asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is in a position to make any statement with regard to the arrest and recent trial of Captain Rev. T. J. O'Donnell, of the Australian Imperial Forces; whether this officer was arrested on a charge of which he has been found "Not Guilty"; whether after his arrest, and without any opportunity to establish his innocence, he was subjected to every humiliation, was thrown into a cold and filthy cell over which was stationed an armed guard with fixed bayonets, and, still without trial, was transferred to the Tower of London, and generally treated as a dangerous criminal; Whether this treatment of an officer under arrest is a breach of all Army Regulations; whether he can state who was responsible for this outrage on an officer with such a distinguished record, and a member of the gallant Australian forces who rendered such incomparable service at the most critical moments on the battle front; and whether all the officials responsible will he immediately dismissed?
I regret that I am not in a position to make any statement on this case at present, as it has been necessary to call for reports. I will let the hon. Member have a detailed answer as soon as I am in a position to do so.
May I ask the Leader of the House, in view of the vital importance of this matter, not only to the honour and dignity of the Army as a whole, but to the unquestioned indignant feelings that exist amongst the Australian people, whether it is treating this question fairly for the Under-Secretary to give the answer we have just heard. What is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to this matter?
I realise as strongly as the hon. Member the seriousness of this matter on account of its effect on Australian opinion if it is found to be a fact that steps were taken which ought not to have been taken, but I do not see how it is possible for the Government to give any other answer than that they are going to look into the matter and when they have done so say what their decision is.
Is it the right hon. Gentleman's opinion that a matter of this sort should be brought before the House by an Irish Member instead of sore member of the Government repudiating the conduct of those responsible, and expressing his repudiation of conduct of this character towards a gallant officer?
I have seen none, but it is very likely there may have been. I can quite understand that there should be feeling about the matter, but what more can we do than give a definite promise that we will go into the matter?
I think it would be well, before giving an absolutely definite promise, owing to the scarcity of time, that the right hon. Gentleman should wait for the reply. What I have already said shows that the Government quite realise that the matter must be sifted to the bottom.
The hon. Member has had a good deal of latitude on this matter. The Government have said they will institute immediate inquiries. He cannot expect more than that.
I beg to move, as a matter of urgent and definite public importance, "That the intolerable outrage committed on the Rev. T. J. O'Donnell calls for the immediate reprobation of this House, and the instant dismissal of the officers who are responsible for this indefensible insult on a brave officer of the Australian Army and people."
I cannot accept that Motion. There must be inquiry, and as soon as the inquiry is held and the facts are laid before the House, should the Hon. Member desire, he will have an opportunity of raising the matter.
I agree, Mr. Speaker, that you have given me great latitude, and I do not want to take undue advantage of it, but I desire to point out that when I put down this question, which, in the judgment of Members of all parties, is a matter of the most vital concern to the honour and dignity of the Army, instead of the Minister for War, who usually is so courteous to Members, coming to the House and. dealing with this matter himself—