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Thursday, 13 May 1965

Senator KENNELLY - I said that he was a gallant soldier. He said last night that it was foolish for anyone to say that the 800 troops would not make a worthwhile contribution to the situation in Vietnam, and Senator Cormack has said that the troops are going there only to serve. The honorable senator may have an opportunity later in the debate to argue the difference between serving and fighting.

If this Bill is passed the position so far as conscription is concerned, will be vastly different to the position that existed last year. If a state of defence emergency is gazetted a conscript may serve five full years instead of two full years. This could mean that instead of a maximum of 18 months in combat service, as would have been the case under last year's legislation, he could now have 54 months in combat service, or three times as long as he would have had but for this legislation. Instead of taking two years out of a young man's life - perhaps the most important years of his life - you now propose to take five years.

Senator Branson - Was not one circumstance related to peacetime and the other to a time of emergency?

Senator KENNELLY - The honorable senator may have his say later. I said earlier that, among other things, the electorate endorsed at the last Senate elections the principle of compulsory national service training; but it did not endorse the proposition that a young man should lose, by the Government's declaration of a defence emergency, five years out of his life. The Government will not define a defence emergency for us. The Government proposes to send 800 men to serve if we adopt Senator Cormack's term, in Vietnam. As Senator Sir William Spooner said, they are the flower of our Army. I say they are going to fight. Can any honorable senator opposite tell me the difference between serving and fighting in this case?

Senator Morris - Easily.

Senator KENNELLY - I see. At the last Senate elections there was no thought - let us hope there was no thoughtof our troops going to Vietnam, but now they are to go. In introducing the conscription measure last year Senator Gorton said that the conscripts would train for six months and then would be drafted into battalions of the Australian Regular Army. Now, I understand that one battalion of the A.R.A. is in Malaysia. Another is about to go to Vietnam. I am too frightened to guess how many remain in Australia.

These are the reasons why we oppose this Bill. This Government does not appear to care a rap what it does to these young fellows

Senator Marriott - Did the Labour Government care a rap in 1943?

Senator KENNELLY - Yesterday I heard somebody ask what the Labour Government did in 1943. I thought that he should have been ashamed of himself. In 1939, 1940 and 1941, when you people were elected to govern this country, and you had a majority in both Houses, you walked out.

Senator Marriott - Do not be silly.

Senator KENNELLY - Yes you did. If you did not walk out, how did Curtin get in?

Senator Marriott - Many thousands of Australians-

Senator KENNELLY - Never mind that; I am talking about what is happening today. What is the reason for changing the legislation that was introduced last year? I think the change is dramatic. It is dramatic insofar as it affects the lives of the young men. The legislation now before us will take five years out of their lives.

Senator Mattner - They could be corpses if they did not go.

Senator KENNELLY - What do honorable senators think of that statement. " They could be corpses if they did not go "? If you do not go you may be a corpse and if you go and you may be lucky enough to come back alive. So therefore, in the Government's view, all should go.

Senator Cavanagh - Hobson's choice.

Senator KENNELLY - It looks that way. We should ask ourselves the reason for this dramatic change - because it is a dramatic change.

Senator Cormack - It is.

Senator Marriott - And-

Senator KENNELLY - One at a time. Do not be like married magpies. If you interject one at a time I do not mind. Why does the Government consider this legislation is needed?

Senator Mattner - Because you say the country is worth defending.

Senator KENNELLY - It is not that. The Government says that the reason is classical.

Senator Mattner - Do you say the country is not worth defending?

Senator KENNELLY - Senator Mattner may make his own speech later. Let us look at the Government's reason for this dramatic change - and my friend Senator Cormack agreed that it is a dramatic change. No one minds dramatic changes if conditions call for them.

Senator Marriott - Such as within the Labour Party.

Senator KENNELLY - Well, we shall doubtless have changes as time goes by, just as there will be changes within the Liberal Party. What are the reasons for the dramatic change in this legislation? One reason is given as administrative difficulties. Let me quote from the second reading speech of the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge). This is a real classic.

