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Wednesday, 30 November 1960

Mr JONES (Newcastle) .- In addressing myself to this bill I should like to say that in the main I agree with most of its provisions, but I feel that the Government has not gone far enough and has not really attempted to tackle a number of problems that exist. Overall, the Public Service is an excellent organization which is composed of men and women who have thenjob at heart. For many years I have had contact with public servants and I have found them always to be conscientious, anxious to please and keen to carry out their duties. Public servants are entitled to more than they receive. On many occasions they are subjected to unnecessary criticism. When dealing with legislation of this kind we should attempt to rectify all the ills of the Public Service and to put the public servants on a proper level. That is why I propose to make reference to some matters that were not dealt with by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his secondreading speech.

The most important shortcoming of the bill is its failure so to amend the act as to permit physically handicapped persons to become permanent members of the Commonwealth Public Service. Proposed new section 34 provides in paragraph (b) that a person shall not be eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth service unless the board is satisfied, after he has undergone a medical examination approved by the board, as to his health and physical fitness. Here is the inconsistency: The Department of Social Services is spending a considerable amount of money on rehabilitation centres in an attempt to bring people who are physically handicapped in some way or other to a standard of efficiency which will enable them to be absorbed in industry. They will then cease to be a burden on themselves and on the community. We know that people who are physically handicapped have a considerable burden to bear through life because of their unfortunate disability. The Department of Social Services is doing excellent work. I have had the privilege and the pleasure of inspecting the Mount Wilga rehabilitation centre, and I have seen the fine work that is being done there. I am sure that good work is being done also at the other rehabilitation centres throughout the Commonwealth.

We expect outside industry to employ handicapped people. Surely the Public Service, which, as the Prime Minister has stated, employs some 66,000 persons, can find some place for them. They should be given the opportunity to show their ability. If they are not given that opportunity, full advantage is not being taken of the work that is done by the rehabilitation centres. We are not sincere if we expect private industry to employ the physically handicapped after we train them if we also do not find some employment for them. Because they are physically handicapped it does not mean that they are mentally retarded. They are mentally capable of doing the work that is normally required of a person who is considered to be physically fit.

I have in mind three physically handicapped people in the Newcastle district. One is incapacitated due to an accident at birth. In the past he could have been expected to be an invalid all his life, but today he is a useful citizen doing a useful job as a bookbinder, and he can do his job as well as any one. If he had been medically unfit he would not have been able to take the book-binding job and he would not have been eligible for permanent employment with the firm which employs him. The other two men whom I have in mind are polio victims, but they both hold high positions. One is secretary-accountant in a big undertaking and also holds very high office in civic life in the Newcastle district. But under the Public Service Act he would not be eligible for permanent appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service. The other man whom I have known since we were boys is head man in a big railway and coal firm in the Newcastle district. He also could be only a temporary employee in the Commonwealth Public Service. Although these men hold responsible administrative positions in industry they could never become permanent employees of the Public Service.

In one government department in Sydney - I shall not mention it specifically, but honorable members who have been there will know the department concerned when I give some details - there is a blind woman who is secretary to one of the senior officers on the staff. He has told me that although his secretary is blind she is capable and competent. She is able to write shorthand and does her own typing. But although she is as capable as any other female employee in the Public Service she can never become a permanent officer. Forever she must remain on the temporary staff.

Honorable members will understand now why I said that the Prime Minister did not take some important aspects into consideration when he introduced this bill. I understand that the Boyer committee has recommended that physically handicapped people be treated more sympathetically than has been the case hitherto. I am sorry that the Government has not taken note of the committee's recommendation. After all, these people fulfil other requirements. They have reached the necessary educational standard and they are British subjects. Their disability is not of their own making. It is something over which they had no control, but they are being punished by the Public Service Board to the extent of being prevented from becoming permanent members of the Public Service simply because the Government is not prepared to move with the times. At one time people who were mentally unbalanced or who had some physical disability were looked upon as the result of the sins of the parents being visited on the children. That is no longer the case. That attitude belongs to the old days of black magic, which are long past. I suggest that these unfortunate people should be treated as the equals of other persons in the community and should be given the opportunity to which I have referred.

I wish to refer briefly also to the matter of equal pay for the sexes. Once again we see the Government getting out from under, blaming everybody else. It says that this is a matter for the arbitration courts, but never once has the Government sent a representative to the arbitration courts to say that it supports the principle of equal pay for equal work, and that it is prepared to give its women employees the same pay as male employees for similar work. We have heard the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) speak on this subject, and I have wondered whether he. as a bachelor, has the bias of a woman-hater, and for that reason opposes equal pay for equal work. He said earlier this evening that this matter is one for the arbitration courts, and that it is not the responsibility of the Government.

We heard the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) say a few moments ago that this country has never yet recovered from the effects of the introduction of the 40-hour week. It amuses me to hear honorable members opposite claim that the country has never recovered from the 40-hour week, and mat we cannot afford three weeks annual leave or equal pay for the sexes, because it is not so very long ago that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) went before the people with his oft-repeated slogan. " Australia Unlimited ". He claimed that Australia was a land of milk and honey. He said that we had never seen such prosperity, that we had never been better off in our lives. Now we are told that the country has never yet recovered from the effects of the 40-hour week, and that we cannot possibly grant three weeks annual leave or equal pay for the sexes for equal work.

Mr Uren - The honorable member for Hume belongs to a different party from that which the Prime Minister leads.

Mr JONES - That is right. They are in different parties. The trouble to-day is not that the country has never recovered from the introduction of the 40-hour week; it has never recovered from the roguery of companies that charge inflated prices in order to make excess profits, and which this Government has permitted. The country has never recovered from such economic manipulations as the sell-out of the Bell Bay aluminium enterprise to world cartels. These are the reasons why the Government cannot and will not support the principle of equal pay for equal work. The Government may talk about the country not having recovered from the effects of the 40-hour week, but what is really wrong is that the country has not recovered from the maladministration of this Government, which has permitted companies to charge excess prices so as to make excess profits. Examine facts and figures and you will learn the answers yourselves. You will not need me to tell you what the position is.

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