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Wednesday, 12 May 1965

Senator MORRIS (Queensland) . - I have listened with great care and attention to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I always do that when he speaks, because T find not only that he is extremely interesting to listen to but also that he presents his arguments in a fashion which I envy. But I must confess that today I have found considerable difficulty - at least with regard to most of his speech - in establishing in my own mind the attitude of the Opposition towards the Bills that we are considering. Indeed, it was only in the last two or three minutes of Senator McKenna's speech that he established that the basis of the Opposition's attitude towards the legislation and thu reasons for the decision to vote against it centres almost entirely on clause 16 of the Defence Bill. This clause is of critical importance, because its effect will be to make our armed forces available for service anywhere in the world. I think the comments Senator McKenna made prior to his statement about clause 16 will be argued wilh considerable interest on both sides of the chamber during the Committee stage, so I do not intend to refer to them at present. 1 hope I will have a chance to do so later on. At the moment I will confine my remarks entirely to one point.

Senator McKennasaid thu in 1943 the Government of the day - a Labour Government - agreed to commit our forces for overseas service. 1 think that statement needs some examination and elaboration and I propose, shortly, to examine it in some detail, To my mind it is completely unrealistic to criticise the Government for its fairly constant attention to our defence needs, which we see illustrated by the proposed amendments to the measures with which we are now dealing. The fact that this most important legislation is receiving such detailed attention gives me a great sense of satisfaction with and confidence in my Government. I realise that, as conditions and circumstances change, the Government is ready immediately to bring our Defence Act and related measures up to date so far as lies within its power. I think it can be said that the various legislative measures which have been introduced by this Government in the past 12 months have brought a sense of deep satisfaction to every section of the Australian public, and a recognition of the fact that the Government is facing up to its responsibilities and is prepared to take its full share of the task of defending freedom in this south-eastern quarter of the globe.

I say here and now - lest I forget to say it emphatically later on - that no bill ever introduced has had greater support from me than the group of measures that we are now considering. I am afraid it is an unhappy fact that there are some people who still fail to realise that events to the north of Australia today in many ways present the same type of threat as Australia experienced on only one previous occasion - when Japan swept downwards in 1942. In my view it is very dangerous thinking to suppose that today's danger has not within it a potentiality as serious for Australia in the long term as were the events of 1942, even though it is valid to argue that the present danger is not so imminent - and I think that is as far as anyone can safely argue today.

In 1942 we were threatened by one of a group of allies who at that time openly and frankly acknowledged that they were seeking world domination. Today the situation has changed. We are now facing a different alliance and it is operating from an entirely different springboard, because our potential enemies today are not just seeking to dominate. Bad as the situation was in the 1939-1945 period, the present position is more critical, because those whom we are now facing have already established domination over more than one-third of the world's population. Their leaders make no secret of the fact that they arc allowing nothing to stop them in their onward march. As I mentioned a few days ago. it is very sobering to realise that not only are they prepared to bring the balance of the world's population under their domination but also that they are boasting of this aim as one of their greatest ideals. Therefore I say that this, in itself, makes certain aspects of today's situation even more serious a potential threat than existed in 1942. I believe there arc elements common both to the danger that threatened us in 1942 and today's situation. I believe that the very fact that this is so has helped us in looking to our own defences and planning because we learned some very valuable lessons. One of the lessons is being illustrated in "this Bill. The Government, through the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge), has cleared away many dangerous legislative provisions.

I turn now to one aspect of the Defence Act that was introduced in 1943. But for the amendment now before us. even today we would be denied the opportunity of sending any volunteer forces into one of our present theatres of operations overseas. I refer to Malaysia. Under the Defence Act as it stands at present it would not be permissible to send forces other than volunteers into that theatre of operations.

Senator McKenna - That is not so. Senator. National exservicemen who go into the supplementary part of the Australian Regular Army may be sent.

