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Thursday, 31 May 1928

Mr MACKAY (Lilley) .- I think that members generally agree that the divisional returning officers are both overworked and underpaid. I agree with the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that it would be a commendable action if the Government devised some means to alter the existing state of affairs. But an adequate protest I consider has been made, and notice of it will probably be taken by the Public Service Board. I should like you, Mr. Chairman, to give a ruling on the following two points: - (1) As the proposed new clause will involve an expenditure of money, should it not be accompanied by a message from the Governor-General recommending that the necessary appropriation be made, and (2) as this is an amending machinery bill, does the proposed new clause come within its scope? I contend, also, that if any direction is to be given to the Public Service Board it should be by an amendment of the Public Service Act.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has asked for my ruling on two points. On the first I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that this is not a money bill, and that the acceptance of the proposed new clause would not increase the expenditure, inasmuch as it does not refer to any sum that has already been voted; but provision would have to be made in the ensuing Estimates for any expenditure that was found to be necessary. With regard to the second point, as to whether the proposed nev/ clause comes within the scope of the bill, I refer honorable members to the title of the bill, which reads -

A bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 191S-1925.

It is customary, when amending bills are introduced, to mention specifically in the title the particular sections that it is proposed to amend. In this instance, however, no such limitation has been imposed. Therefore, any matter which comes within the scope of the principal act may be discussed by the committee. There is another point. If honorable members will refer to section 11 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1925 they will find that it reads as follows: -

In the event of any vacancy occurring in the office of the divisional returning officer assistant returning officer or registrar, or in the absence from duty of any such officer, the Chief Electoral Officer may appoint some person to perform the duties of the office during the period of the vacancy or absence.

I ask members of the committee to note the fact that " some person," not necessarily a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, may be appointed. In other words, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1925 makes provision within itself for the appointment in certain circumstances of a divisional returning officer, an assistant returning officer or a registrar from outside the Commonwealth Public Service. For the reasons I have given, I rule that the proposed new clause is in order, and properly before the committee.

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