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Wednesday, 9 November 1921


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I know it is somewhat tragic that we should be hammering out some of these clauses, and that our conduct as legislators in doing so should not be universally appreciated. At the same time I want to say that my perspective of the Bill is that it affects 25,000 civil servants throughout the Commonwealth, and that it is the duty of honorable senators, as far as possible, to see that they get a " fair deal." The Minister's attitude in connexion with these apparently small matters is ever courteous and gentlemanly, and I am sure he will recognise that honorable senators are approaching the Bill from a proper standpoint. The Minister (Senator Russell) is redeeming the promises he has given to civil servants, and if honorable senators do their duty the Bill, by the time it has passed the Senate, will be as fair a deal to civil servants as this Senate can make it. In regard to subclause 5 I am somewhat inclined to agree with the Minister that the chairman of the Appeal Board should be a public servant. In view of what the Minister has said, I think we may assume that the chairman will be a civil servant not connected in any way either with the officer who has inflicted the penalty or with the Department in which the offender is employed.


Senator Russell - There is no appeal against the decision of the Board.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In regard to paragraph b of sub-clause 5, the organization representing the employees want an amendment. They also desire an amendment in paragraph c. The effect of their amendment in paragraph b would be that the second person on the Board of Appeal would not be an officer of the Department. The paragraph specifically states that the second person on the Board " shall be an officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs," The effect of the amendment would be that the second member of the Board would not be an officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs. The organization representing the employees desire an amendment in paragraph c, along the lines suggested by Senator Senior, to provide that the third person on the Board shall be the elected representative of the organization to which the appellant belongs.


Senator Senior - I am quite prepared to leave it as an alternative by inserting' the words " or organization " after the word " division ".


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The effect of those two amendments, if inserted in the Bill, would be that the chairman of the Board would be an independent person; that the second member of the Board would be quite outside the division, organization, or Department to which the delinquent belonged; and that the third member of the Board would be the elected representative of the organization to which the delinquent belonged, and who, consequently, would probably be more of an advocate than a judge. As the clause stands, we have got two independent members of the Board of Appeal and one member who, it is reasonable to expect, would lean rather on the side of the officer who imposed the penalty. The suggested amendments would make the clause one-sided to the appellant. As the Bill stands, it is a little lop-sided against the appellant. The appeals are appeals against punishment inflicted by the chief officer. The second member of the Board of Appeal, as the clause stands, will be " an officer of the Department to which the appellant belongs (not being an officer concerned in the laying of the charge against the appellant), appointed by the chief officer for the purpose of the particular appeal to be heard. The " chief officer " here referred to is the man who, in the first place, inflicted the penalty. If the clause is passed as it stands, we shall have an independent chairman, an officer of the division to which the appellant belongs, and a member appointed by the chief officer who has inflicted the penalty originally on the delinquent. I think that is just as unfair to the delinquent as the suggested amendments which I shall not move would be to the Department.


Senator Russell - Is not the Department to be protected at all? Is it to have no representation?


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not object to the Department being represented, but I ask the Minister whether he considers it a fair deal that one member of the Appeal Board should be appointed by the chief officer who inflicted the penalty appealed against. We have a Board of two independent members and a third member, who, it is reasonable to assume, because he has been appointed by the man who inflicted the penalty, will be biased against the appellant.


Senator Russell - The chief officer may not be the man who inflicted the penalty, but may be merely the channel through whom the charge proceeds. The officer who inflicted the penalty might be in Queensland, whilst the chief officer of the Department might be in Melbourne.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have seen that under the preceding clause a punishment is inflicted by the chief officer, and under this 'clause it is proposed that the chief officer shall appoint a member of the Appeal Board. I mention the matter now that it may be more fully considered when, as I assume, the whole of subclause 5 will be recommitted.







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