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Friday, 29 June 1906

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) .- In this morning's Age appears an article headed " Other Officers." It begins-

There is reason to believe that Colonel Robertson very strongly objects to the unauthorized and unwarranted use made of his name by Mr. Page in Parliament yesterday. Not only is Colonel Robertson a personalfriend of Colonel Hoad's, but he is above all things desirous that his last few years of service shall be free from any exploitation of his name by anti-Australian politicians- or by any one else.

Were these unreasonable questions to ask the Minister? -

Is Colonel Robertson shortly retiring from the command of the Second Infantry Brigade; and, if so, when?

What reason does he give for retiring?

Is he retiring because he objects to a proposed new appointment?

It seems to me that those questions were absolutely reasonable. At all events, there is nothing unwarrantable in them. If I cannot ask questions of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence without my action being termed unwarrantable, the sooner the affairs of the Defence Forces are left to the officers to be dealt with as they like, the better. The article continues -

With regard to General Hutton's adverse confidential report on Colonel Hoad

I ask the House to pay particular attention to this passage, because yesterday, when I asked the question -

Did General Hutton leave on record an unfavorable report of the abilities of Colonel Hoad ; and what was such report ? the Minister's reply, although the question was a reasonable one, and could easily have been answered in the affirmative or the negative, was that the report was confidential. If itwas confidential, and therefore, not to be seen by honorable members, how did the Age arrive at the conclusion that it was an adverse report?

Mr Watson - How did the honorable member get the information? I suppose that the Age got it in the same way as he did.

Mr PAGE - I will say in a moment how I got it. This newspaper article not only lies, but it slanders innocent men. It says that

One of five persons, the names of all of whom are known to the Minister of Defence, and one, at least, of whom is a Victorian politician, can alone have given to Mr. Page the contents of the ex-General Officer Commanding's biased report.

If the Age got from the Minister himself, as it says here that it did, its information that there was a confidential report, why was it permitted to know that the report was adverse to Colonel Hoad, while that information was withheld from the House? I got my information from the Age newspaper when Major-General Hutton was leaving Australia ; but, knowing the wilful misrepresentations and lies published in that newspaper, I was not sure that its information was correct, and therefore questioned the Minister upon the subject. His reply was that the report was confidential.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How the honorable member wallops his Joss !

Mr PAGE - Who is my Joss?

Mr Wilks - The Age.

Mr PAGE - The honorable member had one insane moment in his life when he called the Age my Joss. I do not know a Victorian Member of Parliament who is an officer, and no Victorian Member of Parliament has ever given me information about the Defence Forces. The only information I have was obtained from the Age, and this morning that newspaper shows that the report in questionhas not been treated as confidential, because, although the House has not been allowed to know the nature of its contents, a representative of that newspaper must have been allowed to see it. I should not have referred to this matter had the article merely concerned myself ; I do so because it was a cruel thing for the writer to suggest that five men know a certain secret, one of whom must have given it to me, and to indicate a Victorian politician as the person most likely to have done so. He is evidently not under the aegis of the Age, or that would not have been written of him.

Mr Wilks - The Age wishes to run our Defence Forces just as it runs the Victorian Parliament.

Mr PAGE - There can be no doubt as to what the Age wishes to do. This article is a wilful misrepresentation of facts.

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