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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr GRIFFITHS (Shortland) .- I support this amendment, which is designed to assist physically handicapped persons, who have the necessary educational qualifications, if not the medical qualifications, to gain employment in the Public Service. I know quite a number of people who to-day are employed in the Public Service in temporary or exempt positions, and who twelve years ago were receiving invalid pensions. I call to mind at the moment a man who has been working in the Postal Department for the last eleven years delivering mail. I believe that his attendance records would show a very creditable performance. This man, although he has worked very well as a postal delivery officer, exposed to all kinds of weather conditions, working through the winter months and enduring all the rigours of the elements, and also taking his chances with the hazards of the roads, is unable to gain permanency and be admitted to the superannuation fund. This is because medical officers have said that he suffers from a physical defect.

At the moment there are 60,245 temporary or exempt employees in the Public Service. More than 24,000 of them are employed in the Postmaster-General's Department as mail delivery officers, telephone linesmen or as labourers. They should be allowed at least to take their place in permanent positions in the department and, as other officers are, be entitled to promotion provided there is no absolute physical defect which prevents them from carrying out their duties.

I should like to mention one particular case for the benefit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is now at the table. A young fellow in my electorate left school, passed the educational examination for entry to the Public Service and became a probationary junior officer in the post office at Wallsend. While at work one day he was badly smashed up by a motor vehicle, the driver of which may have been under the influence of alcohol, or, if he was not, at least the court convicted him of negligent driving. The lad suffered a fractured pelvis and other injuries. After he recovered, he was given notice that his services would be terminated at 5 o'clock on a certain day. But for the kindness of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), whom I saw personally, the boy probably would not have a job now and would be on the streets. There are many similar cases. I give all credit to the Postmaster-General for what he did in this instance. On 8th November, 1960, he wrote me in these terms -

I have been informed that Mark Gardner was appointed (on probation) as a junior postal officer at Wallsend on 14th October, 1959, and that he was involved in an accident on duty on the 11th February, 1960. As Mark was still serving his probationary period when the accident occurred it was necessary to review his physical condition before action could be taken to confirm his appointment. Unfortunately, medical reports obtained indicated that Master Gardner could not meet the physical fitness standards required by the Public Service Board for permanent appoint ment to the service, and after full consideration of the case the board annulled his appointment as from 30th September, 1960. The board has advised, however, that consideration would be given to an application for re-appointment in twelve months, when Mark would be further medically examined.

This lad is more or less bodily sound. His only deformity is that he swings a leg a little when he walks. He is working as a temporary employee of the PostmasterGeneral's Department.

Mr Bryant - Was he injured on duty?

Mr GRIFFITHS - Yes, he was badly injured on duty. The Public Service Board said that it would review the case in twelve months. But this means that the boy will lose twelve months' service and, even if he is passed as medically fit in twelve months, other boys who have joined the department in the intervening period will take precedence over him for promotion. It is wrong that this lad, who has the necessary educational qualifications, is keen to progress, and could be relied on to give good service, should be pushed aside and told to wait because of injuries suffered while on duty. Possibly in twelve months he may not he able to pass the strict medical examination which the Public Service Board requires applicants for employment to pass. If that is so, he will become despondent and downhearted because he will have lost the chance to enter the Public Service.

I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that he is still waiting for a report from the board in relation to the employment of physically handicapped people. I hope that he will give further consideration to this matter, if not now then in the not distant future.

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