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Friday, 3 September 1920


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) . - I move -

That the amendment be agreed to.

The Senate has also struck out clauses 4 and 5. These three clauses were inserted at the instance of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) when the Bill was before this Chamber. They provide for the creation of the Auditor-General and his officers into a separate Department, give him complete control over his officers, and remove him from the ordinary provisions of the Public Service Act, except that any appointments which he makes ordinarily are to be drawn from officers in the Public Service. There is a further special provision that if he needs a specialist from outside he can recommend him to the Government for appointment, and thus secure his services without reference to the Public Service Commissioner. I understand that the~Senate has thrown out these proposals for the following reason : We thought, in this Chamber, that we were doing a good thing for the Auditor-General's Department, but itseems that the employees of the Department do not think so. They say that to make them into a separate Department and take them from under the Public Service Act would limit their opportunities for promotion, and they object very strongly to it.


Mr McWilliams - Is that the only objection to the clause?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Yes, so far as I know. As we shall have to deal shortly with the Public Service in another . Bill, this matter is not of very much consequence at the moment.


Mr Riley - How many men does it affect?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - A considerable number. They say that if the clause passes in its present form they will be shut out from any other promotion in the Public Service. This is, therefore, one of those cases where gifts do not appear to be acceptable, and there seems to be no reason why we should insist on the clause, since it is not acceptable to the employees of the Department. That, however, would not weigh so much with me were it not that the whole question will come up again for consideration in connexion with the Public Service Bill. We may, therefore, cheerfully accept the Senate's amendment and excise the clause.


Mr Ryan - What does the AuditorGeneral think about it himself ?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - He has no strong feeling about it at all.


Mr McDonald - According to his report he has. He has been asking for a long time for the power to appoint his own officers.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - That is quite true. I agree that the Auditor-General should be as independent as we can make him, and I sincerely hope that in dealing with the: Public Service generally we shall take care to provide for that. We can do it, however, in such a way as to leave the staff quite contented with the conditions prescribed for them.


Mr McDonald - Will the AuditorGeneral be in a position to appoint his own staff ?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Not if clauses 3, 4, and 5 of this Bill are omitted; but the whole matter can be dealt with later, when we are considering the Public Service Bill.


Mr McDonald - That will not give the Auditor-General any additional power.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The House can give him any additional power that it thinks fit. As the whole matter can be considered on that Bill, it is not worth while fighting the Senate over a proposal which does not appear to be acceptable to the very officers to whom we intended it to apply, and for whose benefit it was passed.


Mr Anstey - It was done for the benefit, not of the officers, but of the country.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) -It was done for both.


Mr Richard Foster - The Audit Departments of the various States do not have that restriction.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - They do not, and the Senate has taken it out of this Bill. I believe, with many other honorable members, that the Auditor-General should, if possible, be made independent, and should control his staff as much as possible.


Mr McWilliams - That is the object of this clause.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I know it is, but according to representations that have been made to senators, it is not acceptable to the employees in the Auditor-General's office.


Mr Tudor - Were the whole three of these clauses introduced by the honorable member for Capricornia?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Yes. I understand that the objection of the AuditorGeneral's staff is that the Bill shuts them up into a watertight compartment, and limits their chances of promotion in the Public Service generally. That is the reason given in the Senate for the rejection of the clause.


Mr Fleming - That is only camouflage.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Whatever it may be, there it is. I should attach more importance to what has been done' by 'the Senate but for the fact that we shall be dealing with the Public Service generally in another Bill. I therefore ask the Committee to agree to the 'Senate's amendments, so that we may get the Bill through.







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