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Tuesday, 11 October 1921

Senator PEARCE - The answer is - 1 and 2. The Minister is not aware of the rumours referred to, nor of any grounds for them. Australian Imperial Force horses in England were sold by public auction, portion by the Imperial Disposals Board prior to the establishment of the Australian Imperial Force Disposals Board, and the balance by the Australian Imperial Force Disposals Board, of which Sir W. G. McBeath was Chairman. The prices realized were, on the whole, considered satisfactory.

Senator DELARGIE (for Senator Elliott) asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

l.   Is it a fact that the Department is, or has been, calling in and cancelling good dis charges granted to returned soldiers, with a view to issuing bad discharges in lieu of them, on the ground that, when searching the records of these men in connexion with the grant of war gratuity, it was discovered that these men had crimes against their record ?

2.   Is it a fact that the officer responsible for this action did not go to the war, on the ground that he was indispensable?

3.   Is it a fact that a number of the clerks under him have also not been to the war?

4.   Is the action above-mentioned taken for the purpose of providing further employment for this officer and officials?

Senator PEARCE - The answers are -

1.   No. The issue of a discharge, and the " reason for discharge " thereon stated, are in no way connected with the various Gratuity Boards, either central or district. Discharges were issued by the District Military Commandant (now issued by District Base Commandant). It may be explained that no "character " is stated on a discharge fromthe Australian Imperial Forces, the only statement which may be taken as indicating "good" or " bad " discharge is contained in the " reason for discharge." The various -reasons normally given were: -

(b)   Medically unfit ("not due to misconduct," or " due to misconduct," as the case may be).

In December, 1919, instructions were issued by telegraph to all Military DistrictCommandants, in the following terms: - "Reference finalization men returning having been sentenced abroad following instructions approved for immediate adoption all cases not yet finalized. In case of sentences awarded after eighteenth July nineteen including sentences awarded on voyage if sentences do not expire within thirty days exclusive from date disembarkation district of demobilization men will be treated as disciplinary cases and will receive no leave." It was discovered in July last that in a certain case action had been taken by a District Base Commandant to recall a discharge which had been issued in error, showing reason for discharge as " Termination of period of enlistment," and to substitute therefor a discharge showing as a reason " Services no longer required." Instructions were issued to all District Base Commandants that this practice was to cease.

2.   It is not practicable to answer this question, as the discharges were issued by Military Districts, under the authority of the District Military Commandant (now Base Commandant). During the past six years the positions of District Military Commandants and District Base Commandant have been filled by various officers, some of whom did not go to the war, 3 and 4. See answer to No. 2, above.

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