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The Spike or Victoria University College Review September 1927

Debating Tours Limited

Debating Tours Limited.

The incident of the tomatoes (which, by the way, were not tomatoes at all, but persimmons) that enlivened the Tournament Debate proceedings at Auckland last Easter, confirmed the resolution of debaters to inaugurate debates between the Colleges, which would be conducted and attended for debating's sake. The Committee of the V.U.C. Debating Society had previously considered the proposal in an informal way, and personal enquiry at Auckland among the delegates discovered the fact that debaters in the other Colleges were keen to carry the idea into practice. Especially keen were the A.U.C. Debating Society men. So it was then and there decided that Auckland and Victoria should exchange visits during the remainder of the session.

Several long committee meetings at this end finally produced a definite scheme, and Auckland closed the bargain with us immediately. It was decided not to attempt to launch at one bold stroke a scheme involving all four Universities, owing to difficulties of travelling between North and South Islands. But A.U.C. and V.U.C. were to proceed with a programme of visits that would make the Southern Colleges positively green with envy, and so eventually both Canterbury and Otago would come knocking on the door of "Debating Tours Limited," seeking to purchase membership. The usual correspondence followed, with a resulting increase in revenue to His Majesty's Post Office. (There was recently, we are informed, a fierce controversy in the Sorters' room at the G.P.O. as to whether the largest single contribution to postal revenue was made by the billets doux of lovers, or the correspondence of University Colleges, arranging Easter Tournaments and Debating visits.)

On July 16th, a bright Saturday morning, three Aucklanders stepped bravely from the Limited Express at Thorndon, come to see and conquer the debaters of V.U.C. They were very shortly speeding towards the homes of their respective hosts, "just to get in some preparation before the debate," as they said guilelessly. The wily Committee had seen to it that the visitors were fully occupied during the afternoon, and several anxious hours page 30 were spent watching the desperate efforts of V.U.C.'s first fifteen to reduce the lead of the Athletic team, which ended in the 'Varsity team's ignominous defeat.

In the evening at 8 p.m. the debate took place in the larger Town Hall. The motion was "That this meeting urges the Government to contribute £1,000,000 towards the Singapore Base." A.U.C. moved this motion, and V.U.C. opposed it. Mr. J. W. G. Davidson was in the chair, and approximately one hundred people sat in judgment on the speakers.

Mr. C. R. Straubel opened the case for Auckland. We were part of an Empire depending upon the freedom of the seas for the existence of our commerce, and protection of our trade routes was essential to the continued integrity of the Empire. A project so vitally necessary must be supported to the limit of our ability: there was no question of more deserving causes' owning a prior claim. There was no more deserving cause.

In introducing the opposition arguments, Mr. J. Platts-Mills contended, first, that the Singapore Base was unnecessary, and second, that whether necessary or not, it was by reason of its proposed situation unfitted for the purpose in view. The trade route argument was specious. Capital ships were useless in protecting trade routes, and sufficient accommodation already existed at Singapore for the ships of any other class.

Next came Mr. E. P. Wills, of A.U.C, maintaining that Singapore was the Gibraltar of the East, and the nation having a strong naval base at Singapore would hold the key to India, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. High naval authority was brought to bear on this contention, and the speaker pleaded the "urgency" of the noble work it was proposed to carry out.

Mr. W. P. Rollings (V.U.C.) suggested that the most adequate protection we could ultimately have against enemies of a yellow or any other colour was a firm and lasting friendship with the peoples concerned. Any other means was a mere expedient. When even experts were divided upon the wisdom and necessity of a base at Singapore, the £1,000,000 at the meeting's disposal would be better spent in re-building some of our schools.

The Yellow Peril thrust its ugly head on to the platform when Mr. F. W. Simpson, of A.U.C., rose to continue the arguments for the affirmative. Events in China showed that a real danger existed in the growing nationalism of Eastern races. The speaker earnestly asserted that the Yellow Peril was a real thing.

"Last came and last did go" Mr. A. E. Hurley, of Victoria, whose speech was directed largely to the unforunate effects of the lapse of the British-Japanese Alliance. Britain was apparently anxious to placate America, a nation which evinced no particular desire to meet Britain in any way, and to this end the friendship and allegiance of a loyal ally had been gratuitously sacrificed. He pleaded for a removal of the Singapore Base as the stumbling block between Britain and Japan.

Mr. C. R. Straubel briefly replied and summed up his case, and the motion was then put to the popular vote, and was defeated by 46 votes to 27.

Whether the representatives of the Dominion in Parliament page 31 assembled will follow the lead thus given them is to be seen. A careful scrutiny of "Hansard" to date has failed to reveal any explicit Ministerial or Opposition reference to the precedent set on July 16th; but the discussion of Singapore so far has been desultory only, and in the full dress debate that seems to lie ahead, we have no doubt the Society's exploration of the subject will receive the consideration it deserves.

One thing remains to be said: Let the young student, ambitious of achievement, make haste to join the Debating Society, the most important in many ways of the College Clubs, for the Inter-College Debate is to become an increasingly popular annual fixture, and debaters will have opportunities of taking part in debates against other Colleges, and of visiting other cities, which formerly were available only to the few representatives in Easter Tournament Contests.