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Wednesday, 11 December 1974
Page: 3359

Senator BUTTON (VICTORIA) -Has the attention of the Leader of the Government been drawn to a reported statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, Mr Lynch, that a number of Government appointed public servants will be 'for the chopping block' under a Liberal-Country Party government? Is it not the right of an elected government to make appointments to senior positions in the Public Service and government instrumentalities, and was not that right freely exercised under the last Liberal Party-Country Party Government? Is it not a fact that two of the public servants mentioned in Mr Lynch 's threat- Mr Menadue and Dr Wilenski- were both career public servants under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government with distinguished records in the Service? Does the Minister know of any other incident when a supposedly responsible Opposition politician has threatened public servants with the sack? Is it not a fact that such threats could compromise the integrity, morale and efficiency of the Australian Public Service?

Senator MURPHY -The answer to the first three questions is yes. The answer to the next one is that I am not aware of any other example of this. The answer to the last question also is yes. Threats such as this certainly could compromise the integrity and efficiency of the Public Service. After all, we have determined by an Act of Parliament, whether rightly or wrongly, that there should be permanency in the Public Service. The positions of permanent heads of departments are permanent and even if one of these officers were displaced from a particular position the law to preserve permanency is so strong that he would have to be kept on the public payroll. What the Opposition has done, of course, is undermine that principle. Without moving any proposals in this chamber saying that public servants should have to resign or be dismissed or removed on a change of government it uses the public Press to say that this is what it would do when it took over government. That is the worst possible way in which government can be conducted in this country. If the Opposition thinks that there should be a change of public servants on a change of government- there are arguments for and against such a proposal- why does it not appear before and present this suggestion to the Royal Commission that is inquiring into the organisation of the Public Service? Why does it not introduce a Bill or announce that that is part of its platform and it will be the policy of the government if it is returned to office?

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I have protested against this practice before. The Standing Orders are quite clear and unequivocal and provide that a Minister answering a question is not allowed to debate the matter. I wish you would pull the Leader of the Government into gear on that.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The Leader of the Government will answer the question as he sees fit.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - I beg your pardon. My point of order is that a Minister shall not debate a question. That is all I wish to draw to your attention.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack raises a point of order, the text of which is quite correct. I think it has become established custom that both in the asking and answering of questions all honourable senators take liberties with the Standing Orders. I call Senator Bessell.

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