19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to address several questions to the Minister for External Affairs about the military and political situations in Korea. Will he inform the House whether there is any system or organization by which Australian interests, or military leaders, are regularly consulted before important steps are made in that campaign! Will he state whether the Government has endeavoured to have that position dealt with, and oan he tell the House the exact situation? The honorable gentleman* has informed . us during the last two days about the various political questions associated with Korea. Will he state whether there is any method or system by which the voice of the Australian Government can be heard, and its representations considered, before the great decisions are made f I suppose that those matters are, in a sense, under the jurisdiction of the Security Council of the United Nations, but will the- Minister, in spite of the fact that Australia is not a member of . the council, take steps to see that the point of view of the Australian Government, not only on its general policy hut also in the interests of Australian troops, will he expressed at the level of the ;Security Council? Will he endeavour to ^arrange for Australia to be represented on that body, . or to be heard before it, if “necessary, in view of the supreme importance of the whole matter? Will the question be considered of having a Minister of State ‘ actually representing Australia in the Security Council or at th_at- level at this important juncture? “Mr. SPENDER. - I shall deal with the last question first. As the right honorable gentleman knows, Australia has no right to he represented on the Security Council unless, in the terms of the United Nations Charter, its interests on any particular question are, in the opinion of the Security Council, specially affected. I took the view that we should explore the possibility of being represented upon the council on the Korean question. It seems to me however, to be clear enough ‘ that, if a nation that isnot .a member of the Security Council wishes to secure’ the right to be heard in the council under the provisions of the Charter, it must disclose an interest that is special as compared with the interests of other nations. Many nations are now directly, assisting . in the United Nations campaign in Korea. For example,- there are servicemen from the Philippines, Turkev, Great Britain, Canada and New Zealand as well as from Australia and that does not exhaust the list. I explored this .matter of obtaining representation for Australia on the Security Council while I was in the United States of America by soundings amongst those who would determine the issue. The Security Council itself is, as I have pointed out, responsible for any decisions of the kind whether .any nation shall or shall not be heard, on the ground of having disclosed a .special interest. So far, a special interest on the part of Australia has not been, recognized by those to whom I have addressed myself. The point is that to concede that right to Australia would involve conceding it to every other nation which has troops serving in Korea, and that would destroy the very character of the Security Council. However, I have not let the matter rest. I emphasize that the decision can be given only by the members of the council. We cannot determine the matter. Of course, Australia could make a formal and direct public approach, claiming the right of representation at the risk of failing: The alternative is to ascertain beforehand whether such an approach is likely to be successful. In answer to the second question asked by the right honorable gentleman, I can say that representations are made by Australia upon the political level before decisions- of a political character are made by the Security Council. Australia’s views are being expressed constantly, and not. only from time to time. Ever since the Korean crisis has occupied the attention of the Security Council and the nations that are interested” in it, the Australian Government has constantly expressed its views to the governments of Great Britain and other members of the British Commonwealth and to the United States of America. As I pointed out in my recent statement on international affairs; there .is no other machinery available to us by which we can express our views on the first question put to me. It is quite clear that on the military level there must be’ only one general in command. I have never accepted the idea that a war could bo conducted- by a committee. All I can say to the right honorable member on this subject is that Australia’s view9 on the military level also are made known. But. after all, Australia is only one of a large number of nations. We can only do our best to influence decisions. We may may not always agree with what is done, but that is inherent in the problem. I am sure that the right honorable member will agree that it is my function, as the Minister for External Affairs, to establish whatever machinery is capable of being established, ad hoc or otherwise, and to use existing machinery in order to make known on the military and ‘political levels as best we can Australia’s views on every problem. That is being done. I cannot say that everything that we -want is feeing accomplished. Closer liaison between the military and political arms is specially desirable. However, I can say with confidence that we are doing our utmost to make our views clear at the proper levels, and that they are given consideration.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture tell the House the prices Great Britain is paying to other countries for supplies of eggs, butter and meat? Can he also say how world parity prices compare with the prices that Australia is receiving from Great Britain for those products? As a means of informing primary producers of ruling overseas prices, will the Minister consider making arrangements for the publication in the daily press from time to time of both Australian prices and world prices for the products that I have mentioned ?
– Obviously I am not able to supply offhand a complete list of the prices that the United Kingdom is paying for the products that the honorable member has mentioned to the various countries from which it purchases supplies. However, I shall endeavour to secure the information and make it available to him. A level of world parity values, in - the old usage of the term, probably does not now prevail in respect of certain essential food commodities. There i9 so much disposition to make special bargains, having regard to special circumstances, that there is an extraordinarily wide disparity in prices, which can be justified from the point of view of the countries which are concerned. I shall secure for the honorable member, the House, and the public generally, such information as I can on this point and, for the benefit of the industries concerned, T shall endeavour to have it published.
– Several weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister a question concerning the maintenance of a shipping service between Australia and the United States of America. Since then a statement has been issued to the effect that Canada has withdrawn from the negotia tions which were proceeding. I ask thePrime Minister whether he is in a position to give any further information tothe House on this matter?
– I gather that thehonorable member is referring toAorangi. f am not in a position to make any final statement on that matter at the moment because negotiations are at present proceeding in relation to it. Assoon as some finality is reached, I shall, make the decision known.
– Will the Minister for” Commerce and Agriculture give consideration to the distribution of some portion of Joint Organization profits during the current financial year to those who are now retired from the woolgrowing industry and to those who come within the category of small producers?
– The Government has constantly under consideration the question of the appropriate time to make a distribution of Joint Organization profits. There should be no doubt whatever in the mind of any wool-grower that the Government intends to distribute in full, in due course, the accumulated profits of Joint Organization. Successive governments - the first Menzies Government, the Curtin Government, the Chifley Government and the present Government - have all confirmed that those profits will, in due course, be distributed in their proper proportion to the woolgrowers who contributed the wool. I shall examine the question whether it is possible to make a distribution to. some growers under special circumstances. I have been examining this question lately in order to ascertain whether I could make r commendation to the Government on it. I think that most woolgrowers are not really anxious, in this year of tremendously high income, to receive a full distribution. Many of tEem would be extraordinarily disappointed if they did receive the money this year: However, I am endeavouring to ascertain whether a distinction should be made in special cases.
– I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, what opportunity exists for this House to discuss and, if necessary, to challenge your use of Standing Order 303. The current interpretation of this special rule imposes an unjustified humiliation on honorable members.
– .Order ! That is a reflection on the Chair. The honorable member bas bis remedy if be disagrees with a ruling.
– I alter the wording of my submission to say that in some instances it may impose an unjustifiable humiliation on honorable members.
– Order !
– Then may I say that the use of Standing Order 303-
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will withdraw that imputation, and apologize for uttering it.
– I asked a question–
-Order ! The honorable gentleman has no right to ask a question at this stage. The honorable member foi Perth has the floor. The honorable member for Lalor made an imputation against the Chair, and he will withdraw it and apologize.
– I want to ask-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has made an imputation against the Chair, and I ask him to withdraw it and apologize.
– I withdraw it and apologize.
TOM BURKE.- I say with respect that the arbitrary use of Standing Order 303 may have unfortunate consequences. In addition, may I also say, with respect, that I believe that your interpretation of the standing order constitutes an abuse of your powers and a departure from the letter and spirit of the standing order.
– Order! The Standing Orders were prepared by the Standing Orders Committee, and were confirmed by the House. If the honorable gentleman, who is a member of that committee, has any objection to anything done under the Standing Orders he has two remedies. One remedy is through the Standing Orders Committee, and tho other is through the proper precedure in the House. I will not tolerate imputations that this standing order or any other standing order is being used by me with any partiality whatever.
– So it is.
-Order ! The honorable member will withdraw and apologize, and if he again makes any such imputation I shall ask the House to deal with him.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– The matter of Standing Orders is always in the hands of the House. I am only the interpreter of the Standing Orders, and, to use the adjective used by the honorable member for Perth, all interpretations of Standing Orders by the occupant of the chair must be arbitrary.
– May I suggest, Mr. Speaker, following your statement, that before you exercise the great authority given by the standing order you should, as a matter of practice, indicate your intention to do so, in order that an honorable member who may be affected may act accordingly?
– The standing order is perfectly clear, and my intentions are equally clear.
– But very sudden !
– I rise to order.
– Order !
– I am raising a point of order. It was my intention to elicit information-
-Order! No point of order is involved.
– All I want to inquire about is whether it is customary, if the Speaker makes an error of judgment, to admit it-
– Order ! That is not a point of order. It is an imputation against myself.
– It is not so intended.
– I take it as such, and I have nothing further to say on it.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. On the 14th September, 1948, the Cabinet granted to the Labour party in “Western Australia a licence to operate a commercial broadcasting station at Narrogin on a power of 2,000 watts and a frequency of 920 kilocycles, or 326 metres. I ask the Minister- (1) Why was 2,000 watts, the maximum power allowed for a commercial station, granted to this station, when other commercial stations in the State were given an initial power of only 500 watts? (2) Why was this station given a better frequency than any other country radio station in the State had previously been granted? (3) Were there other applications for licences and for higher frequencies in Western Australia at the time when preferential treatment was given to the Labour party station ?
-!, shall deal first with the last question asked by the honorable gentleman. There were a large number of applicants for commercial radio licences and for higher frequencies for stations in Western Australia. The honorable gentleman has asked why this particular station was accorded preference. I cannot say why it was given preference by the preceding Government which granted a licence for Narrogin in September, 194S. There were a large number of other applicants for licences, but the Narrogin licence was given to the People’s Publishing Company of Western Australia, an interest in which had been acquired by the trustees of the Worker newspaper in Sydney. Consequently, it was regarded as a Labour station and, as far as I can understand from a perusal of the relevant file, the main reason why it received preferential treatment was because of its political associations.
– Can the Postmaster-General inform the House whether a further allocation of new radio station licences for country areas is shortly to be made? If so, what will be the allocation procedure? Will such allocations be limited to specific categories of applicants or will they bc made to the general public ?
– I do not quite understand the question. Is the honorable member asking whether new licences will be issued?
– Will additional licences be issued in country areas ?
– There are many applicants for new licences for both country and city radio stations. At the present time there are approximately 1,500 applications for new licences on the files of the department. They are being received from every type of individual and organization, and each application will be considered on its merits.
– Has the Minister for Health yet received the report which he said last week he expected to receive from the expert committee that was established to investigate poliomyelitis? If so, will he table it in the House for consideration before the Parliament adjourns for the Christmas recess?
– When I receive the report to which the honorable member has referred I shall consider whether it can be placed before the House. At any rate, I shall inform the House of its main contents.
– I address to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question that arises from representations that I have received from farmers, particularly in the Forbes area, who are unable to move their wheat because of a shortage of cornsacks, and who fear that if further rain occurs they will lose their crops. Will the Minister advise the House of the position in relation to the supply of cornsacks to country areas?
– There has been extraordinary difficulty during the last year in obtaining adequate supplies of cornsacks for Australia, which has been due really to problems that exist between India and Pakistan. However, we have secured what are believed to be adequate supplies of cornsacks for the coming harvest. My information is that 29,000 bales have already been sold and distributed in New South Wales by the Australian Wheat Board. That quantity is regarded as adequate to meet normal conditions in New South Wales having regard to the present predictions on the size of the wheat crop. However, I am informed that because some late orders for cornsacks have been trickling in, an additional 2,000 bales are being moved to New South “Wales from Queensland. Of these, 1,000 bales are being sent by sea and the other 1,000 bales by rail. The rail consignment should arrive at “Wallangarra at any time now. My advice is that that augmentation of supplies will finally assure an adequate supply of cornsacks for New South Wales. If the honorable member, or any other honorable member, is able to report to me any particular problem relating to cornsacks in any particular area I shall be very glad to take the matter up immediately.
– I ask the Minister for Air, on behalf of the honorable member for Herbert, who is absent from Australia, for a reply to the following urgent questions: - 1. Is it a fact, as reported, that the Department of Civil Aviation has decided to discontinue the use of Townsville as a flying boat base, allegedly on the grounds that a chop of more than 6 inches in that port renders it dangerous for use as a flying boat base ? 2. Is the Minister aware that during the war period Sunderlands and other similar flying boats operated from the port of Townsville under similar conditions to those which now exist there, without experiencing any difficulties. 3. Is it also a fact that the Department of Civil Aviation intends to inaugurate a new flying boat service between Sydney and Port Moresby and to transfer the flying boat base from Townsville to Mackay? 4. If that is so, does the Minister consider that Mackay or any other Queensland port would be more suitable for a flying boat base than Townsville is, or would not the chop in any of the other ports in Queensland be equal to- that in Townsville? 5. In view of the widespread resentment caused by the report referred to, and the detrimental effect on Townsville of the abandonment of the flying boat base there, will the Minister, in the interests of Townsville and its people, reconsider the whole matter?
– I have already received protests from the Municipal Council of
Townsville about the temporary suspension of the flying boat service through that port. The Department of Civil Aviation is making investigations to see whether the service into Townsville can be continued. There are definite landing difficulties in Townsville, because its harbour is circumscribed and ha9 not the same facilities as some other Queensland ports have. Townsville is well catered for by a land service. A good Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome is located at Townsville, which is in full operation and which caters for both civil and military aircraft. The matter of the seaplane service is being considered, and a reply will be given to the Townsville Municipal Council and to members of other authorities who have asked questions about this matter.
– Has the Minister for National Development any further advice regarding the use of Callide coal in the southern States of Australia?
– Yes. The Government of Victoria has accepted the Australian Government’s proposal for the importation of a further trial shipment of 10,000 tons of Callide coal, which will carry a Commonwealth subsidy of 15s. a ton. The Australian Government is in discussion with the, Government of Victoria about, the conditions that should apply to later and any such larger orders of Callide coal into Victoria, and I hope the Premier of Victoria will agree at an early date to the holding of
– by leave- Yesterday, the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) asked me a question concerning Commonwealth assistance to Queensland for the relief of flood victims. I said then that I would answer the question this morning, and I shall now proceed to do so. I have made inquiries and I find that the Australian Government has not received any such application from the Queensland Government. However, if a request for assistance for the relief of flood victims is received by the Australian Government it will be immediately considered.
– My question refers to the Australian home-consumption price for wheat, which is based on the cost of production and is fixed for a period of twelve months from the 1st December each year. Is it the intention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to announce at an early date a new home consumption price for wheat? If so, and assuming that the new price is higher than the present, price, is it intended that normal procedure will be followed or will a further consumer subsidy be paid?
– In accordance with the provisions of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act and the wheat plan, the most recent investigation into the cost of production of wheat has been concluded and at a very early date the findings will be announced and a proper guaranteed price for wheat will prevail from that time on. The continuance of the consumer subsidy which was at the rate of 5d. a bushel last year is a matter of Government policy. An announcement upon that subject will be made when the new price is announced.
– ‘Can the Minister for Supply say whether an inquiry has been held into the recent fatal explosion that occurred in the nitro-glycerine section of the munitions establishment at Maribyrnong? If so, can he inform the House of the cause of the explosion? If no such inquiry has been held, will he arrange for one to be held? Is he thoroughly satisfied that the precautions now being taken in that munitions establishment, which is situated in an area that is rapidly expanding and “now being built up and which is one of the chief centres of manufacture of high explosives in this country, are sufficient to prevent disastrous explosions in the future?
– An inquiry has been held into the cause of the unfortunate explosion to which the honorable member has referred. We do not know for certain the real cause of the explosion and we shall never be able to ascertain it, because the only man concerned lost his life and the building in .which he was working was wrecked by the explosion. Therefore, we have no evidence upon which we can reach a satisfactory conclusion. Without speaking in technical terms, what was happening at the time the explosion occurred was that after the main process of separating nitroglycerine from the water had taken place a certain amount of by-product, or sludge, had to be collected in rubber buckets. It was thought that that was a safe method, although the possibility always existed that some percussion would take place and would cause an explosion. Apparently, this unfortunate worker did something - we did not know what - that cause.d percussion and thus caused the explosion that wrecked the building and killed him. I should like to say that the safety record of government factories of this kind is extraordinarily good. It is said to be better than that of similar factories anywhere else in the world. Only one explosion which has resulted in loss of life has occurred at government munitions establishments during the last eight years, which included the period of the recent war. I am satisfied that reasonable and, indeed, extraordinary precautions are taken at present to protect the lives of workers in such establishments. I assure the honorable member that those precautions will be continued and, if possible, intensified. I take this opportunity to express publicly the regret of the department and, I am sure, of the House that this unfortunate accident took place.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether, owing to rearmament programmes in countries that have been supplying Australia with steel and steel products, sources of supplies of these items have decreased considerably? As such imports are essential to supplement our inadequate local supplies of these materials, can the Minister indicate whether efforts are being made to find other sources of supply or whether more satisfactory arrangements can be made with those countries that are now supplying these materials to Australia? Has the Government made any decision with respect to the reduction, or remission, of duty on imports of steel or steel products?
