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Wednesday, 12 May 1965

Senator MCKENNA (Tasmania) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I think it is appropriate that we should deal with the three Bills together. They have a common purpose, to which we have a common objection and it will unquestionably save time to take them together, leaving the National Service Bill to be dealt with separately.

It is a reflection on the Government that, having had comprehensive amendments of the Defence Act in October 1964, we now have still further comprehensive amendments amending the amendments so recently made. There are instances of this throughout the Bill. I select a few to cite as examples. Clause 5 of the Bill amends section 10A so recently dealt with. Clause 7 amends section 32. Clause 9 amends section 39. Clause 10 amends section 41. Clause 14 amends section 45. It is true that in an odd case some amendment to the Defence Act is made necessary or convenient by reason of the fact that the National Service Act was passed in November of last year, approximately one month after the amendments had been effected to the Defence Act. But by and large the need for these further comprehensive amendments - one notices it particularly in the sections dealing with the term of service of officers - ^rather betrays the fact that in this very important matter of defence law proper consideration was not given to the subject only a few months ago.

At the outset, I want to refer to matters that are not dealt with in these proposed changes. The Senate will have noted that provision is now to be made which will enable liquor to be supplied under supervised control to national servicemen who are now integrated into a part of the Australian Regular Army, namely the Supplement. Under the National Service Act 1951 the supplying of liquor to national servicemen under 21 years of age, or its possession by them, was completely forbidden. That provision will be repealed pursuant to the passing of this Bill. We take no objection to that, because in the Australian Regular Army are men of 18, 19 and 20 years who have access to liquor under conditions that are determined by the Military Board or the delegate of the Board.

What strikes the Opposition as being odd is that the Government, in deciding to call up young men 20 years of age, has addressed its mind to making it convenient for them to have access to liquor but that it has not thought about allowing them to enjoy an even greater right - 'the right to record a vote in the elections of this country. These young men are good enough to be called into the Army from their vocations, to be obliged to train and to serve for a minimum period of five years which may be elongated if the country is at war. It seems to me that we should confer the full right of citizenship upon these young men who, as I have already said, in addition to being required to leave their ordinary vocations will be required to give full-time service for two years and, in a state of war, may have to serve for much longer than five years. They should be given an opportunity to enjoy all the fruits of adulthood, more particularly as they are liable for service not merely in Australia but anywhere in the world. I invite the Government io indicate whether any thought was directed to the giving of this privilege. We of the Opposition think it should be a right. If no thought was given to the matter, will the Government at this late stage consider making this very necessary amendment to the legislation?

There still remain some very antiquated provisions in the legislation. One would have thought that, with all the scrutiny to which the Act has been subjected, advantage would have been taken of the opportunity to dispense with some of its outmoded provisions. In many respects the discipline of our forces is still controlled not directly by this Parliament but under imperial Acts. Provision to that effect is contained in the Defence Act, the Naval Defence Act and the Air Force Act. In this respect, we rely upon imperial statutes up to a fixed date. I should have thought that, having regard to a proper concept of our nationhood and our position in the world, the time had arrived when we should have our own code of discipline for the various elements of our defence forces. I strongly commend that thought to the Minister in the hope that, if it is not done on this occasion, on some future occasion direct attention will be given to the matter.

I realise that at the moment the Opposition could not propose an amendment to remove very comprehensive provisions of the legislation unless it was in a position to rewrite the whole code. For the Opposition to do that at this stage would not be practicable. However, we earnestly suggest to the Government that advantage ought to be taken of an early opportunity to do so if for no other reason than to uphold the dignity of our nation. Moreover, it would be of great convenience to those who are obliged to administer the disciplinary provisions of the law to have readily accessible in Australian statute or regulation form every detail that is applicable to the conduct of the forces. In addition, we in the Parliament would have the great advantage of knowing the details of those disciplinary measures and would have ready access to them. They are not readily accessible at the moment; one has very great difficulty in determining the sources of the law that has particular application to any cases that one might be considering. 1 hope that the Minister and the Government will give more than cursory attention to this request which I make on behalf of the Opposition.

