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Thursday, 26 March 1942

Mr BADMAN (GREY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Who would supervise the manufacture ?

Mr CALWELL - If no member of the Public Service could undertake the work, the Government should appoint the managers of the factories as public servants; and they would not then be answerable to a board of directors concerned primarily with profits. They would be answerable to a Minister of the Crown. I regret that at this moment, I have not brought with me some illuminating figures to instance what profits are being made in many munitions factories in Australia. These factories are receiving not only the cost of their materials, but also a profit and establishment fees. They are doing so well that it is no wonder that the Joint Committee on War Expenditure, in the report which it presented to Parliament yesterday, found that undue and fantastic profits are being made by private manufacturers of the implements of war.

Mr Badman - The Joint Committee on War Expenditure did notpresent its report yesterday. The information that the honorable member mentions was published in the press.

Mr CALWELL - So many reports were presented to the House, and so many notices of motion for the disallowance of regulations were given yesterday, that it is pardonable for an honorable member to forget the order in which the reports were tabled.

The honorable member for Robertson declared that the public services of the several States had been combed in order to find the best men for the purpose of assisting the war effort. That was not done in regard to the public service of at least one State. Ministers and permanent heads of State departments, like a lot of other people in the community to-day. think primarily of themselves and they do not wish to lose good men. As Statutory Rule No. 77 of 1942 has been, used effectively against striking coalminers, striking members of the building trade and other people who show contumacy, particularly when they belong to the working class, the Government should n=p. the statutory rule to compel State Ministers and State departmental heads to release officers when Commonwealth departments demand their services so urgently. When travelling from Canberra to Melbourne a week ago, I met an official of the Aircraft Production Commission. He informed me that in. one State tool-makers were employed by the Railway Department. The Aircraft Production Commission sought their services for the urgent manufacture of aeroplanes, but the State Commissioners of Railways in this instance insisted upon retaining their services and to date no finality has been reached. The way in which to deal with recalcitrant officials who act as these Commissioners of Railways have done, is to apply to them Statutory Rule No. 77. To date, the Government has been reluctant to do that.

I agree with those honorable members who believe that the days of State Parliaments are finished, and that if they are not finished, they ought to be. The quicker they are finished, the better it will be for Australia. I urge the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to bring to the notice of his colleagues the necessity for effectively combing the public services of the States, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Robertson. New .South Wales has lent to the Commonwealth several hundred men out of a total staff of several thousand ; but Victoria, has lent only twenty men out of a staff of several thousand. That is not sufficient. The Commonwealth requires, not ordinary clerks, but men possessing considerable experience and ability. In my opinion, more administrative ability and experience is to be found in the public service of Australia than in the business world. Many people who have gone into the business world did so because they failed to pass the examinations that are set for entrance into the Public Service of Australia. Some of those who now want to obtain admission to the public services, because +he exigencies of war have deprived them of their occupations, formerly spurned the civil service because the remuneration was low, although that was offset to some degree by security of tenure. Those persons wanted to get rich quickly on the stock exchanges, and in the legal and other lucrative professions. Now that their occupations are vanishing as the result of the activities of the Department of War

Organization of Industry, in addition to other causes, they think that the time has come when they should find for themselves a niche in some department of the Public Service. I assure the honorable member for Robertson that most of the people who want to enter the Public Service desire to take the top jobs. That accounts for the fact that the Minister for Air has been inundated in recent months with thousands of applications for appointment to the administrative section of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Mr Coles - The positions are advertised.

Mr CALWELL - It is true that there has always been a standard, or standing advertisement for persons required for the administrative section of the Royal Australian Air Force, but I have been informed that the Air Board has received many thousands of applications from persons who want to join the administrative section. There are many more applications for appointment to the administrative section to-day than there were twelve months ago, because the applicants want senior rank and high salaries. Their economic condition might be such that they consider that it is very necessary for them, in order to cover their commitments, to obtain a position that will carry remuneration similar to that which they received in civil life.

The public services of Australia have been very well conducted, on the whole, for many years. In the very early days of our public services, patronage was rife. Persons were appointed to positions because of their relationship to Ministers of the Crown. Some Premiers of Victoria secured positions for their sons, and in one notorious instance, a Premier promoted at least 14 persons in order that his son also would secure advancement. The nepotism which obtained in those days was so rampant and obnoxious that a Public Service Act was passed in Victoria for the purpose of preventing further abuses. Similar legislation was passed by other State Parliaments and later hy the Commonwealth Parliament. The purpose was to ensure that applicants for appointments to the Public Service should possess merit, and that no other qualifica tion should obtrude in determining whether a public servant should be promoted. With merit, of course, goes seniority and other factors. If, because of the war, we cut those safeguards adrift, we shall open the floodgates to favoritism and every other " ism ". Instead of securing efficient service, we shall cause discontent and dissatisfaction so that the last position will be much worse than the first. I believe in utilizing the services of every one, as the honorable member for Robertson suggested, but I cannot countenance the things that he proposed. If delay has occurred in carrying out ministerial directions, the public servant has not always been at fault. Ministers are late in making up .their minds, and then make impossible demands to try to meet the difficulties of the situation. No Minister could to-day say to the Public Service, "Find so many thousand aircraft, because we need them ". The fault lies in the failure of governments in this country for years to lay the basis of an aircraft production scheme. You cannot produce something out of nothing. The production of aircraft requires a lot of things, including machine tools, material, and trained labour. The hard-worked Public Service of the Commonwealth cannot do to-day all that is required to be done, primarily because successive ministries in this House failed to do the things that they ought to have done in the national interest. These people knew what ought to be done, but because of fear of electors or some other consideration which involved heavy taxation, they left the responsibility to some body else. Colloquially, they " passed the buck ".

Those with a keen sense of salesmanship, who come close to Ministers, have the opportunity to impress the Minister whom they are serving with their qualities of mind and their capacity for leadership. Basking in the full sunlight of ministerial recognition these people have, in many instances, secured advantages over their fellows, who are very good officers, but, as the honorable member for Robertson says, are generally unknown to the Minister. That fault of our present system is hard to avoid. We hope to have in this country a public service, which, whilst its members can in their spare timehave an interest in party politics, will give loyal service to whichever government takes office. But what we have developed in Australia is not a public service which takes an interest in party politics, but a public service which is politically minded. We have people who ingratiate themselves with their Minister, pander to his vanity, and tell him just how impressive he is and what a remarkable thing he is doing for the country. They tell the same story to the next Minister, and thus secure promotion from one Minister after another. In the Public Service of Victoria I often saw that happen. I saw it happen to such an extent that several departmental heads owe their rise to their capacity to persuade Ministers to accept them at their own valuation. Such an undesirable and unsatisfactory state of affairs should not exist.

We have attached to Ministers to-day private secretaries, assistant private secretaries, first-class confidential typists, and second-class confidential typists - a whole retinue of servants, in fact. I have found in my brief experience of Parliament that the less capacity a Minister has, the more servants he has around him to try to make up for his deficiencies. A little over twelve months ago the War Cabinet spent the whole of one Saturday morning discussing the salaries of private secretaries. That in the middle of a war ! Having reached a decision, they sent for a member of the Public Service Board and said, "Here is our decision; you go away and make a recommendation to that effect ", and he went away and brought back the recommendation wanted.

Mr Duncan-Hughes - How does the honorable member know all this?

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