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, 18 May 1960


Mr HAYLEN - Some of them do.


Mr Chaney - Don't speak for all of them.


Mr HAYLEN - 1 did not say all of them. I am just reporting, factually, what has happened when people have come to see me. Perhaps you have a retinue of loyalists who have a different point of view and who are rushing into camp, but, because of the inefficiency of the whole scheme, some of the boys, without being unwilling to undertake their training, felt that they were being pestered unduly. Others felt that because a date had been set for the completion of the national training scheme they should not be required to attend certain camps. For instance, in my electorate one unit was expected to go into camp early in June and there was considerable trouble because school teachers, university students and teachers in special subjects in high schools were finding difficulty in getting out of universal training altogether.

This bill will resolve all those problems because, on 30th June, 1960, the national service training scheme will cease to exist. But a few matters remain to be tidied up. The National Service Act reveals now - I suppose it always has - that in relation to universal training extending over so many days in camp and so many night parades, there is an obligation upon the trainee to be what can be termed loosely a reservist for five years. That obligation is inherent in the act. This bill will make it possible for him to discharge that five years' service as a reservist, or to be a recessive member of the forces without being called upon to complete the five years' service as originally proposed because, in due course, he will be discharged altogether.

According to the Minister's statement, about 81,800 servicemen have not completed their five years' reserve service from the date of initial call-up. In normal circumstances, by the effluxion of time it would be about 1964 or 1965 before these reservists would be informed by the Department of Defence that their services were no longer required and that they were discharged from their responsibilities under the act; but because the Army to-day - again I use the Minister as my authority - has streamlined itself and has adopted new techniques, particularly on the administrative side, the Government wants to get all these things done in one feil swoop, as it were, so that these young men who have done their stint of national service and who have attended their night parades and camps and are reservists within the meaning of the act, will now become entirely free of any obligation to their country in relation to this form of service. That seems to be reasonable and fair in cleaning up the scheme.

According to the bill, certain other things remain to be done. Of the young men who have been called up and who have done their training, 4,000 have elected to remain in the Army in one field or another. First, they will be discharged as national servicemen. The procedure is rather complicated, so I shall read the relevant portion of the Minister's second-reading speech. He said -

In the case of the Army, a national serviceman, after completing his training, and within the fiveyear period, may be discharged in order to enlist in the Citizen Naval Forces or the Citizen Air Force, but he cannot voluntarily enlist in the Citizen Military Forces as he is already a member of those forces by virtue of the National Service Act.

Now, as the scheme will no longer exist, the national serviceman may re-enlist in the Citizen Military Forces. The Minister has stated that about 4,000 young men are likely to do so.

There is the bill in its simplicity. It marks the end of an experiment which we on this side of the House, and many honorable members on the Government side, opposed from the start. I have been reading a 1951 volume of " Hansard " which indicates that the Government of the day charged the Labour Party with being unpatriotic, narrow-minded and shortsighted in regard to defence. The then Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. Chifley, and his deputy, Dr. Evatt, together with many honorable members of the Opposition, in all sincerity made certain statements about their general desire to get some kind of universal training into swing, but they were ignored. Their prognostications about the Government's proposals have proved to be correct, first, because it appears that the continuous diversion of man-power from industry could not be sustained, and secondly, because there seemed to be no real vitality in the plan. There was the C.M.F., the A.R.A. and the whole hotchpotch which developed. According to the reports from some trainees - not all of them - they had a bit of a holiday. They had not taken seriously the fact that they were being equipped for the defence of the country, and they thought it rather a great joke.

As was pointed out at the time, the statistics indicated that the scheme would fail because the man-power which was available was not being properly handled. However, members of the Opposition were referred to as ratbags and commos who were likely to spoil the defence of the country. The fourth point in the constitution upon which we have built the Australian Labour Party deals with the necessity for a citizen army but, when the then Leader of the Opposition stated the reasons why the scheme would not be successful, he was ignored.


Mr Bandidt - What about the twenties?


