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Friday, 30 October 1970

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) - I second the motion, and in doing so I should like to make an additional point in passing. I congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), because as a result of the Minister taking action to amend the regulations, Brian Ross was released from gaol earlier this year. As the Minister is no doubt aware, some time in June I made representations to him to allow the question of Ross' conscientious objection to be decided by a court. The statutory rules were amended, by amendment No. 5, to allow the Minister himself to refer to the court the question of a person's conscientious objection. 1 was pleased when I heard on 10th August last that Mr Justice Smithers had been appointed to hear Ross' case and at a later date to hear that Ross had been released.

I am one of those people who completely oppose the National Service Act. I object to conscription. I find it difficult to understand how conscription is justifiable at any time. But having said that, I realise that the Government has been elected and re-elected on the proposition that it supports conscription, that it supports national service, and I think that we in the Opposition have to make the National Service Act as pleasant as possible from the point of view of the people who are affected. Dealing with the specific regulation which we seek to disallow today, I should like to address myself to the point made by the Minister in the explanatory notes which accompanied the amendment to the regulation. It is pointed out that the regulations now cover men who have not been called up before 26 years of age, for example, because they may have been seeking to evade their obligations and to escape detection. I can see no good reason why the regulations should be altered to cover those people.

I am not one of those people who have been urging the Government to prosecute those who have been defying the National Service Act. I am not one of those who have been attacking the Government for selective enforcement of the law. I think that there is very little for which the Government can be congratulated. But the fact that the Government does not put in gaol everybody who defies the National Service Act is certainly a step in the right direction. The Government puts too many people in gaol as it is, and I do not think that we should encourage the Government to put more people in gaol. But what I do object to is the fact that there are people who have evaded their obligation, as it is put, from the age of 20 years to 26 years. In many cases these people have sent letters to the Minister telling him that they do not accept the provisions of the National Service Act. The Minister has had 6 years in which to deal with those people. For good reasons - excellent reasons, I should hope - he has decided not to prosecute them. I think that it is wrong to allow another 4 years in which these people can be prosecuted. lt means that for another 4 years these people can be prosecuted at any time when it becomes politically convenient or when there is some other reason for prosecuting them. I think this is completely wrong. For 6 years the Government has been aware of the fact that certain persons have been avoiding their obligations and it has not taken any steps to prosecute them. Now the Government has decided to extend for another 4 years the period in which these people can be prosecuted. It will make it tougher for the people concerned; it will make it almost impossible for them to obtain certain jobs and so on. I think it is completely wrong for the Government to use the regulations in this way. Therefore, I very strongly support the motion to disallow this regulation.

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