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
Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1651

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Sturt has been speaking for 5 minutes. During that time the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has interjected on a number of occasions. I suggest to the honourable member that he cease interjecting.

Mr FOSTER_So, one again questions the whole supporting Liberal Party attitude. In using the term 'supporting Party attitude', I mean these rank and file members of the Liberal Party in this age group who ought to shoulder arms in support of their Party. We hear so much about the 'frank' and file movement of the Liberal Party. Just how frank and how sincere is it about this aspect of its conscience?

This National Service Bill which is again introduced by this Government is nothing more than a lousy, cheap, political trick. It is an absolute subterfuge. I say this because in this Parliament over the last few weeks we have seen an attempt by Ministers - indeed, by the Prime Minister himself - to cover up how this country became involved in Vietnam. By involvement, I mean the fact that we have gone into this country at all in a military sense or in military force. The position is so vastly different from what has been experienced by countries normally associated with conflict. It is vastly different to the way Australia became involved in the 1914-1918 war. Again, it is vastly different to the way in which Australia became involved in the 1939-1945 conflict. Where could one put one's finger on the element of truth that will reveal for history how Australia became involved in Vietnam? We have heard a former Minister for Air make statements in this House that he was on a visit to Indo-China at that particular time and in Vietnam. There was talk of a French letter, which has never been tabled in this House, as being the authentic document which brought about Australia's involvement in this most sorrowful conflict - this war against the innocent.

Mr Grassby - Are you attacking the Country Party?

Mr FOSTER - I am not attacking the Country Party at all. The members of the Country Party, by their actions, attack themselves. But the fact is this: We have never been told why we became involved in Vietnam. The Pentagon papers have received scant regard from this Government as far as our involvement in the conflict is concerned. One must search one's mind in an endeavour to arrive at a conclusion as to why this country became involved. I wish to go back a little before 1964. We have seen a situation in this country where a coalition government which has been in office far too long has stooped to subterfuge to ensure that it is not defeated at the polls.

As an aside, one classic example is the Country Party's stranglehold on the Department of the Interior so it can gerrymander the electorates. Twenty honourable members in this House represent the Country Party which receives less than 8 per cent of the vote of this country. That is less than the Australian Democratic Labor Party receives. This is an illustration. We had the Petrov situation in the mid-1950s. The Government wanted an issue on which to go to the polls. It did not have one so it created an issue. In 1964 we were in no different position. The Government wanted an issue. How does the Liberal-Country Party machine work in this regard? What does it do to ensure it remains in office? It simply decided to divide and rule, to divide and conquer. Almost every piece of legislation this Government has put through the House down through the years, whether it be social legislation, industrial legislation, or legislation on a rural basis, has been introduced in this way. What is more shocking is that in regard to the National Service Act, it decided that it would divide the people and conquer. Education is another classic example of this attitude. So this was the reason the Act was brought in. The Government did not want every 20 year old conscripted because it would have gathered in some of its own people who would have objected. So it evolved, with the Department of Labour and National Service, this shocking system of the ballot of death - the lottery of death as it became known. It was a vicious, vile method which is no different from that adopted by the Nazi troops which occupied many European countries during the last war. As a result of action by the freedom fighters, the French maquis and so forth, against the occupation forces the Nazi troops decided to line up the village people and take one in 10 of the male population. This method of conscription is no different.

Who are we to stand in this Parliament and decide by a lottery of death that we will deny people civil liberties? Who are we to say that in a time of peace we should send conscripts to Vietnam to fight in this war? Having said that I give notice that during the course of the Estimates debate I shall raise a matter concerning this Government and a number of Ministers and the manner in which some conscripts were medically examined and the shocking inequalities that took place in that regard. I also indicate that during the course of the Estimates debate 1 will be dealing with some specific cases of people who have been dealt with shockingly by various Government departments since their return from Vietnam. The Government can rest assurred that its nose is not very clean in this regard. In fact the way it has turned its back on these people is a shocking indictment of the Government.

I want to say something about our defence position in 1971 in the light of our involvement in Vietnam since 1964. There is not one military brain in this country and, indeed, hardly one military assessor in the world who is prepared to stand up and say that as a result of Australia's involvement in Vietnam our defence position now, in 1971, is one iota better than it was in 1964. We have no additional aircraft with which to defend this country. An article by a member of the parliamentary Press Gallery in that most conservative of newspapers, the 'Advertiser', a few days ago gives a further indication of our absolute and utter weakness'. We have been bled to the point of weakness through our involvement in Vietnam. I would say it has cost the nation $500m. And what do we have for that $500m? I say nothing now of the sorrow that has been caused in this country by the stupidity of a previous government playing with people's lives by the cheapest of political mockery and trickery. 1 could not describe it in any other way.

