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Tuesday, 17 November 1964

Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) .- I think I am entitled to object to the action of the Government in introducing this Bill in the dying hours of this sessional period and within three weeks of a Senate election, thus preventing us from giving it the mature consideration that it deserves. If my memory serves me correctly, the speech that has just been delivered by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) is quite different from the second reading speech delivered in another place by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). It seems to me that, the Government having heard the case that has been presented in opposition to the measure in another place, the second reading speech delivered here has been somewhat padded up.

I personally object very strongly to the following passage in the Minister's speech -

Everything that has happened in the last few days confirms that the Government's decision has the warm approval of every sensible and patriotic Australian. 1 leave the matter of sensibility for others to judge. I would prefer to leave it to my country to judge the patriotic feelings of myself and my colleagues who have different views on this Bill. I think the words are at least extremely ill chosen. I read the second reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service, who introduced this Bill in another place, and because I read it hurriedly I cannot be sure whether the words to which I object were included in his speech. It is my feeling that they were not. Even if they were included, I would expect Senator Gorton, who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service in the Senate, to omit them when introducing the Bill in the Senate. There are many people who consider conscription - particularly in peacetime - as an affront to the democracy of Australia. Because of the views I hold in relation to this Bill, I think that the words are badly chosen.

The legislation before us is one result of the Prime Minister's defence review which will come into effect in a relatively short time. As I have said before, the Government has conducted 17 reviews since it came into office and, if I remember correctly, five of them have been conducted in the last couple of years. I remember that I said something to this effect to Government supporters on a previous occasion: " The moment that one review gets off the press you put on another one. You always tell us when you bring them down that things have never been worse. You attempt to gull the Australian people that you have set up a defence of this country through the expenditure of £3,000 million, the amount you have spent on defence since you have been in government". Government supporters are proud of that expenditure. Although five reviews have been conducted in the last two years, Government supporters are always referring to what will be done in the future. At least part of the legislation before us will come into operation in the next six or twelve months, which is a rather different effect from that which other portions will have. The results of some parts of the legislation will not be seen until 1968 of 1970. One wonders whether tonight's issue of the Melbourne " Herald ", a newspaper which is friendly to the Government, is not correct when it states -

Call-up " Can Be A Winner ".

How Government sees Senate poll.

The Melbourne " Herald " seems to agree with us when we say that the Government's proposal is an election stunt.

It is interesting to trace the history of conscription measures in this country. The conscription issue first arose during the First World War. The then Prime Minister,

Mr. Hughes,attempted to force conscription legislation through the Senate. Those of us who have taken an interest in Australia's political history will recall reading, if not hearing, of the Ready-Earle scandal. The late Mr. Earle was then a senator from Tasmania. He did not agree with the legislation and got out of the Senate. The very next morning Mr. Ready from Tasmania presented his credentials as a senator representing Tasmania. I do not wish to imply that there was any collusion. It was just a matter of chance.

Senator Anderson - It was good staff work.

Senator KENNELLY - As my friend, the Minister suggests, it was good staff work. But a most remarkable thing happen :d. The move misfired because it is now a matter of history that Senators Keating and Bakhap would not be a party to it. Those two senators belonged to a party, the name of which I cannot remember at the moment. I do not know what the present Liberal Party called itself then. It has changed its name so often over the years that it is hard to keep track of the changes. It was not the Win the War Party, because that party came into being in 1917. I do not know what title the party used before then. Senators Keating and Bakhap refused to vote for the Bill that Mr. Hughes had succeeded in having passed in another place. That was the origin of the referendums on the conscription issue in 1916-17. It is now well known what was decided by the people and the soldiers who were serving in France.

Senator Mattner - I do not think that it was wholly decided by the men in France.

Senator KENNELLY - I think if my very pood friend has a look at the records he will see that what I am saying is true. The honorable senator was a very gallant soldier and no doubt he was in France at the time. He is attempting to interject, but I will leave him to have his say in his own way.

