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Wednesday, 16 June 1915

Mr RICHARD FOSTER (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I should like, sir, to dwell upon the matter before the Chair, but your ruling seems to . me to hamper' the free discussion of a question which, in my opinion, is one of the very utmost importance, not only to this Parliament, in the discharge of its duty of controlling public expenditure, but to the community as a whole. The question is one which, i.n so far as it affects Federal employment, concerns the taxpayers of the country probably to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. We have had a. statement on the subject from the Minister of Home Affairs this afternoon. The people as well as the* Parliament have been waiting for some time for a definite official statement upon it. We have been told 'that the condition " other things being equal " weighs every time in connexion with the employment of men in the Federal Public ' Service ; but we can prove over and over again from official records that what should be an essential condition does not count at all. It is only included, I am afraid, to mislead the people. I can refer honorable members to an advertisement calling for applications for a particular position in the Northern Territory during the previous regime of the Fisher Government. A certain applicant sent a letter to the Minister of External Affairs, and was in formed by the Minister's secretary that he was considered a suitable applicant in every respect, and that the Department were prepared to engage him provided he could assure the Government that he was a member of a recognised union. The applicant informed the Government that he was not a member of any union. In reply to that letter, he was informed that if he was prepared forthwith to join an. approved union he would be engaged, and sent to the Northern Territory. A facsimile of the letter written by the Secretary to the Minister of External Affairs has been published in very nearly every newspaper of importance in Australia. This man was turned down because he would not join one of the political unions. In those circumstances, of what use is it for honorable members opposite to assert that the condition " other things being equal " counts in the making of appointments to the Public' Service? It is clear that, in the minds of the members of the present Government, the essential qualification for employment is that the applicant must be a member of an approved political union. We have been told by the Minister to-day that the heads of Departments are instructed, when desiring to engage a man, to apply to the secretaries of unions, and the secretaries of the unions are to supply the man who is required, whether other things are equal or are not.

Mr Archibald - The secretaries of unions are notified that men are required.

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