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Friday, 4 November 1921


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I did not intend to obtrude myself into the discussion of this complicated measure, for the sufficient reason that I know very little about the intricacies of the Public Service. When Senator Thomas asks for some specific reason for a policy in which he himself at one time believed, I submit that there is an absence of that frankness which is ordinarily a characteristic of the honorable senator. As he believed in the theory at one time, I decline to assume that he believed in it without having carefully considered the reasons for it ; and he therefore knew, and must have in his mind now, the reasons which caused him to attach himself to that theory. The same reasons obtain to-day.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Cannot the Minister tell us what those reasons are?


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable senator will possess himself in patience, I will do my best to refresh his memory as to the reasons which at one time convinced him. There is in the Public Service, and perhaps there always will be, a conflict between two principles. With the idea of preventing any favoritism creeping in, a Commissioner has been appointed, who pays attention to loyalty of service, and, among other things, to seniority. I venture to say that, as a result of that practice, full recognition is not given to merit. -In the case of permanent head of a Department, it is admitted by everybody that all other considerations should be swept aside in the presence of the necessity of getting the best possible man for the position. In order to secure that best possible man, I submit that the ordinary conditions which rule the Public Service should be swept on one side; otherwise, the other factor, which may be necessary as a safeguard in the Service generally, becomes not a safeguard, and the Department may not secure the best possible man. I submit that, in giving this right of appointment not to an individual Minister but to the Cabinet, the Senate has a right to assume that an honest effort will be made to secure the best man. The best man is not always the one who would come next in order of seniority.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would not necessarily follow that the Board would appoint the next man in order of seniority.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would remind the honorable senator of the practice that is generally followed. I am not optimistic enough to believe that merit always gets its due reward in the Public Service.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nor in any other walk of life.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Quite true. If one could receive a definite assurance that the Board would be likely to make a better selection than the 'Government or an individual Minister, there might be some force in the contention.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Taking the matter all in all, I should say that such an assurance could be given.







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