We receive this rush of legislation at a late stage of the session when everyone wants to get out and fight in the election campaign. It is a wonder that a lot more hearts are not subjected to great strain. It should be remembered that in 1916-17 we were at war, The next time the conscription issue was raised was in the Second World

War when it was introduced by the Curtin Government. Many references have been made to that period earlier today. Honorable senators opposite have read from books they obtained from libraries, but the facts were that Mr. Curtin raised the conscription issue at a conference of the Labour Party. However, the rules of the Party laid down that no fresh business could be submitted unless there was a two-thirds majority in favour of it. Mr. Curtin lacked that majority. A special conference was held three months later and the voting was 24 to 12 in favour of conscription. So Mr. Curtin brought it in. But the difference is that Australia was then at war. I suppose that during the 1916-17 period many people believed in glorious isolation, as do a tremendous number of our friends in the United States. It is true, as some honorable senators have said, that in those days we relied on the might of the British Navy. But as times change, opinions change, and possibly it is just as well that they do. But Government supporters, as I hope to show later, seem to have a happy knack of changing their opinions on very vital subjects in a matter of days. As I have said, in Mr. Curtin's days the nation was locked in a titanic struggle with the Japanese. The leader of the Government in those days, recognising the Government's responsibility to the people, broke away - let me say that quite candidly - from the traditions of the past. The Government considered that it was its duty to preserve Australia and to that end it took the steps it believed to be necessary. I think everyone will agree that it did not do a bad job.

The position today is vastly different. We do know who are our foes. Who is the enemy we are going to fight? Is it Indonesia? T thought Indonesia was a friendly nation. Have we not an ambassador there? Has he not officials on his staff? He might be home for a few months at present, according to what I have read in the Press, but I suppose that even an ambassador is entitled to some leisure. Is our enemy China? If it is, let the Government tell us. If one can judge from speeches and interjections, it is apparent that although honorable senators opposite have not said so, they think that China could be our enemy. That, however, does not impel them to do something to stop some people in this country from selling steel to China. China has exploded an atomic bomb. The possibilities are that the machinery used in the making of that bomb may have been manufactured from steel that came from Australia. However, it seems that that does not matter one iota if profits are being made. I am reminded of something I read about the First World War. The shells that were being shot at our men in various theatres in which they served were manufactured from material we had suppled.

This country has no enemy today that we can nail down. Will any honorable senators who follow me in this debate be prepared to say that the enemy of this country today is China, Indonesia or some other nation in South East Asia? Let them name the enemy. If we were at war, I would be right behind the Government; make no bones about that. But I have to be shown that we are. The Government has to tell us; it has the responsibility. Honorable senators opposite tell us proudly how the people have returned them year after year. To my way of thinking, that is the people's misfortune, but this is the Government that has the responsibility in the matters we are discussing.

Senator Mattner - It shows that the Labour Party is still a bit out of step.

Senator KENNELLY - No, it does not. We are not a bit out of step. It shows the difference between your party and our party. One man decides the policy of the party of honorable senators opposite. I admit that he is a very able and astute leader; I have no quarrel about that. If he does not decide policy, he treats his Ministers with such contempt that I wonder how full-blooded men put up with it. I refer in particular to the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes). I am certain that my good friend the exMinister for the Navy, now the Minister for Works, Senator Gorton, could have given a most interesting address on the magnificence of our Navy and how it guards the waters around this nation. Who would be more able to do that than Senator Gorton?

Senator Gorton - I did, but the honorable senator went to sleep.

Senator KENNELLY - I should think that I would go to sleep, because he would be able to say so little there would be nothing to keep anyone awake. Let us consider how important this change of policy is. I am not speaking of the years from 1916 to 1942. Times have changed. Let us consider the position from 26th October until the present time. Let us consider what the Minister for the Army said on 26th October last.

Senator Sandford - That is of this year?

Senator KENNELLY - This year. The Minister for the Army made a speech at the opening of the Returned Servicemen's National Congress on the 26th October 1964. I think that today is either the 14th or 15th November.

Senator Gorton - It is the 17th November.

Senator KENNELLY - The Government has kept us up for so long in the last week or so, attempting to force it legislation through by exhaustion, that a person can be excused it he does not know whether it is the 14th or the 17th of the month. It was about 21 days ago. This is what the Minister said -

.   . our military advisers have indicated in the clearest and most unmistakable terms that it is not the most effective way of creating the Army we need to meet the situation we face. I stress that this is military advice. The reasons for rejecting conscription have nothing whatsoever to do with the political consequences of its introduction or its cost.

Although it has been stated many times before, it is perhaps worth mentioning briefly the purely military disadvantages of conscription.

I tried to induce my friend Senator Gorton, the Minister for Works, to read that speech when he was speaking in the defence review debate and suggested that the military advisers had changed their opinion. I think that even the Leader of the Government said that in the other debate. If they have changed their opinion, all I say is that they are on a par with some of the Ministers of the present Government. I would hate to think that I could not take the word even of a political opponent in a debate, but it seems fantastic to me that the Minister for the Army should change his mind in the way he did. The Government does not propose to bring in conscription for the Air Force or the Navy, but just for the Army. It would be interesting to know why the military advisers changed their advice. I come now to deal with the period of time which the conscripts will serve, and, in doing so, I refer again to the statement made by the Minister for the Army -

Secondly, it is wasteful in the sense that you only get about 18 months service out of each person you train compared with 54 years service for most recruits.

