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Thursday, 28 April 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - .Perhaps it would be as well if I read section 16a which it is proposed to repeal - 16a. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, members of the Citizen Forces who have been employed on* active service abroad may, upon their return to duty with the Citizen Forces, be given such rank and allotted such regimental seniority as are approved by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Military Board.

This amendment will enable us to appoint persons who served on active service, whether with the Commonwealth Forces or with the British Forces. It will meet the case of a fairly large number of men who did not join the Australian Imperial Force at all - men who were British Reservists, and at the outbreak of war returned to Great Britain to serve with the British Forces. They 'have since come back to Australia, and are Australian citizens in every sense of the term. Some of them gained commissions on active service, but under the law as it stands we could not give then! commissions in the Citizen Forces of this country unless they went all through the mill again.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But will not this amendment leave it open to the Government to import officers?

Senator PEARCE - No. We could not import citizen officers, and we could not appoint permanent officers unless they went through their training again.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But an English officer would be eligible for appointment if he came to Australia.

Senator PEARCE - Yes. if he settled in Australia, and wished to join the Citizen Forces, the Governor-General could grant him a commission if he held, a commission on active service. *ยป

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That does not quite fit im with the Minister's previous denial when I stated that the amendment would leave it open to the Government to import officers.

Senator PEARCE - But we would not import officers; that is to say, we would not bring an officer out here. If an officer serving in the war with the British Army won a commission, and then came to Australia and joined the Citizen Forces, the Government should have the power to grant him a commission without requiring him to pass through the ranks again and qualify .by examination.

Senator- Pratten.- But you will also have power to appoint an officer who has never been in the Commonwealth, and bring him to Australia. . .

Senator PEARCE - No. He must be in Australia.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would you not have power to bring him to Australia, and appoint him afterwards?

Senator PEARCE - No. This will not give the Government power to bring anybody to Australia. It may 'be said that, it will throw open commissions in the Citizen Forces to everybody. Well, do we not wish to have the gate open wide enough to secure the very best officers available? If a man served on active service with the King's Army anywhere and came to Australia and became a citizen of this country,, he should be in the same position as anybody else. At present the Act confines all appointments to members of the Citizen Forces-; and there are officers in Australia to-day, men who were born in this country and won commissions on active service, but were never members of the Citizen Forces.

Senator Elliott - Have you not placed them ? I understood from your answer to my question that General Gellibrand and oi;her officers had been granted an equivalent rank in the Citizen Forces.

Senator PEARCE - That is so.

Senator Elliott - Then why the necessity for this?

Senator PEARCE - Because it will re-' move any doubt as to our power, which Senator Elliott says we do not possess. It will enable us to meet the case of Australians who gained commissions in the war, and also those persons who served with the British Forces, by giving them equivalent rank without requiring them to pass the -prescribed examination.

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