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Tuesday, 29 March 1966

Mr GALVIN (Kingston) .- Tonight, in resuming the debate on this subject, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), in a very cool and calm speech, placed on record the views of the Opposition, just as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), in making his statement at the commencement of the debate, put on record the views of the Government. 1 think the Parliament is indebted to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for his speech tonight. By contrast we have the speech of the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes). It is not hard to understand why he was sacked from the position of Minister for the Army. It is not hard to recall the leading articles in the Adelaide " News " and the Sydney " Daily Mirror ". They said that the Government shifted him from that post because he had been so unsuccessful and had placed him in charge of health. God help health if he can deal no better with that than he did with the Army.

The Minister for Health went to great pains to attack the Opposition. He accused us of not knowing the danger of China. He said that the Opposition played down the Chinese programme and refused to accept the evidence. He spoke about the Korean war and the invasion of Tibet. He said that the Chinese attacked India, a Commonwealth country. But he did not tell us that when we sell our wheat to the Chinese Communist Government we give it better credit terms than we give to any Commonwealth country. So he is inconsistent on that point. He said that, with his own eyes, he saw the evidence of Chinese arms in Vietnam. He spoke about the Chinese imperialist march and said that China's expanding empire would lap the shores of Australia. He said he saw with his own eyes the weapons supplied by China to the Vietcong. What has he done to take up with his Government the question of trade with China, the country which he says is threatening us and which is marching forward towards us?

Mr Jess - Does the honorable member think it is?

Mr GALVIN - Never mind what I think. The Minister said that with his own eyes he saw these weapons. I agree, because just recently the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marshal Chen, said-

China is helping North Vietnam and the Vietcong by sending grain, textiles and weapons of war.

Marshal Chen, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs boasts that China is helping the forces which are opposing Australian troops and which shortly will be opposing conscripts, national service boys 20 years of age. So our soldiers will be facing an enemy who may well be fed on Australian grain, clothed in uniforms made from Australian wool and armed with weapons which, if we are to believe the Minister for the Army, probably have been manufactured from the metals that this Government has sold to Communist China. The Minister for Health has accused the Opposition of not paying attention to the threat of China. If China is such a threat and is making an onward march, what does he say to his own Government and to the members of the Australian Country Party who are supplying the sinews of war? He said that China succoured and aided sections of the people in various countries of Asia and Africa to enable them to overthrow their governments, but the Holt Government is giving succour and aid through the agency of China to the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese, not only to fight the South Vietnamese and the American forces but also to fight and destroy Australian servicemen. That is what the Minister for Health should be concerned about instead of making personal attacks upon the Australian Labour Party and the Opposition. He should be attacking the Government. He cannot have it both ways. If China is the enemy, why does he not face up to that and do something about it? At the present time it is not the Opposition that is on trial; it is the Holt Government.

It will be a very good thing when the people of Australia have an opportunity to decide and to give judgment, whether by referendum or at an election, on this question of sending young boys overseas. It is interesting to note that Australia has a Regular Army of a little more than 30,000 men who have volunteered to serve and to fight wherever they are posted, but to obtain 4,500 men for service in Vietnam it is necessary to conscript national service trainees. It is remarkable to see the number of rejections among volunteers to the Australian Regular Army. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) told us a few days ago that the standards required for the Regular Army are very high. I asked by interjection whether the same standard applied to national service trainees and he replied that it did. The former Minister for the Army, who is now the Minister for Health, said the same.

Recently I had brought to my notice the case of a young lad who was anxious to join up and who had attempted to enlist in the Australian Regular Army. After his interview it was discovered - he had made no bones about it - that he had a few criminal convictions. His application was rejected. That is fair enough, if the authorities thought that his criminal record was such that he should not be in the Army, but a little later he found that he could be accepted for national service training. Apart from his criminal record he meets all the standards required, so he will go into one of the divisions with the Regular Army. Although he could not be accepted as a volunteer, he can be conscripted. Recently I brought another case to the notice of the Minister. On this occasion it was a lad who was anxious to play bis part in the Citizen Military Forces. He tried to enlist but was rejected on medical grounds because of a leg disability. But later his marble came out and, lo and behold, although he was medically unfit for the C.M.F.-

Mr Luchetti - As a volunteer.

Mr GALVIN - As a volunteer, he was fit to undertake national service training. There is something wrong when this situation can occur. I suggest to the Minister for the Army that he should investigate recruitment into the Regular Army.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Has the honorable member supplied me with the name of this person?

Mr GALVIN - Yes. I have written to the Minister for the Army and also to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury). I wrote to both Ministers because I di'd not know who dealt with the matter first, whether the doctor for the Department of Labour and National Ser vice would decide that the lad was fit and then pass him on to the Army authorities. The two Ministers will have to sort it out for themselves. That lad wanted to play his part. He is not complaining because he was accepted for national service training, but it seems strange that although the C.M.F. did not want him because he was medically unfit, he is fit enough to be called up as a national service trainee.

