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Friday, 25 September 1970

Mr STEWART (Lang) - I will not rake very long to reply to the speech which has just been delivered by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). I merely want to take him up on one point. The honourable member mentioned the word 'cowardice*. This is strange coming from a man who ran out on his mates when they were helping him to pull down the signs of his electoral opponents. 1 think it is a word that the honourable member would do well to leave out of his vocabulary.

The debate today arises from the tabling of a transcript of a Press conference held by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on Wednesday last at which he outlined the advice he would give to a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war. I stress that my Leader at no stage has indicated that he would encourage a conscientious objector to resist the draft. In fact, he would advise such persons to accept all their responsibilities - to register, to undergo medical examination, to report for service and to undertake their training. It is only when there is a likelihood that the objector will be sent to serve in Vietnam that a stand is to be taken. The advice which would be given when this stage was reached would be for the national serviceman then to take his stand on a matter of conscience that has been upheld by religious authorities within Australia and throughout the world.

The Government and the Army would be notified in writing well before this situation had developed. They would be advised that this action would be taken. If the Confrontation is to take place the Government and the Army will be the people who do the confronting. My Leader's advice has been deliberately and poisonously misconstrued and misinterpreted. But after a few years experience in this House dealing with members of the Government one learns to accept that no trick is too low and no lie is too great if there is some political advantage to be gained. During this debate it has already been implied, and it will be implied, that members of the Opposition are guilty of treachery, treason, sedition and subversion. We will be. labelled as Communist stooges and traitors. But our records as loyal Australians will match or surpass the records of any member of the Government.

The man who is most under attack today is my Leader. For the benefit of the House and the nation I take the opportunity to give a brief history of him and his family. He is the son of an ex-Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth of Australia who was also Australia's representative on the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. His wife is the daughter of a late Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales who was also the Vice-Chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. Mrs Whitlam, who is known to roost of us in this House as a charming, distinguished and friendly woman is herself a diplomate in social studies from the University of Sydney. His sister is the principal of a leading Sydney girls school. His eldest son is a graduate of the Australian National University. His second son is a graduate of Harvard and London. His third son will be graduating from the University of Sydney this year. His daughter, who is still at school, has the distinction of attending the same school as the daughters of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) and the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). I do not know who is going to be corrupted.

The Leader of the Opposition is a Queen's Counsel. As a law student he was an associate of two Justices of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, one of whom has since been appointed to the High Court. He has acted as junior counsel to a royal commisison. Does this sound like a man who could be guilty of undermining law and order or of encouraging mutiny? As we are discussing service in the Armed Forces, let me continue by informing the House that during his university days he was a volunteer member of the University Regiment. Unlike some present and past members of this House his military career was not spoilt by the advent of war. He volunteered for service with the Royal Australian Air Force "during the 1939-45 War and served for 4 years as an air crew member. At the conclusion of his service he was one of the personal air crew of the representative of the Australian Chief of Staff at General MacArthur's Headquarters. This was a trusted position indeed. Besides his family life and his public life in Australia, the Leader of the Opposition has also been personally acquainted with more heads of state and heads of government in our region, and indeed the world, than any other member of this Parliament and by his conduct, integrity and capacity he enjoys their confidence.

The Leader of the Opposition has served his nation with honour in peace and war. He has enjoyed the confidence of his fellow men in every sphere in which he has worked. His reputation, his family and his personal conduct is above reproach, but that does not prevent the members of the Government from stooping to this vile attack upon his loyalty to Australia. But whatever is or has been said there are few if ยป-ny of the Government members who can face the world with a clearer conscience or steadier eye. He or his family have never been involved in diplomatic incidents or murky court cases. Our Leader has earned the confidence of his Party and the people of Australia, and this cheap political trick today will leave bis reputation unsullied. The cause of today's debate was the introduction of conscription in Australia. The cause of most of the troubles in Australia at the moment in relation to defence and law and order is the fact that conscription was introduced in 1964. The Government is now reaping the effects of a political action that was taken in 1964.

There has been dissatisfaction in Australia ever since conscription was introduced. It was recognised then as being unnecessary, that it was being introduced for political reasons and as an easy way to acquire sufficient numbers for the Army. The Opposition maintained in 1964 that conscription whs unnecessary and it maintains that today. Our hostility has strengthened because our young conscripts are being sent to fight in the undeclared war in Vietnam. I have always claimed that the introduction of conscription in 1964 was a political decision and contrary to military advice. Let us go back to August 1964 when the Minister for the Army, now the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), made his first comprehensive statement in this House on national service training. After giving all the reasons why it was uneconomical and inefficient to introduce national service training the Minister said:

We have not introduced it because to do so would be against the unanimous advice of our military advisers.

On 26th October in the same year the same Minister went to the National Congress of the Returned Services League held in Hobart and to those ex-servicemen the Minister said:

I could perhaps say. however, that we have not introduced conscription up to this point in time because our military advisers have indicated in the clearest and most unmistakeable terms that it is noi the most effective way of creating the Army we need to meet the situation we face. 1 stress that this is military advice.

Despite these very firm and forthright statements against the introduction of national service on 10th November 1964 the then Prime Minister made a defence statement in the House and announced the decision to introduce selective compulsory service. The reason given for the introduction of national service was the confrontation of Malaysia by Indonesia. The Prime Minister said: lt is very much to be feared that if Indonesia provoked a war, the only people in Indonesia who would get advantage from it would be the Communists, ever ready to thrive on disorder and defeat

The old Communist bogey again, lt is raised on every occasion the Government is in trouble and when a Senate election is pending. The Government has disorder and defeat in Australia now and this is caused by conscription. By not facing up to the will of the people the Government is sowing the seeds for the Communists to increase their strength in Australia. Conscription for overseas service in peace time is morally wrong and should be abolished. This is why the Opposition has moved an amendment to this motion today. But conscription is also inefficient and unfair as has recently been stated by the report of iiic r President's Commission oil an All-Vo- lunteer Armed Force - a report commissioned by the President of the United States of America and presented in February this year. The finding of the Commission was:

We unanimously believe that the nation's interests will be better served by an all-volunteer force, supported by an effective stand-by draft, than by a mixed force of volunteers and conscripts; that steps should be taken promptly to move in this direction; and that the first indispensable step is to remove the present inequity in the pay ot men serving their first term in the armed forces.

