Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- It is quite obvious, from the speech of the honorable member for New England (Mr.

Drummond), that the Labour party was fully justified in opposing the whole scheme for the continuance of national service training. The Opposition believes that the Government could get sufficient volunteers to meet the requirements of the services if it paid them better. I think that those people who support the conscription system do so merely because it means getting defence on the cheap. The men who are conscripted are compelled to serve under conditions laid down by the Government, irrespective of whether they are attracted to them or otherwise.

The Government itself is not very enthusiastic about the continuance of the national service training scheme. The Government told us originally that it proposed to reduce the intake from 33,000 to 12,000 a year because that was the maximum number that could be handled efficiently. What will happen if the Government obtains from the ballot the 12,000 men that it requires? Will all those other people who have secured deferments and who then volunteer to serve be taken into the forces in addition to the 12,000? Will certain persons be selected from their number or will they all be accepted? If they are all accepted, the Government could find that it had 33,000 trainees, the number which it has declared that it is incapable of handling. It is obvious that the Government does not really know what it is going to do.

Apparently, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) does not mind conscription if it is for the boys of workers in industrial areas, but he begins to find all sorts of objections if it is going to apply to the sons of farmers. No doubt what the honorable member said about the sons of ex-servicemen in the country is true in many instances, but do not ex-servicemen live in the industrial areas, and have they not sons who will be called up to serve under this scheme? It is quite obvious that there will be a great deal of discrimination. The average worker's son will have to run the risk of the ballot, and if his name is drawn he will have to undergo training. But if the name of somebody in a country district happens to be drawn in the ballot he need not worry, because he will easily be able to get out of the training by approaching his Australian Country party member, who has great influence with the

Government and the Minister concerned. Then out comes the country lad and in goes the worker's son. If the Government is going to have discrimination of that kind it cannot expect the support of the Opposition.

We do not believe in conscripted service. We have always been of the opinion that if the Government were to make conditions in this country what they ought to be there would be no difficulty in getting enough volunteers to defend it. The Government should give trainees decent conditions. It should ensure that those who are dependent on them are adequately compensated should they lose their lives, either during peacetime or in war. That is the way to ensure that we have an effective defence scheme. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) knows that the Government is not serious about this national service training scheme, but it cannot completely retreat from the original position that it took up in 1951 when it said that this scheme was essential to the defence of Australia. Everybody knows that the defence of this or any other country will noi depend, as it did in the Boer War, upon men marching in squares and fighting with rifles. It will be fought with nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons. Therefore, the importance of ground troops will become less as time goes on. The Government is always talking about defence preparations, but it may be said that the Government is always prepared for the last war, but is never prepared for the next.

Suggest corrections