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Friday, 12 December 1913

Senator BARKER (Victoria) . - I think we can say that our system of compulsory training has proved to be a great success. When we compare the number of those who willingly undergo the training with the number who neglect to perform their drills, the comparison is one we have a right to be proud of. I agree with Senator Pearce that there should be special magistrates appointed to look into cases of offences against the Act by trainees, because much discontent and dissatisfaction was aroused by the harsh decisions of many of the magistrates who dealt with the first offenders brought before them. Possibly that would remove, npt only a good deal of the friction, but a good deal of the feeling which is being exhibited towards the Act, because of the punishment which is being meted out to some of the trainees. It would be a marvel, indeed, if there were not- a few unruly ones amongst the large number of lads who are now undergoing military training. At the same time, the arbitrary manner in which some of these offenders are dealt with by Area Officers can never be justified. Some parents, it is true, appear to think that they have cause to complain of our compulsory training system, when, as a matter of fact, they have no reasonable ground for any such complaint. Quite recently a number of lads who had been taken out to drill were caught in a thunderstorm, with the result that they got very wet. One man with whom I conversed on the subject suggested that it was a terrible thing that the Department did not provide the lads with overcoats or umbrellas to protect them from the storm.

Senator Pearce - They do not mind getting wet at a football match.

Senator BARKER - No; they rather welcome it, because it gives an opportunity to the players to indulge in what is known as " fast " play. As one who presided for eighteen months over a Children's Court, where the decisions of the magistrates are based upon the merits of each case, I hold that the justices who are called upon to deal with defaulting trainees should be clothed with similar power. Both honorary and paid magistrates possess certain traditions. They regard some offences as of a heinous character

Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator would smash up discipline.

Senator BARKER - I do not thinkso. Our paid magistrates are brought up in a certain groove. They may view as serious the trifling act of a lad who has been practically tutored by his parents to object to the system of compulsory training. At one or two meetings which I have attended, I have heard the most outrageous statements made as to the way in which the boys are dealt with, andI have heard our compulsory training system denounced as conscription. The way in which our Defence Act was spoken of was enough to bring tears to the eyes of a stuffed Egyptian.

Senator Millen - Where was that - at the Freedom "League ?

Senator BARKER

Senator Millen - They are certainly very free with their facts.

Senator McDougall - I thought it was the Liberty League.

Senator BARKER - It is freedom and liberty combined. I have been told that the funds of this league are contributed by the Cadbury Cocoa people in England for the avowed purpose of destroying our system of compulsory training. Whether that is so or not, I cannot say. It would be satisfactory if we could learn whether, apart from objections by a section of our own people, there are outsiders who are contributing money in an endeavour to break down that system.

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