25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay: took the chair at 5 a.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from 24th May (vide page 2067), on motion by Dr. Forbes -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- It is with disgust that I rise at this hour of the morning to speak on such an important Bill. I have to address remarks to the Government, which I do not like doing because I thought that the Government had a sense of decency and that it would never do such a thing as to oblige us in these circumstances to discuss the lives of men who are about to serve overseas. It is all right for the Government to be continually throwing muck across to this side of the chamber and pointing out what it did and what we have done.
– The honorable member is making this up.
– I am not making this up at all. Does the Minister think that it is right to debate this most important subject after being 19i hours on our feet? Does he think that he is such a superman as to have his wits about him in these conditions? This is the most important matter that has come before the House in the past two decades. I think that the Government should be ashamed of itself. However, it has been left to us to speak about the gallant men who are going to do something for this country. Whatever I can say on their behalf I shall be very proud to say, and I should like to hear some remarks from the Government on the subject. Since this Bill was introduced, two Ministers have spoken. The first was the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), a defence Minister, who spoke for 10 minutes. He was followed by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who did just a little better. He made his contribution on behalf of the Government in the same way as did the Minister for Supply, in relation to the gallant men who are about to go overseas, but he spoke for 14 minutes. Who will follow after I have spoken?
The Government’s policy on defence, established over the past 12 months, has been most inconsistent, and has been very hard to follow. I just want to trace what has happened over the past 12 months in order to point out the mistakes that have been made. The House will remember that during the Budget debate on 20th August last the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) got up and pointed out to the House reasons why conscription was not required in this country. So that the minds of the people may be refreshed, and so that those who have been called up will also have in their minds what the Government’s policy was then, I propose to refer to what the Minis1 er said on that occasion and then to take it a little further and refer to what was said during the debate on other Bills that have come before this House.
The Minister for the Army is reported at page 437 of “ Hansard “ as having said this on 20th August 1964-
It has been said time and time again by the Government that we base our defence planning on a cold war - limited war situation and, furthermore, that we relate this particular situation to the possibility of conflict in the South East Asian area. I have never heard anybody seriously dispute that we should do that, yet sometimes, it seems to me that a good deal of the criticism assumes some other basis.
Much of the criticism assumes, for instance, that Armageddon is just around the corner, that we should be basing our defence planning, for example, on the belief that we are in imminent danger of attack or invasion. As I. say we base our planning on a forward posture in a cold war - limited war situation in South East Asia.
Those were the thoughts of the Minister for the Army so recently as August of last year. On that occasion, he went on to say -
Let me mention particular figures. Today we have a strength of approximately 24,000. Our target for early 1967 is 28,000. We expect and hope that we will be able to make up this leeway; that we will achieve our planned target by 1967, partly as a result of the improved pay and conditions of service. Let us not concentrate entirely on the pay. Conditions of service are probably even more important than pay, especially our decision to do away with the housing backlog in the Services within three years.
I might ask what has happened in connection with overtaking the housing backlog after 12 months. I hope the Minister will let us know exactly what has been done. On page 438 of “ Hansard “, the Minister is reported as having said -
Even if we do not achieve it, we shall not be far from it. In any case, as honorable members will know, the Government has made a decision to amend the Defence Act to provide for a Regular Army Emergency Reserve which will be well able to fill any gap that is left.
In August of last year, the Minister was telling the country that the Regular Army Emergency Reserve would, to use his own words, “fill any gap that is left”. But, later on, I shall tell the House something about what happened down in Hobart, when a declaration was made that there was no intention whatsoever of having conscription in this country, as is clear from the statement by the Minister for the Army that he would be able to fill any gap which was left. Further on in his spech of 20th August 1964, the Minister said -
The Australian Army - I cannot emphasise this too strongly - is not just the Australian Regular Army. It is an army of much greater size, organised on the basis of two divisions. I am sure most honorable gentlemen will agree that in the current situation an army of two divisions is a very creditable contribution by a country of Australia’s size. I repeat that the Australian Army is not just the Australian Regular Army. It is an army of much greater size consisting of the Regular Army and Citizen Military Forces components.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear that interjection from my guardsman friend. Further on in his speech, the Minister for the Army made this point -
The C.M.F. is thus an integral part of our response to a limited war situation. In considering our response to a limited war situation it is quite wrong just to concentrate attention on the regular element of our one army.
Let me put the point another way, If we doubled the size of the A.R.A. tomorrow it would not all be in the same formation. You would not have a Regular Army division on the one hand and a couple of C.M.F. divisions on the other band. If we decided to double the size of the Regular Army part of it would be integrated with the C.M.F. in each of the formations that were created. This is a new concept in Australia, but I suggest that it makes sense. It enables us to utilise the unique virtues of the citizen soldier, who is so much a part of the Australian tradition.
In less than 12 months that great Australian tradition has been altered. In a later part of his speech the Minister stated that what the Government had done in relation to the Army had been done on the highest military advice. If all of this has been done on the highest military advice and the Government even then has seen fit to introduce conscription, that has not been done on the highest military advice. It has been done on political advice. Honorable members can see the confusion which reigns. One moment, things are done on the highest military advice. Then we see a completely new concept. Men are conscripted. On whose advice was that decision made? Of course, it was made on nothing more than political advice. The Minister, then, is reported on page 439 of “ Hansard “ as follows -
The Government has emphasised the new role of the C.M.F. - their unique role in the Australian defence picture - by making a concession to C.M.F. members which very few people in the community enjoy, namely, the exemption of their pay from income tax.
I want to say something about that aspect. That was one of the good points in the Minister’s speech. It was also part of Labour’s policy enunciated in the general election campaign. One plank of our platform was that if we were elected, the pay of members of the C.M.F. would be exempted from income tax. At a later stage of the Minister’s speech the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) interjected and asked -
Then why have you not introduced national service training?
The Minister replied -
We have not introduced it because to do so would be against the unanimous advice of our military advisers. Why do our military advisers give that advice, and why do we accept it? Last night the honorable member for Bradfield rather mocked at the proposition that any government should pay heed to or accept the advice of its military advisers in such matters. I do not agree with him on this, but just to make the point 1 will canvass the kind of advice which the Government’s military advisers have given.
This advice is partly the result of their assessment of the requirements of the current situation and the adequacy of our forces to meet it. Can we meet the current situation without re-introducing a national service training scheme? This is a matter that our advisers have attempted to assess. Their advice also is partly the result of their assessment of the adequacy of our forces to meet the situation if national service training were introduced. Would the forces be less adequate? Would they be more adequate? Would the’ indroduction of such a scheme make no difference? A proper answer to these questions springs from a knowledge of the defects of the national service training scheme.
Even in August the Government was not sure of itself because it was talking about defects in the national service training scheme. But eventually the Government did introduce national service training. The Minister also said -
As to the adequacy of our regular force to meet the requirements of the current cold war situation, let me emphasise that in strength it is down by a few thousand, not by tens of thousands as is sometimes suggested. It is down from 28,000 to 24,000. This is hardly a situation calling for Herculean expedients or undue panic. In terms of efficiency, equipment and availability, the Australian Regular Army completely meets the requirements. In relation to the current requirement of the A.R.A. - highly trained, readily available forces - national service has certain military disadvantages.
There the Minister was talking about the disadvantages of national service. He made quite a point of them. He went on to say -
First, it involves a very large turnover in individuals and units which has a great effect on efficiency to perform allotted tasks. Remember that a national service trainee serves for a maximum of two years, whereas the normal term of engagement for a regular soldier is six years.
Evidently, the period of six years must have been somewhere in the back of the Minister’s mind, because now the Government has found it necessary to increase from two years to five years the time for which a national serviceman may serve. I hope that the Government will explain to the nation why, although from August to October, when another statement was made, this sort of thing was not contemplated -
– It was contemplated.
– Why did not the Government say that at the time?
– We did say it. If the honorable member will read my second reading speech on the National Service Bill 1964, he will see that I said it in explicit and absolute terms.
– With great respect to the Minister for Labour and National Service, I point out that he is not a Service Minister. Surely the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Supply, the Minister for the Army, Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Air are the people who specialise in these matters.
– But I introduced the National Service Bill.
– Order! I ask the Minister to assist the House and the Chair by refraining from interjecting.
– I do not mind the Minister interjecting, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that he will now stand up and explain to the nation just what was meant by the National Service Bill that he introduced. The Minister for the Army did not understand it in August. The Minister for the Army also said -
A national service training scheme is not a source of long-service officers, non-commissioned officers, technicians, tradesmen, specialists and instructors. These are the people who are scarcest at the present time, and it is precisely these people who would be diverted from their current operational roles by the necessity to train national servicemen.
In other words, the attributes to which we attach the greatest importance - readiness, efficiency, availability - would be substantially reduced by a national service scheme on any worthwhile scale in the circumstances existing at present.
Could we get from the Government any clearer statement than that on its ideas about the situation? Then, without consulting the people, the Government changed the whole position.
– What about the Minister’s October speech?
– The Minister found it necessary to go to Hobart and deliver a speech to the National Congress of the Returned Servicemen’s League. I do not want him to be upset by what I am saying, because what happened was not his fault. He has convictions. He is a true man, as the people in New Guinea say. He went to Hobart because he had a conviction. At the R.S.L. National Congress in Hobart he made a speech which undoubtedly shocked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). Because the Minister was so pleased with the speech that he made in Hobart and because he wanted everyone to know the thoughts of the Government on national service training, he circulated copies of his speech. Every member of this House received a copy of the speech, because copies were put in our boxes. At the time the Minister went to Hobart there was great concern among the R.S.L. branches and among certain Government supporters because national service training had not been introduced. The Minister no doubt felt it incumbent upon him to put the matter straight and he did so in a speech to the R.S.L. National Congress on 26th October 1964. I am quoting what the Minister said to show that he was consistent in his beliefs about what should be done with conscription and national service training. I have quoted what he said in August and now I quote what he said in October -
I could perhaps say, however, that we have not introduced conscription up to this point in time because our military advisers have indicated in the clearest and most unmistakable terms that it is not the most effective way of creating the Army we need to meet the situation we face. I stress that this is military advice.
