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Friday, 13 November 1964


Senator COOKE (Western Australia) . - Mr. Acting Deputy President, we have been enjoying an address by Senator Mattner. He ranged over many fields but did not come to grips with the quintessence of this situation, or of the document which is under discussion. The quintessence of the matter is this: Despite the fact that Australian youths have offered themselves for voluntary service to the tune of 23,000 volunteers, the Government has rejected three-quarters of them and has selected only 6,000. Now the Government tells tha nation that a state of emergency exists, that it cannot get Australian youths io volunteer, and that therefore it proposes to. bring in conscription.

I say that there is no nation which will say that it is good policy to have an army of conscripts, when volunteer forces are available. It has always been the right of every individual in this nation to say that he will serve. Never in a state of emergency or in wartime has Australian manhood, womanhood or youth let this country down. Now the disgraceful position arises that the Government, after 15 years in power, during which it has neglected the defence of this country, shamefully places before the Parliament a statement that a state of emergency exists. The statement is not explained. The Government, having received four times as great a number of volunteers as it requires, says that it is going to conscript youth into the Services. The Govern- ment does not plan total conscription. It says that nobody will avoid the call up but only one person in 30 will come under this plan. Their fate will be decided by drawing from a hat. The one who is selected will be almost insulted in that he had to be conscripted into the forces of Australia. Of every 30 young men, 29 will go free. One man will be selected.

Let us examine the sanity of this proposal. Let us consider the ratio of rejects from our volunteers for the Services. Of 23,000 volunteers we find that 6,300 are selected. Almost three-quarters are rejected. What a ridiculous thing to happen in a state of emergency. If the Government proposes to continue that line of thinking it will keep pulling names out of the hat and apparently one man in every 30 will be suitable. The Government cannot say that the young men of Australia it proposes to conscript are going to be any more acceptable to serve this country than those who volunteered; so out of every 30 names that are drawn out of the hat there will be one acceptable to the Government - that is if we consider the previous ratio. The Government, has decided that in a state of emergency names will be pulled out of a hat to make a conscript of one man in 30. The scheme is ridiculous when we analyse it from that point alone, leaving aside political considerations.

Let us consider what has been done by this Government in respect of defence. The Government has never been restricted by this Parliament in relation to expenditure on defence. If defence expenditure is criticised at all it is to the effect that the expenditure is inefficient and the results appalling to the Opposition and the people of Australia. The Government has received everything it has asked for. At times it was criticised because it did not use defence expenditure in fields that were vital to this country. One of those fields was the training and equipping of our young men so that they would not be sent into action unprepared, inefficiently trained, whether as conscripts or volunteers, and made gun fodder for the want of training. That is what the Government has to answer for. That is why there is a state of emergency. Our Australian youths have willingly offered themselves for training at the rate of four times as many as the Government said it needed. Yet the Government would not take them and train them, not only for the protection of this nation, but for their own protection when they get into action. The Government has rejected them - and on what grounds? It did not reject them because they were not good citizens and because they were physically unfit, but because of the educational standard which it thought they should have. The Navy has rejected 8,000 volunteers and has found only 2,000 satisfactory. The Government does not want conscription in that case because it has neither the boats nor the equipment. Let us consider the Army. There were 11,000 applications and only 2,800 were acceptable. There were 27 per cent, rejected oh account of education - not that they were physically unfit. The Government wants to conscript youth although it could well have more volunteers than it needs.


Senator Cormack - This is not true.


Senator COOKE - It is true. The honorable senator can deny it, but I have the figures and they are good enough for me. There were 23,000 volunteers in' this country and 6,300 were accepted for the Services.


Senator Cormack - The rest were not up to standard, and the honorable senator knows it.


Senator COOKE - The percentage of rejects for the Royal Australian Air Force was 38 per cent. There were 5,700 volunteers and 1,600 were acceptable. The Government says that it wants to conscript the youth of this country to serve overseas, when there is a volunteer record such as this. It is not that volunteers are not available. The fact is that the Government has not been able to equip them, nor has it been prepared to provide the expenditure to train them and put them in a suitable position to serve this country.


