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Thursday, 26 May 1904

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) - In speaking to this motion, I may say that I am one of those who are regarded by a number of honorable members as having a particular "down" upon Major-General Hutton. I have no particular " down " upon him personally. But I have a " down " on Imperial militarism. As far as the travelling allowances of Major-General Hutton are concerned, I do not think the Commonwealth pays him too much. I might tell the honorable member for Melbourne that I have given to ihe travelling expenses of all the officers, the commandants and their staffs, and MajorGeneral Hutton and his staff, a great deal . of scrutiny. I do not think we are paying them too much in these allowances. The right honorable member for Swan has put it very plausibly when he states that the more Major-General Hutton is away from Melbourne the more and the better he is earning the salary which we pay to him. But there is a fault in the regulations in regard to travelling expenses. I have spoken to the ex-Minister of Defence, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, about it. I allude to the great difference in the amount paid in travelling allowances to different officers of the service. Every one of us knows that, in travelling and staying at hotels, a man like Major-General Hutton is- not charged any more than a private individual or a lieutenant. The charge is exactly the same, unless, of course, the General has a special suite of rooms, for which, naturally, he would pay correspondingly. But people, in travelling, do not very often go in for privileges of that kind. I cannot see for the life of me why a colonel who is travelling should get £2 a day for his expenses, whilst a lieutenant, who is travelling with him, and has to spend exactly the same amount for his. conveniences, gets 10s. 6d., or, at the most, 15s. a day.

Sir John Forrest - The General has to have a horse.

Mr PAGE - So has his orderly. How can an orderly go with a General on foot if the General is on horseback? One of the paragraphs in the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne is : " How many days Major-General Hutton was absent on his recent visit to Tasmania?" There is also another paragraph which deals with the travelling expenses in respect of MajorGeneral's Hutton-' s visit to Tasmania. I do not know why the honorable member for Melbourne has picked out Tasmania any more than any other place ; but I believe that, when Major-General Hutton was over in Tasmania, he had to perform one of the most difficult tasks as regards, military discipline that any General OfficerCommanding ever had to perform in any; country. It seems to me that he got out of the difficulty very well- indeed, under the circumstances. If what happened in Tasmania had happened in some of the countries of Europe, a penalty much more serious than' the disbanding of a corps would have been the consequence.

Mr Storrer - What could have been done?

Mr PAGE -The men would have been in prison to-day in consequence of their action. It was not simply that they did not turn up to duty; it was practically rebellion, and the honorable member for Bass must know what the penalty for rebellion is.

Mr Chapman - It was- a military strike.

Mr PAGE - I can tell the honorable member about an incident that happened at Woolwich while I was soldiering. Some drivers in the artillery were discontented at having to drive out on a wet day. We got orders to do route marching every day in the week, except Saturday, because the General Officer Commanding was under the impression that our battery was not efficient. The drivers refused to turn out. What happened? Every one of them was sent to gaol, with a long term of imprisonment.

Mr Storrer - They were regulars.

Mr PAGE - But the oath taken by both regulars and volunteers is the same, and if a volunteer breaks it he is just as liable to imprisonment as is a member of the regular forces. I am unable to say what object the honorable member has in view, so far as his inquiry in reference to the visit paid to Tasmania by the General Officer Commanding . is concerned ; but fie is quite within his rights in asking that the return be furnished. The honorable member for Wentworth suggested that the honorable member might have secured the information he desires as to the length of Major-General Hutton's stay in Tasmania, by telephoning to the Steam-ship Company ; but it seems to me that it would be infra dig for an honorable member to resort- to any such source of information. Why should he spy round the shipping offices?

Mr Hutchison - Had he done so he would have acted practically as a private detective.

Mr PAGE - Quite so. Under our Standing Orders the honorable member is entitled to secure this information, and no exception can be taken to his action. Complaint is made of the action of the General Officer Commanding in taking his orderly with him. But every officer in the British Army is allowed two men - one to act as groom, and the other as a valet. He takes those men with him wherever he goes on dutv, and the British Government bear his living as well as his travelling expenses while he is so engaged. It may well be said that we are becoming very niggardly if we refuse to allow the General Officer Commanding to have even one servant in attendance on him when he is travelling from place to place in the performance of his duties. I was surprised at the interjection made some minutes ago by the honorable member for Corio. As a military man, he must know that- even the officers of volunteer regiments are each allowed a batman to polish their swords, and keep their buttons burnished. Surely the honorable and learned member would allow . the General Officer Commanding at least the privileges that are accorded to a- lieutenant in a volunteer force ? Last year I moved for a return showing the expenses incurred by Major-General Hutton and his staff in connexion with his northern tour - inclusive of the trip to New Guinea - and was astounded by the information that I obtained. The amount paid to Major-General Hutton was exceedingly small, and I had to admit that I had discovered a mare's nest.

Mr Willis - What did the trip cost?

Mr PAGE - It did not cost £500, and I was under the impression that it had involved an outlay approximating to , £5,000. When the return was furnished, I at once saw that I was on the wrong track, and allowed the matter to rest. My opinion of Major-General Hutton is such that I feel satisfied that he would not take£1 from the Commonwealth if he was not justly entitled to receive it. In this respect, I also believe that my honorable friend, the member for Melbourne, is on the wrong track. As to the appointment of a private secretary, I would ask honorable members whether they do not consider that the General Officer Commanding, who has to control the Military Forces of the Commonwealth in no less than six States, is entitled to the services of such an officer. Could he be expected to personally attend to. all his voluminous official correspondence, and to take notes of the many interviews which he has to hold. Whenever he visits Queensland, he invariably has long interviews with officers and others, and whether we believe in his system or not, we must all admit that his heart is in the work His intentions are undoubtedly good; and I believe that in ability he is second to none. The fact remains, however, that just as honorable members opposite consider that members of the Labour Party would administer the affairs of the Commonwealth in a curious manner, so many persons entertain the opinion that the

General Officer Commanding has a peculiar way of giving effect to his views and schemes. We must, nevertheless, give him credit for honesty of purpose, although, perhaps, the honorable member for Robertson may not do so.

Mr Willis - I have not said anything.

Mr PAGE - But the honorable member thinks a lot. So far as the Major-General's private secretary is concerned, I do not think that greater efficiency would be secured by the abolition of that office. Had I required the information which the honorable member for Melbourne seeks, I should have inquired from the Minister of Defence whether it was available to me as a private member. The Minister would, doubtless, have fenced a little-

Mr Chapman - He certainly would not have done that.

Mr PAGE - I believe that he would have done so; but I should have parried, and eventually obtained the information. When I first asked for information relating to Major-General Hutton's northern tour of inspection, I was informed that it was not available.- I persisted, however, in visiting the offices of the Defence Department day after day, with the result that I secured the information piece by piece, until by the time the Estimates were ready for our consideration I was in possession of all the facts. As soon as I discovered that everything was fair and above board, I was satisfied. I would point out to the honorable member for Melbourne that the travelling expenses are fixed by regulation, and cannot be exceeded. The accounts are audited by the Audit Department, and vouchers have to be forthcoming in respect of every claim for allowances. If an honorable member queried any item of expenditure the late Treasurer invariably went to great trouble to ascertain whether there was any ground for objecting to it. I am sure that the present Treasurer will take up a similar position, and, although the honorable member for Melbourne is not exceeding his, privileges in asking for this return, I am satisfied that when it is furnished he will find, as I did in connexion with my request for the return relating to the northern tour of inspection, . that he has been " barking up the wrong tree."

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