Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 27 July 1904

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that Major Lenehan was not sent specially to investigate the truth or otherwise of that rumour.

Mr Watson - He chanced in the district where the massacre occurred.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - At any rate, I take it that he admits that this rumour did reach his ears.

Mr Watson - As a " rumour " he mentioned it to his colonel.

Sir John Forrest - Atrocities were being committed, and he was sent to inquire into them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that he was fifty miles distant when the actual murders were committed. It appears that the moment he returned to Australia he asked for an inquiry. We have heard from the Prime Minister to-day that, in 1902, Major Lenehan addressed a petition to the ex-Minister of Defence upon the subject. That petition appears to have been dismissed by the Minister of the day.

Mr Watson - He addressed his commanding officer, and the matter was brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence by a colleague.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He petitioned through his commanding officer. He could not petition in any other way without getting himself into trouble. What other steps could he have taken? The ex-Minister of Defence was petitioned in 1902, as soon as Major Lenehan returned to Australia. His request for an inquiry was refused.

Sir John Forrest - Where is the refusal ?

Mr Watson - The right honorable member did not do anything in the matter.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that the refusal is obvious.

Sir John Forrest - There were no witnesses in Australia at the time . They were all in South Africa.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Apparently, the right honorable member did nothing, except to dismiss the petition.

Sir John Forrest - Why not get the papers? The honorable member would then be in a position to talk.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why did not the right honorable member obtain the papers before he attacked the Government ?

Sir John Forrest - I did not attack the Government.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The proper course for him to adopt is' to put a question upon the business-paper-

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member knows nothing about the matter.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nobody knows anything except the right honorable member. I know from bitter experience the difficulty of getting anything from him, particularly when he was in charge of the Department of Defence. Indeed, I do not mind telling the House of a case that occurred during his term of office, in order to show how anxious he is to do justice to a volunteer officer. I am bound to say that if he treated Major Lenehan in the same way that he treated the officer in whom I am interested, I do not' wonder that the former troubled no further.

Sir John Forrest - To what case does the honorable member refer?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The right honorable member knows perfectly well.

Sir John Forrest - I do not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Well the right honorable member ought to know. I do not see what else the Government could do under the circumstances. ' If any fault is to be found in connexion with Major Lenehan's case, it rests upon the exMinister of Defence in that he did not take steps to investigate the statements made by that officer.

Sir John Forrest - Do not waste the time of the House.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am sure that the right honorable member would be acting wisely if he abstained from these rude remarks, and allowed me to proceed. He need not make rude interjections, because, as far as I am concerned, they fall upon deaf ears. The right honorable member may be as rude' as he pleases, but I intend to have my say. Notwithstanding that the Chairman has already called him to order, he persistently interrupts. I say that when Major Lenehan petitioned him, and stated certain facts, it was his duty to institute inquiries with a view to ascertain their truth or otherwise. To-day he asks if Major Lenehan wrote to his colonel, who is now in India? The honorable member for North Sydney says that he did. Then the right honorable member immediately inquires, " Did' he receive a reply ?" I would put the same question to him. Did the right honorable member write to this colonel in India? Certainly he had better opportunities for ascertaining the truth from that officer than had Major Lenehan. It' is not likely that the colonel would reply to a communication from the latter, especially if any reply would be calculated to incriminate himself. The right honorable member ought to have communicated with this colonel in India, asking whether the facts as stated by Major Lenehan were accurate. But in this case, he seems to have adopted the same attitude that he has taken up in many others. He arraigns himself on the side of the officers of the Department, and before any one can get in, it is necessary for them to dislodge him from that position - an almost impossible task. I speak from experience in this connexion. At the present time there is a militia officer, who, like Major Lenehan, is suffering an injustice though in a smaller degree. I trust, however, that it will be rectified, and as I see the Minister of Defence in his place, I take this opportunity of bringing the matter before him. When the inaugural ceremonies connected with Federation were in progress in Melbourne detachments of soldiers were sent over from the various States. Colonel Holborrow, of New South Wales, was given supreme command by virtue of his seniority. He had to organize the whole camp here. It so happened that at the time one of the captains of his regiment chanced to be in Melbourne in the capacity of a private citizen, attending the celebrations, and Colonel Holborrow, knowing that he possessed excellent administrative qualities, commandeered him on the spot, and. made him adjutant of the camp. It is admitted by the authorities that his -work was in every way satisfactory, and naturally he expected that, like the other visiting soldiers, he would be allowed his expenses. He applied to his superior officer, who recommended that his expenses should be paid. That recommendation was sent through the proper channel to the commanding officer in Sydney, but it was held that the request could not be granted, inasmuch as this officer had not been sent to Melbourne. No one quarrelled with that decision. I did not learn of this matter first from the officer himself, and although he feels that he is smarting under an injustice, I do not suppose that he will thank me for bringing it forward. As it was a special matter I interviewed the Minister, and requested him to treat it as such. I was then informed that the officer had the right of appeal over the heads of the authorities in Svdney to the Minister himself, and, after a good deal of persuasion on my part, be put in an appeal and asked that the papers be sent on to the Minister. Although that action was taken, at the instigation of the Department, to put the claim in order, the reply he received was that the claim was out of date, and could not be recognised.

