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Wednesday, 30 November 1960

Mr GALVIN (Kingston) .- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr.

Bury) invited the Opposition to state what should be done about this measure and the factors in the Boyer report that have not been dealt with. One gets used to such invitations. It is the same old story of the Government failing to face up to its responsibilities and asking the Opposition to tell it what should be done. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has already indicated where we stand on several matters. This is a Government bill, and it is the Government's responsibility to analyse and bring forward suggestions and amendments from the Boyer report. The Government has to face up to that responsibility.

In his opening remarks, when introducing the bill, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that the amendments of the recruitment and appointment provisions of the Public Service Act follow the Government's consideration of the report of the committee of inquiry into Public Service recruitment. It is interesting to note that the report was presented to the Prime Minister on 1st November, 1958, and now, two years later, it has finally reached this chamber for legislative action to be taken. I have repeatedly asked the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) to inform me when certain sections of the Boyer report would be implemented - such as that with regard to the employment of the physically handicapped - and each time I have been told that the legislation would be brought down soon. The legislation is now before us and again I learn that the position in respect of physically handicapped persons is still receiving consideration.

It is interesting to know why the Boyer committee was ever considered necessary. If the Public Service Board is doing its job - I think it can do the job which is its responsibility - it has a continuing responsibility for matters such as the recruitment processes and standards of the Public Service. I think the board is quite capable of doing those things and quite competent to do them, and one would expect the Government to take action and implement some of the measures which it puts up. I think there are plenty of people in the board who could have made recommendations perhaps even better than those which have flowed from the Boyer report. The most interesting point is, in the words of the Prime Minister, that the committee was required to make a comprehensive and thorough review of recruitment in the Public Service. The Prime Minister said -

The committee made a number of recommendations which were interesting, challenging and constructive and the report is a valuable contribution to the current and future development of the Commonwealth administration.

He said, in effect, that the Government has accepted a few of the committee's recommendations and has introduced in this legislation measures which, for the most part, change the existing Public Service Act only in respect of recruitment practice. In making these changes, however, the Government intends to give legislative sanction to certain features of Public Service practice to which strong exception can be taken unless some satisfactory safeguards are provided.

The Leader of the Opposition already has referred to proposed section 34 which provides that a person is not eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth service unless the board is satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to be an officer of the Commonwealth service. Reference was made also to proposed section 35 which provides that a person outside the service shall not be appointed to any position in the Second or Third Division except in certain circumstances.

The bill provides for certain amendments of the principal act in relation to Public Service recruitment and appointment. The Prime Minister has stated that these amendments have been found necessary for the effective administration of the service. A study of these amendments supports the Prime Minister's view in every case except one - the amendment to section 69 of the principal act by deleting sub-section (3.) which gives members of the service leave of absence to prepare submissions to, and to appear before, arbitration tribunals. The amendment will take from the officer the statutory right to have leave without pay to prepare evidence on behalf of an employee organization for submission to an arbitration tribunal counted as service. The amendment will give the board the right to determine whether such leave will count as service. In no way can it be claimed that this amendment is necessary for the effective administration of the Public Service unless the Government considers that by discouraging employee organizations it will make the board's control of the service more effective. The amendment is completely out of character with other sections of the principal act which encourage employee representatives to take an active part in their arbitration applications. The amendment should never have been sought. Perhaps, in an attempt to tidy up the Public Service Act this amendment has crept in without due consideration having been given to the existing section.

For the most part the bill relates to the recruitment of staff for the service. Therefore, some examination is necessary of the present legislation and practice, of the Boyer report and of the Government's views on that report. We must look at the report to get the right background. An examination of it throws light on a number of points relevant to Public Service recruitment, not the least of which is the gradual worsening of conditions of Commonwealth public servants compared with the conditions in comparable positions outside. In addition, the basic pay and salary ranges for new entrants are most unattractive. The Boyer report makes some mention of these comparisons and suggests that some alteration should be made in the base rate payable in certain sections of the service, but the Government has not given any consideration to that aspect. It has not thought it necessary to consider the disadvantage of certain employees in the Public Service when compared with employees in insurance companies and other organizations. The Boyer report pinpoints this feature, but the Government is not interested in it. But that really is the key to the recruitment problem. That is why the Government is not obtaining recruits. They are going to positions where the salaries are more attractive than they are inside the service.

