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Friday, 12 June 1914

Senator MILLEN - The statements contained in the letter, as far as they are definite, are entirely inaccurate, and were completely answered by me yesterday. I propose to repeat one or two of the answers now. I will take first the statement as to there being no window in the cell. I am told, in the official information given to me, that there are two windows, and that, in addition to that, the door was left open, as I mentioned yesterday, all day, being merely secured by a chain. As regards the statement that the boy is allowed out of the cell only half-an-hour a day, the official regulations provide for him to be out twice a day, one hour on each occasion. With reference to the statement that the boy is being practically starved, I read the dietary scale yesterday, and I venture to say that he is allowed an amount of sustenance which is a great deal more than is required to sustain an average individual in this community.

Senator Long - Nobody believes that he gets it.

Senator MILLEN - That is tantamount to saying that the officers are engaged in a conspiracy.

Senator Rae - Which, I believe, many of them are.

Senator MILLEN - I cannot help honorable senators. If they want information, and I get it from the only source available to me, I am immediately told that tho officers are not only conspiring to deprive a boy of the food he is entitled to get, but also conspiring together to lie.

Senator O'Keefe - We are not justified in making such statements about officers in the absence of proof.

Senator MILLEN - It is a very great disappointment and surprise to me to learn that public journals which find space for these unauthenticated statements, coming from other sources, find no space this morning for the official reply in contradiction of them which .1 offered to the Senate yesterday.

Senator RUSSELL - Arising out of that reply, I wish to say that if one of the statements contained in this letter is proved to be inaccurate, we can pretty well definitely dismiss the other statements. Now the communication says that the parents visited the lad and found that there is no window in the room in which he was confined. Will the Minister make inquiry as to the truth or otherwise of this allegation, because, should its accuracy be disproved, we may then take it for granted that the parents are working on their imagination.

Senator MILLEN - I do not know how many times I am to wire to Queenscliff for an official statement in regard to these complaints. I have the signed statement of the officer there, and until somebody shows me that it is wrong I do not propose to insult him by again asking for the same information.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'loghlin. - In an important case like this, could not the Minister send a confidential officer down to Queenscliff to report to him direct.

Senator MILLEN - Of course I could send a dozen officers down, but I want some evidence other than that which comes from persons who are ill-informed on the matter.

Senator Long - It comes from the parents.

Senator MILLEN - It comes from the parents, who say that- the boy is mostly fed on bread and water.

Senator Rae - The Minister is twisting their statement now.

Senator MILLEN - I am not. According to a morning newspaper the father stated that this boy was given one decent meal, and afterwards only bread and water. It is astonishing to me that people who talk about conscience have not enough conscience to verify statements1 before publishing them. I have taken every precaution that a Minister was called upon to take. I asked my responsible officers to report as to the facts. They have given me the desired information in a report, and I have given that report to the Senate.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'loghlin. - Send somebody from head-quarters to report upon the matter.

Senator MILLEN - If I do that I shall afterwards be asked to send another officer to verify the report received from head-quarters.

Senator Rae - When is the lad to be released 1

Senator MILLEN - He is coming out to-day.

Senator RUSSELL - The letter which I have received states -

The boy endeavoured to cheer his mother by saying that he only had four days more solitary confinement to go through. However, this morning we waited ou the Defence Department authorities, and were officially informed that if the boy continued in his refusal to forego his convictions he would be ordered a further period of solitary confinement.

Senator Rae - If the Minister does not knock off this sort of business he ought to go into solitary confinement himself.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator cannot put me there.

Senator RUSSELL - I asked the Minister whether it is a fact that the parents were officially informed that the boy, if he persisted in his refusal to drill, would have to undergo a further period of solitary confinement.

Senator MILLEN - They certainly have not been informed to that effect with my authority, nor do I believe that any responsible person connected with the Defence Department ever made the statement.

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