information contained in it we should be much more enlightened, even though we did not agree with the report. As it is, we are dealing with this matter in the dark. T hope that the Minister will give an assurance that these two commissions shall continue to be administered solely by exservicemen, and that there shall be no alteration of the present personnel. As T have said, these are essentially exservicemen’s departments, and they have been well administered. “We have had a series of able commissioners and deputy commissioners administering these bodies. This proposal causes grave concern to members of the Opposition, because the Government has not informed us of the reasons underlying the proposed change.
.-] am merely seeking information with regard to this measure. In a bill as farreaching as this, the Minister (Senator M’cKenna) should have supplied more information than he has. All that he has said is that all governmental activities should be under the control of the Public Service Board, and he has assumed that all honorable senatorsregard the matter from that point of view. He has not elaborated his statement, nor given any reasons to support it. I feel considerable concern about this measure, and I want to know what thereaction will be. Of course. I realize that in the first twelve months there will not be much change in the staffs of the .commissions, but when the time comes for promotions they will have to be made in conjunction, with promotions in all othergovernment departments. A. seniorofficer in another department who has had nothing whatever to do with problems of housing or repatriation may, possibly, be appointed to an administrative position on the staff of one of these commissions. The Minister has not made theposition clear at all from, that aspect.
Up to the present, every one has been satisfied with the administration of the present officers of these commissions. Having been “ through the mill “, they know the problems of ex-servicemen and are sympathetic to them. What is the reason for the sudden demand that these bodies should be placed under the control of the Public Service Board? Has the pressure applied by the board been so great that the Government has not been able to withstand it? What is the Government’s answer to the contention that the provision for preference to exservicemen in making appointments in these two departments may not be observed? As Senator Sampson has pointed out, a great deal of the preference conferred uponexservicemen has been whittled downand nothing much is left for them. The mere statement of the Minister that this measure will not alter materially the provision for preference to servicemen does not amount to much. Over the years it. has generally been recognized that those best fitted to deal with ex-servicemen are ex-servicemen themselves. These commissions have not shown any undue preference to ex-servicemen, but have done a good job. What is the reason now, without any request from them, for the proposal that they should be transformed into a hotch-potch department under a centralized control? The contention that some young physician, surgeon or psychiatrist who has not had war service would be prevented from obtaining employment in the department is absurd because we know that in special circumstances men with the highest qualifications are called in for consultation. Surgeons and physicians of the highest standing are willing to give their services free in order to help ex-servicemen, and I am convinced that they will continue to give of their best without thought of fee or reward. I am suspicious of this bill largely because of the meagre information vouchsafed to us concerning it by “the Minister who introduced it. His explanation was more a suppression, than a presentation, of the facts.
Innocently, he told us that everybody agreed that these departments should come under the Public Service Act. That was practically the only explanation of the provisions of the bill that he gave to us. In committee I hope that the Minister will deal with the matters that have been raised in the second-reading debate. He should, at least, present to the Senate the minority report which has been kept hidden. Why has that report not been made available to the Parliament? Is it because it criticizes the Government? It would appear that that is the reason, because, in the opinion of the Government, the only thing that matters in Australia is its own welfare. In the circumstances, the Minister’s statement that the request that the minority report be made available to honorable senators cannot be complied with because it is a confidential document is not good enough. In my opinion, this legislation will deprive exservicemen of much of the preference that they have enjoyed in the past. Among other things, it will deprive them of the advantage of being controlled by their peers. In two or three years’ time the people who will be controlling this activity will be men ‘brought in from the Postmaster-General’s Department, and other Public Service departments - men *’ who know not Joseph “ because they are not acquainted with the needs of exservicemen. I desire to know whether this department will in future be conducted as a department within a department. I desire to know also who, in future, will be eligible for appointment to the Repatriation Commission. Will appointees have to enter by the usual door, namely, the passing of an examination at sixteen years of age ? The Minister expects us to swallow this bill without protest, but I believe that it is a much more important measure than he would have us believe. The Government would be well advised to tell the Senate why this legislation has been introduced, what necessity there is for it, and to what degree the Repatriation Commission will be staffed by ex-servicemen in the future.
