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Wednesday, 14 February 1917


Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) (Minister for Works and Railways) . - Before the Leader of the Opposition re-t " plies, there are a few points that I desire to emphasize. In the first place, it has . been stated by the Minister for Defence that the Government are withholding the information sought by Senator Gardiner because of a request which was made to -it by the War Office. That request was conveyed to us through the medium of a representative of the Government in London. This statement is doubted by some honorable senators. Suppose that the "doubting Thomases" are correct, and that, as a fact, no such request was received from the British Government, can we not apply our own intelligence to what the position in the trenches would be to-day if these figures were made known in deference to the request of the Leader of the Opposition? Let us try to picture to ourselves what would happen. We know that the first essential qualification for a soldier is obedience.. We know that much heat was engendered in the country, and perhaps a little in the Senate, by the discussion of conscription for military service. We can say with certainty that the same thing' would occur if the matter were discussed in the trenches, where no such heat should be engendered at all. Even if 'there were no request on the subject from the War Office, I ask honorable senators opposite to consider what the result of making this information known in the trenches would be. There are men at the front who are heartily in favour of conscription. That is not disputed by any one. There are men in the trenches to-day who, apparently, are just as strongly against it, and honorable senators may easily picture for themselves what the position in the trenches would be if, when the men were called upon to obey, as soldiers must, the orders of those in high command, they were engaged in heated arguments for and against conscription. If honorable senators will only apply their common sense to this matter, they will realize that, in the. interests of putting up the best fight possible against our foes, we should prevent the introduction into the trenches of any information which would provoke disputes and dissension amongst our soldiers. The best way to provoke such dissension would be to publish the results of the voting at the referendum, as suggested by those who are supporting the' motion now before the Senate. When it is said- that to disallow the regulation would have a good result, I reply by saying that, from the point of view of insuring unity amongst our soldiers, no good could possibly result from the publication of information which would give rise to disputes amongst them. That is my contribution to the debate, and if honorable senators will only use their common sense they will be found opposing the motion.







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