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Friday, 23 April 1915

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I am sorry that Senator Long has brought a matter of this kind before the Senate at all.

Senator Long - May I ask the Minister to reserve his reply till a later date, as I must catch my steamer ?

Senator PEARCE - No. The statements of the honorable senator have been made to-day, and I intend to reply to them forthwith.

Senator Long - Much as I desire to remain, I am sorry that I cannot.

Senator PEARCE - I cannot help that. Senator Long has brought this matter before the Senate, and I say that it is not of sufficient importance to justify the time of this Chamber being occupied with it. But the honorable senator threatened some time ago that he intended to make my position uncomfortable during this session, and I suppose that these are part of the tactics which he chooses to employ. They represent a commencement, I presume, of what I. may expect during the session. But this matter having been brought forward, I must, in justice to myself, reply to the statements that have been made. On page 2379 of Hansard for the current session Senator Long's original statement appears. It reads -

Furthermore, be it remembered that that man - Captain Payne, as he is now - was placed in command of the camp in opposition to the recommendation of the Commandant of Tasmania.

To-day the honorable senator has been dealing with the promotion of Captain Payne from the rank of lieutenant, which he affirms was in opposition to the recommendation of the Commandant of Tasmania. It will thus be seen that his original statement deals with quite another matter. Senator Long did not inform me of his intention to raise this question to-day, and consequently in the statement which I am about to make I shall have to rely on the memory of those who have been dealing with it. When I sent my secretary to the Library for the papers relating to this matter, I found that they had been taken out of the Library. I was under the impression that nobody was allowed to take papers from the Library unless for the purpose of bringing them into either branch of this Parliament. But the papers to which I refer were not in the Library last night or this morning. I sent my secretary for them, not because Senator Long had told me that he intended to bring this matter before the Senate, but because of his threat to make my Ministerial position uncomfortable. Now the fact is that, owing to some instructional officers having been attached to the Australian Expeditionary Forces, the Department has had to adopt the system of getting quite a number of militia officers to temporarily fill their positions. Lieutenant Payne was in the militia, and consequently was not a permanent officer. The first question which arose was as to the appointment of a temporary officer on the Administrative and Instructional Staff. At that time the question of the command of the camp at Claremont, near Hobart, had not been raised. The authorities wished to strengthen the Administrative and Instructional Staff by filling up the gaps which had been created by the departure for the front of a number of permanent officers. The Commandant was asked whether he would recommend Captain Payne. He said that he would not recommend him as a captain temporarily on the Administrative and Instructional Staff unless Lieutenants Tackaberry and Davis - who. were not temporary, but permanent officers - were promoted to the position of captains. Honorable senators are well aware that the militia officers take rank in their regiments. The permanent officers are on a list by themselves, which is entirely distinct from the militia regiments. The promotion of permanent officers is governed by the vacancies which arise from time to time on the permanent officers' list.

Senator Bakhap - They have an Australian Army list?

Senator PEARCE - Exactly, and they cannot be promoted unless there are vacancies. If a man is a lieutenant he cannot be promoted to a captaincy until a vacancy arises. When it does arise the senior lieutenant has a right to the promotion.

Senator Keating - Does the militia officer who is promoted retain his promoted rank permanently?

Senator PEARCE - Yes, unless hisappointment is a temporary one.

Senator Keating - Then he would get larger allowances than would the regular officer who filled the position before him ?

Senator PEARCE - Not if he were of the same rank.

Senator Keating - He would get a larger allowance if he were placed in the position of a regular officer.

Senator PEARCE - If he held a higher rank he would, but not otherwise. The conditions governing promotions are entirely different. In the militia regimentin which Payne happened to be, the conditionsgoverning his promotion were that a vacancy occurred in the regiment, and that he had passed an examination and was most qualified to fill that vacancy. When he had fulfilled these conditions he was entitled to promotion. His promotion did not hinge on that of anybody else. If he w«re promoted nobody on the permanent list would be injured thereby. His promotion did not give him any prior claim over them, or in any way interfere with their rights. The Commandant took up the position that Payne should not be placed on the Instructional Staff unless these other permanent officers were promoted to the rank of captain. In that the Commandant was absolutely wrong.

Senator Guy - Surely he knew that there was no vacancy.

