Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 867

Mr MORGAN (Reid) .- In spite of the assurance of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that youths of eighteen years of age would not be sent for service overseas without sufficient training, this practice is being continued. Much discontent has arisen over the severity of penalties imposed for offences against Army discipline. Only to-day I received a letter from a constituent regarding the treatment of a young man who has returned from service overseas. He served with distinction in Greece, his conduct being referred to in favorable terms in the newspapers. Recently, he participated in a march through the streets of Sydney. Afterwards, he was given leave, and was absent without leave for one day. As a result he lost his two stripes, although I understand that it was not his fault that he was absent without leave. In my opinion, the penalty was too severe.

Mr Rankin - Does the honorable member consider that the man was fit to be a non-commissioned officer? He disobeyed the regulations.

Mr MORGAN - That was through inadvertence.

Mr Rankin - We have heard that story before.

Mr MORGAN - He did not appeal against the sentence, because he desires to go into action again. He is of an excellent type.

This war is not so much racial as ideological. The Minister should direct the security service to examine the antecedents of some persons who occupy high places. If an example were made of a few of them it would have the desired effect. I have nothing but praise for the manner in which the Minister has performed his onerous duties, and any representations that I have made to him have received prompt and courteous attention. His task is most difficult. Every day he receives more than 800 letters, and, consequently, it is impossible for him to be familiar with the details of every communication. He must rely upon the loyalty of his staff. This morning I read in the Daily Telegraph an article by Mr. W. C. Wentworth, who until last week held the rank of captain in the Army. Before he enlisted he had been in charge of the Budget Control Branch of the New South Wales Treasury, and he had attended Loan

Council meetings in an advisory capacity on behalf of that State.- In fact, he was one of the few officers in the Army with experience as senior official of the Treasury. One of my constituents confirms the excellent work that Mr. Wentworth performed in the Army -

When the case of Captain Wentworth comes before the Bouse again, I would like you to be aware of the facts concerning him.

As one of your constituents and a member of the Guides and Reconnaissance Corps that was commanded and formed by Captain Wentworth, I take the liberty of writing you this note.

In answer to an advertisement that appeared in all the press of Sydney and over the radio calling for volunteers to enlist in the Grand Reconnaissance Corps, about 100 picked men were enlisted by Captain Wentworth. The principal qualifications were a thorough knowledge of one's country and must lie expert bushmen.

The result was that a finer body ot men as I ever mixed with went into camp about four months ago. After being scientifically trained for that period in map-reading, compass work, morse code, signal and heliograph work, the corps was disbanded and scattered in all directions all over the State, mostly as grooms and mess fatigue hands in permanent depot camps.

These men were a tough, .hard and clever body, mostly between the ages of 45 and 55.

Owing to apparent jealousy on the part nf some of Captain Wentworth's superior officers, he was relieved of his command and hia corps broken up as stated above.

Captain Wentworth is a courageous and clever leader of men. He possesses a remarkable knowledge of the geography and topography of Australia. His men were behind him in any action he might decide upon. He is the type of man that the country can ill afford to lose in the most critical days of history.

Because a few "blimps" were jealous othis young, progressive man with modern ideas, we were converted into footballs and are being kicked about everywhere.

How can we win the war under the circumstances, Mr. Morgan ? Wc all enlisted with the hope that we would he doing something to help repel those brown hordes from the East. In doing so we all made personal sacrifices to serve

Lelit bt understood that the sentiments that T have expressed here are held by all the men of the corps. There is no doubt there are thousands of men in Australia of the same type and age who would be a great help in Now Guinea and other battlefronts. But how could you expect them to serve under these circumstances?

That letter bears eloquent testimony to the military ability of Mr. Wentworth. T nsk the Minister to review this matter.

