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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1687

Mr BARNARD (Bass) - I move:

Omit all words after the word 'deemed', insert to end on that date'

The purpose of this amendment is to secure the release from gaol of the 3 young men who are presently serving sentences for their refusal to take part in the Vietnam conflict. The 3 young men are Charles Martin, who was sentenced to 2 years gaol on 25 th September 1970; Geoffrey Mullen, who was sentenced on 22nd March; and Garry Cook, who was sentenced as late as 27th August 1971, 9 days after the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made his formal announcement in this Parliament of Australia's withdrawal from Vietnam. The sheer fact that these men are prepared to serve 2 years in gaol must surely provide ample evidence of the conscientious nature of their objection to serving in Vietnam. With the withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam now under way there can be no reason in morality or logic for continuing their detention. Indeed, the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock), as reported in the Australian' on 25th September of this year, has said that no national serviceman has been posted to Vietnam since the final withdrawal announcement if he has objected to the assignment. How then can anyone be kept in gaol for objecting to the same assignment?

Charles Martin was gaoled in September last year for refusing to comply in any way with the National Service Act. He made it clear that his refusal was because of his objection to the Vietnam war. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) earlier in the debate tonight, when speaking to one of the other amendments that I had proposed, disputed the fact that Charles Martin had a conscientious objection to a particular war - the Vietnam war. I said then that Charles Martin had made a statement which was printed in the Adelaide 'Advertiser'. The Minister said that Charles Martin had a wider objection to conscription. This is what Charles Martin had to say in a statement which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser': 1 am sure an Australian military presence in

Vietnam is not in the interests of peace, freedom or democracy for the people of Vietnam, but on the contrary in the interests of injustice and privilege. It is brutalising and embittering all combatants as well as uncommitted sections of the populace.

In the face of this statement by Charles Martin which was made not under duress but after having given full consideration to the penalties that would be imposed on him if he expressed a conscientious objection - if I may use that expression - to a particular war, it is quite clear that Charles Martin, as in the other cases, has this objection to a particular war. We are about to relinquish our responsibility in Vietnam. As 1 have pointed out, Charles Martin will still be serving a sentence in a South Australian gaol after the last of the Australian troops have returned from Vietnam. Charles Martin made it clear that his refusal to comply with the Act was because of his objection to the Vietnam war. In the typed statement which he made available to the Adelaide 'Advertiser' and which I have just read to the House he said that he had a conscientious objection to a particular war.

Likewise, both Geoff Mullen and Gary Cook have made it plain that their consciences would not allow them to participate in the Vietnam war. I think the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) has previously made out a very cogent case for Charles Martin being accorded the same treatment as Bruce Ross. I do not think there is anyone on this side of the House who would not agree with the case which was put by the honourable member for Adelaide in respect of this matter. Upon the intervention of the former Minister for Labour and National Service, Bruce Ross was released after serving 11 months of his 2-year gaol sentence. Charles Martin has now served 12 months of his sentence. As I understand the situation, remissions for good behaviour should allow him to be released as soon as this legislation is passed. This situation arises from the reduction in sentence from 2 years to 18 months which is inherent in this Bill's reduction of the term for national service training from 2 years to 18 months.

However, I feel the analogy to the Bruce Ross case could be extended to the cases of Martin and Cook. It would be an unhappy conclusion to Australia's involvement in the Vietnam conflict if 2 young men remained in gaol after the last troops had returned from Vietnam. Both Mullen and Cook refused to comply with the law in any way. Because of conscientious beliefs they felt that they could not apply for exemption under the Act. Honourable members opposite may find this paradoxical and difficult to understand, but they should not presume to judge the conscience of others. At a time when the end of the Vietnam war is in sight it is monstrous that 2 men who pushed their objection to the war to the hilt should remain in prison. There is no need for the Government to pursue its vindictive course against these 2 men at a time when the folly of the Vietnam commitment is clearly exposed. They should be released immediately.

This is not the first occasion that 1 have taken the opportunity to put this case in the House on behalf of those who have expressed an opinion in relation to an objectionable war. If this amendment is defeated, probably it will not be the last occasion. Because they held that opinion they were prepared to accept the consequences of a 2-year gaol sentence. They held a moral objection to what they believed was an unjust war. I believe that this war is drawing to an end so far as the Australian commitment is concerned. It would be morally wrong for this Government to leave these 3 young men in gaol when the Australian commitment has ended in Vietnam. The purpose of this amendment is to seek the release of these 3 young men. Again I believe in all conscience that the Government ought to accept this amendment, do the honourable thing and release these 3 men from gaol.

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