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Thursday, 28 June 1906

Mr WILSON (Corangamite) .- Owing to the lengthy speech of the honorable member for Dalley, I shall have to curtail the remarks which I intended to make. I wish, first of all, to address a few observations to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I wish to Call his attention, and that of the House, to the very small payments that are made to some of the" contractors under the Post and Telegraph Department. I know of one case were a man has to attend at a railway station twice a day, and to carry the mails about a mile into a township. For those services he receives a payment of only 7s. 6d. a week. It is absolutely ridiculous that a poor man should be so illpaid for such work. This is only one of many such cases. I think that some arrangement ought to be made by the Post and Telegraph Department whereby persons shall be adequately paid for ' services which they render' to the country. In the Forest country, below Colac, which, as the Acting Postmaster-General knows, is very difficult of access, there is a place known as Wattle Hill, which is situated about thirteen miles beyond Beech Forest. Some years ago these thirteen miles of road were in a terrible state. I have been over the road, and know that often until quite recently a man driving along it had to pass through waterholes every few minutes. In consequence of the terrible state of the roads the mails for Wattle Hill, instead of being taken from Beech Forest, thirteen miles away, were taken round to Camperdown, thence to Timboon by rail, from Timboon to Princetown bv coach, and from Princetown to Wattle Hill by pack horse, a distance of ninety miles in all. The Colac Shire Council has improved the direct road to Wattle Hill, and I therefore ask the Minister to seethat in the new contract provision is made for the mails to be carried by the shorter instead nf the longer distance. The people at Wattle Hill do a lot of business with Beech Forest, but until lately it has taken them a long time - two or three days - to get an answer from Beech Forest, although it is on lv thirteen miles away. I hope that the Minister will also see that payments for sendees rendered to the Department are made more speedily than they have been. During the railway strike, which occurred some years ago, two local telegraph operators were asked to do Sunday duty, and they:' did. Thev were told that thev 870 Supply[REPRESENTATIVES.] (Formal). would receive extra payment for their services, but no more was heard of the matter until Tuesday last, when they got an official intimation that they were to receive payment, and they were handed the munificent sum of 3d. after waiting for three years to be paid. I hope that in the future the Minister will see that these payments are made with greater regularity. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has drawn attention to the fact that in the past few years there has been considerable alteration in the garrison artillery at Warrnambool, Port Fairy, and Portland. He has shown the excellent character of the battery at each place. They were permanent coast artillery at one time, and have been transformed into field artillery. It seems to me that the Department or some persons in authority there, are trying to bring in the very pernicious practice of centralizing all the State Defence Forces at Melbourne or Queenscliff. That, to my mind, is very dangerous and most undesirable. I hope that every possible precaution will be taken by the Minister to prevent that sort of thing from being brought about. It seems to me that there is some connexion between this desire to centralize all these things and the recent dismissal of the men from the Warrnambool battery. Fourteen of the men did not attend the camp at Easter. According to the regulations, the Minister has power to inquire as to men not attending camp, and, where dismissals have taken place, to recommend that the men should be reinstated. What I ask is that the Minister shall inquire into these cases, and that when he sees the justice of the claim of many of the men to be reinstated, he will cancel the discharges. The cases are, I think, rather notable. Two brothers who are carrying on a shop were both members of the artillery, one being a sergeant and the other a corporal. They employed no workmen, so that if both had gone to the camp, the shop would have had to be closed. Last year, the corpora! went, this year the sergeant went, and for not going this year the corporal has been dismissed. Surely the Defence Department are not going to ask men with an excellent record of services to close their shop for five or six days? In another case, two members of a battery were working in the same shop. Last year the proprietor allowed one of the men to goto camp, and this year he allowed the other to go, but when the report was brought to the Colonel, the man who was not able to go this year was dismissed. In another case a poor man, who was an excellent sergeant in the battery, kept a little shop. Last year he was able to arrange his affairs so that he could go to the camp, but this year he could not, and, consequently, he was dismissed. One regulation provides that if a man be a petty officer, then, instead of being dismissed for not attending a camp, he shall be returned to the ranks, but these men have been dismissed absolutely. There is a certain amount of degradation attached' to the sudden dismissal of a man. The men feel their position very keenly. There seems to be a somewhat strong feeling existing just now in the matter. I find that thirty members of the Bendigo detachment of the Australian Infantry Regiment have been dismissed for not attending camp. I think that all these cases should be inquired into, so that this pernicious policy of centralization shall not be further pursued by the Government. The honorable member for Wentworth has referred to the case of the crippled driver. Our regulations ought to provide that any men who are injured in the service shall have some recompense made to them, no matter what their rank may be. I hope most sincerely that the Government will take into their serious consideration the case of the injured driver. I also trust that they will be able to give serious consideration to the claims of ColonelPrice, and. to do something for him. I hope that when the Government feel that they are called upon to make some return to men for services rendered they will give equal consideration to the claims of all ranks.

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