In my opinion, guerrilla tactics will play an important part in dislodging the Japanese from their strongholds in the Pacific. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), an experienced officer with a fine military record, offered to raise a light horse corps for guerrilla work. In action, his courage is unquestioned. Remnants of the Australian Imperial Force in Crete and Timor are harrying the Japanese from retreats in the mountains, and their successes prove the value of guerrilla warfare. Unfortunately, auxiliary units of the Volunteer Defence Corps, attached to factories, have not received sufficient encouragement from the Army authorities. When Japan entered the war, workers became very uneasy. They had not received any military training, and they realized their helplessness should the southward sweep of the Japanese bring the enemy to the southern States. So far from desiring to " go bush " in an invasion, they wished to receive instruction in the use of weapons, so that they could resist the enemy by force of arms. The Army did not encourage their enthusiasm. These men should be trained to use rifles so that if attacked, they may emulate the example of the heroic defenders of Stalingrad. In to-day's issue of the Daily Telegraph a special correspondent in' Moscow, Godfrey Blunden, declares that Stalingrad is a vast trap for the Nazis. Thousands of them are dying in the streets as the Russians fight grimly in a planned defence of the burntcut city. The correspondent writes -

Stalingrad has become a vast trap for the German Army.

To-day's reports tell of tens of thousands of German corpses lying in the streets and alleyways, still in range of bullets and shells. lt is seven days since enemy forces broke through to the town, but hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets, rifle-butts, hand-grenades, and benzine bottles goes on without much improvement in thu German position.

One report speaks of the defenders of h factory fighting from floor to floor to the attic, and then to the roof-top, leaving passages and stairways packed with dead.

Australians will display a similar spiriif the occasion should ever demand it. 1 appeal to the Minister to encourage the formation of guerrilla units as the honorable member for Bendigo lias advocated, and to provide instructors to train factory workers in the use of weapons.

Mr Rankin - And give them weapons.

Mr MORGAN - Yes. Although they are working overtime, they are prepared to make additional sacrifices to ensure that our fighting forces shall be adequately equipped. The Minister stated that he had not had time to read the article by Mr. Wentworth. I urge him to study its contents at the first opportunity. Mr. Wentworth writes -

Red tape still strangles ourwar effort, and is ultimately responsible for much - if not most - of our front-line failure.

Recently I was told of a " brain-wave " to foil the Japanese if ever they land in Australia. The plan was to send army lorries to collect all the red tape from government departments, and fling it at the Japanese.

Mr Marwick - That would entangle them.

Mr MORGAN - There is enough red tape to strangle the Japanese. The article continues -

Much of the criticism which the Army is getting is mis-directed, because the present army system is unworkable, and those who have to work within it cannot possibly reach the full efficiency which is necessary for success.

I believe thnt a radical change in the present system is necessary if we are to win the Pacific war, and that unless we can bring about these administrative reforms the Army can never develop along flexible and offensive lines - that it is literally a matter of life and death for us to make these changes.

It is unfair to blame the front-line soldier for circumstances outside his control, and until we cure the administrative weakness which is the seat of the infection the Army can never be healthy.

When Army Minister Spender first took office, he formulated a good resolution - to cut the red tape which was hampering the Army at every turn. Publicly, every one approved, even the red-tape merchants themselves. Privately, these latter set out to sabotage hie efforts.

Spender failed and fell. When he left the Army its administration was no better than when he first took office.

When Army Minister Forde came to power, and made the same good resolution as his predecessor, the red-tape merchants trembled - for form's sake. Privately, they smirked.

Events may yet prove their smirk justified. I am convinced that Mr. Forde has made an honest and sincere attempt to cut through red tape.

I think we all agree with that -

He has had some minor victories. But I am just as convinced that the impact he has made on the vast bureaucratic machine is not adequate to the occasion. Some senior civil servants are still trying to sabotage the Government's honest efforts.

That is what I said last night. Mr. Wentworth gained his knowledge from experience within the Army, and I from what I have seen of. Army officers and from my constituents -

Even with the stimulus of invasion to help reform, the Army's administration remains a tragic machine of complex, sanctified, chromium-plated inefficiency. The same stertorous, final, frustrating snorts still greet any proposal for action. The same diehards - all the fatter for another fat year - still serve on their swivel chairs at the sacred shrine of routine.

Meanwhile, the unfortuuate soldier and junior officer is getting every bit of initiative kicked out of him by the tyranny of form and book. For three years now we have trained our soldiers on the principle that "the Army has a form for it - and if there's no form for it, then it must be wrong". They have been taught: "If it isn't in the book, don't do it." To train men thus, and then to put them down in the unfamiliar hell of Kokoda is to invite disaster. That is, in essence, what ha ppened.

Suggest corrections