The nation is entitled to know what the position is in Vietnam. We have been told that technically we are at war. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) says that we are not at war but that we are technically at war. The former Prime Minister said in London at one stage that we were at war, but then he came back to the view that we were technically at war. The Minister for Health tonight spoke of the war in Vietnam, and the Minister for External Affairs spoke in his statement of the possibility of global war. He said -

This is a war that affects the fate of all countries of South East Asia - a war that throws into sharp relief the aim of Communist China to dominate them by force.

He spoke of the character of the war in Vietnam and also of the military and semimilitary supplies from Communist China. I have mentioned already trade with Communist China. There is a war in Vietnam. I am sure that the national service conscripts will think it is a war when they arrive in Vietnam. I wonder whether these lads will have had sufficient training after a mere 12 months. I read of a case in Western Australia where it was complained that servicemen were not given even 12 months' training before receiving their marching orders. But suppose they were given 12 months' training. Is that enough? This war is different from wars in the past. I wonder whether we are not taking lads from industry, or from wherever they may come, throwing them into the divisions of the Regular Army and sending them off to Vietnam before they are adequately trained. In the first place I believe that we have no right to conscript them. I feel that if the people of Australia have a chance to make a decision on this question they will show their opposition to the Government's action.

At the weekend the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) spoke about a fifth column in Australia. This morning I was pleased to hear on the radio Mr. Eric Baume, a gentleman who very rarely agrees with anything said by the Labour Party, although I have heard him do so on two occasions now, take to task the Minister for Defence for describing as fifth columnists those people who were opposed to national service trainees being sent to Vietnam. Mr. Baume said that whilst he supported Australia's participation in the Vietnam war, he was opposed to the action of the Government in . conscripting boys of 19 years to fight overseas. He rightly attacked the Minister for Defence. The views expressed by Mr. Baume are views which are gradually permeating throughout the length and breadth of this nation. The people of Australia are opposed to sending these boys overseas to face an enemy which is possibly equipped with weapons of war made from materials sold to them by this Government. They are sent not only to serve in a foreign land but also, if the war escalates, as it well could, they could die in Vietnam. The people have a right to voice an opinion on that. The coming by-election in Kooyong, I believe, will show some trend in the people's thinking. But if the Government wants to know what the people of Australia think, let it hold an early election and not wait until the end of the year. We on this side are prepared. It is not the Australian Labour Party that is on trial; it is the Holt Government. It has to answer not only for sending boys away to fight but also for trading with a country that it describes as our enemy. The present Minister for Health, who was formerly Minister for the Army, spent 20 minutes tonight telling us that Communist China is the real enemy. This Government has to explain to the people why it trades with this country that is considered to be our enemy.

Mr. Deputy Speaker,before my time runs out I would like to mention briefly the Asian Development Bank, on which the Minister for External Affairs touched in his statement. Australia has played some part in the formation of this Bank and the Minister last December took part in the conference at Manila that approved its Articles of Agreement and finally ratified its formation. The establishment of this Bank is a project to be applauded. This is a United Nations project that will give the Asian countries a chance to stand on their own feet. I believe that the target for contributions to the capital of the Bank was set at some $US600 million. It has been over subscribed by SUS42 million. When the formation of the Bank was proposed, many people said: "The required capital will not be obtained from the Asian countries. They will ask that all of it come from other countries." The Asian regional members provided a major part of the capital of the Bank. The non-regional members, of which the United States of America was the main contributor, subscribed SUS296 million. It is pleasing to note that the Australian Government intends to contribute SUS85 million to the Bank's working capital.

The establishment of the Asian Development Bank will allow the countries of Asia and other countries to work together in a common task. Projects will be jointly undertaken by a multitude of countries all pooling their resources to promote real development programmes in the countries of Asia. However, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am disturbed about one matter. Following on from the Manila conference, the Japanese Government has sponsored a meeting of all Foreign Ministers of the countries concerned to be held in Tokyo in April. This widely representative gathering will carry on the work begun at the Manila conference. However, the Australian Government up to this stage has not intimated that it will be represented. I believe that it should be. I consider that we should take part in any move to help develop the countries of Asia. Japan is playing a major part in the development of Asian countries. Australia is part of Asia. This Government wants to send troops to fight in Asia. It ought to do more than merely subscribe to the capital of the Asian Development Bank. It ought to see that it is represented at every conference that will promote the development of the underdeveloped and underprivileged countries of Asia.

I trust that this debate will clarify the position with respect to the use of conscripts in Vietnam. I suggest that those people who are demonstrating throughout Australia on this issue perhaps save some of their energy and use it in campaigning to defeat the Holt Government at election time. It is only by the use of the ballot box that the people can right the wrongs that are being inflicted on the youth of this nation. I invite those throughout Australia who are rightly concerned about the sending of good' young Australians overseas to fight, and perhaps to die, to come forward and help campaign in every way possible to sweep from office the Holt Government, which aids and abets Communist China and helps to feed, clothe and equip the armies of the Vietcong to fight and kill Australian servicemen.

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