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Thursday, 13 May 1965

Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) . - The Bill before us is supplementary to a measure that was passed by the Senate last year when for the first time in Australia conscription was introduced in time of peace. It will be recalled that the legislation passed last year provided that a certain number of men who had attained the age of twenty years would be conscripted to serve full time for two years. It was stated at the time that they would first undergo training for six months, but yesterday the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) said that that period could be extended. It was provided thatthey would then serve full time for another 18 months in the Regular Army Supplement, and would then be transferred to the Regular Army Reserve in which they would do part time training. That means that those men will be out of industry altogether for the first two years of their service. Then, if we are not engaged in war, I take it they will be able to follow their normal vocation for the next three years and no doubt undergo night training and certain weekend training and a ten day camp or two each year.

The Bill now before us is designed to alter that situation. It provides that in two sets of circumstances the conscript can be compelled to perform full time service for the full period of five years. The first of these contingencies is a time of war and the second is a time of defence emergency. I intend to deal with the latter. To my mind it is a nebulous sort of thing; nobody seems to be able to offer a definition of it. If a defence emergency exists for the last three years of a conscript's term of service, it will mean that he will be out of industry for the full five years of his service.

When the Government submitted its conscription proposals last year the Opposition opposed them. We did so on many grounds. We believed that if the Government made the voluntary system sufficiently attractive it would be able to obtain sufficient volunteers to meet the requirements of the Army. I am still of that belief. I admit that in June last the Government did raise the pay of male members of the Army. I do not know whether the Minister for Defence, the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) or the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who is concerned with the payment of Army personnel, has yet considered increasing the pay of female members of the Army. The Labour Party has been accused, in a half serious fashion, of knowing something about a report that was tabled about a week before the question arose in the Senate. The consensus of this chamber was that women in the armed Services should receive at least 75 per cent, of the male rates of pay, as is the practice outside of the Services. The Government has had a long time to make that change but I have read nothing in the Press to indicate that it has even considered the matter. Senator O'Byrne, who raised the point as a matter of urgency, proved conclusively that women in the Services were receiving 59 per cent, of the male rates of pay. I concede that the Government has demonstrated that it does not want men in the Army on the cheap, but the same cannot be said of women in the Army. It is not to be wondered at that very few women are joining the Services.

The Government proceeded with the National Service Bill. The Labour Party warned that if conscription were introduced it would greatly reduce enlistments through the voluntary recruiting system and that in the end it would be necessary to depend largely upon conscripts to raise sufficient men for the Army's needs. We submitted also that sooner or later conflict was inevitable between conscripts and those who volunteered for the Australian Regular Army, the Regular Army Reserve and the Regular Army Emergency Reserve, and that such a situation would be detrimental to the Services.

The Government did not say when introducing the National Service Bill that the men called up would be sent to fight overseas before the Government had even declared that a defence emergency existed or that we were at war. When it was announced that the Government planned to send 800 soldiers to fight in Vietnam, a Labour senator asked whether we were at war. The answer was, in effect: " No, we are not at war. We are not even in a state of defence emergency ". But 800 men are being sent to Vietnam. Unfortunately, replacements will be needed and no doubt they will be obtained from the conscripts after they have concluded the six months training referred to by Senator Gorton when he introduced the National Service Bill. If my memory of it is correct, he said then that those called up would receive six months training. Despite its shortcomings, the National Service Bill was passed and a Senate election followed. I suppose it is fair to say that the people supported that legislation, amongst other things such as Commonwealth aid to build science blocks. Whether the people voted for conscription or for Commonwealth aid to build science blocks is a matter of opinion. I notice that the Minister is giving a kind of grin.

The Bill before us changes the situation created by the introduction of the National Service Bill. The conditions created by that legislation last year are now to be altered. I would like to know why conditions are now to be substantially different from those created by legislation introduced about six months ago.

Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator KENNELLY - As I said prior to the suspension, there is a very substantial difference between the Bill that we are now discussing and the National Service Act of last year. Under the Act of last year a conscript, upon completing his two years service, will be discharged from the Regular Army Supplement and be deemed to have enlisted in the Regular Army Reserve for the remainder of the period of five years. That is provided in section 27 (2.). What is proposed is that if, during his two years full time service with the Regular Army, the Government proclaims in the " Gazette " a state of defence emergency, he will not be discharged but will be deemed to have been re-engaged in that force until the defence emergency expires or until he has completed five years service. Some may say - and it is true - that this Bill at least provides that he will not do more than five years service and that at present he is liable to serve full time for two years and part- time for three years. In certain circumstances - the one in which I am interested is the state of defence emergency - he could be a full time conscript for five years.

Under the legislation enacted last year, a man who was compelled to join the Army would be trained for six months. No doubt he would then he placed in a Regular Army battalion and would serve in a combat area. After the beginning of next year he could possibly be serving in Vietnam. Upon having completed two years service, he would then have to be discharged and become a member of the Reserve. If, after that, the Government declared a state of defence emergency, he would be liable to be called up for full time service, which would include service overseas. If the Army needed men for a combat area, as no doubt it would if a state of defence emergency existed, it would, 1 suggest, have a look at the other serving members of the Australian Regular Army. It would have a look at conscripts who had completed six months training but had not seen service overseas and then at members of the Regular Army Emergency Reserve who had volunteered for service overseas. Finally, if it still needed men, it would have recourse to the Special Army Reserve of which the conscript who had completed two years service was a member. Under the existing arrangements I should say call-ups for service would be made in something like that order.

But what will be the position if this Bill is passed? A conscript who has completed six months training would be attached to the A.R.A. If the unit to which he is attached is overseas, he will bc kept there if a state of emergency exists. Therefore, instead of being the last to do a double issue, if I may put it in that way, he will become the first. Under the existing legislation. I should say that he would be the last. Under this Bill he could be the first to do a double issue if needed. Instead of facing the necessity to obtain volunteers or enlarge the intake - whether we call them national servicemen or conscripts - the Government, by proclaiming a state of emergency, will be able (o extend the full time service of a conscript from two years to five years.

Listening to the debate on the Defence Bill last year I believed - as no doubt everyone else did - that the declaration of a state of defence emergency would be the last desperate resort prior to a declaration of war. I admit that we have had to form our own thoughts about it, because we have no definition of what will happen. All that we are told is that the Government, per medium of the Governor-General, will declare a state of defence emergency, which will be notified in the " Gazette ". I am afraid that under this proposition, instead of a declaration being the last desperate resort, it could become a resort for keeping the men in a combat area rauch longer than last year's Bill suggested. By the declaration of a defence emergency the conscript may be called upon, if the Government so desires, to serve 4± years in a combat area. Remember that we are in a most peculiar situation today. Some weeks ago the Government announced that it would send 800 soldiers to fight in Vietnam.

Senator Cormack - To serve.

Senator KENNELLY - Well, Senator Cormack knows more about the Army than I do; but can he tell me what these mcn will be doing in Vietnam? Are they being sent just because they are good looking? Last night Senator Sir William Spooner, who, I understand, was a gallant soldier-

Senator Paltridge - Hear, head

Senator KENNELLY - I know he was a gallant soldier; I cannot say more.

Senator Hannaford - He won the

Military Medal.

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