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Thursday, 14 July 1904

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) - It has been very gratifying to me to listen to some of the speeches delivered by honorable members this evening. I thought that, in the eyes of some honorable members, and especially of the honorable member for Macquarie, the late Government, and. especially myself, 'could do nothing right.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I complimented the Government at the time upon making a good appointment when they selected Mr. McLachlan as Public Service Commissioner.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Either I did not heat the honorable member or the incident has escaped my memory. Mr. McLachlan was appointed, to a large extent, upon my recommendation, to the Cabinet, and his selection has proved a very fortunate one. The same may be said of all the other appointments I have made. I have had some experience in making appointments, and I endeavoured to select an exceptionally good man for the position of Public Service Commissioner. I had known Mr. McLachlan for twenty-five years in the Public Service of New South Wales, and I felt sure that every officer, irrespective pf the State to which he belonged, would receive justice at his hands. The Commissioner has discharged his important duties with the utmost- ability. He is charged with very grave responsibilities under the Act, and although he is, to a very large extent, free from Ministerial control, I have always held that the Government possesses the inherent power to override any recommendation the Commissioner mav make, if it cares to assume such ' a responsibility. It would be impossible in carrying out a work intended to harmonize the divergent conditions previously existing in six States to avoid


some anomalies, but the proper course for all those who have grievances is to exercise their right of appeal. I have no doubt that whenever a good case is made out the Commissioner will be prepared to apply the necessary remedy. With regard to the statement of the honorable member for Lang that the Commonwealth servants, in New South Wales have been dealt with upon such a basis that they may be placed at a disadvantage as regards salaries, compared with the Commonwealth servants of Victoria, I am satisfied that there must have been good cause for any distinctions that may have been made. The Commissioner would not allot lower salaries to the public servants in New South Wales simply because they were in that State instead of in Victoria. The honorable member made a mistake when he stated that the Collector of. Customs in Victoria had previously been in receipt of £750 per annum, and that his salary had been raised to £800. whilst the Collector of Customs in New South Wales had a salary of £95°- The honorable member made the mistake of comparing the salary of Mr. Smart, who is now the Collector, and who was formerly second in command to' Dr. Wollaston, with the salary attached to the. position of Collector of Customs in New South Wales. A comparison might more properly have been instituted between the salary formerly drawn by Dr. Wollaston and that attached to the' position of Collector in New South Wales. Mr. Smart was formerly in receipt of. £75.0 a year, and upon his taking the position of Collector of Customs his salary was raised to £800. I hope that there will not. be any undue interference with the work of the Commissioner, unless grave anomalies are shown to exist. If the ideas which the public servants now entertain as to .the fairness and justice of the Commissioner are strengthened, he will be enabled to exercise far greater control over the service than if complaints are continuously brought before this House, and attempts are made to clip his authority. I have such faith in Mr. McLachlan that I would leave the whole matter in his hands, and I hope that' the service will speedily recognise that he is worthy of their fullest confidence. There are two or three other matters to which reference might be made in this connexion. We have to remember that in December, 1900, a Bill was passed bv the Victorian Parliament raising the salaries of a number of officers in the Departments to be transferred to the Com- monwealth, and that that measure did not receive the Royal Assent until 10th February, 1901 - after the establishment of Federation. . Under that measure most of the officers taken over from the State of Victoria had their salaries raised, and the expenditure of the Commonwealth was in this way largely increased. I have always felt that that was an improper Act, and in view of the fact that it did not receive the Royal Assent until after the establishment of the Commonwealth, I consider that it was really ultra vires.

Mr Tudor - No case, arising under that Act, has been mentioned by the honorable member for Lang. As a matter of fact, theCommissioner has not acted under it in carrying out the classification.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I simply refer to the passing of the Act in order to show the difficulties of the position occupied by the Public Service Commissioner. The passing of that Act- greatly accentuated the difficulties with which he had to contend.

Mr Tudor - No only that Act, but others.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Similar measures may have added to his difficulties, but I would make special reference to the Victorian Act. The aim of the Commissioner has been, and will be, to fix salaries according to the work to be performed, and the climatic conditions under which'' public servants are called upon to labour, in the various parts of the Commonwealth. His endeavour will be to . see that the rates prevailing in one State are not higher than those paid by the Commonwealth in others, and that unless a public servant has been .transferred from the State service with certain rights,, which cannot be interfered with, he shall not receive a higher salary than is paid to other officers discharging corresponding duties. The Commissioner's task has been a most arduous one, and save, perhaps, for a few mistakes, he and his officers have carried out the work of classification in a marvellously effective manner. I must again express my gratification that, although complaints of mistakes in the scheme of classification have been made during this debate, every honorable member, who has taken part in it, has expressed his confidence in, and admiration for, the officer at the head of the service.

Question resolved in the negative.

House adjourned at 9 48 p.m.

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