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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) (Leader of the Opposition) . - At the outset, I should like to thank the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) for his courtesy in making available to me three of the senior officers of the Department of Defence to answer the many queries I had in relation to this Bill. I should like also to express my thanks to the officers concerned for the help that they were not only able to give me but were also very ready to give. My task tonight is made a good deal easier by the nature of the second reading speech that the Minister presented to the Senate a few days ago. I. think I describe it accurately when 1. say -it is a very fair summary of the provisions of this Bill. The Minister indicated in that speech that he had announced in June two measures. He put them very briefly in a sentence -

These measures were the establishment of volunteer emergency reserve forces and the provision for the calling up of citizen and reserve forces to the extent necessary to meet the requirements of all three Services in circumstances short of general war. lt is rather amazing that two propositions that could be put so briefly arc now, with a few other matters, expanded into 24 pages in one bill and spill over into two other associated bills which the Minister dealt with in the course of his second reading speech and to which I shall perhaps make brief reference in the course of my speech also. The primary measures are really concerned with improving the recruiting figures in Australia for our armed services in a lime of concern as to our security in this part of the world.

I begin by making the statement that the fact that we have to have a bill and these various associated measures is a real indication of the failure of the recruiting campaign that the Government has conducted up to date. I go back to the target last set in the Parliament by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). First, the Minister for Defence of the day, Mr. Townley, on 24th October 1962 announced a three year programme in defence, com mencing from 1st July 1962 and running to 30th June 1965. In the course of that speech the Minister set targets for the enlistments in the various sections of the armed forces. Seven months later on 22nd May 1963, the Prime Minister in a very extensive defence review, again reviewed these targets. He increased all of them - some of them fairly substantially - so the latest figure of which I am aware that we have had in this Parliament was put to the Parliament on the date I indicated - 22nd May 1963. The target set on that date for the Australian Regular Army was 28,000 to be attained by 30th June 1965. The figures that appear in the defence report that is now before us indicate that at 30th June last after two of the three years had expired the total recruited was 23,493. That means that at the moment 4,507 members of the Australian Regular Army would need to be recruited between the 1st July last and 30th June next if the target set is to bc achieved.

There is another consideration that, from the nation's viewpoint, may make that gap wider. I refer to what is now called the Australian Regular Supplement. Hitherto, it was called the Australian Regular Special Reserve. In that body, there are three classes of persons, as I understand the position. First, there are those officers and men who, because of age or medical classification, arc not eligible for service in the A.R.A. Their medical classification is No. 2 whereas for those in the A.R.A. the classification is No. 1. There is a second category of officers appointed and soldiers enlisted for special tasks the duration of which is not known. This category includes doctors and technical officers. Their medical classification is also No. 2.

Finally, there are perfectly fit members who enlist only for three years and not for the six years that the A.R.A. itself requires. They are completely fit, their medical classification is No. 1 and the maximum age for enlistment is 43 years as in the A.R.A. 1 understand that in that particular category there are some 4,000 or 5,000 individuals and I think it is fair to say that about half of them would represent the mcn who are completely fit but who have enlisted for short periods. They would be available for front line service.

The remaining 2,000 or 2,500 would not be available for front line service and therefore, in the view I put, that represents one great deficiency in the target set by the Government. So whatever that figure is - and I understand it would be in the neighbourhood of 2,000 to 2,500- it should be added to the numbers still to be sought this year. That is, to the 4,507, add perhaps another 2,500, which makes the deficiency of men for the front line active effort something like 7,000.

In the Citizen Military Forces, the target for 30th June was set at 35,000. The report at 30th June shows that there were 27,505. In other words, 7,495 additional personnel are to be found by 30th June next. I pause here to comment that when the three year term began on 1st July 1962 there were some 30,000 personnel in the C.M.F. and it is not encouraging to find that at 30th June last - two years later - the figure had actually fallen by 2,500 to 27,505.

