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Wednesday, 6 July 1921

Senator SENIOR (South Australia) .- The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), in reply to my objection, said that a chief officer was the chief officer of a branch or a Department.

Senator Russell - That is, if the Department is large enough. We do not appoint chief officers for branches at Port Darwin, or, say, in the south of Tasmania.

Senator SENIOR - The Bill refers to " Chief officer," which means " the chief officer in a State or part of the Commonwealth."

Senator Russell - A part of the Commonwealth may be the Northern Territory or the Federal Territory.

Senator SENIOR - A chief officer is the chief officer of a Department in any part of the Commonwealth. The Minister illustrated his argument by referring to the Commissioner of Taxation, who has other duties. In the Railway Department there are. four or five chief officers.

Senator Russell - The Railway Department does . not come under this measure.

Senator SENIOR - But there are Works and Buildings Departmentsin connexion with railways which have a chief officer of works and a financial officer. I am not objecting to the definition of chief officer, but I want it to be clear. .

Senator Russell - If I supplied a list of the different functions of chief officers it would require a horse and dray to bring them here. A man may be a junior officer at Wyndham, and a chief officer of half-a-dozen Departments, but he is not paid as the chief officer of a Department. A chief officer at Broome, for instance, may have hundreds over him in similar Departments in other parts of the Commonwealth

Senator SENIOR - The Minister admits that it is impossible to define the functions or status of a chief officer, as. he is sometimes in one division and sometimes in another.

Senator Russell - I have defined the duties of a chief officer who is the second man in the Department, but in some of the larger Departments there are, perhaps, four men in the same class, because there are different Departments. The head of the Defence Department is Mr. Trumble. There are chief officers in half a dozen different branches of the Department"".

Senator SENIOR - Those are chief' officers of branches, and not of the Department, whilst the clause speaks of the chief officer of the Department.

Senator Russell - Mr. Bright, theDeputy Postmaster-General of Victoria, is a chief officer. Is he not of the Department of the Postmaster-General ?

Senator SENIOR - There is the PostmasterGeneral, and in each of the States there is a. Deputy Postmaster-General. We cannot regard every Deputy Post-. master-General as chief, officer of thePostmasterGeneral's Department.

Senator Fairbairn - What amendmentdoes the honorable senator suggest;?

Senator SENIOR - I suggest the insertion after the word " Department " of the words " or branch of such Department."" Thereis a great difference between a Department and abranch of a Department. For instance, the Electoral Branch is a- branch of the Home and Territories Department. The chief officer of the Home and Territories Department is not necessarily chief officer of the Electoral Branch of that Department. My object is to make the definition more clear.

Senator Russell - This, definition has been in force for a great many years under the existing Act.

Senator SENIOR - The Minister means to say that the Bill includes a lot of old matter taken from the existing Act; and that is no argument for the introduction of a new measure to deal with the Public Service. When we have the Public Service Act under revision, we should make a distinction between the head . of a Department and the chief officer of a branch of that Department. A question may arise in the High Court as to whether a particular officer is the head of a Department or the chief officer of a Department.

Senator Crawford - The Minister has told us that " chief officer" means any one to whom the term may be applied.

Senator SENIOR - Then we are driven to ask . who is the person to apply the term. How is the Judge of a Court to determine whether the definition has been applied to a particular officer? However, Ihave directed attention to what I regard as a defeat, and if the Minister does not choose to remedy it, I at least have done my duty.

Senator RUSSELL.(Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [3. 55}. - I would not undertake to define in this Bill all the functions of a chief officer. The Civil staff of the Defence Department will come under this Bill. Mr. Trumble is the very capable head of that Department, but it would befoolish to appoint him as head of the Aviation Branch, or the Munitions Branch. If he were asked' a question about aviation, he would probably send for ColonelGoble, or some trained member of the Aviation Force. Mr. ' Oxenham is the head of the Postmaster-General's Department, but the chief officer in every State is the Deputy Postmaster-General for the State. If any honorable member wished to know something about postal matters in Victoria, he would go, not to Mr. Oxenham, but to Mr. Bright, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral for Victoria.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) -. - Senator Senior has agreed to let the definition go, throwing the responsibility upon the Minister.

Senator RUSSELL - If that is so, I am satisfied. My only objectionisto the time it took to induce the honorable senator to agree to let the definition go.

Amendment agreed to.

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