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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 8 June 27, 1945

Dialectics ..

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Dialectics ...

With a long overdue decline in more pressing activities on the Extravaganza front the Debating Society has launched itself once mote. The Annual General Meeting was held on Friday, June 8, and was followed by a debate, "That all lands other than Sovereign States should be under International control." On June 15 the subject was "That the New Zealand law relating to capital punishment should be repealed." Both these meetings were only moderately attended and the dialectical standard was poor to average. General comment: More vital topics would make it easier for the speakers to develop what ability they may happen to possess; more adequately prepared speeches would save the audience from a frozen boredom, and more precise definition of the subject would benefit speakers, audience, judges and "Salient" reporters.

Opening the first debate Miss Patrick defined her terms only to the extent that she announced her intention to use the word "colonies" to cover "all lands other than," etc. Her main argument was the appalling conditions which prevail in so many colonies and so-called protectorates at the present day and the enormous incomes derived from them by the protectors. Her debating style is pleasant and convincing if slightly too informal. A more critical audience would be able to undermine her confidence too easily.

The leading speaker for the negative was Mr. O'Brien. His usual fluency, combined with his unusual speed, was a little breath-taking; while it enabled him to present a wealth of argument, it caused him to lose much of the effect he could have attained by a more leisurely and detailed exposition.

Mr. J. Williams, seconding Miss Patrick, gave some constructive ideas on the subject by outlining a scheme for an International Council. He claimed that this was an Improvement on anything so far put forward at San Francisco. He lacks debating vigour but has sufficient lucid argument and poise to demand attention.

Mr. Palmer, seconding the negative, considered that the UNCIO Conference is a San Fiasco, and that the only attempt so far at international control of colonies, the Con-Dominion in the New Hebrides, could be better described as a pandemonium. He was strong in the attack, but occasionally seemed to lose the thread of his argument.

The Judge was Mrs. D. C. Bates. In her criticism of the speakers she appealed for more attention to the formalities of debating, and for better exposition of argument. She was pleased to note a considerable improvement since she last judged a debate here a year ago.

v. Training College

The debating contest VUC versus Training College was revived this year, this being the first since 1941. It took place in the Gym. on Friday, June 15, the subject being "That the New Zealand law relating to capital punishment for murder be repealed." TC took the affirmative. Mr. W. J. Scott (until recently Training College lecturer in English), was the judge, and he declared VUC the winning team.

Mr. Hempleman opened for Training College. He outlined the history of capital punishment, pointing out that the incidence of every crime that was once subject to the death penalty has declined since the threat of that penalty was removed. He deployed the sentimental considerations which so often surround this argument and pointed out that such feelings would have a disastrous effect on the punishment of war criminals.

"The New Zealand law relating to capital punishment was repealed in 1941," said Mr. Easterbrook-Smith, "so the debate is slightly posthumous." However, he agreed to accept the meaning of the motion as outlined by the chairman. He made a strong, if somewhat dramatic, opening, but when he returned to facts and statistics, he was not so convincing.

Miss Kelly (TC) made a vigorous attack on her opponent, correcting him on several misquotations. She had three main arguments:
  • Moral.—An eye for an eye, etc.
  • Relgious.—The Bible is an established sort of book.
  • Political.—Man is responsible to society for his actions.

Miss Joan Taylor made the whole audience feel proud of her at once when she announced that she too had read the Bible. In this curious old book she learned that Cain had been allowed to live and reform., (Interjection: "The need for population.")

Typical Remarks:

Mr. N. Taylor (VUC. pro): Criminal law is for the punishment of certain types-of activity, including debating.

Mr. I. Davies (VUC, anti): I know two murderers. Quoting Henry Lawson, Australian poet: "He is a decent fellow; he only murdered his wife."

Mr. Pattinson (VUC, anti): I would not like to be a hangman. Miss Taylor would not like to be a garbage collector.

Mr. Sansum (VUC, anti): If we see a poisonous snake we kill it. Mr. Cohen, from the house: I don't.

Mr. J. Williams (VUC, anti): How can we decide whether death or life imprisonment is worse when we know nothing about the latter?

Mr. O'Brien (VUC, pro): At last I am safe in quoting the Bible at a VUC debate.

Miss Cody (VUC, anti): I have never met anyone worth murdering.

Mr. Ellis (TC, anti): I have a little noose for you.

Mr. Jack (VUC, pro): Murdering is instinctive. Not murdering is conditioning.

Mr. A. Williams (VUC, anti): I fling Mr. Jack's remarks in his teeth.

After the main speakers had made their respective summings up, which were not especially memorable, the motion was put to the meeting and lost.

Mr. Scott considered that the mover and opposer of the motion had made the main points clearly but that the standard of debating at VUC had fallen since Mr. Campbell had lost his teeth.