These things have to be explained. I will admit that in the last month or so the war in South Vietnam has increased in tempo, but a war was raging when the Minister said this. Australia was in about as much danger then as it is in now, although the danger may be increasing now. The nation must be told why the Government had the view it had in August and in October and why it suddenly changed that view the Minister also said -
First, even a scheme which provides for a two year period of service does not provide the people we most need, that is experienced officers and NCO’s and specialists. These are the people we are short of now. The deficiency would be even greater if conscription were introduced.
Secondly, it is wasteful in the sense that you only get about 18 months’ service out of each person you train compared with 5½ years’ service for most Regulars. It is worth noting that as a result of conscription, the U.S. has the equivalent of II divisions in the “ pipeline “ training or in transit at any one time. This to support an Army of 16 front line divisions.
He went further and he said - and this is important -
I should point out that it is for reasons like this that the British abandoned their scheme.
He was referring to the British conscription scheme. He also said -
Many people seem to be of the opinion that conscription would solve all our problems. I think
I have said enough already to indicate clearly and unmistakably that it would not.
It is on this that I challenge the Government, Why was it that a few months ago conscription would not solve our problems and why has the Government now introduced conscription? These matters need clarifying.
– I think the honorable member would do a service by reading the next paragraph.
– I think so. As I said earlier, I am not trying to deliberately embarrass the Minister. He was genuine in his efforts to explain to the country just what was needed. We must be told why the Prime Minister reversed the Minister’s decision. That kind of thing has happened so many times in respect of so many matters. It happened over a shipping matter involving a couple of tankers. It happened over the restrictive trade practices legislation. The Prime Minister has had to intervene to put things right. As the Minister has suggested, I will read the next paragraph of his statement. It reads -
So, conscription or no conscription, we are still faced with a major problem. How do we persuade young men of at least average ability that the Army is a worthwhile career? This is the difficult problem, the challenging problem - not conscription, which is a problem which can be solved by the simple process of amending a few Acts of Parliament -
It is a simple process all right. We are amending those acts now and in great haste. We are amending them in indecent haste. Conscription should not be dealt with under the Defence Act, which has been on the statute book for many years. Conscription should be dealt with under an act known as the Conscription Act 1965. People wanting to know something about the conscription legislation then would not need to go through the Defence Act, which refers also to such matters as war medals and ribbons. Why is it that these acts are not made clearer?
I could spend all my time talking about promises made by the Government, but I would like to say something about the Naval Defence Bill. It is time something was done, either in the Defence Act or the Naval Defence Act, to make clear just what is the present naval discipline code. No publication is available to which a member may go to ascertain which legislation deals with naval discipline. The Australian naval discipline code is at present contained in the Imperial Act. It is time we had our own code of discipline. This would be the democratic way of doing things. After all, naval personnel helped to elect us to office. They vote for their members of Parliament and it is the duty of their members to make the laws of the country. It is because these people have helped to vote us into office that we are in a position to make laws. These people have an opportunity to write to us and point to discrepancies in the laws. But as I said, at present we find our naval discipline code in the Imperial Act, which reads -
An Act to make provision for the discipline of the Navy and for other purposes connected with the Navy, dated 31st July 1957.
Whereas it is expedient to amend the laws relating to the government of Her Majesty’s Navy, whereon under the good providence of God the wealth, safety and strength of the Kingdom so much depend, be it enacted by the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in this present Parliament assembled and by the authority of the same as follows:
Australia came of age quite a long time ago. I have a great regard for the people of Great Britain, but members of Parliament in Great Britain have no right to make laws governing our Navy. We must make the laws ourselves in this country. I hope our war lords or Service Ministers will have a look at these matters and put them straight. On the few occasions when the provisions of the Act are referred to in a court, great concern is caused to those people who try to find the relevant provision in Australian publications. They have to look for them in the English Act, and I say that this is wrong.
Another item that arises in the Defence Bill relates to the protection of military decorations. In ‘his second reading speech, the Minister for the Army said -
The present law contained in the Defence Act relating to military decorations is defective in relation to the control over the manufacture and sale of these items and is difficult to enforce. The amendment to the Defence Act will remedy this situation by giving the Minister for Defence, full control over the manufacture and sale of military decorations, and the conditions relating to them.
That would seem to mean that the Minister will be given control over medals and decorations. This year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Anzacs at Gallipoli and we missed a great opportunity when we did not grant a medal to the men who gave such gallant service. We would not be out of place in awarding a medal, because we minted our own Australian defence medal at the end of the last war. [Extension of time granted.] I was speaking about Australian awards and decorations. It would appear to me that the Government has ample opportunity to do something for the men who served on Gallipoli. It is not too late for a medal to be issued to honour the promise that was made to these men so long ago. It is wrong that we should let this opportunity pass.
While I am speaking about medals and decorations, I want it to be clearly understood that I am not against them; I am for them. But I think it is time that we had a look at what has happened in this country. For some years now we have dropped the idea of the British Empire and we are now the Commonwealth of Nations. Some of the medals and decorations that are issued have no connection with this country. I think it is high time that we had our own awards and decorations.
– Order! I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Defence Bill is under the control of the Minister for the Army.
– I want to draw attention to some of the awards that are now granted. We still make awards known as the Order of the British Empire, Member of the British Empire, Officer of the British Empire, Commander of the British Empire and the British Empire Medal.
There is no such place at the present time and it appears to me to be wrong still to be issuing such decorations and awards in Australia when the British Empire, as we knew it, no longer exists. I am sad when I realise that it does not now exist, but it does not.
When an act of gallantry is performed at sea in Australian waters, it is wrong to give the man who performed that act a British Empire Medal. We should have our own medal to give him. Why should a man who performs an act of gallantry in Australia get a British Empire Medal when some typist - I do not say she does not deserve it - or someone else may get a similar medal? I know there is a slight difference between the civil and military medals and I am grateful to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) for bringing this to my attention. I received a letter in regard to this matter, and I know that there is a clasp around the medal.
If it is a medal of the military division there is a white stripe in the middle of the ribbon, instead of it beng a crimson ribbon with a grey stripe on each side. I do not wish to see these medals and decorations done away with, but I do not think it is appropriate to issue a British Empire Medal for something which happens in Australian waters. It just does not go along at all.
The Minister for Supply - the most important Minister in this House - spoke for 10 minutes during the debate and that was his only contribution to this discussion on the defence of Australia. His speech was followed by one lasting fourteen minutes by the Minister for Territories. In the course of his speech the Minister for Supply gave the impression that we should be very thankful for the fact that he is about, but what have he and the Minister for Territories done for this country in the 15 years during which this Government has been in office? The Government has gambled with the safety of Australia. War clouds have been gathering on shores near to us, but the Government has taken a risk and has now been caught. Consequently, something has to be done and done rapidly. We are told that our new defence forces will be ready by 1967 or 1968. I hope we have time to wait for them and that we will be able to use them.
What is going wrong in this country is caused by the Government’s gambling with our security. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) pointed out the wonderful defence effort that has been made by Sweden. I have previously mentioned in this House the fact that when the last war finished we had a pretty elementary aircraft industry in Australia. We had reached the stage of manufacturing the Boomerang aircraft. It was not a very great aircraft but was a fighter aircraft of a type, and I am glad to say that we manufactured Mosquitoes, too. But at that time, in 1945, we were just that much further ahead than Sweden, with our know-how in aircraft manufacture.
We do not manufacture aircraft today, and Sweden is now credited with making the finest fighter aircraft in the world. This Government should never have dropped the manufacture of aircraft. It should have got on with the plan and let us build up our defences, because we cannot rely on other people supplying our needs in this respect. I think the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) knows this, because he is greatly concerned, as he has shown by his speeches in this House, about the stuff we must get from overseas. This is something which has left on my mind a scar which I suppose will be there for life, because I have seen so many ships carrying supplies of war to other countries torpedoed and going to the bottom. I have seen - I do not say this in a spirit of heroics - aircraft lashed on ships’ decks and going to the bottom. Yet we, in this country, have not learned the lesson that we must build our own defences. We can build our own defence equipment, but we have never been encouraged to do so.
– The Government thinks it can buy the equipment.
– It has been the policy of the Government to buy everything we want. We are such a wealthy country that we can go around the world’s markets and say, “ We will have this and we will have that.” That is what we have done in the United States of America, from which country we are getting three destroyers. I admit they are good destroyers and I am not making any reflection on the quality of them, but when the destroyers get here they will have to spend six months in Australian dockyards having our own modern equipment installed in them. This shows that we can in Australia provide our own defence equipment. We have built our own ships and we should continue to build our own ships. We should continue to allow our artisans to improve and increase with a modern industry. We should not let them drift away to other industries.
– Great Britain is buying similar equipment to what we are buying.
– Yes, and it is very good equipment. I am also intrigued by the things that are left out of this Bill. It says nothing about conscription or national service for the Navy or the Air Force. This measure covers only conscription for the Army. I do not know what is going to happen if an emergency ever breaks out. The Air Force says that it does not want national servicemen to be trained as airmen, but we must train airmen to a certain standard so that they can receive a little extra training in a time of emergency and so take their places in our forces. We have been told that it is not considered desirable to train reserves for the Navy, but I suggest that we should reconsider our decision in this regard.
I have always been puzzled by the way in which our merchant navy has been neglected in the matter of training. It takes years and years to train a man for the Navy, to teach him how to act in time of conflict, but nobody ever seems to care whether the man in the merchant navy gets any training or instruction. When the last war was about to break out somebody said that we should grab a few of the members of the merchant navy, take them to Woolloomooloo and tell them about the 4-in. gun. The only section of our seagoing forces that is looked after in the matter of training is the Navy itself. The merchant navy is a greater force in terms of numbers of personnel than is the Navy. The Navy is trained to protect the merchant navy, but does anybody tell the officers of the merchant navy: “This is the way to carry out this kind of manoeuvre “? No, we do not worry about them, so long as the ships are painted up and the brass is shiny. But come what may, when a war breaks out it always takes three years to train the men who will have to serve in that war.
