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Monday, 16 November 1964

Senator RIDLEY (South Australia) . - I draw the attention of honorable senators who have been listening to the debate to the fact that we are discussing a motion which appears on the notice paper in this way -

That the Senate take note of the Paper- And of the amendment moved thereto by Senator McKenna, viz. - at the end of the motion add the following words - " and opposes the Government's proposals to conscript Australian youth for service overseas, regrets its failure to stimulate recruitment for the Regular Army and condemns its delay in securing Naval and Air Forces to safeguard Australia and ils territories and communications ".

If there has been a debate to which I have listened since I have been in this Parliament where the Government has avoided the arguments that have been presented by the Opposition, it is this debate. All kinds of red herrings have been drawn across the trail by honorable senators opposite and various charges have been made by them. I think that some of the honorable senators opposite who have made the charges are now sorry that they did. Senator Prowse, who is not known as a vicious person, used three phrases which, for him, represent pretty strong words. First, he described the argument presented, not only by the Labour Party but also by the churches of Australia, as utter nonsense. Then he described it as sheer nonsense, and finally he reached a climax by describing it as arrant nonsense. However, although he became a little vicious, at no time during the course of his speech did he answer the argument that had been presented.

Senator Prowsedid not seek to take on only one church in Australia; he sought to take on three. When he mentioned the name of a reverend person, I noticed that he was referring to the "Australian". I obtained a copy of it and found out that he was not only taking the Reverend Alan Walker to task as opposing this method of the conscription of youths. He was also taking on the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church.

Senator Hannan - The "Daily Mirror" has corrected that statement tonight.

Senator RIDLEY - I am speaking only of the part of the article to which Senator Prowse referred. He said that the main objection to this method of conscription arose because a lottery is to be used, and he argued that the word was derived from the Bible. I do not dispute that; it is probably true. Then he attempted to convince honorable senators who were listening to him that, because the word " lottery " was derived from the Bible, it behoved any Christian, and most certainly reverend gentlemen of the Church, not to oppose the use of the word in this connection. If you carried that argument to its logical conclusion, it would mean that anybody who opposed a lottery of any kind whatsoever was not a Christian. There is where I think Senator Prowse's argument fell down.

During the time Senator Prowse was speaking - I think he spoke for about half an hour - he did not answer one argument that had been advanced by any honorable senator opposite. In the time that I have at my disposal - I am not quite certain just how long that is-

Senator Henty - You have until 1.30 a.m.

Senator RIDLEY - I am advised that I have until 1.30 a.m. I wish to add my contribution on one argument which has been presented by speakers from the Opposition side of this chamber and by speakers on behalf of the Opposition in another place, and which has not been answered by any members of the Government parties. In fact, they have studiously avoided it. Our opposition to conscription is based not only on the fact that it is conscription as such but also on the fact that the voluntary system of recruitment for the armed forces has not been really tried out. Figures have been quoted' to show that had the people who offered for service in the Army been accepted there would have been no need for the Government to introduce a bill to conscript youths.

Senator Prowseattempted to argue against that proposition on the score that the figures were only statistical evidence and did not mean very much. He used a very strange expression. He said that anybody who quotes statistics only proves the old saying that there are liars, damn liars and statisticians. If people are to be condemned for quoting statistics-

Senator Prowse - I referred to people quoting statistics untruthfully, with intent to deceive.

Senator RIDLEY - The honorable senator said that the fact that members of the Opposition quoted statistics provided in answer to a question asked by Senator McClelland proved that there can be liars, damn liars and statisticians. I was about to say that if people are to be condemned for quoting statistics, not many members of the Opposition will be condemned because honorable senators on the Government side quote statistics much more frequently than we do.

