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Thursday, 2 May 1957

Mr HAYLEN (Parkes) .- This measure, the purpose of which is to amend the National Service Act, brings to a close the attempt made by the Goverment to get some sort of universal training scheme working in this country. Since the measure is practically machinery in nature arising from the general statement on defence made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), we shall assist the Government to get rid of what, patently, it desires to get rid of; and we shall do so by moving at the end of my speech an amendment that will seek the complete abolition of universal training.

When the act now being amended was originally before us we were told that the attitude of the Opposition in this matter was completely unpatriotic and unrealistic so far as its effect on our defence was concerned. Yet, years afterwards, we find, whether there has been a lack of administrative skill or a desire to change a plan, or whatever the reasons are, that the Government has now come substantially at least through its Ministry, if not through all of its members, to the same conclusion that was arrived at by the Opposition some years ago. That conclusion was that there were extreme difficulties in relation to a call-up of young trainees, aged eighteen years and upwards, the questions of manpower and administration being paramount among those difficulties. Now, we find that it has been decided to an almost Gilbertian degree to retain universal training while limiting the numbers to be trained. How will the chancelleries of Europe react to the fact that the new scheme will embrace the training of only 12,000 men annually? Either it is this, or it is that; either the scheme is useful, and can be proceeded with or it has been proven to be unmanageable, and something ought to be done about it. So, I suggest that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) ought to find some pleasure in accepting the amendment which I shall move, in a little while, to relieve him of an obligation which perhaps he would like to fulfil but has not been able to fulfil.

We do not intend, at this stage, to debate the merits of compulsory training under the universal training scheme, because the Government itself has abandoned it, at least in principle. This reduction of the numbers to 12,000, and the birthday ballots that will take place and which I shall explain later, are an instalment towards the eventual elimination of the scheme, which will become a thing of the past.

So,we find nothing to say about the bill other than to remind the House that the Labour party's attitude during the debate on the principal act, which provoked all sorts of strange charges being made about the party's attitude to the defence of Australia, has been proved to be logical and correct. The main point of the measure is that training in the future will be confined to the Army, that the Navy and Air Force can look after themselves with enlistments and, therefore, that the Army shall have these 12,000 lads. The number actually trained will be reduced from 33.000 to 12,000. The actual training time with the Citizen Military Forces will be reduced from 176 to 140 days and will be spread over four years, instead of three. So there is gradually a whittling away of this and that. We noted the embarrassment of the Minister for Labour and National Service in his speech. Usually he is most dynamic; he is in, possession of his facts and rolls them round with a great deal of clamour. There was also the web of honeyed oratory of the right honorable gentleman's leader.

Mr Whitlam - Not honeyed - oleaginous.

Mr HAYLEN - Honeyed or oleaginous. We have our choice of words. I should like to be fairly reasonable at this stage about this matter, which I consider to be very important. The national service scheme, which was the banner with a strange device, the excelsior of all military organization and planning, has now been dropped quietly overboard.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in another statement, referred to the fact that it has been a great social success. But I thought it was intended to train men for -war or, at least, for defence in case of attack. But all that the Prime Minister can squeeze out of it, as from the tail-end of a tooth-paste tube, are the ideals of personal discipline, loyalty, and service. They are splendid ideals. But how much has this scheme cost? You can get that sort of training in the Young Men's Christian Association for nothing. It was as a stern military measure that we called up the kids for military training. The intention was to give them a balanced idea of the country's difficulties and to put them through a regimen of military training. Personal discipline, loyalty and service are ideals, of course, but soldiers must also be able to fight.

The Minister for Labour and National Service also said that the scheme was a success socially, as it was. I think it was a splendid thing to bring the young men of the community together. You can live in a suburb foi- most of your life and get to know only the people next door, the church folk and a few others. You get the great amalgam of Australianism in many places, but one of the surest places is a military camp or a service camp, where men develop what we call the Australian spirit of service. In that way, the National Service Training scheme has been useful. But that was not the idea, I take it. Now we find that the Minister has decided - I thought I detected a note of reluctance in his voice - that he would rather be rid of it. In this connexion, 12,000 is a paltry number. It would not mean anything in war. It cannot have any real reference to defence. As a final gesture, the Government has decided on 12,000 before the dissolution of the scheme, which has failed. We said that it would fail, and we derive no pleasure from our accurate forecast.

In my personal opinion it failed because boys of eighteen were drafted to the Citizen Military Forces. The administration was unable to cope with two utterly dissimilar sets of people - the youngsters of tender years and the men who enlisted in the C.M.F. to become soldiers. Those men wanted wet canteens and the usual rugged life in the Army, and would have been pleased to have them. They had the essential qualities of a soldier. The boys were conscripts. Their parents were anxious about them. Political and other pressures were brought to bear on those who had to decide what the curriculum or syllabus should be. I think it is reasonable to conclude that the administration broke down because it could not handle the two sets of people. I am fortified in that from an unusual source. The " Sydney Morning Herald " had this to say yesterday in its leading article -

The military usefulness, therefore, of maintaining an annual intake of 12,000 national servicemen is precisely nil.

