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Wednesday, 22 October 1913

Senator CLEMONS - I will undertake to say that the honorable senator will not suffer through the absence of the Minister.

Senator RAE - I wish to refer very briefly to the alleged treatment of a cadet named Victor Yeo, at Broken Hill. The circumstances surrounding this, case are such that I do not think the reply which was given to me this afternoon by the Minister of Defence was at all a satisfactory one. Doubtless he told the Senate all that he knew. I am a supporter of the principle of compulsory military training, and therefore have no desire to prejudice the operation of that system. But I was led to believe from debates which took place in this Chamber during the last Parliament that the later amending Defence Act provided that defaulting cadets, instead of being imprisoned, were to be detained in barracks, and that in' no circumstances were they to be gaoled.

Senator Clemons - In no circumstances ?

Senator Pearce - Yes; that is so.

Senator RAE - If the information which has been conveyed to me is correct, this particular lad was not only committed to gaol for twenty-one days, but for the first seven days was fed only on bread and water. After his release he was again tried for refusing to put in the prescribed drills, and was again committed to gaol, where he was again fed on bread and water. His sentence expired while circumlocutory action was being taken by the Defence Department. I never did have much time for professional military people, and I am quite certain that if Senator Millen is content to take - as too many Ministers are in the habit of doing - a report as to what has been done from those who were the head and front of the offenders, from those who were practically doing it, or ordering it, he will never get anything but faked reports. Such reports are useless in political matters. The idiotic system, which is customary with all Governments during my experience, of calling upon the person who is practically accused of committing the wrong, for a report as to what has been done, and then taking' that report for granted, does not satisfy me for one; nor do I think it should satisfy the democratic spirit of the Senate, ' whatever may be submitted to in a more Conservative Chamber. 1, for one, shall continue to make a "dickens" of a row over this kind of thing, unless I get some satisfactory assurance that when such reports are circulated, the men who are accused -shall not be applied to for their version of what happened, but that some inde pendent person shall be appealed to to report, and report fairly. I trust thatthe Minister- will take these remarks, not as a threat, but as a warning that, ' unless something more satisfactory is done than is disclosed in the answer I received from his chief, more will be heard of it at no distant date.

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