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Friday, 2 July 1915

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE (Hinders) . - I make no apology for intervening in this particular manner, though what I have to say it would have been possible to say, within the rules of the House, on the Appropriation Bill that is now before us. As I say, I make no excuse for the course I am now taking, because I am convinced that it will not waste time. I move in this way because I wish to give additional prominence to the matter, and to enable the debate, so long as it lasts - though I hope it will not last long - to be confined to the particular matter which is the subject of the motion. In Victoria we are about to enter upon a week of recruiting. I cordially indorse what was said by the Leader of the Opposition a few moments ago, namely, that it would have been most desirable could the Government have seen their way to invite the whole of Australia - every State of Australia - to take part in this week of recruiting. I am not going to take up much time. What I have first to say is that I am more convinced than ever I have been that a large section of the people in all parts of the Commonwealth have not yet been awakened to the peril which hangs over them. I was appalled, Mr. Speaker, recently, on reading a leading article in a newspaper which has a large circulation in Australia. I am not going to qiiote from the article, nor nm I going to mention the name of the paper. The important fact is that it has a large circulation, and in that article the view was deliberately put forward that what was called " War against Capitalism " is more vital and of more moment to the people of Australia than the war against Germany. That view was put forward in the strongest language. Mr. Speaker, will nobody tear the veil from the eyes of those blind people? However, I desire to make one or two practical suggestions in connexion with the great duty that now lies before all of us, and after I have made an appeal to the Prime Minister I shall sit down. The first practical suggestion I have to make is that we are inviting too young men to join our forces - that the men or boys of eighteen, whom we are allowing to- join, are, under existing circumstances, too young. Their constitutions are not formed,, their bones are not properly set, and yet we are asking these youths to do what ? Not to" go on a summer campaign such as is now proceeding, but to be prepared to enter on, I should say, the most destructive sort of campaign that there could be, from the rjoint of view of their health. Before many of those who are now enlisting can be actually made use of at the front, the European winter will be upon us. I have no hesitation in saying that it is cruel and wrong for us now to engage young men or boys of eighteen to take part in the trenches in the winter campaign that is impending. I say that the age of those who are allowed to enlist at the present time for immediate active service ought to be raised.


Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - I should say that the age ought not to be less than twenty. I do not believe that boys of eighteen, no matter how healthy or strong, even if they do survive the oerils of var, will survive the hardships of such a campaign as we may look forward to in the near future. I do not believe that they can come back with constitutions not seriously impaired. That is the suggestion I desire to put before the Government. There is another which I have no hesitation in urging on the attention of this House. I desire to say that, notwithstanding any interjections there may be from the other side, I absolutely reject the iratnitation that anything lam now saying has to do in any way whatever with party.

The view I am about to express is one that has weighed on my mind for months past. I gave expression to that opinion about a' month ago, when I urged that there should be compulsory registration of the young men who are fit to be invited, to bear arms in the present strife.

Mr West - W - Why not register all men up to sixty years of age?

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - Certainly. I was about to suggest that what this Parliament might do, and what I believe to he its duty, is to follow the lead recently given by the Parliament of Great Britain, and compel the registration of all men, not necessarily for military service, but for the purjmse of ascertaining what they are able to do in the great crisis that is now upon us.

Mr Higgs - Is that with a view to compelling them to go out of Australia?

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