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Wednesday, 30 November 1960

Mr ANDERSON (Hume) .- 1 shall not detain the House for very long, but it is customary for me, when listening to members of the Opposition contributing to the debate, to make notes and to rebut some of the things they have said. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) chided the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bur\,). who invited the Opposition to make some suggestions to the Government for the improvement of the Public Service. He said. " It is not the task of the Opposition, lt is the task of the Government." But the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) intends to move some amendments, and that surely, will be helping the Government in that regard. The honorable member for Kingston will vote for those amendments, yet he would not make any suggestions to the Government. He said. " Why introduce the Boyer report and why not have a fresh committee to examine the Public Service? " When so many people charge the Public Service with being bureaucratic, is it not refreshing to have an outside body coming in to examine the service? The honorable member said the Public Service Board was quite competent to carry out the inquiry, but the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) was critical of the board. Here we have an Opposition of constant contradictions!

I have made a note, " Hot air story about officer who became a security risk ". The honorable member for Kingston talked about a man who was seconded to the security service and who, on his return to the civil service, was adjudged a security risk and received no promotion. The Public Service Act provides for an officer the right to make application to an appeals board if an officer is promoted over him. When he thinks he has superior efficiency or has equal efficiency and seniority he has the right of appeal to the Public Service Board, and so my note " Hot air story " cannot be far wrong.

The honorable member for Grayndler has talked about security risk and promotions and referring to Clause 24 said the board has to be satisfied that the appointee is a fit and proper person to be an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service. He said that because one person was not a fit and proper person he failed to get promotion and but that provision deals only with appointment to the Public Service. The honorable member fo; Grayndler spoke for half an hour and indulged in continual repetition. He told us recently that he was born in the country and I think he contracted the habit of a ruminant because his habit in this House is so often to go round and round the same point.

The matter of an appointee to the service being a fit and proper person was raised also by the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot understand the thinking of the Labour Party. We say that there is in this country a conspiracy inimical to the safety of Australia, and so does the Opposition, yet whenever there is raised the question of a test of a person being a fit and proper person for a position which may become a position of trust - twenty years after appointment a man may be at the top of his division - the Opposition always raises criticism. What is the reason for that? In matters relating to the Public Service and the security of the country the Opposition never takes precautions, but a man cannot become a member of the Labour Party unless he has undergone close scrutiny. The Opposition always puts the party above the nation, and that is a very serious thing. I suggest that the scrutiny which the Labour Party has already practised should be practised again.

A point which interests me is the question of promotion on seniority. The Boyer report states that seniority as a criterion for promotions in all four divisions of the Public Service should be dropped. The present act states that in the Second and Third Divisions the criterion for promotions should be efficiency. I support that view strongly. But the Government does not agree with the report in regard to the Fourth Division. It has a very good reason for doing so and its reason may be sound, but I believe that it is as well to try to carry out the suggestions of the Boyer committee and give public servants the maximum chance of promotion on merit. The Opposition has several times mentioned the question of promotion by merit but I find it extremely hard to reconcile that with the fact that one plank of Labour's platform is "Last on, first off". How can we reconcile that principle with promotion by merit? The Opposition is a party of contradictions. I think promotion should be decided on merit, diligence, efficiency, integrity and application. Those things must be taken into consideration and the Opposition supports that view now, but trade unions say, " Last on, first off ". I have had brought to my attention the question of examinations for promotion. The matter of promotion and the like are dealt with in proposed new section. 45, paragraph (c) of which states that the board may from time to time - appoint such examiners for the purpose of those examinations as it thinks necessary.

It has come to my notice that there was a case where an officer underwent an examination conducted by his immediate superior. He made a carbon copy of the paper and a friend of his took it to a university professor who marked it with a 90 per cent. pass. But he failed to get a pass from his immediate superior! I think there are cases where it is not always right that an immediate superior should have the task of examining his own staff. In the army there is sometimes the great problem of appointing someone to supersede other people. This system leaves a great problem to the person responsible, because he has to be completely impartial. Once you have in any service lack of impartiality you have a low morale; and morale is a most important consideration in any service. When a superior' officer made a recommendation or noted a remark about a person in the Army it was possible for that person to view his superior's recommendation. I do not know whetherthat is so in the Public Service, but it is a very good point. If a man applies for promotion and his superior officer makes a note either favorable or unfavorable against his name, he should have the right to see it.

I understand that the Leader of the Opposition proposes to submit an amendment designed to give women equal pay with men for equal work. I feel very strongly about this. It is not the task of parliaments or of governments to fix hours of work or rates of pay. We have seen the disastrous effect on our economy of the McGirr Government's premature introduction of the 40-hour week in New South Wales, and it may be that the 35-hour week also will be introduced prematurely. It may be a wonderful idea to give women equal pay for equal work, but governments have no right to interfere in these matters. They are matters for decision by an impartial tribunal. Irrespective of any merit that the proposed amendment may have, I shall vote against it.

I join with the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) in making a plea on behalf of the physically handicapped. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his second-reading speech state that the Government has this matter under review. It is very awkward for the Commonwealth Government to ask private industry to employ physically handicapped persons when it does not do so itself. The Commonwealth should give a lead in this matter.

One point in the annual report of the Public Service Board to which I should like to direct attention is that in spite of the increasing work of various departments, such as the Postal Department and the Department of Social Services, for three successive years the intake of new employees had been reduced progressively until finally, in the year under review there had been a reduction in total employment.

Mr Galvin - By how many?

Mr ANDERSON - By five. That is a remarkable achievement. Those people who criticize the Public Service Board should not forget that this reduction in staff has been made at a time when there has been a tremendous increase in the work of the Public Service in general and of the Postmaster-General's Department in particular. I support the bill and commend the Government for what it proposes to do.

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