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Tuesday, 23 July 1946

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that the jurisdiction of a State court in the matter of an indictment against Major Cousens has been challenged on the ground that the same charges are pending against Major Cousens in a court martial? If that be so, how does it happen that the Commonwealth has, at the same time, levelled two charges on the same issue against the same man in a civil jurisdiction and also in a military jurisdiction?

Mr FORDE - Some months ago the Army authorities referred this case to the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, and the Solicitor-General sought the opinion of three eminent King's Counsel in Sydney regarding the hest procedure to adopt to bring Major Cousens to trial. The matter rests no longer with the Department of the Army.

Mr McEwen - Are there any court martial proceedings?

Mr FORDE - I heard over the radio that Major Cousens had appeared before the court in Sydney to-day. As the case is now sub judice, I shall not make any comments which might prejudice a fair and impartial hearing, which is all that the Government desires to obtain.- '

Mr HADLEY - As newspapers have reported that approximately 1,000 members of the Australian Military Forces are scattered through the islands to the north of Australia and have been forgotten, is the Minister for the Army in a position to state the number and disposition of our troops in that area?

Mr FORDE - There are 2,570 Australian troops in the islands to the north of Australia, exclusive of 9,968 in Japan. I assure the honorable member that those men have not been forgotten. Details of the disposition of personnel are - 17 at Weewak; 1,500 in New Britain, principally at Rabaul; 600 at Moraiai; 29 in other parts of New Guinea; 36 at Macassar; and 388 elsewhere, including the Victory Contingent, which will return to Australia next month. All these men will be brought back to Australia as soon as possible. In many instances, the Government is waiting to secure suitable ships to load valuable equipment thatis being maintained by the men. I assure the honorable gentleman that his representations on behalf of their speedy return will not be overlooked.

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