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Friday, 29 April 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- I listened very carefully to the statement of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and it was hecause of his statement that I submitted the amendment. I ask honorable senators whether an officer who was prevented from going to the Front should be obliged to suffer because his superiors would not permit him to go? That is the question upon which I desire to get a decision.

Senator Senior - Hard cases make bad laws.

Senator GARDINER - But a hard case may illustrate a bad law which should be remedied. I am not putting an isolated case, because whenever a new brigade was going to the Front there were any number of applications from officers who desired to accompany it. Indeed, the trouble became so acute that a regulation was issued forbidding these men to apply for permission to go upon active service. These officers acted under orders, and did their joh well. Now, when the war is over, we are asked to say that they shall have no promotion in .the future.

Senator Foster - Is it a fact that men in the Permanent Forces who obtained promotion abroad have upon their return reverted to their former status?

Senator Pearce - They got a step up in rank.

Senator Foster - I know a man who went abroad as a lieutenant-colonel, but he did not come back as a lieutenantcolonel.

Senator GARDINER - I do not wish to prevent the advancement of men who went to the Front. I am concerned only with officers who were kept here because they were efficient, and upon whom the training of our troops actually depended. Under this clause a man who joins the Service to-day may become a captain at the end of perhaps three or. four years. Then, when it comes to a question of promo tion, that man will be promoted over the heads of officers, with perhaps twenty years' service who were prevented by the Defence Department from going to the Front. The provision will inflict a grave injustice upon such officers, and will put a stigma upon them merely because they were prevented from going to the Front because their services were required here.

Senator Duncan - The regulation to which the honorable senator refers was rescinded.

Senator GARDINER - Let Senator Duncan state the date upon which it was rescinded. I do not know that it was rescinded.

Senator Duncan - I have a personal friend, an officer, who at first was prevented from going to the Front, but who, towards the close of the war, after the regulation had been rescinded, was told that if he did not go he would lose his job.

Senator GARDINER - I do not know that the regulation was rescinded.

Senator Pearce - Yes, it was.

Senator GARDINER - Then let us know when it was rescinded. To the best of my knowledge, it was never rescinded.

Senator Duncan - I am certain that it was.

Senator GARDINER - I invite the honorable senator to produce the notice of its repeal. I will produce the regulation after the adjournment for lunch.

Senator Duncan - And I will produce the announcement of its repeal.

Senator GARDINER - This is a matter which is surely worth the attention of the Committee. Ought officers who remained in Australia owing to the action of the military authorities to be precluded from gaining future promotion? If they were not allowed to go to the Front, why should they now be penalized for staying at home? If they were required at the Front, they should have been sent there.

Senator Duncan - What about the permanent officers who were sent away against their will?

Senator GARDINER - The permanent officer who refuses to go to the Front should be put out of the Military Forces.

Senator Cox - The honorable senator would not make the poor fellow go ifhe did not wish to go?

Senator GARDINER - The permanent officer in our Military Forces who refuses to go to the Front when his services are required there should be put out of the Service. But if officers who were kept in Australia because of the valuable services which they were continually rendering in the preparation of our troops are to be prevented from gaining promotion in the. future, they will be. the victims of a very grave injustice. Have these men. shirked their duty in any way? Did they not volunteer ?

Senator Drake-Brockman - The honorable senator would provide for officers who volunteered for service abroad, when they knew jolly well that they would not be allowed to go.

Senator GARDINER - I do not think it will be said that, in the earlier stages of the war when divisions were being formed, these officers volunteered knowing that they could not get away.

Senator Drake-Brockman - At one stage many of them volunteered, but knew they would not be allowed to go.

Senator GARDINER - No doubt the honorable senator has inside knowledge of military matters of which I know nothing, when he says that certain persons volunteered, but knew that they would not be allowed to go. I am speaking of those who volunteered and wished to go but were prevented.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -brockman. - And how are you going to distinguish between them?

Senator GARDINER - They could be dealt with, as the clause suggests, in the manner prescribed ; while those who volunteered and were willing to go should, I contend, be treated on their merits now. That is all I am asking. I only want a fair deal for these men, and having put the position as clearly as I can I have no desire to delay the Committee further.

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