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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I move -

After proposed section thirty-four, insert the following section: - " ' 34a. - (1.) Where the Board decides that it is not satisfied that an applicant for appointment to the Commonwealth Service is a fit and proper person to be appointed to the Commonwealth Service, the Board shall inform the applicant, in writing, of that fact. " ' (2.) The applicant may, within such period as is prescribed, appeal against the decision of the Board to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. " ' (3.) The Board shall be the respondent in the appeal. " ' (4.) The Commonwealth Industrial Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine an appeal under this section, and shall, if it is satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to be appointed to the Commonwealth Service, order that the applicant be treated by the Board as not ineligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Service by reason of paragraph (c) of the last preceding section. " ' (5.) The jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Industrial Court under this section may be exercised by a single judge.".

All that, Sir, is intended to ensure the right of appeal to a person who has been told that there is something against his appointment, but that the board cannot say just what it is. Persons can be denied permanent employment with the Public Service for good reasons or for bad reasons, or for very weak reasons. As the position now stands, a person could be denied employment in the Public Service because, five or ten years ago, he was a member of the Communist Party, or because he took part in some demonstration or other on some particular issue. That situation should not continue to exist in this country. I believe that in Great Britain they have an appeal system. I think that whatever they have in Britain we ought to have here. I do not believe that people should be denied the right of employment in any public service without some authority other than the board or a particular Minister being empowered to hear an appeal. At the moment, the board or a Minister, in effect, may blacken a person's character by saying to him, " You are not a fit and proper person for employment in the Commonwealth service ", and the person concerned is given no opportunity to clear his name or to establish his bona fides. In an extreme case, such a thing could happen as the result of mistaken identity. I do not imagine that that would happen, but at the moment there is no check upon what can be done in the exercise of this power by the board.

A person could be victimized because somebody was acting maliciously. I do not want to conjure up all kinds of possibilities, but I think there ought to be some safeguard in relation to the exercise of this power. The method I propose may not be the best method or the right method, but surely some method can be devised whereby a person who feels that he has been victimized will have the right to appeal to an independent authority, which would have the power to make a final decision binding on the board and on the Government. The position should not be left where it is at the moment because, if it is, our reputation throughout the world will be that of being intolerant of people who express opinions with which the Government disagrees, or who expressed opinions many years ago which they might not hold to-day. It could well be that a person who was a Communist in his youth could enter this Parliament as a member of the Australian Country Party. We would not deny such a person the right to sit in this chamber. If a former Communist came here as a member of the Liberal Party we would not deny him the right to change his view. We would still think that he was wrong, but wrong in another way.

Mr Bryant - The Liberal Party would be his logical, materialist home.

Mr CALWELL - He could change one form of materialism for another. I do not want to labour the point and delay the passage of the legislation, but we should like to test the opinion of the committee on this matter, and also to have an assurance from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that, even if he cannot accept the amendment, he will at least look at this clause in order to see whether or not some safeguards can be inserted in the act. It is not good enough, from our point of view, to say that this has always been the position, because conditions now differ from conditions 30, 40 or 50 years ago. A person earned a bad character 40 or 50 years ago by committing some criminal act or some offence against society. But the known character provision to-day can be used to deal with people not because they have committed some anti-social act, but because they hold opinions that are not acceptable to the Government of the day, or because their opinions are thought to be too revolutionary or are otherwise at the moment not acceptable. A person might attend a peace conference, or he might have some strange views about solving the world's problems, and it might be thought undesirable that he should be employed in the Public Service in any capacity. I understand the principle that if a person is a security risk he should not be employed in a position where he would have access to security matters, but I do not believe that he should be denied the right to earn a living. I cannot see that he should be denied the right to employment in some position in the Public Service where he could not breach the laws of the country or threaten the peace and security of the country.

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