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Friday, 7 May 1915

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - In conformity with that notice, sir, I move -

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until eleven a.m. to-morrow.

I experience some measure of regret at having to bring before the Senate any matter' which may, on the face of it, appear somewhat in the nature of a criticism of what is taking place in connexion with our military operations. I recognise that any member of this, or any other Parliament, is necessarily under an incentive to restrain himself, as far as possible, from bringing before public attention any matters of complaint. But I feel that I would be acting the part of the ostrich if attention was not drawn by me to facts which have been made public. I propose to make no accusations against anybody. It is my simple business to place before the Senate, and the Minister, some facts, and to direct attention to the conflict between certain definite statements, with the view to asking him, in the interest of all concerned, to probe the matter to the bottom. It seems to me first that the honour of our troops is concerned. In. addition to that, the enthusiasm of Red Cross workers may bo affected if these statements are allowed to pass unnoticed. The history of this case may be stated very briefly^ and I will rely entirely upon matter which has appeared in the newspapers, and in an official report to the Minister by Colonel

Holmes, for the statements I am about' to place before the Senate. On the 7th December last the Sydney Sun published an article headed, "Shopping in Rabaul. Soldier's Experience. Presents Sold.'r The portion of the article which is relevant to the matter under discussion reads -

By the last mail from Rabaul, Mrs. A. Campbell, of Randwick, received a letter from her eon in which was a piece of news calculated) to damp the ardour of the Red Cross workers. Mr. Campbell stated in his letter "to his mother that he and a mate went into the English store at Rabaul and bought two sets or pyjamas, for which they paid lis. 6d. each. After taking them home they examined them, and found in the pockets notes from the ladies who had evidently made thorn. One was signed by a Miss Simpson, of Vaucluse, and the other was from a Mrs. Dalton, of North Sydney, and the purport of the notes was to wish the. receiver of the pyjamas the best of luck and every good wish in his undertaking.

The existence of the notes in the pockets led the boys to believe that the pyjamas were Red Cross goods which had been sold them,, as it has been quite a' custom for ladies to pin little notes and cards andsprigs of wattle in the pockets of pyjamas they sent to the Red Cross Society.

That statement, I need hardly tell honorable senators, caused some apprehension in Red Cross circles in Sydney, and1 generally there was a little uneasy feeling as a consequence of that very definitestatement. I must assume from what was published later that Colonel Holmes, either of his own volition, or at the instance or the Minister, made a report on this matter. In the report he gives the statement a very emphatic denial, but he goes on to say -

The -man referred to is Private R. B. Campbell, and he is writing the following letter tothe newspaper to correct the false report.

Here follows a copy of the letter which Campbell is alleged- to be sending to the: Sydney newspaper -

Bethe article in the Sun, Monday, 7th December, in reference to certain articles whichwere sold to one of the members of the Expeditionary Force, you mentioned in your letter that the articles were purchased at an English store. As a matter of fact, the articles mentioned were purchased from another member of the Force privately, and whether the articles were sent from Sydney by the people mentioned to the person who sold them or not, I do not know ; but when this man, whom 1 happened to be with at the time, discovered the names of the ladies mentioned, he came to the conclusion that they must have been sent for the benefit of the troops, and I also came to the same conclusion. However, as you mention in your letter, the pyjamas may have gone astray, or may have been stolen while unloading, but I am not in a position to state my opinion.

The letter, if it had stopped at that, would practically have disposed of the question, but a few days ago the Sun came out with the astonishing statement that, not only had it not received that letter from Campbell, but that it had received a. letter from Campbell in which he denied ever having written such a letter. In his letter to the newspaper Campbell states that he had never written a letter to the Sun, and proceeds - ยป The pyjamas in question had been purchased by Private Jones while in my company - two suits for 23s. When he arrived at the garrison barracks he was admiring the suits, and discovered Red Cross tickets in the pocket by Mrs. Walton, of Mosman, and Miss Wilson, of Vaucluse. As far as writing to the paper is concerned, I never wrote the report. The only description of the affair was written to my mother, who was connected with Red Cross duties.

He goes on to another aspect of the case - As soon as the word came to hand that the report had drifted into publication, 1 was promptly sent for by the officer commanding troops, and asked what I meant by writing to the Sydney newspapers. I replied that I never wrote to the paper. After the discussion at the office I was ordered to pack up my traps and report to the officer commanding troops' office at 2 p.m. This I did, and was promptly sent away on board. the s.s. Mecklong as ship's guard to deliver, stores to various outlying islands.

T want to emphasize that statement.

Senator Pearce - Is that Campbell's statement ?

Senator MILLEN - This is his letter -to the Sun, published on the 1st May, and his reply to the report in which Colonel Holmes embodied a copy of a letter which he alleged had been sent by Campbell to the Sun. Campbell denies having written that letter, and practically reaffirms the original statement. To clear up one point as to where the articles were purchased, some little exception having been taken to the words " English store," he says -

The much-discussed pyjamas were purchased -at the dry canteen.

That locates the point of distribution very clearly -

If any- mess got the benefit of profits from this canteen I can only say it wasn't the soldiers'. The troops were being fed on seven hardware biscuits and tea without sugar.

After I had been allowed to leave the Meeklong I bought a suit of pyjamas at the dry canteen myself, and paid 9s. for them. They did not have the Red Cross tickets in the pockets, but were initialed O.S.M.. which I took to be the initials of some Red Cross -worker.

What the initials O.S.M. stand for I do not know.

Senator Needham - Probably the initials of the worker.

Senator MILLEN - That is what the writer assumes, and it does appear to me not an unreasonable assumption. I have never seen any initials worked on any pyjamas I have purchased at a store in the ordinary course of events. It must strike honorable senators as little short of extraordinary that an officer, in the responsible position of Colonel Holmes, should write an official report to the Minister enclosing a copy of a letter which Campbell is alleged to have sent to the Sun, and that Campbell should deny ever having written such a letter.

Senator Pearce - It is extraordinary?

Senator MILLEN - It is. I think T have said enough to show that there is such a conflict here between men whose names are given, and who are gat-at-able that, in the interests of not only the particular men, but of the comrades associated with them in the enterprise against the Germans, the whole of our Red Cross workers, and everything connected with our military operations, an inquiry should be held into this matter. I have no desire to labour the question, because I feel sure that I shall receive a sympathetic reply from the Minister, and one expressing his determination to sift it to the bottom. It is in that spirit that I leave the matter at this stage.

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