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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Through the operation of our Standing Orders I was unable to complete my observations a few moments ago. I want now to summarize the position as I see it. In the Bill as drafted there is no responsibility on the part of the Post and Telegraph Department, or any other branch of the Service, with regard to these boys, the only qualification being, if a lad had been previously transferred or promoted to some other position, it was mandatory on the Department to employ him. That responsibility will be very materially altered by the amendment submitted by the Minister. If adopted, it will be mandatory on the Postal Department, provided the lads pass a prescribed examination, to appoint them all to the Public Service when they reach the age of eighteen years. Is there room for the whole of these lads ?

Senator Russell - Our experience is that we do not get a sufficient number of these lads now, although at one time there were too many.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is advisable that we should consider the possibility of. bad times recurring.

Senator Russell - Under clause 18, the Board will have power to reduce the number of employees in any Department if necessary.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That power is very necessary. It occurs to me that we shall be building up a great deal of trouble for ourselves in the future if we guarantee, in this Bill, continued permanent employment to every boy who enters the Post Office0 as a telegraph messenger. That is what the amendment means.

Senator Foster - Do you think it is fair that, after four years of service, a boy should have to start afresh? And is it any fairer to tell him so at the age of seventeen years rather than eighteen years ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be fairer, because a lad of seventeen years of age has a better chance, by one year at all events, to enter other employment. The Government have already admitted this by, I believe, bringing down the age, in the case of telegraph messengers, from twenty years to eighteen years. I should prefer the clause to be so drafted as to provide that when a telegraph messenger reached the age of seventeen years he should know definitely whether or not he was to continue in the Service. I should like an_ elastic provision whereby the authorities of the Postal Department would not be obliged to employ the whole of the telegraph messengers who may pass the examination, unless the exigencies of the Service permitted of this being done.

Already Senator Elliott has given notice of an amendment which suggests that returned soldiers are being, displaced in the Department by telegraph messengers. I am not at all satisfied that the Minister's amendment will improve the Bill;.

Senator Russell - I am.

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