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Monday, 19 October 1970


Mr BRYANT (Wills) - One can only hope that the strategy of the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is better than his logic, but I am afraid that all the evidence of the past 5 or 6 years shows that is is not and that he is weak in both logic and strategy. We have listened for 20 minutes to half an hour to the honourable gentleman's cliches, apologia and attempt to denigrate the Opposition. He missed completely the point of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on the question of national service and conscientious objection, ft is the moral issue, the conscience issue, that is dividing Australia and nobody can escape that fact. It is not surprising that honourable members opposite are unable to see it. There is nothing that the Minister can do to discredit the Leader of the Opposition in this matter.

During the course of his speech the Minister for Defence mentioned one or two other things. He talked about the fact that we are unable to recruit servicemen by this method or that method and he said that the voluntary system will not work any more. He mentioned the Kennedys, for instance. A few weeks ago Senator Kennedy, in the American Congress, said:

Mr President,I will support the volunteer Army in Vietnam.

Why did the Minister not quote all that Senator Kennedy had to say? Why does the Minister avoid the example of Britain? Why is it that Britain is able to get the appropriate numbers into its Services by a volunteer system? Why is it that Canada is able to do so? Why is it that Canada can maintain the volunteer system when it has no unemployment and it has a wealthy and affluent society where wages generally are much higher than in Australia? Of course, there are many reasons.

Let us examine some of the issues that the Minister raised. 'Can these people', ha said, 'be replaced by the volunteer?' To whom did he particularly refer? He referred to the rifleman. How will we replace the rifleman by the volunteer? We will not replace the rifleman, as a volunteer, by paying him no matter what we will unless the cause is just and something worth fighting for. The Minister says that we will have to rely on a highly developed sense of patriotism. In that, he exposes the whole basis of both the defence and foreign policies of this country. The Government has raised the issue of defence and foreign policy until there is no question of patriotism involved. That is why people do not join the Services. No-one is going to join the Army to become a rifleman in a cause which most people in Australia reject. What an immoral approach the Minister took here. He said that in our voluntary system the wealthy, the privileged and the educated will not end up as riflemen. How many wealthy, privileged and educated end up as riflemen now? What happens to the man who is at the university and who is in the proper age group? He continues at the university until he graduates. Does he end up as a rifleman in Vietnam? Of course he does not. When will the Minister table facts and figures on this? What should we pay a man who walks continuously on the brink of danger? There is no answer to that question at all. The only answer is that he must be fighting for a cause in which he believes. For the last 5 or 6 years Australia has been dragged continuously into causes in which nobody believes.

Another cliche which the Minister and his friends opposite have used constantly relates to the question of the Labor Party and defence. We have not time tonight, in the 10 minutes to which we have been reduced on the Estimates debates, to debate this, but I refer honourable members to the defence programme which appears on page 6 of the 'Defence Report 1970'. It is very much like the defence programme of the Australian Labor Party which can be found in our Federal platform almost with the same phraseology.

I want to deal with one or two matters that I regard as fairly important. First, it is not the procurement of material which is the great issue in the Australian defence system, but the procurement of men. This gets us to the point of what the Australian nation's objectives are. This is why people will not join the Services. We have not had this explained to us tonight, yet the Minister for Defence has unlimited time. He can rise at any moment and he can talk until some time after midnight, but he will not explain it to us. We must start by asking what are the objectives of our defence forces. I believe that we should be setting up a defence system under which we are able to watch the seas around Australia, control the skies above Australia and respond on land with the forces that are necessary to combat anybody who is likely to arrive here. Of course, the errors of our defence system are that we have never applied ourselves to these tasks.

