LIVELY DEBATE IN HOUSE
In the last decade there had been so much political chicanery and so much of the back-door method in the making" of appointments to posts that should have gone to regular members of the Public Service that there was a tremendous spirit of unrest throughout the service, said Mr. K. J. Holyoake (National, Pahiatua)- in the debate on the Imprest Supply Bill in the House'of Representatives last evening. Such Tammany Hall methods, he said, must cease in the interests of the country generally and particularly in justice and equity to the Public Service.
The Public Service should be above and beyond party politics, but it was questionable whether that standard had been maintained in recent years, said Mr. Holyoake. With the advent of the Labour Government there was a considerable increase in the number of new departments and bureaux, tribunals, licensing authorities, and commissions were set up—set up by a Government which said it would have no more boards, that Ministers would have absolute control and that no control would be delegated to anyone outside the House. One of * the main causes of unrest with the new bodies and new departments was that the chief executive officers in the main had been political appointments, not of public servants but of political servants. That was a matter that rankled in the mind of the public servant. The genuine public servant had almost invariably been passed over, and the new political servant wielded tremendous power. Not the only, but the main, qualification was that the applicant should have either been a trade union secretary of long standing or a staunch supporter of the Government. Was Mr. Scrimgeour a good supporter of the Labour Party? asked Mr. Holyoake. The Government caught the tiger by the tail on that occasion, ahd the Prime Minister was very happy that that gentleman had gone td pastures new. WATERFRONT CONTROL. - One of the most pronounced appointments was that of the President of the Labour Party (Mr. James Roberts) as a member of the Waterfront Control Commission. From what was known )f the industrial strife and the cost of .oading and of turning ships round, he could not see that there had been any j change of a revolutionary nature in j the handling of the waterfront. The country, of course, should be grateful to Mr. Rdberts for accepting the position at a miserable £25 a week. That was purely a political appointment. The Prime Minister: And a very good one. Mr. Holyoake continued that the Waterside Workers' Union had released quite a number of its executives to take up positions that ranged from £800 to £900 a year. It might have been just coincidence that they had good standing in the Labour Party, but it was a coincidence that rankled with the public servants. Mr. Fraser interjected that if a man with knowledge of. the waterfront were required the right place to find him was on the waterfront. ! Mr. Holyoake countered by referring 'to the Transport Licensing Authorities and asking what experience in transport matters they had had before their appointment. They wielded the power of economic life and death. • An. Opposition voice: Commissars. Mr. Holyoake: They- are at least deputy dictators in the world of transport. . . ~ - Why in the name of justice were public servants thoroughly experienced in transport passed over in those appointments? continued Mr. Holyoake. What did Mr. Phelan, who controlled transport in the northern part of the North Island, know about transport? He was a trade union secretary. Mr. Skoglund, the authority in the southern part of the island, was a town clerk from Stratford; but he had stood for Parliament as a Labour candidate, and perhaps that was sufficient qualification. Mr. Langford, the Transport Licensing Authority controlling northern South Island, was a country storekeeper in Winchester, Canterbury. It might be just coincidence that he had been defeated twice or three times as a Labour candidate. For each of the four particular jobs he had mentioned the Government should' have gone to the legitimate public servants who had given a lifetime of loyal service. The establishment of Land Sales Committees under the Land Sales Act was another splendid opportunity for appointing defeated Labour candidates and trade union secretaries. ' ' LITTLE OPPORTUNITY. There was little enough opportunity in the large Departments of State, as there were so few posts at the top,' said .Mr. Holyoake. Referring to what he called Tammany Hall methods, he said he understood that Tammany Hall in America was a political' organisation outside the actual Government which wielded such power that it could demand position and favour; and in New Zealand there was an organisation that had sufficient power to say to the Government that certain men must be appointed because of their service to the party. The Public Service must be restored to its original place and carry out its traditional function in the public life of the Dominion. Warm exchanges between the Minister of Finance (Mr. Nash) and Mr. G. H. Mackley (National, Masterton) ensued when Mr. Mackley referred to the case of Mr. John Reid, First Secretary at the New Zealand Legation in Washington. He said Mr. Reid had served Mr. Nash in a private capacity for a long period, subsequent to which he was paced in the Public Service and today had superseded men of long experience. He would challenge Mr. Nash to deny that Mr. Reid served him when he . was a resident