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THE CIVIL SERVICE.

From the Hansard report to hand of Mr. Saunders’ speech on the Civil Service wemake the following extracts : THE SCAMPED WAGONS. Sir, the paper that 1 move for may not be in the possession of hon. members. It is a very short one, and I will read it “ Wellington, 29th June, 1830. “ ho wagons built by contract under this department at Dunedin were delivered in Christchurch at the end of last year, and I believe the same remark applies to the Railway Department.

“The last contract for wagons in Dunedin was finished in August, 1877, consequently they had been running for thirteen months before the line to Christchurch was opened, and nearly two and' a half years before the date referred to. I may add that, so far as wagons built under the supervision of this department in Dunedin at any time are concerned, there is not the slightest ground for thinking thorn defective ; they have in every instance been made with proper materials. “ As the proposition laid down in asking the qnations is incorrect, they cannot, of course, be answered otherwise than as above.

“W. H. Blair,

“ Engineer in Charge Middle Island. ”

That, sir, is a very short document; but to my mind, it is one of the most important documents ever asked for in this House ; in fact, I may go further and say it is one of the most humiliating documents ever produced in this House. The statements there made are, whether wilfully or carelessly so, every one of them incorrect. We are told that the last contract for wagons in Dunedin was finished in August, 1877, and consequently they had been running for thirteen months. When hon. members seethe way in which those wagons were constructed they will see at once that it was impossible for them to have run thirteen months, or that, if they did so run, they must have run empty ; the only wonder is that the nails in the flooring-boards were sufficiently strong to keep them together long enough to travel empty from Dunedin to Christchurch.

The hon. gentlemen then read letters from Mr. Alison D. Smith, District. Locomotive Superintendent at Christchurch and proceeded.

blow, Sir, with such evidence as that before us—with the possibility of seeing with our eyes, with the knowledge that the present Minister for Public Works has seen two of the wagons himself, and 1 with the knowledge that twenty-six more 1 of them are now lying at the siding at Ad--1 dington waiting to be rebuilt—what are you to think of such a letter as that, written by one of the highest civil servants in the colony, and placed ,before this House i by the Minister for Public Works 1 Sir, 1 when I think of the position Mr. Blair ' occupies, and of the millions of expendi- > ture that we have intrusted to his capacity • and veracity, such a report as this from i him appears to me to be one of the most . serious things we ever had to take into i consideration. What is the value of a man in such a position as that who is i capable of misleading this House to the s extent which that letter is calculated to : mislead ? I have not the slightest intern 1 tion to attack any person to-night. I in- ; tend to stand here fearlessly, and assert ; the truth ; and it is a matter of perfect i indifference to me whether Mr. Blair, or i Mr. Conyers, or Mi’. Anybody else shall - shall come under the reprobation which s truth will find for them. It would have been easy for the Commissioners to have 1 steered a safe and easy course ; it would--1 have been exceedingly easy for them to s have brought in a report similar to that • brought in by the last Civil Service Comr mission, recommending an easy and genei rally-comfortable reform —that the Civil ' Service should be made more comfortable and secure. That report received univers sal approbation, but it was one which, I bei iieve, produced no effect, or, at all events, ■ none in the direction of economy. We I' were determined not to do the same. We ; felt that that, if our work was to be of > any good, we must state definite facts—we i must investigate matters for ourselves, t and make the information we obtained r public, so as to put the Government in a position to act upon the information so obtained. I notice that, in this House, if • you got up and say there are far too many i civil servants and their number should be i reduced, there is a general clapping of ; hands and cheering all round, and every • one believes the statement ; but put your finger upon one person who can be disr missed and say, “ There is the man,” and you find at once that you have put , your hand into a hornet’s nest, and have ■ the strongest body of men in any colony r ready to attack you. We knew this quite s well when we were framing our report. We knew that we should have the highest civil servants in the colony doing everything they could to damage that report, and describing it as a misleading and careless conclusion from facts. But I am glad 1 to see that the report has stood the fire so ' well as it has done ; that it has stood the ! first attack made upon it, although backed ! up by one of the highest civil servants in the colony, in a letter like the one I now 1 ask to be laid on the table, and a letter ! that must inflict everlasting reprobation upon him. 1 A COMPLIMENT RETURNED. ’ There is another’ thing that I felt was a ; high compliment to the report which has 1 been laid before this House, and that is the remark about it by the hon. member ' for Port Chalmers, the ex-Minister for 1 Public Works. He had told us while | some persons were saying that the statements contained in the report were not true, that he thought they were so true—so common-place and so obvious —that he himself could have sat down in his office and written a similar report. I thought that, if the Commission could in any way flatter themselves that, in three months’ investigation, they had been able to get to the bottom of all the things that the hon. ’ gentleman must have got to the bottom of during the many years he was Superintendent of Otago, and all the time he was Minister for Public Works—if we had succeeded in writing such a report as that gentleman would have been able to wrfte —then we should have shown ourselves possessed of more than the ability of common mortals. I nave not the slightest doubt of the ability of that gentleman to write not only such a : report as we did, but an infinitely better report—an infinitely more searching report, and one that would bring a great many more things to light that have been very costly to this country, but yet lie hid in the safe keeping of himself and his friends. Prom the position he has taken in the affairs of this colony, and the Public Works Department especially, his wish'iwould, 1 imagine, scarcely lead him in that direction, and I do not think that he would be able to write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without to a considerable extent damaging his own reputation. I do not think we shall ever get a report of that character from him, unless he were to report upon matters which are kept very faithfully within his own heart. I feel, sir, that we can only expect such a report from him as an act of death-bed repentance. A NEEDLESS REPLY. There is this statement made by Mr. Conjers “They [the Commissioners] strongly insisted that every stationmaster should be empowered to arrange the crossing-places of trains, and alter them to suit the emergencies that may occur.” We are quite unconscious of having thought of anything so absurd. I remember a gentleman who used to sit on these benches, and ikho is now, I believe, Mr., Conyers’ lawyer. Whenever he stood up in this House tto reply to anything that had been said on the opposite side his invariable praotico was first of all to entirely

