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Friday, 30 April 1915

Senator McDOUGALL - I say it is not justifiable under any conditions.

Senator Keating - It would be justifiable only when the civil Court could not operate.

Senator McDOUGALL - We could make it operate.

Senator Pearce - How could the civil Courts operate in Belgium when the Germans are there?

Senator McDOUGALL - It is a case of Buckley's law, then. I am glad to avail myself of this opportunity of showing how men in the lower grades of tho service are treated by courts martial. Recently I had occasion to bring under the notice of the Minister a case in which fi sergeant was charged with being drunk whilst on duty. No doubt he was drunk, but it was late at night. He was an engineer on a small vessel in Sydney Harbour, and he took the vessel from Sydney to the forth and back again all right. That man received an awful punishment, I consider. He was disrated - that is, put back to the position of a corporal, or Something of the kind, which was tantamount to imposing upon him a fine of £15 or £20 a year. The authorities even went back to 1884 to discover that when he was in the British Navy he had been guilty of a slight offence.

Senator Pearce - A civil Court would have done the same thing.

Senator Guthrie - But who knows tho regulations under the Defence Act - not oven the Minister himself ?

Senator McDOUGALL - This man made certain statements to me, and, unfortunately, when the authorities got him before this official tribunal they subjected him to the third degree, and induced him to admit everything. I maintain that he is being severely punished for a very slight offence. As evidencing the diffe rential treatment which is meted out to men as compared with the officers by courts martial, I desire now to direct attention to the case of an officer who was found drunk when coming from the sergeants' mess. He was certified to by the medical officer, by his commanding officer, and by other officers, as being drunk and unfit for duty. He was taken before the Commandant, who said that he would reluctantly be obliged to dismiss the case because no court martial would convict him.

Senator Pearce - What was the name of the officer?

Senator McDOUGALL - The Minister has the case before him in hia Department.

Senator Pearce - No ; I have not.

Senator McDOUGALL - I have had the Minister's reply on the matter.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator's statements are very vague.

Senator McDOUGALL - All the particulars are to be found in the records.

Senator Pearce - I hope that the honorable senator will- give me the name of the officer privately.

Senator McDOUGALL - I will, undoubtedly. The Commandant distinctly stated that no court ma"rtial would convict this man, and that, therefore, he was reluctantly compelled to dismiss the case. The officer has thus gone back to his duty, whereas the unfortunate sergeant has been mulcted in a penalty of about £15 a year. This is the sort of justice that we get from military tribunals. I am glad that I have had an opportunity of bringing this case before the Minister, because I was under the impression all the time that his attention had not been directed to it. To my mind there are quite a number of matters which have not been brought under his notice. I admit the Minister cannot give his valuable time to all the small things that ought to be ventilated.

Senator Pearce - N/o, I did not say that. I am prepared to consider the case as outlined by the honorable senator at any time.

Senator McDOUGALL - Well, I will give the Minister another case, that of a trade unionist who was in charge of a hospital at the German concentration camp at Liverpool. That man was discharged, and a German was put in his place, and although I have received a reply to my representations to the Minister, Ido notthink that he knows anything about it.

Senator Pearce - Yes, I do.

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