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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1214

Mr DOBIE(8.41) —I am very pleased to be able to speak on the estimates of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of the Special Minister of State. I point out, in view of the remarks made by one of the previous speakers, the honourable member for Canberra (Mrs Kelly), that while she was talking of interest in the Public Service many more Opposition members showed an interest in the Public Service than was the case with other Labor Government members. That cannot be denied; these are the facts. However, I do not want to enter into a controversy. I thought I might bring some moderation to the debate on these estimates.

Mr Beazley —You are losing weight, Don.

Mr DOBIE —I am very grateful that the Special Minister of State has noticed this and I wish him well in his endeavours. I will acknowledge him when he too has this success. Having mentioned that and been nice to the Minister I will raise one point with him. It relates to one small problem that happens to our staff when they come to Canberra. I know that he will give this matter a most sympathetic hearing. One of the silly things that happen when our electorate staff-of all members of this place-want to come to this building, is that they do not get transport to it during the day. When they work here into the evening they, along with everyone else in this building, are entitled to transport facilities back to their residences. All honourable members-if they have brought their staff-will have faced this problem. For some incredible reason they have no facility whatsoever. It is very unfair because most of them have no local knowledge of public transport. They have no right to the use of taxis or to a refund of the fare. Although this is only a small point it would service the welfare of our staff, who come here to work for each and every one of us in the House, if the Minister could give this matter consideration. I am sure that with his kindly nature and our association over years in this place he will give this matter consideration to the benefit of all our staff.

Mr Beazley —We have Dawkins sitting here, Don.

Mr DOBIE —As the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) is sitting beside the Special Minister of State I hope the Special Minister of State will make the appropriate motions to him. I was not going to be contentious in my speech as honourable members can see previous speakers have forced me so to be. The whole problem of the present Government's approach to the Public Service, and what is filling our minds with deep concern, is this wretched politicisation the Government is going on with. I can assure the Government that when we were in government and we appointed known Labor candidates as ambassadors to Japan and known Labor candidates and known members of the Labor Party as heads of departments, we did it because we had a feeling that they just might be the people for the jobs. Some of us were not convinced but we went along with our Executive at the time and said 'We are not going to politicise the Public Service; we never have' and away we went. Now we find people such as Peter Wilenski, who is known to me, being mentioned as possible head of the Public Service Board. I must confess with some sadness that he has a tremendous association with the Australian Labor Party. I do not suggest for one second, perish the thought, that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke)-and we are talking about his Department-would in any way use Peter Wilenski, as head of the Public Service Board, to influence the Public Service. Perish the thought that John Menadue, head of a department, could become head of our main communications area, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. These things bother me and I am sure that they will bother the Prime Minister when he has to face them. But we are concerned that for the first time since 1975 we have a public service in Canberra that is more fearful of its future, more fearful of its being politicised, than has ever been the case. I have mentioned one or two names. I could go on.

I would like to think that so many of the people who are up for promotion did not have any connection with the Australian Labor Party. But try as I may I cannot reach that conclusion. So it is with distress that I have to be contentious and say that the move by the Labor Party to politicise the whole Public Service is evidenced in everything that has been said tonight by my Leader and by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall). Within a very short time we have seen a move around. I have some hope that the Special Minister of State will use his undoubted influence to have this stopped. We on this side of the House have reason to believe, if we listen to the Press, that there are people in the Labor Executive who are similarly distressed by this move. If they put up their heads we will support them.

I believe that the great problem with the estimates of these two departments is this: The permanent Minister-I say 'permanent' because we have reason to believe that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) may be coming back again some time, somewhere, somehow-is a master of expertise when it comes to politicising situations. I stand here in great sorrow and say that. Believe me the honourable member for Canberra will have to have some answers when we next go to a general election. She will have to explain to her constituents that she agreed to the whole situation of the Public Service being politicised to a situation in which the Prime Minister, the head of the Public Service, the head of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and goodness knows who else, control communications and the promotion system within the Public Service.

Mrs Kelly —Oh!

Mr DOBIE —I hear the honourable member groaning; I trust that she is well. All I can say is that she will not be quite so well in two years time. I am sorry that I have to be so rude to the honourable member but it has to happen. She is politicising the Public Service and it grieves us on this side of the House more than annoys us. That is all I want to say. I thank the House for its rapt attention to my speech.