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Thursday, 20 October 1904

Mr McCAY (CORINELLA, VICTORIA) (Minister for Defence) - It was stated in one of the newspapers that it had been arranged to consecrate the banners in rhe Melbourne Anglican Cathedral, but that statement was incorrect. No such proposal has been made to me. I am endeavouring to have the banners consecrated at a parade, by chaplains of the Commonwealth Forces. The consecration is a religious ceremony, which is invariably followed in the British Army, and is provided for in the King's Regulations.

Mr Mauger - Does not the honorable and learned gentleman think that it is time that we did away with such a ceremony ?

Mr McCAY - The King's Regulations provide a form of prayer, which is to be read in connexion with the presentation of colours of any kind to a regiment, and I see no reason for not following the practice of the British Army on a similar occasion in Australia.

Mr CROUCH - I should like to ask the Minister of Defence another question concerning the consecration of regimental banners. There being no State church in Australia, as there is in England, will the Minister state what denominations he proposes shall be represented or take part in the consceration of the banners?

Mr McCAY - Yes, I will. There are a number of chaplains attached to the Commonwealth Forces in Australia. Thev represent various denominations, though not every denomination. There is not a representative of every denomination mentioned in the census returns. But I am arranging that a chaplain of each denomination which has. chaplains upon the list of the forces in Victoria - I am not getting them from the whole of Australia, because I could not bring them from very long distances - shall be invited to take part, and the leading part in the ceremony will be taken by the senior chaplain in Australia.

Mr CROUCH - I am sorry to trouble the Minister again, but this matter is one of some importance to me. The Minister has stated that the senior chaplain of the Defence Forces is to take the principal part in the consecration of the colours. I should like to ask if the senior chaplain is a Protestant, and, if so, whether the representatives of other denominations will join with him. I would also ask, as the senior chaplain, if a Protestant, belongs to a Christian denomination, whether the Minister will permit representatives of nonChristian denominations, who are citizens and taxpayers of the Commonwealth, to be represented and take part in the ceremony ?

Mr McCAY - The honorable and learned member's zeal is a little puzzling to me. When I saw the paragraph in the newspapers a few days ago with regard to the proposed consecration of the colours in the Anglican Cathedral, I bore in mind the fact that we have no State church in Australia. I sent to the Barracks for information as to whether the statement was correct, and drew attention to the fact that there was no State church in Australia, and that, therefore, I did not think it desirable to have the ceremonyperformed in the church of any particulardenomination, whether the Church of England or otherwise. I believe that it is the proper thing for us to follow the practice that has been pursued in Great Britain for centuries. The ceremony of consecrating the colours is not an elaborate one, but consists practically of a prayer,

Mr Mauger - Do they pray for peace, or what else?

Mr McCAY - Ours is a Defence Force, and I think that it is a very proper thing to ask for a blessing upon the colours of such an organization.

Mr McDonald - - An attempt was made in connexion with the Defence Bill to make the force an aggressive one.

Mr McCAY - I am speaking of facts, and not of unknown intentions.

Mr McDonald - They were declared intentions.

Mr McCAY - I am not dealing with the allegations of the honorable member as to the intentions of other honorable members. Arrangements are being made - they have not been completed- for the ceremony to be performed by chaplains belonging to the Commonwealth Forces. The senior chaplain is a resident of Sydney, and I assume that he belongs to a Christian denomination. I further assume that he is a Protestant.I believe that he belongs to the Church of England. I have asked the General to arrange that the chaplains from each denomination which has chaplains in the Forces shall be asked to join in the service. I have no reason to suppose that there will be any refusal. It will be remembered that when the Commonwealth was inaugurated the Church of England, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic and other Churches were represented and joined in a religious service. I know that in Victoria-

Mr Crouch - I rise to order. The Minister is now making comments. He is not answering my question.

Mr McCAY - The honorable and learned member has asked me a number of questions, and he will not permit me to answer one.

Mr Crouch - On a point of order, I . asked for an answer to my question, and I submit that the Minister is now making comments.

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