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Monday, 5 June 1939

Mr NAIRN (Perth) .- This bill to authorize, a census of man-power is complementary to the measure recently passed by this House to make provision for a survey of material-power. Notwithstanding our abhorrence of anything in the nature of militarism, recent events have forced on us the conclusion that we must take steps to prepare for the possibility of Australia being attacked.

Mr Brennan - Is there another crisis?

Mr NAIRN - There is no crisis at the moment, and none is anticipated; bat happenings during the last two or three years, and particularly the fate which has befallen a number of small nations, make it incumbent upon us to prepare for our own defence. The object of these two bills is to make these preparations. The first step that has been taken is to take stock of what we have in the way 'of materials and man-power. The stocktaking of materials is provided for in the Supply and Development Bill. The aim of the bill now before the chamber is that ive may be able to acquire such knowledge as would enable each man to be fitted into the niche which he would most usefully fill in defence of the Commonwealth. The army in the field has to be supported by an army in the workshops and the aim of this measure is to ensure that our technicians will be in the workshops, not footslogging in the infantry. When the last war rook place it found Australia unprepared, but it did not matter much then, because we were safe at home. But when the next call comes to Australia, it may be a call to defend our own homes, and, although we do not fear that that is imminent, we know the liability to it. . We realize that the call, does come, will come quickly- that there will be very little warning - and it is, therefore, our first duty to be prepared. Australia has no intention of embarking on any crusade and I think that none of us has ambitions to seu Australia militarized on the European model. The object of these two bills is to provide for our own protection. Objection, much of it unreal, has been made to answering the questions which are to be asked. The questions are set out in the schedule. If honorable members peruse them they will see that they are perfectly harmless- and are of the character which we are accustomed to answer in the census which is held every ten years. The questions relate to these matters: - Age last birthday; country of birth of self and parents; nationality; dependent relatives; general health; name, business address and business of present employer; grade of occupation; unemployment. A particular question concerns craft or occupation, and the person answering the question- naire must state his craft or individual occupation on which he is engaged and any other skilled craft or occupation in which he has special skill or training. Obviously, the purpose of these questions is to enable those in charge of preparations for defence of the country to know where our man-power lies, where tradesmen can be found in order for them to be allotted to their allocated places. There is nothing inquisitorial in the census to which objection can be taken. It is of the type of the ordinary census. It will bc remembered that during the last war a census was taken embracing questions somewhat like these and, in addition, questions relating to property. I do not know that anybody raised serious objection to answering the questions then, or that anybody was damaged by answering them, and I believe that there is no good and honest reason to object to answering questions contained in the schedule to this bill. The leaders of the Labour party are encouraging the people to resist, even to the extent of going to gaol, rather than answer these questions.

Mr Riordan - "Where did the honorable member get that from?

Mr NAIRN - It is to be seen in the newspapers.

Mr Martens - Does the honorable member believe everything he reads in the newspapers?

Mr NAIRN - I do not flatter the honorable gentlemen who are interjecting by thinking that they are Labour leaders. The policy of the Labour party on defence was declared as late as last October by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and that policy had as its first plank a survey precisely of the character which the Government comprehends in the Supply and Development Bill and this bill. The policy of Labour on defence was declared by the Leader of the Opposition, somewhat after the style of the late Dr. Woodrow Wilson, in a series of points. The honorable gentleman took thirteen points and he was careful to state that he declared the Labour party's attitude in order to make it clear at a lime when the defence of the country was absorbing the attention of the seven Australian parliaments. The first plank of his platform was the establishment of a survey precisely similar to that proposed by this Government. It would be better to read from the precise report in the Canberra. Times newspaper of the 19th October, 1938. It was an account of an interview with the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Gander - Will the honorable gentleman vouch for the authenticity of the extract?

Mr NAIRN - Of course. It is much more reliable than any other declaration of Labour members. It is an official declaration made by the Leader of the Australian party. It reads -

The Labour party's attitude on defence was defined by Mr. Curtin to make it clear at a time when the defence of the country is absorbing the attention of the seven Australian governments. Points in his policy were: - ( 1 . ) Survey of man-power and resources, industrial and primary. It is essential that the number of men able to carry out all forms of work bc known.

There is a precise summary of what this Government is doing.

Mr Francis - Why then is the Opposition wasting time?

Mr NAIRN - The Opposition would waste another fortnight if it had the opportunity. It is prepared to encourage the workers to resist this legislation by force if necessary. I can understand why the Leader of the Opposition was not put up to speak on the second reading instead of the Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde). If the Leader of the Opposition had been put up he would have had to swallow those words and would have found it very distasteful to-day.

