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Friday, 30 October 1970


Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - There is a great misunderstanding on the part of the mover and seconder of this motion as to what the regulation is directed to do and what in fact it achieves. For the benefit of the 2 honourable members who have spoken in the debate and indeed of every other honourable member in the House who wishes to listen, 1 think it is necessary to recount a little of the way in which the regulation has operated and to explain how it will operate in the future. Under the National Service Act statutory provision is made for liability of people to serve up until 30 years of age. Under the Act there is power for the Minister to declare classes of people who will be given deferment. The deferment is of 2 kinds: It is temporary deferment or it is unlimited deferment. Unlimited deferment has in the past been given to everybody over 26 years of age. This has had the consequence that if a man does not perform his service up to the age of 26 years he will come into the position where he will not need to render service because he will have an indefinite deferment.

The other classes of people who have been given deferment have been given limited deferment, that is, deferment while they have been students undertaking a course. People over 26 years of age were deferred indefinitely and people up to 26 years of age could be deferred for the period of their studentship. We then find the situation where some students having got an arts degree have found it necessary to go on to get a master of arts degree in order to make their qualification creditable for the work force. So the regulations were amended for the purpose of allowing somebody to take a post-graduate course after he reaches 26 years of age. If this amendment had not been introduced, a student would have been forced to go into the Army before he bad completed the training which he needed, and of course this was undesirable. So the regulations were amended to allow us to defer the call-up of that person beyond 26 years of age.

Upon review I have come to the conclusion that that capacity to extend deferment beyond the age of 26 years should not be limited to people taking post-graduate degrees, because it is quite clear that if a person is doing a course, such as medicine, which may take him beyond the age of 26 years we would not want to be in the position where we had to call him up for service in the Army. Before the regulation was amended we had to call that person up before he was 26 years old, and by calling him up in those circumstances he could complete his course. So the purpose in amending the regulations was to allow us to defer people doing a primary course beyond the age of 26 years, just as we defer people doing a post-graduate course beyond the age of 26 years.

Having decided to do that, which 1 think is proper - and in a moment I will give, honourable members a breakdown of the sort of people who are affected - we found this completely inequitable situation with the young man who had registered and, having registered and applied for a student deferment, had obtained a student deferment. He went on and completed his education at the age of, say, 27 years. He was then liable to be called up for national service, after having completed his education at the age of 27 years, but the person who has done absolutely nothing about registration, who had evaded all his obligations, who had concealed himself, was free of all obligations if he concealed himself successfully until the age of 26 years. It was quite inequitable for the man who had concealed himself to have his obligation to serve evaporate, whereas the man who had complied all the way through, who had obtained a student deferment, had to go into the Army when he reached 27 years of age. So what I recommended should be done was to extend the period of liability for service right up to the statutory limit of 30 years. This enables complete freedom to defer students so that they can complete their course, whatever it is, and not have to call them up before they have completed their course simply because they have reached the age of 26 years.


Mr James - To help the silvertails.


Mr SNEDDEN - The honourable member says that this was done to help the silvertails. 1 will come to that. I understand that the Opposition must be objecting to this regulation for one of two reasons. The first is that it objects to the regulation because it is in favour of disadvantaging the student against the evader. For all that the Opposition opposes national service I do not attribute that motive to the Opposition, but if that is the motive of the Opposition I would like to say so quite clearly and unequivocally. Assuming for a moment that it is not the motive of the Opposition to advantage the evader against the student so that it would have the evader not serve and the student do so, the only other purpose can be that there is an assumption on the part of the Opposition that the regulation will benefit what the Opposition calls the 'silvertail' - that is the person who is a student at university - as against the non-silvertail whom the Opposition describes as the apprentice. 1 did not have in mind that the Opposition which denies class consciousness was prepared to adopt a class conscious attitude in order to justify its stand on this regulation. What the Opposition is saying is that it denies the right of a university student to be deferred because he is a silvertail'. My experience of university students is quite the reverse. The honourable member for Wills put his argument on the basis that there will be more undergraduates from Kew than there will be from Northcote and Brunswick. 1 think they were the other 2 suburbs he mentioned. Whether that be true or not I do not know. If there is advantage in being born of parents in Kew rather than being born of parents in Brunswick or Northcote I think it is a rather temporary and unreal advantage. I think that the majority of people in this place-


Mr Bryant - Brunswick and Coburg have better representation.


