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Thursday, 21 March 1957


Mr LINDSAY (Hinders) .- As one of the very junior members of this Parliament, I should like to start by congratulating the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) on their excellent speeches in moving and seconding the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. Those two new members, together with those others who joined us at the elections of 1955, are very worthy additions to this team.

The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) challenged us all on the issue of housing, but I am getting tired of hearing the same things repeated over and over again by honorable members opposite and as the Address-in-Reply debate affords an opportunity to deal with other subjects,I propose to confine myself to two aspects of the Governor-General's Speech.

His Excellencystarted off with expressions of loyalty. We all know that our loyalty to our sovereign is very great, but at the same time we are sometimes slightly lacking in loyalty to Australia itself, and we. are not apt to think as well as we should for the future of this great country of ours. There are times when sacrifices have to be made. World tension is, strung tighter to-day than it has ever been before. We have seen, in the last few years, evidence of that tension virtually on our own doorstep. I refer to the fighting in Korea and Viet Nam. When that fighting subsided, the theatre moved to the Middle East, and what has happened there can hurt us very badly. There has been trouble in Yemen, near Aden, our oiling station. The French have had trouble in Morocco. There is trouble in Cyprus, which is one of our bases in the Middle East, and finally, as a culminating point, our enemies have used President Nasser as a cat's paw to give us the biggest hit we have had in this generation by the seizing of the Suez Canal. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has suggested that one way to get back to the status quo would be to expel Russia from the United Nations, but I do not think that would do any good. The honorable member for Wills has said that we must attend conferences, but we all know what conferences produce. The good boys say, " Yes, I will do that ", but the naughty boys say, "I am going to carry on asI have been doing, and, what is more, T am going to step it up a bit ". There are two things which I consider will do more than any others to maintain peace in this world. One is good diplomacy and the other is the restraining influence of the United States. Diplomacy can be helped by every one of us thinking before he speaks. Equally well, it can be given a severe setback by thoughtless utterances. Anyhow, I trust that diplomacy will give us a breathing space in this period of the world's history when a spark might set off a war. 1 want to deal with, so to speak, the alpha and omega of His Excellency's Speech. First, I shall touch on our defence measures, and secondly, I shall deal with a subject on which I have been expecting to hear from honorable members opposite, but on which they have been strangely silent. I refer to social services. I do not want to be critical, but I want to try to give food for a little thought. All of our policies, so far as I have seen them during the short time I have been here, are policies of an addition here and a deletion there, but T feel that the time has come when we must go in for radical changes. On the subject of defence, the Governor-General said -

My Government has directed special efforts towards the development of the most efficient defence system that our resources can sustain.

He added that adequate facilities for debate would be provided, but I want to say something on that subject at this stage. Defence is a matter of money and man-power. Outnational service training scheme is excellent, but the period of training is too short. Can we say that it is putting what we need into the Australian Regular Army? We have a population of 10,000,000, and the population of the United Kingdom is between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000. Whilst we have about three battalions of regular troops, the United Kingdom has, I think, about fiftyseven. So, to be on the same basis as the United Kingdom, we should have about twelve battalions.

We complain that we cannot get recruits for the Regular Army, and that is so. Much depends on the way in which one goes about getting recruits. We put up posters and insert advertisements in the newpapers but, apart from those, all that we really see of the Army are a few office types in the streets of our capital cities during our lunchtime. Although they are smart, possibly these do not give our young men the idea, that that is what they would like to be if they joined the Army.

The pay of members of the Regular Army is comparable with the pay of men engaged in civilian occupations. In fact, it is good. Therefore, why cannot we get men to join? I suggest the reason is that the other attractions offered are not of a suitable nature. At present, a man enlisting in Victoria can sign on the dotted line and find himself at Puckapunyal for six years' service. The first thought that I should like to put forward is that, instead of enlisting for six years, men should be offered a choice of enlisting for three years, with nine years on the reserve; for five years, with seven years on the reserve; for seven years, with five years on the reserve; or for nine years, with three years on the reserve. That could be done. Men should be given an opportunity to enlist for three years and at the end of that period, if they so desired, to change to a contract for five years' service, with seven years on the reserve. Then, a potential recruit would not feel that, if he enlisted and found life in the Army to be uncongenial, he would be tied down to it for a long time. Probably many men would re-engage for longer terms of service, but even if they did not do so, our reserves would be built up.

There is another aspect of short-term service with the Regular Army. On the other side of the world, it is used as a poor man's university. The men are given opportunities for a good education, under good schoolmasters. At the end of their service, their only liability, apart from the possibility of recall during an emergency, is to serve for a week in camp every two years or something like that. They are issued with discharge books showing, in most cases, that their characters have been assessed either as " Exemplary " - the highest grade, "Very Good" or "Good". Therefore, each has a passport into civilian life and employers know that he is a good man whom it would be well worth while to employ. At the same time, the country has an embryo army and a fully trained cadre, ready for any emergency in which it would be necessary to expand the Army., and possibly, in these days, to expand it in a hurry.