The plain fact of the matter is that the figures that we used were supplied by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) in answer to a question asked by a member of the Opposition. The argument was that the number of lads who volunteered for service in the Army and were rejected on the ground of lack of educational qualifications was larger than the number that the Government proposes to obtain in the first year by means of conscription. A certain number of lads were rejected because they did not have a sufficiently high intelligence quotient; but the number of lads who were rejected purely and simply because they did not reach the required educational standard was more than the number that the Government hopes to conscript in the first year.

I will give one illustration in support of what Mr. Calwell said in another place. He said that if the lack of educational qualifications was the only reason why these lads were rejected there was a simple solution; namely, to accept them as recruits for the Army, to give them the same training as was given to servicemen in the Second World War and to bring them up to the required educational standard. That standard has been stated variously by members of the Government parties. It has been stated to be the educational standard of a 12 year' old' schoolboy. Another speaker said that only the intelligence quotient of a lad of about 10 was required. If lack of education were the only barrier to the obtaining of voluntary recruits I suggest it could quite simply be overcome by requiring lads who volunteered to undertake a special course of training during the first 12 months of service. I am sure that they could be brought up to the standard failure to meet which is responsible for their rejection today.

Anybody who has any knowledge of the state of trade labour in Australia at the commencement of the last war knows that it would have been completely impossible for Australia to fulfil its wartime armament programme if it had had to depend on the original educational qualifications of the people who eventually fulfilled the programme. The tradesmen that the General Motors-Holden organisation employed at the end of the war were 50 times as skilled as the labour employed at the commencement of the war. When the organisation was building motor bodies it had a large proportion of semi-skilled workers to skilled workers, but at the end of the war it had about 90 per cent, skilled workers and about 10 per cent, semi-skilled, and the total number employed at the end of the war was greater than the number employed at the commencement. This means that people who lacked education and were unskilled early in the war ended the war not only as skilled tradesmen but also with a high degree of education. These dilutee tradesmen, as they were called, were culled from lads who were the products of the depression, who had had to leave school before reaching a high standard of education. They included lads who had had no opportunity to become apprentices because in the depressed state of industry no apprentices were being taken on. They were not lacking in ability merely because they had little or no education or because in the first place they lacked skill. The General MotorsHolden organisation, together with the government of the day, provided the avenue for their training.

The Holden car was built by people who were not tradesmen. The whole of the tool ing up for the Holden car was performed by toolmakers 90 per cent, of whom were not tradesmen prior to the war. However, at the end of the war they were trained men. They were turned out as tradesmen because of the opportunity that was provided by the war. They were trained to a skill that had been denied to them and in many instances they proved to be better tradesmen than persons trained before the war. With respect to people who are rejected by the Army on the score that they lack education there is quite a simple solution: The Government can provide them with the opportunity and they can be brought to the necessary standard of education. There is no need for rejection on the score of lack of education. I challenge any honorable senator in this debate or in the subsequent debate on a Bill that flows from this review to show that the persons who have been rejected are impossible to train to the necessary standard.

This brings me to another point. I do not wish to deal with a lot of statistics and lay myself open to the kind of charge brought by Senator Prowse. We have been told roughly how many men the Government hopes to obtain by conscripting 20 year olds, but the figures for the number of applicants for entry to the armed forces compared to the number rejected suggest that not enough of the 1 in 30 registered whose names are drawn out of the hat, shall I say, will have the educational and other qualifications demanded now of volunteers. This means that the Government will have to draw out of the hat again.

Senator Prowse - That contingency is provided for.

Senator RIDLEY - How is it provided for?

Senator Prowse - If the honorable senator had studied the National Service Bill, he would know.

Senator RIDLEY - Apparently the honorable senator has not studied it, because he did not give us any explanation. It is claimed that 1 in 30 of those registered will serve. But neither Senator Prowse nor anybody else can tell me how many times names will have to be drawn out of the hat to get the number of men required. Names could be drawn out of the hat 100 times and still not enough men with the required qualifications may be available. The Government would have to continue drawing out of the hat until it had enough men with the required qualifications.

