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Thursday, 6 May 1920

Mr HECTOR LAMOND (Illawarra) . - I wish to refer to an answer I received to-day to a question in reference to the administration of the Liverpool Camp in 1918. It is evident that the charge made by some honorable members that the officers of the Department are not entirely frank with the Minister is sometimes well founded. The question I asked to-day was -

What steps have been taken to give effect to the recommendations of Major Goucher in his report in November, 1918, upon the training camp at Liverpool?

The answer was -

No recommendations were made by Major Goucher -

That, I believe, is correct, but the answer goes on -

This officer was detailed to report on certain allegations regarding a camp of training at Liverpool, and his report showed that these statements were grossly untrue.

This is a camp for trainees, and in the course of a few months similar camps will be held at Broadmeadows, Seymour, and elsewhere. It is rather curious that at the time the scandal arose at Liverpool similar complaints were made as to the failure of the organization at Broadmeadows. In July, 1918, it was decided to hold the camp on 2nd September. There were, therefore, more than six weeks in which to make preparations. The number of officers and men was correctly estimated on 16th July. Yet when the lads reached the camp it was found that there were insufficient tents to house them. The tents were deficient in number and gear, some being without flies, and some without poles. Blankets were not issued until between 6.30 and 8.30 p.m. - they had notbeen received in time. The lads arrived in camp, after a wearisome journey, at 11.50 a.m., 12.15 p.m., and 3 p.m. No food was available for them until about 3 o'clock. There was no salt for nearly a week, 'and meals were cooked without it. There was no issue of firewood, and the lads were sent to steal it. There were 63,000 lbs. of straw in the depot when the camp opened, enough for 6,300 men; yet no straw was available for the lads to sleep on for several days after the camp opened. No vegetables were available until the evening of the second day. Tent boards were not available, and the lads had to sleep on the bare ground, without straw, and only a blanket beneath them. Colonel Kirkland reported that it was not until the 14th - twelve days after the camp commenced - that the equipment was complete. After the camp the principal medical officer reported that during the whole of the thirty days' training the tents had not been struck or the ground aired, and he ordered this to be done before another batch of trainees was brought there. Another report states that, without doubt, a great deal of sickness was caused by the want of proper bedding, flooring, and blankets. One lad died of meningitis - part of the camp was known as " Meningitis Flat " during the early days of the war - ten days after his return from camp. There was a similar scandal at Broadmeadows. Some honorable members, who have been through the rigours of the war, evidently look upon these matters lightly; but I desire honorable members to understand the objects ofthese camps and the conditions under which they are conducted. These young men. were taken out of comfortable homes, and out of the mines, and were subjected to disabilities which I have just indicated quite unnecessarily, and merely because of the failure of some responsible officers to do the work they were paid to do. The country is disbursing large sums by way of salary to men who are regarded as efficient, and yet the health and the lives of these trainees are jeopardized because of the failure of certain responsible officials to do their simple duty.

Mr Lister - When did this occur?


Mr Lister - And is the incident only now being ventilated?

Mr HECTOR LAMOND - Certainly not; but my purpose in calling attention to these matters again is to insure, if possible, that they shall not be repeated this year. The reply of the Department, when inquiries were made, was that there was nothing to worry about, and that the officer appointed to make investigations had reported that all was well. Yet the occurrences upon which that officer was' required to report were exactly those I have just indicated. If our lads are to he subjected to treatment such as this, the sooner we close the training camps the better. We are sowing in the minds of the rising generation a hatred of military training and preparation. Conditions of discomfort and danger were natural enough in the emergencies of war, but they are not such as our young Australian trainees should be compelled to submit to in times of peace. This camp was in the vicinity of a great city, and such of the necessary facilities as were not available within the camp itself could have been speedily requisitioned. There was, in fact, no excuse for the camp being conducted as it was, and it is reasonably certain that that lad lost his life because of the failure of certain officers responsible to do their work as they should have done. As a matter of fact, they altered the date of the youth's death one week, in order to place it a little further away from the day on which he left camp. Not only at this camp, but at Broadmeadows also, the health and lives of trainees were in jeopardy. Yet the officers responsible have not only been retained in the service, hut have escaped without reproof - indeed, with a whitewashing report. The whole circumstances indicate an utter disregard for the welfare of trainees and absolute neglect on the part of responsible officials. I hope steps will be taken to sec that the work of preparing for the camps is in future put in hand in ample time, and that it is placed under thecontrol of capable officers. And if there should be any further scandals I trust that those responsible will be no longer retained in the service.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolution, together with remaining resolutions of Ways and Means covering resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted,

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