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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - I move -

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. to-morrow.

I am not approaching this matter with any desire to embarrass the Government, but certain things are occurring throughout the country regarding which it will probably be to the advantage of the community as a whole that the Government should take a very strong stand and have the support of not only their own followers, but also of the Opposition. Some time ago reports appeared in the newspapers to the effect that a certain manifesto had been issued by the international Socialists.

Senator Givens - Would you not include literature circulated by the Quakers?

Senator CHATAWAY - If my honorable friend will draw my attention to such literature, I am quite prepared to deal with it too, though I do not know of any at the present moment. I am not dealing so much with the leaflet supposed to have been issued and distributed amongst the cadets in Sydney as with the fact that a number of persons and some newspapers throughout Australia appear to think that they can publish with impunity appeals to cadets to break the law. First of all, let me quote a few of the phrases in the circular which is addressed to the conscript boys of Australia by the international Socialists.

It is. addressed to the lads, not to the electors of Australia, and amongst the words used are the following : -

You may think now, as lads, that it is amusing to wear a uniform, and to march along gaily to the sound of military music; but how will you feel when you stand, one of a long row of trained murderers, with your rifle in your hand, awaiting the order to shoot down your relatives and your comrades?

Australian lads, you are lovers of liberty, and you resent being driven by threats and insults. Do you realize that to make a" disciplined soldier you must have no will of your own, no conscience, no self respect? You must be just an automaton, ruled by the order of a superior officer.

Now is the time to protest against the folly of this compulsory training in organized muroer. Now is the time to make up your minds never to take the military oath -

The words "never to take the military oath " are printed in capitals to draw attention to them - which deprives yop of will and conscience. Many of you see dimly the folly and the wrong of it ; and you very rigidly -

The word "rigidly" is, I think, a misprint for " rightly " - scoff at the officers and jeer at the drill, which is intended to make you marching and fighting dummies.

That is quite sufficient to show that the appeal is not made to the electors to alter the law, but to a certain number of youths to break the law. It is desirable that we should put our foot down at once, and stop this sort of business. I believe that a declaration from the Government that they intend to deal with the offence if repeated would probably have the desired effect. It has been a question as to whether we have any power to act. According to the regulations in the Red Book of 1904, which, I understand, have not been repealed - 27. (a) When not on active service every person, subject to military law, who commits any of the following offences, that is to say : -

There is a number of offences with the penalties set forth, namely, imprisonment for three months or thereabouts'.

Senator Givens - That regulation applies to persons enrolled in the Defence Force.

Senator CHATAWAY - No ; it reads, " Every person subject to military law." The point T wish to put before the Senate is that, under our Act, every person under the age of sixty years and above the age of eighteen years is liable to serve. I take it that these persons, when they are not on active service, are still subject to a certain military law. The regulation dealing with these persons reads - (19.) Persuades, endeavours to persuade, procures, or attempts to procure, any person subject to military law to desert from His Majesty's service -

The penalty is, I think, about three months' imprisonment. The second volume of the Revised English Statutes contains a special Act which deals with this matter, and which, I believe, is in force in Australia. It contains, amongst other things, this provision - any person who shall maliciously and advisedly endeavour to seduce any person or persons serving in His Majesty's forces by sea or land from his or their duty and allegiance to His Majesty, or to incite or stir up any such person or persons to commit any act of mutiny . . . shall on being legally convicted of such offence, be adjudged guilty of felony.

The offenders are liable to a penalty. I have also been advised by a number of legal gentlemen whom I have consulted that probably there is a remedy at common law. I do not propose to suggest to the Government what particular remedy they should adopt." I have brought the matter under their attention in order to elicit a statement. I ask them to take some steps to prevent the circulation of what is clearly treasonable literature against the law of the land. I am not referring here merely to leaflets such as those issued in Sydney and handed to cadets. These statements are being published in newspapers. I have here a copy of a newspaper containing, so far as I know, the complete manifesto of the international Socialists. It is not published in satirical terms, and no contradiction of it is to be found in the newspaper. It is The Pioneer, a Labour journal, published weekly in Mackay. I find, that it is registered at the General Post Office, Brisbane, for transmission by post as a newspaper, and was established in 1905. I am quoting from the issue, vol. 6, No. 51, for Saturday, September, 191 1. 1 notice that the price is 3d., which is perhaps rather high. If a man sends a 5s. postal-note to Tattersalls sweeps, the Post Office authorities will deal with the recipient of the letter if they can trace him. Here we have a newspaper, a copy of each issue of which must under the law be sent -to the Postal Department, and it is permitted to publish and circulate an appeal not to the electors to alter the law, but to persons subject to the law,, to revolt and refuse to obey it.

