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Friday, 18 June 1915


Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - I do not intend to occupy the attention of honorable senators on this occasion as long as I did on a previous one, because I think that I have almost sufficiently ventilated my views upon one important phase of the war. When I spoke last week on the method which should be adopted in the raising of the necessary troops to insure a successful termination, of the present struggle, I affirmed my belief that the majority of the people of Australia did not entertain similar views to mv own. Within the past few days, however, that belief has been considerably weakened. I am now quite convinced that there is in the Commonwealth an immense body of most valuable and intelligent public opinion behind the stand which I then took up. I have received numerous letters congratulating me upon the opinions which I expressed on the occasion in question, and I have been the recipient of very warm congratulations from that section of the community which at first blush I thought would be opposed to me. I have received congratulatory messages from numberless female voters who believe that the course which I have suggested is the right one to adopt. Only a few days ago I had occasion to condole with a young woman who had just received the sad intelligence that her brother had been killed at the front. The casualty has not yet been announced in the published lists, but it is only too true that this young man has met his death at the hands of the enemy. In discussing her bereavement the young woman .remarked, " I am altogether in favour of the opinions which you have expressed. In our family we have given two sons to the cause of the Empire. One has already been killed. We are prepared to give the third son to assist in vindicating that cause, although the sacrifice will mean much to us. But we do feel a little hurt that while we have already given two out of the male members of our family there are other families containing five and six robust sons not one of whom has gone to the front." It is now dawning on the minds of the people that conscription is equitable, and that it gives effect to what is the shibboleth of every Democrat, namely, equality of sacrifice. I once more ask honorable senators, irrespective of party, to reflect that at present we are adopting recruiting methods which are antiquated, and which illustrate the natural conservatism of even the most advanced Democrat - methods which are ages old in the Mother Country, and which are absolutely derogatory to us as legislators and as units of a great Empire. This is not a question of lack of courage so much as one of the vacillatory nature of the human temperament. I noticed in yesterday's Age a statement to the effect that for some time nast about 33 per cent, of the men who volunteer for enlistment, and who successfully undergo the medical examination, do not present themselves to be sworn in. I do not mean to suggest that these men are lacking in courage-


Senator Russell - Thirty-three per cent, of whom ?


Senator BAKHAP - Thirty-three per cent, of the men who undergo examination and are declared medically fit do not present themselves to be sworn in.


Senator Russell - Over what period?


Senator BAKHAP - In order to overcome this difficulty the men are now being marched straight from the medical examination to be sworn in.


Senator FINDLEY (VICTORIA) -ley. - It was also stated that after emerging successfully from the medical examination, recruits are allowed a little time in which to arrange their private affairs.


Senator BAKHAP - The fact remains that if they do not now present themselves to be sworn in they may be treated as deserters


Senator Russell - The honorable senator's imputation is that lads who volunteer change their minds and run away.


Senator BAKHAP - I say that it is stated in the press of this metropolis that 33 per cent, of those who have hitherto presented themselves for examination and have been declared medically fit failed to attend later to be sworn in and formally enlisted.


Senator Maughan - Is that an official statement ?


Senator BAKHAP - That statement, with particulars, appeared in the Age of yesterday morning, and also in the Argus. If it is inaccurate it can be contradicted.


Senator Russell - It was also stated that the system has been altered.


Senator BAKHAP - Yes, and that is in order to give no chance in future for an exhibition of this perfectly human characteristic of vacillation. To supplement the English language with a little plain Australian, 33 per cent, of those who have in the past been declared medically fit have been doing the crayfish trick.


Senator Gardiner - Does not the honorable senator think that he should have something more reliable than the authority of a paragraph in the Age or in the Argus before making a statement like that?


Senator BAKHAP - I gave my authority, and if the statement is inaccurate it is open to the Minister of Defence, or Ministers representing him in his absence, to get up and give the facts. I have only referred to the statement as evidence of that vacillation and indecision in human nature which it is the duty of this Parliament and of the country, in this supreme Imperial crisis, to rectify by altering the methods of enlistment that so far have been adopted.


Senator Ready - Why is not the Coalition Government in Great Britain proposing conscription ?


Senator BAKHAP - I think it is because they have not yet a proper appreciation of the situation. Senator Gould quoted something which had fallen from the lips of Colonel Cameron, an officer and a gentleman for whom I have the very highest regard. Just about the time of the declaration of war he delivered himself publicly of certain opinions that made a very great impression upon me, and which, I believe, went to the heart of the matter. He said that the cause of the war at bottom was a race movement. Certain races, consciously or unconsciously, desire elbow room. He added that two of the most vital points in connexion with the forthcoming struggle would be found to be the Suez Canal and the Dardanelles. The sequel has shown that Colonel Cameron is possessed of a great deal of military prescience. I wish him an addition to the honours which have fallen to him in previous campaigns on behalf of the Empire, and I wish him, and all with him, a safe return after victory has been achieved.


Senator Ready - The honorable senator denounced him enough in Tasmania.


Senator BAKHAP - I am speaking of the officer and gentleman, and not of the politician. This is one of those matters in which persons of Senator Ready's type of mind fail to discriminate. I have not left the military question, and will return to it later; but I wish to say a word or two here on the talk and recrimination indulged in in respect to National Governments, the referenda proposals, and all the rest of it. When, after the long adjournment, we were given an opportunity, upon a Ministerial statement, to discuss a number of matters of greater or less importance, I said that I expected no quarter from the Labour party in this regard. Knowing what I do of the internal organization of the party, I said that I was confident that the referenda proposals would be brought forward again. I have never been in a position necessitating the extension of any very great consideration to other people. I dare say I would extend some if the necessity arose, but my natural temperament is such that I ask quarter ' from no one. So I say to the Labour party now, "If you care to bring forward the re, ferenda proposals again, do so, and we will defeat them." A hundred years ago to a day, on a very memorable occasion, Wellington said the same of the forces of the great man then opposed to him. He said, " He brought them along in the old style, and we drove them off in the old style." Let the Labour party bring on their proposals, and set the community by the ears, and their efforts will probably produce very unexpected results. As I intend to discuss the referenda proposals when they come before the Senate, it is not necessary that I should occupy time at present by advancing arguments which, I think, will be found conclusive in the minds of many people outside as to the fallacies inherent in them from their conception. It is incumbent on us in Australia, not to consider what Canada has done, and not to consider the situation except from the Australian stand-point. While I am an ardent advocate of the system of conscription, I am not blind to the fact that other matters have to be considered if Australia's full strength is to be displayed in the cause of the Empire.


Senator READY (TASMANIA) - Is the honorable senator aware that the Irish party passed a resolution against conscription ?


Senator BAKHAP - The interjection brings me back again to the question of the referenda proposals, and compels me to say that there is something in the contention that they should not be introduced at this time to set the people of Australia by the ears. Senator Ready will admit that the Irish party in the House of Commons are foregoing just as much at the present juncture as the Labour party here would be asked to forego if they did not at present introduce the referenda proposals. If, in the Imperial Parliament, after long discussion and agitation, the aspirations of the Irish people and the realization of their ideal of a measure of self-government for Ireland had almost reached consummation, and the Irish -party consented to leave to the future its final achievement, do not honorable senators opposite see that in the cause of national unity at this juncture and for the defence of the nation, it might reasonably be asked that the referenda proposals should be discussed later on?







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