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Wednesday, 7 December 1927

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I direct attention under Division 35, which relates to patents, trade marks, and designs, to the custom that has arisen of employing a fairly large number of returned soldiers in a temporary capacity in the various departments. The Public Service Act, which was passed in 1922, provides in sub-section 9 of section 84 - in the making of appointments to positions in the Commonwealth Public Service of a nonclerical nature, the order of preferenc to returned soldiers shall be as follows: -

(c)   Returned soldiers who have been temporarily employed continuously for not less than two years, but have not passed the prescribed exaxmination, and in respect of whom the Chief Officer certifies that their duties have been performed in a satisfactory manner.

I have been advised recently that one returned soldier, and I dare say his case is typical of many others who have been employed by various departments in a temporary capacity, after .having been employed for more than two years, had his engagement terminated to make room for some one else who had qualified t» take his position. He is now temporarily employed in the Patents Office, and he anticipates that this job will last for only three months. He fears that what happened to him a short time ago may happen to him again. He is a married man with a couple of children, and is incapacitated to the extent that he cannot use his right hand; but with a great deal of care and attention he has been able to master that difficulty, and now he can write fairly well with the left hand. He is employed as a temporary clerk. One can understand the feelings of a returned soldier who has been giving satisfactory service to his department, but because he is on the temporary staff has to lose his occupation and take on any casual work until there is another. Opening in a public department where he can again be employed as a temporary hand. It was the intention of the Commonwealth Public Service Act that eases similar to his should receive the greatest consideration. If the services of a returned soldier have been satisfactory, provided he has not been less than two years in the service, he may be admitted as a permanent employee in an non-clerical capacity. I dare say there are many cases similar to the one I am now presenting to the Minister. This young man is not complaining, but he is terribly afraid that he may be thrown out of employment at any time. I can vouch for his honour and integrity, and I understand from those who are in a position to know, that his service in the Customs Department was eminently satisfactory. I submit to the Minister that the Public Service Board might be approached with a view to relieving men like him of this terrible anxiety which is always hanging over them. The prospect of losing one's employment at any moment conduces to unhappiness and worry. The man who knows that his position is secure usually gives better service than the officer who is employed as a temporary hand, no matter how willing he may be. I hope that the remarks I have made will result in an investigation of this deserving case, and in a recognition of the spirit in which paragraph 9 of sub-section 4 of the Public Service Act was framed, especially sub-paragraph c relating to men who cannot pass the prescribed examination for employment in a clerical capacity. That is the class of returned soldier in whom I am interested at the present time. I trust that the Minister will do something to bring to an end the unsatisfactory state of affairs to which I have drawn attention. I know that his sympathies are with those who suffered disabilities during the war, yet can render satisfactory service in our public departments.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the

Executive Council) [4.4]. - I am not conversant with the facts of the case that have been put forward by Senator Payne, but if he will supply me with particulars of it, I shall see that it is brought under the notice of the Public Service Board; because the Public Service Act provides that a considerable preference must bc given to returned soldiers. There are provisions in that act which enable persons who are filling temporary positions to become permanent officers. Two of the members of the board are returned soldiers, and I should think that their consideration for other returned soldiers is most sympathetic. Dealing with the employment of soldiers, the board in its last annual report says -

The policy enunciated by the Public Service Act of extending to returned soldiers preference for permanent or temporary employment has continued to be observed by the board, which has insisted upon the employment of soldiers to the exclusion of other applicants, so long as there are soldiers available and competent for the work to bc done. It is the practice of the board when dealing with applications for re-appointment 'to the Service from persons who have previously voluntarily resigned to accord preference to returned soldiers.

During the year under review, appointments of returned soldiers to the permanent Service have numbered 54S. The total number of returned soldiers permanently appointed to the Commonweal th Service from the inauguration of the arrangement for preferential treatment of soldiers up to 30th June, 1926, is 3,425. The number of returned soldiers in the permanent Service at that date was 5,281.

In order to assist, the Repatriation Department in its policy of finding suitable employment for partially trained returned soldiers, a conference was held in October, 1921, between representatives of the Public Service Commissioner, the Postmaster-General's Department, and the Repatriation Department to consider the appointment of vocational' trainees as junior mechanics in training. Following upon this conference, a decision was reached as to the conditions of employment of trainees, and as to their continuance in temporary employment until the course of training, covering three years, as prescribed for these positions, had been completed, when steps would be taken for appointment to the permanent staff of the Service.

The cost of remuneration of trainees - not less than the adult minimum wage being paid in any case - was borne conjointly by the Repatriation Department and the PosmasterGeneral's Department, the amount payable by the former department becoming a diminishing figure as the services of trainees became increasingly of more value to the PostmasterGeneral's Department. It is satisfactory to record that generally the scheme of vocational training proved a success, and it has now been brought to a conclusion by the appointment, to the permanent staff of 27 trainees who have completed their course.

That quotation from the report of the board shows that the board itself will administer with every sympathy the section of the Public Service Act dealing with returned soldiers. If Senator Payne will let me have the particulars of the case he has referred to, I am sure that the board will do what he asks if it has power to do so.

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