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Tuesday, 28 September 1971
Page: 1586


Mr KIRWAN (Forrest) - We have been treated this evening to a talk on the importance of patriotism. We on this, side of the. House have been charged with having no regard or little regard for the men in the Services of this country. Indeed we have been lectured and treated to pontification, exceeded only by that of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), by a gentleman who is known as the chameleon from Kennedy because he is a man who has moved from the extreme left of politics to the extreme right. I refer to. the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr. Katter). When he contested a seat for the Australian Democratic Labor Party and found that Party could not win a seat in this House, he changed his political beliefs for those of the Australian Country Party so that he might find his way into this place. The honourable member for Kennedy tries to adapt his colours to suit the' occasion in an effort to win over to himself the support of the people in his electorate.

I want to say at the outset that I in common with my colleagues on this side of the House have nothing but the highest respect for the men who have fought for this country in the various wars in which it has been involved. In contrast to honourable members opposite we on this side believe that those men acquitted themselves' well in a war in which we should never have been involved. The question is not one of the conduct of our men in Vietnam. The question is the conduct of this Government in sending them there and maintaining them in Vietnam, and most especially the attitude of the Government in introducing conscription and allowing conscripts to be sent to that war, some to be injured and some to be killed. It is we who most strongly regret that; it is we who feel for the soldiers. 1 would hope that at the forthcoming election there will be somebody who will take up in the electorate of Kennedy the issue of Vietnam and conscription, and the other important issues that face this country at the present time, as 1 did in the electorate of Forrest in 1966 and again in 1969. It was mainly on those 2 issues that the Australian Labor Party won the seat of Forrest from the then Minister for External Affairs. 1 believe that conscription is morally unjustifiable except in circumstances such as those that prevailed in 1941. Only a repetition of those circumstances would justify the introduction and practice of national service in this country. We. have been told tonight that we must be prepared for an invasion. This country has a phobia in that we have been afraid of invasion ever since settlement in 1 788. Probably that fear springs from the fact that we are the southland and have a feeling that the laws of gravity will operate to cause people to fall down upon us, forgetting that there are oceans to be crossed and lines of communication to be maintained by any army invading these shores.

I refer honourable members opposite who have used the fear of invasion as the basis of their argument for national service to a recent statement of their former leader, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), that he sees very little or almost no likelihood at all of Australia's being involved in war within the next 10 years. I also advise them to obtain from the Parliamentary Library, in their quieter and saner moments, a book on Australia's defence edited by Gelber in which they will find an article written by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer). It is a reasoned and well informed argument by a man who was a professional sailor. He points out the reasons why Australia is in no danger of imminent invasion, or even invasion within the foreseeable future. I refer honourable members opposite to both those authorities, one a former Prime Minister and Minister for Defence and the other a former professional serviceman.

I am opposed to conscription because it requires inequitable sacrifice. Members of a small section of the community are called upon to give up to 2 years of their lives in military service. Some are required to fight outside this country, while others spend their period of service in almost constant boredom. One of the main complaints I have had from national servicemen is that they have too little to do and must spend most of their time bored stiff, doing nothing because there is nothing for them to do in this country.

One of the arguments I have heard from officers in the forces who wish to maintain the numbers in the Services is that their only hope of promotion is in a large army. They do not wish to remain in the lower ranks any longer than necessary. I believe there is no justification for national service now and that there was none when it was introduced. My authority for that statement is a former Minister for Health and former Minister for the Army. I do not know what portfolio he has at present because Ministers change so frequently that it is hard to keep up with them. About a fortnight before national service was introduced he said that the best military advice was against it. Yet this Government is supposed to be swayed by the best military advice, even when that advice leads to investment in Fill aircraft which were needed, it was said, to protect us from invasion that was to take place in 1963.

I believe that national service is wasteful of talents. Most of the men who are inducted into the forces are tradesmen or professional men. They must be of such a standard to pass the educational examination, it seems. Apparently they must also be exceedingly fit, since 70 per cent of men called up are rejected on the ground that they are medically unfit. Young men called up for national service would be better employed in the teaching profession, medical profession or other professions and trades, rather than wasting their time in Australia, if they are not sent overseas, or being exposed to the risk of being maimed or killed in Vietnam in a war that is indefensible and in which we should never have been involved. I believe that national service is unjustifiable on the ground of the waste of the talents of the men involved in it.

I believe that because the situation is as the right honourable member for Higgins and the honourable member for Isaccs said it to be, it is an ideal time for Australia, along with other nations, to be actively pursuing the means of bringing about a situation in which peace might prevail and in trying to bring calm in the. places where war is now taking place and where we are not involved and where, I believe, we ought not to become involved in the same way as we ought not to have become involved in Vietnam. Australia should be doing far more than it is now doing in trying to assuage the troubles in Pakistan and in bringing about a better understanding between the East and the West and in relieving the suffering and the anguish of people "Who have become refugees through the struggle that has taken place there.

I believe that if we open this Parliament every day with prayers and if we adopt these trappings we . should apply more of the Christian spirit in our outlook and approach to life and' try to find how it can be practically applied to bring about" conditions in which peace will prevail and in which men will learn to live together. The Government has this responsibility and, because war is not imminent in the foreseeable future, now is an ideal time for us to be spending some of the money, which we are now spending on defence and wasting in other areas, to bring about conditions of peace. I hasten to add that my motivation is one that comes directly from the Scriptures and has nothing whatever to do with a lesser ideology that is holding sway in areas of this world because Christian people do not take seriously enough their own faith and do not try to apply it to this life. I believe that conscription is unjustifiable on moral and religious grounds. If we claim, as we sometimes do, to be a Christian nation, we should look at what that implies much more closely than we normally do. .