As the bill has been in our hands only since yesterday afternoon, honorable senators have not had an opportunity to study its provisions in detail. I believe that the Minister in charge of it is building on that lack of knowledge on the part of honorable senators generally. I view the passing of this legislation with concern, because I believe that, under it, ex-servicemen will not get a fair deal and that in the future the Repatriation Commission will not maintain the high traditions associated with its administration. The Government is risking the turning of a well conducted department, which acts sympathetically and understandingly when dealing with the problem of exservicemen, into a soulless department staffed by nien with, no knowledge of, or sympathy with, the needs of men who endured the hardships of active service.
– in reply - i assure honorable senators that the Government has no sinister motive in introducing this bill. It is aimed solely at administrative efficiency, it is true that the matter of a transfer of the staffs of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission to the Public Service Act was raised by the High Council of the Commonwealth Public Service Organizations in 1945. The action taken by the Government in connexion with this proposal has not been hasty. The subject has had full consideration, first, at the department level, then by Cabinet, and later by the Labour party, and it is now formally before the Parliament. So that there shall be no misunderstanding, I am happy to tell the Senate of the arguments that were advanced by the High Council of the Commonwealth Public Service
Organizations early in 1945 whenit recommended this transfer. The High Council referred to covers organizations to which most of the members of the staff of the Repatriation Commission do, in fact, belong. The following are the arguments advanced at that time by the High Council: -
Honorable senators will see that the whole matter was dealt with by the High Council purely in the interests of administrative efficiency. That also is the approach that the Government has made throughout to the question of the proposed transfer. Later in 1945, a committee consisting of Mr. Pinner, who was then an Assistant Commissioner of the Public Service Board and is now a member of that board, as chairman; Mr. A. A. Fitzgerald, a noted accountant and economist of Melbourne, who is now chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission; and Mr. Webster, of the Repatriation Commission, considered this proposal. Mr. Pinner and Mr. Fitzgerald recommended that the staffs of the Repatriation Commission and the
War Service. Homes Commission should come under the control of the Public Service Board, but Mr. Webster disagreed with that recommendation.
– I should think so..
– I am not in a. position to table in this chamber departmental reports, and reports of the natureto which I have referred. That is a practice which has been followed by successive governments. There is nothing exceptional in the present Government’s refusal to make those reports availableto members of the Parliament. This matter was also considered by the then Public Service Commissioner, Mr. Thorpe, who was sole Commissioner at the time. One of the two reasons given by Mr. Thorpe for supporting the majority recommendation was as follows : -
In my opinion, there are two major considerations. The first is that an independent and virtually isolated activity would have the advantage in its general administration to be gained from the assistance and guidance that can come from a central body whose officers have an intimate knowledge of the organization and working of many departments.
The second reason given by Mr. Thorpe was incorporated in my secondreadingspeech, and was referred to by Senator Sampson a few moments ago. It reads -
I think it will be generally agreed that, unless there are special reasons for a contrary course, no Commonwealth activity should stand alone, and in effect he excluded from oversight and review of its organization, &c, on lines which Parliament has laid down in Eection 17 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, just as none with financial responsibility is free from checks imposed by the Audit Act.
There, broadly, are the principles which actuated the Government in accepting the recommendations of the Pinner Committee and of the Public Service Commissioner.
