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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - Before we corie to a vote I should like to say a word or two on this motion. It is not long since I returned to Australia, but I have heard this matter commented upon time after time. It is public talk that a certain class of people are inciting the youths of the Commonwealth to rebellion.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What a bad lot the. people of Queensland must be.

Senator Chataway - What about Victoria ?

Senator Long - We have never seen the article referred to in Victoria.

Senator SAYERS - I can assure honorable senators that I have been shown the article in Victoria, and by people outside Parliament. I am sure that Senator Chataway does not object to criticism any more than does any other member of the Senate. No one would object to these newspapers criticising our military policy, and trying to secure the return of members to Parliament who would be willing to repeal the law. What Senator Chataway has brought under the notice of the Government is the fact that these newspapers have urged defiance to the law. It is the will of the country that the Defence Act should be enforced.

Senator Long - So it will.

Senator SAYERS - I hope it will, because I believe in it as firmly as does any honorable senator sitting behind the Government. I remind honorable senators that what is objected to is that our youths should be incited to rebel against the law, and to treat their officers with contempt. That sort of thing should not be allowed. Certain people may consider that the law is wrong, but they have no right to advise others to break it. Boys from sixteen to eighteen years of age are unable to form a wise judgment, and it is wrong that they should be urged to do things which bring themselves and their parents into trouble. This matter should be looked at from that point of view, and I hope the Minister will take action in the way he has indicated. It is not right to induce boys to believe that they may treat their officers with disrespect, and that they will not be punished if they do so.

Senator Long - Has not the law been enforced against those who have broken it?

Senator SAYERS - In certain cases it has; but the punishment has fallen, not upon those who have given this advice to the cadets, and who have circulated these leaflets, but upon the youths who have been so advised. We do not want our youths to break the law first and be punished for it afterwards. We want them to uphold the law. We want to bring up our youths with the idea that the law cannot be broken with impunity. To do that we should " get at" the individuals who incite to law-breaking. That is the whole gist of my colleague's action. His argument was, that instead of " getting at " the boys and punishing them, we should strike at the source of the trouble, the individuals who incite to breaches of the law, and who at present escape scot free. I hope that the Minister, in conformity with his statement in the earlier part of his speech, will see that the law is carried out. He is there to uphold the law. If the electors of the Commonwealth choose to say that the law shall not be continued on the statute-book, let it be wiped out ; but as long as it is the law of the land, let it be applied.

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