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Monday, 5 June 1939

Mr GREGORY (Swan) . - I intend to support this measure, which provides that a census shall be taken of Australia's man-power for economic and defence purposes. Several amendments are essential, because the schedule is not sufficiently comprehensive to enable the Government to obtain fill the information it may require. If provision be not now made for all that may bc required the Government will have to obtain parliamentary approval of any additions to the questions in the schedule because the scope of the census should not be extended merely at the will of the executive.

Mr Street - Under the amendment circulated that could not be done.

Mr GREGORY - I accept the assurance of the Minister (Mr. Street), but I believe that there is still some doubt on that point. I assume that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who referred at length to conscription, refers to. conscription for service overseas, not for service within Australia. . I would favour the introduction of legislation to provide that Australia's manhood shall not be conscripted for service overseas, and I believe that the Government and, in fact, the members of all political parties in this chamber, are opposed to such a policy.

Mr Brennan - When did this change occur ?

Mr GREGORY - If Australia were at war or threatened with invasion, sections of all classes would voluntarily offer their services, as they have on other occasions, in the defence of this country, but under the voluntary system some make great sacrifices whilst others who are equally able to serve take no risks or responsibility whatever.

Mr Ward - That can still be done under this measure, because provision is made foi certain persons to be exempt.

Mr GREGORY - There is still opportunity to amend the hill in that respect. Surely the honorable member for East Sydney will not suggest that political considerations were of any consequence during the Great War, because men of all classes willingly volunteered for service in the interests of the nation. If we should ever have to fight for our existence, and retention of the privileges which we now enjoy, all sections should shoulder the responsibility. Any man who is not prepared to fight for his country does not deserve the liberty which he enjoys. [Quorum formed.'] I remind the honorable member for East Sydney, who referred to the fact that a number of loans raised recently for defence purposes were under-subscribed, that in 1915 I suggested that contributions to war loans should be compulsory, that the rate of interest should be low and that subscriptions to the loan .should be on the basis of income. During the world war a grave mistake was made, both in Australia and in Great Britain, by neglecting to provide for compulsory subscription to war loans. I and many others' mortgaged our homes to raise money for investment in war loans, whilst others who refused to contribute received 10 per cent., 15 per cent., and even 20 per cent, on other investments. When a final adjustment was made under a conversion loan, those who had contributed to war loans had to accept a reduction of interest, whilst those who had not subscribed one penny in that way were allowed to retain the huge profits made from other investments. I intend to support the amendment which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has foreshadowed - that a wealth census also shall be taken. If the Government should oppose such an amendment it will rightly be charged with introducing the bill with the sole object of securing particulars of Australia's man-power, regardless of the wealth resources of the nation. Every preparation must be made for the protection of this country, because should Great Britain be involved in war, Australia will have to defend itself. The honorable member for Perth cited a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and published in the Canberra Times, in which he outlined the defence policy of the Labour party. Strangely enough, it embodies exactly what the Government proposes to ' do under this bill. On the 7th. December, the Leader of the Opposition also said -

Tlie Government has the paramount responsibility to do its utmost to bring its best judgment to bear on this subject/and to ensure that no lack of preparation shall impair this country should it be raided or invaded.

The strongest opposition to this measure is coming, not from the members of the Labour party in this chamber, but from the trade union movement. It is difficult to understand why the Opposition should be opposed to the Government obtaining information that will 'be of vital interest to Australia in an emergency. The honorable member for Perth quoted a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition recommending the policy contained in this hill. The paragraph I quoted is to the same effect. Why then does the Labour party oppose the measure? The Government should introduce universal military training. Should this country be invaded, the Government would, under the present system, be compelled to send untrained men into the firing line, whereas if universal military training were in force a comparatively large number of trained men would be available for active service.. It would be criminal to ask un trained men to attempt to resist an invading army of trained soldiers. I know from experience that universal training is strongly favoured by many young men. My own sons, and others with whom I have conversed, said that they enjoyed it, and were sorry when it was suspended. Under such a system all classes share the responsibility and it tends to create a fraternal feeling among the lads. I am afraid that propaganda is being used against this measure merely to embarrass the Government, and not because of what the bill contains. I support the bill, and hope that it will meet with the approval of a majority of honorable members.

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