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Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- The whole problem of the defence of this country revolves round the proposed amendment Long ago I formed the conclusion that if this country was to have armed forces the Government was confronted with two alternatives. Either it must have universal training or a voluntary training scheme. It is quite obvious that the Government has decided that universal training is unnecessary, that it is too extensive. I believe that it is unsuitable to our requirements, and I think that that belief is also at the back of the Government's mind. I believe that within twelve or eighteen months, probably immediately preceding an election, the Government will come forth with a statement that it has sufficient volunteers in the forces to enable it to abandon universal military training.

The need for this amendment would not have arisen if the Government had firmly grasped the situation with which it is confronted. As it considers that the number of persons who would be available under a universal training scheme would be unnecessary, and that the problem of deferment is unpalatable, it should have undertaken a purely voluntary scheme. I cannot imagine such a scheme failing. After all, hundreds of thousands of men from World War I. and World War II. in this country, from choice and psychological outlook, are as keen as their fathers and grandfathers were to serve their country and train for eventualities. At this juncture, when the Government has decided, and rightly so, that it does not need the numbers that it has been calling up, the alternative stands clear and plain to the people of Australia. The Government should issue an appeal for voluntary enlistments.

I am satisfied that under a voluntary scheme the terms of service could be made sufficiently attractive to attract the very best type of men in this country. Under the piebald scheme that will obtain under the bill men will be exempt because they obtain deferment and they will be looked upon, in some cases, as avoiding their responsibility. In the Army there will be universal trainees on the one hand, and mingling with them, or in separate compartments - I do not know the Government's intention - there will be a piebald platoon of volunteers. Surely, that is a most undesirable state of affairs. It would be better to have a force entirely composed of either compulsory trainees or volunteers.

I am sure that the deferment problem could be avoided entirely and that the Government could obtain the 12,000 men it wants per medium of the ballot system. If an enthusiastic volunteer feels compelled to enlist he is more likely to be the most satisfactory type of soldier because he goes into the Army full of enthusiasm and with a belief in the cause in which he is to serve. He will probably be more suitable for technical training than a compulsory trainee. In any war of offence or defence the men with technical knowledge will be the key men. Is it imagined that men who will be ballotted into the Army through the raffle box will be as suitable, as amenable or as receptive to highly skilled technical training as men who go in voluntarily? It is said that we are a democracy and that we believe in freedom. I know that freedom has its limitations to the extent that one must not trample on other people's freedom. But in this case the Government would not be trampling on anybody else's freedom by having an army entirely composed of men who psychologically, physically, mentally and in every other way are fit to become highly efficiently trained soldiers. Imagine the mental outlook of the man who is dragged in by means of a raffle.

Mr Cramer - The bill covers voluntary enlistment.

Mr POLLARD - Of course. Apparently, what I say is unpalatable to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). If everybody were dragged in, the situation would be different. But will men who are dragged in because their birthdays fall on certain dates become as efficient, psychologically or physically, as men who are required to serve this country should be? I do not think that the proposal is sensible; it is outrageous and foolish. I would like the Minister for the Army to inform the House whether the Government has any intention, first of all, of appealing to the sons and grandsons of the men who served in the last two wars.

Mr Cramer - Labour tried that in 1947.

Mr POLLARD - I am asking the Minister what the Government is prepared to do.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - An opportunity is being provided for volunteers to come forward.

Mr POLLARD - I know that certain clauses provide for voluntary enlistment. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has just come into the chamber, and he does not know what I have been saying. The combining of voluntary enlistment with universal training will produce a piebald army. Serving in the same camp we shall have volunteers and men who have been called up under this scheme - through the Tattersall's barrel or birthday hazard idea. A battalion could include two companies of universal trainees and two companies of conscripts; and separate altogether from them could be men who run the gauntlet of a deferment application to the court. The men could be subdivided into separate compartments as a result of this measure. Because of the development of nuclear, atomic and other weapons, the Government requires a smaller force than the Labour Government was required to find. That confronts the Government with a situation which did not confront us. In the circumstances, the Government should have given some consideration to the matter, and its final decision should have fallen on the side of trying a voluntary enlistment system.

Mr Cramer - You are only trying to destroy the whole scheme.

Mr POLLARD - And you have been trying to ram this scheme willy-nilly down the throats of the people. The Minister will not succeed, because the people will not stand for a system which puts a thousand men in a camp as volunteers and another thousand men in a camp as universal trainees or as conscripts. Such an arrangement will not work satisfactorily for the Army authorities; they will not appreciate it, either. If constructive thought had been given to this matter or if the psychological and other factors such as the question of deferments and the question of volunteering had been considered, the problem of two sections in the armed forces could not possibly have arisen. In the circumstances, I am completely opposed to the amendment; and I am, of course, opposed to the bill as a whole.

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