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Wednesday, 17 December 1941

Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) has established his case that there is diversity of opinion as to the wisdom or otherwise of sending Australian troops overseas. Of course there are differences of opinion on that subject. The Minister quoted authorities who asked if we would not denude Australia of defence by sending our men overseas. That would depend to some degree on how many men were sent overseas, but generally speaking we are not denuding the country of defence in this way, because our fighting mcn are defending Australia wherever they may be. Does the Minister think that the members of the first Australian Imperial Force were defending Australia when they were fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula, in Palestine, Syria, Belgium and France during the last war? They were defending Australia very well. Senator Amour seems to have missed completely a very important point when he said that if he had his way he would bring back to Australia the members of the Australian Imperial Force now in Libya. Palestine and Syria.

Senator Courtice - He said that they should be brought back not to Australia, but to Malaya.

Senator SAMPSON - The honorable senator also said that we should bring buck to Australia the members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are now in Canada and England in order to defend the women and children of this country. Are they noi defending our women and children overseas by fighting the battles of this country and the Empire overseas? If we proceed along those lines we shall he asking for trouble. The point that Senator Amour missed altogether in his suggestion that we should withdraw our troops to our own country is that such a move would leave undefended close to this continent some vital possible bases of enemy action. Their is no need for me to mention them by name; to any student of war strategy they are obvious. One of them at present is not occupied by our people or by our allies, and is a potential danger to Australia. If we are content to sit. down in our own country and wait for the enemy to come to us, allowing him to secure bases close to our shores from which to operate his aircraft, we are asking for trouble.

T agree with the Minister that, the deadly peril which now faces this country is unprecedented in its history. I was very cheered indeed to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) indicate in a broadcast speech last week that stern and ruthless action would be taken in regard to a number of things. Amongst other things, he said that it would bo necessary to freeze supplies of petrol, and he appealed to the people not to use their cars for pleasure purposes. His appeal was couched in dignified language, to which one would have thought that anyone with intelligence or sense of decency would have responded. I was appalled and amazed on the very next night when I was returning from an outer suburb of Melbourne to see the large number of private cars parked outside three suburban picture theatres. Outside one theatre at least, 60 cars were lined up; outside another there were at least 60 or 70, and outside a. third well over 100 cars were parked. Just imagine the minds of people who respond in that way to an appeal by the first citizen in the land who is charged with the responsibility of governing this country in these difficult days. The time for appeal has long passed; this is a time for compulsion. In the interests of national security, the people should be told what to do and should be made to do it. Compulsion will have to be resorted to in matters of this kind because voluntary appeals, no matter how well they are couched, will not get results from some people. It is necessary for the Government to take stern and ruthless action now. At a time like this, it would ill become me or any one else to indulge in destructive criticism of the Government. I have no intention of doing .so; but I should like to make one or two remarks on some thoughts that have been uppermost in my mind during the last week or two, particularly in regard to the defence of Australia. The anomalous position in which we have placed ourselves all through the years in regard to our Army has disturbed me for many years. Our Army should be one coherent body under one command and enjoying the same conditions of service, but. to-day we have the Australian Imperial Force composed of volunteers for service in Australia or overseas, the Militia and also the compulsory military trainees who have been called up for training under the Defence Act, and, in addition, the Volunteer Defence Corps and other voluntary organizations. It is all-important at this time that we should have a unified Australian Army for the defence of the Commonwealth which the government of thu day could employ where it willed without statutory restriction. I do not suggest that our fighting men should be sent to the four corners of the earth, but that we should have a force ready to hand capable of being sent wherever the strategic situation demands their immediate presence. The Permanent Forces, the Australian Imperial Force, the Militia, the compulsory military trainees and the volunteer reserve should all be under one command and he able to be used without quibble or hesitation. I do not, intend to discuss policy in regard to the different arms of the service because T am only an old "has-been" as far as soldiering is concerned. I am told that, at 59, I am far too old to be of any use, though I think that 1! am still capable of performing a useful service. However, 1 would like to see the Royal Australian Air Force brought, into closer co-operation with our military forces or with whatever troops it is supporting at the moment. Although that is merely a personal opinion, I feel sure thai it is because of the lack of such support that British forces and our own forces .have failed in the past. Some people have suggested that, we should define a limited /.one of defence. Such a /.one would not be fixed by us, but by the enemy. The distinction that exists between the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia is a great, pity. The cheap, disgusting and unfair sneers indulged in at the expense of the boys in the Militia have pained me very much. We should endeavour to wipe out all distinctions of that kind. The members of both forces are rendering noble service in the defence of their country, and in the circumstances that exist to-day, any distinction between them should be swept away. Members of both forces should receive the same pay and enjoy the same conditions. Any suggestion that wo should bring our troops back to Australia is misguided and reveals muddled thinking. If such a doctrine were adopted in its entirety, it would bring nothing but woe and suffering. Malaya and the Pacific islands are as much a part of Australia for defence purposes as are any of our coastal ports, and we should be able, as Senator Foll said, without having to enact legislation, to send our men overseas, to the neighbouring Dominion of New Zealand, to

Timor. or wherever necessary, in order to deny the enemy land bases from which to operate his aircraft. The isolationist's idea of defence assumes that we have no choice but to fight in our own last, ditch. If we accept that doctrine in its entirety we shall fight in our own last ditch, but without, effectual allies, because our Allies with equal justification will adopt the same policy and refuse to come to our aid.

Senator Aylett - That is propaganda.

Senator SAMPSON - It is not, propaganda. I am talking from a national point of view about a subject of which I know something, and in the interests of a country which I love and have fought for in two wars. My statement does not contain a scintilla of propaganda. I have never indulged in propaganda, in this chamber. A person who would sink to that level, having regard to the serious position in which our country finds itself to-day, must be low indeed; and any man who would impute such a motive to me must have a pretty rotten and diseased mind. The Government must have power to employ as it. may wish any Australian troops anywhere, be they volunteers or men raised under our universal training law. We must have a coherent army, and not one whose parts are in watertight compartments. To-day, however, some of our soldiers can be sent abroad, whilst others cannot be sent beyond our shores. Thu suggestion that that bar should be removed at the present juncture represents a common sense attitude, and in all sincerity I urge the. Government to give serious and immediate consideration to the proposal.

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