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Wednesday, 23 October 1912

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - I desire to acquaint Ministers with the gist of a matter concerning which I have given notice of a question. I want them to be fully seized of the facts before answering . the question, in order to avoid the possibility of a controversy. It relates to Mr. E. A. Harden, who has been in the employment of the Post and Telegraph Department for a period of from twenty to thirty years. I believe that he has been an excellent officer, and, so far as I know, there is no black mark against him. A few months ago he applied for the usual six months' leave of absence on full pay, to which he is entitled according to a regulation. My question, I may mention, is simply as to whether the regulation has been repealed. He was informed by Mr. H. B. Templeton that his application was made under a misapprehension. On the 23rd July he wrote to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral at Brisbane the following letter:-

I beg to respectfully inform you that my. request of the 12th inst. for payment equal to six months' salary was not submitted under any misapprehension of the meaning of regulation 89 of Provisional Regulations under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-11, as is understood by every friend without exception to whom I have shown it and myself. My faithful services have continued over twenty and extend to thirty years. I have never had the leave of absence referred to in the regulations above-mentioned, and in retiring from the Commonwealth Public Service I made what I venture to believe is the correct application for the equivalent to tbe leave of absence or furlough alluded to. My retirement has been permitted, and I respectfully think that I am entitled to the grant named in the said regulation. If the reading that I and many persona both in and outside the Commonwealth Service have placed on the said regulation is wrong, let me ask you to kindly advise me in your opinion what should be the correct reading, and I shall esteem it a favour.

On the 2nd August Mr. Harden received the following reply: -

In reply to your communication of tbe 23rd ultimo, I have to inform you that the regulation referred to, which is made under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1911, does not apply in the case of an officer who voluntarily retires before he reaches the statutory age. It only operates in such a case when the officer is retired by the GovernorGeneral through permanent incapacity or for departmental reasons.

I want to draw particular attention to that reply. It states practically that, unless an officer who has served for twenty years or more is retired owing to incapacity, or has reached the statutory age, which, I believe, is sixty-five years of age, he cannot get the leave of absence which is laid down in the regulation. Now, what is the regulation? Unless it has been altered, it is as follows: - 89. (1) When an officer has continued in the Public Service at least twenty years, the GovernorGeneral may grant to him, on the recommendation of the Commissioner, leave of absence for a period not exceeding twelve months on half-pay, or six months on full pay. Where an officer not having been granted such leave of absence retires from the Public Service after at least twenty years' service, the GovernorGeneral, on the recommendation of the Commissioner, may grant such officer six months' pay upon retirement -

I do not wish to embarrass the Government in any way. Here appears to be a perfectly clear case, where a man, without a black mark against his name, has retired from the Public Service, and, although he has done all that is necessary, either 'the Commissioner or the Department has refused him what it is absolutely laid down in the regulation shall be granted. There is only one other explanation that I can give for this refusal, and that is that this gentleman, belongs to the Post and Telegraph Department. He was largely engaged in the Savings Bank branch - certainly . a State section at that time. He thought fit to retire from the Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Department and take an important position in the Savings Bank business under the State. I throw all my cards upon the table, and ask the proper Minister to ascertain for me whether it is not a fact that Mr. Harden is deprived of his legitimate rights under the Public Service Act because he has thought fit to leave the Commonwealth Public Service and go back into the State Public Service, if you like to call it going back. Apparently he is being victimized to the extent of half-a-year's salary. My papers are available to the Minister if he wishes to see them, and when he answers my question to-morrow, as I hope he will, I trust that he will bear in mind that I have fully posted him as to the reason why I have made the inquiry. Ishould like the Vice-President of the

Executive Council to tell us what will be the order of business for to-morrow.

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