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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Mr FRAZER (Kalgoorlie) .- The honorable and learned member forIllawarra has referred to a matter affecting the administration of the Customs Department; I wish to refer to one connected with the Postal Department, which during the absence of the Postmaster-General, is being administered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Many experiments have been tried in connexion with the postal service of Western Australia, and though they may have rewarded the Department with the maximum amount of information and knowledge, they have often been accompanied with the minimum amount of convenience to the public using the telegraphs and telephones of that State. I wish however, to refer particularly to a matter which was brought under the attention of the PostmasterGeneral in Melbourne some months ago. He was informed that the state of the Postal Department in Western Australia was not what it should foe, and I think the representatives of that State are agreed that such was the case. As a result, a Board of three members, two of whom were officers in the New South Wales branch of the Postal Department, were appointed to make inquiries. I do not say that these officers are not thoroughly competent! and trustworthy. All I know is that, as the result of their report, the head's of the Postal, Telegraph, and Telephone Departments in Western Australia were removed from their positions, two ofthem permanently, the Deputy Postmaster-General being given six months' leave of absence. So far everything may have been satisfactory. The investigation may have demonstrated beyond doubt the unfitness of these officers for the positions which they held. The point which I wish to make is that the Chairman of the Board on whose report they were removed, Mr. Young, and a member of the Board, Mr. Dirks were chosen to fill two of the vacancies thus created.

Mr McWilliams - A most improper thing.

Mr FRAZER - I think it is one of the worst things which have been done since the postal service came under the control of the Commonwealth Government.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member takes exception to the fact that these officers were appointed to vacancies which they themselves had created?

Mr FRAZER - Certainly. I believe that a report hostile to any man in the service could be obtained if it were possible that the officer reporting on his competency, and recommending his removal, would be promoted to his office.

Mr McWilliams - No candidate for a position should be asked to report upon the competency of the occupant of an office.

Mr FRAZER - I agree with the honorable member. The Government have done an injustice to Western Australia and to the Service by the action which they have taken1. I do not know whether Mr. Young is to be retained in Western Australia as permanent head of the Department.

Mr Carpenter - No. Mr. Hardman is to come back.

Mr FRAZER - I am sorry to hear it. If the condition of the Department in Western Australia is such that the central authority deemed it advisable to remove Mr. Hardmam temporarily from his position, and to appoint another to re-organize matters, I do not think that he should be brought back.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The matter requires close investigation.

Mr FRAZER - In my opinion, the case has not been properly considered, and proper regard was not paid to the representations of the Western Australian members, who knew the exact position of affairs, and suggested that the heads of the Departments in Western Australia should be transferred to similar positions in the other States. I myself suggested to the PostmasterGeneral that it would be wise to make Mr. Hardman Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Queensland, South Australia, or Tasmania. These changes might involve slight alterations of salary ; but I think that in all the branches of the Service it is advisable to occasionally transfer both heads of Departments and officers from one State to another - to divorce them from their old associations.

Mr McWilliams - It is only in that way that many officers can obtain preferment.

Mr FRAZER - Yes ; and I think that such changes must result in improving the service given to the public. It is notorious that in every walk of life men are affected by their environment, and when men who have spent thirty or thirtyfive years in one branch of the Public Service, as Messrs. Hardman, Snooks, and Stevens have done, their associations with others make it impossible for them to exercise the same free and independent judgment in the discharge of their duties as they would otherwise exercise. I am not able to say whether Mr. Hardman should have been temporarily removed.

Mr Carpenter - He was only given six months'leave of absence.

Mr FRAZER - In any case, it would have been better to transfer him to another State. In my opinion, it will be a mistake to reinstate him in Western Australia to continue the work of the man who reported that the condition of affairs in the Postal Department there was not satisfactory. I hope that the Acting PostmasterGeneral will give the matter his serious consideration, and will see that, in future, officers of the Public Service are not appointed to vacancies which they themselves have virtually created.

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