misrepresent what had been said, and then to answer it in the most triumphant 1 manner. This is what the reply of Mr. < Conyers has done. Great as is the effect it has produced, it scarcely touches or ; attacks a single fact stated by the Commissioners. It is one of the most remarkable documents I have ever met with in this respect. It shows how extremely successful a man may be by simply having the audacity to make a statement which his opponent never made, and then reply to it. Ninety-nine persons out of every hundred who have read this letter of Mr. Conyers have not compared it with the Civil Service Commission’s report. They see a statement made here and triumphantly answered, and they: come to the conclusion that the report itself has been answered emphatically and completely. As I said before, I am not aware of a single fact in the Civil Service Commission’s report that is in the slightest degree shaken by this letter. The most remarkable position Mr. Conyers takes up in this letter is, that he acts like tlm fly on the bullock’s horn, which is conceited enough to suppose that all the bullock’s actions are made with a view to his presence in that position ; he seems to think that the Commissioners had but or e object in view, and that was to attack him. THE HUMANE COMMISSIONER. There is a statement which still further shows me who was the writer of this letter. I find these humane sentiments expressed with great pathos—“l could not turn adrift to starve persons who have faithfully served and suffered in the service of the department. So barbarous and inhuman a measure would bo a stigma on any administration. ” When a man goes to a lawyer with a good case, he is generally very careful to tell the lawyer what part of the case he must admit and what part he must deny-. Now, _ Mr. Conyers had the most absolute evidence at his command that he was not in the slightest degree responsible for the retention of unnecessary gatekeepers, and could at once have proved that their existence was not his fault; but, unfortunately for him, precisely the same evidence puts him out of court in assuming this high tone of humanity. We have it in evidence that Mr. Conyers himself distinctly ordered these servants to be dismissed ; but it was Mr. Back, of Christchurch, backed up by the strong recommendations of certain influential persons in Christchurch, that prevented his order being carried out. Now, Mr. Conyers, believing that-he had a bad case upon the whole, has evidently gone to his lawyer, who told him, as persons do in such circumstances, “Abuse the Commissioners well, and use your own judgment as to what you admit and what you denyand there is no doubt that the writer of this letter has chosen this high tone of humanity, and this charge of hard-heartedness on the Commissioners, in ignorance of the fact that his client had a really good defence. WASTE. Then we are told that we have alleged waste, but have not proved it. Well, ■ when four gentlemen state as distinctly and as specifically as the Commission have done where the waste exists, which they have seen with their own eyes, and how can be remedied, I should think it was the duty of anyone who wished to defend the ' charges under the head, “ Waste,” not to ' call upon them to prove the waste, but to give evidence to disprove it; instead of which, Mr. Conyers denies it in this paragraph and denies it in several others. ' WHOSE PAY THE COMMISSIONER WOULD 1 REDUCE AND WHOSE HE WOULDN’T. | Mr. Conyers, in the fifth paragraph, on . page 7 of his letter, says, “ I am still ’ effecting savings of an extent more than commensurate with the sweeping and un- [ practical suggestions of the Commission,” , Sir, those members of the House who will ' take the trouble to read Mr. Conyers’ own evidence will find that he distinctly states that he considers the Service well 1 organised, well managed and economical ; [ and, when asked by the Commissioners 1 whether he could point out any direction , in which money could be saved, he distinctly stated that he could not, with the [ exception of one direction, in which the t Commission has reported : that is, that Mr. Conyers’ thought it would be possible : to take 12|- per cent, off the salaries of all i the railway employes from the station- , masters dowmvardt. We expected him to I recommend reductions from the station- ; masters upwards, but we generally found . that those above the stationmasters recommended reductions from station- - masters