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Thursday, 16 May 1968

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Watson will cease interjecting.

Mr JARMAN - As I was saying before I was interrupted, as a result of a motion moved by the honourable member for Melbourne in 1942 the question of conscription was referred back to the State Executives of the Australian Labor Party before coming up at a special conference held on 4th and 5th January 1943. The conference endorsed conscription by twenty-four votes to twelve but only for a circumscribed area. Accordingly the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act (No. 2 of 1943) provided for the use of Australian conscripts in the south western Pacific zone, an area bounded on the west by the 1 10th meridian of longitude, on the east by the 159th meridian of longitude and on the north by the equator.

The present Government's decision to send national servicemen to Vietnam only extends the distance beyond the ares adopted by the Curtin Government by a few hundred miles or so to Vietnam. Much talk has emanated from the Opposition over the proposal in the Bill for more effective detection of those failing or refusing to register. Let us face this fact squarely. The Australian people showed very clearly at the last election that they believed we should be in Vietnam and that we should have national service. If we accept the result of the election then it is not fair to the young men who obey the law and -register if others can break the law, not register and go undetected. Just as the taxation authorities have power to make inquiries about people who break the law and avoid taxation, so too should die Department of Labour and National Service have power to make inquiries of persons or organisations which will reveal the existence of those who are liable to register or render service but have not done so. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) pointed out, a number of authorities are voluntarily and willingly co-operating with his Department in supplying names, addresses and dates of birth of men of national service age. A small number, however, have not agreed to the Department having access to their records. Therefore it is just and right that the Department should have this means of detecting the law breakers.

I took the trouble to look up an Act on another type of law breaker to make a comparison with this Bill. I am no lawyer but, as an accountant, I do have some familiarity with the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act which contains similar provisions to those in this Bui.

It requires persons to give information about people breaking the law. Section 264 of that Act states:

The Commissioner may by notice in writing require any person, whether a taxpayer or not, including any officer employed in or in connection with any department of a Government or by any public authority:

(a)   to furnish him with such information as he may require; and

(b)   to attend and give evidence before him or before any officer authorised by him in that behalf concerning his or any other person's income or assessment, and may require him to produce all books, documents and other papers whatever in his custody or under his control relating thereto.

Section 224 of the same Act states:

Any person who refuses or neglects to duly attend and give evidence when required by the Commissioner or any officer duly authorised by him, or to truly and fully answer any questions put to him by, or to produce any book or paper required of him by the Commissioner or any such officer, shall, unless just cause or excuse for the refusal or neglect is shown by him, be guilty of an offence.

The penalty for this section is not less than $4 and not more than $200. That penalty is very similar to the penalty under the Bill being discussed tonight. Section 235 of the same Act states:

In any taxation prosecution in the High Court or a Supreme Court, the case shall be tried and the penalty, if any, adjudged by a Justice or Judge of the Court.

I am assured by legal people from whom I have sought an interpretation of that section that it does not mean trial by jury. From my inquiries I understand that no person charged under the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act is entitled to trial by jury. I believe that the amendment which has been introduced by the Government to clarify the position regarding information to be obtained from parents, doctors, lawyers and ministers of religion is sound. It removes any genuine objection to the Bill.

The number of youths who escape national service is not large but the Government should, and must, clamp down on all dodgers so that the scheme will operate with even justice and so that no unfair burden will be placed on those who obey the law. The Bill will iron out a lot of the anomalies which have existed in the past. However, there is one aspect of the administration of the National Service Act that I should like to place before the Minister. A similar case to this was mentioned by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) during question time last week. The Melbourne 'Herald' recently published a letter from a young lad who was included in the ballot on 15th March. He could not have his medical examination and learn whether he would be in the Army or not until 14th May. This was a delay of some 2 months. As the young man said in his letter, his employer did not know whether to start training a new man, and the lad's studies had reached a standstill. I have had similar complaints within my own electorate. This is a matter that the Government could well look into. I understand that the Department of Labour and National Service draws its examining doctors from private practice and that medical boards are held every 3 months to deal with the four intakes a year. This should be speeded up even if it meant the use of interim boards. It is in the interest of all concerned that they should know one way or another about national service as soon as possible.

The Government's policy on national service has been adopted for high reasons of national security, and it has been endorsed by the public of Australia. The Western form of democracy is on trial in the world today as never before and the greatest challenge to Australia lies in South East Asia. We must never be lulled into believing that Australia can long remain safe if South East Asia falls to Communist domination. While seeking peace it is our duty to the Australian people who have elected us to this Parliament to see that we have a modern and efficient fighting service. Without national servicemen this would not be possible. As John Curtin realised before he died, it is not possible in time of danger to defend this country adequately without some form of national service. There is little sympathy among the Australian people for those who avoid their duty to their country. The Bill ensures that national service is fairly and efficiently administered, and for that reason I commend the measure to the House.

Dr J.F. CAIRNS (Yarra) [8.43}- I oppose the Bill and support the eleven amendments to it that have been foreshadowed by the Deputy Leader of the

Opposition (Mr Barnard). I do so for the same reasons that have been advanced by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). I oppose the Bill and support the amendments primarily because I am satisfied that conscription as it has been introduced by this Government, for the purposes of the Government, is wrong. Conscription, like any other act, is wrong or right according to the nature of it and according to what it is used for. Conscription can be right if it is used for a good purpose. This point was made vividly clear in the comments of the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) about the attitudes of the late John Curtin. The honourable member apparently did not realise and did not have the sense to see that conscription like everything else - even the practice of accountancy - has to be judged according to the purposes for which it is used. The differences between the situation that exists in Australia today and the situation that existed when we faced a Japanese invasion in 1941 and 1942 are so vast that I find it difficult to imagine that even the honourable member for Deakin could miss the contrast. The differences are so vast that I should not think that even supporters of the Government, who rarely seem to do any individual thinking at all on questions like conscription and hardly ever seem to debate it in their party councils or anywhere else-

Mr Arthur - How do you know what goes on in our party councils?

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