– At present, there is a deficiency between the local production of and the demand for all lines of prefabricated steel and steel products. The honorable member is correct in assuming that overseas sources of supplies of these materials have decreased owing to the rearmament programmes that have been undertaken overseas in recent months. On a number of occasions, I have publicly advised all merchants who are interested in the merchandising as steel =na steel products that they should do their utmost to acquire stocks from overseas to the limit of their opportunities. I now repeat that advice. The Government is helping in the matter in various ways. First, it is importing a large proportion of its own requirements of structural steel and steel products; and, secondly, it is remitting and reducing import duties to the limit of its capacity. The Government, through the Minister for Trade and Customs, and by arrangement with the British Government, is allowing a wide range of steel products from all sources to enter Australia free of duty. Another range of steel products is admitted free of duty if the items come from British sources and at the rate of 12£ per cent, if they come from other sources. The Minister for Trade and Customs is now in communication with the British Government, on behalf of the Commonwealth, with the object of having existing privileges extended, so far as lies within the say-so of the British Government, until the 30th June, 1951. The Government is fully aware of the necessity for importing steel products as cheaply as possible, and will endeavour, to the limit of its ability, to reduce all duties on them.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– by leave- On the 15th November the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked me a question about mail .services to the north-western and western districts of New South Wales, which have been seriously interrupted and disorganized for some months by the abnormal rains and disastrous floodings of the River Darling. I desire to inform him that mail services have continued to operate in the areas affected, and whilst the unavoidable conditions have prevented delivery from being made with regular frequency, emergency arrangements have been introduced to the fullest extent practicable. In the north-western area, many mail services have been restored to normal, and no service is wholly suspended, but owing to flooded creeks and damaged roads, nine services are still restricted and ten services are maintained by deviation from the normal mail route. In some cases, mails have been conveyed by launch and are delivered to residents at temporary terminals and meeting places. The position at Tilpa in the western district is more serious and in that area, road services from Louth, Bourke and Wilcannia have not run to normal time tables since August. On the east side of the river, the Bourke-Tilpa mailman, by deviating 130 miles each trip, has been able to reach a point nine miles from Tilpa, but the mail services from Wilcannia have been prevented by flood waters three miles wide from travelling beyond Cairo. On the 14th November the mailman got through with considerable risk to himself, by wading neck deep through flood water, but since then, the water has risen and the service cannot be maintained for the whole of the route. The Louth-Tilpa mail service is also temporarily suspended, as the area is completely under water. Mail matter for residents on the river is taken through as the opportunity offers by boat or launch as far as Dunlop station. In Menindee and adjacent areas, the Menindee- Wilcannia mail services have been interrupted since the 12th September, when the Talliwalka Creek overflowed. The flooding of the Willandra billabong has disorganized services in the Ivanhoe-Mossgiel district. The department is endeavouring to maintain services in both these areas by means of deviation from the existing routes and by supplementary services by boats and launches. It seems strange that mails should have to be delivered in the western districts of New South Wales by rowing boats and launches. Some mail services are temporarily suspended in the western districts, but the department is maintaining mail delivery to the areas concerned by utilizing the most effective forms of emergency transport available. The honorable member for Darling may rest assured that the department is taking all possible steps to alleviate the position in the areas affected. Unfortunately, the lack of suitable landing grounds precludes the extensive use of air services, but any opportunity that presents itself for delivery of mail by air or surface means will be taken. I have received advice to-day that the department hopes to be able to introduce temporary air mail services from Bourke to serve Tilpa and stations in the district as from next Monday.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Tractors - Assistance to the Australian industry.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Tractor Bounty Act 1939-47.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Spender, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 29th November (vide page 3330), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the Government’s proposals in the bill to provide for compulsory national service in the Defence Forces be investigated and reported upon by an appropriate all-party committee which should be authorized to examine all the relevant defence, manpower and economic needs and capacities of Australia and to call witnesses including defence personnel and representatives of labour, industry and commerce “.
– I regard this bill as the most important measure that this Government has introduced. I wish, in my usual fashion, to be as little critical of the policy of the Labour party as possible, but I feel, although I do not want to be provocative, that I cannot overlook the speech by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in which he stated the attitude of the Labour party to this legislation. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) has already dealt with him, but I shall offer a few criticisms on my own account. I was overwhelmed by a sense of unreality when the right honorable member, who was Minister for External Affairs for a long period during this critical postwar period, introduced the Opposition amendment. The kindest criticism of the amendment is that it represents a shameless attempt to delay action that the Government must take as quickly as possible.
The right honorable gentleman gave a long dissertation on the Labour defence plan, which he called the Chifley-Dedman plan. His speech was peopled with paper figures. The whole plan was on paper, and no proof of its efficacy was produced. In fact, on the very first occasion when it was called upon to be of use, not one single trained man was available to be supplied by Australia in response to the call of the United Nations for ground troops in Korea. That fact disclosed the true value of the muchvaunted defence plan of the Labour party. The right honorable gentleman said -that the technical advisers and service chiefs who advised the Chifley Government also advise the present Government and he implied that their advice must be the same now as it was when the Labour party was in power. That was misleading. The technical advisers and service chiefs are bound by terms of reference, and we can be certain that no suggestion for the introduction of compulsory training was ever submitted to them by the Labour Government. The right honorable gentleman deliberately presented a misleading idea to the House. He also claimed a great deal of credit on behalf of the Labour party on account of the fact that, when Australia was threatened with invasion during “World War II., the government of the day acted decisively and imposed conscription. As an exserviceman, shivers ran down my back at the thought that a time of crisis should be considered to be the time to -impose conscription and start to train manpower. It is a terrible thought.
The method of training men only as they are required is a callous and indifferent way of sentencing our fellow countrymen to unnecessary death. That is a very harsh statement, but I mean every word of it. It is a careless sort of politician’s policy. Men have the right to the protection of training. The Labour movement has always relied on the voluntary service system. Australia has used that system in two major wars, but it is an unjust system which ultimately leads to the destruction of the finest part of a nation’s manhood. Great Britain is suffering to-day as a result of the destruction of the cream of its manhood during two world wars because it depended upon the voluntary system for defence. The system is unfair and I regard it as a sort of shady stratagem behind which cowardly politicians may shelter. It is an ugly device. The bill provides that national trainees who elect to serve in the Navy and the Air Force shall be required to volunteer for overseas service before they will be accepted for those arms of the defence force. That should not be necessary. I know that the Government does not intend that national servicemen, apart from such volunteers, shall be sent overseas and I express my personal view, not the view of the Government, in this respect. I believe that the time will soon come when the public must be educated to the fact that the voluntary system is obsolete and that all national servicemen should be required to serve overseas in any capacity if necessary. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Minister f or External Affairs for many years and he must be able to assess the potential dangers that face Australia to-day. One has only to read the news from Korea in this morning’s newspapers in order to realize the dangerous folly of the amendment that has been proposed on behalf of the Opposition.
The Opposition is shamefully stalling for time for political purposes. The situation in Korea is fraught with immense danger. We must not forget that Manchuria, which borders on Korea, has long been under Russian influence. Its industrial capacity makes a strong appeal to -Russia, and therefore we must assume that Russia still has a considerable interest in the territory. Russia allowed large forces of Communist troops to go through Manchuria and invade North Korea. Surely it is obvious to all honorable members that the situation everywhere within the Russian sphere of influence is explosive. The necessity for adopting a system of national service, at this late hour, must be apparent to every reasonable person who has thought about that situation. No responsible Government could fail to take the action that this Government proposes to take. Every leading western democracy has abandoned the voluntary system of military training in favour of compulsory service. Even the United Kingdom, which was just as strongly opposed to conscription in the old days as the Labour movement in Australia is to-day, has acknowledged the necessity for compulsory national service. There can be no doubt about the need for this bill. Such a measure should have been enacted five years ago. I ask honorable members to consider the circumstances in which both World War I. and World War II. began. No ultimatum was issued on either occasion. Any consideration of what may be happening behind the “Iron Curtain” must be very disquieting. We have no knowledge of what is taking place, but there is every reason for the fear that Russia will have no inhibitions about ethical codes of warning people before it strikes.
We do not know when Russia will strike. Before the immensely powerful modern weapons were developed, people always enjoyed the sense of security that arose from the knowledge that any single nation which committed an act of aggression had to overcome an immense weight of adverse public opinion throughout the rest of the world. Iri those days, it was not possible for one nation to dominate the rest of the world. But the world situation has changed vastly since then. We no longer have the comforting thought that, if trouble should occur, the vast pressure of world opinion on the side of right must prevail. To-day, the world is divided into two camps. Any outside Ration does not count, and the decision ii* any conflict must be resolved between those two camps. One side, at present, is aggressive and fully armed; the other side is not aggressive and is only partially armed. The atomic race which is taking place at present is preventing any trouble from occurring for the time being, but eventually one camp or the other must win the race. I emphasize the fact that there is no weight of public opinion of any considerable importance outside the two camps that I have mentioned. We know the dismal failure of appeasement. Democracy as a whole is at last realizing that if there is to be an alternative to war it must be based on force. Every country in the world is now preparing for war. The Minister for Defence yesterday supplied the House with astronomical figures concerning the defence expenditure of the United States of America. The Government of the United Kingdom is planning defence expenditure of £3,600,000,000. France, Norway, Sweden, and, in fact, every nation in the world is preparing for war. Even nations such as Switzerland are spending a large portion of their national income on defence. In Australia the National Parliament is now debating the question of national service. It is unfortunate that the Government has not been able to introduce this measure earlier. Ex-servicemen in the Government parties have made every effort to have the measure introduced earlier, but, due to the conditions existing when the Government took office, it has not been possible to introduce it until now. The Government must now do everything it can to make the measure effective as rapidly as possible.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) told the House yesterday of the situation overseas and stressed that defence must be an integral part of Australian foreign policy. Some honorable members of the Opposition have questioned various actions of foreign policy and have said that the Government should take a stronger line. Supported by what? A nation that can only bring together one battalion of fighting men in the service of the United Nations is hardly in a position to take a strong line in international affairs. If Australia is to have partners in this armed camp it must pull its weight because the time will come when we shall need help and if we do not pull our weight now what chance will we have of obtaining help when we need it? The most important aspect of this measure is that manpower will be trained. Only a short basic training has been proposed but it is the most that the Government can provide for without upsetting the industrial programme of the nation. It is a terrible thing to have to use untrained men in battle as we have had to do in two world wars. Such a happening constitutes an indictment of any government. There is no glamour in war. When men go to war they carry their lives in their hands. If it were only their own lives that were involved that might be their concern but in war mutual support is required and each man risks not only his own life but those of his comrades in his unit and his formation. Every man is a part of a chain and any untrained man is a grave menace. I have had personal experience in this matter. I have found that highly trained troops could fight against great odds. There is a great difference between highly trained troops and untrained men although there is no difference between the untrained men of one country and those of another. There is no difference between an untrained Chinese and an untrained Australian. Of the two I think I should prefer the Chinese. At least he would not answer back.
The whole morale of an army depends upon simple factors. The principal one is that in the back of every serviceman’s mind is the thought that one day he will be in close personal contact with his enemy. The morale of troops depends upon their capacity to employ their personal weapons. If a man is fully competent in the use of his personal weapon his morale remains high. An immense strain is placed on men in modern war. People have the idea that there is glamour in war and that troops have only to shave and dress smartly, but nothing is further from the truth. When troops are in contact with the enemy their morale is very important. Every untrained man has the scales weighted against him. If they were only weighted against him it would be bad luck, but they are alao weighted against those who are with him. I have had experience of splendid trained officers and non-commissioned officers killed while leading untrained men. Imagine the feelings of an officer or non-commissioned officer when a man comes to him and asks him to put his bayonet on his rifle. I had that experience.
I believe that a war can be averted, but it can only be averted by a complete sacrifice on the part of democracy in order to prepare for war. In order to stop war we must prepare for war and that calls for sacrifice on the part of every single man and woman. I have never questioned and I never shall question a man who has not gone to war on the last two occasions. That is his own concern and he probably had a good reason for acting as he did. Now, times have changed and it is necessary that every man should be trained and fitted to take his part in the defence of the country. There are now only two armed camps. The Government has a responsibility to the women folk of Australia - to the mothers and the wives and sweethearts - because if their men go to war they are entitled to see that other men are trained so that the lives of the ones they love will not be endan- gered. A fully trained army has a great chance of success.
The Government proposes to train men for 176 days. Part of that training will be done with the Citizen Military Forces which will have the advantage of using these trainees to strengthen and train their formations. This will keep up to date the basic training of those who are compelled to serve. Those who enter the Navy and Air Force will be required to volunteer for service overseas. Personnel of the Navy and the Air Force have always been liable to be called upon to serve anywhere in the world. The Army was apparently the only protected service. Whatever may be the conditions of modern warfare, it cannot be denied that the infantryman is still the ultimate factor in all war; and if infantrymen are to survive they must be highly trained. This is no time for us to play party politics. T3he great majority of the members of the Labour party are in entire agreement with the priciples of the bill. Although the policy of the Labour party may differ from that of the Government parties, the members of the Opposition, are, like ourselves, human beings, and I do not believe that their outlook on this matter is fundamentally any different from ours. It is a matter now of whether the Government is right or wrong in the present proposals. Nobody can contemplate the present world situation without experiencing the gravest fear. If we leave it too late to take effective action war will occur. However, I believe that if we make sacrifices now we can be strong, and strength of the opponents of dictatorship is one thing that dictators do not like. Appeasement has proved to be a deadly danger to the democracies, and delay in re-arming is equally dangerous. For that reason I deprecate and deplore the proposal of the Opposition to delay the passage of this measure by referring it to a parliamentary committee. To my mind the nation will accept this measure as a lead in the perils that confront it. The nation is entitled to look to the National Parliament, for a lead. The Government has introduced a bill that will enable us to train our men and to fit us to take our part in the defence of the western democracies.
.- The views expressed by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) on this subject are entitled to respect in any company. The honorable member’s record in the recent war was magnificent. I read about it in a book that was published under the authority of the former Minister for Information, my colleague the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The part played by the honorable gentleman in the Malayan campaign constitutes a record of almost superhuman achievement and of stark courage, to which I pay full tribute. However, the honorable gentleman indicated in the speech that he has just made that he is not completely satisfied with the Government’s defence proposals. As I have already said, his views are entitled to respect and to careful consideration,, and I think that he should be a member of the committee that the Opposition advocates should be appointed to consider this matter. We believe that the scheme proposed by the Government will have certain definite effects and consequences and we suggest, therefore, that a large measure of agreement should be obtained of the various interests throughout Australia; not of the self interests, but of the interests that work to make Australia’s production a vital arm of defence and to make Australia’s military forces an effective instrument in a proper war effort. That is why the Labour movement has advocated the establishment of a committee to review our defence requirements and the proposals of the Government.
When the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) introduced the bill, he said that the Government had done so in order to give effect to its preelection promise. Labour admits that the present Government parties promised to introduce such a measure if they were elected to office. However, I point out that we do not know to what degree the undertaking to introduce such a measure affected the election of those parties to office. The fact remains, however, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) pointed out last night, that the members of the -present Opposition party laid the foundations of our present defence policy. The Minister pointed out in the early part of his speech that the national service scheme is an integral part of the Government’s general defence policy. He went on to say -
The foundations of the post-war defence forces were, as this Government has already acknowledged, laid by the previous administration.
Of course, the honorable gentleman criticized us on the ground that we did not do sufficient when we were in office. The honorable gentleman went on to say that the proposals contained in this measure represented the maximum that the Government could make, having regard to its other commitments and to the man-power requirements of the nation. He freely conceded, and stated quite frankly, that Labour laid the foundations of our defence policy, and that the proposals of the present Government are limited by the calls upon the man-power available. I point out that when Labour was in office the world situation was not so complex as it is now, and that war did not then appear so imminent as it does now. Labour had to deal with the situation that confronted us at the conclusion of a long and exhausting war, and at a time when the hopes of mankind were concentrated upon perfecting some organization to prevent further war. Despite those discouragements to the inauguration of a defence programme, Labour effectively laid the foundations of our defence policy, and upon those foundations Australia can speedily build up its .defence forces. Because of the lack of proof of the assertion made by the Government that not one trained man was available for service when war broke out in Korea, we reject that assertion. Until facts are presented in support of it we say that it is no more than a dialectical assertion.
The honorable member for Hume pointed out that proper military training is vital not only to the effectiveness of our defence system ‘but also to the safety of combatants in modern war. No one denies that contention. We agree that a trained man is preferable to an untrained man.
I desire now, in order to make my position clear, to make known the view that I held concerning the Government’s proposals before this debate commenced. I have not previously disclosed the view that I then held, either to the Parliament or to the Government nor have I given any intimation of my feelings to representatives of the press. The fact is that I was favorable to the passage of the bill. I took the view that as the situation stands the Government has to bear the responsibility for determining what defence preparations are required, and the efficacy of those preparations. In the present situation members of the Government are the only persons who are capable of forming a decision about the proportions of our defence system and the form of organization that that system should take. The majority of my colleagues were against that point of view, and after having listened to the honorable member for Hume I have a feeling that I may have been wrong and that my colleagues may have been right. The honorable member for Hume pointed out that he disagreed not only with the size of the forces contemplated by the Government but also with the conditions of service proposed in the bill. He pointed out that the Government proposed to make a different provision for the military forces than for the naval and air forces. As I have already said, if the committee proposed by Labour were appointed it would be most valuable to members of tl at committee to hear the views of the honorable gentleman, and its conclusions might well be influenced by his evidence.
The honorable gentleman went on to say that Labour had always insisted on a voluntary system of enlistment, but that statement is not quite correct. In the first place, it was a Labour administration that first introduced compulsory military training. Nevertheless, Labour objected, and still objects, to compulsion for service overseas, and I take a strong stand on that aspect of the matter.
– In what year did Labour introduce compulsory military training?
– In 1913, or 1914.
– That is not so. Compulsory military training was introduced in 1913.
– The introduction of compulsory military training followed a conference of Empire Prime Ministers held in London at which the developing facts of the situation were explained to them. Honorable members might contend that the introduction of compulsory military training so shortly before the outbreak of war does not amount to an acceptance by Labour of the need for such a system in peace-time. In refutation of that contention, I point out that there was nothing certain about the outbreak of World War I., which occurred with startling suddenness. The Labour Government acted, when the facts were explained to it by persons closer to the scene of possible operations, to bring into being a system of compulsory military training. Our objection, or at least my objection, to compulsory service overseas arises simply from the fact that I believe that there must be some area of a man’s life into which compulsion should not be permitted to enter. I believe that military service other than for the defence of his own country and its territories is that area into which compulsion should not enter. It is as simple as that, the principle upon which I and, I believe, the Labour movement, have always stood. We have not always been opposed to compulsory military training for home defence. We recently decided on opposition to that principle for two reasons. The first was that we bad just come out of a major conflict that had made all the men and women of this country sick of wars and tired of military service. We did not believe then that we ought to perpetuate a system that would have involved a continuance of service in military camps of men who had just been discharged from military and other war service. We decided against that system because we hoped, with some degree of authority, that some years would elapse before the possibility of another war would exist.
That point brings me to the subject of military advisers and military advice. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) said that when we were in office our advisers .were the same advisers as this Government has to-day. Indeed, when we were in office we had the benefit of higher advice than the present Government has, unless the various Ministers who have been overseas recently have received military advice in America and
Britain. I think it can he frankly said that’ statements made by Mr. Dedman when he was Minister for Defence about the non-likelihood of a war occurring in the next ten years followed discussions between the Cabinet of the day and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. All honorable members will recall that Viscount Montgomery visited this country and had discussions with the Chifley Cabinet, and that he indicated his abhorrence of war at meetings all over Australia. By implication, he also indicated that it was possible to have a long period free from war if proper steps were taken. He made such a statement in Perth. The Government then had some warrant for saying or thinking that war might be some distance away, if indeed war would have to be faced at any time.
