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Tuesday, 11 September 1973
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Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - I have seen a copy of the statement which has accompanied the tabling of this report but I have not seen a copy of the Public Service Board report itself. Therefore I do not know what is meant by the phrase in the statement 'describes many of the changes which have occurred in the machinery of government'. There have been many changes indeed. One matter which is of more concern to the Australian public than any other is the growth in the Commonwealth Public Service. The Budget has estimated that the Public Service will grow by 4.7 per cent this year. Nobody believes for one moment that the growth rate will be held to 4.7 per cent. Everybody believes that the growth rate will be at least 7 per cent and that more than likely it will be 10 per cent. Even if the growth rate were restricted to 7 per cent it would mean that the cost of running the Public Service would increase to an extraordinarily high level. The Budget, on the basis of a 4.7 per cent growth rate, provides for an increase of 24.2 per cent in salaries and allowances. But that, of course, will not be the actual level of the increase. The level of the increase will be at least 7 per cent.

One should compare the growth rate in the Public Service of 7 per cent with the growth rate in the work force of only 3 per cent to 3i per cent. A 4.7 per cent growth in the Commonwealth Public Service will cost an extra $137.6m a year in salaries. If the growth rate is 7 per cent, as is expected, the salary cost will be an extra $204m a year. That $204m a year would provide every pensioner in Australia with an extra $3 a week in his or her pension. That is an example of the way in which the Public Service is growing. This growth is totally disorienting the proper relativities between the private sector and the public sector and, within the public sector, the proper relationship between social service activities and the unrestrained growth of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is quite inappropriate for the Commonwealth Public Service to grow in this fashion.

The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has made it clear that he wants the Commonwealth Public Service to be the pacesetter for the whole of Australian industry. It certainly has been used by the Government up to date as the pacesetter. He is quite determined to abandon productivity as a concept. He is quite determined to have the Commonwealth Public Service lead the field in wage rates and conditions in Australia to a level where its inflationary impact will just build upon the present inflationary situation. There is no will on the part of the Government to tackle inflation. Any measure it has taken will not achieve the desired result.

Let us examine some of the extraordinary things which are being done. The Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) was elected by the Caucus to be a Minister. He had to be found a job to do. So he was appointed Minister for Northern Development. It was only natural that people would expect the Minister for Northern Development to have something to do with beef roads, but that responsibility was taken away from him. It was only natural that people would expect him to have something to do with primary industry in the northern areas, but that responsibility was taken away from him.

Mr Nixon - What does he do?

Mr SNEDDEN - He has a very important job. He said in this House the other night that the single most important international agreement in existence is the International Sugar Agreement. It is not surprising that he should have thought that it was the single most important agreement in existence because it is his only responsibility.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - And we negotiated it.

Mr SNEDDEN - I have been reminded by the honourable member for Wannon that it was a Liberal-Country Party government which negotiated that Agreement. Some other extraordinary changes are to occur. The Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) this morning, by the way he chose to avoid answering any questions, was anxious to use question time to avoid having any debate. He misused question time in the same way as the Government is misusing the Commonwealth Public Service.

It is said that the Government is to amalgamate the Departments of Transport and Civil Aviation. What relationship is there between rail, sea and land transport and civil aviation? Quite clearly, the departments are not appropriate to be amalgamated. They certainly are not appropriate to be amalgamated under the present Minister. That Minister has no chance of running those 2 departments properly and effectively. We already know that the Director-General of Civil Aviation, who prides Australia on the safety that we have achieved in civil aviation and who has been appointed to the board of Qantas Airways Ltd, is laying siege to his own office. He is not prepared to play any part which would bring about an amalgamation of the departments and a reduction in the safety of civil aviation in Australia. That is a proper attitude for him to have. I am sure that everybody in this House would see the importance of civil aviation and the safety of all those who travel by air as being greater than merely the opportunity for the Prime Minister to give a bigger responsibility to a devoted Minister who always says yes to him. The Prime Minister knows that the Minister will not be exercising that responsibility; it will be an aggrandised public service that will do that.

The Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) will find himself without a job. That Department is about to be abolished. Just what new department will be dreamed up for the Minister for External Territories so that he can continue to be a Minister is beyond anybody's guess at this time The Minister for Northern Development received that portfolio and has sugar alone as his sole responsibility. What portfolio will the present Minister for External Territories get? It is said that the Prime Minister is making such an awful mess of his foreign affairs portfolio that he is to hand it over to the Minister for External Territories.

Mr Armitage - No!

Mr SNEDDEN - That is what is said. Sources close to the Government - everybody knows how important they are - have suggested that the Minister for External Territories would make a much better Minister for Foreign Affairs than the Prime Minister.

Mr Gorton - Mr Morrison says he would.

