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Wednesday, 11 May 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) . - The Minister (Senator Pearce) has inserted words which take from our officers and soldiers the right of appeal which they possessed throughout the war. That there were only two convictions for murder, notwithstanding that, according to him, that offence was not punishable as murder, is a remarkable tribute . to the good conduct of our soldiers, and under these circumstances it is amazing that the Minister should insist on many of the provisions of the Bill. Experience has shown that Australians oan be trusted not to abuse lenient treatment, and to give' the- right of appeal would not cause the1 collapse of military discipline that seems to be feared'. The Minister on another, occasion admitted that when he entered upon the administration of the Department at the beginning of the war he knew nothing about Defence matters.

Senator Pearce - I did not admit anything of the kind.

Senator ELLIOTT - The honorable gentleman told us that he was selected as the least able of the Ministry to deal with these matters.

Senator Earle - Surely the honorable senator recognises that he was making a joke. He must have some sense of humour.

Senator ELLIOTT - The Minister told us that he,, on taking office, read one book about war, Henderson's Stonewall Jackson. Afterwards when pressed, hesaid that he had read other books, and when asked for the names of them, he replied, "the Bible.".

Senator Pearce - What I said about my appointment to the portfolio of Defence referred to what occurred in 1908, six years before the war.

Senator ELLIOTT - The- honorable gentleman said that, having a completely vacant mind on military matters, he had read Stonewall Jackson. I pointed out to him that that was an extremely tech- nical work.

Senator Henderson - Stonewall .Jackson is dead.

Senator ELLIOTT - Although he has been .dead for nearly sixty years, the Minister referred senators to his book, and asked them to read it, if they wished for enlightenment on the. subject of .warfare. The debates which have taken place here show that whatever book the Minister- - read on war he learned very little from it. I know the effect of taking a Heavy meal on a starving stomach, but these debates have been a revelation to me of the effect of a heavy mental meal on a vacant mind.

Senator Pearce - Is . that - the joke which the honorable senator fired off at the unfortunate school boys in Ballarat ?

Senator ELLIOTT - I am not at all sure of 'the exact nature of the chemical reaction which, occurred on that occasion. I do not know whether the result was a fit of indigestion from which arose a nightmare, or a species of intoxication, but the Minister for (Defence appears, as it would seem from the result, to .have seen himself in a vision rising a figure in shining armour as a greater statesman than Lincoln. ,

Senator Pearce - I rise to a point of order. It is known to honorable senators, and to some people outside, that I am a teetotaller, and I ask whether the honor-' able senator is in order in suggesting that I was intoxicated.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - I think the honorable senator was speaking in a Pickwickian sense only. I do not think that the Minister's point of order was taken otherwise than in jest-. I ask Senator Elliott to resume, but I must say that I have, found it somewhat difficult to connect his .remarks with the clause before the Committee.

Senator ELLIOTT - I am merely endeavouring to point out that in following the leadership of the Minister for Defence, honorable senators should have regard to his military education, or rather to his lack of u. The Minister, in the speech to which I have referred, said that from the Life of Stonewall Jackson he' derived the great principle that if he gave an officer command of forces, he should hand them over to that officer body and soul in order to insure victory. He said that although he had read the Bible, ' He did not arm Australians with shanghais merely because he found that David slew Goliath with a sling. But as a matter of fact, he did arm the Australians with' shanghais, and pretty rotten shanghais at that. ' I thought that we had reason to blame the British War Office for supplying us on Gallipoli with shanghais which broke when they were stretched,,' and the bomb which I attempted to direct against the Turk chased me down the trench. I did not previously know that the Minister for' Defence supplied them to us from King David's Ordnance Stores. I have not a word to say against the Jews; they gave us Sir John Monash.

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