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Wednesday, 16 March 1966

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) . - The main burden of my attack upon the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) will be levelled against the Government's decision to send voteless boys to fight in Vietnam. These boys will be compelled to give their lives in a war that does not officially exist. Australia is not officially at war with the Vietcong, with the people of South Vietnam or with the people of North Vietnam.

Mr Calwell - Or with China.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON - Or indeed is it at war with China, although, listening to the speeches of honorable members on the other side of the House, one would be entitled to believe that China is a country with which we should be at war. One would imagine that China constitutes a very serious and immediate threat to us. We find that the Australian Country Party, following its usual form of consistency, or inconsistency, is holding the Government to ransom. Perhaps the Government does not need to be held to ransom. The Australian Country Party says to the Government that, unless it keeps on sending to China the weapons of war - I do not mean only rifles but wheat, wool and other items that are so vital to a successful war effort - it will not support the Government. So the Government, which prates so much about the Chinese enemy, willy nilly continues to grab whatever money it can from the Chinese Communists in return for the wheat, wool and other items that it sells. I notice that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) agrees with me. But why does he not get up and tell the Government about it instead of sitting there with such an inane look on his face and without making a comment?

We should try to understand a few historical facts about Vietnam. The North and South Vietnamese are not two different peoples at all. They are the same people. Ethnically they are the same. They have the same culture. They speak the same language. They were turned into two separate peoples when a manmade boundary at the 17th parallel was fixed by the Conference at Geneva in 1954. Nobody can say that we are fighting in Vietnam to uphold democracy, to uphold the rights of the trade union movement, to uphold the principles of habeas corpus or to uphold the other great principles of civil liberties. We are not. None of these principles exists under the Government of Ky nor did they exist under the 9 or 10 governments that preceded him. The Government of South Vietnam is the most corrupt, most despotic and most anti-democratic government that could be imagined. Yet the Australian Government intends to send our boys to give their lives in defence of this corrupt military junta that passes for a government in South Vietnam.

This, as President Johnson said, is a cruel and dirty war waged against the local inhabitants in- support of a corrupt, cruel and ruthless military dictatorship. Even the best friends of Ky could not describe his Government in any other way. We are not fighting to uphold democracy or the principles of civil liberties. In fact, the people our national service trainees will be compelled to engage in mortal combat do not constitute a military threat against this country or against the United States of America. Nobody in the United States or in Australia will seriously suggest for a moment that the people of Vietnam are likely to invade this country, that they are or have been aggressors against this country or that they are ever likely to be a military threat to us. The only ground for intervention in the civil war in Vietnam is based upon the belief that China is about to commence a southern thrust through that part of Asia and, unless we send our national service conscripts into Vietnam to stop it, this thrust will eventuate. But how . can the Government possibly put that proposition seriously when at the same time it is sending wool, wheat and certain metals to China which it says is a potential threat? The Government cannot have it both ways. It should be consistent.

Not all Americans agree with the American Government's solution to the problem of the Communist threat in Asia. Senators Wayne Morse, Fulbright, Mansfield and Gruening, great writers like Walter Lippman, great scientists like Linus Pauling, and many great American thinkers believe the Americans are treading a dangerous and slippery path and are engaged in a war that cannot be won. If the war in Vietnam is to be won at all it has to be won on the ideological, economic and social fields. There is no military solution to the war. Eventually our Government will come to realise this.

If we were to kill every Vietnamese man, woman and child and leave standing in the field only 500,000 or 600,000 American and Australian troops, it would not be a true victory. It would be a pyrrhic victory which would turn to ashes in our mouth. We cannot win this war unless we attack the causes of Communism, and we will not do that, because the military juntas we are upholding are, in fact, the causes of it, and we would have to remove them to deal effectively with the factors that are causing people to turn to Communism.

