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

Mr McWILLIAMS (Franklin) - I am very sorry to have heard in this chamber what I have protested against in a State Parliament - the sneering at a body of men of whom we should be proud, our citizen soldiers.

Mr Carpenter - There has been no sneering at them.

Mr McWILLIAMS - The whole tone of some of the speeches which have been made I regard as a sneer at our citizen soldiery.

Mr Carpenter - Then the honorable gentleman is mistaken.

Mr McWILLIAMS - I think that a good many other honorable gentlemen share my opinion. The honorable member for Maranoa has proved his claim to the title of soldier; but I was sorry to hear the tone in which he spoke of our volunteers. I have no claim to a military "title. Although I was a volunteer for some years, I was never more than a private, as at the time I was always busily employed, and had not sufficient leisure to work myself up from the ranks. But I take credit for having been a good marksman and. a good private. Still, I know men who have given up a considerable portion of their leisure time for many years past - men who have not had too much leisure time - to make themselves acquainted with the duties of volunteer officers, and I am proud to say that they are regarded, not only by those whom they command, but also by the private citizens who come into contact with them and recognise the good work which thev are doing, as a credit to the service. A good deal of objection has been expressed to militarism, and I am ready to class myself as an objector to anything which savours of that. I have no desire for a huge standing army, but I wish to see a good citizen soldiery established. I would like to see the boys of our schools, the children of rich and poor parents alike, compelled to undergo a certain amount of discipline, taught the rudiments of drill, and instructed how to shoot, so that they may learn the first duty of citizenship- to defend themselves and the country to which they belong. We shall not be able to build up a satisfactory citizen soldiery if we slight the officers of our Defence Forces. There is no comparison between the shoddy titles of which we have heard so much this afternoon, and those which our volunteer officers have won by perfecting themselves on the field, and by their books, in the art of warfare. I do not wish to touch upon a subject with which you, Mr. Speaker, have declined to allow other honorable members to deal, but I would point out that volunteer titles are very different from titles which have been obtained practically as the result of accident. The title of "honorable" which has been given to the members of the first Federal Parliament has attached to it what seems to me to be a distinct stigma, inasmuch as the condition is imposed that it must not be used outside Australia. The Federal Parliament, in my opinion, has not given the volunteer officers and privates the consideration which they should have received, and the result is that, although we are now paying more to our citizen soldiery, we are not getting as good a return as when we had purely Volunteer Forces. Honorable members may sneer at volunteers who give up their Saturday afternoons, but they forget that it is a great thing for a man who enjoys only one half-holiday a week to devote it to military training, and, further, to employ additional holidays in continuous training in camp. The least .we can do for those who make this sacrifice is to give them encouragement. We shall not create the spirit which should animate our Defence Forces unless we do so. Our best defence, that upon which we can most surely -rely, will be our volunteer forces, who consist of citizens trained to defend themselves and their country. I have not gathered very clearly from the papers which have been read how this trouble has arisen, but I think that the right honorable member for Swan did right in drawing attention to the matter, so that we may have it cleared up, and know where we are. I have invariably recognised my old volunteer officers by their titles, and shall continue to do so, in spite of any action which the Government may take; just as I shall have pleasure, so long as the House thinks that they should retain them, in calling my honorable friends who now hold office by the titles which they have won. I am no slavish advocate of the use of titles. Personally, I do not believe in them. But when a man wins a title by industry, pluck, energy, or ability, I am prepared to recognise it, whether he be a volunteer, a minister of the church, a Minister of the State, or anyone else. It is a different matter when men obtain titlesthrough the accident of being pitchforked into a position. I repeat that I regret that what I feel, and what the volunteers of Australia will feel, to be a slight and a sneer upon them has been given by the action of the Government in depriving them of titles which they have fairly won.

Suggest corrections