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Friday, 24 August 1923

Dr EARLE PAGE (Cowper) (Treasurer) (4:25 AM) . - The Government have considered the position very carefully. I have discussed this matter with representatives of the officers, and of the returned soldiers, and, after grave deliberation, the Government have decided that, in view of all the circumstances, the provisions in the Bill meet the situation. We think that the terms and conditions laid down with regard to this matter in the Defence Compensation Act are applicable to the officers in the Taxation Department, and, in fact, more so, because the training which officers in, the Taxation Department receive fits them better for outside employment than does service in the Defence Department. The only cases for which this concession has really been asked by the officers themselves, are those of the General Division and the 5th . class clerks. In connexion with these, I point out that the probability of their employment in other departments is very good. In New South Wales it is anticipated that almost the whole of the permanent staff will be absorbed. I think the figures quoted by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) must have " slipped " a bit, because Mr. Theodore advises that Queensland expects to be able to absorb 65 per cent, of the 300 Commonwealth public servants in that State.

Mr Forde - I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister. Those who have been writing to me did not have that information, and I could not be expected to know what the Premier was thinking.

Dr EARLE PAGE - The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) quoted the case of the junior paid officers, and the 5th class clerks. Of the messengers, some joined the Department at the age of fourteen or fifteen years. Those who are paid small salaries are practically youths. The other officers in the General Division comprise chiefly female typists, and there is no question about the capacity of the general industrial market to absorb them. These young women usually enter the Service at sixteen or seventeen years of age, and they should have no difficulty in taking up a career outside. The compensation proposed in the case of these officers is much more liberal in several particulars than that given to officers retired from the Defence Department. There is, for instance, the increase of furlough pay to be allowed. It is proposed that these officers shall be given furlough pay of six weeks for every five years of service.

Mr Scullin - That was done for the Defence Department officers by regulation.

Dr EARLE PAGE - This is the first time such a proposal has been made. Recreation leave is to be added as well. Out of a total of. 1,619 permanent officers in the Taxation Department, 584 are returned soldiers. . It is hoped that it will be possible to absorb practically the whole of them in the Taxation Department or in other Departments throughout the general Service. Out of a total of 464 temporary officers in the Defence Department, there are some 150 returned soldiers. Twenty-six of these have qualified by examination for permanent appointment, and although they have not received permanent appointments they will be regarded as if they had been permanently appointed. Some fifty of the number have had no opportunity during the last three years to sit for a qualifying examination for permanent employment, and they are to be permitted to sit for such an examination, and if successful they will be. treated as if they were permanent officers. The Government has considered this matter very . carefully, and the proposals made are reasonable and fair, having regard to the public servants themselves and the public interests. The Government has come to the conclusion that it must stand by these proposals, and regrets that it cannot see its way to alter them. In respect of every other request preferred by these officers, it has met them in a substantial degree.

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