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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) (4:55 AM) . - This request for twelve months' salary as compensation is reasonable, and I am surprised that the Treasurer has not accepted it, but he appears to be adamant. I was surprised at his recent remarks, since they were so much in contrast with his previous utterances. I have pointed out that the estimated saving is problematic, because a large number of additional hands will be required by the various States when taking over the work of the Commonwealth Department. That has been repeatedly denied by the Treasurer. First there was to be a saving of £4005000, and now it is £260,000. To my surprise, he stated just now that Queensland would take 65 per cent, of the men retrenched from the Commonwealth, and that New South Wales would also take a high percentage. That supports my statement that New South Wales must obtain assistance for the additional work to be thrown upon her in the collection of income tax. The same thing will apply- to the other States. At last we have the true facts, and it is very evident from the Treasurer's statement that nothing like 1,040 officers will be thrown out of employment. That being so, then the whole of the money that has been allotted for compensation will not be expended. Whatever the Commonwealth saves will be spent by the States, and as they, are acting together in this matter no saving will be effected at all. As not half the employees will be discharged, there will be no difficulty in adopting the amendment and granting those who are retrenched twelve months' pay. This is a reasonable amendment. Some of us have young boys, and we are in a better position than the working man. He sends his boy to school and struggles to give him a decent education. Probably he can ill-afford it on his limited income, but to give his boy a chance to obtain a good position, he and his wife deny themselves' many things. The boy is sent * from the public school to the high school, and probably, in some cases, he may get a bursary and continue his studies at the University. When he completes his education, his parents decide to put the lad into the Public Service, which, to many people, offers an alluring prospect. When parents have consulted me I have advised them that the Government Service is not the place foi* a bright lad, because he will not progress so well in it as he would in private employment. He gets stuck in a groove, and even when he is moved to a higher class' his salary is increased by only a few pounds. After he has worked in a Department for six or nine years he is fit for nothing, else. Yet, because the Government has decided to make certain changes in taxation administration, some of these men are to be turned adrift in the world. Men who have been trained in shorthand, type writing, and clerical work are, to-day, a drug in the market. They can get no employment. I have in mind one lad whose parents made sacrifices in order to keep him at school until he was eighteen years of age. He engaged in clerical work, but for eighteen months he was out of work, and, eventually, had to undertake ordinary manual labour. Many of the men who are to be retrenched from the Taxation Department will have a similar experience. Since the war, clerical workers have had a very bad run. All positions that are available are given to returned soldiers, many of whom have qualified for clerical work. What is more destructive of a man's spirit, and the incentive to self-improvement, than unemployment? If a young fellow is without a regular income, and has not some "prospects, his life is blighted, and he becomes despondent and hopeless. If a man is given a fair amount of compensation he may be able to engage in some little business ; at any rate, he can keep the wolf from the door until he finds some new employment, but without money he can dp nothing. To-day £100 does not go far, aud some of the officers to be retrenched will not receive more than about £50 or £60. That is not much to give to men who, after doing good service for the country, have been dismissed through no fault of their own. The Government should be as liberal as possible, and if the Treasurer's statement is correct, the money already appropriated by the House for compensation will be more than sufficient to provide for the increase involved in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra. I have always held the view that when the Taxation Department is taken over by the States they will not be able to collect two taxes [without employing considerably larger staffs than they do now. The Treasurer stated that 65 per cent, of the employees ' of the Federal Taxation branch will bs transferred to the State Service, and will not require to be compensated.- If only 35 per cent, are to be compensated, what is there to prevent the Commonwealth paying the compensation which the honorable' member for Yarra has suggested? I cannot, understand why the Treasurer is adamant. Many members opposite are, I believe, in sympathy with the amendment,- because they know that the officers to be dismissed are entitled to reasonable consideration. When once the service of these men is dispensed with they may be out of employment for a very long time. They are not suited to ordinary manual labour, and are certainly not fitted to go on the land. They will have to be absorbed in some form of city activity. The Treasurer admits that even the expenditure of the first year's saving will not be required to compensate them. That being so, I cannot understand why he will notaccept our reasonable amendment. It appears that he will not even compromise. We are getting no response at all to our appeal. It is as though we were talking to men who are deaf or asleep - as, in fact, some honorable members are. I do not want unduly to labour the matter, but it is important that all aspects of it should be placed before the Committee. Perhaps, after a little longer consideration, the Treasurer will yield to our appeals. I have had ray ups and downs in life, and I know what it means to be unemployed. I am certain that there is every justification for the adoption of this amendment. We are placing every phase, of the situation before honorable members, so that later on they will not be justified in saying they did not realize how much was at stake. If we could visualize for a moment the situation in- which these men will be placed when they are retrenched, f am sure we would willingly consent to the amendment. The Treasurer has informed the Committee that the New South Wales. Government intends to absorb 60 per cent, of the Taxation Department's employees in that State, and that Queensland will absorb 65 per cent. If the other States will act similarly, a very small amount will be required for compensation. More than a sufficient amount for the purpose is already voted. We should, insure that these employees shall receive an amount which will be an incentive to them to earnestly seek for employment elsewhere. We must enable them to make strong efforts to gratify their ambitions in life and to make progress. When once the incentive to progress is destroyed, life follows a downward track. Surely no honorable member wishes to place any of these employees in such a position that they will feel too disheartened to make any effort to retrieve their position. In view of the valued -service that they have rendered to the community, we should pay them adequate compensation.

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