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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3366

Senator HARRADINE(1.57) —I thank the Minister for his last comment. It is a commitment I am very happy to hear. However, the three points of the excuse given for the dramatic decline--

Senator Walsh —It is not an excuse; it is a reason.

Senator HARRADINE —Could I say that they are all wrong, and prove it.

Senator Walsh —Are you saying that the Public Service Act does allow the Board to discriminate on age grounds?

Senator HARRADINE —No, I am saying it never has. It has always been on merit. Is the Minister saying that only in recent years have appointments been on merit? That is nonsense. Appointments have been on merit for ever and a day, or for the last 20 years--

Senator Walsh —If I have understood you correctly, you do not want it on merit, you want it on age grounds.

Senator HARRADINE —No, what I am saying is that appointments to the Public Service over the last 20 years have been on merit. Yet we find under the Public Service Board's policy at present that there has been a decline in the percentage of youth appointed to the Public Service, from 22.2 per cent in 1966 to an all time low of 5.6 per cent now. So obviously that is not the reason. Secondly, it has been said by the Minister that there are fewer young people in the work force now than there were at that time. That also is wrong. The fact is that there are more young people in the work force now-and the work force, mind you, includes not only those who are employed but also those who are unemployed-than, for example, there were in 1963, and yet the actual number of youth in the Public Service now is lower than in 1963. So that is the second point that is incorrect. The third point that the Minister made was that when there is no positive growth in the Public Service, obviously there will be a decline in appointments to the Public Service. As I said at the outset, there has been an increase in the number of public servants of 3,204 and there has been a decline in the number of young public servants of 903. The Minister will have to do better than provide those sorts of excuses. The three of them are wrong and the Public Service Board and its Chairman ought to be challenged on all of those points as to why they are discriminating against youth.

Progress reported.