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Thursday, 2 December 1976

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The table read as follows-


Mr WILLIS -The table shows that the rates of accumulation were rather lower in the Commonwealth Public Service than in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, as I have already mentioned. For instance, after 20 years the Australian Public Service entitlement is 6.3 months which compares with 7 months for New South Wales Government employees and 6.5 months for Queensland Government employees. After 30 years it is 9 months for the Australian Public Service, 12 months for the New South Wales Government employees, 12 months for Western Australian Government employees and 9.75 months for Queensland Government employees, and so on. After 50 years the comparison was 15 months for Australian Public Servants, 22 months for New South Wales Government employees, 21 months for Western Australian Government employees, and 16.25 months for Queensland Government employees. The Labor Government proposals would have raised the level for the Commonwealth Government employees to only fractionally above that of New South Wales and Western Australia. Therefore they were not setting any substantially new standard but rather were bringing the Australian Public Service standard and that of other Australian Government employees up to a level fractionally above that applying in New South Wales and Western Australia.

Turning to the Public Service Amendment Bill (No. 2), as I mentioned earlier this Bill is part of the process of establishing a separate Public Service in the Northern Territory. The Bill provides for the transfer of Australian public servants to the new Northern Territory Public Service which will be established by the Northern Territory Public Service Ordinance. That ordinance is already before the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The Opposition does not oppose this legislation but it does have a couple of reservations about it. Those reservations principally relate to the welfare of officers who will be transferred out of the Commonwealth Public Service into the Northern Territory Public Service. I understand it is proposed initially to transfer 260 officers out of the Australian Public Service into the Northern Territory service with effect from 1 January 1977. Eventually more than 6000 officers will be transferred. In transferring to the Northern Territory Public Service these public servants will be entering a very different service from the Australian Public Service. The Territory service being much smaller obviously it will not offer anything like the diversity of job opportunities that are available to members of the Australian Public Service. This could pose real problems for recruitment in the future in that young able people who may have been prepared to serve in the Department of the Northern Territory for some years but did not wish to spend their whole careers there could now be reluctant to join such a limited service. On the other hand others who see rapid promotional opportunities in the new public service may be very enthusiastic about the new arrangements but they are likely to be the more senior officers. The possibility of recruitment problems in the future, particularly of the most capable people, is one to which the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) may wish to give some consideration.

The major problem, as we see it, is the haste with which the Government is rushing into this action of establishing the Northern Territory Public Service. Here we are at the beginning of December with less than a month to go before the new service comes into operation and still, so I am informed, no notices of transfer have been issued by the Minister. Admittedly, until this Bill is passed, he does not have power to transfer officers to the new service but in practice that does not stop him issuing notices pending the passing of this Bill by the Parliament. Staff who receive notice soon, and surely it must be within the next week or so, will be faced with having to decide in just 3 weeks approximately whether they wish to go to the new service or whether they prefer to resign and seek other employment as some may do when they realise the full implications of transfer. I understand that this matter has been concerning the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations and that it has requested the Minister for the Northern Territory to consider delaying implementation of the legislation until the middle of next year. So far it has received no reply from the Minister. If such deferment were adopted then staff who are to be transferred would be able to give full and adequate consideration to their options.

One matter which will be of concern to staff who are to be transferred will be the fact that although provision is to be made by regulation for them to be able to transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service, in practice it is not likely to be at all easy for them to do so. There is no guarantee of acceptance back into the Commonwealth Public Service. Thus staff who may now be living in Brisbane or Canberra and who do not want to go to the Territory on a permanent basis will have to contemplate what they are going to do and they are being given little time to make what for them and their families are quite crucial decisions.

I should also mention that this Bill, by giving the Minister power to transfer Commonwealth public servants to the Northern Territory Public Service, appears to over-ride the provision in the Public Service Act which enables officers to decline transfer. Thus the only choice effectively being offered to those who are to be transferred is either to accept transfer or resign. The decision to resign is not one which any public servant is likely to take lightly and in the view ofthe Opposition more time should have been available for the full implications of the establishment of the new service to be understood by all officers before it was implemented.

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