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Tuesday, 28 September 1971
Page: 1577

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! That is not a point of order.

Mr HUGHES(Berowra) ' (10.57)- I regret to say that this debate has taken an altogether predictable and altogether melancholy course. I regret, but am bound to say, that on both sides of the House we have heard the tired old hobbyhorses brought out of the stable. We have heard this question which is posed by the National Service Bill discussed in terms of attacks upon , and defences of John Curtin. We have heard an attack upon the Melbourne Club, and we have heard a defence of the Melbourne Club. We have heard far too little about the very important questions that are raised by this Bill. What does the Bill do? In essence, it proposes a reduction in the size of the Australian Regular Army from 44,000 to 40.000 by means of reducing the period hereafter to be served by national servicemen from 2 years to 18 months. That is what the Bill is all about. One would hope that if the House collectively had applied its mind to the great question of principle involved in this Bill a more dispassionate debate and a more objective discussion would have taken place because there is need for dispassion and objectivity when one is considering such an important question as conscription. Nobody :an fail to regard the question as vitally important.

Isuppose it is a truism to say that no political party can view with any relish the idea of maintaining a system of conscription for the purpose of keeping any branch of the armed services up to a particular strength, being a strength advised by the

Government's military advisers as a requisite strength to cope with contingent risks. It is not conducive to the popularity of any government to maintain a system of conscription either in wartime, peacetime or in the shadowy condition that may be said to lie between the full scale war and full scale peace. That is the condition in which we have been living for some years past. The point I make at the outset of my remarks is that it would have been a much better thing - if the Opposition will permit me to say so - if Opposition speakers had managed to address their minds to this subject without allowing their emotions, engendered as they are by the Vietnam commitment, to cloud every aspect of their judgment. I would be the first to concede the right of anyone to feel emotional about Vietnam if he is opposed on conscientious grounds to the principle of our commitment. I pay full tribute to everyone on the Opposition side who expresses strong views against Vietnam. I express strong views, and I have always expressed strong views, in favour of our commitment to Vietnam. I believe that on balance history will prove this Government and its predecessors to have been correct in resolving in the first place to go into Vietnam and to stay there until the job was done as well as it could be done.

Mr Keogh - That is a good way to put it- Mr HUGHES- The honourable member may agree or disagree. I am trying to inject an element of rationality, I hope, into an important debate. I will be able the better to do that without rather irrelevant interjections, if the honourable member will permit me to say so.

Mr Keogh - I am congratulating the honourable member.

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