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Friday, 19 February 1932

Mr HAWKER (Wakefield) (Minister for Repatriation) . - The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin)was good enough to notify me this morning of his intention to speak on this matter, and had the adjournment not been moved till this afternoon, as is usual on Fridays, Iwould, I believe, have been able to supply himwith fuller details of the incident, including the names of the junior officers concerned. I am, however, able to offer an explanation whichwill allay any fear that members of the Public Service have been exceeding their duties by taking sides during a political campaign. The Deputy Commissioner for Repatriation is also the senior officer in charge of the division established under section 7 and 7a of the Repatriation Act to deal with the education and training of. soldiers' children. It endeavours to obtain for them temporary employment as clerks, typists and office boys,whch will give them practical experience. As officer in charge of that section of the repatriation branch in Adelaide, the Deputy Commissioner signed the letter which has aroused the suspicion of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.

Mr Makin - Not suspicion, but resentment.

Mr HAWKER - At successive elections different political organizations requiring temporary assistance, and desiring to give preference to the orphansof soldiers, have naturally applied to the section of the Repatriation Department established by Parliament for the education and training of such children. The application to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh referred was made by a newolitical organization established in South Australia; on other occasions similar applications were made by other organizations, and officers anxious to do their best for the children under their charge, made the services of the trainees available to any organization, regardless of its political complexion. The fact that it was not done on this occasion for the organization of which the honorable member was campaign director was doubtless due to the fact that it did not use this channel of employment.

Mr Beasley - It should not use it.

Mr HAWKER - This section of the department was set up with the approval of previous parliaments to look after the interests of soldiers' children, and it is the duty of the officers in charge of it to notify the children under their care of any temporary employment that is available. 'The fact that a girl or boy might be employed in typing political matter does not affect the principle; the same attention would have been given to any application, no matter from what political organization it had been received.

Mr Riordan - Apparently, it is not necessary to subsidize the soldiers' labour bureaux.

Mr HAWKER - They do not confine their operations to soldier's' orphans as this section of the Repatriation Department does. It seeks to give them practical experience during their training, and when the training is complete, endeavours to find employment for them, as do many other educational institutions. The action of which complaint has been made to-day was entirely impartial; it was taken not to help any political organization, but rather for the benefit of the children concerned. I cannot see that this practice derogates in any degree from that high standard of impartiality and loyalty to whatever government may be in power which honorable members rightly expectto be maintained by the Public Service of the Commonwealth.

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