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Thursday, 13 May 1965


Senator MATTNER (South Australia) .- I like the title of this Bill which is " National Service Bill ". It relates to national service to our own country, and I am really sorry that it has been misconstrued. I. make a brief explanation relating to the youth of Australia. I believe Senator Kennelly miscontrued the whole thought behind my interjection. He is keen about the future of the youth of Australia. I am' too. Let us suppose that Australia was overwhelmed. Then what would be the future of our youth? I said, by way of interjection, that they could be corpses. I have never been a corpse, of course, but I imagine that being a corpse would be much worse than performing national service for the defence of the country. If we do not wish the country to be overrun, how are we to prevent it? Who is to prevent it? It is the sacred duty of the people of Australia to defend their own country. We talk about this great country and its freedom. Are they not worth fighting for? The Opposition is not paying due credit to the youth of Australia when it says that our young people will not agree to this proposal. I believe that they have welcomed the proposal for this one reason: What one should do for one's country is difficult to decide. This decision has been taken from them and they are to be called up for national service. Nothing could be fairer than that. I repeat that we are considering national service.

Let us look at the Bill. Clauses 27 and 28 form the keystone of the measure. As

Senator Kennellyhas said, last year legislation was passed which provided that young men could be called up for two years service in the Regular Army Supplement, which is an adjunct of the Australian Regular Army. Members of the Regular Army are volunteers who have signed on usually for six years. If they so wish they may re-engage for either three years or six years. Some people may say that these men have chosen the army as a career. Good luck to them if they have. It is a most honorable career to choose. As I have indicated, side by side with the Regular Army we have the Regular Army Supplement. Until the National Service Bill 1964 was passed the old Regular Army reserves consisted of soldiers who had enlisted for three years only. When it was decided to call up the youth of Australia for two years service under the terms of the National Service Bill 1964, it was decided to put those people and those who had volunteered for three years service into the Regular Army Supplement. As the name suggests, that force is designed to supplement the Regular Army. Under the legislation passed last year national servicemen were obliged to serve for two years in the Regular Army Supplement to be followed by three years in the Regular Army Reserve.

The Bill now before us does not alter that position in any way. However, under the provisions of the National Service Act 1964 and the Defence Act 1964, considered together, a national serviceman in the Regular Army Supplement, like his comrade who had volunteered for service in the Supplement, was not entitled to be discharged from the Supplement if the end of his engagement occurred during a time of war or a time of defence emergency. The present position is a little different from that stated by Senator Kennelly. It is now proposed that, if a national emergency is declared or if unfortunately we are at war, the national serviceman will be required to serve for five years. Senator Kennelly said that the national serviceman should not have to serve for a further term but should be able to go back to civilian life after serving the first two years. I do not want to refer to all that happened in 1941 and 1942, but I do wish to say that had it not been for the Australians who volunteered in 1939 and the divisions that we had in Egypt and elsewhere which ensured the security of India and kept Japan out of the war for many months we in Australia would not be here today as Australian citizens. The Opposition has had the temerity to say that the Government of the day and the people of Australia did nothing to ensure the defence of this country until Labour assumed office in 1941.

We know some of the administrative hardships that were experienced when Labour assumed office. Let me mention one or two instances of which I have some knowledge. Soldiers who were transferred from the Australian Imperial Force to the militia and who went to New Guinea in 1942 did not know that they were expected to change their allotment of pay. The result was that their wives and families were left without one penny of allotment. We were told that the soldiers themselves should have changed their allotment. That is the kind of administrative difficulty that occurred.


Senator Branson - Members of the Opposition are not listening to the honorable senator.


Senator MATTNER - I know that. Let me go a little further. Labour's ideas about the calling up of youth in 1942 split this country from stem to stern. We almost had civil war in our training camps. I can provide facts and dates to support my statement that militia troops were taken from camps in South Australia down to the beaches and elsewhere in order to prevent this horrible feeling that existed between the two branches of the Army from erupting.

I emphasise that we are discussing national service. Surely we have grown up since 1942. The volunteer will have to face exactly the same sort of danger and to go into exactly the same engagements as the men who are to be called up. Nobody on the other side of the Senate has been able to prove that the duty to preserve the safety of Australia does not devolve upon every man and woman in the country. This legislation takes that duty a little further. Let me refer to the sort of problem that arose during the 1914-18 war and to a lesser extent during the last war. In World War I the volunteers included the cream of the professions. They could ill be spared from our war effort at home. They were used as infantrymen. I am not seeking to belittle infantrymen, artillerymen, or any members of the Services, but the talents of such volunteers could have been utilised, in my opinion, to much better advantage at home.

By introducing the National Service Bill, the Government said, in effect: " We will have a searching look at our manpower. This legislation is designed to defend Australia and therefore we will allot men and women to the jobs of work for which we think they are best suited." Honorable senators opposite chide the Government by saying that it has no thought for the defence of this country, that it does not plan. But the moment the Government produces a tangible plan for our defence, which should earn the gratitude of every Australian, it is again chided by members of the Opposition because the plan does not please them. 1 would have thought that the Opposition would have come in four-square behind the Government on this question. For years members of the Opposition have been saying, quite untruthfully, that the Government has left Australia undefended. That statement is made inside and outside this chamber. But whenever the Government puts forward proposals to strengthen our defence, the Labour Party opposes them.

The present proposals are to prevent war from coming to this country, as far as is possible. They are designed to preserve the security of Australia. As Senator Cormack said, in our present situation Australia must be prepared to play a very great part in defending herself. We must be true to our allies. I believe that we must follow the lead of the United States of America and Great Britain in calling up our young people for national service. No honorable senator opposite has said that 'he is prepared to be defended by the young people of Great Britain and the United States who are called up for compulsory national training. How can wc, with justice and national pride, say to our allies in time of peril: " Come to our aid. We are not prepared to call up our youth as you are doing, but come to our aid." If we are to keep faith with our allies, in common decency it is necessary to implement national service training.

The National Service Bill is fair and just. It gives to our youth an opportunity to defend Australia and places in its correct perspective (he effort we must all make in time of war. It destroys the power of the awful saying so often heard in time of war in relation to somebody who is not in uniform: "Why didn't he go?" Obviously it cannot bc clear why some people did not go to World War I or World War II, but with the introduction of national service training it will be plain that any person of eligible age who is not called up for service will have his abilities utilised to far better advantage. I welcome this Bill because it is fair to every Australian. I repeat what I said at the start of my speech: This legislation provides for national service in which everyone should be proud to participate. I support the Bill.







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