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Tuesday, 12 December 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) - - I nave nothing to say as to whether the amount proposed to be paid to this officer is reasonable or otherwise. Nor do I know the officer personally. Therefore, I shall speak entirely as to the principle which has been brought under notice by the present proposal. That principle is that, if this clause be passed, Parliament will have deprived itself, except by the exercise of a very cumbersome and roundabout process, of the power of annually reviewing the salary paid to this public servant. If we turn to the Constitution we shall see that those who framed that document were extremely careful to secure to Parliament the full and complete power over annual appropriations. Section 54 says that -

The proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriations.

That section was so framed in order to prevent the practice known as " tacking." I submit that this Bill, which was brought in nominally to confer upon public servants the right to take their grievances to the Arbitration Court, does contain a " tack " according to that section. There is tacked on to it a proposal for the making of a new appointment, and for the payment of the officer's salary, which is thus placed beyond the annual review of Parliament itself. I do not, however, propose to raise formally the point as to whether, in that respect, this Bill violates that section of the Constitution. I shall rest my appeal to the Committee on other grounds. It is useless to appeal to the Government, but I ask this Committee not to take away the right which Parliament should exercise of reviewing annually the payment made to a public servant. It must be remembered that some of the salaries paid are much larger than it is proposed to pay to this officer. Take the salaries of the Secretaries of our Departments. They amount to £1,100 and ,£1,200 per annum. Those salaries are open to be reviewed every time the Estimates are under consideration. I am compelled to draw the conclusion that there is some favouritism in this matter, and that a desire exists to assist this particular officer. Why should we single out one officer for this special treatment? There is a higher principle involved than the mere amount of the salary. That principle is that Parliament should have the right to review the officer's salary, and his manner of discharging his duties, every year in connexion with the Estimates. In view of the importance of that principle the matter of the amount to be paid is of secondary importance altogether.

Senator Keating - It must also be remembered that the Bill takes away the opportunity from every one else in the Public Service of securing this position.

Senator MILLEN - That is another objection which will appeal to the officers of the Public Service more than it does to me. I am asking Parliament in this matter not to shirk its responsibility, or to forego its rights.

Senator Guthrie - Is not the Industrial Registrar largely a judicial officer?

Senator MILLEN - The hesitating way in- which the question has been asked, and the use of the word " largely," shows that Senator Guthrie is not prepared seriously to contend that this officer's position is a judicial one.

Senator de Largie - Most decidedly it is.

Senator MILLEN - The name of the officer answers the honorable senator. He is described as the " Industrial Registrar," and is nothing more than a highly responsible clerk.

Senator Keating - If the position be a judicial one, why is not a legal man appointed to it?

Senator MILLEN - If it is contended that this is a judicial position, let me ask any member of the Committee to point to a single instance in which a Bill has been brought down for a particular purpose, and there has been sneaked in at the end of it a provision for the appointment of a Judge. We all know that appointments to judicial positions are made by specific enactments dealing with those appointments only.

Senator McGregor - Is it not just as reasonable to propose the' appointment of a Registrar in an Arbitration Bill as it is to propose the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner and five Public Service Inspectors in a Public Service Bill?

Senator MILLEN - Certainly not. The officers referred to by Senator McGregor were necessary as part of the machinery of the Public Service Act, and because Parliament decided to place the Service beyond political control. The question is whether this appointment should be made by this Bill, and the officer removed from parliamentary review. I have stated the reasons which induce me to vote against the clause. The amount of salary proposed may be sufficient or excessive. I do not offer any opinion on that point. If it were proposed in the ordinary way on the Estimates I should not cavil at it. I shall vote against the clause as placing the officer in question beyond the annual review of Parliament, and, as Senator Keating has pointed out, giving the position to a particular officer, and to that extent favouring him above other members of the Public Service who might be equally qualified to fill the position.

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