The Defence Bill is quite comprehensive. It embraces 25 clauses, some of which are quite extensive. We offer no objection to most of thom. However, we do oppose some even though they are of a machinery nature. We wish to criticise others and to express certain viewpoints upon them. Our greatest objection is levelled against clause 16, which is simple in content. It is designed merely to repeal the existing section 50c of the principal Act and to insert in its stead the following section -

Members of the Military Forces may be required to serve either within or beyond the territorial limits of Australia. 1 submit very briefly that the effect of the new provision will be to destroy a position thai has been maintained for many years. The effect will be to require men who are called up in a state of war under Part IV of the Defence Act to serve abroad. So that honorable senators may appreciate what is happening I direct attention to the fact that clause 17 is designed to repeal the whole of Part IV of the principal Act and to substitute an entirely new part for it. The new part extends over a number of pages of the Bill.

Let mc summarise broadly the provisions of proposed new Part IV. lt provides that all male persons who have resided here for six months, who are British subjects and who have attained the age of 18 years but have not attained the age of 60 years are liable to be called up to serve in the defence force. Proposed new section 60 provides that in time of war - those words are significant; they exclude the possibility of the new concept of a defence emergency - the Governor-General may, by proclamation, call upon persons specified in the preceding section to serve in the defence force in accordance with the Act for the duration of the war. Then it prescribes the classes of persons who may be called up. The first class embraces persons between the age of 18 and 35 years who have no responsibility for children or wives. The next group embraces persons from 35 to 45 years of age who are characterised by the same lack oi marital capacity. The third class includes persons from 1 8 to 35 years of age who are married or are widowers with children. The fourth class embraces persons of more than 35 years of age but under 45 years who are married, and the final class embraces persons of the age of 45 years and upwards but under 60 years.

Part IV becomes operative only in time of war. I invite the Senate to note that that term is defined in section 4 of the Defence Act. The definition reads - " War " - Means any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack or apprehended attack on, the Commonwealth or any Territory under the control of the Commonwealth by an enemy or armed force.

Time of war" is defined to mean -

.   . any time during which a state of war actually exists, and includes the time between the issue of a proclamation of the existence of war. or of danger thereof and the issue of a proclamation declaring that the war or danger thereof, declared in the prior proclamation, no longer exists.

In the current situation today there is no declaration of war. The circumstances contemplated by Part IV have obviously, in the view of the Government, not arisen. Despite the fact that we have armed forces fighting in Malaysia to meet the confrontation of the Indonesians, that we have certain plant, equipment and personnel in Vietnam - the personnel at the moment acting as advisers - and that we are on the point of sending a battalion of our Australian Regular Army to fight against the North Vietnamese, I take it, on the one hand and against the recalcitrant members of the South Vietnamese population on the other hand, the Government has not seen fit to declare either a state of war or a state of defence emergency. The latter term is one that I concede may be quite indefinable with any precision. A defence emergency obviously has to be assessed in the light of what are the current facts when the decision about it is made. The facts can change. They may have a most infinite variety. I merely emphasise the point that in the view of the Government, despite the somewhat tangled situation and the scattering of our forces rather far and wide, we are not in a defence emergency and we are not at war.

Dealing further with Part IV, I direct attention to the fact that the classes of exemption for various people have been varied. The proposed section 61a drops six or seven categories of people who were exempt and includes three new classes that were not specified hitherto. I do no more at the moment than draw attention to that fact. At the Committee stage I hope to direct particular attention to it. The proposed new section goes on to provide for other classes of people who are exempt.

Under the proposed new section 61c 1 indicate a matter to which I shall come back at the Committee stage. I mention it now so that honorable senators may address their minds to it. I am not moving amendments to the Bill on behalf of the Opposition. We shall be criticising clauses and opposing some of them. 1 take this opportunity to give to the Senate some preknowledge of our intentions. One matter that causes us concern is the fact that under the proposed section 61c (f) Aboriginal natives of Australia are excluded from the call up under Part IV. I shall not develop the theme now. I merely indicate to the Senate that we are concerned at the fact that Aborigines, about whose welfare there is a great deal of emotional upset, not only domestically but internationally, who are recognised as citizens and who are given a vote, are singled out and exempted from the performance of what one might regard as a high civic duty in our last line of reserves in a state of real emergency. I invite honorable senators to address their minds to the manner in which that provision may be received, not only domestically but also internationally. I concede immediately that it is a concession, if you like, to say to the Aborigines: " In a state of emergency, when the country could be under attack or invasion or under threat of both those things, you will not be called up to do your share." They may well resent it; many of them may. The exemption may be pointed to in the international sphere as another indication that Australia still differentiates between Aborigines and its other citizens. I propose to go into that matter in a little more detail at the Committee stage. I merely give a general indication of it at this stage.

