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Thursday, 2 November 1911

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) . - I sincerely hope that Senator Gardiner will not get anything like a following for his amendment, because we might as well abolish compulsory enrolment if we once allowed those who state that they have a conscientious objection to enrolment to stand in a different position from those who are prepared to take an active and intelligent interest in the government of the country. There are some persons in the community who have a conscientious objection to compulsory education, but no person nowadays will say that a provision should be inserted in the Education Act that those who do object should have an opportunity of keeping their children away from educational institutions, and that the children should be left to grow up in the way which their parents 'thought fit. There are persons who have a conscientious objection to any kind of work being performed on a Sunday. We had an instance of that kind of objection in Victoria a short while ago, when a Premier, not long deceased, was waited upon by members of a religious organization - I think it was the Lord's Day Observance Society - who had a conscientious objection to the running of trains on Sunday afternoon. He, after listening to the arguments advanced, said that he had been impressed by what they had stated, and that he would consider, and, I think, consult the Cabinet, as to the advisability of giving effect to their conscientious objection to the running of trains, not merely on Sunday afternoon, but during any part of that day. When it was proposed to stop the running of the afternoon trains it was all right, but when it was proposed to stop the running of all Sunday trains it was a different thing. I have not heard any more of these persons since that time. The stopping of the church trains would, of course, have made a considerable difference to some members of the deputation. In the community, too, we have a very large -number of persons who have a conscientious objection to war. Quakers do not believe in war, or in militarism in any shape or form.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And they are good people, too.

Senator FINDLEY - Yes; those I have known have been exemplary citizens. During the progress of the war between Great Britain and South Africa, some of these persons were called by all sorts of offensive names. Epithets were hurled at them by so-called Christian people, who ought to have been ashamed of themselves for indulging in such language and conduct. But, after the war was concluded, it was found by a number of thinking persons that the Quakers had taken up the right attitude. The Quakers in Australia petitioned Parliament, and circularized every one of its members, in regard to compulsory military service, because of their conscientious objection to militarism or war in any shape or form, but we did not exempt them in the Defence Act. If war did break out, they would have to perform work which would be perhaps less pleasant to them than the work which otherwise they would be called upon to perform.

Senator Lynch - Much safer, too.

Senator FINDLEY - What solid reason can. this religious sect have to allowing their names, occupations, and addresses to appear on a printed document?

Senator St Ledger - Suppose they put it the other way about, and asked you, " In the name of common sense, why do you want that?"

Senator FINDLEY - Whilst we have parliamentary institutions and governments as we understand them to-day, we want people to take an interest in their country, and to exercise their votes in the way that is necessary to insure proper representative government.

Senator Millen - These people will not vote, and you do not propose to make them vote. Then what is the sense of compelling them to enroll?

Senator FINDLEY - Why should we legislate for a section of the community, who, it is alleged, will not exercise the franchise if their names are on a roll ? We are not legislating at the present time for compulsory voting, but for compulsory enrolment, and we want every adult citizen to be on a roll. I cannot understand why. any objection to enrolment is raised. It may be that these people have a conscientious objection to enter the arena of politics. That is another matter, and they are not alone in that regard. I could name at least half-a-dozen organizations - fairly strong numerically, and pretty strong mentally - which object to compulsory enrolment, to compulsory voting, and to parliamentary institutions, but we are not going to legislate for such persons yet. I hope that the Committee will not seriously entertain the amendment of Senator Gardiner, because, if to-day we were to permit one small section to be free from the obligation of compulsory enrolment, to-morrow, or the day after, somebody else would be moving for some other organization or sect to be freed from that obligation. Once we opened the door, we would create a danger in regard to a system which we want to be given a fair and legitimate trial, and for that purpose it is, in the opinion of the Government, imperative that all adult citizens should be compulsorily enrolled.

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