– Order! The honorable member’s extension of time has expired.
Question put -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr, Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority .. .. 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together.
.- Speaking to clause 4 of the Bill which seeks to amend section 4 of the principal Act in the first instance, I wish to draw the attention of the House to some of the provisions of the present section. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) in his speech in the second reading debate referred to some of the odd deficiencies, as one might call them, in our appreciation of our own position resulting from the retention of the Imperial Act as applying to the Australian Forces. In the first instance, we have the Air Force Act. This means the Imperial Act called the Air Force Act as in force on the day on which the Air Force Act 1939 came into operation and as applied in relation to the Air Force and the members of that Force by section 5 of the Air Force Act. Then we turn to the Army Act, which means the Imperial Act called the Army Act as in force on the day on which the Defence Act 1956 came into operation. Finally, a naval, military or Air Force offence means an offence against the Army Act, the Naval Discipline Act or the Air Force Act.
In this legislation some fundamental changes are made in the legal position of Australian servicemen and in the legal duties of people to serve this country. The legislation confers upon the Executive almost absolute power over all citizens between 18 and 60 years of age. Yet we still find that there is no body of legal knowledge readily obtainable with regard to this subject. It is quite nonsensical that a sovereign country such as our own claims to be - and as, indeed, all of us would wish it to be - still retains these relics of a colonial past. I am surprised that at a time such as this the Government has taken, no action in relation to the application of the Imperial Acts to the Australian forces. That is the first point I wish to make. Australia is a sovereign nation, with sovereignty conferred by the Statute of Westminster and the operations of our imperial relationships in the past. There is no cause for the retention of Imperial Acts as applicable to Australian servicemen. I realise that it would not be easy to alter the position. It would mean a good deal of homework no doubt, and a good deal of draftsmanship.
Let us assume that this moment we wanted to find all the laws, rules, regulations and so on which apply to our servicemen. Would we be able to get this body of information from the Papers Room at this hour, or at any hour for that matter? If we are going to create a defence system of our own, we want a body of defence law that applies in Australia, that has been created by Australia and for which this Parliament is responsible. The laws should be laws created and amended by this Parliament. They should be obtainable in one body of law, easily accessible to all those who serve.
I remind honorable members that the legislation with which we are dealing is not ordinary legislation. It lays claim to the services of every male citizen between the ages of 18 and 60. It not only asks that people serve inside this country, but it imposes upon them an obligation to serve outside. I suppose that in many ways this is the most far reaching legislation that has ever come before an Australian Parliament. It imposes the absolute limit of obligations on every male citizen. It ought, therefore, to have been examined to discover the fundamental relationships involved, and it ought to have been placed before this Parliament in a proper manner.
There is not much point, I suppose, in reiterating what my friend the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) has said, namely, that it is a disgrace that we are asked to consider this legislation in this way. I agree with the honorable member that we are dealing with the lives and the potential security both of servicemen and of the nation. I hope that if there is any conscience left in honorable members opposite, they will pay due regard to their responsibilities in the future. I only hope that the citizens of this country will take due note of the way in which this operation has been carried out.
I should like the Minister to give us an explanation of clause 5 of the Defence Bill, in relation to the service of officers. Before referring to sub-section (4.) of proposed new section 10a, I must say that I am becoming a little bedazzled by the proliferation of sections, arms, services, reserves, supplements and so on. This is one of the factors which has bedevilled the Australian Defence Forces in the past. Proposed sub-section (4.) provides -
If the period of service in the Australian Regular Army or in the Regular Army Supplement for which an officer was appointed, or for which the term of his appointment is, under this section, to be deemed to have been extended expires during a time of defence emergency . . .
Admittedly, a defence emergency is difficult to define. It is rather a vague term. The term is used in the Act, but I cannot find any actual definition of what it means. I presume that this is one of those things that we have to face, anyhow, as a nation and which the Minister will not be able to define explicitly. Proposed new section 10a (4.) continues - or a time for which any part of the Regular Army Emergency Reserve is called out for continuous service, the term of his appointment as an officer of the Australian Regular Army or of the Regular Army Supplement, as the case may be, shall be deemed to be extended until the end of that time.
This has been one of the problems which has beset the Army in recent times. I refer particularly to the Army because it seems to be there that cases have occurred - there have been some instances in the Navy too - where people’s terms of service have suddenly been extended either by the administrative demands of the Service or by executive decree or simply because of certain needs flowing from a falling off of enlistment in the service. I have been spoken to by numbers of people including citizen force officers, people who are potential national service officers and people who are Regular Army officers about this question. While I know that this particular provision does not cover the whole field and that there are other provisions associated with it scattered throughout the Defence Act and the National Service Act, I would like the Minister to give some definition of what is expected of a serving officer in this matter. Particularly, under what circumstances can we have the Regular Army Emergency Reserve called out for continuous service when there is no defence emergency or state of war. In other words, is this a third field of operations which is in the half world between peace and cold war and a state of emergency and a state of war? I raise this as a serious question hoping that we will be able to find in the records around the place some definition that will assist a serviceman in understanding what his obligations for the future and the present might be.
– The first point raised by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) related to a subject that comes within a revision of the Defence Act. In relation to the point raised by the honorable member concerning the need for a revision of the Act, this has been going on in fact for many, many years now. As the honorable gentleman would appreciate, it is a Herculean task. But this work will produce the result that he desires. We will have the Acts relating to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force together with an overall Defence Act. My colleague, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), gave an undertaking in the Senate, last week I think, that this provision would be brought in either in the next session or the next succeeding session.
– “During the lifetime of the Parliament”, I think the term was.
– Yes. As I said, either in the next session or the succeeding session of this Parliament. On the question of medals raised by the honorable member for Wills and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson), I remind the honorable members that what the Defence Bill does in this respect is to protect medals which have been created. The Bill does not create medals. They are, in fact, created by Royal warrant.
The other point raised by the honorable member for Wills was the question of a definition of the time when the Regular Army Emergency Reserve could be called out. This was clearly indicated when the Defence Act was amended in the last session of Parliament to provide for this part of the Army. The terms then laid down are those which still apply. They are on record. I believe it is not necessary for me to add to that this morning.
.- We are dealing with clauses 1 to 6 of this Bill. I should like the Minister to explain the position in which a national service officer finds himself regarding resignation. Clause 6 states -
Section 17 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub section (2.) the word “ or “ (last occurring); and
by adding at the end of that sub-section the following word and paragraph: - “ ; or (d) the officer would, but for his appointment as an officer, have been liable to render a period of service under the National Service Act 1951-1965.”.
Paragraph (d) is to be added to section 17 of the principal Act. That section states - (1.) An officer of the Military Forces may, by writing under his hand addressed to the Military Board, tender the resignation of his military office, but a resignation shall not be accepted, and is not effective, except as provided by this section. (2.) The Military Board may, without reference to the Governor-General, reject the resignation of an officer if -
I wish to place a matter seriously before the Minister as a question was raised with me by a young man only yesterday. What happens to a young man who, in the course of his national service, becomes an officer or joins up for a time? I realise that in this case part of his service would be covered by the National Service Act and part would be covered by the Defence Act, but where does the national serviceman stand once he becomes a commissioned officer during the course of that service? Does he serve continuously for longer than he would have served had he remained in the ranks, or does he not? I am raising this matter so that the Minister can place on record a statement which will clarify the issue.
– The effect of these amendments in relation to his obligation in every way is to put him in exactly the same position as a national serviceman who is a soldier - no more and no less. Therefore, obviously the provisions of section 17 in relation to resignations have to be qualified to some extent because the national serviceman has an obligation under law to serve full time for two years and for a further period up to a total of five years in particular circumstances. I believe that I have already made the point on which the honorable gentleman is seeking clarification. I have already stated that the obligations of a national service officer are exactly the same as those of a national serviceman soldier.
.- There are two matters that I want to bring under the notice of the Minister. The first is the allowance that is made to soldiers on transfer. I think it will be agreed that it is generally considered throughout the Service that the allowance is inadequate. If an officer or a soldier is to be made an allowance, it should cover at least the cost of his transfer. If a man is granted £80 as a Treasury allowance and the cost of his transfer amounts to £200, obviously there is an injustice. I suggest to the Minister that some attention be given to this point. I have no doubt that he is already aware of it, but if these things drag on for any considerable time, members of the Services become a little uneasy and a little discontented. I ask the Minister to look at this matter when considering his Department’s financial committments for 1965-66.
The second matter to which I refer relates to medals. The Minister has said that medals are issued by Royal warrant. Of course, this is perfectly correct. However, in the transition from an Empire to a Commonwealth there has been a slight change in the Royal title. The Queen is now Queen of Australia as well as Queen of her other Dominions. Her title as Queen of Australia is a separate title. There is no reason why the Royal warrant should not, if required, be issued specifically for Australia. The Australian General Service Medal in the last war apparently was issued specifically for Australia. While mentioning this subject it would be appropriate to bring up again the matter of the Gallipoli Medal. The reasons stated by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) for not issuing this medal are totally inadequate. One reason was that we do not issue medals for defeats. I remind honorable members that the Mons Star was issued and that it differs from the 1914 star by having a different inscription on it. The Mons battles were a defeat. A medal was recently issued by the Belgian Government in commemoration of the battle for Antwerp, which was a defeat.
This medal was issued at the end of a period even longer than that which has expired since the Gallipoli campaign. The British Government has permitted its troops to receive that medal. The claim made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) that it would be inappropriate for Australia to issue a medal for the Gallipoli campaign when no other nations involved had issued one is ill founded. Many years ago the French Government issued a medal to French troops who served in the Gallipoli campaign. It is incorrect also to state that medals have not been issued to commemorate battles that ended in defeat, because, as I have said, medals have been issued in respect of Mons and Antwerp.
The finances of the Government would not have been strained if, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, it had met the wishes of the Returned Servicemen’s League and particularly those who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula and had granted this award to them. Even at this late hour I suggest to the Minister that he should consider this proposal before this jubilee year has expired.
