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Thursday, 28 April 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- I move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - " 7a. Section 16 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words ' without the holder thereof and inserting in their stead the words nor shall any officer be superseded without such officer."

Section proposed to be amended: -

16.   Officers shall hold their appointments during the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral, but the commission of an officer shall not be conceited without the holder thereof being notified, in writing, of any complaint or charge made, and ofany action proposed to be taken against him, nor without his being called upon to showcause in relation thereto. Provided that no such notification shall be necessary in the case of an officer absent from duty without leave for a period of three months or upwards.

My object is to give additional rights to officers serving in the Forces. I have already dealt at some length with the need for such a provision. In the section which I seek to amend, provision is made that an officer shall not be removed from the Force's without being given a chance to ascertain the nature of the charge against him, and he is provided with an opportunity to show cause why he should not be removed. I desire to confer ona superseded officer similar rights in every respect. If an officer is to be dismissed, it is reasonable and just that he should be told why. But a far greater evil is sometimes caused by an officer being supersededwithout explanation. He may be told, indeed, that it is the custom of the Service. He is sometimes told that there is nothing which can be brought against his capacity to command or his courage in the field. Yet he is superseded by men who are manifestly "wasters." I will give an instance of the kind of thing that happens under the Army Act. Albert Jacka, who won his Victoria Cross at Gallipoli, was the first to secure the distinction, which was followed shortly after by the granting of a commission. He was always foremost in the fights of his battalion on the peninsula. Later, he proceeded to France, where he repeatedly distinguished himself, and his name will be seen in despatches up to March or April, 1916. After what was known as the first battle of Bullecourt there was a strange silence, as his name was not mentioned in the promotion or decoration lists or despatches, although he was con stantly at the Front and participating in the fighting as before. He led dozens of desperate charges, he was worshipped by his men, and, notwithstanding this, officers were repeatedly placed over him. The position became so critical that men in Jacka's battalion refused to go into action unless under his command. Honorable senators may think that is an astonishing statement; but it is an, absolute fact, and one which has been substantiated by Colonel Peck of the Instructional Staff and by Jacka himself. What is the reason that such a cruel embargo has been placed on Jacka? He is known by men associated with the Australian Imperial Force as the bravest of the brave. He may be somewhat rough in his manners, because he was a fencer before the war; but I absolutely deny that there can be applied to him with any degree of truth the statement made by many British officer's, that ' ' Australians were good fighters, but that socially they were impossible." The facts are these : The result of the first battle of Bullecourt was cabled to Australia as a great victory, but as a matter of fact it was the most disastrous engagement in which the Australian Imperial Force took part.Honorable senators will doubtless recall that the British Tank Corps under the direction of General Monash proved a brilliant success, because it was scientifically and properly controlled. General Monash never sent tanks into action without protecting them with an artificial fog of phosphorescent smoke and shell-fire. The tanks went into action fully protected, and General Monash even had aeroplanes buzzing up and down above to confuse the enemy listeners. But the position was somewhat different when these operations were conducted by General Birdwood and General White, who, instead of providing an artificial fog, sent the tanks forward when the ground was white with snow, so that every tank stood out like a nigger on a whitewashed fence. Before General Monash assisted in re-organizing the corps it was manned and officered in a most amazing manner. When the tanks were first allotted to the Army, those who were to control them scratched their heads and said, " We have not seen these things. To what branch of the Army- do 'they belong?" They ultimately discovered that motors were installed in the tanks, and that as the only other motors in use were in the Army Service Corps they classified the Tank Corps as a branch of the Army Service Corps, and detailed drivers of that corps to control them. The type of men who volunteered at a critical time in our Empire's history to drive motors in the Army Service Corps were looking for a good soft job, and it' was to their utter horror and amazement that they were transferred from a cosy billet into a most nerve-racking job. Those who understand the position realize that as a result of a single direct hit a person driving a tank would not be killed outright, but would be slowly burned to a cinder as a result of an explosion of petrol. When these officers and men of the Army Service Corps found' that they were detailed for this work without the protection of a smoke screen, and were showing up like niggers on a fence, they were absolutely panic-stricken. On this occasion thirteen tanks set off, but only one went into action ; and there was strong suspicion' that the men controlling some of the others had poured sand into the motors. One eventually got through the lines and cut the wires; and through that breach the devoted men of the Australian Imperial Force streamed and forced their way out like a fan until the Germans made the discovery, when they sent down a heavy barrage over the gap and attacked from both flanks. Reinforcements or ammunition could not be sent to their assistance, for, as I have said, only one tank did its job. One of them suddenly blundered into a sunken road in which the members of the 14th Victorian Battalion were waiting to attack. The man in charge was so utterly panic-stricken that he turned his guns on our own men, and at a Tange of 5 or 10 yards killed at least thirty. It was said at the time that if the men had had a tin-opener they would have murdered the man who was responsible; but he was inside the tank. Albert Jacka was the Intelligence Officer of that battalion, and as he is now in Melbourne he can be questioned. Jacka prepared a war diary which is absolutely sacred, because it gives the history of his unit. He recorded the details of the time and place, and a copy was sent to General Birdwood, who sent for Jacka and said, " You must destroy all your notes of this occurrence. You will destroy every copy of your report sent to Horseferry-road, so that every trace of the incident will disappear." General Birdwood assembled the battalion on parade, and congratulated the men on their magnificent bravery. He said, "You have fought like demigods. I am sure you will not be unwilling to share the glory with the magnificent men- of the Tank Corps." Colonel Peck said that it required a great effort to prevent those men from rushing General Birdwood and hooting him off the' ground.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - .They did hoot him off in Flanders.

