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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) - I think the whole House will regret that it has had to concern itself with a discussion of such a painful character as that to which we have just listened. I hope that the Minister will recognise that any oppositionto this Bill is prompted, not by a desire to prevent proper consideration being given to these two officers, who deserve so well of their country, but to the fact that honorable members strongly believe that there should be no differentiation between classes of officers in the Commonwealth.

Sir John Forrest - There is none.

Mr KELLY - I can show that there is-

Mr Watson - Can the honorable member cite a case?

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member is the poor man's friend, I suppose?

Mr KELLY - I hope the right honorable gentleman will do his bes't not to be ridiculous. The position is that men who have served in the ranks, and as noncommissioned officers, for thirty years, have been retired from the service at the end of that period, and allowed to starve on the streets.

Mr Watson - Were they injured whilst upon duty?

Mr KELLY - No. The men to whom I am alluding, by reason of the very length of their service, are no longer able to earn a livelihood in competition with the world.

Mr Watson - Lt.-Col. Bayly is only fortv-five years of age.

Mr KELLY - I will not oppose the granting of the sums proposed to the officers mentioned in this Bill, if I can receive an assurance from the Vice-President of the Executive Council that hard cases will receive equally generous treatment.

Sir John Forrest - A man who tumbled off a waggon the other day received £300 as compensation.

Mr KELLY - If a man has been twenty vears in the employment of the State, and has looked forward to getting one month's pay for every year of service, should he be compelled to retire without receiving one penny as compensation, merely because the Commonwealth has taken over the Defence Department ?

Mr Ewing - He should have his rights preserved.

Mr KELLY - He had rights under State usage.

Mr Salmon - The present position is a scandalous one.

Mr KELLY - It is. I know of one man who served thirty-three years in the Department, who possesses exemplary discharges, and long-service medals. Had he retired six years ago, he would have received a sum of £300, but because he is retired under the Commonwealth, he is allowed to starve.

Sir John Forrest - Why did not the honorable member represent his case?

Mr KELLY - I have spoken to some honorable members in reference to it.

Mr Ewing - The honorable member has not represented it to me.

Mr KELLY - I had no desire to worry any other Minister than the Minister of Defence. The Vice-President ot the Executive Council has just assured me that cases such as I have cited will receive proper attention at the hands of the Government.If I may regard that as a definite promise on the part of the honorable gentleman I shall not offer any further opposition to this Bill. I shall content myself with saying that the Government should have proceeded under regulation to do a fair thing to these deserving officers.

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