Mr HAYLEN - I am talking about what has happened since 1951, and what I have said has been borne out by the fact that this was not a good scheme. It was not originated with enough imagination and was not prosecuted with enough zeal. The unfortunate thing is that it has taken so long for the Government to do something about it. The scheme has cost the country between £130,000,000 and £160,000,000-1 cannot recollect the exact figure - and we have got nothing very important out of it.


Mr Chaney - Nonsense!


Mr HAYLEN - We have not got anything important out of it because it was a half-baked training scheme. Does the honorable member suggest that there has been a really thorough plan which has resulted in young men receiving a great deal of training? That may be so in some States, but certainly not in New South Wales. I have plenty of authority for my statement among the trainees and their officers. If the scheme has been so successful, why has the Government now decided to drop it altogether? There have been some violent debates in this House on national service, and we of the Opposition have been on the receiving end of a lot of unpleasant and unfair criticism. It has been alleged that we have criticized the scheme because we are a lot of pacifists who do not desire to protect our country. But we have been pointing out logically that, from the financial and industrial angles, the scheme was doomed to failure because it was badly conceived. And we have been proved to be right. As I have said, the scheme has cost us between £130,000,000 and £160,000,000 - far too much to be spent in an abortive attempt to train young men for the defence of this country.

When we have had debates in the House about the realinement of the Army the Government, in defending itself against the Opposition's criticism of the scheme, has said that strategy is more or less in a state of flux; that really we do not want this kind of serviceman any longer; that war is now all rocketry and strategic know-how. Yet at the same time the Government had the good old Duke of York force being trained in some paddock at the back of nowhere. The scheme was an abject failure which cost us a good deal of money. If the Government has any scheme which it wants the Opposition to support, the scheme must be streamlined, up to date and built on something more than just a desire to have some kind of a sloppy service. It must provide for the application of man-power to the requirements of the forces. All our strategic and operative forces of defence have to be created and moulded into cadres which have some relation to the amount of man-power which we, as a small community, can spare.

Apprentices were very badly treated in the early days of the national scheme. Later it became possible for them to attend their schools as well as their training sessions. Then there was the harsh way in which some of the courts applied the letter of the law. The Government will not set a successful scheme and will not get the Australian community behind it unless the scheme is based on a fair method of enlistment. I know that young men cannot be allowed to escape the call-up because of certain sympathetic considerations, but there are carking and grievous reasons why some young men must be exempted. The courts which dealt with applications for exemption became a bit tough, and when the matter was referred to the Minister he passed the buck. And the Government never knew and I never knew whether I was dealing with the Army or with the Department of Labour and National Service or what metamorphosis took place in regard to the trainee when he became transubstantiated as it were. One day he was a body for the Army and the next day he was a file in the Department of Labour and National Service. At one stage, if you did not grab him, he would disappear into limbo and you would not see him again until his service was completed, although he might have a case for exemption from service.

I will not delay the proceedings of the House with a long discussion of the bill. If honorable members opposite have the leisure, they should look at the debates of 1951 and they will see how accurate and fair our statements were. They will note the understatement of the Labour Opposition then in relation to the uselessness of this scheme because of the basis upon which it was introduced. I refer particularly to a statement by our former leader, Dr. Evatt, and a reference by General Rowell and others who saw in this a hotch-potch scheme. National service training never had the final and generous approval of all the top brass in the community. They saw the inherent difficulties in the scheme and, after a number of years, mainly because of its own heavy weight, it has broken down. It would have broken down in any case, although circumstances may have accelerated the breakdown. We merely point out that in anything involving the expenditure of millions of pounds and the efficiency of our troops the Government ought to get in some experts and seek their advice. The Government ought to be sure that it has a useful scheme which will stand up to the stresses of time and then go to it, and defy everybody, if it believes it is right. The Government will be surprised to see how much support it will get from this side of the House if the scheme is something which will work. But the Government implemented the scheme, found it was a failure, looked for alibis and kept knocking the Opposition by saying, " You do not want this scheme to work ", " You are denigrating servicemen " and so on. The national service training scheme is dead because it was not efficient and it was not properly administered. It is dead, involving the Australian community in a loss of £150,000,000.







Suggest corrections