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Friday, 8 July 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) [11.51. - I hope the Committee will not accept this amendment. It would mean the end of Ministerial control of the Departments. If the' head of a Department doeS not accept suggestions of the Board for its reorganization he must, within a reasonable time, give -1119 reasons, and the Board will then have power to report to the Minister. If the Minister does not take action within a reasonable time a report will be made, to Parliament, which will deal with the matter in the ordinary way!

If the Minister, in hia discretion, decides that the recommendation of the Board is hot likely to be very successful, he can ask the Board to withdraw 'it. That is what the honorable senator proposes, but surely the Board would not withdraw tHeir report if they believed in it. Under the honorable senator's proposal the Minister would have to bring the recommendation before Parliament within a certain time, and I suppose he would be expected to advocate it although he did not believe in it. I do1 not think that a Minister should ask any public; servant to withdraw a report. We have had trouble in the Commonwealth Service by the adoption of such a practice. If a Minister has the right to demand the withdrawal of a report he will .have the right to suppress the officer making it in the interests of the administration of the Department. Senator Elliott's proposal would make the Minister a message boy for the Board. The Minister would be expected to do what the Board told him. That is opposed to the principle of representative government. If the Board makes a recommendation it should stand by it, and it is a wrong principle to provide that the Minister shall have the power to ask the Board to withdraw a recommendation. I am hopeful that by collaboration and consultation between the Minister, the Board, and the heads of the Departments, the work of the organization of the Service will proceed smoothly. Senator Elliott's proposal is, in my opinion, quite unnecessary. If the Board came to me with a proposal for the organization, of -any Department I was in charge of, I should say: " Very well, let us have a little chat about it." The Board, after discussing the matter, might say that in the light of the further information they had on the subject they would be prepared to withdraw their proposal. We have had a case of that kind. The Economies Commission inquired into the working of the Taxation Department, and made certain proposals to Mr. Ewing for its improvement. He went into the matter with them fully,' and the members of the Commission subsequently withdrew their suggestions, and offered their congratulations to Mr. Ewing, whose Department ,they admitted is one of the best organized and conducted

Departments in the Commonwealth. The final responsibility for,a Department must rest with the Minister in charge, and he should not be made a messenger boy for the Board, as Senator Elliott proposes.

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