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Wednesday, 13 April 1904

Mr CHAPMAN (Eden) (Monaro- Minister for Defence) . - The matter which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has mentioned will be considered. He is wrong in saying that the regulations are so framed that rankers will not have consideration. The men in the ranks will receive every consideration. All these regulations are so framed that those who are inside the service will have the first call for promotion, but it is necessary, especially in naval matters, that, before men can obtain a position they should have a certain amount of sea experience. As regards the yachting certificate, if a man has had experience in navigating a yacht he is entitled to present himself to be examined, and if sucessful to obtain a commission, other things being equal.

Mr Mauger - Other men who may have all those qualifications, and a great deal more experience, are to be shut out.

Mr CHAPMAN - The honorable member is mistaken. I shall look into the regulations, and if I find any provision which will prevent a man who is in the ranks, and who can pass the examination, from obtaining a commission, it will certainly be removed.

Mr Mauger - Will the Minister give us an opportunity to discuss the matter at another time?

Mr CHAPMAN - I shall be very glad to give the honorable member an opportunity to discuss the question. I would point out that all these regulations, military and naval, are merely provisional. I am glad to receive suggestions from any honorable member, and if they are reasonable and in the best interests of either the navy or the military then alterations will be made so that the permanent regulations will be in accord with what we desire, and that is that merit, and not influence, shall count, and that those in the ranks shall have every opportunity of working their way up.

Mr. SYDNEYSMITH (Macquarie).The matter which has been brought under the notice of the House by the honorable member for Darwin is an important one. Already two elections which cost considerable sums to the candidates and the Government have had to be voided owing to the way in which they were conducted by the electoral officials. In view of the important decisions which have been given by the Court of Disputed Returns, and the irregularities which have been disclosed, it seems to me that the Government ought to institute a searching inquiry into the conduct of the recent elections, with the object of seeing whether they cannot so arrange matters as to prevent the possibility of those mistakes occurring in the future. I feel quite sure that if another general election were to take place it would be found that not two petitions, but a large number of petitions, would be lodged against the returns. I believe that very few honorable members would be able -to go through the ordeal of an inquiry such as has recently been held.

Mr Mauger - At the last Melbourne election there was a very great improvement.

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