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Thursday, 28 April 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- I am willing to delete the words mentioned, and I therefore move -

That after the word " repealed " the follow: ing words be inserted, " and the following section inserted in its stead : - ' 16a. Any officer on the active list and being a member of the Senate or House of Representatives or who shall hereafter be elected to the House of Representatives, shall be forthwith placed upon the unattached list, but in time of war any such officer mav be re-appointed to the active list.' "

The object of my proposed amendment is to remove what I fear may ultimately become an evil. "We can never hope to have a. satisfactory military force unless we are entirely separated from politics. Our military force is developing, and from time to time -very important commands, with considerable remuneration attached to them, will become available. For instance, a divisional command at present carries a salary of £350 a year, which can be earned by a few hours' work in an office.

Senator Pearce - A few hours?

Senator ELLIOTT - Yes.

Senator Foster - Is that the annual salary ?

Senator ELLIOTT - Yes. I do not know what provision has been made regarding the duties; but perhaps the Minister can enlighten us. Before the divisional commands were made General Brand wrote to me and said that as one of the senior officers I might be considered suitable for a command, and he wanted to know if I would be prepared to accept such a position. I wrote declining ,to express any opinion until the conditions of service were made known. I told him that I did not know whether such work would interfere with my duties here, quite apart from the aspect of introducing politics into the Army. It is my_ duty at times to bitterly attack the policy of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner). A great many of Senator Gardiner's supporters are in the ranks, and I fear . that during . an election campaign his supporters would be able to get a bit of their own back at political meetings.

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator has given us some very excellent ammunition during the last few days.

Senator ELLIOTT - Apart from that, there is the danger of these appointments being deliberately sought, and we may find a number of comparatively junior officers in Parliament approaching members of the Ministry in an endeavour to secure support. In view of the recent decision of the Committee on the amendment I moved, the question of their suitability could not be raised. "We are sent here by our constituents to do our duty and criticise with the utmost severity the proposals of the Ministry, not only in matters of defence, but in other directions, and it is questionable whether it would be desirable for members of Parliament to hold such positions.

Senator Fairbairn - Are not those appointments made by the Military Board?

Senator Pearce - They are approved by the Minister.

Senator ELLIOTT - I put it to Senator Fairbairn that if the Cabinet desired to make appointments to commands, they would not find the Military Board an insuperable obstacle to the accomplishment of their desire. As was well stated in a recent issue of the Bulletin, it seems to me that we are tending to the position that the Government might conceivably have a rather awkward opponent or semiopponent in Parliament, and might seek to pacify him by giving him a billet at £350 a year. That might considerably abate the keenness of his criticism.

Senator Foster - The honorable senator is shifting his ground. He said this afternoon that the Minister was a rubber stamp for the Military Board, and he is now suggesting that the Military Board may be a rubber stamp for the Minister.

Senator ELLIOTT - The positions might be reciprocal. In return for the Minister submitting to acts of the Military Board not strictly legal or somewhat shady in character, the members of - the Board might say to him, " We will agree to appoint your figureheads, if you in turn will wink when we put our brothers, uncles and nephews into comfortable positions around the barracks, and send men without family influence out into the backblocks."

Senator Earle - One good turn deserves another.

Senator ELLIOTT - I believe that grave difficulties are likely to arise if the present practice is continued. I find that under the British Army Act officers elected to the House of Commons were' formerly placed on half pay. n

Senator Pearce - That refers to officers of the Regular Army.

Senator ELLIOTT - That is so. But they are now, if below the substantive rank of colonel given the option of being placed on the seconded list or on the half- pay list. In every case it will be found that they are removed from the active force list. The Minister for Defence has interjected that this applies only to officers of the Regular Army.

Senator Pearce - And not the Territorial Army.

Senator ELLIOTT - That is so, but it will be found that there are no Territorial officers holding commands above the rank of colonel. I never heard of a divisional commander being appointed from any but the Regular Army. One of the most bitter complaints voiced in England and in France was that no Territorial officer, and no officer of the Kitchener Army ever had a chance of any Staff billet. There were many most brilliant men in the business and scientific world who joined the Kitchener Army and rose to the rank of colonel. It was well known that their ability was far superior to that of their brigadiers, but the close corporation of the old Regular Army effectively shut them out from promotion beyond the rank of colonel. Honorable senators can see that such a position as is contemplated here could not arise in Gre'at Britain.

Senator Foster - Would not the honorable senator's amendment cover cases like mine? I happen to be a poor lieutenant in the Citizen Forces. Does the honorable senator think that I should not have anything to do with the military.

Senator ELLIOTT - I think that the honorable senator should be placed on the unattached list. If I were his company commander, I would say to him, "Look here, old man, you had better go on the unattached list." The honorable senator could not possibly attend to the training of his company while lie was over here attending the Senate.

Senator Pearce - He could do so if his company were in Melbourne.

Senator ELLIOTT - I think that the honorable senator would feel that he was entitled to the leisure of the week end after his strenuous exertions in this chamber night after night. I commend my amendment to the careful consideration of honorable senators.

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