Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 8 June 1904


Mr SPEAKER - Order ! Will the honorable and learned member resume his seat? The matter before the Chair is a motion by the right honorable member for Swan - " That the House do now adjourn," with a view to discussing the following question, viz., the intention of the PostmasterGeneral not to recognise military prefixes and titles conferred upon officers in the Postal Department by the Crown under the law. Upon that motion I cannot permit the honorable and learned member to debate the question of the acceptance of the title of " honorable " by honorable members of the first Commonwealth Parliament. Still less can I allow any discussion upon the matter of how wide the grant of that title should be.


Mr CROUCH - I was endeavouring to show the different treatment which is meted out by the Government to persons holding Australian titles, and those enjoying Imperial titles.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable and learned member has incidentally referred to that matter, and perhaps that will suffice. I cannot permit any discussion to take place upon the question of whether or not it was proper for members of the first Commonwealth Parliament to be designated by the title of " honorable," and still less as to ยป whether the use of the title should be confined to Austialia. Probably the honorable and learned member's incidental reference to the matter will suffice.


Mr CROUCH - The Government propose to allow an officer to be addressed by his military title only upon the parade ground or the rifle range. In civil life the Postmaster-General objects to those titles being used. If there is one thing for which I have fought, it is to establish the principle that equal rights and seniority shall exist as between volunteers, militia, and permanent officers. Parliament embodied that principle in the

Defence Bill, but the Postmaster-General is endeavouring to make a distinction. Another principle embodied, after a hard fight in the Defence Bill, was that Imperial officers should be treated in the same way as are Australian officers. The Minister, however, is also endeavouring to set aside that principle. These are the acts of the so-called National Government. A very serious injustice is being perpetrated by this attempt to administer an Act in a way contrary to the desire of Parliament. The Government asserts that it does not represent any class, but instead of seeking to upset class distinctions, it is endeavouring to create an Imperial and permanent military caste. They contend that, save when a citizen soldier goes on duty, he should not be addressed by the title which he has earned. This is the decision of a Government which have, as one of the planks of their platform, the encouragement of a citizen soldiery, and one of whose planks is a Citizen Defence Force. They are seeking to discourage a citizen soldiery by making permanent Imperial soldiers superior in all ranks of life. That is a course which should be strongly condemned. The PostmasterGeneral goes even still further. He says, in effect, that whilst he does not object to the use of military titles by officers of militia and volunteers, he objects to others being compelled to employ those titles when addressing them. ' Are we to have SartorResartus re-written? That book shows how clothes affect the man, and I would remind the House that titles and honorable distinctions will more closely affect him. They are the little courtesies of life which oil the machinery of society. Is the PostmasterGeneral going to emulate George Fox, the Quaker, who addressed His Majesty Charles I. as "Charles?"


Mr O'Malley - He was quite right.


Mr CROUCH - Doubtless the honorable member for Darwin and the PostmasterGeneral sympathize with the practice. If members of the Labour Party object to men being addressed by their proper titles are we, for example, to say. when we meet the honorable member for Darwin outside the chamber - " Good morning, O'Malley."


Mr O'Malley - "O'Malley," or " King," will suit me.


Mr CROUCH - Let me refer for a moment to the title of the honorable mem ber for Hume. Every one knows that he is a knight, and that in civil life he should be addressed as " Sir William Lyne." Some persons, however, address him as plain "Bill Lyne." The one thing leads to the other. Are we to take it that the Government, in addressing official correspondence to the honorable member, propose to omit the title " Sir." The position taken up by the Postmaster-General suggests that they will do so. If they insist that no man is to be addressed according to his proper military title, it will be necessary -for them, for the sake of consistency, to take care that the honorable member for Hume shall be addressed in all official correspondence not as the " Honorable Sir William Lyne, K.C.M.G.," but as 1 " William Lyne." A military officer has just' as much right to be addressed by the title which he has earned, and which has been conferred by Commission upon him by the King, as has any private citizen who by Royal Letters Patent has been granted a knighthood. If a man has earned a title, he should be addressed accordingly. The question is not whether the Postmaster-General cares to address an officer as " Mr. " or as " Major " ; if an officer has earned the rank of " Major." the Postmaster-General or any member of the Government who refuses to recognise the title,, is guilty of great discourtesy. The Postmaster-General recently gave Colonel Outtrim a display of Spartan-like discipline; but he is guilty of the grossest want of discipline and discourtesy to his subordinate if he allows any of that officer's subordinates to address him by a title other than that which he has earned in the military service, and which that officer desires to have employed. There are some persons who object to employ the prefix " reverend," or to speak of a Cardinal as a "Cardinal." Are "we to take it that the Postmaster-General holds the same opinion ? I can imagine how his eyes would flash if any one were to speak of Cardinal Moran as " Mr. Moran."


Mr Mahon - The honorable and learned member has no right to speak in that way. The reference .made by him is both unfair and unmanly.


Mr CROUCH - I have a right to apply the rule laid down by the PostmasterGeneral in other directions. Such titles as "His Lordship the Bishop," "His Grace the Archbishop," " His Eminence the Cardinal," are, very properly, courtesies, and the use of the word " reverend " when addressing a clergyman, is also a matter of courtesy. Some purists assert that because the only reference to the word " reverend " in ' the Bible is in relation to the Deity no man should be addressed by that title. The Labour Government are evidently going to stamp out the little titles and courtesies which oil the social machinery of life, and -which, because they represent honours that have been earned, make life worth living. Previous to the Government coming into office one of its supporters, who is regarded as the military strong man of the party, was in the habit of sneering at the militia, and of speaking of them as " Saturday afternoon soldiers." Have the Government adapted their policy to the views of the honorable member for Maranoa? Whenever reference has been made to the Citizen Defence Forces the honorable member for Maranoa has invariably referred to them in terms of opprobrium, ignominy, and contempt. We find that instead of the Labour Party endeavouring to encourage a citizen soldiery they are the first to adopt a course that will have an opposite effect. Again, there are many members of the medical and legal profession who have earned the title of " Doctor," and I ask whether, in addressing any member of this community who has achieved that distinction, we should drop the use of the word "Doctor." If a man earns a certain title, it is only proper that_ it should be recognised. In a discussion which took place in another place last week, the Minister of Defence said that in his opinion no member of the active Military Forces of the Commonwealth should sit in Parliament. The Constitution permits all but fully paid permanent soldiers to hold seats in Parliament, but the Minister of Defence disagrees with that provision. There is doubtless a certain degree of solidarity even in a Labour Government, and I presume, therefore, that the remaining members of the Government are responsible for the opinion expressed by the Minister of Defence, that no member of the Militia or Volunteer Forces should be allowed to hold a seat in Parliament.


Mr Watson - I do not think that my honorable colleague said anything of the kind.


Mr SPEAKER - I ask the honorable and learned member not to refer to debates in another place.


Mr CROUCH - I cannot now spare the time to turn up Hansard, but I will furnish the right honorable member for Swan before he replies with a reference to the speech of the Minister of Defence, so that he may read it to the House. I did not make the statement without having read the debate, and knowing it to be true. If one distinct line of policy has been laid down by this Government it is to do everything they can to bring the officers of the Military Forces into contempt. Under these circumstances, I am glad that the right honorable member for Swan has brought the matter before the House. The Government are doing their best to discourage the efforts of men who give a lot of time to their country absolutely without reward, for the slight honour which the possession of a title may or may not bring with it. If these men wish to use their titles they have a right to do so, and to insist that they shall be called by them. Honorable service should be regarded as entitling the doers to honorable courtesy, and the Government should see that these titles are used by those who have honorably earned them.







Suggest corrections