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Tuesday, 28 September 1971
Page: 1574


Dr EVERINGHAM (Capricornia) - The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) has his facts wrong and his heart in the wrong place. First of all, he made the false statement that the Australian Labor Party is opposed to having any bases in Australia. The Australian Labor Party is opposed to having foreigncontrolled bases in Australia. Members of the Opposition made this clear in this session of Parliament when they said that we want Australian control of bases that have been set up in this country by the United States of America.


Mr Armitage - And we want to know what they are about.


Dr EVERINGHAM - If we had control of the bases we would know what they were about. The Minister for Defence also said that the Opposition is opposed to national service. The Opposition is not opposed to national service if there is a threat to Australia. This was shown when the Australian people and the Government's own supporters in this House turned against the Parties represented in today's government, threw them out and put into .power a Labor government which did introduce national service even for service beyond Australian shores where there was a threat to Australia.


Mr Irwin - It was too late then.


Dr EVERINGHAM - It was not too late. We did not have the Japanese coming down to the Brisbane line, as the honourable member who has just interjected perhaps would have liked to see happen, and which no doubt would have happened if his Government had remained in power. The Labor Government managed conscription not only for the armed forces but also for everything else. There was more complete mobilisation in Australia than in any nation in history. One person in 7 of our population was under arms and in uniform. The Opposition is not opposed to national service. It is opposed to conscription for an immoral, illegal and unwarranted warlike action which the Government refuses to call a war because it knows that no legal war has been declared.

The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) reminds me that Prime Minister Menzies in 1941 bravely promised that

Australia would defend Thailand. However, he did not say with what. There was nothing to defend Thailand with in Australia and within 2 months of that statement the Japanese attacked Thailand and, of course, Australia was not there. In 1951 or thereabouts, the same Prime Minister told us: 'We have to be ready for war in 5 years'. Of course, this was done in the context of an election campaign, where election fever had to be generated over some kind of issue and the issue was the downward thrust of China between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The National Service Act, with which we are now concerned, was brought in in that year. So we had national service and we were told to be ready for war in 5 years. Now we have our war, we are getting out of Vietnam, and we are to reduce the numbers that we are conscripting. The Minister for Defence says that we must ensure against emergency and that we must have a reservoir of trained soldiers. Must we have a reservoir of people conscripted against their conscience? ls this necessary in peacetime? John Curtin waited until the islands encircling this continent were occupied by menacing forces and until the bombs and shells of the Japanese forces had fallen on this country before he adopted conscription. John Curtin went to his supporters who stood by him loyally in every State, every branch, and every wing. Every aspect of the Labor movement got behind him and said: 'Yes, we will support a change of Labor policy to allow conscription for service outside Australia up to the equator1. His conscription was urgent, imperative and effective.


Dr Mackay - Who stabbed him in the back?


Dr EVERINGHAM - The electors who had the wool pulled over their eyes by the capitalist Press at the end of the war and turfed Chifley out. The Minister for Defence has told us that we cannot turn our Services on and off like a tap. The government of the day certainly could not in 1941. Australia had to get John Curtin to do it.

We on this side of the House have never opposed adequate defence for Australia. But we maintain that if we are the great democracy that we claim to be and if this is a land worth defending and fit for people to live in, we do not have to push people at the point of a bayonet to serve and defend this country. This country has proved in 2 world wars that it is ready to defend itself. The people of Australia have never been backward in volunteering to defend their friends, brothers and relations overseas. We had an excellent record in World War II. We had the best record of any nation of conscripting and volunteering men to serve in the defence of freedom. But one thing we did not do was to force people from every walk of life, if the marble rolled up, to go in and serve. This Government is doing this.


Mr Giles - Would you prefer the American system?


Dr EVERINGHAM - I would prefer the Curtin system. When I turned 18 years of age I happened to be a medical student. My fellow students and I were told that the government preferred us to stay in our course, which was speeded up to a 5-year course instead of one of 6 years. We undertook a few extra terms and we stayed there to complete our courses.

