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Thursday, 27 February 1975
Page: 899

Mr BOURCHIER (Bendigo) - It appears that today is not my day. I was cut out of the grievance debate and it looks as though most of my time has gone again. However, I shall do my best. The matter on which I wish to speak tonight is one of concern to 9 members of the Commonwealth Police in Bendigo and, of course, their families. The concern arises from the apparent bungling of the Government in deciding to reallocate these men by sending them to Melbourne. These members of the Commonwealth Police are situated in Bendigo to look after security at the Bendigo ordnance factory , which these days might not need such high level security, and also at the Longlea magazine in Bendigo, which does need a deal of high security. The Commonwealth Police comes under the Attorney-General's Department. They have been advised by the Department that they should expect to be transferred to Melbourne to work as security guards at the airport and other areas in the western sector of Melbourne. Their positions in Bendigo are to be taken over by civilian gatekeepers. I think that is the correct and official term.

These men to whom I refer have been employed in the Commonwealth Police service for many years. In fact, most of them joined while living in Bendigo. They have been there most of their lives. These men have raised their families in Bendigo. The roots of their lives are in Bendigo. Most of them have no wish to transfer to Melbourne but they accept that sometimes the demands of government and a prevailing situation may warrant that they should be transferred. The present situation clearly does not warrant such a transfer.

Three clear-cut alternatives are left to these people. First, they may accept the transfer to the Department in Melbourne. This would enable them to keep their status in the Commonwealth Police. The second is to take a position as a civilian gatekeeper in Bendigo. The third is a simple one: Get out. Let us examine what these alternatives mean. If they travel to Melbourne, the costs involved, I understand, will be subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. Despite that help, nothing would offset the tremendous cost difference between homes in Bendigo and homes in Melbourne and all the other changes resulting from such a movement. I am assured that more than 50 per cent of these people would not be the slightest bit interested in shifting to Melbourne.

I turn to the second possibility. They can become civilian employees and work at the same job as they were carrying out before as Commonwealth Police officers. Several areas of concern arise in this respect. Not the least is that by reverting from positions as official police officers to civilian personnel doing the same job will mean a sudden loss in respect received formerly from employees at the. factory. The other concern is the fact that they will each drop $1,200 a year in wages. That may not be much to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby). He probably could do that without turning a hair, but unfortunately to these people $1,200 out of a salary of $7,000 is a considerable amount of money. It means that they will suffer a great loss in actual return for performing the same work. What will be the situation that they face as civilian gatekeepers with respect to the ordnance factory and the magazine area? The magazine area covers 1400 acres and is surrounded by high metal fences 7 miles long. Some 135 magazines are to be protected by these civilian gatekeepers who would not be allowed to be armed in order to protect themselves. They would not have the official authority to arrest people. They would have no power of arrest. They would just be gatekeepers. These factors alone- no power of arrest and no arms for protectionwould detract from the benefit of having any security service operating at these places.

Apparently the reason given by the Minister or his Department why the change is required is that the Department cannot recruit the required personnel in Melbourne. It is absolutely unbelievable that the Department cannot recruit people to jobs paying between $6,000 a year and $7,000 a year in a city in which would be fair proportion of the more than 300 000 people unemployed in Australia.

Mr McLeay - That is ridiculous.

Mr BOURCHIER -It is absolutely true that the Department claims that it cannot get nine or ten people from the great number unemployed in Melbourne. As the honourable member for Boothby indicates, this is absoulute nonsense; it is totally ridiculous. The people concerned in Bendigo are terribly upset that this situation has been thrust upon them with very little choice of making a decision whether to remain or to shift to Melbourne. Perhaps the Minister is hoping to create a saving in Public Service expenditure. After all, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has told his Ministers to cut expenditure. So these fellows are to lose $ 1 ,200 a year which will mean a total annual saving of $10,000, which is a great saving for the national Budget. If such action was proposed by private enterprise, the trade unions involved would retaliate very quickly. The whole matter clearly reflects the pressure of bureaucracy and amounts almost to blackmail tactics to force these people to make a change. We can only hope that the Minister will take urgent steps to protect the 9 families who are concerned in Bendigo and also will take necessary action to ensure proper protection and security for the 2 undertakings concerned.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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