An animated discussion took place at the monthly meeting of the Bathurst P. P. Board yesterday, on the question of the Stock Inspector's (Mr. Brett) expenses.
The argument was commenced by a recommendation from the Financial Committee, that Mr. Brett's account for expenses, totalling £7 5s 10d for over six months, should be paid, except 18/10 train fare to Orange and £1 13s claimed for dinners on Bathurst Stock Sale days, when he was obliged to attend the Corporation Sale Yards.
Mr. A. Stevenson moved that the recommendation should be adopted. He considered that the claims of the Inspector wore unfair and that the matter was one of the utmost importance to the Board. If the Board was to allow such claims, God only know where this kind of thing would stop. The Board would be establishing a dangerous and costly precedent.
Mr. Brett: The claim extends over a period of nearly seven months.
Mr. Stevenson: It is not that. It is the principle it involves.
The chairman (Mr. A. J. Brownlow) suggested that the account might be ammended by the Inspector.
Mr. Brett: There is nothing to amend. I am only claiming legitimate allowances.
The Chairman: Mr. Brett might well amend his claim or 18/10 for train and cab-fares to Orange. He is already granted an annual equipment allowance for travelling. Even if he travelled by road to Orange the trip would not occupy more than two days.
Mr. Brett expressed his willingness to delete the train and cab fares.
Mr. H. E. Brown was of opinion that the Board should get a ruling on the regulations regarding expenses.
The Chairman to Mr. Brett: It does not seem fair that you can take a train, a cab or any other kind of conveyance anywhere you like and leave your sulky at home and at the same time charge for the expenses of both.
Mr. Brown moved as an amendment that Mr. Brett's amendment should be accepted.
Mr. Brett: If you amend that I am going to make another amendment in my account. I have only charged 2s 6d for meals in certain instances where and according to the regulations I am entitled to 3s. I am going to claim the extra sixpence a meal.
Mr. R. S. Webb: There seems to be a certain amount of unfairness about the matter. Mr. Brett should not receive train and cab fares when he is already getting his regular equipment allowance. Allowance is made for a sulky and if he prefers to travel by rail, he should pay for it out of the ordinary allowance. Regarding the meals at the sale yards, while it may be necessary for him to have his midday meal there occasionally, I do not think that that should be a regular occurrence. I cannot see that it is necessary for the Inspector to stay at the yards for the whole of the day.
Mr. Brett: I do not stay there for amusement, I can assure you.
Mr. Wallace moved a further amendment that the claim with the exception of the railway and cab fares, should he passed for payment. He said that if Mr. Brett found it necessary to have his meals at the sale-yards he should be granted the allowance.
Mr. Brownlow: If he does.
Mr. Brett: Apparently Mr. Brownlow doubts my statement in the matter.
Mr. Brownlow did not reply.
Mr. Webb seconded Mr. Wallace's amendment.
Mr. Brown contended that if Mr. Brett were to travel to Orange by road he would have the advantage of being able to inspect some of the holdings en route. Travelling by train would not permit this.
Mr. Webb opined that a trip to Orange should only occupy two days at the most.
Mr. Brett: It is all very well for people to make these statements, when they do not know anything about the matter. At a meeting of a Board I attended on my last visit there, we sat till nine o'clock.
Mr. Stevenson strongly urged that the Finance Committee's recommendation should be adopted. The Board should be protected against these inroads to its funds. Mr Brett was certainly entitled to reasonable expenses.
Mr. Brett: I have only submitted reasonable expenses.
Mr. Stevenson: I do not think so.
Mr. J. J. Sullivan stated that in his opinion and the opinion of the Board the Stock Inspector was doing his duty. Mr. Brett was getting a big salary, for which he was doing only inside work. If he were to do his duty by going out into the country and inspecting holdings and stock, it would be a different matter. He should be paid what the Finance Committee had recommended and he could appeal against that if he were dissatisfied.
Mr Brett: To whom can I appeal?
Mr Sullivan: To the Chief Inspector of Stock. The Board should ask the Chief Inspector for an opinion on the matter. That would settle the matter finally.
Mr. Brett: There is a definite instruction from the Chief Inspector on the matter.
Mr. Sullivan considered that Mr. Brett, when at the sale-yards, could easily go to his home for his dinner.
Mr. Brett: And go hack to the yards again?
Mr Sullivan: Yes.
Mr. Brett: That is the time that the people are all trying to get their stock away.
At this stage Mr. Brett was called from the meeting and the discussion was concluded in his absence.
The Chairman considered that the matter of expenses was one in which a person should use some common sense. If the Inspector was only a short distance from his home, he should go home for his dinner, and not be charging it up to the Board.
Mr. Sullivan: If Mr. Brett is going to make it a practice of having his dinner at the sale yards, paying 1/6 for it and charging the Board up with 3s each time, it is about time something decisive was done. All he does is to work in the office and if we want a man for that kind of work we can get one at £150 a year.
Mr. Sullivan moved an amendment, which was seconded by Mr. Stevenson: "That the claim re meal allowance presented by Mr. Brett, while attending the Bathurst Saleyards, be referred to the Chief Inspector of Stock, and such claim be held in abeyance for a month pending a reply from the Chief Inspector as to whether or not the Inspector of Stock was entitled to claim meal allowance while attending the Bathurst Saleyards in his own headquarters.
This amendment was carried unanimously.