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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1670

Mr DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat.

Mr Foster - I have. But I will deal with him on the adjournment.

Mr JESS - Reverting to the amendment, I do not think it is necessary to say much more in respect to the speech of the honourable member for Hunter. I personally oppose the amendment. The Labor Party is in effect moving that conscription should terminate early in 1972. The effect of that would be a reduction from 44,000 to 28,000 in the effective strength of the Australian Army.

Mr Collard - Rubbish.

Mr JESS - It is not rubbish. That is in fact what the Labor Party is proposing. The Regular Army component is 28,000.

We have at present an Army of 44,000. If conscription is to be cut out next year, which is what the Labor Party has recommended, it will be found that that is all the requirement we will have at that time.

Mr Collard - Rubbish.

Mr JESS - Opposition members are like parrots. Mr Deputy Chairman, I would like your protection because too many parrots can be offensive. If the Labor Party believes that 28,000 men are all that are required for the Army in the situation in which Australia finds itself today, that is fair enough, but nobody on this side of the chamber believes that that is so. The military advisers, who, 1 suggest, might know not much perhaps, but a fraction more than the honourable member for Hunter and the honourable member for Sturt, contend that in today's strategic situation we require 40,000 men in the Army.

Surely one cannot say that in a nation such as ours an Army of 40,000 men is very great. One cannot say that in the circumstances which could confront us in this area an Army of 40,000 men is overstrong. But to repeat what I said yesterday, if one takes out of an Army of 28,000, the logistic, reserve and other non-offensive units and support components, one could be left with little more than 3 battalions. So in fact the Labor Party is saying that all we need for. the defence of Australia is an Army of 3 battalions. This is quite ridiculous. I remember the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) saying that he could defend Australia by stationing something like one soldier at 100 mile intervals around Australia. I do not know whether he was serious. Without any doubt, on the advice of our military advisers, we contend that at the present time we require national service. Therefore, we intend to vote for its retention until, perhaps, an alternative scheme is devised. I oppose the amendment.

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