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Thursday, 7 July 1904


Mr CROUCH (Corio) - This afternoon [ asked the Prime Minister a question in reference to certain communications, which he admitted the General Officer Commanding our Military Forces had received from the Colonial Defence Committee. I asked him -

Does the General Officer Commanding receive communications and advice from this Committee, or from any other ex-Australian Military Authority, without the knowledge pf, or submitting such communications to, the Minister or the Secretary for Defence?

In reply the Prime Minister stated that the General Officer Commanding received no "official" communications from the Colonial Defence Committee. He laid such emphasis upon the word " official " that he evidently intended his answer to imply that unofficial communications were received by that officer. Personally, I do not think that the General Officer Commanding should receive communications from any external authority, such as he evidently is receiving, unless they are official.


Sir John Forrest - The honorable and learned member says, in effect, that he should not receive a private letter.


Mr CROUCH - I say that he should not receive any communications from a public body which is organized for a special purpose. Every such communication, I think, should be of an official character. I do not understand why the Prime Minister laid such emphasis upon the word "official," or why the General Officer Commanding should be allowed to receive any communications from the body referred to, without first submitting them to the Minister of Defence or the Secretary of Defence. There is a very important principle involved in this matter. A democracy has to be jealous of military interference. We have an Imperial officer commanding the Commonwealth forces, and we now find that he is receiving recommendations which he does not regard as official. I should like the Prime Minister to inquire further into the matter.


Sir John Forrest - I have never heard that he receives any such communications.


Mr CROUCH - A minute or two ago the right honorable member interjected that it was quite right that the General Officer Commanding should receive private letters from the Colonial Defence Committee.


Sir John Forrest - From private individuals, I said.


Mr CROUCH - Then the right honorable member did not understand the subject about which I was speaking.


Mr Hughes - The honorable and learned member asserts that the General Officer Commanding has no right to receive communications from the Colonial Defence Committee unless the Minister knows all about them?


Mr CROUCH - Yes. There is another matter to which I desire to direct attention. Upon the first day that the present Government met the House I complained of the difficulty which is experienced in obtaining from the Civil side of the Defence Department replies to correspondence relating to any matter which is referred to the Military side for its report. I instanced communications which were forwarded as far back as March last, and to which no replies have yet been received. I should like the Prime Minister to repeat his promise that these communications will be attended to.







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