In that situation the Labour movement decided against compulsory military training for home defence. At the same time the Labour movement and the Labour Party Conference - consisting not of 12 or 36 men whom nobody knows, but of men who represent the real, vital force in this community and elected by the most democratic body in the Australian nation, which represents and speaks for the vast body of organized trade unionists and of Labour men and women who form the bulk of the community - decided against compulsory military training. They decided that the Labour party, as a government or as an Opposition, should press continuously for an efficient and well-balanced defence force that would he capable of meeting any situation. It decided also, as an item of policy that would be binding upon a Labour government, on full co-operation with the British Commonwealth of Nations and full support for the United Nations.
Moving on from that decision, the Labour Government established its fiveyear defence plan, which was arrived at after an analysis had been made of the military forces, man-power and material available to provide an efficient force in five years, having regard to all the facts that go to make a major defence or fighting force. Perhaps that plan did not achieve the full result desired in the time .during which it operated, but it achieved a substantial result in respect of enlistments for the three arms of the services. I understand that the defence plan was worked out in co-operation with the other governments of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We went on further to provide for a rocket range research organization and for other means by which we could play our full part if world war should come once more. But the vital aspect in relation to all our defence plans was that the Labour Government acted in accord with the other members of the Commonwealth and had regard, just as this Government has regard - as the Minister for Labour and National Service indicated when he introduced the hill - to the military forces, man-power and materials that could be spared from vital sections of industry. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said last night, the Minister introduced the bill in a reasoned and conciliatory manner and pointed out that the Government had two aims. The first was that we should play our maximum part in the defence of this country and the second was that we should also play a full part, in co-operation with other nations with which we are associated, in banishing war from the world and resisting aggression wherever it might occur. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition gave full credit to the Minister for the manner in which he presented the bill and the Government’s plans. He said, however, that the Opposition wished to have a further examination of the matter. We believe that there are other views to be considered, and that there is other evidence that ought to be obtained before a proper assessment can be made, first, of whether this bill is really what is required, and secondly, of any disadvantages that might arise from the kind of training that the Government ha? decided to institute. The Minister fo: Defence rose in his place and, without saying whether the Government rejected or accepted the amendment that had been proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, proceeded to attack him and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). I stress that the Minister for Defence did not indicate whether the Government has decided to accept or to reject the amendment, and I hope that we can take his failure to do so as an indication that the Government is considering the amendment.
– The honorable member can take it from the Minister’s speech that he objects to the stone-walling and irritating tactics of the Opposition in regard to this matter, and the lack of willingness to help in the defence effort that it is showing.
– I do not admit that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) is capable of interpreting the speech of the Minister for Defence.
– Do not be personal.
– I also do not regard him as an expert on this matter. My point is that if the Government intends to reject the amendment the Minister for Defence should have stated so plainly and unequivocally last night.
– The Minister left no doubt about what his views are.
– I point out that acceptance of the amendment need not mean a lengthy delay in the calling up of the vast number of meD that it is proposed shall be called up for national service, because in any case, as the Minister for Labour and National Service indicated, the calling up of these men will involve arrangements of various kinds and will take time. Before the full number of national service trainees could be called up it should be possible to appoint a committee and have a report furnished by it. All the effects of the scheme could then be evaluated. The co-operation of the Labour movement is vital in either peace or war. I refer not only to the Labour movement as an Opposition in the Parliament, but also to the men and women in the factories and workshops, and in the trade unions and other avenues of life, who constitute by far the vast majority of the people. The Government should find co-operation by those people worthy of some concession, because they play a vital part, and indeed a major part, in war.- An examination of the scheme by a sub-committee would enable all the facts to be ascertained. They could then be explained, as far as possible, to the Labour movement. I believe that such a method would induce the full co-operation of- tha Labour movement throughout this country. The Labour movement is vital to the success of any scheme for defence in either peace or war, and I suggest that instead of rejecting the proposed amendment out of hand, as the Government has done, according to the Minister for the Army’s interpretation of the speech of the Minister for Defence, the Government might well give consideration to its acceptance. Both the Minister and the honorable member for Hume said that in case of war, either in Korea or in any other part of the world, these trainee men would be required. But I point out to those honorable gentlemen that this bill does not deal with overseas service. It limits service to service in Australia or in Australian territory.
A curious note was heard in the Minister’s second-reading speech. He said that provision is made for the national service trainees to join the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force later, if at some future time this Government or any other government should decide to enlist men specifically for service either at home or overseas. Does that statement foreshadow a changed method of enlistment, or a possible change by either this Government or some other government?
The Opposition puts forward this amendment as embodying the genuine view of the majority of the members of the Australian Labour party. Those members believe that this is the best that we can do to meet the present situation. There are all sorts of views in the Labour movement. Some of its members believe in conscription for overseas service, although I do not say that they are members of this Parliament, and some members of the party may not believe in any military service at all. There is room for all these different opinions in the Labour movement because the Australian Labour party is not a regimented party. What we insist upon is, that after the majority has given a decision by a democratic process, that decision must be adhered to. After all, action upon a decision by a majority is a truly democratic process.
– All members of the party have to obey that.
– That is so. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) and other honorable members on the Government side also have to obey when the Government decides to bring in a wool tax or any other measure. They all obey the majority decision because that is the democratic process. The parliamentary system works according to the will of the majority of the members of the Parliament, and that is the essence of democracy and is accepted by every honorable member of this House.
The Opposition believes that after a full and proper investigation, although not a lengthy one, the Government may be able to get the whole-hearted cooperation .of the whole of the Australian Labour movement, from the rank and filers in the factory and workshop to the honorable members who represent them in this House. Surely such co-operation is worth some concession from the Government ! “We say that that co-operation is vital to the success of the national service scheme. The Government will not need to disclose to all honorable members of this House the special or confidential knowledge that is available to it, but will need to disclose only what it can to the members of the investigating committee. Is such a proposal to be rejected out of hand? Is it to be said that when the Opposition puts forward a reasonable amendment it is mere propaganda and is done for the purpose of delaying the passage of the measure?
The Opposition charges this Government with having put up propaganda measures which it did not desire to have passed, from the beginning of the sittings of this Parliament. It has put up propaganda measures, and measures designed to cause dead-locks, in the hope of being able to secure a double dissolution and thus force honorable members to face the people while the tide of popular opinion was running with it. I say to honorable members on the Government side that that tide is running against them at present and that it will gain momentum as time passes. We shall fight the Government according to our own plan. A bill such as this should not become an issue for a double dissolution. An election should not be fought upon the issue of the defence of the country.
Australia should not be divided on the issue of compulsory military training. By means of the Opposition’s proposal, we could obtain the co-operation of the people, but if the Government wants to precipitate a fight I warn it that military service has never been a popular issue with the Australian people. Honorable members on this side of the House will play their part in the defence of the country. The women of Australia despite their real fear of international communism would be reluctant to vote to send other women’s sons and husbands overseas to war. I point out to honorable members on the Government side that this is not a good election issue, and I suggest that it be not made one. As time goes on, all issues will become bad for this Government, but this is a bad one at any time for the reasons I have given. I urge the Minister to recommend to the Government that it accept the amendment and act upon it. No doubt a majority of the members on the proposed committee would be nominees of the Government.
– At £2 2s. a sitting.
– I am not astonished that such an interjection should have emanated from the paltry mind of the honorable member for Gwydir because he is nauseating every time he speaks.
– Order !
– Those words are not objectionable to me, Mr. .Speaker.
– They should not be, because they are true. The Opposition puts forward this amendment in the spirit of pure conciliation. All the Opposition members do not agree with it, but a large majority of them do. On the evidence of the honorable member for Hume, whose evidence must be respected, the Government should accept the amendment. The Government’s proposal does not appear to be fully satisfactory to the honorable member for Hume. Is it fully satisfactory to the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr.
Kent Hughes) ? For all the reasons that I have put before the House the Government should accept the amendment put forward by the Opposition.
.- I appreciate the earlier part of the speech of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). I appreciate his frankness in saying that when he first read this bill he was inclined to think that it was the best thing that could be done at present. Then he said that he felt doubtful about whether it was really the correct action to take. But when he suggested later that the measure had been brought forward to provoke the Opposition
– I did not say that. I said that previous bills had been brought forward to provoke a double dissolution.
– Then I say that such a thing is completely untrue. The honorable member’s remarks, I suggest, are fairly open to the interpretation that I have placed upon them. In the policy speech of the joint Government parties delivered last November by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), we read -
Therefore, while we shall labour for peace, we stand for the acceptance of our full share in co-ordinated British Empire Schemes of Defence; an effective Royal Australian Navy, with construction and docking facilities; an adequate permanent balanced Air Force, supplemented by Citizen Air Forces; permanent nucleus military forces, hacked by militia units; universal military and physical training for periods suited to our conditions, and by methods, and on conditions as to call up and numbers, to be determined on the best expert advice.
Since that speech was delivered, and it was quite clear and unequivocal in its terms, the policy contained in it has received the enthusiastic support of the people. Since that time the conditions which prompted that statement have worsened considerably. A year has passed and the Government has had the benefit of the advice of service and departmental chiefs and also the advice of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, who visited Australia for that purpose. In accordance with its policy, which was approved, by the people, and upon the advice it has received, the Government has brought down this National Service Bill. The Opposition might have been expected to support the bill, considering the circumstances of its introduction. On the other hand it might have opposed it. But it has sought the middle course of temporizing. The honorable member for Perth said that theamendment was put forward by the Opposition in a spirit of conciliation. That is plain and obvious nonsense. It is put forward to try to temporize because the Opposition is seriously divided over this measure. The Government has brought the bill down in accordance with its policy, which was approved by the people and if the Opposition cannot make up its mind on the matter it should withdraw all opposition and allow the bill to pass.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in presenting ‘ the views of the Opposition - or its lack of them - upon this measure, said that honorable members had not been given sufficient time to consider it thoroughly; therefore, he proposed that an all-party parliamentary committee be appointed to examine it. A year has elapsed since the Prime Minister delivered the joint policy speech of the present Government parties to which I have referred and in the interim the circumstances which make the introduction of this measure imperative have worsened. During that period the Opposition has had ample opportunity to consider the proposals that are embodied in the measure. The fact is that the Opposition is now in a state of confusion and is unable to say with one voice whether it approves or disapproves of the measure. .
– Why did not the Government introduce the bill in March last?
– If the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) believes that the measure should have been introduced in March . laI . how much more urgent must be its introduction to-day? In view of the honorable member’s admission, the Opposition’s attempt to delay the bill is far more criminal than a similar attempt would have been had it been introduced in March last. I do not wish to make a provocative speech in this debate. The attitude the Opposition has adopted has caused confusion in the minds of the people.
The second point that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made was that it was axiomatic -that the voluntary system should be tried first. He said he could see no objection to trying that system to the utmost limit. Three very grave objections exist to the continuance of the voluntary system in the present circumstances. The first of them is that that system is inadequate having regard to the conditions of modern warfare. In World War I. we had the opportunity to try the voluntary system for nearly twelve months before the threat of attack developed fully and in World War II. we had a similar opportunity to try that system for more than a year. However, no such opportunity will be given to us in a third world war. The country must be ready to defend” itself not a year later hut on the very day on which war breaks out. The second objection to the continuance of the voluntary system is that under it the cream of the young men of the country enlist in the military forces whilst others remain out of them. In the two world wars the very choicest of our young men went into battle and war, with its uncanny prescience, selected for its fatal casualties a great proportion of men of the type that the country can ill afford to lose. To-day, the burden of defence must fall equally upon all. The third objection to the continuance of the voluntary system is that in war it causes grave dissension in the community. I have seen at first hand dissension arise not only among friends but also in families because of the fact that whilst young men of one class answer the country’s call, those of other classes, for reasons that may be good and sufficient, do not answer it. That circumstance causes illfeeling which persists for many generations and is bad for the country as a whole. I have stated three grave objections to the continuance of the voluntary system.
It is unfortunate that the voice of the Opposition on this measure should have to be heard through its Deputy Leader because the only section of the com munity which will derive pleasure from it will be the Communists. Whilst the right honorable member for. Barton speaks as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, we know that elsewhere he speaks ‘with the voice of the Communist party.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I ask that” the honorable member withdraw that remark.
– The right honorable gentleman about whom the remark was made is present in the chamber and he has not taken objection to it.
– I do object to it. It was an insolent expression, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) must withdraw the remark.
– The statement that I made was a statement of fact.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark without reservation.
– In deference to the Chair, I withdraw it.
-The honorable member must withdraw the remark without reservation.
– I withdraw it.
– I rise to order. Speakers in the past have laid it down that any honorable member is entitled to take objection to a statement by another honorable member that reflects upon himself or any other honorable member. Do you rule, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member upon whom a statement reflects must be present in the chamber and, himself, take objection to it?
– When an honorable member is present in the chamber and another honorable member makes a statement to which he objects, he should take the objection.
– What about the Standing Orders?
– Order ! The honorable member is shifting his ground. If he produces the standing order ot ruling that he has in mind I shall hear him; otherwise, I shall not interrupt the debate.
– I Lave not attempted to interrupt the debate. I apologize for the temporary interruption that has occurred, but the issue involved is of great importance.
– I do not care what the honorable member thinks about that.
– The Chair should not reflect upon me.
– Order !
– Defence is a matter upon which the country looks to the Parliament to give it a clear lead. The Opposition is unable to give such a lead to the country. Not only the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but also the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) referred to the traditional defence policy of the Labour party. Let us examine Labour’s so-called tradition that there should not be compulsion for defence.
– The Labour Government introduced compulsory military service during World War II.
– I am aware of that fact, and I shall deal with it later. Many honorable members opposite believe that it is a fundamental tenet of Labour’s political faith that a Labour man cannot agree to. any measure that seeks to impose compulsory military service. I shall show that that belief is not “ rooted in the origin of the Labour movement, but, on the contrary, is of comparatively recent conception. Indeed, considerable disagreement exists among members of the Labour party today with respect to compulsory military training. The belief to which I have referred had its origin in two circumstances which are not applicable to present-day conditions, and, therefore, members of the Labour party should examine their minds on the matter in order to see whether they should not completely abandon their present attitude. The honorable member for Port Adelaide said that more copies of the Labour party’s platform are to be found in the possession of supporters of the Government than members of the Labour party itself. He chided honorable members on this side of the House for presuming to attempt to look into the mind of the Labour movement. However, it is time that that was done and that much of the confusion that exists among members of the Labour party on defence was cleared up.
– And exposed.
– Yes. The first Defence Act was passed in 1903 and it was supported by Labour leaders at that time. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who was then one of the leaders of the Labour party, actually proposed the introduction of compulsory military training and he was supported by his fellow leaders, including the late Mr. J. C. Watson and the late Mr. Spence. Another move for the introduction of compulsory military training was made in 1905 and again it received the support of all sections of the community. A committee formed to sponsor that move consisted of representatives of the various political parties of the day, and included the late Mr. J. C. Watson and the late Mr. W. A. Holman. During the early years of federation all parties supported the principle of compulsory military training. It was not until 1909 that the first move was made in the Labour party in opposition to that principle. That opposition had its roots in international pacifism. The late Mr. Alfred Deakin, a Liberal, had been opposed to compulsory military training, but his Government finally adopted the principle in 1907, and it received the support of the Labour movement. In 1908, compulsory military training was approved at the Labour Conference in Brisbane by 24 votes to 7. In 1913, this Parliament considered legislation to introduce the Kitchener training scheme, and it received the support of the Labour party. The only voice that was raised against the principle of compulsory military training was that of the international socialist and pacifist. But in 1916, when the conscription issue arose, another attitude of mind became evident. It was influenced by the Irish rebellion, and the events that followed it. If the House wants an illustration of that development, it is to be found in the book Australian Labor Leader, by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who has quoted the following passage from the unpublished reminiscences of the late Mr. W. A. Holman: -
After the repression of the Dublin rebellion of Easter 1916, a more critical attitude towards British war policy quickly developed among two important sections of the Labour movement; first those of Irish birth or descent and secondly, the more radical or socialist wing of the party.
The decision of the Easter conference of the Australian Labour party in 1916 affirmed for the first time that the Labour movement adopted, as a policy, the view that conscription should not be supported.
– A State conference of the Labour party?
– Yes, the conference of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party. Of that decision, Mr. Holman wrote as follows: -
The Dublin revolution had infected IrishAustralian sentiment into practically avowed hostility, and this element dominated the section. Nevertheless I believe that if someone had been there to adequately emphasize the lunacy of trying to bind men, amidst the gigantic convulsions of the period, to a defiance of their own clear view of what is essential to the safety of theirs country, even that conference would have halted in its march. But not a word was spoken.
Later, I shall quote the words of the late Keir Hardie, and invite the House to consider their application to the present situation, and whether the Opposition’s present attitude is not another example of “ the lunacy of trying to bind men, amidst the gigantic convulsions of the period, to a defiance of their own clear view of what is essential to the safety of their country “. How many Opposition members can hear those words of their former leader, Mr. Holman, without seriously applying them to their own attitude to this bill? The point I have made is that the traditional objection to conscription in the Labour movement has arisen from international pacifism, and from feelings aroused by the Irish rebellion of 1916. Those two factors have no application whatsoever to the present situation of Australia, or to world peace. The idea should be re-examined in that light, and abandoned. I notice that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) smiles when I make those sug gestions, and I can easily anticipate his suggesting that it is an affront for a member of the Liberal party to question the ideas of the Labour movement, but I consider that it is high time that that was done. If honorable members will compare the conditions in which those objections to conscription arose in the Labour party with the situation to-day, they will see that such an idea is completely inapplicable to the present circumstances.
To-day, there is a clear line-up throughout the world, with Communist imperialism on the one side and democratic freedom on the other side. It has been made painfully evident in the post-war years that if democratic freedom is to survive, it will be only by the strength of its own right arm. The two systems are already at war. Which of them will survive? Whether it will be Communist imperialism or democratic freedom will be determined within the next five years. Therefore, time is of the essence of the contract. We shall not get a second opportunity to prepare. Have Opposition members forgotten what happened to the Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania? Have they forgotten what happened to Poland and Czechoslovakia? Are they unaware of what has gone on in China? Have they forgotten that the Communists have now occupied Tibet, from which the security of India is threatened? Have they forgotten that British and Australian forces are fighting a most difficult battle against communism in Malaya, and that the whole future of Australia is menaced and at stake? The things that happened to the people of the Baltic States, Poland and Czechoslovakia can happen to us, and until that is realized in this country, no real consideration will be given to the necessity for a bill of this kind.
