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Wednesday, 2 November 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I cannot follow the Minister (Senator Russell) in his opposition to the amendment of Senator Thomas. I understand that by the amendment it is merely proposed to eliminate the words ' in the Department of Trade and Customs." That would throw any position in the whole of the Public Service open to any person who had served in the permanent Naval Forces of the Commonwealth for the full period of his enlistment, provided only that he was considered suitable by the Board, without examination.

Senator Russell - You cannot enforce preference.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is not preference at all. The word "preference" is not used.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It ought to be open to all the members of the Australian Imperial Force.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is another issue.

Senator Russell - Men who have seen active service in the Navy or Army already have a preference, and are provided for in the Bill; but the men contemplated under this clause are not necessarily men with active service.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am confining my attention to clause 38, which says nothing at all about preference. It simply says that, if a man in the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth has a satisfactory record, he shall be eligible for appointment by the Board, without examination, to any office in the fourth division of the Trade and Customs Department; and I understand one may add to that - "for which he may be suitable."

Senator Russell - That is covered by clauses 39 and 40.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are now discussing clause 38, and I wish to confine my attention to that particular clause. The whole issue seems to be as to whether ex-naval men shall be eligible for appointment under certain conditions, if considered suitable by the Board, throughout the whole gamut of the Public Service, or whether their eligibility shall be confined to one Department,. I would point out that in the whole of the Departments of the Public Service there are positions which could probably be very suitably filled by service-expired naval men. If the clause remains as it stands, the Board will not be able to appoint an ex-naval man to any position in the Public Service except in the Department of Trade and Customs. We wish these men to be put into positions for which they are suitable, and for which they are recommended by the Board. The Minister has intimated that he intends to extend the ambit of the clause to the Quarantine and Harbor services, which include the work of attending to lightships and other similar nautical duties. May I suggest that these ex-naval men are equally suitable for the position of watchmen on Government steamers?

Senator Russell - They are all under the Customs.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is news to me that the Commonwealth Shipping Line is under the Customs.

Senator Russell - We are dealing with public servants. Employees of the Commonwealth Shipping Line are not public servants. They do not come under this Bill; it is treated as a commercial line, and is under independent management.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am glad to get that admission. I hope the Shipping Line will always be treated as a commercial proposition, and stand or fall on its profits or losses. The amendment is simple, and I support it because such a clause should not be limited to one particular Department.

Senator Russell - Members of the Australian Imperial Force who were on active service have a preference to employment. Are you going to give men who have not had active service preference? I am willing to defer this matter and make further inquiries regarding it.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no complexity or abstruseness about the amendment. Neither is it loaded.

Senator Russell - But it may be the thin end of the wedge in splitting the principle of preference to soldiers.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The whole construction of the clause is based on the principle of discretion being given to the Commissioner or the Board.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It does not say that work must be found for these men.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It does not. And I would like to see the discretion enlarged by the amendment being incorporated in the Bill. To mention an example, if there is any canvas bag-making to be done for the Postal Service surely an ex-sailor would possess qualifications for the work over and above those of other citizens.

Senator Benny - Why not make the preference apply also to an ex-soldier?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I invite the honorable senator to give his reasons; he may receive unexpected support. The amendment is clear, and it completes the intention of the clause.

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