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Tuesday, 29 May 1973
Page: 2779

Mr MARTIN (Banks) - I was most interested in the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), who stated mat the Opposition supports the Bill. He said that procedures will be simplified. I wholeheartedly agree with him, but the thought entered my mind when he was speaking that although the present Opposition was 23 years in office it made no attempt at all to streamline procedures as has been done by this Government. I wish to reply to some points raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He said that the Opposition rejects the policy of using the Public Service as a pace setter. I suggest that that is the real difference between the Opposition and the Government. The Government accepts that the Commonwealth Public Service should be a pace setter. Before entering this Parliament I worked for 34 years in the Commonwealth Public Service. During that period I was frustrated as an official of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association by the attitudes of the previous Government. It went before arbitration tribunals and actively opposed propositions which had been put forward by registered unions and organisations. One wonders why the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should now say that the Public Service Board should not be used as an arm of government. The present Opposition when in office used the Public Service Board as an arm of government, as abundant evidence has established. For instance, I refer to the arbitral determinations affecting the Commonwealth Public Service by the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. They show that the present Opposition when in office was active against salary increases and improvements in working conditions.

I turn now to the Bill. Due credit must be given to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for once again introducing legislation which will streamline the procedures applicable to the administrative practices of the Commonwealth Public Service. This Bill is another indication of the clear thinking which commenced on 2 December 1972 upon the election of a Labor Government. No action was taken by previous Liberal-Country Party governments which for 23 years held the reigns of office to introduce what should have been clearly apparent to them as a simple procedural measure. The position is, prior to the passage of this legislation, that where a permanent head of a department is absent or unavailable, or when an office is vacant, the GovernorGeneral may, under Public Service Regulation 116 direct another officer to perform on a temporary basis the duties of that office. However, where the duties comprise the exercise of statutory powers and functions under other Acts, those powers and functions at present cannot be performed and exercised unless there is also a written direction by the Governor-General under section 88 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act.

By amending section 88 this Bill obtains the same result without the necessity for such action by the Governor-General. It is quite a simple amendment of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Is it any wonder that the Australian people have realised, as evidenced by the most recently published Australian National Opinion Poll figures, that the Federal Labor Government under the Prime Ministership of Mr Whitlam is the most constructive and progressive government of this decade? I am certain that His Excellency the Governor-General will appreciate the fact that this Bill will lessen the paper work thrust upon him. He must surely have sufficient paper work to perform without any additional unnecessary paper work.

Another matter I wish to raise affects the people who occupy the positions of permanent heads of departments as set out in

Schedule 3 of the Bill. The salaries and allowances of permanent heads, with the exception of 5 positions, were altered by the Remuneration and Allowances Act No. 14 of 1973. Two of the exceptions are the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Clerk of the Senate. 1 hope that I am not creating any personal embarrassment to either of those distinguished gentlemen by raising these matters. I am pleased that the Clerk of the House of Representatives is not present in the chamber at the moment as I might embarrass him by raising these matters. All permanent heads of departments as set out in Schedule 3, but not including the Clerk of theHouse of Representatives and the Clerk of the Senate, receive a salary of $29,250 a year and an additional annual allowance of $1,750, making a total of $31,000 a year. The Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Clerk of the Senate, who are classified as permanent heads of a department under Schedule 3 of the Bill, receive $22,012 a year, with no allowances at all. This means that the permanent heads of all departments other than those of this Parliament receive $8,988 more than the most senior office holders of our Parliament. In practical terms this also lowers their status.

It is possible that the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Clerk of the Senate have felt reticent about raising such matters with all the governments which they have served so capably and faithfully. However, I feel that these matters should be drawn to the attention of members of Parliament, who are the legislators. For the information of honourable members I would like it placed on record that the same situation does not apply in other parliaments of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Clerks of the House of Commons and the House of Lords are given the full status and salary of a permanent head. This policy also applies to the Clerks of both Houses of the Parliament of Canada.

The argument can be put with a great deal of validity that the status of the most senior office holders of this Parliament - the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Clerk of the Senate - should not be placed in a position less favourable than that of the permanent heads of other departments as set out in Schedule 3 of the Bill. Unless this situation is rectified it will as a natural consequence denigrate the status of the Parliament itself. I hope that when these matters of status and salary are next considered by the Government the matters I have raised will receive the consideration that they undoubtedly deserve. I commend the initiative of the Government in bringing Public Service Bill (No. 2) before this House for its consideration.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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