Against that, the Opposition presents an attitude of mind that had its origin in the distant past. I ask for the indulgence of the House while I read a passage from the work of the international socialist, Keir Hardie, who had a profound effect on Labour thought in his day. He wrote -
All forms of militarism belong to the past It comes down to us as a relic of the days when kings and nobles ruled as well as reigned, and when workers were voteless, voiceless serfs. Militarism and democracy cannot be blended.
The workers of the world have nothing to fight each other about; they have no country. Patriotism is for them a term of no meaning.
Will the House consider the complete inapplicability of such an idea to the situation in which democracy faces the possibility of extinction at the hands of militant communism? It does not bear even serious consideration. Yet that is the attitude of mind which causes the disunity that exists in the Labour party to-day over this bill. The only hope we see for world peace lies in the United Nations. Its success must depend upon collective security. Nothing less than the best from all the member States can make it succeed. This bill is a forward step towards preparing this country to take its part in the defence of democracy through the United Nations.
This is still a primitive world, in which men have to fight for their own security. The only hope of containing war, and of treating it as it should be treated - like a contagious disease - lies in a movement such as the United Nations. So, to-day, we Australians are in the situation in which the primeval duty of every man to his family, to his children and to the future marches hand in hand with the only intellectual hope of peace which exists in the world. Unless we all prepare ourselves for defence, the United Nations must fail. Let us abandon our own quarrels, our outworn traditions and our outmoded ideas. Let us all accept our joint and several responsibilities to our country, to our people and to civilization itself. I appeal to the Opposition to facilitate the passing of this bill, and, in that way, give a lead to those Australian men and women who look to this Parliament for guidance.
– I must confess that, in common with all honorable members on this side of the House, I experienced a feeling of very great disappointment upon hearing the official attitude of the Labour party to the national training scheme put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) last night. Few speeches at this juncture in our history, when the world situation has nose-dived to a depth such as one could hardly have contemplated at the beginning of the year, could have caused such disappointing and, indeed, deplorable impressions, as did that of the right honorable gentleman. I must say that, for a man of his judgment and of his knowledge of world affairs and of the United Nations, he has done himself a very grave disservice. The amendment that has been submitted on behalf of the Labour party to the motion for the second reading of this bill is simply a tactical device and nothing more than a delaying action. This is not the time for an investigation of our defences by an “ appropriate allparty committee “ appointed to advise the House on a limited and modified form of compulsory military training. Every honorable member knows that if the Opposition’s amendment were adopted, it would entail a delay of many months. If honorable members will examine the wording of the motion closely, they will see that the investigations that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has in mind entail the summoning of witnesses, including defence personnel and the representatives of labour, industry and commerce. If the House were to accept such an amendment, the effect would be to shelve the national training scheme for at least six months.
I do not think that there can be any question but that, in spite of the theories of the previous Government, which, no doubt, were well meant and honestly held, land troops are still the decisive factor in any conflict, whether it be a general war or a localized war such as is now taking place. The experience in Korea, to say nothing of other smaller skirmishes which have taken place since World War II., gives us ample evidence that the previous Government’s reliance mainly on scientific weapons of warfare is quite inadequate and unrealistic. Should a general war occur, there will be little opportunity to train men. That is the view,’ not merely of statesmen, but also of every responsible military leader throughout the world. For example, Field-Marshal Montgomery, in a statement in May, 1948, used the following words : -
Modern weapons and inventions mean that we can no longer count on a breathing space at the beginning of another war to build up and train. The army must be ready to take thefield as early as possible, and organization for defence against air attack must be the highest priority in mobilization plans.
The peril of untrained troops should surely need no emphasis at this stage. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) gave us very telling evidence from his own experiences in the Malayan campaign of the fate that overtook not only the troops themselves, but also some of their commanders, through lack of training. I, myself, like every other member of the Australian Imperial Force who had the honour to serve in that theatre, recall very well indeed the deplorable situation that was caused by sending to Malaya, as reinforcements in January, 1942, approximately 4,000 scarcely trained personnel.
– Whose fault was that?
– Many of those men had been civilians as recently as Christmas Day, 1941.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! There should be no dialogue among Opposition members.
– Many of those men, when the time came for them to go into action, did not even know how to load their rifles. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) interjected a few moments ago, and asked, “Whose fault was that?” I propose to reply to that interjection, because Opposition members often make the extravagant claim that the Labour party won the war. It was one of the greatest crimes of the Labour Administration at that time that it sent 4,000 untrained men as reinforcements to a critical and desperate situation.
– We acted on the advice of theField-Marshal.
– The right honorable gentleman is trying to evade his responsibility.
– Order ! The honorable member for Angas is entitled to a fair hearing.
– That action by the Labour Government of the day was of no advantage to those of us who were fighting a difficult campaign on the Malay Peninsula. It is relevant to recall the occasion during this debate, because it provides a telling, almost brilliant, example of the folly of sending untrained men away from Australia and of the necessity for legislation such as that which we are now considering.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition thinks - quite honestly no doubt because his views are shared by certain other members of the Opposition, though, I am glad to say, not by all of them-that the voluntary system is the best form of preparation for defence. He said, and I hope that I am not misrepresenting him, that the voluntary system should not be abandoned if it could bemade a general success.
– That is right.
– I say at once, without any qualification, that I am not a believer in the voluntary system. I do not think that it is fair or just or that it can possibly be effective in the world as we know it to-day. I am sure that one of the reasons why the Government’s recruiting campaign has not met with the success that we hoped for is that, although a great majority of the young men of Australia are fully prepared to undergo military training, they are not prepared to single themselves out for service while their contemporaries are untouched. But, if we abandon the voluntary system and make service general and compulsory within prescribed age groups, we shall get from every patriotic Australian the response for which we hope. I cannot understand the opposition of some members of the Labour party to compulsory training. One aspect of the system, which should be stressed, should appeal to them. It may be described, for the sake of a better phrase, as the social aspect of compulsory training in a democracy. Those of us who have served in the various branches of the armed forces - and I am glad to say that we constitute a majority in this House - admit that one of the most valuable consequences of our periods of service was the mingling of men from all walks of life and all avocations. Such intermingling is the best possible way of breaking down class barriers and fostering an appreciation of the views of other men. In other words, it promotes that spirit of genuine democracy of which we hear so much from members of the Opposition. It should be possible to include in any wellconsidered scheme of military training a certain degree of adult education. Therefore, the Labour party is acting illogically in opposing compulsory service. Its attitude is at variance with some of the principles which it has professed for so long.
In considering the bill, I urge upon the Government three sets of considerations. First, hope, as do many other honorable members on this side of the House, that the bill will not be an end in itself but simply a beginning. We shall not travel very far along the road to security merely by calling up the eighteen-year-olds. According to the timetable that has been submitted, the Government expects to have 13,500 recruits next year, 15,500 in 1952, 19,000 in 1953, and 21,000 in 1954. But the period of direst emergency will probably occur before 1954! If we reflect on world events that are taking place even while we debate this measure, we realize that a ‘crisis may be reached much sooner than was expected even a few weeks ago. Therefore, I hope that, as soon as the national service scheme is in effective operation, the Government will extend its scope as rapidly as possible so as to include men in a much wider age bracket than that of the eighteen-year-olds.
I hope, too, that the Government will not fall into the error of making military training too comfortable. That is the second consideration that I urge upon it. We have heard much lately about preparations that are being made for the embellishment of military camps with amenities such as have never before been known in Australia. According to reliable authorities, trainees in the reconstructed camps will sleep in cubicles that will accommodate either two ot four men, on beds that will be equipped with reading lamps. I have even heard talk of power points for radio sets, sheets, and luxuries of that sort.
– -Is that too good for the trainees ?
– We shall not do a good service to these men if we give them the impression from the start that military training is comparatively easy and comfortable, and if we decorate it with luxurious appendages. We shall do them a much greater service if we tell them what all of us who served in the recent war know only too well, namely, that service life is difficult, cruel and harsh.
Both the troops and Australia will be3t be served if we give them, within reason, a hard and tough preparation for war, while they are still in their own country, instead of allowing them to learn all the difficult lessons of adjustment when they go overseas, should that ever be necessary. In offering these suggestions, I am speaking largely from my own experience. Many people believe, as I do, that the conditions of training in Australia in the early years of World War II., especially between 1939 and 1941, were on the whole too soft, too accommodating and too easy. No doubt many of us complained about those conditions, because it is in the tradition of the Australian soldier to grumble. However, when we reached the theatres of war, and saw what active service conditions were really like, all of us wished that we had been given more rigorous and gruelling training while we were at home. I hope that this mistake will not be repeated but, from present indications, I fear that I shall be disappointed. In fact, if we make our training camps relatively luxurious as has been suggested, the error will be repeated on a far worse and more dangerous and delusive scale.
I also urge the Government to develop in the new formations that will be established under this legislation a much more corporate spirit amongst the trainees than has hitherto, prevailed. I suggest to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) that conscripts be trained in camps-
– National trainees, not conscripts.
– I suggest that national trainees be trained in camps as far away from their homes as is physically possible; that they be not granted leave every Sunday, as was done during the early years of the recent war ; and that they be taken whenever practicable on manoeuvres extending, not merely over two or three days, but over two or three weeks or even longer, so that they may learn the rudiments of soldiering in a practical way. I hope that the new units will be invested with some colour and that, by the exercise of imagination, we shall try to infuse into them traditions of a peculiarly Australian character. Many of the famous British regiments have names that can be traced back over hundreds of years in pages of glorious history. Many men who have served in the Army believe that soldiering can be made a great deal more attractive than it is now if we try to make it more imaginative and cultivate some of those traditions which have served the British Army so well. We could perhaps start with the nomenclature of units. With all due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that we might call one unit “ Archie’s A.ck Ack “. I notice the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) sitting on the Opposition side of the House. We might name another unit “ Calwell’s Cavaliers “, and call the crack regiment, after our distinguished Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), “Bob’s Delight”. By proceeding on those lines, we could give encouragement to many of the young men who are about to be called up for service.
Let us not, either as private members or as a Government, assume an apologetic attitude in relation to this legislation. I believe that the young Australian, given inspiration and proper leadership, will be willing to face stark realities. He does not need to be provided with comfortable camps or to be told that this, that, and the other, will be done for him when he resumes his civil employment. He needs to be told that national service is an elementary responsibility of citizenship, that the Government certainly will look after him while he is doing his- duty, but that war is harsh, cruel and rigorous. With appropriate leadership and inspiration, our young men will respond to the call of duty as their predecessors did on former occasions. Notwithstanding the amendment that has been proposed by the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition and the tactics that may be adopted by the Labour party in the Senate, I am confident that the bill will become law. If both the Government and the commanders of the troops apply the lessons of past wars and mould the national service scheme accordingly, this legislation should contribute richly to the security of Australia, of the Empire, and of the freedom-loving world.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to %.15 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have much pleasure in introducing a bill which will give relief to those who are suffering incapacity as the result of their service in the forces, and to the dependants of deceased servicemen. I think that all honorable members will agree that ex-servicemen and women who have suffered in the service of their country are entitled to the best care and attention the community can give to them when they are sick and disabled, and that it is the duty of the Parliament to see that adequate compensation is provided for those who suffer from war-caused disabilities and are handicapped in making a living, so that they will be assured of securing the comforts of life for themselves, their wives and families.
The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the policy speech which he delivered on the 10th November, 1949, when dealing with repatriation, said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. The Opposition parties contain a majority of members and an overwhelming majority of new candidates who are exservicemen. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems. Current legislation will be promptly overhauled and anomalies adjusted. We will sympathetically review financial allowances, particularly those related to disability or war widowhood, in the light of all the circumstances, including the fall in the value of money. For advice in relation to them and other Repatriation matters, we shall establish ex-servicemen’s committees of Cabinet and of Parliament to confer with representatives of ex-service organizations.
The Government already has approved of the provision of motor cars to ex-service men and women whose war-caused disability is amputation of both legs above the knee, or whose war disability is similar in effect, e.g., persons who by reason of injury or disease of the spine have lost the use of their legs. In addition, an allowance of £120 per annum is payable to cover registration, compulsory third party and comprehensive insurance, and towards general running costs. Recreation transport allowances were payable only to members who were confined to wheeled chairs or cots, or who had lost both legs above the knees. The Government has extended this benefit to persons who are able to walk only short distances with the aid of crutches or walking sticks, and to members who have lost both arm3 or hands. The Government also has approved of the grant of a sum of up to £15 towards the cost of fitting a driving device to a motor car owned by a member who has lost a leg at or above the knee, and of the grant of a sum up to £10 for a similar purpose to a member who has lost his left arm at or above the elbow.
The new Cabinet, at its first meeting, appointed a sub-committee to review the payments being made under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The members of the sub-committee were all ex-servicemen, and after a number of meetings the committee submitted its report to Cabinet. The recommendations of the sub-committee are reflected in the bill now before this House. The principal object of the bill is to provide for increases in the rate of war pensions paid to members of the forces and their dependants in respect of incapacity arising from war service, and for increases in the rates of war pensions payable to the dependants of deceased members. In addition to the provisions for increases in rates of pensions, there are other amendments, the object of which is to remove anomalies in the principal act, and to clear up vague and indefinite wording so that the act will more clearly indicate the intention of the legislature. Furthermore, there are certain machinery amendments.
An example of an anomaly in the principal act is that if the incapacity or death of a member, who served during the 1914 war, is due to his default, or arises from, or from any occurrence happening during the commission of, any breach of discipline by the member, the incapacity or death is not pensionable ; but in 1939 war cases, the incapacity or death is pensionable unless it was due to the member’s serious default, or arose from or during a serious breach of discipline. I am sure that honorable members will agree that such an anomaly should not be permitted to continue, and it is the Government’s intention to bring the 1914-18 war cases into line with the 1939-45 war cases. The minor amendments of the principal act will not take away any present right of any member or dependant but, as I stated earlier, will have only the object of making clearer the intention of the act. It will be observed that the rates of pensions specified in this bill are expressed in fortnightly rates as war pensions are payable fortnightly; however, in this speech, I shall refer to weekly rates.
The proposed increases in the rates of war pensions would cost £5,800,000 in a full year. The largest group of war pensioners comprises members receiving general pension rates in respect of incapacity assessed from 10 per cent, to 100 per cent. The First Schedule to the act sets out the general pensions rate? payable to a member upon total incapacity. This is generally referred to as the basic rate. In 1920 the basic rate was £2 2s. a week. This was increased to £2 10s. a week from the 6th May, 1943, and to £2 15s. a week from the 28th October, 1948. The Government proposes to increase the rate by 15s. a week to £3 10s. a week.
When a member, as the result of war service, is incapacitated for life to such an extent as to be precluded from earning other than a negligible percentage of a living wage, he is granted a special rate pension. At present that rate is £5 6s. a week, and it is proposed to increase it to £7 a week.
The wife of a totally incapacitated member at present receives a pension of £1 4s. a week, and in respect of each child under sixteen years of age a pension of 9s. a week. The bill provides for the rate for a wife to be increased to £1 10s. 6d. a week, and for the rate for each child to be increased to lis. 6d. a week.
Under the proposals already outlined, the family income of a member who is a special rate pensioner and has a wife and three children, aged 13, 14^ and 15£ years respectively, will be as follows : -
In addition, if the children are attending school, education allowance of £1 13s. a week will be payable. Thus the family income from the Repatriation Department would be £11 18s. a week, which with child endowment of £1 5s. a week makes a total of £13 3s. a week.
Under the existing act, no wife married, or child born after the 30th June, 1938, to a member of the 1914-18 war forces, is eligible to receive pension in respect of the member’s incapacity. Over the years, numerous representations have .been made by ex-servicemen’s organizations to previous governments to have this bar removed, and it will be observed that the bill makes provision for pensions to be granted to these wives and children. The act provides for payment of pension at an 80 per cent, rate in respect of incapacity arising from total loss of speech, and at 70 per cent, rate for total deafness. The disabilities are very serious from a social point of view, and are a great handicap in employment. It is proposed to increase each of these rates to 100 per cent.
There is provision in the Fifth Schedule to the act for the payment of additional amounts to members who have lost limbs or an eye. It will be observed that the bill provides for substantial increases to be made in the additional amounts payable in such cases. Under the Second Schedule to the act an attendant’s allowance of £1 4s. a week can be paid to a member who has been blinded or a person who, by reason of injury or disease affecting the cerebro-spinal system, is deemed by the Repatriation Commission to be in need of an attendant. The bill provides for this allowance to be increased to £1 10s. a week, and to £3 a week if the member is blind and totally deaf, or blind and has total loss of speech. The Fifth Schedule to the act provides for the payment of an attendant’s allowance of £2 8s. a week to a member who has lost both arms, and of £1 4s. a week to a member who has lost two legs and one arm, or has had one leg amputated at the hip and the other in the upper third. The Government proposes to increase the allowance to £3 a week in the case of loss of both arms, and to £1 10s. a week in the other cases.
The existing rate of war pension payable to the. widow of a deceased member is £3 a week where the rate of pay of the deceased was 22s. 6d. a day or less. Where the member’s rate of pay exceeded 22s. 6d. a day, the pension rate increases gradually up to £3 18s. a week where the member’s rate of pay was over 50s. a day. Provision is made in the bill for the pensions of widows to be increased uniformly by 10s. a week. In addition to the war pension, a widow is granted a domestic allowance of 7s. 6d. a week if she has one or two children under sixteen years of age. The allowance is payable under regulations to the act and the Government intends to increase it to 10s. a week and make it payable to all widows with a child or children under sixteen years of age, and also to a widow who has attained the age of 50 years. It will be seen that when a widow remarries the bill provides for the payment of an amount equivalent to 26 instalments of pension. The amount payable will be approximately £182.
Since the 6th May, 1943, the war pensions payable to children of deceased members have been as follows: -
It is proposed to increase these rates to 22s. a week for the first child and to 15s. 6d. a week for the other children.
The proposed rates of pensions for widows and children, together with other benefits, would give a widow with three children, aged 15£ years, 14£ years and 13 years respectively, who are attending school, the following income: -
When both parents of a child are deceased, a pension of 17s. 6d. a week is now paid if the child is under fourteen years, and 20s. a week if the child is over fourteen years of age. In addition, an amount of 6s. a week can he paid for each- child if it is in necessitous circumstances. Honorable members will observe that the bill provides for the pensions payable in respect of such children to be increased to 40s. a week each.
