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Thursday, 5 May 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I am very sorry that again the absurd standing order should interfere with orderly and sensible debate. Honorable senators should seriously consider whether they should not prevent these interruptions of debate when the remarks being made are becoming most interesting. I attempted to address myself to the question before the dinnerhour, aud I said I was prepared to go to a vote at any time; but now, after the Minister (Senator. Pearce) has listened to a number of speeches, he must have obtained a very fair idea of the opinion of honorable senators, and I think he might very well withdraw the clause. I do not think there is any occasion for a fight upon it. If it is withdrawn, it will save a good deal of time.

Senator Drake-Brockman - There is an amendment to be got rid of first.

Senator GARDINER - We can have a vo'te on the amendment. I have been looking into the Army Act, and I find that the Army Act of 1914 is the latest we have here, but considerable alterations have been made in it. I find that, from time to time, amendments have been made in the Army Act providing for conscription. In fie early days of the Act the amendments would provide for the conscription of certain undesirable classes, but duringthe war conscription in Great Britain became part of the Army Act. If I am wrong,the Minister for Defence will correct me.

Senator Pearce - : No, it 3rd not. I think that conscription was brought in by aspecial Act.

Senator GARDINER - Yes, but it became an amendment of the Army Act. I have something to read from the Army Act on the question of enlistments wEich, I think, has not been altered. If from 1689 to 1899 enlistments in the British Army were carried out under the Army Act, it is not unreasonable to assume that at the present moment, by incorporating the Army Act in our Defence Act, we shall be adopting conscription as a part of the Defence Act, though the people of this country have turned down conscription on two occasions.

Senator Pearce - No; that would be inconsistent with section 49 of the Defence Act, which says that members of the Defence Force who are members of the Military Forces shall not be. required, unless they voluntarily agree to do so, to serve beyond the Commonwealth. We have conscription within the Commonwealth.

Senator GARDINER - If it appliesto members of the Forces,, we are being asked to go in for conscription, not merely for members of the Defence Force, but of the general public.

Senator Pearce - It is not proposed that the Army Act shall apply to any one except members of the Defence Force.

Senator GARDINER -Of course; bu I claim that the amended British Army Act makes provision for the conscription of the Civilian Forces, and we have nothing in our Act dealing with the compulsory enlistment of the Civilian Forces. It would not, therefore, be inconsistent with our Defence Act to apply the Army Act to the conscription of Civilian Forces.

Senator Pearce - In the Bill before the Senate it is proposed to apply the British Army Act only to members of the Defence Force, and not to civilians.

Senator GARDINER - To get away from that subject, and not because of the Minister's interjection, 'but because of a ridiculous standing order which limits the time during which an honorable senator may speak, I wish to refer to a serious matter which, I think, the Minister for Defence is not aware of. I refer to the way in which the British Army Act provides for dealing with unlawful assemblies, rioting, and insurrection. There is a very fine distinction drawn between an unlawful assembly, a riot, and an insurrection. Not only does the Army Act deal with these things, but there are Court decisions which have become the custom of the Army, and we are asked to adopt all these things without consideration.

Senator Foster - A soldier is guilty of mutiny, not only if he takes part in a riot, but if he does not do all he can to repress it.

Senator GARDINER - I have again to thank Senator Foster for an illuminating observation. The soldier, under the Army Act, is held responsible, not only if he takes part in an insurrection, but if he does not use every effort to suppress it. The Army Act provides methods for dealing with public meetings which may be-, come boisterous, or riots which may become insurrections. If we wish to deal with these things, we should do so by Australian laws, made by an Australian Parliament for the Australian people. If time permitted I might read whole pages from the Army Act dealing with this one matter alone. Perhaps it would be as well to read one or two pages in order that the Minister might realize that the time has come for withdrawing the Government proposal.

Senator Pearce - Let us have a vote on the amendment.

Senator GARDINER - To bear out my statement, I intended to read something concerning enlistment, attestation, and compulsory service; but I adopt the Minister's suggestion, and will curtail my remarks. I hope we shall have a division on Senator Pratten's amendment; but I warn the Minister for Defence against adopting a British Act which deals with a public meeting that may become an unlawful assembly, and a riot that may become an insurrection. I rose to point out that if we adopt this measure we shall, probably, by virtue of the provisions of the British Army Act, be adopting conscription. That is a policy which the people of this country have turned down on two occasions.

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