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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) . - There is a tendency on the part of some honorable members to brush aside airily the criticism levelled against this officer by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge).

Mr Eldridge - I have not finished with him. I shall dig the rat out of his hole.

Mr BEASLEY - Honorable members will admit that the honorable member for Martin has referred to this subject on many occasions since he became a member of this Parliament. He has regarded it as his duty to try to ascertain what work this highly-paid official is called upon to do. No one will deny that Mr. Brown is in receipt of a princely salary. I confess that I was astonished when I found that he receives about £80 a week. As in the case of other officers, his salary has doubtless been reduced under the Financial Emergency Act; nevertheless, we are entitled to refer to the salary set down for him in the Estimates. I feel sure that it will be interesting reading to the employees in the Postal Department that-

Mr Theodore - What will be interesting reading to them?

Mr BEASLEY - They will be interested to know that, in addition to his high salary, Mr. Brown was paid an honorarium of £1,000.

Mr Theodore - That information has been published in the Estimates and has been available to honorable members for over two years.

Mr BEASLEY - The information was probably available to the Treasurer; but that does not necessarily mean that it was available even to the other members of the Government.

Mr Theodore - Although the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was in the ministry when the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) attacked the administration of Mr. Brown, he did not raise any protest.

Mr BEASLEY - That is deliberately untrue. The Treasurer knows as well as any one that such is not the case. If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons) were here to-night, he could, if he desired, support the point I am making with respect to Mr. Brown. He was one of the first officers whom I had the opportunity of putting to the test and I did so in a room in this building, usually occupied by the Postmaster-General. Having been informed of different matters concerning certain negotiations in connexion with wireless shortly after the Labour Government was formed, I was keen to get to grips with this particular official.

Mr Crouch - With what result?

Mr BEASLEY - With the results that have been brought under our notice ever since by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge). It appears that this gentleman is capable of exercising some extraordinary influence over Ministers controlling the Postal Department. They always seem to be in such a frame of mind that they adopt, without question or criticism, whatever proposals he places before them. There is no doubt that to-day certain members of the Government, including the Assistant Minister (Mr. Cunningham), who was one of the strongest critics in the party of his administration, could express their views in terms similar to those used by the honorable member for Martin on the administration of this officer, if they had the courage to do so. There are half a dozen other honorable members representing country electorates who would condemn in the strongest possible terms the ruthless way in which postal services in country districts have been restricted under his direction. It is also true that notwithstanding the high salary which he receives, the department which he has administered has showed a substantial loss during recent years. The figures quoted by the honorable member for Martin show that he has been a colossal failure. The Government cannot thrust this matter aside, and sooner or later, we shall reach a stage, particularly with respect to the letting of contracts, when the public will demand an explanation of what is going on. Such an agitation will be set up that the Government will be forced to review the position. The circumstances which at present exist can no longer be tolerated. It will be very interesting to certain members of the Public Service, particularly those engaged in the Postal Department, who have been seriously affected by the legislation recently passed by the Government, to learn that this officer is receiving such a princely salary. The remuneration which he receives is of particular interest when it is remembered that the other day I had to approach the Postmaster-General on behalf of 30 returned soldier cleaners, who were to be dismissed from the Sydney General Post Office. It will also be of interest to them to know that notwithstanding the high salary which this officer receives he has also been granted an honorarium of £1,000 in connexion with certain services which he is alleged to have rendered to the Government. It is true that the Postmaster-General said that he will do all he can to retain the services of the cleaners to whom I have just referred. The Minister doubtless realizes that he is confronted with an extraordinary handicap when it is pointed out that the department over which this highly paid officer presides is showing, such a tremendous loss. The position should not be tolerated any longer. Instead of brushing aside the questions submitted by the honorable member for Martin, the Government should fully investigate the matter. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said that the honorable member for Martin has an obsession in this matter.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - So he has.

Mr BEASLEY - He has devoted special attention to the subject, and has been able to obtain information which should have been placed before honorable members-

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Supplied by Voigt.

Mr BEASLEY - No. The Government will be compelled to give some attention to this matter sooner or later, because, in view of tho facts placed before the committee by the honorable member for Martin, it has reached the stage when the public will demand an investigation.

I should like the Treasurer to explain how the item of £9,723 on page 90 for the British Economic Mission is made up.

Mr Theodore - I would be out of order in speaking on that item until the amendment now before the committee has been disposed of.

Mr BEASLEY - I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Martin, because I believe it will have the effect of focussing public attention on the administration of this official. It will . also give the Postmaster-General an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the letting of certain contracts.

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