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Thursday, 19 February 1959

The terms of reference of the committee were broad, so that its inquiries could be directed not only to the current recruitment needs of the Public Service, but also to the principles and policies which might affect the efficiency of the service in the future.

There are over 60 specific recommendations in the report, as well as a number of expressed points of view which are in the nature of recommendations. Some of them are far-reaching and many will require careful examination before the Government is in a position to determine finally its future policies. No decisions have yet been made. The Government has set up a Cabinet committee to go through the report, and also an official committee of permanent heads, with the Chairman of the Public Service Board. So the report is already under active consideration. I have also asked the Public Service Board to seek the views of the various Public Service employee associations on those recommendations in which they have a particular interest.

The committee's review is the first since the present recruitment pattern for the Public Service was developed in 1922. That pattern has remained much the same, despite some minor changes. But over the period the character of Commonwealth administration has undergone great changes, and has been subject to new challenges; and the procedures and policies of the 1920's may not be altogether appropriate as we approach the 1960's.

The Government could have waited to make up its mind on future action before releasing the report, but it has not felt k desirable to do so, because it thinks so important a document should have full public discussion.

Acceptance of the committee's recommendations would result in a number of amendments to the Public Service Act. It is too early to forecast the nature of these amendments, indeed, it is too early to forecast what the result of our considerations may be. But they will be brought before Parliament, if they arise, when the terms of the report have been finally considered by Cabinet. This may take some time because of the comprehensive nature of the report.

I suggest to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who is at the table, that it may not be necessary for me to move that the paper be printed, because nothing will occur without matters being brought before the House in a substantive form, when there will be ample opportunity to discuss them. The real object of my intervention at this stage is to make it clear to honorable members that the report is available. The report is lengthy and will require a great deal of consideration. In the meantime honorable members will have ample opportunity to confer with public service organizations and other people, and obtain a considered opinion.

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