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Friday, 29 April 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has been good enough to give the Senate information, which, I think, strongly supports the argument I previously submitted, and proves conclusively that these men would have been committing ,a military offence if they had applied to go abroad before that date.

Senator Pearce - They would not have been committing a military offence.

Senator GARDINER - Then it would have been contrary to military discipline. I understand from the Minister's statement that a number applied, and were permitted to leave Australia. My contention is that an order was issued - I want to be quite clear upon this - prohibiting men from applying. Applications were numerous, and I have a very clear recollection of some restriction being placed on the men. ' I am not stating definitely that an order was issued, because I do not claim to have a very clear recollection of the incident; but there are things that come under one's notice that are not forgotten in a hurry. I shall be glad if the Minister for Defence will make further inquiries, because if I cannot get the desired information in this way I shall place a question on the notice-paper so that it shall be supplied. If an order was issued in 1914 or 1915 prohibiting permanent officers from applying to go abroad with . the Australian Imperial Force, and that order was not cancelled until 24th July, 1918, I feel sure that honorable, senators will see that the men affected did not receive a fair deal, because during the whole .time they remained in Australia they were not entitled to promotion. That is what I have been arguing . throughout the debate. I «m under the impression that a regulation, or a general order, or something of that nature, was issued to prevent them from going abroad.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was not the honorable senator Assistant Minister for Defence at the timet

Senator GARDINER - I had .a slight connexion with the Defence Department which may have brought me somewhat prominently into the matter, but this was something I had nothing to do with. The Minister for Defence gave me a certain section of the work to attend to - I have no complaints to make - but I was not conversant with all that was happening. One would naturally be more impressed with 'what was brought under one's direct notice; but I have a strong belief that officers were prevented by a military order from going abroad. The statement which has just been made by the Minister for Defence shows that a certain section of the men were not released until the 24th July, 1918.

Senator Duncan - Some of them' were held up for two years ,

Senator GARDINER - That is so. Surely honorable senators can see the unfairness of the whole position, because if a man applied in July or August, 1918, he would he open to all sorts of imputations, and probably be_charged with endeavouring to go overseas when there seemed a possibility of the conflict terminating. I think I have clearly stated my reasons for moving in this direction, and honorable senators will realize that I have done so in an endeavour to prevent these men being unjustly treated.

During the course of - this debate we have listened- to some interesting statements made by Senator Elliott and other honorable senators, and sufficient has been said to prove that a good deal of dissatisfaction exists. There is an impression abroad that appointments go by favour, and that they are in the hands of a military clique. I do not think any one will say that that impression has been caused by the statement of one person; but the impression exists. It is understood that if an officer has the support of a certain sec tion of the Administrative Staff all goes well, but if that support is lacking his position is hopeless. I followed Senator Elliott very closely when referring to the . case of "Albert Jacka. I have had the pleasure of reading a report written by Colonel Courtney concerning the circumstances under which Captain Jacka won his distinction, and the value of the report is increased by the fact that it was written before the honour was conferred upon the gallant soldier- Senator DrakeBrockman's references to the incident, although very excellent, corroborated practically all that Senator Elliott had said. The fact that Jacka's report as Intelligence Officer did not go to the General Officer Commanding does not carry much weight, . as I take it that Jacka's superior officers would not have forwarded the report above their own signature if they did not think that it was substantially correct. The fact remains that after a certain incident, particulars of which have been' related, this fine officer did not receive any more publicity, which clearly indicates that there is something lacking in our Military Department. No room should be left for false impressions, and w© should draft our Acts in such a way that men cannot be unjustly treated. I am obliged for the information which the Minister tas given, and I trust that later on he will supplement it "with the particulars I desire. I know from experience that the Minister will be quite prepared to give all the information at his disposal, even though it may not suit his case. ' I' still assert that in the early stages of the war many were prevented from going abroad, and. I am supported in that contention by Senator Duncan.

Senator Duncan - I asked the honorable senator to produce the document.

Senator GARDINER - Buts the honorable senator agrees with me- '

Senator Duncan - The honorable senator is wrong. He has not done what I asked.

Senator GARDINER - Senator Duncanmust admit that I am right up to a certain point. I said an order was issued, and if it had been repealed I had no knowledge of it. Senator Pearce will not acknowledge even now that the order was issued, but admits that the men were informed that they could enlist.

Senator Pearce - The /act that such an - -announcement was made proves that there must have been some prohibition.

Senator GARDINER - Exactly, and I want proof of that, because I think it has an important bearing on the manner in which we are to treat such officers and men. Those who were in that unfortunate position have been superseded for all time.

Senator Foll - They lost their promotion by not being able to go.

Senator GARDINER - Exactly. All these injustices are placed upon those men who were reduced in the estimation of their fellows because they did not proceed overseas. I do not wish to thresh this matter threadbare, though the Minister's statement bears out what I have already said. If such an order was issued on the 24th July, 1918, I think we are perpetrating a further injustice if we penalize these men 'because they obeyed military orders.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 11 -

Aftersection 21a of the principal Act the following sections are inserted : - "21aa. Notwithstanding anything contained in the last two preceding sections, an officer of the Military Forces, who has been engaged on active service abroad, may be promoted on such conditions as are prescribed. " 21ab. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, persons who have been engaged on active service abroad may be -

(a)   appointed or promoted to be officers in the Citizen Military Forces, and may be granted such commissioned rank and allotted such seniority as are from time to time approved by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Military Board; or

(b)   appointed or promoted, as prescribed, to be warrant officers or noncommissionedofficers in the Citizen Military Forces.".

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