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Wednesday, 4 December 1935

Senator BRAND (Victoria) .- The reply of the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to the remarks of Senator Brown yesterday about the dismissal of a large number of returned soldier linesmen and mechanics who were temporarily employed by the department in Victoria was satisfactory up to a point. The replacement since the 1st July of 158 skilled linesmen and 50 mechanics by the engagement of junior apprentices is a disappointment to all of us who look to the Federal Government to ensure continuity of employmentfor those ageing diggers, all of whom are bread winners. . Whilst we all agree as to the necessity for finding employment for the youth of the community, I suggest that these returned soldiers have a major claim on the sympathy and consideration of the Government. They should not always live in fear of the possibility of being dismissed and themselves and their families forced on the dole. The Postmaster-General, in reply to a ques tion which I addressed to him recently, expressed the hope that within the next year or two approximately 50 per cent, of the vacancies occurring for linesmen would be filled by the appointment of returned soldiers who had passed the necessary examination. To some extent that assurance is satisfactory, because, half a. loaf is better than no bread. But I would remind him that although many of these linesmen passed the necessary examination so far back as 1927, they have not yet been placed on the permament staff. If I were Postmaster-General for about a fortnight I would find much to engage my attention in some centres of Victoria, notably Bendigo and Wangaratta. I regret to state that the principle of preference to returned soldiers has not been fully honoured in the Postal Department. With 663 uncompleted applications for the installation of telephones in Victoria, there should be no occasion for the dismissals of any linesmen or mechanics. I am aware that the official reply is that there is no provision on the Estimates of the Postmaster-General to allow of this work being carried out; but as considerable revenue is to be derived from ground rents of telephones, the necessary money should be found temporarily from some other source. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will -give this matter his personal attention, and so avoid further dismissals, otherwise the approaching Christmas season will not be a happy one for many returned soldiers and their families.

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