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Thursday, 17 March 1966


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The point of order was not upheld.


Mr KING - And rightly so, Sir. I agree with your ruling. My point is that during that period the Australian Labour Party was in power. There was conscription then and troops were sent abroad. It could be said that a line was drawn as to how far the Government should be committed to sending troops abroad.


Mr Reynolds - There was a declared war then.


Mr KING - Yes, and there is a shooting war going on now. I can see no difference. As far as the line I referred to was concerned, it was like trying to stop a river at a given point. Unless a dam is built a river knows no boundaries. War knows no boundaries. Conscripts were then serving in New Guinea and in Borneo to my knowledge, and I do not know in what other areas they served. It cannot be said that the present proposal is unique or that it is the first time we have proposed sending conscripts overseas. I want to quote now from "Mufti", the Victorian Returned Services League paper, containing a report of a statement by the Victorian President of the organisation. The article states - " Our troops in Vietnam are probably the finest we have ever committed to action," the Victorian RSL State President, Mr. W. H. Hall, said following his return from Vietnam and Malaysia recently.

I cannot quote the whole article, but another small paragraph that I am sure the Opposition will be glad to hear reads as follows -

The Australian troops to whom he spoke freely expressed the opinion they would rather be fighting the Communists in Vietnam than fighting Chinese Communists in Australia.

I should like the Opposition, and anyone else who may be interested, to remember that. Where do we fight our enemy? In his territory or in our territory? I draw attention to what the Leader of the Opposition said on Tuesday last. He said -

The third observation the Prime Minister made was that the Vietnam war is of greater interest to Australia than it is to the United States. This is not so. It is completely false. The United States went into Vietnam before Australia did. . . .

For the life of me I cannot understand the attitude of Opposition members in relation to this matter. What do they want? Are they prepared to let Australia fall? Of course Australia has a bigger interest in South East Asia than the United States of America has. After all, what is America doing there? She is looking after our interests and the interests of the free countries of the world. Having regard to the contribution being made by the United States, I think it is only right for the Government to increase our commitment from 1,500 troops to 4,500. Even allowing for the differences in population or on a pro rata basis, United States troops in South Vietnam outnumber Australian by 12 to 1. We have a responsibility to play our part in this area. After all, if the war in South East Asia extends it will be in the direction of Australia and the closer it comes to our shores the more problems we will face. From time to time the Leader of the Opposition has said that the conflict in South Vietnam is a job for the United Nations. Does he suggest that the United Nations should jump in and offer its services in the form of troops? Is so, what countries would supply the troops? It cannot be forgotten that we are a member of the United Nations.

I turn now to national service training. I agree with national service training but, like many other honorable members, I do not like the ballot system. I think objection to the ballot is fairly widespread but what is the alternative if you require only a limited number of men? Other countries have faced a similar problem. Most of them lay down a hard and fast rule of calling up everybody. Undoubtedly there are plenty of anomalies associated with the ballot system where, simply on the luck of the draw, one man is exempt from call up and another suffers hardship by reason of being called up and having to serve his time. I would draw attention particularly to the position of twins. I have raised this matter on other occasions in this chamber and with officers of the Department of Labour and National Service and with the Minister for Labour and National Service. Under the present system, it is possible to have two or three members of one family serving at the one time. It seems a little unfair in the case of twins that both should be called up when their neighbour in the appropriate age group is not called up.

In one case that I know of the twins, having been called up, tossed a coin to see who would apply for deferment. In due course, the winner of the toss applied for and obtained deferment. In another case, one of the twins was working on a farm. He may have considered that his work was of a little more importance than that of his twin brother. He automatically applied to have his call up deferred. The magistrate granted him deferment of four months only. His position is now due for revision. It seems to me that the two cases I have mentioned are identical. However, in one case a magistrate unhesitatingly granted 12 months' deferment while in the other case there was a lot of doubt as to whether 4 months deferment could be granted. I submit that in cases such as these there should be a right of appeal, as there is in the field of repatriation, where an applicant has available to him two appeals. I do not know that two avenues of appeal are necessary in these cases but where a young man feels that he is suffering hardship by being called up and unsuccessfully seeks to have his call up deferred by a magistrate, he should have the right of appeal.

I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister's announcement about rural finance. I congratulate the Government on its decision to make $50 million available for rural finance. At first glance this appears to be a substantial amount, but we must remember that we are talking in dollars and not pounds. It is only £25 million and, having regard to the ravages of the drought in some parts of Australia, I do not think £25 million will go very far. One hopes that this amount is only an instalment. We know that for some time the Commonwealth Development Bank has been very cooperative and that its efforts have been crowned with success, but in my opinion the terms under which loans are made by the Bank are a bit on the tough side. This is no doubt due to the Bank's shortage of finance. I was pleased to hear the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) tell me in answer to a question yesterday that the Bank's long term loans would be over a period of 15 years or more. So often the expression " long term " means a period of fewer than 15 years. It is now up to the Bank to decide on rates of interest. Many people are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the conference to be held later today between the Treasurer and representatives of the banks.

I was pleased to hear the announcement that our immigration laws are to be changed. I think members of all political parties represented in this Parliament agree that our immigration policy must work to Australia's advantage in the long term.

Australia has no real racial problems. Not many countries can say that they have no racial problems. One recalls the disturbances in the United States and what has happened in the United Kingdom, the African States and South East Asia. No doubt many of the problems that now arise in these countries could have been avoided if the right action had been taken years ago. We in Australia enjoy many advantages over other countries. We have room to expand. There is plenty of room for an increased population. There is scope to increase our food production. We have the privilege of living in a country with a predominantly homogenous population.

I think I speak for almost everybody in Australia when I say that we do not support discrimination except when it is to the advantage of the people concerned. Our present policy in this regard must be maintained at all costs. The Government has announced that non-Europeans in this country may apply for naturalisation after five years residence. Hitherto the residential qualification was 15 years. This relaxation of the residential qualification will remove one of the barriers which these people faced. It has been welcomed by many of them. But the picture is not all rosy. Some of the other aspects of our immigration policy announced by the Prime Minister will not be received altogether as favorably in some countries as we would have hoped. To my mind, any alteration in our immigration laws that would increase the number of people who would not be able to be integrated into our way of life would be a very dangerous move indeed. I would always oppose any move that I thought would encourage entry to Australia of the type of people who, in their turn, would encourage discrimination. This could only lead to more discrimination in the long run.

I welcome the opportunity to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) on his first speech in this House as Prime Minister of Australia and to say that I wish him well. May he be spared to hold that position for many years to come.







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