In addition to that we have had a large percentage of soldiers in Vietnam killed by that stinking, rotten minefield which should never have been put there. It has been the cause of most of our casualties in Vietnam. If a Labor government had been in office and this percentage of deaths in Vietnam had resulted from our own fire and the laying of our own mines, would the Government parties who would then have been in Opposition have let such a Labor government forget it? Most certainly they would not and, what is more, they would have been shirking their responsibilities if they did not sheet it home.

The terrible part of all this is that, despite the hundreds of dead, the thousands of wounded and the many shattered minds, the Government supporters in this chamber, to one of whom you had to speak for interjecting, Mr Speaker, openly smile and laugh. Let them visit the homes of some of the families whose sons have never returned except, of course, in a military casket.

Mr Giles - Mr Speaker, I want to make quite sure that the honourable member does not think that I-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. If he wishes to raise a point of order on a matter of procedure I will listen to him but he well knows he cannot stand and hold forth without explaining the reason to the Chair.

Mr FOSTER - 1 have not mentioned of course, the hundreds of thousands of amputees, including children under the age of 10. What is all that worth to those in this country who want to probe their consciences and who have never raised their voices in opposition to our involvement in Vietnam? Where are those people who supported the Vietnam war in its early stages? Where are the guilty people on the Government side who must bear directly the responsibility for every soldier who has been brought back to this country and interred in a local cemetery under the Australian flag? They are the people who are guilty and they ought to pray for their souls each night before they retire. I am sure if ever there is a judgment day they will have to answer for what they have done. This was all in support of a lousy, cheap political trick, with a thumbs in the lapel attitude, after having won successive elections on this issue. They ought to be condemned and loudly condemned forever.

Where is their sincerity as far as the defence of this country is concerned? A former member of this House not so very long ago raised a matter relating to the Cockburn Sound base. The Opposition wanted to continue the debate for some 30 minutes. Honourable members opposite tonight should pick up the appropriate Hansard, read it and bite their tongues when they come to the end of it where it sets out the ayes and the noes. Where then is their sincerity in relation to the Cockburn Sound base? Where is their sincerity in trying to achieve sufficient naval strength in the Indian Ocean, having in mind the type of claptrap that they were speaking at that time about the Russian influence in the Indian Ocean? The Government does not realise that the first prerequisite of a defence policy is not necessarily that we must have tens of hundreds of thousands of military personnel. We could have every able bodied man conscripted tomorrow into the Australian Army but it would not make our defence potential one skerrick better unless it was backed by an industrial complex which is necessary to carry out a proper defensive role.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Did you answer your country's call in the Second World War?

Mr FOSTER - I will deal with that later tonight during the adjournment debate when I refer to an article that appeared in the local rag in the electorate of the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes). The fact is that this is the type of potential we must have in order to defend the country. We have not that potential. The Government set about conscripting the highest type of wealth that could possibly be conscripted in 1964; that was humanity. Did the Menzies, the Holts and others think, when they were telling the people of Australia that the country was in dire danger, that they should have mentioned, even if they paid only lip service to it, that industry should be conscripted, that the way of life should be altered and that company profits should not reach an all time record during a time when the young fellows of this country were being slaughtered in an unjust war in Vietnam? The takeover bids were greater and the profits became greater.

Mr O'Keefe - Oh, oh!

Mr FOSTER - You can 'oh, oh!' all you like. The Government did not conscript wealth. Its immigration programme ran at an all time record to give industry the type of fodder it needed to make up for that which the Government unjustifiably sent to Vietnam. In my concluding minutes I want to ask: Will the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch), who is now at the table, rise tonight and say that the amendment moved by the Opposition is an amendment of some substance? He should no longer continue in office as Minister in charge of the Department which thought put this diabolical scheme. He should stand and be counted for that and say that the Government is not prepared to continue with this discriminatory practice. My only hope - I suppose it is a forlorn one - is that in my remarks tonight I have in fact touched the conscience of some supporters of the Government in this chamber arid in the chamber on the other side of King's Hall. I most certainly think that they ought to have another look at their consciences in regard to this matter. It cannot be repeated too often -that the Government deserves no credit for its actions in Vietnam.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Suggest corrections