The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) Saturday 6 July 1867
On page 4
SATURDAY, JULYS, 1867
In obedience to an order of the Legislative Assembly, certain papers have been printed “bearing upon the appointment, suspension, and removal from office of a person named BRODIE, recently a letter-carrier in the General Post-office ;” and very strange revelations they contain. From the bare official record which the papers supply,
We find that BRODIE was absent from duty during tEenty-four days four hours and a half in the year 1865, and that on the 7th of April, 1866, having already been absent during sixty-two days five hours in that year, he applied for fourteen days’ further sick leave.
Thereupon the deputy-postmaster
general suggested that he should be called upon to retire, and the Chief Secretary approving, BRODIE was directed to make application on the subject of his retirement from the service, on account of bodily infirmity.” He applied accordingly, stating that two years previously ” he was thrown from the mail-cart while on duty, and sustained such injuries to his frame as to render him liable to occasional periods of most acute suffering, and thereby leaving him totally unfit for labour of any kind” and in consideration of his helpless condition he was permitted to retire with the usual gratuity of one
month’s pay for each year of his service.
But this treatment did not suit BRODIE’S complaint, and when it was proposed to him, he intimated to the head of his department that “his position would not permit him to accept the small amount of compensation” offered, but he would resume his duties at the deputy-postmaster general’s earliest convenience.” And here there occurred a remarkable interruption to the ordinary
course of official business. Instead
of this troublesome letter-carrier being dealt with in the summary and decisive manner that his case required, he was honoured with an interview with the Chief Secretary, which resulted in his being relegated to those duties which he himself, his departmental superiors, and his medical
attendants, had concurred in representing that he was utterly unable to discharge. After the lapse of five days from his being reinstated in office, he again reported himself incapable
through illness, and the official report upon his case was that he
frequented public-houses to tho neglect of his duty ; the deputy-postmaster-general stating in addition that his connexion with the department had been in every way unsatisfactory and injurious to the discipline of the office.
A board was then appointed to investigate the case, whose report, though not given among the papers, we must conclude to have been condemnatory of BRODIE, for he was dismissed from the public service on 31st December
last, without compensation. But the
Chief Secretary’s minute of dismissal ended with this significant qualification
-“Without prejudice, however, to his appointment to any other department in the service ;” and we find that no later than the 8th of April following, BRODIE was actually appointed a bailiff
of Crown lands! A frequenter of
public-houses, on the representation of the Post-office authorities; subject to epileptic seizures, according to certain
medical evidence printed among the “papers;” and, on his own showing, “totally unfit for labour of any kind,” he was nevertheless intruded into a post of considerable responsibility, which, to be
efficiently filled, required not only physical and mental activity in the officer, but some character in addition! And BRODIE’S new office was much better paid than his old one, as well as more responsible. In lieu of punishment, he received
promotion for his misconduct. Instead of “kicking him out” altogether, as he should have done, Mr. M’CULLOCH only kicked him upstairs!
On the face of it, and without looking behind its published history, this case is bad enough. That an epileptic drunkard, totally unfit for work of any kind, should be intrusted with important
public duties, and receive a handsome income out of the public purse, is such, a gross impropriety that it seems scarcely capable of aggravation.
But unfortunately this is not so. There are circumstances in connexion with the case which render it infinitely more damaging to Ministers, and to the prestige of our governing institutions, than has yet appeared. BRODIE found his
way into the Post-office at first through the Eastern-market. He attained to his post by the help of the stump, and continued when in public employment to practise the arts by which he had gained
preferment. And his best efforts, we need scarcely say, were put forth on behalf of Mr. M’CULLOCH’S Administration.
During the long constitutional struggle in which the fate of the Ministry hung in the balance, and when ” Boo-hoo” was their chief weapon of defence, who
so active in their behalf as Mr. BRODIE of the General Post-office. Here is the explanation of those protracted absences from duty which were by-and-by to be brought in judgment against him. The man acted openly and flagrantly as a political agent of the
Ministry, and, under the directions of Mr. C. E. JONES, organised mobs to cry down or to applaud, in St. George’s hall and elsewhere, as his masters’ interests required. The thing was notorious at the time, and subjected Mr. M’CULLOCH and his colleagues to much
indignant and contemptuous comment.
The almost inevitable consequences of such abnormal relations between a Chief Secretary and a letter carrier soon followed, and are fully described in the papers now published. The man who had ian important part to play in a game that was to determine the fate of a Ministry, was not likely to trouble himself much about
trivial official duties ; and accordingly BRODIE neglected his work, and fell into disgrace with his departmental superiors.
For what did he care for the deputy
postmaster-general, having Mr. C. E. JONES and Mr. M’CULLOCH at his back?
It turned out, however, that he had gone too far. His conduct had been so bad that not even the Chief Secretary could ward off the consequences, and the best that
could be done for him was to give him a long day. Accordingly, there was a great deal of reporting and investigating, and referring backwards and forwards, and when at last BRODIE’S pay was stopped, and he really had to go, he had been about a year off duty!
Three months later, and he was ap-
pointed to a much more lucrative post than that from which he had been dismissed, and one to which infinitely more onerous and more important duties attached.
The plain facts of this extraordinary
case are so discreditable to Ministers, that it is not necessary to add a word of comment. And the manner in which their exposure has been brought about must render it even more galling to Mr. M’CULLOCH and his colleagues
than otherwise it would have been.
The Brodie papers were published at the instance of that same hon. member who was the chief political agent of the Government while the ardent letter carrier was devoting himself to their service and neglecting his more immediate duties. Consequently the
disclosure assumes the character of a betrayal, and will bo all the
more bitter to the parties implicated on that account. But retribution usually overtakes conspirators by such means, and in the punishment that has come upon them Ministers are only
reaping as they had sowed. Had they dispensed with the extremely active agency of Mr. JONES, they would never have had occasion to use such tools as BRODIE, and one of the least creditable chapters in the history of their Administration would have remained unwritten.