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Thursday, 13 May 1965

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - in reply - 1 am indebted to my colleagues. Senator Cormack and Senator Mattner, for their informative contributions to this debate. Their speeches have simplified my task in replying to the case submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) on behalf of the Opposition in opposing this measure. In the last year, as might be expected, in this chamber and in another place members of this Parliament have had very many opportunities to review our defence policy and our defence needs. I well recall that when I presented the 1964 defence review, one of the surprising criticisms of me and the administration of my department was that I was presenting too many reviews too frequently. 1 have had some difficulty in understanding that criticism because, in my view, in these times the questions of defence and defence policy might well be almost continuously before the Parliament.

During discussions of our defence situation, I have attempted to explain to the Parliament the quite different situation which has existed in the world in recent years. I think it is necessary to explain this new situation. If we do not understand it, we fall into all forms of confusion. I strongly suspect that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition fell heir to confusion when he addressed the Senate today. I refer to that part of his address in which he spoke of " a time of defence emergency " and " a time of war", and pointed particularly to the imprecise factors which created a time of defence emergency. I cannot but agree with him that the factors which make for a time of defence emergency are imprecise, because they, will alter from situation to situation according to geography, time, and the nations and the strength of the forces involved. Although this imprecision exists, surely no-one would deny the proposition that in times short of war a need lies heavily upon every nation desiring peace to take precautions to ensure that it is prepared to meet the developing situations which, of themselves, fall short of war.

As I considered what the honorable senator was saying, I was prompted to recall a statement I made in October of last year about the progression of events which could occur in Australia to make it necessary for us to take certain definite actions at certain definite, though presently ill-defined, times. I shall refer to a speech I made in October last year. I said -

First, the permanent forces of each Service will be available at all times. Secondly, if the defence situation requires it the Governor-General may, by order, call out the Emergency Reserves of each Service.

In other words, as the situation deepens so we can by executive act call out the Emergency Reserves. I continued -

Thirdly, if the military situation deteriorates, the Governor-General may then by proclamation declare a time of defence emergency. The effect of such a declaration is that, as well as continuing the liability of members of the permanent forces and Emergency Reserves to render continuous full time service for an indefinite period and enabling the Minister to call out the Regular Army Reserve. . . .

That is important in respect of the Regular Army Supplement, and I shall come back to that -

.   . it also enables the Governor-General by proclamation to call out the citizen forces. If this grave step has to be taken, the Governor-General is obliged to report the reason for so doing to the Parliament.

I refer back to that part in which I stated that in a time of defence emergency the Regular Army Reserve could be called out. A national serviceman who has, for example, served two years in the Regular Army Supplement and has in fact become part of the Reserve, does not just become part of the Reserve, as was stated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to attend camps and to do some part time service. There remains upon him, and always has, under the legislation that we passed, an obligation to serve in time of defence emergency. There is nothing new about that. This is in the Bill and it always has been in the terms of the Defence Act. Those men who may now be called up from the Reserve could in fact have been called up under the Defence Act.

I notice that my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), in introducing his measure into the House of Representatives in October or November last, said: " In time of defence emergency, under the provisions of the Defence Act, national servicemen may be called up for further continuous service ". The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asks what is different, what is changed about this Act. Sir, the thing that is changed is this: If the provisions of the Defence Act had been enforced and there was no provision in the national defence act in relation to national service recruits, the national service trainee who had become a member of the Reserve could in fact have been called up, not for the balance of the period of five years for which he was liable but for the whole time of defence emergency, no matter how long that time of defence emergency may be. The purpose of the amendment which the Senate is considering is to make it completely clear that the total service of the national service recruit shall be limited to a period of five years and shall not go beyond five years, irrespective of the period of defence emergency.

The other point that seemed to trouble the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about the service of the national service recruit was that he might, under the arrangement that we are proposing in this Bill, find himself liable for a longer period of service than was originally contemplated as a member of the Regular Army Supplement. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition attempted to make quite a point of the fact that we saw the need for this for administrative convenience, particularly so far as it applied to national service trainees who. might be in regiments in the front line or in an active service area. The fact of the matter is that under the terms of the existing legislation, as I have explained, in time of defence emergency, the national service trainee about whom we are talking is liable to be called up from the Reserve. The situation when he is a member of the Supplement is this: He is serving in the Supplement, his two years expire - this is the real meaning of .the administrative inconvenience - and he is transferred from the Supplement to the Reserve, but this being a time of defence emergency he can under provisions that now exist be called up again and re-enlisted in the Supplement. We say that in time of defence emergency, not at any other time, to overcome what are obviously a lot of unnecessary administrative procedures, he shall be deemed to remain a member of the Regular Army Supplement.

Senator Laught - Fair enough.

Senator PALTRIDGE - And he shall continue his service. That, as my colleague interjects, is fair enough. I can see nothing wrong with that at all. The other aspect to which I want to refer is the apparent trouble which the Deputy Leader had in respect of the declaration of a time of defence emergency. As I have indicated earlier, a time of defence emergency is governed by very many factors indeed. It cannot be defined in clear terms. That fact has been acknowledged as recently as yesterday by no less a person than the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber who, when addressing himself to this matter, said -

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 band, the Government has not see 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.

It is a matter of judgment, as is recognised by the Leader of the Opposition. That it is a matter of judgment and that over recent years it has been difficult to define it is certainly thrown into relief by what may appear to the honorable senator to be an equally strange fact, namely that war was not declared when fighting was taking place by formations in Malaysia against the Communists during the time of the insurgency. War or a time of defence emergency was not declared in respect of the Malaysian-Indonesian confrontation, in which are engaged - if that is the word - on the Malaysian side formations from a number of countries. The MalaysianIndonesian situation is not called a state of defence emergency in this country just because we have troops committed or involved and it is not called a state of defence emergency by anyone else as far as I know. In the same way, the Korean operation was not declared a state of defence emergency or a state of war.

Senator Kennelly - Were we not in Korea as part of the United Nations force?

Senator PALTRIDGE - We were, and the fact that we were in Korea as a member nation of the United Nations, fighting a war approved by the United Nations, if " approved " is the word to apply to that situation, may well be a reason why all of us might have taken a more formal view of the matter and declared war. But this was not done. None of the situations to which I have referred was described as a time of emergency or a time of war for the simple reason that it is recognised that all of the situations which we have faced in recent years are part and parcel of the new disruptive technique that has been indulged in in a number of places around the globe. For that reason the present situation in South Vietnam is not a time of war.

I feel that my friend's apprehension about this matter stems from the fact that the Government may declare this to be a time of war. If that is to be the case - if it is to be declared a time of war - it will be done by proclamation and within 10 days of that proclamation being issued the whole situation will be discussed by the Parliament and will continue to be discussed by it.

Senator Cormack - It is a fundamental reserved right of the Parliament.

Senator PALTRIDGE - It is, and if we are not engaged in an active war but if a state of defence emergency is said to exist, then on the issue of a proclamation the Parliament will assemble and the behaviour of the Government will come under close and continuing scrutiny.

I have dealt with the two matters raised in the second reading debate which I felt needed some comment. Again I express my gratitude to my two colleagues who made what I considered to be very informative contributions to a most important subject.

Question put -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

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