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Thursday, 21 April 1921

Senator FOSTER (Tasmania) .- I v/as interested in the point of order taken by Senator Pratten, that we ought to have before us a copy of the Army Act when we are dealing with this Bill. I endeavoured to obtain a copy from the Library, but I found that the copy kept there had' gone. The members of this Chamber, particularly those who have had no military experience, and who know nothing of military methods, would do well to inform themselves of the big changes that will be effected by the substitution' of the Army Act for our present Defence Act. We have heard this afterneon from Senator Elliott, who has been a Brigadier-General, and who in the past has probably had the honour, or otherwise, cf being called by the " diggers " a "brass hat," or "one of the heads," how a man in his position can' be treated bv others higher in the Military Service. If that is so, honorable senators can probably appreciate the view-point of a man like myself, who has served in the ranks, regarding some of the alterations that would be brought about in the Australian Citizen Army by the introduction of the Army Act, and its administration under the provisions of this Bill as introduced by the Minister. "When a Court of Appealwas suggested, the Minister rather smilingly asked whether every case of' supersession and so on should be dealt with; but to the man who suffers an injustice, or sometimes, let us say, a supposed injustice, it is a matter of very great moment that he should have some Court of Appeal. There are mon who know, and who have felt at times in their own persons, the injustices that are done in the Army, and if honorable senators had -had similar experiences they would see to it that the youth of Australia are not brought under the iron heel of militarism. God knows, I hate militarism as much as I hate anything, and no man can hate it more. I wish to say very definitely, not in any bitter spirit, but because I believe it my duty to say it, that there is in Australia to-day a military clique, and that that clique are Tunning the military machine of Australia as suits themselves, despite the fact that we have occupying the position of Minister for Defence a gentleman who, as he has said himself this afternoon, in effect represents the King. There is an old saying that the King can do no wrong. I know the Minister (Senator Pearce) would not go so far as that, nor do we think- that the Military Board can do no wrong; but we do say that a great deal of the attempt that is being made at the present timo to alter our scheme of defence in Australia, and to give greater authority to the military' heads, is being caused at the instigation of those " red-tabbed " gentlemen who are there for a living, and who are there to make the military machine to suit themselves.

Under the Army Act in Great Britain an officer is appointed who bears the title of Judge-Advocate-General. In most cases he has to review, as a sort of final Court of Appeal, the sentences of courts martial, and in some cases the appeals of those who have been subject to courts martial. I find no provision for that sort of thing in Australia. I believe there are legal gentlemen somewhere - during my service with the Australian Imperial Force I never knew where to find the man who filled such a position - or there is perhaps a legal man somewhere, if you can find him, who reviews the findings and sentences imposed by courts martial. That is supposed to be done. "Senator Cox. - It is not "supposed" to be done, it is done. (Senator FOSTER. - I will agree with the honorable senator that it is done. I go further, however, and say that if we give the power which this Bill proposes to military, officers in Australia, whether constituting courts martial or not, we should at least give' to the man who is tried the right to appeal on any point of law or fact to the JudgeAdvocateGeneral.

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