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Friday, 12 December 1913

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) .- If we are to make amendments in this Bill, let us do so on sound grounds. Some interjections that have been made seem to show that honorable senators are not all seized of what the Defence Act provides. ' I think I caught a remark from Senator Guthrie to the effect that if a fine was not paid distress followed. That is not so.

Senator Guthrie - It is.

Senator PEARCE - I have reason to be positive on the point, but if Senator Guthrie doubts my word he can look up the Act. It is true that under the original Act distress could follow from non-payment of a fine, but that was struck out when the Defence Act was amended.

Senator Millen - This Bill makes it clearer still.

Senator PEARCE - The fine can be recovered, not from the parent, but from the lad. How is it recovered? You cannot imprison the bo)' for the debt, nor can you proceed by distress; and, therefore, unless the lad consents to pay the fine cannot be recovered. But the length of the detention that is given as an alternative to payment of the fine is governed by the amount of the fine. If an offender is fined the maximum amount the detention would be for a longer term than would be the case if the fine were less. If you are going to cut down the amount of the fine you consequently cub down the length of the term of detention. There have been cases in which a heavy fine was absolutely required. I can give a few from memory. There was one of a youth in a rear rank who kicked a youth in the front rank, so that his eye struck his rifle, and was seriously damaged. His sight was impaired for life. It is all very well to have sympathy with the boy who indulges in horseplay, but I reserve my sympathy for the boy whose sight was damaged. We should sympathize with those who suffer as the result of the insubordination of an inconsiderable 'minority. I remember another case of a lad who threw a lump of rock through the window of a drillroom, and hit another boy on the head so as to stun him. Senator Rae, I suppose, would give hia sympathy to the boy who .threw the rock. I give my sympathy to the boy who received it on the head, and say that the other one deserved a fine of £5, or detention for the maximum period.

Senator Rae - If a cadet breaks the law he can be proceeded against in the ordinary way.

Senator PEARCE - No; under military discipline he can only be proceeded against under the Defence Act. I deprecate all this mawkish sympathy, this maudlin talk, which would exalt into heroes a lot of young larrikins who are a nuisance to those who are complying with the law, and who make it difficult to carry out the training scheme in a proper manner. That is the kind of individual who is the cause of others following a bad example, and bringing about a slackness in discipline. A number of lads of that kind in a company would corrupt the whole, lot. I have no sympathy with them, and I am not going to vote for an amendment which would make these 'offences appear trivial. There have been, and there are, offences arising from insubordination of the character I have indicated which a stiff penalty is required to meet. The maximum penalty is only imposed in serious cases. In the majority of instances no action is taken. You will not improve the magistrates by lowering the fine. You do not put common sense into a magistrate's head by making the penalty which he may inflict less than it ought to be in proportion to the offence. I am glad to say that the cases which severe penalties are required to meet are becoming more and more rare. But when they occur we should have the means of dealing with them.

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