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Monday, 16 November 1964


Senator PROWSE (Western Australia) . - On 10th November, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) delivered, on behalf of the Government a defence review which was presented in Senate by the Leader of the Government (Senator Paltridge). The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) seeks to add to the motion concerning this review certain words by way of amendment. A multitude of words has flowed in this debate and from them has emerged the main burden of the Australian Labour Party's submissions. The first proposition is that the defence review is not genuine and that the Prime Minister's statement on the defence needs of Australia is purely a political stunt designed presumably to gain votes at the Senate election. Very strong words have been used. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) called it a contemptible political stunt ant I think this phrase has been repeated by almost every speaker on the Opposition side.

Let us look at this political stunt. Let us examine this contention that the review is intended as a vote catching stunt. The present proposals would increase the amount of money to be raised by defence purposes in the next three years from £816 million to £1,220 million, an increase of £404 million. Does the Opposition think that the prospects of having to find this amount in taxation or additional liability by way of loan is an electoral bribe? Does the Opposition really think the Australian people will be so thrilled at the prospect of having to pay more in taxes for the defence effort that they will rush to vote for the Government in the Senate election? The Opposition scorns to be horrified that the Government has put a proposition of this kind before the people just prior to the election. I suggest that its disquiet is occasioned by the feeling that the people will approve of the Government's action and will support the proposals for increased expenditure on defence. Does the Opposition seriously suggest that the defence review and the proposal for increased expenditure on defence should be held over until after the election? Is it suggesting that there is no need for a review? Surely it cannot maintain that proposition, following its own allegations of vast shortcomings in materials and manpower. In my opinion, the Government is doing the right thing by putting the facts of the increased expenditure on defence before the people at this time. It is giving the people an opportunity to express their approval or disapproval at an early date.

The second line of attack in this debate has been against the element of conscription in the call-up of 20-year old youths for service overseas. This also has been described as a political stunt. What sort of a political stunt is it to tell the mothers and fathers of Australian sons that their sons may be required in an emergency to serve overseas? Is this a vote catching measure? Is the Opposition afraid that the

Government is correctly judging the attitude of the Australian people and that they will support the measure? There is, in fact, much evidence to support the view that the Australian Labour Party's disquiet on this issue is well founded and that it is out of touch with Australian thinking today. I am encouraged to believe that this is so because in late July of this year the Young Country Party in Western Australia carried a resolution, "That the Government institute a system of selective national training", and put the resolution before the senior conference. The resolution was carried by an overwhelming majority after vigorous debate by the young members who were in favour of it. I say that the action taken by the Government is not a vote catching measure but one which most Australians will accept because they have a better appreciation of the realities of the situation than do honorable members opposite. I submit that this is the time to put such a proposal before the people of Australia, so that they are given an opportunity to accept or reject it. The amendment moved by the Australian Labour Party reads - and opposes the Government's proposals to conscript Australian youth for service overseas ...

Are we to understand from the wording of the amendment that the only objection which the Labour Party has is to conscription for overseas service and that it does not object to conscription for service within Australia? Or is its objection to conscription of a more general nature? Surely the Labour Party does not object to conscription as a principle. It believes in the conscription of workers to trade unions. So it appears that its only objection to conscription is that for overseas service. Are we to understand that the objection to conscription for overseas service is an expression of the Labour Party's defence policy of withdrawing all defence activities to within our shores and territorial waters and waiting for an enemy to invade before we strike back?

The Opposition has raised various objections to the method of selecting the conscripts under the proposed scheme. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in another place coined some fancy phrases. He spoke about Russian roulette. I notice that the objection to the method of selection has been repeated by several honorable senators in this chamber. Certain churchmen have objected to it. First, I would like to know what is the alternative to this method of selection? A similar method of selection is used by scientists in scientific matters. It is a method of random selection. No one has suggested a better method of carrying out a selection from a group of men. Does the Labour Party at this point of time want to call up all the young men for military service, or is this just some fanciful play upon the word " lottery "?


Senator Cavanagh - We want voluntary enlistment.


Senator PROWSE - But the Opposition is making a song about the method of selection. It is joined in its objection to the method of selection by an eminent Methodist clergyman. Senator Dittmer had a sort of objection to naming this gentleman. I have always maintained that a clergyman, of whatever eminence, has every right to express himself on political matters. But when it is observed that this clergyman in particular always comes down on one side of the political fence and that his political bias is always prominent in his pronouncements, he must surely be prepared to be named in a debate such as this. If he criticises the Government, surely he should not object to members of the Government defending the Government's decision. I have no hesitation in referring to the Reverend Alan Walker, who was quoted in the "Australian" in this connection. He spoke about a lottery barrel. Under the heading " Boys' lives will be put in a lottery barrel", he is reported to have said -

A human lottery is utterly objectionable to the Christian conscience. It suggests life and death are at the mercy of chance.

The Reverend Alan Walker is an eminent clergyman. Let us look at the history of the word "lottery". It has come down through the language until it has changed, in many connotations, from being a verb to being a noun. We now speak about a suburban lot or allotment. The lot was a method by which Jewish decisions were made. It was the only practical, fair and reasonable way in which to make decisions. Let us turn to Holy Writ, with which I presume the Reverend Alan Walker is familiar. If we look at the book of Numbers, chapter 26, verse 55, we find -

Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot;

Chapter 33, verse 54, says - and ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families.

