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Thursday, 9 May 1957

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- I. agreewi th some points in the speech of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). However, I disagree with hi* suggestion that any honorable member does not approve of discipline, public serviceand community spirit. The policy of the Labour party, for which I speak, is based on those very qualities; but we say that the national service scheme does little, if anything, to engender those qualities, lt is highly expensive and the general aimsof the system fail to be achieved.

I have indulged in the seasonal sport of looking at what the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said when he introduced the proposal in 1950. He said that it was to be a system of national service which would give to our young men the advantages of a period of regular, disciplined training under expert instruction. The second point he made was that it would produce a reservoir of trained men. The third point was that necessary basic service training would be given, and also an introduction to more specialized forms of service. The £103,000,000 already spent on this scheme has produced very little result. Therefore, it ought to bs abandoned, and we should adopt a scheme of traditional voluntary service by people who have the community spirit before they start. A defence system cannot be built upon experimental methods; its principal objective is fighting. If more mystical things are to be achieved, some other methods must be tried. When the scheme was first introduced, we opposed it. The present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) moved an amendment that the Government's proposals to provide for national service in the defence forces be investigated and reported by an appropriate all-party committee.

The Government is not quite prepared to surrender its loudly-trumpeted plans for national service. Indeed, it is not game to withdraw them completely. It realizes, as do most honorable members opposite, that the scheme has failed and has not produced the result we want. Therefore, it should be abandoned and the Labour party's proposals adopted. One interesting point arose in the Minister's speech in 1950. Referring to the plans of the previous government, to which he paid a compliment when he said that it had laid the basis for the defence system at the time, he said -

Our main quarrel with what that Administration did is that it was not enough and appeared to rely much too heavily upon the scientists, a few specialists and small permanent service cadres.

If the system of defence now being discussed is not exactly the system that was criticized six or seven years ago, what is it? In the interim, this Government has spent £1,000,000,000 to arrive at the conclusions which were offered by the Labour party six or seven years ago. That is typical of the general attitude of the Government to most matters. After expending fabulous sums of public money, it arrives at a conclusion that we have been expounding all along. That is the way in which this proposal should be examined.

In introducing the bill, the Minister said -

The Government did not take the decision to cut back the National Service Scheme without reluctance, and only after detailed discussions with our highest service advisers. The Government remains very conscious of the considerable social value of this scheme.

That is not the object of the defence service. It is certainly a valuable incidental to good military, naval or air force service; but a defence system is not designed to produce those things. That is not the way in which the defence vote should be used.

If the Government wants to produce a sense of discipline and improve health standards, the money should be spent in more appropriate fields to achieve that purpose. In answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) on 19th September, 1956, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) said that until 30th June, 1956, the national service scheme had cost £103,500,000. including £27,000,000 expended on capital works. How many high schools or hospitals could be built for that money? If the Government wants to produce discipline, public service, social value, community effort and proper moral standards, the proper place to do so is inside the educational system; and £100,000,000 could be spent on those objectives because, comparatively speaking, the expenditure of that money has not achieved any defence. Just imagine what the Government could have done if it had spent £103,000,000 in the social field! No more than £60,000,000 is spent on education by the State governments of Australia each year - less than 60 per cent, of the money that has been wasted in this mad pursuit of outmoded and antiquated military objectives. Napoleon found conscription very useful, and it raised armies for other nations during the first and second world wars; but it has not produced results in this country. The Government should be indicted severely for having used a steam hammer to crack a nut. It could have attained its aim much more effectively in other ways.

