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Wednesday, 2 July 1941

Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) . - I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to a question which I asked recently. In reply I was asked for further information. I thought that the facts of the case were made known to the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) when he was Postmaster-General, and that he would have passed on the information to his successor. Evidently he has not done so. The matter involves a violation by the Postmaster-General of his power under the National Security legislation insofar as he has failed to compensate a tenant whom his department pushed out on to the street. The answer which I received to my question was -

This is a hypothetical question, which is difficult to answer. If the honorable senator will give details of any specific case which he has in mind an endeavour will be made to secure information in regard to the matter.

I now propose to give such details. The case concerns the leasing by the Postal Department of a guest house on Flinders Island for the purpose of converting it into a post office. The officers who effected this transaction knew that the tenant was paying £1 a week for the building, but the department agreed to pay a rental of £2 5s. a week. I admit that under the new tenancy certain improvements are to be made, but they are not so extensive as to warrant an increase of the rent by 25s. a week. This guest house was not the only proposition put before the Government for the purpose of providing a post office on Flinders Island. Private enterprise on the island offered a block of land free to the Govern ment provided it erected a post office thereon. Alternatively those interests offered to erect a building to the plans and specifications of the department, and lease it to the department for use as a post office. The department turned down that offer. I cannot understand why. The only explanation given to me is that it was turned down " for obvious reasons ". The department decided instead to rent this guest house. The man to whom I refer is a cripple and is unable to work. However, because he has not been judged to be totally incapacitated, he cannot obtain an invalid pension. In their patriotism, he and his wife invested their savings, amounting to £150, in war savings certificates. The balance of their money was invested in the purchase of a "drive yourself" car which is now of no use whatever. They were turned out of their home in order that the premises could be used as a post office. The last communication which I have received from the man indicates that the only place he and his wife have available to them to live in is a hut belonging to a friend. He has stored his furniture in a garage. Under the National Security Regulations the Government prohibits the increase of rentals without the authority of the Fair Rents Court, and the Postmaster-General's Department should not have been allowed to violate those regulations by taking this place at 25s. a week more than the previous occupant was paying. In addition, it has turned out on to the street a crippled man who is not getting a pension, and has no other means of livelihood. It is up to the Government to make some recompense for the injustice it has done to these people. The man has a block of land and £150 in war savings certificates, which he will have to dispose of in order to live. If he can get sufficient capital ho will be prepared to have new premises built. He hopes to obtain some money by selling the car which has been left on his hands owing to petrol rationing, and if the Government will not do anything else, it should take over that car as it is taking over many other private motor vehicles, and thus provide this unfortunate man with a little money to carry on. The man's name is Mr. Charles Gray. As I have said, he was conducting a guest house on Flinders Island, and either by back-door or by front-door methods, the premises were taken over by the Government for use as a post office despite the fact that other buildings which would have satisfied the requirements of the department and the people were available.

Another matter with which I wish to deal concerns members of the first Australian Imperial Force who are engaged on military service to-day. I have here a letter from a soldier of the last war who has been serving a military camp as an instructor. He is only a young man, and, so far as I can see, is very capable. He has been forced to leave the camp because of the distance which he has to travel in order to reach his home occasionally on week-ends. In the camp to which I am referring, there are 30 of. these instructor officers. At week-ends, a large majority of the men leave the camp and only a few officers are required to supervise those who are left. Some of these instructors have other callings to attend to. Naturally, they cannot live on the remuneration paid to them by the military authorities, particularly if they have families, and it is necessary for them to get home occasionally at week-ends. If they cannot do that, they find themselves unable to continue their work in camp and, in many cases, they have to return to civil life. In the case with which I am now dealing petrol rationing made it impossible for this officer to reach his home as he had done in the past, and he applied for transfer to a camp which is only a few miles from his home. The reply read -

Reference your letter dated Jun« 14th, kindly note that married men with more than three children under sixteen years of age cannot be enlisted for military service. Your certificate of discharge (12th Training Battalion) is returned herewith.

Nation-wide appeals are being made for young men to enlist either for overseas service or for service in the home defence forces, yet this man, who went through the last war, and who has been for several months an instructor in a camp, is discharged from the military forces, because he has three children under the age of sixteen years. He is a comparatively young man of the right type and his experience should make him valuable in a camp as an instructor. I should like to know whether the regulations relating to the enlistment of married men with families are as had been stated in the letter received by this man. If not, when I receive the Minister's reply I shall take the matter farther in this chamber, and perhaps give my opinion as to why this man has not been allowed to remain in the service. If men are being turned down in that way I fail to see any justification for the hue and cry now being made for recruits for overseas service and for home defence. I also fail to see any reason for an appeal to young men to join up and be trained as officers, when this man who has undergone that training has been discharged.

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