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Tuesday, 23 May 1916

Mr WEST (East Sydney) .- I have attended the Sydney Domain and the Yarra Bank in Melbourne on many occasions, and for the life of me I cannot understand why the Government should object to what has been said there. I was on the Yarra Bank last Sunday with other honorable members, and a more orderly crowd I have never seen. What surprised me most was the presence of about twelve or fourteen of the biggest policemen I have ever seen; some of them must have weighed about twenty-two stone. On about the second or third Sunday in April there were six gatherings on the Yarra Bank, and at five of them the subject under discussion was religion. One speaker affirmed that there was a God and another said that there was not. The only meeting at which an address of an intellectual character was to be heard was that at which the speaker was an A.W.U. member. He was addressing the crowd on the history of the war, and the speech was so good that if it had been delivered in this House it would have taught honorable members something. I ask the Government to use a little discretion in regard to the meetings both in the Sydney Domain and on the Yarra Bank. I should say that for every one man who attends the Yarra Bank meetings 500 or 400 attend the meetings in the Sydney Domain. Yet the Government in New South Wales do not consider the gatherings of sufficient importance to warrant the attendance of a large number of policemen. The Federal Government would be wise if in the operation of the War Precautions Act they allowed orderly discussion and criticism. A good deal of the criticism has reference to members of Parliament, and I for one like to attend and hear what is said about me. I hope the Government will allow the meetings to continue. There are certain people in the community who are noted for their exceptional ideas, and they think they can make the world a better place. They do no harm. Let it not be said that a Labour Government are desirous of smothering free speech. My own experience, on Sunday after Sunday, is that no harm is done by allowing these persons an opportunity to ventilate their views.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 -

Section 4 ("Regulations") of the principal Act is amended.....

Amendment (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to-

That after the word " amended," the following words be inserted : - "(a) by inserting after sub-section (1) the following sub-section : - " (1a) The Governor-General may make such regulations ashe thinks desirable for the more effectual prosecution of the war, or the more effectual defence of the Commonwealth or of the realm, prescribing and regulating -

(a)   any action to be taken by or in regard to alien enemies, or persons having enemy associations or connexions, with reference to possession and ownership of their property, the continuance or discontinuance of their trade or business, and their civil rights and obligations; and

(b)   the conditions (including times, places, and prices) of the disposal or use of any property, goods, articles, or things of any kind."; and

(c)   the requisitioning of any goods, articles, or things of any kind"; and (b)."

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to-

That the following new clause be inserted to follow clause 2 : - " 3. This Act shall be deemed to have come into force at the date of the commencement of the War Precautions Act 1914, and all regulations purporting to have been made under that Act shall have effect accordingly as if made in pursuance "of the power conferred by this Act."

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

Standing Orders suspended, and Bill passed through its remaining stages.

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