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Thursday, 16 May 1957

Mr STEWART (Lang) .- I am pleased to see the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) in the House, because the matter I wish to raise deals with the department he administers. I take up the time of the House because I feel that the matter is important. It deals with the conduct of certain officers of the Army towards a soldier whose only crime has been to ask me to make representations on his behalf. The activities of certain of those officers of the Army with whom this soldier has had dealings can only be described as ungentlemanly, un-Australian, mean and despicable.

The soldier to whom I refer is 2/1946, Warrant Officer 2 Leo, J. P. He was stationed at George's Heights, in Sydney, and he received a posting to Bandiana, in Victoria. He applied for compassionate retention of his posting, and that application was investigated by certain Army officers. After he had received a complaint from his family medical officer, he approached me and asked me to make some representations on his behalf. He has been a friend of mine for many years. He is a man of good repute andhas an exemplary army record.

I made representations to the Minister, and, despite the fact that the representations made and the case presented were strong, the posting was confirmed. I have with me a copy of the submission that was made by the honorary medical officer who carried out the investigation in the second instance. After I had made a complaint about the manner in which the investigation had been carried out in the first instance, certain other officers were put on to investigate it. I shall read now only the final paragraph of the report of the medical officer. It reads -

I agree with Dr.-- 's opinion and consider if it is militarily practicable that the utmost consideration be given to Warrant Officer Leo's application.

A padre was also placed on the investigation and his recommendation was -

I can only recommend that Leo be retained in a Sydney posting but would point out that he will probably claim compassionate circumstances for the remainder of his engagement.

Despite the reports of the investigating officers, the posting to Bandiana was confirmed. Warrant Officer Leo then asked me to make representations on his behalf for a compassionate discharge. I did so, and the Minister, who I must admit has given me every consideration and every opportunity to place the case before him, replied to the effect that Warrant Officer Leo, having been sent overseas to a school, would be expected to serve for the remainder of his five years' bond, or pay £300. A discharge from the service would be granted only on condition that he paid the £300 or that he served for the remainder of the time, which would take him up to 15th September, 1957. Warrant Officer Leo asked that a part payment of the bond be taken as acceptable by the Department of the Army, and that he be discharged on the payment of £30. That was unacceptable to the Army and Warrant Officer Leo agreed to serve for the remainder of his time.

On 1st May of this year, Warrant Officer Leo made application to clear ten days' accumulated leave. The period of leave for which he asked was from 13th May to 24th May. He specified that period because it coincided with the school holidays and he desired to go with his wife and family to his father's house at Tuggerah. Previously, the leave had been postponed on two occasions to suit Army purposes. The application was recommended by his officer commanding and was submitted to the commanding officer. On 2nd May, he was advised by the Adjutant, Captain

Manwaring, that he was to move to R.A.E.M.E. training centre, Bandiana, by 3 p.m. on 3rd May. He drew Captain Manwaring's attention to the application for leave. Captain Manwaring promised to contact Eastern Command, who were handling the posting, and see whether the leave could be granted. After a lapse of time, Warrant Officer Leo rang Eastern Command himself and spoke to Captain Enton. He asked Captain Enton whether any decision had been given to his application for leave, and Captain Enton assured him that he know nothing at all about his application. He then paraded himself before Captain Manwaring and asked whether there had been any decision given by Eastern Command. I ask the Minister to note particularly that Captain Manwaring told him that Eastern Command had refused the application.

Armed with the information that he had received from Captain Enton, he then asked for a parade to the commanding officer. Captain Manwaring repeated in front of the commanding officer the statement he had made to Leo that Eastern Command had refused the application. Leo told Captain Manwaring and the commanding officer that he had contacted Captain Enton and that Captain Enton had advised him that no approach had been made by Captain Manwaring or any other officer of his unit. The commanding officer then said that he would contact Eastern Command. He apparently did so, and the leave was refused.

Prior to Captain Manwaring informing Leo that he was to move to Bandiana, the captain approached the R.A.P. sergeant and told him that Leo, who had been under treatment for six weeks for an infection of the eyes, would probably come to him in an endeavour to obtain a delay of the posting. Captain Manwaring instructed the RA.P. sergeant to ring the honorary medical officer and tell him that Leo would probably be approaching him and that in his, Captain Manwaring's, opinion Leo was only malingering and endeavouring to delay his posting. Leo has made very few appearances on sick parade and, when he has appeared on sick parade, he has always had good reason for doing so.

Warrant Officer Leo reported to Bandiana as instructed. On arrival, he was interviewed by the officer commanding of his wing, Major Ollie. He requested leave of Major Ollie and outlined the reason for his application. Major Ollie informed him that the dates he required would not inconvenience any one because the first course he was expected to instruct on would not commence until 10th June. He made the application on 6th May, and on 8th May, at 12.30 p.m., he was informed that his leave would commence as from that evening. He interviewed Major Rice, the administrative officer, and stated the reasons for requiring his leave as from 13th May. Major Rice stated, "The CO. has decreed you will take your leave as from to-night. Do not expect any consideration from me or the colonel. As far as we are concerned, you will get no privileges or consideration while you are with this unit. Do not ask me for consideration, and as for your pay, you can wait until the pay parade to-morrow at midday or get it from Victoria Barracks, but your leave starts to-night." Major Rice, I might add, is at present under investigation by Southern Command for drunk and disorderly conduct on a major Melbourne railway station. He is the individual who is standing over this warrant officer and telling him that unless he does exactly as he is told and is willing to toe the line and obey the instructions that are given to him by his commanding officers, he will not get any consideration at all.

Because I have not sufficient time to continue with the details of this case, I ask the Minister to take up the matter and to have the highest investigation possible made into the facts that I have placed before him.

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