Senator Wright - That is a false statement.


Senator COOKE - That is a fact and it is an indictment of the Government: It is an insult to the youths who volunteer if the Government considers that only one in four of them is good enough. We should analyse the position from the point of view of sanity. It is a horrible position that one young man out of 30 is to be conscripted when, if an emergency arose, he would go willingly to serve his country.


Senator Cormack - He can go into th* C.M.F.


Senator COOKE - The honorable senator may yell, but he knows what it means. Over the last five years the Government has spent £1,000 million on defence and the only thing we have got that is not obsolete is the young Australian volunteer who has been offering himself for service. After Senator Paltridge took over as Minister for Defence he went to Western Australia and was challenged strongly on the question of. bases in that State. He was asked about the installation of a dock there but he said that it was not necessary as Western Australia was well defended. He said: "What we want is a mobile striking force and a nucleus of trained people who would be quickly on the spot. We will never have to be involved in a major conflict. We will be engaged only in sporadic outbursts of small-


Senator Branson - Brushfire wars.


Senator COOKE - The honorable senator may call them that, if he wishes, but he cannot deny that what I am saying is correct. I think the expression used was " isolated outbreaks ", but it could have been " brushfire wars ". The Government assembled a mobile- force, all right inasmuch as the force is moving now to the scrap heap as obsolete. It is mobile and moving fast in that direction. But the Government did not raise a trained nucleus. It is proving by its own statements that such a force is not available.

Government supporters have in the past dented that national service training is necessary. Since the Government came into office there have been 27 reviews of defence, and on each occasion until the last we were told that we were adequately defended. It was said that everything possible was being done. Those statements were made with regularity because the Opposition had almost reached screaming point in saying that sufficient was not being done and that our defences were in a parlous condition. In May of this year I asked Senator Paltridge whether he had noted the statement of one of the heads of the Army that recruiting was not raising the required numbers. Senator Paltridge said that the position Was quite satisfactory to the Government, but it is not satisfactory to mc. The Minister tried to make it appear that no action was necessary in respect of recruitment. Now comes the time when we require conscription because it was not possible by recruiting to obtain sufficient numbers. The Minister responsible for the defence of this country, irrespective of the statements that are placed before the Senate, cannot give us the specific information we seek. What is the position in relation to the TFX bombers? There should be no argument on this subject, but a report in the "Canberra Times" of 26th June 1964 quoted Mr. A. B. McFarlane, Secretary of the Department of Air, in this way -

Mr. McFarlanesaid the R.A.A.F. would not " phase out V its Canberra jet bombers until 1970. The new Minister for Defence, Senator Paltridge, said last week that the Government expected to take delivery of the first Fill A bombers in 196S.

Mr. McFarlanesaid that another squadron could not become fully operational for at least another 18 months after that.

That time would be needed for R.A.A.F. personnel to master the technical weapons system and scientific apparatus which would come with the new bombers.


Senator Hendrickson - Where is the Minister for Defence?


Senator COOKE - The Minister is out of the chamber. I have read out the report of a statement that is unchallengeable and unanswerable. I shall now quote to honorable senators the policy of the Opposition in relation to defence, as stated at the Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party at Perth in 1963 -

Australia's National policy must be to ensure her territorial security, the security of her overseas trade and her development as an independent but co-operative nation.

The nation's defence must be so arranged that the intention and ability of Australia to defend itself is clear beyond all doubt to our own people, to our allies and to any potential aggressor.

The development by negotiation of a regional defence system of United Nations member States within the South East Asian and Indian subcontinental areas for mutual defence, consistent with the requirements of the United Nations Charter and not inconsistent with the general provisions of Australia's existing defence treaty commitments.

So we recognise to the full, Australia's treaty commitments: The policy statement continued -

Labor's defence and foreign policies are based on the conviction that war can and must be prevented and Australia has a ' part to play in ils prevention. Australia demands the right to consultation in the great decisions of peace and war.

