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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) . - It is very difficult for honorable senators at this late hour to do justice to an important amendment of this character, and I desire to protest against the Bill being rushed through when honorable senators are so fatigued that they are not able to effectively deal with a proposition which may affect the life and liberty of the subject. It is ' proposed to import into our Defence Act sections 42 and 43 of the British Army Act to which I have previously referred. The only difference between my amendment and that of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is that I am anxious to place the soldier and officer on equal terms. Under the British Army Act a soldier's right of appeal ceases at the General Officer Commanding, whereas an officer can appeal to the Eng. I want by the amendment of which I have given notice to place them on the saint! footing. I may, perhaps, again remind honorable senators that the British soldier is a volunteer, who deliver.ately submits, by enlistment, to the Army Act; but in Australia men are compelled to serve, and, with a view to making- this compulsory provision in some way palatable to the free and independent citizens of Australia,, I am moving my amendments. Wo should not endeavour to make any class distinctions in this connexion between soldiers and officers. There is a strong tendency for officers, and even the Minister to " rubber stamp " the acts of their subordinates, and, whether from mental inertia or for some other reason, they seem to think that everything suggested by others is in order. I urge honorable senators to consider the reasonableness and the necessity of providing that if an officer or a soldier rightly or wrongly imagines that he has a grievance he should have the right to appeal right up to the Governor-General. It will be quite open for Senator Gardiner, who, I think, made the suggestion, or some other honorable senators, to move that, in place of an appeal being made to the Governor-General, it shall be made to some special tribunal, such as a Committee of this Senate, which would have associated with it one or more Judges of the Supreme Court. The difficulty, I feel, that would arise in establishing such a tribunal would be the possibility of the voting being on party lines. Owing to that possibility 1 am merely following the Army Act so that officers and soldiers may finally appeal to the GovernorGeneral.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is going beyond the British Army Act.

Senator ELLIOTT - Only to the extent I have mentioned, because the British soldiers are volunteers, whereas the Australians serve compulsorily.

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