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, 17 November 1964

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Honorable senators are by now fully aware of the compelling reasons for the re-introduction of national service training. The principal features of the Government's plans are that young men will be required to register for national service in the calendar year in which they reach the age of 20. The term of service for men called up will be five years - 'two years in the Regular Army Supplement and three years in the Reserve, and national servicemen will be liable for service overseas. The Bill is designed to give effect to these plans by amending the National Service Act originally enacted in 1951. The necessary provisions are to be found in clauses 5, 10 and 12 of the Bill.

The general structure of the existing legislation as to registration and exemptions from liability to register has been maintained. The provisions of the Act enabling men voluntarily to seek registration ahead of their age group and to be called up have been retained. Judging by the response to date to the Government's announcements, some volunteers will, as was the case in the past, be anxious to avail themselves of this provision. The provisions regarding registration continue to extend to aliens, and it is our policy that those who have chosen this country as their home should be liable to service. However, there are long standing rules of international law and practices which govern the comity of nations which have to do with the subject of compelling nationals of another country to serve in the forces of the country of which they are resident. And so while these matters are under discussion with the governments of the other countries concerned it is not intended, for the present, to require aliens to register. They will, however, be entitled to take advantage of the provisions for voluntary registration and therefore to volunteer for inclusion in a call-up. Again, judged by reports of reactions of young men from other countries who now make Australia their home, we may expect many to take advantage of these provisions. The Government certainly hopes so.

The original provisions about exemption from liability to serve, grounds of conscientious objection and the power of magistrates to defer temporarily on grounds of hardship, are also retained intact. Most of the provisions of the Bill are consequential upon the fundamental policy changes I have referred to earlier. There are, as well, new provisions of a technical kind relating to national servicemen who are commissioned as officers.

The Government gave much thought to the classes of young men who should be called up for service. One group of special importance is the married men. The Government has decided that men married before call-up action commences will not be called up. Generally speaking, this action will occur several months after registration takes place. Those who marry while in the Services or after action to call up has commenced will complete their service.

After weighing carefully the social, economic and administrative problems involved, we selected the 20 years age group to register. The needs of the Army were, of course, important. A high percentage of young men have been in employment for some time when they reach the age of 20. Those at universities and similar institutions engaged in full time studies will generally not be in that position. Moreover, most apprentices will be at the end of their apprenticeship at the age of 20 and many university students will graduate in their 21st year. The fact that the great bulk of men at the age of 20 are already working and have already embarked on careers is important. This means that after these men have done their two years' service they will have careers waiting and employers to go back to.

Next we considered apprentices and students at universities and similar institutions. Three considerations are important in the case of this group. The community urgently needs trained men. Obviously men who are training or studying for trades status, or other similar qualifications, should be permitted to qualify as quickly as possible. The Army requires trained people - tradesmen, doctors, and engineers - for its specialist functions. It w.ll be in the interests of the apprentices and the university students to get their training completed - to be qualified - so that they may take up their careers on return from service. It would not be satisfactory if they had to resume their interrupted studies after completing their service. For the reasons I have given, the Government decided that the call-up ot apprentices, unless they wish to be called up, will be deferred until they complete their indentures. We have also decided that the call-up of full time students of universities, and sim lar institutions, will be deferred, as a general rule, at least until they have acquired their primary qualification. As I have mentioned, many will be graduating in their 21st year. No immediate statement can be made about the period for which other students will be deferred. So many different types of courses exist, and the motives for taking these courses are many. These different types of cases will be considered on their merits. Apart from apprentices and students, there will be no deferment of call-up on occupational grounds.

The present Bill is, of course, to be seen as part of a total plan. The importance we attach to the place of the Citizens Military Forces in the Army as a whole needs no emphasising. For this reason, the Government intends using the national service scheme as a means of encouraging men to enlist in the C.M.F. The Government proposes to defer from call-up those who are at the time of registration members of the C.M.F. and have given at least one year's effective service in the C.M.F., provided that they continue to give efficient service for an overall period of five years.

