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Wednesday, 27 April 1921

Senator CRAWFORD (QUEENSLAND) - Any subject who has a grievance can approach the Sovereign, can he not?

Senator ELLIOTT - In this case it is laid down in the Act.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are you complaining that that right was denied you?

Senator ELLIOTT - Yes.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Were you not given the right of appeal ?

Senator ELLIOTT - No..

The PRESIDENT - I would remind the honorable senator that that has nothing to do with the subject he proposes to discuss.

Senator ELLIOTT - That provision was placed on the statute-book for the protection of junior officers against wrongful oppression by' their superiors. The Minister for Defence, by a purported exercise of the dispensing power, which I always hoped had disappeared from the British Constitution with the Bill of Rights, swept that provision out of existence, and authorized General Birdwood to refuse any redress in that manner to officers.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That did not destroy the right of appeal. General Birdwood may have done fifty wrong things, but the right of appeal was Still there.

Senator ELLIOTT - It was not there in practice. I have already told the Senate exactly what happened when I wrote through the proper channel to General White, requesting that my case be referred to the Minister, who was my channel of approach to the Sovereign, or was there as representing the Sovereign. I read extracts from the letter I .received from General White.

Senator Pearce - What was the approximate date of the receipt of that letter ?

Senator ELLIOTT - It was dated 22nd May, 1918, and I would probably get it the following day. It dealt with my application in two ways. There was in existence, although the Minister has denied it up to date, a regulation to the following effect - I had hoped to get it to-day from the War Museum, but they had been unable to lay their hands on it-

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I have allowed the honorable senator considerable latitude. The specific question before the Chair is the alleged instruction or power given by the Minister for Defence to General Birdwood, or the alleged statement by the Minister on that subject. Under the Standing Orders the discussion must be strictly limited to that one subject, but the honorable senator has paid greater attention to the discussion of the alleged military studies of the Minister for Defence than to the subject before the Chair. He is now pursuing a question which, has- already been debated on the floor of the Senate. I cannot be blind to the fact that he is pursuing a matter -which he .has - already twice .alluded to in the Senate. Standing order 413 provides : -

No senator shall allude to any debate of the Baine session upon a question or Bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the Senate for personal explanations.

The honorable senator is making a personal explanation, and has already alluded at full length to these matters. I remind him also nhat his time is limited. If he wishes to address himself to the specific subject which he has brought forward, he has: only a very short time in which to do it. I shall not take out of the time allowed to him whatever time has been occupied on points of order.

Senator ELLIOTT - I was endeavouring to show exactly how the instructions given to 'General Birdwood worked out in practice, and how, in effect, they : operated to cut away the right of appeal. I was stating what action I took when I considered myself wronged, and was .about to show how I was prevented from exercising the right of- appeal. First of all, it was denied that I had any right of appeal, whereas, in plain fact, the regulation, in addition to .the Army; Act, showed that I had. When I compelled General White to confess that that was pure bluff, he came at me with, the .mailed fist.. He said, " If you proceed .with., this appeal, you will show that you have lost confidence in myself .and General Birdwood. Even if the Minister granted your request, General Birdwood would not consent to having you serving under him any more." Put," he added, " it will never come to that. If you insist on lodging this appeal, you will be sent back .to Australia ' Services no longer required.' " That is what I complain of. As l explained previously, the position was that . we were, then preparing for the great offensive in August.

Senator Rowell - That is the general rule, is it not? It was in South Africa. If Lord Kitchener was dissatisfied, with an officer, he sent him back. He also prompted any man over the head of another if he liked.

Senator ELLIOTT - He never cut away any officer's right of appeal.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - They have not cut yours away, but you hesitated to avail yourself of it.

Senator ELLIOTT - I had to obey orders there.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There were no orders not to appeal.

Senator ELLIOTT - I was told what would happen' if I did, and, being desirous of continuing to serve my country in the field, I had perforce to abandon my right of appeal with great reluctance. I have endeavoured to reinstate the right of appeal here, and honorable senators have read the Minister's answer. He absolutely declines to interfere. I want honorable senators to consider the serious situation that will arise if we apply the Army Act here, and import with the Army Act all the British Service customs, as they are called. Many of them are very evil.

The PRESIDENT - The . honorable senator is not in order. He is addressing himself to a subject that is down for discussion in two Bills already before the Senate, and there is no better known standing order of the Senate than that which states that an honorable senator must not anticipate a discussion on any subject already before the Chamber. There is no necessity, therefore, for the honorable senator to discuss the matter so fully on this motion. I trust he will now obey my ruling.

Senator ELLIOTT - In view of your ruling I can say no more than once more voice my protest against the extraordinary action of the Minister for Defence. Mine is by no means an isolated case. I could quote many others.

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