Senator MORRIS - I am speaking of the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act which was introduced in 1943 and is now to be amended. Its provisions restricted the service overseas of troops other than volunteers, even in Malaysia. That situation obtains until the legislation before us is passed. I am bound to say that this Bill eliminates what I have always regarded as one of the most sectional pieces of legislation that has ever been enacted, especially in relation to the defence forces. It will overcome the problems that arise from having two entirely separate types of armies. After the amendment becomes law, our armies will be co-ordinated and our Chiefs of Staff, in co-operation with our allies, will be able to plan ahead in the knowledge that they have not the encumbrance of the small operational area that was so serious a handicap in the latter part of World War U. They will be able to deploy our forces wherever and whenever they are needed without the inhibition of strangling regulations or legislation. I want to stress that our Chiefs of Staff will be able to plan in cooperation with our powerful allies. I am afraid that sections of the Press and the public, and even some honorable senators opposite, seem always to overlook the cardinal fact that we have a population of about 11 million people. As has been said on many occasions, it would be impossible and quite impracticable for us ever to conduct our defence in isolation. Our only hope of defence must be to plan in co-operation with our powerful allies. Possibly that pattern of planning will develop with the passage of this Bill.

One of our greatest sources of satisfaction is the recognition that our powerful allies are not just theoretical allies. The alliance has been proved at very great cost to them. Our allies have shown that they are prepared to join with all other nations who are righting for the freedom of this part of the world. The Australian people are aware of the limitations imposed upon us because of our small population. Nothing could give us a greater sense of security than the attitude and actions of the United States of America.

It is vital that we remove all obstacles from the path of our Chiefs of Staff and those persons who are planning our defence and strategic operations in the event of the cold war becoming more menacing. This fact was recognised over 20 years ago by the then Prime Minister of Australia, the right honorable John Curtin. In the debate on the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill of 1943 Mr. Curtin traversed the question of overall strategy at that time. I shall quote from " Hansard ", Volume 1 73, page 267. Mr. Curtin said -

The predominant partner of the Empire, Great Britain, and the most powerful of the United Nations, Great Britain and the United States of America, determine the higher strategy. They, of course, have the greatest responsibility and the greatest resources. The governments of the Dominions have largely passive roles in higher' strategy. . .

Mr. Curtinwent on to speak generally of the overall strategy and to make what I think is one of the most significant comments. He said -

Criticism has been made that the Citizen Forces cannot serve in Malaya and the Solomons.

That confirms my reply to the interjection of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Mr. Curtin continued -

This quite ignores the strategical set-up in the South-West Pacific area. Our forces are assigned to the Commander-in-Chief of the South-West Pacific Area, whose sphere of command docs not extend to those regions.

That was not strictly correct, but 1 do not intend to comment on it at present. Mr. Curtin went on -

I would repeat, however, that when the position permits, Australia'n forces will be available in any theatre in which they can best be employed.

I repeat, that is a very significant comment. It is made even more significant by reference to the debates of that time. Mr. Curtin, apparently without reference to any of his Cabinet colleagues, announced that the Government would legislate to remove the barrier to sending our forces to theatres of operations outside Australia. He made that quite unequivocal statement. Subsequently he was taken to task most seriously by other members of his party, including the then Minister for the Army, Mr. Forde, who stated that there was no need to send our forces outside Australia. It should be remembered that we then had four divisions of veterans who had earned a wonderful reputation overseas. After making his statement, the Prime Minister was hamstrung. He was prevented from giving effect to it. He took no action for many months. I do not know why, but I would attempt to guess. Before any action was taken, the question was referred to the group that we now know as the faceless men. J do not know whether at that time there were 36 of them but at all events the Prime Minister of Australia was prevented from implementing the policy that he believed to be completely necessary for the defence of this country.

Having taken the matter to his masters, he was not permitted to legislate as he wished and was forced to water down the legislation to a very great extent. As a result we had the Defence Act as it stood during the latter part of the war and it caused more hardship to our planning staff and more disharmony within our armed forces than any other single act of Parliament. Indeed, unless clause 16 of the Defence Bill is accepted, our planning staff, our Chiefs of Staff and our defence forces generally will not be able to organise the defence of this country satisfactorily should such organisation unfortunately become necessary.