Sir John Forrest - I am certain that it was not my fault.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The fault was that the right honorable member would not pay the officer.

Sir John Forrest - If the honorable member perused the papers he would find that I was not to blame.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then it was perhaps the fault of the Treasurer.

Sir John Forrest - I cannot be held responsible for that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If I. were a Minister, and believed that an officer was suffering an injustice for the sake of the payment of a few pounds, the Treasurer would have to find the necessary funds, or another administrator would have to be secured for my Department. The Department recognises the justice of this officer's claim, and the only excuse it eventually could make for non-payment was that he should have made earlier application. That was his reward for loyalty to his superior officers.

Sir John Forrest - I endeavoured to obtain the money for him, but there was no vote from which it could be taken.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He has not yet been paid, but at the time of which I am speaking there were votes from which the payment might have been made.

Sir John Forrest - I did my best for him.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Further inquiry has since been made, but the claim has not yet been settled. I think that it should be allowed. The Department admits that the officer is entitled to receive his expenses, and I trust that the present Treasurer willfind the necessary funds to enable justice to be . done to an officer who has suffered under this wrong for over three years. The matter is a very old one, but the officer is not responsible for the fact that it has not yet been dealt with. This incident is an illustration of the way in which the Defence Department is bound up with red tape. I cite these facts because they bear on the complaint made by the right honorable member for Swan that Major Lenehan has not been sufficiently vigorous in prosecuting his claim for an inquiry. All the facts go to prove the contrary. We are told that he applied to the right honorable member, who was then Minister of Defence, in 1902 ; but was met with a refusal. In these circumstances, it is hardly likely that he would feel justified in making another application to the right honorable member unless he had fresh facts to put before him.

Mr Fisher - Hear, hear; why should he have done so?

Mr Henry Willis - The Government should grant an inquiry before reinstating him.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hold that an inquiry should be granted if Major Lenehan still desires it ; but on the facts set before the House by the Prime Minister, he is also entitled to a reinstatement.

Mr Kelly - What would be the use of an inquirv after his reinstatement?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would enable him to clear up one or two matters and put his conduct in quite a different light. He alleges that he reported the incident in question to his superior officer, who is now in India, and the statement is made by the honorable member for North Sydney that Major Lenehan has communicated with that officer, but has not received any reply. That is a matter which the Department should take in hand, although I do not say that it would be able to ascertain the real facts of thecase. It may be that the officer in India,, to whom reference has been made, might in some way incriminate himself if heacknowledged the truth of Major Lenehan's statement, and that may account fcr his refusal to answer the inquiry.

Mr Henry Willis - He should be dealt with.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If we were to deal with every man connected with the case, the inquiry would never come to an end. After all, when a war is over, a very lenient view- is taken of many such incidents by the people of every civilized country in the world.

Mr Henry Willis - The 'honorable member does not wish to minimize . the horror of the massacre?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No; it is a black page in Australian history ; but it is our duty to see that none of our officers are unjustly associated with it. The highest Court in the Empire has said that Major Lenehan was guilty of only a technical offence. The honorable member for Robertson made much of the fact that Major Lenehan had been found guilty; but the fact tihat a pronouncement of " guilty " is made is in itself a matter of no moment. A man might be found guilty, of an offence in respect of which the imposition of a fine of 2s. 6d. would be considered a sufficient punishment. Aman sometimes pleads guilty to a charge of furiously driving a motor car, and is finedĀ£1 ; butI do not know that that is a very heinous offence. I would remind the honorablemember for Robertson that the mere fact that Major Lenehan was found "guilty"" does not necessarily imply that he- was guilty of a very serious offence. Judging by the sentence, the Court regarded it as being a purely technical offence. On al] these grounds the Government are justified in reinstating Major Lenehan. If he desires an inquiry every facility should be given him to clear his character from even the technical offence of which he was found guilty, and for which he has paid the penalty in South Africa.

Suggest corrections