Mr SNEDDEN - That is the point. Let us identify the problem. The present Minister for External Territories would be better than the Prime Minister, but he would still be an awful Minister for Foreign Affairs. However, he has a distinguished background in foreign affairs and perhaps that is what he will do. If that is done, I think that the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) is to have his Department broken into two, so that he can be just the Minister for Recreation and the present Minister for External Territories, no doubt, can be the Minister for Tourism.

I do not know what is to happen to the Department of Customs and Excise. The Minister for Customs and Excise is Senator Murphy who, 2 weeks ago in the Senate, delivered the most devastating criticism of a leader that has ever been made. Senator Murphy said that the Prime Minister - the Leader of his own Party - had acted with a total lack of concern for Cabinet unity. The Prime Minister accepted that rebuff and did not have the courage either to explain the matter or to discipline Senator Murphy. This is the way the Government has deteriorated. Any Minister can say whatever he likes because the Prime Minister is not game to discipline him. What is to happen to the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) when he returns home? Will he be criticised for saying that the Government acted wrongly in failing to consult him over the economic measures of last Sunday?

Perhaps the biggest joke of all is the amalgamation of the Departments of the Army, the Navy and Air with the Department of Defence. The idea of the Deputy Prime Minister being responsible for 4 departments is just the cause of the greatest amusement that could possibly happen.

Mr Bonnett - Five departments.

Mr SNEDDEN - Oh no. This has changed. The statement mentions the incorporation of the functions of the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Supply in other areas of the Australian Public Service. Under the amalgamation the Deputy Prime Minister will be responsible for the Army, Navy, Air and Defence Departments. So the Deputy Prime Minister has had Supply taken off him. He will have Army, Navy and Air but there will be precious little of the Army, Navy and Air left. Have you ever seen such a deliberate breaking of a policy promise made by a party seeking office? The Labor Party said that it would hold spending on defence at 3.5 per cent of the gross national product. Then the poor little embattled Deputy Prime Minister came up with that worried look over his face and said: 'I confess we have cut down spending on defence from 3.5 per cent in real terms to 2.6 per cent in real terms'. Yet the Government has the cheek to go around and say: 'We are going to defend Australia; we are going to play our part in regional defence arrangements; and furthermore we are going to walk the stage of the world and be a powerful middle power.'

The poor Deputy Prime Minister would not know what to sign unless his Private Secretary told him. Notwithstanding this the Deputy Prime Minister will now be responsible for Army, Navy, Air and Defence. I heard an interjection from this side of the House to the effect that the Brownies and the Girl Guides would be included in the incorporation. I do not like the implication; I reject it. I acknowledge that the Brownies and the Girl Guides are doing a tremendous job in building up morale among young women in this community and I would not like to see the direction of their policy in the hands of the Deputy Prime Minister because he has already lost more soldiers, sailors and airmen as well as equipment in this short time than it would have been possible to imagine 1 months ago. During the last 6 months we have seen the depletion of our national defence forces. We then come to the extraordinary statement of the Prime Minister that there were some difficulties between the Government and the Public Service.

Mr Keating - I rise to a point of order. Have you noticed, Mr Speaker, the effect of the Leader of the Opposition in making the Chairman of the 'Sydney Morning Herald' look more miserable over there?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order.

Mr SNEDDEN - The Prime Minister says that there were some difficulties between the Government and the Public Service and that all these difficulties could be attributed to some lack of understanding. He said that he believes that these difficulties could have been avoided. But what he really means is that the Public Service wanted to give direct, objective advice and the Government was not prepared to accept it because this was not the advice that it wanted to hear. But now the understanding is established. If the Public Service does what it is told and if it offers the advice that is wanted by the Government then the understanding will pursue. We do not agree that this is the way for a government to govern a country. It is very important that members of the Commonwealth Public Service serve Ministers fearlessly and are not subjected to being shunted off as special ambassadors to the International Labour Organisation or some other body in Europe as has happened to 2 men who were both first class public servants. This action was a deliberate act of retribution by the Government to get rid of these men. No doubt there are more to come. This is a form of action that we would never engage in. And then, as for the convention-

Mr Whitlam - That is not what Sir John Bunting tells me.

Mr Hunt - Pick that up, Bill.

Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, I will pick up the point very strongly. That is not what Sir John Bunting would say. We have Woof Woof and the 26 dynamos playing the game. Sir John Bunting is a public servant who is now virtually like Mr Marshall who is attached to the person of Senator Murphy. The Prime Minister has decided to attach to his personal charge one of the greatest public servants ever to serve this country so that instead of allowing Sir John Bunting to develop policies and to put them fearlessly to the Government, Sir John is obliged to take the directions of the Prime Minister and is unable to give the objective advice that he should give.

Sir JohnBunting served the previous Government as the permanent head of 2 successive departments over very many years. 1 wonder what is to be his future under the present Prime Minister. There is no doubt in my mind that Sir John Bunting would like to be able to return to the days when he could offer objective and fearless advice.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The right honourable gentleman's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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