Members of the Opposition who have spoken have, I admit, been broad in their approach to this bill. Its subject-matter has not been dealt with on party lines, and on that I congratulate them. But there is one aspect of this subject to which they have not adverted. No honorable senator has referred to the benefit which members of the staffs of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission will gain through being free to apply for any position in the Commonwealth Public Service. This legislation will widen their horizon and make possible their transfer to any position in any department of the Public Service. It has been suggested that if non-servicemen are associated with this department there would not be smooth working; there would not be a sympathetic approach to the ex-serviceman and his problems. I repudiate that entirely. The great body of our Commonwealth public servants are not only efficient but also very sympathetic in their approach to the public. That is true of the great body of Commonwealth public servants, and I do not believe at all that one should expect that, if there is some degree of infiltration of non-service personnel into these two departments, the ex-serviceman will suffer. It may be that with the infusion of new thought and new blood, improved methods may result with consequent benefits to ex-service personnel. In this respect, I cite the activities of the Department of Social Services of which I am in charge. That department is charged to-day with the task of. rehabilitating ex-service personnel who are suffering from disabilities not due to war causes, that is, ex-service personnel who do not come under the Repatriation Commission. Although I have been in charge of that department since the 18th June, and it has handled thousands of cases of ex-service personnel in that category, I have not heard one complaint by an exserviceman, or an ex-servicemen’3 association, of the treatment accorded to those personnel by that division of my department which is a civilian department. That augurs well for what might happen if there is some degree of permeation by non ex-service personnel of the two departments affected by the bill; but I repeat that there is no ground for fear on that score because, according to the administration of the Public Service, the ex-serviceman really enjoys two kinds of preference, the first being by law, which we debated when we considered the Reesstablishment and Employment Act some Lime ago, and the second being more or less administrative. Sub-section 3 of section 50 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act provides - (3.) In the selection of an officer for promotion under the provisions of this section, consideration shall be given first to the rela tive efficiency, and, in the event of an equality of efficiency of two or more officers, then to the relative seniority, of officers available for promotion to the vacancy.
I ask honorable senators opposite to note particularly the provision in sub-section 4 of the same section of that Act which reads - (4.) In this section “efficiency” means special qualifications and aptitude for the discharge of the duties of the office to be filled, together with merit, diligence and good conduct, and, in the case of an officer who is a returned soldier, includes such efficiency as, in the opinion of the permanent head of the board, as the case may be, he would have attained but for his absence on active naval or military service.
Reading the latter sub-section, I emphasize “ special qualifications “ in the opening sentence which sta tes that - “efficiency means special qualifications and aptitude”. The Commonwealth Public Service Board, in connexion with all exservice personnel agencies, has invariably adopted the viewpoint that war service and familiarity with the needs of exservice personnel are special qualifications referred, to in sub-section 4 of section 50 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. I hope that that will reassure honorable senators opposite that it is not contemplated that there shall be a flood of non-ex-service personnel into either of these departments. Having regard to what I have said, the approach is likely to be the reverse ; and if any changes at all are made they will be made to achieve administrative advantages and benefits to ex-servicemen themselves.
– What does the Minister mean by “ the reverse “ ?
– There are advantages to the repatriation staff and the staff of the War Service. Homes Commission,
– But will not some positions have to be filled immediately by some one in the Public Service proper?
– That is true. However, the point I am making is that having regard to the qualifications required of applicants to fill vacancies the Public Service Board will unquestionably have regard to war service and familiarity with the needs of ex-service personnel ; and that points directly to the employment of an ex-serviceman where a suitable applicant is available.
Senator Brand contended that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has not been very helpful to exservicemen. I am assured by my colleague, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), that between 3,000 and 4,000 exservicemen from the recent war have been appointed to his department in positions ranging from the lowest to the highest in the department. Subject to correction, 1 point out that so far as the lowest classifications of the Public Service proper are concerned, the board has power under section 39 of the principal act to appoint persons without examination to the Fourth Division. Under another section to which I shall refer at the committee stage the board also has power to appoint without special examination ex-servicemen who have passed certain well-known examinations. I have in my hand a list which sets out more than 50 examinations which are acceptable in that respect. It is interesting to know that the Public Service Board at this moment has applications from 1,100 ex-servicemen who are waiting for appointment to the Service. Those men have passed one of the examinations prescribed by regulations under the principal act. So it is not true to say that the only possibility of entry to the Service to-day is confined to applicants of about sixteen years old who pass certain examinations. None of the 1,100 ex-servicemen of the recent war who are now awaiting appointment to the Public Service is obliged to pass any new examination. It is safe to say that all of those applicants will fulfil the requirements of the Public Service at least in a clerical capacity for a considerable number of years. Perhaps it may be for only two or three years, but it is obvious that there are facilities under the act for the appointment of ex-service personnel direct to the Public Service proper without having to pass any new examination. Senator Brand also referred to subjection 7 of section 22 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, in which connexion he mentioned an undertaking given by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that he would examine the position to see whether the repeal of the sub-section would in any way adversely affect ex- service employees of the Repatriation Department or the “War Service Homes Commission. The position has been examined very thoroughly: and I suggest to the honorable senator that he might raise the matter again at the committee stage, when I shall take the opportunity to deal in detail, if necessary, with sub-section 7 of section 22 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. That provision has only a very limited application. It concerns the position of not more than six members of the Commonwealth Public Service who are on loan to the Repatriation Commission. Their position will be entirely preserved. I undertake to deal with that matter fully at the committee stage should the honorable senator raise the subject again.
