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Friday, 8 December 1911

The PRESIDENT - Order ! Senator Givens made that statement in reply to an interjection by the honorable senator himself. It had nothing whatever to do with the Bill.

Senator SAYERS - The party to which I belong has no control whatever over Mr. Willis, and does not wish to have any thing to do with him. When you, sir, saythat the statement of Senator Givens was" made in reply to an interjection by me, I fancy that you are in error. I have brought many cases of hardship in our Public Service under the notice of the Minister, but he has not taken any steps to remedy that hardship. When I made a certain, statement in this chamber whilst the Supply Bill was under consideration, I was immediately written to by the Department of Home Affairs asking for corroboration of my statement. Happily, I was in a position to sit down and supply the desired information. Later on, I received a letter informing me that inquiries would be made into the matter. I was told that in 1910 an officer had been deputed to look into it, that he did not think it necessary to take any action then, but that a sum of money to enable it to be dealt with would be placed upon the Estimates next year. This is the way in which members of Parliament are treated by the Government. That being so, what is the use of public servants appealing to them?

Senator McGregor - That is all the more reason why they should have an appeal to the Arbitration Court.

Senator SAYERS - No President of the Arbitration Court will be in a position to know as much of our public servants as the Public Service Commissioner knows of them. But the Government will not appoint a board to investigate their complaints. It is true that a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the working of the Postal Department; but although it has presented its report, the Ministry have not accepted its recommendations.

Senator McGregor - We have accepted nearly all of them.

Senator SAYERS - Only the other day I heard a gentleman in another place say that the Government have not agreed to its chief recommendation, namely, that a board of management should be appointed. Paragraph 907 of the Commission's report reads -

The specific objections of the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner to the desired alteration of the Constitution of Appeals Boards are as follow : -

The Commonwealth would have no control over a Judge or stipendiary magistrate who is a State official, and the substitution of such an officer for the Public Service Inspector would leave the Commonwealth practically unrepresented.

A Judge or magistrate cannot possess the knowledge and experience of public administration or of the general principles underlying the classification of officers necessary to enable him to adjudicate on the many involved Public Service questions remitted to Boards of Appeal.

A State officer presiding over Boards of Appeal would necessarily be guided largely by ex -parte evidence, and his decisions would consequently create anomalies and cause injustice to officers who were not applicants. "Decisions of Boards of Appeal, unlike those of Courts of Law, cannot be based wholly on the evidence submitted, but must take into account surrounding circumstances, which can only be fully within the knowledge of the Commissioner and Public Service Inspectors. Boards of Appeal are not legal tribunals.

I agree with that statement of the Commission. In my judgment, the Bill will t>e a complete failure. In the first place, advantage will not be taken of its provisions ; and in the second, if advantage be taken of them, no benefit will be conferred upon our public servants. I ask the Government to take upon its shoulders the burden of doing what is right. If, even at this late hour of the session, they will bring down a Bill to do justice to our public servants, quite independently of the Arbitration Court, I feel sure that it will meet with ample support from honorable senators upon this side of the chamber.

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