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Wednesday, 12 May 1965


Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) |5 4ll. - in reply - If Senator Cohen believes for one moment that what we are doing now or what we did in October or in June removes the element of voluntariness from the Australian Army, I can do no better than to refer him to sections 34 and 35 of the Defence Act. Section 34 states -

Except as provided by Part IV. of this Act or by any other Act, the Military Forces shall be kept up by the appointment to those Forces, or the enlistment in those Forces, of persons who. volunteer and are accepted for service in those Forces.

There is in section 35 an echo of the old Australian Imperial Forces. Senator Cormack addressed himself to this aspect when we were considering the defence legislation in October. The section states - lii lime of war, the Governor-Genera! may aiuliori.se the raising of a military force for service in that time of war or for a specified period, and a force so raised is part of the Permanent Military Forces.

The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in addressing himself to this Bill made two or three rather general comments. He referred to the fact that some of the amendments - indeed, I think, all of the amendments which he read out - were made after our most recent amendments to the Defence Act in October of last year. But I think he failed to realise, as he spoke, that many of the amendments that we propose in the Defence Bill which is now before the Senate flow from the passage of the

National Service Aci of last year, which was passed subsequent to the amendments being made to the Defence Act. In some respect these two Acts are interlocking. Amendments or alterations in one require amendments or alterations in the other. Many of the amendments to which the honorable senator referred flow from the National Service Act.

Senator McKennareferred to the matter of liquor. He said, if I quote him correctly, that he regarded the proposal in the Bill as being a realistic one, and he said that the Opposition did not intend to oppose it. But he went on to say that the Government should consider according the right to vote to these young men who will be affected by this provision by virtue of their call up. I emphasise that the young men who will be called up will be called up in their 20th year. In the normal course of events they will be entitled to their first vote within a few months of their being called up. They certainly will not be overseas prior to the time when they will be having their first vote because, as has been said in this debate and in other debates, the first few months of their service will necessarily be devoted to both recruit training and corps training.

The Leader of the Opposition referred to what he described as antiquated provisions of the Defence Act. It is true that there are some very old provisions in the Act. I repeat now what I said in October, that concurrent with our writing into the defence legislation the amendments which are necessary to meet the immediate situation, we are conducting a complete review of all the defence legislation. I hope that during the next two sessional periods at most I will have for the Parliament rewritten statutes applying to all three Services, with a locking act, called the Defence Act, covering the three of them. I trust that we will, as a result, have modern and effective legislation.

Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.


Senator PALTRIDGE - Before the suspension of the sitting I was replying quite briefly to the points which had been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) when speaking on this Bill to amend the Defence Act. I had referred, Mr. President, to a number of general issues which he had raised before moving on to what I might describe as the big point of issue between us. That point of issue, of course, is the proposed amendment to section 50c of the Act. Assuming the amendment is adopted then, in time of war, all those people called up for service under Part IV of the Defence Act will be liable for overseas service.

Both the Leader of the Opposition and, subsequently, Senator Cohen expressed the implacable opposition of the Australian Labour Party to clause 16 of the Bill which amends section 50c of the Act. For my own part, I want to say that just as they are implacably opposed to this principle, as it was described by Senator Cohen, so the Government is implacably determined that this is a principle which should be adopted in our defence legislation. We are going to debate this matter at length, I would imagine, when we reach the Committee stage, and, for that reason, I do not want to say a great deal about it now. But it is relevant to point out that almost all the countries with which we are associated adopt this practice and have adopted it for many years. This applies particularly, as our experience in the last war reminds us, in the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, the new emerging Malaysia, which is solving its own problems and setting up its nationhood under threat of military invasion, Thailand which has had it for years, the Philippines and, as my friend Senator Mattner reminds me, New Zealand. As I speak of it I remind myself of the situation which existed in Australia during World War II. In those perilous times, the Government of the day had to go through a tortuous experience and had to take the people through a tortuous experience before it was resolved that conscription for overseas service should apply, at least in some limited field.

Having a particular recollection of that experience, 1 say emphatically that in view of what every other nation is doing, in view of the new situation in which we live, and having regard to events in Asia, we have an obligation not to wait until the state of war is declared to say what we will do or will not do. We have an obligation to say before that state of war arises what we are prepared to do in respect of this important matter should a state of war occur. It would be the worst of all worlds for ourselves, as Australians, and for our international understanding, if we were not to make it crystal clear lo our own people, who are entitled to know, and to our allies what would be our stand in this matter. For that reason the amendment to the Defence Act has been introduced.

The Leader of the Opposition asked what new circumstance makes it necessary to introduce this measure now in view of the fact that, seven months ago, the Government did not believe it was necessary. I think that Senator Sir William Spooner answered this phase of his criticism very effectively when he pointed out the successive steps which had been taken by the Government in respect of our defence effort and our defence forces over the years. In lune last we saw the formation of the emergency reserves for the three forces. There was also the review of rates of pay and conditions in the Services. In October, there was the alteration of the Service status of the Citizen Military Forces and the calling up of national service trainees. Another step, if I may refer to it, relates to the conclusion of the very important logistic agreement with the United States of America in respect of the provision of equipment. If we look to other sectors of our administration dealing with the defence of this country we should note the increased attention which my colleague the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) is giving to liaison with industry. Then there was the announcement, as recently as yesterday, made by my colleague the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) that the Government is undertaking discussions with the States with a view to formulating a scheme for petrol rationing, should it be necessary. All these things are not being done in a spirit of panic or urgency. I hope this Parliament and the public of Australia realise that this policy is being pursued prudently by a government realising that these things could, in some circumstances, however remote, be necessary. Realising that fact, the Government has taken these steps.

I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that those are the reasons why this important amendment to the Defence Act, in its turn, is brought by me to the Parliament. All the experience of the last war and all the experience gained by the other nations to which I have referred, Mr. President, has indicated the desirability, indeed the need, for this sort of provision for proper and adequate defence legislation.

Those are the reasons why this Bill is submitted and why we confidently ask for the support of the Parliament in this matter.

Question put -

Thethe Bill be read a second time.







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