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Wednesday, 27 April 1921

Senator VARDON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - As this is the first occasion upon which I have had the honour to address the Senate, I shall be glad if you will permit me, sir, to preface my remarks on ihis Bill with a few words of a personal nature. In the first place, I should like tosay how deeply I appreciate the cordial welcome extended to me b.y members of this Chamber; and, further, that I have in my possession a letter, which I treasure very much, written by you, Mr. President, to my late father, whofor some years occupied a seat in this chamber. That letter testified to the esteem in which he was held, and to the confidence placed in him by his fellow senators. It is my sincere hope that I may be fortunate enough to gain; and certainly it will be my earnest endeavour to merit, a like measureof confidence and esteem.

I intend to support the Bill generally. It is not my intention to traverse it in detail. Thatwas done, and, I think, effectively, by the Minister (Senator

Russell). But there are two or three of its provisions to which I should specially refer. I welcome the Bill for several reasons, but principally because I consider it a step in- the direction of real economy. We hear a good deal about economy in these days. I think we all admit the necessity for it, but I feel that if our people would themselves, individually, practice this virtue, the task of those in charge of the affairs of this country would be considerably lightened. In my own State, one hears a good deal about Federal extravagance, but if those who make the complaint are asked to be specific and point to a particular case, the reference generally is to the proposed large expenditure on what is termed an unnecessary Federal Capital out in the bush.

I believe that the Bill offers a means by which it may be possible to check a certain amount of unnecessary expenditure. The Board which it is proposed to appoint will have very wide powers. It "will advise as to the best means of effecting economy, the promotion of efficiency in the Service by insuring improved organization and procedure, by closer supervision and the simplification of the work in each Department, the abolition of unnecessary -work, the co-ordination of the work in the various Departments, and so on. If I were asked: Is our public Service undermanned? I confess that my reply would be very much in the nature of a guess; but T think it will compare favorably with the Public Service of any other country. And here let me say, I have always contended that the Government should be a model employer, should pay the best wages and grant the best' conditions of service. In return, they should be able to command the very best service available in the community. We have a great army of public servants, which, if it is to be efficient, must be thoroughly organized. My honorable friend (Senator Guthrie), when speaking on the Air Defence Bill the other day, said that the cost of the Public Services in Australia, State and Federal, amounted to about £33,000,000. I think that is rather an under-estimate. If I remember aright, this was the figure up to about two years ago, and no doubt it has been considerably increased since then. If we compare the number of employees in the Service ten years ago with those employed to-day, I think we shall find an increase out of all proportion to our increase in population. Of course, if all are profitably employed, well and good; but, nevertheless, it is our duty to see if we can reduce the number without impairing the efficiency of the Service.

The Minister said that the heads of all public Departments have very wide powers. That being so,, it is essential that these officers should be strong men, for at times it may be their duty to recommend that increases in salary, which are dependent on diligent conduct and efficient service, be not granted. This is a sound principle to incorporate in the Public Service.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That principle is in the Act.

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