Passing now to the permanent members of the Navy, the target for next June was 14,300. Members available at 30th June last totalled 12,569 leaving 1,731 still to be recruited in this financial year. For the Air Force, the target was 18,300. At 30th June last 16,564 had enlisted leaving 1,736 to be found in this financial year. Those four numbers add up to the sizeable total of 15,469 to be found in this year. I feel justified in adding to that number the 2,500 members of what is now called the Australian Regular Supplement who are class 2 medically. So it would seem that at the moment the Government has the enormous task of finding about 18,000 personnel to bring its forces to the original target stated by the Prime Minister and which was to be reached by 30th June next. One cannot regard that situation as being satisfactory, and obviously the Government does not.

During the recess in June last the Minister for Defence announced new provisions, including additional pay for the armed forces. He announced that members of the Citizen Military Forces doing training duty - not continuous duty - would have their earnings disregarded for the purpose of income tax assessment. He also announced a programme to build some 3,700 houses during the next three years at a cost of £I4± million for members of the Australian Regular Army. Members of the

Emergency Reserves, to which I shall refer presently, were given a financial inducement ranging from £100 to £175 a year, developing over a four year period, and in addition a bonus of £55 on any occasion when they are called up for continuous duty. Finally, there is a lengthy schedule of provisions in the Bill covering persons who are called up for continuous service with the Emergency Reserves and with the Citizen Military Forces. The Bill provides that they are to be given protection in their employment so that after a period of con=tinuous service their employment is to be restored. They are to have the benefit of long service leave and other ordinary industrial benefits as though their employment had not been interrupted. On the face of them, they are all rather powerful inducements to people to join the forces. How far they will be effective only a period ahead will tell.

I pass now to a consideration of the main provisions of the Bill. The outstandingly new factor that we face is the establishment of an Emergency Reserve in each of the armed forces - the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Those reserves are to be recruited from trained personnel who have' left the ordinary armed forces, including the C.M.F., on the basis that they may be called up at any time for continuous service whether it be in peacetime, in a time of defence emergency or in time of war. If they are called up other than at a time of defence emergency or war, then they can be called up only for a continuous period not exceeding twelve months. We will call that a period of peace, or relative peace. They may be used during that time for service both in Australia and overseas if it is thought fit. Having served a continuous period of twelve months in time of peace,, they are to be released and not called up' again for a period of twelve months.

The Minister might correct me if he disagrees with the way I put this, but it seems to me that the main difference from the viewpoint of obligations between the Australian Regular Army, as we now know it, and the new Emergency Reserves is that a member of the Emergency Reserves may be called up only for a limited period in time of peace. In all other respects the obligations seem to me to be the same. The members of both forces are required to serve continuously at short notice. Only a notice by the Governor-General in the Commonwealth "Gazette" is required to call out the whole or any part of the Emergency Reserve. Members of both the A.R.A. and the Emergency Reserves are required to serve in Australia and outside Australia. They arc all compelled to remain in service, even if they have served a period of twelve months, if during that time a defence emergency is declared or war breaks out. Members of the A.R.A. perform continuous service throughout the period for which they have enlisted, which in most cases is six years.

I come now to the Citizen Military Forces. As determined by the Government, all members of the C.M.F. volunteer to serve overseas if required. The Bill provides that, upon the making of a proclamation as to the existence of a state of emergency, the Governor-General may call up members of the Citizen Forces. When that is done they must, of course, answer the call. The Governor-General, in making the proclamation, must give the reason why he has declared a state of defence emergency. Moreover, if the Parliament is sitting he must disclose that reason to the Parliament immediately or, if it is not sitting, he must call the Parliament together within 10 days to put that reason before it. So a call up for continuous service in the C.M.F. is completely dependent upon the issuance of a proclamation of that nature. Once that takes place, members are liable to serve both inside and outside Australia. The proposal is that that proclamation may be issued not merely in time of war but in a time of defence emergency. The Bill defines a time of defence emergency as the period between the making of a proclamation by the Governor-General and the making of a further proclamation ending the period. No attempt is made to set out, even in general terms, the circumstances that might justify the making of such a proclamation.

Senator Cormack - That power must always be reserved to any government.

