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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Mr CONSIDINE - That is a matter to be dealt with by the Assistant Minister, who is a believer in militarism. The honorable gentleman must recognise that the sentiments expressed by the writer of the letter I have quoted are not mine; they are written by a man who signs himself "A Loyal Australian," and he draws a distinction between men who voice in the - parks and streets of Broken Hill opinions such as I hold and these boys who commit minor offences against the Defence Act. He points out that men whom he regards as a menace to the Empire are let off with a paltry fine or 5s., whilst his son and other boys who are said to be loyal young Australians are heavily fined.

Mr Poynton - The moral is that the honorable member ought to have been fined more heavily.

Mr CONSIDINE - I have not been fined at all. The Government took good care that I was sent to gaol without any option. However, whilst I do not mind a joke at my own expense, these punishments are no joke for the lads or their parents.

Mr Maxwell - Does the honorable member object to the excess of punishment, pr to the punishment itself 1

Mr CONSIDINE - I object to any individual having power to persecute these lads in the vindictive manner that has been characteristic of these officers at Broken Hill.

Sir Granville Ryrie - Does the honorable member say that the Area Officer should not be allowed to punish them at all?

Mr CONSIDINE - I object to the whole system. Under no system of training men or boys is such persecution justified.

Sir Granville Ryrie - If the honorable member can point out one case in which an Area Officer has persecuted any boy, I will have him " sacked " at once.

Mr CONSIDINE - I have read to the Committee a list of cases.

Sir Granville Ryrie - That is merely a statement by the honorable member's friend and correspondent that the boys are suffering persecution.

Mr CONSIDINE - He is no friend of mine. That letter proves his bona fides as a member of the National party. Some of his sentiments certainly tally with the Nationalist election propaganda in my electorate. This is not the first occasion on which this matter has been ventilated in this , Chamber; lots of promises have been made by Ministers in regard to various abuses, but the fact remains that the military staff are the people whose determinations are carried out irrespective of what Minister is in office. The administration of the Defence Act, so far, has shown that the military authorities are determined, whether or not the people like it, to im pose their ideas of militarism upon the children of this country. The Assistant Minister himself has spoken of the necessity for discipline, and for training the children when young, and inculcating in them the principles of unquestioning obedience. The cases I have read to the Committee axe the result. I am not a militarist, and no vote of mine will ever be given, at any rate while the present order of society continues, to help any military establishment in this or any other country.

Sir Granville Ryrie - That is all right, as long as there is no military establishment in any other country.

Mr CONSIDINE - No system of military defence that could be devised could carry the weight of the persecution of youngsters that has taken place in Broken Hill. If the Assistant Minister values the position he occupies, and wishes to deal fairly with these children and their parents, who are not political supporters of mine, he will not wait to be supplied with charges, but will cause an immediate investigation into the cases that have been published broadcast, in order to establish what has been the practice in that military area. The facts cannot be denied. *

Mr Poynton - If the Germans had reached Australia they would have made the honorable member do the goose-step.

Mr CONSIDINE - In all probability they would not have been friends of mine, but would have associated with the Minister and his kind. I have listened to speeches by the Assistant Minister for Defence in denunciation of Prussianism and militarism, but I fail to distinguish between the German and the local exponents of militarism.

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