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Wednesday, 11 May 1921

Senator FOSTER (Tasmania) . - We appear to be discussing amendment after amendment; and yet every time criticism is levelled against the clause in regard to, the doings of Australian troops abroad, the Minister replies, " Yes, but these things were not done." Seeing that our Australian soldiers did so well under the conditions which 'existed during the late' war, and remembering that it was not necessary to inflict the death penalty for any crime committed by them, why in' the name of God are we now asked to insert new clauses which are intended to tighten up our Defence Act, and to confer more power upon military officers ?

Senator Pearce - We are only providing for one new offence.

Senator FOSTER - I referred to new clauses and not to new offences. I sometimes think that the Minister is becoming very military-minded.

Senator Keating - Getting militaritis

Senator FOSTER - Yes. We have had an exhibition to-night of what the military men can do-. What chance would any member of the Australian Imperial Force have, if he were being pursued by a higher authority in the way in which Senator Elliott was to-night? Upon the one hand we are told that the Australian Imperial Force did remarkably well during the recent war, that it was not necessary to inflict the death penalty upon any of its members, that it was equally unnecessary to give this power to officers overseas, and especially British officers, whilst upon the other hand we are assured that we ought to place this very power in the hands of officers, perhaps, of other nations, who may have command of our troops abroad in the future.

Senator Pearce - Our divisions will always be commanded by our own officers.

Senator FOSTER - We hope so. But they were not thus commanded at the beginning of the- recent war. . - Further,' I take it that under the British Army Act the General Officer Commanding would -not be the officer commanding the Australian Division.

Senator Pearce - It is the General Officer Commanding the unit who is con-

Senator FOSTER - We have been told to-day that all these cases go from the General Officer Commanding the unit to divisional head-quarters, then to general head-quarters, and then across to London. Senator Drake-Brockman, withhis great legal knowledge, has pointed out to us the wonderful army of learned lawyers who so well looked after the Interests' of our Australian troops during the late war.

Senator Cox - It is -the General Officer Commanding who is the " boss cookie" of the lot.

Senator FOSTER - And he might be some English aristocrat who was put into the Army because he was one of the useless members of the family who could not go. into the' Church. Yet such a man might have power given to him over our Australian soldiers. _ I would not object to this authority being vested in Australian officers, but to vest it in British officers - especially as it was not required during the late war- is a proposal which, to my mind, is quite unwarranted.

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