Senator McKENNA - I am not arguing against that. I am merely recording what 1 find to be the interesting provisions of the Bill covering the new aspects of recruitment. There are many matters that are dealt with in the Bill to which no exception is taken by the Opposition and which I think have been quite adequately explained by the Minister. I do not intend to embark upon a discussion of those. In this speech I propose to confine myself to the new aspects of recruitment to the forces which the Bill introduces. I am merely pointing out the differences in call up in different situations and for different forces. I have already indicated the position in regard to the Emergency Reserves. Members of those Reserves can be called up at any time by the Governor-General. They will have volunteered .to serve in time of defence emergency, which of course involves the making of a proclamation, and in time of war. A similar proclamation is required to call up the C.M.F. The Minister may call up members of the ordinary Australian Regular Reserve in time of war or in time of defence emergency. As it is expressed in the Bill, that also requires the making of a proclamation, because there can bc no defence emergency until one has in fact been proclaimed.

The members of the Australian Regular Reserve, as I understand it, are under only one obligation at the moment; that is to serve in a time of national emergency. At this minute they are not required to serve in a time of defence emergency, in the terms in which the Bill has defined that expression. The proposal is that they will be liable to be called up in a time of defence emergency - that is the new provision - as well as in a time of war. Those provisions seem to us to be reasonable. We are not objecting to them. We do not object generally to the Bill, but whether it will succeed in attracting the numbers that the Government hopes to obtain remains to be seen. As we stand for the adequate defence of this country, we hope that the Government's ambitions will be realised, because when one looks even at the targets that are set for our defence forces, one realises that our defence rests on a comparatively thin layer of personnel. They are not in great numbers. Their ranks are capable of expansion, but they cannot be expanded in any great hurry. Even the new Defence Emergency Reserve was considered by the Minister, when he made his statement in June, to yield only about 3,600 personnel. We do not have the figures for the Navy or the Air Force, which may be expected to join such an emergency reserve. I would be grateful to the Minister if he would during the debate convey to the Senate an idea of the numbers that are expected to be gained in both the Navy and the Air Force.

The Opposition is concerned with what is provided for members of the Services to whom the new proposal is made, to accept a liability to be called up in a time of defence emergency. The Bill seeks to meet the position by a provision that within 30 days after the passing of this Act members of the Services may write to their commanding officer to indicate that they do not want to accept that obligation. If they write such a letter they must be released. There is also a particular provision for the Citizen Military Forces, that any present member who indicates within 30 days after the passing of the Act that he is not prepared to accept the new condition, is entitled to be discharged, or to have his resignation accepted, according to his rank. The Opposition feels that that is not the right way to approach this matter. In this case the onus is put upon individuals to step out of line, as it were. The Opposition feels that an opportunity for re-enlistment in the C.M.F. on the new base should be offered and that those who are prepared to accept the two conditions - continuous service in a time of defence emergency and in a time of war - should enlist plainly on that base, arid that those who do not wish to enlist have simply to do nothing.

I point out to the Senate that it may well be that this right conferred upon members of the C.M.F., and exercisable within 30 days of the passing of this Act, may not even come to their notice. Everybody is deemed to know what is the law, but it may well be that many members will remain quite ignorant of their rights. There is no particular provision for notification to each person. I have no doubt that as a matter of fair dealing the Department of Defence will see that notification is given to individuals. However, in the light of the experience of some of our members, we strongly favour the position that men in the C.M.F. should contract into an acceptance of this new opportunity and should not be obliged to contract themselves out. They are put in a difficult position. The decision of the Opposition to propose the making of such a proposition was reached only late this evening when the first opportunity for the Party to consider the Bill was had. If time had permitted me to draft an amendment to meet that suggestion I should be submitting it to the Senate at a later stage. However, I merely indicate now that when the Bill is in another place some action will be taken by the Opposition, with a proposed amendment, to express that point of view.

