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Friday, 29 April 1921

Senator GARDINER (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - In opening the debate on this particular phase of military training, I drew particular attention to the question of efficiency. We have to consider the methods adopted at the Military

College; particularly in binding a man to serve for a period of eight years at the salaries quoted by the Minister.

Senator Pearce - They were the minimum rates. It is possible for a man to make more rapid' progress.

Senator GARDINER - I do not think any one who is familiar with ,the manner in which promotions are made will believe that increases will occur very frequently.

Senator Pearce - Consider General White's career.

Senator GARDINER - I will give aU that in. I admit that he is a very excellent officer.

Senator Pearce - There is the same opportunity for other men. to get on if they possess the necessary ability. .

Senator GARDINER - A man with ability will get on anywhere. The Minister, not intentionally, but in the adroit manner .he always adopts, draws a conclusion from the argument one is submitting to the Senate different from that intended. Senator Earle puts the position more clearly than I succeeded in doing when he stated that there were returned men who were not only fit and capable to undertake the task of training our Forces, but who might be actually more fitted for such duties. The Minister has said, in explanation, that while a man may be an excellent leader during war operations, he may prove a poor instructor. My desire is that the authorities should permit a test. I suggest that every returned man who desires to do so should have the right to undergo' an examination, together with Duntroon trainees. Men who have never seen the inside of Duntroon, and who have never even been to the Front, should have their opportunities, by way of competitive ex-, animation ; and if they proved more fitted than the Duntroon cadets they should be given preference in the matter of appointment to training positions.

Senator Elliott - I do not think these outsiders would have a chance in competition with Duntroon cadets, fresh from school as they are. I would not like to undergo a competitive examination with them, and I happen to have some degrees.

Senator GARDINER - I can quite appreciate that; but there should be the opportunity, and men who have had active service should be encouraged if their ambitions turn in the direction indicated.

Senator Crawford - Would any of the craft unions admit to their ranks a man who had not been properly trained?

Senator Senior - Yes.

Senator Crawford - Very few, unless he had served a proper term of apprenticeship.

Senator GARDINER - They would not admit him unless he was properly trained in his craft. That, however,, does not bear upon my suggestion. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has opened my eyes concerning the future of our military college graduates. The chief purpose of Duntroon appears to be to produce schoolmasters. My idea was that Duntroon was to become an institution which would provide us with our military officers. Senator Foster has set out the position of non-commissioned officers on the Instructional Staff, and he has pointed out that they are often better informed and more capable of training than the commissioned officers over them. The argument was questioned by some honorable senators. I have a keen recollection of the career of an individual from the early days of our Citizen Force training. He entered the service as a lieutenant, but so incompetent was he that he was hurriedly made a captain. He was absolutely unfitted to perform the duties attaching to that rank; so he was made a major. It was a standing joke among the men in the ranks to watch the performance as they marched out of camp each morning. The major would be sitting stiffly on his horse, and there would be an old sergeant-major, a British Army man, standing by his side. The troops, as .they passed, would watch the sergeant-major bring his heels together with a click as he came to attention, and they would hear him growl, sotto voce, "The Brigade will move out in sections of four from the left." The major would then loudly repeat this order - sometimes, however, forgetting its completion when' only half way through; whereupon, he would have to appeal to the sergeant-major again: to help him out. This kind of thing would go on in one camp after another, until the major rapidly became a general. The reason for his promotion was that he could not be trusted in any other jobs. The authorities could not always be telling off sergeant-majors to stand at his elbow and give him every order. " All this is an absolute fact.

Senator Pearce - How many years ago?

Senator GARDINER - It occurred within my lifetime.

Senator Cox - The honorable senator says this officer became a general. It was only during the recent war that a Citizen Force officer could have attained to that rank.

Senator GARDINER - I will give the honorable senator the name if he desires. I may, perhaps, have made a mistake as to the exact ranks through which he rose and to which he attained; but I know that he became a general - whether a brigadier or some other kind of general I cannot say.

SenatorFoll. - Possibly the honorable senator is mixing up " brigadier " with " bombardier."

Senator GARDINER - Not at all; but I do know, further, that he even tried on several occasions to' become a legislator. However, that was too much ! Along these same lines, I might say that I have heard of a private at the Front who considered his officers so rotten that he felt himself bound, in the interests of the rank and file, to have recourse to appointing himself a corporal.

As for Duntroon and the question of permitting outsiders to compete with trainees, I would remind the Minister for Defence that the men who were forced to remain behind and train our battalions have been treated very unfairly and, indeed, cruelly. They proved their efficiency, and now they are being turned out in order to make room for others. They were anxious to go to the Front; but, seeing that some one had to remain behind to train the raw battalions, the most efficient non-commissioned officers were selected and kept back. They never had a chance to gain commissioned rank, for there was a huge gap which they could not bridge. Why should there not be, in this democratic country, every opportunity to rise by each consecutive rung in the ladder of military promotion? Duntroon is being developed in the direction of making the military utterly exclusive and sheltered from the competition or interference of outsiders. If an out- sider, with all the benefits of war service, could hold his own with the cadets, why should he not be given his chance ?

As for the matter of binding down the Duntroon graduates to a period of eight years' service, what attraction is there for them in the amount of pay which they may earn ? The Minister should not forget that the sacrifice is not all on one Bide. While it may cost the country a large sum to train these cadets, it should be remembered that if they had not entered Duntroon they might have been earning considerably more at the age of eighteen or nineteen than is available to them right up to. the end of their compulsory term of service. If the authorities cannot train and turn out enough graduates for the purposes of officering our Australian Forces, there is no insurmountable reason why the numbers of cadets who may be accommodated at Duntroon should not be increased. . No very considerable additional outlay would be involved. My chief aim in regard to military matters is toinsure efficiency. Nothing could be more fatal to efficiency than to bind down those who enter the Military College to long terms of service at an inadequate remuneration. I regret that the obvious feeling of the Committee is against my proposal in regard to the clause under discussion.

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