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Wednesday, 2 November 1921

Senator REID - That is an official statement, but the facts are otherwise. Boys who pass the examination have their names put on- the list, but quite a number of the lads get tired of waiting, and take up other pursuits. Some of the boys are put into the telephone service.

Senator Russell - There is a proposed amendment on the file which' would make the clause read -

Every person appointed as a telegraph messenger shall cease to be employed in the Commonwealth Service on attaining, the age of eighteen years, unless he has before reaching that age passed the examination prescribed for promotion.

Senator REID - Girls who have goneup for the examination and have their names on the list are kept out of positions because message boys have been given appointments. I would like the Minister to inquire as to the number of boys who have been used in the telephone' office, and the number of girls who have; been, kept waiting for the. positions held by boys. There is a great deal to be said in favour of the suggested amendment to reduce the age from eighteen to seventeen years. We all desire to see capable telegraph messengers, but we must realize that, owing to the position the unions take up to-day, and also because of the wages fixed by the Arbitration Courts, it is difficult to get really good men. That is the universal complaint to-day from those who employ mechanics. If lads are kept on as telegraph messengers until they are eighteen years of age, they are then too old to pick up a trade, because of the wage their age demands, and so they are thrown on the unskilled labour market, which is already quite big enough in Australia.

Senator de Largie - There is plenty of room for them in the country. The fanners of Australia are waiting for them.

Senator REID - I am speaking of the average boy.

Senator Wilson - If we keep them on until eighteen years of age it is difficult to get them to go to country work.

Senator REID - They are brought up under certain conditions which make life in the town attractive to them. If the examination were held at the ago of seventeen the boy would have time to look for another job instead of remaining in the Department until he was eighteen. The average Australian boy of sixteen or seventeen years is quite equal to the responsibility of delivering telegrams, but judging by the size and appearance of some of the lads they are utterly unfitted for that work. After attaining the age of seventeen, however, a young man should be given more important work to do.

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