We have satisfied ourselves that a volunteer force will not jeopardise national security, and we believe it will have a beneficial effect on the military as well as the rest of our society.

The Commission was made up of 15 members. Its chairman was Thomas Gates - a former Secretary of Defense. The members of that Commission came from a wide range of community activities in the United States and they unanimously decided that a volunteer force would be better than a drafted force. This report must be regarded as an informed, impartial and independent report. Some of the arguments advanced for the finding are that conscription is unfair and expects only a certain class in the community to make the sacrifice. In a chapter headed 'Conscription is a Tax' it is said:

Any government has essentially 2 ways of accomplishing an objective whether it be building an interstate highway system or raising an army. It can expropriate the required tools and compel construction mcn and others to work until the job is finished or it can purchase the goods and manpower necessary to complete the job. Under tha first alternative, only the persons who own the property seized or who render compulsory service are required to bear the expense of building the highway or housing project. They pay a tax to finance the project, albeit a ta.x-in-kind. Under the second alternative, the cost of the necessary goods and services is borne by the general public through taxes raised to finance the project. Conscription is like the first alternative - a taxinkind.

Later in the same chapter the report states:

When the hidden costs of conscription are fully recognised, the cost of an all-volunteer armed force is unquestionably less than the cost of a force of equal size and quality manned wholly or partly through conscription. The all-volunteer costs are lower for four reasons.

The four reasons are then listed Further on in the report there is mention of Australia's system of selective compulsory training and I will again quote from the report. I am quoting from the report because I feel that having been commissioned by the President of the United States of America it is well worth study by members of the Government. If the Government wants to cut out the demonstrations and curtail the activities of those people who thrive on disorder it should listen to the voice in this House of the representatives of the people and also to the organisations outside. Members of the Labor Opposition are not the only people who are telling the Government that conscription is unjust and unnecessary. The -churches are telling the Government these things as are other organisations throughout the community but the Government has become so complacent that it will not listen. Perhaps it will listen to the report from which I am quoting. Dealing with Australia the report states:

Some have cited the Australian decision to return to a draft as evidence that an all-volunteer force is not feasible for the United States. There are several reasons why this argument by analogy is inappropriate. First, the Australians have not made a concerted effort to attract additional recruits on a voluntary basis. Once the decision was made to use conscription to raise force levels, no serious effort was made to increase voluntary enlistments either by raising pay or redoubling recruiting efforts.

It goes on to say:

The Australians could have expanded the size of the armed forces on a voluntary basis by raising pay and re-organising recruiting.

Later on in the report, again dealing with our lottery system of selective compulsory training, it says:

The lottery draft recently adopted is at best an expedient. It is important to recognise that the tax inequity implicit in the draft is not eliminated by substituting a lottery for present methods of selection. In theory the lottery makes it equally probable that any individual might be selected from those eligible to serve. It thus aims at equity In selection, but equity in selection is not equity in service. Thse few who are selected to serve, whether at random or otherwise, still pay a large tax-in-kind in order to reduce taxes for the majority.

The Labor Opposition says that if the Government cared to make an attempt to recruit volunteer forces, to serve in Vietnam if necessary, it would be able to do it. I have quoted extracts from speeches made in this House and elsewhere by the former Minister for the Army, now the Minister for Health. In 1964, a matter of 10 or 12 days before conscription was announced by the then Prime Minister, the Minister was travelling around the country saying that the introduction of national service training was against the unanimous advice of the Government's military advisers. The Government has to admit that its introduction was a political decision. The Government has got into difficulty with it. The war in Vietnam is curtailing the recruitment of young men into our Regular forces because of the fact that the Army is made up of volunteers and conscripts. Opportunities by way of pay and condi tions are not available to assist recruiting. These are some of the things that the Government should look at.

Ali members of the Opposition are called upon frequently to give advice or assistance to young men who have been called up, are about to be called up or are about to register for national service training. I tell them to take the risk, to register, to have their medical examination and to undertake their training. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he goes that far and then says: 'If they are going to send you to Vietnam, make your stand on a matter df conscience against a particular war.' The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) spoke about the rights of conscientious objectors, but a person has to be a conscientious objector to all wars, not only to the particular undeclared war in Vietnam. Conscription in Australia has been causing anxiety and discontent ever since it was introduced. The troubles it has created are the responsibility of the Government and until conscription is abolished these troubles will continue and, indeed increase.

This debate arose over the question of conscription. After what I have said, after what has been said by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) and after what will be said by the 2 speakers to follow rae I think it will be clear that there is great feeling in the Australian community against conscription and against conscripts being used in the Vietnam war. The policy of the Labor Party allows for conscription in time of emergency, so members of the Opposition are not against conscription. 1 speak as a man who was a conscript in the 1939-45 war. I had to take my 2 cut lunches at the behest of the Government of the day to the Belmore drill hall on 29th December 1941. I went as a conscript and finally became a volunteer, so I have no objection to conscription. Most of the men behind me have no objection to conscription when Australia is in dire need, but while members opposite are playing politics with the lives of our young fellows in Vietnam in an undeclared war we are against conscription.

Mir DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Sifting suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.

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