MINISTER FOR PEACE.
Observer, Volume XXXVII, Issue 37, 19 May 1917, Page 2
MINISTER FOR PEACE.
A New Portfolio
IN order that the discharged soldier shall not have so hard row to hoe, it is suggested that a Minister of the Crown shall beappointed after the war is over with la Discharged Soldiers' Department and so on. Of course, Ministers of the Crown applaud the idea—it's a ' job for one of them, or a reward to . a politician who is not yet in the Ministry. It is a good colonial way out,of the impasse, the soldiering business, being strictly political. The soldier off service in New Zealand is a "loose end." He doesn't belong anywhere. His regiment is abroad, and he has no regimental depot in this country, no people who are jealous of the reputation of his regiment, and rarely any officers on the staff who have belonged to his. regiment. People, regard him not as a soldier who has "belonged to a regiment," but as a man who went away from New Zealand in a "reinforcement." Nobody knows what he went to "reinforce," and nobody cares nnich. When Fern!eaf returns in the bunch and finally, he will be relegated to private life as quickly as possible. New Zealand won't take two years to disband her army as Britain will do, simply because there are no rogimental depots, and the soldier', whon he returns, belongs to nothing.
It will take a sympathetic genius with his heart and head in the work to handle the discharged soldier in the bulk. There is no sympatheticgenius in the New Zealand Cabinet now, or one who knows, soldiers, or discriminates between the war-worn man and the well fed civilian. But there is no Member of Parliament who would not gleefully take the job of Minister in Charge of the Discharged Soldiers' Department. It is vitally necessary, if the business of providing for the. men of the New Zealand Army is to vary from the cut and dried keep-it-steadily-inview Ministerial method, that the Minister shall be a soldier—not an armchair soldier, a barracks square soldier, an office soldier, but a fighting man who has seen soldiers cut down in swathes, and knows all there is to know of the body and mind of the soldier from barracks to butchery, from home to hospital, from Trentham to trench, and from life to death. No man who has not been a soldier is competent to takethat ministerial job, and no person not a soldier should be admitted into the Department he will control. We have heard singularly little of those New Zealand politicians who joined the forces. There were few politicians who did join the forces, but it would be better to include a poor politiciansoldier in the Cabinet than to give the billet to a politician who regards soldiers as men in, a game of political chess.
There is precedent for the creation of a Department the head of which is not a Minister, and who is not (so it is said) interfered with. The civil service is under the control of a Commissioner. It is assumed that he has absolute power. If it is possible to control the civil service per commissioner, it is possible to put all matters relating to discharged soldiers under the man.agement
of the best military officer available for the job, who should be promised that no politician had any right to interfere with him. When the New Zealand Army is demobilised there will arise problems worthy the study of the. best soldier -we have sent to the war. The officer -who has been a top-notch soldier must necessarily have understood his men, sympathised with ■ them, and known the psychology of the fighting man. For a politician trained in the Aye-Noes school, running in a lane bordered by redtape, addicted to the circumlocutory system which is bred in the bone and blood of the New Zealand politician to sympathetically run a Discharged Soldiers' Department will be entirely impossible. There is no man in New Zealand politics capable of doing it, although no doubt the job will be given to such a one.
After all former wars the soldier •was a problem to no one except the police. After this war the ex-soldier will be the bulk of the young man population of every belligerent country. He is worth while. The Minister or Commissioner in charge of a Discharged Soldiers' Department -will be a highly honoured individual. He may "in fact, given the requisite genius, control the most vital force in politics, for, all opinions to the contrary, the discharged soldier is to be the best and most dominating factor in this and other countries. The ex-soldier has seen real things. He is able to discriminate between the value ot the man who wags a flag or his tongue and the man who wags a bayonet, and he is not to be trammelled with red-tape or to be "kept steadily in view." He is not to be looked on as an accumulation of persons necessary to pay a politician £1200 a year to sign documents, but a vital force which can ' dispense with the services of any politician he has no use for.