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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 793

Senator HANNAN (Victoria) - 1 support the Bill, which is a short procedural piece of legislation. The Bill is important as it deals with the personnel and promotion of members of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Bill amends section 50 of the Public Service Act 1922- 1968. There has always been in existence in the Commonwealth Public Service a system of appeals in which the right of a person appointed to a position to hold that position may be challenged by somebody who thinks that his qualifications are better or that he has a better entitlement to the job.

This system has never occasioned very great difficulty in cases where the appellant and respondent are both resident in the one State. But the position with which the Bill attempts to deal is that of disposing of arguments arising where the provisional promotee is in one State and the challenger is in another. The Bill proposes to set up a committee to deal with such a situation. This body is to be constituted under the Public Service Act as a result of recommendations from the Joint Council, an employer-employee body. It is to have an independent chairman, one person nominated by the Permanent Head of the department to which the person is appointed and another person from the relevant staff association. In practice this new committee virtually will stand in between the Public Service Board and a State promotions appeal committee. The result will be that the committee so set up will virtually determine the appeal. The committee will then make a recommendation to the Public Service Board. The Government has introduced this proposal as a result of recommendations from the Joint Council. This action is some indication of the care which the Government exercises in respect of the proper marshalling and proper administration of the Commonwealth Public Service. A great deal of nonsense is spoken and written about public servants, but it is my belief that Australia is extremely well served by a dedicated band of public servants. It is necessary and desirable that their proper promotions and transfers be handled in an expeditious and just manner.

If 1 may digress for a moment, the Commonwealth's concern is in sharp contradistinction to the views of the Australian Labor Party on the Public Service. In Adelaide last week it was proposed by the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party that a ceiling be placed on the salaries of persons in the upper levels of the Public Service. Honourable senators do not need to be magicians to realise that the telephones ran hot, telegrams ran hot and appeals were made to Mr Hawke and others in high positions. Finally, a telegram was sent from Canberra to Adelaide by the Public Service association here. That telegram stated:

Public servants in Canberra greatly disturbed at reports of Federal Executive's wage freeze on upper Commonwealth salaries. We urge you to prevail on Federal Executives to exercise commonsense if your electoral chances are not to be destroyed.

Signed Gordon Taylor

When that telegram hit the deck panic prevailed and the proposal was pushed under the rug. I think, however, that we should contrast the care which the Government has shown in respect of the Public Service and the proposed control and worsening of Public Service conditions which may reasonably be expected to result from Labor administration. I support the Bill.

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