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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 7, No. 7 July 26, 1944

Debating is Looking Up — Manpower and Workers' Education

page 5

Debating is Looking Up

Manpower and Workers' Education

Vast crowds failed to assemble for the debate on the motion "That the Government has failed to make the greatest possible use of manpower in the war effort."

Miss Marshall opened for the affirmative, defined her terms and reminded students of the way they had been horribly maltreated on vacation jobs. She contended that the manpower officials had no qualifications for their position, that the government's approach to the whole question had been haphazard and that she possessed inside information to prove conclusively that the entire system was rotten.

Mr. Ziman, a trifle less pompous than usual, allowed his opponent's definitions to stand. He stated that New Zealand was playing a proportionately larger part in the war than any country except the Soviet Union. The manpower division had adapted itself to changing phases of the war, the appeal boards were reasonable and the hopelessly unqualified manpower officials were handling their jobs well.

Mr. Duncan based his argument on the contention that the government has not enforced its decisions, has failed to prevent strikes, has been dominated by the Trades Hall, and has mismanaged the rehabilitation of returned men. His debating style was better than his material.

Miss Crompton seconded Mr. Ziman in her usual forthright manner. The highlights of her speech were gained on the points that New Zealand has maintained and increased production in spite of overseas commitments and has developed her primary industries to decrease her imports.


An unusually high standard was reached in the speech of Mr. Jack, who was well known in debates here before the war. His arguments were clearly thought out and he carried the house with him throughout. He insisted that there must be some standard in judging this question, and carried his point by comparing New Zealand's effort with that of other nations in a manner that left no possibility of refutation.

Mr. Williams quoted figures for production and for the number of men in the forces. He escaped the dullness usually associated with figures, was forceful and to the point.

Mr. Chorlton, speaking as a returned soldier, made a plea for equality of sacrifice. He would like to see all industries under army control.

Mr. O'Kane blamed the individuals for not co-operating with the government and thought the manpower division was making the wrong approach.

Mr. O'Leary, intensely formal and severe, blamed the government for not training unfit men to replace fit men in essential industries. He considers the manpower regulations interfere unnecessarily with workers' lives, especially in unplanned transferring of manpower.

Mr. Eaton Hurley, who judged the debate, offered advice and criticism to the speakers but considered the standard fairly high and all the speakers promising. He placed the first five as follows:—Mr. Jack, Miss Crompton, Mr. Williams, Mr. Ziman, Mr. Miller.


For the first time in some years Varsity competed against an outside team in the Wellington Debating Union contest The visitors represented the Workers' Educational Association, and took the affirmative in the motion "That the W.E.A. is fulfilling its function as an Organ of Adult Education."

Mr. Riske, for the W.E.A., had hardly been speaking two minutes when a member of the audience left the hall. He was also interrupted by indifferent swing music coming from upstairs and paused to allow his message to sink in on both occasions. He asserted that the W.E.A. is doing what it set out to do; that is, to provide non-sectarian and non-vocational education in whatever subjects its students are interested. It caters for all who are willing to participate, and the standard is up to that of B.A., Stage I, presented, however, in terms which are understandable to anyone. Although a relatively small number take part they are as representative accross-section as could be obtained anywhere. Difficulties have been met in the past in the shape of attacks on academic freedom and of sabotage from within of its policy of no politics.


Mr. Campbell, for the negative, ran true to type. So much so that an interjection was heard: "My God, it is the bloody Minx." He complained that there is a lack of records (a statement which was later refuted by Mr. Risked and that no analysis of benefits had been made. He complained that the W.E.A. had failed to train the people for citizenship, and to encourage interest in the major problems of today. He attributed the indifferent support of the movement to the type of course which is offered and [unclear: gt] failure to solicit students.

Mr. Watson first pricked some of the bubbles which Mr. Campbell had blown, then gave a summary of the benefits gained by W.E.A. members, more especially in country districts. He described the Summer School and also the effect on rural communities, painting a rosy picture of farmers discussing fine arts instead of butterfat prices and of local yokels sitting in ditches considering Problems of the Pacific rather than "the bitch next door."

Miss Joan Taylor, seconding Mr. Campbell, produced figures which show how small the W.E.A. membership is and how class attendances drop off considerably as the course proceeds. She pointed out that it fails to gain monetary support from the public and from public bodies like the Wellington City Council.

Mr. Barrington began by deprecating the hysteria which is so prevalent today. He considers that the creation of a good citizen is the creation of that kind of mental outlook which is opposed to cant and hysteria but which is founded on a critical mind, and an even temper of mind and spirit, based on knowledge and discussion. He claims that the W.E.A. is doing this. He gave figures to show how wide a variety of people attend W.E.A. classes, how democratic is the spirit of the National Council and he compared the role of the Association in the community to the leaven of [unclear: brean] and the salt of the earth.

Mr. Williams claimed that the W.E.A. has small support because it appeals only to a few people. He had shown a prospectus to a friend he described as a worker, whose only comment was "Are you kiddin'." He complained that the W.E.A. is merely retailing university learning at a discount. where it should go out to meet the workers, should use newspapers, radio and cinema and generally sell its product by making it attractive.

Mr. Campbell had little to say in his summing up, but made references to "passing the baby" and "we are the hounds, you dirty dogs," allusions which seemed rather beside the point. He warned the affirmative of the danger of words and went as far as to recommend them to attend one of their own courses on this very subject.

Mr. Riske, summing up for the W.E.A., made several statements which would not have gone unchallenged had he not been the last speaker. However, he made good points in expressing the undesirability of "mobilising mentality" and quoted rumour as appreciating the opposition of the W.C.C., a fact which was considered to reflect credit on the Association.

Mr. Farquhar, who acted as judge, gave a few points of advice to the speakers. He gave the decision to the W.E.A., praising Mr. Riske for his general exposition, Mr. Watson as being genuine, and Mr. Barrington for his explicitness. He summed up the Varsity team by quoting "me thinks they do protest too much." He criticised Mr. Campbell for his extravagance and Mr. Williams for his "flights of rhetoric." Miss Taylor, he said, criticised the body, not its functions. He placed the first three speakers: Mr. Riske, Mr. Barrington, Mr Campbell.

Flowery compliments were then exchanged between the leaders of the two sides, and the subject was thrown open to speakers from the floor.