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, 14 July 1915


Mr FINLAYSON - With the kind permission of the mayor, I spoke early, so that I might catch a train. In the Defence Act we have adopted the mayorciple of voluntary service for service outside Australia, which runs through our defence institutions like a golden thread. The assumption is that the men of this country can be relied on to defend it without compulsion and from purely patriotic motives. It is only under sec tion 46, which says that the GovernorGeneral may, in time of war, by proclamation, call out the Citizen Forces or any part of them for active service ; under section 59, which says that all male inhabitants of Australia, excepting those who are exempt from service in the Defence Force, who have resided therein for sixmonths, and are British subjects, and between the ages of eighteen and sixty, shall be liable to serve in the Citizen Forces; and under section 60, which says that in time of war it shall be lawful for the GovernorGeneral, by proclamation, to call on all persons liable to serve in the Citizen Forces to enlist and serve as prescribed - only under those sections, in time of war, is there any compulsion.


Mr Hughes - Yet the honorable member says that our defence system rests on the voluntary principle. What is the good of a Defence Force in time of peace?


Mr FINLAYSON - It is in time of peace that we should get our Defence Force ready. Under the Defence Act, the Government have the powers for which they ask now.


Mr Hughes - The Bill has nothing to do with conscription.


Mr FINLAYSON - I do not say that it has. Its intention is compulsory service, which, to my mind, is a very different thing from conscription. The point that I emphasize is that our idea of defence, military and naval, is that it shall be based on the patriotic service. of free men. But the only deduction from the remarks of the Attorney-General, and of those who support the Bill, is that when a certain time is reached you can call these men to serve, and demand their reasons for not serving.


Mr Hughes - I commenced by saying that that was not the intention of the measure.


Mr FINLAYSON - I made notes when the honorable and learned member was speaking. He said, " The present methods are suicidal and -inexcusable," " The organization of forces is necessary to enable us to carry on." " What is wanted now is despatch, expedition, and speed, for the ordinary official methods are useless." " We want this personal service record because we are endeavouring to find out whom we ought to call."


Mr Hughes - I did not say that.


Mr FINLAYSON - I took the words down when the honorable and learned member was speaking, and I would rather trust my notes than his memory. The attitude and careful phrases of the AttorneyGeneral amount to this, that the Bill is needed so that when the time comes .we can call men to serve.


Mr Hughes - I absolutely deny that.


Mr FINLAYSON - The honorable and learned member will receive tomorrow morning the Hansard report of his speech, and I shall be glad to know whether the words I have quoted are not in it. The honorable member for Flinders said to-night that we should be able to send an official notice to the men whom we require, asking them to serve or to give their reasons for not enlisting, so that, by lot or by some other method, we could call them to the colours. The Leader of the Opposition said almost the same words last week. Let us be honest.


Mr Webster - Is the honorable member opposed to this ?


Mr FINLAYSON - Not if the necessity arises; but I have said that the necessity has not arisen, and is not in sight. The recruiting that is going on in Australia is a guarantee that we can get as many men as we want - that we are getting more men than we can properly handle. The men of Australia are just as good products of the old stock as the men of any other part of the British Empire. I am even prepared to believe that Australians are more patriotic to the flag than the men of any other part of the British Empire. If the necessity were to arise, if we once realized that there was an urgent demand, not a man of us here would not be willing to go to the front.


Mr Pigott - The occasion is here now.


Mr FINLAYSON - It is not here now.


Mr Boyd - Then, in the name of all that's holy, when will it be here?


Mr FINLAYSON - I said a few moments ago that it was impossible to exaggerate the gravity of the situation, but the answer to that is the response that is being made to the appeal for recruits from one end of Australia to the other. What I am concerned about, however, is this : Here is the AttorneyGeneral of the Labour party - the party that during the whole of its career has op posed militarism and anything in the shape of compulsory military service, the party that has expressed itself as dreading anything of the nature of a military caste - submitting a Bill, the obvious reason for which is that, as we can compel men to serve in Australia, we should also have the power to compel them to serve outside Australia.


Mr Thomas - Why does the honorable member, for the sake of his argument, put something into the Bill that is- not there ?


Mr FINLAYSON - I am not putting anything into the Bill. There may be nothing in the Bill itself, but there is in the schedule. The war census will not enable us to obtain statistics that everybody seems to admit are necessary at all times, but will provide us with information that will be unnecessary and useless at the end of the war.. If honorable members are in earnest, I am prepared to strike out that clause in the Bill in favour of a clause providing that .the statistics and requirements of this Act shall be made available at all times. Let us be honest about the matter, and say that at any time, if the Government of the day think it necessary that we should call upon men to serve in Australia, or outside Australia, that the call may be made; but what I regret, and shall continue to regret, is that I am a supporter of a Government that has brought in a Bill that contains even a suspicion of compulsory service without there being a sufficient guarantee for the necessity for that compulsory service.


Mr Thomas - What would you call a sufficient guarantee ?


Mr FINLAYSON - When the voluntary system proves ineffective and useless. Up to the present time the voluntary system has been equal to every demand made upon it, both in Great Britain and in Australia. I will conclude by repeating my protest against this Bill, because it is unnecessary and provides for the introduction of a vicious principle in our national defence, and because it is altogether antagonistic to one of our most cherished ideals in the matter of national service.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Fleming) adjourned.







Suggest corrections