Senator Sampson stated that he had grave misgivings regarding the bill, one of them being that according to its title the bill was designed to effect the transfer of staffs of the two bodies concerned “ and for other purposes “. The reason for the addition of the word “ and for other purposes “ in the title of the measure is that certain consequential alterations must be made in the Superannuation Act and the principal act. The opportunity is now being taken to clear up the powers of permanent heads to make them a little more explicit. If the honorable senator refers to clause 8 of the bill he will find mentioned one, or two, matters which have no particular reference to the transfer of the staff of these bodies. The sole reason for the reference to “ other purposes “ is to pick up that matter, and also to include the alterations to the schedules of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. I believe that I have answered the points raised, by Senator Foll. Should honorable senators raise other matters which I have not touched upon I shall deal with them in detail at the committee stage.
Question put -
That the hill bc now read a second time. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Ayes . . . 20
Noes . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Amendments of Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act).
.- Sub-clause 2 of clause 4 provides for the repeal of section 22 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1946. Sub-section 7 of that section states -
Tn determining the status and salary to which the officer shall be advanced, the Public Service Commissioner shall take into consideration the time (if any) which the officer served as a member of the Forces and the period of his service as an officer of the Department of Repatriation. ff clause 4 of this bill be passed, that sub-section will be repealed. Can the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) give an explanation of this proposal?
– It is not possible to read sub-section 7 of section 22 alone, and understand it. It is necessary to realize that the officer referred to therein is the officer mentioned in subsection 5. If I may read the relevant portions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and this bill, the intention of the clause will be apparent. Subsection 5 of section 22 states -
An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service who becomes an officer under this Act shall not thereby be required to resign from the Commonwealth Public Service but may he granted leave of absence for the period of his employment under this Act, and the period of len ve so granted shall, for all purposes, be included as part of the officer’s period of service.
The honorable senator will see that we are speaking of an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service who has been transferred to the commission. In sub-section 6, we are still dealing with the same officer. That sub-section provides -
Upon the termination of the employment under this Act of any such officer, who has not been dismissed for misconduct, he shall be entitled to re-appointment to a position in the Commonwealth Public Service with such advancement in status and salary, beyond thos? held and received by him in that Service immediately prior to his appointment under this Act. as the Public Service Commissioner in the circumstances thinks just.
Now we come to sub-section 7, which also deals with the same officer. It reads -
In determining the status and salary tn which the officer shall be advanced, the Public Service Commissioner shall take into consideration the time (if any) which the officer served as a member of the Forces and the period of his service as an officer of the Department of .Repatriation.
The only persons affected by this clause are five in number, and all of them will have their service at the war and with the commission preserved to them under clause 9 of the bill, which provides that the service of such an officer with the commission is to be reckoned as ‘permanent service in the Commonwealth Public Service itself. I assure the honorable senator that section 22 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act is no longer necessary as the commission will not be appointing officers, and that its repeal will not in any way affect the rights of any of the five men involved.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
After Division 9b of Part III. of the Principal Act the following Division is inserted : - ” Division 9c. - Transfer of Employees of Repatriation Commission and War Service Homes Commissioner.
