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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) - With a view to expedite business, I have hitherto refrained from speaking on these Estimates. I rise now, however, to present an aspect of the matter under discussion, which, so far as I know, no honorable senator has yet dealt with. Prior to Federation these military clerks were, in some of the States, under the State Public Service Acts, while in other States they were military clerks pure and simple. Under the circumstances, a great injustice is done to the military clerks who formerly enjoyed all the privileges conferred by the States Public Service Acts. I suggest to the Minister that, in view of the section of the Constitution which provides that all the accruing rights of transferred public servants shall be conserved, some of these military clerks may justly hold that their present position is unconstitutional. In Western Australia, for instance, these military clerks were previously classified as civil servants, while in Victoria they were regarded as military clerks. If my contention be correct, the clerks of the Defence Department in Western Australia have a strong claim to be brought under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. An important consideration is that the Commandants of all the States have recommended that these military clerks should be given the benefit of the Public Sen-ice Act, and this ought to materially assist us in forming an opinion. Many of the military clerks do more important work, and yet are paid less, than the clerks with whom they work side by side. I am quite sure the Minister does not agree with" that. I might mention that the figures quoted by Senator Best do not agree with those supplied to me. I have been informed that the number of officers who are described as public servants is 116, and the number described as military clerks thirty-nine, but that is perhaps unimportant. The fact that in some of the States before Federation these military clerks were under the State Public Service Acts; ,and the further fact that the States Commandants have reported in favour of the proposed change should be sufficient to induce the Minister to agree to it.

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