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Thursday, 17 March 1966

Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) made a very interesting speech. He supported the conscription of youths for national service in Vietnam but it was noticeable that he skilfully avoided any definition of Country Party and Government policy on the sale of wool, wheat and metals to China and other nations which he says our conscripted boys and volunteers are now fighting and will be fighting for an indefinite period. I congratulate him on the skilful manner in which he skipped around that important and vulnerable point in Government policy. It was noticeable that he was prepared to spend more time today speaking of his own Department than he has been prepared to spend on explaining the workings of that Department in this House for some time.

The Parliament meets on this occasion with a new Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and a new Government. The Prime Minister was sworn in on Australia Day, 26th January 1966. Sir Robert Menzies, Knight of the Thistle, Lord Constable of Dover and Warden of the Cinque Ports, departed from the political scene after a record term. A link with the past, extending over his Prime Ministership since 1949, was broken when he left us. The new Prime Minister was introduced with a fanfare of trumpets. He has been acclaimed as the man of the hour. He had been 16 years in the shadows. A former Treasurer, and a skilful spear fisherman, he stepped forth to lead the nation. Over a glass of champagne at Government House on the day of the swearing in he expressed his delight by saying: " This is a really wonderful day." Then, with the stirring announcement "A new Government is in office ", the new Prime Minister announced himself. As the Leader of the Opposition asked: " What is this new Government led by the right honorable gentleman? " One Minister who passed away was replaced, two vacancies were filled, the former Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) was demoted - and quite rightly so - and that was the full extent of the changes. For the rest we had the same old team, with the same old policy to present to the people.

There was no new policy for this stirring and dynamic age. Any elector who thinks this is a new Government is, as I think you will agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, suffering from delusions.

Let us take another look back. We were told that the report to the nation would be made on the first day on which the Parliament met. The big day arrived for the new Prime Minister and we expected a stimulating, dynamic, exciting announcement of the Government's approach to the problems of the nation from the sporting, new look Prime Minister who had been welcomed earlier by the Press and on radio and television with all the glamour of a movie star, In the course of his open"1" remarks he showed a bit of promise. He said -

The new Government was sworn in on 26th January, Australia Day. We have been in office, therefore, just short of six weeks. They have been weeks of unusually intense activity. As 1 give an account of the highlights of events over that period I shall also bs mentioning some ^important policy decisions not previously announced.

The most important, of course, he was not prepared to announce until he practically had a bodyguard. Then commenced a lengthy and dreary oration lasting for more than an hour. The best that could be said for it - and the Press agreed with this - was that it sounded more like a funeral dirge than an exciting programme for the future of this country.

So we heralded the new Prime Minister. One important announcement that he said had not been made before was indeed an important one. It has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister announced many matters in the course of that long and dreary hour, but this one was kept until the last minute I refer to the decision to increase our military commitment in Vietnam. That this would be done had been carefully denied right up to the time when the Prime Minister made his announcement. But' hidden in this hour-long speech was the news that 4,500 servicemen - more than treble our previous military forces in Vietnam - would be sent to that theatre almost immediately. The Government said not only that it would treble the force but also that one-third of the men sent to Vietnam would be conscript national servicemen, 20 years of age, unable to vote and having no say in the government of the country. This decision was arrived at as the result of pressure from people abroad in the face of opposition by the Australian people to participation in the war in Vietnam by Australian military forces. The Prime Minister said -

The Australian task force which we will be sending to Vietnam in the middle of the year will contain ... a proportion of fully trained and integrated national servicemen as will all future substantial Australian Army units deployed overseas in any theatre.

It is a disgraceful act on the part of this Government to call men up and send them to fight abroad for a cause which many of them know little about, particularly when the Government has no mandate to send conscript boys, who have no vote, overseas to fight. I make no bones about this issue. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, this Government should not have Australian forces engaged in Vietnam at all, and the conscripting of Australian boys to fight in that country and in other parts of Asia, through the medium of one of the most infamous ballot systems ever introduced, is something for which this Government will pay dearly.

