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Wednesday, 23 March 1927

Senator OGDEN (Tasmania)

I move -

That a select committee, with power to send for persons, papers, and records,be appointed to inquire into and report upon the ease of C. H. Everett, late Chief Armourer in the Royal Australian Navy, such committee to consist of Senators Sampson, H. Hays, Hoare, Thompson, and the mover.

This case, which concerns Charles Henry Everett, late Chief Armourer in the Royal Australian 'Navy, who transferred from the Royal Navy to the Australian Naval Forces in 1912, is a comparatively small matter, but involves a vital principle. I would not have brought this man's case before the Senate had I not exhausted every other means to obtain fair play. Having failed to do so, I bring the matter before honorable senators for their consideration. When Everett was transferred from the Royal Navy in 1912 to the Royal Australian Navy for a period of five years, an agreement was properly signed and executed on behalf of the Imperial authorities and the Commonwealth Government. The agreement bears the signatures of Charles Henry Everett and D. Dutton-Brown, a commander of the Royal Navy, and is counter-signed by M. Silver, a captain of the Royal Australian Navy, on hehalf of the Commonwealth Government. The agreement provided that, on Everett joining the Royal Australian Navy, his wife was to be entitled to a free passage from England to Australia, or that he was to receive a free return passage to England when the agreement expired. At the close of Everett's five years' term a state of war still existed, and he was not allowed to resign. He served on the Australia or the Melbourne in the North Sea during the war, and returned to Australia before the termination of hostilities, when his period of service was extended for another five years. At the end of that time, his services were still retained, and he applied for, and was given, a position in the auxiliary land forces. Instead of serving five years, as provided in the original agreement, he served approximately ten years, and was then 57 years of age. During the whole of this time, he was still of the opinion that he was entitled to a free passage to England when his service in the Royal Australian Navy had terminated. After continuing in the service for ten years, he asked the Naval authorities to observe the agreement, and provide him with free passage to London.

He was then informed that his period of service having been extended on two different occasions, and because he had transferred to the auxiliary land forces, he had forfeited his claim to a free passage to England. Everett did not think for a moment that when his period of service was extended he was forfeiting his rights under the agreement. He approached me and I brought the matter before the proper authorities. Everett also wrote to the Admiralty in England, and, on the 22nd January, of this year, received the following reply: -

I am to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 1st November, and to inform you that your claim for a return passage to the United Kingdam is one which the Naval authorities of the Commonwealth must decide, and in which Their Lordships are unable to interfere. A copy of your letter is accordingly being sent to the naval representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in London for the consideration of the High Commissioner. Your service certificate and the documents enclosed in your letter are returned herewith.

To show that Everett firmly believed that the conditions of the agreement would be observed, I may say that, when his wife, who was entitled to a free passage to this country if he did not desire one to England, was coming to Australia, he instructed her to pay her own expenses. As a definite undertaking has been entered into, I consider Everett has a proper claim to the payment of the passage money, which probably would not amount to more than £60 or £70.

Senator Payne - Is he asking for a free passage for his wife, too?

Senator OGDEN - No. He is only entitled to one free passage. If a select committee inquired into this man's case, it could complete its work within a few days; but, if the Minister will say that an adjustment will be made in accordance with the terms of the agreement, there is no need for the appointment of a committee. The authorities experience considerable difficulty in obtaining naval recruits, as shown by the standing advertisements in every newspaper, and every consideration should be given to the claims of the men who have served in the Navy if that branch of the Service is to become popular.

Debate (on motion, by Senator William Glasgow) adjourned.

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