When margins were increased recently the " top brass " received increases of up to £900 a year but the Government, or the board, refused to apply the margins throughout the Public Service. Recruits will not flow into the low levels of the service until the Government ensures that they are treated equally as well as employees in comparable positions outside are treated.

Mr Reynolds - That goes for compensation, too.

Mr GALVIN - That is right. Proposed section 34(c), which states that a person is not eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service unless the board is satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to be an officer of that service, is an entirely new provision in legislation relating to the Public Service. It is not, however, a new practice as far as appointment to the service is concerned. I suppose the Prime Minister is correct in stating that the practice of deciding whether a candidate's character and integrity meet the standards required has operated in the past. Certainly, it has operated without statutory backing. But now it is to be included in legislation. It is natural to expect that candidates for employment in the Commonwealth Public Service should be men and women of good character, but if they are refused employment there is at present no opportunity for the candidates to find out why they have been rejected. Often candidates are refused employment on the say-so of some one who is not concerned with the Public Service - sometimes on a report by the security service. But the security service has been known to make mistakes.

To-night the Leader of the Opposition directed attention to a mistake that the security service made in the case of a lad who was kept out of employment for some time because he allegedly had a police record. I know a man in South Australia who suffered greatly because he had worked for the security service. He was employed in the Public Service and was asked to become a security officer. He agreed to accept that position and, in the course of his duties, attended peace conferences, the Eureka Youth League meetings and meetings of other organizations and reported upon them as he was required to do. Everything was going along smoothly until he became known to those organizations as a member of the security service. He was then of no further use to the intelligence organization and was returned to his former position in the Public Service. He waited for some time for promotion but he could not understand why he was passed over. He applied for a job at Woomera but he was not accepted. Finally he discovered that he had been passed over because he was regarded as a security risk - he had attended peace meetings and Eureka Youth League conferences.

This man's story is fantastic. He approached Sir Philip McBride and then came to me. He told me his story and said, " If you want to check my story just contact the former director of the department by which I was employed ". I rang the former director and asked whether he knew this man. He replied that he knew him very well and that he had been a very good servant. I said to the former director, " Did this man work for security? " He replied; " Yes, definitely, and he suffered for it ". This employee suffered because the fact that he was working for the security service when he attended the peace meetings was not known to the senior officers in the department in which he was located, and certain investigation officers had marked on his card that although he was not a Communist he should not be employed in any place where he could be a security risk. Because some person had marked this man as a security risk he was denied promotion that he should have received. If something like that can happen inside the Public Service, what can happen outside when a man applies for employment?

Surely it is reasonable that if a person is refused employment he should be told why, and he should then be given the opportunity, if he so wishes, to appeal against the decision not to employ him. If he is in the wrong, he will not appeal, but at least he should be given the opportunity to state his case to an appeal tribunal. Just because some security service officer or some one who may have a grudge against him says that he is a Communist and that the Public Service should not take a risk with him, he should not be denied employment or promotion without a hearing. This aspect should be considered most carefully. In the past the board has made the decisions, but the security service and others have made the reports on which the decisions were based.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Do you know this man personally?

Mr GALVIN - Yes, I do know him personally. He is a constituent of mine. Sir Philip McBride would know the case. The department would know the case. He suffered wrongfully, He was very foolish in the first place, probably, to become involved in this, but, be that as it may, by working for the security service, and being dubbed a " Com " for doing so, he eventually suffered and was prevented from getting a senior appointment in the service.

