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Thursday, 9 May 1957

Mr FALKINDER (Franklin) .- I rise to speak for the second time on the further amendment to the National Service Act. The national service training scheme was introduced originally in 1950 by the present Government. It was a step which, I feel, was made with some political trepidation as to its acceptance by the people of Australia. Since that time, it has been amply demonstrated that national service training, in its sense as such, has been a very eminently successful policy of this Government completely accepted by the people. Approximately two years ago we had cause to amend the national service training scheme by reducing the intake. We are now faced with a further and somewhat drastic amendment which will reduce the intake very considerably.

Quite frankly, 1 am one of those who oppose this measure. I believe that national service training, as such, may have little potential service on defence value. I think that is agreed by quite a number of honorable members on both sides of this House. But I do say precisely that it has a tremendous value as far as the morale of the young people of this country is concerned. I suppose one can be accused of adopting, shall we say, a Victorian father's outlook for saying that discipline is good for the young man, but it is true to say that there is not a young man, no matter in which area he may live, who suffers by good and decent discipline, because good and decent discipline is something that we learn during our school lives and in various facets of our later lives.

Mr Duthie - And in our political lives.

Mr FALKINDER - And in our political lives. I will accept that amendment, if it is agreeable to the honorable member.

The point I wish to make is that no harm comes to any young man who is trained under a system which gives him understanding with his fellow young men, and discipline, not necessarily imposed discipline but, to a large degree, self-discipline. In that we find one of the greatest inherent qualities for the betterment and good of the young people of Australia.

What are we proposing to do? We are proposing to reduce the intake of national service trainees to a degree which, I regret to say, I quite honestly believe to be somewhat farcical, because, in the final result it means that by ballot of birthday, if I may use that term, there will be but a few men trained and there will be many who will not be trained. I am not arguing the question whether we should train all our young men of that age for defence purposes; I am arguing that it is very wrong indeed not to train in citizenship all those of our young men who may be involved.

There are many honorable members on this side of the House - I hope there are some on the other side - who honestly believe there is an alternative to the present proposal to put before the House. Quite simply stated, that alternative is: " Let us accept the fact that the defence value is low, but let us not ignore the fact that we can make a very real contribution to this country by accepting the proposal that although the defence value is low we should train these young men in civil defence ". There are many who do not see the inherent dangers in having a people, allegedly remote from atomic attack, not only untrained, to defend their country but not trained in the means of protecting themselves in the event of an atomic attack. I honestly believe that a really good purpose could be served by training in civil defence protection those men who are to come under the national service training scheme.

Unlike some other honorable members, I have not yet had the opportunity of going to Mount Macedon to see the training given there, but I have spoken to many honorable members who have been there and every one of them, irrespective of which side of political thought he supports, has said to me, in effect, " For the first time, my eyes have been opened and I realize how important is this business of doing something in the way of civil defence ". I believe the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) was one of the first of the members of this Parliament really to draw attention to this fact and I do indeed regret that this Parliament, and from it the Cabinet, have not seen fit to do something positive by way of civil defence training.

Without canvassing the whole scope of defence - we have had a debate on that question already - I suggest that it is simply a matter of looking at two simple facts. The first is the possibility that we can be attacked by atomic weapons, whether it be by some guided missile, whether it be by an atomic weapon projected from an aircraft carrier, or whether it be an atomic weapon discharged from a submarine into Sydney, Melbourne, or any other major part of Australia. In view of that possibility, then, of course, if one is sensible, one tries to do something to correct the situation we have now. We have not corrected it. We could correct it by providing some means of clearing up the mess that we will have if an atomic attack does happen.

I believe it is idle for honorable members opposite to advocate that we should be friends with the rest of the world and that we should forget about defence as such. Until we have a world police force, as was suggested earlier this evening by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) we should be foolish not to make preparations for the defence of our country.

I hope I am not disgressing too much by referring to defence, but I do want to point out that I am in agreement with one pertinent principle of the measure under discussion. I refer to the proposal that all national service trainees who are to be trained in future shall be trained by the Army. I repeat I am in complete agreement with that. I also believe that it is not untrue to say that the national service training undergone by those trained in the Air Force or the component of the Air Force associated with national service training, was rather futile. Young men were selected because they had been members of an air training corps or because their fathers had been in the Air Force. Those were the criteria adopted to induct them into the Air Force for national service training. The truth of the matter is that a very large proportion of these young men, who may have been potential recruits for the permanent Air Force, were trained in the most menial of jobs and, in my view, were not given proper instruction at all. It is probable that training in the Navy was considerably better. However, accepting national service on its original basis, it is straight-out training of an elementary kind to induce or to make young men learn the rudiments of carrying a rifle - and there is not very much more to it than that in the military sense. The naval training fell far short of giving these young men any qualifications that would make them useful in the Navy. Because national service is essentially an Army function - under this bill it will be, and I commend it - a very proper step has now been taken for the better.

The proposal now before us contains an element of stupidity, to put it in the plainest terms. From now on, there will be two intakes a year in Tasmania. Those intakes will be so small that, in effect, the result will be a waste of time for instructors. Why should not the Army authorities, who will be responsible, discard the proposition of two intakes of a small number and have one intake ' annually of a larger number? That would be a great deal more convenient for people who may be called up and who are, for want of a better phrase, in reserved or important occupations, such as university students. Let us have only one intake, completely trained as a larger unit, and thus have a little efficiency and, at the same time, effect a saving.

As I said at the beginning, I do not intend to speak at length on this matter. I have expressed my opinions previously. What we are debating at the moment is a half-hearted measure: it is the best of neither worlds. We are doing nothing more nor less, in my view, than deferring the indecent burial of the national service scheme. I want to come back to my original point that the value of the nationalservice scheme does not necessarily lie in: its defence aspect. It lies very strongly, and for the good of the country, in its citizenship value for our young men. ] know that some people are prepared toscoff at that idea; but it is not the outlook of a father of the Victorian era to have young men imbued with a sense of discipline and, more importantly than that, to give them the experience of living each with the other. I have seen these intakes of lads from the country and cities, from their various occupations or pretensions tooccupations, and have observed how they mix. Because of the very system, they become better young men. I deplore very strongly the attempt which is being madeto reduce the national service scheme.

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