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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3362


Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters)(1.34) —The second reading amendment is, of course, not accepted by the Government on either policy or functional grounds. The `no work as directed no pay' provision was inserted in the Public Service Act by the Fraser Government in 1980. Having then put it in the Act, it did not really do much with it and the plain fact is that the provision was not effective in achieving its stated objective. Like so many other measures taken by the Fraser Government, it was typical of the Fraser Government-there was a lot of tough talk and very little action. There was almost no effective action.

Senator Collard also referred to the number of public servants. I want to make two observations in this respect. There has been a significant increase since this Government has been in office. A good deal of that is attributable to demand driven increases; that is, as the number of pensioners, unemployment benefit recipients, service pensioners and so on, increased over what it had been before there has been an inescapable requirement for some growth in the Public Service. The second point I want to make is that many Government measures aimed at reducing or removing Public Service functions, like closing off abuse of the Freedom of Information Act and the general abuse of appeal provisions and also the merger of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service-although, strictly speaking, that does not relate to the Public Service, it is indicative of the attitude adopted by the Opposition of sending off to Senate committees puerile references, of the type that was sent off this morning, on matters of monumental unimportance-also consume Public Service resources. The point is that the Opposition, although purporting to be critical of the size of the Public Service, adopts mostly an obstructionist and blocking approach to Government attempts to reduce the functions.

Senator Collard also stated that more than 60 statutory authorities have been created by this Government. That statement is false. In fact there have been 21 statutory authorities created by this Government, most of which are replacements for other authorities or committees which previously existed. We dealt with an example of this this morning in terms of the Australian Pork Corporation which replaces the Pork Promotion Committee. Twenty-one is the correct figure and most of those bodies replaced other bodies which had previously existed. The figure of 60 was supplied, of course, by the Opposition spokesman on Public Service matters, Mr Connolly, who then conned one journalist into publishing it as a fact. I suggest that the Press should be more sceptical in accepting figures supplied by Mr Connolly in particular, and the Opposition in general, than it has been in the past.

I do not at this stage intend to deal in any detail with the amendments of which Senator Vigor has given notice, except to correct one misconception which he obviously has-that is, his misconception that invalidity retirements are somewhat higher or disproportionately high among the senior executive service. That is not true. Indeed, the general rule is that the rate of invalidity retirement is highest among blue collar workers. The other comments he made about that matter were really more relevant to the Superannuation Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1986, which was dealt with this morning, than they are to this legislation. But I draw his attention to the fact that those amendments which have now been passed to the superannuation Act close off the particular abuse to which he referred-that is, people getting out of the Public Service, earning very substantial incomes, sometimes higher than they earned in the Public Service, and receiving an invalidity pension as well. That is no longer possible because of the Bill which has already been passed.

I do not believe from my quick look at them that his amendments have merit and the Government will not be accepting them. Even if they did have substantial merit, I do not think the Government could reasonably be expected at this time to accept them, particularly when the House of Representatives has already risen and the Government wants this Bill enacted. Therefore-and this, of course, applies to the Opposition's second reading amendment as well-we want this Bill enacted. We do not want to have to wait until three or four months into next year for this to happen.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.