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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1656

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - in reply - The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) said in this House tonight that he was sick to death of what he called the 'hypocrisy of this Government'. I want to say to the honourable member for Reid and to other honourable gentlemen opposite that we on this side of the House - and, I believe, the Australian people - are sick to death of the hypocrisy which characterises the Australian Labor Party's policy on defence. Honourable members opposite talk about a defence policy for Australia. They say inside and outside this House that they are interested in defence, but by their very words they are condemned as a party which is prepared to sacrifice the defence security of Australia. What responsible party in this Parliament would be moving an amendment to seek the abolition of national service from 1st January of next year? Have not honourable members opposite considered the consequences which would result from such an action? Have they considered the size of the Australian Army which would result in those circumstances? They have failed to sustain their case, and I believe that they have failed to convince the Australian people.

I want to say in brief reply tonight that this debate has been wide-ranging and lengthy. Two Ministers, an Assistant Minister and Government supporters who have made a particular study of defence matters and, of course, the Opposition's defence spokesman have participated in the debate and have provided what I believe to be a very comprehensive coverage of the major issues which face Australia and this Parliament in this debate. The debate has been, moreover, I believe, an important one in demonstrating once again the very clear difference between both sides of this House on an issue fundamental not only to Australia but also to any other country. As my colleague the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Hughes) put it, the issue is the making of proper provision for the defence of this country against external aggression. Therefore, let me briefly focus attention on several key points.

In their efforts to fill the vacuum that is Opposition policy on this important aspect of national defence, Labor Party speakers, to a man, have accepted the need - to use their own words - for an adequate Army as part of our defence capability. But again, as the honourable member for Berowa has pointed out, not one has gone so far as to say that an Army of the present volunteer element, 28,000 men, would meet our defence requirements. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in fact spent some time in proposing ways in which, in the absence of national service, the short fall between the present level of volunteers and what he evidently regards as a force of an adequate size could be made up. But despite this, the Opposition proposes that the national service scheme should be discontinued from 1st January next year - that is, within a period of 3 months - which would precisely reduce the Army to the volunteer element, an immediate reduction of 30 per cent.

If the Opposition, the supposedly alternative Government, is serious in its proposal, it is nothing less than irresponsible. Or is this another example of the Parliamentary Labor Party being required to act out a role in this House and to align its - proposals with the pressures and directions of some sectional or extreme views which originate somewhere in the depths of the non-parliamentary machine? Is it another example of the fiasco in Victoria of recent days involving the President of the State branch of the ALP - that man of continuing episodic interest - and others with him in their support for those dissident elements which wish to challenge one of the basic premises of any community, the maintenance of law and order?

The reasoning behind the Opposition's line of approach has been basically that as there is no immediate threat to Australia so there is no need for national service. The present national service scheme does not fit into a context of total mobilisation for war and it is not because of Vietnam, as some Opposition speakers have insisted on claiming, even though they know that national servicemen will no longer be required to serve in that part of the world. It is rather one aspect, an important aspect, of the effort expended in this country with regard to long term national security by seeking to maintain effective defence forces on a permanent, continuing basis, in particular by enabling the maintenance of an army of a size consistent with a permanent and continuing defence capability.

The major component of the manpower necessary to achieve national security objectives, of course, is obtained by volunteer recruitment. The Navy and the Air Force are all-volunteer forces. On the other hand, the men needed to maintain the essential strength - and I say this quite bluntly - of a standing army in peace time have to be obtained by other means to ensure an army of the size we need.

Honourable members on both sides of the House will know of the substantial efforts which have been made to attract enough volunteers, to which my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) has referred in detail, but it has not proven possible to attract sufficient volunteers to give us an army of sufficient size. This is the context of national service and why the Government believes its continuance at this time is so essential. The Government decisively rejects the case put forward by the Opposition.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.


Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.

Proposed new clause 3a.

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