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Wednesday, 16 March 1966

Mr GALVIN (Kingston) .- I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). It may be timely for me to devote some time at the beginning of my 20 minutes to some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten). He spoke about the struggle against Communism. When he speaks of Communism it is well to remember that Lenin wrote: " When the capitalists trade with us they will finance their own destruction ". I remind the honorable member for Indi that the Holt Government, like the Menzies Government, gives more generous credits to Communist China than it gives to India, a fellow member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Government has given Communist China every assistance to obtain credit. Country Party members who get up and speak about China and the threat of Communism do not worry about Communist China when they are selling their wheat to feed Chinese soldiers and to feed the Vietcong who may be responsible for shooting down Australian youth. They do not worry when they sell their wool to China to clothe her Red soldiers. Honorable members opposite say the Communist threat is coming from the north. They do not worry about the metals being sold to China that could well be made into equipment to be used against our own forces. There needs to be more consistency on the Government side.

Mr Robinson - What would the honorable member do?

Mr GALVIN - If the honorable member for Cowper really believes that China is a threat to peace in South East Asia, and the ultimate threat to Australia, does he think it is wise to feed the Chinese soldiers well and to equip them well in order to set them in the field to fight against conscripts from this country whom this Government is prepared to send into battle against them? That is the question honorable members opposite have to answer. It is not we on this side who have to answer it.

I remember requesting the then Prime Minister some 12 months or so ago - the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) came into the argument - to arrange for the officers of the Department of Trade and Industry to have a talk with the officers of the Department of External Affairs. There is no doubt that we have very efficient officers in the Department of Trade and Industry. They know how to negotiate with the enemy. They can sit down with the enemy and arrange to sell our wheat, wool and metal. They trust the enemy. They will give him credit. But the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) and the honorable member for Indi ask: " How can one talk with these people? Who will talk with them? Who will trust them? " Honorable members opposite can trust them well enough when it means a few pounds, shillings and pence or dollars and cents in their pockets, but they will not trust them when it comes to getting them to the conference table to try to bring about peace in this sorry world of ours. The lives of Australians are at stake. The Government will be judged on its consistency when it says that China is the enemy. If honorable members opposite are sincere in that statement they would not be doing the things they are doing. If they continue to do these things it does them very little credit.

Mr Reynolds - Trading with the enemy.

Mr GALVIN - If they are the enemy, honorable members opposite are trading with them and equipping them, perhaps to shoot down our own national service boys.

The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition reads in part - " this House records - (1) its most emphatic opposition to the despatch of conscripted youths for service in Vietnam and the increased military commitment in that country. . . .

The sending of 20 year olds to Vietnam is fast becoming a major issue in this country. It is not a question of the Regular Army being sent to Vietnam, but a question of the Government sending national service trainees. It is not prepared to give them a vote to elect the government of the day, but it is prepared to put rifles in their hands after a very short period of training. It should be remembered that ever since the national service scheme was suggested there has been a lot of shuffling by Government members on the question of what national service training would mean. The Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes), who is at the table, was formerly the Minister for the Army. We all remember that in October two years ago he told the Returned Services League in Tasmania that conscription was not the answer to the problem of the Australian forces.

Mr Chipp - That is not true. Why does the honorable member say it?

Mr GALVIN - It is true, and the record shows it. Within a fortnight the then Prime Minister announced that national service training would be introduced. I do not blame the Minister.

Mr Chipp - He said nothing of the kind, and the honorable member knows that he did not.

Mr GALVIN - He did. Let us check what was said, if we have to.

Dr Forbes - Tell us something about the city baths.

Mr GALVIN - The Minister is getting very excited, but we all know that he said it was not in the interests of this country at that time to have conscription and that there was no intention of bringing in national service training. Within a matter of two weeks thereafter the Government announced that the present scheme would be introduced. When the scheme was introduced in this House, and some honorable members on this side suggested that the outcome would be that national service trainees might be sent to Malaysia or Vietnam, Government supporters were horrified at the thought. They were incensed that Opposition members should make such a suggestion. That was prior to the Senate election. After the Senate election the then Minister for the Army said - he was the first one to make it clear, I at least give him credit for that - that the boys might well go overseas. He said that they would be incorporated with the Regular Army and that if a detachment of the Regular Army was sent overseas they would probably go with it. This intention became crystal clear last May when amendments were made to the Defence Act and the National Service Act. These amendments made the Government's intentions clear beyond any doubt, if there was a doubt. The Acts were amended to provide that in a time of a defence emergency the serving time of national service trainees could be extended to five years. The National Service Act was amended to enable national service trainees to soldier on in time of war. That was understandable. In time of war it would not be expected that the service of personnel in the defence forces would be terminated. But at the same time the Act was amended to allow the Government to extend the term of national service training in what was described as a time of defence emergency, which was defined as meaning the period between the publication of a proclamation declaring that a state of emergency exists in relation to Australia and the publication of a proclamation that the state of defence emergency no longer exists. In other words, if the Government considers that there is a state of defence emergency, all that it needs to do is publish a notice proclaiming that the emergency exists and the emergency will be. deemed to continue to exist until the Government decides to publish another notice to the effect that the emergency has ended.

