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Tuesday, 12 December 1911

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I think that if we needed an argument as to the necessity for bringingin this Bill the time which has been wasted on this discussion furnishes a really good sample. For upwards of an hour we have been discussing the appointment of an officer. There are 30,000 officers, I understand, who are paid out of the public purse. If we subjected each officer to like treatment, then, according to a calculation I have made, it would take Parliament twenty-two years and some months to deal with the Public Service.

Senator Millen - We are not dealing with the officers now.

Senator LYNCH - While we have heard a note of alarm sounded, especially from the Opposition side, about the folly of robbing Parliament of its power, I am sure that honorable senators who sounded the note would contemplate with horror the possibility, or even the suggestion, of Parliament wasting so much time in settling this very vexed question. Senator Millen has stated that Parliament has no right to fix the salary of the Industrial Registrar, and thereby depart from the purpose of the Bill. Unfortunately, he has set an example to the Government. When he held the office of Vice-President. of the Executive Council he brought in a Bill to appoint an InterState Commission, and he sought to acquire for the existing Parliament the sole right to fix the value of the services of the officials. The salary of the Chief Commissioner was fixed at . £2,500, while the salaries of the subordinate Commissioners were fixed at a lesser amount. If we needed art example of a Parliament taking to itself the right to assess the work of public officials, we have here an example set before us by the very gentleman who is criticising this provision.

Senator Rae - Did our side vote against that Bill ?

Senator Millen - Solidly, to a man.

Senator de Largie - For very good reasons, too.

Senator LYNCH - The Bill was brought in to save the face of the Government.

Senator St Ledger - If this is right that was right.

Senator LYNCH - There is one objection which, perhaps, bulks more largely, and has some foundation, and that is that we have no right to interfere with the power of Parliament. I say, " Amen " to that. But when is Parliament going to exercise that power? Is not the opportunity before us now ? Will Senator Givens say that this Parliament is not as good a judge as will be any succeeding Parliament?

Senator Givens - We should not deprive succeeding Parliaments of equal power.

Senator Millen - Would Senator Lynch apply this principle to every man in the Public Service?

Senator LYNCH - Every public servant is not concerned just now. We are applying the principle to one of the central figures in the working of this measure just as Senator Millen applied the principle to the central figures in the working of the Inter- State Commission Bill.

Senator Millen - Do you not see that if you single out one member of the Public Service for special treatment it is an act of favouritism?

Senator LYNCH - This measure will right a long and an enduring wrong to the official about whom we are concerned. He may be underpaid. I believe that he has been.

Senator Millen - There is another way to increase his pay.

Senator LYNCH - Dealing with, the point that Parliament has no right to rob itself of power my view is that we are as fit now as we would be during the next or anyother session to express our will on this point. I would remind honorable senators that, on the Estimates, no special opportunity is vouchsafed to Parliament to fix the rates and conditions of the Public Service - certainly no more than the opportunity which is afforded on this occasion. Under this measure we are loading an officer with extra duties - duties more arduous and onerous than he has had to discharge hitherto - and Senator Rae, I am sure, will be the first to admit that we should take that circumstance into account.

Senator Rae - I said nothing about the salary of the officer.

Senator St Ledger -. Would Senator Lynch place in that position the stipendiary magistrate who has todecide a matter?

Senator LYNCH - I do not know that a stipendiary magistrate is such a lofty individual that he should be placed on a higher pedestal than the Industrial Registrar.

Senator St Ledger - Do you not see that the Industrial Registrar may have to send a matter on to a police magistrate to be tried? Will you treat the one in the same way as the other?

Senator LYNCH - I understand that one of the qualifications of the Industrial Registrar is that he must possess a knowledge of law; in fact, he must be a barrister.

Senator Keating - Certainly not.

Senator LYNCH - I believe that, as a matter of fact, he is a barrister.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

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