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Wednesday, 9 November 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I am ratherastonished at some of the statements made by Senator Senior, who seems to assume that the members of the Board will be biased. These gentlemen will be on oath, and will serve as members of an independent Court. Has the honorable senator ever known of an advocate occupying a seat on the bench? If those who have to come before the Court require an advocate, they can, if they desire, obtain the assistance of a King's counsel. The suggestion of the honorable senator is unreasonable, because the Board will comprise three public servants conversant with departmental procedure. One will be a permanent chairman, anotheran officer of the Department, and the third an elected representative of the division to which the appellant belongs. If I had to appear before a jury I would prefer it to be comprised of members of this Senate, because they know my virtues as well as my sins. The impression seems to exist in the mind of Senator Senior that were desirous of punishing public servants.

Senator de Largie - He did not insinuate that.

Senator RUSSELL - We do not wish to be severe, but are anxious to prevent wrong being done. It is not likely that many cases will come before the Appeal Board - I doubt whether there will be more than twenty-five per annum - because the number hitherto has been comparatively small. The cases to be dealt with by the Board will relate largely to technical irregularities inside the Departments. These go before the Commissioner, or the head of the Department. I hear of cases' practically every week, and I am bound to say that, unless there be a rare instance of a man bluffing, no difficulty is found in securing a, fair adjustment. Just treatment has always been meted out by the Commissioner, and I feel sure the same can be said with regard to departmental heads and inspectors. Under this Bill the proposal is that the right of appeal shall be to three members of the Public Service. What more generous offer could be made than to provide appellants with a jury drawn from their own ranks? Would a Board consisting of three outsiders, or including two, or one, be better from their point of view ?

Senator Elliott - How does the proposed Appeal Board differ from the present Board ?

Senator RUSSELL - The objection to the present Board appears to be that appellants lack confidence in it. I cannot understand the reason, but it may be either due to doubt concerning the merits of the appeal, or to actual cowardice on the part of the would-be appellant. I affirm that there isno reason to fear or distrust the Board. As for any question of bias, as I have just indicated, the members of the proposed Appeal Board will be put upon oath to undertake to perform, their duties without thought or fear of bias. That should be sufficient protection.

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