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Thursday, 5 May 1921

Senator FOLL (Queensland) .- I do not intend to record a silent vote on this matter, for reasons which have already been given, particularly by Senator Earle and Senator Thomas. It is at present my intention to record my vote against the clause; but I think it would have been better if the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) had granted an adjournment to enable honorable senators to have an opportunity of fully digesting what is contained in the British Army Act. Some honorable senators have depicted the British Statute which we are discussing as something of a dreadful character, but from a very casual glance at it, I have come to the conclusion that it contains some very useful provisions.

Senator Cox - The honorable senator served under it.

Senator FOLL - Yes; but I have not had the opportunity of carefully analyzing it, and I am not prepared to take it on trust. Particular stress has been laid upon the point that because the British Army Act originated in the House of Commons,, it is naturally of a tyrannical nature. Honorable senators who have referred to the discipline in the British Army as being comparable with Prussianism are entirely wrong, and Senator Elliott and others know that, although there may have been more discipline in the Imperial Army than in ours, it depended largely upon those who were administering the Act, 'and not so much on the Act itself. The records of the British " Tommy " during the last 100 years stand second to none. I have had the opportunity of coming in contact with members of the Permanent Forces of the British Army, and as a lad served with the Territorial Forces in England.

Senator Cox - The honorable senator does not regret having worked under the British Army Act?

Senator FOLL - No ; but as I have not had the opportunity of perusing its provisions very closely, I do not feel justified in supporting the Government proposal at this juncture. I do not think honorable senators are acting fairly towards the British " Tommy " and the British Army generally when they endeavour to institute unfavorable comparisons between the members of the British Forces and those from other parts of the world. The British "Tommy" did his share equally with the representatives of the Canadian, South African, and other Dominion Forces; he was always where he was needed. We have also to remember that practically the whole of the British Forces who served on the Western and other Fronts consisted of volunteers, and it was only at a desperate stage in the conflict, when a majority of eligible men in Britain had enlisted under the Derby and Kitchener schemes, that conscription was introduced in order to bring in the slackers who were not prepared to render service to their country. I trust that no further unfavorable comparisons will be made between the soldiers of different portions of the Empire, because all of them fought for the same ideal, and, I venture to say, with equal bravery. Throughout the whole of the great conflict, which has happily terminated with complete victory to the Allied Forces, it may be said that (if there was dissatisfaction in any of the British regiments it was probably due to the action of commanding officers, and not only to the Act which they were administering. Senator Elliott, Senator Cox, and others who served in the different theatres of action, know very well that there were members of our own Forces who, when they had a few stripes on their arm, or one pip on their shoulder, became veritable Czars. I know that . is a fact, because I came in contact with some of them. Thank goodness, they were very few and far between. On opening the British Manual on Military Law at page 369, I could see from what appears there that it is impossible for us to accept the whole of its provisions. A schedule is provided concerning the billeting of soldiers, which shows that the maximum price to be paid to soldiers when billeted with the individuals or hotels, as the case may be, is -

Lodging and attendance for soldiers where meals furnished, 6d. per night.

Can any one imagine soldiers being billeted at Menzies' or the Hotel Australia at 6d. per night?

Senator Duncan - Does the honorable senator think that soldiers would be billeted at such hotels?

Senator FOLL - Some may consider it ridiculous to make such a suggestion, but firsf class . hotels in Cairo were turned into billets.

Senator Senior - Such hotels as the honorable senator mentioned would not be exempt.

Senator FOLL - Certainly not. The schedule continues -

Breakfast as specified in part 1 of the second schedule to the Army Act, 5d. each. Dinner as so specified, Is. Id. each.

Senator Cox - The honorable senator never had a 5d. "feed" under the Aus-. tralian Act.

Senator FOLL - Unfortunately I have never had a 5d. meal in my life. What will be the position if this Bill becomes law?

Senator Cox - We acted under the Army Act as well as under our Defence Act.

Senator FOLL - The honorable senator means to say that if the Army Act is incorporated in our Defence Act he will be able to apply such provisions of it as he may think fit.

Senator Cox - Yes.

Senator FOLL - That is a stronger argument than any I have put up for voting against the incorporation of the Army Act. I can imagine that Senator Cox would have a high old time if he could use such provisions of the Army Act as he desired to apply and set the rest aside. There are a great many provisions of the Army Act which commend themselves to me, and especially section 43, which I quote from page 415.It reads : -

If any soldier thinks himself wronged in any matter by any officer other than his captain, or by any soldier, he may complain thereof to his captain," and if he thinks himself wronged by his captain, either in respect of his complaint not being redressed or in respect of any other matter, he may complain thereof to his commanding officer, and if he thinks himself wronged by his commanding officer, either in respect of his complaint not being redressed or in respect of any other matter, he may complain thereof to the prescribed general officer, or, in the case of a soldier serving in India, to such officer as the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in India, with the approval of the Governor-General of India in Council, may appoint; and every officer to whom a complaint is made in pursuance of this section shall cauae such complaint to be inquired into, and shall, if on inquiry he is satisfied of the justice of the complaint so made, take such steps as may be necessary for giving full redress to the complainant in respect of the -matter complained of.

Senator Elliott - The military authorities will not allow that provision to apply. They cut it out by a regulation, which, in turn, they may disregard if they think fit. That provision is abrogated by our regulation, which can be disregarded by the high officers.

Senator FOLL - If the section of the Army Act I have quoted were put into operation here it would meet Senator Elliott's case.

Senator Elliott - That is so, and I am submitting an amendment to embody that specific section.

Senator FOLL - Then I shall have very much pleasure in supporting that amendment.

Senator Elliott - We shall not bring that section into force here by passing the clause before the Committee, because, as I have said, it is abrogated by a regulation under our Defence Act.

Senator FOLL - The honorable senator means to. say that, even if the whole of the Army Act is incorporated in our Defence Act, as proposed by this Bill, it will be poasible by regulation to abrogate the section I have quoted.

Senator Elliott - That is so.

Senator Earle - A regulation cannot override the sections of an Act.

Senator Elliott - It can in this case, because the proposal is that the Army Act is to apply to our Forces only so far as it is not inconsistent with our Defence Act or regulations made thereunder.

Senator FOLL - If that be so, I can see no advantage at all in incorporating the Army Act.

Senator Elliott - Not unless we provide punishment for disobedience of its provisions as I have tried to do by my amendment.

SenatorFOLL. - I am glad that Senator Elliott is proposing to include the section of the Army Act which I have quoted in this Bill.

Senator Pearce - We already have it in- our Defence Regulations.

Senator FOLL - Can the Minister inform the Committee whether the sections I have quoted will apply to our Forces if the clause under consideration is passed.

Senator Pearce - It will not apply, because it is inconsistent with our regulations. There is a right of appeal under our regulations equal to that given by the Army Act, and, therefore, the Army Act provision will not apply to our Forces.

Senator Elliott - The only difference is that in the Army Act, failure to give effect to the section may involve punishment, whilst under the regulation made by the heads at the barracks care is taken that there shall be no punishment for a breach of the regulation if they break it.

Senator Pearce - We shall deal with that later on.

Senator FOLL - I think that Senator Elliott is wise in submitting an amendment to include the section of the Army Act which I quoted in this Bill. I feel confident that it must commend itself to the majority of honorable senators.

There is a great deal of valuable information . in the Army Act relating to the action of soldiers on the field, so far as the sick, the -wounded, and the dead are concerned.

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