The present decision on conscription is such a great decision -

Labour will honour and support Australia's Treaties and Defence alliances.

Provision of voluntary defence forces (a) properly equipped and provided with modern weapons of war-

That is the policy we have been pushing for the last decade, and although the Government has assured us many times of the adequacy of our defences they are still inadequate. Our policy statement continued - (i?) capable of great mobility within Australia and its environs, (c) having sufficient range and strike power to deter aggressors and (d) capable of being. used as part of United Nations forces for the maintenance of peace.

Provision of citizen military forces which can be rapidly mobilised in lime of war.

That is the policy of the Australian Labour Party. Honorable senators opposite have asked what our policy is. Had Labour been in office in the last decade we would have accomplished the aims that I have just read to the Senate. The Government has made an admission that it has failed to provide a proper defence of Australia in a practical manner. The Air Force has obsolete equipment and the Navy is in a deplorable condition, as was exposed by the Royal Commission which was recently conducted. Our aircraft carrier is to be overhauled at a cost of £10 million and will be out of commission for at least several years. In that time no aircraft carrier will be available to the Navy. The Government has told us that there is no place from where it can obtain another aircraft carrier. Probably it has not searched for one. Again we find there is a difference of opinion between the Government and the responsible people in the Navy. I shall read to the Senate a report which appeared in the " West Australian " of 13th November 1964. It states- - Navy Minister Chaney told the House of Representatives today that the aircraft-carrier "Melbourne" would not undergo its refit till

1967.

The refit could not begin immediately because some equipment had to be ordered well ahead of delivery.

But the S2E tracker aircraft with which it would be equipped would be ordered immediately and were expected to be available before the refit on the carrier started.

While the 18-month refit was in progress, the aircraft would be stationed at Nowra, but could be moved around Australia and used as land-based planes.

In Brisbane, Rear-Admiral O. H. Becher, Flag Officer Commanding the R.A.N., said today that the. Fleet Air Arm would be confined to Nowra during the £10,000,000 refit.

The strength of the Fleet Air Arm is to be concentrated at Nowra - ground based. The Government has the arrant impudence to raise in this House the question of what happened to the American planes in Vietnam. They were caught on the ground, immobilised without support, and attacked by a force equipped only with near-obsolete weapons, by people who, the Government says, are our enemies. Yet that same dangerous position is to exist in this country.

I have stated many facts that the Government has been unable to answer. One fact is that despite the willingness of volunteers the Government is to introduce conscription by a method of drawing names out of a hat, to raise a force which it has been stated by the Minister should be available for use in a state of emergency. By the vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate the Government was given the right quite recently to mobilise every citizen in Australia in time of war, or of real emergency, to serve in the defence of Australia. The Government does not offer a planned defence.


Senator Maher - By the time they were mobilised the war would be over.


Senator COOKE - That was the argument used by the Liberal Party when John Curtin tookover the leadership of this country after it was deserted by the Leader of the Liberal Party and his Cabinet. The Liberal Party supporters said then that Australia could not be mobilised for defence. But for the breathing space that the Labour Government was given when it took over, Australia would have been in a parlous condition.

The crux of this matter is that the Government says that this country will be defended adequately if one in every 30 boys under 21 years of age can be conscripted. That is really the only thing for which the Government is asking on this occasion.. But even the Government does not believe that, ft is a lie. Even if the Government is given the right to conscript boys, that will not make one bit of difference to the position. These boys were available as volunteers.. The boy who will be chosen by ballot or by draw out of a hat - the one boy in every 30 - and who then is likely to be rejected, should first have been given the right to say: " You have got me. May I volunteer?" It is quite likely that in those circumstances most boys would volunteer.