The widowed mother of a deceased unmarried son is entitled to receive a pension, irrespective of her circumstances. A “ widowed mother “ within the meaning of the act is a widowed mother who became a widow prior to or within three years after the death of a deceased unmarried member. The existing rates of pensions payable to such dependants are set out in the First Schedule to the act, and provision is made in the bill for these rates to be increased by 10s. a week. Subject to the widowed mother having been dependent upon the deceased member, her pension may at present be increased to such amount as will provide her with an income of £3 a week from all sources, and it is proposed to increase this amount to £3 10s. a week. A parent of a deceased member is entitled to receive a war pension if he, or she, is at any time without adequate means of support, but the rate of war pension payable cannot exceed the rate provided for a widowed mother in the First Schedule to the act.
A large percentage of parents who receive war pensions in respect of deceased members also receive some benefit under the Social Services Consolidation Act.
In the 1914-18 war cases these parents would average about 80 years of age. The Government considers that the pensions in such cases should be paid by one department, and thus save the parents from having to approach two departments to obtain what they are entitled to receive from the Commonwealth. Provision is made in the bill for the Repatriation Department to assume liability for the payments made to these parents by the Department of Social Services.
Service pensions, which are distinct from war pensions, are payable to members who served in a theatre of war and have attained the age of sixty years, or are permanently unemployable, and such pensions are also payable to members suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. Those pensions are subject to the same means tests as are age and invalid pensions payable under the Social Services Consolidation Act. The rates of service pensions will be increased by 7s. 6d. a week, which is the amount by which age and invalid pensions have been increased. In the case of a member who is permanently unemployable or who is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, his wife and children cannot be granted service pensions unless, in 1914-18 war cases, the wife was married te the member and the children were born prior to the 2nd October, 1931. It will be seen that the bill provides for the removal of that bar so that such wives and children will be eligible to be granted service pensions.
I am sure that it will be of interest to honorable members to know that on the 30th September, 1950, the annual liability for war pensions in respect of the 1914-18 war was £10,174,678, and the annual liability for 1939-45 war pensions was £10,881,433. Under the regulations to the act sustenance is payable to a member who is, because of the necessities of treatment, unable to follow his occupation. The rates of such sustenance are linked with the rates of war pension and will be increased accordingly. It is proposed that the provisions that I have outlined shall operate from the 2nd November, 1950, and that payment at the increased rates, plus arrears, will be made as expeditiously as possible after the act has received assent.
Honorable members will see that the bill provides for the extension of pension and other benefits to members of the forces who served, or are serving, in Korea and Malaya. I am sure the bill is one which will meet with the approval of honorable members on both sides of the House and I trust that it will be passed as speedily as possible. I commend the bill to honorable members of this House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following items : -
Consideration resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1508), on motion by Mr. McBride -
Thatthe Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1949, as proposed to be amended by Customs Tariff Proposals, be further amended * . .(vide* page 1506.)
– The customs tariff motion before the committee was introduced on the 26th October last, and the comparative statement that has now been distributed to honorable members gives a comparison of the rate of duties under such item appearing in the motion and those operating under the Customs Tariff 1933-1949. The reductions, as indicated in the comparative statement, that are proposed to be made in the customs duties on imported matches, correspond to those proposed in an excise tariff motion that will be presented for the consideration of honorable members later to-day. The object of the resolutions is to obviate an increase in the retail price of matches.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1508), on motion by Mr. McBride -
That the Schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921- 1949 be amended . . .(vide page 1507.)
. - This motion, which relates to excise duties on matches, is complementary to the legislation concerning customs duties on imported matches that I have just placed before honorable members. The motion now before the committee proposes to make a reduction of 9d. on each quantity of 8,640 matches, which is the equivalent of a gross of boxes, each of which contain 60 matches. The reduction will operate from the beginning of the present financial year, and arrangements have been made to refund the excess collections that have been made. The variation will not affect the present retail price of matches, its purpose being to offset increased costs in the industry and to obviate an increase of the present price.
Debate resumed (vide page 3433).
.- The measure under consideration is naturally one in which there is a genuine difference of opinion amongst members of all political parties. It is true, as honorable members opposite have stated, that there is a great difference between the Government and the Opposition on the Government’s proposals for national defence. The policy of the Australian Labour party is quite clear on this matter. It supports a voluntary system of enlistment for the protection and defence of this nation, and as a member of the Labour party I subscribe to that policy. However, it would appear from the speeches made by supporters of the Government that there is a wide difference of opinion among them about whether the scheme provided for in this bill is not, in the real sense of the word, a squib, because it fails to make any effective contribution to national defence.
Various opinions have been expressed by honorable members opposite in relation to the defence proposals made by the Australian Labour party from time to time. I refer particularly to some of the statements made by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who urged the Opposition to allow the bill to pass speedily in the interests of national security. He criticized us by saying that we were deliberately delaying the passage of the legislation. He contended that the measure was urgent, and he stated most emphatically that it was wrong for the House to spend any time in considering the matter. He asserted that we should simply accept the proposals of the Government, and agree to them promptly. I desire to make it clear that if the Government really regards this matter as urgent it has adopted a most extraordinary attitude towards it. If these defence proposals are really urgent why has the Government delayed for twelve months in introducing them? Why did it not present its proposals earlier, and give the House proper time to consider them? The argument that the proposals are urgent will not hold water when we have regard to the dilatory manner in which the Government has treated the whole matter of defence.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who introduced the measure, said that all honorable members had had twelve months in which to consider the means we should adopt to meet our defence requirements. The plain fact is that until the Minister made his second-reading speech, we did not know what the Government’s proposals were, nor did most honorable gentlemen opposite know what they were. I suppose the real reason why those honorable members opposite who have taken part in the debate have discussed the matter at such length is that they have not had proper time to consider the Government’s proposals because, like ourselves, they did not know what they were until the bill was introduced.
Mr. Treloar interjecting,
– I leave the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) out of my remarks, because he would not have understood the proposals even if he had heard them. It is clear that the policy of the Government, not only in regard to defence but also in respect of a number of other important matters, including notably the wool industry, is not to take its supporters into its confidence. My assertion is borne out by the diversity of opinion that has already been expressed by honorable members opposite who have spoken in this debate, and, I have no doubt that even more divergent views will be expressed by those who follow them.
By contrast, I believe that the policy of the Labour party in relation to defence has been clearly stated and is well known to all. A press report of a statement issued by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) on the 27th September last on the matter of defence sets out our attitude very clearly. That statement is as follows: -
The greatest means for Australia’s security lie in a larger population and greater development of our country’s resources. Mr. Chifley made it clear that the Labour party considers that an enlarged military programme should not be carried beyond a certain point. The Government should not bleed this country white by sending men, materials and money all over the world.
In other words, the Labour party believes in raising by voluntary enlistment a defence force for the protection of this country, but not one for service in any part of the world to which the Government might arbitrarily decide to send it.
According to the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Labour and National Service, the bill will give the Government the right to carry out the policy for which it claims to have received a mandate at the last general election. Incidentally, that is the first time that honorable members opposite have been game to use the word “mandate” since they introduced the wool sales contribution measure. In giving his reasons for having introduced the bill the Minister said that trained young men are needed to defend the country in time of war, and that the Government’s national service scheme was an integral part of its general defence policy. He -went on to mention the salient features of the bill, which are that boys aged eighteen years and over will be called up for service, and that it is anticipated that 13,500 young men will be called up for service in the first year. The scheme will provide for continuous training in the armed service to which recruits are allocated, and the bill also includes additional provisions for the call-up, exemption and deferment of certain classes of young men. Certain safeguards are contained in the measure to protect the continuity of employment of” young men who are called up for service which also includes provisions designed to encourage employers to make their employees available for national service. I think that that is a fair summary of the bill.
After due and careful consideration, and having in mind the difference of opinion on this matter, not only amongst Labour members but also amongst the Government parties, and having regard to the great demands made upon the man-power and production of the country by the Government’s proposals, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) moved an amendment. I believe that that amendment should receive the support of all honorable gentlemen. He moved an amendment as follows : - ‘
That all the words after “ That “ he left out with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “the Government’s proposals in the bill to provide for compulsory national service in the defence forces he investigated and reported upon by an appropriate all-party committee which should be authorized to examine all the relevant defence, man-power and economic needs and capacities of Australia and to call witnesses including defence personnel and representatives of labour, industry and commerce.”.
What is wrong with that proposal, having in mind our experience in the last war, when this country’s defences were so committed, and our fighting forces in the late stages of the war were such that the capacity of the country to maintain the production of even the essentials of war was very severely curtailed? In other words, we were top-heavy because we had too many men in the armed forces and, because of lack of man-power in industry, our resources were not suffi cient to maintain those armed forcesproperly. I have in mind the inspiring speeches that were made from time totime by honorable members opposite about the lack of production, the need for man-power in industry to producethe nation’s requirements and the need, for increased production to force prices; down and to meet the great demands of our expanding industrial economy. I find the greatest difficulty in reconciling the proposals contained in the bill with the proposals for greater production that were enunciated by honorable members opposite.
We say that a complete and full investigation of the proposed training scheme is desirable in order to discover whether it will, or will not, retard this country’s recovery, about which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) spoke in his policy speech during the last general election campaign. What will happen in regard to the fulfillment of the Government’s promises to achieve increased production and so force prices down and provide more homes for the people, if men are taken out of industry at a time like the present when there is already a shortage of industrial man-power? It is quite right to say, as the Minister for Labour and National Service said when he introduced this bill, that only 13,500 men will be leaving industry in the first year and that that number will represent only 1 per cent, of the effective working population of that age. But our industrial man-power is so short to-day that we are arranging for immigrants to work in our industries, and particularly in the heavy industries which are the real foundation of our economy and must also be the basis of any defence effort. Those industries cannot afford to lose one man, no matter of what age.
Mr. Osborne interjecting,
-.- If you do not think that what I say is true, then vote for the amendment for the establishment of the committee and you will have an opportunity to find out what the real position is. But can you explain to me how you will achieve increased production by pulling men out of industry when there are not enough men in industry now?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must address me.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. Iwas merely elaborating a very effective point. I have mentioned these matters because there is one important aspect of the scheme that should be examined. We wish to know from what industries the men to be called up will be taken. It is of no use to say that industry can spare even one man at the present time. To prove that point I shall read to the House a press statement that was issued at the end of September by the Minister for Labour and National Service, in which he dealt with the shortage of man-power in essential industries. The statement read -
The decline in the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit was continuing the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said to-day, the total number throughout Australia at the end of September being only 394, of whom 279 were males and 1.15 females. The Minister added that this was the lowest ever recorded.
Unfilled vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service rose by 9,000, bringing the total to 117,500 at the end of September. Of this increase almost 4,000 was in manufacturing (mainly the building materials and metal and engineering groups) while the increases in labour demand in building and construction and communications, finance and commerce were also substantial.
The total vacancies comprised 82,900 for males and 34,700 for females, and were spread over industry as follows: Primary production 4,200; mining and quarrying 2,300; manufacturing 60,600; building and construction 18,500; transport 6,200; and commerce, finance and communication 9,000. The balance of 16,800 were in service industries, including health and domestic services.
Victoria had the most vacancies (50,300) while in New South Wales therewere 42,300, Queensland 10,000, South Australia 7,600, Western Australia 4,000, and Tasmania 3,400.
Mr. Holt said that in the five weeks ended 29th September, the Commonwealth Employment Service referred 42,500 persons to employers. These included 3,500 migrants, of whom the greatest proportion were displaced persons.
What has the Government to say about the effect on industry of the withdrawal from industry of 13,500 men in the immediate future, in view of that statement by one of its own Ministers? Do not honorable members opposite realize that the withdrawal of men from basic industries will have a detrimental effect on the economy of this country ? In what way will it contribute towards an increase of production? Our war potential depends upon the production by basic industries of the equipment and supplies for our defence forces. In the event of war those industries would be strained to produce enough material for the needs of home defence, without any consideration being given to supplying the needs of an expeditionary force. Those facts are a clear justification for our opposition to the Government’s scheme, and are among the reasons that prompted this party to submit the amendment for a complete investigation into all the matters associated with the scheme, and into how the scheme will effect our economy and our industries generally. It is of no use idly to put aside the proposal contained in the amendment. I believe that if honorable members opposite were sincere most of them would support the amendment. Everybody knows that they are hopelessly divided on the effect that the scheme will have on our economy. I have based that statement on information taken from one of the Government’s official organs, the Sydney Sunday Sun which, on the 24th September last, published an article under the following headlines : -
Liberals divided on defence.
Rebels bitterly oppose Menzies’ volunteer plan.
The article read in part -
One Liberal member said to-day : “ This plan is not one whit different in essentials from the Labour policy which we have been condemning for years.
Another part of the article told how Government supporters were fighting amongst themselves and how some of them considered that the scheme was too much like Labour policy. If the Government’s advertisements, and the statements of its members, that have been published throughout the country, to. the effect that Australia is in imminent danger, are correct, and if the statements about the onward march of communism all over the world are correct, then the Government is letting Australia down by bringing in a half-baked scheme such as is provided by the measure. How does the Government consider that it will be able, under a half-baked proposal like this, to maintain even a token defence against the forces that it says are lined up against this country? One advertisement issuedby the Government read -
Throw your weight in the balance for peace and prosperity.
It then went on to say -
On paper the total resources of the free nations and their potential strength ina world-wide war seem to outweigh the pooled resources of the Communist states. But in armed man-power marshalled and posted to a strategic master plan, in weapons and supplies conveniently located near the world’s political danger spots, the forces of aggression are a formidable threat to peace and freedom.
If that statement is correct, what will be the good of a scheme which will give you, in two years, a force of under 30,000 men to defend this country? Undoubtedly, the real purpose of the Government is to introduce this scheme hurriedly without investigation, and therefore you are opposing our amendment.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is apparently addressing some one else when he should be addressing me.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. The point that I wish to make is that the Government is now trying to force this bill through without giving due consideration to the amendment that has bean submitted by the Opposition, which is designed to lead to an investigation of the factors that I have mentioned - the shortages of man-power, the need for production and the need to expand our economy to enable a defence force that will be sufficient for even home defence to be maintained. I do not know how honorable members opposite can justifiably oppose the proposals that we have submitted. Those proposals have a sound basis. We believe that the Government is actuated, amongst other things, by a desire to have a standing army which it will be able to send anywhere in the world in the event of what it would term an “ emergency “ occurring. It would completely forget the really important thing in the defence of Australia, which is defence of our continent itself. We might easily face a position where, by the will of this Government, our forces would be fighting abroad when they were actually required in this country. Such a position arose during the last war. The Government proposes to raise a force of 13,500 men to defend Australia, but, according to military experts, it would be necessary to have 600,000 well-trained men to hold back invading forces.I quote again from the Sydney Sunday Sun, one of the Government’s official organs, which, on the 6th August last, included in its letterpress the following, observations : - 1950 Call-up in 1914 style. 600,000 well-trained men would be needed to hold back invading forces.
Yet the Government intends to call up only a total of 13,500 men as a nucleus of a force to defend Australia. We say that this half-baked scheme has not been properly considered. The Government has completely lost sight of the needs of industry and of the shortages from which we now suffer. It has turned its back on the increased production policy that its members enunciated at the last general election. It has ignored the mandate given to it to increase production. If it were to submit any measure really designed to give effect to that mandate it would be fully supported. It has not effectively answered the charge we have made that it is completely ignoring vital factors associated with our economy in presenting this measure to the Parliament. You are completely overlooking-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will please address me, although he may consider it distasteful to do so.
– The Government is completely overlooking the fact that we have certain obligations. Although we should have an army, it is necessary that it shall not become top heavy, and that our economy shall be able to support it. The amendment submitted by the Labour party should be accepted, because the investigation that it is designed to achieve would produce a wealth of information that might be verified from the files of the Department of Labour and Industry and from the files of other Commonwealth departments. It will be a sorry thing for Australia if the Government completely disregards the thought and the purpose that lie behind the amendment, which is designed, above all else, to ensure that the defence scheme “will be such as is no doubt visualized by *he most progressive members of this Parliament - that is, one whereby adequate defence will be provided for this country in the event of war or invasion. If the Government permits an investigation of the scheme to be made in line with the proposals in the amendment, it will be able to ensure, as a result of the information gained from the experts who -will be examined by the proposed com.mittee, that the scheme finally adopted will be of real effect in meeting the defence needs of the country, without being detrimental to our industrial economy.
Hr. CHARLES RUSSELL (Maranoa) i[3.0], - I believe that the Opposition would like to support this measure, and that the amendment before the House is purely a delaying tactic designed by the Opposition to give its Federal Executive the opportunity to examine the measure at some later date. The criticism of the measure by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is interesting. He said that the Government had left the matter of defence in abeyance for twelve months before doing anything about it. The fact that almost twelve months have elapsed since the Government assumed office does not mean that there has been no investigation of the defence position. The reason for the delay is that the chiefs of the services and relevant departments have been giving the matter the fullest possible consideration. The fact that this inevitable delay has occurred is all the more reason why the Opposition should cause no further delay and should allow the bill to pass forthwith. The political relationships of the nations have deteriorated considerably since this Government was elected. We are virtually on the verge of war at the present time, and it is vitally necessary that we should take some immediate action to correct the situation into which we have fallen. What the honorable member for Grayndler has said about the economy of the country may be quite true, but in the interests of having a strong economy or a higher standard of living are we to throw away our defence preparedness and leave ourselves defenceless m the face of growing world tension ? I feel sure that the bill before the House will be welcomed by every thinking Australian who realizes the implications of the position in which Australia is now placed.
While realizing that most of the provisions of this measure have been dealt with by people more qualified to discuss them than I am, I feel that I should make my. position clear to the Government. I believe that compulsory national service is necessary. During the last war a feeling arose between our two armies which was most regrettable, and under a system of compulsory military training this would not be likely to occur again. In war, as has been already stated by many men who have seen untrained men in action, it is disastrous to put untrained men into the field. That is not only because of their ineffectiveness against the enemy, but also because they are not able efficiently to protect themselves. Both to make them effective and to enable them te protect themselves they must be fully trained.