I come back to the broad effect of the proposed new section 50c, which is proposed to be inserted in the Act by clause 16 of the Bill. It states -

Members of the Military Forces may be required to serve either within or beyond the territorial limits of Australia.

Section 50c of the principal Act was amended by the Government as recently as last October. The Government rewrote it in sub-section (2.) in explicit terms, the effect of which, when read with section 32a, is that persons called up under section 50 of Part IV are not to be required to serve beyond the territorial limits of Australia unless the person called up undertakes voluntarily so to serve. There is a very firm principle in section 50c relating to the Military Forces only that was affirmed by the Government in writing that provision into the Act as recently as last October. There was an equivalent provision to that in the Act for a very long time before the Government reviewed it specifically only last October.

Senator Wright - From what section is the honorable senator reading?

Senator McKENNA - I am reading from section 50 (2.) of the principal Act. The relevant part of it states -

A member of a part of the Citizen Military Forces specified in paragraph . . . (c) of subsection (2.) of section thirty-two a . . .

If the honorable senator will refer to that section he will find that it provides -

(c)   persons who, having been called upon, under section sixty of this Act - that is under Part IV - to enlist and serve in time of war, have enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces.

It states that such members shall not be required to serve beyond the territorial limits of Australia unless they undertake voluntarily so to serve. That disposes of the matter, so far as the Military Forces are concerned.

I turn to the Air Force for the relevant comparable provision. I find in section 4e, which was inserted in the Act as recently as last October, the following provision -

A person called upon under section sixty of the Defence Act to enlist and serve in the Citizen Forces shall not be required, unless he voluntarily agrees to do so, to enlist and serve in the Citizen Air Force.

Section 4f provides that -

Members of the Air Force may be required to render Air-Force service on land or sea or in the air, and either within or beyond the territorial limits of Australia.

But those called up under Part IV are exempted. This was confirmed by the Government as recently as last October.

Wc come, now, to a completely comparable position in the Naval Defence Act. In 1964 we wrote in a new section 24 which, in effect, only rebutted what had been in the Act before. Sub-section (2.) of the new section 24, amongst other things, states -

A person called upon under section sixty of (be Defence Act to enlist and serve in the Citizen Forces shall not bc required, unless he voluntarily agrees to do so, to enlist and serve in the Citizen Naval Forces.

Therefore, in respect of the three arms of the defence forces, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, as recently as last October, the Government set its face against persons Called up in that category being obliged to serve outside the confines of Australia. As far as I cun understand, no real justification of any kind has been advanced by the Government as to why it has made this sudden change which now, in clause 16 of the Bill before us, throws those people into the category of those who must serve overseas. It is true that in the whole military setup persons who might be called up under Part IV of the Defence Act are the only people now not obliged to serve overseas. The only effect of the proposed alteration to section 50c is to rope them in. A similar position applied in the Navy and the Air Force. There is a comparable provision to that under section 50c in the Naval Defence Bill and in the Air Force Bill, both of which we have before us. In these Bills, the relevant provisions are expressed in slightly different terms but they plainly incorporate persons called up under Part IV in the obligation to serve overseas.

I ask the Government: is it not a fact that (hat provision guarding against service overseas has been in the Act for decades? That is so as far as I understand. Is it not true that the Government reaffirmed it positively as late as October last? What has happened in the intervening few months to justify so drastic a change without any adequate explanation of it to the Parliament? 1 certainly have encountered no explanations. I put this consideration to the Senate: Before Part IV of the Act is invoked - section 60 of it in particular - calling up our line of last resort, as I might term it, war will have started, war will have been declared by proclamation, a further proclamation will have been made by the Governor-General calling up these people and we will be down to the bottom of the barrel. I say that because by that time our regular permanent forces will have been committed and our conscripts, our national servicemen, will have been committed. Then we will come to our last reservoir of manpower - those in the community between the ages of 18 and 60 - and we will proceed to call them up. This is quite significant. It is quite certain, I think, that the great bulk of the persons who would be called up in that emergency would be untrained personnel - persons who, before they could engage in any combat, would need training. I think it is safe to say that that training would involve a minimum period of six months.