One must say for the Americans that they are consistent in their attitude to Red China. They believe that China constitutes a threat but, unlike our Government, America gives effect to its belief by refusing to trade with China. I am not advocating that we should stop trading with China; I merely draw attention to the Government's own inconsistency. If the Government believes, as it says it does, that Communist China is a threat to Asia and to us it ought at once to stop trading with China. It cannot have it both ways: It seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition was perfectly right when he said that this Government was concerned mainly with trade.

Our first involvement in the Vietnam war was the outcome of negotiations between the present Prime Minister and the United States Administration following a White House announcement that United States capital outflow to Australia was to be restricted. The present Prime Minister went to Washington and subsequently announced proudly that he had succeeded in persuading the United States Administration to ease its restrictions on American capital outflow to Australia. Sir Robert Menzies followed this announcement shortly afterwards with the announcement that Australian Regular Army troops would be sent to Vietnam to become direct participants in the battle there. It was properly described by my inimitable friend the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) as a diggers for dollars deal. It was a pay off for the United States capitalists at a time when too much foreign capital was already coming into

Australia and when more than SOO manufacturing companies were completely controlled by foreign investors and another 750 were effectively controlled by them. The trouble today is that Australia is paying dividends to overseas investors and keeping itself poor, making it virtually impossible to maintain its balance of payments.

The second step in the Government's involvement in Vietnam has been the decision to conscript voteless national service trainees to fight in a war that has not yet been declared a war. The second step springs from a motive that is even more indefensible than the one that' produced the first step. The first step was the result of a diggers for dollars deal. The second step was nothing better than a diggers for dividends deal, which I will prove presently. For months now the Australian capitalists, who back this Government, have been wanting to cash in on the blood money in Vietnam. The Australian Chamber of Manufactures has publicly declared that it felt aggrieved that they had been left out of the rich profits that were to be had from the supply of arms and equipment to Australians and other troops risking their lives in Vietnam. It made public statements to this effect: " It is not fair. The American capitalists are getting all the profits out of this war and we are not getting any. Our troops are over there being slaughtered but we are getting none of the profits. Can't you do something about it?" So the Government said: "Let us see what we can do. Perhaps we can make another deal for you by which you will get dividends from the profits of the slaughter in Vietnam in return for some more conscripts, some voteless boys, who will be sent there ". What happened? Along came Vice President Hubert Humphrey to Canberra and conferences took place. The Press announced that they were for the purpose of making a deal under which the Australian Government would conscript national service trainees in return for Australian capitalists getting a share of the profitmaking in Vietnam. This Press speculation proved correct. I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) a question last week about this and he said it was perfectly true. He said, in effect: "I am very happy to announce that we have made an agreement under which Australian capitalists will now share in the boodle to be obtained from the supply of arms and equipment to Vietnam. No longer are the American capitalists to be given the sole right to exploit this rich market ".

I believe that it is entirely wrong that the Government should be in a position to conscript voteless boys to fight in the jungles and paddy fields of Vietnam in return for a shady deal with Australian capitalists in order that they might make profits out of war. Subsequently came the Government's announcement that the United States Government had agreed to the proposal, and the agreement was signed, sealed and delivered. Everybody was happy, except the mothers and fathers of the conscripts who were to be made pawns in the game and who were to be the ones to pay the price for the profitmaking deal that was made for the Government's wealthy friends.

Why has not the Government declared a state of war in Vietnam? This is a pertinent question. One reason might be that once a state of war is declared there would be a demand by the public for profit control, prices control and control of capital investment. There would be a demand by the public, when they knew about this shady de] involving diggers for dividends, for private industries to be commandeered so that arms and equipment could be supplied to Australian troops in Vietnam on a non-profit basis. No-one has the right to profit from risking the lives of other people. Of course, the Country Party would then be in the position where it would be forced to release its pressure on the Government for the continuation of sales of wheat, wool and other materials to Communist China. The Government does not want an actual state of war. It wants the circumstances that follow a state of war to apply to the boys and the manpower of Australia, but it does not want the consequences of a state of war to apply to its wealthy capitalist friends. The Government refuses to raise a finger against the owners of property, or even to limit their profit from the war. I believe a strong case can be made out for a 100 per cent, profit tax on profits made from war. If we could take the profits out of war we would not have so many lobbyists running around trying to get this war maintained and extended.

