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Thursday, 18 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I shall be brief in my reply, and from Hansard of 26th November, 1920, complete the documentary evidence in regard to Captain Strasburg's claim. I do so because the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) quite properly quoted from Colonel Holmes' statement, and 'I want to put Captain Strasburg's position clearly before honorable senators. This is n quotation from the .Sydney Morning Herald of 14th October, 1914-^-

Several attempts were .made to discover the b.s. Meklong a small twin-screw steamer of the N.D.'L. Fleet, which, according to information gleaned bv Captain J.' Strasburg, who accompanied the Berrima as pilot, and know£ the islands better, probably, than any man living, was hidden somewhere on Duke of York Island. So cunningly was she [concealed, however, in a creek, .amid a profusion of coconut palms, that she was not found till Captain Strasburg, who had now been placed :in' command of' her himself, headed- the search.

Here is a letter from Colonel Holmes to Rear-Admiral Sir William Creswell, dated 5th March, 1915- " This will .servo to introduce to you Mr. J. Strasburg, who acted as pilot on the troopship .Berrima while in New Guinea waters. He -was engaged by the Naval authorities, and is now, I .understand, meeting with . some diffi culty in .obtaining a. settlement. .He wishes to see you and explain .'his .case. Captain Stevenson can speak as 'to the -service Strasburg rendered to the Navy, ..and as Administrator I- cannot speak too highly of -.the assistance he rendered in connexion with the establishment of an inter-island trade service."

This is another- letter .from Colonel Holmes to Colonel Pethebridge, .dated ;26th February, 1915-

The services Tendered by Strasburg were very useful, as at . first none of our people knew anything of the islands, and as it is' now clear that ' the Navy' agreed to ' pay him pilotage while on the Berrima in addition to his salary, I suppose it is only fair that he .should get the same treatment from the Administration while in its employ, particularly as the 'Navy still paid his salary to the date of his -leaving -Rabaul.

Of course, his appointment. by the officer in. charge, at Sydney, as acting lieutenant with remuneration for his /pilotage- services was not official, and I, have no desire to go into the matter of his claim for £2S5 for those pilotage services. I am merely dealing with his claim for a gratuity which appears to have been denied to him, because, not being of British birth, although a Britisher by naturalization, he could not hold the position of lieutenant.

Senator Drake-Brockman - 'He did not get the "gratuity purely on technical grounds.

Senator GARDINER - The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has somewhat understated the case if Senator Keating is correct in assuming- that Captain Strasburg's claim is still under consideration. I thought that the matter had been, finally decided.

Senator Pearce - It has been finally decided, but I have asked the Minister for the Navy to consider whether Captain Strasburg has not a moral claim to a money payment in lieu of the gratuity.

Senator Keating - The claim has been finally decided on technical grounds, but the Minister for Defence has submitted to the Minister for the Navy the point as to whether Captain .Strasburg has not a moral claim.

Senator GARDINER - I do not wish to he offensive to 'the Navy Department, but for some . reason or . other : gross stupidity has been displayed, by them in connexion with this case. For instance, they were finally compelled to pay Captain Strasburg's claim for pilotage services. They realized that if the case had been taken. into Court he must have succeeded.

Senator Pearce - No. The payment was made as an act of grace.

Senator GARDINER - Senator Keating was, on the fringe of the actual position when he said that we were dealing, with a foreigner. Captain Strasburg is. an old man, and he. feels his position very keenly, because he says that people will believe that. he has not. received the. gratuity, because of the. fact that there is something against him. He willingly gave his services - certainly he was paid for them - and there is only the. fact against him that he could not be appointed a lieutenant, seeing that he was not of British birth, although he is not a German. There was nothing in the regulations to prevent, his taking charge of one of the Navy's vessels, and as he was appointed to command one of them he became entitled to thewar gratuity. So long as I remain in Parliament I shall press his claim.

Senator Cox - Does not the Minister for Defence say distinctly that Captain Strasburg's claim is now being considered by the Minister for the Navy?

Senator GARDINER - I understand very well the meaning of promises given in Parliament. Six months hence I believe the matter will still be where it is to-day, and I shall find Senator Cox concurring in the appointment of a Select Committee to go into the whole case. I do not wish to go to that extreme now, but I am determined to press this claim until the injustice done to Captain Strasburg has been removed.

Senator Keating - The honorable senator would have no difficulty in. securing the appointment of a Select Committee in either House if the injustice to which he refers is not removed.

Senator GARDINER - I have given the Departments concerned ample time to settle Captain Strasburg's claim, but in view of what the Minister has said to-day I ask leave to withdraw my motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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