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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Prime Minister) .- The honorable member asks about the change of the phrase "open examination " to " qualifying examination ". I do not think that any significant change is intended. All examinations are, in effect, open examinations. The point is that now there has to be an examination to determine whether a man has a certain qualification. If there is anything more in it than that, I will find out and advise the honorable member.

The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) raised a matter which I think is quite important, concerning appointments under proposed section 38. I just point out to the committee that one can anticipate too many troubles in matters of this kind. Section 47 has been in existence for many years, and some appointments have been made under it - not very many, but some and, I think, most of them quite important. Theoretically, of course, the permanent head of a department might dishonestly suitable for this job ", simply because he say, " There is nobody in my department wants to bring in a friend of his. That is a theoretical possibility. You cannot guard against that kind of possibility in all conceivable circumstances. If I were to produce the names of the people who have come into the Commonwealth Public Service over the last twenty years under section 47, I do not think any honorable member would complain that any one of them was dishonestly introduced, or was brought in as a result of a bad certificate having been given by the permanent head of a department. The point is that we should be able from time to time to bring into the Public Service at a fairly senior level men of outstanding qualities. Men like Sir Alan Brown and Sir John Crawford came in on this footing. When we want to bring in people of their calibre we must have an element of discretion. In those circumstances we cannot proceed according to a table of limits. There must be some element of discretion. There must be some power in the permanent head of a department. We are very lucky to have a supremely honest civil service with permanent heads of great integrity. The permanent head concerned certifies that he has not the man he wants for a particular post, but that there is at that time a person outside the service who fills the bill and is available for employment. I urge honorable members not to require everything to be written in the book of words. You cannot convert judgment of men into a table of logarithms. There must be some discretion. If at any time we suffer from a dishonest Public Service Board or a dishonest permanent head - we never have suffered in this way to date - that will be the time to consider whether we ought to lay down firmly what is to be done. Section 38 which will replace section 47 of the principal act is one of those provisions which, if it is not flexible, cannot do its job. If it is honestly applied it will do immeasurable good for the civil service of this country.

Mr Stewart - What about proposed new section 37?

Mr MENZIES - Professional standards are actually fixed by universities and technical colleges. There is no question about the general qualifications The rules are these; the qualifications, in terms of technical standards, are laid down, and if a man satisfies those requirements he is entitled to employment as a technical officer. This is not a matter of waiving a rule or a standard; it is a matter of applying a known standard to the qualifications of the man who enters the service. In those circumstances it would be rather tedious if every university which gave a man a technical degree or every college which gave a man a technical diploma were required to set out all details. The only reason for doing so would be to show that the man was qualified. But he cannot join the Public Service unless he is qualified. This is not a case of a man joining in breach of the rules: this is a case of a man joining in a particular category which does not fall within the general qualifications for the civil service but within the specific qualifications for technical or professional work.

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