.- I move -
That, after proposed new section 81zb, the following new section be inserted: - “ Size. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, for the next fifteen years, with the exception of medical officers, no male shall be employed in the Repatriation Department who is not an ex-serviceman.”
I do not think the amendment needs any explanation. Speakers on this side of the chamber have given valid and clear reasons why this proposed new section should be inserted in the act.
– I regret that I am unable to accept the amendment. It is obvious that if only ex-servicemen were to be appointed during the next fifteen years, they would eventually be men who were getting on in years, and the point would be reached when there would be a gap of fifteen years between the ages of the juniors who would be drafted into the department, and the men who were already serving in it. For the administrative reasons already given, and because of the benefits that will now be made to the staff of the Repatriation Department, the Government is unable to accept the honorable senator’s amendment.
– Does the Minister believe that the Repatriation Department will be permanent?
– No. It is likely that with the exception of psychiatrical treatment of war neurosis, its activities may terminate, or at least diminish, much more rapidly than was the case after the last war.
– Unless we have another war.
– That is so. I point out to Senator Brand that this is an additional benefit that is being conferred upon the employees of the Repatriation Department. If the commission’s activities were to terminate with some degree of celerity - say within five or seven years - it would be very much to the advantage of its staff to be part of the wider field of the Commonwealth Public Service.
.- 1 rise to speak on this amendment only because of the exceptional explanation that has just been given by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), of why it is impossible to continue the practice of employing only ex-servicemen in the Repatriation Department. The Minister claimed that as time elapsed, exservicemen would be getting on in years, and that eventually there would be a gap of fifteen years between present employees and the department’s new recruits. Does the Minister think that all the exservicemen of World War II. are of the same age. Surely he knows that their ages upon enlistment ranged from 18 to 40 years. I imagine that the younger men would be put into junior positions and would gradually work their way up to senior positions. The Minister’s argument therefore does not appear to be valid. The point that I wish to make is that there will be a constant flow of men from the Repatriation Department to other departments in the Public Service, and vice versa, >and if I know anything about the Public Service, the Repatriation Department will be made a “ refugee “ department for all the “ duds “. The object of Senator Brand’s amendment is to prevent that. He wants to ensure that the affairs of ex-servicemen shall be administered by ex-servicemen. I visualize that within a very few years officers of the Repatriation Department who seek promotion and higher emoluments will transfer to other departments, and that officers of other departments will transfer to senior positions in the Repatriation Department. The inevitable result will be that this department which should be administered sympathetically by exservicemen, will be staffed largely by men who have been trained in the more formal branches of administration. Naturally, from an administrative point of view, the transfer of the Repatriation Department to the Public Service would be an advantage from an adminstrative point of view, and therefore from a financial point of view. Apparently that is the Government’s only concern. Unless the Minister accepts the amendment, he will be doing a great disservice to ex-servicemen of both wars. We should not pass any measure which would allow their future to be jeopardized by unsympathetic administration. The reasons given by the Minister for rejecting the amendment were ludicrous. He must he aware that men of varying ages will continue to come into the departments in a constant flow. Whatever his good intentions may be, I ask him to examine the amendment more sympathetically with a view to safeguarding the future welfare of ex-servicemen in a manner that will satisfy the people of Australia.
– Can the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) inform the Senate whether all employees appointed to the Repatriation Commission and the “War Service Homes Commission during the past 30 years, with the exception of females and juniors, have been ex-servicemen? From memory, I believe that to be the case.
– I believe that it is so.