It is true that, under this Bill, the conscripts will undergo training for two years. Then they will be placed on the Reserve for three years. They will have to attend a 14-day camp each year during their period on the Reserve. They may be called up at any time within the period of three years. But the Minister says that the conscripts are to be trained for only two years. There is no doubt that science is playing an extremely important part in the invention and introduction of new forms of mechanisation which will be used by the Army. One wonders why the Minister has changed his mind in the way he has, in view of the statement that he made in Tasmania.

I am sorry that my friend, Senator Hannan, is not in the Chamber because I am wondering whether he can tell me as much about the decisions of the Liberal Party as he tries to tell me about the decisions of the Australian Labour Party. The Minister for the Army had a good deal to say, but he has not produced proof that the Government's advisers changed their opinion between the 26th October and 17th November. In the absence of such a statement one is entitled to say that this assertion by the Minister, which I have quoted, is documentary proof that his advisers informed him that conscription for service even within Australia was unwarranted. In this speech, the Minister made no mention whatsoever about service outside Australia. The Government is now asking for the introduction of conscription in peacetime. The Government will not name the enemy against whom this country may have to fight There are some Australian Army personnel in South East Asia at the moment. I think that they did come into conflict with a group of 60 or 70 Indonesian paratroopers who were dropped in Malaysia for the purposes of a raid.

Senator Cavanagh - The Indonesians landed at the camp door.

Senator KENNELLY - It is my opinion that they had no right to land anywhere in Malaysia. I think that this sort of action is against all the principles of decency that should be observed between one nation and another. The Opposition believes that the Government has not exhausted by any means the voluntary system of enlistment in this country. Some time ago, in another debate, I dealt with certain figures which were given in answer to a question upon notice asked by my colleague, Senator McClelland. Summarising the answer that was given, I find that the number of persons who made application to join the Australian Military Forces in 1963 was 11,079. Out of that number, 2,839 were accepted. Those figures really intrigue me. Whilst I agree that the same health tests should be applied to conscripts as are applied to volunteers, I wonder whether the same educational tests are to be applied to conscripts as are applied to volunteers. It is true that the Minister for the Army has said that his two charming daughters, who are aged 10 and 8 years, could do the examination which SO per cent, of these volunteers for enlistment were unable to pass. What is to be the position with any volunteers who have been rejected by the Army and who are within the age group to be called up? Are they entitled to take along their papers to show that they have been rejected for voluntary service and thus be exempted from conscription? After all, the Minister for the Army has said that the conscripts are to be mingled with members of the Regular Army. The Government could find itself in a very sorry plight indeed, but I have no doubt that it will be able to change its mind again to get itself out of trouble. I would like the Minister for Works, who introduced this Bill tonight, to answer this question: Is the Government proposing to take as conscripts young men who have already been rejected as volunteers for service in the Australian Regular Army? If it is, then I say it will be a fantastic state of affairs. The young men will be educationally unclean, if I can use that word. They have already been declared not good enough to join the Australian Regular Army. I ask the Minister to tell us whether they are to be taken as conscripts or whether their rejection papers debarring them from voluntary service exempt them also from conscription.

If these young men are accepted for service, then I think the Government will find itself in tremendous trouble. In this regard, I refer to the second reading speech of the

Minister for Labour and National Service in which he said -

Assume, for purposes of illustration, that there is a registration of 100,000 young men and that the Department calculates that 10,000 men will have to be dealt with individually by the Department to allow for deferments, medical rejections and so on in order to produce 5,000 men for call up.

I want to know by what juggling of figures this recruitment is to be achieved. If the Army can accept only 2,839 men out of 11,079 who volunteered, how can it expect to get 5,000 men out of 10,000 called up? I wonder how the Government is going to achieve that result.

I understand that the Government is spending about £750,000 to advertise for recruits. This money is being spent with its friends, the television stations and the newspapers. I will bet that my friend Sir John Williams is getting a fair chop out of it. But the Government does not tell the public that of 1 1 ,079 men who volunteered for the Australian military forces last year, 1,230 were rejected for medical reasons. That cuts down the number who were acceptable to less than 10,000. In addition, 5,593 were not accepted for "other reasons". An explanatory note to the answer given by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) in which these figures were given stated that this category - includes persons who failed to follow up their applications, applications withdrawn, failed to report . . .

