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Wednesday, 10 June 1914

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I was anticipated by Senator Pearce, who has just said much that I had intended to put before the Senate. We have to realize that the solitary confinement ordered in these cases is something totally different from that which was so graphically described by Senator Rae.

Senator Rae - Does the honorable senator defend its use in this connexion?

Senator KEATING - No. I have had some experience of the attitude which certain persons have taken up towards this Act, as mentioned by Senator Pearce, and of their desire to escape from their duties and obligations. Conscientious objections for refusing to drill are sometimes put forward, and these one has to accept; but I have discovered in certain instances that there has not been anything in the nature of a conscientious objection to the service. I have also discovered, when punishment has followed, that in its quality and character that punishment has been entirely misrepresented. It fell to my lot, on the very first day of the present session, to ask the Minister of Defence if steps would be taken throughout the Commonwealth to coordinate the action of the civil power - that is, the action of the magistrates - where persons were proceeded against for noncompliance with their public responsibilities under the Defence Act. Apart from that, I had been going into the matter with the object of securing the fullest information as to what was taking place in the Commonwealth. I discovered that it had been arranged, by Senator Pearce, I think, that sentences imposed upon youths for non-fulfilment of their obligations as trainees should not be served by them at ordinary gaols or prisons, and that ''detention " rather than " imprisonment " was the proper word to describe their treatment. In Victoria, this detention, I understand, is carried out at Queenscliff.

Senator Russell - It means a trip to the seaside.

Senator KEATING - I have heard that said, and have also heard it stated that some of the youths appreciate the detention there.

Senator Millen - Some boys have announced their intention of refraining from doing any drill throughout the year in order that they may do the whole of it at the one time in the detention camp.

Senator KEATING - Senator Pearce's statement that two lads who underwent detention at Fremantle barracks afterwards became members of the permanent Defence Forces goes to bear out that statement. I hope that the Minister will make it abundantly clear that there is nothing in the nature of barbarous treatment or torture such as that referred to by Senator Rae in connexion with any punishment for evasion or alleged evasion of the Defence Act.

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