Senator Paltridge - It was a good speech.

Senator KENNELLY - I do not think it was. It was not the honorable senator's speech, because he would have done much better. The Minister said -

It could lead to unacceptable administrative difficulty in a time of defence emergency if a member has to be discharged from the Regular Army Supplement and must then be served with call-up papers for full-time duty as a member of the Regular Army Reserve, particularly if he is serving in a forward area.

So the Government believes that he will be serving there. The Government does not say that the conscripts will not go overseas. What could be more stupid than to say that these men will have to serve for only two years? If a defence emergency exists for five years they will have to serve for five years.

Senator Branson - What would the honorable senator do to replace them? Would he withdraw them and send other men in their place?

Senator KENNELLY - I do not claim to he a military strategist, but I do' claim to possess a little common sense. Whatever the Government puts up, honorable senators opposite march in line. The Government intends to call up some 4,000 youths in the first six months. After the beginning of next year, what percentage of them will be liable to join the Regular Army units in combat areas?

I can think of nothing worse than to say that the matter of relief could lead to administrative difficulties. I suggest that however able these young men might be, they will have to be relieved. They cannot be kept in the front line the whole time. I shall not refer to the corpses which were mentioned the other day, but if these young men are wounded they will have to be brought out of the line. They will have to be relieved. I have never heard of a more pitiful and, may I say, a more shocking reason why they should not be relieved. We are not discussing a situation of war; we are discussing a defence emergency. The Government will not tell us when a state of defence emergency will be declared other than that the declaration will appear in the " Gazette ".

Because extra work may be involved, the young men are to stay on service. Even if it did cause some upset in the administrative work would it not be better to get them out and to send in other people who had not been there? Surely the Government does not expect to keep them there the whole time.

Senator Cormack - No.

Senator KENNELLY - I have great respect for my friend Senator Cormack. Why can they not be relieved? It is said that administrative difficulties would arise. The trouble is that honorable senators opposite have been led for too long and they are tired. They will not follow their own reasoning. I would not mind so much if they did. But I cannot think of a weaker reason why they should not be relieved. As I said previously, this will mean that the Government will be able to keep them there. I think that this Bill is wrong in principle. Where no state of war exists the Government is not entitled to do what it is attempting to do under this measure. It is not right to take five years out of a young man's life. I do not think that the Government is enhancing Australia's prospects in the troubled world situation which exists today. I do not know how long you will be in Vietnam. You may not be there as long as you think because your allies may not be there as long as they think they will be. I am not speaking about military defeat. I am speaking of the things that could happen on the home front. What will the Government do in that situation?

I ask honorable senators opposite not to support the Bill. I think that the Government is already taking enough time out of a young man's life. If this country is ever in danger there will be no need for conscription.

Senator Branson - We might not have the time to train them, as we had in the past.

Senator KENNELLY - We did not have too much time at the beginning of the Second World War, or at the beginning of the First World War either. Reference was made during the debate on the Defence Bill to the men who served at Gallipoli. They did not have too much time for training, either. I think Senator Branson will agree with me when I say that possibly the methods of warfare in the next war will not be the same as they were in the First World War and the Second World War.

I again ask the Government to tell us when it is likely that a defence emergency will be declared. We all know what it means when war is declared. Either we are about to be attacked or some other member of the Commonwealth of Nations is about to bc attacked. I. do not think anybody can say that there will be a falling off in the number of men who will volunteer.

Senator Wedgwood - Did the Americans know that Pearl Harbour was to be attacked?

Senator KENNELLY - No, and neither did they know that the " Lusitania was to be sunk in 1917, although Great Britain had been at war since 1914. With the situation as it was when the Japanese made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour, it would not have helped anyone, even if there was power at that time to declare a state of defence emergency, and a state of defence emergency already existed. Therefore I say that the Government is doing something behind the backs of the people. lt has got away with introducing two years full time national service. Now it is trying to get away - and undoubtedly it will - with five years national service under certain conditions. 1 think this is wrong. T do not think it is needed. If it is needed, it is up to the Government to tell us why it is needed.

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