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Thursday, 11 April 1957

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) is correct in saying that the matter he has raised is one which is quite above party politics. It goes without saying that the Opposition supports everything he has said about the great courage of these young men who gave their lives in trying to save their comrades. I hope that the Government will see fit, even now, to pay a fitting tribute in some way to these young men for the part they played.

I refer now to a matter that I should like the Leader of the House, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), to look at, in the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It concerns a rather strange Public Service regulation which was recently applied to an exserviceman in South Australia, who had four and a half years' service. I shall describe the manner in which it was applied.

The ex-serviceman was employed by the Postmaster-General's Department as a mail officer. He thought he would like to obtain a permanent position in the department, so he sat for the necessary qualifying examination, and passed it. Before he could be appointed to a permanent position he had to pass a medical examination. When he was examined the Commonwealth medical officer stated that he was suffering from a hernia - of which the ex-serviceman knew nothing previously - and a somewhat enlarged liver, another complaint of which, until then, he had no knowledge. That discovery by the medical officer, of course, disqualified the employee for permanent appointment. I am not arguing about that. Much worse is the fact that, immediately it was discovered that this man, who had been employed in a temporary capacity, was suffering from a hernia, he was dismissed from his temporary employment in the Public Service.

We have taken this matter up with the authorities, and we are told that the Postmaster-General's Department and the Public Service Board are bound by a regulation which provides that in cases such as this, When a medical examination shows that an applicant for a permanent position is suffering from any of a long list of classified complaints, not only must his application be rejected, but he must lose at one? even his temporary position. That regulation is sought to be justified on the ground that if it did not. exist the Commonwealth could be involved in the payment of Commonwealth employees' compensation. Of course it could! But if every other employer decided to treat an employee who was suffering from hernia in the same way as the Commonwealth Government, through it* instrument, the Public Service Board, apparently considers it has to treat if* employees, it would mean that once a person in employment was discovered to have a hernia, he might as well go to the nearest tree, lie down like a mangy dog, and die, because no employer would want him. If every employer in Australia acted as the Commonwealth does, and refused to employ a man because he has a hernia, where in the name of goodness could he get a job? Yet the Department of Social Services is not prepared to recognize this man as an invalid and give him an invalid pension on the ground of his hernia. So he finds himself between two sets of circumstances.

Mr Beale - He could have the hernia treated.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He could, and he has offered to do that, but he has been told that he still could not be employed, even after his disability had been removed. I am glad of the interjection, because it touches upon the second point I want to make. I want the Minister to look at this matter. I think that he appears to be sympathetic about it.

Mr Beale - He is merely tired.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Whether or not he is tired, I think he is somewhat surprised by the facts I am giving. I hope that he will look at this problem, because if this man cannot get a job with the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth ought to be consistent and, before it employs a man in a temporary capacity, it should require him to be medically examined. But the Commonwealth would not do that, because the Public Service Board knows that if it subjected all applicants for positions, including temporary positions, to a medical test, it would probably not get more than 50 per cent, of the people it requires for temporary positions. The alternative, then, would be to lower the medical standard. And if the medical standard were lowered only slightly, to the standard that any private employer is prepared to accept, trie man would have none of this bother. I repeat that this is an ex-serviceman with four and a half years' service. He had a magnificent war record.

Mr Ward - What does that matter to the Government? lt does net care.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -It appears that, up to date, the Commonwealth has not cared, but I am asking for an exemption not only in the case of ex-servicemen, but also in respect of other people in the same position. It should not matter whether the applicant is an ex-serviceman or not. The regulation I have mentioned is a stupid rule, and it ought not to be applied, because if the man had not made an application for permanent appointment nothing would have been known of his medical condition, and the department would have continued happily to employ him with no regrets. Because he applied for a permanent job, and the medical examination which is a prerequisite to permanent appointment in the Public Service revealed his disability, he has lost not only his opportunity to secure a permanent job but his temporary position as well, and is without hope of getting a job unless he can find a private employer who is prepared to give him opportunities that the Commonwealth will not give.

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