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Wednesday, 18 May 1960


Mr FORBES (Barker) .- Mr. Speaker,I did not intend to speak in mis debate but I am moved to do so by the fact that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has used what is, after all, just a machinery measure to wind up the national service training scheme and make its ending easier and more efficient, to open up the whole question of national service and indeed to say that the very fact that the Government has decided to do away with the scheme indicates that it was a failure from the beginning. The honorable member went on to claim that the introduction of this bill is a vindication of the opposition which, the Labour Party has maintained in this House to the national service training scheme right from the beginning. Although I think most members on this side of the chamber believe that the winding up of the national service training scheme is necessary, I do not think any one of them believes that in its time and place, and in response to the circumstances of the day, that scheme was not necessary and that it did not perform a very useful and, indeed, vital function. One thing about the statement by the honorable member for Parkes which seems extraordinary to me is that I never heard him once mention the strategic situation, in response to which we plan our defence forces.

The honorable member never gave a thought to the possibility that the strategic situation might have changed since the time when the national service training scheme was first introduced. It has been made perfectly clear by the Government that it is in response to a change in the strategic situation that it has reluctantly decided to discontinue the scheme. This decision has not been reached because national service training no longer has any value, but because in response to a change in the strategic situation the scheme has a lower priority. The scheme can only be brought into the existing plan by the use of man-power which we have not got and by the expenditure of more money. We feel that those demands do not fit in with the overall development. But that does rot imply for one moment that the national service training scheme was not necessary at thetime when it was brought into being. I mentioned this particular point whenI spoke on the defence statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) earlier in thissession. I will not go over that ground again now except to say that at the time when the national service training scheme was brought in the Government felt, on the best information available to it, that it was vital that this country should prepare for global war in the near future. Global war was the type of war which we havehad in 1939-45 and in 1914-18, a warinwhichwe would be required to expand into a mass army, as we have in the past.

The only difference between that situation and the situation which existed prior to the First and Second World Wars was that the Government estimated that, with new weapons and new methods of com- munication we would not have anything like thesame amount of time available. So the Government decided that we must have the national service training scheme in response to that particular strategic situation. Later, because of the development ofthenuclear deterrent, global war, in the estimateofthe Government, became unlikely. The situation which the Governmentestimated that this country might well havetoface to an increasing degree was alimitedwar. The requirement for that was well-trained, well-armed and mobile forces ready to move at a moment's notice. That is the explanation and no further explanationis required of the reason why, inan earlier period national service training was introduced into this country, and the reason why. in a later period national service training was discontinued.

Before concluding I wishto comment on one matter which appears to me tobe vitally important and which 1 have never heard mentioned by the Opposition members in this House.I have never heard them do anything but condemn national service root and branch, and the honorable member for Parkes followed that course this afternoon. I have never heard them pay a tribute to the social value which national service training has had in producing a disciplined and self-reliant nation in this country. I believe - and I think my view is shared by other members on this side of the House and by a large majority of the people outside as well, and in this matter the Opposition is out of touch with public opinion - that there has never been anything introduced by a government in this country which has done as much for the youth of Australia as the national service training scheme did. Virtually every member of this Parliament, if he kept his ears open and wanted to hear them, must have heard an extraordinary number of testimonies to the value of this scheme from individuals and parents. It is obvious that the lad who has done national service training will begin to take a purposeful and disciplined approach instead of drifting aimlessly in the sea of temptations which is a feature of our modern society.

I cannot understand why the Opposition will not recognize that self-evident fact; or perhaps this reaches the heart of the problem: Can it be that the Opposition realizes that socialism flourishes in a society where there is a lack of discipline and sense of purpose, and where people arc encouraged to drift along and let the state look after them? In such a society, there is no need for incentive to behave in any other way. I believe that that has been the basic reason for the Labour Party's opposition to national service. Its members fear that in a disciplined, self-reliant and forward-looking society such as national service training helps to create, the outmoded, reactionary and socialistic doctrines of the Australian Labour Party can never take root. Perhaps, from the point of view of honorable members opposite and on that basis, they are right inopposing national service training; but they arc not right from the point of view of the nation. We on this side of the House areproud of the effect that national service training has had on the youth of Australia.







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