My second thought on this subject is that we know that the naval and air forces do not find it so difficult to attract recruits as does the Army. The chief reason is that both the naval and the air forces, in the main, are stationed near the capital cities. At the moment, we are spending £1,000,000 on a barracks to house one battalion of troops, with a few extras, in Puckapunyal, 60 or 70 miles away from the capital city of Victoria. Puckapunyal is a wonderful training ground, but it should be used only as a training ground. If we built Army barracks nearer to the capital cities, we should have an efficient Army and, in addition, more people would be ready to join it. Field training could be done in camp at Puckapunyal. When I say that, I am speaking for Victoria. The men would expect to live under camp conditions for their company training, and possibly for their annual battalion training, but recruits could easily be trained, and trained well, in barracks located, so to speak, in civilization. In fact, super-efficient training can be given on the barrack square. I do not refer only to forming fours and about-turning, but also to training in musketry and other things that a soldier needs. In a barracks, there would be lecture rooms for further training, sand tables and almost everything else required. By the end of three years the Army would be turning out really first-class soldiers for use when they were really needed in the field and also for use as instructors to train other men.

I should like to say also that there are further attractions in the military life. When a good man knows his job in the service he gets plenty of time off. That is a great attraction. He also gets plenty of sport, something of which we as a nation are very fond. I think that in these conditions we might find that we can get all the recruits we want, and possibly more than we want. I -will not say that, in the initial stages, life in camp here will be the same as it was at home. At Aldershot the hooter used to sound at half-past twelve every day. Its timing was so regular that people set their watches by it. I once heard one of my brother officers say, when synchronising his watch, " Ah. the military day. is now over ".

I turn now to my second subject, social services. 1 should like to congratulate the Government on the excellent advances that have been made in this field. We have had some really good Ministers in charge of social services, who have done an enormous amount of good. I should also like to congratulate the officers of the Department of Social Services on the thought they give to their work and to solving the problems that come before them, as well as for the extreme courtesy which they extend to all people who submit cases of hardship and apparent injustice to the department.

His Excellency said in the Speech -

My Government has a lively sense of the needs of the social services, and particularly of the difficulties of pensioners of all types who have no other source of income.

When he opened this Parliament at the beginning of last year's session he said -

The social services structure will be kept under continuing review.

He then spoke about homes for the aged, which have been a great boon and blessing to many hundreds of old people. The number of such homes is increasing rapidly, but, although charitable people are providing the money to build them, and having their contributions matched by this Government, the rate of provision of those homes is not sufficient to cope with the number of people who may desire to become inmates of them. In the Speech last year the Governor-General went on to say -

A programme of research into the special problems of the elderly will be undertaken shortly by my Government.

To:day, this country of ours, Australia, is a great country, a rich country, and we are at the stage at which we have a large number of aged people in our population. The aged people of this particular era probably did not work under the conditions that apply in the workers' paradise of to-day. During their prime they were probably working for £1 or 30s. a week in what might be termed the bad old days. They did not have the opportunity to save. They did not have the opportunity to own their homes, even at the end of 30 or 40 years of work. They did not retire with cars in their possession.

The policy towards pensioners has been rather like other policies in that it has been a policy of additions. It has not been a policy of deletions. One is apt to calculate how many millions of pounds extra an increase of 2s. 6d. or 5s. a week in pension will cost the revenue. We want some radical changes in the inside workings of social services. I have no sympathy at all with organized demonstrations such as we have nad at the Commonwealth Parliament offices in Melbourne, and even here in Canberra. I feel that there are a great many of us who do have the time to reach the bottom strata of our electorates. I know that in my own electorate there are countless cases of age pensioners, and even of invalid pensioners, who are living on a single unit of pension. The rents they pay are high. Somebody on the other side of the House mentioned that some such people even have to live in chicken houses, and some one else said, " Oh, no, that is not so ". I have two people in my electorate who are living in a chicken house for which they are paying 30s. a week rent. I was asked to call on them in connexion with an entirely different matter, and the landlady told me that she did not want to have anything to do with me, because she was a supporter of the Labour party. Yet she was charging 30s. a week for a chicken house.

There are charitable organizations to care for elderly people, and there are the homes for the aged built under the government scheme, but the machinery of the provision of accommodation for elderly people is not quick enough to meet urgent cases. I should like to see an inner scheme working under which, when somebody has a very definite case of hardship, the case can be put and dealt with urgently. The machinery could be operated through, perhaps, members of Parliament, or churches, the police or electoral officers. It does not matter how it operates so long as it can be started in motion. But the winter will be nearly over when the budget comes before us, and the urgency may be considered to have vanished. I bring this matter up now so that we can have plenty of time, without organized demonstrations, to look into it. I hope that some members of the Opposition will support me. It appears at the moment that their orders are to back the tottering governments of New South Wales and Queensland in this red herring they are dragging along about the housing situation, which is probably designed to hide their own bungling policies on housing.







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