We are discussing the four divisions of the Public Service. In the First Division there are 29 officers. I think they are almost all permanent heads appointed by the Government, and recruited mainly from the Second Division. In the Second Division there are 300 officers, most of whom have come up from the lower ranks. Then we have the Third Division, with its 33,000 officers, and then the Fourth Division. It is the Third and Fourth Divisions that one can call the real Public Service so far as the employees are concerned. The top brass are well looked after. Where have they come from, in the main? They have come from the lower ranks, from the Third and Fourth Divisions. That is as it should be. I find nothing wrong with that, but I suggest that you will not get efficient officers for the First and Second Divisions unless you make conditions in the Third and Fourth Divisions sufficiently attractive to interest suitable officers. Make the conditions good enough and you will get- the recruits you want. You will not have to beg for recruits if you look after those at the lower levels in the Third and Fourth Divisions.

The honorable member who preceded me in this debate spoke of the employment of disabled persons. I mentioned previously the problem of the physically handicaped, and I say now that the Government ought to have done something about this matter. It has had two years to make a decision on this subject. The Department of Social Services has done a fine job in the field of rehabilitation. It has shown many physically handicapped persons that they are capable of accepting useful employment, and has given them opportunities to work. But the Commonwealth itself will not give the lead and provide employment for these people. Officers of the Department of Labour and National Service, as the Minister is well aware, seek and find work for these physically handicapped persons. Whom do they have to go to in order to find such work? They have to beg employers in private industry to make jobs available for people who have been rehabilitated through the agency of the Department of Social Services. The Commonwealth itself has done nothing about providing employment for rehabilitated persons. The Government should give a lead. I am most grateful that there is one firm in South Australia, a firm that has received much criticism - General Motors-Holden's Limited - that has played a major part in giving employment to the physically handicapped. But there is a limit to what we can ask these firms to do, especially if the Government itself is not prepared to co-operate and offer employment.

Mr Duthie - It should give a lead.

Mr GALVIN - That is what I said, thai it should give a lead. The Boyer committee made certain suggestions which appear to have been pushed aside and almost forgotten. That committee made a recommendation concerning this aspect of employment in the Public Service which should have received high priority. I only hope that the Government will do something about it very soon.

Recently we had in Australia Mr. Atkinson, the chairman of the Public Service Commission of New Zealand. He answered some questions on a matter with which, I believe, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) is concerned. I refer to the employment of married women. The Public Service Commission in New Zealand has tackled this problem. I have no doubt that it is a problem, and that we will not solve it simply by pushing it aside. It is not enough merely to bring certain provisions of the legislation up to date. We must get on with the job and we must seriously consider the questions of equal pay for equal work and of the employment of married women. It is not for the Opposition to say where it stands on this matter; it is for the Government to introduce legislation to give effect to the recommendations contained in the Boyer report.

The recommendation with which I am particularly concerned, and of which I made brief mention earlier, is one which, I believe, gets to the root of the problem of recruitment. It is concerned with the worsening of Public Service conditions as compared with those that operate outside the service. It appears from recent decisions of the Public Service Board, of the Government and of various arbitration authorities that Commonwealth public servants are being denied wage justice. The Boyer committee said that it thought it desirable to consider the effect on recruitment of an assured incremental range in the lower grades of the Third Division. The committee said it had evidence that salaries prescribed in awards applicable to clerical staffs in banks and insurance companies were at much higher levels than those for comparable employees in the Commonwealth Public Service.

The Government was quite happy to grant increases of about £900 to various officers in the higher ranks when adjustments were made recently. Surely this particular recommendation in the Boyer report could have been given effect to, because it would have improved the chances of recruiting young people as employees in the Public Service. Does not the Government believe in paying wages to those in the lower grades at rates comparable to those paid outside the service? Does it believe in lifting the wages and salaries only of those in the top brackets? It has before it a report of a committee that it set up for a specific purpose. The committee has made its recommendations. Some of them have been accepted, but I suggest that the Government should accept recommendation 153, which deals with rates of payment for those on the lower levels.