Let us stop there for a moment. Since the Government is spending so much money on advertising for recruits, will the Minister inform me whether any effort was made to check up on the persons included in that category? Was any effort made, or was the Government's attitude something like this: "It is public money. We can spend up to £750,000 next year on advertising, so why worry?" There were two other categories mentioned in the footnote as including persons rejected for what were stated to be "other reasons". One of these was applicants with " unsatisfactory civil record ". I would like to examine each individual case before I commented on that category, but I would agree that we would have to look carefully at applicants of that sort before we allowed them into the Army.

The final category given in the Minister's reply was "below required training potential ". It would have been very useful if that had been broken down into more detail. The Minister's reply shows that, in addition to the numbers of rejected applicants I have mentioned - that is, 1,230 on medical grounds and 5,593 for other reasons - 1,417 were rejected on educational grounds. This Bill applies only to the Army, and the figures given in the Minister's reply show that with the Army the Government failed to do what it set out to do and what it should have done.

The members of the Government are the administrators. It is true that no-one expects them to do the detailed departmental work themselves, but at least it is their duty to see that the work is done. There is no suggestion that any attempt was made to follow up the persons who failed to go on with their applications for recruitment to the Army. If that had been done, the Minister would have said so in his answer to Senator McClelland. The inference is that the Government does not care so long as it goes on spending the money.

It would be a shame if I did not interpolate here further evidence of the change of opinion on the Government side about compulsory service. I admit that the statement by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Defence to which I propose to refer, was published on 10th July, or just over four months ago. The Minister was reported to have said then -

The Government did not intend to reintroduce national service training, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) said last night.

Then the Minister went on to state what it would cost. He is reported to have said -

A restricted scheme for training 12,000 youths a year out of a total of 102.500 would cost £20 million a year and mean capital expenditure over four or five years of another £24 million.

If the Minister said that, his arithmetic must be different from mine, because if national service training would cost £20 million in one year, I cannot understand how he estimated it would cost £24 million for four or five years. Reading his statement, I would say that he was most concerned about the money that would be involved. He is the one Who has expressed concern about the expenditure. Our only concern in connection with defence expenditure is that we have not received value for our money. I have heard many statements to the effect that the Opposition has voted against this and that defence proposal, but I challenge anyone to lay on the table evidence that we have voted against money being provided in recent years for the defence of Australia. I cannot go back over all the years, but 1 have been a member of this Senate for about 1 1 years, and I challenge anybody to produce such evidence for that period. It is of no use to make charges against the Opposition in an airyfairy way; let our critics produce the evidence. That reminds me that when Senator Morris was speaking he purported to be quoting from an authentic document giving the policy of Labour on defence. When he was asked to put it on the table it was a case of: " No appearance, Your Worship ". When an honorable senator goes that far in making a statement we are at least entitled to expect him to produce the goods.

When the Minister for Works is replying, I should like him to tell me at what period in the two years service the conscripts will be integrated with the Australian Regular Army.

Senator Gorton - After six months.

Senator KENNELLY - I am grateful to the Minister for the information. On the Minister's own words, these conscripts can be sent out of the country to fight if the Government considers it necessary. Who are they going to fight? The Government did not tell us. It will not declare war but it will send these men out of the country to fight someone. Does it mean that the conscripts will be integrated with the regular forces, whether it be a battalion, a division or some other unit? Is it satisfactory to the defence chiefs that youths with six months service, who will not be sufficiently trained in modern warfare, will be sent overseas to fight soldiers of other nations who have received the necessary training?

The Prime Minister said in his statement on the defence review that the reason for conscription was that the Government could not get sufficient men for the armed forces, because conditions are good in industry today. The facts and figures prove him wrong.

Senator Marriott - 'Prove it.

Senator KENNELLY - I can prove it if the honorable senator wants me to do so. I have the figures here. They have been compiled by the Library Statistical Service from the Department of Labour and National Service news releases, and from page 58 of the "Defence Report 1964". The figures show that, from 1960 to the present time, when the number of unemployed was greatest the number of recruits in the Army was smallest. I had these figures incorporated in " Hansard " on 13th November 1964 at page 1761. If the honorable senator would like to read them afterwards, he is free to do so.

Senator Prowse - That proves nothing.

Senator KENNELLY - 1 am proving that the Prime Minister was incorrect in the reason he gave for introducing conscription. He said that the Government cannot get recruits because conditions in industry are too good. I am not saying that the conditions are bad, but I have at the back of my mind the fact that the two wage packet economy operates for at least 40 per cent, to 45 per cent, of married couples in this nation.

