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Thursday, 5 December 1935

The PRESIDENT - The manner of the honorable senator's withdrawal is, in fact, an aggravation of his offence. I ask him to withdraw the remark without qualification.

Senator COLLINGS - I withdraw it unreservedly. What I, perhaps somewhat inelegantly, endeavoured to express was a protest against the rush that has taken place in disposing of the business before, the Senate to-day.

Th is week I asked questions regarding a charge of alleged nepotism in the parks and gardens branch of the Department of the Interior in Canberra. I was told that an inquiry was proceeding. I did not believe that that inquiry was proceeding, and I asked further questions and was informed that no inquiry bad been held under the Public Service Act. My questions related in no way to an inquiry under the Public Service Act, but were directed to obtain information with regard to a departmental inquiry which I knew had been held. The reason why I raise this matter now is because a change has recently taken place in the office of permanent head of the Department of the Interior, and the former secretary of that department has left Canberra. The men who gave evidence at the departmental inquiry were guaranteed immunity from victimization. That evidence was of a very serious character. On a previous occasion I made the charge that if these men were not already being victimized, the road was definitely prepared for that to be done. I repeat that statement now. Honorable senators may take it that the information I have at ray disposal discloses that nepotism is being practised in that branch of the Department of the Interior. I now ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to promise that an inquiry, under the Public Service Act, will take place in order that the charges may be investigated and the men concerned may be protected from any attempt at victimization.

The PRESIDENT - Do I understand the honorable senator to say that the inquiry is still proceeding?

Senator COLLINGS - I understand that the departmental inquiry has been completed and the evidence is now under consideration.

The PRESIDENT - Would it not be more prudent for the honorable senator to wait until a report has been presented?

Senator COLLINGS - I shall not have an opportunity to peruse the report. The Senate will adjourn to-day until some time next year and by that time what I fear may have already happened. Action to protect these men should be taken now. I would leave Canberra for the Christmas holidays much happier if I had an assurance from the Minister that the promised inquiry under the Public Service Act will be held. Will the Minister undertake to obtain a reply to-morrow to the questions which I have asked ?

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