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Tuesday, 22 March 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) - The Australian Labour Party Government introduced conscription in 1943. No referendum was held at that time. As I recall, the Leader of the Opposition was not at that stage a Minister. The legislation introducing conscription was passed in February of that year. The Leader of the Opposition became a Minister in September of that year, but he did oppose vigorously the legislation when it was introduced.

Mr Calwell - Not in the House.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - Yes, in the House.

Mr Calwell - I seconded an amendment.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - Yes. The honorable gentleman expressed himself in his usual clear, vigorous and emphatic terms. I shall be glad to remind him of the pungent passage that he employed to condemn the legislation and toe action of the Government, of which he was then a supporter, in introducing it. It is true that the legislation applied to young Australians aged 18 years, lt is not within my competence to comment upon their training condition when they were put into action. This Government has made it clear in respect of the 20 year old youths called up for service in the present national service scheme that a minimum period of six months, and in all probability nearly nine months or more, of training would have been carried out before they would be asked to go into action.

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