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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1209


Mrs KELLY(8.13) —The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock), in his comments on the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of the Special Minister of State, referred to the need for an independent and impartial Public Service. Of course, this Government supports that view. But the Leader of the Opposition made no reference to the fact that, in the seven years of the previous Government, the Public Service was allowed to run down and that morale was at its lowest ebb. In the few months since this Government has been in power we have seen a dramatic change in morale in the Public Service. We are also seeing an increase in numbers in the Public Service. Instead of running the Public Service with a view to cutting down costs and numbers, this Government is looking at the Public Service in terms of efficiency and in terms of providing people to do jobs. We are looking at the Public Service in terms of training and management. In other words, we have looked at the Public Service from a constructive point of view. The previous Government looked at it from a destructive point of view.

The Leader of the Opposition referred to the possible appointment-in the Opposition's view the proposed appointment-of Dr Peter Wilenski and Chairman of the Public Service Board. I am not privy to discussions in Cabinet in relation to this matter but I, as the member for Canberra, and this Government have no criticism of Sir William Cole. As I understand it, Sir William Cole's term of office as Chairman is about to expire. Thus any government would look at that appointment. A procedure has to be followed. The Leader of the Opposition made critical comments about Dr Peter Wilenski. I worked with him as a member of a task force. As I understand it, he is the Secretary of a department of the Australian Government. Previously, in the early 1970s, he was also secretary of a department. He is highly qualified in terms of government administration. He was a professor at the University of New South Wales. He has very good qualifications for his position as Secretary of the Department of Education.

Opposition members interjecting-


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Millar) —Order! Honourable members on my left will remain silent. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.


Mrs KELLY —Opposition members believe that an independent Public Service means that they can put their own people in. The previous Government had a history of doing that. But, of course, when the Australian Labor Party is elected it is considered not to be correct to put in people whom we consider to be the best people for the job. What is important in terms of running an efficient government is to get the best people for the job. We do not exclude people because of membership of a political party, whether they are members of the Liberal Party or members of the Australian Labor Party. We believe in getting the best people for the job and having a Public Service which is responsive to the needs of government. More progress will be made in that direction under a Labor government than was made in the seven years of the former Administration.

Opposition members interjecting-


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! I remind honourable members that the honourable member for Canberra, in common with all honourable members, has the right to be heard in silence. If honourable members persist in interjecting, notwithstanding the request of the Chair to remain silent, they expose themselves to risk.


Mrs KELLY —I would like to refer to the annual report of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and, specifically, to the Office of the Status of Women and the new emphasis that this Government has given to the role of women in the community and in the bureaucracy generally. I am very pleased to see that the Office now comes under the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Under the control of the Prime Minister I think it is given new importance. I am also pleased to see that the head of the Office is about to be appointed. It is a position of high status within the Public Service.


Mr Aldred —Which party hack is going to get this job?


Mrs KELLY —The honourable member asks who will get the job. I do not know; I am not on the interviewing panel. We have not put our person in that position. Instead we have opened this position to ordinary Public Service recruitment for senior officers. All the applicants will be interviewed in the normal course of Public Service procedures. I am not privy to who will get the job. We are establishing this Office of the Status of Women under the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It will have a wide range of functions which, I believe, in the long run, will make a contribution towards improving the status of women in our community.


Mr Peacock —Ha, ha!


Mrs KELLY —The Leader of the Opposition laughs. Obviously he is not concerned about improving the status of women in our community. I refer specifically to their role in the Public Service.


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! The Leader of the Opposition is not exempted from the exhortation of the Chair. I ask him to remain silent.


Mr Ruddock —Mr Chairman, I take a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition really laughed in response to an interjection that was made on this side of the chamber.


Mr DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Dundas will resume his seat.


Mrs KELLY —I believe that the honourable member for Dundas must be questioning my 50 : 50 vision. Before I was interrupted I was referring to the role of women within the Public Service. It is obvious how much interest Opposition members show in regard to this matter. From figures in the Public Service Board's annual report we see that there are only very small numbers of women in the Second Division of the Public Service. I believe that that is one area that the Office of the Status of Women must investigate. We really need a program to increase the number of women in the Second Division. We see on page 123 of that annual report that there are 31 men and no women in the First Division of the Public Service and 1,280 men and only 30 women in the Second Division. That is an appallingly small percentage of women. If we do not have an affirmative action program, at the very least we need to have special programs to assist women to get promoted through the Service. I also support the proposal for a committee of permanent heads to look at the status of women. I welcome the establishment of that committee. I am only sorry that at this stage there are no female permanent heads to serve on that committee.


Mr Brumby —It will not be too long.


Mrs KELLY —I hope that it will not be too long. I also welcome the Register of Women for Government Appointment, referred to in the annual report of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. For too long we have not seen sufficient numbers of women on statutory authorities and it is important that now Ministers will put forward the names of men and women in equal numbers for government appointment, wherever possible. I believe that is a very big step forward.

I congratulate the Office of the Status of Women for the work it is doing. Honourable members who have actually bothered to look at the annual report of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet may have noted the photograph on page 31 which shows the poster that has been prepared for the Office of the Status of Women. I should like to show that poster to members of the Opposition. For the record, I point out that it demonstrates that these days men in our community are taking a more equal role in domestic affairs. I believe that will lead in the long term to a more equal role for women in our community. That statement is met only with mirth from members of the Opposition. I will send some copies of the poster to members of the Opposition if they are interested in it.

I should now like to refer to the Public Service Board estimates. I note with pleasure the emphasis the Board is now putting on the need to train senior managers in the Public Service. I hope that the next annual report of the Public Service Board will tell us that the British subject requirement for entry into the Public Service Board has been abolished and replaced with an Australian citizenship requirement, although I believe the responsible Minister should have the right to make exceptions to that. Before I conclude, I believe the Public Service Board should have--


The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Millar) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired .