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Thursday, 21 April 1921

Senator FAIRBAIRN - Did you do it?

Senator COX - I do not think that I did. We must be just to both sides. Our men, I contend, received a fair and honest deal. During the latter part of the war practically all the officers had risen from the ranks and had been given the best possible training.

Senator Duncan - They were a very good lot.

Senator COX - Their record will bear fair comparison with that of any officers in the world.

Senator Duncan - Did the honorable senator have any practical experience of the working of the British Army Act, so far as its application to Australia is concerned ?

Senator COX - We were always working under the British Army Act, except in two or three particulars, one of which was that we could not order a man to be shot. That prohibition was imposed at the express wish of the Commonwealth Government.

Senator Pearce - Our Defence Act prohibits that.

Senator COX - We worked practically, under the British Army Act.

Senator Duncan - Did the honorable senator find that its application to the Australian Forces involved any hardship to them as compared with the Tommies?

Senator COX - No. It provides for every possible contingency. When we place officers in the field we must give them absolute control of the Forces under them. If a commander-in-chief has a man under him who will not do exactly what he has been told to do, the former will be left in the lurch. It does not matter how fine the intentions of the commander-in-chief may be if his subordinates will not co-operate with him. Consequently I would vest the commanderinchief with plenary powers. Immediately he was appointed, every man who did not implicitly obey him' should be told that he ought to get back to Australia, in order that another man might be put in his place.

Senator Elliott - How far would the honorable senator go?

Senator COX - To the limit. I would say to my subordinate, "You do what I tell you or I will out you."

Senator Elliott - Commit murder, for instance?

Senator COX - I would say that if he disobeyed my orders he should get off the field or I would do so.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What we are objecting to is the application of the Army Act in time of peace.

Senator COX - We must have the Army Act. How otherwise can we administer the Army? If I am commanderinchief of the Army, and the honorable senator is to be my boss and tell me what I am to do, I . might as well leave my position.

Senator Reid - In administering the Army Act, did Australian officers find any difficulty in being humane and generous to those charged with offences ?

Senator COX - No. they did not.

Senator Reid - Did they make any bad use of the Army Act, from the honorable senator's experience?

Senator COX - Absolutely no.

Senator Duncan - Does the honorable senator say that the whole of the officers of the Australian Imperial Force had a practical working knowledge of the Army Act?

Senator COX - I do nob say that the whole of them had such a knowledge. I have tried to explain that. I say that we did our level best to give them a practical knowledge of ocurts martial.

Senator Duncan - The Army Act covers a great deal more than that.

Senator COX - I am aware of that; but a young subaltern, a major, or a colonel constituting an ordinary court martial for the trial of offences of drunkenness and absence without leave do not require all" tha't knowledge. It must be remembered also that there are senior staff officers who may be called upon to give advice. Then an serious cases inexperienced men are not put on courts martial. There are senior officers to advise as to the persons to constitute a court martial. Sergeant Jones, or any Tom, Dick, or Harry cannot form a court martial. The members of a court martial are nominated by senior officers. I say that the British Army Act is absolutely necessary.

SenatorFairbairn. Our officers, must understand it in peace time as well as in war time.

Senator COX - That is so.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is it necessary to apply it to our Forces in peacetime?

Senator COX - The Minister for Defence can explain its application in peace 14 time. Honorable senators are aware that quite a number of young fellows passively resist the present form *of compulsory training, and their parents deliberately encourage them in doing so. If we have not the power to make these boys undergo training, what are we to do?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The objection of the parents may be a conscientious objection.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.

T.   Givens). - Order! There are too many interjections.

Senator COX - That is all I have to say. I should like to put it on record that I really believe that our men got fair and honest treatment by all the courts martial.

Senator Duncan - Does the honorable senator think that Australian soldiers will submit to the same kind and degree of discipline as will the ordinary British soldier ?

Senator COX - Absolutely. Put Australian men under Australian officers and they will submit to discipline. I say that without 'fear of contradiction.

Senator Elliott - Before the honorable senator resumes his seat, I should like to ask him one question,

The PRESIDENT - Order.! This is not a cross-examination.

Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.

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