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Wednesday, 4 May 1921

Senator PEARCE - In the course of debate on the Defence Bill, in this Chamber, Senator Elliott made certain allegations in regard to an officer of the Permanent Forces, and, also, on another occasion, with respect to Major-General Hobbs. I was subsequently asked by an honorable senator whether I would obtain a report based upon the allegations of Senator Elliott. In order to enable me to place the Senate in possession -of those reports I ask to be permitted to make a statement.

Leave granted.

Senator PEARCE - The first indicated statement, having to do with a permanent officer in Tasmania, is evidently aimed at Colonel D. P. White. I did not hear the remarks of Senator Elliott, but Senator Duncan afterwards drew my attention, in this Chamber, to the a legations. I, thereupon, had the remarks looked up in Hansard and drew the attention of the Military Board to- Senator Elliott's statements. I asked that the Board should make inquiries and report. The report reads as follows: -

The Minister has drawn the attention of the Military Board to the accusations made against an officer of the Staff Oorps by Senator Elliott in the Senate on Thursday, 28th April (see Hansard of 30th April, page 7837). The Board asks that the statement be refuted.

The officer obviously, referred to is Colonel D. P. White. This officer has twenty-nine years' service in the Permanent Forces, and served in command of the 13th Light Horse Regiment of the Australian Imperial Force from May. 1917, until the end of the war.

The Board has made inquiries, as a result of which evidence is obtainable that the charge of drunkenness in France made by Senator Elliott against this officer is entirely unfounded. The evidence in possession of the Board is that throughout his war service this officer was of temperate habits. Many years ago, however, Colonel White suffered a serious accident, as a result of which one side of his body was paralysed. In course of time he recovered sufficiently to resume service. He has remained, however, afflicted with a resultant lameness and slight speech impediment. These infirmities are widely known throughout the Forces, Colonel White's long service having brought him into contact with many officers in all parts of the Commonwealth.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - To whom do you refer when you speak of the Board ?

Senator PEARCE - The members of the Military Board, sitting as a Board.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who are they?

Senator PEARCE - They consist of General Sir Brudenell White, . General Forsyth, General Sellheim, and Colonel Thomas, the finance member.

Senator Elliott - And General White is a brother of Colonel White.

Senator PEARCE - In regard to the allegations made by Senator Elliott concerning Major-General Hobbs, those statements were of a very serious character. Senator Elliott had quoted from a report which he had addressed to Major-General Hobbs, and he then said -

Three weeks later General Hobbs called to see mc. He said. " I want to speak to you privately," and took me out into the' garden. !e then said to me, " General, I have instructions to tell you that while you are in the Australian Imperial Force you will receive no further promotion byreason of your conduct to the officers." When he said that, I turned away rather dumbfounded, and he struck me on the back and said, " I have got to tell you that; but, by God, you were right." It turned out that this staff officer was the son of a duke, and " put the acid " on General Birdwood for my conduct, and you see the result.

I thought that, in justice to MajorGeneral Hobbs, and to the Senate, his attention should be called to that statement/ by Senator Elliott, and therefore, directed the Secretary for Defence to send the following telegraph message to Major-General Hobbs -

See Federal Hansard, 21st April, 1921 (page 7560), at office Commonwealth Public Service Inspector, speech by Elliott statement attributed to you. Minister would like- your remarks thereon. Message ends.

On the 3rd May, I received this reply -

Your WG272 dated 27th April. Have no recollection of making statements alleged by Elliott. But I remember slating him after receiving most indignant letter from British Division Commander complaining of General Elliott's insulting conduct to officers of his division, though I consider Elliott received great provocation. I certainly had no instructions from higher authority to inform Elliott he would receive no further . promotion. (Signed) General Hobbs.

Senator Gardiner - He does not say that he did not make the statements referred to.

Senator PEARCE - That was not the charge. The charge was that he had received instructions.

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