Senator PEARCE - He knew it, because he proposed that they should be given only temporary rank. He had only to look at the list to see that there was no vacancy. He knew that the Government had promised the officers who had gone to the front that their positions would be kept open to them. The AdjutantGeneral, who deals with such questions, refused to do as the Commandant recommended. He refused to promote these two members of the Permanent Forces as a condition precedent to appointing Payne to the Administrative and Instructional Staff. But Payne had passed his examination for the rank of captain. He was eligible for appointment in that capacity, and when he was asked to accept the appointment with a lieutenant's pay and rank, he refused to do so. He said in effect, " I have passed my examination. I have been promoted to the rank of captain, and if you require my services I have a right to the pay which is due to ray rank." Then he was appointed to the Administrative and Instructional Staff - to fill a position until the war has ended, or until the permanent officer returns.He was appointed with the pay of his rank. Lieutenants Tackaberry and Davis, two permanent officers, knowing what the Commandant had stipulated, protested against Payne's appointment to the Administrative and Instructional Staff with the rank of captain. Their appeal came before the member of the Military Board whose province it is to deal with such appeals. The Adjutant-General promptly ruled out their appeal, as he was perfectly entitled to do. As he pointed out, Payne's appointment is a temporary one, whereas the other two officers are permanent officers, whose positions are not affected by his appointment in the slightest degree.

Senator KEATING (TASMANIA) - Could not other permanent officers have been appointed to fill it?

Senator PEARCE - If we adopted that plan wo should fill up the gaps which have been made by permanent officers going to Egpyt, and we should fill them with other permanent officers.

Senator Barker - So that the officer In Egypt could not recover his position when he came back ?

Senator PEARCE - Exactly. There would be no position for him to fill.

Senator Keating - Could not a permanent officer fill it temporarily?

Senator PEARCE - In that case every one of our permanent officers would have to be moved up temporarily. Then, when the officers whose positions they were filling returned from the war, they would have to be moved down again. Instead of doing that, we have adopted the principle of filling their places temporarily with militia officers. I would remind honorable senators that our Army is a citizen army, and that a militia officer has just as much right to he considered as has a permanent officer. These militia officers have qualified - they have passed their examinations for these positions - and why should such offices be filled temporarily with permanent officers, thus compelling militia officers, if they come in, to come in at the bottom ?

Senator Keating - The principle of the Commandant seems to be to give preference in these appointments to permanent men.

Senator PEARCE - That is so. It had to be done by moving up a permanent officer, and not by bringing up a captain from the Militia Forces. That is a position we refused to accept.

Senator Bakhap - Militia officers are used to fill these positions on the permanent staff. Is that so?

Senator PEARCE - Yes. No permanent appointment is being made at all. Captain Payne is now connected with the Instructional Staff, and when an officer was wanted to take charge of the Claremont Camp in Tasmania, the Commandant himself then recommended - Captain Payne for the position. The file will show this. Senator Long said that we put Captain Payne in charge of the camp against the recommendation of the Commandant, but he is confusing two things. The Commandant did recommend the appointment as I have said, but that had reference to his appointment on the Instructional Staff, and when he was there it was on the recommendation of the Commandant himself that Captain Payne was put in charge of the camp. Therefore, Senator Long's statement is wrong. It is not splitting straws to separate these two questions, because they are entirely distinct one from the other. One was Captain Payne's appointment to the Instructional Staff, in which the Adjutant-General did not accept the condition laid down by the Commandant. The Commandant said that Captain Payne ought to be appointed, subject to certain conditions concerning the two other officers. In Captain Payne's appointment to the Claremont camp, there was no difference between the Commandant and members of the Military Board.

Senator Bakhap - He was appointed with the concurrence of all concerned. Is that so?

Senator PEARCE - Yes. Senator Long seems to be under the impression that something was done to hurry up Captain Payne's promotion in order to get this position for him, but that was not so. He was due for promotion in the ordinarycourse of events; it was his right under the regulations, and we should have had to strain the regulations to prevent him getting his promotion. There was a vacancy, he had qualified, he was the senior officer in his regiment, and was due for promotion. Now I only want to say a few more words, in conclusion, concerning this matter. There is room for a genuine difference of opinion as to whether it is wise to do what we are doing, moving militia officers up to fill these vacancies, or whether it is best to move up the permanent officers. There are objections to both courses, but I do say that, because there is room for a difference of opinion, there should be no imputation about favoritism, or anything of that kind. I think the results are showing that the course we adopted is working very well. Because Senator Long cannot see eye to eye with me on this matter, the Government should not be charged with favoritism, or anything of that character. It is not worthy of the honorable senator to make such a charge. Looking at the facts as I have given them - and I have every reason to believe that they are correct - I think Senator Long would have been better advised not to have brought the matter before the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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