In peace-time the benefit to the youth of the country of a system of national training is considerable. From my own experience in military training I can say that it is a fine means of developing both physically and mentally the young men of the country, and that it teaches them to rub shoulders in friendship with their fellows. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) made a good point when he said that national training could have the greatest levelling influence in a country where class distinction and class warfare has been fostered to a disastrous degree by the Labour party. Glass feeling thus fostered has a great effect on our standard of living because of the slowing down that it causes in industry. It is gratifying to hear that voluntary committees have been set up in various centres to support the Government’s defence plans. The fact that these committees have been established and are moving strongly should hearten the Government in bringing down this legislation. It shows that people are ready to accept this form of national service and that they realize that this measure is long overdue. Dependence on a voluntary system of training is no longer possible, nor is it desirable, because the methods of warfare have so changed. The old idea that one volunteer was worth ten pressed men has gone by the board. To-day the whole community has to be geared for war. Everybody must pull his weight. In recent times we have seen the method adopted by governments to attract men to the Army. I suggest that some of those methods have been rather Gilbertian. For instance, we have seen the spectacle of a responsible government trying to attract men into the Army by employing chorus girls and presenting vaudeville shows. I suggest that that method of attracting men is wrong. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said that we should adhere to the voluntary system, but no other country in the world relies on the voluntary system, which is so costly and so futile. Its futility can be gauged from the fact that during the two months since the recruiting campaign was launched, we have recruited to the colours not more than 1,200 men, although our estimated requirement is. 60,000. The cost of the recruiting of those men has worked out at about £1,000 a head. As the campaign loses its first impetus obviously the cost will increase, and so a condition will arise where it will become economically unsound to continue along those lines.
I suggest that we cannot afford the voluntary system any longer, either financially ot from the point of view of securing the men who are so urgently needed to defend our territory. Only under a system of compulsory military training can we hope to rebuild as rapidly as necessary the strength of our various defence forces. It is also vitally necessary that we should ensure a regular intake of men so that they can be incorporated in training units with some regularity and some knowledge of the numbers coming forward. If that is not done there will be a tremendous waste through the irregular intake of trainees. I suggest that the objective of the Labour party in opposing this measure is purely political and is rooted in a traditional objection to military service of any sort. To-day, more than ever before, the burden of a war mast fall on the shoulders of every member of the community. We, in our small Australian community, have to depend on the assistance of our neighbours and other British Commonwealth countries. It is unreasonable to suggest that they should fight with conscripted armies and that we should contribute a. comparatively small number under a. voluntary system. If another war occurswe shall not have the time for preparation that we have had in the last two wars. We must be ready at any time. Therefore, I commend the Government for bringing forward this urgently needed measure.
– On a previous occasion, whenI have discussed defence matters I havesuggested to honorable members in thisHouse that if there was one thing that: should stand above party politics it was the defence of Australia. That is particularly so now, when we know that the world situation is one of extreme crisis. Whatever differences we may have on a political basis there is a common bond which holds us together. It is that we have a country that we love, which has magnificent natural resources and future possibilities and in which the traditions of the free nations from which we have sprung are cherished. In this country we have carried on our free traditions in a world which has endeavoured to destroy them through certain agencies of the extreme right and of the extreme left. I approach the subject before the House in that spirit, because I feel that unless we can convey to the people of Australia through this National Parliament an understanding of the belief of all members that there is a great and present danger and an extreme crisis, we shall have failed in the first responsibility that the Parliament has to the people. I know that honorable members opposite are bound by certain decisions of their own controlling body. That has brought big stresses and strains upon the approach that they make to this matter. I know that when I hear Opposition members speak it is not necessary for me to condemn their point of view as springing from insincerity, because, after all, they are only advocating the policy of their party. The policy of their party on this matter is one with which I entirely disagree, but I know that it binds honorable in embers of the Opposition in their approach to the matter now before this House.
I suggest that they have grave doubts of the wisdom of the policy that they are. pursuing. That is apparent from the speech of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) who, eloquent though he was, involved himself in a series of contradictions. He condemned this measure because it did not go to the extreme point of providing that every one who was called up should be called up for service anywhere. He also said that we should provide for a more comprehensive call-up. Then he adverted to the view of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) who, I am sorry to say, is not here to-day, that we should not infringe upon the industrial development of the country. He said that it was more important that we should have regard to industrial development than to the. necessity to enrol a great number -of men in the Army.
I now desire to refer to the rhetorical question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He asked, in effect, “ Can there be any argument for compulsion for the sake of compulsion? “ What exactly is meant by that? Does the right honorable member suggest that we should address ourselves, or that we are addressing ourselves, to the academic question whether it is desirable to compel people to do things or otherwise ? That is quite unrealistic if it is what he meant. If he poses a question directed to ascertaining whether compulsion under certain circumstances is desirable and essential, then I am quite prepared to answer “ Yes “ without hesitation. For reasons which I have recently brought forward in the House I believe that in the defence of the country there should be a compulsory training scheme, and I go further and suggest that an argument, could be supported that compulsion should be applied to any circumstances which might arise. I shall not traverse the remarks that I made on that occasion except to point out that I then emphasized the high qualifications that are required of those who seek to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force. During World war II., although the total air force personnel represented only 20 per cent, of male enlistments, 30 per cent, of the casualties were air force men. Members of the air force are required to have intelligence well above the average and a capacity to co-ordinate thought and action and act effectively and instantaneously under conditions which would render men of a lower standard of intelligence practically helpless. Those facts provide another justification for compulsory military training.
Some years ago I had the opportunity to travel with the late Admiral Sir Guy Gaunt, who was in charge of the first squadron that was stationed in Australian waters. When I asked him what he thought about Australian naval personnel he replied that he was very proud to command them. However, he added that he had often said to young men on board Australian warships, “ What are you doing here? You have too much intelligence for the work that you are required to do, because it does not take much intelligence to carry out the tasks that the great majority of naval personnel are required to perform. You fellows, with your intelligence, should be developing your country “. That comment reveals a serious weakness in the voluntary system of military service. Under that system, the first to enlist are usually those who can apply intelligence and drive in any walk of life, whereas those whose intelligence is of a lower order and who, in many instances, are in need of the training that they would receive in the armed forces, do not enlist at all. The case for compulsory military training can be supported from that viewpoint, and we shall fail to observe that principle only at our peril. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Chifley Government had evolved a defence plan for a period of five years at a cost of £295,000,000. Owing to the pressure of events during the last- twelve months, which no intelligent person can fail to recognize, the Government has already been obliged to provide for an expenditure of £134,000,000 on defence during the current financial year. Possibly, before the year closes the international position may worsen to such a degree that it will have no alternative but to increase that expenditure considerably.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked what the defence requirements of Australia are. Having regard to the present international situation, it is not difficult to answer that question. We must put into top gear not only training for military service. but also industrial production. In many quarters there is a complete failure to comprehend that fact. Unless those two aspects of the problem are dealt with under one general plan, we shall not be able to develop industrially to the degree that we require even in order to enable us to meet our defence needs. To-day, training in the armed forces is no longer merely a matter of foot-slogging and carrying a rifle. Modern warfare demands the provision of highly mechanized forces and, consequently, much of the training that is imparted to individuals in the armed forces to-day is most useful in ordinary industry. That fact was clearly demonstrated during World War LT. All my life I have been a civilian not by inclination but by force of circumstances, and it was my privilege at one time to control for a considerable period a great department that was charged with the technical training of two-fifths of the population of the State in which I lived. Before the recent war became imminent it was necessary to make provision for the technical training of our youth. To-day, one of our greatest needs arises from the fact that so many of our youth are not receiving technical training but are entering dead-end occupations. We cannot force young people to undergo specialized and technical training. Industry now pays high wages for unskilled work, but, unfortunately, those who engage in such work in preference to undergoing technical training later find themselves at a dead end. In those circumstances, there is virtue in a military system that offers training of a kind for which individuals have a natural aptitude and which will be most useful to them later in civilian life. That is my reply to those who argue that compulsory military service will merely deprive industry of a substantial man-power potential. Under present conditions the reverse will be the case. At the same time, those who are called up for training will be better equipped to render the most effective service in the defence of this country.
One naturally asks in a debate of this kind why Australia should prepare its defences. Does any threat exist to the security of this country? Any person of moderate intelligence who studies the present international situation recognizes that a serious threat exists to this country. Our continent is occupied by only 8,000,000 people. We have held it in the past only with the help of Great Britain and the power of the British Navy and, during the last war, by the additional help that the great republic of the United States of America gave to us. Let us face the threat that our protectors clearly recognize. Great Britain and the United States of America are gearing for war. They are not doing so because they want war. However, they do not refuse to face the facts. They are not prepared, ostrichlike, to bury their heads in the sand. The next question that might be asked is whether the need for action is urgent. Surely, one does not need to emphasize that urgent action is needed. Any proposal that we should defer action that already has been deferred for too long will not appeal to persons who have studied the present international position. Finally, one might ask those who are in any doubt about the need for this measure whether this country is worth defending. Any one who has been overseas will realize that Australia is worth defending. Australians to-day have the highest standard of living and enjoy the freest and happiest conditions that exist in any country. Australia is a gem that we must cherish. That is our position.
Two other questions naturally follow from those that I have already raised. The first is whether our man-power should be trained to defend this country. Oan we hope to hold Australia unless we train our people to defend it? Such training is essential. I refer honorable members to resolutions that were passed with respect to defence at various conferences of the Australian
Labour movement. As far back as 1908 the Australian Labour party at its conference passed the following resolution : -
That plank 8 be amended to read: Citizen Defence Force with compulsory military training and Australian-owned navy.
That resolution reflected the attitude of the Labour party in those days. At the Australian Labour party conference held in 1912, Mrs. Dwyer, one of the delegates, moved -
That compulsory military training be extended from the age of seventeen to 25 years.
The purpose of that resolution was to increase the number of men who would be trained to defend the country. It was not until 1916 that Mr. Scullin propounded the idea that compulsory overseas military service is opposed to the principles that are embodied in the platform of the Labour party. Unfortunately, that idea has formed the keynote of resolutions that have been passed with respect to defence at subsequent conferences of the Australian Labour party. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said that one sphere in which compulsion should not enter was that of overseas military service. I remind him and his colleagues of the changes that have taken place since 1908 when the Labour party passed the first of the resolutions that I have just mentioned. The capacity of nations to strike over great distances has been enormously increased. It is time that honorable members opposite revised their views on defence. With respect to the amendment that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed - and I say this entirely on my own responsibility and without in any way binding the party to which I belong - I consider that this measure should be passed as speedily as possible because it will be in the best interests of the nation. At the same time, I believe that it would also be in the best interests of the nation if a committee of the kind that the right honorable gentleman has proposed were subsequently set up in order to examine thoroughly, regardless of party political considerations, the whole question of how we can best gear Australia to defend itself. Unfortunately, we may be called upon to perform that task in the very near future.
.- The two principles upon which the national service policy of the Government is based are, first, that we must at all times be prepared to defend ourselves against external aggression; and, secondly, that we must be prepared to fulfil the international obligations that the Parliament has approved of on behalf of the nation. This measure is founded upon those two simple principles. If the Labour party says that it will not accept those principles it says, in effect, to the Australian people that it is not prepared to defend this country against aggression and that it is not prepared to honour the obligations that Australia entered into when it became a member of the United Nations. Consequently, the Australian people are justified in drawing the conclusion that whilst they can depend upon the Government to defend them the Labour party has turned its back upon them, and will not do anything to help them to defend themselves. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said that this debate revealed a genuine difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition on the merits of the voluntary system as compared with the compulsory system of military training. That statement is not correct because not one member of the Opposition is free to express his own opinion on this matter. All members of the Opposition must adhere to the decision made by the Australian Labour party conference of 1948 opposing compulsory training. They cannot exercise a free and unfettered judgment. Even though their individual judgment may be sound, they are compelled to speak and vote according to the way an outside body, unknown to the House, dictates. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that in 1947 the Chifley Government drew up a defence plan and that as the present Government had continued to implement that plan it was satisfied with it. He mumbled on, and said, in effect, “I am perfectly satisfied, and. I do not know why the rest of the nation should be dissatisfied “. I invite Opposition members to listen carefully to the figures I shall read, and ask themselves whether there is any prospect of performance matching up to proposals under the existing scheme. The figures which have been issued by the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) are as follows: -
Can Opposition members claim even a proportionate fulfilment of the estimates or of the ultimate objectives ? That part of the right honorable gentleman’s argument is completely wrong and I hope that the Australian people will quickly realize just how false it is.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said that the Labour party had never postulated against compulsion in the defence of this country. I remind him that honest-to-goodness Labour has never done so. Honest-to-goodness Labour since 1908 has accepted the principle of compulsion in military training in this country. I have extracted a few references to that matter by stalwarts of the Labour movement - the men who were genuine Australians - and I shall tell the House exactly what they said. Alfred Deakin was a Liberal who had once been committed to a voluntary system, yet he brought down proposals in 1907 for universal compulsory military training as the future basis of the defence system of Australia. Not long afterwards, the cudgels were taken up on behalf of that system by J. C. Watson and the present right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), at that time both Labour men. Successive Labour governments approved of the scheme put forward by the Deakin Government, but it was not until some years later that those proposals were implemented under a Labour government. It was not until after Lord Kitchener had advised us on our defence needs that a Labour government was able to pass the Defence Act, section 125 of which made compulsory military training one of the foundations on which the defence of this country was to be built. I make it clear that compulsory military training is the traditional Labour prin ciple^ - an honoured Labour principle - for the defence of this country. It has never been a socialist party principle. From the date of the initial Labour party conference in 1909, the then socialists in the Labour movement have bitterly opposed compulsory military training, and, to-day, on the other side of the House, we see the socialists still opposing measures for the defence of this country. In many other countries, with the single exception of the United Kingdom, the socialists are denying the right of their own nationals to defend themselves, and are weakly submitting to the Communists. Day after day during the last few years, the socialists have been capitulating. They capitulated in Italy to the Communists.
– No, they split in two.
– I say that they are capitulating. The latest edition of Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy provides clear evidence of the policy of the socialist parties since they commenced their nefarious operations. I shall make no further reference to the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who was obviously speaking in his usual specious way in the hope that, through some trick of fate, his arguments might be accepted. Whether his heart was in his speech, or whether he has a heart at all, I, for one, do not know.
The bill does not provide for a compulsory scheme of enlistment in the armed forces for overseas service. It has nothing directly to do with that problem. It relates to a matter of training our forces in case there should be some unexpected eventuality or emergency which demands that we have trained man-power to defend this country. That point should be made clear, because obviously the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tried to confuse the two issues. He tried to confuse the defence forces, and compulsory military training, which is a system designed to train our young manhood so that, at a subsequent date, they can voluntarily enlist in the citizen forces - Navy, Army or Air - and, if necessary, serve overseas, but only under the conditions laid down in the Defence Act. I make that point perfectly clear, because, as has been pointed out by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), the crux of the matter is that, if this measure were in operation and a liability for service should arise under the defence legislation in the event of a very grave emergency, many of those required to render service would have already received their essential training under the national service scheme. Our purpose is to establish a reservoir of trained man-power, which will be available for the armed forces in the event of an emergency arising. The liability for service in the Army, Navy or Air Force is set out in the Defence Act, and I do not propose to discuss it here. There is nothing in this hill which is inconsistent with the obligations of Australian citizens under the Defence Act, and, consequently, I do not consider that time should be devoted to discussing it.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has made it perfectly clear that the obligations of individuals under the National Service Bill 1950 will be complementary to their obligations under the Defence Act. The right honorable gentleman has made the point that, taking the Army as an example, the Government is prepared to increase the Permanent Military Forces from one brigade to two brigades, one as an operative mobile brigade and the other as a depot brigade. It also intends to expand the Citizen Forces from 30,000 to 50,000 and take action to ensure that such numbers will be recruited. The Government is also attesting members of the Citizen Forces so that they, like their brothers in the Navy and the Air Force will be available for service overseas. That is complementary to this legislation. The essence of this bill is that approximately 15,000 young men shall be called up each half-year to spend a total of 174 days in training. I shall refer briefly to the position in respect of the Army, because it illustrates the objective, and I have some personal knowledge of that branch of the services. The national service trainees will receive fourteen weeks continuous training in the first year and, in each subsequent year, they will receive fourteen days’ training in camp and twelve days in bivouacs at week-ends. I had considerable experience during the last war of Army training, and I make it clear that I do not think that the time allotted for the training of these young men is anything like enough. They will receive their basic training during the first fourteen weeks, and will not get much beyond section training. They may get platoon training; certainly they will not get much company training. Whilst I believe that there is a deficiency in that respect, and whilst many of us consider that the proposals put forward by the Government are piteously trivial, nonetheless we must remember that we came into office after eight years of socialist mismanagement. We took over the reins of government after the socialists had driven a considerable amount of the sense of loyalty out of the people and allowed our defence forces to run down by permitting the relaxation of ordinary discipline. To be perfectly frank, I believe that the average member of the forces had lost nearly all sense of responsibility and of obligation. This country was practically driven into a tragic position, because socalist members opposite had no sense of their responsibility to the Australian community.
What, then, is the Labour party’s approach to this problem? Opposition members are bound by a decision of the conference of the Labour party and, in this House, Opposition members have to put up a front against the bill. As I understand the position, they could have done one of three things. They could have voted against it. If they cannot vote in favour of it, and are afraid to vote against it, they have only one course left, and they have adopted it. That course is to make a specious plea that the national training scheme should be examined by an appropriate all-party committee. They have resorted to that ruse in order to try to confuse the Australian electors, and to prevent their true intent and purpose from becoming known. They know that the time will come when they will have to vote on this bill. I notice that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is writing industriously. I invite him to inform the House whether the Opposition will abjectly surrender on this bill, as it abjectly surrendered on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has resorted to a transparent device to try to gain time. Will the Opposition eventually back down ignominously as it backed down on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950, because it is too frightened to face the electors? I predict that if the division bells ring on the bill now under consideration, Opposition members will be seen to scurry for cover in search of all the paraphernalia in its box of socialist tricks. The adoption of this amendment could only have the effect of delaying the introduction of the national service scheme.
The amendment itself is peculiar. I have looked through books on parliamentary practice with a view to ascertaining whether an amendment of this kind has ever been suggested in the past on a critical and vital issue; in short, on a matter concerning the executive power of the Government in the defence of the Commonwealth. I say that a proposal has never before been made that the Executive, the government of the day, should abdicate its powers and duties and hand them over to a nebulous committee consisting of socialist and Liberal party members. The socialists would be- bound to vote in one particular way. Would there be any sense in appointing such a committee? Did the Chifley Labour Government appoint a select committee in 1947 to examine its proposals on the nationalization of banking or on its defence schemes? Of course it did not! Does any one really think that in times of great national crisis, when the enemy is at our door, we should settle down to debate a subject involving two sets of irreconcilable ideas? I make bold to say that such a suggestion i3 a most transparent ruse. It is the most extraordinary corny suggestion that has ever been tried. Labour’s amendment on this matter is the crudest that I have heard since I have been a member of the Parliament, and, Heaven alone knows, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is capable of some plausible and otherwise suggestive amendments !