The Christian has 3 attitudes to war and peace. Taking them in historical order they are the doctrine of outright . Christian pacificism, the doctrine . of Christian nonpacificism, which involves the doctrine of the just war, and the doctrine of the crusade. I do not think anyone would want me to argue for the crusade because noone believes in it any more. However, the other 2 attitudes are relevant. The doctrine of Christian pacificism is a doctrine that is founded upon the life, the teachings and the example of Christ. He showed in His life that the way to overcome was by loving one's enemy, by forgiveness and by self-sacrifice. He apparently was defeated at Calvary and yet, if the Christian faith is correct, He rose triumphant over the worst that could be done to Him and came back to make a new faith out of 11 men who had wilted and failed at the time of his arrest. We believe that the things that were achieved in the early church, the changes that were wrought and the good influence that the Church has had from that time to this are indications of what can be done if the Christian faith is taken seriously and applied in political and other areas. Many people in the community claim to be Christian and those who accept the doctrine of Christian pacificism can apply for exemption from national service on the grounds of conscientious' objection.

The only other ground that is open to Christian people is that of Christian nonpacificism. The Christian non-pacificist says that he cannot take to himself the characteristics crf Christ - that Christ was unique and that he is human and therefore he must adopt a different approach. He says that war - by contrast with selfsacrifice, loving one's enemies and forgiveness - can be justified when it is fought to maintain justice and right, and only in those circumstances. In fact, the doctrine pf Christian non-pacificism has as one of its major tenets the doctrine of the just war. Some of the points that undergird that doctrine are these:

War 'must be just as to its intent - which is to restore peace.

The object of war is to vindicate undoubted justice.

The war must be undertaken by a lawful authority.

The conduct of the war must be just. Methods and materials used must be consistent with man's nature as a rational being. Only combatants must be involved.

The cause for which the war Is to be fought must undoubtedly warrant the possible cost of the war.

I believe that as that is the doctrine which underlies the doctrine of Christian nonpacificism, there cannot be in the present world a just war. There is no longer a war in which only combatants are involved. There is no. longer the likelihood of a war being fought with full respect being granted to the Geneva Conventions. There is every possibility that such a war will become a nuclear war in which case the possible costs will certainly far outweigh the possible good for which the war is waged. In fact the whole world could be lost and whole peoples - most of them innocents - wiped out. I believe that many more Christian people ought to know that there are 2 grounds only open to them, in which case there would be far more people applying on conscientious objection grounds for exemption from war. Because they are the only 2 grounds, I believe that the practice of national service is morally and religiously unjustifiable.

Before 1 resume my seat I wish to refer, on the same note, to something that has been referred to already by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). Provision exists within this Bill for the exemption from national service of theological students, ministers of religion and members of religious orders. I believe that that provision ought not be there. Somebody has said already that it dates back to medieval times - indeed, that is true - when the Church used to promote wars and the people who used to do most of the promoting were sacroscanct and able to stay home and to send others to fight for them on the assurance that their souls would be saved. Because of that provision being made in medieval times, it has been written into al) similar legislation through the years to the present time.

I believe that if that provision were removed from the legislation far more ministers of religion and theological students would know what are the doctrines of war and peace of the Christain Church and would not only be seeking exemption on conscientious grounds for themselves but also be taking a far more active part in opposing wars and in trying to bring about the establishment of peace. One ground which all Christians - those who are pacifists and those who are nonpacifists - hold in common is the belief that peace is something that has to be pursued; that peace is not something that just happens; that- peace is not just an absence of war temporarily; but that peace is something which must be fought for and as much spent on fighting for it as is spent on defence so-called.

I hope that, in the future, we shall see governments in this world spending as much on trying to bring about the conditions in which peace will prevail as they spend at present on preparations for war. I hope that we will see leadership given throughout the world by churches which are unique - or which ought to enjoy a unique position - in that they have within their membership people of all possible colours and of every nation. They ought to be able to have a feeling of patriotism that is above that of the nation and which will lead them to try to reach across barriers and understand instead of the patriotism of nationalism which builds up pride only in one's nation and a feeling of superiority over people of a different nation, because this is one of the causes of strife within the world. I believe in patriotism to something higher - patriotism to the world. 1 believe that patriotism which is born of the love of all men ought to be something to which we should aspire rather than that narrow patriotism of love of nation to which we are born. I believe that patriotism to one's nation is important but that it is secondary to our love of all men and our love to the world as a whole.

Therefore I believe that the National Service Act has been, from its very beginnings, unjustifiable on many grounds. It is unjustifiable on economic grounds, on the ground of the suffering it causes to people, on the ground that it takes from our nation men who are in the position where they can use their newly attained skills in trades and professions and on the ground of the suffering it brings to the few families that are involved. I hope that our amendment will be accepted, or failing that, that within the next 12 months we will see supporters of the Liberal-Country Parties on the Opposition benches and members of the Opposition on the Government benches. When that stage is reached we will have sufficient numbers to wipe conscription legislation off the statute book and we will leave it off the statute book until a situation arises - if it ever does arise - such as that which arose in 1941, and only under such circumstances would we re-introduce legislation of this kind.

Debate (on motion by Mr Irwin) adjourned.







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