The Government makes a deal on behalf of Australian capitalists which will result in rich dividends in return for the lives of voteless youths, but it has no mandate for this. It has no mandate to conscript national service trainees for overseas service in time of peace. This was not a proposal that was put to the Australian people at the last Federal election. The Government dare not put up such a proposal now and it did not dare put it up then, because no party could win an election on such a proposal. No country has ever given a government a mandate to introduce conscription. This Government would not get it, and if the Government can be forced to fight the next election on the issue of the conscription of voteless boys it will be defeated; make no error about that. We won the Dawson by-election because we were able to seize upon an issue that was big enough to make the people of Dawson change their party allegiance. The issue of conscripting youths for overseas service is one that affects, not just the people of Dawson, but the people of every electorate in Australia. When this Government's action becomes the issue at the next general election the Labour Party will be swept to power because the people will not tolerate this action. The longer it continues, the more the people will be opposed to it. The gallup poll shows that there is a growing opposition to the conscription of national service trainees for service overseas in time of peace. In December last year 52 per cent, of the population was opposed to sending national service trainees overseas. That percentage has now increased to 57 per cent. Today 57 per cent, of the people oppose the sending of national service trainees overseas in time of peace. In December last 37 per cent, of the people favoured sending national service trainees overseas. Today that number has declined to 32 per cent. This trend will continue so long as the war continues.

The Government must take stock of the situation. This is the first time in Australia's history that voteless boys have been dragged from their homes under the lash of conscription and forced to die in a war that has not yet been declared. Labour is pledged to the principle of extending the vote to 18 year old boys. A citizen who is called upon to throw away his life for his country is morally entitled to vote for his country. Conscription in peace time cannot be condoned without a specific mandate from all of the people, including the eighteen year old youths who will have to shed their blood. No government has the right to lay violent hands on the sons of Australian citizens without a specific mandate to do so.

The Government says that it proposes to give national service trainees a vote after they are conscripted. We demand that they be given a vote before they are conscripted so that they may have some say in whether conscription shall be their lot. Apprentice. ships are being interrupted by conscription. Careers and university courses are being ruined. The lives of parents are being tortured by anxiety born of the unauthorised action of a government that has grown contemptuous of public opinion and become drunk with power. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), who is the man chiefly responsible for the present situation, sits fast asleep on the front bench. He has now awakened drowsily to look at me through blinking eyes. He wonders what it is all about. He has been fast asleep while I have been making a plea on behalf of voteless boys.

Conscription has become a substitute for a proper review of the voluntary system. The voluntary system has failed because the Government has failed to provide proper pay, allowances and repatriation benefits for servicemen. National service trainees are entitled only to the meagre benefits provided under the Workers Compensation Act. People who go away on active service and who return must be satisfied with a war service loan that is no longer adequate to meet the costs of purchasing a home. Servicemen who are maimed must struggle to obtain repatriation benefits under a warped application of section 47 of the Repatriation Act, the onus of proof being placed, not on the Government but on the applicant. Men are expected to volunteer to risk their lives under conditions which industrial workers would never accept. While owners of capital have the right to deny the use of their capital without exorbitant profits, national service trainees, are forced to give up their lives in what has been described as an unwinnable war. They do not ask for any profit from what they have to give, but they want justice. It is because they are not getting justice that the voluntary system has failed. Any country with a voluntary system which cannot supply the number of men that Australia has committed to South Vietnam stands condemned as not doing its job for its people. The rights of man begin with the prime right of a man to own his own body. No man or group of men, whether it be a press gang or a government, has a moral or God-given right to take possession of another's body and force that body into mortal combat with people in a foreign land without a declaration of war. 1 challenge the Government to test its proposal in a referendum in which the youths who will be coerced and dragged into this undeclared foreign war will be given a say in what is to become of their own bodies.

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