The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) also said that a prime element of the defence policy was speedier mobilization and deployment. Will any Government supporter suggest that the defence system, of which national service has been the core, has produced that result? I think not. I object most of all to the decision that conscription should be confined to the Army. What has the Army done to deserve this ? What has the Navy and the Air Force got that the Army has not? I regard this matter as serious. If there is any tradition of service in this country it has been built around military service by the Australian Imperial Forces in the two world wars. If the Government has failed to attract young men into the Army because it has not made this country a land fit to fight for, it must stand condemned. To suggest that the

Army should be based on conscription, while the other two services are composed of volunteers, will only create a feeling of inferiority in the Army - a complex similar to that which existed in the early years of World War II., before every one was regarded as being in the same show, and some were thought of as conscripts only. The Government has killed voluntary enlistment in the Australian Regular Army and is now trying to kill the Army itself. I have spent a considerable time in the Army and I believe that my criticisms should be heeded. The present defence policy has done little more than cripple the morale of the Army. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred to the proposed " birthday battalions " and " lottery lads ". How can any service scheme be truly national unless it includes every one who is eligible? Why should there be compulsion in some cases and not in others? The Government will only succeed in creating the feeling that one is lucky not to be called up for the Army; that the. lucky ones are those who do not have to serve. When the birthday dates are announced the mothers will be looking in the papers, not to see whether their sons are to serve their country proudly, but to see whether they are to be the " lucky " ones who are to miss out. To foster such an outlook is indefensible. An honorable member suggests that as Liberal party members are here largely by chance, the president of the local branch of the party will no doubt be in charge of the drawing ceremony. That would be appropriate.

Again, why should young men be exempted from service merely because they live 5, 50 or 500 miles from a training depot? Why should any person who lives in Australia be able to avoid defending it? Clearly, that is a bonus to the Australian Country party. Last year I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) a question concerning deferments. I learned that of 26,053 current deferments, 1,054 were in respect of rural workers engaged full-time in the production of food or raw materials, and 22,194 were registrants residing too far from training centres to be trained. Of the 26,000 deferments, 23,000 were in respect of country dwellers - the sons of those who rule the broad acres! Some, no doubt, were living in their father's home in the town itself. There is no reason why young workers in the electorate of Wills should be undergoing military training while the young farmers of Farrer are driving around in their fathers' Cadillacs. The year's training is based largely on an annual camp of a fortnight or three weeks. Surely it would not be difficult in this modern age to bring young men great distances to camp. The whole scheme should be reconsidered, and no further bonuses should be given to Australian Country party interests.

The Minister for Defence has spent a considerable time in attempting to explain the inexplicable and to defend the indefensible, but there are other aspects of the matter to which one could well refer.

I want to speak especially of the effect that the national service training scheme has had upon the Citizen Military Forces. The whole scheme has been unfair, and has brought frustration to those who wanted to serve. It has resulted in bad public relations and has crippled enthusiasm for voluntary service. As long ago as the beginning of last month I put on the noticepaper a question asking what percentage of national service trainees had volunteered to continue serving in each service since the inception of the scheme. I do not know whether Army statistics have gone to pieces, but I have not yet received an answer. One would expect that the Minister for Defence would be constantly interested in such things; that he would want to know what effect the national service training scheme had had upon the Army generally. When the scheme was initiated the Minister said that national service trainees would be encouraged to serve on. At that time, the Citizen Military Forces numbered 17,000. That figure has now dropped to about 14,000. The Citizen Military Forces are going downhill fast. The Government has succeeded only in strangling what should have been the basis of the Army in the next war, whether it be global or any other kind.

I have seen an orderly room corporal come along and tell a national serviceman that he had finished his service. The young man was cleaning a pair of boots. He had finished only the left boot but he dropped the other immediately - he was a Liberal - and went, there and then, without waiting for lunch. I have seen that sort of thing happen over and over again. The spirit of voluntary service has been killed, and good

Regular Army soldiers have been driven out of the forces. The Government should abandon its present policy and institute a system that will produce an army with a high morale and a desire to serve. The Minister for Defence has decided that we shall have a conscript army, and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) has produced from somewhere a figure of 12,000 - perhaps it has something to do with his State lottery which has a prize of £12,000. There is no basis of scientific consideration. The Army must be based upon the Citizen Military Forces. As has been pointed out, they have been the basis of the Army for many years. The history of compulsory service in the Australian forces has not been a happy one.

