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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1602

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I shall try to follow the example of the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) by being brief in speaking to the amendments before the House tonight. All thinking persons could do nothing but agree to the increase in the amount of money that is to be made available, because we all know that the cost of housing and other things has increased rapidly over recent years. Furthermore, the granting of eligibility for service homes to those persons who in the past were prepared to volunteer for overseas service but did not get a guernsey is something which also meets with my approval. This applies equally to a number of other aspects of the Bill.

I would like to refer to the introduction of a completely new system which provides that if a person joins the Army for a period of 3 years he becomes eligible at the end of that time for what was previously known as a war service loan. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), the previous Minister for Repatriation, spoke a lot of sense earlier tonight when he referred to the history of war service loans. Personally I begrudge nobody a low interest loan, but I wonder what is behind this measure. I wonder what motivates this new Government. It parades itself as a government of generosity, a government which is out to help people; but I would suggest that in the defence forces morale has become so low that the Government considers that if it does not initiate a form of a bribe the number of members in our armed forces will, by the lime of the next election, fall so drastically from the number at the time of the last election that is will prove a complete and utter embarrassment. The Liberal Government found that in an economy in which there was full employment it was hard to attract people to the Army. The Australian Labor Party is so hellbent on destroying everything good and perhaps not so good that stood previously that it has resorted to anything. Honourable members opposite jump a little when I say that morale is low. Is it any wonder when one looks at the 'Australian' and other Australian newspapers in which this week one could have seen a photograph on the front page of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) sitting under a North Vietnamese flag? It was a disgraceful affair. He was happily seated under a North Vietnamese flag with a bunch of communists from another country.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, it is possible that you may have been distracted, but I think every honourable member might share the view that the honourable member for Griffith is straying well away from the Bill and is engaging in a personal attack on another Minister about matters which do not have a direct relevance to the Bill. I think it would be in order, Mr Speaker, for you to ask the honourable member to speak more effectively in terms of the debate.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to keep to the Bill before the Chair. The honourable member is quite aware of what it is.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I was trying to explain how the new Government has resorted to measures such as this to try to fill the vacuum it has created by its attitude to various foreign affairs matters and to the Army in general. The Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) referred to just one Minister whose photograph appeared in the Press. If he had gone to the parliamentary dining room tonight he would have seen a great number of his colleagues entertaining all these North Vietnamese while their counterparts back in South-East Asia are killing hundreds and hundreds of Cambodians.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Mr Speaker, the honourable member is defying your ruling by his extension of the argument he was giving earlier.

Mr SPEAKER - 1 was distracted for a moment. I do not know what the honourable gentleman said, but I would ask him to keep within the context of the Bill.

Mr Holten - Mr Speaker, I want to take a point of order in relation to the point of order taken by the Minister for Housing. No one was more irrelevant than the Minister in relation to any Bill when he was in Opposition.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! That is no point of order; it is a point of view.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I will not refer to that matter because it is obvious that it is a very soft spot. It is the underbelly of the Government. It is good to see that there are some honourable members on the Government side who have had a sense of outright shame when they have witnessed something of this nature. It was pointed out that the cost of this measure will be well in excess of $400m. The Government is giving money away as if it were going out of fashion. It is to be hoped that this enticement, which could well have the effect of encouraging people into the Army, will allow the Government to keep its earlier promise to the people of Queensland that if it was elected on 2nd December it would station another battalion in Townsville in north Queensland. That promise has since been denied in this Parliament because the numbers in the Army are plummeting.

Tonight we are talking about this new Defence Service Homes Bill. I wish to refer to what I regard us a fair thing and what I regard as an unfair thing and to what the people of Australia or, more importantly, the recipients of these benefits think about what this new Government is doing. Shortly after the election 1 received a phone call from a young man who said to me: 'Well, they are in now. I am a national serviceman. I am due out early in January. Will I qualify for a war service home?' 1 made certain inquiries and came back to him and said: 'According to predictions, you will.' He said: 'Well, I do not feel very proud to qualify under this system.' 1 said: 'Do not worry about it too much. At 3i per cent I would not have too many feelings like that.'

One should look at the contribution that has been made by the men in the past. This new Government has come in and, with gay abandon, has thrown the old system to the wind and is bringing in a system which will effectively drive young Australians to join tha armed services. I feel confident that, while it may be some form of attraction to some people, if the Government thinks that young Australians today can be so easily bought it is wrong. Measures such as this will not improve our armed services. We need the method which the previous Government tried and used. It has been proved beyond doubt that, without the previous system, we can not keep our armed services up to the required and satisfactory number.

In conclusion 1 would like to reiterate my earlier point that, having seen the 'Australian' last week and having seen the North Vietnamese, who are still plundering and murdering the Cambodians today, being feted by members of the Government, I think it is no wonder that the morale in the Australian armed forces is low. It is no wonder the Government has to expend nearly half a thousand million dollars to keep the servicemen there.

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