Boys of 20 years of age with no vote are conscripted to fight abroad and make sacrifices that unnaturalised immigrants are not called upon to make. Asian students training in our universities are not required to make these sacrifices by their own governments, they may continue their university courses without interruption. There is no way in which one may find the basis of exemption or the method of balloting or many other matters of vital concern to the people involved. Furthermore, when we read of the O'Neill case we cannot help but think that there are features of this national service call up that require a better explanation than the Government has so far given.

At the 1965 Citizenship Convention I pointed out a dangerous aspect of our defence arrangements. I said -

In the eyes of the public, particularly people with sons involved in the call-up, the defence legislation exempting unnaturalised persons may be looked upon as a form of favouritism and could lead to violent reaction by some sections of the community against the immigration programme. In those circumstances it is not difficult to imagine that the situation could inflame passions and create bitter internal problems, including the stimulation of hatred and bitterness towards migrants in general and unnaturalised migrants in particular.

Since 1965 this Government has done nothing about that situation. It has sidestepped the issue, and now the Prime Minister merely hints that something might be done. 1 do not believe that migrants should be able to avoid their lawful responsibilities, and I think that anyone who accepts the freedom and security of this country should accept also the same obligations as those that are carried by the boys who are now being conscripted. To my mind it is scandalous that unnaturalised migrants are not required to do so. A total of about 12,500 Asian students are in our universities at the present time, and we welcome them, but it must be remembered that they are in no danger of being called up by their own governments although this Government conscripts Australians 20 years of age and forces them to fight and perhaps die for Asian freedom. I suggest to the Government that it has a responsibility to explain to the people why these things are allowed while our own boys are conscripted. Above all this, we have the amazing situation that nobody on the Government side, even the Prime Minister, will say whether or not this country is at war. Only a day or so ago on 15th March I asked the Prime Minister whether this country was at war. This is what he said. It is to be found at page 206 of " Hansard "-

I am asked, Sir, whether this country is at war. This country is engaged in military operations at a number of points. We have joined with the United Kingdom forces in resisting Indonesian confrontation in Malaysia. We have joined with American forces and those of South Vietnam and certain other countries in resisting the Communist expansion and the repression and terrorism from Communist sources which are occurring in South Vietnam.

So the Prime Minister says we are not at war. Well, he differs from the previous Prime Minister who, speaking in London on 30th June 1965, said something different. An article in the " Sydney Morning Herald " is headed " ' We are at war ' says Menzies ". The article said -

Australia is at war in South Vietnam, Sir Robert Menzies said tonight.

The Australian Prime Minister, addressing an Australia Club dinner, said: " We are at war. Make no mistake about it."

He said the old belief was that a country was not at war until "something else" had happened.

But, he said, nothing else was going to happen. " There is a war going on in South Vietnam."

Honorable members can take their pick of the Liberal Prime Ministers. They both have different policies. Last night the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) said that we are at war and that we have been for a long time. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) said today that we are engaged in a shooting war and that he could see no difference from the 1939-45 war. Just what is the position? We are entitled to know. Are we at war or are we not?

This is a very touchy subject. The Prime Minister nearly went into hysterics at question time when he was asked about this. He got petulant, annoyed and flustered. His answers took so long that we had to put a time limit on him, as you know, Mr. Speaker. If there is no war as the Prime Minister says, why conscript kids of 20 years of age, who are voteless, to fight in Vietnam? At the same time that the Government is doing this, why, if there is no war, has the Government struck a war medal for Vietnam? Why has it given repatriation benefits to the boys and others engaged in Vietnam? If we are not at war it must be amazing to the relatives of the 25 who have been killed, the one who is missing and the 141 people wounded in a conflict which the Prime Minister says is not a war. Why does not the Government tell us the real truth about these matters? Men are being killed in action in Vietnam, yet the Government says we are not at war.

If we are at war, why are the people in this country who have all the wealth, power and influence in the nation not making a contribution at all? Why are profits going unchecked? For instance, Mr. Speaker, Woolworths Ltd., in the first six months of 1965, made £3 J million profit. What contribution is that firm making to the conflict in which people are engaged today? What about Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd. with £9 million profit? What about Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. with £14 million profit? Men die, boys are conscripted and wealth, profits and prices go unchecked under this Government today. Every person with a son 20 years of age, and every person with a boy, should vote against this Government for no other reason than that it is conscripting boys to fight in a war in which they should never be engaged. The Government is doing this on the pretence of protecting Australian freedom and democracy.

