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Wednesday, 1 October 1902

Mr DEAKIN (BALLAARAT, VICTORIA) (Attorney-General) - That is a point which would have some, but very little weight, as an argument against the need for express provision that the Act was to be retrospective. What we have to look at is the actual phraseology adopted by Parliament at the time. The legal officers of the Government must have known that, whatever the consequential operation of the Act would be, it could, as a matter of legal construction, be read only as speaking from the day it was passed. The determination of this question by the court will settle, once and for all, whether the public servants are entitled to what they claim under the section of the Constitution which preserves to them all their existing and accruing tights. Those rights must be legal rights to be indorsed by the Constitution. There will be nothing to prevent a decision from being obtained upon this point within the next twelve months. Passing from the legal aspect, I may say that I have recently had my attention called to the circumstance, no doubt familiar to most honorable members, that in all those parts of the British Empire in which public officers have to perform their duties in tropical or sub-tropical latitudes, special provisions are made for leave. The provisions in the Western Australian measure are not more liberal than are those contained in the Indian, Straits Settlements, and other Acts operating in hot countries. Whether or not the Public Service Commissioner of the Commonwealth is vested with as wide an authority as the honorable member would wish to see exercised, I cannot say without reference to the Act. I am confident however that, if he is not, this Parliament would readily lend a sympathetic ear to any proposal which would allow of special consideration being extended to public servants resident in the tropical and sub-tropical parts of Australia, and also to those settled in the remote districts of the interior, where, though the climatic conditions are less severe, the circumstances of life are certainly as hard. Irrespective of whether or not the public servants of Western Australia secure, at the hands of the court, allthat they desire in this respect, I am perfectly sure that when the time comes for the consideration of that issue by this Parliament, an attentive ear will be lent to any representations which may be made in. thatconnexion, supported, as they mighteasily be, by illustrations from the practice of the mother country in regard to the treatmentof her public servants in the hotter regions of the world. I am aware that this matter was brought forward when the Public Service Bill was under consideration, and that some provision was made for it. If that provision is not ample enough to permit of full justice being done to public servants, I am sure the House would consent to an extension of it to enable that object to be accomplished.

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