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Wednesday, 9 November 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - There seems to be a great fear on the part of some honorable senators that the public servants will not be given a fair deal. I should like to direct attention to the composition of the Appeal Boardunder the existing Act. It is referred to in section 50. Under that section an appeal is submitted to a Board - consisting of an inspector, the Chief Officer of the Department to which such officer belongs, or an officer nominated by such Chief Officer, and the representative of the Division to which such officer belongs, elected under the regulations by the officers of the Division to which such officer belongs, in the State in which such officer performs his duties.

What is proposed in this Bill is a Board very similar to that at present provided for, except that a permanent chairman takes the place of the inspector under the existing Act. We have had some experience of the working of the existing Appeal Board, and it has shown that the chief officer or his nominee has appeared as the representative of the Department and of authority, as against the trade unions in the Service. We have found that not only is the man who is elected as the representative of the employees on the Appeal Board a member of the union, but also the officer from the Department to which the delinquent belongs is a member of the union. In actual practice the result has been that in the hearing of appeals by the Appeal Board under the existing Act there has almost invariably been two against one. I may inform honorable senators of one extraordinary case that occurred. There was an officer of the Trade and Customs Department in Melbourne who was charged before a civil Court and was duly convicted and sentenced for pilfering on the wharfs. Very naturally, he was suspended, and subsequently dismissed from the Department. He appealed to the Appeal Board as constituted under the existing Act, and the two representatives of his trade union on the Appeal Board insisted that he should be reinstated in the Department, and that man is in the Department to-day. ,

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - After he had been found guilty 'by a civil Court ?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Yes. It appears to me that some honorable senators desire to strengthen the position of the trade union on the Boards of Appeal, which should really be Courts, and not specially representative of trade unions. I think that in all the circumstances honorable senators should be wary about accepting the suggestion made by Senator Senior, and it is for that reason I mentioned a case which has actually occurred under the provisions for an Appeal Board under the existing law. We know that under the existing Act it is practically impossible to get useless wasters and rotters out of a Department, and the good men in the Service, who are, of course, greatly in the majority, have to carry these men on their backs and do their work for them.

Senator Foll - The Queensland Government sacked 500 recently.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - A Parliament dominated by a particular party can do almost anything. This Parliament, if it so desired, might dispense with the services of the whole of the public servants, but that does not affect the matter under consideration. What we are here to do is to give a fair deal as between the taxpayers, those in authority, and the public servants. We are not here to legislate for the benefit of the public servant any more than we are here to legislate against him in the interests of the taxpayers or of those in authority. Any suggestion to strengthen the Appeal Board in favour of the public servant should be considered very carefully. The Appeal Board now proposed is no more strongly against the interests of the public servant than that which is provided for under the existing Act. It is generally admitted that the gentlemen appointed to constitute an Appeal Board under the existing Act are on the Board to act as advocates rather than as judges.

Senator Foll - They will continue to do: so.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - An endeavour has been made to prevent that under this Bill, by appointing a Board, the members of which take an oath to act judicially, rather than as advocates for particular parties. I am not prepared at the present stage to support the suggestion made by Senator Senior, ncc do I view that made by Sentaor Pratten with any great favour.

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