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Wednesday, 6 July 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I understand that the deletion of the reference to the Repatriation Department is to give this measure a wide and general effect. There has been much complaint in the past six months with respect to officers who have been employed in the Repatriation Department and the War Service Homes Branch. I can quite appreciate that returned men who have filled positions in those Services probably failed to realize, when accepting the work, that they were Departments whose activities were bound to diminish and ultimately, perhaps, to cease. The gradual diminution of activities has necessitated the retirement of numbers of returned soldier employees, many of whom had originally considered that they were getting into permanent positions as Commonwealth public servants. There have since been complaints of services having been dispensed with unwarrantably. I am anxious to know if the amendment is likely to affect the situation and prospects of these men. Shortly before the visit of Colonel Semmens to Tasmania, I interviewed the Repatriation Commissioner, and put the case generally for a number of men in Tasmania concerning whom complaints had reached me. While, subsequently, in that State, Colonel Semmens came into direct communication with several of the complainants, and I understand that some satisfaction has been derived from his visit. Similar grievances, however, are common in other States. I do not overlook the fact that their own comrades warned many of the men who entered the Repatriation Department that they were taking work in a Service which was already overburdened; and, further, that the day must soon arrive when their jobs would end. Will the Minister give an assurance that the amendment is not designed to further prejudicially affect any officers who have obtained employment in the Repatriation Department and War Service Homes Branch ?

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