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Wednesday, 25 June 1930

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I support the . motion, which is important, while at the same time I recognize the great need for economy on the part of the Government. In its attempts to economize the Government should take pains to see that no one section shall be called upon to bear the whole burden. As pointed out by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) the men whom the Government has singled out for heavy sacrifices have had no opportunity of presenting their case through any organization, as public servants generally have had.

Senator O'Halloran - W - What about the wharf labourers ' and the navvies who have no work at all?

Senator PAYNE --Many of the officers affected by the Government's decision have spent four years in training at Duntroon, and, possibly, a year abroad, in order to qualify for the positions which they hold. Honorable senators who have seen active service have shown how essential to an army is a nucleus of welltrained officers.

Senator O'Halloran - S - Some men have been sleeping under wire fences for years.

Senator PAYNE - The Government hopes to save £60,000 per annum by rationing the work in the Defence Department. The same sum could be saved by an all-round reduction of less than5/8 th of 1 per cent, of the salaries of public servants. The Government should find some other way of effecting this economy.

Senator Rae - Such as a general lowering of wages!

Senator PAYNE - By a reduction of less than 1 per cent, of the salaries of all public servants, including members of Parliament, £100,000 per annum could be saved. But rather than make that reduction, the Government prefers to penalize a body of men who have proved their fitness for their positions, and, moreover, have had no opportunity of adding to their income by earning overtime, notwithstanding that they have worked many hours overtime during their career. I know that some of the men in question work very long hours. They have to be at call at any time. If they had had the privileges enjoyed by ordinary public servants, they could, perhaps, better stand the application of the rationing system than they can now.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Senator PAYNE - I have only a few more words to offer in support of the motion. I am of opinion that rationing is certainly a far better method of dealing with the situation as we find it today than a series of wholesale dismissals, but rationing, unless it is applied generally, is not fair. Why a particular section of men who have served their country well should be selected to bear the whole of the burden passes my comprehension. Without being uncharitable, I can remember a short time ago when an effort was made -to remove the policy of preference to returned soldiers that has been in operation in Australia for many year's. Evidently the Government is now determined to give preference to returned soldiers - preference to bear the burden. It is unfair and unjust., and I hope that the feeling of the people of Australia when they hear of this will be so evidenced that the Government will re-consider its decision and seek some other way out of the difficulty rather than penalize a deserving section of men to whom we owe a great debt for the service they have rendered to their country.

Senator Daly - Does the honorable senator mean that the Government should dismiss them?

Senator PAYNE - -I have already said that rationing is preferable to dismissals, but I do not think there is any need for dismissals. Surely there are other ways of relieving the financial position than by penalizing one section of men.

Senator Daly - Even if there is no work for them to do?

Senator PAYNE - It has been pointed out during the course of this debate that there is a danger that this rationing will lead to inefficiency in our defence force. I can well understand its having that effect. A diminution of enlistments does not mean that there should be a diminution of staff. The same staff may be required to supervise and control a smaller body of men. I think the Minister understands that.

Senator Daly - Yes; but I think that the Military Board understands it better than I do.

Senator PAYNE - I appeal to the Government to re-consider its attitude and refrain from imposing this burden on a particular body of public servants who have served their country well.

Senator Daly - The honorable senator means that the Government should give them a heavier burden by dismissing them.

Senator PAYNE - Nothing of the kind. I do not want the Minister to put words into my mouth that I have not uttered. Honorable senators of the Op position have no desire to dismiss anyone. It is, however, intolerable that one section of the community- a section that has served .the country well, but has no means to .protect itself - should have to bear the whole burden, while others in "cushy" jobs, using words that I heard used this afternoon, work full time. The men who are now being rationed have not had the advantage of drawing overtime pay; yet they are the first section of the Public Service on whom this penalty of rationing is visited. I hope that the Government will re-consider the position.

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