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Thursday, 27 May 1915

Senator PEARCE - When the honorable senator spoke upon this question he stated that the officer had been exonerated, although the Commandant had expressed the opinion that he ought not to have been. I at once called for the papers relating to the matter, and they are now before me. They set out the finding of the court of inquiry in regard to the three officers concerned. That finding has been forwarded by the Commandant, who expresses no opinion upon it. It was forwarded by him on the 9th March last. On the 13th April of this year he reported -

With reference to D.C.R. 42/1/30, of 9th ultimo, on the above subject, I have to report that the proceedings of court of inquiry have been received, and the result in each case is exoneration from the charges laid. In consequence of the finding of the court, the officers concerned have been released from arrest and suspension, and returned to duty.

It will be seen, therefore, that that communication contains no expression of opinion on the part of the Commandant himself. Senator McDougall, in speaking on this matter, did not mention the names of the officers-

Senator McDougall - I did not think it would be fair to do so.

Senator PEARCE - That is the reason why I have not done so.

Senator McDOUGALL - Will the Minister call for another return of the papers connected with this matter? I am in possession of the papers which have been forwarded to me, and there are more of them than are to be found on the Minister's file. That is, I think, proof of the accuracy of my former statement. The charge was withdrawn.

Senator PEARCE - I will inquire whether there are any other papers bearing on the question. But I would point out to the honorable senator that the charge was not withdrawn.

Senator McDougall - Did not he withdraw it from the court martial?

Senator PEARCE - No. On the 9th March the Commandant reported -

I have to report for your information that a court of inquiry, under provisions of C.M.R. 414, is at present sitting to inquire into charges made against -

Then follow the names of the officers concerned. The Commandant proceeded that . a certain officer-- has been placed in ''open arrest" - and that two other officers-- have been suspended from duty pending hearing of charges.

On the 13th April the Commandant forwarded the finding of the court which I have already read, and which sets out that the officers concerned had been released from suspension, and had returned to duty.

Senator McDougall - I have other papers which I will bring forward.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - How is it that other people can obtain papers which are supposed to be official and which are not made available to us 1

Senator PEARCE - I do not know.

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