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Wednesday, 27 August 1913

Senator GUTHRIE - Did not the Imperial authorities lay down other qualifications t

Senator MILLEN - They at any rate acted in the spirit of the standard set up by Mr. Fisher.

Senator Guthrie - There were certain other qualifications.

Senator MILLEN - They appointed men whose names were known throughout the world.

Senator Guthrie - Was there not a language qualification, which Ministers could not have passed ?

Senator MILLEN - There was uo language qualification.

Senator Guthrie - I believe there was.

Senator MILLEN - Nor could there have been one. Mr. Fisher, I repeat, laid it down that, in order that the Commission should carry weight in various portions of the Empire, it was desirable to appoint to it only men who were not merely in the front rank, but recognised as being there. When he came back, did he act in accordance with that declaration? No. He conferred the appointment on a gentleman who, however estimable he may be, however qualified he may be in other respects, did not come up to the standard which he himself had laid down, but was the defeated Labour candidate on behalf of the party who made the appointment.

Senator Story - He came up to the standard, but did not happen to be a Minister.

Senator MILLEN - That was the test which Mr. Fisher applied. I am not going to hammer the point.

Senator O'Keefe - It is a very poor point.

Senator MILLEN - There it is. When Mr. Fisher made that declaration, and urged it strongly at the Conference, I am entitled to see why he himself broke away. The only thing I can discover is that he found it extremely convenient to use public patronage, which he ought to have exercised for the public good, on behalf of a political comrade.

Senator O'Keefe - Why do not the Government turn him out?

Senator MILLEN - This Government stands for the very reverse of a policy which would mean turning out public officials on the advent of a new Government.

Senator O'Keefe - Although you think that they were not the fittest men.

Senator MILLEN - Mr. Campbellhas been for two years engaged in the inquiry, and I think it would be extremely foolish to withdraw the commission if it were possible, and certainly I have no desire to do so. I am showing that I was justified in saying then, as I do to-day, that Mr. Fisher having himself laid down the code by which he ought to have been guided, departed from that code on the principle of conferring some of the advantages of office upon one of his defeated comrades. I pass on to another appointment - that of Mr. Ryland. The first thing to which I might take exception is that his application was not received until it was out of order. The position was advertised, and a day was fixed for the receipt of the applications. The application of Mr. Ryland did not arrive to time; it turned up a few days afterwards, and he got the appointment. What were his qualifications for the position? First of all, I say that there was a gross irregularity, a gross unfairness to any one who might have been deprived of an opportunity to apply.

Senator Rae - Have you only learnt that recently?

Senator MILLEN - That is all.

Senator Rae - Is it not a fact that all the applications were received, and that Mr. Nielsen was offered the position and declined it?

Senator MILLEN - Mr. Nielsen accepted the position, and afterwards resigned it. It was then that the appointment of Mr. Ryland was made. I think I am speaking correctly when I say that the appointment of Mr. Nielsen was not advertised, and that it was only after he had resigned the position that it was decided to invite applications. Now what were Mr. Ryland's qualifications for the important position of Director of Lands in the Northern Territory, where he would be required to design and carry out a land policy?

Senator Maughan - And well able he was to do it too.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator says so; but what were Mr. Ryland's qualifications? What was there to show that he knew anything about the work? He was, if I am correctly informed, originally a miner. He gained his knowledge in that capacity. He then became a house and land agent in a Queensland town ; but can it be said that that gentleman, whatever his natural ability may be, could be in any way regarded as an expert in the matter of land, and land settlement ?

Senator Maughan - He had made a special study of the subject.

Senator Mullan - Was not your Prime Minister a miner ? It is not a disgrace to be a miner, surely?

Senator MILLEN - Who said it was a disgrace ?

Senator Mullan - You think it is a reflection.

Senator MILLEN - Nobody but an extremely prejudiced or narrow-minded individual would say so. I mentioned that Mr. Ryland was a miner to show that he had not been trained in connexion with land matters. Had he been an applicant for a position in connexion with mines, I should still say that he had spent many years as a miner, and regard that as a qualification.

Senator Henderson - Was he not a land agent also ? You had a fair training at that game.

