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Tuesday, 28 June 1921

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I disagree with SenatorGardiner's statement that a great many returned soldiers havebeen under the impression that the Government promisedto cash each gratuity bond to the extent of one- third of its amount. Ibelieve that the general impression wasthat it was the intention ofthe Governmentto pay in cash one-third of the total sum represented by the gratuity bonds.

Senator Foster - I was a member of the deputation which made the arrangement with Mr. Hughes, andI can assure the honorable senator thathe is right as to the promise which the Government made.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is one matter in connexionwith the payment of gratuity bonds which should be attended to. I understand that the Government are dealing with necessitous cases, and, speaking of the experience in New South Wales, it is found that it oftentakes a considerable time to secure a decision as to whether a particular case is necessitous or not. I am aware that the Department must make a number of inquiries, and I know that the delay in the settlement of these cases occurs chiefly in connexion with applications from country districts. The Repatriation Department has its. own inspectors in the cities who can make the necessary inquiries as to the bona fides of applicants for the payment of gratuities in cash. In the country districts in New South Wales this work of inquiry is handed over to the New South Wales police, who, while they are doing very good work in this connexion, must obviously give their first attention to their duties as policemen. The result is that in many cases a delay of three or four weeks takes place before a particular application is reported on by the police. I confess that I am at a loss to suggest how this delay can be prevented, because I recognise that it would be impossible for the Repatriation Department to have its own inspectors carrying out this work all over New South Wales.

Senator Rowell - In each of the cities a Local Board deals with these cases.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so, but in the country districts the work of inquiry in connexion with them is left to the police. I find no fault with the way in which the police carry out the work, but in connexion with one or two cases which I have submitted to the proper authorities, though the applications were granted, some considerable delay took place; I think, for the reason I have suggested.

The time has arrived when one ceases to be surprised at anything which the Government may do, but I confess to having been surprised on seeing a statement in one of the newspapers to the effect that an Advisory Board or another Commission was to be appointedto deal with the work of the Wax Service Homes CommissionI quote the following statement which appeared in the press: -

The Acting Minister for Repatriation announced to-day that the Cabinet had approved of the immediate appointment of an Advisory Business Board to examine into the entire organization of the War Service Homes Department.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the date of the newspaper from which the honorable senator has quoted?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) -It is some time ago.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -It must be months ago.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We were told that this Board was to be appointed to bring about increasedefficiency and economy in. administration, and a thorough organization of all branches of the War Service Homes Department.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -That Board was appointed months ago, when I was in England.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Ithink that the statement I have quoted appeared since then.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -No other Board has since been appointed. The Board referred to was appointed, I think, in the early part of the year.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is that Board still working ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, it is.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My object in referring to the matter is to remind honorable senators that there is now before the Senate a Bill proposing the appointment of a Boardof Management to deal with the whole of the Public Service. We have been informed that it is the intention of the Government to appoint to this . Board some of the ablest business men in the community, whose duty it will be to supervise the activities and administration of the various public Departments.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator is referring to the Board proposed to be created under one of the Public Service Bills now before the Senate.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have not come to that yet.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government areproposing the- appointment ofa Board of Management that is to do all these wonderfulthings. I understand it is to be apermanent Board, and willbe in a position,not only to report upon the working of various Departments, but also to follow up its reports. Yet we have here the appointment of another Board to. deal with the operations of one of those Departments. It seems to be that it would have been just as well if this work had been handed over to the Board of Management to be created for the Public Service. That would have savedthecost of one more Board or Royal Commission We are having too many Royal Commissions appointed at the present time, and if many more are to be appointed they will exhaust the population, and we shall have tocall upon people from other countries to carry on the work of the community.

I wish to say a word or two concerning the. Economies Commission. Over two years ago the Government appointed this Commission, and; we may now reasonably ask what has been the resultof its labours?

