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Friday, 4 November 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - Senator Thomas might have brought his information up to date. The very first line of the report of the Public Service Commission for 1919 states - " The following procedure should govern the making of promotions." The Commission called the Public Service Commissioner (Mr. McLachlan) as a witness, and his first recommendation was that promotions, other than to the first division, should be made by the permanent head or the chief officer. I remember discussing the report with Mr. McLachlan, who was very strongly opposed to the arbitrator being the supreme authority. It was pointed out that that was more democratic,' and that the objection to the Commissioner was' that he would be the court of appeal from his own decisions. Subsequently Mr. McLachlan changed his mind, and gave full support to the principle of appeal from the Commissioner, or from the Board, to the Arbitra- tion Court. He showed that with his experience he had become more broadminded. At first the Public Service of the Commonwealth was a very limited body, but it now comprises many thousands of men, and one Commissioner cannot now effectively control all the Departments, as he did in the early days. I believe that the Public Service Inspectors have, in the circumstances which have surrounded them, done very good work. Both Senator Thomas and Senator Keating seem to be under the impression that the clause will not give applicants for promotion the opportunities accorded by the present Act. This is a misapprehension, as the new clause gives advantages not previously open. Senator Thomas says that at present all vacancies are advertised, and all officers have an opportunity to submit applications. This is not the practice. As a general rule only an original vacancy is advertised, that is, a vacancy which may be caused by death or retirement of an officer. Such a vacancy may be in one of the higher positions in the Service, say, the first class of the Clerical Division. The filling of that vacancy by the promotion of an officer of the second class would leave consequential vacancies in the second, third, and fourth classes. As a rule, these vacancies are filled without advertisement upon a nomination by the permanent head or chief officer after consultation with the Public Service Inspector, who submits an independent report to the Commissioner. "Under the present system, the permanent head makes his nomination. He will not do more under the proposed course; but the material difference is that at present before any officer has an opportunity of appeal the 'Commissioner has already given a decision. Under this clause the permanent head will be required to publicly notify, in the case of every vacancy, the name of the officer he has selected for the position. The Board or the local representative of the Board will not be committed in any way by. the nomination of the permanent head. Every officer affected by the selection in every State will have a knowledge of the proposed nomination, and any such officer will then have a right to appeal to the Board. The Board or its representatives in every

State can then make inquiry into the claims of the appellant officers, and if in the opinion of the Board, the- permanent head has overlooked the claims of any appellant, the Board may upset the recommendation. The Board has full power to consider the claims of all officers, and any objection raised on the ground of "watertight compartments" is met by the fact that if the Board considers an officer of another Department has a better claim than the man selected by the permanent head on the ground of superior efficiency or equal efficiency and seniority, the Board may promote that officer.

Senator Keating - I am taking exception to the practice of the Department today. Some of these Melbourne officers ought to be sent to the remoter parts of the Commonwealth from time to time.

Senator RUSSELL - I have just stated what is the practice. As honorable senators will see,, the final court of appeal will be the Board. Exception has been taken by some honorable senators to the possibility of promotions being provisional for a period of six months. That term, I take it, will be the maximum period. The time within which appeals may be lodged is to be prescribed, and probably in practice it will be about a fortnight.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But. yesterday you said that officers would be promoted on probation for a period of six months.

Senator RUSSELL - In practice, I said about a fortnight. Sub-clause 5 provides that promotion shall be provisional, and notified in the prescribed manner, and be subject to the right of appeal within such time as may be prescribed, by any officer who may consider he is more entitled to promotion for the vacant office. The time allowed for appeal will depend, I should say, upon circumstances. The provision must be more or less elastic in order that officers situated in different parts of the Commonwealth may be allowed sufficient time within which to state their case. I should like to place on record the recommendations submitted by Mr. McLachlan on this subject -

(1)   Promotions other than to the First Division, to . be made by the Permanent Head or the Chief Officer.

(2)   The principles governing promotion as at present defined in the Act to remain unaltered, i.e., first and foremost, efficiency; in the event of equality of efficiency, then seniority.

(3)   Promotions to be made provisionally, subject to the right of appeal by aggrieved officers.

(4)   Provisional promotions to be notified in the Commonwealth Gazette; or, in the case of the Postmaster-General's Department, in the weekly departmental list.

(5)   A prescribed time to be fixed within which officers may lodge appeals against proposed promotions.

(6)   The grounds for appeal must be - (a) that the appellant is more efficient than the officer proposed to be promoted, or (b) that the appellant is as efficient for the discharge of the duties of the vacant office as the officer proposed to be promoted, and is the senior.

(7)   Appeals to be addressed to the Permanent Head orChief Officer, as the case may be, and forwarded, with accompanying report, to the Public Service Inspector, for transmission to the Commissioner.

(8)   The Inspector to make full inquiry into the claims of the officer proposed to be promoted and of the appellant officer, and on completion of his inquiries, to forward the appeal, with his report, to the Commissioner, who will, on the information furnished by the Permanent Head or Chief Officer, and the Inspector, determine the appeal.

(9)   Where an appeal is disallowed by the Commissioner, the Department to be notified accordingly.

(10)   Where an appeal is upheld by the Commissioner, he will issue approval for the promotion of the appellant officer, and for the cancellation of the provisional promotion: Provided that in the case of promotions in or to the Second Division, the Minister may, if he think fit, refer the matter to the GovernorGeneral, who may confirm or disallow the determination of the Commissioner; but, in the latter case, a statement of the reasons for disallowance shall be laid before Parliament.

(11)   Where no appeal has been lodged within the prescribed time, or where an appeal has been disallowed by the Commissioner, the provisional promotion to be confirmed by the Permanent Head or Chief Officer, as the case may be, and to be gazetted as finally approved.

We have adopted Mr. McLachlan's recom mendationsin globo, with the exception that, in the case of promotions in or to the second division, we have taken away power from the Minister and given it 'to the Board. The general purpose is to insure adequate supervision, elimination of waste and overlapping in services.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If we accept the amendments, will there he an opportunity subsequently of voting to eliminate the clause altogether?

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