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Wednesday, 20 May 1914

Senator McDOUGALL (New South Wales) . - I am glad that the Minister of Defence has arrived on the battlefield, because I want to bring under his notice a matter which, in my opinion, involves a breach of the Defence Act. I learn from a report which appears in a Sydney newspaper that -

Defaulting cadets were dealt with yesterday at the Water Police Court by Mr. Clarke, S.M. A boy, not much taller than a rifle, admitted having worn a uniform when not going to or from parade. Captain Blair Swannell, prosecuting officer, said he met the boy in the street wearing a military shirt. The lad told the magistrate that the shirt formerly belonged to his brother, but it had been condemned and discarded, andhethought there would be no harm in wearing it. Captain Swannell agreed that it was an old shirt, The boy was fined 2s. 6d., with 3s. costs.

In 1912 I had the pleasure of moving an amendment in the Defence Bill, which was supported by the Minister of the day, and which affirmed that children should not be dragged before the Police Courts. That amendment was carried. Yet, apparently, a lad only about 3 ft. 6 in. high has been haled before the Court, and has been fined for wearing a discarded military shirt. As a matter of fact,I believe that the military authorities themselves sell these discarded garments. I wish now to say a few words about Captain Blair Swannell, the prosecuting officer who brought this poor, puny lad before the Police Court. That officer was never any good to this country. He came out here as a footballer - an English footballer. He afterwards became a referee. They could not find him a job, so they made him a paid secretary of the Rugby Union. That union struck hard times, and could not afford to pay a secretary. Captain Swannell, consequently, had to find something else to do, and they made him an area officer.

Senator Millen - Whom does the honorable senator mean by "they"?

Senator McDOUGALL - I am not accusing the Minister of Defence of having appointed him. Captain Blair Swannell should be asked to go and find work, instead of walking along the street to discover a poor, unfortunate child clothed in a worn-out military shirt. The magistrate who fined the lad, in the face of what he was told, ought to be placed in the same position. I know that these magistrates have a lot of work to do. They really have not time to deal with these cases. As a matter of fact, the same report from which I have quoted relates how one magistrate actually fined the wrong boy. I would like the Minister to make inquiries into this case.. I have always held that it is a crying shame that children should be dragged before our Police Court. They should be dealt with by the Children's Courts. I ask the Minister to make inquiries into the matter, with a view to seeing that effect is given to that portion of our Defence Act which was amended on my initiative in 1912.

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