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Tuesday, 28 May 1968


Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - I should like to reply to the contribution to the debate made by the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) who tried to reply to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). The issue before the Committee is quite clear; it is the issue of whether we should amend the law to allow a person who is called up, and who has a conscientious objection to service of a particular kind in a particular war, to be granted exemption, or whether we shall allow him exemption only if he has an objection of a different sort - a complete pacifist objection to all forms of military service.


Mr Hughes - Or combatant service.


Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - Any sort of combatant service. In this context, is not all combatant service military service, or does the honourable member have in mind any other type of service? The honourable member for Parkes says that he is opposed to this enlargement of the grounds for the granting of exemption. He says that it represents the very negation of the principle of accepting conscientious objection of a religious or philosophical nature. The honourable member's approach is a good deal narrower than that of the Act we are trying to amend and a good deal narrower than that of the legislation introduced by the Government that he supports. Our proposed new clause is concerned with section 29a (5.) of the Act and would make provision contrary to the principle that the honourable member for Parkes thinks is necessary to justify any sort of conscientious objection. I should have thought that as a lawyer he would be aware of sub-section (5.) of section 29a, which provides:

For the purpose of this section, a conscientious belief is a conscientious belief whether the ground of the belief is or is not of a religious character and whether the belief is or is not part of the doctrines of a religion.

So already the Act has extended this basis a good deal beyond the principle to which the honourable member for Parkes commits himself.


Mr Hughes - That is not so.


Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - I do not see why it is not.


Mr Hughes - I referred to religious or philosophical beliefs. The honourable member is trying to twist my words.


Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - The honourable member will have an opportunity to follow me and explain what he means if he so desires but, as I understand it, he says that he will accept a conscientious objection based upon a religious or philosophical foundation but not one founded upon another sort of basis. The point I am making is that the Act has already gone beyond that. Does the honourable member for Parkes intend to inform the Committee that he does not go as far as the matter is taken by the Act introduced by the Government that he supports? He says that he is not willing to accept a conscientious objection to involvement in military service in a particular war. Does the honourable member intend to call into question the religious and philosophical doctrine which is centuries old and which holds that there are such things as just and unjust wars? If he is willing to call this doctrine into question he might inform the Committee of his reasons for doing so. If there is a doctrine that holds that wars may be just or unjust, surely one has the right - I leave aside for the moment the question of how this right is to be determined and exercised - to say that a particular kind of war is an unjust war.

I should like to know whether the honourable member for Parkes, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), or any other honourable member opposite, including the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), is calling into question this doctrine of the just and the unjust war - the separation of wars into at least those two categories. If honourable members opposite disagree with that concept, there would be something in the approach of the honourable member for Parkes. However, if we accept that there are unjust and just wars, the question comes to be one of how one determines what is a just or an unjust war.


Mr Turner - Who determines it?


Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - According to the honourable member for Parkes either the gallup poll or the election of a government determines it. Apparently the method for determining one's morals is the gallup poll. If the honourable member for Parkes, the honourable member for Bradfield and the honourable member for Moreton are committed to the gallup poll method of determining moral questions, I wish they would say so. I am not. I do not care how many gallup polls are taken on some questions; I will still adhere to my idea of 'what is right and wrong. I should hope that the honourable member for Bradfield would be of the same mind, but if he wants to support the honourable member for Parkes, who has just said-


Mr Turner - The honourable member does not know what I shall say.







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