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Thursday, 14 July 1904

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that during the progress of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill he has been acting the part of a political referee.

Mr Storrer - He has been exercising his right to speak.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has he really ! I am .delighted to hear that ! May I say to the honorable member for Bass that I never suggested anything to the contrary ? I was merely remarking that the honorable member for Darling has exercised his undoubted right to put everything on a proper basis in connexion with matters under discussion. But in attempting to lecture another honorable member he appears to me to have carried his right to excess. The honorable member for Darling had not been exercising his right to speak for more than five minutes in protesting against what the honorable member for Lang had been saying on the ground that that honorable member did not know anything about the subject, when he told us that he also knew nothing about it. But notwithstanding that, he essayed to put the whole matter right, and to furnish the explanation for all the anomalies himself.

Mr Spence - Because I took the trouble to inquire.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - May I suggest that the honorable member for Lang has just as much right to put his view of the matter as the honorable member for Darling has? There is no room for recrimination on the subject.

Mr Spence - Who is lecturing now ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member has lectured the honorable member for Lang, and accused him of making a charge against the Commissioner. That can only be a figment of his own imagination. I listened carefully- to the honorable member for Lang, and I heard no such thing said. Rather I heard a series of impersonal statements such as I believe would be of the greatest possible service to the Commissioner in connexion with the appeals which must undoubtedly be made in reference to the classification scheme. In the New South Wales Parliament the honorable member for Darling was one of the foremost in criticising both the Public Service Commissioners and the Railways Commissioners. The honorable member's late leader used to make what we called his annual Railway speech, occupying sometimes two or three hours in pure criticism of the Railways Commissioners. I may add that the railways in New South Wales are under an Act which is very much more stringent than the Commonwealth Public Service Act. I speak as one who has as high an admiration of the Commissioner as has the honorable member for Darling: I think he has produced a most able document, for which he is to be most warmly congratulated. But in this matter, affecting the whole continent, and faced with the task - important, almost ' impossible - of co-ordinating the whole service and unifying it as far as possible, the Commissioner had an almost insuperable work. There must be many mistakes, and consequently there must be many appeals. Surely, in connexion with the general appeal, which is to be made - one hears nothing but the word " appeal " in all the States - any one who can throw any light on any anomalies in the classification scheme is rendering the Commissioner a service, and is not necessarily making any charges of unfairness. All that requires to be done is to see that the discussion is carried on in a purely im personal manner ; and that condition, I submit, has been observed in the speech of the honorable member for Lang. Therefore he did not deserve the castigation. which this mentor of the House has seen- fit to administer to him. Knowing what I do of the Public Service Commissioner, I am sure that he will not regard the criticism which has been levelled against his classification scheme in the way that has been suggested. I speak as a friend of that officer. He was my Under Secretary for twelve months, and there is no more able and devoted public servant to be found in the whole of Australia. I do not think that a better man could have been selected to. undertake that very important task.

Mr Mauger - The honorable member will not be his tormentor.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If I had any cause to torment him I should not hesitate to do so. I am quite sure that the Public Service Commissioner will not regard the criticism which has been indulged in tonight in the way that has been suggested by the honorable member for Darling. He will read it, and no doubt he will extract from it all that is of value. The remainder he will cast aside. I listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member for Lang, and in pointing out anomalies, I take it that he was merely endeavouring to straighten out the' tangle into which the Public Service of the Commonwealth had got under the different systems in vogue in the various States.

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