– The opinion of Mr. “Webster, who signed the minority report of the Pinner Committee, should carry greater weight than that of either of the other two members of it. He was a member of the Repatriation Commission for a long period and was acting Chairman. Naturally, being a returned soldier’ with a distinguished record, he would have the interests of the commission’s employees at heart. Wc should attach great importance to his views. The Minister has argued that the proposed transfer will give employees of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission the opportunity to seek employment in other .branches of the Public Service. Apparently that argument did not weigh very heavily with Mr. Webster. The Minister has argued also that the bringing of the two commissions under the control of a central authority will make for great efficiency. From my experience of the Repatriation Commission, I consider that it is one of the most competent of Commonwealth instrumentalities. I do not intend that statement to reflect in any way on other departments. However, because the employees of the commission are returned soldiers who have specialized in the problems of ex-servicemen, in which the human element must be taken into consideration, they have discharged their duties with exceptional efficiency. I am certain that many unsuccessful applicants for assistance were satisfied at any rate that their claims had been dealt with justly by returned soldiers, whereas they would not have had such confidence in the judgment of men who had not had war service. As lis]
Senator Leckie and Senator Brand have said, when these instrumentalities are transferred to the Public Service, they will probably be swamped by public servants who have not had war experience and who have no specialized knowledge of the particular problems of exservicemen. These officers will not be able to provide the sympathetic administration that has been provided during the last 30 years by men with an understanding of returned soldiers’ troubles. Senator Brand’s amendment is a practical one. The staffs of these commissions have proved over the last 30 years that they can do their work satisfactorily. Why not continue with the same system? I support the amendment.
– I support Senator Brand’s amendmentThe only objection to it as it stands is that it would preclude the employment of youths. Nevertheless, it gives us an opportunity to record our wish that these two organizations shall continue to be administered by ex-servicemen. I regret that the evidence of the principal witness in this case has been withheld from us. We are greatly handicapped in that respect. The Minister should make available to us the minority report submitted by the representative of the Repatriation Commission, objecting to the proposed transfer of the commission to the Public Service. Some men who have been employed for years by the Repatriation Commission are not able to fulfil the ordinary duties laid down by public service procedure, because of war disabilities. They are engaged on light duties, which normally would be carried out by juniors. Are these men to he thrown on the scrap heap, or asked to fulfil more stringent requirements? As other honorable senators have said, there must be a good reason why the representative of the Repatriation Commission on the Pinner Committee was opposed to the proposed transfer. He would be just as anxious as the High Council of the Commonwealth Public Service Organizations, which the Minister mentioned, to ensure efficiency in the operations of the commission. Administrators of the Repatriation Commission have always been highly efficient. Why have we not been given the opportunity to examine the objections raised by the commission’s representative, who, in this instance, was the principal inquirer? There is ground for objection to the wording of the amendment, because it excludes junior males from employment by the commission, but we shall vote for it because that is the only way in which we can record our desire that these commissions shall continue to be administered by ex-servicemen.
SenatorMcKENNA (Tasmania - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [5.8]. - I repeat that I do not accept the proposition that civilian administration of what may be termed a returned soldier agency would cause any lack of sympathy in the treatment of ex-servicemen. I reject it entirely. As an example, I have pointed out that civilian administration operates satisfactorily in the rehabilitation section of rhe Department of Social Services. I also repeat what, I have said regarding the policy of the Public Service Board in dealing with promotions. It regards as one of the ingredients of efficiency in a returned soldier agency the fact that a man has had war service and is familiar with the needs of ex-servicemen. That policy meets the wishes of honorable senators opposite. I point out an obvious defect in Senator Brand’s amendment, to which Senator Foll has already directed attention. The amendment provided for the insertion of a new section, as follows : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, for the next fifteen years, with the exception of medical officers, no male shall be employed in the Repatriation Department who is not an ex-serviceman.
Obviously, that would debar the department from employing male messengers, juniors, or assistants. This is only a drafting defect no doubt, but it is very important. If embodied in the bill, the amendmentwould have the extraordinary effect of preventing the employment of youths because obviously, even at this stage, all ex-servicemen must be adults.
– Would the Minister accept the amendment if we removed that defect?
– No, I would not. I have merely drawn attention to that defect. Finally, I point out to honorable senators opposite that the chairman of the commission will still continue to make his own selections for transfers and promotions. This fact may remove a lot of their misgivings. In effect, the changeover will not make much difference. The Public Service Board will come into the picture only in the event of appeals against transfers or promotions. Therefore, there is not much danger of the ex-service character of the Repatriation Department being watered-down. Honorable senators need have no grave misgivings on that point.
