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Friday, 29 April 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - T wish first of all to say, with regard to the Grainger case referred to by Senator Foster, that what happened was that the officer took french leave, and he was court martialed for that. When he appeared before the court martial his counsel put up the defence that he was medically unfit. As a result of the evidence given, I ordered a special medical hoard of inquiry. It was found that the man was medically unfit, and for that reason he was allowed to resign. If that officer had applied to the Medical Board there would have been no need for him to have taken french leave.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did he not ask for leave, and did not the authorities neglect to answer his correspondence? In such circumstances ho had to do something.

Senator PEARCE - My recollection is that he took french leave first and asked for leave afterwards.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understood that he repeatedly asked for leave over a considerable period until his case seemed quite hopeless,, and that he then took french leave. The Department ordered an inquiry to enable it to get out of a difficulty.

Senator PEARCE - There ig nothing to prevent any officer who is medically unfit getting his discharge. As a matter of fact if he is not medically fit he cannot be retained in the Service except for certain duties.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Department used a good deal of diplomacy in getting out of that difficulty.

Senator PEARCE - I do not know that there is any particular diplomacy in the appointment of a medical board to determine whether an officer is medically unfit for service. " Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind." And even when the Department does right, from the standpoint of Senator Thomas, it does so from unworthy motives.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister knows that what I have stated is correct.

Senator Foster - In that particular case, was it not proved that the officer had been medically examined, and was quite unable, through the ordinary military channels, to get out of the Service?

Senator PEARCE - There was a medical examination, but it was of quite an inconclusive character. That fact was disclosed in the evidence tendered to the court martial. One part of the finding of the medical inquiry was that the officer was physically unfit, whilst another part of it affirmed that he was still fit for home service. The inquiry did not result in a definite finding either way. I assure Senator Foster that there is no present difficulty in placing Duntroon graduates. That is proved by the fact that we have temporarily filled a number of positions with the non-commissioned officers to whom he has referred. There are many of these officers still holding temporary positions because there are not sufficient Duntroon graduates to fill them. That position is quite consistent with the reply which I have given, that we cannot permanently appoint these officers to such positions, because, as time goes- on, we shall be able to fill them with Duntroon graduates.

Senator Earle - Are these noncommissioned officers doing their work all right?

Senator PEARCE - As far as I know, they are. But we must have regard, not merely to the number of cadets who are taken into the college for any one particular year.' They have to undergo a four-years' course there, and consequently we have to plan for quite a number of years ahead. . Otherwise the result would be that when the graduates left the college there would be nothing for them to do. That is why these non-commissioned officers - who did well at the Front - have not been permanently appointed to the positions which they are now filling.

Senator Foster - Do I understand that the number of graduates from Duntroon will be reduced during the next few years ?

Senator PEARCE - It may be increased. What I have said is in accord with the principle which was laid down by Lord Kitchener in regard to the establishment of the college. Not only amongst our Permanent, but amongst our Citizen Forces, we have a large number of officers who did splendidly at the war. But it does not follow that the officer who has been a success in leading troops in the field will necessarily be a good instructor of troops.

Senator Earle - That is just the point. Are these non-commissioned officers efficient instructors ? If they are they should not be supplanted, by Duntroon graduates.

Senator PEARCE - The college was established not merely to supply instructors but also administrators. The students there are specially trained in order that they may be qualified to impart military instruction and also to perform administrative duties. Many good officers in the field are total f ailures when it comes to administration, and are not the best officers even in the matter of imparting instruction.

Senator Foster - I do not know that that applies to the warrant officers.

Senator PEARCE - Lord Kitchener recommended the establishment of the college in order that it might turn out the schoolmasters for our Army. It is a mistake to think that it was founded to supply anything else. It is intended to turd out the future instructors for the officers of our Citizen Army. Having established it, we have practically contracted with, its trainees, that they shall instruct our Citizen Forces. If we now turn round and appoint citizen officers to instructional positions, we shall break our contract. Obviously the officers of our Citizen Forces cannot be as competent as those who are specially trained as instructors and administrators. For that reason, Parliament has always laid down the principle that positions on the Instructional Staff must be filled by the college graduates. Otherwise we might as well wipe out the institution entirely. There can be no halfway house. For that reason these non-commissioned officers cannot be permanently put into the positions which they now hold. But there arc positions in the Permanent Forces which they can fill permanently, such positions as quartermaster, &e. Wherever it is possible to do so, we are putting them into these positions, so long as they have served successfully at the Front. But the instructional positions must he reserved for the Duntroon graduates because that is the plan which has been laid down. We have entered into a contract with these graduates, and if we break it we shall be morally obliged to pay them compensation. I repeat that a man who has distinguished himself upon the battlefield is not necessarily either a good instructor or a good administrator.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are some (officers, I understand, who were great failures upon the field, but who are great instructors here?

Senator PEARCE - I do not know to whom the honorable senator refers. I prefer that he should father that statement himself.

Senator Gardiner - What salaries dd the Instructional Staff receive?

Senator PEARCE - For the honorable senator's information, I will get the rates which are paid to graduates who are put on the Instructional Staff.

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