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Wednesday, 23 November 1910

Senator STEWART (QUEENSLAND) - I say that an opportunity to enter .the Military College should be given to the sons of poor men who are unable to pass the prescribed examination when they are nineteen years of age, but who may be able to pass ft within a year or two. Under the proposal of the Government young men who pass the pre- scribed examination must gain the permission of the Minister of Defence to enter that institution. That is where corruption will begin. What will the ordinary man do in such circumstances? He will go round to his friends and acquaintances and will do his best to bring pressure to bear upon members of Parliament and upon Ministers to secure the desired permission. Such a state of affairs would be demoralizing in the extreme, and cannot be defended for a single moment by any person who has a knowledge of the system which it is proposed to inaugurate. The Government would have been much better advised had they accepted the amendment which was made by another place. But the VicePresident of the Executive Council, in submitting his proposal, did not pause to consider the importance of the position which he was taking up. He was preaching Democracy with his lips, while with his influence he was trying to inaugurate an era of something which is the very opposite of Democracy. But, in any case, Democracy is not always a word with which to conjure. We ought to give fair play to everybody. We do not desire that our officers should come only from the ranks of men who can pass a prescribed examination before they are nineteen years of age. They are not necessarily the best men. There is no age limit imposed in.any other profession of which I have a knowledge. Why, the present AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth entered the legal profession when he was over forty years of age, and I am sure honorable members will admit that he is a- distinguished ornament of that profession. Had1 this provision been operative at the time of his admission, he would have had to go crawling to somebody to exercise influenceon his behalf. There is no age limit prescribed for admission, to the medical profession. Of course, in the military profession the very nature of the duties to be performed imposes a limit. But nobody will urge that that limit has been reached when a man is twenty-seven years of- age. We must recollect, too, that our defencesystem is on its trial. We are passing alaw relating to that system, but it has to be signed and sealed by the people of theCommonwealth before we know how it will, operate. If we make" it unpopular by allowing the idea to get abroad that our officers are to be drawn only from themiddle and upper classes we shall strike a deadly blow at its success.

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