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Wednesday, 13 May 1970

Mr MARTIN (Banks) - I have listened with interest to the contributions by Government supporters. They are still peddling the old line that the Public Service Board is not influenced by the Government. Are we expected to accept this claim? Surely nobody on the Government side would be so naive as to believe that the Public Service Board is not influenced by the Government. Let there be no mistake about this: The Public Service Board is an instrument of Government policy. The Board itself is fully aware of its position and it carries out Government policy. The Government pursues its policy through its agent, the Public Service Board, lt has been the consistent policy of this Government and its predecessors to depress Public Service salaries and leave conditions, particularly salaries in the lower and middle income ranges. The Gorton Government is still pursuing this policy.

Let me firstly argue why 4 weeks annual leave should be granted to Commonwealth public servants. The annual leave provision of 3 weeks in the Commonwealth Public Service has operated for the last 68 years. In that time we have moved forward not one inch. What is the situation with regard to productivity in the Commonwealth Public Service? Productivity is usually one of the bases for improving conditions. It may be said that it is difficult to measure productivity within the Public Service. I propose to give a few statistics to show that productivity has increased to quite a large extent in recent years. I refer to the PostmasterGeneral's Department, which is responsible for the employment of a large percentage of the Public Service. In J 958- 59 business in the Department increased by 9%; staff increased by only 1.5%. In 1959-60 business increased by 6.5%; staff increased by 1.5%. In 1960-61 business increased by 4.8%; staff increased by 0.7%. Between 1961 and 1967 the number of postal articles handled annually by the Department increased by 32% from 2,048 million to 2,683 million. The number of telephone calls registered each year increased by 36% from 1,700 million to 2,313 million. In the same period the full time staff of the Department increased by only 15% from 86,559 to 98,886. Could any honourable member opposite honestly claim that productivity in the Public Service has not increased?

In handing down its judgment in the 1963 metal trades case the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission said:

We consider it would be fair to increase margins under this award by 10%. We have reached this conclusion in the knowledge that today employees under this award have been awarded an extra week's annual leave.

The clear implication of those remarks is thai increases greater than 10% would have been awarded had increased leisure not been provided at that time. Public servants received only the 10% increase in wages. They received no increase in their annual leave entitlement. Let me answer one of the arguments consistently advanced by this Government and its predecessors. They have regularly said that substantial increases in staff would be necessary if annual leave was increased. There are no mobile relief staffs provided for the great majority of Commonwealth Public Service work situations. The duties of the absent officer, whether he be on annual leave or sick leave, are carried out, partly or wholly, by other staff within his section. In 1965 in rejecting a claim for 4 weeks annual leave Sir Robert Menzies said:

An additional 5.800 workers would be needed.

The claim has been repeated by his successors, but it is a fallacious argument. In 1964 annual leave in the New South Wales Public Service was increased from 3 weeks to 4 weeks and the increase in staff in 1965, the first year in which 4 weeks annual leave was granted, was less than it had been in the preceding 2 years I submit that that fact knocks out the Government's argument.

What are the annual leave conditions in some of the countries with which we normally compare ourselves? I mention first the United Stales of America. In 1949, 61% of all employees in the United Stales received 2 weeks leave. In 1952, 48% received 2 weeks leave and 46% received 3 weeks leave. In 1957, 64% received 3 weeks leave and 20% received 4 weeks leave and over. In 1961. 49% received 3 weeks leave and 43% received 4 weeks leave and over. In 1966, 60% received 4 weeks leave while 13% received 5 weeks leave. Workers in Norway have received 4 weeks leave since 1964 - and we are supposed to be called a progressive country. In Sweden 4 weeks leave applies generally in industry. Public servants receive from 24 days leave for a 6-day week to 40 days leave, depending on age and their service grading.

