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Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Mr CRAMER (Bennelong) (Minister for the Army) . - This debate has ranged widely over subjects that have nothing to do with the clause under discussion. However, since certain statements have been made, I think it is right and proper that I should get on my feet to challenge some of them. Many honorable members opposite have suggested that the calling up of 12,000 national service trainees will serve no useful purpose in our defence scheme. I should not like any member of the public or any prospective trainee to get that impression. I have said before, and honorable members on the Government side have supported my view, that these 12,000 national service trainees will be doing an essential job in the defence structure of this country. Would any member of the Opposition or any one in Australia challenge the effectiveness of the Citizen Military Forces? Honorable members opposite are virtually saying that the C.M.F. has no value in Australian defence. I challenge every member of the Opposition who makes such a suggestion, because, as I said the other night, the C.M.F. is the very core of Australia's defence system. The scheme under which 12,000 national service trainees will be called up is essential to the C.M.F. structure. The C.M.F. is divided into three divisions. If we are to have those formations at two-thirds strength, we must have 12,000 national service trainees going through each year. That will maintain the number at 50,700 in accordance with the defence policy that was discussed in this chamber last week.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! 1 have ruled as irrelevant the statements which the Minister is answering. I cannot permit him to debate the whole subject of national service. He should direct his attention once more to the clause before the committee.

Mr CRAMER - I want to make perfectly clear just what is being done. The principle of deferment has been applied, without the need for amendment, ever since the principal act was brought down. Considerable discretion has always been given to the Minister and every one will agree that it has been exercised fairly and equitably. There is no need for any one to quibble about it now in any way. The amendment before us merely clarifies the position in relation to an application to the court, and the further amendment introduced by the Minister deals with the right of a national service trainee who is not in the ballot to volunteer for service. I think that that very desirable end could have been achieved without this amendment, but the position will now be clear beyond doubt. The Government wants every one to feel that there is a place for any young man who wishes to undertake national service training or to serve elsewhere in the armed forces. No doors will be shut to such young men. I regret very much some of the things that have been said to-day. This is a very serious matter and it is important to the defence of Australia. I am sure that the people are in agreement with what the Government is doing. We want every young man who is not so fortunate as to be included in the ballot - undoubtedly there is a great deal of benefit to be derived from national service training - to feel that he will have an opportunity to serve his country if he wishes.

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