Senator Duncan - What did it cost?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that it has cost about £7,000. In addition to its cost, it has to be borne in mind that two very able public officials, Mr. Haldane,the Chief Accountant pf the Post and Telegraph. Department, and

Mr. Templeton,the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Queensland, have been withdrawn from their official duties to work on this Commission, and their official work has had to be performed by others. The Commission consists of two business men, together with Mr. Haldane, and Mr. Templeton has been brought in as a sort of sub-Commissioner or investigator on behalf of the Commission. The investigations of the Commission have led to a very great deal of bitterness and friction in the public Departments. That is one side of the ledger, and I should be very glad if the Minister, in replying to the debate, will let us know what is . on the other side, and will say what economies have been brought about as a result of the labours of the Commission. I do not "say that the Economies Commission is to be blamed for the friction to which I have referred, because I am not in a position to say whether its criticism is justified. But I do say, on behalf of the public Departments, that some of the procedure of the Commission does not appear to be quite fair. I confess that it was only this afternoon that, in common with Senator Gardiner, I learned that the Economies Commission had sent General Ramaciotti to investigate the High Commissioner's office. I was always under the impression that the Government had sent him. But, according to the report of the Commission, Mr. Templeton had a private conversation with the Acting Public Service Commissioner, as the outcome of which a certain report was presented. The Acting Public Service Commissioner, in referring to that conversation, says that his remarks were quite misunderstood. The unfortunate part of the matter is that one, if not two, Ministers have since quoted what was reported to be the substance of that conversation. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) for example, when introducing the Public. Service (Board of Management) Bill, quoted what the Acting Public Service Commissioner was alleged to have said despite the latter's denial of the accuracy of the statements attributed to him. Apparently, he had not read the reply of the Acting Public Service Commissioner. In another instance the Auditor-General was severely criticised in the report of a SubCommittee appointed by the Commission. Upon that Sub-Committee there was a young man of twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, who was employed in the capacity of a postal clerk, and who was in receipt of a salary of £160 per year, which, together with his allowances, amounted to £220 a year. Ha was sent into the Auditor-General's Department in order to ascertain what was wrong there.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Sent by whom ?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - By the Economies Commission. I am not here to say that he did not properly criticise the administration of that Department. I am not opposed to youth. I understand that Pitt was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister of England when he was. only twenty-three years of age. I know that Napoleon, too, did a lot of work when he was quite a young man, and that Wellington also was . a young man when he won many of his victories. Consequently I do not despise youth. At the same time, I can quite understand the feeling of resentment which the Auditor-General would naturally experience at a young fellow of the age I have mentioned being sent to criticise his work. This young man's report, I repeat, may have been thoroughly justified. I do not know sufficient of the AuditorGeneral's Department to say whether it was or not. But if it were justified, I hope that the young fellow will not be kept in a subordinate office in the Department, but will be given a position commensurate with his ability.

There is another matter in the Commission's report which appeals to me very strongly as a representative of New South Wales. The report of a SubCommittee of that body severely criticises postal administration in New South' Wales, and particularly the administration of the Deputy Postmaster- General (Mr. Young).

Senator Foster - I thought that all. that trouble was brought about by the economies which were practised by the late Postmaster-General.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. That is altogether a different matter. Thereupon Mr. Oxenham, the secretary of the Postal Department, took up the cudgels upon behalf of the administration in New South Wales, and replied to the strictures of the Sub-Committee in question. At this stage, I may be permitted to remark that Mr. Templeton, who is the Deputy Postmaster-General of Queensland, is the officer who made this particular investigation in New South Wales. In his reply to the criticism levelled against the administration, Mr. Oxenham says -

It is known that Mr. Templeton is ambitious to be the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales.

The inference is that the criticism which was hurled against the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales, and against the administration there, is due to the fact that Mr. Templeton wished to become the Deputy Postmaser-General of that State.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is nothing wrong in the ambition itself.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not suggesting that there is. The inference is that Mr. Templeton's criticisms were practically the result of a vendetta, and that they were prompted, not by any inefficiency in the administration of the Sydney Post Office, but merely because his ambition had not been gratified. Those criticisms were accepted by the Economies Commission, of which Sir Robert Gibson, Mr. Turton, and Mr. Haldane were members. If Mr. Templeton was animated by feelings such as I have suggested, those gentlemen must have been absolute putty in his hands. If .they were so exceedingly plastic, it does not say very much for the ability of business men, of which we have heard so much. We have been told that business men would be able to run this Parliament, as well as the Army and Navy, much more efficiently than these institutions are being run at present, and that it is only because of the absence of business men that things are not as they ought to be. I come now to Mr. Templeton's reply. Upon page 16 of the report of the Economies Commission he says -