Senator MILLEN - And it is because I had that I know exactly what is wanted. Mr. Ryland had no possible claim to be considered qualified for the position. The first point is that his application arrived late. That, of itself, should have barred him, or fresh applications should have been invited. The next point is that he cannot in any sense be put forward as a gentleman who was qualified t'o deal with the big land problem confronting the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory.

Senator Maughan - He had made a study of the land question for years.

Senator MILLEN - No sane person would have regarded a statement that he had made a study of the land question as being of any value. His career does not suggest that he has either a practical or theoretical knowledge of the subject with which he is called upon to deal.

Senator Maughan - You are making a very unfair attack on a public officer.

Senator MILLEN - It is of no use to attempt to make out that these were the best possible appointments, because, un fortunately for my honorable friend, the then Minister of External Affairs practically made an admission that two of the appointments were not the best that could have been made, and he went on to say - I shall give the quotation - that these gentlemen, though not the best men, were appointed after he had questioned them as to their political faith.

Senator Maughan - Is Mr. Ryland doing the work expected of him?

Senator MILLEN - The last I heard of Mr. Ryland was that he was walking up and down in front of Government House as a picket.

Senator Maughan - That is not a reply to my question.

Senator MILLEN - I wish it to be understood that I have no quarrel with Mr. Ryland. What I am saying is that the Labour Government, in making the appointment, were only moved, as they were in the other case, not by a regard for the special fitness of the man for a position, but merely by the fact that he was a member of their party and a defeated candidate; and I believe I am correct in saying that Mr. Fisher owed very much to him in his electorate.

Senator Maughan - That is very unfair.

Senator Needham - It is a marvel that you have not sacked him.

Senator MILLEN - If the present Government were inclined to do that sort of thing, there is an ample justification in a speech I am about to read, because the position was taken up by the last Government that they were entitled to have in office there men who shared their political opinions. If that is so, that would be a justification for the present Government saying, " As you do not share our opinions we also are entitled to have men who do, and, therefore, we are entitled to throw you out and appoint other men."

Senator Rae - Do you take up such a high standard of political virtue that if other thiugs were equal you would not appoint one of your own supporters?

Senator MILLEN - No; but I set up the standard that when you are going to make an appointment to the Public Service, merit and merit alone ought to be the determining factor.

Senator Rae - I am glad to hear that.

Senator MILLEN - Let us see what Mr. Thomas had to say when the appointment of Mr. Ryland was under discussion in the other House -

We may have appointed men, some of whom are not as competent as they might be for the duties they will be called upon to perform, but I believe they are honest men.

Senator Maughan - That is a fair statement, anyhow.

Senator MILLEN - Of course it is from my honorable friend's point of view, and I take it that it is a fair statement of the attitude and the policy of the late Government - that they were not going necessarily to look for the best men, but, as I will show from another extract, to look for men who shared their political opinions. Mr. Thomas went on to say, referring to one of the gentlemen -

I frankly admit that I then put to him two questions - the other was whether he favoured the leasehold as against the freehold principle in land settlement. ... I thought in fairness to my colleagues in the Cabinet I should be quite sure before I suggested to them the name of a gentleman to act as Administrator, that concerning those two questions of policy he was absolutely in sympathy with the Government.

I ask honorable senators to put these two things together - the admission that the men appointed were not as competent as they might have been, and the statement that they were questioned as to their political faith.

Senator Rae - What two questions of policy does he say?

Senator MILLEN - I do not think they are given, but I can guess what they were, as the honorable senator can. I have not the slightest doubt that one of them was as to the leasehold principle.

Senator Bakhap - They were two necessary questions under the test Act.

Senator MILLEN - If these men had not answered the questions in the way which my honorable friends wanted, they would not have had the appointments.

Senator Rae - That is going too far.

Senator MILLEN - That is exactly what is stated here. Mr. Thomas said that he would not have recommended the names unless he was sure, as the result of his catechizing the men, that they were absolutely in sympathy with the Government.

Senator Needham - No, in sympathy with the administration of the Northern Territory.

Senator MILLEN - It says here " absolutely in sympathy with the Government."

