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Tuesday, 28 May 1968

Mr BURY (Wentworth) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) said something which is important to note. He pointed out that in this Bill we were dealing with national service, which is a quite separate issue from the war in Vietnam. The present national service arrangements pre-date the conflict in Vietnam and I have no doubt whatever that they will post-date it also. Presumably it is because of the injection of Vietnam into the debate that this amendment relating to selective pacifism has been moved. It is as well to remind the Committee that the proportion of successful applications to the courts would indicate that the provision relating to conscientious objection is being applied equitably and liberally. So far all except 18.7% of the cases which have been heard have resulted in an exemption being granted either partially or wholly. Of the number who have applied, 89 have been unsuccessful, 202 have been granted complete exemption and 183 have been granted non-combatant status. This subject, like other matters associated with this legislation, has a considerable history.

I mention in passing something which was mentioned by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) - the comparison between the position now and that which prevailed under the National Security Regulations. The fundamental difference is that when the National Security Regulations applied universal conscription and direction of manpower operated. The present situation is entirely different to that circumstance so there can be no valid comparison. The Government has been relying on the legal pronouncement by Mr Justice Windeyer in the High Court in 1966 when he said, referring to conscientious objection:

This, I presume, means service in any capacity, at any time, anywhere, in any arm, corps or unit. The requisite for total exemption is thus, it seems, a conscientious and complete pacifism.

We have looked at a number of cases in Britain and Europe where there have been alleged examples of selective pacifism, but most of them have been separate cases which were sui generis. An example is the Indian nationalists who refused to fight in certain circumstances. Another example can be found in an Italian who was in Britain during the war and who, perhaps understandably, refused to fight against his compatriots. There are a number of similar cases. The Government takes the view that conscience is one thing, but, as the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) has just said, this amendment, in our view, is based on a political decision. A conscientious objection to service is quite different from a situation in which a person can select as between particular wars. This, in the broad, must be decided by the electorate. As the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) pointed out, a person cannot select which law he will obey and which one he will not obey.

Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - Why not leave it to the-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I have already warned the honourable member for Yarra. I shall take action if the honourable member continually interjects.

Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) - I rise to order. It is obvious that the Standing Orders of this House are made for the purpose of facilitating discussion and the exchange of views between members. I pointed out earlier that I accepted the statement by the Chair that this was a very important debate. It seems to me that the Government does not intend to facilitate further examination of this issue. I submit that this is a legitimate point of order in that the Government's action is contrary to the whole spirit of the Standing Orders of the House, which are for the purpose of facilitating debate and an exchange of views.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! There is no substance in the point of order raised by the honourable member.

Mr BURY - The Opposition's amendment proposes to import into our system a selective obedience to the law. A person could well argue that he will pay taxes for armaments but will not pay taxes for social services, that as he drives along the road he is prepared to give way to traffic approaching on his right but disagrees with speed limits, and so on. I could cite examples to show that where there is selective obedience to the law we reach the stage of anarchy. In respect of Vietnam, those with particularly strong feelings have a gate wide open to them. 1 remind the

Committee that every young man who registers for national service has the option of serving with the Citizen Forces, in which case he would not under present circumstances be required to serve in Vietnam. The doctrine of selective obedience to the law is one which the Government simply cannot countenance.

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