.- I shall not detain the Committee for very long. I want to say a few words about the retirement and resignation of officers. My remarks will apply to members of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. So I shall not raise the matter again when we are considering the Naval Defence Bill and the Air Force Bill. Recently a lot of concern was expressed in the defence forces when a permanent officer resigned. I think that the Government was quite right in its stand on this occasion. When a country spends many thousands of pounds training an officer to degree status and he then decides to get out of the Service and earn bigger money elsewhere, I think the Government is entitled to act as it did in this case. At least, that was the way in which I looked at the matter.
I am not concerned particularly about that matter. I am referring to the retirement or resignation of officers after they have served for many years. An officer of the rank of major or lieutenant-commander who has not made the grade to the next rank by the time he reaches the age of 45 years is automatically retired. I think that is quite wrong. I know that such people cannot be kept in the Service, because if they are retained other people are prevented from obtaining promotion. I suggest that provision should be made in the defence legislation for such officers to be transferred to the Department of Defence at the rate of pay they were receiving when they left the Services of which they were members. That would give them greater security.
I noted, when I was in the Navy, that officers continually studied the promotions list and that when they got near the age of 45 years they wondered whether they would get their brass hat. Their wives were upset and they were upset because they knew that if they did not make the grade by the time they reached that age they would have to leave the Service. The service and capabilities of these people would be of great assistance to the Department of Defence if they were permitted to work in that Department as civilians.
I hope that the Ministers in charge of the defence Services will look at this matter, because the men to whom I am referring are just cast adrift even though they have another 20 years of life in them. It is very difficult to retrain a man 45 years of age who has been in the Services for a long time. The Government would be acting much more humanely if it took action to ensure that these men, when they joined the Services, knew that at the age of 45 years they would have some other job to which they could go. A midshipman who joins the Navy at 14 years of age does not know what it is all about. He takes up the job on his parents’ advice. Not all these men can make the grade and become commanders or captains. The Navy should not cold bloodedly empty out officers who reach the age of 45 years but should find a job for them. I hope that the various Ministers in charge of the defence Services will look into this matter.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 15 - by leave - taken together.
.- It is in clause 7 of this Bill that provision is made for national service trainees to be incorporated in the Regular Army Supplement. The National Service Act already contains such a provision but this clause in the Defence Bill ties the matter up completely.
As I said in my second reading speech, it is possible that the time will come when these trainees are drafted in to the Regular Army Supplement and the Regular Army men may feel some resentment towards them. I think this matter should be pointed out. We do not want an experience such as occurred in the Second World War when there was some unpleasantness between the members of the Militia and members of the Australian Imperial Forces. I have no doubt that the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) has already thought of this matter and has it in hand already. I would like him to assure honorable members that everything is being done to ensue that national service trainees are fitted into these units. This is particularly important as they are liable to go overseas. Everything should be done to see that planning of this type is well organised.
In the group of clauses which we are now considering, there is provision for enlisted soldiers to continue their service in time of war and in time of emergency. National service trainees, of course, are treated under the National Service Act. The point I make is that national service trainees may be required to serve on in a time of emergency. I would like the Minister, if he could, to give the House a more precise definition of what he would describe as a time of emergency. Today we have a battalion in Malaysia, and we have another going to South Vietnam. By amendments to the Defence Act the Government is making provision to call up people under Part IV of that Act.
We are constantly being warned of the seriousness of the position and the Government wishes to have legislation enabling it to send national service trainees overseas. I would like the Minister, if he could, to indicate how the Government would describe the present position and how close it is to a time of defence emergency. The Minister may visualise a deterioration of the position in South Vietnam or Malaysia. It may be that in the very near future the Government may deem that a time of defence emergency exists and this may be gazetted. It would be at that time that national service trainees would be required to soldier on instead of doing two years fulltime training before being transferred to the Reserves to do their part time training. The Opposition understands quite readily that in time of war people could not be discharged but ieds that a little more explanation could be given. I realise that this is probably a question for the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) but if the Minister for the Army, who is in charge of this Bill, could give us a more precise definition than we have, we would appreciate it.
.- Under clause 9, which deals with the discharge of servicemen, there arises an anomaly to which I would like to direct the notice of /he Minister for the Army. When officers reach the age of retirement they are transferred to the Reserve. I know of an instance where a chief ordnance officer, having reached the age of retirement, left the Service and obtained a civilian job. His place was immediately taken by a civilian member of the ordnance staff who was two years older. Apparently the civilian will be permitted to hold this position until the age of 65. This is a rather peculiar situation. Apparently a civilian is permitted to fill this position whereas the man who was a soldier was not permitted to retain it.
Probably this position is peculiar to the Ordnance Service where civilians as well as military officers are employed. I do not know whether the situation arises in the Navy and the Air Force. I know it arises in the Army, because I was a Chief Ordnance Officer. Had I remained in uniform I would not have been permitted to serve beyond a certain age. But had I left the Service and then been appointed as a civilian into the Ordnance Service, I could have remained there. The Minister might give some consideration to this aspect as it causes a little disturbance in the life of a soldier who finds that he is replaced by an older man when he is considered to be over age.
– The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) asked on behalf of the Opposition for an assurance that we would do everything possible to ensure that no friction develops between the national service component of the Army and the full time members of the Australian Regular Army. I think I can give him that assurance as a lot of thought has been given to this question. It has been recognised as a possibility. However, after examining it closely, we believe that with tact and care the right approach by the members of the Australian Regular Army, and a determination to see that it does not arise, we should have very little of this feeling. I think the fact that the servicemen will serve together in the same units, share the same tasks and be subject to the same exertions and risks will very quickly tend to break down any friction. The honorable member for Kingston referred to the friction that occurred at times during World War II between the Militia and the Australian Imperial Force. In this legislation we are trying to eliminate one of the causes of that friction; that is, that members of the A.I.F. enlisted to serve anywhere in the world, whereas many members of the Militia did not. This situation cannot occur again after this legislation is passed.
The honorable member for Kingston asked me whether I could more precisely define “ defence emergency “. The answer is that I cannot, for the reason that was very well stated by Senator McKenna, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, when the term was first incorporated in legislation. He said, referring to the words “defence emergency” -
The latter term is one that I concede may be quite indefinable with any precision. A defence emergency obviously has to be assessed in the light of what are the current facts when the decision about it is made. The facts can change.
I do not think I can put it better than that, but I give the Committee an assurance that any decision to declare a state of defence emergency certainly would not be taken lightly by the Government.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wish to deal with the point raised by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin). The Minister has given a partial explanation of the matter. I recall that during the 1939-45 war it became popular, after Australian Imperial Force troops had returned from the Middle East, to put A.I.F. enlisted men in militia units. At that stage, determined efforts were being made to get members of the militia to enlist in the A.I.F. After a unit composed of both militia and A.I.F. members reached a certain percentage of A.I.F. membership - something like 80 or 90 per cent. - it was regarded as an A.I.F. unit. At the time, most Australian troops were engaged in New Guinea and there were no restrictions on the sending of militia men there. It was my experience at the time that members of the militia were definitely coerced in an effort to get them to join the A.I.F. Militia men were denied promotion to the Tanks of corporal and sergeant if they refused to make the transfer. I am sure that this is the very point that the honorable member for Kingston is getting at. Will these young boys who are called into the Army be coerced into joining the Regular Army? Will the ordinary avenues of promotion be open to them or will they be regarded as second rate soldiers who will be subject to attempt at coercion, with the threat of refusal of promotion, in an endeavour to induce them to become regular soldiers?
– Sir, I think I can answer very briefly the points made by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). The answer to the first is “ No “. National servicemen will not be coerced into joining the Regular Army. We hope that some of them will like the life and decide to continue in the Regular Army. Secondly, without a shadow of doubt, they will have opportunities for promotion and advancement equal to those of ordinary regular soldiers. Indeed, within the first two weeks at recruit training battalions, the current intake, and all future intakes, of national servicemen will be assessed to see which of the trainees have officer potential. Those who have it will be transferred within the first two weeks to an officer training unit at Scheyville, near Richmond, outside Sydney. They will do an intensive six months’ course and, if successful in that course, they will become officers and will serve the remainder of their time in the Army with one pip on their shoulders. We hope and expect that we shall obtain a considerable number of officers from this source. Indeed, some of the amendments to the principal Act provided for in this Bill are to be made for the very reason that, undoubtedly, many national servicemen will become officers.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 16 (Territorial limits of service of Military Forces).
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, this is the clause about which the Opposition feels most strongly. We intend to vote against it. The clause will have the effect of inserting proposed new section 50c in the principal Act. This proposed new section will make it possible to complete the roping in of all available manpower in Australia in time of war. Men called up under the terms of existing section 50c were not previously required to serve overseas unless they volunteered to do so. This proposed section will make it possible for men who have done their national service training to be sent anywhere at all if required after the regular forces and the Reserves have been mobilised. It is strange that action is needed at this time to make them liable for overseas service. They can be called up only in time of war. A proclamation has to be made that a time of war exists. The definition is clear. We had reference to it in the second reading debate and I do not intend to read it again. If a proclamation that a time of war exists is made, this Parliament must be called together within 10 days of such proclamation. I think it is reasonable to assume that in time of war the Parliament would not be waiting for 10 days to be called together. It would be called together within two or three days.
We wonder why it is necessary to enact this particular legislation at this time. Nothing can happen under it. The Government cannot call these people up in time of war without a proclamation. Why has the Government decided to apply this provision to the last manpower available in time of war? Why is it that those very important words “ subject to this section “ have been eliminated, so that the provision is that the military forces may be required to serve either within or beyond the territorial limits of Australia? We should like the Minister to tell us the reason. In time of war this Parliament would have to be called together within 10 days. I am sure that it would be called together within a shorter period. This legislation could go through the Parliament very quickly - I suggest just as quickly as or more quickly than we would get to the stage of requiring these men to register.
Because the Opposition is firmly opposed to conscripting Australian citizens for service overseas, we intend to vote against this provision. I have no intention of repeating the arguments that we put forward in the second reading debate. To make our position quite clear, we shall divide the Committee on this clause.
