——or indulge in gambling or anything like that. One must approach the problem on the basis, first and foremost, that a soldier is a citizen whether Regular Army or reservist: that he is entitled to have any political views he likes and to express them: that he is entitled to attend political meetings: that he is entitled to have letters addressed to him by candidates in a general election and in fact they are delivered free to him by the Army authorities: and he is entitled to vote and gets all the assistance in the world in having his vote recorded enclosed and sent under the seal of secrecy to the returning officer. One can very readily by the misuse or misunderstanding of the word "political" get a very wrong conception of what is aimed at here in this section. We have got to remember this—that the regular soldier has a right to hold any political views he likes, to express them, to attend any political meeting he likes and there is the danger that under this section a regulation might be made which would go much further in regard to the reservist who may be only up for a couple of days than the Minister could lawfully prescribe in regard to members of the Regular Forces.
The phrase "specified political activities" suggests that the Minister has made up his mind already that there are certain political activities on the part of reservists that he thinks it desirable to prohibit by regulation. If that is so, I think the House should be told by the Minister what those "specified political activities" are. For instance, would the Minister prohibit by regulation a reservist from voting in a general election? Would the Minister by regulation prohibit reservists from receiving, during the course of a general election, Party literature?
If the Minister feels that he could not prohibit a reservist from attending a political meeting, from voting in elections, from receiving Party literature, from expressing political views, what are the special activities that the Minister feels that he should prohibit by regulation? If he has made up his mind on this question after he has had experience of having the Reserve up on permanent service for a long period—if he has made up his mind as to the political activities that he thinks should be prohibited—why does he not specify them in the section rather than leave them at large as he has done?
I think that the House should have it on record from the Minister what the Minister has in mind in regard to these specified political activities. I know that the present Minister, if the matter were to be decided by him during the period that he is Minister for Defence, would hardly issue a regulation that did not apply to all political Parties irrespective of what Party was concerned. But is it sufficient safeguard in this section that "specified political activities" could not relate particularly to one political organisation rather than another? I take it that the wording here does not have in mind — I certainly could not read it into the section — the prohibition of reservist or a Reserve officer from belonging to a political Party. If a member, no matter how active he may be in any political Party, joins the Reserve or becomes a Reserve officer, and is called out on permanent service or in circumstances in which the State is in danger, would the Minister in those circumstances oblige, or did he have in mind the issue of a regulation that would oblige, that particular Reserve officer or reservist to resign his membership of a political organisation? If he were a prominent member of a political organisation would he be entitled to retain his membership of the political organisation or would the regulations he has in mind oblige him to discontinue his membership during the period? Those are the questions I want to put to the Minister on that section.
It is regrettable that the Minister in this section did not make it absolutely specific what he wanted to do. For instance, when he deals with the Regular Forces he says very clearly: you cannot be a member of, or subscribe to, a political organisation or society. That is clear. You cannot join, be a member of or subscribe to any political organisation or society or any secret society whatsoever. Would he apply the very same restrictions to a reservist or a Reserve officer on permanent service? Would his regulations prohibit him from joining, becoming a member of, or subscribing to a political organisation during the period that he is a member? I think the House would be anxious for the Minister to clarify that particular matter in his reply.
This matter was discussed in the Special Committee and, as a result, I think the amendment which the Minister brings in now goes a little further than the original section went. If the Minister is able to indicate in a broad, general way what he has in mind, then it will be helpful to the House and we will have some idea of what may be involved in the prohibition that is laid down here, although I know, and the House knows, that anything the Minister may say here in support of the section cannot be held to bind his successor.
I am particularly anxious to hear what the Minister has in mind in regard to the section, what he means by specified political activities. I am particularly anxious to know whether by political he means active Party politics rather than politics in the higher sense that I mentioned as the science of Government. I think I have said sufficient to indicate the doubts I have in regard to this and I am very anxious that the Minister should clarify these doubts when he replies to this amendment.