Sir Philip McBride - Evidently that paper is as ill-informed as you are.

Mr HAYLEN - That is an unfortunate remark, because I had decided not to read what it said about the Minister for Defence. I will still be good, kind and charitable, because I do not believe it entirely. I think he means well, but he has not quite got what it takes. The article went on -

Worse than that, it makes it very difficult - if not virtually impossible - to build up the volunteer component of the C.M.F. The volunteers have fallen away steadily since the introduction of national service, because the presence of eighteen.yearold conscripts in the ranks changed the whole character of the C.M.F., besides bringing unwelcome restrictions.

So long as national service trainees are incorporated in C.M.F. units, so long will the volunteer hold off. Yet without a very large recruitment of volunteers, the C.M.F., like the proverbial old soldier, will simply fade away. It does not seem, as it the Government has faced that fact.

That is the conclusion that we on this side -of the House have arrived at. In order not to miss the bus, and because we believe that it would help the Government at this stage to get rid of the debris of a scheme that has definitely failed, I move -

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place -thereof: - " because the compulsory training -scheme is to all intents, being abandoned by the reduction of annual intake of 33,000 to 12,000 youths, all of whom are to be drafted to the Army alone, and because youths are to be selected %y a system of ballots, the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the abolition of com.pulsory military training".

As the scheme is staggering to- inevitable doom, a bold proposal for its abolition is, (perhaps, a negative approach, but we believe that if the Government does abolish it, and then takes more interest in getting recruits for the C.M.F. a lot of good will be -done. There are many young men of eighteen years and over who would enlist in the Army if conditions were more attractive. Let us have a planned publicity campaign of some value. We should not dress the men up in lollypop uniforms. Give them a realistic, soldierly appearance. If there were some realism in relation to pensions and living standards and if the men were treated as professionals, then, despite the tug of full employment and the desire of many people to leave soldiering out of the scheme of things, we should get a solid core of the right type of people in the C.M.F1, and we should have resolved at least one problem which, apparently, the

Administration could not handle - that is. what to do with two groups of people dissimilar in approach, dissimilar in age and impossible to weld into a composite body, which, as every unit commander knows, is essential to create what we used to call esprit de corps.

I think the Government can see that we are not attempting just to take advantage of a problem with which it is faced in relation to defence. This matter is too important for that. The game is not lost. There can be a greater concentration on the C.M.F., with benefit to all concerned. If I may interpolate here, at least on the question of numbers we know that, in an atomic war - which we hope will never come - numbers are not pre-eminently important as they were in the past. The Prime Minister said so in his statement.

There are some quaint adjuncts to this final demise of the compulsory training system, such as selection by ballot on your birthday. This is the first time that the military authorities have invoked the horoscope either to dissipate or gather their numbers together. It all depends on the luck of the draw and on whether you happen to have been born in the merry month of May, or in the winter of our discontent, in the midst of July. The Minister for the Army will have a collection of lottery lads in the Army who, no doubt, will be called the "ballot boys", or the "ballot battalion ". I know that the Americans do this, but it is not necessary always to attempt the American system.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - This sounds like conversion to a corps de ballet!

Mr HAYLEN - Yes, my word it does. Perhaps if some of these lads are not very careful and show a leg, just as the corps de ballet does,, they may be out of the Army in due course. But is this scheme useful? I suppose there is not very much else that the Government could have done about it, but the ballot system is really a bit off, a bit un-Australian. There is going to be a terrific roar in the electorates, and we will all have to share the opprobrium when little Willie comes within the call-up and little Jackie misses out. The trouble will spread" beyond the bounds of party politics and will disturb the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) just as much as it will disturb me and other honorable members. It will look to the citizen as though a certain preference has been shown. A young man may upbraid his parents for his being born at a certain time, and may even say to them, " If you had shown a little reticence here and there I might not have been in the Army ". Honorable members can see how far it will go and how extremely dangerous it may be. Of course, this brings to mind the old Army song about the captains and the kings within the Army itself. However, it is not a laughing matter, and it may be quite serious. I view with some apprehension the forthcoming parade of mothers to my rooms at Campsie from 9 to 12, every Monday, to see me on this matter.

I do not think that the Minister has much of an opinion himself of the ballot system, but, as I have said, what can be done about it? Then, of course, there is the question of numbers. I think it is correct to say that most of the rural residents will not be in the services at all. It is a curious thing that, in all of these call-ups, the presence of a drill hall is the conditioning factor. With motor cars everywhere, perhaps the country fellows would like to participate in military training. If we look at the history of the first Australian Imperial Force and the second Australian Imperial Force, we see that the list of decorations won by countrymen is very long. Because of their rural training, men from the country are pretty good soldiers. I would go so far as to say that they are terrific soldiers. A lot of them will be excluded, but perhaps some of them will be volunteers. It seems that most of these 12,000 will consist of defaulters and accidental soldiers. It is going to be a polyglot, the most extraordinary group the country has ever produced.