.- I want to address a few brief remarks to this clause, which the Opposition is opposing. Let me say that every member of the Opposition without any reservation opposes completely the conscription of Australian manpower by the unprecedented method proposed in this provision. We are completely opposed also to the use of Australian forces in Vietnam. I think that the Government should be condemned for using conscript Australian boys in that conflict. The use of these conscripts will be covered completely by this clause. The Government cannot escape the truth of the statement that has been made from time to time that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) went to America, dollars flowed in, Mr. Cabot Lodge came to Australia, and subsequently Australian forces are to go to Vietnam.
Before a clause such as this is enacted, I think that we are entitled to know precisely what documents were signed and what arrangements were made in America by the Treasurer and in Australia by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and Mr. Cabot Lodge. Why are Australian forces, composed of conscript boys covered by this clause, to be engaged in a war which may go on for years and years and years, being committed to it by a government which has said that it is not prepared to negotiate for peace in that conflict. I believe that it is an unprecedented step to conscript these boys by what is, I suppose, the most unjust and unfair method adopted in any country in the world - the ballot system. This is something in relation to which the Government has much to answer for. I do not think that the Government should idly pass over the criticism of the conscripting of Australian men to serve in that area, which criticism is not confined to any particular section of the people or to the Australian Labour movement. I think that the Government will find that there is grave concern amongst the people at the implications of the American economic crisis and the visit of that prominent American to this country, with the announcement almost overnight that we were buying into this war.
The Government has power to conscript every available man in the country but under this clause enemy aliens, as we call them, will be exempt from service. There are one quarter of a million such persons in this country. A proportion of them would be within the age group that comes within the scope of this provision. Yet this Government is conscripting boys from my electorate, and other electorates, and calling upon them to go to Vietman to take part in a conflict about which, as I say, there is a wide difference of opinion in Australia as to whether Australian troops should be committed. And aliens are not called upon unless they desire to volunteer. Why should a man who has lived in this country for years perhaps or is a descendant of people who are making their homes here be completely exempt from the obligation to risk his life in the way this Government is asking our young conscripted boys to do? Why should our boys be conscripted while these people are allowed to escape?
The Minister has written to me and said that aliens are not eligible, that there are constitutional difficulties and that he is investigating the American system. I tell the Minister that I phoned the American authorities here and the gentleman to whom I spoke, and whose name I have-
– Will the honorable member confirm that he did that?
– Yes. I have the man’s name and address on the files. I shall give those particulars to the Minister. He gave me his authority to say that I was advised by him that the minute a person enters America as an alien he becomes liable to be drafted into the armed forces forthwith and, under certain circumstances, could find himself in the American Army the next day.
– In certain circumstances.
– The only certain circumstances that would apply would be that there was a war on when he got there. Such a man is not exempt at all. Yet here, in this country, we will conscript kids from all over Australia, give them beer but not a vote, and send them to Vietnam in what is a very doubtful approach to solving a great international conflict while others who are making their lives here are allowed to stay in the factories, workshops and everywhere else. They should not be allowed to escape their obligations while conscripted Australian boys are required to go overseas, to live, fight and perhaps die. This provision deserves to be condemned for that, if for no other reason.
For my part, I shall never subscribe to the conscription of Australian boys for overseas service. If we are to be involved in Vietnam or anywhere else, only volunteers, not conscripted Australian boys, should go over there. I suggest to this Government it withdraw provisions of this nature which give preference to aliens to enjoy everything that these boys that have been called up to light have enjoyed, while not placing any obligation whatever upon the aliens to serve. I shall give the Minister the name and address of the man at the American Embassy to whom I referred.
At the recent Citizenship Convention held in Canberra it was agreed by the representatives of the returned soldiers organisations and everyone else that new Australians should come within the scope of this legislation immediately after they have been here for a given time. Perhaps if it was not immediately upon the expiration of the period of residence required to qualify for naturalisation it could be some lengthier period. I see no reason why they should escape their obligation.
I record my complete opposition to the conscription provisions in the Australian defence laws and protest at the latest announcement that the Government proposes to conscript Australian boys for service for five years. The Government is doing this under the pretence that we are faced with an emergency, but it does not define that emergency. Only the Menzies Government knows what is meant by an emergency. The action taken by this Government on this occasion is unprecedented and ought to be condemned by every freedom loving Australian.
The reason why this provision becomes necessary is that the Government has not gone the right way about getting the necessary volunteers. It has not appealed to them in the right way. It has not made it worth while for them to be in the Army. Further, the Government has rejected hundreds of volunteers on stupid kinds of tests. For instance, one man announced the other day that he was rejected because he was too fat. Why could he not be asked to reduce a bit in order to get into the forces? What an amazing situation.
On the more serious note, let me say emphatically that I think there is something behind the implications which it is suggested are to be found in the coincidence of Mr. Holt’s arrival in the United States of America and the decision to send our troops to Vietnam. The story told by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) about bodies for bullion and bodies for dollars may still have a lot of substance in it. The people, as well as I, have to be assured about these things. So that my electors and everybody who believes in freedom shall know where I stand I record my complete opposition to the Government’s conscription proposals, the exemption of aliens and the use of Australian forces in Vietnam.
.- Like my friends the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) I am in complete opposition to the 19 simple words in this clause which might well spell all sorts of odd destinies for the best part of some 2i million of Australia’s manhood. This clause applies to everybody. There are some limited exclusions set out in the Act, but this clause covers every Australian adult male between the ages of 18 and 60 years. They are classified as being liable for service, and have imposed upon them a demand to serve overseas. The members of the military forces may be required to serve either within or beyond the territorial limits of Australia. This is a plausible provision. Many people say: “Look at the trouble we got into last time. We had people who could serve here, and we had some who could serve there. We had people who could go so far and no further, and we had others who could serve throughout the wide world.” That was a time of war. But the Defence Act, about which we are speaking now, refers to the total conscription and mobilisation of Australia’s manpower for war. Part IV of the Act covers this particular contingency. This does not apply to the service of the person who enlists in regular forces. This does not apply even to the service of the person who is called up for national service. This is a special wartime consideration related to the duties of the manpower of Australia and its liability to serve anywhere.
What do we mean by war? The definition of “ War “ in the Act is in these terms - “War” - Means any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack or apprehended attack on, the Commonwealth or any Territory under the control of the Commonwealth by an enemy or armed force.
This is a specific set of circumstances. Even in those circumstances, it seems to me, it is not the kind of war that we had in Europe when we declared war as a result of Germany’s invasion of Poland and the contingencies which flowed from it. In this case we mean “ any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack or apprehended attack on, the Commonwealth or any Territory under the control of the Commonwealth by an enemy or armed force.” Unless we change that definition we will not have any excuse to say that a state of war exists in accordance with the terms of the Defence Act, and we will not be able to call up these people anyhow and, in those circumstances, the fields to which we can send them are very limited. In other words, the Act, the defence forces, and the liability to serve have not been completely integrated. This is further evidence of the haphazard and piecemeal way in which we go about this.
Like my colleagues on this side of the chamber who have just expressed themselves, I believe this is part of the war hysteria. What is the objective? It is to create an atmosphere that Australia is already under assault; that the Australian people have to prepare themselves to surrender liberties that they have always held; that we are to transgress all the traditions of the past of voluntary service and all the other things that flow from it, and that every man should place himself at the disposal of the Government, some of this requirement being by executive decree. This is part of the procedures which are being followed here.
Honorable members on the Government side ought not to be sleeping on the benches when they are challenging the whole nation in this way. It is they who have placed this challenge before the nation. It is they who have created the atmosphere. It is they who are placing demands upon every citizen. It is they who say: “ We will carry out our duties and our responsibilities with someone else’s service and sacrifice “. All Government supporters should be in the chamber at this hour. Opposition members should not be following one another in the debate and placing a case before the Committee without anyone except the Minister to answer them. What is wrong with honorable members opposite? What manner of men are they that they should carry on in this manner? The 19 words in this legislation which proclaim that every citizen shall serve, shall be sacrificed, and shall sail overseas if necessary, have been placed before the Parliament at this hour of this morning when most Government supporters are absent from the chamber and when most of those who are here are asleep.
What manner of men are they? They are the ones who go before the people at election time and challenge our integrity. We have people like the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) standing in this Parliament and accusing us of treachery, sedition, subversion and everything else, and we have everyone opposite associating himself with this for political expediency and political advantage at election time. This is a miserable disregard of the Parliament and of personal responsibilities. I hope that every citizen in this country takes due regard of this and that the proper punishment will be meted out to honorable members opposite the next time they face the ballot box.
.- The clauses with which we are dealing seem to me to be in conflict with the Government’s policy which is at present before the Parliament. I mentioned earlier that we were told not long ago that the advice of the highest military authorities was that conscription was not necessary. The Government, as yet, has not altered that policy. We have not yet been told why men are to be conscripted. We all know that a war is going on in Vietnam; but I want to direct the attention of honorable members to what is happening. At the present time we have troops in Malacca, Borneo and New Guinea. We will be sending combat troops to Vietnam. Our rather small Army, which has been established for the defence of Australia, is getting rather scattered.
Unless the Government can see its way clear to conscript things other than men, the whole business does not ring true. We must be in a very serious state of affairs when it is necessary to send conscripted troops overseas as combat troops. If it is good enough to conscript troops, surely it is good enough to bring in national emergency regulations. You cannot get anything more serious than sending men away to war. These men are offering themselves for us; yet all the Government finds it necessary to do is to conscript them. It is not conscripting the wealth of the country.
I hope that the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) will explain the remarks that he made in this chamber in August last year and in Hobart in October last year; namely, that on the highest military advice conscription was not required. If we have high military officers and other high military people to give the Government advice and if they say that conscription is not necessary, why have we not been told why it is necessary now? The trouble is that these decisions have been made by civilians; that is, by members of the Government. I have not yet heard one military officer deny what the Minister for the Army told us; namely, that conscription was not necessary.
What I did read last week - this rather rocked me - was that Sir Valston Hancock said in South East Asia that the Royal Australian Air Force was ready for total war. That made headlines in the newspapers.
