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Wednesday, 28 July 1920

Mr HIGGS (Capricornia) .- The only effect of the amendment would be to disadvantage the Government in the selection of a suitable man. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) does not think for a moment that the House would turn out of office a Government who made a bad appointment; the House never has done that. I favour the Government having latitude in this matter because it is necessary that they should get the very best man available. When the Commonwealth Bank Act was passed it was provided that the Governor-General in Council should fix the salary to be paid to the Governor of the Bank.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - He is an absolute sweater, and the honorable member knows it.

Mr HIGGS - I do not agree with the honorable member. As soon as it became known that the Government wanted a manager for the Commonwealth Bank several of the banking companies called upon their chief officers to say whether or not they intended to apply for the position. Many of them thereupon said they would not be applicants. That action restricted the Government's choice, and might possibly have prevented them from getting a good man. They did, however, get one of the best banking experts in the Commonwealth, who has since done wonderful work. By negotiation the Government might be able to get for Director of the Institute a man of £4,000 per annum calibre, but if that amount were fixed by Parliament the best man available might not be worth that salary; he might be worth only £2,000. The Minister when conducting negotiations with an expert employed by some big company would have to come to Parliament and say, " We can get a good man for £4,000 per annum." Immediately honorable members would demand to know the name of the applicant. The disclosure of the name before the appointment was confirmed would prejudice the man in his private employment, and the fear of that happening might prevent him from applying. The Broken Hill Company, for instance, employs some men who are very prominent in the scientific and industrial world, and I understand that one officer of the company is paid a salary of £10,000 per annum.

Mr Richard Foster - If he gets that salary he is worth it, and the company knows his value.

Mr HIGGS - The company realizes the value of his work, and is prepared to pay. If it was whispered abroad that the Government proposed to secure the services of the chief officer of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company his directors would probably ask him if he intended leaving the service of the company, and in the event of an affirmative reply he would probably be asked to terminate his engagement. If such a position should arise in connexion with the appointment of a Director the Government would be hampered, and would not be able to get the best man for the position. I trust the honorable member will not press his amendment.

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