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Thursday, 28 April 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - Senator Elliott, in the course of his last remarks, made one very serious statement, which should certainly be given further consideration, if not by the Committee, then by the Government. The honorable senator has made a deliberate charge against a high officer who has been placed in command of the Commonwealth Military Forces in one of the States. I submit .that Senator Elliott has said too little or too much. A statement has been made in this chamber where the officer charged is not in a position to defend himself, and in view of the fact that he is a gentleman occupying a high position in a certain State carrying with it great responsibility, it is up to the Committee to see to it that he is given a fair opportunity to defend himself if he is in the right.

Senator Pearce - To whom is the honorable senator referring?

Senator DUNCAN - To the officer to whom Senator Elliott referred, who has been placed in charge of the Commonwealth Military Forces in Tasmania. Senator Elliott has made a definite charge against that officer.

Senator Pearce - I understood the honorable senator to be referring to officers placed in command of divisions in New South Wales and other States.

Senator DUNCAN - Senator Elliott has made the charge that an officer who was referred to in France by those who knew him as " Toujours Zigzag," which, means in English " always drunk," has been placed by the Government in command of the Commonwealth Military Forces in Tasmania.

Senator Pearce - I did not hear that statement.

Senator DUNCAN - I submit that the charge is a very serious one. If the Government has been guilty of placing a man of that calibre in charge of the Commonwealth Military Forces of Tasmania they are deserving of censure. If Senator Elliott makes such a charge without being able to prove it, he is deserving of censure. In either case, honorable senators should determine that a charge of that sort shall be fully investigated. I should like to hear something from the Minister for Defence in reply to the charge made by Senator Elliott. Surely he knows the records of the officers whom he has placed in command of the Commonwealth Military Forces in the various States. If he does not, then he ought to know them. If the officer given the command in Tasmania is a person of the calibre suggested by Senator Elliott, it is entirely in ' the best interests of Australia that he. for one, should be immediately superseded. If the charge made against him is false, honorable senators should see that something further is done, because, as I have previously said, it is grossly unfair to attack any man, not only in his absence, but in a place like this Chamber, -where it is not possible for him to defend himself.

Senator Gardiner - Is a statement of facts to be regarded as an attack ?

Senator DUNCAN - We do not know that what we have heard is a statement of facts.

Senator Elliott - It is for honorable senators in this Chamber to expose what they regard as abuses.

Senator DUNCAN - Certainly ; and that is why I say that Senator Elliott has said too little or too much, and that the charge he has made should be carried further.

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