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Friday, 25 September 1970

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Lalor knows that the time at which he can raise a question as to any misrepresentation is at the end of a speech.

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - Do I have to sit here and listen to the Minister continue-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - for a quarter of an hour-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. DrJ. F. Cairns- Well, I-

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - On a point of order. Do [ take it that your objection to listening to me now is that you do not want to take up some of the time allowed to the Minister for Trade and Industry?

Mi DEPUTY SPEAKER-The point .1 made is that I do not want to name the honourable member for Lalor at this moment. Bearing in mind the importance of the debate now before the House I suggest to the honourable member for Lalor that he resume his seat.

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - 1 was just wondering about your intent.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I call the Minister for Trade and Industry.

Mr McEWEN - The point 1 was making in respect to the. attitude adopted by these 2 leaders of the Labor Party is that they are not really offering this advice in good faith because the situation would be intolerable if the advice were accepted generally. If they were in Government they would not tolerate people breaking the law, either civil or military law. ft is immediately apparent that the advice which the honourable member is giving and which the Labor Party is following discloses that there is not a real attitude of integrity on their part. The Leader of the Opposition has taken the most important area of all - the laws passed by the Parliament relating to the defence and security of the country.

In the words of the Leader of the Opposition the advice given is to disobey military orders in the circumstances that he and I have enumerated. Without an adequate defence force, a reliable defence force, Australia could not fulfil a treaty obligation. This is perfectly true and undeniable. Who would sign or maintain a treaty of mutual defence with a nation that did not enforce its own military laws? Yet that is the proposition that the Leader of the Opposition put to the Labor Caucus whose members would compose the alternate government and which is advocated in this place where the parliamentary Labor Party decides its policies. We should all be very clear on just what it is that the Leader of the Opposition who aspires to be the Prime Minister is proposing. He himself says that he is advising young men to defy and to disobey the military law. That is a lawyer's way of putting it The plain fact is that he was inciting young national servicemen to mutiny. He spoke ot there being thousands of. young men holding this view and this is the advice which apparently privately and certainly now publicly he is offering to them: If you are called up go into the Army and after you are in the Army then disobey the military law.' In the simplest of terms this is mutiny. That is the only way that one who is not a lawyer can regard it and I myself, as a layman, regard it is an act of treachery to this country. The honourable member for Lalor has been a main proponent - I do not want to do an injustice to him but it seems to me that civil disobedience is a moderate term for what he is proposing. We had thought that he was the leader of the doctrine of defiance of authority but now we discover that, the Leader of the Opposition has left him a mile behind. The honourable member for Lalor has never been so reckless and so irresponsible as to offer and publicly advocate the advice that the Leader of the Opposition is now giving. I suppose one could go through the history books and discover many instances of individuals who have advocated anarchy or mutiny or treason, but I would say that this surely must be the first time in history when, in a democratic country, the leader of a party which regards itself as close to being in a position to form a Government elected by democratic process has advocated a course of disobedience of and disregard for the law. lt is quite unprecedented.

The Australian people have a long history of supporting and accepting the laws made by the democratically elected Government of the country. The laws have not always been easy or pleasant laws for many of the people to accept but the Australian community has shown a responsibility towards the maintenance of the rule of law over the last 100 years, a record of respect for laws democratically arrived at I would say there is no better record to be found in the world than the record we have. I am sure the Australian public will not have a bar of a political leader or a political party which has shown contempt for the law and the due processes of democratic government and has openly preached law breaking. As a lawyer and a parliamentarian the Leader of the Opposition knows that there is an alternative for the young man who is not a conscientious objector to all wars but has an objection to fighting in Vietnam. The option is to join the Citizen Military Forces. This is provided for. Many have taken advantage of it.

I put this quite simply and earnestly. The Leader of the Opposition is in his private capacity a professional man whose profession enables him to be turned to for advice. I say that if a young man came to this lawyer and said: '1 come to you professionally. I am in trouble. I am troubled by a law. I am liable to be called up for service and I may have to go to Vietnam. I do not want to go to Vietnam. Will you please give me your professional advice on whether 1 can avoid it', the Leader of the Opposition, with a knowledge of the law, would be bound to say: 'You have no problem. You join the CMF - the law provides for it'. He could not honestly in his professional capacity give any other advice. But in his other capacity as a political leader he says there is no alternative to defying the law. I say that this has exposed the Leader of the Opposition as a man who in his political capacity is not acting in good faith when he urges his political party to embrace this policy of defiance of military law and propound it and convey it to all the young men who are troubled by the Vietnam war. The only possible conclusion is that he has in bad faith ignored the alternatives available to the young men.

Apart from the ethical aspects which are involved, this raises a very important question. Why did the Leader of the Opposition choose to ignore the legal alternative to service in Vietnam and, as a lawyer, a Queen's Counsel, an officer of the courts, give advice to young men to break the law? Why did he take a similar position to the expelled president of the Victorian Labor Party, Mr Crawford who, not sitting in his Labor capacity, I understand, but addressing a meeting of unions, persuaded those unions to pass a resolution that the troops in Vietnam should mutiny. There is a shade of difference between mutiny in the field and mutiny by refusing to go into the field. It is a fine shade of difference. As far as I can see the Leader of the Opposition is ahead of Mr Crawford, the former Labor President in Victoria. I cannot understand now why he was so hellbent on expelling him from the Party.

What were the motives of the Leader of the Opposition in giving advice to young men when he knew that their problem could be solved without one man going to gaol. On one occasion he said hundreds and on another occasion thousands of men who are called up do not want to serve in Vietnam. So his advice would result in hundreds or thousands of young men going to gaol, because this is the penalty for defying the military authority. The only possible explanation for his giving this advice is that he is planning to use these young men to cause political embarrassment to the Government. He is advocating that hundreds of young men should go to gaol to their shame. This would be a blemish on their record forever but it would be a political gain to the Labor Party, or perhaps I should say a political gain to the Leader of the Opposition. He would give a young man advice that would inevitably lead him to prison and cause him to have a stigma for the rest of his life. He would have a dishonourable discharge from the armed forces. This would be a liability for him to carry forever when he seeks employment. He would be a man with a record of military imprisonment, a record of defiance of authority, and his personal and private life would be thrown into disorder. The Leader of the Opposition is knowingly condemning these young men for the rest of their lives so that he may gain political advantage. It is embarrassing to the Government to have one man in gaol because he takes this stand. It would be superb, it would be perfect, from the point of view of the Labor Party if the Leader of the Opposition could put hundreds of men into gaol and blame the Government for it. Perhaps he would become Prime Minister through the sufferings of these men and through blemishing their characters for the rest of their lives.

This is a disgraceful incident. It is a disgraceful motive. There is only one possible answer and that is that this Parliament should show that it will not condone this conduct by lawmakers in advocating law breaking. I hope this debate will make clear to the Australian people the perfidy of the motive behind this advice. This gentleman, who legitimately seeks to be Prime Minister - it is a proper ambition for him to lead his party into office - should never have turned to such a contemptible device as to steer hundreds of young men towards imprisonment so that the Government may be embarrassed and he may have political advancement.

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