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Wednesday, 8 May 1957

Mr TOWNLEY (Denison) (Minister for Immigration) . - by leave - I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill is mainly administrative in character, and some of the amendments which it proposes are simply drafting improvements. However, the proposals contain several important changes to the existing provisions of the act. The exigencies of the Service require officers or employees to be located at posts outside the Commonwealth. Some doubt has been expressed as to whether the provisions of the Public Service Act. and Regulations apply to such officers and employees. It is proposed in this bill to erase any doubts that the act does so apply by expressing the act to have extraterritorial operation. The related sections have also been amended where necessary.

Pursuant to its powers under the act the board has prescribed the hours of business for officers and employees, and all officers and employees are required to observe these hours of business unless specifically exempted therefrom. If an officer or employee fails to observe these hours of business no deduction can be made from his salary or wage. The action that may be taken in respect of such a breach of duty under the existing provisions comprises the dispensing of the employee's services or the presenting of a charge under the disciplinary provisions of the act against an officer. Both these methods are considered too cumbersome for the majority of cases that arise, for example, late attendances and unauthorized absences of infrequent occurrence. It has been determined that the act should be amended to enable deductions to be made from the salary or wage of an officer or employee in respect of the time during which he is not performing duty. That is, the board will have power to determine, by regulation, that an officer or employee shall be paid only in respect of the time that he actually perform-, duty.

The provisions relating to the employment of temporary staff have been reviewed also, and it has been decided to make alterations to these provisions in the light of the employment situation as it exists at present. The act provides that the board may authorize the engagement of a temporary employee for a period not exceeding three months, and if sanctioned by the board, his engagement may be extended for one further period, not exceeding three months. This provision was dispensed with by National Security legislation during the last war, but such legislation was repealed in 1946. Since this time the board has endeavoured to comply with the provisions of the act, but the present employment situation renders this course extremely difficult.

Clause 21 of the bill amends the temporary employment provisions of the act to allow the board to authorize the engagement of temporary employees for initial periods of up to twelve months, and if the board considers necessary, re-engagement for a further period of up to twelve months at each annual review.

Clause 8 effects an amendment to section 29 of the act, which will enable the board to reclassify an office, which is the only one of its designation and classification in the Service, without causing a vacancy in the position, following a general review of salaries.

The monetary penalties that may be imposed on an officer upon the commission of an offence have been increased from 5s. to 10s. as the maximum fine for a minor offence and from £5 to £20 for other than a minor offence. This action will lessen the gap between the monetary penalty that may be imposed and the more drastic punishments of reduction in salary or status or dismissal. The amendment does not affect the right of appeal to the tribunal, on which officers are represented, which may be availed of where a penalty is in excess of £2.

The provisions for the entry of returned soldiers into the Commonwealth Service have been extended so that returned soldiers who have passed a required number of subjects at a public examination, but are not entitled to the award of a State education certificate, may be appointed to the Service. I commend the bill to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.

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