These are very sad facts. Frankly. I had hoped that, in the interim, the Labour Party would have become a little more modern in its outlook. .1 had hoped, I repeat, that the thinking of 1943, in accordance with which we had one army of volunteers which was prepared to go anywhere, and another army of conscripts which was not permitted to go everywhere, would have been forgotten many years ago. I do not think there is anything which more effectively damaged the spirit of the men of our overseas divisions - the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Divisions - than did this particular piece of legislation. If anything could have been designed to destroy the esprit de corps of our great Australian divisions, this indeed was it. I can remember all too clearly, when our overseas divisions returned to Australia, the many occasions on which the unhappy word " choco " was thrown between our conscripts and our volunteers. I. know of families which were broken asunder as a result of this legislation. It is a measure that I have always resented and hated.

Another aspect that I think we should consider - this is another reason why I feel that any thinking along the lines advanced by the Leader of the Opposition is archaic - is that conditions today are different from those which obtained in 1939. In the first 15 months after war broke out in 1939

Australia was able to obtain sufficient volunteers to fill four Australian divisions. At that time the recruiting of a volunteer army was the correct procedure. 1 say that for this reason: We were, as an Empire, certainly engaged in a war which became increasingly worse as it proceeded, but it was many thousands of miles from Australia. Therefore, at that point of time it was acceptable that young men in Australia should themselves have the right - and they did in fact have the right - to choose where their duty lay; whether, on the one hand, they should join the 2nd Australian Imperial Force or whether, on the other hand, their responsibilities at home were such that they should not. That was for (hem to decide. I think we all accepted that as the proper basts of enlistment when the war was many thousands of miles from our shores.

This situation however, changed dramatically with the entry of Japan into the war. Not only did the situation change dramatically but also it had in it the clements of the threat which we see and must face this day. Therefore, because we are looking forward - certainly not happily - and are planning ahead to meet the possibility of an attack on the shores of Australia, I believe that the principle of a fighting force consisting only of volunteers and not including conscripts is completely untenable. Not only is it untenable to me and to people of my age, but it is untenable in an even greater measure to the young men of today who, I believe, feel as strongly as their counterparts did 20 years ago that to serve their country is not an imposition but a privilege, especially when our very shores are in danger. In this day and age and in the present circumstances it is humiliating for Australia to have two armies, one consisting of volunteers and one consisting of conscripts.

There is no alternative but for us to accept what is perhaps to many people an unhappy thought, namely, that this legislation is of overwhelming importance. I believe that a similar view was expressed 20 years ago. If one reads the " Hansard " record of the debates of February 1943 one will see that very many men on our side of politics forecast at that time the difficulties that inevitably would arise unless the restricted area provision was removed. It is most interesting to see how the statements made in those days have today been proved to be correct. I do not think it would be possible to express this matter more clearly than by reading a few words which were used by our present Prime Minister who was then a member of the Opposition. I should like to read a great deal of his speech made on 4th February 1943 in the debate on the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill 1943, but I have not the time to do so. Referring to the possibility of young men undergoing compulsory military service being required to serve overseas, he said -

The vital question - and here I speak for myself - is one of complete unity within the forces themselves, complete identity in terms and conditions of service. We shall not get that while some men are volunteers for service abroad and others are conlined to service at home.

That is the crux of the whole matter. In the present situation which seems to be developing more unhappily with every passing month we are faced wilh a very real threat. That threat is coming closer each day. We hope that the forces with are deployed at the present time to hold this threat will be sufficient, but if they are not sufficient Australia will need, as she has never needed before, her maximum manpower, the highest esprit de corps within every unit and the greatest fighting power that is available to her. Australia will need these more than she has ever needed them before.

To move into this increasingly serious situation without having one united army and without removing the dead wood which has been so damaging in the years that have passed, would be to try to fight an enemy with our hands tied behind our backs. I most strongly commend the Leader of the Government in the Senate upon introducing these Bills and I tell him that we on this side of the chamber - as I think is evident - are with him all the way. I go further and say that from all the talking that I have done to various people and all the contacts I have made I am completely satisfied that Australia is with him all the way. I am only sorry - deeply sorry - to think that the Opposition in this Parliament will be an isolated example of those who are opposing what can be vital for the defence of Australia.