Then if we read further in the book of Joshua, chapter 18, verse 6 we find -

And ye shall therefore describe the land into seven parts, and bring the description hither to me, that I may pass lots for you here before the Lord our God.

This has come down, not only through the Old Testament but also through the New Testament. I am bringing to the Senate the real derivation and moaning of this word " lottery " to which objections have been made by clergymen. We do not need to confine ourselves to the Old Testament. In The Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 1, verse' 26, we read -

And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven Apostles.

This is a time honoured, sensible and practical way of reaching a decision of this sort. It is a method which has been used in the New Zealand system of call-up and it has been used for a very good reason. I could take honorable senators back further, but I think that I have given a fairly good coverage of the meaning of " lot ".

I was very interested to hear Senator Cooke read an extract from Labour's defence policy as stated at the Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party at Perth. I should like to read portion of it to honorable senators, in case they have forgotten. The rest of it may be read in " Hansaid ". The Conference stated -

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

They are fine words, but in them is inherent the suggestion of defence on our own. Qualifying this paragraph, the next one states something that sounds fine until it is examined -

The development by negotiation of a regional defence system of the United Nations member states within the South East Asian and Indian sub-continental 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.


Senator Ormonde - Fair enough.


Senator PROWSE - What does it mean? What is the meaning of the expression " regional defence system of United Nations member states "? Who will be the member states? Let us remember that the Labour Party wants China to be included. What sort of defence arrangements could we get that would be advantageous to Australia in a concept of that sort? Senator Cooke joined with his colleagues in trying to make much of the fact that a large percentage of volunteers, particularly for the Army, were rejected. Most Opposition senators have tried to make much of this. It was stated that 2,800 were accepted out of 11,000 applications. A full analysis of the rejections is available to honorable senators if they want it. Senator Cormack dealt with them fairly completely. He said that 27 were rejected on educational grounds. The rest were rejected for a variety of reasons. The Opposition is trying to make out that the standards are so high that one needs a Leaving Certificate to qualify. The utter nonsense of this was shown by the statement that Senator Cormack read. I suggest to honorable senators opposite that they study the grounds for objection before they continue to suggest this method as an alternative to a limited call-up to maintain the armed services.

Honorable senators opposite cited statistics in support of their argument that there was a continuing increase in the total number of men in the Army, even though we now had a period of full employment. But this use of statistics does not reveal any material point at all. The point at issue is whether the rate of enlistment is sufficient to maintain the Army at the desired strength. Over the past four years enlistments have been -

 

These figures show that with the fall in unemployment, when men went back to full employment, enlistment in the Army continued to decline.


Senator Wright - Despite improvements in conditions and pay.


Senator PROWSE - It is obvious why they have declined, despite extensive advertising and, as Senator Wright says, improvements in pay and conditions. The rate of men coming into the forces has continued to decline. To try to prove the opposite by statistics is a dishonest use of statistical material. It is true that there are liars, damned liars and statistics. Any review of defence policy and expenditure must be made not only after full consultation with defence chiefs but also after a careful evaluation of international relationships. To suggest that it is practical politics to have a defence policy that is based on any single factor such as current availability of weapons without regard to the type available in the near future is sheer nonsense. To suggest that we can lay down defence requirements without regard on the one hand to our obligations and on the other to the possible contribution to a given situation of the fact that we have allies displays complete lack of appreciation of the position that Australia is committed as part of the free world. Throughout this debate there has come from the Opposition the urging that Australia should defend herself by herself. Mr. Gray said, to use his own words, that we should put ourselves in a position where we can defend ourselves. He further said -

I have no faith in anybody going to anybody's aid.

That is pure neutralism and, in the present circumstances, arrant nonsense. Mr. Whitlam, upon his return from his world trip on 12th August, is reported in the " Herald " and other newspapers as having called for an independent foreign policy. The people of Australia would like to know what this independent policy is and of whom it would be independent.' To translate a policy of this sort into the practical reality of defence requirement would entail sacrifices of manpower and resources that would stifle economic growth, would lower our living standards tremendously, and would mean a burden of taxation beyond anything previously dreamed of.

In this debate the Australian Labour Party has gone to the limit in piling up accusations of alleged deficiences in the state of our defences. It is easy to sit back and criticise. What would we have now if Labour had been in power for the last 10 years? We would have no troops in Malaya, we would have no nuclear weapons in the southern hemisphere, we might have a naval communication station at North West Cape following a vote of 17 to 19, and we would have no allies. I contend that a policy having those features would have made it impossible for us to continue with our contractual obligations. I have always been intrigued by the reasoning behind the idea that the absence of nuclear bombs from the southern hemisphere would in some way prevent nuclear bombs landing in this hemisphere. To me that seems just about as sensible as hoping that, by shutting one's eyes to a crisis, one escapes the danger of accidents.

What would have been the position now if it had been decided eight or ten years ago completely to rc-equip the armed forces with the then available weapons of war to the full limit of our resources and disregarding the economic effects? We cannot disregard the economic effects, because we as a nation of 1 1 million people are charged with the responsibility of developing this continent and we must put the greater part of our economic resources into that task. If we fail in that task, we fail to defend this country. But for the moment let us disregard the economic effects. The result would have been that we would have spent our resources on equipment which now would be either obsolete or obsolescent and we would still have to face an immense programme of re-equipment with more modern arms. Mr. Deputy President, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.







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