The Minister for Defence has told us that students can get a deferment. Certainly they can get a deferment. But when they are through their courses and graduate as doctors or dentists or whatever they are, they then have to go and fight.. Some doctors in my electorate asked me what would be their chances of serving in a medical corps if they were conscripted and if they passed the medical test. I put this to the Minister and the Minister replied that it would depend on how many vacancies the Army had. This is not what John Curtin did. If he had men trained and with certain skills who would be useful in the defence of this country he knew what those skills were. But this Government says: 'One in all in', with one very curious exception which I will come to shortly. It is to do with the clergy. However, in the meantime I want to refer to the young men who were mentioned in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and whom our amendments have been designed to relieve. They are not being forced to fight at the point of a bayonet but they are enduring something equally as ruthless and barbarous to us - a 2-year gaol sentence. Their names are Charles Martin, Garry Cook and Geoff Mullen. I do not have time to read statements by all of them. However, honourable members opposite should listen to some of these people instead of making grand statements such as that made by the Minister for Defence who said that opposition to the call-up has not been shown by those affected directly. This is a direct quote from what was said by the Minister in this place tonight. It is all very well to quote statistics but the man who objects is more than a statistic. Geoff Mullen states:

Whenever 1 do something I like to think that I have a sufficient and rational reason for my action. Whenever I refuse to do something, it is most often simply because I see no reason to act. At this time 1 see no rational or sufficient reason why I should comply with the National Service Act Indeed, there would appear to be positive reasons why I should oppose conscription with all the energy that I can muster.

The National Service Act is more than merely irrelevant to my or any other person's well-being, lt is in fact detrimental in every respect to those it affects. And it affects every Australian. It affects politicians in that its success breeds a greater arrogance and concomitantly a lesser regard for what might be regarded as the inalienable freedom of any man.

It affects the average Australian to the extent that he becomes indifferent to the rights of others-

Just as the Minister for Defence was when he made the stupid statement, that those directly affected do not oppose it - and thereby loses a precedent for respect of those rights he regards as his own. If the Government will not guarantee the freedom of 20-year-olds, why should they later be concerned about yours. You are no more important to them than any young man.

But most of all the National Service Act corrupts young men (and it is no Socrates). The evil of conscription abides in the very nature of the system. Conscription in any form destroys what is finally the essential human faculty, the ability to make important decisions for oneself.

Conscription will not build a greater Australia. It will merely obliterate the difference between an Australian's 'freedom' and that of a citizen in a totalitarian slate. To prevent our being enshackled by communism, we will enshackle ourselves, (or is this what democracy means - the prisoners running our gaols?)

I could read a statement from Brian Ross who was gaoled but before I do I would like to read from page 292 of The Documents of Vatican II'.


Mr Irwin - Look out. The Holy Father will be after you.


Dr EVERINGHAM - I have every respect for the sentiments of the Holy Father.

I am very indebted to my Lord Bishop Rush of Rockhampton, who gave me this publication because of his concern with these issues which I discussed with him. The publication states:

Moreover, it seems right that laws make humane provisions for the case of those who for reasons of conscience refuse to bear arms, provided, however, that they accept some other form of service to the human community.

Many, many times in this Parliament 1 have heard the honourable member for Bass, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) and many others appealing to the Government and quoting these young men as asking to have some alternative to military service. The Government says that this is not a matter of conscience. It says that these young men can easily go into the Citizen Military Forces if they want to escape going to Vietnam. What an alternative for conscience! The Government, says the Minister for Defence, has taken all reasonable steps to make it possible for people to avoid service in Vietnam by deferring callup and by resettlement loans, etc. The curious exception I refer to is for the clerics. Why do they not have deferment and resettlement loans? Are they going to be less effective priests because they have seen service in the Army? If so, perhaps we should cast some doubts on the remarks that have been issuing from the other side of the chamber that service in the Army makes a man of you, that it gives you an insight into real life. Surely a priest, a minister or a teacher in a holy order would be glad of such experience. But no, they must be exempted.


Dr Mackay - They do not have to accept it.


