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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - Up to the present the Minister (Senator Russell) has not given any explanation, nor has he attempted to explain why the clause was drafted in its original form. There must have been some object.

Senator Reid -It was drafted to catch the boys, of course.

Senator PAYNE - No. The Minister, in introducing the Bill, and also last year when dealing with this matter, clearly laid it down that the policy of the Government was to reorganize the Public Service, so far as possible, with the object of securing more efficiency, and avoiding the possibility of overmanning in the various Departments. Notwithstanding that fact, he now brings down an amendment that will necessitate the continued employment as public servants of every telegraph messenger who reaches the age of eighteen years if he can pass a certain examination, irrespective of whether Departments want additional assistance or riot. That is quite contrary to the whole principle underlying the measure.

Senator Russell - Why do you not read the whole of the Bill? There is provision in clause 18 for the Board to reduce the personnel of any Department if necessary.

Senator PAYNE - That does not get away from the fact that the Minister has admitted that telegraph messengers may be kept on the pay-sheet of the Department until they reach the age of twenty years, and that if they pass the examination they must be paid, even if they cannot be absorbed by any Department.

Senator Foster - Do you suggest that they must be paid whether they work or not.

Senator PAYNE - I do not say so, butthatcould happen if this amendment is carried. Honorable senators who have taken the trouble to read the AuditorGeneral's report will remember that he instances the case of one public servant who drew over £600 in hard cash after his furlough had expired, without giving any services in return.

Senator Reid - He was not a telegraph messenger.

Senator PAYNE - No; but cannot the honorable senator see the analogy]

Senator Reid - No, I cannot.

Senator PAYNE - Well, suppose 200 telegraph messengers reach the age of eighteen years this year and they pass the examination. There may be no vacancies in the Post and Telegraph Department or any other Commonwealth Department, but if this amendment is carried, those lads will, have to kept on and paid.

Senator Russell - We can absorb three times that number.

Senator de Largie - That is in accordance with the present Act.

Senator PAYNE - It is not in accordance with the principles of the Bill now under consideration. I shall be prepared to withdraw my opposition absolutely if the Minister can explain why in the drafting of the Bill, and also in the drafting of the measure we dealt with last year, the provision as to the employment of telegraph messengers was totally different. There must have been some reason.

Senator de Largie - What is the difference?

Senator PAYNE - The Act provides what the Minister is now seeking to include in this Bill by his amendment.

Senator de Largie - They may be kept on in employment until they reach the age of twenty years.

Senator PAYNE - That is if they pass the examination. The clause as originally drafted provided that their employment should cease unless they had previously been transferred or promoted to some other position, clearly indicating that the lads would not remain in the Public Service unless there was employment for them, whereas, if we agree to the amendment, we shall be adopting the principle that they must be employed and paid, even if there is no employment for them.

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