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Thursday, 9 November 1905

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) - I think that Senator Walker began his speech from a false stand-point in saying that when we gave employment to a person in the Public Service we bargained with him to forego a portion of his citizen rights. I hold that a public servant is paid for the work which he performs for the Commonwealth, and not for some rights which he has foregone. If Senator Walker will look at the matter from that standpoint, I think he will see that he has argued on wrong premises. I cannot understand how any reason can be urged against a public officer taking part in municipal life like an ordinary citizen. Take an alderman, who is a miner, or a carpenter, or a shopkeeper, he follows his ordinary avocation during the day, and serves the municipali>" in the evening. A public officer does his official work during prescribed hours, and. in the evening he could attend municipal meetings. Certainly Senator Keating his changed his attitude very considerably sine; this question was discussed here in connexion with the Public Service Bill.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. Gould.. - He has to accept the law as it stands, whatever view he may have expressed prior to its enactment.

Senator DE LARGIE - I do not know that Senator Keating is accepting the law. I think he is assisting to make it utterly impossible for any good to come out of the law, because, in my opinion, it is ridiculous to urge that if a public officer can obtain the consent of the head of his Department he may take part in municipal life, when at the same time he is practically told that an application to that effect would be ignored. Apparently Ministerial respon sibility is resting very heavily upon Senator Keating when we find that so early in his official career he is turning a somersault of this kind. I find that, in regard to not only municipal affairs, but party politics, the honorable and learned senator took up a very decided stand when the question was being discussed here. If any reason can be urged against a public officer taking an active part in municipal politics, surely a stronger objection could be offered to him becoming a member ot the National Association, or the Political Labour League, or any other political organization. On that occasion Senator Keating was a champion of public officers being permitted to have full political rights. But now he finds fault with public officers being members of municipal councils.

Senator Keating - The Act provides for every case which may arise to be dealt with on its individual merits.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is all very well for the Minister to say that the Act provides for every case to be dealt with on its merits; when, at the same time, the Ministry issue an instruction which practically prevents public officers from making an application to the heads of their Departments. They really have no opportunity of presenting the merits of their cases. The instruction takes, away ,f rom . public officers any little liberty in this re,gard which is allowed by the Act. In order to give the Seriate an idea of the attitude which Senator Keating took up when the Public Service Bill was under consideration, I propose to read the following quotation : -

I am entirely in accord with the principle cf the amendment -

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. Gould.- What was the nature of the amendment?

Senator DE LARGIE - The object of the amendment was to allow the .full exercise of political rights by public officers.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. Gould. - Was this speech made on clause 79 of the Bill ?

Senator DE LARGIE - I am unable to tell the honorable and learned senator, because the passage I am reading was quoted by an honorable senator during a debate on Public Service Regulation No. 1 on-the 12th June, 1903 -

I am entirely in accord with the principle of the amendment, that there is nothing in the Bill which denies to civil servants the right to band themselves together, to associate as members of a civil service association, or to join one or the other of the many political tor semi-political organizations, or the national or semi-national organizations, which permeate the length and breadth of the Commonwealth.

Senator Millen - What was the amendment?

Senator DE LARGIE - I take it that the political provisions of the Public Service Act were under discussion.

Senator Millen - Is it not necessary to know the nature of the amendment in order to understand the meaning of Senator Keating's words?

Senator Keating - The amendment related to the right of public officers to join ordinary organizations.

Senator DE LARGIE - The political rights of public officers was the subject under discussion.

Senator Playford - This motion does not deal with a political right, but with a social right.

Senator DE LARGIE - Does the Minister mean to tell me that municipal business is social, not political?

Senator Keating - The object of this motion is to give public officers the right to serve two or three masters df they wish.

Senator DE LARGIE - If a public officer were allowed to be a member of a political organization, as a Minister advocated, he would be serving another master.

Senator Keating - I still believe that public officers ought to be allowed to join any political organization.

Senator DE LARGIE - If a public officer is allowed to be a member of a municipal political organization, why should he not be permitted to hold any office therein ?

Senator Keating - He will be permitted by the Government to do so, if his duties as a municipal councillor do not come into conflict with his duties as a public officer.

Senator DE LARGIE - Under the instruction to which I have referred, a public officer is really prevented from presenting the merits of his application. When it was agreed in the Senate, as a sort of compromise I suppose, that public officers were to be permitted to hold civic positions if thev could get the consent of the heads of their Departments, we did not expect that a regulation would be issued which would take away theft right to make an application. The position, of Senator Keating is quite inconsistent with the strong attitude he took up while the Public Service Bill was under consideration

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