Senator Sir WILLIAMSPOONER (New South Wales) [5.10]. - I propose to direct my comparatively brief remarks only to those portions of the Bills that make those who are called up in time of war liable for overseas service. The other portions of the Bills are important, but I think that this is an aspect that transcends all others in importance. I propose, first, to reply to the case put by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). He put the point of view that the Australian Labour Party was opposing these proposals, as I understood him, on three principal grounds. I hope that I represent his argument fairly. The first ground was that this might lead to a situation in which the calling up and sending overseas of men in time of war might result in the sending overseas of untrained men or men who were not efficient for the work, who would be placed in undue peril because of their lack of training. His second ground was that this would, in principle, be sending overseas our last line of defence. I think he used the words " scraping the barrel ". He said that it would be a bad thing because we would be sending our last line of defence away from our own shores. I think that his first two grounds were in the nature more of debating points than of real objections. His third ground - which I think was the most important - was that nothing had happened since this matter was last before the Parliament last October to justify so important a change in Australia's defence policy.

I do not think that anyone can foretell what will happen in total war. Some of us on both sides of the chamber have had the sad experience of seeing untrained men sent into action in a time of total war; but it would be quite wrong to object to this legislation because of the possibility of such a contingency. I do not think it is right to proceed upon the basis that, because everyone may be sent overseas if the circumstances so require, everyone will be sent overseas, and that everyone sent overseas will be in an untrained force. I remind the Senate, if any reminder is necessary, that untrained men sent overseas for military service may at times make a very desirable addition to our defence forces, because these forces do nol consist entirely of front line soldiers. There is a lot of hard, solid work to be done behind the lines which does not require the intensive training that a front line soldier needs. That is incidental to the main reply that there is no justification for objecting because of the possibility that untrained men will be sent into action.

The second point that the Leader of the Opposition made was that we would be sending overseas our last line of defence. That has an air of exaggeration about it. It rather creates this impression: Hey presto, as they are called up, they are suddenly put on a troop ship. We then have a picture of Australia without anybody in uniform in it at all; everybody who is called up is being sent overseas. This overlooks the basic consideration that training - training - training is required, that it is necessary to call up people, train them, and let them take their turn as and when they are required overseas. It is quite wrong to give any impression that this means a general exodus. It means laying down a foundation for people to be sent overseas when the circumstances warrant. Although one must regard these objections seriously as arguments put up by the Opposition, I do not really believe that they can be classified as good, solid and serious objections to this legislation.

The third objection was put in the questions as to why we did not deal with this last October and what had happened since then to necessitate such a big change. The first question that I ask the Senate is: Is it such a big change from the provisions of last October's legislation? Do not forget that in that legislation was a provision that young fellows in the 20 years age group could be sent overseas. I do not think there is a very big difference between making liable for overseas service the cream of the nation, young fellows of 20 years of age, and making liable for overseas service the last line, people who are called up in time of war. I do not think that there is such a great difference in principle as to make this a particularly valid point to take. The Leader of the Opposition asked what had happened since last October to justify such a rearrangement. This, I think, raises the whole question that we debated in the Senate last week, namely, the position in Vietnam. If 1 may say so, that was one of the best debates that has occurred in the Senate. I came out of it, after listening to the arguments backwards and forwards, clear in my own view that what is happening in Vietnam - I believe at the instigation of and as part of a long range policy of China - and what is happening in Malaysia as a result of a great deal of personal irresponsibility on the part of the people in charge of affairs in Indonesia is putting us in Australia in the unfortunate situation that unless we do what is needed we shall see in this part of the world a repetition of what has happened in Europe. In Europe we saw country after country over-run and taken over by Communism. We will see the same thing happen in our part of the world unless we are particularly careful. I remind the Senate that the advance of Communism in Europe was stopped only when the line was drawn. I believe that the advance of Communism in this part of the world is being stopped only by the line that is being drawn in Vietnam by the United States of America and in Malaysia by Great Britain, New Zealand and ourselves against Indonesian confrontation.

