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Wednesday, 9 November 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I think the Minister has dealt with the Committee very fairly in this matter. Perhaps I may be permitted to say a word or two to define my own personal position. Even if Senator de Largie's amendment is accepted, in some form, by the Government, it will merely be the thin end of the wedge in connexion with giving the various Committees elected by Parliament some little control over the officers who serve them. It will only act when appeals are made by officers of the Senate against fines or penalties inflicted upon them; but it will lay down the principle that the members of the Committees concerned have at last some little responsibility. I am speaking as a member of the Library Committee, as well as a senator. Owing, I think, to the very long illness of Mr. Speaker, we have had no meeting of this Committee - at least Ihave received no notice of any meeting - for six months or more. The Library continues to exist just the same, as far as I know.

Senator de Largie - The last meeting of the Library Committee was called when this Senate stood adjourned. That should not have been done.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Ihave had no notice of a meeting of the Library Committee for at least six months. I understand that my position on that Committee is purely and solely a nominal one.

Senator de Largie - Ornamental !

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, ornamental. I indorse that expression.

Senator Russell - Is the honorable senator not asked for advice?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes ; but members of the Library Committee have not the power to apply the advice that they give. I understand that there are other Committees which are in exactly the same position. . I have felt, and some of my co-members of the . library Committee have felt, that a position which, in the public eye, at all events, brings some little responsibility, should also carry with it some little power. Otherwise it is not worth having. I know that the Minister will understand that I make these remarks in a spirit of fairness.

Senator Russell - This is our own cooperative job. It is not a question of a Public Service Bill, but of who shall control the servants of this Chamber. I am not making it a Government question, but a question for each individual senator.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If sub-clause 6 is passed as printed, it will perpetuate a state of affairs with which I am not satisfied. When the clauses are recommitted I propose supporting an amendment on the lines suggested by Senator de Largie.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments (by Senator Russell) agreed to -

That the following new sub-clauses be added : - " (8) Where an appeal is made under sub-section (6) of this section by an officer against a recommendation that he be dismissed, the person hearing the appeal may impose any other punishment specified in sub-section (3) of this section. If the person hearing the appeal considers that the officer should be dismissed, he shall forthwith notify in writing his decision to the Board of Commissioners, which shall dismiss the officer." " (9) Where an officer has been suspended under this section and -

(a)   the Chief Officer, after consideration of reports relating to the offence and charge, and the reply and explanation, if any, is of opinion that the charge against the officer has not 'been sustained ; or

(b)   an Appeal Board finds that the charge against the officer is not proved, the Chief Officer shall forthwith remove the suspension."

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 -

(   1 ) Any officer, upon the hearing by a Board of Inquiry or Appeal Board in relation to any charge against him, shall be entitled to be represented by counsel, attorney, or agent, who may examine witnesses and address the Board on his behalf. The charging authority may likewise be represented at such hearing by counsel, attorney, or agent.

(2)   It shall be the duty of the Board of Inquiry or Appeal Board to make a thorough investigation without regard to legal forms and solemnities, and to direct itself by the best evidence which it can procure or which is laid before it, whether the evidence is such as the law would require or admit in other cases or not.

(3)   If an Appeal Board is of opinion that the appellant officer had no reasonable grounds' for appeal, and that the appeal was frivolous or vexatious, it may recommend to the Board of Commissioners that the officer be required to pay such sum as it thinks fit, but not exceeding the cost of the hearing, and the Board may order the appellant to pay such sum or such less amount as it thinks fit, and the sum so ordered shall be recoverable in the manner prescribed for the recovery of fines for breaches of the Act or regulations.

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