What is the position today? We are not at war. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) has made it clear that the nation is not at war. We have troops abroad fighting and being killed. Reports of casualties are coming through all the time. How do we describe the situation? It is not a time of defence emergency, so what is it? How close are we to a state of defence emergency? If at a time when no state of war exists and no defence emergency exists we are prepared to conscript Australian youth to fight and die overseas, what we will do if the Government decides that there is a state of war? I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the present situation needs to be looked at more closely. Some months ago I asked the then Acting Minister for Defence, Mr. Hulme, what would happen if we did not reach our quota of recruits for the Regular Army. I asked whether in that event we would increase the intake of national service trainees and send large numbers of them overseas to replace and relieve the battalion now serving in Vietnam. I received a rather evasive answer. But it is quite clear now that it had always been the intention of the Government to conscript the youth of this country to serve overseas and it is doing so without seeing whether it is possible to raise a volunteer force to serve in Vietnam.

The honorable member for Indi told us about the enthusiasm among the troops in Vietnam. If there is so much enthusiasm one would expect a rush of volunteers to enlist for service in Vietnam. Yet the Government is failing to attract recruits to serve in that area. The fact is that on one hand the Government is trading with the enemy and on the other hand is sending our young fellows to fight them.

Mr Chipp - Does the honorable member agree that China is the enemy?

Mr GALVIN - I do agree and that is why 1 am very much concerned. I agree with that, but I cannot understand why, when honorable members opposite agree that China is the enemy and the Country Party agrees that it is the enemy, and it will not come to the conference table, Australia continues to trade with that country. I agree with the Foreign Secretary in the United Kingdom Government, Mr. Michael Stewart.

Mr Hughes - The honorable member should speak to his leader, in that case.

Mr GALVIN - But I want to know and I also have something to say. Like the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), I should like to know why the United Kingdom Government is trading with North Vietnam, lt is a strange situation when we can barter and trade with the enemy but at the same time engage in war with him. What the United Kingdom and the United States Governments do is their own concern. What the Australian Government does is our concern. We are entitled to ask questions of members of the Country Party about this position; they constantly raise their voices, as the honorable member for Indi does, against this great threat to Australia from the north. The honorable members who sit in that corner of the chamber are very vocal about it, but they are silent when asked to explain why they are prepared to feed the enemy, clothe the enemy and send materials to China which can equip the enemy to fight against our own troops. Good gracious, Mr. Speaker, our memories in this nation are short. I ask honorable members to take their minds back to a period before the last war when a man who until recently was the Prime Minister of this country earned a nickname because of our sales of scrap iron to another country. The Government at that time refused to heed the warnings that were given. Today the Government is still prepared to trade with China. Money is more important than lives to honorable members opposite. Consequently, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.

Another point made in the amendment deserves great consideration and support. Be. ore sitting down I should like briefly to comment on water conservation and revert to a plea that I made when the estimates for the Department of National Development were last debated. I should like to know when the Government proposes '.o give some consideration to the use of nuclear energy for power and water desalination in Australia. New Zealand is now added to the long list of countries that have plans for nuclear power stations. We are waiting anxiously for something to be done in Australia. Although the matter is probably being considered by the Government time is running out. We ought to be in the field now.

The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has spoken about natural gas. Natural gas is coming and it will be exploited by vested interests. I think that we would be wiser to conserve natural gas to be developed by our experts for use in petroleum products in an attempt to preserve our balance of trade and to concentrate on nuclear energy to supply power to the nation. Let us get the officers of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority moving on a scheme to develop the use of nuclear energy. We need to do things urgently in Australia. The Chifley Government started the Snowy scheme some 20 years ago. Now is the time for us to start the next phase of development in this country. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.

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