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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I do not realize for the moment what the effect of the amendment will be. I had hoped that the Minister would make some reply to the remarks of Senator Thomas. The point Senator Thomas has taken up is a very important one, and it opens up the whole question of whether or not the Departments of the Public Service are to be watertight.

Senator Russell - The same point has been taken half-a-dozen times. I cannot keep on replying.

Senator KEATING - There was a very strong fight on this question in connexion with the Audit Department. Are the Departments "water-tight" or not?

Senator Russell - I think they are to-day, but I have said several times that the policy of the Government is to enable every man in the Service, no matter what branch he is in, to apply for any position for which he is qualified.

Senator KEATING - Does the clause provide that ?

Senator Russell - Yes.

Senator KEATING - The whole of the argument of Senator Thomas was that the clause has the opposite effect.

Senator Russell - That is not my opinion.

Senator KEATING - I have not heard one word in reply to the criticism advanced by Senator Thomas.

Senator Russell - He has said it all before, and I have already replied.

Senator KEATING - From every part of the Commonwealth the claim is coming forward that public servants - no matter where they are located - should have better recognition. As Senator Thomas pointed out, those officers who are in closest contact with Ministers necessarily receive the greatest recognition.

Senator Russell - It will be seen that the very amendment before the Committee provides for transfers or promotions to other Departments.

Senator KEATING -Those honorable senators whose constituents are not residents of Melbourne know how often grievances arise.

Senator Russell - Can you show me a case where there has been interference by a Minister?

Senator KEATING - No; but complaints come from members of the Service who have not the advantage of being officers of the Central Administration, and under the observation of the permanent head of the Department and of the Minister. This is a very vital clause, and one deserving of a little more consideration than the Minister seems disposed to give it. I do not blame the Minister, ' because he has not had the experience of honorable senators who come from the more remote parts of the Commonwealth, where most of the grievances arise. Those of us who come from States removed from the seat of administration have, as constituents, officers of the Public Service whose claims we recognise, and whose ability and integrity we know to be not second to that of some of the most exalted officers of the Central Administration.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

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