What has the Government done to reestablish the Australian aircraft industry, which was found to be necessary and vital during the Second World War? The journal, " Jane's All the World's Aircraft "-the best authority in the world - tells us that Sweden is making the bombers that we require at half of the cost of the bombers that we are purchasing. If we purchased bombers from Sweden, how would they be kept in the air? The Government says that Australia is not capable of producing bombers, but we have produced bombers before. What is the Government doing about using Australian shipyards to build and service naval and supply vessels? Only a little while ago the Minister for Defence said that it was quite useless to talk about establishing a naval base in Western Australia. Thousands .of American submarines were serviced in that State during the Second World War on a hush-hush basis. At that time it was said that, strategically, Western Australia was probably one of the best places in which to establish a naval base. But the Government says that such a base is not necessary. All the Government wants to do is conscript one boy in every 30, who is a juvenile under the law and who is quite able and willing to be a volunteer.

What has the Government done about the manufacture in Australia of modern small arms, ordnance and mobile equipment? It has done nothing, The Small Arms Factory in Lithgow is crying out for orders, but the Government is reducing its staff. Is not the work of that factory essential? The present is not a time of emergency if it is not essential. Australia is competent to do these things but the Government, in its lethargy, apart from thinking of the physical taking of a body, does nothing about them. These and other matters which are so essential in modern war have received no attention; or, if they have received attention, no report of that has been made to the Parliament or to the Australian people.

The Government should be doing something about the development of adequate protection for the civil population against atomic and biological warfare through our own intensive investigation and consultation with our allies. Until quite recently, our civil defence organisation was a laughing stock. Perhaps it still is. We are told that if ever there has been a time when we in Australia have been in danger of being devastated, that time may be now. But the Government is silent on this matter, which is just as vital to the defence of this country as the conscription of a body of fine Australian youths who would be prepared to volunteer to defend this country.

The young Australian man or woman does not want to be a conscript. Australian youths have never failed this country when they have been told properly, clearly and honestly that an emergency exists and that they are required to serve. The Government has not put the position to them properly, clearly and honestly on this occasion. Threequarters of the people who have enlisted have been rejected. The Government definitely has to explain why those people have been rejected before it says: " We want to conscript one boy in every 30 for service overseas ". We want to hear explanations from the Government on these vital matters. I believe that we are justified in seeking such explanations.

The history of the Labour Party in matters of the defence of Australia is clear enough. In two world wars the Labour Party bore the burden when it took over responsibility, after the abdication of the Liberal Party, the Nationalist Party, or whatever its name was at the time, and prosecuted the hostilities to a successful conclusion.

There will be no doubt where Labour stands on this subject on any occasion when there is a challenge to this country. The emergency that has occurred in the last few days is that the public and the Press have become fully aware of how deficient this Government has been in providing for the defence of this country and, therefore, the Government has had to pluck something out of the air to divert the attention of the people from the real deficiencies of Australia's defence position. The Government has done this by introducing conscription.'

This has occupied the attention of the mothers and fathers of the lads who are to be called up. The boys themselves are asking: " Will I be conscripted?" Parents are saying: "Is it our boy who will be called up?" The Government says that it will choose the boys by drawing from a hat. The fact is that any boy who is drawn may be one of the 75 per cent, of those who have volunteered and have been rejected. It is possible that one in every four who is selected by the draw from a hat will be unacceptable to the Government. It is hypocrisy for the Government to say that, because of the voluntary enlistment figures at this stage, it has to conscript young men for service.

If the defence planning of this country were as it should be, and as the Labour Party desires it should be, the young men of this country would be trained and disciplined in this regard. They would at least have knowledge of the arms that they would have to handle and would know the best way to protect themselves if ever they were called upon to give service to this country. Any government which does not ensure that that is so is recreant to its duty to the nation. This Government has not done that. Until very recently it has said that that form of training would be too expensive and is not expedient, and that Australia should have a strong mobile striking force. We have not got one. It has said that there should be a nucleus of trained personnel who would be able to control the mobilisation of the people of this country in times of need. We have not got those trained personnel. Our servicemen do not have sufficient knowledge even of the arms that have been ordered from overseas. In respect of the aircraft which have been ordered, the Chief of the Air Staff has said that personnel will have to be trained in the use of the scientific equipment associated with them, and that that training will take 18 months.

