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Thursday, 9 May 1957

Mr FAILES (Lawson) .- I should like to say at the outset that I wholeheartedly support national service training. I think that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) also indicated that he supports it. His main criticism was directed at compulsory service as opposed to voluntary service. He admitted, perhaps rather reluctantly, that he had derived some benefit from his service at an earlier age. For my part, I say definitely that I derived very great benefit from service in what I think were called the compulsory cadets, in 1912 or 1913, and I found that that early service stood me in very good stead 30 years later.

I do not propose to discuss the bill, which I support, but I do want to discuss the manner in which it may be administered. The principal act provides for a complete call-up. The idea was that there would be no exceptions, and 1 think that most honorable members agree that that is a very sound principle. I know that many Government supporters have resolutely set their faces against any attempt to relieve people of their obligations, and the scheme was very successful. However, there came a period when certain deferments of service were made. This introduced complications, which, to my mind, will possibly become even more aggravated because the size of the call-up is to be reduced. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said in his second-reading speech, referring to the existing arrangements -

Present arrangements under which service is deferred of young men who live at such a distance from a Citizen Military Forces training centre that it is impracticable to train, or who are employed full time on a rural holding, as permanent rural workers engaged in the production of food and raw materials, will continue.

Trainees are called up at the age of eighteen by the Department of Labour and National Service, but when they are sent to a unit to undertake their service, they come under the control of the Department of the Army. This causes an anomaly. I realize that it may affect also those employed in industries other than the pastoral industry, but, after all, I know my own industry best. A considerable number of country lads of eighteen are working on the family property, and they do not, at that age, know exactly where they are going in life. Having been called up. they become members of the Citizen Military Forces. They do perhaps one year's training, and have three years' parttime training to complete afterwards. If they engage in rural production for the first time after completing the full-time training, they are not allowed deferment under the arrangements mentioned by the Minister. If they make application to their military unit for deferment, they do not always get it. They certainly do not get it automatically, as the Minister's statement might lead them to believe they should do. I think that the anomaly should be corrected.

The authorities may ask what should be done about those who have gone out of rural production if those who have left one occupation to go into rural production are to be exempted. This Parliament makes laws, and, through the Executive, it makes regulations to achieve a certain purpose. If, in doing something, we impose hardship on people, we or the Executive have a duty to find some way to remove that hardship. I am not content to be told that these problems exist. I believe it is our job to solve them.

I shall briefly recapitulate what I have said. If at the age of eighteen years a boy is called up, and at that time is not employed in a rural occupation - which no one will doubt is of tremendous value to the country - he becomes liable for service under this legislation. But after a year or two years he may decide to engage in share farming. What is more natural than for a lad of about twenty years of age who has saved a few pounds to say, " I can get a bit of plant. I know a farm where there is more plant, and I can start off on my own "?

Mr Curtin - It sounds all right.

Mr FAILES - It is done in many cases. Having got into that occupation, he finds that he must do his military training. I know of numerous cases in which a man who was going to sow his wheat, just after a heavy fall of rain, was required to go into camp for three weeks. In such cases, the whole of the man's income for the year may be lost and a crop that might have been produced may be lost to the nation. That seems to me to be most unreasonable. The position is that at the time of call-up a lad is under the Department of National Service, but after he has been transferred to a unit he becomes a part of the Citizen Military Forces, under different control. It has been said that every attempt will be made to hold camps at times suitable to these seasonal occupations. For the benefit of those honorable members who are not familiar with these seasonal occupations in country districts, let me explain that it is impossible to tell to a day, to a week, or sometimes to a month, when a particularly important function will be necessary, such as harrowing just after rain, sowing after rain or, perhaps, crutching when the flies are bad.

What do we find? A camp that is held in the first half of the year is most unsuitable to men engaged in rural occupations, yet from my district men are taken to camps at Singleton which have been held invariably in the first half of the year. Only the other day I had an application for a lad who was called into camp in March, when he was preparing his ground for sowing. He asked for deferment for twelve months, because the previous camp had been held in January, which was quite suitable. He did not get the deferment for twelve months, but was deferred to a camp held at the end of April - that is, just at the beginning of the seeding season. He asked again that he be granted the deferment he had asked for, but he heard nothing further about it. It was not until just before the camp was due that I. heard of the case.

These things are continually occurring. I have quite a file of these cases. Therefore, I ask the Minister who would be responsible for the regulations governing this type of thing to look into the matter and to see that these cases are dealt with in the spirit that was intended, so that men who are employed full-time on a rural holding or as permanent rural workers producing food and raw materials will be granted deferment, irrespective of whether they require it at the time of call-up or within the first year or so of their training.

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