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Wednesday, 19 October 1910

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Austra) - - I heartily indorse the action of Senator Needham in bringing the case of Mr. Wise before the Senate in order to have it ventilated. There may be many similar cases in the future. The Commonwealth has adopted a principle affecting the defence of this country that may bring us into conflict with other State Governments; and the sooner we have a clear understanding regarding our powers the better it will be for all concerned. I do not think that any member of the Senate is anxious to see any friction created between a State and the Commonwealth, but, at the same time, we ought to take steps to prevent cases of this kind occurring again. The case will serve a good purpose by affording an opportunity of arriving at an understanding as to what the powers of the Commonwealth are. I have read the press reports, and, as far as I am able to make out, Warder Wise has not in any way come into collision with any regulation of the prison service. It seems, however, that there is an unwritten law that a warder must hold himself in readiness to render service at any time when the prison authorities may call upon him.

Senator Fraser - That may be a very necessary regulation.

Senator DE LARGIE - It may be. But, at the same time, a regulation of that kind must be administered in a careful manner. It would not do, simply because a man was a warder in a prison, to lay it down that the whole of his spare time was to be at the disposal of the prison authorities. If so, such a regulation would break down very soon, and would cause a great deal of discontent.

Senator Millen - A similar regulation exists in connexion with our larger fire brigades.

Senator DE LARGIE - There is an absolute need for it in that case, and the regulation may, in a lesser degree, be necessary in connexion with a prison. But I am quite sure that the unreasonable application of it would bring it into contempt. As far as I have been able to look into this case, there has been an unreasonable stretching of the regulation in its application to Warder Wise. According to the press reports, it is not alleged by the prison authorities that he has been at any time called upon to render duty when he has not responded. So that, as far as we can see, there was no genuine reason whatever why he should sever his connexion with the Defence Forces. The Commonwealth has laid down the principle of compulsory training for all citizens. I dare say that we shall experience a great deal of trouble in reference to the application of the principle, because, undoubtedly, it will in some measure interfere with the industrial affairs of the Commonwealth. It was because of the fear of that interference that some of us were not as enthusiastic in support of the principle of compulsory service as we otherwise should have been. But when a State Government goes out of its way to call upon a man to withdraw from' the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth, I think that we ought to take a stand, and insist upon a clear understanding of theposition. As far as I can make out, what has occurred is due to nothing more nor lessthan a party feeling that has been manifested in Western Australia in what may becalled anti- Federal quarters - a feeling that is represented by the Government in office at the present time.

Senator St Ledger - The honorable senator is now bringing in political bias, which weakens the case.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is for those who dispute what I am saying to disprove my statements if they can. I hold that no justification has been shown for the action that has been taken with regard to Warder Wise. He was giving satisfaction in every way. No fault was found with the manner in which he was discharging his duty. No charge was made against him. It has not been alleged that he was not on hand when his services were required. Nothing has occurred to justify the action taken by the prison authorities. Therefore, I am justified in putting the construction on the facts that I have done, and in alleging that there was very little reason for putting into force the regulation under which action has been taken.

Senator Findley - The action of "Lilliputian Australians."

Senator DE LARGIE - In the past we have deplored the want of patriotism on the part of citizens in respect to offering their services to the Commonwealth. Here is a case where a State has taken action to prevent a nian who was anxious to give his services for the defence of the country from doing so. Unless it can be shown that some personal element has entered into the action of the prison authorities in discharging Warder Wise, I can but conclude that an utterly unjustifiable course has been taken by the Western Australian Government.

Senator Millen - Is there any evidence to show that the Western* Australian Government had anything to do with the matter ?

Senator DE LARGIE - At any rate, the Government has taken no action to see justice done to this man. An appeal was made to the Chief Secretary. The facts of the case were placed before him, and representations were made to the effect that the man was entitled to retain his office.

Senator Millen - Perhaps the Chief Secretary did not think he was.

Senator DE LARGIE - Then we want to know why. Unless better reasons can be given for the discharge of Warder Wise, and for the hardship inflicted upon his family, I maintain that it is the duty of this Parliament to see that a similar thing does not happen again.

Senator Sayers - Was the case discussed in the Western Australian Parliament?

Senator DE LARGIE - I believe that a question was asked some weeks ago. Therefore, the case cannot be said to have been sprung upon the authorities.

Senator Fraser - The Western Australian Parliament has an opportunity of doing justice.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is just as well that we should have an investigation made with the view to prevent the recurrence of such a case in the future.

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