It would be bad enough if the Government could not get volunteers. I asked the former Minister for the Army a question on this matter and I found that between 1960 and 1961 57,000 volunteered and 41,000 were rejected. That is 72 per cent., or 7 out of 10 of them. When I asked the former Minister for the Army about rejections he said that the rejects did not come up to Army educational standards and were not capable of taking a practical part in the war that is going on. This Government is conscripting boys and rejecting people who volunteer. The fact that this is happening proves that this Government needs to have a complete setback at the polls in order to be brought up with a round turn on this important subject.

I say it is a shocking indictment of the Government that it is prepared to conscript men today when volunteers are available, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) says we are not at war and when profits and prices spiral. Do not forget that these boys will be in the Army for an unlimited time. This Government on 13th May 1965 introduced amendments to the national service legislation which made it possible for boys to have their service extended to five years if a state of emergency was declared. They would have to soldier on indefinitely in case of war. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) in a first class speech on that occasion, pointed out what these men faced. He said that it was a snide piece of legislation which aimed at increasing the full time training period of national service trainees in the Regular Army Supplement from two to five years. The boys who are in today will undoubtedly be called upon to serve for five years if this Government goes on as it has been going. In every step it has taken regarding conscription or national service training and the war in Vietnam it has let the people down and has been discredited because it is a Government which cannot be trusted.

I refer now to the people we are facing in this conflict. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) almost went into hysterics last night, suggesting that Red China was on our doorstep. Every speaker for the Government, including the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall), has stated that Red China is our enemy. If that is the case, why are we selling that country wool, wheat and other raw materials - millions of tons of wheat and millions of bales of wool? From 1960 to 1966 we sold Red China $560 million worth of wheat, and from 1963 to 1966 we sold SI 41 million worth to Soviet Russia as well. In the six years to lune 1965 we sold 180 million lbs. of wool, valued at $130 million, to Communist China, and, in addition, $9 million worth of metals which could be used to manufacture war materials. The Australian Labour Party believes that we should trade with other countries, but if you are trading with countries described, as Government members describe them, as the enemy, and are conscripting our boys to fight them, you are guilty of the gravest charge in the political calendar. You are guilty of that charge when you conscript our boys and supply the enemy with materials that may be used against them in the conflict which is taking place.

The Country Party, of course, will do anything for trade. As long as it gets the country vote in return for sales of wool and wheat it could not care who the goods are sold to. Today, honorable members opposite are selling the products of the primary producer to people who, they say, are shooting down Australian boys that the Government is conscripting to serve in this area of activity. I wonder why members of the Government are silent on this question. I do not say that we are at war with China. If I thought that, I certainly would not subscribe to policies which conscripted boys to fight against that country and at the same time be prepared to supply it with war materials.

I do not like to recall it, but a lot of boys were shot with scrap iron that went to Japan in the last great conflict, sent there by a Liberal Government at that time. The same pattern may well be followed on this occasion. That is why today, on this side of the Parliament, we wonder why the Government is silent on this issue and does not explain why it is prepared to trade - to take dollars for bodies, as it were - and at the same time demand that sacrifices be made, limited exclusively to the average boy of 20 years of age. I am sorry that my time does not allow me to go further into this subject. One cannot help feeling disturbed when one reads, for instance, of the late Mr. Moroney, of the Australian Wheat Board, receiving a nice cheque from Russia and China, worth £48 million, for Country Party wheat, although China is said to be an enemy against which the Government is conscripting boys to fight. Honorable members opposite say that this sale of wheat to Communist countries is good business. The Government attacks the Communists; it says it will have nothing to do with Communists and accuses every Labour man who walks down a street in a procession at a trade union gathering of being a Communist. But it sends Dr. Coombs to Peking, holds him up as one who is a good banker and does not - quite rightly - suggest that he has any Communist inclinations. If the Government wants to sell wheat and other goods, it should sit around the peace conference table and negotiate with these people to save the lives of men. Under no circumstances should governments be prepared to sell wheat and other goods necessary to maintain armies and enemy people, while conscripting boys without votes to fight in conflicts of this kind. I condemn the Government and support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, because I believe it deserves to be carried.

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