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Tuesday, 10 December 1912

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - Senator Rae brings forward a complaint regarding an alleged delay in furnishing a report on a case which was brought under my notice, I think, about a week ago. Honorable senators know that we have not a system of centralization. We have attempted to decentralize ; that is to say, officers in New South Wales are under the Commandant of New South Wales, and, as far as discipline is concerned, administration is not carried out from Melbourne. When a case like this is reported, I bring it under the notice of the Adjutant-General. He then has to instruct, the particular Commandant to get a report, and the Commandant has to call upon the Area Officer to supply a report.

Senator Rae - The old circumlocution.

Senator PEARCE - There is no other way of doing it. The Commandant is on the spot, and can deal with discipline there, but the case does not come immediately under his notice. It has either been reported by inspectors to him, or it comes under my notice, either by letter or by representations made by a member. It can easily be seen that when a case is mentioned here it takes some little time to bring it under the notice of the Commandant, and for a report to be furnished by the Area Officer.

Senator Rae - Each one should not take his own time-

Senator PEARCE - No, and I do not think Be does. The Area Officers are not permanent officers; they are not permanently paid, and they can only do the work in a certain portion of their time. Delay often occurs in dealing with officers who are not permanently employed. In regard to the. other case Senator Rae must recognise that it first came under my notice to-night. I have no personal knowledge of the facts. I cannot assume that they are correct. The 'honorable member would not expect me to do so. I must send the matter on for report. As to the honorable senator's remarks about the practice of flogging, I can assure him that while I am Minister there is no danger of any such thing being _ permitted. No military officer can bring in such a system unless the political head of the Department allows it. I will see that the reports on the two cases are obtained as early as possible.

Senator Rae - I did not export that the Minister would sanction flogging, but will he see that nothing of thekind is done without sanction?

Senator PEARCE - It the cases, are proved the officers responsible will be severely dealt with. There is not the slightest doubt about that. With regard to Senator Long's complaint, the question to be dealt with is 4: complicated one. It concerns the Post and Telegraph Department as well as the Defence Department.As far as my Department is concerned, I have had inquiries made, and the report came to me yesterday. Inquiries were made from the cadets concerned, and thev have made written statements to the effect that they were prevented from attending drills. Now we are sending on the reports to the Postmaster-General in order that lie may get the- statements of hisofficers 011 tlio charges made.- It would not be right for me to assume that the statements are correct until the officers of the Post and Telegraph Department have made their statements. I have no right to call upon them for reports, but as sooit as I received the papers I minuted them- tobe forwarded to the Postmaster-General, asking him to inform me whether thecharges are correct, and what his officers had to say about them. I also minuted' the

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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