Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 21 November 1912

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - I do not intend to give a silent vote on this question, as I have received letters regarding it from various parts of Australia. As Senator Lieutenant- Colonel Cameron has said, our cadets will not always be cadets, and surely, when they leave the Cadet Forces, they will want to go into other regiments. I am thoroughly in sympathy with Senator McColl' s motion. I do not see how it can hurt our Army to have English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh regiments in it. I cannot understand why the Minister should raise any opposition to such an idea. When the volunteers were formed in Queensland, we had a Brisbane regiment of Irish Rifles, as well as a Highland Regiment, and a St. George's Regiment. All these regiments were animated by the true Australian spirit.

Senator de Largie - Why did not the honorable senator kick up a row when the Irish Rifles were abolished?

Senator SAYERS - I am as much in favour of having Irish Rifles as of having a Scottish Regiment.

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator did not raise any protest.

Senator SAYERS - I have no recollection of the matter being brought before the Senate. I am prepared now to support an Irish Regiment. I have received letters from all sorts and conditions of people in favour of the retention of our national regiments. If Senator de Largie chooses to throw on one side the appeals that have been made, he is at liberty to do so ; but, in my opinion, Parliament ought to give them its earnest and favorable consideration. I trust that the motion will be agreed to.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [9.35].- We have had a remarkable exhibition on the part of Ministers and their supporters. Surely it was reasonable that the Minister should reply to the speech delivered by Senator McColl. Does he intend to treat this matter with silent contempt? Are Ministerial supporters prepared to give a silent vote upon the question, or do they want to dodge the responsibility and publicity which would attach to expressing their opinions?

Senator Rae - We are listening with the utmost interest to the honorable senator's eloquence.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - We want to hear the eloquence of Ministerial supporters.

Senator Rae - We are paralyzed by the honorable senator's eloquence.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - It may suit honorable senators opposite to dodge the issue by postponing a decision, but we shall be able to draw our own conclusions if they resort to such tactics. I challenge them to express their opinion on the subject. Good reasons have been given for supporting the motion and for preserving the Scottish regiments. Senator Cameron has spoken with strong feeling, and with experience and knowledge at the back of his utterances. He knows what has been done by soldiers who have been actuated by a national spirit and by pride in the race from which they sprang. They felt when they were fighting that the eyes of their countrymen abroad were upon them. I need only refer to the spirit displayed by our own people when a parade takes place. Who are the men who get the applause as the soldiers march past ? They are the men in kilts. Why is this? It is not because they march better than other regiments, but because they represent a distinctive body, dressed in their national garb, and seem to say, " Here we are, and we desire to be recognised as a body occupying a different position from that of our comrades in arms, not because we would belittle them, or think any the less of them, but because we wish to be recognised as representatives of a distinct nation, and not to be included in the great mass of the people." I, of course, recognise that we want to inculcate a spirit of Australian feeling in our Defence Force. We desire our men to realize that they are Australians ; but we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that they are descended from one or other of the great nations of the Mother Country, and feel a natural pride in them. To abolish all feeling of this kind would be to strike a serious blow at the spirit of emulation which we should encourage amongst our regiments. Even amongst honorable senators there is a spirit of emulation, and some desire to stand out more prominently than others, and let the public know what is their worth. Honorable senators who belong to various associations and societies take a pride in wearing the special garb or mark to distinguish them from the members of other societies. When that feeling animates members of ordinary associations, it is not surprising that it is expressed more strongly in the case of men joining distinctive regiments for the defence of their country. I cannot imagine that any body of men would not be prepared to express an active sympathy with this motion.

Senator de Largie - It is good electioneering clap-trap.

Senator Millen - Is that why honorable senators opposite are fighting shy of the vote?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I can understand honorable senators who are afraid to express their opinion talking in such a way, because by-and-by, when they go before the electors, they will be able to hedge. They will no doubt say, "We were entirely in favour of the motion, but for special reasons we did not speak on that occasion. We did not wish to occupy the time of the Senate, or to embarrass the Minister of Defence, but, of course, our feelings and votes were all right." There is a great deal too much of that kind of thing on the part of some honorable senators, who withhold the expression of their opinion until what they consider an opportune time has arrived, and they have discovered the views which will meet with most approval. I should prefer honorable senators to have the manliness to stand up for the faith that is in them. If they make a mistake, the people will not be very angry with them. They will recognise that even learned sena tors at times make mistakes, and, if they approve of their general opinions, will be prepared to overlook them. I hope that some honorable senators opposite will let us hear what their views on this subject are, if they have any at the present time, and are not waiting until they find how the cat jumps in order to express views which will secure votes for them when they seek re-election.

Suggest corrections