of Lower Hutt, said Mr. Mackley. Mr. Nash: Never. Mr. Mackley retorted that he would not withdraw one word, because it was well known to the residents of Lower Hutt that that was the case. Mr. Speaker (the Hon. F. W. Schramm): The honourable gentleman's denial must be accepted unless you are prepared to take it further. Mr. Mackley: It was common knowledge and common talk in Lower Hutt that Mr. Reid served Mr. Nash in the capacity of a secretary. Mr. Nash: It's untrue. Mr. Mackley: I believe the residents of Lower Hutt have enough knowledge of the state of affairs to know whether it is untrue or not. Mr. Speaker: The honourable member cannot use the word untrue. Mr. Mackley: I will leave it to the residents.' Mr. Speaker: When I rule that the word untrue must not be used it must be withdrawn. Mr. Mackley: I respectfully withdraw, but do say it is a matter of common knowledge in Lower Hutt. Mr. Nash: I say that is entirely incorrect, and the member knows it is incorrect. He knows John Reid-* never had anything to do with it. Government members, in chorus: Withdraw! Mr. Mackley said he would repeat that, following on the association of Mr. Reid with the Minister, he was appointed to a position in the Government service and today occupied a most important position in Washington, superseding officers with long and creditable service. That was one instance of Tammanyism so far as the present Government was concerned. . Mr. Mackley went on to refer to the case of the appointment of the inspector of Government motor vehicles. That was an appointment made purely out of consideration for the service rendered by that individual to the then Prime Minister, he said. There were sufficient appointments made from outside the Public Service at the behest of the Government to indicate clearly that the Public Service Commissioner did not have any say in regard to- them. Earlier in his speech Mr. Mackley (a former General Manager of Railways) said he had been in the Public Service for 40 years, and from his experience the position for the Public Service was more unsatisfactory under the Labour Government than under any other previous Government of
which he had experience. A thing that stood out prominently was the absolute disregard for the rights of the men in the Public Service with long years of service. A TENSE SCENE. There was a tense scene in the House when Mr. Mackley made certain allegations about the Minister of Supply (Mr. Sullivan) when he was Minister of Railways. He asserted that Mr. Sullivan, when discussing with him matters arising out of the report of the inspector of motor vehicles, had suggested that the matter should be dropped and the papers would be destroyed. Mr. Sullivan rose to his feet and flatly denied that he had ever suggested such a thing. Mr. Mackley said the actual words used by the Minister were that the papers would be burned, Mr. Sullivan hotly denied the truth of this allegation, After Mr. Ma.kley had concluded his speech, Mr. Sullivan rose and said that in his 26 or 27 years in the House he had.never listened to such a farrago of nonsense, such a rotten speech, as they had just heard. He could not understand Mr. Mackley having said the things he did. During his association with Mr. Mackley as General Manager of Railways their relations had not been unpleasant, There had been, differences over certain matters, such as bridges, and so forth, but no ill feeling, In fact, Mr,' Mackley. had paid tribute to the Labour Government and had gone so far as to say, "I am a Socialist'1 (Government laughter.) He gave an emphatic and categorical denial to the statements made by Mr. Mackley^; A further remark by the Minister that he found it difficult to believe that such statements came from a man who was drinking water caused the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. S. G. Holland) to rise to a point of order and suggest that out of regard for the dignity of Parliament the line the debate was taking should be dropped. Mr, Nash endorsed the point of order, but said it was a pity Mr. Holland had not been in the House and stopped one of his followers from attacking the character of Ministers. TOO MUCH "BACK-CHAT." At this stage Mr. Speaker said there was far too much cross-talk, which had been referred to by newspapers as back-chat. He agreed with such a description. It was entirely out of order for members to throw remarks across the floor ">f the House. He appealed to members to help him in carrying out his duties. If the prac^ tice persisted and members did not assist.in keeping order, they would be stopped from speaking. There were only about six members who were habitual offenders and he intended to take action to see that the rights of members generally were protected. Personal remarks were out of ordei*. Members had themselves to blame for what was happening. The rules had been made in days gone by and were the same as those adopted by the House of Commons. Members must hot indulge in personalities and must not address one another across the. floor of the House. It was entirely out of order. Interjections must cease. They were out of order unless reasonable and out of order entirely if a member objected. Mr. Speaker reminded members that the House was on the air and what went on was open to criticism and members must uphold the dignity of the House. If there was a continuation he would have to discipline members transgressing, no matter what side of the House