In the last few years, in fact for the last 20 years, we have had no overall defence plan. We have been the satellite of other people's defence and foreign policies. We have gone shopping for our defence equipment and we have ignored the civilian component of the Austraiian defence forces and have come forward with other things. What would you call them? They are hardly cliches. We hear of forward defence. What does that mean? We have argued it before. We have heard also of Fortress Australia. Does that mean that we bring all our soldiers home? People talk of Fortress Australia to try to denigrate the idea that our first objective is to defend Australia and its boundaries. We do not talk of Fortress Japan, Fortress Italy, Fortress Germany or fortress any other nation in the world. It would pay Australians to look at the statistics of countries which have soldiers beyond their boundaries. They are surprisingly few in number. What about our neighbours? The Minister for Defence mentioned nothing about our neighbourhood.

Tonight I want to refer in particular to the Citizen Military Forces. What have we done to the CMF? It has become the Cinderella of the Services? Why is that? Service in the Citizen Military Forces is not a question of money. Nobody will join CMF just to make an extra dollar or two. The facts are that some 35,000 people are serving voluntarily at the moment, some involuntarily of course, in the Citizen Military Forces. Four housand are serving in the Navy, 31,000 in the Army and 668 in the Royal Australian Air Force. They are prepared to serve in the citizen forces, but in 1938 there were 80,000 prepared to serve.

What has the Government done to the citizen forces? What it has done is largely enshrined in the registration form for national service. Section 7 on the back of that form deals with service in the Citizen Military Forces as an alternative to national service. The moment we introduced that system we killed the spirit of the Citizen Military Forces. The moment we reduced the Citizen Military Forces to a funk hole for argument in this Parliament we killed the spirit that makes the Citizen Military Forces what they ought to be. We cannot have a satisfactory citizen force while it is an alternative to the kind of service that people want to avoid in Vietnam. The Government has done all sorts of things to the armed Services. It has made service in the armed services of this country, obnoxious, not because the uniform is not an honourable one to wear and not because the traditions do not mean something to every Australian, but the very fact that the objectives for which people serve on occasions such as this cannot be supported by morality, logic or any form of national spirit. So service of any sort in the armed forces has become obnoxious. That is why young men do not join the Citizen Military Forces.

T was one or those who spent a long while in the citizen forces. I think I have a good idea of why people join and the kind of service that is needed. We do not have time to discuss the matter fully in the few minutes available in the debate on the estimates, ft is not really a debate but a charade of some sort. I am envious of the system that the Senate has developed for dealing with the Estimates. One has only to turn to the remarks of people of some moment in these matters. Major-General Paul Cullen, President df the Citizen Military Forces Association, has stated:

However, there remain some alarming aspects and trends; the principal one being the strength of the CMF. recently down from 36.000 to 29,000.

That was over last year. They were the remarks of a citizen soldier. But what does one of the highest ranking service soldiers have to say? General Brogan, General Officer Commanding Eastern Command, has estimated that his own command is 1,000 mcn below strength, and his command is probably better off than others in Australia. He said that there was an urgent need to bolster the citizen forces. Of course, far from bolstering them we have started to destroy them. We have started to make service in the citizen forces as an alternative to national service obnoxious to the community. People say that young Australians do not do that sort of thing. On the other hand, one has to ask whether it is a logical and legal alternative. I do not know. It is not easy to find out. What happens to the young man who turns up at the local citizen forces unit and says: 'I want to join up'? The only inquiries I have made lead me to believe that as soon as the recruiting officer wakes up to the fact that the young man is seeking an alternative service to national service he sets up a pattern of inhibitions.

Why is it that all units are down on strength? This Government is culpable in all regards, lt is guilty of destroying national spirit when it comes to service in the armed Services. It has found no solution to the problem of recruitment. It has failed to produce a rational, logical national defence policy, and I believe that to that extent it has destroyed a great deal of the national unity and national spirit that has always made service in the Australian Services something worth while and something of which people could be proud. I believe that the very tone of this debate is a disgrace to this Parliament. Honourable members opposite know full welt that nobody on this side of the chamber is any less mindful of the defence of this country than they are, yet they are continuously dragging into this House remarks such as those 1 am about to mention.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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