Dr EVERINGHAM - They do not have to accept it. That is a subtle difference. Perhaps we should amend the National Service Act so that everybody else - all other students - do not have to accept it. Why should just theological students be exempt? Are medical students less valuable than theological students? Are agriculture students less valuable? Are apprentice electricians or ambulancemen. less valuable? Why are they, or all those providing the essential services, not exempt?

We heard on today's news that the New South Wales Government is to make it illegal for anyone to strike if he is engaged in an essential service. One of the news commentators says that this takes in 55 per cent of the employees. We had better exempt the 55 per cent. I would be very glad to move an amendment - I will not because I know it would be an exercise in futility and the Government numbers would defeat it - but I would be happy to see the Government bring forward an amendment of that kind to change the exemption for the clergy and theological students to include all students and all those engaged in essential services.


Mr Barnard - That one goes back to the Middle Ages.


Dr EVERINGHAM - I see. It may be just a thoughtless tradition going back to the Middle Ages. But as far as I am concerned, it is an exercise in humbug and kow-towing to that part of the establishment represented by the established churches. I think that if that was not the position and if some of these clergy and students were serving members of the armed forces they would be searching their consciences a little more closely, as I have suggested the Minister for Defence should, and speaking to some of these young gentlemen who have objected to this Act. Perhaps they would be looking a little more thoughtfully at this document from which I read earlier entitled 'The Documents of Vatican II'.

If it is true that the Government is quite happy for all these young men to go into the Citizen Military Forces and not to enter the serving forces overseas, why then is it necessary to have so many extra young men in the Army? The Minister for Defence suggested that it is because we must have a reserve of skill. I am a little perturbed by a statement made by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who said . that this exemption provides for rural people because it allows them to fulfil their commitment under the Act while still working on the home territory, on the farm. The reason I am particularly disturbed - and I cannot give names in the Parliament because I have no documentary evidence - is that I have had reports from a rural area. I am not even prepared to state just where the electorate is, but if the

Minister wants to inquire further 1 will give him details. The information is that at a Young Country Party meeting some of the young gentlemen were having quite a laugh about the barrel when their numbers came up because they knew that the local establishment would show them as having registered for CMF service before their numbers came up.


Mr Katter - That is a pretty tough allegation.


Dr EVERINGHAM - It is a very grave accusation. I am not accusing the Country Party and I am not accusing any person. I am quoting an allegation that I think should be looked into. If the Minister cares to follow up the particular area I will be very happy to tell him where it occurred. I think we should keep our eyes open for this sort of thing. It is a possible way in which the National Service Act could be abused and in which this loophole could be abused.

My son has received a deferment because of his studies. I trust that when those studies are over our commitment in Vietnam will be over and he will not be called upon to prove the statement he wrote on his enrolment, that he would consider an order which could involve him in service in Vietnam as an illegal and unlawful order. I sincerely trust before that . time comes this stupid idea of conscription will long ago have been swept under the carpet where it belongs and forgotten in a country which claims to be democratic and which claims to be seeking in equality the good life for all its citizens. There is no excuse for the birthday ballot. In the short time left to me I will read a little of an actual transcript of a Crown Solicitor's questions which shows that some ot these people are not receiving a fair go. Conscientious Objector X completed his registration for national service in February 1968. Here are some of the questions he faced: . . 'How many days do you work? I'd suggest to you that you do not comply wilh the Tcn Commandments. The fourth Commandment says Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Do you comply with that Commandment? You know what day the Sabbath is. Well, I'd suggest to you the Sabbath is Saturday. Well, if it's Saturday, you don't keep it holy. What about killing animals? What about vegetables? What about mosquitoes? Why do you destroy them. Why can't you just shoo them out of the door? What about flies? What about snakes? What about things like alligators, crocodiles attacking you? You work for Y'? Y sells meat? You are helping them as much as a non-combatant would be helping someone to kill, aren't you? You cannot help what another person does, can you? Well, why can't you be a non-combatant? You wouldn't be telling someone to go and kill someone, would you?







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