downward, and those below the stationmasters recommended reductions | upwards. We thought it possible that the reductions might be effected both ways, and we recommended that. TRUTH AND WHISKY". The crowning charge against the Commission is contained in the last paragraph but one : ‘ ‘ While engaged in writing this . reply, it has come to my knowledge that the Civil Service Commissioners have i actually examined as one of their;witnesses a person dismissed the service for : drunkenness.” I never looked upon drunkenness as the one unpardonable crime that a man could commit in this ■ world. I can quite understand that the manager of a railway looks upon it as a very dangerous offence, and one which he must deal with severely ; but it never appeared to ms to be an offence which disqualified a man for ever afterwards from giving evidence in Court. If there is any fault to be found, with the Civil Service Commission in regard to the witnesses they thought proper to examine, it is that they confined themselves too exclusively to civil servants who had not been dismissed. I think, if we had examined more civil servants who had_ been dismissed, we should have found a great many more who would have revealed little facts to us that we had very great difficulty in finding out without their evidence. I do not know that we did examine any servant, who had been dismissed for drunkenness ; we may or we may not. To the best of my recollection, we only examined one dismissed servant, and he was an engineer, and I do not think he was dismissed for drunkenness. However, even if we did, I am prepared to j ustify it, and to say that I think a man should not be debarred from giving evidence before any Commission from the simple fact that he may have been dismissed for drunkenness. A £GOO AMATEUR. There is no part of the report that has excited so much violent comment as that in which the Commissioners thought it their duty to specify a few-officers as mere samples of what they believed might be done in tire way of diminishing the number of officers in the Servdce. And, first, we come to Mr. Armstrong : “At Dunedin we found an officer, receiving LOGO a year, called a locomotive engineer, who informed us in his evidence that his business was not to inspect the working engines and discover that they required repair, for which duty a distinct officer is employed. This engineer, who admits that he had no practical experience of locomotives previous to his appointment,- is paid L6OO a year to go-into the locomotive shop with an engine that has been found to require repair, and instruct the long-experienced locomotive foreman what to do with it.” The evidence upon which that statement rests is that of Mr. Armstrong himself : “ 3042. Sir R. Douglas—l understand that you served your apprenticeship to a carpenter ?—Yes. “3043. And you have learned your ; engineering, so far as locomotives are concerned, in New Zealand ?—Yes. : ‘ ‘ 3044. Did you learn it in Messrs. : .Brogden’s service, or in the Government jj service ?—After I came into the Government service. 1

; ££ 3045. In what capacity did you enter the Government service I —As an engineer of permanent way and rolling stock. “ 3046. Then the Governmentappointed you to look after engines about which you know nothing—at any rate, you had no technical knowledge on the subject?—l had no practical knowledge.” That is tiie evidence of the man him-, self ; I do not know that we could produce anything move conclusive. I wish hon. members to pay particular attention to that gentleman, because his name will come up again in the course of the evening, and the House has been given to understand, from a question which was put the other day, that the Commission stated that he had nothing else to do. He tells us in his evidence that that was his principal work. He did not say he had nothing else to do ; in- fact, we found him rather a proof of the adage that “ Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do,” and that lie is largely engaged in work that—well, I will 1 say- in work that does not contribute in any way to the welfare and prosperity of the colony. -

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18800722.2.10

Bibliographic details

THE CIVIL SERVICE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 129, 22 July 1880

Word Count
2,911

THE CIVIL SERVICE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 129, 22 July 1880

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