Question put -
That the proposed new section (Senator Brand’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. M. Nicholas.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 19th March, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The PEESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown). - Yesterday, Senator Lamp suggested to me that the microphones in this chamber in front of honorable senators should be lowered. I have made inquiries, and I have ascertained that this matter was considered when the instruments were installed. I am informed that if the microphones were made vertically adjustable, the broadcasts of speeches of honorable senators would be distorted, because of a certain amount of vibration. For that reason the equipment was supplied in its present form. However, I shall make representations with a view to having the microphones made adjustable laterally.
.- I recently received an official photograph of myself when speaking in this chamber, and I bring under notice the fact that my face was completely obliterated by a microphone. I am not greatly concerned about that; but, in view of the fact that there will be a new lady member of this Senate shortly, some arrangement could be made, perhaps, so that her face will not be obscured.
– I , assure the honorable senator that, when the photograph was taken, no discourtesy was intended. I instructed the photographers that every effort was to be made to reproduce the features of every honorable senator. I regret that the honorable senator’s features did not appear. in the picture. If he supplies a copy of his photograph, it may be possible to incorporate it in the picture.
– I draw your attention, Mr. President, to the fact that it is impossible, from some parts of this chamber, to hear what is said by honorable senators. I have previously drawn attention to this matter and to the necessity for improving the acoustic properties of the chamber. Yesterday I asked the
Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) a question about the utilization of huts, hutments and houses that are now lying idle on Defence Department land, particularly in South Australia. Near Largs Bay there is a huge area of Defence Department land with hutments and temporary dwellings on it which are completely unoccupied. At an Air Force camp near Gawler there are huts which are not in use. I suggest that these buildings be used temporarily for housing people who are living under unhealthy conditions. There are empty huts at other camps also where light and water and other amenities are provided. At the Gawler and Fort Largs camps I understand there are caretakers to prevent people from entering the camp areas, but there is no other guard at the buildings. One of the buildings at Largs Bay was occupied by a man who had no other place in which to take his child from an hospital. Other persons also took possession of huts, and eventually the authorities allowed them to remain in temporary occupation. I want the other unoccupied buildings to be put to some use in meeting, in a small way, the housing problem. In a reply to a question yesterday, the Minister for Supply and Shipping said that when these buildings became surplus the Government could deal with them. I ask that something be done with them now, before they are declared surplus and disposed of.
– I support the Complaint by Senator O’Flaherty regarding the acoustic properties of this chamber, and also his request that action be taken to improve conditions. In some parts pf the chamber it is difficult to hear what is being said by the honorable senator addressing the Senate. In the House of Representatives chamber loud speakers have been installed and I suggest that the advisability of a similar installation in this chamber be investigated by experts.
– An expert who tested the acoustics of this chamber some time ago reported that conditions were satisfactory. The Australian Broadcasting Commission also made an investigation.
– There is no complaint about the broadcasting of speeches.
– It should be pos- “ Bible for the experts to devise means to improve the acoustic properties of the chamber. Various methods have been suggested, including certain structural alterations to the building, but I do not know whether such alterations would be practicable. I shall have further investitions made with a view to effecting an improvement.
– in reply - I thought that Senator 6’Flaherty would have understood from my answer to his question yesterday that the housing problem is a matter for the State governments. Were the . Government to make huts at various camps’ available to homeless people as a means of relieving the housing difficulty its action might bo resented by those governments. I shall bring the honorable senators remarks to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) with a view to the South Australian Government being approached in the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appoint: ment - Department of Post-war Reconstruction - R. E. Cameron.
Education Act - Regulations - (Statutory Rules 1946, No. 18T.
Immigration - Statement by the Minister for Immigration, Oth March, 1947.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Clare, South Australia.
United Nations - Food and Agriculture Organization - Report by Australian delegation of Second Session held at Copenhagen, Denmark, September, 1946.
Senate adjourned at 5.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 March 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19470306_senate_18_190/>.