In this connexion I may mention that in January, 1009, when I visited Melbourne, the then Secretary of the Department intimated to me that lie was greatly dissatisfied with Mr. Young's administration, and that I would have to take charge of the Sydney office - a suggestion to which, however, I demurred. Subsequently, on ' seeing the Deputy PostmasterGeneral for Melbourne (Mr. Bright), his first words of welcome- were that >I was "booked" for the Sydney office. Again, in August, 1918, the late Postmaster-General, accompanied by the Chief Inspector, visited Brisbane, and Mr. Webster prepared the way for what is stated in the next succeeding paragraph by discussing with me the question of my treatment of officers over sixty years of age, when I intimated to him' that, so long as such officers performed their duties with reasonable satisfaction, and their conduct waa satisfactory, I did not recommend their retirement until they attained the age of sixty-five years, and, further, that I would be no party to recommending the retirement of officers merely because they had reached the age of sixty years, at a period of their life when many of them would be unable to find a new means of livelihood. Mr. Webster informed me that I was " too liberal," and at the same time intimated that Mr. Young, Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, was then sixty years of age, and he had informed him that he was occupying his position " on sufferance."

On the following day, prior to the departure of the Minister and the Chief Inspector from Brisbane, the Chief Inspector approached me and intimated that it was the intention of the Department to retire Mr. Young in March, 1919, when he would attain the age of sixtyone years; that he would be sent on six months' furlough; and I would be 'asked to take charge of the Sydney office with a view to permanent appointment thereto. I demurred to this proposal; firstly, on the ground that the rate of pay allowed to Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, was entirely insufficient; secondly, that I had no desire to leave Queensland for New South Wales; and, thirdly, that such a transfer would entail upon me substantial monetary loss. Mr. Woodrow then remarked, "For God's sake do not refuse to go if you are asked; sec what it is likely to lead to. If you had been in Sydney while the war was on, you could have saved a quarter of a million of money." I then told him that I was not favorable to such a proposition, hut that I would deal with the question when it arose.

I do not know whether Mr. Templeton'^ statement, or Mr. Young's statement, is correct. But if Mr. Templeton's statement be true, Mr. Young ought certainly not to remain in the Sydney Post Office. In this connexion the exPostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) has issued a pamphlet entitled Comments on Final Report of Economy Commission on Federal Services, in the course of which he say3 : -

On page 16 of the report, one of the Commission's investigating officers sets .out a conversation he alleged he had with me, to the effect that I had discussed the subject of the retiring age of public servants with him at Brisbane, in 1918, and also credits me' with saying that the Chief Officer of the Department, in New South Wales, was over sixty years of age, and was merely occupying hia position on sufferance. The whole of his statement is untrue. No such conversation ever took place. The whole paragraph, in so far as it applies to myself, is a base fabrication, and there is no truth in it.

I am nothere to take sides, either with Mr. Templeton or Mr. Young. But if Mr. Templeton'sstatement he true, that Mr.Woodrow alleged that the exPostmasterGeneral made the statement attributed to him, Mr. Young ought not to remain in charge of the Sydney General Post Office. If he is inefficient, he ought to be removed. Upon the other hand, if Mr. Templeton has not told the truth, and Mr. Webster alleges that, so far as he is concerned, that officer's statements are absolutely untrue - he ought not to occupy any longer the position of Deputy Postmaster-General at Brisbane, because everybody knows that it is the Deputy Postmasters-General, who really control the Department in the different States.

