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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr CAIRNS (Yarra) .- Mr. Temporary Chairman,I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). It is very apparent that the appointment and promotion of many public servants are affected by considerations of which the public servants affected are told nothing at present and which they have no way of answering. These considerations may be described briefly as security considerations. We know that security reports are made in respect of a wide range of appointments, not only in the Public Service but also elsewhere. We know, also, that it is the practice to consider such reports with respect to appointments and promotions which should have no security relevance at all. This comes about partly because of the natural tendency which seems to be present in the minds of authorities to regard their own decisions and work as of special importance. I think that in a number of cases this classification of appointments and work as involving security considerations has nothing more significant behind it than the tendency of people to over-state the importance of the work that they supervise.

The point that ought to be made clearly, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is that at the present time there are no means by which people who are affected by these considerations can find out about them or present any answer to them. When people appeal against promotions and appointments, they are able to obtain from the authorities information only about other matters. The existence of security considerations as such is denied by the authorities in practically every instance, and in any appeal or other procedure that exists at the present time, it is impossible to present an answer to these considerations which may be described as security considerations. This is impossible because there is no willingness on the part of the authorities to admit in the first place that these considerations exist.

During this year, at least half a dozen cases have been brought to my notice by people who are firmly convinced that security considerations have been taken into account. But these people are not able even to make these accusations in public and have not been able to authorize me to make any statement about these matters because they well know that if such things are brought into the open their whole careers in the Public Service will be adversely affected. Members of the Parliament and all others have their hands tied in these matters because of this great curtain of security - this great curtain of silence behind which stands the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who refuses to answer any questions on the matter, or to consider it and to provide any appeal or other procedures by which these things could be looked into. At all times, we have to bear in mind the security considerations as against the considerations of individual rights md freedoms.

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