We are trying to bring our policy into line with that of our great neighbours and allies on the other side of the world. The socialist government of the United Kingdom, which is the only realistic government in the history of socialism, has accepted the idea of compulsory military training and service. Our American friends on the other side of the Pacific have also adopted that system. Australia has to put itself in line with its own allies and friends. I conclude my speech as I commenced it by saying that this bill is based on two principles. One is the principle that we should be ever ready to defend ourselves in case of an attack and the other is that we should be ready to join with our allies to fulfil our national obligations. Would the socialist party be prepared to have it flaunted and bruited abroad that this Parliament had failed in its national obligations, and in its duties to the people and had withdrawn in a cowardly and wanton way from its obligations to thi’ international free world - from the world of democracy and free peoples.
[3.45 J. - The Opposition urges that the proposal for compulsory military service be investigated by a parliamentary committee representing all parties. That suggestion deserves careful consideration in the light of the need for national unity on defence measures and for continuity of defence policy irrespective of changes of government. Ministers have repeatedly called for such unity. They have expressed a strong desire for Opposition co-operation in all matters affecting defence. Yet, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) last night announced the Labour party’s offer, he was immediately rebuffed. Within a matter of minutes, without pausing for consideration, the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) rejected the offer. He did so in a speech that was more vitriolic than any that had been heard in this chamber for a long time. He scoured his vocabulary to find offensive and abusive terms to heap upon the Labour party. All who heard him know that he spoke in such a way as to widen the breach between the parties and destroy any possibility of unity and co-operation on the vital issues of defence and national safety.
It was as though the Government, which had been mouthing its desire for national unity and co-operation, was dismayed and disappointed that the Opposition should actually offer all-party cooperation in examining the defence problem. The Minister’s speech was most regrettable, particularly as it set the tone for succeeding outbursts from the Government side of the chamber, such as that which we have just heard from the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon). If the Government sincerely wants national unity in defence and genuinely wishes to have Opposition co-operation, this is not the way to achieve it.
The Minister’s speech, like the later speeches of a number of the Government’s supporters, appeared to be an immediate attempt to make political capital and gain votes out of issues on which unity is vital to the security of Australia. This attitude has been adopted at the cost of destroying the opportunity to achieve effective co-operation between the political parties on the issues involved. Even though the Minister may think that his attempt will succeed, with the aid of many of the metropolitan newspapers, I remind him that to-day there is a jury of the Australian people, which judges parliamentary proceedings without reference to the newspapers by listening directly to the broadcasts of these debates even in the furthermost parts of the Commonwealth. All fair-minded people in Australia will at least recognize that the Labour party, whatever its shortcomings may be in other directions, has shown, in war and in peace, a courageous and resolute determination in promoting national security in times of great peril. The Labour party in government was not afraid to make unpopular decisions or to take unpopular steps when it considered that the safety of the nation required such action. Nor did it constantly excuse itself with the whine that it was not obtaining Opposition co-operation. It went ahead and did its job, and it did not hesitate to impose compulsion on the Australian people on a scale that was entirely unprecedented. The Minister for Defence, therefore, did a poor job for himself and for the Government when he rejected the offer of Opposition cooperation and did so in terms of the most bitter abuse, which were calculated to arouse the utmost resentment of every member of the Labour party both inside and outside this Parliament.
Undoubtedly there are some valid objections to the proposal for the appointment of an all-party committee, but they could have been put forward reasonably and examined on their merits. The chief of the objections is that the proposal would involve delay. That is inevitable, and the objection is reasonable. However, I propose to show that it will not stand up to unbiased examination. The time taken by the committee to carry out its investigations need not be long.
– The Government could have suggested a time limit.
Mr.FRASER.- That is an excellent suggestion.
– What time limit does the honorable member suggest?
Mr.FRASER. - It is late in the day for the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) to adopt that attitude. Is he prepared to consider the Opposition’s proposal?
– Answer my question.
– The Minister is not prepared to consider the proposal ; yet he asks for conditions to be imposed on it ! That is absurd. Even in face of the objection that delay would occur, the advantages to the nation that would result from the adoption of the proposal, which was seriously and responsibly advanced by the Opposition, are so great as to overrule it. Let us agree openly, as we all agree in our hearts, that this nation urgently needs unity and co-operation on the vital issue of defence. How can that unity and that co-operation be obtained? Does any honorable member seriously suggest that genuine unity and cooperation are obtainable on the one-sided basis that the Opposition must unhesitatingly and unquestioningly accept and support whatever decisions on defence the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) may choose to announce from day to day? Obviously, genuine unity and co-operation are not obtainable on that basis.
– The Opposition refused to co-operate with the Government months ago.
– That interjection is in line with what I am saying. The
Prime Minister announced a complete and vital change of the conditions of defence and military training without giving any opportunity for consideration or investigation to those whose support he required ; and he demanded an immediate acceptance of his decision. That is precisely the basis on which genuine unity and cooperation cannot be obtained.
The Government may claim that it has a mandate for its proposals. It has claimed already that the general election result gave it a mandate for so many different propositions that the claim in respect of each one is weakened accordingly. Nevertheless, even if the Government can reasonably claim a mandate for its present proposals, such a mandate can affect only the Government. It does not give the Government any right to claim the support of the Opposition for those proposals. It can only give the Government the right to take responsibility for its own actions.
– That is all that we want to do.
– On the contrary, the Government and its supporters are constantly demanding Opposition cooperation, declaring that national unity is necessary, and placing on the Opposition all the blame for the failure of their own policies and actions. If it is to be argued that 51 per cent, of the people gave the Government a mandate for compulsory military service, may it not equally be argued that 49 per cent, of the people gave the Opposition an instruction against compulsory military service? It is true that the world situation has changed for the worse since the general election took place nearly twelve months ago. Therefore, there may be a case now which did not exist then in favour of some of the Government’s proposals.
But if 100 per cent. - not 51 per cent. - national unity is sought, surely some time spent in the endeavour to achieve that unity would be time well spent in the interests of the nation ! The result would far more than compensate for the time that would be occupied in achieving it. That chance was opened last night by the Opposition’s offer to co-operate in establishing an all-party committee to investigate the Government’s proposals and report back to the Parliament. It was a chance that statesmanship would have grasped. I repeat that it is regrettable that seeming malice and suspicion and a narrow-minded obsession about political advantage prevented the Government from recognizing the value of the offer that it received. Nobody can doubt that the appointment of an all-party committee to hear the views, the evidence and the information of great experts - which are available as a rule only to Cabinet Ministers - would have provided an excellent means of informing the minds of honorable members on the realities of our defence needs. It would also have provided a splendid means of informing and unifying public opinion throughout Australia on these great issues. However, the Government has chosen to reject the offer with contempt and vituperation. It has chosen to ignore the opportunity to obtain Opposition co-operation in the task of defence. It takes the responsibility for its own action. But lei it at least have the decency to cease complaining that it must do so and that the Opposition will not bear that responsibility for it!
For what sort of a plan does the Government demand the Opposition’s unquestioning and immediate support? Even some Government supporters have readily admitted that the plan which has been submitted is’ weak and pusillanimous by comparison with the loudly trumpeted declarations of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has declared this country to be in the most urgent peril. He has used the most resolute and determined words in a series of national broadcasts and other public utterances. He has told us that the world is aflame, that 1,000,000,000 people to the north of Australia are awakening and that many of them are being made the dupes of Communist aggressors. But then he said, in effect, “ We cannot go ourselves, but we will act to meet the need. We propose to call up 13,000 lads in the seventeen to eighteen age group for six months’ training “. That is a weak and pusillanimous plan compared with the earlier statements that were made by the Prime Minister. This proposal for compulsory military training results from the failure of the
Government’s voluntary recruiting campaign. The completeness of that failure up to the present time is an acknowledged fact. That campaign has failed, but there is no evidence that the voluntary system of recruiting has failed. Upon whom does the responsibility for the failure of the Government’s campaign for voluntary enlistment rest?
– On the Labour party.
– That is what I would expect the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) to say. Will the Government itself accept responsibility for anything? After all, it is the Government of this country and only a few moments ago honorable members opposite claimed that all that the Government needed was the support of its own parties. Does the Government dare to place the responsibility for the failure on the lack of patriotism of Australian manhood? That patriotism has been proved too overwhelmingly for the Government to dare to reflect on it. Will the Government dare to endeavour to place the responsibility for the failure of the recruiting campaign on the Opposition, and thus abdicate its own responsibility as a government? Let us assume that it claims that the responsibility for the failure of the recruiting campaign rests not upon itself but on the Opposition. That places a tremendous rating on the value of the Opposition’s co-operation. Yet the Government has rejected the Opposition’s offer of an all-party investigation of these problems. It has insisted that it shall itself impose the whole terms of military service and that the Opposition’s whole duty is to become the tail of the Government’s dog in this matter. That is a conception which no Opposition could accept and it is a conception that the Australian people would not expect any Opposition to accept.
I have spoken of the need for national unity and co-operation in the task of defence. There is also a need for continuity of defence policy despite changes of government. There can be no satisfactory basis of security and defence if the policy is to be changed each time the Government changes. Setting all party considerations aside for the moment, every honorable member recog nizes that no government continues for ever and that sometimes the life of a government is much shorter than anticipated. Therefore,, there is another advantage to be gained from the offer of the Opposition to join with the Government in an all party investigation of the military training proposal. Surely the Government is prepared to play its part in establishing a continuity of defence policy which would have the support of all major parties and which would continue as governments changed, as change they inevitably must. ‘ Against these valuable advantages the only valid objection is that of lack of time. The proposal is to call up seventeen-year-old lads for training as they become eighteen years of age. I presume it is not the intention of the Government to use these lads in war overseas for the next three years and an all-party committee could have reported back in a matter of weeks.
The advantage to be gained from the acceptance of the Opposition’s offer would have far outweighed the objection of limitation of time even if i’t were serious. But it is not serious when considered in the light of the acknowledged facts. The Government does not possess a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. It cannot, therefore, claim the right to pass legislation into law without giving honorable members of the Opposition an opportunity fully to investigate vital proposals. In addition, there is a very considerable body of opinion in Australia and a very powerful tradition against compulsory military training in peace-time. That is an acknowledged fact which is beyond political disputation. The history of the Labour party shows that in times of acute military danger to this country it can command the support of an overwhelming majority of the Australian people for measures of military compulsion. As the Opposition’s offer has been rejected, honorable members on this side of the chamber will have no opportunity of examining evidence that the voluntary system of military service has failed. There is no evidence that the voluntary system of recruitment has failed, and, in view of the traditional feeling against military compulsion in peace-time, surely the facts which the Government claims would show the acuteness of the danger to this country should be made available to all honorable members.
In announcing the change in the conditions of military service, the Prime Minister stressed repeatedly his opinion that Australian troops would never fight on Australian soil. He said, over and over again, that the military programme was not one of military defence of Australian soil. Therefore, he is able to argue that it is essential that recruits must be prepared to serve wherever they are required overseas for the defence of Australia. Yet the proposals for compulsory service are intended to be limited to service inside Australia. The opposition in the Labour movement to compulsory military service overseas is too well known to need expressing and it reflects the opinions of millions of loyal Australians. In those circumstances, surely if the Government wants the united support of the Australian people, it could have taken the opportunity to assure the people that the plan it now proposes for compulsory military training would not be followed by a plan for compulsory military service on the battlefields of the world.
Although it has been said that this is an urgent measure, I understand that under these proposals only eight or nine lads in Canberra will join the 3rd Battalion. That will be the extent to which the strength of the 3rd Battalion will be increased in the National Capital as a result of the Government’s proposal. This is a weak and pusillanimous plan in comparison with the Prime Minister’s declaration of the needs of this country. The delay of five or six weeks which would have been required for an investigation by a committee would not have had much effect on the proposals. I received a letter recently from the father of a young man who had joined the Australian Regular Army, with his parents’ permission, at the age of eighteen years. His parents gave permission for him to serve inside Australia, but did not give permission for him to serve overseas. The conditions of military service having changed, the father wrote to me in distress on behalf of the mother and himself because he found that his son, still a minor, was on his way to Korea without the permission of his parents. I took the matter up with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who informed me by letter that no consent from parents is necessary in such circumstances. That is a situation which must cause suspicion and doubt in the minds of the Australian people. The Government has nothing to fear from the acceptance of the Opposition’s offer and its determination to deceive the Australian people concerning the meaning of that offer indicates that it has indeed something to hide in this matter.
– The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) spent most of his time in talking about co-operation. Would he and his party be prepared to cooperate with the Government in the present recruiting campaign? Despite the statements of honorable members of the Opposition, this campaign is bringing a steady flow of recruits into all arms of the services. The honorable member also claimed that all members of hi? parliamentary party were opposed to the bill before the House. I suggest that he should ask each individual member of his party whether that is so. If he does and if he were to obtain truthful answers, he will be agreeably and considerably surprised.
Last night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) quoted the effective strength of the Citizen Military Forces at the end of last year as being in the vicinity of 15,000. I maintained at the time, by interjection, that that was the strength on paper only. The effective strength of the Citizen Military Forces at the end of last year was only about 60 per cent, of 15,000. The right honorable member stated that the new obligations which have been placed on members of the Citizen Military Forces to serve overseas have had an effect on recruitment. That is a definite reflection on the youth of Australia. If the right honorable member knew the number of people at present in the Citizen Military Forces who have re-attested for service overseas he would have some conception of the effect that that obligation has had on the individual. The youth of Australia are just as loyal as they were during the last two world wars. The right honorable member also stated that the Prime Minister had made a blunder and corrected it by stating recently that actual service overseas by members of the Citizen Military Forces would only be required in the event of the outbreak of a major war and he inferred that this statement represented a change in the original announcement of the Prime Minister. This imputation can be completely refuted. I am a member of the Citizen Military Forces and within a very short time after the original announcement was made by the Prime Minister, on the 20th September last, I had signed a re-attestation form for service overseas as had the majority of people in my unit. It was understood at that time, and an announcement was made in routine orders, which indicated that service overseas would only be required in the event of the outbreak of a major war. The post-war voluntary system of enlistment has been lauded by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and other members of the Opposition as a success. In fact, it has been exactly the contrary. The postwar system of voluntary enlistment has been an utter failure. I have several reasons for my criticism of the operation of that system. The first is that there is a lack of sufficient recruits. The effective strength of units of the Citizen Military Forces is only about half their nominal strength, and is well below operational standard.
– The honorable gentleman realizes that the target figures were fixed in respect of unit strengths in 1952, and that when Labour was defeated at the end of last year only half the period had elapsed.
– That is so; but the statistics up to that period, and, unfortunately, since that period, show that no great response has been made. The effective strength of militia units is still far below even their nominal strength. The second reason for my criticism is that the periods of continuous training of fourteen days in camp and twelve days in home training, provided in Labour’s scheme were totally inadequate. The flow of recruits to the Commonwealth Military Forces has been most unsatisfactory. Furthermore, the rate of attendance of those who have enlisted has been such that it has tended to decrease the efficiency of the units, and, generally speaking, of all arms of the service. I do not say that in criticism of the individuals who have sacrified their time and leisure to join the Commonwealth Military Forces, because they include some of the finest types of men in Australia. However, it has been most, difficult to retain their interest.
The policy speech made by the Prime Minister during the last general election campaign included the following statement : -
Therefore, while we shall labour for peacewe stand for … an adequate permanent balanced Air Force, supplemented by Citizen Air Forces; permanent nucleus mili’tary forces, hacked by militia units-, universal military training and physical training for periods suited to our conditions, and by methods, and on conditions as to call up and numbers, to be determined on the best expert advice,
In introducing the present bill the Government is merely attempting to implement the pledge that it gave to the people.
The proposed system of universal military training has been outlined in detail by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), and I shall not traverse the ground that he has already covered. I direct attention particularly to the fact that the majority of democratic nations have some system of national service training. The schemes adopted by the United Kingdom and the United States of America are based upon a long-term system of national service. I remind honorable gentlemen, incidentally, that Great Britain is ruled by a socialist government. In New Zealand a system similar to that proposed by the present Government was introduced last year and is now in operation. In France, Belgium and the Netherlands long-term service systems are in operation. Norway and Sweden, which have previously been content with a short-term service system, are now reviewing the efficacy of that system, and are considering its alteration to a longterm system. South Africa has a system . of compulsory military training on the ballot principle. Some figures cited by Mr. Shinwell, the Minister for Defence an the United Kingdom, in the course of a statement dealing with the dangerous world situation that he made on the 29th July last, are particularly informative, and I shall read the relevant portion of that statement, which is as follows : -
Defence expenditure of Russia is not less than 13 per cent, of her national income. Russia maintains an army of some 17S active divisions, of which one-third are mechanised and tank divisions comprising about 25,000 tanks. She has 2,800,000 men under arms, and could double this figure on mobilisation.
I also direct the attention of members of the Opposition to the fact that a gallup poll taken early this year indicated that 74 per cent, of the people of Australia favour the re-introduction of a system of compulsory military training. Furthermore, it is significant that 60 per cent, of the Labour voters who were questioned favoured the reintroduction of that system.
Before stating the conclusions to which I have come after a careful examination of the Government’s proposals, I propose to make certain specific recommendations concerning the Commonwealth Military Forces and the proposed national service training system. I consider it to be essential as a preliminary that a thorough, but reasonably rapid, examination be made of the present systems of military training with a view to introducing standardized systems. As an instance of the lack of efficiency that may result from the failure to standardize training methods, I point out that at present two alternative methods of instruction are employed in training infantry. One is the Austmit system, which is used in the training of some battalions and provides a course of rapid, intensive instruction, similar to those used in instructional schools for the Second Australian Imperial Force and the other is the longer, detailed and more orthodox system prescribed by the School of Infantry. Whilst both systems have been carefully devised, and are ideal for use in particular circumstances, the fact that the two systems are used concurrently, and as a kind of alternative to each other, appears to point to a lack of proper co-ordination in training. I suggest that there is an urgent need to adopt a standardized basis of training before the national training scheme is implemented.