Mr SNEDDEN - 1 was about to say that perhaps the only disadvantage they do have is in that representation but I wonder how they can possibly make any representation. The honourable member would not let them talk. He would do all the talking. I will give to the Opposition 5 reasons why this regulation is necessary. Then I will give the numbers which will disclose the invalidity of the suggestion that it somehow benefits 'silvertails'. The definition of silvertail', according to the honourable member for Wills, includes university students.


Mr James - Privileged persons.


Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, university students being privileged persons whom the Opposition says it does not represent and indeed opposes. The first reason is that a man may take on a course of longer than normal duration. Medicine and architecture are such examples. In Victoria, for example, a technical teacher traineeship may extend up to 8 years. We have covered those people rather than call them up for service when they are 25 and they perhaps have 1 year to go to finish their training. It must be extended for those persons. The second group are those who are undertaking a course which has a natural progression to further study or training. To give a simple illustration, this may be a B.A. followed by an M.A. Thirdly, men may transfer from one course of training to study another, necessitating a longer period for eventual completion. An example is a young man who undertakes a science course and during the course transfers to a medicine course.

In the fourth group are those persons whose study course extends beyond the normal date of completion. These people may be young men who have failed in a year. But the officers in the Department do not make the judgment as to whether deferment should be granted for student continuation. This is done by the educational authorities themselves. If they allow the person to continue his studies, we recognise this. Fifthly - and here are some more of these 'silvertails' we are protecting, according to the honourable member for Wills - we have young men undertaking their courses on a part time basis who cannot undertake them on a full time basis because they do not have the financial resources to do it. These 'silvertails* will not be able to do that if we accept the motion moved by the honourable member for Wills. He is not only against the undergraduate; he is against the other fellow whom he started out to protect. The illogicality of his argument is manifest.

The sort of courses where people are deferred for this reason and who will now be able to complete their training include - and I want honourable members opposite to listen to these 'silvertails': Fitters, toolmakers, draughtsmen, laboratory technicians and technicians who have completed apprenticeships or courses of training and are now doing a diploma of mechanical engineering. On the argument of the honourable member for Wills, we should not let those 'silvertails' have the benefit of this. Other examples are printers, electricians, fitters and radio technicians who have completed apprenticeships and who are now doing higher trade certificates; electronic technicians proceeding to a certificate in electrical engineering: building industry employees pursuing certificate courses in building technology, bricklayers, foremen builders, etc.; draftsmen proceeding to diplomas in architecture and civil engineering; metallurgists, industrial chemists and laboratory technicians proceeding to diplomas of science; and men pursuing various degrees including dentists, teachers, doctors, computer programmers, finance officers and bank officers.

There are 7,712 students who are being considered for deferment as students. They include 4,078 who are undertaking degree courses at universities. Only 144 of them have prolonged their deferment by undertaking post-graduate studies. And 3,634 are undertaking non-degree courses - that is, at other than a university and including technical college courses. There are 5,612 trainees who are being considered for deferment as trainees. Of that number 3,828 are apprentices in the various apprenticeship courses and 1,326 are not apprentices but are undergoing recognised courses of training. There are 1,000 registrants at the moment who want deferment and in whose interest it is essential that this regulation survive. If this regulation does not survive these young men will have to be called up into the Army before they complete their training. What sort of men are they? They are certainly not silvertails'. This regulation is quite consistent with our policy and I think it would be consistent with the views of everybody in the community including those who are opposed to national service but who. accepting that national service exists, would want these young men to be able to complete their training before they entered the Army. It will benefit them for their future to complete their training now and it will benefit them for their reestablishment. I ask the House to reject the motion because it is quite ill-founded.







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