– What will the R.A.A.F. use - shanghais?
– I am not worrying so much about what the R.A.A.F will use. I referred to that statement in order to show the Minister the state that this country is in. We are sending men away for combat. The R.A.A.F. is ready for total war. Yet, as far as the Government is concerned, the only thing that is necessary is the conscription of men. Nothing other than men needs to be conscripted. The wealth of the country does not need to be conscripted. If we just conscript men, everything will be all right. That is what the Government implies.
.- I believe that what is clouding the issue as far as members of the Opposition are concerned is that on so many occasions in this chamber they have said that they are completely against any Australian participation in Vietnam. In fact, they are against Australia co-operating with the United States of America in stopping the Communists spreading across Asia. Questions on these matters have been asked many times in this chamber: What is the history of this matter? What has been really happening in Vietnam and the rest of Asia in the cold war? I have asked those questions a few times. I have said - and I repeat it now - that in the cold war the Communists were pushing on, mile after mile, every day; that everybody was apologising and that nothing was happening. Therefore, it became very necessary that something definite be done. Someone had to say: “ So far and no further”. The American nation said that. Australia, under its treaties and by other means, decided that it should play its part in stopping the Communists pushing right down to the very borders of this country. That is the real story.
Members of the Opposition seem to point at members of the Government parties and say that we know nothing whatever about war and these things. I do not talk about these things, but I had some experience in Malaya and places like that. I know what it is like to leave this country to go overseas to war. It is not a nice thing. Honorable members opposite have frequently referred to volunteers. They say that we can always get volunteers. When I went overseas I did not want to go, and I can tell honorable members that quite frankly now. No-one disliked the Army more than I did. No-one disliked war more than I did. The idea that Government supporters - and I am one of them - are warmongers is highly ridiculous. We do not like war at all.
There comes a time when a man feels he should make a move, but all we hear is of the volunteer - the man who is prepared to go. We hear that there are those who are prepared to stay at home and who are ready to wave him goodbye and wish him good luck. My sympathy is with the young men who are being called up. I do not like to see our young men going overseas. I am reminded of the words of the old song: “ We don’t want to lose you but we feel you ought to go”.
– What about the Government giving them the vote?
– How these side issues crop up. What if a vote of the people were taken on the question of sending people overseas to protect our country? Surely an examination of the gallup polls indicates that Australia has always stood up to her obligations. The Australian Labour Party says, in effect, that we should not fight on other shores; we should fight in Australia. Our men are to go overseas. From what the Opposition says it would appear that the men are to go tomorrow, but that is not the position. Many of these men have not been called up yet. Some have not had their medical examinations. In the meantime the President of the United States of America has said that if the North Vietnamese give him the slightest chance he will negotiate.
Our young men will not be sent overseas the day following their call-up. They will not go overseas until they are fully trained. That is the position, and I cannot understand why the Opposition is always against these proposals. I am sure that there is not a man in this nation who would not be prepared to defend Australia. Men would respond to the call if this country were in danger. The Opposition claims that American opinion has too much influence on us and that we follow America too much. I know it is tedious repetition, because I have said it before, and apparently one has to be repetitious to get a point into the minds of honorable members opposite, but the real story is that the British people have had far more influence on the American nation than the American nation can ever have on this country.
The Opposition claims that this is the main provision of the Bill. It opposes the provision that commits young men, by conscription, to join the Services and go overseas. I have respect for a person’s opinions when national considerations are involved, but I thought it right that I should say what I have said because I believe that we should not always try to hang back in a national emergency. Why should the Opposition adopt that role? I know that there are ex-servicemen in the ranks of the Opposition. Why should they be dictated to by an executive that does not believe in these things?
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has just read the Opposition a dissertation on why troops should be sent to Vietnam. Let me quote to him from a book written by Dr. T. B. Millar entitled “ Australia’s Defence “. It was published in February 1965.
– Order! I do not propose to allow a general discussion on the strategic importance of sending troops to Vietnam. The honorable member may make only a passing reference to this matter.
– I bow to your ruling, but I am amazed that the Chair should allow another honorable member to speak for 10 minutes-
– I have allowed a certain amount of latitude.
– I agree that you were most magnanimous to the previous speaker. I was merely intending to make passing reference to a statement made by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). I am glad that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is now at the table, because he has been a senior member of the Cabinet for some time, whereas the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) has not yet reached such exalted heights.
I am still suspicious of the Government’s actions in deciding that 20-year old boys undergoing national service training may be sent overseas. I have raised this matter before and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) raised it this morning. I would like the Minister for Labour and National Service to assure the Committee that the Government is acting on military advice - that the Chiefs of Staff have said it is necessary to take national service trainees into our Regular Army units in order to keep our defence potential at a reasonable level. I remind honorable members that on 10th November 1964 the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced for the first time that national service training would be recommenced and that boys would be expected to serve overseas. That announcement was made despite the fact that on 26th October 1964 the Minister for the Army had delivered a fairly forthright statement before the National Congress of the Returned Servicemen’s League and despite the fact also that on 15th October 1964 the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) announced in another place certain alterations to the defence makeup in Australia. The Prime Minister’s statement was made notwithstanding that on 20th August 1964 the Minister for the Army had spent 30 minutes in this chamber giving reasons why national service training should not be introduced. The Minister for the Army specifically stated on 20th August and again on 26th October that military advice was against the introduction of national service training. In delivering his speech on 10th November, on only two occasions did the Prime Minister refer to military advice. On each of those occasions he used the word “ consulted “. He said: “ We have consulted with our military advisers over a matter of months.”
I want an assurance, as do many honorable members and many people in Australia, that the Government’s decision to introduce national service training was taken in the first instance on the advice of our military advisers. I am prepared to admit that at this stage our military advisers have no option but to go along with what I think was a political decision. But I want to know whether on or prior to 10th November last military advice tendered to the Government was that national service training should be introduced along the lines of the present scheme. Under the present scheme anybody between the ages of 18 and 60 years may be called up and sent overseas in a time of defence emergency. It is up to the Minister for Labour and National Service to give a specific assurance, if he can, that the Government has acted on military advice ever since the Prime Minister made his statement on 10th November.
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that we were complying with the provisions of the S.E.A.T.O. treaty.
– I did not mention S.E.A.T.O.
– The honorable member did mention it.
– I said “ the treaties “.
– Very well, I will withdraw my reference. We have two treaties, the A.N.Z.U.S. treaty and the S.E.A.T.O. treaty, which apply in this area. There are eight signatories to the S.E.A.T.O. treaty. For many years, Australia has had a proud and envied record of service with its near neighbour, New Zealand. We went to the First World War and the Second World War with New Zealand and, when the United Nations said that help was needed in Korea, we went to Korea with New Zealand. A Conservative government is in office in New Zealand at present. That Government has not seen fit yet to send troops to Vietnam. But we have moved quickly and we are sending 800 combat troops to Vietnam. Great Britain has not found it necessary to send troops to Vietnam, but I am sure that Great Britain realises, just as we do, that there is a need to contain Communism in this area. I know Communisrn must be stopped, but surely there could be an understanding between Australia and the United States of America as to how it will be stopped.
We are sending 800 troops to Vietnam and some of them will be conscripted. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) asked a question about the shortage of doctors in the armed forces. The troops we are sending to Vietnam are infantry troops only. The attendant engineers, artillery and service corps are not going. I think we should get these points straightened out for the benefit of the men who will be going. What will happen to them if they have to go into a hospital? Who will treat them?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member is getting a bit wide of the clause. The question is whether conscription should involve overseas service.
– I am talking about the people who will go to Vietnam, but I will bow to your ruling and leave it at that. The signatories to the S.E.A.T.O. treaty include Great Britain, New Zealand, France, Thailand, where we have a few troops, the Philippines and Pakistan. These countries are not sending troops to Vietnam. We are the only country that believes that our obligation under the S.E.A.T.O. treaty requires us to do this.
I am not a military man, but I would have thought that it would have been better for us to have kept our troops in Malaysia or in some similar area, instead of having some understanding with America that we would send 800 troops to Vietnam. These troops will be a worry for the Americans in Vietnam, because the Americans will have to look after them. The troops that are being sent to Vietnam are combat troops and I take it that the men will be permanent servicemen from the Australian Regular Army. However, they can be replaced by conscripted troops. All our eggs seem to be in a basket that is closer to us than Vietnam is and surely we would have been better off to have kept our troops in this area instead of scattering them over various countries. We will not know where we will finish up, if we continue in this way.
– At the moment, the Committee is debating one clause. That is clause 16 which will add a new section to the Act providing in specific terms that members of the military forces may be required to serve either within or beyond the territorial limits of Australia.
This section is complementary to the provisions of the National Service Bill which I introduced into this House on 11th November last year. I stress that the provisions of this Bill are complementary to those of the former Bill, which has now become an Act. The honorable gentlemen made the statement that we had changed our policy as to the duration of national service. That is incorrect. In the statement I made to the House on 11th November, following the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) who spoke on 10th November, I made it abundantly clear that national servicemen, when called up and recruited into the Army, would serve for two years in the Supplementary Reserve and would be liable for service for a subsequent three years in the Regular Army Reserve. There is a period of five years.
– It has not been altered?
– It has not been altered. If the honorable member waits for a few moments he will see that it has not been altered. I went on to say - this is the important part of my speech -
Secondly it will be amended, to enable the callup of this age group for two years’ continuous service in the Regular Army Supplement, followed by three years in the Regular Army Reserve . . . While in the Reserve -
This is the part I want the honorable member to listen to - the normal liability will be for annual camps not exceeding 14 days.
I went on to say -
In time of defence emergency, under the provisions of the Defence Act, national service men may be called up for further continuous service.
Therefore, we find here a clear definition of the liability of national servicemen. It is two years in the Supplement and three years in the Reserve, with a liability for overseas service and a liability to be called up in the three-year period for further continuous service.
– Will the Minister define a national defence emergency, and then it will be clear?
