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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator PEARCE - The answers are -

1.   Seventeen (17) appointments to the rank of Major-General or higher rank have been made on the Active List of the Australian Military Forces from the year 1918 to date.

2.   A schedule giving the names of officers so appointed, and the amount of pay received by such officers, is being laid on the table -



3.   I am laying on the table a statement showing the amounts now paid to each officer, and the rate of pay for corresponding positions of appointments in . the Commonwealth Military Forces prior to August, 1914. The statement reads: -


Senator ELLIOTT asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

1.   Has the Minister throughout the debate on the Defence Bill assured the Senate that the regulations relating to the supersession of officers were confined to junior officers in a unit?

2.   If so, will the Minister refer to Australian Imperial Force Rules governing the appointment and promotion of officers (issued with Australian Imperial Forces Order No. 907 of 12th October, 1917) Rule 34, as follows:- "In cases where the supersession of officers is involved, full reasons should be stated on Australian Imperial Forces Form 2, together with a note that the' officers proposed to. be superseded have been informed of the reasons ", and state how his assurance to the Senateis to be reconciled with the above regulation?

3.   Will the Minister, in view of the fact that this regulation was' in force throughout the war without any disaster happening, agree to recommit the section and amendment thereto moved by Senator Elliott dealing with such matter?

Senator PEARCE - The answers are -

1.   I have pointed out that the rule requiring all officers who are superseded to be informed of the adverse report applies to regimental officers serving in a battalion, &c, and that promotion to commands in the higher ranks is by selection only.

2.   The rule quoted by Senator Elliott is under the heading "Procedure," and applies to those cases only where the rules require the officers to be informed of the reasons of supersession. The rule requiring officers to be informed in all cases of the reason of supersession is Rule18 (iii), and is under the heading "Lieutenants and Captains."

The same rule, under the heading "Major," dealing with promotions above that rank, provides as follows: - " As appointments to these commands are regulated only by selection, an officer who is not recommended, that is, whose name is not included amongst those recommended, need not be so informed, but he must be shown, and will initial any definite adverse report made against him."

3.   No.

Senator ELLIOTT asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

1.   In view of the Minister's reply on the 5th instant to the question asked by Senator Elliott relating to the supersession of Captain McLennon, whereby it is asserted that a right of appeal to the Governor-General was given to officers in lieu of their right of appeal to the Army Council, will the Minister explain his letter to the father of Captain McLennon, dated the 27th November, 1917, as follows: -

Dear Sir,

With reference to your verbal representation concerning the supersession of your son, Captain G. C. McLennon, Army Veterinary Corps, Australian Army Force, and your request thatin the event of it being decided not to inquire into this matter he be returned to Australia for termination of appointment, I regret to inform you that, as both these matters concern the internal administrationof the Australian Imperial Force which has been intrusted to the General Officer Commanding, I cannot see my way to comply with either of your requests. - Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) G. F. Pearce.

2.   Further, in view of such reply, what is the Minister's explanation of the fact that General Sir C. B. White, by his letter of the 22nd May, 1918, referred to in debate, apparently regarded the attempted exercise of. such a right ( secured to him by law) by General H. E. Elliott as a crime to be punished by being sent back to Australia as an undesirable?

3.   Is the Minister aware whether, at the time of such letter and interview, the troops were responding to the famous appeal of Sir Douglas Haig to them to stand fast - that they stand with their backs to the wall, and no further retreat was possible without disaster, and consequently General Elliott's presence with his brigade was most important?

4.   If not, will he ascertain whether such was the case, and inform the Senate thereon?

5.   Will the Minister state for the guidance of officers in the future -

(a)   What was General Elliott's proper course of procedure if he found himself about to be superseded by the appointment of a junior officer over his head of which intended supersession he had not been informed, and for which no reasons had been stated.

(b)   Whether in the Minister's opinion his action should have been influenced by the desperate position of the allied armies at the time as revealed by General Haig's message?

6.   Will the Minister lay a copy of his letter to General Birdwood, giving him power over the promotion and supersession of officers in the field, on the table of the Senate, and state -

(a)   How such letter is to be reconciled with the sections of the Army Act giving a right of appeal to the Army Council to injured officers.

(b)   How such letter is to be reconciled with the Defence Act and Regulations thereunder referred to by the Minister in his reply in McLennon's case?

Senator PEARCE -The answers are -

1.   The question itself clearly shows that this was not a case of an appeal by an officer of the Australian Imperial Force, but by the father of an officer, and the sections of the Defence Act and Regulations quoted in the answer to the honorable senator's question on 5th May give no right of appeal to the father or any other person on behalf of an officer. 2, 3, and 4. I do not propose to answer questions on assertions made in the course of debate on a Bill that is still before the Senate, and in respect of which there is still opportunity for discussion.

5.   The honorable senator is referred to the answer given in reply to his question on 5th May.

6.   There is no letter bearing such construction. See my statement, page 7586, ofHansard, 21st April, 1921.

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