Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 21 April 1921

Senator PEARCE - Neither has the right to appeal from the Board to the Minister. His Majesty acts on the advice of his Ministers, and in Australia there is the right to appeal from the Board ito the Minister.

Senator ELLIOTT - Here an officer cannot appeal to the Minister.

Senator Pearce - There is that right, and I shall show the honorable senator that it is so.

Senator ELLIOTT - There are admirable -provisions in the Army Act which we are incorporating in our Defence" Act ; but there are others which should not be included.

Senator Rowell - There is no danger.

Senator ELLIOTT - Not in . some directions. Portions of the Army Act are included in this measure, and will be in force if they do not conflict with our own Act and regulations. We have a Military Board, would seem that by having such a Board, instead of a single man, such as Commander-in-Chief, there would be more likelihood of justice being done. , But when we come to examine the personnel of the Military Board, what do we find? With the exception of those honorable senators who served in the Australian Imperial Force, I suppose that honorable senators are absolutely ignorant of the constitution of the Military Board in Australia. If my memory serves me accurately, it consists of the following members: - General Sir C. B., White, who during General Birdwood's term of command of the Australian Forces in France, acted as his Chief of Staff. When General Birdwood left us, and1 . General Monash assumed command, General White washed his hands of the Australian Forces, and went off to become Chief of Staff of the 5th British Army. General Monash was thus left to improvise a. Chief of Staff for himself, and to carry on the war as best he could.

Senator Rowell - General White could not have acted in that way " off his own bat."

Senator ELLIOTT - I am telling the Senate the facts.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did General White get the "huff/'? We can use plain language here.

Senator ELLIOTT - I am not going to say what happened.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator should tell us the whole of the facts. His statement is a travesty of them.

Senator ELLIOTT - The head of the Military Board here is General Sir C. B. White.

Senator Rowell - No. It is the Minister.

Senator ELLIOTT - Associated with General White is Major-General Sellheim. He went to the war-

Senator Foster - Not really.

Senator ELLIOTT - He has absolutely no knowledge of the capabilities of any officer, but by the mere fact that he wears the returned soldier's medal he impresses people in the streets with the idea that he is a man who knows his job from beginning to end.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did he not get farther than London ?

Senator ELLIOTT - He got to Gallipoli for a couple of days. The honorable senator may accept that statement as an accurate one. Associated with him is Brigadier-General Forsyth. I would be the last to say a word against him, but he broke down badly in health at the first battle in which, we were engaged in France.- Consequently he has no knowledge of the later developments of the war, nor of the qualities exhibited by the Australian leaders, particularly during the last phases of the war. The other member of the Military Board is Colonel Thomas. As far as I know, he has absolutely no title to the rank which he holds, his service having been confined to the Pay Corps, in which he graduated through the various grades.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What the honorable senator is saying is that there is not a man at the head of the Defence Department who has seen active service.

Senator Pearce - Senator Elliott knows very well that General Forsyth served right through the Gallipoli campaign.

Senator ELLIOTT - I say that he broke down badly in health at our first battle in France.

Senator Pearce - In what- year?

Senator ELLIOTT - In 1916.

Senator Pearce - He had served all through the Gallipoli campaign. Why does not the honorable senator admit that ?

Senator ELLIOTT - I have said that he' knows nothing of the later developments of the war in France. I admit that he served in Gallipoli, and that he superseded me in command there, if the Minister 'wishes to know that. For General Forsyth I have the greatest admiration, but I submit that it is idle to nominally substitute a Board for a Commander-in-Chief, whilst actually continuing the old system. The « only man on the Board who is in a position to speak authoritatively on the training which the Australian Forces received in France is General Sir C. B. White.

Senator Pearce - He is the officer who is charged with the training of our Forces here. The other officers mentioned by the honorable senator have nothing whatever to do with that training.

Senator ELLIOTT - But this Board is the final Courts of Appeal - the tribunal which has been substituted for the appeal to the King under the British Army Act.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator is now referring to Major-General Sellheim, Colonel Thomas, and BrigadierGeneral Forsyth?

Senator ELLIOTT - If General White stood alone as commander of our Australian Forces, we should know who to blame when anything went wrong, and to whom credit was due when any thing went right. But the existing state of affairs is a travesty of what it should be. Moreover, there is no need for it. We have here General Monash, who commanded the Au'stralian Forces in France with the utmost success, and who excited the admiration of the whole world. He has not been admitted to the Board-

Senator Pearce - But he was consulted about the divisional appointments.

Senator ELLIOTT - Since the Minister has raised that question, I have the best authority for saying that, although General Monash has been consulted upon numerous occasions, upon no occasion has his recommendation been followed.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is wrong there. I have the signature of General Monash to his recommendations, and I can produce it.

Suggest corrections