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Thursday, 27 May 1915

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been called to a statement made in another branch of the Legislature last night, to the effect that a large number of men had died at Broadmeadows camp within a very recent period; if so, whether such statement is correct; and if it is not correct, does he intend to take steps to prosecute those responsible for making the statement ?

Senator PEARCE - The statements only came under my notice this morning, and at once I issued instructions for a comprehensive report to be supplied as to the amount of sickness, and also the number of deaths. That report has notyet been handed to me, but I am informed by theofficers of the Department that there has been gross exaggeration, as they know from personal knowledge. If the statements are inaccurate we shall, because of their exaggerated nature, prosecute those who were responsible for publishing them.

SenatorNEEDHAM. - I ask the Minister of Defence the following questions : -

1.   Has he yet received the report of the Chief Ordnance Officer, re the inferior boots supplied by Goode, Durrant and Company, of Perth, and the inferior box-candle tins supplied by Sandover and Company, of Perth

2.   If so, what is the nature of the report? 3. If unfavorable to the firms mentioned, what action does the Minister intend to take?

Senator PEARCE - Reports have been received in each of these cases, and,as a result, Goode, Durrant, and Company have been struck off the list of contractors eligible to supply the Department. In the case of Sandover and Company, the Chief Examiner has asked that further reference should be had to the inspectors in Western Australia before he makes a recommendation. That has been done, but we have not yet received a further report.

Senator MILLEN - Has the Minister of Defence noticed in to-day's Age a statement affirming that a good deal of friction exists in the Australian Hospital at the front; and that, as a consequence, it is said that -

Its efficiency is certainly suffering owing to the very regrettable friction which has existed between those in command and the bulk of the medical officers, by whom the greatest dissatisfaction is felt at the general conduct of the hospital. On one occasion forty of the men sent in separate requests to be transferred to another unit - which requests were, it is alleged, ignored.

Has he seen that report, and, if so, has he any information to affirm or disprove it?

Senator PEARCE - I have seen the report.I may say that I was informed that such statements hadbeen made, and I suggested to my informants that the officers, if any, who made the complaints should forward them to HeadQuarters, as they are entitled to do, in the ordinary way. No such complaints have reached Head-Quarters through the ordinary channel. It must be remembered that these are not Permanent officers, but medical men who have volunteered their services, and are under no obligation to their superior officers. If they are not being fairly treated they have the right, under the regulations, to forward a protest to Head-Quarters, and to the Minister. If they have any grievance they should avail themselves of that opportunity. In my opinion, it is not right that they should write to persons in Australia making such complaints, and expect the Department here to take up the matter. If any such officers feel that they have a grievance, it is their place to take up the matter in the proper way, and send on their complaints to HeadQuarters here for rectification. No such complaint has been received by us from any medical officer in Egypt.

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