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Tuesday, 28 November 1905

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - There is no certainty as to what amount will be expended. The Department of Home Affairs has a good deal of clericalwork to do in connexion with the other Departments, but certainly not a pound more than is necessary will be spent. The experience of the Department has led the officers to estimate that a vote of£460 will be sufficient for the current year.

Senator STEWART(Queensland).- The Committee ought to be furnished with some information as to the nature of the work which the temporary clerks have to do. So far as I can see, the Department is sufficiently manned without engaging an army of temporary men. The principle has been laid down that as few temporary hands as possible should be employed in a Department. The employment of temporary assistance has become almost a scandal in connexion with this Department. Last year nearly . £1,400 was spent in this way, and we ought to have art explanation as to why such a large expenditure is necessary.

Senator KEATING(Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - The vote for last year was expended in providing for the service of a temporary clerk at the Sydney office, with a salary of£156 ; a caretaker with a salary of £104; and a switch attendant at the head office, with a salary of £52. Then from time to time extra clerical assistance was required to cope with the pressure of work. As honorable senators know, the Department of Home Affairs has been associated with all the public works of the Commonwealth. In some instances there has been a greater pressure of work, and in others a lesser pressure, of work. During the early years of the Commonwealth it would be highly inadvisable to have a staff that was able to cope with the work of the Department when it was working at its highest pressure. For that rea- son the permanent staff comprises only such a number as are able to carry on the work ordinarily. When extra assistance is required it is invoked and paid for accordingly.

Senator STEWART(Queensland). - I desire to know at what rates temporary men are paid, and by whom they are appointed ?

Senator Keating - They are appointed under the provisions of the Public Service Act.

Senator STEWART - Are temporary hands paid at the rate of £2, £3, or £4. perweek?

Senator Keating - If the honorable senator wishes to know the salary of any officer, or the salary attached to any particular work, I shall get the information for him.

Senator STEWART - That is not sufficient. All this information ought to be available.

Senator Keating - If the honorable senator had intimated on Friday that he desired this information it would have been obtained.

Senator STEWART - -I am not supposed to tell the Minister beforehand what information I want, and if I did I should not be able to do anything else. For all we know to the contrary, the Department of Home Affairs may be guilty of most gross sweating. The men employed there may give information to the newspapers. In that way it will be published all over the Continent, and Parliament will be blamed. The Minister in charge should give us some information as to the payments made.

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