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Thursday, 17 November 1960

Mr MENZIES - Of course it will take some working out. Judgment has to be exercised, and I submit with respect that judgment cannot be reduced to a formula. But it is very desirable that, in assessing the respective merits of officers, it should be proper and lawful to examine their future possibilities as well as their suitability for the post that is immediately concerned.

There are two important recommendations of the Boyer committee on which the Government has not yet reached decisions. These are the employment of married women and the medical standards for entry of physically handicapped persons. The Public Service Act at present requires women members of the permanent service to retire on marriage. The Boyer committee has recommended the repeal of this provision and an interdepartmental committee is examining the implications of the proposal - the implication not only in relation to the service of the Commonwealth, but to other corresponding services in the States. The Government will consider the problem carefully as soon as this work is completed. Let me emphasize that we do not reject that suggestion; we are investigating it so that we will know precisely what is involved in it. " ^"t"r

As to the proposed relaxation of medical standards for the appointment of physically handicapped persons, it should be remembered that the Government and the Public Service Board are mindful of their responsibilities in the employment of the physically handicapped and a great deal is being done to provide employment in the Commonwealth service for such people including those who are no longer physically fit to carry out their previous duties. While the problems of the physically handicapped merit and do receive the Government's sympathetic consideration, there are difficult problems of definition as well as the need to maintain an overall standard of medical fitness in a career service. The Public Service Board has established a separate committee, including medical authorities, to examine this question and the conclusions of this group will be considered by the Government as soon as they are available.

The committee has recommended that section 54 of the Public Service Act be amended so that the Public Service Board would be required to make a recommendation to the Governor-General on all appointments as permanent head of a department, and so that if the Governor-General appoints a person other than the person recommended by the board, the reasons for the rejection of the board's recommendation should be reported to the Parliament. It has been my own consistent practice as Prime Minister, as I understand it was the practice of my predecessor, the late Mr. Chifley, to consult with the Chairman of the Public Service Board when appointments to positions of permanent head are required. This I regard as a most desirable practice, and one which I, therefore, hope will be continued by all future governments. The Government has not. however, thought it desirable, for reasons that will be crystal clear to all honorable members, to impose on the responsibilities of a government the duty of statins quite publicly and notoriously, why some nomination was not accepted.

Mr Calwell - I like the impertinence of the committee, making such a recommendation.

Mr MENZIES - I do not accept that. I think this was perhaps an over-theoretical approach to the matter. Anyhow, we do not agree with it and I gather, from what has been said, that honorable gentlemen opposite do not, either.

The Second Division of the Service includes officers who are required to exercise executive and professional functions in the more important positions. The Boyer committee recommends that the definition of this division should be amended to read " administrative or executive functions and officers in training to exercise such functions ". The object of the recommendation is to improve the efficiency of the Service by a clearer definition of the " administrative career ", which the committee believes can be achieved with the least dislocation by a modification of the Second Division.

Basically, the Boyer committee seeks a distinction between those positions which have an important policy advising element and those which have not; and therefore positions of a purely managerial or professional character, containing no policy advising elements, would remain in the Third Division. The Second Division would include all positions with an important policy-advising element, together with intermediate positions that might form part of an administrative career, and below them a training grade with positions suitable for administrative training.

The Boyer committee was concerned that senior officers in the Service are too immersed in routine work and do not get time for thinking, and in making its recom*mendation it had the very laudable objective of attracting and making the best use of officers with creative ability, and of encouraging self-improvement. The Government supports the objective of the Boyer committee. It feels, however, that the methods by which the committee sought to achieve this objective, namely the creation of an administrative civil service along the lines of the United Kingdom, would not be suitable in the present circumstances of the Australian civil service. The Government feels that the future requirements in staffing the Second Division of the Service can be achieved by more flexible recruitment provisions and the continuance of advanced training programmes, assistance to officers taking university courses, use of external training facilities such as the Australian

Administrative Staff College, use of the Australian universties - an increasingly important factor with the development of universities in Canberra - and overseas institutions for advanced specialist study, and other methods that may be available. This is the present approach by the Public Service Board and it will be intensified from time to time as the demands of the Public Service increase.

It will be clear to honorable members that the availability of an adequate number of people, trained and expert in functions of policy advising and policy administration, is so important that recruitment methods, including the composition of the Second and Third Divisions of the Service should be kept constantly under review and the Public Service Board has been asked to ensure that this is done.

Since the First World War, exservicemen have enjoyed the following concesssions: - First, preference in appointment over other candidates; secondly, eligibility for appointment up to age 51 years; thirdly, lower medical standards where the medical condition results from war service; and fourthly, reduced educational standards - in particular, the acceptance of a qualification of Intermediate examination standard for appointment to the Third Division. In the view of the Boyer committee, the efficiency of the Service will be approved if minimum educational standards for appointment are fixed and applied evenly at the various levels of recruitment. The legislation provides therefore that exservicemen will continue to receive preference in appointment as against other candidates who are not ex-servicemen, but, of course, only where there is equality in qualifications. They will retain eligibility for appointment up to age 51 and receive the same concessions as to medical standards as exist at present. But they will be required in other respects to qualify for appointment at the same standard and under the same conditions as other candidates. Clause 35 of the bill makes an exception in favour of ex-servicemen who have attained the minimum qualifications for appointment which have previously applied and who are applicants for appointment immediately before the date on which the new provisions of Division 4 of Part III. come into operation, which is on a date to be proclaimed. Such ex-servicemen will remain eligible for appointment by virtue of their existing qualifications.

Opportunity has been taken to include in the bill other amendments which have been found to be necessary for the effective administration of the Public Service. I will not refer to all of them as some are of a minor nature. One such amendment gives the board authority to determine conditions of service for the increasingly complex section of the Public Service on duty overseas, where conditions vary from post to post.

I conclude my remarks by saying - I am sure I say this on behalf of all honorable members - that in Australia we are fortunate to have a Public Service of great integrity, which is efficient and dedicated to its task of facilitating good government. It is certainly no reflection on the Service that the objective of the bill before the House is to provide machinery for attracting more good recruits to the Service. I pointed out at the beginning of my remarks that the establishment of proper standards of recruitment to the Service is essential to the development of a Public Service of the highest quality and integrity and is a first essential, in a democratic country, of good government. I conclude on this note and I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.

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