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Thursday, 16 May 1968


Mr STEWART (Lang) - I am at a loss to know just where to start, due largely to an interjection made by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) when the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) was speaking and to certain comments made by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). The honourable member for Angas said that when talking about this subject of national service we should look at the facts. Let us look at the facts. Let us examine the Bill which we are discussing. It deals with national service - with the calling up of 20-year-old boys for Army service in Australia. The Bill has nothing to do with the war in Vietnam. The honourable member for Angas spent a good two-thirds of his time referring to the war in Vietnam.

In so doing he indicated that he knows nothing about the reasons for the introduction of national service in Australia. Not one thing does he know about them.

National service was introduced by this Government in 1951. The Australian Labor Party did not oppose the Bill on that occasion. Further national service legislation was introduced into the Parliament on 11th November 1964 and by the present Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who at the time was Minister for Labour and National Service. On the preceding day, the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, had made a speech in which he had devoted a good deal of his time to saying that national service was being introduced because of the confrontation of Malaysia by Indonesia. At that time national service had very little to do with the situation in South Vietnam.

In his speech on 10th November 1964 Sir Robert Menzies said:

If Indonesian attacks continue, Malaysia may find it intolerable to confine defensive measures to the guarding of Malaysia's shores and jungles against Indonesian intrusion. These Indonesian attacks may create a real risk of war . . .

That statement gave the reason for the reintroduction of national service in 1964. If we go back further over the records we find that on 20th August 1964 the present Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), who was then Minister for the Army, spent 20 or 30 minutes in a speech on the Budget answering criticisms that had been levelled against him and the Government by Government supporters, one of whom now sits silent and docile on the front bench. I refer to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who in 1964 was critical of the Government for not having introduced national service. On 20th August 1964, as reported on pages 436 to 441 of Hansard, the present Minister for Health said, among other things, that the introduction of national service would be against the unanimous advice of Australia's military advisers. On 26th October that year the same honourable gentleman addressed in Hobart the National Congress of the Returned Services League of Australia and reiterated the statements that he had made on 20th August. On 26th October the introduction of national service would have been contrary to the unanimous advice of our military advisers, so we were told, but on 10th November - 15 days later - the Prime Minister announced that national service would be introduced. The next day the then Minister for Labour and National Service introduced the necessary Bill and made a second reading speech relating to it. So somebody was played for a sucker. One person in particular who was played for a sucker was the then Minister for the Army. But I think all the people of Australia were played for suckers on 10th November 1964. There was no real reason then for the introduction of national service on the basis that was announced. There is no reason now for the continuation of national service in Australia, particularly if it said to be based on the need to obtain servicemen to send to Vietnam.

This Government has not tried to enlist a volunteer force for service in Vietnam. When I look at the ranks of honourable members on the other side of this House I see men ranging in age from 23 to 33 years, and if any one of those went to join the Army tomorrow and asked to be sent to Vietnam, there is no guarantee at all that he would ever get there. Not one attempt has been made by this Government to form a volunteer force for service in Vietnam. The question whether the war in Vietnam is right or wrong does not at this stage enter into my argument. The fact is that the Bill we are debating is a National Service Bill, and I want better reasons for the continuation of the present national service scheme than have been given to us by either the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), by his predecessor or even by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. The confrontation of Malaysia is a thing of the past. We are looking towards Indonesia for continuing friendship. I hope that our friendship with Indonesia will always continue. I hope we will not have need, as the former Prime Minister said in November 1964 we may have need, to defend Papua and New Guinea.

These are some of the points that escape government members. They take the easy way out with legislation they bring before this Parliament. Then as soon as a couple of newspaper editorials are written criticising their policy, as soon as a couple of organisations write to them and say that this or that clause is wrong, they hasten to amend the legislation. Yesterday in this House the Minister for Labour and National Service brought down amendments to the Bill we are now discussing. Today the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) brought down yet another Copyright Bill, the third such bill if my memory serves me correctly, or certainly the second, since a summary of proposed copyright legislation was brought before this Parliament years and years ago. This Government takes the easy way out with all its legislation. It is a lazy man's government. It is a government that does not look into the heart of the issues before it.