What has the Government done in the field of public relations? It has a few glamour units which troop the colour or wear kilts. But what has it done to foster public interest in its defence measures? Before 1914, some men in the forces were compulsory trainees, but they were members of local units, drawn from the surrounding district. The following statement is contained in the " Commonwealth YearBook ", No. 8, at page 942:-

In general, the trainees are alert and well disciplined while on parade; and the interest and enthusiasm of the lads is shown by the large number of candidates seeking promotion at competitive examinations (practical and oral) after courses of lectures, demonstrations and special parades.

It also makes the following comment: -

Further, a great deal of voluntary service is rendered in all branches of the service, and the rifle clubs of the citizen units are well patronized. Many of the regiments have athletic, gymnastic and swimming clubs, and sports meetings are frequently held.

How much has the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) and his understrappers done in this connexion? The " YearBook " continues -

Patriotic citizens in local centres have contributed generously to funds for establishing bands, regimental clubs, annual sports gatherings, &c.

If we are to have a citizen army, it must be based on appeal to the citizens of the nation. 1 repeat, for the benefit of the Minister, who, last night, was scornful of people who offered advice on the Army, that the Opposition offers advice, not in any spirit of carping criticism, but in an attempt to be helpful. I understand that the Army has three infantry divisions at the moment. Let us base it on that, and provide sufficient equipment to ensure an effective formation. I suggest that a unit, such as a brigade, should be trained all at once for a sufficient period to enable its members to learn how to handle the equipment and vehicles that they would have to use in combat. In this way, we might hope to foster that spirit of unity and discipline of which the honorable member who preceded me spoke. Perhaps the men could be called up for four or five weeks. I do not think that there is any need for the training to be based on a period of one year. It could be for eighteen months or longer. But the Government, instead of making service a compulsory task, should make it something of which those who are called up will be proud. It is necessary to have morale. These forces can be built up only by an appeal to the community spirit, the national spirit, and by giving the formations themselves some objective. I believe that one of the principal reasons for the appeal of voluntary service before World War II., and before World War I., was that it was based on locality. I served with a unit in which the members came from all over Melbourne. It had no real local spirit, although it was composed of men who were good citizens. If the Government will not base the training of units on a locality, thus making use of the community spirit, its training scheme will not be successful.

These are important considerations. It is public relations which will decide whether the Commonwealth Military Force will be an effective force or not. This is something to which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) could turn his attention. One of the difficulties of the compulsory system has been its infringement of what people call their traditional rights. It is the compulsion that they do not like. Regular Army men, who have to put young fellows on charge sheets in order to force them to do this and that, do it reluctantly. It causes frustration. The officers do not like it, and the fellows who are charged labour under a sense of injustice. People have been court-martialled because on coming back from week-end leave they have tangled with the provosts. In other cases, they have suffered injury, and it has taken them two years to get workers' compensation. These are aspects of public relations to which the

Government must pay attention. It must ensure that military units make some appeal to the local community. Training should be based on first-class equipment. We must gather into the Army people who desire to serve. Surely, out of the total number of men between eighteen years and 40 years of age, who number 1,500,000, the Government should be able to obtain all it wants for three brigade formations and ancillary troops - perhaps 60,000. What is the country coming to if the Government cannot get 3 per cent, of these men to serve?

On this side of the House we feel very strongly about national service. We do not think that the present scheme is national, and we do not think that it is service. We do not think it has contributed to the aims that the Government has set out - the creation of a spirit of discipline and a good morale. It has no defence value whatsoever. If the Government has £103,000,000 to spend in the next five or six years there are plenty of other objectives on which it could spend the money. I suggest that if the Government's objectives are as they have been stated, the Government should spend the money on education.

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