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Tuesday, 17 November 1964

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for for Works) .- in reply - The principles involved in this Bill have been very extensively discussed in another place and in this chamber in the debates on the defence review and on the Bill itself. To my mind, this comes down to a simple question of a difference of opinion, judgment and belief between the Government and the Opposition. The Government believes it should introduce this Bill because it is necessary to increase the standing Army of Australia to such a level that it can carry out its commitments and at the same time leave in Australia a nucleus to train the volunteer divisions which would flock to the colours if fighting ever started. The Army could be supplied with arms and other requisites from the things that have been built up by the Government. The Government believes that we will not reach the required level of numbers for the Australian Regular Army unless we use the selective call-up system which is envisaged in the Bill.

This is simply a matter of two questions. First, has the situation in Australia's geographical vicinity - in this part of the world - deteriorated, not to a state of instant emergency but to a state where it appears necessary for Australia to be prepared in case of an emergency occurring sooner than seemed likely some weeks or months ago? If the events that have occurred indicate that such a position may develop, the Government says that it is necessary to build up our forces by the method stated in the Bill. If it were held that recent events in this part of the world have not increased the chances of an emergency occurring sooner than appeared likely some months ago, there would be no need to hurry with the purposes of this Bill and we could take all the years that might be required to get the requisite numbers of men by voluntary, enlistment. The Government believes that the circumstances that are developing make the Bill necessary.

As Senator Kennelly has said, it is the responsibility of the Government to make a decision. The Government assumes that responsibility. The Government is primarily responsible for Australia and Australians. It has responsibility for repulsing any threats to Australia and Australians in the future: We believe the situation as it is developing makes it necessary for what is proposed in the Bill to be done. The Opposition has a ' different view. It believes" that the proposals contained in the Bill are not necessary and that the circumstances do not warrant this measure. That is the issue between us, and no amount of debate is going to prove anything one way or another. The question is whether the country as a whole believes, as does the Government, that these steps are necessary because of what has happened and what might happen, or whether the country believes, with the Opposition, that the steps are not necessary because there has been nothing to indicate that an emergency is any more likely to occur now than it was months ago. That is the question to be decided. That is all I wish to say.

Question put -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

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