Now I would like to turn to the interjection made by the honourable member for Moreton while the honourable member for Yarra was speaking. The honourable member for Yarra said something about a Christian attitude towards non-military service, and the honourable member for Moreton said that that was not the Christian attitude. I am no longer certain who is a Christian or what is a Christian attitude, but at least 1 can tell the House what the leader of my Church, His Holiness Pope Paul, had to say on the subject' in a recent encyclical letter to the bishops, priests, religious, the faithful and to all men of good will on the development of peoples. I pay similar respect to His Holiness the Pope as the leader of my Church as I do to Her Majesty the Queen as the leader of our country. In this encyclical letter His Holiness said at paragraph 74, under the heading Appeal to Youth':

Many young people have already responded with warmth and enthusiasm to the appeal of Pius XII for lay missionaries. Many also are those who have spontaneously put themselves at the disposition of official or private organisations which are collaborating with developing nations. We are pleased to learn that in certain nations 'military service' can be partially accomplished by doing social service', a 'service pure and simple'. We bless these undertakings and the good will which inspires them. May all those who wish to belong to Christ hear His appeal: 'I was hungry and you gave me to cat, thirsty and you gave me to drink, a stranger and you took me in, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, a prisoner and you came to see me'. No one can remain indifferent to the lot of his brothers who are still buried in wretchedness, and victims of insecurity, slaves of ignorance. Like the heart of Christ, the heart of the Christian must sympathise with this misery: '1 have pity on this multitude'.

To me at least that embodies something of the Christian attitude. I had no intention of saying these things at all, and I would not have done so were it not for the comments of the honourable member for Angas and the honourable member for Moreton. 1 wanted to deal explicitly with the Bill before us. I wanted to start off my speech by quoting first two speeches that were made on 1st May and 2nd May of this year, 14 or 15 days ago. Part of the first speech was as follows:

The overwhelming majority of young men and their families accept the obligations imposed by national service. ... A small number, however, are seeking to evade, or are defaulting in, their obligations at one or more of these stages. Amending legislation is necessary to enable more effective action to counter these efforts and ensure that such men do not escape their obligations.

The other speech, which was made in this House, as was the one I have already quoted, contained the following passage:

The national service scheme has been an unqualified success, lt has provided the Army with the strength it needed to carry out the role allotted to it, where no other form of recruitment could have done so. National servicemen have been integrated with voluntary Regulars, without distinction either in conditions of service or training or indeed in anything else.

The first speech was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is now at the table, and the other by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). They agreed that the national service scheme has been a success, but one of them said that the amending legislation was necessary because a small number were seeking to evade their obligations. He gave no number. The challenge was issued last night by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) when he asked: 'How many have tried to evade their responsibilities?' No definite answer was given. Because a small number try to evade their responsibilities this Government brings down legislation which is obnoxious and repugnant and which has earned the criticism not only of honourable members on this side of the House but also of newspaper editors, church leaders and other people in the community. If the national service scheme has been an unqualified success why is this legislation necessary? Why must this Government, like a person fishing illegally, get the biggest net it can find, with the smallest mesh, so that it can catch every little fish, forgetting that there are bigger issues, that there are more fundamental necessities than the catching of a few people who try to evade their responsibilities under the National Service Act.


Mr Cleaver - Does the honourable member not believe in justice?


Mr STEWART - Justice! ' Justice! No consideration has been given to the rights of employees, employers, shipping companies or airline companies. Until yesterday, no consideration at all had been given for the rights of parents. This Bill was designed to turn Australians into a race of informers. Parents are expected to pimp on their children. Employers are expected to pimp on their employees. Shipping lines and airlines are expected to do the job of the Department of Immigration. This Bill reminds me of my days in the Army when, because someone had committed an offence, an officer would say that the whole platoon or the whole unit was confined to barracks for 7 days. That was the easy way out.

This is lazy man's legislation designed to punish all. The Government is casting its net so wide that it will do the wrong thing not only by itself but by our country. In a court in New South Wales in the past week a certain fellow called 'Joe Smith' has been getting Australia-wide publicity. 'Joe Smith' was the sort of man that the Government 'was looking for when it introduced this legislation. I want it to be clearly understood that I have no time for the law breaker, Whether he breaks civil laws, military laws or national service laws. But I have still less time for the informer, the pimp and the stool pigeon. I am afraid that if the Government continues to introduce legislation such as this it will finish up with a secret police.

This legislation is repugnant to a great majority of Australians. I think I am correct in saying that there are officers in the Department of Labour and National Service who will absolutely dislike policing this legislation and will absolutely dislike sending people out to inquire of this person or that person. The Australian Labor Party has been criticised because it says that this Bill is obnoxious and repugnant. But let me quote an article from the newspaper 'Muster' of 8th May which was written by a man named Stewart Howard. I am certain that every Country Party member will recognise the newspaper 'Muster'. In this article Stewart Howard - I am not certain that that is his real name - wrote:

The Commonwealth Government is going to earn itself a lot of criticism over the new National Service legislation it introduced in Parliament last week.

The writer went on to state:

This is the proposal to impose an obligation on the principals of universities, colleges and schools to furnish the names, addresses and dates of birth of present or former students, to make responsible for furnishing similar information about 20-year- olds, persons or institutions of which the 20-year- olds are likely to be clients or members.

The imagination boggles at the possibilities that this opens up, and even on the parents and guardians of draft dodgers to betray the whereabouts of their offending sons or wards.

