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Wednesday, 16 February 1977
Page: 122

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins (SCULLIN, VICTORIA) -The House will come to order.

Mr CHIPP - I do not know whether my friend believes me or not but I am not now trying to make a political point. I am enunciating a principle and observing a fact that the Leader of the Opposition did make 3 political appointments. I challenge the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who is to follow me in this debate, to deny that. I do not think it is a dishonourable thing to make such appointments but I think that that famous man Blind Freddie could see that they were 3 political appointments. They did credit to themselves in the positions they filled. Yet the Leader of the Opposition speaks with a holier than thou attitude and says that we are politicising the Public Service. This Bill does permit a government under certain circumstances, according to very careful guidelines which will act as safeguards, to make political appointments but if a government in the future does so, the appointment will not be permanent and the appointee at the time of accepting the appointment will know that it is for a period of only 5 years or for a lesser term and that he will be eligible for reappointment. That seems to me to be a very honest way of doing it. It seems to me to be very honest of the Prime Minister to bring down such a Bill and for the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), who is sitting at the table, to handle it because it brings this out into the open by saying: 'Yes, there have been political appointments and maybe there will be political appointments and if there are let them be made under these guidelines and with these safeguards'.

My own personal philosophy is that I support the principle. I do not believe that the whole of the Public Service should be ravaged as happens under the American system when every time there is a change of government there is a change in every permanent head. There are many government departments where the political persuasion of the incumbent permanent head does not matter. One would not imagine that the permanent head of a Department of Works need be of a certain political persuasion or, if he is, whether that would affect the carrying out of his functions, but I certainly believe that in respect of those other departments that I did mention which have a heavy political content, the position is much more important. Maybe I am getting too mature or too browned off to bother about making political points in this place. I do not like doing it any more, but when the Leader of the Opposition mentioned what we were supposed to have done in respect of Mr Menadue, Dr Wilenski and Mr Spigelman I wonder what the Labor Party did with a very distinguished public servant, Dr Hal Cook. Labor was not in office for 5 minutes before he was banished. The reasons given for his banishment are well known. He is a very highly competent man. He is a distinguished man. He was given some roving committee in Europe with the grandiose title of something plenipotentiary. Obviously that was a movement for political reasons. If the Leader of the Opposition is going to oppose this Bill, as I understand he is, I can believe that he might be doing this as a matter of principle but when you stand up for a principle, your own hands, your own heart and your own conscience have to be clean on that principle before you continue espousing it.

There is another thing which the Leader of the Opposition said which I believe ought to be contradicted by the first speaker from this side who replies to him. In his speech he said that the key man in the Prime Minister's new scheme is the Chairman of the Public Service Board. Then he said these words:

Therefore he has got a man you can trust'.

But he said it with the intonation, which unfortunately will not appear in Hansard, not with a sneer but with a leer maybe. He meant, that in future the Government will be appointing a man who it knows will bend its way politically. That is what he meant. There is no question about that. A couple of paragraphs further on in his speech he said that: "They got in quickly with Mr Mick Shann 's appointment'.

Joining the two together the inference is that Mr Fraser thinks or the Liberals think that Mr Shann is a man we can trust in the sneering sense in which the Leader of the Opposition meant it. I go on record as having known Mick Shann for many years and I certainly say he is a man we can trust. It is not just the Liberals who can trust him; he is a man the Parliament can trust and he is a man Australians can trust. He is a man of great distinction and of enormous integrity. I thought that the way in which the Leader of the Opposition referred to him was an uncalled for and unwarranted slur on a man who has given his whole lifetime to the Public Service.

In conclusion I support the Bill for 2 reasons. Mainly, I support it on principle. I am not averse to the Public Service being politicised in certain circumstances. If it is going to be politicised I believe it should be done honestly and this Bill brings out into the open that kind of an appointment which is a political appointment and it will not permanently disadvantage other career people in the Public Service who have served their lifetime in it.

If I may have the indulgence of the House for one moment to raise a matter which may not be entirely relevant to this Bill, I am rapidly coming to a view that not only should this change in our system be made to the Public Service but I have expressed for many years the view that it is time Australians looked at the system of Westminster government and maybe it is time we looked at appointing from outside the Parliament as Ministers people with the necessary expertise. I am firmly of the view that not until that time will the executive- the individual congressman, as he is known in the United States, when formed into a committee with the proper research and backup facilities- be truly responsible and accountable to Parliament. I believe that view is consistent with the initiative that has been taken as far as the Public Service is concerned. I strongly support the Bill.

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