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Friday, 18 June 1915

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia') (Minister of Defence) . - I have made further inquiries in regard to the. allegation that 600 pairs of boots have: been returned from Egypt. I have here the statement of the QuartermasterGeneral, who says -

Nothing is known of any boots having been returned from Egypt at all.

Senator Stewart - Why does he not say that none have been returned? j

Senator PEARCE - To his knowledge none have been returned.

Senator STEWART - Why does he not say so?

Senator PEARCE - He does.

Senator STEWART - Why does he not say so in unequivocal language?

Senator PEARCE - Therefore, it cannot be correct that they are being sold in Melbourne and other parts of Victoria. If boots had been sent back they would have been sent back to the QuartermasterGeneral. If he cannot ascertain that they have been returned nobody else can do so. He is the officer who deals with the stores. The Examiner of Stores, Mr. Potts, also denies that any boots - so far as his office is concerned - have been sent back from Egypt. But there is yet another confirmation which I wish to put before the Committee. Major-General Bridges, in sending his reports from Egypt, sent them to the Minister direct. It is generally conceded that Major-General Bridges was a competent officer. Surely a man in command of an Army in the field would take good care, if there were any defects in his supplies, to bring them under the notice of the Minister in order that they might be rectified ! It would be not only foolish, but criminal, for a General in command of an Army to neglect to. represent in the proper quarter that his troops were being supplied with defective boots. I may inform the Senate that I personally read all these despatches, because I recognise that there may be something in them which I ought to know. It is possible that some of them may challenge some officer here, and if they were passed on to him without my reading them, they might be pigeonholed. I have personally read all the despatches, and in those received from Major-General Bridges there was never one complaint about the boots. The late Major-General Bridges was a permanent officer of the Defence Department, and it might be said that he would be interested in keeping up the good name of the Department, but there are other commanding officers at the front. There are Colonel Hughes, Colonel Ryrie, who would not be likely, I should say, to shelter the present Government, Colonel Monash, and other officers, who are sending me despatches from time to time. They bring under my notice any thing they want rectified, or in connexion with which they think certain action should be taken. I read those despatches and minute them to the officers concerned to take the action necessary. Where it is shown that something wrong has been done, I bring it under the notice of the responsible officer, and ask him for an explanation. In not one of the despatches I have received from these officers has there been a single complaint as to the quality of the boots supplied to the troops. We have Commandants here, each of whom reports to the Military Board upon all matters arising in connexion with the camps. Not one of them has complained of the quality of the boots. Who has complained? The Argus newspaper says that it has received information-

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