– I am coming to that now. I want to explain the provisions of the Bills now before the House. During the course of various speeches that have been made, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) and the Prime Minister have pointed out that under modern conditions you find many different kinds of warfare. One of my colleagues in the Senate likened them to a pyramid. There is guerrilla type activity, there is subversion and there are other types of cold war activity. Then there is what is called a state of defence emergency, and finally, a state of war. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) said it was well nigh impossible to give an explicit definition of what was intended by the words “ state of defence emergency “. But what we can say is that it is something which is more serious than ordinary guerrilla activities. It depends upon the seriousness of the hostile actions and demands judgment. If the Government forms a judgment that a serious defence situation has emerged, requiring more forces than we would normally wish to mobilise to counter guerrilla type activities, we will declare a state of emergency. After this had been done, certain types of national servicemen can be called up for further full time service. The other position is a state of war. In a state of war we would need the total mobilisation of the resources, including the defence resources, of the Commonwealth.
– Order! I suggest that the Minister relate his remarks to the matter before the Chair.
– I am relating them exclusively to that, but, in view of what has been said, I cannot give an adequate explanation unless I explain the five improvements that have occurred in the original scheme. I relate my remarks to this clause and the national service scheme. What we are doing, first, is to provide, in the case of a defence emergency, a definition of the kind I have just used. We cannot define a defence emergency explicitly, but we say that this is a matter of judgment of a serious set of circumstances existing in the defence sense. What we have done is to provide that a national serviceman shall not be liable for more than five years’ service in defence emergency conditions. Under those conditions he is liable to have his full time service extended from two to five years. In other words we limit his service to five years but we permit him to be called up full time in the Supplementary Reserve for five years instead of two.
Then we come to the next stage, and this shows the direct connection between the clause we are now dealing with and the changes in the National Service Act. We say that in time of war he shall be liable for continuous service beyond the period of five years. In other words, when we get to a state of war he will be liable to serve during the period that he is in fact required in the Army.
There are two other sections that I think deserve comment.
Order! The Minister should confine himself to the specific item of liability to serve overseas.
– Then I finish by mentioning only one other matter that has been referred to by the honorable members who have spoken in this debate. What does the Defence Act itself provide? It provides, as I have said, that members of the military forces may be required to serve within or beyond the territorial limits, and if we go to the next section - they are complementary to one another - we find that under the new section 59 a provision will be made that all male persons will be liable when called up under the next succeeding sub-section to serve in the defence forces. That next subsection provides that it is only in time of war that the Governor-General may, by proclamation, call upon the people specified to serve for full time service. I believe that completes the picture. It shows the picture under the National Service Act, in defence emergency, and in time of war, and the liability to service under part IV when there is in fact a declaration of war.
Let me now answer the various questions asked by honorable gentlemen. First, one honorable member wanted an assurance that the Government is acting on military advice. As one who has been in the Cabinet for a considerable time and who took part in the relevant discussions I can assure him in clear and categorical terms that we acted with such advice. The decision was ours, of course. The advice given to us by the Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of the
General Staff was that it was wise to introduce national service training, and on the scale on which we introduced it in the National Service Bill. I hope that answers that question permanently.
The next question raised by the honorable member was that of aliens. All 1 say is that I have already sent the honorable member for Grayndler a letter about this matter. I have no reason at the moment to think that the advice I gave to the House previously should be altered, because I have personally gone through the foreign service manual supplied to me by the U.S. Embassy, and I find nothing in it to make me change my mind. Nonetheless, we are checking with our officials in the United States of America to see if there are any gaps in the foreign service manual or whether any reservations have been made.
Finally there was the question whether conscription was necessary. I think that what I have said indicates clearly enough that conscription was necessary. The advice given to us by the Chiefs of Staff was that it should be introduced, and if honorable members look at the latest voluntary recruitment figures for the regular forces they will see that we would not have obtained the numbers we desired by voluntary recruitment alone. We tried incentives but we were not able to get the numbers. We did not think that we could take the risk and find later that we did not have the necessary numbers to fulfil our defence commitments.
Those were the matters that I felt had to be dealt with as a result of what has been said in this debate, and particularly to answer a statement made that we had changed our policy. Our policy has remained consistent. All the details in the various Acts fit in; they are in fact, complementary one to the other.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. D. Mackinnon.)
Majority . . . . 20
Clauses 17 and 18 - by leave - taken together.
.- Honorable members opposite do not like to see me rise to speak on these clauses, but it was not my wish that we should meet at this hour to discuss such an important measure. It happens that in one of these clauses there is a provision which ought not to be there. This may seem rather contradictory in view of the position one has taken on the general matter of conscription, the Defence Act and related matters, but Clause 17 includes a provision for the exclusion of Aboriginal natives of Australia as defined by the regulations. I do not think that this discrimi natory legislative attitude ought to exist any longer. We ought to look at all of our legislation and remove any signs of discrimination so far as the Aboriginal people of Australia are concerned.
I make this statement in order to get it on the record, because a number of Aboriginal people of my acquaintance were rather upset about this, believing that it implied that they were unworthy, inferior or second class citizens. I put this on the record in the hope that Defence Ministers will look through the relevant Acts and ascertain whether they can overcome any suggestion of discrimination involving Aboriginal people.
– The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) has already given an undertaking in another place to look at this matter in the reframing of the legislation.
Clause agreed to. Clause 19.
Sections 80b to 80i (inclusive) of the Principal Act are repealed and the following section is inserted in their stead: - “ 80b.- (l.) “ (3.) A person on whose behalf or at whose place of business a service decoration is sold, supplied or offered or displayed for sale or supply in contravention of sub-section (1.) of this section is, unless he proves that the sale, supply, offer or display was contrary to his instructions, guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not exceeding Fifty pounds.
.- I desire to move an amendment to proposed section 80b (3.) in line with the amendment which was moved in the Senate. I will not speak to it. We have some worries in relation to the proposed section in regard to onus of proof. I move -
In sub-section (3.) of proposed section 80b, after “ instructions “ insert “ or without his authority “.
– This amendment was introduced in the Senate. The Government could not accept the amendment then, and the same position applies now.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Chaney) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Chaney) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Orders of the Day Nos. 2, 3 and 4 for the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the National Service Bill 1965. Naval Defence Bill 1965, and the Air Force Bill 1965 being read together and a motion being moved that the Bills be now passed.
Consideration resumed from 13 th May.
Motion (by Mr. Chaney) proposed -
That the Bills be now passed.
.- Opposition members intend to vote against these three Bills for the reasons that were stated in our second reading speeches on the Defence Bill. Accordingly, we will divide the House on them.
.- There is one point I would like the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) to clear up for me. The National Service Bill was introduced into this House on 11th November 1964. In his second reading speech at that time, the Minister said that deferment would be granted to apprentices and full time university students. He made a statement in the House on 11th May regarding national service training and call-up. He said that those who had not received notification were likely to be called up at any stage. He distributed copies of a statement “ Deferment on Grounds of Exceptional Hardship.” This statement gives the impression that the only people who will be entitled to automatic deferment are apprentices and full time students at universities or similar institutions.
I would like the Minister to state, if he will, whether it has been decided that these are the only categories that will be given automatic deferment. If that is the case, I should like to put the proposition before the Minister that other categories also could be regarded as being in the same position as apprentices. I refer to trainee architects who are working in an architect’s office during the day and attending university perhaps one day a week and two or three nights a week. There may be people studying accountancy, working in an accountant’s office and attending an accountancy course two or three nights a week. There are law clerks in solicitors’ offices who are either studying for their barristers admission examination or attending a university part time. I feel that arguments can be advanced just as strongly for boys in this category as can the arguments that have been advanced in respect of apprentices and full time university students. I cannot see that the Minister would be fair if he did not allow automatic deferment of people in some of the categories that I have suggested. If automatic deferment is to apply only to the two groups that he has announced and other boys who believe that they will experience hardship if they are called up have to go before a court of summary jurisdiction to apply for an exemption, I feel that the Minister is not being fair in his attitude to deferment.
– I did advise the House that only full time students and full time apprentices would be automatically entitled to temporary deferment of their military training. After they have completed their university course or their apprenticeship they become liable for national service training. I pointed out also in a document that I distributed to honorable members the manner in which people can obtain deferment on the ground of hardship. The question that arises from this is: What happens in the case of students and apprentices who are undergoing part time training? I intended to state to the House as quickly as I could that we were making an arrangement about such students, but up till the present time we have not been able to devise a scheme which we felt was satisfactory to the part time students themselves and to part time apprentices, the apprenticeship authorities, the university authorities and all the people who may be involved in their training or their employment. We have been working on this for some considerable time, but I cannot state when I will be able to make a decision. I can assure the honorable gentleman and the Committee that I am pressing this matter strenuously and, as soon as I am able to work out a complete formula for the problem, I will be able to announce it - not in the House, because the House will not be sitting, but I will announce it as soon as I can in the Press.
Question put -
That the Bills be passed.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by ‘Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) proposed-
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Opposition does not oppose this motion. In fact, it supports it. It naturally regrets that honorable members will be unable to debate the statements which are on the historic notice paper. I have no doubt that Notice Paper No. 91 for Wednesday, 26 May 1965, 5 a.m., will long live in legislative infamy. I am told that never before has a Minister had the opportunity or the gall to move that this House should sit at so early an hour.
– Does not the honorable member think that it would be more appropriate to mention this on the motion for the adjournment?
– I thought we were on the adjournment. I should be happy to make my remarks then, but I do not want to be gagged.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may continue. This again is on the basis of commonsense.
– Mr. Speaker, you are the only person in this chamber who has been elected by the Government parties who has shown that quality in the last 24 hours. We compliment you, Sir, on the way in which you have resisted chipping by some of the more tendentious Ministers and on the way in which you pacified them as they quarrelled before you.
This has been a remarkable session. It became more remarkable as it proceeded. For the first seven weeks we took our time. We disposed in full form of 20 bills. Then we started to accelerate. In the next five days we passed 14 bills. Then last Friday it was thought that on that day and one other sitting day, a Monday - both exceptional days - we would pass 19 bills. Despite redoubtable efforts by the Leader of the House, it was not possible to pass as many bills in two days as we took 20 days to pass at the beginning of the session. Nevertheless, in four days we have passed 19 bills. We have had various vicissitudes.