We believe that if the Government adopts the volunteer method for getting recruits, it will get them. Surely the Government does not say that the youth of this country is not prepared to defend it. Surely the Government has not reached that stage in its haste to get this Bill through prior to the forthcoming Senate election. Conditions in industry are good today. The unemployment figures are low. I think that the Government has every right to be pleased with the figures. I only hope that the figures will remain as low as they are, no matter which Party is in office.

Senator Marriott - We want to reduce the number of unemployed.

Senator KENNELLY - I hope that the Government does so. I am certain that it will get a great deal of help in that connection from the Opposition.

Why do I say that this Bill is an election stunt? We have to look not only at the second reading speech that was delivered by the Minister in this chamber tonight, but also at the second reading speech that was delivered by the Minister for National Service and at the Bill itself. Reference has been made in the second reading speeches to many aspect of national service training, but they are not covered by the Bill. The best that can be said for this legislation is that it is untidy. It requires two more Bills and one other determination before it can be classed as a bill which deals at all properly with the question of national service training. The Government has said that at some future time it will set out the rights to re-employment of the people who are to be conscripted.

There is no great need to rush the legislation through at the present time. The Parliament will meet again in February of next year. Could not the Government have waited and introduced a decent bill then? In the meantime it could have intimated to the people of Australia what it intended to do. 1 am not asking the Government to do a Bolte act, as we say in Victoria. That is, to say nothing about the matter before the election and then bring it on in all shapes and forms after the election. The Government could have included provisions in the Bill which would dovetail in with the provisions in the Defence Act.

A few weeks ago we passed the Defence Bill. Under that Bill the Government introduced emergency reserve forces in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. It altered the provisions in relation to the Citizen Military forces so that its members now have to serve overseas. The Government gave the present members of the C.M.F. the right to contract out because they had enlisted to serve only in Australia and its territories. During the debate on that Bill there was no mention of conscription, apart from the fact that the Minister for Defence assured he Leader of the Opposition that the Bill did not provide for conscription. Is it any wonder that we oppose this proposal? The Prime Minister, in his defence review, said -

For some months the Department of Defence and the Service and Supply Departments, in close collaboration with the Chiefs of Staff Committee . . .

Yet three or four weeks ago, when the Defence Act was amended, the Government told the people that there was no conscription. To some honorable senators opposite, the most annoying aspect was that we on this side wholeheartedly supported that Bill. Now, all of a sudden, the Government says that conscription is needed. We disagree.

I have not had time to read the second reading speech made by the Minister for Works tonight but I obtained a copy of the second reading speech made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. The only difference between the speeches is that Senator Gorton tried to water his down. He knew the criticisms that had been made in the other place. I suppose he is entitled to water down his speech if he wants to do so. A classic example is provided by the case of the lad of 20 who is native born or the lad of 20 who is naturalised. They would take their chances in this wonderful barrel of marbles. I have been interested in a barrel of marbles for a long time but I have not done much good. If I remember correctly, there was a difference between the speeches of the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Works.

Senator Kendall - Not very much difference.

Senator KENNELLY - There was a difference in words and the inference to be drawn was different, but the effect is the same. Our fellows will be in the jungles of Malaysia or wherever the Government wants to send them, fighting against some enemy which the Government will not identify, while the unnaturalised lads will be here. It is said that the servicemen will get back their jobs. I have no doubt that that will be the case with those who had government jobs, but it is not so easy for ordinary fellows outside to get back their jobs. In two years, more particularly if the Government brings in a credit squeeze such as it introduced in 1960, many of the jobs will not be there. That is pretty important to young fellows. The Bill provides that servicemen will serve for two years and then may be on the Reserve for three years, but if a state of emergency is declared they will be kept in the Service. The Defence Act gives the right to the Minister alone to say who shall be deferred. The Government should not think that there will be deferments merely of students and apprentices. Wait till the farmers get the ears of the Government. There will then be many more. I think it is quite right that there should be deferments.

To sum up, the Labour Party is opposed to conscription in peacetime. We on this side say without equivocation that it is not needed. The young and the not so young will come to the aid of this country when they are needed. If the Government organised recruiting as it should do there would be no need to worry over this matter, because it would get the numbers. It seems that the Government is satisfied to spend without much organisataion, up to £750,000 on a recruiting campaign. I have seen a number of advertisements on television, and they look very well, but from answers to questions I cannot see that the Government has followed up the advertisements with organisation. The money has not served the purpose for which it was intended. However strong the logic may be, it is the numbers that count. I regret that the Government is taking this step, which I think is wrong. Many other people will think it wrong. Even at this late hour I should be delighted if the Government would consider other other methods.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Honorable Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The honorable senator's time has expired.

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