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Wednesday, 20 October 1920

The PRESIDENT - That is our recommendation.

Senator GARDINER - Before discussing this question it would be wise for honorable senators to have the whole of the facts placed before them. But upon the motion for the printing of this paper I wish to say that in view of the indignant manner in which you, sir, resented a proposal for an inquiry into the affairs of the Senate, and into the treatment of officers of this Chamber, the recommendation which you have now made i3 a complete backdown. It invites us to abrogate the functions of this Parliament by handing over to another body the power to interfere with the management of this establishment. If that course be followed, and if we surrender to an outside tribunal the control of our parliamentary officers, it would be within the power of that body to make the conditions under which we perforin our duties so difficult as to render their efficient discharge impossible. I realize that you, sir, have experienced some little trouble in managing the staff of this Chamber, and I recognise that your predecessors have had a similar experience. I have no doubt, too, that your successors in the days to come will find them.sevles in the same position. But the difficulty will be increased and not lessened if, in addition to managing the existing staff, you have also to manage a Public Service Commissioner or a Public Service Board. I look upon Parliament as the supreme Court - the highest Court - :which controls not merely its own staff, but also the whole of the people of Australia by means of its wisely designed legislation and by the administration of that legislation. Holding that view, I do not like the idea of calling in an outside body to assist us in the management of our own officers. More than that, with a strong Public Service Board and a weak President - a condition of affairs readily conceivable - our position here would become intolerable.

Senator Foll - Is not the recommendation of the President and Speaker merely that our parliamentary officers shall be transferred to the control of the Public Service Commissioner, for classification purposes?

Senator GARDINER - Whenever I see the rights of this Senate being interfered with in any way, I am not inclined to say that one infringement is a small one, and that another is a big one. My protest is against the principle of infringement. I take it that this Parliament is absolutely supreme, and is not to bp. compared in any way with outside Departments of the Public Service.

Senator Benny - Parliament should always control its own officers.

Senator GARDINER - It must set the example of controlling its own officers, and it can ill-afford to voice an admission that it is incompetent to manage its own staff - so incompetent that it has to call to its aid an outside body for the purpose of classifying the members of that staff. I object to the recommendation which is contained in the paper that has been submitted,, on the ground that it is altogether derogatory to the dignity of Parliament. Honorable senators ought, therefore, to protest against it. Personally. I recognise that you, sir, during the many years that you have occupied the office of President, must have been, confronted with many matters that were disturbing and difficult to deal with. A staff composed as is that of this Parliament will always bring to you certain irritating troubles, but that is no reason why they should be brushed aside by the simple expedient of leaving the ills w© know of to, say, a Public Service Board, and allowing that Board a controlling voice with you in the management of this particular establishment. Let me instance a personal matter which has come under my own notice. Until quite recently, the officer who acts as secretary .to me in my capacity as Leader of the Opposition, and who will discharge similar duties when I am gone, was under the control of the Public- Service Commissioner. He was given notice by the Commissioner that his services were to terminate on the 31st December last. He is a married man with a family. He had been in the Service since 1914, but did not go to the war - during which, period, as we all know, no temporary officers were made permanent. . However, as I was not prepared to hand over my correspondence to some one I did not know, I protested against the dismissal of an officer who had served me in a manner to which I could take absolutely no exception, and whose trustworthiness was beyond question; but the Public Service Commissioner was quite satisfied that he must be replaced, and my protests were of no avail. This was an officer who, to all intents and purposes, was attached to the Senate, seeing that he was serving some one who was a member of the Senate, but he was not under the control of Mr.

Speakeror the President. However, there has been a long drawn-out correspondence for nine months on this question, terminating in the officer going out of the Public Service; but a compromise has been arrived at by which a certain salary is placed on the Estimates, and I may engage whom I like to take' charge of my correspondence. It is an unsatis-factory arrangement so far as the officer himself is concerned.

Senator Bakhap - But it certainly vindicates the stand taken up by the honorable senator.

Senator GARDINER - That is true; but my point is that months of irritating annoyance have been, occasioned1 to me because of the unjustifiable interference of the Public Service Commissioner in this regard. I need not appeal to honorable senators. They would feel equally with me how objectionable it is to be obliged to intrust one's correspondence to a stranger, particularly one who is replacing a man in whom confidence has been displayed, not only by myself, but also 'by my predecessor, Senator' E. D. Millen, whom he was serving when that honorable senator was Leader of the Opposition. In fact, it was on that honorable senator's recommendation that, when T became Leader of the Opposition, I continued to employ this officer in the POS tion he was then occupying. I merely mention this matter to show that the prospect of placing the attendants attached to the Senate under the control of the Public Service Commissioner are not very encouraging. In fact, I venture to- say that we ought not to agree to- the recommendation to transfer them from the control of the President. I protest against control being exercised over officers of either House 'by any one but constitutional officers of Parliament elected to their positions by $e members of either House. Parliament is supreme over every Department, land is the highest Court in the Commonwealth, and we have no right to say that we are- prepared to intrust the management of its affairs tc> any body except that which is directly appointed by honorable members of either House.

Senator DELARGIE ("Western Australia) f 3.14 . - In view of the fact that I have a motion on the business-paper dealing with the attendants of the Senate, I think the President (Senator Givens) has taken up a most extraordinary attitude in apparently presuming that this is a purely personal matter. On the contrary, it is one for the consideration of the Senate, or of the various Committees appointed by the Senate. In any case, I think the Senate should have been conSuited, and its opinion taken before the submission of a recommendation to the effect that the servants of Parliament should be transferred to the control of the Public Service Commissioner, when Parliament has very rightly decided that they must be under the control of honorable members of both Houses.

Senator Keating - Hear, hear!

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