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Friday, 4 March 1932

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) .- I should not have risen to speak had it not been for the statement of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) that when the Scullin Government was in office it reduced the salaries of the members of the Defence Force, because they had no union.

Mr Hutchin - I asked if that were so.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - As the Minister for Defence in the Scullin Government, I can supply the answer to that question. That Government decided upon a considerable reduction in expenditure, because of the rapid drift of the finances. Therefore economies were instituted -in the Defence Department, and, later, in other departments, the members of which were unionists.

Mr Hutchin - Very much later.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The policy of the Scullin Government was to substitute a voluntary system for the compulsory system of defence.

Mr Hutchin - My reference was to the permanent personnel and not to volunteers.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The permanent personnel were rationed. No permanent officer was dismissed. No other department was so susceptible to a reduction in expenditure.

Mr Hutchin - And that was the Defence Force of this country.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Let me remind the honorable member that during the GreatWar we had to rely on the brains and muscles of the workers of this country. The late Sir John Monash sat with the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) on a

Council of Defence, which decided that it would be quite safe to reduce the numbers of the members of the Defence Force.

Mr Hutchin - What about the permanent clerks of the department?

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Not' many permanent clerks were retrenched. The retrenchment applied mostly to temporary hands, as was the case later in connexion with the Postal Department. The policy of this Government, and, indeed, of the Public Service Board is to dismiss temporary men from the Public Service first. The honorable member, in referring to permanent officials, is shifting his ground. Brig.-General Dodds, who is practically the head of the Defence Department, agreed with the scheme put forward by the Scullin Government to ration the officers of the department by giving them so many weeks off per year according to salary.

Mr Hutchin - It was a reduction of 1G per cent.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I think that I have fully answered the point raised by the honorable member. I object on principle to the repeal of the Public Service regulation, which has been referred to at length by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). The trade unionists who supply funds to enable its organization to function should be entitled to. some benefits. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) has said that he has been closely iii touch with trade unionism, which, he said, is essential in the light of our present social system. We have no difference of opinion on that point. He also said that in the service in which he was employed it was not permitted to have a .trade union.

Mr Hutchin - There is no trade union in the defence service.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The defence service is entirely different from other services. At one time when I was a member of an ordinary government .department, we were not permitted to have a union. We approached the Postmaster-General of the day, and suggested that we should be permitted to form_an organization, and he replied that if we intended to form an organization something on the lines of a mutual benefit society he could supply us with a copy of the Bible or Charles Sheldon's work In His Steps. We pointed out to him that we wished to -form an organization to assist the postal employees. Subsequently, the postal employees, the clerks, and the accountants in every branch of service throughout Australia formed themselves into protective societies. These organizations are very useful to Ministers when they desire information on certain matters. Many members of the service have refused to join the unions, some on principle and some through petty meanness. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision. '

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