Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 1 May 1942

Mr CALWELL - Of course everything is a matter of administration. If the House agreed to the principle of compulsory overseas service, youths of eighteen would be sent overseas as well as being compelled to give military service at home.

Mr McEwen - Not at all.

Mr CALWELL - Youths of eighteen are liable for home defence service. If they were liable for service at home there would be nothing to prevent them from being sent overseas. That is something that the military authorities would decide.

Mr McEwen - The Government would decide.

Mr CALWELL - I have not much faith in governments, even Labour governments, when pressure is brought to bear upon them by the military machine. [ am not casting reflections upon the High Command. I know, from my own experience of handling justifiable claims for exemption from military service, how certain military gentlemen act. When one talks to a general one usually finds him to be a reasonable man who has no airs and graces and discusses a subject quite intelligently. But when one comes down to the rank of colonel one begins to sense the importance that some people attach to their rank, and when one reaches captains and lieutenants one finds that one is really talking to military gentlemen who have no doubts about what ought to be done with politicians who interfere in their domain. They have no hesitation, in many cases, about telling privates, who dare to mention the names of members of Parliament, what they think about them and the set-up of Parliament generally.

Mr Rankin - Perhaps they have listened to the politicians in this House.

Mr CALWELL - I have never had any difficulty in talking with a majorgeneral, and I include the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) in that statement.

Honorable members opposite have overlooked one vital point. There are 7,000,000 people in Australia, which is an area almost as great as the United States of America. There are 130,000,000 people in the United States of America. If the whole of the manhood of this country were to be conscripted and sent overseas, the contribution in point of numbers would not be very great. It would not be sufficient to determine the issue of a. major battle in the Pacific, the Atlantic or elsewhere, but if Australia were denuded of its man-power, the future of the nation would be dark indeed. It will be dark enough, even if we win the war. Europe may be quiet in another 25 years, but while Australia remains an outpost of white civilization and insists upon the maintenance of the White Australia policy and while we have very few people in this country, we shall naturally excite the avarice and covetousness of our coloured neighbours to the north.

Mr Brennan - We may even excite their just indignation.

Mr CALWELL - It might seem to them that they have cause for just indignation at our exclusive policy. If we are to remain a white race, we can do nothing else but maintain the White Australia policy. If we cannot get a population of 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people in this country within a generation or so by means of immigration and an increase of the birthrate, the day of the white race in Australia will be finished. Many white people might continue to live here for another generation or so but afterwards there would no longer be a white Australia.

Mr Rankin - But the honorable member's party objects to the immigration of Europeans.

Mr CALWELL - No sensible man could honestly object to the immigration of white people under proper conditions and provided that they were not sent here in order to relieve their native countries of an unemployment problem. If the problems of industrial development and migration are related, I would welcome the arrival in Australia of many hundreds of thousands of white people from the other side of the world.

Mr Rankin - What about water conservation?

Mr CALWELL - The success of an immigration policy would depend upon the best statesmanship of which we were capable in order to make adequate provision, by means of water conservation and other developmental works, to afford opportunities to the new citizens to live in the standards of decency that we desire to maintain. I hope that all honorable members will endeavour to ensure that the people of Europe, who will be tired of two blood baths in one generation, shall have ample opportunity to come to this country and settle after the war. When I see the splendid specimens of American manhood walking the streets of Australian cities and recollect that America has been, for more than a generation, a melting pot for European nations, I am satisfied with the result of the amalgamation. We should lose nothing by adopting a similar policy. It would be far better for us to have in Australia 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people of 100 per cent. white extraction than to continue the narrow policy of having a population of 7,000,000 people who are 98 per cent. British.

Mr Rankin - And commit national suicide.

Mr CALWELL - Yes. There will be no future for Australia unless it has a population prepared to defend it when a militarised Asia, not a militarised Japan, moves south at a time when Europe will probably have settled its many quarrels and when America may be disinclined to give us any further assistance.

There are grounds for believing that we have already called up for military training in this country many more thousands of young men than we can provide with proper equipment. It would have been far better to have left a number of these men in the farming districts in order to harvest the crops. I believe that the man-power officers in our country districts are rendering a grave disservice to the nation by sending into camp every man whom they consider to be physically lit for training. I should like to see our man-power regulations scrapped and jurisdiction over exemption claims handed back to the military authorities. Militaryofficers at least mete out a rough sort of justice, but man-power officers give only legal interpretations of regulations in which there is no humanity and no justice. In many cases so many misfits have been placed in positions of authority that grave abuses of power are committed, and injustices are perpetrated upon families and individuals. What I have said about the Department of Labour and National Service is equally true of the Department of War Organization of Industry. That department organizes nothing and disorganizes everything.

It was most unfortunate that a broadcast was made over the national and commercial radio networks earlier this month which gave rise to the suspicion that the Government was toying with the subject of conscription for overseas service. It was a perfectly legitimate deduction to make from the broadcast that there was a feeling in higher government circles that, at some time or another, when we moved north on the offensive, Australian manhood should be conscripted for overseas service. Next day the press published a statement in almost identical terms. The subject-matter of both the broadcast and the press reports could not have been confused. The report could not have been a press and radio conspiracy. It emanated, in my opinion, from a Minister, or from a high ministerial attendant. I am certain that the report was not a concoction. It was most unfortunate that it should have been published. I hope that we shall not hear any more statements of the kind.I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) incongruously describe the government spokesman mentioned in the report this morning as " an overworked phantom of the night ". I asked the right honorable gentleman, first, by interjection, whether hehad ever seen a phantom of the night, and, secondly, whether he had ever seen an overworked phantom, but I did not get a reply.

Finally, I remind honorable members that no evidence has been submitted today to the effect that, the high military command has asked for the conscription of the man-power of this countryfor overseas service. I believe that they feel that they have a full time job in training, for the defence of this country, the men that they already have available for this purpose. It will be a considerable time before we are in a position to use the man-power at our command to take the offensive. If I am cognizant of anything at all, it is that it will also be a considerable time before we shall be able to equip our troops in such a wayas to enable them to launch an attack against a wellequipped and well-trained and disciplined enemy.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. (Mr.fadden'samendment)standpartofthe question.

Suggest corrections