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Tuesday, 22 March 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT - 1 am not prepared to accept what the honorable gentleman says as being completely accurate in the sense that it fully covers the statements made by my colleague. I can recall the then Minister for the Army making his statements in this House. I also recall the attempts which were subsequently made by honorable gentlemen opposite to embarrass him, after national service training had been adopted by the Government, by quoting the Minister's earlier statements. But, of course, what honorable gentlemen opposite did not go on to say was that in the meantime the Government had revised quite considerably upwards its estimate of the total number of men that it wished to have in the Australian Regular Army. It was when the revised target was discussed with the Chief of the General Staff that it was made known to us, on the best military advice, that if we were to achieve this target within the time period which had been designated for this purpose it could only be done by the introduction of a national service training scheme.

These matters were all explained thoroughly and carefully by my colleague in the position he then occupied as Minister for the Army. The honorable gentleman tries to confuse the issue now by throwing in this emotional, hysterical appeal to a wider audience. The honorable gentleman's own personal feelings on this matter are well known. I referred earlier in the day to the action he took against his own Government in 1943 when, in the interests of our national security, the then Prime Minister felt it necessary lo extend a programme of national service training to ] 8-year-old Australians for war service. The honorable gentleman talks about this socalled unwinnable war. If he goes on in this way attempting to weaken morale, then he will be making his own contribution to failure to succeed in the war.

Of course, he will not have that effect. Despite the sneering references by honorable gentlemen opposite to tha South Vietnamese, there is no significant droop amongst the main groups to which I referred earlier today in their support for the Government in its resistance to the Vietcong. The Vietcong have not been able to secure-control of any one of the 43 provincial capitals in South Vietnam. In a cause involving more than 300,000 South Vietnamese troops, assisted by more than 200,000 United States troops, and with a doubling of the contribution from Korea which itself felt so recently the threat of the Communist takeover Australia feels it proper that it should be represented also - represented by a task force of 4,500 troops which will include some 1,400 national servicemen.

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