Senator Earle - How will the honorable senator prove who is speaking the truth?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know. I will say for Mr. Young that the matter ought not to rest where it is. It is only fair to him that the Government should tell him whether they believe Mr. Templeton's statement or not. Mr. Templeton has brought in Mr. Bright's name, Mr. Webster's name, and Mr. Woodrow's name. I hold no brief for either. I had the pleasure of being PostmasterGeneral for a while when Mr. Templeton and Mr. Young were Deputies, andboth were loyal to me. I found them both good officers. I do not want to stand here as taking Mr. Templeton's or Mr. Young's side, but in a great Department like the Post Office it is a very serious thing for a statement of that kind to be made about one Deputy PostmasterGeneral by another, and, in my opinion, the Department ought not to be big enough to hold both of them in the circumstances. There is a good deal of public criticism of the Department in New South Wales, and particularly of the telephone service. I do not indorse all of it, because some people are unnecessarily impatient with the telephone, and I believe a little of the fault lies with the public as well as with the telephone branch and the telephonists. In any case, this public criticism has to be met. The fault may be due to lack of material, or to want of efficiency on the part of those at the head of affairs. If we had an inefficient Deputy PostmasterGeneral, no matter how much material was provided, we should still have ineffi ciency. The Government ought to go into the question I have raised, and decide itone way or the other.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall be glad of a practical suggestion for clearing the matter up.

Senator Fairbairn - Have another Royal Commission.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall make no suggestion. Mr. Webster has already stated definitely that he never made the statement. Mr. Woodrow has said that he did not make it, and Mr. Bright has said that he did not make it. The Government should now hear Mr. Templeton's side of the case, and: they should decide.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - On that evidence, you, knowing the men as as exPostmasterGeneral, ought to be able to express an opinion.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) -I shall do no such thing.

Senator Foster - The honorable senator has practically said that the Government should decide the straight-out question, "Which is the liar?"

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly. If the Government are unable, when a statement of that sort is made, to discover on which side the truthlies, it is rather a hopeless outlook forthe country. If the Government cannot settle a little question of that sort, how can they solve the great problems which face Australia ? If, after what has been said, the Government think that both those gentlemen ought to remain in the Department, that is the Government's funeral, and the public of New South Wales will suffer.

Senator Duncan - Perhaps they are both liars.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If both are wrong, then they should both go. When we discuss the Public Service Bill and the proposed Board of Management, a great deal will hinge on the question of efficiency; but we can have ali our systems, and all our Acts of Parliament, and if we do not have efficient mento carrythem out they, will be of no use. The irritation that has crept into the Department isa very serious matter. I should like honorable senators to read the report of the Economy Commission and the replies to it. My experience is that when a Royal Commission goes into a Departmentto investigate its affairs, all it does in every case is to leave friction behind it, and not one economy is carried out. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will tell the Senate what reforms the- Government have brought about as the result of the Economies Commission's report, and what savings have been effected by it.

One of the greatest .problems that Australia has to face is the overcrowding of its cities, and the empty spaces in the country. The 'Government have gone in for an immigration scheme, and J should like the Minister, when replying, to tell us the number of officials appointed in connexion with the scheme, who .they are, what their salaries are, how many immigrants, they have sent out, what work they have already accomplished, and how many of the immigrants who have been sent, out have found employment here. There is one way - -although it is only a side issue on the immigration question - in which the Government could help materially. There is in England a very large charitable institution known as Dr. Barnardo's Home. One part of its work has been to help children to emigrate to British Dominions, and I understand that 70,000 children have been sent by it to Canada. Most of these have been skilled mechanics, or trained for domestic duties. All -the reports from Canada show 'that the percentage of successes in those cases has been enormously high. It is stated that 98 per cent, of them have made a success in their new surroundings. Many people all over the Empire have contributed to Dr. Barnardo's Home, and agents have come to Australia and collected for it. Eight thousand children are kept in the home, and on account of the increased cost pf everything, a good deal of money is required. Efforts have, therefore, been made throughout the Empire to obtain funds, and a very capable lady was recently sent to Australia by Dr. Barnardo?s representatives for that purpose. When she came here, she was asked, " Why not start a Dr. Barnardo's Home here?" She fell in- with the idea, and an effort is being made by a number of people in New South Wales to establish a depot for the reception of a certain number of children from the London institution.

Sir ArthurRickard is the president, and Sir Denison MilleT, Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, is .the treasurer of the New South Wales Committee.

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