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Wednesday, 13 December 1911

Senator BLAKEY (Victoria) .- Recognising that this is almost the last opportunity available for criticising the actions and sins of omission of the Government, I cannot allow the occasion to pass without saying a few words concerning questions that have been brought under my notice by certain sections of the community. I am sorry that the Minister of Defence is for the moment unavoidably absent, because I wish to indorse some statements which have been made by previous speakers in connexion with the principle of payments in the Government Departments as contrasted with payments by outside employers. There are, for instance, in connexion with the Defence Department, certain anomalies regarding the payments made to sergeantmajors.

Senator Sayers - Will they not be able to appeal to the Arbitration Court ?

Senator BLAKEY - No; they are debarred under the law, and, moreover, they have taken an oath of allegiance, which, prevents them from taking advantage of the means of redress which are open to other citizens. I know of young men of the age of twenty-one and twenty-two who are coming into the service of the Commonwealth as sergeant- majors, who are single men, and who have not resting upon them the responsibilities that apply to their married confreres. They are receiving £156 a year. Side by side with them, however, there are men serving in the same ranks, doing the same work, and doing it better than the young men, because they have practically given the whole of their life to the service of the country. Yet they receive only the same pay as men who have just come into the service. .That is an anomaly that ought to be rectified. I do not say that the men who have recently joined under the new Defence scheme are receiving more than they are entitled to get, but I am certainly of opinion that consideration should be given to men who have been ten or twelve years in the service, some of whom are forty-four years of age and over, and who have families of five or six dependent upon them. Surely these men should receive more consideration than those who are mere neophytes in the art of war. I know that it will be said that what I am arguing involves differentiating between married and single men, and between those who have been a considerable time in the service and those who have just entered. Nevertheless an anomaly does exist which ought not to continue, and I felt bound to voice the views which have been presented to me by certain sections of employes. I also have a word to say in regard to the administration of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. There are men and women in our midst who have rendered good service to the State as authors. Some of them may not have done very much manual work, but those who have spent their lives as prose writers and poets have assisted largely to mould the thoughts of the people. I do not think that the Commonwealth has treated them as generously as it should have done, through the meagre allowance that is made by means of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. A case has been brought under my notice. It is that ot an individual who I know enjoyed in the past the esteem and respect of the people in the community where he dwelt. Owing to one of the fickle turns of fortune's wheel, and through no fault of his own, he has been practically left stranded, and is now one of the flotsam andi jetsam of life. He has done something with his pen for the literary life of Australia - something to advance this country in the eyes of the literary world, and to uplift and ennoble its people. . I allude to the claims of the Rev. Mr. Zillmann, who, I think, has been treated harshly, and whose case should be regarded as a proper one for the receipt of benefits under the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Senator McColl alluded in rather scathing terms to what has been designated as a holiday jaunt to the Northern Territory. Personally, I have no interest in the proposed visit to that part of the country. I do not intend to go, and therefore I can speak dispassionately. If I had an opportunity of going, I should avail myself of it with the greatest pleasure. I feel certain that if I went, I should return a much better man, and better equipped to deal with problems affecting the Territory, which may have to be handled by this Parliament. 1 regard it as almost a duty for those who have to legislate to make themselves cognisant with the conditions of , life prevailing in various parts of the Commonwealth. It is our duty to form opinions as to the directions in which the Northern Territory can be the best developed. There can be no doubt that, in the course of time, valuable mineral deposits will be found there. We ought to know the nature of the country, and what must be done to open it up. 1 should not be surprised if a new Eldorado were discovered there in the course of time. Honorable senators ought not to be deterred from making this visit by such influences as have affected Senator McColl, who has been brought to heel by the whip cracked by a section of the daily press. This proposed visit has been classified in the columns of one journal as a picnic. Articles have been written with the object of inflaming the jealousy and cupidity of certain persons in the community, who do not happen to hold the positions of, and to have the responsibilities attaching to, members of Parliament,. As Senator de Largie has said, this protest was a piece of pure hypocrisy. Senator McColl knows perfectly well in his own mind that these facilities Tor honorable senators to travel in various portions of Australia, whether individually, or en masse, are at present afforded.

Senator Millen - Surely it was a fair subject of debate as to whether this was a proper expenditure of public money.

Senator BLAKEY - I admit that, but I do not like to see a member of this Senate standing up with his tongue in his cheek obeying the dictates of a section of the daily press for the simple purpose of getting the kudos which those newspapers will award him for his indorsement of what they have written. I have also a word or two to say regarding the PostmasterGeneral's Department. I regret that certain of our postmasters and postmistresses, who are carrying out work for the Department in outlying portions of Australia are not receiving adequate remunera tion for the services which they render. The Minister contends that the amount of business transacted in these offices does not warrant the payment of rates that may be termed adequate. I consider, however, that cases which have been brought under my personal notice require immediate rectification.

Senator Sayers - Not in Victoria, surely ?

Senator BLAKEY - I know of a postmistress in Victoria, who, in my opinion, is being paid absolutely inadequately for the services rendered.

Senator Millen - Has she made her case known to the Department?

Senator BLAKEY - I understand that she has done so, and I feel sure that, under the sympathetic administration of this Government, she will receive assistance. I have felt bound to bring under the notice of Ministers, cases as to which information has been supplied to me. I feel sure that the Government desire to do justice, and that they will look into grievances that are brought under their notice, with a view of doing what is fair and right to all sections of the service, no matter what positions they occupy, and no matter in what sphere they are labouring.

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