Senator Cormack - The honorable senator means two years.

Senator McKENNA - It may well be two years. One can realise how improper and dangerous, maybe, it would be to commit, almost at the moment of calling up, people in that category to modern combat with highly developed weapons and systems in order to meet a foe which was well equipped and, as Part IV of the Act contemplates, was engaged in an invasion of Australia, or which threatened invasion; or it might be engaged in an attack or might be threatening an attack upon Australia, or on one of our Territories. That is the situation we are contemplating.

Let me say this: There is an obligation to call Parliament together, if it is not sitting, at the time a proclamation is made invoking troops under Part IV. The Parliament has to be called together within 10 days. Of course, it could be called together very much sooner - certainly within 1.0 days. Nothing could happen in that time; the machinery would nol be in train to register the people to be called up. In fact, nobody would have been called up, let alone undergone an adequate training period. The point I am making is that there is no haste at such a time and I think il should not be left to the unfettered discretion of an executive government to commit our last line of defence reserves called up under Part IV of the Act, to overseas service without the clear authority of the Parliament. There is ample lime to obtain such authority in the circumstances that I have outlined. We have had no real reason given to us as to why the Government wants, at this stage, to provide that personnel called up in that situation - and T repeat that this cannot be done except in time of war - should, in advance, be committed to serve overseas.

The Government must have something in mind, T hope, in seeking to invoke that provision now. However, it seems to the Opposition that the Government has nothing more in mind than to commit everybody who might enter the defence forces of this country in any of the three armed services, and in any phase of them, to serve overseas. We of the Opposition join issue with the Government over that proposition, particularly in regard to this very last line of our reserves, while war is in fact not on. The Australia Labour Party realises the need to send people outside Australia, as we did in 1943, I. think it was, during the Second World War, when we were in Government. At that time we passed special legislation to enable troops to be sent overseas. But there could be no conceivable circumstances in which that call up of our last line of reserves would take place when there would not be ample time for this Parliament to determine whether the force was to be committed overseas or was to remain in Australia.

Senator Cormack - During the period in respect of which you are speaking, Senator, you must remember that there was something of the order of seven divisions which had been called up for full time duty for the previous 18 months prior to the circumstances you outlined.

Senator MCKENNA - That is true. T am merely indicating that we are not making an objection to persons going overseas merely for the sake of making an objection. T am indicating that at another time and in other circumstances the Labour Party did not hesitate to ensure the despatch of our troops overseas. Therefore, we are not prepared to support that particular provision of this Bill. We oppose it. We believe that the Government's action in altering the existing position at this stage and in these circumstances is utterly without justification. We feel so strongly about it that we propose to oppose the motion for the second reading of this Bill. If our opposition succeeds and if the motion is defeated the Government can bring the Bill back without that particular provision.

Senator Morris - Does the honorable senator refer to those people whom he calls the last line of defence?

Senator McKENNA - I refer to those concerned in clause 16 of the Defence Bill. If the Government were to take out clause 16 and the similar clauses in the Naval Defence Bill and the Air Force Bill, I venture to say that, apart from slight criticism - and our criticisms are not very trenchant compared with this one in the other matters - we would be able to reach agreement with the Government very readily on the whole of the balance of the Bill. In order to express as forcefully as we can our viewpoint as to the needlessness of this legislation at the present time, we propose to oppose the second reading of the Bills. I hope that when the Minister responds to the debate in due course he will indicate what great change has taken place, between October last and now, which has induced the Government to make this very unusual departure from tradition and from the course which it confirmed so very recently.

As to the remaining provisions of the legislation, I have given some indication of a few matters that we will raise during the Committee stage. There are other points with which we will deal, but I do not think the Committee will be taken by surprise by the matters I shall then raise on behalf of the Opposition. At this stage I merely indicate that there are some five or six matters about which we are not happy, one or two which we will vote against, one or two regarding which we would like to hear some explanation, and one or two others of which we will be critical. T will reserve what I propose to say on those matters until we reach the Committee stage.

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