Senator ELLIOTT - I am not dealing with that. From that time onward Jacka led every charge, though he was wounded again and again. The moment he was out of hospital he went with unhealed wounds into the line. *

Senator Cox - Was he allowed out of hospital with unhealed wound's?

Senator ELLIOTT - He led his men time after time with unhealed wounds. He got away from the hospital.

Senator Cox - Then he was away illegally.

Senator ELLIOTT - He chanced that. That is the sort of man he was. He has never been able to get any satisfaction. No doubt, if he applied to the Minister for Defence, as I have done, the Minister would say, " There is nothing against your character. It is a magnificent character, but by the custom of the Service we select what officers we please, and you have absolutely no ground of complaint." Is that the sort of thing that is going to assist us in building up an efficient Army?

Senator Foster - Jacka's case differs from that of the honorable senator, inasmuch as it was a regimental matter, and he was entitled to the ordinary promotion.

Senator ELLIOTT - That is so, but when it suited the higher officers they abrogated all the regulations of the Service. '

Senator Foster - No wonder the privates said their prayers regularly every night.

Senator ELLIOTT - If we had a regulation such as Senator Foster has referred to, or, better still, an absolute provision of the Defence Act, supported by such a sanction as I propose, it would put an end to that kind of thing, because those responsible would know that there would be an appeal to a civil Court for the redress of wrongs, and not to a Minister who obediently puts a rubber stamp refusal upon an application for redress, and so' expects to blot out all that has gone before.

Senator Pearce - I rise to a point of order now that the honorable senator has come to a reference to the amendment he proposes. I should have done so before, but it might have been thought that I desired to prevent the honorable senator indulging in his reminiscences. He has given notice of a new clause to amend section 16 of the principal Act. The Bill before the Committee does not deal with section 16, and yet the honorable senator is seeking to tack on to clause 7 of the Bill, which deals with section 11a of the principal Act, an amendment of section 16 of the Act, which deals with an altogether different subject. I submit that the honorable senator's - proposal is an offence against the standing order, which says that amendments must be relevant to the subject-matter of the motion before the Chair. The Senate, through the Standing Orders Committee, has made provision lo enable honorable senators to do in the proper way what Senator Elliott is trying to do in the wrong way, by giving an instruction to the Committee on a Bill. It is provided by standing orders 328 to 333 that if in an amending Bill it is desired to amend sections of the principal Act which are not dealt with in the Bill, an honorable senator, after the second reading of "the measure, may move that it be an instruction to the Committee on the Bill to consider sections of the princi- ?al Act which are not dealt with by it. f Senator Elliott desired the amendment of section 16 of 'the principal Act, his proper course was to have availed himself of the standing orders provided for the purpose, and have an instruction given to the Committee to consider sections of the principal Act not dealt with by the Bill. Having failed to adopt that course, I contend that the honorable senator cannot now, by 'tacking an amendment on to a clause of this Bill, dealing with one section of the principal Act, amend a section of that Act which is not before the Committee, and which deals with a matter foreign to the section of the principal Act which is sought to be amended by the clause before the Committee. If my point of order is sustained Senator Elliott's amendment must be ruled out of order; otherwise it would be quite unnecessary for us to have standing orders enabling an instruction to be given to the Committee on a Bill.

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