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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I promised yesterday to obtain information in reply to inquiries by certain honorable senators. Senator Vardon asked me what percentage of telegraph messengers . remained in the Service after attaining the age of eighteen years. The answer is that for the year ended 30'th June, 1921, only seven out of 2,327 telegraph messengers retired, not having passed the examination. The . number who remained is; therefore, roughly 99 percent. Senator Duncan wished to, know how many lads between the ages of seventeen and eighteen years are in the Service. The number between sixteen and eighteen years is 949 ; it would take some days to ascertain the number between seventeen and eighteen. Senator Pratten said he understood there was no possibility of all the telegraph messengers, when they reached the age of eighteen years, being drafted into the Public Service, irrespective of any examination. The. reply is that no difficulty is found in providing positions for telegraph messengers who have qualified: Senator Thomas remarked that it would be very interesting to learn the number of boys who had passed the examination and had not been absorbed in the Department. I would refer him to the answer previously given, that no difficulty is experienced in finding positions for telegraph messengers who qualify. Senator B.eid wished to know the number of boys who had been used in the telephone office, and the number of girls who had been kept waiting for positions held by boys. The answer is, " None." A certain number of boys are appointed as male telephonists for night work to relieve girls,as it is undesirable for girls to work night shifts. 1 think the foregoing record wi'l show that the Department has been particularly considerate. Take the last instance I. have mentioned. In seven years I have never seen cause for complaint in that regard in the. Department, and I am sure that it would have come under my notice if there had been any ground for complaint. "We find that nobody has been put out of the Service. ยป One honorable senator - I believe, my friend, Senator Henderson - said he knew of hundreds of cases, but we find that in one year only seven lads have left the Service on reaching the age of eighteen years. This reveals a splendid record of care and attention in the interests of the boys themselves. The departmental statement, from which I have been quoting, continues : -

At the present time, the number of telegraph messengers in the Public Service between the ages of sixteen and eighteen is 949. The amendment proposed by Senator Payne, namely, to make the age limit .seventeen years, would thus affect a large number of boys who at the present time expect to obtain permanent positions. It is probable that, under the provisions of the existing Act and the Bill, if amended in accordance with the Government proposal, all those boys will be absorbed in the Service.


For the year ending the 30th June, 1921, only seven telegraph messengers out of 2,327 retired on account of their not passing the examination. All the others will be absorbed in the Public Service, as difficulty has never been experienced in providing positions for telegraph messengers who are qualified.

That is a wonderful record. It is my intention to propose an amendment which will make it. quite clear that the Government will not dispense with the services of returned soldiers who have been temporarily employed. The postal and telegraphic services are such that- they will require very much larger staffs when material and necessary new offices are available. Owing to the war activities were considerably hampered. The demand for telephones is far and away above the available supply of material. I might mention, as an example of this shortage, that a prominent solicitor residing at Brighton had made repeated applications for telephone connexion. I took the matter up, but the Department had to intimate once more that it would be impossible to provide the connexion for the reason that the Brighton exchange was already full.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are 5,000 people in Australia who would gladly pay for telephones if they could get them.

Senator RUSSELL - Quite so; and when the material comes to hand there will be greatly enhanced activities, calling for additions to staffs. Meanwhile, I repeat that no returned soldier temporarily employed1 will be dismissed " merely to provide a permanent position which may be filled by the promotion of any telegraph messenger." There is no question of the Government creating an army of unemployed men. The Government have under consideration the whole question of appointing temporary employees as permanent members of the various staffs. It had' been decided to suspend the making of permanent appointments while so many young and eligible Australians were away fighting for their country. Now, however, our men have come back. There are too many temporary employees in the Service. It is high time that the temporary labour was done away with and the individuals concerned, in every instance possible, appointed to permanent positions.

Senator Bolton - Will not that policy entail an amendment of the Act?

Senator RUSSELL - It will be provided for in this measure. As for the question of examination, it would be unfair to ask returned men, who have practically lost several years of their lives, to undergo long and extensive preparations for qualification tests. Of course, if a returned soldier is aiming to secure a higher positionhe must necessarily be qualified to take it, and he must be prepared to undergo an examination, if necessary. It is essential that a certain standard of efficiency should be maintained. But I repeat that special consideration will be given to ex-soldiers in every instance, and there "will be circumstances in which, at the discretion of the Board, no examination will be required.

Senator Bolton - I know of cases where temporary employees in the PostmasterGeneral's Department have applied for permanent positions, but have been informed that there is no power under the Act to appoint them.

Senator RUSSELL - I repeat that provision is being made in this measure. Altogether, I think that yesterday's debate has had a good effect, in that it has cleared away many misconceptions.

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