Let me refer again to last week's debate. One of the things that annoyed me was the constant reiteration of the statement that our sending a battalion of SOO members of the Australian Imperial Force would make little contribution to the situation is South Vietnam. People who say things like that forget their military history. The A.I.F. is without peer in military affairs. The addition of a fully trained, highly skilled and solid A.I.F. battalion is an important military contribution to any force. I do not know the size of the United States forces in South Vietnam - 20,000, 30,000 or perhaps 40,000. Our contribution will represent from 2i per cent, to 5 per cent, and will comprise the best equipped and best fighting soldiers that exist. Not only is their contribution in arms important but also their contribution to the morale of everyone associated with them is important.

I must apologise for constantly going over the ground of the recent debate but I feel justified in doing so. The great weakness in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was that he did not canvass, other than in a passing reference, the real objection by the Labour Party to the use in any area whatever of those whom we have to call up in time of war. This surely is the milk in the coconut. Why would we be doing this - calling up our 20 year- old youths, sending a battalion overseas and making all these arrangements - unless there was a need for it? This is the point that the Leader of the Opposition did not canvass. In fairness to him, perhaps he did not do so because the point was canvassed a good deal in the earlier debate. But it seems to me that you cannot look at this problem without at the same time recalling the background against which the Government's action has become necessary. I cannot accept any view other than that the Government's action is necessary and is an integral part of our defence preparation.

Now I make another point: In this country, as in Great Britain and the United States of America - perhaps in not many other countries - public opinion has a most powerful influence on governments. In my view there is no danger of any Australian Government doing more than the circumstances warrant. I think, always, the difficulty facing a government in a democracy is to do all that is necessary in the way of defence preparations. If we had irresponsible people in charge of affairs in Australia, such as is, I believe, the position in Indonesia, and if they attempted to do more than the circumstances warranted - attempted to use in an improper way the powers given to them - democracy would work and the government would not last. Il would be defeated very quickly.

We have always been proud, with great justification, of the fact that the A.f.F. was a volunteer force. I think it is true that in the First World War the A.l.F. was the only completely volunteer Army on either side throughout the entire war. But events have changed. The entire situation has changed. I do not think it is possible in the world in which we live and in the circumstances that now confront us for any nation to rely for its defence effort on voluntary enlistments only. Against our background of prosperity, higher educational standards and opportunities for people to make more of their lives, we have done well to attract in recent years the numbers that we have attracted to the profession of arms. We have done well to build our Army. Navy and Air Force to their present levels. But we would do very ill if we thought those levels were sufficient for our immediate requirements. We would do ill if we proceeded on the basis that we can do all that needs to be done in the future as we have done it in the past - by voluntary enlistments.

The building of our Army has been achieved in proper stages and after experience has shown the possibilities of each successive step. We have relied upon enlistments. We have provided more attrac tive pay codes. We have offered greater inducements to people to come iti to the Army. We made arrangements to induce people to join the Citizen Military Forces. Then we were faced with the situation that despite all these efforts - I think we should gain some little satisfaction from the result's - enlistments fell short of what was required to maintain our overseas forces. The number by which enlistments fell short was comparatively small, but it had to be made up in some other way. The result was the October legislation. That legislation enabled us to send certain numbers overseas. The legislation now before us is a logical and justifiable development of that earlier legislation. We have tried other methods of obtaining the necessary numbers. Of course, the circumstances to which I am referring are not exactly parallel. The proposals that are contained in this legislation will become operative only in time of war whereas I have been speaking of a time that is short of war. However, we have proved that, whatever may be the reason, under the existing legislation we will not be able to get volunteers for overseas service.

At the present time - a time that falls short of war - we have forces in South Vietnam, some in Thailand, some in Malaysia and some in Borneo. Moreover, the Navy is ranging around the whole of South East Asia. That is where our forces will continue to be deployed if there is total war. All our military advice is, and has been for years, to the effect that Australia's defence arrangements should be based on keeping the perils of war, the incidence of war, away from the shores of Australia and that in the present circumstances our front line is in South East Asia. That is one of the reasons why we have forces in South East Asia. If events lead to war and that war runs in our favour, our forces will be standing in these parts which lie outside the territory of Australia. What a bad position we would be in if we were unable to send troops to these areas when we thought the circumstances justified sending them. It is for this reason that I so strongly support the Bill.

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