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Thursday, 7 July 1921

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - It is my intention to move -

That sub-clause (5) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, "Every person who is appointed a Commissioner shall vacate his position on attaining the age of sixty-five years."

Yesterday, I endeavoured to place before the Committee the fact that I did not favour the appointment of a Board of Management, but as the Senate has agreed to such an appointment my only anxiety now is to make the Board a strong one, which it cannot be if the respective Commissioners are to retire at the end of three years, four years and five years, and then every five years afterwards, although they may be eligible for re-appointment. My idea is that once a Commissioner is appointed he should hold office' until he is 65 years of age, which is the retiring age provided for the Public Service. It will not help to secure a strong Board if every few years the Ministry had the right to re-appoint a retiring Commissioner, because it might be necessary for the Board if it did its duty to oppose Ministers, and it would be only human for a Commissioner subject to reappointment to play up to the Ministry possessing this power. When a Committee is investigating the way in which a Department has been administered, it always arouses the ire of the officials of that Department, and veryoften that of the Minister controlling it. Say a word against the Defence Department and see at once the look of pain on the face of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce).

Attack his Department for a little while and you will run the risk of making an enemy of the kindest-hearted man who ever controlled it. After reading the departmental replies to the criticisms of the Economies Commission, I have no hesitation in saying that if the Board of Management were to seriously criticise some of' the Departments Ministers would not be in favour of the re-appointment of their critics. The Post Office was severely criticised by the Economies Commission, and Mr. Webster, who was PostmasterGeneral at the time, has replied in a pamphlet which he has issued to all of us. He writes : -

Had I ever dreamt that the inquiry was to be conducted on Star Chamber lines already described therein, I should not only have objected, but have taken other steps to prevent progress on such procedure.

A Minister of the views which Mr. Webster held would naturally object strongly to the re-appointment of a. member of a Board of Management which had sent in a report condemning the administration of his Department. The Economies Commission, in their report, compared service conditions in Queensland with those in Victoria to the disadvantage of the latter State, and the Victorian Minister immediately championed his own State.

Senator Russell - I thought that the honorable senator withdrew his amendment. He moved that the members of the Board should continue as permanent officers until they were sixty-five years of age.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I prefer now to move that sub-clauses 3 and 4 should be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " any person who is appointed a Commissioner shall be appointed for seven years."

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