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Thursday, 15 October 1970

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - In blunt terms one of the implications of the United States objective to bring its draft down to what is called a zero draft call could be that ultimately a greater defence effort might be required of this country.

Although press reports of the decisions that have been announced by the Secretary of Defence in the United States generally have referred to abolition of the draft by 1973 the reports do give a false impression because the decision has been made to keep the framework and structure of the draft - the legal right to re-establish the draft - if an emergency made it necessary but to try to get to the situation where there is a zero draft call. This is quite different from abolition of the draft and abolition of the right to call up people compulsorily for national service if that should be required. If we compare the situations in the United States and Australia, the circumstances between our 2 countries are very different in a number of respects. We have no unemployment; unemployment in the United States is by our standards high. Pockets of unemployment in the United States are much higher and this affects the capacity to recruit for the armed forces. In spite of a totally different economic structure, recruits into the Australian Army are paid some hundreds of dollars more on induction into our Army than are the recruits into the United States Army. Our recruits receive, in absolute terms, some hundreds of dollars more, so there is a great difference in this area.

Defence is a prime responsibility of government and this Government will never settle for anything less than it believes necessary for Australia's defence merely because there may be some political difficulties that some people perhaps associate with the establishment of a proper level of defence. But even if we could establish by voluntary means alone forces of the size that Australia believes to be necessary, this is not the only consideration that should be borne in mind, because a government or a country that depended only on volunteers for its defence is appealing to those with a particularly developed sense of patriotism. If we were a country that sought to buy defence, which is what the Labor Party would do if it wanted any defence, we would have to pay higher salary and wage rates in an attempt to attract people into the armed forces to get the numbers we needed. This is a view that the Government rejects.

We believe it is not possible and not practical to get all the numbers we need by this means. If you could do this it would mean that we would then be insulating the privileged, the better educated and the wealthy from the obligations of defence and from the obligations of doing something to protect their own country. There are many rights for all citizens of Australia. The Opposition would seek to establish a situation in which there are no obligations and if it ever had the opportunity to do this Australia would be very much in danger. In particular, supporters of the Leader of the Opposition should ask themselves how much they believe it is equitable to establish a situation in which Australia is trying to attract some members to the armed forces by higher rates of pay when this will not appeal to the privileged, the wealthy or to the Monash graduates. It is likely to appeal to the underprivileged and to the worker who is in a less fortunate situation. A system that insulates the wealthy, privileged, better off and higher educated from the implications of obligations for defence is an unjust system.

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