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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Mr COLES (Henty) .- I bring to the attention of the Government what I regard as a grave injustice to certain members of the Public Service because of the inflexibility of Public Service regulations. Certain regulations have not been relaxed to meet war conditions. Several weeks ago a raid occurred atDarwin, and I found subsequently that certain members of the Commonwealth Public Service were required to perform duties which they were neither employed nor fit to do. They are surveyors, who are carrying out administrative work. I shall not ask honorable members to imagine the condition that Darwin is in. All that I need say is that their supplies had been cut off and that they were getting as much food and. clothing as they could "scratch" from the Army. The man who was put in charge, a Mr. White, was a surveyor on the temporary staff who was employed on a three years' contract to go to Darwin. In the circumstances, he was not entitled to sick leave until he had completed three years' service. He had completed two years' service, and on the departure of the administrative staff from Darwin, was appointed acting secretary to the Administration and chief warden in charge of air raid precautions. He undertook duties for the performance of which he was not equipped. He had no office, no stationery, no staff. He had to try to keep records on odd pieces of paper that he could pick up. He had to arrange for the rationing and clothing of sailors who came off sunken ships, and of workmen whose places bad been " removed ". He was responsible for the finding and the burial of the dead, the carrying on of the sanitary services, and the feeding and clothing of the people. At the end of a month, he collapsed. Several others did the same. ' He was ordered out of Darwin on account of ill health, and was sent to his home in Melbourne. Having been medically examined, he was advised that he might return. Upon contacting the Administration in Alice Springs, he was asked to get in touch with the Director of Works in Melbourne. He did so and was told that, if he would pay his fare back and sign an order agreeing to refund his fare for the journey to Melbourne, he would be given an order to go hack to Alice Springs. I raised the matter with the Treasurer, who placed it before the responsible. Minister, by whom the. following reply was made : -

Yours 28th, W. J. E. White granted sick leave and fare paid to Melbourne. At White's request, return fare Melbourne to Alice Springs also arranged and he was told the 23rd April call Works Director, Melbourne. Public Service Regulations do not provide for payment fares sick leave and White informed necessary him refund by instalments.

Here is the gist of the matter -

In the circumstances it would not be possible to release Mr. White from the obligation to pay his fare without creating a most un desirable precedent.

Was there ever a more ludicrous position than that a man carrying out work under such conditions should be asked to pay his fare both ways when he had collapsed ? I request the Minister in charge of the House to have the position rectified. Several weeks ago, I reported on this man and several other men whom I saw doing work of a particularly noble character in Darwin and recommended them for special commendation. I implore the Minister to see that this injustice shall not be continued in respect of public servants who, because of special circumstances, find themselves in the position I have mentioned.

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