Senator Henty - The simple answer could be that, if that happens, we shall not have an Army.

Senator RIDLEY - If the Minister had been listening instead of sleeping, as he has been doing most of the night, he could perhaps give me some information on this point. Enough men could be obtained, as they were obtained in the last war, by taking them into the Army and then training them.

Senator Henty - They were conscripted into the Civil Construction Corps.

Senator RIDLEY - The Government proposes to conscript men, but does it propose to accept them at a standard lower than that required of volunteers?

Senator Ormonde - We have not yet been told.

Senator RIDLEY - Apparently, the Government does not yet know about that. If it requires of conscripts the same standard as is required of volunteers, nobody can say how many times a draw will have to be made out of the hat to obtain sufficient men with the required qualifications. What happened in the last war may happen again. In the last war, men who volunteered for the Army and were rejected were later conscripted as " chocos " and subjected to all the indignities associated with that description. That was mentioned by the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) a couple of weeks ago.

Senator Henty - He did not say that it was not possible.

Senator RIDLEY - He said that a mixed Army of conscripts and volunteers was not desirable. He said that, in saying that, he was speaking not just on his own authority, but on the advice of his advisers.

Senator Henty - He did not say that.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar).- Order!

Senator RIDLEY - He said that he was quoting the advice of his military advisers who had told him that it was not desirable and that it would not provide the sort of Army that was required for Australia.

Senator Henty - He said that one set of circumstances was preferable to another.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! I ask honorable senators to allow Senator Ridley to make his speech without so many interruptions.

Senator RIDLEY - Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy President. The Minister continually mumbles in his beard. I was making the undeniable point that the Minister for the Army had stated that an Army made up partly of volunteers and partly of conscripts was not desirable and not in the best interests of Australia. I agree with him about that. This has been proved throughout Australia's history in recruiting for the armed forces. It has been established on a number of occasions that five volunteers are better than ten conscripts. If you mix the two groups, you bring everybody down to the common level. I now want to come back to the argument that was developed by Senator Prowse when he claimed that, because the churches were opposed to the Government's call-up plans, they came in the same-

Senator Prowse - I did not say that.

Senator RIDLEY - What did the honorable senator say?

Senator Prowse - I said a churchman had' said it.

Senator RIDLEY - You mentioned one churchman. You selected one of three. You certainly mentioned only one; you mentioned the Reverend Alan Walker. But the newspaper from which you quoted carried this heading -

METHODIST: Every voter should pronounce judgment.

CATHOLIC: Conscription is a restriction on liberty.

ANGLICAN: Selective national service is not democratic

Then followed another heading or two and this report -

A wide section of the church in Australia, led by Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist spokesmen, yesterday attacked the Government's call-up plans.

The strongest comment came from Melbourne and Sydney. It is expected to affect the Senate elections for which the main issues are defence and conscription.

The official Catholic newspaper, The Advocate, siad those in authority had an obligation to restrict a citizen's liberty only when the need was real and when it left no alternative.

Senator Kendall - It also said that that was the editor's remark and they took no responsibility for it.

Senator RIDLEY - I am not saying whether what the newspaper said was correct or otherwise. Each time within the last few days that we have asked a certain question about or quoted any newsaper report we have been told by the Minister who has spoken on behalf of the Government that we cannot take any notice of what appears in newspapers. Senator Prowse based his argument on the report of the newspaper in question about what the Reverend Alan Walker had said. The honorable senator said that the Reverend Alan Walker opposed the conscription of lads by medium of a lottery. I do not think Senator Kendall was in the chamber when Senator Prowse was giving the derivation of the word "lottery". Senator Prowse went right back to the Bible. The only reference to the word " lot " that he did' not mention was the reference to Lot's wife. For a moment I thought the honorable senator was going to turn around.

Senator Prowse - It would be a good thing if the honorable senator were to turn into a pillar of salt.