In West Germany public servants receive 3 weeks leave with a minimum of 4 weeks leave for all employees over 30 years of age. In addition, 4 weeks leave is provided in many outside agreements other than those relating to the public service. In Holland public servants receive additional leave entitlements, depending on their age, of up to 4 days over the minimum provision of 3 weeks. In addition to that, public servants receive also an extra 2 weeks pay per year as holiday allowance. In the United Kingdom civil servants receive leave entitlements ranging from 3 weeks to 6 weeks according to their status and length of service. The Government should hang its head in shame. Our Commonwealth public servants receive 3 weeks leave and do not look like getting any more leave while this Government is in office.

Let us look to see who is the real architect of the decision of the Government not to grant 4 weeks annual leave to Commonwealth public servants. I go back to 12th October 1966 when the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) asked a question of the then Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, concerning 4 weeks annual leave for Commonwealth public servants. This is the reply that he received from Mr Holt:

There should be no ambiguity about our position, but I shall see that a copy of the Government's official statement on this matter is made available to the honourable gentleman. (Extension of time granted)

Mr MARTIN - I thank the House. The then Prime Minister, Mr Holt, went on to say in reply to the question from the honourable member for Macquarie:

Some time ago I received a deputation of representatives of the Public Service organisations and I undertook to bring the views of that deputation, which was pressing for 4 weeks annual leave for Commonwealth public servants, to the Cabinet.

I ask honourable members to note these words from Mr Holt:

A Cabinet submission has been prepared which goes fully into this matter. I should expect it to be considered shortly and a decision to be reached for announcement before the Parliament rises.

What happened the following night in the Senate? The Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate at that time was the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). He was then Senator Gorton. The debate in the Senate at that time was on the Public Service Bill 1966. Senator Gorton said this:

The second proposal by the Opposition-

He was referring there to an amendment that had been foreshadowed to grant 4 weeks annual leave to Commonwealth public servants - is that the Government should provide 4 weeks annual recreation leave instead of 3 weeks for Commonwealth public servants. Senator Willesee quite accurately forecast that 1 would have something to say about the cost that such a change would impose on the Australian economy.

This is the present Prime Minister speaking.

He continues:

If an extra week's leave were granted each year to the total number of Commonwealth employees, an additional 5,800 workers would be required in the Commonwealth Public Service. Of course, the annual wage and salary bill would rise by about ?9m.

He goes on to say: 1

It seemed to me that he was saying-

Senator Gortonwas referring to Senator Willesee ; with some justice, that in a particular office at a particular time a man could go away for a week and it would not be necessary to replace him, but the inference to be drawn from the extension of that argument is that this could happen throughout the whole of the Public Service.

He carried on to say that the Government had no intention of giving it.

What happened in actual fact was that the then Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Gorton, beat the gun. That was on 13th October 1966, before any decision had been made by the Cabinet.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is the honourable member quoting from the official record?

Mr MARTIN - I am quoting from Hansard. Five days later, apparently after Cabinet had decided the issue and after Senator Gorton had jumped the gun, the then Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, refused this request. What I am saying is that the real architect of the decision not te give 4 weeks annual leave to Commonwealth public servants is the present Prime Minister, the right honourable John Grey Gorton.

To bring what he has said up to date - I hope that Commonwealth public servants take note of these remarks - I wish to quote what the Prime Minister said in reply to a question from me as recently as 9th April of this year. Part of my question to the Prime Minister was:

Will he follow the lead of other enlightened employers and immediately grant 4 weeks annual leave to Commonwealth public servants?

The Prime Minister did not say no bluntly, but he covered his reply by a few words of paraphrase. He said:

I do agree with what the Minister for Labour and National Service said yesterday, which was that the question of 4 weeks leave for Commonwealth public servants had been carefully examined by the Government and had been discussed with representatives of the various unions but on the grounds of the cost to the community generally and on other grounds in relation to shift work, which the Minister mentioned, the Government decided not to grant this leave.

I put this point to the House: Commonwealth public servants have never had the chance of getting 4 weeks annual leave from previous governments of the same political colour as this one. They have no chance of getting 4 weeks annual leave from this Government. Is it any wonder that Commonwealth public servants are so bitter on this subject?

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