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Monday, 14 October 1985
Page: 1141


Senator CROWLEY —My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to a speech by the former Secretary to the Treasury, Mr John Stone, to the Mont Pelerin Society in which he asserted that the Commonwealth Public Service Board has been politicised under the Hawke Government? Can the Minister explain the facts of this matter and how Mr Stone's assertion fits with those facts?


Senator WALSH —Yes, my attention has been drawn to the speech in question. In fact, I read the speech in question some weeks ago. In that speech Mr Stone asserted, among other things, that the Public Service Board, and I think one could say the Public Service in general, was politicised by this Labor Government and that some of those public servants who did the Labor Party's political dirty work were rewarded with extraordinary promotions. In support of that assertion he referred to the promotion of a division head to Public Service Board commissioner. In the speech he said:

I cannot recall any previous examples of mere Division Heads, even from very senior Departments such as the Treasury or Prime Minister and Cabinet, ever before having been elevated overnight to the standing of Public Service Commissioner (which ranks equivalent to the lesser Departmental Heads in the Canberra hierarchical pecking order).

In fact, the previous appointment prior to the appointment to which Mr Stone referred-that being the appointment of Mr Taylor-was an appointment of a mere division head, as Mr Stone put it, and he was promoted to Public Service Board commissioner. Moreover, since 1970 a total of 12 public servants of level 4 status or below-that is, mere division heads-have been appointed as secretaries to departments or the rank equivalent to secretaries to departments. In view of that, I find it rather ironic that Mr Stone should have written a letter to the editor of the West Australian of 5 October in which, among other things, he said:

I am accustomed to politicians not only getting things wrong, but getting them wrong with some political purpose in mind.

Therefore, when that letter and the Mont Pelerin address are looked at simultaneously, it can be seen that Mr Stone certainly got things wrong. Indeed, he backed up his central hypothesis with an assertion which was not only baseless but which he, as a former senior public servant, should also have known was baseless. One can only speculate on whether he did that, to use his words again, with some political purpose in mind. I invite him in his next diatribe to clarify whether he misstated the truth for political purposes or whether he was culpably ignorant. I say `culpably ignorant' because for a person in Mr Stone's position to be unaware of the facts I have outlined is, in my view, culpable. I suppose there is a third sad alternative and that is that cerebral deterioration has reached the point where Mr Stone should no longer be held responsible for his actions, which would give credence to recent rumours that he is about to become a National Party parliamentary candidate in Queensland.