Senator RIDLEY - That was what I was afraid the honorable senator might do if he turned around. The honorable senator sought to prove, by indicating that the derivation of the word " lottery " went back to the Bible, that no Minister of .the Church had a right to oppose the use of a lottery for the conscription of youth.

Senator Prowse - That is quite wrong.

Senator RIDLEY - Why did the honorable senator want to bring in the word "lottery"?

Senator Prowse - Because it is a perfectly legitimate method of judgment.

Senator RIDLEY - That is so. The honorable senator argued that it was a quite legitimate and fair method that had been used in a number of other situations to determine things. But then the honorable senator sought to argue that, because the word was to be found in the Bible, there was no justification for the Reverend Alan Walker opposing the use of the lottery method. If the honorable senator wanted to argue in favour of the use of a lottery to ascertain which youths should be conscripted into the Army, why did he have to mention the Bible and why did he have to link it up with Alan Walker? I suggest that the only possible reason that the honorable senator could have had for doing so was to argue that it was not in accord with Christian teaching for anyone to object to the calling up of lads by means of a lottery because the word "lottery" derived from the Bible. If the honorable senator had some other purpose in mind, I hope he will mention it to one of the other speakers on the Government side so that he may help the honorable senator out. I cannot see any other possible reason that the honorable senator could have had in mind. Why quote the Reverend Alan Walker, then trace the derivation of the word "lottery" and say this is a quick, complete and fair way of recruiting lads into the Army? The suggestion is that it was not right and proper for the Reverend Alan Walker to object to the recruitment of lads by lottery.

Senator Mattner - Is there any fairer way?

Senator RIDLEY - Yes, by seeking volunteers. I said this before and no-one on the Government side, including Senator Mattner, has proved that it is not possible to obtain lads in this way.

Senator Mattner - That is not the point at issue at all.

Senator RIDLEY - I was asked whether there was another fairer way. Earlier in my speech I said that there was a fairer way and that is by asking people to volunteer. The official Catholic newspaper, the " Advocate ", said that the Government had an obligation to restrict a citizen's liberty only when the need was real and when it was left with no alternative. This is our argument and honorable senators on the Government side have not yet proved that there is no alternative. No Government supporter here or in another place has sought to prove that there is no alternative to the Government's proposal.

Senator Buttfield - But it has been open to people to volunteer.

Senator RIDLEY - Yes, but there is-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator has addressed everybody in the chamber except the Chair.

Senator RIDLEY - Everyone is interjecting and not through the Chair either. Earlier I put the argument that if .the volunteers who had been rejected because they lacked the necessary educational qualifications had been accepted, the Government would not have had to introduce this conscription proposal. Nobody on the Government side who has spoken has tried to refute that argument. I suggest that until such time as the Government can prove, not only to the Parliament but also to the people in general, that there is no alternative to conscription, the views expressed in this newspaper as representng the views of the Church will also be the views of the majority of the people of Australia. If, on the other hand, the Government can prove that there is no alternative to this proposal, it will probably have the support of the people. If it cannot prove that there is no alternative, I think the majority of the people will accept the view of the Labour Party, that this proposal has not been introduced because of any real need or of any dire circumstances that confront Australia, but because the Government, with the approaching Senate election in mind, realises the need to create the belief in the minds of electors that a state of emergency exists in the hope that this will cause panic amongst the electors and lead them to vote for the Government candidates at the election.

The first reaction of the people may have satisfied the hopes of the Government. At first blush, the people may have thought that the Government had failed to obtain sufficient volunteers for the Services, had had to do something and that therefore this proposal was warranted. Following the debates in the Senate and in another place and consideration of the views expressed by church leaders and others, I am positive that the people of Australia no longer believe that the Government brought down this proposal because of necessity. I think that the people agree with the Labour Party's interpretation, stated here and in another place, that it is a political stunt. I am positive that 90 per cent, of the Australian people have formed this opinion.

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