Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 21 July 1915

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing that matter, since compulsory military service is not provided for in the Bill, and, further, because, by discussing compulsory military service, he will be anticipating the discussion of a motion which is already on the business-paper in the name of Senator Bakhap. He is aware that that would be directly contrary to the Standing Orders.

Senator de Largie - I should be sorry to run counter to your opinion of what is contained in the Bill, or to the Standing Orders, but if this measure is not intended to provide for compulsory military service, and to go the length of enabling the Government to avail themselves of the services of every able-bodied man in the community for the conduct of the war, it has no meaning at all. If that is not its meaning, the Standing Orders are defective in permitting the introduction of such a Bill. If the measure is in conflict with a notice on the businesspaper it is out of order.

The PRESIDENT - I did not say that the Bill was in conflict with a motion already on the business-paper, because it is not. I have read it carefully, and there is no reference whatever in this Bill to conscription. There is a motion on the business-paper, in the name of Senator Bakhap, dealing directly with the subject of conscription, and, therefore, any reference to the Bill as covering conscription is not in order.

Senator DE LARGIE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - It is not usual to put on the face of a Bill all' that it means. If there were a preamble to this Bill, as there, is to other Bills, it might be possible to say whether the discussion of a particular subject in dealing with it is out of order. If we are to refrain from addressing ourselves to a principle that is in every one's mind - the principle of compulsory military service in the conduct of the war - I .do not see how we can discuss this measure at all.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is misrepresenting the matter. There will be ample opportunity to discuss the question of conscription. He must be aware that Senator Bakhap has already discussed that question on a number of occasions, and it will be possible for Senator de Largie to discuss it freely in dealing with the motion on the businesspaper to which I have referred. '

Senator DE LARGIE - I can assure you, sir, that I have no intention to challenge your interpretation of the Standing Orders. I do not know of any law in existence anywhere that gives the name of " conscription " to the principle of compulsory military service to which I have referred. If we cannot discuss that principle we shall be debarred from discussing the principle which underlies this measure, by which it is intended to take the services of all able-bodied men' within certain ages in the Commonwealth, and ask them to do their duty to the country. Another principle of the measure is to take the wealth of the country and utilize it in the same way. If these principles are not involved in the measure, what in, the name of all that is reasonable does this Bill contain? I shall not apologize for any principle which I consider right and proper. I hope the day will never come when a Labour Government and the Labour party will bring forward a measure ostensibly for one purpose when they know in their hearts it is for another.Why should we apologize ? Why not be candid with the country, and let the people know what we intend?

Senator Gardiner - I went out of my way to be candid.

Senator Mullan - Does the honorable senator believe that the Bill is a first step to conscription?

Senator DE LARGIE - Undoubtedly I do.

Senator Gardiner - I went out. of my way to say that the Government never intended that it should be so regarded.

Senator Keating - The Minister was quite unequivocal upon that point.

Senator DE LARGIE - If that be so I am misled and disappointed by the Bill. If the Labour party are afraid to take the only step by which they can do their duty to the country in the present circumstances, it is good-bye to the party and to the Labour Government. No people will tolerate' a Government" retaining office who are afraid to take certain action where the necessity of the case demands it. All prejudice against conscription, to give compulsory military service its ugliest name, should be set aside at a time like the present. We are facing serious danger, and in view of the state of preparedness of the German nation, the wonder is that the nations opposed to Germany were not swept off their feet before they could get into proper fighting trim. The enemy is now driving the Russians before them, just as they drove the Belgians in the early days of the war. . Are we, in the face of danger, to fold our arms and do nothing, or are we going to organize our resources of men and material for the successful accomplishment of our duty in this struggle? If this measure is brought forward by the Government as a pretence, because they are afraid that the people will not support them, the sooner we know exactly where1 we stand the better. Let us remember how well the German people were prepared before they struck the first blow. I read in the Atlantic Magazine of last November an article by Professor Usher, giving a description of the state of preparedness of the German Empire before war was declared. It is one of the most important articles written in connexion with the war. The writer showed that everything had been organized systematically on a war footing in Germany during the time of peace. The Germans had everything prepared. They knew where every man and woman in the country were to be found, and the service they could render in the event of war. They knew what would likely be the disturbance brought about in connexion with industries. They were prepared to lay on one side for the time being those industries that were regarded as useless. They had also so organized their industries that it was said at the outbreak of the war that 92 per cent, of the lands of Germany were utilized up to their fullest possible extent, and that, too, I would remind Senator Grant, without the necessity for the single tax.

