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Thursday, 21 April 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - BROCKMAN. - There may be two opinions as the honorable senator suggests. The opinion I' have expressed is held by 99.9 per cent, of . the men who served under him. The other opinion may be held by .1 per cent, of the men referred to. I have had an' opportunity of judging, because I have served with these men under General Birdwood. I have been amongst men of all ranks and all classes, and this is the conclusion I have come to, and is the reason -why I protest so strongly against the attack made upon him by Senator Pratten. The other officer attacked was Sir Brudenell White, who, according to Senator Pratten, was an importation. I believe I am correct in

Baying that General White was born in Queensland, and was educated there.

Senator Elliott - No. He was born in Victoria.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - BROOKMAN. - Well, at all events, he was born' in Australia and educated here. He started life, I understand, as a clerk in a Queensland bank. Prom there, he went into the Military Forces; and it was not long before he made himself fairly prominent. Then he was elected to go to England for instruction at a staff college, through which he passed.

Senator Pearce - The first Australian officer to do so.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - BROOKMAN. - That is so. He was the first Australian officer to pass through the college, anil, moreover, he passed at the head of his year. Then after a short service in England, .he returned to Australia and went on active service with the Australian (Imperial Force, so that this very distinguished officer, who has been described by Senator Pratten as an importation, with leanings towards troops from other parts of the Empire rather than to those of Australia, has, with the exception' of portion of his educational period, served exclusively with the Australian troops. Moreover, he was the chief staff officer of the first Australian Division on Gallipoli, and it was under his direction, subject to the supervision of General Bridges, that the efficient training of the first Australian troops m Egypt was carried out, and to which, in no small measure, they owed their wonderfuL success in the field and at the landing cm Gallipoli. The work which this officer performed has evoked praise from every military scientist and critic of any note within the British Empire. The evacuation of Gallipoli was principally his work. T have no hesitation in Baying that, next to General Monash, General Sir Brudenell White is the most distinguished and capable officer that Australia has produced.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then you do place General Monash first?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I have stated that, next to General Monash General White is the most distinguished and capable officer that Australia has produced, and I do not hesitate to add that he is the most distinguished and capable permanent officer in Australia at the present time. But that he should be Caesar and that there should be an appeal only from Caesar to Caesar, I do not advocate, despite my admiration of his ability and integrity.

There has been criticism of other officers of the Australian staff. Perhaps, before the war, we were not in a position to assess the value of members of the permanent staff, but those of us who had the honour to serve with the Australian Imperial Force are only too well aware that, in the permanent Forces, there' are many men who should be pensioned off. and got rid of. The war disclosed their strength and their weaknesses. I do not

Bee any provision in the Bill giving to the Minister power to dispense with these inefficient officers, and I do not suppose w'e shall ever get rid of them until we establish some system of pensions, which I should like to see incorporated in this measure, so that we would not have this unfortunate weight of inefficients attached to the military machine.

Senator Rowell - We want a superannuation scheme.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Probably that would meet the difficulty. The Minister knows this ss we'l as I 'do, but he is powerless to get rid of the inefficient officers. I used to think that 1 would like to be Minister for Defence for just about three months, so sis to be able to clean up some sections of the Defence Department, but I have since learned that the Minister is almost powerless. Knowing as 1 do that the Department is saddled with sn many inefficients, my only surprise is that lie lias not asked for authority to dispose of them.

Senator Gardiner - What would happen if they were placed on the h aif -pay list?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - At the end of twelve months they would automatically go out. But could wc do this? Those officers, when they entered upon a military carper ns young mcn were, no doubt, thought capable of rising to all its possibilities; but when tested in tha crucible of war, they proved to be not all they were thought tn be. But they are older. Tho$ have devoted the whole, of their lives, on very small pay, to the service of their country. They may have been. the wrong mcn in the first place; they may not have been as efficient or capable ks the board of selection that chose them in the first instance thought they were. But cun we throw these men, many of whom are now over forty years of age, on to the scrap-heap?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, according to the honorable senator's argument, the. mi.lita.rv machine, is at an inpasse

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I do not any that.

Senator Pearce - Yon might ais well say that because- some honorable senators are not up to the mark, the Senate is also at an impasse.

Senator Gardiner - The Govern ment put off 2,000 men at Cockatoo Island

Dock recently without much thought as to their future.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I am not dealing with the affairs of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I am dealing with the affairs of the Defence Department.

Senator Gardiner - But I have quoted the Cockatoo Island Dock employees as an illustration why it should not be so difficult to get rid of the Defence Force inefficients

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - During the debate an assertion that many, of the men who landed at Gallipoli had never fired a shot brought an indignant denial from Senator Cox; but I regret to say that there is a certain amount of truth in it. This probably arose from the fact that when the First Australian Division loft Australia they took out of the country pretty well every rifle that was available, so that subsequently, when the first reinforcements were sent to Egypt, they wore shot across to Gallipoli without further training. But that did not happen with very many of the reinforcements, sud it ip. one of the lessons that we have learned from the war. We realized that wc did not have in -Australia sufficient equipment. The Minister, by interjection, told us this afternoon that these shortcomings with regard to equipment arc under consideration, and are being dealt with. Personally, I arn extremely glad to know that this is so.

Senator Gardiner - General White, (lie man you have been talking about, was the author et' that statement.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I would not be in ibo. least surprised, because I know from personal experience that the statement, was true. I was an officer in the original Force. I waa in command of n. company ov. Gallipoli, and received as reinforcements forty or fifty men who. according to their own statements, had never used a rifle. This, no doubt, was due to the fact -flint the Commonwealth Parliament in tha early days of the war. had not the good fortune to number amongst its- members men of military experience; tut in future perhaps we shall not repeat these mistakes. I sincerely hope not.

This is all I desire to say on the Bill to-night There are many other points which I hope to have an opportunity to refer to later; but they occur to me as being principally matters for the Committee, and when that stage is reached, I propose to deal with them.

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