What is going to happen under this present defence policy? There will be a nucleus consisting of conscripted boys, although it could be provided by volunteers. We need a force which will stay in this country and defend it. The Government says that the threat to our security was never nearer home than it is at present. There is not one senator in this chamber who does not. realise the terrible agony that was suffered by John Curtin when liehad to tell Great Britain that the 9th Division had to come home from the Middle East. History tells of the great need that we had for those men. There was nobody here to defend us. It is all right for Senator Mattner to interject and for my friend, Senator Cormack, to hold up that piece of paper and say that the Government at that time sent " chocos " into New Guinea, with our people hiding behind them. Those infants - that is what they were, God rest them - went into that territory and gave their lives, not as conscripts but as young men defending this country, while the manhood of Australia was fighting as storm troops in every theatre of war overseas. John Curtin decided to bring the 9th Division back from the Middle East, but some of the supporters of the present Government made statements to the Press about this recall. A censorship had to be placed on the Press to stop the newspapers from publishing information about it. Had this not been done, our enemies would have known of our moves. Only one boat containing members of our 9th Division did not return here. It was diverted to Java and the soldiers eventually became prisoners of war. That was the position in those days. That action had to be taken for the defence of Australia.

What is happening now? Our young men are to be conscripted and possibly sent overseas. We have sent our people overseas before; they were not conscripted. Let us never be misled again. The defence of this country should be in the hands of the citizens of Australia, not in the hands of some youths of 20 years of age - infants in the eyes of the law - who are conscripted into service. This action is not going to make for the defence of this country. This country will be defended properly when every youth has been trained not only to defend Australia but also to defend himself in the event of having to face an enemy. We will not be able to provide a defence for Australia by conscription - by picking out of a hat the name of one youth in every 30. I believe that the Government realises this, but wishes to confuse the Australian people and to convince them that its defence proposals are adequate. Wc of the Labour Party know that they are not.

There is only one way in which Australia can be defended with the numbers and the resources available to us. If Australia is in real danger, if we are in peril or there is an emergency, the Parliament should be called together and should decide to mobilise all our manpower and resources. The Parliament must be prepared to ask everyone to serve the nation. I am confident that 98 per cent, of Australian citizens will support me when I say that if it is necessary for volunteers to fight outside Australia, we will not be short of them. But if Australia is in real peril, our defence lies in the hands of every citizen, and the duty of the Government would be to mobilize every section of the community.

War these days is not only for the boy who goes into the field carrying a rifle; the troops must have supplies of food and ammunition and we must have the means to maintain our lines of supply. But of those matters the Government has said nothing. lt has created a' state of emergency, but the only new proposal that it has advanced in order to meet the situation is the conscription of one infant in law of each 30 in Australia. The Government is satisfied that that will meet the situation; but I remind the Government that there is more to do than that. If there is a real state of emergency the Government must ensure that its servicemen are properly equipped to meet an attack and are able to look after themselves in action.


Senator Henty - That is what we are trying to do.


Senator COOKE - The Government will hot be able to do that by calling up one man in 30. It has been rejecting three-quarters of the volunteers. The argument that has been advanced by honorable senators opposite is hollow, invalid and cruel. I hope that it will not deceive the people. The Press has more or less awakened to what is happening.


Senator Kendall - The honorable senator is on his own.


Senator COOKE - If I am on my own it is because I am one at least who will say straight out that the Government is abusing its privilege in this Parliament when its supporters say that we cannot recruit sufficient volunteers and must resort to conscription. As I have said, the Government has rejected three out of every four volun teers. If some of the recruits have been lacking in education, let the Government take stock of that. I remind the Senate that every boy who enters the Services does so on promises made in the Press, over the air and on television that he will be educated. He is told that when he leaves the Army he will be an educated man and will be equipped to resume his civilian life. Yet volunteers are rejected because they are not educated.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator's time has expired.







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