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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review October, 1920

Debating Society

page 59

Debating Society

Urquent Rustice Sane

It can honestly be said that in the matter of attendance the debates held by the Society this year mark an advance, and that the renewed interest which has been displayed in the activities of the Club forebodes a successful year.

The increased attendance, however, has not been reflected in the number of new speakers, and as it is one of the objects of the Society to develop the latent powers of oratory in the students of the College, we trust that before the conclusion of the coming term a number of students will have commenced their oratorical career under the auspices of the Debating Society.

The selection of the Committee for the year was made at the Annual General Meeting on 13th April. During the meeting reference was made by several speakers to the debt that the Society owed to the late Lord Plunket.

The first debate of the season centred round the much discussed problem of Indentured Labour, a motion "That the policy of exploiting the Pacific Islands by means of indentured labour is net in the best interests of the British race" being moved by Mr. J. Davidson, supported by Mr. W. A. Sheat, and opposed by Mr. Sullivan, who was seconded in his opposition by Mr. A. McCormick. The mover contended that the problem presented another phase of the conflict between the interests of property and the interests of human life. "The essential qualities of national greatness are moral, not material," and moral interests should precede commercial interests. Mr. Sullivan was of opinion that if the British race were to be supreme in the great economic fight that faced the world, the method of developing the resources of the Islands by means of indentured labour was necessary. After an interesting discussion round subjects varying from the bona fides of the Labour Party to the relative attractiveness of an industrious Chinaman and a native Samoan, the audience decided by fifteen votes to five that the system was detrimental to the nation's best interests.

The Judge, Mr. Caughley, M.A., placed the first five speakers in the following order: Mr. J. Davidson, Mr. H. McCormick, Mr. O' Donnell, Mr. Pope, Mr. Wiren.

The Presidential address was the occasion of the next meeting of the Society. Professor Robertson, in the course of an instructive address on "The Philosophy of the Practical," explained that the terms practical and theoretical wrongly associated with the successful and the unsuccessful were in reality one and the same. Reality consisted of what we can think and what we can do, the process of thinking being presented in two phases, that of thinking intellectually and that of thinking in images, the former being characteristic of philosophers, and the latter of poets. Dealing with the practical, the lecturer showed that the ethic and the economic could not be separated; the ethic could not be reduced to defined principles—it was immaterial and universal.

Professor Robertson was accorded a hearty vote of thanks, the Chairman expressing the pleasure of the Society at the appointment to the staff of another graduate of Victoria College.

At the next meeting of the Society a debate was held on the relative stages in evolution of man and woman. Miss A. Harle, supported by Miss Norman, contending "that woman had evolved further than man," while Mr. S. A. Wiren, seconded by Mr. P. Martin Smith, on behalf of mankind maintained a distinct opposition to the suggestion. Miss Harle contended that force united with reason had been the old and the wrong line of evolution—the new must be towards the social ideal. Woman's greatest power was in her finely developed emotions, and the future would give to her the opportunity of utilising that force that was hers. In opposing, Mr. Wiren laid it down that there was no superior evolution in either man or woman—they were equal, and attempts to define a difference resulted only page 60 in unwarranted generalisations. Members of the audience seemed to discuss the subject with an intense seriousness, the male section showing an appreciative understanding of the reference by Mr. Martin Smith to the difficulties which beset youthful members of the College who, earnestly desirous of pursuing their studies, find it increasingly difficult to understand the attacks of the "fair maiden" who would induce the student to become the lover. "The male animal" being numerically predominant the motion was declared lost. The contest was judged by Mr. P. Broad, L.L.B., who placed the speakers in the following order: Miss Norman, Mr. Wiren, Mr. Davidson, Mr. Pope. Mr. Kirk.

At the third debate Mr. W. Sheat endeavoured to prove "That the Peace Treaty should be substantially revised in accordance with President Wilson's fourteen points and the professed war aims of the Allies." He was ably supported by Mr. Sutherland and opposed by Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Haigh. In opening, the mover explained that in the making of peace a victorious nation had open to it two alternative courses—to carry its war policy into the peace negotiations and by force impose a punitive peace on the defeated people, or to contract a peace based on Justice and Equality. It was the former that the Allies had adopted, and the result was a peace of the old diplomacy saturated with aggressive Imperialism. If peace were to be secured it was urgently necessary that the Treaty be revised in accordance with the latter ideal. Mr. Stevenson was of opinion that a peace in accordance with President Wilson's fourteen points would be infinitely worse than the present Treaty. The President had attempted to Americanise the world, and no benefit would have resulted had the effort been successful. America's sacrifices did not warrant unjust interference. At the conclusion of the discussion the meeting carried the motion, the Judge, Mr. H. H. Cornish, M.A., L.L.B., placing the speakers in the following order: Mr. Sheat, Mr. Cousins, Mr. Sutherland and Mr. Wiren equally, and Mr. Davidson.

The subject for discussion at the next debate was a motion "That the experience of the last General Election demonstrates the necessity for the reform of the electoral system by the adoption of Proportional Representation, the Initiative, the Referendum and the Recall. The motion was moved by Mr. G. S. Troup, seconded by Mr. H. Taylor, and opposed by Mr. Yaldwyn, seconded by Mr. Pope. The mover declared that the idea of a people acting in partnership with the Government in the creation of legislation was very imperfectly expressed by our present electoral system. He was of opinion that Proportional Representation would remedy this, and further, it would abolish the anomaly of election by minorities. Mr. Yaldwyn, in opposing the motion, submitted that the present system, which bad experienced years of trial and had proved workable, should not be abandoned for a purely hypothetical method. Proportional Representation impaired efficiency in government. Beyond a spirited discussion on cattle pens the debate proved unexciting. The meeting decided to carry the motion, but to date no change in the system has been reported. The Judge, Mr. McEldowney, L.L.B., placed the speakers in the following order of merit: Mr. W. A. Sheat, Mr. 8. A. Wiren, Mr. J. Davidson, Mr. C. G. Kirk, Mr. C. Q. Pope.

On July 24th the annual debate with the Social Democratic Party was attended with the success that invariably characterises this debate. The representatives of the Social Democratic Party, Messrs. P. Fraser, M.P., and T. Brindle, contended "That only Socialism will solve the problems of poverty and social and industrial unrest," while Mr. W. Sheat, seconded by Miss Harle, on behalf of the Debating Society, maintained the opposition. A lively discussion followed, but the meeting showed that the number of College students present outweighed the number of visitors, the motion being lost.

In concluding, it is desired to stress again the importance of obtaining the views of new students in debate. The club, as every Debating Club does, serves a very valuable purpose in bringing together a variety of new points on current problems, and in this it deserves the utmost support from every student. The Society extends an invitation to all, exclusive of those who believe that, a students chief end is to pass examinations, to lend the club their assistance and to take an active part in its work.