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Wednesday, 10 August 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in his statement, quoted from my speeches on the Defence Bill, but those quotations have absolutely no application to the question before us. What I i was then referring to was the necessity for providing some machinery whereby officers who misuse their powers may be punished; that is the meaning of the "sanction" to which the honorable gentleman refers. I am well aware that officers of the Citizen Forces, and also of the Australian Imperial Force, are not well acquainted with the principles of military law, but I fail to see how that state of affairs will be materially affected by the proposal of the Government. A great number of Citizen Force officers are at present commissioned, and provision is made for a small number of legal officers, lieutenant-colonels, majors, and captains, who, apparently, will be available for sixteen days in the year to impart instruction to the remainder. I wish to know when that instruction is going to be given. Is it given during the camp training ? In addition to the duties that the officers have to perform in the daytime in training the men, are they to be called upon to undergo instruction at night?

Senator Rowell - What about the instructional school for officers?

Senator ELLIOTT - It may be there are going to be legal schools.

Senator Rowell - I do not mean legal schools, but general schools.

Senator ELLIOTT - Then how much time of these general schools is to be devoted to the study of military law? In order to render the Citizen Forces incapable of the mistakes of the past, the officers will have to undergo a very extensive training in law, military and otherwise. The law of evidence is not absolutely confined to military law, and the officers will have to study both the law of procedure and the law of evidence, which are separate subjects at the University. How are these officers - scattered, as they will be, in a few of the principal cities - to be expected to perform their duties of instruction? They will attempt to do so, of course, and the Government will take the credit of having dealt with the matter. But we will be living in a fools' paradise, imagining that the mistakes which were made in this direction during the war will not be repeated. The whole matter is an absolute farce from beginning to end.

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