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Wednesday, 19 May 1915

Mr MANIFOLD (Corangamite) . - I support the statements of the honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Grampians in regard to the age limit of officers who are permitted to go to the front. I understand that a regulation has been passed that no man shall have a commission unless he is twenty-three years of age or over; and it seems most extraordinary that, after men have served and obtained their commissions in the Citizen Forces, and have studied to the best of their ability, they should, on such a ground, be deprived of the opportunity of seeing active service. In the British Army, I understand, a man may have a commission at eighteen years of age; and men who went into the Mons encounter as subalterns, not yet twenty-three years of age, came out as acting captains. If that is good enough for the British Army, it ought to be good enough for the Australian Forces. There is now a grand opportunity for our men to obtain practical experience of warfare, and fit themselves to become most useful officers of the Citizen Forces should they survive. Duntroon boys, just through their examinations, are allowed to go to the front as subalterns, although they are below the age set forth in the regulation. The only way in which the young officers of the Citizen Forces who are still under twenty-three can get to the front is to resign their commissions and go to England, where they will be gladly welcomed, and given the rank they merit.

Sir J ohn Forrest - A number of them has done so.

Mr MANIFOLD - Yes, and their being driven abroad puts them to great expense. In answer to the honorable member for Wimmera to-day, the Assistant Minister said it was true that a squadron leader had been brought to Victoria from Queensland for the 13th Light Horse, and that there were no men available in Victoria for the position. I pass over the appointments of the colonel and the major, because the Government have a perfect right, and it is absolutely necessary, to select the best men for the position, regardless of any other consideration. If there was no colonel in Victoria fit to command the 13th Light Horse it was perfectly proper for the authorities to get a man from South Australia, and also a man for the position of a major from Tasmania ; but surely there were men in Victoria fit to act as squadron leaders ! I understand that the Victorian officers have been passed over in every case. The adjutant appointed was not even a captain, but a lieutenant, in Queensland, and he was only given the position of captain here when appointed adjutant. This is causing a great deal of soreness amongst the Victorian men, and it is particularly hard on those officers who have been doing all the drudgery at Broadmeadows for so long. I know very well that the answer given to-day to the honorable member for Wimmera was simply a departmental one; and I trust that the Minister will make a note of what I have said, and see that Victorian officers are given a status equal to that enjoyed by their fellow officers in other States.

Progress reported.

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