Senator McDougall - With their policy - leasehold.

Senator MILLEN - Well, I will take that if you like. If our predecessors were entitled to put into office to carry out their policy men who believed in that policy, we are now entitled to turn round and ask the officers to resign on the ground that they must be antagonistic to our policy.

Senator de Largie - Are you going to abolish the leasehold system in the Northern Territory?

Senator MILLEN - As soon as I can.

Senator de Largie - That will be a long while.

Senator MILLEN - At any rate, we will make an effort. Dealing specifically with Mr. Ryland, Mr. Thomas went on to say -

In my opinion, a person appointed to be Director of Lands in the Northern Territory must have certain qualifications. He should be in accord with the leasehold principle.

Senator Rae - Is not that in the Act?

Senator MILLEN - No. It is not in the Act that a man only shall be appointed there because he believes in certain principles of tenure.

It is only right, fair, and proper to myself and to the Government that we should have some officers there who are in accord with our general policy, so that we may have confidence in what is being done.

Senator Rae - " Some officers."

Senator MILLEN - I am dealing with the officers whose appointments were under review. I repeat that that was a policy, disguise it as you will, of saying that the only men who could look for appointments in the Public Service were those who shared the political opinions of the Government of the day, and, as in the two cases I referred to, had the additional advantage of being defeated Labour candidates.

Senator Rae - How can you justify that remark by two appointments only? Were there not many appointments to which it would not apply?

Senator MILLEN - Senator Pearce gave the lot; I do not propose to repeat what he said.

Senator McDougall - Was Mr. Francis in sympathy with the last Government ?

Senator MILLEN - I do not happen to know anything about Mr. Francis. I do happen to know that if honorable senators will take the trouble to read the Hansard report of the speech delivered by me, which waa quoted by Senator Pearce, they will find that I gave rather a formidable list of appointments, which come in the same category.

Senator Rae - Does the Minister of Defence say that Dr. Jensen's was not a good appointment ?

Senator MILLEN - I say that there was already in the Public Service of the Commonwealth a gentleman who possessed qualifications quite as good as those possessed by Dr. Jensen, and who should have been given the appointment. As a matter of fact, under the Public Service Act, priority has to be given to those who are already in the Service. I admit that the Northern Territory is not governed by that Act, but the same principle should have operated. However, no other man in Australia would suit the late Government but a gentleman who was a member of the Political Labour League in Sydney, and who was attacking their brethren-in-arms, the New South Wales Labour Government.

Senator Russell - Can the Minister of Defence name one Labour man who has been appointed to a responsible position by a Liberal Government ?

Senator MILLEN - Yes, Mr. Langwill, a member of the Western Land Board of New South Wales.

Senator Russell - I hope that the Minister will not strain his mind to cite more instances.

Senator MILLEN - I propose now to quote the utterances of Senator Pearce, with a view to showing that he recognised the logic of the position which he was taking up. He said -

If the Government have any sense at all they will secure the appointment of officials who believe in the policy they are called upon to perform.

I interjected quite naturally, and in spite of our Standing Orders -

That is an argument for turning him (Mr. Ryland) out of the position on the advent of another Government with a different policy.

Senator Pearcereplied ;

That is a question for the new Government with a different policy to decide.

It is fortunate for the Public Service of Australia that the present Government are not disposed to give effect to the logic of my interjection. As a matter of fact, the New South Wales Labour Government did make a start in that direction, and it was only an outburst of public opinion which prevented them from going further.

Senator Findley - Deal only with Federal politics.

Senator de Largie - That does not cut any ice here.

Senator MILLEN - Nothing will cut any ice with Senator de Largie. He is much too hidebound for that.

Senator McDougall - When did the New South Wales Labour Government make a start in the direction that the Minister has suggested ?

Senator MILLEN - They started by throwing out Mr. Garrard, of the Water and Sewerage Board.

Senator McDougall - They did nothing of the sort.

Senator MILLEN - Although it was the practice to re-appoint the members of that Board, and although Mr. Garrard was qualified for re-appointment, they threw him out, and put in his place a personal friend of Mr. McGowen.

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