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Wednesday, 26 May 1915

Mr JENSEN (Bass) (Assistant Minister of Defence) .- I have had a consultation with the Minister of Defence, and he assures me that no such confession has been received by him or by his Department. It has beeu stated that this confession was sent by the Administrator from Rabaul to the Defence Department in Melbourne. The Minister assures me that he is not in possession of any such document, and that if he had had it he would have been only too pleased to have produced it, in order to satisfy honorable members.

Mr McGrath - I believe he would.

Mr JENSEN - "Why condemn the Minister of Defence ? If he had possession of that document he would certainly have produced it.

Mr McGrath - I am not condemning the Minister; I am condemning the officers.

Mr JENSEN - The honorable member is condemning the officers, and yet he says that unless he gets some statement from the Minister concerned, or if the paper is not produced, he will keep on raising this question. If the Minister had the confession he would produce it quickly, in order to prove his officers' statements. It has been said that the paper in question was posted at Rabaul by the Administrator, but the Minister has not yet received it.

Mr J H Catts - I understand that sufficient time has not elapsed to allow of the arrival of the mail. Is that so?

Mr JENSEN -It may be, but I doubt it. As to the debate that has taken place regarding the Broadmeadows Camp, I think it is to be regretted that honorable members should allow their better judgment to be carried away by outside statements made to them on the subject. We have had to-night a report from the principal medical officer in charge of the camp, which absolutely up sets nearly every statement that has been made by honorable members regarding cases of sickness at the camp.


Mr JENSEN - It does.

Mr Joseph Cook - That document is misleading.

Mr JENSEN - I have further information which will perhaps be interesting to the Leader of the Opposition, who contends that the document is misleading because it refers to only some fourteen cases - six cases of measles and eight cases of influenza. There are only sixtyfour cases being dealt with outside the camp. All these are being treated at the base hospital, which is situated at the Victoria Barracks, and twenty-four are the result of accidents. That being so, apart from the fourteen concerning which I have already given information, there are only forty cases of sickness outside the camp. We have, and have had for some time, some 6,000 soldiers or recruits at the camp, so that the percentage of sickness is very small. Yet we have had honorable members making absolutely misleading statements concerning sickness at the Broadmeadows Camp which will be published broadcast amongst the people. I believe that honorable members have been actuated by the best of motives, but simply because they are button-holed first by one and then by another, and erroneous statements are presented to them, they make these allegations.

Mr Joseph Cook - Is there no truth in the statement regarding the number of deaths at Broadmeadows?

Mr JENSEN - From information I have received, I can say that there has been only one death at Broadmeadows Camp during the last fortnight. I shall have prepared a statement for presentation to. the House to-morrow, giving the record for the last month. As to the Small Arms Factory, I think the least said the better at this stage.

Mr Joseph Cook - Why?

Mr JENSEN - Because the Government are looking into the matter, and are going to do the best they can for every one.

Mr Joseph Cook - But they have looked into it.

Mr JENSEN - And are still looking into it. I have no further information to give the Committee to-uight concerning the factory. I am not going to make any admission, but shall allow the matter to stand over for another twenty-four or forty-eight hours, when, in all probability, honorable members will hear something, of it. The honorable member for Hunter has said that officers who are trained here, but are under twenty-three years of age, are not allowed to go to the front. If an officer under the age of twenty-three years shows special ability he is not stopped from going to the front.

Mr Mathews - That is the trouble. There are so few who seem to be recognised as having special ability.

Mr JENSEN - It is not the trouble. We are not short of officers. We have many over twenty-three years of age who are available for service at the front; but I repeat that if any officer under the age of twenty-three years shows special ability he is not prevented from going to the front.

Mr Page - Lord Kitchener has asked for the services of every officer in the Imperial service who is medically fit, whether he is over or under the regulation age. The Minister says that we have plenty to spare. Why do we not send these officers to the front, seeing that Lord Kitchener wants them?

Mr JENSEN -It is for the Prime Minister to answer that question. He alone can make an offer to the Imperial authorities.

Mr Charlton - Is the Department appointing as officers men under twentythree years of age who have had little or no previous experience?

Mr Page - It is being done.

Mr JENSEN - I should not like to admit that any man with no previous ex- perience has been appointed as an officer, ach individual case is inquired into, and recommendations made by superior officers.

Mr Page - What about the charge made by the honorable member for Ballarat ?

Mr JENSEN - The honorable member has seen fit to select an isolated case concerning which he has heard something very similar to the statements we have heard about other matters to-night.

Mr McGrath - I have it from the honorable gentleman's own lips that what I have said is true - that this officer was only six weeks in camp when he was made an officer.

Mr JENSEN - The honorable member had a report from the Department - not a statement by me.

Mr McGrath - It is just the same.

Mr JENSEN - Certainly not. I rely on the reports of my officers.

Mr Page - What does this report set out?

Mr JENSEN - That the officer to whom the honorable member for Ballarat refers had former experience - that he had proper training and had undergone certain instruction.

Dr Carty Salmon - Is he the officer whom the honorable member for Ballarat said had never worn a uniform ?

Mr McGrath - Yes.

Mr JENSEN - I am afraid that some honorable members become interested in certain persons as the result of being pestered. I am pestered from morning till night by persons seeking promotion. The Minister of Defence leaves to the Selection Board in each State the making of recommendations for promotion. The Board makes a careful inquiry concerning the claim of any officer seeking promotion, and then submits its recommendation to the Minister for approval or otherwise. Promotions are made only in that way. There is no political or Ministerial influence.

Mr Page - But there is social influence.

Mr JENSEN - That is a reflection on the officers of the Department.

Mr Mathews - That is what I meant.

Mr JENSEN - The Selection Board consists of officers of high standing and repute in the Commonwealth, and yet we have it suggested that nothing that is done in the Department in this regard is clean. I should be glad if honorable members would disabuse their minds of such an idea. Surely wo have not reached such a position in the Commonwealth. We ought to be proud of our Forces - proud of the way in which they have been brought together and proud of what they are doing.

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