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, 19 March 1968

Mr McLEAY (Boothby) -! have very much pleasure in strongly supporting the last remarks of the honourable member for Bittman (Mr Benson). It is odd that the first item I wished to mention in this debate was the delay in the award of medals for bravery. Some servicemen have had to wait for a year from the date of the action for which they were awarded a decoration until the date on which it was approved. Today I made some inquiries and I found that one reason for the delay is that final approval for the award must be given by Her Majesty the Queen. I do not suggest that this is a reason for very much of the delay, but it is a procedure that 1 find unattractive. The time has come for us to make our own awards and the GovernorGeneral should approve of them. I am very sensitive about this. The awards are being earned in a war in which Great Britain is not taking a part and is not supporting us. I find this offensive. Not only is she not supporting us; in Government circles and in other places she is critical of our involvement. Britain is not involved in sending civil aid. The only record I could find of any help being given by the British Government in Vietnam concerned one specialist doctor and some medical supplies. - Britain has washed her hands of the whole of our involvement in Vietnam and it is not proper that Britain should have any connection with the approval of our awards for gallantry. I am concerned about the series of broken promises made by the United Kingdom not only to us but also to Malaysia and Singapore. The final piece of irony about the whole business is that

Britain is making money out of the war by shipping goods to North Vietnam, our enemy. I support the honourable member for Batman and urge the Government to implement this system whereby our own awards for gallantry are approved by the Governor-General.

I deal now with that part of the GovernorGeneral's Speech which deals with defence. I do not think any honourable member has noticed this item. The Governor-General said:

My Government regards defence as a major responsibility and the expansion and reequipment of our forces steadily proceeds. 1 deal with the question of expansion. We all know that very shortly my colleague, the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) will be supervising a national service ballot. At the moment one in nine young men are balloted for national service. I have no argument with the system, which is the only fair one. No-one would want to see introduced here the system that exists in the United States of America, where a draft board consisting of leading citizens is set up to select candidates. This system could be open to corruption and is entirely unsatisfactory. I am happy with the system of balloting that exists at the moment, but I am not happy with the numbers being called up; not enough are called up. The Defence Report 1967, tabled last session, deals with national servicemen and volunteers. Much of the Report suggests that we could maintain our defence commitments with volunteers. I do not believe w can.

The attitude of young people today is different from what it in 1939. The Report confirms increased enrolments in the Citizen Military Forces. Increased enrolment is not due to any rushing to the colours by young men but is due substantially to the fact that by enlisting in the CMF a young man is exempted from national service. I am not critical of this, but we must be realistic. We must expand our forces rapidly. As the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) said tonight, an emergency exists now that the United Kingdom is rapidly withdrawing from east of Suez. I would not want to see the same situation exist that existed in Australia between 1940 and 1943, when I was a recruit. I remember one 19-year-old friend of mine, who enlisted, went to Buna, saw his first action and came back to a hospital in Australia, all in approximately 6 weeks. That is an indication of how poorly trained we were. At one stage my unit was in position to defend Port Moresby. We had 18-pounders which were used as artillery weapons in the First World War. If the Japanese had attacked Port Moresby we could not have defended the place. In the first action in which my unit took part we were using 35 lb howitzers of 1908 vintage.

Mr Curtin - Bob Menzies was to blame for that.

Mr McLEAY - We do not want to go over that subject as we did during the last sessional period. I am anxious that our soldiers should not again be given such inadequate training and be provided with such antiquated equipment. I realise I do not have sufficient time to build up a tremendous story but I am anxious that ultimately - perhaps not in 5 years or 10 years but al some point in time - we will have a society in which every young man will be called up for national service. Whether it takes 5, 10 or 15 years to implement that policy is not very important provided we decide upon that policy. In my opinion every young man should be trained at some stage in his life so that he will be able to defend this country. We would have a formidable Army - we have one now - which would be 8 or 9 times its present size.

The expansion of our forces, to which reference was made in the GovernorGeneral's Speech, should be speeded up as a matter of extreme urgency. The Government, while hoping for the best, should be preparing for the worst and national service should be stepped up progressively to the ultimate target of every Australian of military age having undergone military training. At the same time we should be doing something about the young women in the community. They should be given an opportunity to train and relieve men from base duties.

I want to refer briefly to the disgust 1 felt at the debate last week on the so-called torture of a Vietcong spy. I was concerned to note that honourable members opposite, certain sections of the Press and the Australian Broadcasting Commission went to a great deal of trouble to belittle our soldiers. Let me quote from the excellent speech made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) which was not reported very ex- tensively. He said:

The Leader of the Opposition - surprisingly, unbelievably - is reported in today's Press as having urged that we should give safe passage to this Vietcong spy, that we should bring her to Australia to give evidence against one of our own compatriots.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Has there been an alteration in the standing order relating to a reference to a previous debate in this House?

Suggest corrections