By acceding to this recommendation we could increase our chances of obtaining suitable recruits. If the Government does not do so, then the high council of Public Service associations may adopt a procedure that it now has under consideration, and which seems to have the approval particularly of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. The proposal is to publicize, particularly for the benefit of young people, the disadvantages that flow from joining the Public Service. It may be more effective, from the point of view of the Public Service associations, to point out how unwise it is for young people to enter the service. The people who would spread this publicity are people who have worked in the service and who know all the disadvantages of it.

All the talk of enlarging the service, of bringing in university graduates and so on, will avail us nothing if the Government is not prepared to help the people in the lower ranks. If the associations take the strong action of pointing out the disadvantages of joining the service, you will find that recruitment will be even more difficult. The offer of an attractive salary for a worthwhile job, in satisfactory working conditions and with a guaranteed career based on merit and open competition, will provide the service with its share of good recruits from the schools and universities. These are the factors which influence recruitment, but the Government appears not to appreciate this fact.

I raised earlier the question of section 69 of the principal act, dealing with leave of absence for officers to appear in arbitration proceedings and to prepare the evidence for such proceedings. I think this is a most important matter. Most of the Public Service organizations have full-time secretaries and part-time secretaries. When an organization has a case to present to an arbitration court or some other such authority, a person in the service may work with the full-time secretary of the organization for a number of weeks, preparing the case and collecting the evidence for presentation. For this purpose he obtains leave without pay. In the past such periods of leave were always counted as service, but for some unknown reason it is now suggested that a period of leave taken for this purpose will not necessarily be counted as service, and that the board will determine whether it will be so counted. This provision will not encourage men to take an active part in the affairs of their organizations. I believe that this has simply been overlooked, and I ask that the Government do something about it. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to Commonwealth officers who resigned to contest a parliamentary election and returned to their work if they were defeated. Proposed new section 47c states - the Board may, upon application by that person within two months after the declaration of the result of the election, re-appoint him to the Commonwealth Service . . .

The suggestion was that the word " may " should be replaced by the word " shall ". I do not think that is asking very much. In a democracy, an officer of the Public Service should have his rights protected and he should be encouraged to enter Parliament if he feels that he has the ability. But if this provision is left in some doubt, irresspective of who forms the government, and the man is an opposition candidate, the possibility that he might not get his position back if defeated at the poll might be just enough to keep him from being a candidate. I suggest that the word should be altered as suggested. I am not a legal eagle but I think the provision should be made clear.

We pay tribute to the members of the Boyer committee which brought in the report, but I think that we should pay a tribute also to the members of the Public Service in every division. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) made a remark that the Boyer report was jargon which could almost mean university language. Perhaps a better report could have been obtained from members of the Public Service itself. I hope that we will build up the Public Service with an Australian tradition from inside the service. We do not need to look to people overseas. It is nice to have comparisons with the public services of the United Kingdom or the United States of America but a tradition of loyalty and efficiency has grown up in the Commonwealth Public Service and I think we can give us even better service and that better avenues of recruitment will become available if we take notice of our own officers. I do not consider that we have to go inside the universities of Australia to find the. best recruits. They will be found to more advantage by a study of the problems of the people in the Public Service, and I mean the problems not only at the top but also at the bottom.

I conclude by saying that I hope the Government will do something for the physically handicapped persons and for ex-servicemen. Many in the Public Service are receiving perhaps a 50 per cent, repatriation pension and suddenly they are told that they are no longer wanted by their departments because permanent officers have been appointed to their positions and they have been employed on a temporary basis. The report before us has given the Government some ideas. It is the responsibility of the Government and of the Parliament to do something about the physically handicapped. The Department of Social Services is doing a grand job in rehabilitation. The department under the administration of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has tried to obtain jobs for those rehabilitated persons, but they have to beg private industry to give them jobs. The Commonwealth Government and the State governments must take full responsibility and do something to solve this very grave problem.

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