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Tuesday, 28 June 1921

Senator GARDINER (New SouthWales) . - Before Senator Fairbairn carries out his intention to withdraw the motion, I would point out that this is an excellent opportuntiy for us> to discuss whether, at the present time,.. another highly-paid official should be added, to the particular branch of the Public Service mentioned. I take it that that is what the regulation -means, if it means anything. I find it provided that "the persons for the time being, holding the several offices named, shall be permanent heads: of Departments," and then follows a list, of heads, including the Secretary of the. Prime Minister's Department, the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, the Secretary of the AttorneyGeneral's Department, the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, the: Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, the Controller-General of Customs the Secretary of the Department for Defence, and the Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral. If the Senate is going, to consider whether another departmental head should be added to that list, it would ' be an opportune time to consider it now. By " now," I do not mean exactly to-day, but before the subject comes up on theEs'timates. I have had some years' experience in this Chamber, and, to my mind, the most unsatisfactory opportunity for discussing any subject is on the Estimates, for the simple reason that there are thousands of subjects to be discussed then, and each honorable senator, being interested in the matter about which he is most particularly concerned, puts that matter before the Senate, with the result that "anything, of real importance gets scant courtesy. It would be a great deal better, if the Government intend to take this step, to have a debate on it. The Government are sure to win, and then we can let the thing go.

Senator Wilson - Are you sure?

Senator GARDINER - Quite sure. Ho one can dream that the Government are going to be interfered with by their own followers in making appointments to carry out their policy.

Senator Wilson - Then why waste time?

Senator GARDINER - I. do not think it could be termed a waste of time, unless ' Senator Wilson is anxious to get back to the Cockatoo Island Dock Commission. I merely rose to emphasize the fact that no opportunity is afforded to honorable senators to give to matters of this kind that ample consideration which should be given to them.

Senator Fairbairn - Hear, hear!

Senator GARDINER - I am glad that Senator Fairbairn agrees with me in that. I should like the Government, instead of taking the matter as settled by putting on the Estimates the salary for this office, and letting us discuss it then, to give the Seriate an opportunity to have a proper say in it by introducing a motion affirming the desirability of what they are going to do, or by introducing a Bill to deal with it in a thorough manner. Senator Fairbairn has raised an objection to the regulation mentioned, and has now agreed, very wisely in the circumstances, to withdraw his motion, because, when all is said and done, if the motion went to a division -this afternoon and the Government won that would probably be the end of it. I hope, if there is any intention on the part of the Government to add to the already large expenditure of the Commonwealth, that the Senate will be given a better opportunity than is offered by the Estimates of -considering whether it is wise to do so.

Senator Keating - What about the next Supply Bill?

Senator GARDINER - We shall have that Bill before us this afternoon, and an opportunity will be offered of discussing the subject then. My difficulty is that I have not very much knowledge of the objects of the appointment.

Senator Fairbairn - A new Health Department.

Senator GARDINER - I do not know exactly -what the duties of the new Health Department will be. Although there are Health Departments in every State, I still recognise that it is essential for the Commonwealth to have one of its own. I should like the matter dealt with under so full a motion that the Senate will have an opportunity of going into the value of the new Department - not merely into the value of the salary attached to the officeand of knowing all about it. The Government would be wise if they put forward a motion inviting the Senate \xi consider the constitution of a new Health Department, if that is what this means, and put before the Senate all the particulars which are necessary to show whether at the present time, when money is so scarce, the proposed step should be taken.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am taking a sympathetic note of the honorable senator's remarks.

Senator GARDINER - If my remarks are received with sympathy by the Leader of the Government in the Senate it is time for me to sit down.

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