The writer concluded by stating:

The loss to Australia of the handful of draftdodgers who manage to avoid the call-up ir. the existing circumstances is negligible compared to the loss sustained by sacrificing the principles of the type of free society we claim to be defending.


Mr Cope - Is that a Labor newspaper?


Mr STEWART - 1 do not think so. I think 'Muster' is the organ of the Country Party. An editorial in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on Saturday 11th May, stated:

A disturbing feature of the bill is the contrast between the Government's keenness to deal with the few avoiding their obligations and its unwillingness to recognise legitimate and genuine dissent from the National Service provisions.

The editorial concluded:

Are these the kind of powers to be exercised by a Government department? Under the Common Law no one can be punished for the knowledge of a crime not yet committed.

Some honourable members on the other side of the House criticised the Labor Party for daring to voice opposition to this Bill and I use those two quotations to show that it is opposed not only by us. There are thousands upon thousands of people in the community who appreciate that this Bill has gone much too far. Members on the other side of the House have accused the Labor Party of not being interested in defence; of not being interested in our armed forces; of not being interested in national service.

I have m my hand the Platform, Constitution and Rules of the Australian Labor Party as approved by the 27th Commonwealth Conference held in Adelaide in 1967. This booklet is freely available to any honourable member on the Government side who cares to contact our office in Canberra. In this booklet under the heading of Defence', honourable members opposite will find many comments. There are comments about the need for Australia's national policy to ensure our territorial security; about the provision of strong regular and citizen defence forces which can be rapidly mobilised in time of war; about the need for Australia not to isolate itself from the struggles of the people of the world; about economic development, security and self-government; about the need for co-operation between us and our neighbours in South East Asia; about the need for us on occasions to send troops overseas to help in some declared war when our obligations are set out in a treaty that is clear and can be understood by all; about the need for Australia not to use conscripts except in time of declared war. These are some of the things honourable members will find in this booklet.

I dislike it immensely when honourable members on the other side of the House tell us that we are unpatriotic, that we are unAustralian and that we are not prepared to defend our country. The Labor Party conscripted 18-year-old boys when it had to between 1941 and 1945. We are against conscription now. I am against it now. I will always be against it unless, the Government can give better reasons for the need to do this than it has done up to this stage; unless the Government can stand by the statements that it has made about national service from 1964 onwards. Until that stage is reached the Government will not convince me and I am reasonably certain that there are more and more people in Australia who refuse to be convinced. There are more and more people in the United States of America who refuse to be convinced about the war in Vietnam. No honourable member on the Opposition side intends to encourage - and I am certain not many of them will protect - any of the weirdos, the beardos or the great unwashed who take part in some of these demonstrations. These people, I think, make up a reasonable proportion of those who take part in demonstrations but certainly a number of conscientious objectors also take part. They are entitled to be heard, to express their opinions and to have the protect:on of the amendment that the Labor Party intends to move at the Committee stage; but there are not many on this side who would want to protect the weirdos, the beardos and the great unwashed. However, in order to protect the few genuine conscientious objectors, it is sometimes necessary to appear to take the part of those people whose side one does not want to be on.

The Minister said that 326,000 men are registered for service, that 24,000 have been enlisted for national service and that 10,000 have elected to serve alternatively in the Citizen Military Forces. These 326,000, but especially the 34,000 that are serving in either the Regular Army or the Citizen Military Forces, deserve our support and encouragement. It is not the handful, the very few, the small number - to quote the exact words of the Minister for Labor and National Service - who try to evade their responsibilities that get our support. Bad and all as I think those responsibilities might be, it is those boys who are unlucky enough to have their dates of birth drawn out of the hat that we want to protect and encourage. If I may I shall quote from a speech of the former Leader of the Australian Labor Party, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) who, on 4th May 1965, said in this House:

I cannot close without addressing a word directly to our fighting men who are now by this decision committed to the chances of war: Our hearts and prayers are with you. Our minds and reason cannot support those who have made the decision to send you to this war, and we shall do our best to have that decision reversed. But we shall do our duty to the utmost in supporting you to do your duty. In terms of everything that an army in the field requires, we shall never deny you the aid and support that it is your right to expect in the service of your country.

They are, I think, the sentiments of every honourable member on this side. We do not like the boys being in Vietnam. We do not like conscription for national service except in times of declared war. We want better reasons than any member on the Government side has been able to give us before we will be prepared to accept these things. The cliches about the downward thrust of Communism, the domino theory and so forth that fall so glibly from the lips of members opposite are not sufficient. We are dealing with human beings - with 20-year- old boys - and I do not think anyone on the other side or on this side has the right to send anyone overseas to fight in another country unless there is good and sufficient reason for so doing. If there is good and sufficient reason than it is up to every member on the Government side to give us, the Opposition, and the people of Australia that reason.







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