Senator Millen - The Post and Telegraph Department aids in distributing it.

Senator CHATAWAY - That is the point I am making here. The question of Defence is not a party question, and the Government of to-day or of to-morrow will have to enforce the law in this matter. Sooner or later they will have to put a stop to these appeals to persons to violate the law. They cannot allow this kind of thing to go on indefinitely, and if the present Government will not put an end to it, some other Government must do so. I do not invite the Government to attack a particular individual who is trying to secure some notoriety, and to make a martyr of him before the country. We do not make martyrs of any one when we take action to deal with people who are connected with Tattersalls sweeps by refusing to deliver letters to them, and in the same way we shall not make a martyr of any one if the Post and Telegraph Department refuses to allow literature of this sort to be circulated throughout the country, largely at the Commonwealth expense, with intent to defeat a Commonwealth law. I have no wish to delay the business of the Senate, but I regard this matter as one of very serious import to the country. If the Government have not at present any power to deal with the people who publish and circulate this kind of seditious matter, I invite them to introduce a short measure which will give them the necessary power ; and I venture to say that it will receive no opposition from either side in the Senate. It must be made quite clear, not only that the law is binding on those who are actually engaged in active military service, but that no one is at liberty to preach sedition and mutiny to those who are being trained in the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth.

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator would not support a law to suppress articles of the kind to which he has referred ?

Senator CHATAWAY - I would suppress any persons who endeavour to preach absolute rebellion. I have no objection to any person urging that the law should be altered. Let Senator Gardiner make no mistake as to what I mean. If he is against compulsory training,, let him say so from a public platform, or through the press ; hut I say that, so long as it is the law of the land, it is absolute treason and mutiny to appeal to those who are actually being trained under the law to break away and refuse, .as this newspaper says, "to take the military oath."

Senator Givens - Does the honorable senator not think that it is possible to make too much of the whole matter ?

Senator CHATAWAY - That is a matter of opinion. I honestly admit that I have given the question consideration for a week or ten days. I have, been thinking it over, and have heard arguments for and against the course I am adopting. I believe that the best way to put an end to this kind' of thing is to squelch it in the bud. I cannot say that I approve the theory that the best way to prevent the spread of such opinions is to ignore them. I. can say from my political experience that a' great number of people thought that they could ignore the Labour party, and by doing so they have allowed it to grow until it holds the very honorable position which it occupies now in the government of this country. I say that it is better that the Government should make their intention perfectly clear, and should squelch this sort of thing in the early stages rather than permit it to grow.

Senator Long - Does the honorable senator think that the articles to which he refers are ' calculated to influence public opinion ?

Senator CHATAWAY - Another article of the same kind appeared in the Brisbane

Worker.Those who are responsible for the publication of the Pioneer do not, and never have, agreed with me, nor I with them, but I do not mind giving them a free advertisement by saying that their newspaper is read by hundreds of people who would not get the leaflets, which are often distributed in the way in which leaflets on this subject have been distributed in Sydney.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Where is this newspaper published?

Senator CHATAWAY - In the important city of Mackay, in Queensland. I ask the Government to say that this kind of thing will be suppressed. If they have no power under the law now to suppress it, . I hope they will pass a law to enable them to do so. It must be obvious to honorable senators that there is something ' rotten in. the state of. Denmark when people can preach absolute, sedition, and urge mere boys,. who are not electors, to resist the. law. We have already. had a large number of prosecutions of boys in connexion with our . system of universal training. A case of the kind occurred in Brisbane the other day in which a young fellow was fined £1, with an alternative of fourteen days' im'prisonment, for misbehaving himself. Another case occurred at Rockhampton, in which a similar penalty was imposed, but the magistrate made the statement that the lad charged with the offence was liable to three months' imprisonment. What can we believe? We must assume that this teaching is having effect, and it should be remembered that those who * are being' penalized are not the blatherskites who publish this seditious matter, but the young fellows who are being trained for the defence of the Commonwealth. These men are preaching doctrines which are getting young men into trouble - doctrines which are aimed directly against the law established by the Commonwealth.I do not want to make martyrs of those men, but I do hope that something will be done to make it quite clear that this kind of thing must be stopped straight away. If a man . does not like the system of compulsory training, let him approach the electors on the subject, but do not - let him preach mutiny in the ranks of the cadets.. Otherwise, not the men who preachthese doctrines will be landed in trouble, but .the cadets themselves, and that really means that the parents will be put totrouble and expense.

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