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Friday, 16 August 1912

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I am rather surprised at the direction which the debate has taken. Senator Millen has introduced a personal element into the discussion, and we have been getting away from the clause. Too much stress is being laid on what it is anticipated the Minister will do if the clause is passed. That should have no weight with the Committee. I assume that the Minister will do the fair thing when the clause is passed. The object is to validate certain acts which have been discovered to be illegal. From the hints and insinuations which he threw out, the Leader of the Opposition evidently believes that some obstacles have been placed in the way of the gentleman who was recommended for this appointment. Those obstacles, I take it, have been interposed by the Military Board.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Why cancel the existing recommendation?

Senator GARDINER - It has been decided that effect cannot be given to it.

Senator Millen - But effect can be given to it the moment this Bill becomes law.

Senator GARDINER - It appears to ;me that Senator Millen is more anxious to get from the Minister an expression in the nature of an assurance that the friend for whom he is fighting will get the appointment. I am of opinion that the whole of this discussion would have been at an end, if the Minister' had announced that he intended to make that appointment. I am rather pleased, with the way in which he has acted. He has told us what is the intention of the clause, and what he proposes to do under it. I take it, too, that the Military Board is a fair-minded body which will not hold up the appointment of a man who is entitled to the position. If it does so, Senator Millen can bring the matter before the Senate, and it can be discussed upon its merits. The clause is designed to remedy a defect in the principal Act. Let us remedy that defect, and trust to the Minister to do the fair thing to the person who has been recommended for this appointment. I take it that it is not a fair thing to hold up that gentleman until somebody else has an opportunity of qualifying for the position. I am perfectly satisfied that as soon as the Military Board possesses the legal power, they will do the right thing.

Senator Millen - The whole trouble has arisen over the statement of the Minister that he will not act upon the authority of this Bill until time has been given to an unqualified man to qualify.

Senator GARDINER - I do not think that the Minister will make an appointment which is not recommended by the Military Board.

Senator St Ledger - But for a technicality a certain officer would have been appointed.

Senator GARDINER - It is very hard upon the gentleman who was recommended for the office that the Government could not legally appoint him. But there is an old maxim that " hard cases make bad laws," and I am glad that on this occasion the Minister is sticking fast to the letter of the law. I shall not be pleased if after the Military Board have made a recommendation which they have the right to make, the appointment is held over until somebody else has an opportunity of qualifying. Senator Millen is evidentlywell posted in this matter. He knows the case from ont side. I hope that the Minister will adhere to his position, and that the Military Board, as soon as it can legally recommend this gentleman for appointment, will recommend him. But, as far as keeping this debate going until there has been a surrender of opinion on the part of the Minister, I hope that we have not yet reached that stage.

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