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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, June 1924

Debatting Society

page 60

Debatting Society

Urquent Rustice Sane

The Society is particularly fortunate in having a very active committee at the present time, and the prospects for a successful year are extremely bright. The levy of 10s. 6d, per head on the student body has resulted in an increase of about 50 per cent, in our membership, with the result that we have from fifteen to twenty speakers taking part in debates, not to mention the hordes of fascinated listeners who throng our meetings. Our financial position is a very satisfactory one, the Students' Association grant and the profits of the annual Plunket Medal contest proving quite sufficient for our extensive advertising and printing programme.

In order to provide for particularly topical debates arising during the session, the Committee decided to leave half a dozen blank dates for insertion of subjects. We should like members of the Society to hand in suitable subjects for debate to the Secretary not later than" fifteen days prior to the fixed date of the debate.

The Society's year commenced early; the Annual General Meeting being held on the 18th March,

The Society is particularly fortunate in securing the services of the Rhodes Scholar for 1920, Mr. H. G. Miller, who has so kindly consented to act as chairman during the 1924 session.

The syllabus of debates for the year is a very full one, containing no fewer than fifteen debates, and the subjects cover a huge range, with selections of everything, from religion to the activities of the Navy League. Already seven debates have taken place, the details of which have in most cases appeared in the daily press, except in the case of the debate on the wages of railwayman. Here one of the dailies confined its remarks to the announcement of the debate and the placing of the speakers. We feel glad that our representatives in the Joynt Challenge Scroll—Messrs. P. Martin-Smith and R. M. Campbell—expressed our opinions of the Press in no hesitating manner.

On March 22nd a debate was held on the subject, "That social progress is retarded more than it is assisted by the Christian Religion." This debate would have been rejected by the terms of our constitution had it not been for the broad-minded legal acuteness of our late Secretary, who succeeded in passing, against a storm of opposition, a motion to the effect that the words "theological subjects being excluded" in clause 2 of the constitution should contain the following proviso:—"This shall not preclude the Committee from selecting social subjects even though they have theological implications."

The debate proved a very interesting one, and enabled our heretical friends, Mssrs. R. F. Fortune and J. C. Beaglehole to inveigh against the Christians and their usages to their hearts' content. In spite of the complete drubbing which the faith received, the opposers. Mr. W. P. Rollings and Mr. I. L. Hjorring, still we understand adhere to the tenets of their faith. It was urged against Christianity that it had opposed humanitarian legislation. The bishops of the House of Lords had fought against the anti slavery laws and divorce amending enactments that gave women the same rights as men. The Church had opposed science and scientists from Bruno and Galileo through Simpson and Darwin to Dr. Marie Stopes and Freud. Mr. Rollings replied by asking his hearers to imagine a literature with all Christian references deleted. Christianity had provided the strongest of inspirations, artistically and socially. Mr. Beaglehole pointed out that Luther had played the part of sycophant to the rulers of Germany, and that the practice of the Church had been as depraved as its ideals were lofty. Mr. Hjorring said that partial views of Christian practice were dangerous. Mr. J. A. Humphrey acted as judge, and placed the first five speakers in page 61 the following order:—(1) Mr. S. E. Baurme, (2) Mr. W. P. Rollings, (3) Mr. J. B. Yaldwyn, (4) Mr. J. W. Davidson, (5) Mr. R. F. Fortune. The motion was rejected by a large majority.

On April 5th Mr. J. W. Davidson moved, and Mr. J. B. Yaldwyn opposed. a motion, "That the action of the MacDonald Government in abandoning the Singapore base is to be commended."Mr. Davidson and others pointed out that according to the Washington Pact, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States had contracted to refrain from building fortifications In the Pacific east of 105 deg. E. longitude. The longitude of Singapore was 103 deg. 50 min. E. It would have been very nearly a violation of the letter of the law, and certainly a violation of its spirit, to build a naval base at Singapore. The imposition of an additional burden of £10,000 on an unemployment stricken England for the purpose of fomenting jealousy and rivalry between Britain and Japan was a maniacal policy. Mr. Yaldwyn protested that the protection of our trade routes demanded an efficient fleet, and the abandonment of Singapore crippled our Eastern squadron. The motion was carried. Colonel G. Mitchell, D.S.O., placed the speakers thus:—(1) Mr. Rogers, (2) Mr. Pope, (3) Mr. Davidson, (4) Mr. Yaldwyn, (5) Messrs. Hurley and Rollings.

On April 26th Mr. Haigh moved "That this meeting is convinced of the justice of the railwaymen's strike for increased wages." Mr. Arndt opposed. The movers emphasised the inadequacy of the wage of £3 19s. l0d., and showed that the Government had blocked conciliation proceedings for fifteen months. Mr. Arndt said that the lower orders should be kept in their place. Nothing justified direct action while arbitration was possible The motion was carried. Mr. G. G. Watson placed the speakers as follows:—(1) Mr. Yaldwyn, (2) Mr. Campbell, (3) Messrs. Davidson and Rollings, (5) Mr. Haigh.

The next debate concerned the decadence of the British Empire. Mr. Heron moved, "That the Empire, being founded on force, must inevitably decay."Mr. Heron showed that the Empire had been established by force. Mr. Baume. opposing, admitted as much, but failed to see that it was maintained by force. It was maintained by goodwill, which did not decay as easily as navies and armies might. The motion was lost. Mr. H. H. Cornish placed Mr. Campbell first, the other speakers as follows: (2) Mr. Yaldwyn, (3) Mr. Baume, (4) Mr. Davidson, (5) Mr. Rollings.

On May 24th Mr. Beaglehole moved, "That the conferring of titles on New Zealand citizens should cease forthwith. Mr. Atmore opposed. Mr. Beaglehole pointed out that once men won their spurs on the battlefield; nowadays in the soap or beer business. Mr. Atmore said that titles were the reward of industry and a necessary Incentive to self-sacrifice. The motion was carried. Mr. P. J. O'Regan placed the speakers: (1) Mr. Baume, (2) Mr. Campbell, (3) Mr. Rollings, (4) Mr. Davidson, (5) Mr. Yaldwyn.

June 7th saw the motion up for discussion:"That the publication of the grosser details of Law Court proceedings, being a menace to the morality of the community, should be prohibited."The discussion centred round the newspaper "Truth," which littered the tables plentifully. Despite Mr. Dowsett's indictment of that newspaper—evil associations corrupt good manners—Messrs. Cousins and Croker succeeded in persuading their audience that the publication of obscenities pandered to no morbidity, but provoked storms of righteous indignation against the criminal. Mr. C. H. Taylor placed the speakers: (1) Mr. Cousins, (2) Mr. Dowsett, (3) Mr. Leicester, (4) Mr. Campbell, (5) Mr. Rogers.

On June 21st Mr. J. Steele moved, "That in the event of the Government committing New Zealand to participation in a war outside that country, University students should refuse to render military service in any capacity."Mr. F. A. Marriott opposed. Mr. Steele said that no Christian could bear arms under any pretext. Mr. Marriott said that failing our support the war outside might very well be carried inside our own country. The motion was carried. Dr. Gibb placed the speakers: (1) Mr. Campbell, (2) Mr. Rollings, (3) Mr. Baume, (4) Mr. Davidson, (5) Mr. Steele.