they belonged to. The Minister of Railways (Mr. Semple) said that no doubt Mr. Mackley would deny that at the beginning of his experience as a Minister Mr. Mackley said to him, "Thank God, the Public Service can now breathe freely." Mr. Mackley: I deny that absolutely. Mr. Semple continued that Mr. Mackley was a member of a committee appointed by the Government to bring down proposals in connection with control of transport and he was one of the most indefatigable foes of road transport Operators. He wanted them all off the road. Mr. Mackley: That is not true. The Minister replied that he had records showing that Mr. Mackley appealed against • licences being .given even to operators not competing with the railways. The Transport Licensing Authorities had done great service. Why should public servants holding permanent positions be taken out of their jobs for a temporary job such as that held by the authorities? The Prime Minister: And at less salary. Mr. Semple added that the gentlemen who held the position of transport authorities had the confidence of the complete transport system of the Dominion. As for the political opinions of any of them, his reply was that a man's opinions constituted no reason barring him from any position. Mr. Holyoake (National, Pahiatua): The sole qualification? Mr. Semple asked why Government servants should be required to monopolise all the positions which had to be filled. The Minister of Justice (Mr. Mason) said Mr. Mackley had spoken of how distressed the civil servants were under the present Government. He would remind him of the picture he painted when the Government first came into office. Mr. Mackley, as General Manager of Railways, was his second visitor when he was appointed Minister. It was an unforgettable experience because he could /iot remember meeting a man under such great emotional stress. He told of the appalling oppression and iniquity that had been inflicted upon him through the medium of the Railways Board, which, he said, had regard for neither the men nor the public. So great was Mr. Mackley's emotion and so great his relief at the change of Government, that he (the Minister) feared he might be on the verge of a mental breakdown. How could 'Mr. Mackley reconcile that attitude with the opinions he had expressed in the debate? MINISTER IN REPLY. Replying to the debate, Mr. Nash said he might have given Mr. Reid a job to do as a lawyer, but apart from that he had not employed him privately. When he became a Minister in 1936 Mr. Reid came to him and said he would like to work for him, and he , was appointed as a secretary at £300 a year. He applied for admission to the Public Service and was, accepted. When he (Mr. Nash) went to Washington he understood that Mr. Reid applied for a position in the Treasury and was appointed as a member of the Public Service. Mr. Mackley had attacked the character of one of the cleanest men who had ever worked for him. Mr. Reid's appointment to the Treasury was appealed against, but the Appeal Board dismissed the. appeal and confirmed his appointment. Mr. Mackley: Who appointed him to Washington? Mr. Nash said he could not do that. Mr. Reid had been appointed to Washington on his recommendation. It was necessary to determine in connection with overseas diplomatic appointments whether a man were particularly fitted for the job. The appointment had been made according to the standard procedure of the Public Service. The member for Masterton should ask the Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Doidge whether they thought Mr. Reid was competent. The Leader of the Opposition said he would say without hesitation that Mr. Reid's work was of a high order.
Mr. Nash said that Mr. Holyoake had stated that tiie Public Service should be kept outside party politics. There was a lot to be said for that, but also a lot to be said on the other side. There were about 70,000 Government employees. Was it- suggested that they ought not to have any thinking capacity that they could use for the benefit of the country? Mr. Holyoake: I didn't use it in that sense and the Minister knows it. I said the question of the administration of the Public Service should be outside politics. Mr. Nash said he agreed with that. The inference he had taken from Mr. Holyoake's statement was that public servants should keep out of party politics. He agreed that there should not be any discrimination in favour or against a perse .n because of the party to which he belonged. Dealing with the question of appointments to the Public Service, Mr. Nash said it would have been impossible to run the country during the past five years without outside appointments. It had been necessary to have men who understood 'textiles, oil, engineering, purchasing, and. so on.
Every public servant ought to have the right to go from the bottom to the top. but to say that no one outside the Public Service should be appointed to a job requiring a certain competency was entirely wrong. On the other hand, if there were someone inside the Public Service who could best do the job he should be appointed. The test should be who best could do the job, with preference always to the public servant if he measured up to that requirement.
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"TAMMANY HALL", Evening Post, Volume CXL, Issue 52, 30 August 1945
"TAMMANY HALL" Evening Post, Volume CXL, Issue 52, 30 August 1945
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