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Friday, 17 June 1904


Mr BATCHELOR (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Home Affairs) - I did not see in the newspaper to which the honorable member has referred any letter from a divisional returning officer; but I did see an anonymous letter referring to the non-payment of certain electoral claims in connexion with the Wannon division. If the officer concerned would apply to me direct, 1 should be able to say whether or not his statements are true. All deferred claims are being examined most carefully. In the Argus of this morning I observed another letter, in which reference is made to my preMinisterial attitude upon this question, and it is suggested that that attitude has recently undergone a change. I desire to say that, inasmuch as I could have taken up no preMinisterial attitude on matters of which I had absolutely no cognisance, there can have been no change in my opinions. Every claim made by an electoral officer for payment is being inquired into, and the accounts are being settled almost off-hand.


Mr McWilliams - But were not these accounts forwarded to the Department months ago? Surely they should have been settled.


Mr BATCHELOR - The accounts which remain unpaid are those which have been disputed. They are cases in which there is a very material difference of opinion between the officers and the Department as to the importance and value of the work performed.


Mr McWilliams - Should not all officers have known what they were to receive ?


Mr BATCHELOR - It would have been a great deal better had they done so. Arrangements have now been made which will prevent a repetition of these claims. At future elections every officer, before entering upon his duties, will know definitely the payment which he is to receive for his services. At the last election,' which was the first conducted under the Commonwealth law, it was very difficult for the Department: to decide what was a fair remuneration for certain work, and to secure electoral officers who would undertake it at that rate. Both the scale of remuneration and the character of the work differed in the various States, and the attempt by the Department to establish a uniform rate of pay failed. The officers had had no experience of the work that would be required of them under the Act. That has been the cause of all the trouble in reference to the settlement of claims. As accounts are received, and the Department is satisfied that an officer has not been treated as liberally as he should have been, further payments are made. I assume that that is the reason why the officer referred to by the honorable member for Wannon has received several payments.







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