Sir Philip McBride - That is a most extraordinary reflection to cast on the youth of Australia!

Mr HAYLEN - I am not referring to the youth of Australia. The Minister should not get angry with me, because he said, and so did the Minister for Labour and National Service, that the defaulter would not be considered as having a birthday at all. All the planning that went to his creation is to be dismissed by this legislation, which says that if you are not in a birthday group you may be in your birthday suit before the doctor and slammed into camp because you defaulted. Every defaulter must answer the call. It is true that the Minister for Labour and National Service did say that the figures in relation to defaulters were not high, and they could be smaller, but they are certain, no matter what the horoscope says, of being placed in the Army.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Does the honorable member think that it is fair?

Mr HAYLEN - I would not like to say anything about defaulters, because everybody has his own history. Some people did fall in and some people did not when the bugle sounded " Be a defaulter as long as you like, as long as you answer the call ". I see an answering gleam in the eye of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). But there are defaulters and defaulters. In this instance, there may have been a lot of reasons for taking this course. I do not want to push this thing to an absurdity. Other speakers from this side of the House will deal with other aspects of the matter to try to help the Government with this problem. Since the Navy and the Air Force can manage, and as the Army is to have these 12,000 trainees as a sort of token, could not we get rid of the scheme altogether and adopt once again the voluntary system?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - It is a necessary adjunct of the militia.

Mr HAYLEN - Yes, I know that you have to think of something different. In the strategy of to-day, as to how to gather bodies which are not sufficient in this country, the essential problem is, " Where do you get the man-power "? The problem also involves the question of trainers, of how many people can be absorbed from the Regular Army to train these lads. The Government had one problem based on another, until the edifice collapsed. Everybody can see that plainly. But there must be another way out without these 12,000. I think that the Government should give that a thought.

Sir Philip McBride - You would assist voluntary enlistment for the first time?

Mr HAYLEN - We have always insisted on voluntary service, but we do not support, and we never have supported, compulsory service. I suggest that the Minister read " Hansard " and keep himself up to date. We have not a negative approach to defence in this matter; we have a positive approach, with very positive and firmly based ideas of our own on it. This change of outlook by the Government is tardy recognition of that fact. The Minister should see that that is so. In return for our interest in defence matters we have been called a lot of " reds ", and accused of having an unrealistic attitude. Now, the Government has come round to Labour's view that the scheme cannot be sustained. Nevertheless, honorable members opposite still say that we have an unrealistic attitude and that our attitude is contrary to the Australian interest.

This matter goes beyond the call-up of youngsters. It covers the whole question of enlistment in the forces of this country. But it seems that it will be the Army which will get these 12,000 trainees, and I think that that will not, in the long run, contribute anything to defence generally.

I have touched on the subject of deferment, and I have also touched on training. I am pleased to see that in the matter of apprenticeship, which has been mentioned by the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) so frequently, the Government has had a change of heart. I think it is very reasonable for the Minister to decide that now, because of the limited time of training-

Mr Curtin - A death-bed repentance!

Mr HAYLEN - A death-bed repentance, yes, but it is nice to see them repenting, even at the death-bed, in a political sense. Apprenticeship has posed a real problem, and I do not think that the apprenticeship commissions really understood how acute it was. But the hard work and the persistent questions of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, amongst other things, have brought a result. We are quite satisfied with the circumstances which now surround the position of apprentices in this matter. As the Minister has said, with the alteration in training and the shortening of the period, these provisions should be reviewed. It also has been pointed out that the call-up will come in January, with a chance that universities and technical colleges will be closed until late in February. Some businesses, too, have a three-week lay-off at that time, This is a very sensible plan. In fact, it is about the most sensible side of the proposals.

I have said all I want to say on this matter, because the real essence of the thing, the essentials of it, should be debated, and probably will be debated, later to-night when defence proper is discussed. This matter is a simple one in that the bill seeks to reduce to 12,000 the number of national service trainees in any year, and in doing so it creates a kind of Gilbertian situation. Surely, the 33,000 were few enough! 1 conclude by saying that the amendment moved in my name represents the point of view of the Opposition in regard to this matter. It has not been moved just to be in opposition. It has been moved because the Government, obviously, is in a dilemma. It has not had the courage to abolish the scheme entirely, but hopes that it will die because of lack of numbers, for one thing, and because of the lack of a proper spirit in relation to the training of our young men for service in the defence of this country. I leave it to other honorable members from this side of the House to touch upon other aspects of the matter, but I, myself, reserve the right, as i think I may, to deal with it in relation to matters referred to by the Prime Minister in the paper on defence which will be debated later to-night.

Mr Ward - I second the amendment.

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