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Wednesday, 2 November 1921

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I have no objection to the Minister being allowed to postpone the clause for a day or two, but I would remind him that honorable senators from the other States have to come a long way every week to attend the sittings of Parliament, and when we do come here we ought to be allowed to get through some work. If the clause gives preference in the way in which the Minister says it does, I am opposed to it, but it does not give that preference. I will explain what I mean by preference. A few days ago a case came under my notice in Sydney, where a married man had been employed as a temporary hand in the post-office for fourteen months. His position is now being advertised as a permanent position, and he is afraid that he will lose it. The present Act says that if there is a capable returned soldier available he must be given preference over a person who is not a returned soldier. Consequently, the man I have referred to, although he is eligible for the position and can pass the examination, cannot receive it because there is a returned soldier available who is capable of' doing the work. The clause nowunder discussion does not give any such preference. It says that if a person has been in the Navy for the full period for which he enlisted he shall not be debarred from applying for certain positions in the Public Service. The temporary hand I have referred to knows that if there is a returned soldier capable of doing the work that man will get the appointment. That is what I mean by preference. The clause does not say that the Government will find a job for any man after he has left the Navy.

Senator Russell - I told the Committee that the effect of the clause was not clear to me. In discussing it with the Acting Public Service Commissioner and with other experts, I found that they spoke of it as preference, and that they intended it to be preference.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Minister says that this clause has not been properly drafted, and that he does not intend it to be what it is, but something else, then he is entitled, to take it back to get it properly drafted. Perhaps the Minister wants to give preference, but he only speaks of eligibility. If the clause gives preference to a man over everybody else because he has been in the Navy I will not support it; but I maintain that it does not do that. As it stands it does not give preference to any one. It simply says that a man who has served in the Navy shall be eligible to apply for a position without examination.

Senator de Largie - Surely that is preference.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, but not preference in appointment. There is a great deal of difference' between that kind of preference and saying that because a man has served a certain, time in the Navy he shall have preference in appointment over a civilian. In this particular case preference and eligibility are two quite distinct things. The Public Service inspector told me that there was no chance for the permanent appointment of the temporary man I have referred to, because a returned soldier 'who was eligible and fit for the appointment was available. He told, me, in fact, that the returned soldier's name had already been gazetted. The present proposal says that if a man has been in the Navy for a certain length of time he can apply on equal terms with another man who has not been in the Navy.

Senator Bolton - One will not be examined, but the other will. That is a preference.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, to that extent; but it is not a preference in appointment. The civilian has to pass his examination, and when he has passed it he is on exactly the same level as the man who has served in the Navy. In the case I have mentioned both the returned soldier and the temporary employee can pass the examination, but the returned soldier will get the appointment.

Senator Foster - Once you have settled the question of eligibility, have you not then to consider the question of suitability ?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly so; and in the case I am referring to the Acting Public Service Commissioner has no choice but to give the appointment to the returned soldier.

Senator Foster - But only if the returned soldier is suitable.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the clause we are considering it does not say that appointments shall be given to ex-Navy men. It simply says that they shall not be debarred from applying for positions. Five or six years' service in the Navy will count in a man's favour as though he had passed an examination. If the Minister says that the clause aims at doing something different from what it states, I do not object to the postponement.

Senator Russell - I said that it was possible that the clause might have an effect different from what was intended, and I wanted to have another look at it. That is surely a reasonable request.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Navy man is going to have preference over the civilian, then I would put some limitations on the proposal. But merely to say that a man shall not be debarred from applying for a position is quite a different thing.

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