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Thursday, 10 November 1938

Mr POLLARD (Ballarat) . - I regret the necessity to bring under the notice of the Government the unfortunate position of a large number of postal employees in Victoria, including 300 linesmen mentioned by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford). The following resolution was carried recently by the Ballarat branch of the Labour party, and forwarded to me : -

That the federal member for Ballarat be informed that dismissals of men are taking place in the postal services at Ballarat, and that youths are being employed to take their places, and that this system will operate in connexion with the extra work at Christmas and New Year's time.

This resolution, I take it, refers to temporary letter-carriers in the Postal Department, and indicates that the Government is about to adopt the policy which, unfortunately, is widely practised by private employers, of dismissing adult employees who are in receipt of full wages, and replacing them with youths at lower rates of pay. I hope that I am wrong in this assumption, but it appears to me that the Government's attitude gives ample warrant for the fear that I am right. I do not wish my remarks to be misinterpreted, nor would I like the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to think that I am unsympathetic towards the youth of this country. They have every right to expect employment, and to become useful members of society; but no adult should be dismissed by a government department in order to make a place for a youth at a lower wage. Rather should it be the policy of the Government to provide positions for both the man and the youth. The unemployment problem is being accentuated by the Government's defence policy. We have been informed that the Government has decided to make available the services of three Ministers, with a view to embarking upon an active- and vigorous recruiting campaign for the Commonwealth militia forces. This will mean unrestricted expenditure by recruiting agencies in the payment of recruiting officials and on advertising throughout the country. When the recruits are obtained they will be supplied with uniforms made from the best material that this country can produce, they will be armed with the latest weapons, and be well paid for their services. No government sincerely desirous of providing work for all those who are unemployed is justified in spending huge sums on the payment of recruits, who, in the main, will be drawn from the ranks of those already in employment and in receipt of reasonably good wages, whilst at the same time it is dismissing men from various public departments. The large sum proposed to be expended on the militia could be utilized for the expansion of various industries, and so effect a substantial reduction of unemployment. The position of Australia will not be any better from a defence standpoint at the conclusion of this, recruiting campaign than it is now, because if any nation has hostile designs on Australia, it will make sure that for every man trained and equipped in this country, it will train and equip five. I therefore contend that the Government should abandon its proposed heavy expenditure on armaments and militia training, which may- never be needed, and undertake developmental work of a useful character that will provide employment for Australian workers. The huge vote for defence is being provided by a panicky Government at the command of a panicky press. It was at the dictate of the press that the Lyons Ministry was re-constructed this week. The next action of this Government is a cause for grave speculation. If a panicky press demanded the establishment of a Fascist Government, no doubt that demand would be obeyed by the inner group of the new Cabinet. I have been in this Parliament for nearly twelve months, and I have been astonished at the discourtesy with which the Ministry treats the representatives of the electors.of Victoria. Invariably, when important matters are being discussed, only one Minister is at the table, supported sometimes by an Assistant Minister on the front bench. Ministers should pay more attention to the remarks of honorable members on both sides of the chamber, and give some indication that they believe in democracy; that they are listening to the demands of the people's representatives rather than to the dictates of the press. Newspaper proprietors are concerned mainly with circulation, not with the interests of the people generally. I voice my protest against the policy of spending large sums on an extended recruiting system while, at the same time, a public department controlled by the Postmaster-General is throwing men out of work, without regard to the distress and suffering caused to them and their dependants.

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