AGY-573 | Public Service Board

NSW State Archives Collection
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The Public Service Board was established under the Public Service Act, 1895 (59 Vic. Act No.25) to replace the Civil Service Board (1885-1895). (1) The Public Service Board was to consist of three full-time members appointed for a term of seven years and being then eligible for re-appointment. The new Board was appointed on 15 January 1896. (2). The functions of the Board were to carry out inspections of departments, grade officers and classify work, hear appeals against decisions made, conduct inquiries and investigations, arrange for examinations for officers to be conducted, keep minutes of meetings and furnish annual reports.

The Public Service Act, 1895 was replaced by the consolidating Public Service Act, 1902 (Act No.31, 1902). (3) The Act excluded Judges and senior judicial officers, railway employees, employees of the University of Sydney and Sydney Grammar School, persons employed under the Military and Naval Forces Regulation Act or the Volunteer Force Regulation Act, 1867, police officers and parliamentary staff. (4)

1901 saw the passing of the Sydney Harbour Trust Act which was to begin an accelerating process of creating new public corporations separate from the Public Service Act. The Commonwealth of Australia Act also enabled the transfer of three Departments - Postal and Electric Telegraphs, Customs and the Military Secretary’s Office - to Federal jurisdiction. (5)

The Departments administered by the Public Service Board in 1902 were the Chief Secretary’s Departments, Treasury, Attorney - General’s, Lands, Public Works, Justice, Public Instruction, Mines and Agriculture, and the Office of the Public Service Board.

The Public Service (Amendment) Act, 1910 (Act No.21, 1910) provided for the creation of Departmental Boards, repealed the provision regarding quinquennial grading and altered provisions regarding the transfer of temporary employees to permanent staff. (6) The Departmental Board consisting of the Under Secretary and Branch Head of the relevant Department, and a Public Service Board member were to make salary determinations for all classifications below branch head level. (7) Appeals from dissatisfied officers could be made to a tribunal of the two other Public Service Board members not involved in the Departmental Board. An inconsistent decision by this tribunal allowed a further appeal to a tribunal of the two Public Service Board members and District Court Judge.

The Public Service (Amendment) Act, 1919 (Act No. 43, 1919) followed from the Royal Commission appointed in 1917, providing for Board members to hold office for life, for the Chairman to possess the right of over-riding the votes of the other members, for the appointment of Public Service Inspectors, and for the subjection of Heads of Departments along with all other appointments in the Service to the provisions of the Act. (8) This extension of powers paved the way for a succession of powerful and independent chairmen - Wallace Wurth (1939-1960), Sir John Goodsell (1960-1971), and Sir Harold Dickinson (1971-1979).

The Public Service (Amendment) Act, 1922 (Act No. 36, 1922) provided for the Board to enter into binding Agreements as to salaries with organisations representing public servants, and for all public servants to be bound by such Agreements. (9)

The Public Service (Amendment) Act, 1929 (Act No.10, 1929) brought about a simplification in the determination of public service salaries. The Public Service Appeals Tribunal established by the Amending Public Service Act, 1922 (repealed) was abolished, with appeals only going to the Board. Appeal hearings could now occur (at the discretion of the Board) before one member. (10)

The Public Service (Amendment) Act, 1932 (Act No. 32, 1932) provided for the Governor by proclamation to extend the Board's powers of review to cover corporate and other bodies not already under the Act. (11)

The Public Service (Amendment) Act, 1969 (Act No.64, 1969) removed the sections restricting the employment of married women in the Public Service. (12)

A number of Acts directly affected the powers and duties of the Public Service Board, including many of the Industrial Arbitration Acts passed since 1918; and the Crown Employees Appeal Board Act, 1944 (Act No. 15, 1944) which created a new tribunal with the power to determine public service promotions (excluding positions in the Special Division). (13)

When Professor Peter Wilenski examined the Public Service in 1977, the Public Service Board had achieved a role as the main co-ordinator of government employment, wages and purchasing policies, management standards, personnel practices, supply of office accommodation, management audits, corporate plans, not only for the Public Service under the Act but for state administration as a whole.

In September 1979 the new Public Service Act, 1979 (Act No.89, 1979) repealed most of the 1902 Act and brought some fundamental changes to Public Service management in the State. Under this Act the Public Service Board no longer oversaw the management of the Public Service or exercised a continuous inspecting role. (14) The Board had to comply with directions issued by the Government, except in its traditional personnel functions of salary determination, classification of work, grading of officers, recruitment and promotion. Any directions by the Governor in Council were to be published in the Government Gazette. (15) Department Heads were deemed clearly responsible for the management of their organisations and directly accountable to the appropriate Minister. (16) The Board’s day to day inspectorate role was replaced with a program of efficiency audits. Ministers could now request the Board to conduct special inquiries. (17) The public sector employees not regulated by the Act included, judges and senior legal officers, the Director of State Lotteries, police and parliamentary employees. (18)

Departments became responsible for many major activities which up until then were administered by the Board, such as promotion, and they now had more flexibility in managing their operations. The Board retained those functions which required central co-ordination, such as industrial matters and base level recruitment, and was to have a close liaison with both Departments and Statutory Authorities in conducting efficiency audits and special inquiries, providing management consultancy and advice, and monitoring and reporting on Departmental personnel policies and practices.

In September 1988 the Board's activities were altered as a result of Government restructure of the Public Service and a number of functions and programs transferred to the Department of Administrative Services. Under the Public Sector Management Act, 1988 (Act No.33, 1988) the Board was abolished on 2 September 1988 (19), with devolvement of its functions to department heads. Senior positions within the Government service no longer carried any security of tenure. The new Office of Public Management, headed by the Director of the Premier's Office, was to assist with the organisation and administration of the public sector, and the functions of the Premier under the Act included securing the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Public Service. Responsibility for industrial relations was placed with the new Public Employment Industrial Relations Authority.

(1) Receiving assent from December 1895 - NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 1, 2 January 1896, p.61.
(2) Public Service Board Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 1902, p.1.
(3) Receiving assent from August 1902 - NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 4, 29 August 1902, p.6124.
(4) Public Service Act, 1902, s.5.
(5) Public Service Board Annual Report for the year ended 31 December, 1901, p.1.
(6) Receiving assent from October 1910 - NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 4, 12 October 1910, p.5549.
(7) Public Service Board Annual Report for the year ended 31 December, 1910, p.2.
(8) Receiving assent from January 1920 - NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 1, 2 January 1920, p.6124.
(9) Receiving assent from December 1922 - NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 4, 1December 1922, p.6313.
(10) Receiving assent from December 1929 - NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 2, 12 April 1929, p.1630.
(11) Receiving assent from November 1932 - NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 4, 11 November 1932, p.403.
(12) Receiving assent from November 1969 - NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 4, 14 November 1969, p.4688.
(13) Receiving assent from 20 April 1944 - NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 1, 28 April 1944, p.795.
(14) Receiving assent from June 1979- NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 2, 1 June 1979, p.4688.
(15) Public Service Act, (Act No. 89) 1979.s.34.
(16) Public Service Act, (Act No. 89) 1979.s.47.
(17) Public Service Act, (Act No. 89) 1979.s.104 - s.107.
(18) s.9. Schedule 4 "Excluded Positions" Public Service Act, (Act No. 89) 1979.
(19) NSW Government Gazette, Vol. 3 Part 2, 2 September 1988, p.4557.
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