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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - in reply - I express my appreciation of the manner in which this Bill has been received by the Senate. It is not, of course, a unique experience to have a Bill unopposed by the Labour Party. But if I may be permitted to make a personal observation, it is a unique experience for me to introduce a Bill into the Senate which has, as I understand it, the active and positive support of my friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly). 1 am reminded of the saying of a philosopher, or a columnist - I am not sure which - to the effect that if you live long enough, anything can happen to you. I am delighted that on this occasion Senator Kennelly has expressed his support of the measure.

It cannot be claimed for the Bill that it does anything dramatic towards increasing the numerical availability of the Armed Forces, but I think it can be claimed that it breaks new ground insofar as it does two things which have not been done before in our history. First, it creates an Emergency Reserve for the Australian Regular Army, which itself has not been established for a great number of years. The early history of Australia and the history of the two World Wars has indicated that Australia has depended for her defence, in the main, on voluntary enlistments. In recent years we have had a Regular Army, a new concept in our democracy. The present measure makes possible the creation of a reserve for the Regular Army. Secondly, it introduces to our defence legislation, a new provision to meet the changing circumstances of our time, and our geographical circumstances. It makes it possible for the Citizen Military Forces to be called up in times short of war. Although these provisions, I hope, will find their way through this Parliament by way of a Bill which is not very dramatic, they will be seen in retrospect to have created something of a landmark in the development of Australian military history and defence.

The new circumstances which make it necessary to declare a time of defence emergency are well known to all of us. We live so differently today from our circumstances in other years. Overnight a situation can develop in one of the countries not too distantly removed from us, that can create almost an immediate demand for action to be taken in respect of our defence. The legislation before us, as I have said, permits this action to be taken.

The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) reminded me that I did not mention the numbers which might be expected to join the Naval Emergency Reserve and the Air Force Emergency Reserve. It is expected that about 2,000 volunteers will join the Naval Emergency Reserve, and that about 1,000 or 1,200 volunteers will join the Air Force

Emergency Reserve. Only two points have been raised which require any comments by me. The Leader of the Opposition indicated that it is the intention of the Opposition - if I did not misunderstand the honorable senator - to consider moving certain amendments in another place. The Opposition considers that an amendment is necessary in respect of repatriation benefits. AH I can say to the Leader of the Opposition in this respect is that members called up either in the Emergency Reserve or in the Citizen Military Forces and who serve in operational areas will receive precisely the same treatment as other members of the Forces. They will be entitled to full repatriation benefits as are members of the Australian Regular Army.

Senator McKenna - Outside Australia?

Senator PALTRIDGE - Yes. In declared operational areas they will be eligible for repatriation benefits.

Senator O'Byrne - Would not Australia also be an operational area in an emergency?

Senator PALTRIDGE - Operational areas are declared from time to time as the military situation demands. My friend who interjects will recall, I am sure, that there were parts of Australia and of Australian Territories which were declared operational during the war. The declaration of an operational area depends entirely upon the operational circumstances of the time. But I make the point that when these men serve in operational areas they will automatically have available to them repatriation benefits.

The next matter which was raised was in respect of the provision in the bill that members of the Citizen Military Forces will be given an opportunity within 30 days of the passage of this measure of opting out if they do desire because they do not wish to proceed with their obligations, taken beforehand incidentally, to serve overseas. I make the position quite plain that this provision which gives them the opportunity to contract out will be brought to the individual notice of every serving member of the C.M.F. I make the further point that even if a member of the C.M.F. does not exercise that option within 30 days then, in times of peace, he will have the opportunity of applying for a discharge, such application being treated on its merits. So, I do not think that, looking at the matter realistically, there is any possible danger of a member of the C.M.F. inadvertently finding himself committed to something with which he was not completely familiar.

But there is another and a more important reason why I believe our arrangement is a better arrangement than the one that is contemplated by the Leader of the Opposition. It is this: I believe that what we propose to do is completely in line and in harmony with the feelings of the members of the C.M.F. themselves. I remind the Senate that those members have already undertaken to serve overseas. They have done that. But the altered conditions which extend that undertaking previously given from a period limited to time of war to now encompass a period which includes a time of defence emergency alters their conditions. We are, therefore, giving them this opportunity. I am sure, however, that the most cursory inquiry as to the feelings of the vast majority of the members of the C.M.F. will show that they will welcome this further opportunity to indicate their willingness to serve.

J i: has been my experience as Minister for Defence - and I am gratified to know this, and I make it known - that the Returned Servicemen's League has constantly, over a long period of years, asked that the role of the Citizen Military Forces should be made clearer, and that this particular provision introduced in this bill

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee.

Clauses I to 8 - by leave - together, and agreed to.

Clause 9 (Promotion from the ranks).

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