Another thought that has occurred to members of the Opposition is that members of our armed forces and their dependants should be given greater benefits in respect of injury or death than they now receive. At present the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act applies in respect of injury or death of members of the services. Their dependants receive some financial benefit. I am open to correction, but I believe that there is provision for payment of a maximum of £3,000. It is not a very great amount and does not carry a young widow with young children very far. The Opposition feels that it is right that men who volunteer for service overseas - and nearly all of them do - and who serve under the conditions that I have outlined tonight, should have available to them the benefits of the Repatriation Act in respect of hospitals, pensions for appropriate cases, and so on.

I suggest to the Minister that not only is that fair, but it might be one of the best inducements he could offer to those people who might not otherwise be tempted to join' our armed forces. I confess that I do not see my ability, or the ability of anybody else, to express that point of view in an amendment to the Bill, except by way of expression of opinion, whether tagged on to a second reading speech or otherwise. If acceptable, it would of course involve extensive amendments to the Repatriation Act.

I wish now to refer to a comment made by the Minister in his second reading speech. He said -

Should it be necessary to declare a state of war then the whole nation would be mobilised - by conscription.

I scoured the Bill to find a particular provision on that subject. Finding none, I went through it again. I raised a question with the Minister's officers on that score in connection with clause 35. I shall advert to that matter at the Committee stage. At present I merely put to the Minister that I have not found in the Bill any provision which is relevant to conscription in Australia. I do not think that it is intended that there should be. I should like the assurance of the Minister, since he has raised this matter which I think is not relevant to the Bill itself, that according to the viewpoint of the Government there is nothing in this Bill which contains the element of conscription.

Senator Cormack - Now we get it.

Senator McKENNA - I beg your pardon?

Senator Cormack - This is it.

Senator McKENNA - Well, let the honorable senator say what he means. I would like to assure the honorable senator, through you, Mr. President, that my statement goes no further than the words I have uttered. I do not know what sinister things Senator Cormack finds to permit him to say: "This is it." There is no sinister significance in what I say. I am merely expressing surprise that a Bill which, according to my reasoning, has nothing whatever to do with any provision for conscription should contain such a reference by the Minister. I point out that he put it in this way -

Should it be necessary to declare a state of war, then the whole nation would be mobilised - by conscription.

The Minister is talking of more than merely Army service when he says that. I take it from my understanding of that comment that what he has in mind is section 60 of the Act which provides for the calling up in time of war of male persons into the Citizen Military Forces. I take it that is all the Minister had in mind. I would merely like his assurance on the point. Let me say this, particularly for the benefit of Senator Cormack, that one realises that in a war of the type that we had on the last occasion, the whole nation was mobilised in almost every aspect of life, and that that was done by the Australian Labour Party.

Senator MATTNER (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Say that again.

Senator McKENNA - Would the honorable senator like me to say it again?

Senator Mattner - Yes, I would.

Senator McKENNA - I merely make the comment that the whole nation was mobilised in the war on that base. We had manpower conditions, and conscription conditions, and the whole nation was in fact mobilised as it had to be in a situation of total war. But I merely express surprise that the Minister in his speech adverted to the question of conscription at all, because I take that subject to be not relevant to any provision that this Bill contains.

Senator Paltridge - Actually, it is no more than a general statement having reference to a condition of war.

Senator McKENNA - I take it that the Minister agrees that there is no provision in this Bill relating to conscription.

Senator Paltridge - The provision in the Bill is 60(c). When the Bill is before the Committee, maybe we can discuss it in more detail.

Senator McKENNA - I was leaving a detailed discussion of the matter until the Committee stage. I was merely seeking an assurance from the Minister when he rose to reply. He has given that assurance now, so there is no need for me to stress the matter further.

There are many other provisions in the Bill which interest not only myself but all honorable senators and members of the Opposition in particular. I do not propose to advert to them. The Opposition is not opposing any of them. There seems to be a sound reason for their introduction. So, I content myself at this stage with indicating that we do not oppose the measure and that in another place we will seek to give explicit expression, if that can be done, to the two viewpoints that 1 have indicated regarding the application of repatriation benefits and reversing the procedure that has been adopted requiring people to contract out instead of allowing those who want to accept the double burden of contracting in. With those comments, I leave the Bill.

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