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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) .- I should like to seek information on one or two matters related to clause 11. I refer particularly to proposed new section 35 which states -

Subject to this division, a person shall not be appointed as an officer of the Second or Third

Division unless_

(a)   he has passed a qualifying examination . . .

I contrast that with the words in section 34 of the Public Service Act which provides that an applicant must have passed an open examination. I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) does not mean by a qualifying examination to contrast it with an open examination in the sense that it is to be a closed examination. It seems to me to be just a trifle vague. What is meant by a qualifying examination? The old examinations were run in conjunction with the tests for a leaving certificate or a junior public examination according to the State where the examination was being held. Those candidates who indicated that they wanted to be eligible for recruitment in the Public Service had their examination papers set aside and marked competitively for entrance to the Public Service. That was regarded as an open examination, and it obviated the complaints that are heard in some public services of nepotism and similar influences when people could be set a private examination and hole-and-corner methods could be adopted. I am sure that is not the intention here, but I should like the Prime Minister to explain later in some detail why the term "qualifying examination" has been used in preference to the earlier references to appointment upon examination.

I direct attention now to proposed new section 36 which deals with the appointment to the Public Service of graduates. My reading of the Boyer report is that is seems to imply recognition of the need to bring relatively more graduates into the Public Service than previously. The proposed new section will replace section 36a of the act which states in sub-section (3.) -

The number of appointments made under this section shall not exceed one-tenth of the number specified in the notification referred to in subsection (1) . . .

Again, I think the section was originally designed to protect those persons who entered the Public Service on a career basis by open or competitive examination so that there should not be floodings into the Public Service from outside. It was recognized that from time to time it was necessary to bring in different kinds of capacities, and provision was always there for graduates to be recruited. The words in the proposed new section 36 (1.) to which I wish to direct attention are -

The Board shall . . . ensure so far as is practicable, that not more than one-tenth of the total number of persons so appointed in a year

I would think that the Government means to see that there is a ratio or a sort of norm of one-tenth of the appointments over a period rather than in a particular year. It seems to me that the Government is circumscribing itself unduly by the use of the words " ensure " and " practicable " and tying the provision to one year rather than to a period of time. I imagine that you could well face the situation in a particular year of recruitment when there might be more graduates relative to non-graduates as applicants for jobs in the Public Service.

In contrast, you could get another year when the picture might go the other way. There might be a period of recession when boys of good calibre, who could not go on to a university, would have to take a job in the Public Service instead of graduating first. If the Government ties itself too rigidly to a formula, it is likely to be in a mathematical net between ensuring that certain things are done so far as practicable and then relating the provision to a year rather than to a period. I take it that the objective is a recognition that the modern Public Service needs a different type of recruitment now from the traditional one. I suggest that in this proposed new section, the Government is tying itself fairly rigidly. The section in the principal act simply stated " one-tenth of the number ". I take it that the Government means in the bill not more than one-tenth, and hopes that the number will be at least one-tenth.

Mr Menzies - As I understand this matter, the present section provides that not more than one-tenth of the number of appointments to be made in a year, as specified in a notification, should be gradu ates. The new proposal is more specific because it states -

.   . not more than one-tenth of the total number of persons so appointed. . . .

The difference is between the number you specify and the number you actually take. This provision is that not more than onetenth of the number of appointees in any one year will be graduates.

Mr CREAN - I suggest that you have not covered the possibility that in one year it might be easier to recruit graduates than non-graduates, and in some other years it might be easier to recruit non-graduates.

Mr Menzies - You would like to see flexibility?

Mr CREAN - Yes, taken over a period.

Mr Menzies - Will you allow me to have a look at it?

Mr CREAN - Yes, I suggest you have a look at it. I wish to turn now to proposed new section 38, which relates to the recruitment from outside the service of individuals in certain circumstances. Sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 38 states -

An appointment of a person under this section to an office shall not be made unless the Board certifies, after obtaining a report from the Permanent Head of the Department concerned, that it is satisfied that there is no officer available in the Commonwealth Service who is as capable as that person of filling the office.

Here, the Government proposes to shelter behind the defence that finally the Public Service Board makes a determination after obtaining a report from a permanent head. This asks those concerned to make an invidious decision that in their opinion there is no person in the Public Service qualified to take a particular job. The recommendation is made on knowledge of the persons in the Public Service, and the board is being asked to bring in from outside somebody about whom it has no knowledge. This lays the way open in some circumstances to a conspiracy. I am not suggesting that in a sinister sense; but there is a possibility of an agreement between a permanent head and the Public Service Board that a particular person is more capable than a person in the service. I am thinking more of an administrative or clerical position than a professional appointment. In some circumstances, if you want a draftsman, who i1 a professional man, you might invoke this section. But I think you are setting a very dangerous precedent when you say, in respect of a purely clerical or administrative job, that there is no person in the service suitable for that job. This would seem to indicate a fault in your recruitment methods.

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