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Friday, 6 March 1942

Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - I had no intention of taking part in this debate, but I should like to add a few words to what my friend SenatorCollett had to say. As one who has been a soldier for more than 40 years in this country and in other countries, I personally shall withhold judgment until I know all the facts, hut all the circumstances of Major-General Bennett's escape from the Japanese should be investigated by a court of inquiry composed of officers of his own rank. That is owed to Major-General Bennett himself; it is owed to the men who remained in Malaya and who, in fact, are still under his command because he has not yet been relieved of that command. It is owed also to the men here in Australia who to-morrow may be serving under Major-General Bennett, possibly with the Japanese on our shores. I support what Senator Collett has said. There can be no doubt that there is an uneasy feeling and an underlying stigma which will remain until the full facts are known. 1 talked this matter over with brother officers at my club recently, and asked them what they thought.

Senator Armstrong - The old school tie.

Senator SAMPSON - No. The honorable senator cannot talk about the old school tie to me. I served as a trooper for years and I had to work hard. I was 30 years of age before I received my commission. The fact remains that until a military court is convened - it could be done by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to-morrow - and the evidence is sifted, that feeling will remain among all sections of the community and particularly among the mothers and fathers of those lads who are prisoners of war in Malaya.

Debate interrupted.

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