The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
The Civil Service
The Civil Service.
There is a host of persecuted gentlemen in Victoria, the Civil Servants, who have lately formed themselves into an Association to protect themselves from grinding tyranny. Such an association was never thought of until the abolition of political patronage. Its motive is evidently afforded by the severity of the Civil Service Commissioners.
Popular prejudice, in regard to the Civil Service, is expressed in the words of our friend Chingaring, the piano tuner, "I'm going to keep a bulldog in my yard, and let him loose whenever a Civil Servant comes near the place." In Melbourne, the words "Civil Servant" are synonymous with improvidence and impudence, dashed with incompetence, more or less.
There was an outcry when the Argus published, a month or two back, a full list of the Civil Servants, their ages and salaries. This was abominable. "For the information, sir, of my grocaw, and my bakaw, my butchaw, and my tailaw." Hideous! Matches were broken off, they say, and the Jewry returned most unfavourable verdicts.
Some years ago a searching inquiry, by Commission, took place in New Zealand upon the whole Civil Service. The report laid down a principle which we venture to think correct, viz., that in each sub-department there is only required one man of ability, surrounded by mere clerks. In short, the idea of M. Catalani, husband of the famous operatic artiste, is right in page 74 his case. "All you require is my clever wife, and four or five puppets."
The whole basis of the Victorian Civil Service is false and mischievous, in the systematic grading upwards of everybody. Everything comes to the man who waits. Dunderhead and Nincompoop only have to hold on. This is the system which has required reform in the British Army, promotion being blocked. Compulsory retirement is, therefore, enforced under conditions which often look hard, but yet the mischief is felt to need still more drastic measures.
The tools to the men who can use them. Let us pay well for ability and professional skill—but the rationale of a Civil Service Association is something to protect incompetency. If they want a motto, we give them Antient Pistol's, "Base is the slave who pays."