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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - Obviously I am obliged to guess at the matter to which Senator Stewart refers. The honorable senator is not quite sure whether it is a naval or a military matter, what the offence was, or what the court martial was about. I know that a case of the kind occurred in Queensland ; but I speak from memory of papers which came under my notice a good while ago. An officer was in charge of a party belonging to the naval force at a church parade, or a parade held at the time of the visit of some foreign warship. The parade was held on a Sunday, and as this man was marching his corps down the street, he halted them in front of a public house. He left them standing in the street whilst he went into the public house, presumably to have a drink.

Senator Keating - No, he did not. He took two men in with him as witnesses.

Senator PEARCE - I suggest to Senators Keating and Stewart that they should ask that the papers be laid on the table of the Library, and should look through them for themselves. I have gone through the papers, but they have heard only an ex parte statement. The papers disclose both sides ot the matter. As to the reason for the holding of a court martial, Senator Stewart knows, or ought to know, that when a charge is made against a military or naval officer, it is in the interests of the officer himself that there should be a trial ; and in military and naval matters the method of trial is by court martial. The officer concerned in this instance was given an opportunity of resigning or attending a trial by court martial. He elected to be tried by court martial.

Senator Stewart - What did it cost?

Senator PEARCE - I can only speak of the matter from memory. This is only one of dozens of cases that come before a Minister, and I much prefer that Senator Stewart should take the trouble to ask tomorrow that the papers should be laid on the table of the Library. I will see that that is done, if the honorable senator makes the request. He can then peruse the papers, and when the Estimates come before us he can raise the question again, when he knows something about it. I may be dealing with an entirely different case.

Senator Stewart - No; the honorable senator is dealing with the case to which J referred.

Senator PEARCE - I do not feel called upon to make any further statement in the absence of definite information as to the case referred to, and speaking from memory of a file of papers which I perused some months ago.

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