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Tuesday, 28 May 1968


Mr IRWIN (Mitchell) - We have heard many weird, funny and frustrating statements made in regard in this Bill, and not the least of those were the statements of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). The amendment which has been moved by the Opposition states:

Any person who is called up for military service may choose to render service in a community or national project. . . .

It appears to me that the Opposition believes it worthwhile to do anything it can to damage the image of the Australian soldier and to prevent him from being supplied with the wherewithal in order to do the wonderful job he is doing for Australia. The Opposition feels that anything it can do to frustrate our effort in Vietnam is worthwhile. Do we ever hear honourable members opposite saying that it was the North Vietnamese who attacked and infiltrated South Vietnam? No, we do not. But we do hear a lot about the Geneva Accords and the alleged water torture incident. Do we ever hear honourable members opposite relate how the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong violated the Geneva Accords? Since the peace talks began has the Opposition ever referred to the fact that the North Vietnamese have taken advantage of the lull in concentration on the part of the Americans? In his opening statement at the Paris peace talks on 13th May this year United States Ambassador Harriman said:

Since March 31 we have sought a sign that our restraint has been matched by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. We cannot conceal our concern that your Government has chosen to move substantial and increasing numbers of troops and supplies from the North to the South.

This has happened since the peace talks began. Mr Harriman continued:

Moreover, your forces have continued to fire on our forces from and across the Demilitarised Zone.

We ask what restraints you will take for your part to contribute to peace.

We believe the Geneva Accords of 1954, in their essential elements, provide a basis for peace in Vietnam.

Do we ever hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) asking the Vietcong or the North Vietnamese to agree to observe the Demilitarised Zone? No. All that honourable members opposite can say is: 'Stop bombing North Vietnam.'


The CHAIRMAN - Order! I remind the honourable member-


Mr IRWIN - Mr Chairman, honourable members opposite were allowed to wander all over the place.


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honourable member has been referring to matters not remotely relevant to the proposed new clause under discussion. I suggest that having made his point he might now refer to the proposed new clause.


Mr IRWIN - lt is time there was an awakening in this country of loyalty and patriotism of the kind displayed in Israel. Whenever the Opposition wishes, for political reasons, to discourage the young people of Australia from taking an interest in their country and being loyal to it, it resorts to shibboleths. I suppose the adoption of the Opposition's proposed clause would be one way of finding out how many so-called conscientious objectors are sincere. I venture to suggest that as soon as many of them had an opportunity to serve in another capacity they would object to doing so on the grounds of conscience. The magistrate would say: 'You are not prepared to serve in a military capacity, nor are you prepared to serve in a hospital. We will put you into some type of community service.'


Mr Cope - Put them into Parliament.


Mr IRWIN - They could do much better than the honourable member does. But having been given the opportunity to render community service, many would object to serving in that way on the grounds of conscience. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) is to be congratulated on his speech today. I endorse his sentiment that we should never depend on volunteers. The volunteers were great men. They did the slogging, the fighting and the dying while other people remained at home reaping the benefits. As the honourable member for Bradfield pointed out, in ancient Greece men were chosen by lot to render service to the state.

There are some differences of opinion about our system of balloting for national service, but if the Opposition can suggest a better or fairer way of selecting our men for national service, let it parade its choice here. It is time the Opposition took a pride in this country. It is time honourable members opposite assisted our young men who are fighting in Vietnam and upholding the great name of Australia - a name that is revered throughout the world due to the exploits of the men of the 1st and 2nd Australian Imperial Forces. Let honourable members opposite talk, as I have, to young men in Saigon and in Hong Kong on rest and recreation leave. Those young men will tell you what they think of the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese. They are national servicemen and they realise the difficulty that we in Australia now face. At a very early age 1 was taught that he who fight's and runs away will live to fight another day. Remember that. If by the methods that the Opposition and pacifists in America are adopting America is induced to withdraw from Vietnam, be assured that as night follows the day we will have to fight again, perhaps in Thailand, perhaps in Cambodia, perhaps in Laos, perhaps in Indonesia. Do not forget that. Those people who are doing all they can to frustrate our effort in Vietnam are doing the greatest possible disservice to Australia. It is time the Opposition took stock of the situation, because time is running out. If we do not stop the enemy in Vietnam we will certainly have to stop them elsewhere, and I trust that this will not be on Australian soil.







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