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Wednesday, 9 November 1921

Senator WILSON (South Australia) . - I agree, in the main, with the points raised by Senator de Largie. Employees of this Parliament should have the right of appeal to some independent Board. As a member of the House Committee, I have felt my position keenly. Different statements have been made to the effect that the House Committee has been responsible for this ac- tion, notwithstanding that, as a matter of fact, it has no powers and hasno functions . to perform. Its members have felt themselves to be quite helpless. In considering the inauguration of an Appeal Board honorable senators should have regard for the employees of this Parliament, taking special care to see that they are given reasonable opportunity of appeal. While our officers remain permanently in the service of the Parliament, Presidents and Speakers may change. Senator Drake-Brockman has raised an important issue.

Senator Foster - Do not the Standing Orders provide for the election of Committees ?

Senator WILSON - I understand so; but, at any rate, the point is important. As a member of the House Committee, I am able to say that greater service would be rendered by that body if it possessed wider powers and responsibilities. At present it has no responsibilities worth talking about; and that remark applies largely also, I understand, to the Library Committee.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - As a member of that Committee, I indorse the comment.

Senator WILSON - If Parliament deems it necessary to appoint Committees to administer the functions of internal Departments, then, if such Committees are worthy of election at all, they are worth being clothed with authority. I do not wish to be misunderstood. While Parliament has placed the responsibility upon the shoulders of the President and Speaker, I am quite certain that those officials would be only too glad to be rid of it. The present position is most unsatisfactory. I say so from personal experience. In a recent case various letters were received and overtures were made to me concerning a person who was supposed to come within the administrative authority of the House Committee. Altogether, I found myself placed in an objectionable position, seeing that the Committee had no jurisdiction, but was at the same time held responsible by certain persons outside.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was a case of responsibility without power.

Senator WILSON - It was. As a member of the House Committee, I do not object to accepting responsibility, but. unless the twoCommittees which have been mentioned are to have the last say concerning the employees under their control the members of those Committees cannot be asked to take any interest in the administration of the Departments.

Senator Russell - Parliament has the right to appoint those Committees, and to define their functions.

Senator WILSON - Then Parliament should give them increased responsibilities.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -Brookman. - The Standing Orders need revising, but the measure at present before this Committee ' will not effect that end.

Senator WILSON - That is so. Nobody can say who may be President and Speaker to-morrow. Surely the employees of Parliament are entitled to consideration, and to adequate protection. They should not be placed in the unfortunate position of having a man in the chair who is going to make their lives a little hell on earth. Whether Senator de Largie's amendments will fully meet the position I cannot say, butI am willing to assist in bringing about more satisfactory arrangements, both in regard to members of the Joint Committees, the officers and employees of Parliament, and the President and Speaker themselves.

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