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Wednesday, 14 October 1914

Senator FERRICKS (Queensland) . - This afternoon I asked the Minister of Defence a question as to the number of the Queensland quota of the first Expeditionary Force. I was told that the number was about 2,200, but it was not possible to ascertain the number of those who had served as special constables during the Brisbane general strike of 1912. I did not think it improbable that the Defence Department would have the information I desired, as I believed that men volunteering for the front would have supplied the Department with a record of their civil and military services. What I wanted to ascertain when I propounded the question was to discover how many, if any, of the gentlemen who served as special constables during the Brisbane general strike had mustered up sufficient courage to volunteer for service when there was business in the air. I made exhaustive and widely-spread inquiries in the metropolitan area of Brisbane and its suburbs, and could discover the names of only four who had done so.

At the time of the general strike there were 2,000 of these special constables sworn in, and there might have been forty who volunteered for the Expeditionary Force. It seems to me that the number who did so was proportionately very low. These gentlemen were hailed as heroes and the saviours of the country, as men who were prepared to go to the rescue of a city which was not attacked. As I said on that occasion, many of them were receiving 10s. a day for the first time in their lives. Many came from the country, where there was at the time a dry spell, and were paid 12s. 6d. a day, with as much Government corn and chaff as their horses could eat. They proved to be very brave in ridingrough-shod over defenceless women and children in the metropolitan area of Brisbane, and in drawing their batons on unarmed men. Although at that time they were so very brave, I find that when there was a real chance to show their bravery nearly the whole of them seem to have gone under beds in Brisbane, or into hollow logs in the country. I mention this fact to impress upon the Senate and the people generally the class of individual who volunteers for duty as a special constable at a time of industrial dispute. These are the people upon whom our friends of the Opposition depend at such a time. When, after exhaustive inquiries, I find that hardly any of these men volunteered for service at the front, the fact goes to show that our friends and the members of the Employers Federation generally are relying upon very rotten reeds when they honour and throw up. their hats in praise of such individuals who can fight their own fellow-workers, and have no respect for defenceless women and children, but who, when an enemy has to be faced or the nation is to be defended, are not to be found when a call is made upon their services.

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