Senator Grant - Where would they get the revenue from? Not from the Customs ?

Senator DE LARGIE - The revenue would come from the utilization of the land to its fullest extent, and any policy with that object in view will always get my support, as against a policy that would levy taxes on the land the effect of which would place land-owners in much the same position as were the crofters of Scotland or the Irish farmers for many years.

Senator Grant - There is no land tax at all in Scotland.

Senator DE LARGIE - I have made reference to the article from which I have quoted, with the object of showing that the Germans left nothing to chance, and that, as the country is now practically self-supporting so far as food supplies are concerned, there is no possibility of Germany being starved into submission. Recognising all this, we must ask ourselves : How are we going to make the most of our own country ? The lesson is as plain as possible. We must adopt the methods which have been so successfully practised in Germany, and put our country in such a condition as to be able to make the most of our resources.

We undoubtedly have a number of industries which, in times of war, could very well be dispensed with. We have quite a number of services12- services which might be called parasitical - which could be laid aside by a common-sense arrangement for the time being, so that we would be able to utilize" all our ablebodied men in those services which they may be well fitted to perform, and which may be essential to the welfare of this country at this particular time. In such industries as shopkeeping and clerical work, the older and weaker men of the community, as well as the welleducated, girls who are being turned out of the business colleges in every city of Australia, could be very well employed, and thus release for more important work the able-bodied men who are at present engaged in those occupations. If things continue to go as they are at present, from bad to worse, we shall have to organize, so as to be in a position to say, " Here is a business that is of very little use to the community just now, so we will let it go," in order that we may call upon the able-bodied men employed in it to do work of more importance to the nation. There are, of course, industries that must be kept going in order to finance ourselves in this war; such, for instance, as farming and mining, because it is by the exports of these industries that we expect to pay our debts. Again, those manufacturing industries that serve the community, but which do not export, are also essential to our welfare. Useful commodities we must have for consumption, and goods we must export to pay our debts. It is only right that we should have in our mind's eye an idea of what we are going to do with particular industries. Are we to allow them to continue as at present? In my opinion, the necessity will be forced upon us to economise in many directions. In many of our Government services we are spending a lot of money, and it is no use blinking the fact that we have very anxious times ahead of us, and that there will be great need for economy. We want to know what is contemplated, and I think the Government ought to indicate the character of the scheme they intend to adopt. Are we going to continue during the time of this war all those services which could very well be dispensed with for the time being? These, I think, are matters which should call for attention. I am obliged to make these references because there has been some criticism with regard to football, and we * have been told that football matches ought to be stopped; but I would ask, "Why should football be interfered with any more than any other amusements?" There is no reason why football should be stopped if theatres are allowed to remain open. As a matter of fact, unless the footballers are professional players, and are doing nothing else hut play football, there is no reason at all why objection should be taken to this healthy pastime.

Senator Gardiner - There may be many reasons why football should be continued.

Senator DE LARGIE - Yes, I agree with the Minister. If men who are engaged in our factories and other industries during the week pass their Saturday afternoons in looking at football, I think that is as healthy and as innocent a way as any other in which they could spend their leisure time. But I do say that if the worst conies to the worst, and Australia is faced with a more serious situation than i3 the case at present, football and every other means of amusement should be laid aside, and only the essential things in the community be allowed to continue.

Senator Keating - If football is stopped, the Melbourne Cup will be stopped later.

Senator DE LARGIE - As a matter of fact, I would sooner see horse-racing interfered with than football matches, because I think there is a larger percentage of men permanently employed' in that form of sport than in football, and that for every man released for other occupations by the stopping of football matches, half-a-dozen could be released by the stopping of horse-racing. I would like to ask those who are opposed to what they call conscription, but what I call simply serving their country, how they can justify a measure that is likely to' come before them in the near future - I refer to compulsory voting - and at the same time oppose compulsory service in the community?

