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Thursday, 16 May 1957

Mr CRAMER (Bennelong) (Minister for the Army) (12:18 PM) . - The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) has raised a matter about which he has spoken to me personally on a number of occasions. First, I want to say to him - as I think he already knows - that I shall be very happy to investigate this case, and to do it on the highest level - particularly the new charges that he has made to-night against certain officers. I am not going to say, Mr. Speaker, that these charges are untrue. I do not know. All I say is that they are ex parte charges and that they could well be untrue. There may be another story to tell. Some time ago I saw Leo, the officer to whom the honorable member referred-

Mr Ward - Mr. Leo.

Mr CRAMER - Very well, Mr. Leo. 1 forgot his rank at the moment. I saw him at the request of the honorable member for Lang. I know the case very well. This young man was a very promising recruit in the early stages and was chosen, because of his obvious ability, to go overseas. He was sent overseas with his wife and family. He was over there for some years. When he came back here, he was still a very good soldier. But he adopted the attitude that he knew better than all the other officers in the Army.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is what they told you.

Mr CRAMER - It was obvious from my observations. I am not making an ex parte statement now. I saw this officer and I am convinced that what I am saying is right. I am certain that if he had stayed in the Army he could have done very well, but he got into conflict when his opinion clashed with decisions of the officers of the Army. He would not accept the decisions of the Army. He would not accept the decisions of people much older and much senior in rank. He was very arbitrary in his views and became very dissatisfied. We are very loth to lose him, and I am very sorry that he is leaving the Army. When he went overseas he entered into a contract. That applies in all such cases. A bond is entered into, and, if it is broken, liability to repayment is incurred. This man entered into a bond.

Mr Griffiths -The Government breaks contracts.

Mr CRAMER - I am not in the habit of allowing contracts to be broken. It might as well be known that while I am Minister for the Army I will not allow contracts of this kind to be broken. I have told the honorable member that I will investigate this case; but what I want to impress on the House is that this is the second occasion in about a week on which charges of this nature, many of them scurrilous, have been made against officers of the Army, some of whom have been named. Extravagant charges do no good to the service and are completely unfair to the officers concerned. It is unjust to take advantage of the privilege of Parliament to mention the names of officers. Every honorable member in this House should know that he has only to come to me and he will get a most complete investigation of any charge that is made.

I told the honorable member for Lang that. I did not want to dissuade him. If he wants to come to the House he can; but I told him that if he gave me all the facts I would have the matter investigated at the highest level. That being so, I think it is most unfair to officers of the Army for an honorable member to enter this chamber and make ex parte charges, some of them of a scurrilous nature, I say again that honorable members need have no doubt about the inquiries that will be made by me if they have cases of dissatisfaction. Of course, there are cases of dissatisfaction. I cannot guarantee every personality in the Army. But I assure honorable members that they will get a " fair go " from me in relation to these matters. Any case that is brought to me will be independently investigated in a proper way and fair treatment will be given to the men in the service.

Several members rising to address the House,

Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -

That the question be now put.

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