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Friday, 29 April 1921

Senator FOSTER (Tasmania) . - I do not know whether the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) ' quite understood my argument in regard to these men. He suggested that while these men on active service proved very good men in the field, they were not necessarily good on the instructional and administrative side. But I want to point out that the men to whom I referred are those who for a great number of years were engaged on the administrative and instructional side of the Defence Department.

Senator Pearce - As noncommissioned officers under the command of an officer.

Senator FOSTER - I was going to say, and I shall stress it all the more, that those of us who knew . what war training was prior to the war, know that in a great many cases it was the instructional non-commissioned officer who really ran the show. He knew more' about the work than the officer who nominally was in command.

Senator Elliott - That is a libel on the Citizen Forces.

Senator Cox - lb is quite wrong. I have had as much experience in military matters as any one in the State, and I know it is incorrect.

Senator FOSTER - I am sure an honorable senator holding the rank of General will not infer from my statement that I meant that a non-commissioned officer knew more about military matters than a General. When it came to the training of the Citizen Forces and the cadets prior to the war it was usually the noncommissioned officers who did the instructional work.

Senator Cox - The honorable senator is probably referring to cadets.

Senator FOSTER - The noncommissioned officers had sufficient knowledge and ability to give instruction before the war.

Senator Cox - That is what they were there for.

Senator FOSTER - Of course.

Senator Cox - They were running the junior portion of the ." show," and no one said they were there for any other purpose.

Senator FOSTER - I will go further, and say that a great many of the men who went «away under Senator Cox were ' trained by non-commissioned officers. I am also prepared to stated t cannot be denied - that a great number of the non-commissioned officers -were refused permission to enlist prior to October, 1916, as instructional officers were needed in Australia.

Senator Duncan - That is quite correct.

Senator FOSTER - Some of the noncommissioned officers train men at Duntroon.

Senator Elliott - In certain branches only.

Senator Pearce - Only in drilling.

Senator Cox__That is the junior portion of the training.

Senator Earle - They are instructors -all the same.

Senator FOSTER - I am not suggesting that an officer in charge of musketry -does not know a little more about his work than a captain or a warrant officer under him. I consider it my duty to say that the non-commissioned officers in Aus- tralia are men who do a good deal of instructional work of greater importance than ordinary preliminary training, such as Senator Cox suggests. Some of the men holding non-commissioned rank in Australia have been to England to be trained, and a man I know of is one of the finest musketry instructors in Australia. There are other non-commissioned officers equally efficient if they are to be judged by their capacity for instructional and administrative work. I may mention as an illustration a man who was recently appointed Federal Secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia; who was a noncommissioned officer prior to enlistment, but whose services abroad were so satisfactory that he became a Brigade-Major on the Staff in France. When he returned to Australia, despite the fact that he possessed sufficient instructional and administrative ability to be promoted to the rank of Brigade-Major when abroad, he was told that there was- no position carrying a commission available. What I fear in the future is that unless a man has the hallmark of Duntroon College on him, and is one of the " socially elect," he will have no chance.

Senator Pearce - There is no such thing as the "socially elect" at Duntroon, as the cadets at that College come from all classes' of the community.

Senator FOSTER - I know there is the possibility I have mentioned. I am speaking of a man who is too old. to go into

Duntroon to quality, and I repeat that- if he. is not one, of. the " socially elect " he has no opportunity. I am prepared to adhere to that statement.

Senator Pearce - There are none of the " socially elect " at Duntroon.

Senator FOSTER - These men are placed in the position, that unless they have the hall-mark of Duntroon, and belong to the "socially elect" they have not a chance. I am afraid that even in this democratic country there is very little, if any, opportunity at all, for a man to rise from the ranks to any position of importance in the Army. I regret that such is the case.

Senator Elliott - The honorable senator is referring to the permanent men, and not to the members of the Citizen Forces

Senator FOSTER - Yes.

Senator Elliott - They are absolutely barred now.

Senator FOSTER - There will be absolutely no opportunity for such men except under the conditions mentioned bv the Minister, where a non-commissioned officer is given an opportunity by passing a preliminary examination.

Senator Pearce - He can be appointed as a quartermaster.

Senator FOSTER - I rose particularly to point out that the Minister's statement, that non-commissioned officers cannot be appointed to the permanent staff because of their Jack of instructional and administrative ability, is one that will not stand investigation.

SenatorVARDON (South Australia) [11.501. - The most important point in connexion with this discussion is the service required of a student, and, person: ally, I think it would be well if the term were reduced from eight to five years. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) may be able to convince me to the contrary, but I feel that a man having undergone a period of training at the Military College may find that he possesses some latent ability of which he had no previous knowledge. It is 'quite possible that some students may find after several years of instruction that they would be' more successful in some other capacity where the remuneration would be more attractive. I do not think it advisable for students to be compelled to serve such a lengthy period, because it may not be of advantage to the individual, and on the other hand good men are required in other spheres of activity. In these circumstances I consider it desirable to limit the term to five years, and if any honorable senator is prepared to move in that direction I shall support him.

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