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Friday, 4 November 1921

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) , - I invite honorable senators to consider the position upon the retirement or death of a permanent head. The Minister controlling the Department could appoint any qualified individual to fill the vacancy, and the selected person would become permanent head of the Department. There might be a change of Government, however, and an incoming Minister might not like that permanent head. To-day he cannot dismiss him, however. If this clause provided as wide a scope as Senator Drake-Brockman advocates, there would be something in his arguments; but it does not do so. As for the policy of changing heads of Department with every change of Administration, even if the matter of an officer's efficiency carried some weight, it should not be overlooked that the recognition of his qualificationsmight become a matter of purely personal consideration. I must admit, however, that there is a good deal to be said in favour of the practice - upon a new Minister taking over the administration of a Department - of permitting him to appoint one who was sympathetic with his policy, and would govern the affairs of the Department in accordance therewith. The Public Service is,' in the main, absolutely loyal to the responsible Ministers. It has been said of the British Public Service that its personnel " served both parties with equalfidelity, and, probably, with equal contempt." I shall make no allusions to the local relevance or otherwise of the latterphase, but I am sure the Government are very deeply indebted to their heads of Departments.

Senator Benny - We do not wish to bring in a system of changing them with every change of Government.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not advocating that; yet, if that is not to be the principle, there is no special reason for this clause.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The matter of appointing permanent heads need not be, and is not, governed by any consideration of policy, but entirely of ability.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, why not let the Board make the appointments? Cannot the Board be relied on to select able men? I have in mind one or two specific Ministerial appointments with which I have been far from impressed. The individuals concerned would not have been selected if the choice had been a matter for the Commissioner or the Board.

Senator Wilson - Are the honorable senator's views governed by what he regards as an unfortunate Ministerial selection of one or two individuals?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Whether or not, that is not the point. I emphasize that what Senator Drake-Brockman advocates cannot be brought about in this measure. It may be taken for granted that selections would not be made by the Commissioner or the Board without first con- ' suiting the Minister.

Senator Wilson - Does the honorable senator expect theBoard to consult the Government first?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course!

Senator Wilson - Then, what would be the use of the Board? Would not the practice of "spoils to the victor" still prevail?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. The Board would be outside all political influence or interests, and would make its selections accordingly, even though it consulted members of the Ministry.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How can an inefficient permanent head be got rid of?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under the existing Act, I do not know.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is just as important that the Government should have power to get rid of an inefficient head as to appoint a new one.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I agree, but if permanent heads were to come and go as

Governments secured office and were defeated, that would be another matter. I have no objection to appointments from outside, but I am of opinion that no reasons have, so far, been given why the Government should make these appointments of permanent heads any more than any other appointments in the Service.

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