Last Monday the House was due to meet at the relatively civilized hour of 10.30 in the forenoon. Indeed, it would have met, despite the fact that Canberra airport was fogbound, if the Trans Australia Airlines aircraft on which honorable members travelled had been permitted to bide their time at Cooma airport. Cooma airport, however, is an Ansett monopoly and the 10 T.A.A. planes had to circle Canberra until their holding fuel was exhausted and then return to Sydney. Accordingly, the House was not able to sit until about 11.45 in the forenoon. Had it met at the appointed time it would not have had a quorum; or, at least, there would not have been more than half of a quorum of Government members. The Opposition would have been able to clear the notice paper after passing all the amendments it had circulated. You, Mr. Speaker, invoking the rule of common sense “for the first time this week, determined unilaterally that the House would be suspended from 10.30 a.m. to 11.45 a.m.
I hope that the definition of an emergency which Ansett is prepared to concede to T.A.A. will be extended from failures of aircraft motors or undercarriages to meet the convenience of passengers coming to Canberra. Travelling on the T.A.A. aircraft on Monday were not only members of Parliament, whose salaries would go on whether they attended the Parliament or not. Also aboard were public servants and servicemen. Doubt has arisen whether the public servants will be docked some of their pay because they were not able to be at work in Canberra on Monday morning as the T.A.A. aircraft had to return to Sydney instead of being held at the Ansett monopolised airport of Cooma. I hope that the defence forces will not regard their members as being absent without leave, and that retrospective leave will be given in this circumstance. It was not the fault of the public servants or the servicemen stationed in Canberra that the aircraft were not allowed to use the natural alternative airport of Cooma.
I shall conclude by referring to the historic features of the last 24 hours. The House resumed at 5 a.m. today after a short suspension, and the sessional period is about to conclude. We are able to adjourn now as a result of dispensing with questions on two days, by compressing debates in the early hours of the morning and by keeping the debators off the air during those times. I hope that the special adjournment will at least give Ministers the opportunity to clear the Cabinet agenda in adequate time for the parliamentary draftsmen to carry out their instructions. An ignoble attempt has been made to blame the draftsmen for the rush of legislation at the end of this sessional period. Some of the legislation was not urgent in any real sense. The Commonwealth Electoral Bill, which we have passed, will not come into operation for nearly two years. The Distribution Commissioners, who now have additional and novel terms of reference - quite novel to this Parliament - will not be appointed until after the next House of Representatives election. It can hardly be said that this Bill was urgent except for the fact that after July it would not have been passed in the other place. But other bills, it is claimed, were delayed by the draftsmen, but they can only carry out their work when they receive instructions. In this case the instructions were delayed. It is quite unfair for aspersions to be cast on the competence and diligence of the draftsmen, when in fact they did not receive their instructions in good time. The draftsmen cannot speak for themselves in public without breaching the Public Service Act, and perhaps the Crimes Act.
I repeat my hope that Ministers will be able to use the special adjournment which we are about to grant them so as to clear the Cabinet agenda in adequate time for the draftsmen to prepare bills for presentation to the House. Thus members on both sides of the chamber will be given adequate time to debate those bills. I hope that, when we return, you, Sir, will be able to initiate our proceedings with greater confidence that our deliberations will prosper and advance the true welfare of the people of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Mr. Speaker, I think it appropriate, since the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has sought to record, as they appear to him, some of the facts of what he has described as an historic sessional period, for me, on behalf of those on the Government side of the chamber, also to place a few facts on record. 1 remind the House that this sessional period has been very difficult and very arduous for the Government and its supporters. In its concluding stages, it has certainly been strenuous also for Opposition members. We on this side have shared with honorable members opposite the discomforts of this situation. I regret what has occurred to the extent that it has caused discomfort and inconvenience, but I must place on record the fact that much of this discomfort and inconvenience was caused by the decisions and actions of Opposition members themselves in refusing to honour the undertaking and arrangement made with me on their behalf by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). In the concluding stages, the honorable gentleman, following the delay that was caused by fog, sought from me an arrangement under which the House, instead of sitting into the early hours of Tuesday morning, as would otherwise have seemed necessary in view of the programme to be carried out, would adjourn at approximately 11 p.m. on Monday, the remainder of the business to be concluded by 4 p.m. the following day.
The time at which this was discussed is well fixed in my mind, because the honorable gentleman proposed that the business conclude at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and I pointed out to him that transport arrangements for some members going to distant States required them to leave this building by 4 p.m. Thereupon, he agreed that that should be the time at which the business of the House should conclude. This arrangement, as is evident from the proceedings, was not observed. When I asked the Leader of the Opposition why it had not been observed, and could not be observed, so that transport arrangements could be made to meet the needs of honorable members, he said, quite frankly, but, I thought, a little abjectly: “ I just cannot, control my party “.
– When does the right honorable gentleman allege that the Leader of the Opposition said that?
– He said it during the suspension of the sitting for dinner, or just prior to the dinner interval, last evening. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) was with me at the time. This was in no sense a confidential statement. It was merely a statement of the facts. I pointed out to the Leader of the Opposition that arrangements for the transport of members had been made and that I had to have some knowledge of the Opposition’s intentions in this matter.
– Why should we not debate the measures before us?
– I have already told the honorable gentleman that I regret the inconvenience and discomfort that .were caused and, to that “extent, I regret what has happened. I believe that, as the circumstances of the sessional period and the programme had developed, there was no other practical course. Some matters, from our point of view, could have been deferred to the next sessional period. But they were matters which involved benefits for many people in the community and I think that members of the Opposition would have wished, as we wished, that those benefits be conferred as rapidly as possible. The legislation dealing with the gold mining industry was a case in point. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill was a piece of legislation which I myself would have preferred to leave over until the Budget session of the Parliament. The honorable gentleman referred to the Electoral Bill and the fact that there was no great need to put this measure through. Sir, we had a mandate for this legislation. It was put at the last election that this would be done, and honorable gentlemen opposite had made no secret of the fact that they were going to oppose the legislation. Of course, in the circumstances of the numbers in the Serrate from the end of June onwards, it was a matter of commonsense for us to pass the legislation in accordance with the support we had got at election time.
There were other matters which affected the conduct of the session. It was an abnormally heavy session in these respects: There were measures which were not normal legislative measures, such as the Brussels tariff, which itself involved a tremendous amount of difficult drafting by the Draftsman. There was the restrictive practices legislation, which was quite unusual legislation. There was the group of measures arising quite directly from the critical situation in Vietnam. So, Sir, in addition to the normal run of measures that we expect in a session at this time of the year, we had these others - I have not mentioned them all, of course - which had to be included in the programme. I would most certainly hope that in the longer period of the Budget session and with the more urgent matters out of the way we shall be able to plan, with reasonable co-operation from the Opposition, a more convenient, orderly and comfortable programme than has been found practicable in this session.
I conclude by just reminding the House that at least the Government can make the claim in good faith and with every justification that having in the elections of 1963 put forward a comprehensive programme of benefits for the people, now, half way through the life of this Parliament, all of those undertakings have been honorably discharged and measures which were approved by the people at that time as being desirable, in their interests and for their benefit, have now been adopted and for the most part are actively in operation or will shortly become so. That at least, Sir, provides a record of achievement for this session and, taken in conjunction with the novel and difficult legislation now on the statute book, will make this session - whatever other problems it may have produced - rank as one of constructive and positive achievement in the lifetime of this Parliament.
.- There is only one matter which I wish to mention. My leader, of course, is unable to be here at this sitting, for the same reason as the leader of the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) is not here. I can only check from “ Hansard “ on what the Leader of the House says. The record for Monday, at page 1901, reports him as saying -
It is proposed that the House sit until 11 p.m. today and that we then suspend the sitting of the House until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow. So that satisfactory transport arrangements can be made it is proposed to conclude by 4 p.m. tomorrow.
– “Following discussions with the Leader of the Opposition”. Why leave that out? It is typical of your performances in this place.
– I shall read the lot, then -
I have conferred with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on a satisfactory disposition of the business of the House in the time available, having regard to the disruption of the planned programme because of fog which affected air services. The fog now having cleared both outside and inside the chamber, I inform honorable members that it is proposed that the House sit until 11 p.m. today and that we then suspend the sitting of the House until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow. So that satisfactory transport arrangements can be made it is proposed to conclude by 4 p.m. tomorrow. I hope these arrangements will prove acceptable and satisfactory.
The last page of that “ Hansard “ discloses that, in breach of the proposal, the House did not rise at 11 p.m, but rose at 11.26 p.m. It also discloses that, in breach of the arrangement, the suspension of the sitting was not to 10.30 yesterday morning, but to 9.30 yesterday morning. By 6 p.m. last night, the House had just concluded the second reading debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill. Six amendments had been circulated by us and the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). It was quite clear, from the experience of honorable members four years ago, when there was a substantial list of amendments to the principal Act, that this would be a long debate.
By the time my leader (Mr. Calwell) and my opponents’ leader left the House last night, it was quite clear that the arrangements had been altered. The use of the term “ arrangements “ is confined to the Government side. The Opposition side will negotiate for better arrangements, but the final disposition is in the hands of the Government on this, as on other occasions. It was quite plain, before the House adjourned on Monday night, that the arrangements, the dispositions and the proposals had miscarried.
As Tuesday’s proceedings continued, it was quite clear that they would continue to miscarry. Arrangements were made by the Opposition for the prompt carriage of the benefits to which the right honorable gentleman referred, in the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Bill and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill. These were arrangements. The Opposition did agree, to suit the convenience of Government members, that these Bills should be dealt with earlier than indicated on the notice paper. Here, there were arrangements made, and they were honoured.
It ill becomes the right honorable gentleman to put any blame on the Opposition personally for the arrangements which he has so notoriously mishandled during the session now concluded. I hope he refurbishes his legislative expertise and his diplomatic finesse during this special adjournment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 7.58 a.m. until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker and to be notified by him to each member by telegram or letter.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650526_reps_25_hor46/>.