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Thursday, 7 July 1921

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Had a division- taken place lastnight on this question, I would probably have supported the amendment -submitted By Senator Payne, not because I believed it would be an advantage to include it in the Bill, but because I thought that its inclusion would, lead the Government to see fit to drop their proposal for the appointment of a Board of Management, against which I have been fighting most strenuously. However, having slept over the suggestion, I find I am not prepared to support the amendment. If the purpose of. appointing a direct representative of the Service on the Board of Management is to do away with, discontent,, this-; can. only be done by having that rerpresentative elected1 straight out. by. all. the civil' servants-,, temporary as, well asĀ» permanent. The interests of temporary employees have as much right' .to' be- conserved as those of the' permanent men- in the Service'. In a pamphlet sent to honorable senators', the officials of the Public Service organizations are asking us tei provide in the Bill that no permanent official, however unnecessary he- may be, shall be dismissed . while one temporary, employee remains in the Service. As a matter- of fact, there are quite a- number of temporary employees rendering good service in the Commonwealth, some of them having been employed for years, others Having been merely appointed for periods of. six or nine months, and their interests must be considered as well as those of the permanent employees. Therefore, I cannot support Senator Payne's amendment, unless he provides for an election by not only the permanent employees pf the Commonwealth, but also the temporary hands. Furthermore, if the purpose of the honorable: senator's amendment is to abolish. discontent, he ought to [provide that the person elected may. be recalled. Dis-content cannot be removed merely by re*, presentation.. If the giving of repre.sentation allays^ discontent,, then: the) people of Australia ought, to be the most, contented people in the world,, because; they have so many Parliaments and so. many representatives. The real point, is* how the elected representative conducts1 himself. A striking illustration of the necessity for providing for.- the? right of recall in respect to the proposal to allow the Commonwealth employees to elect a representative on the Board of Management has just been furnished from New South' Wales, where the railway em:ployees are asking for direct representation on the Board of Railway Commissioners. Mr. Butler, who has been freely mentioned as their possible choice, audi who. took a very active part in the recent railway strike, thereby possibly earn: ing a good deal of popularity among the. nien, was appointed to represent their, case before a. Royal" Commission which is . now sitting, but, for some reason or other, they seem to have' become dissatisfied with- the way. in which he has been, representing them, and the executive of,' the union has just recalled him.. Unless Senator Payne provides for the right of.' recall I am not- prepared to support his. proposal. Have not our civil servants been' represented in the past by civil servants ? When Parliament gave- away the- control of th'e_ Commonwealth' employees it intrusted that- control 'tot a Com-, missioner- Mr. McLachlan, a man- who! had been a civil servant from- hia, youth, upwards. I do not. suppose his successor, Mr. Edwards, ever did a day's work outside the Public Service, and all of his six* inspectors, have- been chosen from the Public .Service* and know all about 'it... Furthermore, after providing that every person: dealing with the classification^: the hours, of work and rates of pay of the public servants shall be a . public servant, himself, we have gone still further and given every man in the Service the right to appeal to a. public servant, sitting as Arbitrator. What more representation could be given.? If discontent prevails- in the Service, it cannot be because it isi not controlled by public servants.

Senator Drake-Brockman - They- do. not want any person- in. a judicial capacity; they want him. to- be an. ad?,vocate

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If we are to have direct representation of the Public : Service, it should be as the result of a straight-out vote of the whole of the PublicService. If that course is adopted, in all human' probability a member of the General Division will be selectedfor appointment to the Board. What the majority of the Public Service desire, according to the. cry we heard, is that the " under dog " shall be represented on the Board.

Senator Senior - I have never heard that cry.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If that is notthe desire, what is the reason for the objection to the existing system, under which the Service is controlled by a representative of the other Divisions? I suppose that the number of employees in the General Division exceeds the number in the other Divisions by five or ten to one; and if there isanything in this proposal it means the selection of some member ofthe General Division for appointment to the Board. I do not suggest for a moment that, within their sphere, members of the General Division have not done good service; but if a member of that Division is selected he will have had no experience of administration. It should be pointed out that it is open to all members of the General Division who possess the necessary qualifications to secure positions in the Clericaland Administrative Divisions if they desire to do so. I cannot see how the proposal is going to remove existing discontent in the Public Service if the direct representative of the public servants is to be outvoted, as he may be, by the other two members of the Board. In my view, it would be a great mistake not to have on the Board of Management one, if not two, public servants, but the Government should have the right to select them.

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