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Wednesday, 23 November 1910

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I wish to say at once that I do not approve of the proposal of the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I agree very largely with the remarks which have fallen from Senator Millen. It. is ridiculous to say that a man over the age of nineteen years, who has passed the prescribed examination, cannot pass through the gates of. our Military College unless he is recommended by the GovernorGeneral in Council. Such a provision would simply throw the door open wide to all sorts of intrigue and political corruption. I am informed that the party with which I am associated agreed to this proposal ; and as the measure is a party one, I suppose that I must-

Senator Chataway - Defence is not a party question at all. It has never been made one.

Senator STEWART - I remember a statement being made that this was a party measure. The amendment of the VicePresident of the Executive Council is repulsive to me, because it will open the door to political patronage. A man may be able [to pass the examination for admission to the Military College with credit, but, unless he can pass the political head of the Department, he will have no more hope of getting through than I have of going to Heaven.

Senator Long - The honorable senator must have a mighty poor opinion of the head of the Government.

Senator STEWART - Why should any man have to lick the boots of the head of the Government? Is that the kind of thing of which the honorable senator approves? I recollect the period when men could become officers of the British Army only by purchasing their commissions, in addition to bringing influence to bear. Everybody knows the reign of corruption and rascality, and depravity in which that state of affairs resulted.

Senator Millen - The object of our Public Service Act was to abolish all that sort of thing.

Senator STEWART - Certainly. If a man over the age of nineteen years can pass the necessary examination, he ought to be allowed' to enter the Military College. Either that should be the case, or the door should be slammed in his face, and he ought to be told that, irrespective of whether he can pass the examination or not, he cannot gain entrance to it. In another place, an amendment was inserted in the Bill to permit of a man gaining admission to the College up to the age of twentyseven years. I agree with that amendment. I can quite believe that the military authorities are opposed to any extension of the age, and there is not the slightest doubt that the Minister of Defence is largely in their hands. The question we have to consider is whether we shall bar men of ability from promotion. Suppose that a man enters the service at an early age, without having had an opportunity to educate himself, and that while he is in the service he qualifies to pass the examination. Unless he can get the consent of the Governor-General in Council, which means the consent of the political head of the Department, who acts very largely on the advice of the head of the Military Department, he cannot proceed. After passing the examination he must set the wires in motion to pull the Minister of Defence.

Senator Givens - No, he has to pull the Minister of Defence before he goes up for examination.

Senator STEWART - Yes, I suppose he would require to know whether, after passing the examination, he would get a recommendation from the Governor-General in Council -

Senator Givens - He would not be allowed to be examined until he had.

Senator STEWART - I prefer the amendment carried in. another place. I think it is much fairer to the men, and much more in the interests of the service generally. I am not concerned as to what the military authorities say on the subject. I know that they desire to keep the profession as much as possible a close preserve. In Great Britain the people fondly imagined that with the abolition of the purchase system any man might become an officer, but the examination is so strict that a man must spend the best years of his life in qualifying to pass it. He must be in possession of a very large private income before he can occupy the position of an officer.

Senator Chataway - What about the Macdonalds and the Finns, who rose from the ranks?

Senator STEWART - They are the exceptions that prove the rule. The officering of the British Army is almost exclusively in the hands of the wealthy classes, and the fond ambition of the people of Great Britain, that it would be open to the humblest soldier to rise to the position of a field marshal, was only a wild and impossible dream.

Senator Chataway - In Great Britain what is proposed here does not apply. Anybody can rise from the ranks there.

Senator STEWART - If they pass the examination.

Senator Chataway - No, they can rise from the ranks without going through Woolwich or Sandwich.

Senator Long - Without' going through a Masonic lodge?

Senator Millen - You want to substitute a Ministerial lodge.

Senator Long - No, the Minister will always be under the control of Parliament.

Senator STEWART - I think that the provision, as it stands, is very much better than the amendment, and as the question is not a party one, I intend to vote against the latter.

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