Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 28 April 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- Before the dinner adjournment the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) practically promised to give some consideration to means whereby the evils complained of by Senator Elliott could be overcame, and I was hopeful that by now the Committee would have reached a further stage in the considera- tion of the Bill. I cannot refrain, however, from replying to some of the assertions of Senator Earle. He suggested that if the amendment is accepted the hands of officers commanding in the field would be weakened. Nothing of the kind could occur. Senator Earle will not wish this Committee to believe that . General Foch had any authority over individuals in the British Forces.

Senator Elliott - -He had none at all. He could not remove one man.

Senator GARDINER - The appointment of Foch as Generalissimo was purely an arrangement for the most efficient consolidation and co-ordination of the Allied Armies. While that move was a wise one, there is no question that the authority given to Foch was such as to hand over to him- the control of the British Forces, right down to the matter of individual discipline. The successes gained by the Allies during the closing months of the war, under the supreme command of Foch, were but the outcome and climax of the retreat of the Germans to the Marne in 1914, followed, as that was, by our constant hammering of the enemy lines, and brought to a conclusion by the eventual break-down of morale within the German nation itself. In saying this I do not desire to detract from the supreme qualifications of General Foch, nor to refrain from the acknowledgment of his allconquering strategy during the closing months of the conflict.

Senator Duncan - There were a lot of people here who did not recognise those things when they said we ought to seek for peace by negotiation.

Senator GARDINER - Who advocated peace by negotiation?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator himself, for one.

Senator GARDINER - The rules of debate in this Chamber will not permit me to describe Senator Millen as a deliberate liar, if he says that. It is not only not true, but it is not fair, to make these allegations at a time and in a place when and where I may not counter them.

Senator Payne - Who was it, then, that advocated peace by negotiation ?

Senator GARDINER - I may not enter upon a discussion of the matter. But I resent any imputations being levelled at myself in this regard ; for honorable senators know my own attitude.

Senator Duncan - I did not accuse the honorable senator.

Senator GARDINER - Senator Duncan made a general statement, and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) pointed it at me.

I desire to show that the beginning of ' victory was seen when the Germans retreated before the turning round of the Allied ranks in 1914. When the morale of the German people gave way - at a stage when the forces and warlike machinery of the Allies were at their summit - actual victory swiftly followed. But to say that the credit of winning the war belongs to one general-

Senator Earle - I did not indicate that the credit belonged to any one man, but that it was due chiefly to the centralization of control ; and I do not care whether the individual in supreme command happened to be Foch or Haig or any one else.

Senator GARDINER - Senator Elliott,. with his military experience, made it quite clear that there has been favoritism in the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force. And he has established a good case for the institution, of the right of appeal in the event of promotions being brought about unfairly, due to favoritism, through petticoat influence, and the like. I understand that the Minister for Defence has undertaken to look into the whole matter, and that he will endeavour to devise some means whereby favoritism shall have no scope. We should never seek to make a law which would take from a general the right to suspend or supersede any officer, according to his own judgment, at any time. But, surely, no one will argue that the officer affected should not have the right of invoking an appeal. Why should such an, individual be denied the ordinary measure of justice which would be naturally available to him in civilian walks of life?

Senator Earle - There can be no analogy between the two sets of circumstances.

Senator GARDINER - I deny that there can be no analogy between the position of an. official in the Civil Service - say, in the Railways Department - and of a military officer. If injustice has been done, why should we shut out the application of common sense just because the circumstances have to do with the Army ?

Senator Benny - In time of war?

Senator GARDINER - An enginedriver, while in control of his express on the run between Melbourne and Sydney, would not be suspended. His suspension would be notified to him at the conclusion of his task.

Senator Earle - Does the honorable senator suggest, then, that so long as the war continues, no officer should be suspended ?

Senator GARDINER - I hope and believe this measure will be applied to our Military Forces through many years of peace to come. Will it not be wise, therefore, to accept the proposal of an experienced military officer, who states that it is necessary to provide a court of appeal to deal with cases of supersession ? I I maintain that such a court, by the very fact of its existence, would militate against injustice. I do not suggest that the mere institution of the right of appeal would prove a strong factor for fair play ; but the realization that any instance of injustice might be exposed by that medium would be bound to have considerable effect. In such circumstances injustice would not occur.

Senator Duncan - Does the honorable senator think that the amendment would overcome that difficulty?

Senator Elliott - Undoubtedly.

Senator GARDINER - Then if it is right and proper, surely we have sufficient ability to make it effective, and the Government or the Minister for Defence will not brush it aside. Before the dinner adjournment I was under the impression that it was the intention of the Minister to give the matter his careful consideration. In legislating as rapidly as we do there is always the possibility of mistakes occurring, and when Senator Elliott first lodged hi3 complaint I asked the Minister if he would not endeavour to have an amendment drafted to meet the case. I think the Minister will remember that during the second-reading debate, I made such a suggestion, and now we have the Bill before us in Committee it is a good opportunity to make some provision in the direction Senator Elliott has indicated. If the amendment moved by the honorable senator does not meet with the approval of the Government, surely this Committee can take the question in hand, and decide upon something that will be acceptable. We do not have to consider an amending Defence Bill every twelve months, .and in view of the extraordinary statements that have been made during the course of the debate, it appears that it is our duty to embody something in the measure which will be the means of preventing officers exercising powers to which they are not entitled. 1 trust the Minister will adhere to what he has in mind, and have an amendment drafted or introduce an amending Bill later so that every officer and man in our Military Forces will have the right to appeal to some tribunal when he considers that he has been unfairly treated.

Senator Pearce - It will not be necessary to wait for the introduction of an amending Bill, because I shall endeavour to have an amendment drafted before this measure leaves the Senate.

Senator GARDINER - In view of such a definite promise, I have no desire to detain the Committee any longer, but if Senator Elliott persists in pressing the matter, to a division I shall help him.

Suggest corrections