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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . -I appreciate the desire of the Minister to provide that the war service put in by the men referred to shall stand to their credit after theyhave entered the Public Service for the purpose of superannuation, if that eventuates, and -for other purposes. I addressed a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister to-day, and received a reply from him in connexion with the appointment of radio-telegraphic officers. It appears that, so far as the Commonwealth ships are concerned, the appointment of such officers does not rest with the Commonwealth Government at all, but with some outside company, organization, or body. There are wireless operators who served on the various fronts during the war on land and sea.

Senator Russell - All the wireless operators at sea during the war went through the submarine danger zones. The Commonwealth line has a contract with the Marconi Company covering a limited number ofyears. The Common wealth Government employs the Marconi Company.

Senator KEATING - I think the Minister is not stating the facts quite correctly. There are men who served Australia and the Empire on the various fronts during the war who did not receive, and could not possibly have received, their training from this organization, company, or body with whom the Commonwealthhas now made an arrangement. For the purpose of filling the positions of wireless operators on Commonwealth ships this company, organization, or body was resorted to, and it is only the trainees of that company, organization,or body who are appointed to those vessels.Therearemenwho,beforethat company, organization, or body was in existence, qualified themselvesandwent abroad, and rendered valuable -services on land and sea to the Commonwealth and the Empire. Many ofthem are nowback in Australia, and they are seeing menappointed to Commonwealth vessels who did no servicefor Australia or the Empire. The agreement that has been entered into is absolutely wrong. I have no objection to an agreement to insurethat theCommonwealth Governmentshall be supplied with qualified men, but itought to contain some provisionforcompliance with theCommonwealth policy of preference to returned men. It is a very poor thing for men who have served inthe Mediterranean - " can fishing," chasing submarines - or who have served in the Atlantic or on the Mesopotamian, Palestine, or Western Fronts as 'wireless men, to come back to Australia and be told that they cannot be appointed to Commonwealth ships because some company or organization has a right of appointment, and that it appoints only its own trainees. If atrainee who has not seen active service is appointed, the company's explanation is that he' was not old enough at the 'time of the war to be on service. Men who rendered service during the war to Australia, the Empire, and the Allies,should have the first claim to appointment to these positions. I do not suppose that the clause under consideration could be modifiedto give effect to what I desire, but I am thankful for the opportunity it has afforded me to discuss the question I asked to-day, and the reply I received to it. I ask Senator Russellto take a note, of what I have said,' and to see that the policy of the Government and their supporters, which has been indorsed by the country, shall be carried out. I think that in all great emergencies at sea where there has been danger of shipwreck and loss of life, the history of Britishshipping has so far revealed the fact that, like the captain on the bridge, the wireless operator has invariably stood to his post. These men risked their lives time and again, and now, when they return to Australia, find that they are ineligible for appointment because theywere not trained by a company or organization that has some arrangement with theGovernment in connexion with Commonwealth ships. That is a preposterous thing, and thecountrywill not stand for it. I trust that the Minister will see that some provision is made by which those who have served Australia, the Empire, the. Allies, and the cause of civilization, may receive recognition in appointments to positions on Commonwealth vessels.

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