Next, we propose to defer from call-up those who, before the ballot to which I will refer later, have been accepted for service in the C.M.F. and have undertaken to serve for six years and who continue to give efficient service during that period. We believe that these proposals will have a most useful effect on the building up of the strength of the C.M.F. and will have widespread public support. Provided that in the Citizen Naval Forces and Citizen Air Forces obligations equivalent to those applicable to the C.M.F. are present, the sorts of arrangements I have outlined will be extended to those other Forces. This matter is currently being studied.

What 1 have said about our intentions on the subject of deferment from call-up brings me back to the point I made earlier, that liability to call-up will continue to age 26 and in special cases to age 30. So men will not escape call-up simply because they have been deferred for a year or two. lt will be apparent from the figures given by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) that each 20 years age group comprises many more young men than we are proposing to call up. Therefore, it is important that equity should be done in relation to the call-up amongst all in any 20 years group. We faced precisely this same problem in the latter stages of the earlier national service scheme and we then devised a method of balloting which won general 'approval. It has the great virtue of being simple, equitable and easily understood by those affected, and it does not lend itself to any manipulation. There will be just no room for favouritism or influence. The same techniques will be used on this occasion.

Honorable senators may be interested in a description of the technique. Following registration there will be a ballot based on dates of birth. Marbles corresponding to the days in the year up to the number needed to produce the required number of men will bc drawn. Let us assume, for purposes of illustration, that there is a registration of 100,000 young men, and that the Department calculates that 10,000 men will have to be dealt with individually by the Depart.ment to allow for deferments, medical rejections and so on in order to produce 5,000 men for call-up. In this case, assuming it were a year's registration, 36 marbles would be drawn, that is, one tenth of the year's days. Those whose birthdays correspond with the marbles drawn will be balloted in and thereafter considered by the Department, interviewed as necessary, and medically examined. From these, the number required for the call un will be provided. The ai-n will be to call up men for service within six months of their registration. At least until an announcement to the contrary is made, those who are not balloted in will be deferred indefinitely.

Let me now refer to a particularly vital matter - the question of arrangements to facilitate the re-establishment of national servicemen after their two years' service. Honorable senators will notice that the Bill deletes from the National Service Act the code dealing with rights to reinstatement in civil employment of national servicemen. The reason is this: During this session Parliament wrote into the Defence Act a complete code governing reinstatement in civil employment for members of the defence forces. 1 believe this code had wide acceptance. It was basically the same as the provisions of the present National Service Act. There was no point in having two similar codes in different Acts. So the Government intends to bring down a Bill in the next session to extend to national servicemen the code recently written into the Defence Act, with such modifications as are needed to meet the case of national servicemen who are called up for two years' continuous service. Legislation will also be introduced to amend the Defence Act to make adjustments consequential on the changes in the composition of the defence forces which this present Bill introduces.

The Government does not intend to stop at ensuring that a national serviceman called up for two years' service will be entitled to reinstatement in his pre-service job. As things stand, a regular soldier who has served in special areas may qualify for benefits under specified conditions for repatriation cover and war service homes entitlement. National servicemen who serve in such areas will be similarly eligible. The whole problem of rehabilitation benefits for national servicemen is now under active examination and decisions taken will be announced well before the first call-up takes place.

Mr. President,this Bill is a reflection of the Government's appreciation of what is essential to meet our country's defence needs. Everything that has happened in the last few days confirms that the Government's decision has the warm approval of every sensible and patriotic Australian. It cannot be said that we did not do everything practicable in the past to build up the strength of our Army. Yet the results are well known. In the changed circumstances announced by the Prime Minister last week, demanding a larger build up of our Army in a shorter span of time, selective national service training has become inescapable. There is no-one in our community who does not regret that this action has been forced on us and hopes that the threatening circumstances that have given rise to the Bill will not remain with us long. As the Prime Minister has indicated, these conditions have not been of our making. We seek for nothing better than to live in peace with our neighbours.

It is clear that the decisions taken must involve some diversion of resources to military purposes and affect the pace at which we would have wished to develop our country. But I fully endorse the view of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), that this can be minimised if there is a greater effort to improve our productivity. That is what we wish to see;it is to the advantage of the whole Australian community. I have not the slightest doubt that the Australian people will not be found wanting in making the extra effort which the defence needs of our country require of us all. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Suggest corrections