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Friday, 29 May 1914

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - I do not desire to speak on this subject at any length, but I am not going to give an altogether silent vote on the matter, which I regard as much more important than some of my colleagues seem to think it is. I awaited a good, sound reason for the taking of the new step proposed by Senator Pearce, because a new step it undoubtedly is, but I have heard nothing to convince me or justify the motion. We must remember that the Highland uniform has been part and parcel of whatever military forces we have had from the very inception of military forces in Australia. It has been identified with our defence system so long that I was anxious to hear a good sound reason advanced for its abolition. But I must say that I have not heard a sufficient reason to justify mc in supporting the abandonment of a well-established custom. I quite agree that there is something in the cry against millinery in connexion with the Military Forces. But we cannot get away from the fact that, whether wo have the kilts or not, that feature will still obtain in the Forces. There is just as much millinery in other uniforms as in the Highland costume. The question of expense has been raised as an objection to the kilts, but we find from figures which have been published that there is a difference of only ls. 9d. between the cost of the Highland uniform and that of the ordinary uniform of our Defence Forces. If we are to go in for simplicity in military dress, let us have it by all means, but we have not got it at the present time, and the statement that the Highland uniform is more expensive than the uniform in more general use is disproved by figures.

Senator LONG (TASMANIA) - What are the figures?

Senator DE LARGIE - The cost is £4 lis. for the ordinary uniform as compared with £4 12s. 9d. for the kilts. Therefore, there is nothing in the objection to the kilts on the score of expense.

Senator LONG (TASMANIA) - No trousers are provided for in that price.

Senator DE LARGIE - That is not so. The people who made out this estimate of cost reckoned one set of kilts equivalent to three pairs of " breeks,' and I appreciate their good taste. When you can get a set of kilts for £1 8s. 6d. ii is throwing away money to buy trousers at £1 15s. od. There is nothing whatever in the expense argument. I listened with interest to Senator Pearce on the question of the inconvenience caused to the Highland recruits in having to go from one suburb to another to drill. I hold that men who volunteer for service in any national regiment will take that inconvenience upon themselves. It is a voluntary action on their part, and if they have to go from one district to another to get their training they are voluntarily undertaking that disability, and we have no right to object. Therefore, I see very little indeed in that argument. In regard to uniforms generally, we have heard militarism decried from time to time. I am just as anxious as any one to see it kept within reasonable bounds, and we have affirmed the principle of a Citizen Force. But do we dress our soldiers as citizens ? Certainly not. I might very well argue that we would be getting much nearer a citizen costume if we were to adopt the kilt than we are with the present uniform, because the kilt is a civilian as well as a military costume. I have heard nothing during this debate to induce me to change the opinion I have always held, that we should not make changes unless there are good and sound reasons for thom. In doing such a thing as is proposed by the motion we are running counter to an old and wellestablished national sentiment, and I am not going to offend national sentiment without good and sound reasons.

Senator Oakes - There is more esprit de corps in national regiments than in any other.

Senator DE LARGIE - I quite believe it. I hope we shall have a vote on this matter, and I intend to vote in favour of allowing things to remain as they are. As regards other States that have not had this privilege extended to them, if we agree to continue these national regiments the privilege can be extended to other States if they ask for it. When the Irishmen of Australia were refused permission to form national regiments I was opposed to that refusal, because I held that it was an offence to those people. But if opportunity occurs, and we have national regiments, we can easily correct that mistake by extending to Irishmen the same privileges as it is proposed to give to Scotchmen.

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