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Wednesday, 13 July 1904

Mr BATCHELOR (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Home Affairs) - In reply to the right honorable gentleman I may say that I consider, and the Government consider, that the construction to be placed upon the words quoted from the Public Service Act is a question of law.

Sir John Forrest - Then I understand that the Minister refuses to give the information I desire.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Surely the AttorneyGeneral, will answer questions of law with regard to which honorable members desire information.

Mr Watson - It has never been done.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Oh yes it has, frequently.

Sir JOHN FORREST - On the same occasion I asked -

Is the opinion of the Public Service Cornsooner that" Section 20 is an overriding enactment and is paramount to section 21 (6) and section 25 " the opinion of the Law officers of the Crown ; and, if not, will the Minister obtain and place such opinion on the table?

That is a simple question that could be answered by merely saying "yes" or "no." The reply I received was that the Minister could not answer a question of law. I now desire to know whether the Minister will answer the simple question whether the opinion given by the Public Service Commissioner was or was not given after consulting the Law officers?

Mr BATCHELOR - My reply is that the right honorable gentleman is not entitled to know the opinion of the Law officers of the Crown upon a question of law.'

Sir John Forrest - I desire to know whether the opinion indicated was given after consulting the Law officers of the Crown?

Mr BATCHELOR - If I answered that question, I should convey to the honorable member the opinion of the Law officers, and I should be giving him information to which he is not entitled.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Yesterday I asked the Minister of Home Affairs -

Does the Government consider that£36 a year is a living wage for adult persons with several years' service in charge of post-offices, who have to keep official hours?

The reply was -

No ; where the whole time of an official is occupied during ordinary office hours.

I now desire to know whether, in the event of an officer in charge of a post-office attending regularly and staying there during the whole of the ordinary office hours - even though the work may be insufficient to keep him energetically employed for the whole time - the Minister considers that £36 per annum is a sufficient remuneration?

Mr BATCHELOR - If an officer is required to remain in charge of a post-office during the whole period covered by the ordinary office hours, I do not think, nor do the Government think, that£36 per annum is a sufficient salary.

SirJOHN FORREST.- I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he will institute inquiries as to the number of adult persons in charge of post-offices throughout the Commonwealth who attend during the prescribed office hours, and who receive only £36 a year? Seeing that he does not approve of that rate of payment, will he use his influence to secure an alteration of it?

Mr BATCHELOR - I shall be glad to make inquiries, and if the inferences which are to be drawn from the question of the right honorable member are borne out by facts, the Government will certainly use what influence they possess to secure to the officers in question the payment of a living wage.

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