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Thursday, 10 November 1938

Mr CASEY (Corio) (Treasurer) f4.18]. - in reply. - I have to announce that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, will in future also act as Parlia mentary Secretary for Industry. The object of this is to enable him to assist Mr. Menzies, who is Minister for Industry as well as Attorney-General, in relation to certain industrial matters at present engaging attention. Numerous representations have recently been made to the Attorney-General with reference to problems arising under the Transport Workers Act, waterside employment generally, and the policing of Commonwealth awards. On all of these matters the Parliamentary Secretary will work in co-operation with the AttorneyGeneral, carrying out local investigations where necessary, receiving deputations, and reporting from time to time to his Minister. It is hoped that by this means adequate consideration and decision will be facilitated.

The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to the Canberra Community Hospital, and ' I shall bring his observations under the notice of the Minister for Health (Senator Foll). The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the unfortunate consequence of an error in the transmission of a telegram, and I shall place that matter before the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron). The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Makin), directed attention to postal works, and alleged that certain postal employees, in their respective electorates, had been put off. The honorable member for Hindmarsh was clearly speaking on the assumption that the Government had, by some recent action, deflected moneys from post office works to some other purpose. I can assure him that that is not a fact. The sun? of money expended by the PostmasterGeneral's Department for the last financial year on postal works was £3,184,000, and the amount budgeted for this year for that purpose is nearly £4,000,000, or an increase of nearly £800,000.

Mr Makin - Will all new works provided for in the current estimates be proceeded with?

Mr CASEY - As far as I am aware, no decision has been reached to the contrary. In a department whose activities ire as widespread as those of the post office, employees are put on and taken off throughout the Commonwealth as the necessity arises. I have pointed out that this year the department will have £800,000 more than last year for works, in addition to nearly £750,000 of revenue moneys.

Mr Makin - Then there will be m> curtailment of the works programme of cbe department for this year.

Mr CASEY - As far as I am aware, no such decision has been reached in Cabinet up to the present time, but, of course, I can say nothing regarding the future.

The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) asked for certain definite information regarding the national health and pensions insurance scheme. It seems that a storm in a tea-cup has arisen in respect of this matter. The Governmenthas come to no decision varying its earlier determination in regard to the scheme.

Mr Forde - When will the contributions to the fund commence, and when will the medical benefits become « vail able?

Mr CASEY - One could continue indefinitely answering questions of that nature, but the House can rest assured that, up to the present time, the Govern* ment has come to no decision different from that previously reached by it.

Mr Forde - Is this matter being reconsidered ?

Mr CASEY - It is not before the Government at the moment. I do not know how these rumours get into circulation. Last night I gave a categorical denial of them to the press and also to the Acting Leader of the Opposition in this House.

The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), in his usual restrained and interesting way, spoke on the subject of defence, and I listened with great attention to what he had to say. The only conclusion I can come to is that the honorable gentleman had not quite understood the statement which I made a little earlier on that subject. The best way I can be of service to him is to let him have a copy of my statement, and that I now do.

Mr Collins - Is progress being made with the supplementary legislation to be introduced with regard to the national. Wealth and pensions insurance scheme?

Mr CASEY - That matter is receiving close attention.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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