Mr Gander - Does the honorable gentleman not know that the Leader of the Opposition is ill? He is making an unfair attack.

Mr NAIRN - I know that the Leader of the Opposition would find it uncomfortable

Mr Gander - The honorable member thinks that he is malingering?

Mr NAIRN - No, the Leader of the Opposition is not a man of that type. Probably he will be more ill when he tries to explain his words. It only shows that the Labour party has no settled policy on defence except one that hinders.

That fact stands out from the many declarations that it has made. As soon as any government attempts to do something useful and effective the Labour opposition throws every obstacle in the way. Its policy is opposition and hindrance, and contains nothing of value that will contribute to the defence of this country. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he intended to oppose the measure because it is a means to provide for industrial conscription. I am surprised that he should object on that ground, because industrial conscription is the ultimate objective of the Labour party. For years provision has been made- in that party's platform for the nationalization of production, distribution and exchange, which is industrial conscription such as operates in Soviet Russia and, in a somewhat modified form, in Germany, where it is supported1 by the National Socialist party. In these circumstances it is easy to realize that this Government is unsympathetic towards industrial conscription or, in fact, State socialism of any kind; but it believes that in an emergency provision must be made to utilize the services of the man-power of the nation and its resources in order to ensure the safety of the nation. The members of the Opposition intend to oppose this measure because they contend that it is a step towards conscription, but I cannot see any possible reason for that contention. " The conscription to which honorable members opposite refer must mean conscription for service overseas.

Mr Ward - Does the honorable member believe in ihat ?

Mr NAIRN - No, 'and it is not proposed to introduce the system. I take it that the Labour party does not oppose the conscription of Australia's manhood for the defence of Australia within Australia". For the last 30 years Commonwealth law has provided that the Governor-General may, in time of war, call upon all male persons between the ages of 18 and 60 years to serve in the defence forces of the Commonwealth, and :no government, labour or otherwise, has' ever attempted to amend the law in that -respect. Therefore, the only tag which the Opposition is trying to fix upon :this Government is that of conscription for!. service abroad. I deny that any such proposal has ever been made by the Government. On the contrary, the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Street) and responsible party leaders have declared in the clearest possible terms that they are opposed to compulsory service outside Australia. The late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made such a declaration, in most unmistakable terms.

Mr Riordan - What of the present Prime Minister?

Mr NAIRN - He has made a similar declaration. In introducing the bill the Minister for Defence made it clear that the Government did not propose at any time to introduce compulsory service abroad. After such a clear declaration of policy, no government would be guilty of such a complete volte face as honorable members of the Opposition ascribe to it. Public opinion of Australia is almost unanimously opposed to compulsory service overseas. Whilst I believe that if Australia were attacked the government of the day should be in a position immediately to introduce the conscription of men, materials and money in order to assist in the defence of the country - every one would support such a policy - I hold that no man should at any time, or under any consideration, be compelled to serve outside Australia against his will. Of course, service in the navy is voluntary, and when a man joins the navy he knows that he is liable to serve wherever his ship may be ordered. Should this country be attacked conscription would be introduced immediately, whatever government was in power, and there would be no place for any Labour leader who urged resistance in that respect. The first to object would be the workers themselves, because they are as patriotic as any other citizens.

Mr Conelan - We all know that.

Mr NAIRN - They have proved it over and over again. Any man who opposed conscription for service in Australia would be harshly dealt with. The only respect in which the bill is unsatisfactory is that the proposed census does not go quite far enough iri that no provision is made for taking a. census of wealth.

Mr.-GANDER - "Would the honorable member support that?

Mr NAIRN - I propose to move an amendment to that effect later.

Mr Scholfield - That will not be acceptable to some honorable members opposite.

Mr NAIRN - A census of our resources would be incomplete without a. record of our monetary resources. We should know where the money lies. Later, I propose to move an amendment to provide that a census of the wealth resources of the country be taken, to which there should not be any objection, particularly as a census is being taken solely for making the necessary provision for the defence of the country. I challenge the Opposition to give any valid reason why any Australian should refuse to defend this country should it be attacked. If this country were attacked any Australian, worthy of the rights of citizenship should be willing to place himself in service at the place to which he may be ordered by the persons in proper authority. Any man who claims the right to say that, in the event of this country being attacked, he would please himself whether he would join in its defence, is not a worthy Australian citizen and should be denied the rights of citizenship. I say further that, once it is conceded that it is the duty of every man to take part in the defence of this country, it follows that in order that he may he given a part in which he will be of most use, we must know in what direction he can be most usefully employed. I support the bill.

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