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Tuesday, 20 October 1970

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I will not detain the Committee for long. Nobody seems yet to have talked to any great extent about the Public Service Board and about the role which it plays within the structure of the Commonwealth Public Service. As the Labor Party spokesman on this aspect of Government, 1 want to say a few things off the cuff about the Public Service Board. In theory the Public Service Board is an independent authority which is the primary source of fixing rates of pay and conditions of employment for the Commonwealth Public Service. I said that in theory it is an independent body. In practice it is, of course, nothing more than the echo of the government of the day. The Chairman of the Public Service Board is appointed for a period of, I think, 7 years. 1 think it is 7 years or 5 years. It can be less. There fore, he is very susceptible to pressures from a government, particularly when the pressures come from a government which is very much a one-man government. I do not criticise the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) for the fact that he, like his predecessors, has carried on a kind of oneman government. While the Liberal Party has a system of Cabinet Ministers being selected by the Prime Minister, all members of that Party will have to bend the knee to the Prime Minister, whoever he may be - whether it be Andrew Jones, John Gorton or Andrew Peacock. All other Ministers and hopefuls have to kowtow to the Prime Minister to maintain a position or to obtain a position.

There is not any doubt that the Public Service Board is being pressurised by the Prime Minister's Department and, I very much suspect, in some cases by the Prime

Minister personally on things such as 4 weeks annual leave and equal pay, to quote but 2 examples. The Prime Minister has given the game away on at least one occasion when he drew attention to the fact that the Commonwealth Government, as the controlling authority of the Public Service, must always consider itself to be an employer of labour - indeed the biggest employer of labour - and that whenever it fixes rates of pay and conditions of employment for its employees it must have regard to the indirect, and in fact in many instances the direct, effect which its decisions will have upon other employers.

At no stage have the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Bury), when they have spoken on this aspect of government, given the slightest glimmering of concern for the employees. The Prime Minister has not at any stage said that as the leader of the Government of the country it is his duty to pay full regard to the public interest. It is in the public interest to see that Australian employees, of whom there are 4 million, are entitled to consideration. The Prime Minister's failure to do this indicates a misconception on the part of the Prime Minister of his duty as leader of this country.

In the case of the 4 weeks annual leave the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) has made certain statements. I want to dwell on him for a moment, although we are not discussing his Department. I will show shortly how he comes into this matter in a very real way. The Minister for Labour and National Service gave in this place a figure for the amount it would cost the Austraiian employers to introduce 4 weeks annual leave. First of all, he does not know how many people are now getting 4 weeks annual leave as a minimum. Therefore, if he does not know that - I know that he does not know it because I have been waiting for weeks to get a reply from him to a question on this very subject - how on earth can he give an assessment of what the introduction of 4 weeks annual leave generally will cost?

A lot of people are getting 4 weeks annual leave already. Therefore one would have to know the number who are getting 4 weeks annual leave already before one could say what would be the additional cost to employers if 4 weeks annual leave generally were introduced. It would seem therefore that the Minister for Labour and National Service assumes that no-one is getting 4 weeks annual leave and that you simply multiply the cost of a week's wages by the 4 million people now employed to arrive at the additional cost. This reasoning assumes that an employer would have to employ additional men in exact proportion to the extra leave granted, whereas in point of fact everyone who understands administration theory knows that this is not correct.

If an employer of 40 people decides to give those employees an extra week's leave, he does not have to employ an additional person to make up for it. It does not work out that way, but that is the way that the Minister's argument runs. Therefore he brings his pressure to bear upon the Public Service Board to see that it does not increase the annual leave now granted to the Commonwealth Public Service. The New South Wales Government is already giving 4 weeks annual leave to its employees. The South Australian Labor Government has given it to its employees. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has now given 4 weeks annual leave to its employees.

I now come to another point of major complaint. The Australian National Line agreed with the waterside workers not so long ago to introduce a 35-hour week for employees of the Australian National Line as part of an industrial settlement. But 3 terminal ports are now idle because of a dispute over the matter. When an agreement was entered into between the combatants in the dispute to settle it, the Minister for Labour and National Service went to the Cabinet and prevailed upon it to direct the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) to veto the agreement entered into between the 2 parties. In my view this kind of interference by Ministers in the administration of Government instrumentalities - in particular, the Commonwealth Public Service Board - is something which is pretty reprehensible.

The professional engineers case was a prime example of the stubbornness of the Prime Minister and his blindness to facts, reason and the need for fair play. It is no use the Prime Minister denying - and I do not believe him if he does deny it - that he used his influence upon the Public Service Board to prevent the professional engineers from retaining the position they secured in the general wage structure of Australia as a result of the 1961 engineers case. The Commonwealth Government refuses to depart from the decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Public Service Arbitrator and is trying to imply that there are no such things as over award payments. It forgets that what governs wages today is not the nominal amounts which are fixed by the respective tribunals but the market value of wages paid over and above the minimum fixed by the tribunals, as determined by the law of supply in a situation in which there is, relatively speaking, a shortage of labour.

Mr Jacobi - Was that not the decision arrived at in Western Australia?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am obliged to the honourable member for Hawker. The Industrial Commission of Western Australia has awarded an increase of more than $6 a week in wages as the basic minimum and it has determined that people who are not already getting over award payments are entitled to a 10 per cent increase.

I believe that something ought to be done in the way of a public inquiry - a royal commission, if you like - into the Commonwealth Public Service of the same nature as occurred in 1919, as occurrred in Britain only a couple of years ago, and as took place in New Zealand during the last 3 or 4 years. I believe that such an inquiry would bring to light some pretty staggering facts about the way the Commonwealth Public Service is being administered.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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