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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) . - Honorable senators need not concern themselves . very much about the drafting of the amendments submitted by Senator Elliott. They have been drafted by the Government draftsman, who has been dealing with the Bill, and, therefore, they will accomplish what the honorable senator has in view.

Senator Foster - We have not copies of the amendments.

Senator PEARCE - The wording does not matter very much. There is only one principle at stake of any importance. The difference between Senator Elliott's amendments and mine is just this: In time of war an appeal by a soldier would be dealt with by the General Officer Commanding, and in time of peace by the Military Board, whereas an appeal by an officer must go to the Governor-General in time of peace or war. Senator Foster has already pointed out that the soldier has really four courts of appeal. He appeals to his colonel for redress of what he may consider to be a wrong done him ; then to the brigadier, and to the general or the superior officer commanding the Army, and from him to the Military Board. At least three of these courts of appeal would have no direct connexion with the soldier's unit, and, therefore, there could be no personal feeling in the matter at all. The courts would be quite disinterested, and not disposed to cover up any injustice that might have been done in the smaller unit. In the case of an officer, on the other hand, he could appeal to his superior officer, who might be the General Officer Commanding, as in General Elliott's case, and then to the GovernorGeneral. A senior officerwould have only two courts of appeal, but an officer placed in General Elliott's position, appealing to General Birdwood as the General Officer Commanding, and then to the Governor-General, if he still thought himself wronged, would have only one court of appeal. In the case of a. soldier who enlists, nothing arising out of his enlistment can constitute a wrong. There can be no question of supersession. If qualified he is appointed to a commission, and then is selected from a number who are all equally competent, or are presumed to be equally competent, to a position of command. Honorable senators can see the possibilities of injustice at this stage. Supersession is infinitely greater in the case of an officer than in the case of a man, because an officer may be wronged by the opinion of the officer commanding who makes the selection. Therefore, there are a variety of reasons why an appeal by an officer to the Governor-General should be allowed without conceding the same privilege to a soldier. Their positions are not analogous. Really, so far as this amendment is concerned, the point which honorable senators are asked to decide between Senator Elliott's amendment and mine is as to whether the soldier should also have the right of appeal to the GovernorGeneral.

Senator Elliott - That is the only point, really.

Senator PEARCE - The later amendmentsraise other issues. I ask the Committee hot to accept Senator Elliott's amendment, because in practice it would so clog the wheels of administration that no Minister could possibly find time to personally investigate the large number of cases that would come before him, in time of war especially. This matter came before me rather prominently when I was in England during the time of demobilization. While in London I got a request from a soldier who wished to state his grievance, in the belief that I was in London for the purpose of inquiring into grievances. I listened to the man, and took a note of what he said. He left the room, and subsequently I left also, but by another door, and I happened to pass down a corridor in which he was standing in conversation with another soldier. They were talking loudly, so I could not help overhearing the conversation. The other man said to him, " Hallo, Bill. I remember you were down seeing General Monash the other day." The other man replied, "Yes," and his companion said, "Did you get that story into Monash?" "Yes," said the man who had seen me, and then his friend asked, "What are you doing up here? Are you seeing the Minister about it?" The, man who had interviewed me replied, " Oh, yes. I am going to give them all a'fly'." I am afraid that is how it wouldbe if we gave every soldier this right of appeal to the Governor-General. I trust the Committee will not accept Senator Elliott's amendment.

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