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Monday, 6 December 1976
Page: 3295

Mr ARMITAGE (CHIFLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. I refer him to page 33 of his White Paper on defence, on which the following statement appears under the heading 'Reserve Manpower':

There is, at any one time, a margin of preparedness and operational efficiency between the Regular and Reserve elements.The margin cannot, for obvious reasons, be eliminated in peacetime. However, Parliament may well wish to consider whether the purpose of better training and better sense of participation would justify provisions authorising compulsory call-up of Citizens Reserves for limited periods in international situations proclaimed as requiring augmentation of the forces, but not proclaimed as a state of war or time of defence emergency . . .

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable gentleman has read enough to identify the nature of the except to which he is referring. I call upon him to ask his question or I shall require him to resume his seat.

Mr ARMITAGE - Mr Speaker,I will ask the question now. I ask: Does this project a decision by the Government to re-introduce conscription?

Mr KILLEN - The short answer is no. Nevertheless, I say with respect that, the honourable gentleman's question is a merited and valid one.

The honourable gentleman will acknowledge the fact that the defence power of the Commonwealth in time of peace is a very restricted power. It is a very emancipated power in time of war. This Government and the former Government, of which the honourable gentleman was a supporter, have both committed themselves to the total force concept. That is to say, the Australian Army is made up of the regular services and of the Army Reserve. But in order to use the Army Reserve at any time on the basis of emergency action we would need to have either an emergency, that is to say an actual state of war, or we would need to have a substantial amendment to the Defence Act.

Mr Armitage -Has this been considered?

Mr KILLEN -No, but the Government, in its corporate judgment, came to the conclusion that it was very properly a matter for parliamentary and public consideration and reflection. I can assure the honourable gentleman that in terms of using the Army for the purpose he has suggested, the answer is no. Nevertheless, if the country at any time in the future wished to consider taking the total force concept to its ultimate extent, it would warrant an amendment to the Defence Act. That would be a question for the Parliament to consider.

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