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Thursday, 14 November 1912

Senator LONG (Tasmania) . - I crave a few moments to bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence, a matter of the greatest importance. It is in connexion with our system of compulsory military training. Quite recently in Hobart there were eighty-eight prosecutions for non-attendance at compulsory drill, and a great many of these persons were employed in a Commonwealth Department. Evidence was tendered; in fact, the presiding magistrate had a letter sent to him to the effect that one of the cadets so charged was not given the necessary permission by the Postal authorities in Hobart to enable him to attend drill.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - That is very discreditable to the Government officials.

Senator LONG - It is very discreditable indeed, and it is because of its very urgency that I have taken this opportunity to bring the matter under the Minister's notice. The following is the report of a statement made by the police magistrate -

He had received a letter from one of the cadets who was engaged in the Post Office, to the effect that he had been refused time oft to appear before the Court. This showed that the postal authorities had not only refused to allow him time to go to drill, but would not even allow him to obey a summons. And this was by a Federal Government Department.

A Cadet. - It is the same in my case, your Worship.

Senator Millen - Last week the Minister of Defence promised me, in reply to a question I asked, that he would call for a report.

Senator LONG - I was not aware that the honorable senator's question had reference to the case in Hobart.

Senator Millen - It was just that case to which I referred.

Senator LONG - I think that the prosecutions to which I am referring are several weeks later than the one to which the honorable senator called attention. The circumstances are such as to warrant the widest publicity and the most searching investigation as to the truth of these allegations, notwithstanding the fact that the honorable senator has already questioned the Minister on. a similar subject. I ask honorable senators to listen to the concluding paragraph of the report of these prosecutions -

One of the lads, a letter-carrier, said the authorities .it the Post Office had on certain occasions refused to allow him to attend drills. He was also told that he could not attend the Court to answer the summnos. He was allowed t) come at n o'clock provided he had his dinner, and went straight back to work. He had had nothing to eat since 6 o'clock, and, as the case was late in coming on, he would have to go back immediately. It seemed to him that the Defence Department and the Postal Department were cutting each other's throats.

The p6int 1 wish to present to the Minister is : How is it possible for one Department to make a success of this scheme of compulsory training when another Department is offering to that system all the antagonism of which it is capable? In ordinary circumstances attendance at drill is accompanied by sufficient unpleasantness without having added to it the possibility of dismissal from employment. I trust that by the next sitting the Minister will be able to inquire into the truth of these allegations, and make a statement to the Senate.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales)

J2.40]. - I should like to ask a question of you, Mr. President, as to who is responsible for communicating a piece of business transacted by the Senate to the Department concerned, in the following circumstances. On the 8th of the present month the Senate arrived at a certain determination with regard to the redistribution of New South Wales into electorates. The Minister in charge of that business gave the Senate an assurance that no time would be lost, and that the determination would be submitted through the proper channels to the New South Wales Commissioners. The answer given to a question to-day shows that the determination of the Senate remained in somebody's hands until the I 2 th instant. That is to say, four days elapsed before anything was done to place the Department of Home Affairs officially in touch with what we did. I desire to know who was responsible for the delay. I presume that the Minister in charge of the business was responsible, and that he should have informed the Minister of Home Affairs for whom he acted j because the Minister in the Senate is, as I may put it, a locum tenens for the Minister of Home Affairs.. Deliberately, however, and, as it would appear, of set purpose, the Minister delayed the submission of this matter to the Minister of Home Affairs. A delay of four days occurred before the Department was placed in a position to refer the matter again to the New South Wales Commissioners. If Ministers were determined that there should be no proper opportunity of submitting the question to the Commissioners, and of their report being returned to us for consideration - if they were determined that the resolution of the Senate should remain in somebody's pigeon-holes - we had better know it, in order that the public may understand the fraud that has been perpetrated upon the electors of New South Wales.

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