Senator Stewart - We have compulsory service in Australia already.

Senator DE LARGIE - No, we have only compulsory training. But there is a section in the Defence Act - section 60 - which provides that in time of war the Government may call upon all persons liable to serve in the Citizen Forces - that is, persons between eighteen and sixty years of age - to enlist and serve as prescribed.

Senator Stewart - What is that, then ?

Senator DE LARGIE - I agree' that the underlying principle is compulsion.

Senator Stewart - Do you want to compel men to go out of Australia to fight?

Senator DE LARGIE - Yes ; if by so doing they will be defending Australia. And I contend that the men who are at the Dardanelles at present are just as truly defending Australia as if they were fighting only a few miles from Melbourne.

Senator Millen - Was not the Sydney defending Australia?

Senator DE LARGIE - Yes. Senator Millen reminds me that the Sydney was just as truly defending Australia at the Cocos Islands as she would have been if she had been engaged off Sydney Heads. We cannot ignore the fact that this country may be just as truly defended by the fighting on some portion of the European Continent as by fighting in this country itself. Are not the Belgians fighting for. their own country? We know that there is no nationality so determined in this war as the Belgians, and yet every Belgian, practically, is fighting outside the confines of that little kingdom. Then, again, are not the British soldiers, in the trenches in France, fighting in defence of the British Isles?

Senator Keating - Undoubtedly they are.

Senator DE LARGIE - The meaning of the term " defending Australia " is so apparent that I wonder that any one will, quibble over sections 59 and 60 of the Defence Act. I hold that that Act is applicable to the present position, and that it gives the Government power to take our able-bodied men, and send them anywhere in the defence of this country.

Senator Stewart - No, it does not.

Senator DE LARGIE - Well, that is my interpretation of the Act.

Senator Stewart - You cannot send them out of the country without an amendment of the Act.

Senator DE LARGIE - I agree that an amendment is necessary, but that is in regard to another section. As far as the defence of Australia is concerned, the troops that we are sending to Turkev or Europe are just as truly defending Australia as if they were fighting ou Australian soil.

Senator Keating - For the defence of Australia the Government can call them all up.

Senator DE LARGIE - We have to ask ourselves what is a reasonable interpretation of the Defence Act?

Senator Bakhap - It must be interpreted in the widest sense.

Senator DE LARGIE - Yes, and in accordance with common sense. Any one who looks at the position must admit that it would be an insult to our soldiers who are fighting at the Dardanelles to say that they are not fighting in defence of Australia. It would be a slight on their efforts and on the motives which prompted them to volunteer. If the enemy were strong enough to invade New Zealand, should we, or should we not, have power to defend the Commonwealth tin accordance with sections 59 and 60. If we wish to be logical, those of us who believe in the principle of compulsory voting ought certainly to believe in compulsory service. A country that is not worth defending is not worth voting for.

Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator has put his finger on a very vital spot

Senator DE LARGIE - We must all recognise that as citizens we have duties to discharge as well as rights to enjoy. The Bill, I hope, will be discussed in a candid manner. No good can result from blinking the position with which we are faced to-day. That position is a very serious one. Not onĀ© of us can foresee the end of the war. Indeed, the information which is forthcoming from day to

Senator Gardiner - I may ask why the honorable senator attempts to misrepresent its meaning ?

Senator DE LARGIE - I can assure the Vice-President of the Executive Council that I do not wish to misrepresent its meaning. I may also tell him that when the measure was first projected nine out of every . ten members of our party believed that it meant, exactly what I regard it as meaning to-day.

Senator Gardiner - That is not my belief, or the belief of the Government.

Senator DE LARGIE - Then the Government are shirking their responsibilities in that they are not candid with their supporters and the country.

Senator Gardiner - If, because we disagree with the honorable senator, we are not candid, that is all right.

Senator DE LARGIE - I know the circumstances under which tins Bill was originated just as well as does the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I know where it was initiated, and I think that the interpretation which I place upon it is a great deal more reasonable than is that of the honorable gentleman. If the Government have seen fit to revise their view that is a matter for them to explain. I am merely expressing my OWn attitude towards the measure, which I give my hearty indorsement.

Suggest corrections