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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - Unfortunately I was unable to be present when this matter was introduced. But the remarks of Senator St. Ledger would seem to indicate that the Defence Act has been violated as the result of this alleged incitement to rebellious conduct.

Senator St Ledger - I did not say so.

Senator Millen - The incitement itself is a violation of the law.

Senator RAE - While I am a strong advocate of compulsory military training and feel very much inclined to rebel, because it is restricted so much that my children are not able to be trained, living, as they do, at some distance from a railway, yet I think that if the system does not meet with the approval of the vast majority of the public, it must inevitably break down. We are living under a system of democratic government, in which the will of the majority must ultimately prevail.

Senator Chataway - This is a question for the electors to consider, not for the boys.

Senator RAE - I am not talking about the boys, but about the system, as I am entitled to do. If it is to break down through the refusal of any considerable number of youths to be enrolled that can only be done by a very general approval on the part of their elders. No body of youths can very long defy the opinions of their parents and guardians. Consequently, so long as the vast majority of the people of the Commonwealth believe in a system of compulsory enrolment and training I think it will go on all right. If, from any cause whatever, public opinion is altered, then, however much some of us may regret it, we shall have to submit to the will of the majority. I contend that in a democratic community no system is worth its salt unless it can stand criticism.

Senator Millen - It is not a criticism of the system which is complained of.

Senator RAE - It is of the nature of criticism.

Senator Chataway - No, it is an appeal to the boys.

Senator RAE - If it is denunciation, if it is incitement, it must be based on something. I have not seen the leaflet which has been circulated, but I have read and heard general statements of the kind for some months. In fact, ever since a proposalon the subject was made, a section of persons - some in Sydney, I know - have strongly denounced it as the military conscription system in force in Europe, and denounced it, too, in the most violent and unmeasured language ; and from time to time they have adduced what passed duty as argument backing up the line they took. If they are appealing to youths of from fourteen to seventeen years of age, they have to bring forward reasons why it will be detrimental to their interests and those of the community for the Commonwealth to follow that course. It really borders very closely on a criticism of the newlyenacted system. We should allow the widest latitude in the criticism of any great measure before we proceed to take action which would brand persons as criminals. I share to some extent the view expressed by Senator Pearce, that there are some persons concerned in this matter who are on the look out for advertisement. There are some who would only rejoice if they were called to wear the crown of martyrdom. It would be playing into their hands, I have no doubt, if any action were taken at this stage. At the same time, I think that the Minister rather bitterly denounced some of these men in saying that they were unworthy of regard in any respect, and should be treated with contemptuous in difference. I do not know the authors of the leaflet or pamphlet complained of, but I have heard some very good men denounce compulsory training who I believe were led, by false deductions from the military system of Europe, to believe that our present system approximates to it, and would probably bring about similar evils. I think thatthey were arguing illogically and making wrong deductions from the facts they brought forward.

Senator Pearce - My statement related, not to those who think that it is not a wiseand proper system, but to those who incite boys to commit a breach of the law. We respect those who differ as to the wisdom of the system.

Senator RAE - I misunderstood the hon orable senator. Honorable senators must recollect that an incitement to rebel is not generally taken notice of until it produces some solid evil:

Senator Millen -Is not a breach of the law an evil ?

Senator RAE - Those who feel strongly on; any matter frequently transgressthe limits of thelaw in regard to incitement. If notice were taken of every case of that kind honorable senators on the other side, or their friends, would not be altogether free. There would be innumerable prosecutions if notice were taken of every utterance which is not strictly conformable to the law. Every one must ultimately be his own judge.

Senator Millen - I think that you are speaking personally.

Senator RAE - No. I defy any person I have known to say that he has never broken a law. I defy Senator Millen to say so.

Senator Millen - I can say it readily, without turning a hair.

Senator RAE - There is a number of things which the honorable senator can say without turning a hair-

Senator Chataway - You challenged him, and received an answer.

Senator RAE - I do not believe the honorable senator.

Senator Chataway - You must accept his statement

Senator RAE - I do not think that par liamentary usage requires me to believe the statement, though, of course, I have to accept it. If a criminal proceeding were instituted against every person who uttered words which were not strictly in accordance with the law - that is, in regard to inciting or suggesting resistance to the law - every second man in the Commonwealth would be prosecuted, and the other half ought to be, Those who prate so much about the observance of law and order do so only when it is the other fellow who is transgressing the law, and every mother's son of them is only too ready to break the law and denounce it when it suits him to do so. We hear that the Unionist party in Great Britain and in the North of Ireland are inciting people to armed resistance to Home Rule for Ireland. It has been stated that in Ulster the people are piling up arms and ammunition ready for the emergency when Home Rule is enacted. Senator St. Ledger was only quibbling when he said that there was no analogy between the action of those opposed to Home Rule for Ireland and that of the persons of whom Senator Chataway has complained, on the ground that Home Rule for Ireland has not yet been enacted. The statements which have been publishedconcerning those who are opposed to Home Rule for Ireland may, of course, only be the usual cable romances.

Senator St Ledger - Manyofthem are romances.

Senator RAE - Just so. We know that the newspapers that support honorable members opposite are noted for their want of veracity. If it were not for that, they would have no influence in securing the election of a single member of Parliament. While I am glad to have Senator St. Ledger's concurrence in these views, I say that, if we are to take any notice at all of the cables published in the newspapers, we must believe that a considerable section of His Majesty's subjects are preparing for armed resistance in anticipation of an alteration of the law.

Senator Millen - We are not responsible for that, but for the laws we have passed.

Senator RAE - I am aware of that; but I am referring to Senator St. Ledger's argument that the Ulster case is not an analogous one, because Home Rule for Ireland has not yet been enacted. I shall not pursue that matter further, because the honorable senator's arguments are usually farfetched and elusive.

Senator St Ledger - It was the Minister who raised that argument, and I merely replied to it.

Senator RAE - I presume that I have a right to reply to the honorable senator's remarks. In my opinion, it would be most inadvisable, at this stage, to take any such action as has been suggested in this matter. It should, for the present, I think, be treated with indifference. I may say, however, if it be not transgressing the limits of the question before the Senate, that there are matters in connexion with the Act which will require very serious attention before long. One of these will be the attitude

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator RAE - Am I out of order in alluding to the Defence Act ? With all due respect to you, sir, I think that, until I have transgressed, I should not be called to order.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The terms of the question are these : " The circulation of treasonable literature in regard to compulsory training."

Senator Millen - Is it not very awkward to have to observe the law?

Senator RAE - I have no doubt that Senator Millen feels that it is, but with his great abilities he is usually able to get round it. In regard to these alleged treasonable utterances, I point out that there has been advice given to cadets, and it appears to have influenced a few in some districts to refuse to drill with non-unionists. J do not know whether any steps are con templated to deal with that matter; but it is one which may assume very considerable proportions in the future. There is another matter which may well come under this heading, if we are to deal with all these questions ; we may have to decide what should happen if unionists in the Cadet Forces were to be called upon to shoot down strikers who were in revolt. All these questions may have to be dealt with in the near future, and I think honorable senators opposite would do better to wait until important questions of this kind arise, instead of trying to make a little political capital out of such things as have been referred to in this debate.

Senator Millen - It is not fair to say that, as no effort of the kind was made.

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