It is also necessary that more use be made of modern equipment, which is now available in Australia. More importance should be placed on the demonstration of other arms of the service during infantry training, and I suggest that consideration be given by the authorities to conducting coordinated exercises of all arms of the military service, and also of the three fighting services. In the past there has been a tendency for individual arms of the service to function separately, and not until they have become involved in actual battle have they functioned together. I know that it is impossible at present to introduce immediately such major changes in the training system as I have suggested, but I strongly recommend that during the period of training of national servicemen some time be devoted to co-ordination exercises. I also, urge that an increasing number of officers and in addition non-commissioned officers be exchanged with other nations of the British Commonwealth, and that, as an innovation, we exchange officers and non-commissioned officers with the United States military forces. The ancillary services, such as ordnance, should be given a full period of training in the use of infantry weapons.
During the training of national servicemen a certain amount of time should be devoted to the indoctrination of battle atmosphere, and regular use should be made of assault courses in all advanced training. I also recommend that all officers who have graduated from staff colleges spend a short period in the ranks of the Australian Regular Army, before taking up their duties as officers, in order that they may gain some idea of the atmosphere in the ranks. Another most important matter to which I invite the attention of the Government is the termination of the “paper war”. A vigorous effort should be made to reduce the time spent by service personnel in completing forms in triplicate. A reduction of the clerical duties should make available the services of a comparatively large number of servicemen for combat service.
Having carefully considered the provisions of the bill, and related them to my own experience in the Commonwealth Military Forces, both in war and in peace, I have reached the following conclusions : In the first place, the critical state of the world to-day has made the provision of adequate defence absolutely necessary, and the present is the opportune time to organize our defences. The obligations and privileges of military service should be shared generally, and by all members of the community. Recent international developments indicate quite plainly that the existence of a force that is equal or, preferably, superior to any contingency that may arise, is the only deterrent which Russia and its satellite states recognize. Modern war does not permit time for emergency training and other preliminary preparations. An efficient army includes a number of arms and services the members of which require specialized training in the varied and intricate techniques of modern war. To attempt to improvise a highly trained force only after hostilities have occurred is obviously wrong, and must involve the members of such a force in unnecessary risk and suffering. Indeed, it is a grave national wrong to send into battle in a modern war troops who have not been properly trained. It should be clear to honorable members that if, notwithstanding our knowledge of world conditions, we neglect to train our young men in modern military methods and are later compelled to send them, without training, to defend this country, we shall be guilty of a grave dereliction of the highest duty that we owe to the people as trustees of the national security. I also point out that the introduction of the proposed system of national training will effect an outstanding physical improvement of the young men of this country. Systematic physical training, and regular, healthful living, together with observance of hygienic and sanitary principles must be of great benefit, and healthy living also conduces to a sound mental outlook and right thinking. Furthermore, it will develop an active patriotism, which, unfortunately, does not exist in some of our young men today. I conclude by saying to the Opposi- tion that an attempt to obtain party political gain by reducing this matter to the level of party controversy is something that the nation simply cannot afford to condone. This is a national matter, and Australia looks to the National Parliament to ensure its survival in the future as a free nation.
.- Only a few minutes ago the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) attacked a speech made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) and criticized it as the most vitriolic that had been delivered in this chamber for some time. The Minister for Defence certainly attacked the Labour Opposition in this chamber, and I think that any fairminded person must agree that he was justified in doing so because of the humbug indulged in by members of the Opposition. The plausible attitude advocated by the Opposition in connexion with this measure is another instance of that humbug. It is quite apparent that members of the Opposition are not concerned about the national interests, but are concentrating purely on a battle of party political tactics. The delaying procedure introduced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in this debate, is similar to the tactics . followed by the Opposition when other important national measures, including notably the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, were introduced to this chamber. It is as plain as the fact that night follows day that his amendment was moved solely for the purpose of giving members of the Opposition a breathing space to consider their attitude and to await the direction of the “unholy twelve” who direct them. It is absurd for honorable gentlemen opposite to allege that the Government, after seeking their co-operation, has abused them. Members of the Labour party have had months in which to make up their minds on their attitude towards this measure. They have not availed themselves of that opportunity. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition stated categorically .that as a member of the Labour party he would not even assist the Government in its recruiting campaign, let alone co-operate with it in dealing with any of the larger and more serious defence issues. There is also a tremendous amount of confusion among the Labour ministries in the States about Labour’s real attitude towards military training. In my opinion, the submission of this amendment by the Opposition is designed only to gain time so that its lenders may have a conference with their masters outside the Parliament who dictate what course of action they shall follow on any matter and then come back into this chamber and, irrespective of the result of any inquiry that might be held, vote according to the will of those masters. Honorable members opposite have claimed that we are rushing this proposal through without sufficient consideration. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) quoted from a portion of the policy speech in which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) dealt with defence and in which he stated that the parties now in office stood for - . An adequate permanent balanced Air Force, supplemented by Citizen Air Forces; permanent nucleus military forces, backed by militia units; universal military and physical training for periods suited to our conditions and by methods, and on conditions as to call up and numbers to be determined on the best expert advice; research mid scientific development; . . .
The Prime Minister made that statement at Canterbury in Victoria on the 10th November, 1949. Events since that date disprove the statement by honorable members opposite that the Government’s proposal is being rushed through the Parliament. The Prime Minister stated that if he were elected to office he would introduce the system that is proposed in the bill, after the best expert advice had been received. Arrangements to introduce such a system as that proposed, after the best expert advice had been taken on it, could not be made in a matter of months. That fact proves what a hollow sham the Opposition’s amendment is. The necessary investigations could not be made in a few days. It takes months of lengthy preparation to produce a scheme of this kind. Immediately the Government was elected to office it called in the country’s defence experts and got on with the job of preparing this scheme. Honorable members will recall that - on the 13th
July the Government released this statement to the press -
Cabinet, which had before it recommendations of the Defence Council, to-day decided to introduce a system of national training.
The scheme is to be put into operation as soon as possible.
The Chiefs of Staff have been summoned to Canberra to-morrow morning to confer with members of the Cabinet on the earliest date when the scheme can be commenced.
It took months of investigation and research before the scheme could be produced for submission to the Parliament, and yet in those months honorable members opposite made no recommendation to the Government for the establishment of a committee such as they now propose, nor did they ask for an all-party conference. If they were desirous of co-operating with the Government on this important matter of defence they could easily have done so. On the 14th July, another press statement was issued by the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fadden). I shall not burden the House with a repetition of its contents but shall merely indicate its contents by reading its various headings. They read -
The quota to be trained.
Permanent instructors and housing are the limiting factors.
The commencement of the scheme.
Constant review in the light of the international situation.
That statement was issued for dissemination throughout the Commonwealth. It gave details of the training that was to be done in the various arms of the services and of how many persons would be called up in the first year and in the succeeding years of the scheme into the Army, Navy and Air Force. In fact, it set out the whole of the procedure that was to be adopted in relation to the scheme that is proposed in this measure. But still the Opposition made no offer of the co-operation which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has said it is so desirous of offering to the Government. Has this House ever before heard of such a hollow sham as the amendment? The real point, as anybody who studied the problem would know, -is that the members of the Opposition are completely divided on this issue. They grudgingly admit that we have a mandate to introduce this scheme. They were not game to go to the people at the last general election and say that they were prepared to institute a system of compulsory military training. On the other hand the parties now in office told the people definitely that if elected to office they would be prepared to do certain things, which included the introduction of this proposal, and they received the whole-hearted support of the people.
Another aspect of this plausible amendment is that members of the Opposition are simply mouthing all sorts of stories to try to convince the people that the matter is so serious that it should be considered by an all-party committee. Not one of them is prepared to set a date for the meeting of such a committee because they know perfectly well that the committee would need a long time to hold the inquiry and furnish a report. What the Opposition is trying to do is to delay the implementation of the scheme.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member knows that all the arrangements in regard to this scheme have already been made, because as long ago as July the service chiefs were called in and instructed to get to work on its preparation. The earliest date that they could announce for the commencement of the scheme was next March. Surely that date is not too early, particularly in view of the present world position. In any event, what harm will it do to young people to submit themselves to military training? I underwent military training in the 1911 scheme and it did not do me any harm.
Mr. Griffiths interjecting,
– Military training would not do the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) or honorable members opposite in general, a bit of harm. They would probably behave themselves much better in camp than they do here. The armed services are highly technical to-day, and it would not do young people one tittle of harm to undergo military training. In fact they would learn a lot. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition last night quoted from the Melbourne Herald of April of last year, a report of a statement by General Rowell. I shall not criticize General Rowell, although he has been criticized by many people. However, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not read to the Housewhat Field-Marshal Blarney had to sayon the following day, or what Air ViceMarshal Bostock, the present honorablemember for Indi, had to say, about the system of voluntary training. He presented only one side of the matter. As Field-Marshal Blarney said, where arethose units and divisions that General Rowell was supposed to have ? They mayhave been up the general’s sleeve. If so,, he was slow in producing them.1 We need not be afraid of compulsory military training, because under it the young men. will learn to submit to discipline. Anybody who has been in one of the services knows what the training is like. They know what the drill instructors on the parade ground say to recruits. I am certain that if the parents of some of thoserecruits were standing nearby and heard’ some of the things said by the instructors they would walk away hanging their heads in shame. But we learned to takeit, and we realized that it did not do us any harm.
I support this measure because I consider it to be the best piece of legislation) that has come before this Parliament for years. It may need improvement later on, but at least it is a start. The training, that our young men will undergo will bespread over five years. Who can visualize what the world position will be in fiveyears’ time? We started a compulsory training scheme in 1911, and we had a war on our hands three years later. Had it not been for the man who had been trained under that scheme being available to form the nucleus of” the First Australian Imperial Force we should not have been able to send our forces overseas as quickly as wewere able to do, which was much quicker than we were able to send forces overseas when the 1939-45 conflict started. It is time we took this matter to heart. A start cannot be made too soon, and the sooner we start the better will the position be. I have in my hand- a page from theWest Australian, dated the 25th November last, which contains the pictures of five young men who are in the age group to be called up for national servicetraining next year. One said, as his reason for not wanting to join the Army, “ I’m scared of water and I dislike walking”. He stated that he wanted to be called up for the Royal Australian Air Force. Another said about the scheme, “ A very good idea and I think I’ll like it. I’d like to be a transport driver in the Army “. The third said, “ The call up is O.K. with me, provided it’s the R.A.A.F. The Army comes next and then the Navy “. The fourth said that the scheme was “ quite a good idea. I’d like to go into the R.A.A.F. and possibly learn radio “. The fifth said that it would be O.K., but he would not be happy if it interfered with his apprenticeship. The bill makes provision in relation to apprenticeships and to deferment for university students. I consider that every honorable member should fully support the scheme so that we may get on with the job. Honorable members opposite should not try to kick the scheme to death.
.- It is essential to have national unity among all sections of the community, especially those engaged in industry, both employers and employees, in respect of any scheme of national service. In recent years the workers have been urged to increase production in order to achieve national prosperity and to offset inflationary tendencies. Now they are, in effect, being asked to turn aboutface and allow their ranks to be depleted, as they will be by this proposal. Experience shows that only in the face of an enemy is national unity in this country achieved. It seems that we must again wait until the enemy is knocking at our gates, as it was at the time of the battle of the Coral Sea during the last war, before we shall achieve real national unity. The bitter denunciations of the Opposition that were made by the Minister for Defence last night and have been continued to-day by other Government supporters, will not arouse that desired spirit of unity. In the end there will have to be co-operation with the Labour party on defence. Labour cooperation is vital to national unity, because the Labour party and its leaders are the only political entities that have the real confidence of the great bulk of the workers.
– What nonsense!
– That was true in World War I., when it was left to a Labour leader, Andrew Fisher, to take over the reins of government and put the whole of the resources of this country into the war effort. The same thing happened again in the last war when it was left to a Labour leader, John Curtin, to harness the nation’s resources to an all-in war effort. The parties now in office represent big business interests and their main concern is the preservation of those interests. Even in the dire situation that confronted Australia in World War II., that policy was followed by the antiLabour forces that were then in power. The policy was “ Business as usual “, meaning “ Profits as usual “. At that time the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) originated that slogan on behalf of industry. When the last war began his non-Labour Government instituted the cost-plus system and established costly munitions-making annexes at the expense of the taxpayers. That was so that industries engaged in war production should not lose anything. It was a matter of heads industry won and tails everybody else lost. That policy led to the dismissal of the Menzies Government and the instalment of the Labour Government in office. Many industries which at that time were broken down and on the verge of bankruptcy are flourishing to-day because of the system of cost-plus and government support. One company in my own electorate was almost bankrupt and had not paid a dividend for seventeen years. It was described by officers of the Department of Munitions as a “heap of junk”. Because the workers wanted to do something for the war effort, the government of the day supported that enterprise by guaranteeing its bank account. Very soon the staff increased from 900 to 2,500, and for the first time in seventeen years the company paid a dividend. The value of its shares on the stock exchange rose from 2s. 6d. to 30s. When the war ended that concern no longer wanted government support, and became a strong advocate of private enterprise.
– ‘Order! The honorable member’s remarks have nothing to do with the bill before the House.
– I think that what I have said is vital to any attempt to ascertain what the position of the workers will be if another war breaks out. The Opposition does not want to see again some of the conditions that prevailed during the last war. Under this bill the workers aTe expected to be trained and prepared for another war. They have only their bodies to offer and will not be concerned in the preservation of any personal assets because since the last war they have not had time to acquire any. The recruiting campaign launched by the Chifley Government entailed a balanced programme both for production in industry and for training in the science of war. The next war will be in the nature of a push-button war and technical training in atomic and aerial warfare will be much more important than marching thousands of soldiers up and down hills in army camps.
– What has the honorable member to say about Korea ?
– Korea has shown that the physical training of soldiers is very important. The men -serving in Korea at a temperature of 20 degrees below zero would be much better off if the Government had established a physical training scheme to equip them to withstand the rigors of such a climate. The soldiers in Korea are all volunteers, and I consider that the time to deal with an emergency that requires the mobilization of all our resources of man-power and materials will be when it arises. In ordinary times a voluntary system has proved its value. Volunteers ably acquitted themselves in both world wars. The Anzacs were all volunteers and the men who fought in Greece, Crete, Africa and Malaya were also volunteers.
– We know that.
– Of course honorable members know it. We all know it. I believe that the old adage that one volunteer is better than ten pressed men still holds good.
– Does that also apply to compulsory unionism?
– Compulsory unionism has nothing to do with this matter.
This bill proposes that men shall be pressed into service; but unless their hearts are in that service what will be the good of applying compulsion to them ? It is obvious that if we are plunged into a third world war, Asiatic communism will be the enemy. Surely we should not: press men willy nilly into service against such an enemy. If that be done it will not be possible to ascertain who are and who are not Communists. Does the Government intend to train and lay bare its military secrets to men who may prove to be Communists? Men who fight in such a war should be carefully screened and selected and it should be made certain that their hearts are in the battle.
Before we abandon the voluntary system, an inquiry should he conducted in- order to ascertain whether or not that system has failed and whether or not our recruiting campaign has been successful. There have been conflicting statements about the recruiting campaign. Yesterday, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) quoted the published statements of General Rowell, which were to the effect that all was going well with the recruiting campaign. If that is so, why has the Government changed its plan? If there are any reasons for this change of plan surely the House and the public should be taken into the Government’s confidence. Another important matter to be considered is that of the careers of the young men involved in the national service plan. Many of them have had their careers already affected by their years of service during the last war.
– Does the honorable member think that they are not concerned about the defence of the country?
– Perhaps some of our young men are beginning to think that in future wars the older ones should do the fighting. If more of the older men were pressed into the fighting then perhaps we should not have so many wars. The young men are vitally concerned in this measure, and a committee should be established to go into the whole matter including the way in which their careers will be affected by their prospective national service. According to information that I have, a poll was recently taken of the school boys at the Melbourne High School on the question of whether or not they were in favour of compulsory military training.
– The Communists handled that.
– Surely these young lads cannot be described as Communists. The details of the voting are that in the third form 58 per cent, were for compulsory military training, 39 per cent, against and 3 per cent, undecided. In the fourth form, 46 per cent, were for, 51 per cent, against and 3 per cent, undecided. In the fifth form, 45 per cent, were for, 50 per cent, against and 5 per cent, undecided. In the sixth form, 47.5 per cent, were for it, 49.4 per cent, against, and 3.1 per cent, undecided. It is obvious that in the older age groups the majority against compulsory military service was greater. However, there is no doubt that if another war occurs and this country is faced with invasion the great majority of our youths will offer their services in its defence. While there should be some system of preparation for home defence, it remains to be seen whether or not the voluntary system has failed. That matter could be investigated by the proposed committee. The House was not given the facts about the recruiting campaign when the bill was placed before it. Therefore, honorable members cannot come to a definite decision upon whether the campaign has failed or not.
Australia is committed to the support of the United Nations and is supporting it in a very effective manner by means of a volunteer force. Is it suggested that at any future time the forces required by the United Nations, which embraces about two-thirds of the people of the world, could not be raised under a voluntary system? Australia has more than fulfilled its quota of the troops of the United Nations. Of the 50 nations that are members of the United Nations, only a handful are providing fighting forces in Korea. Australia is one of those. Ou-r servicemen in the United Nations forces should receive the same rates of pay, conditions and amenities as are given to the other servicemen, the majority of whom are Americans. The soldiers of all the nations who contribute to the inter national forces should serve under the same conditions. In the early days of this country when transport was much slower and the population smaller the threat of invasion was very remote. Nowadays, the world has shrunk considerably because of fast transport, and the threat to our shores is greater. Therefore, we must have a defence policy and it is most advisable to have unanimity among all sections of the community on the nature of it. In that regard I suggest that an organization similar to the Advisory War Council be established. During the last war while the Labour party was the Opposition it was represented on the Advisory War Council set up by the Menzies Government. When that Government was defeated and the Labour Government assumed office, some of the then Opposition members withdrew from the Advisory War ‘Council.
– But some of them remained in it.
– That is so. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) and the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) remained on it and contributed to the best of their ability towards the successful prosecution of our war effort. That course might well be followed now because of the serious position that has arisen in Korea and Manchuria. I suggest that the Government and the Prime Minister give consideration to the re-establishment of the Advisory War Council and invite leading members of the Opposition to take part in its deliberations in order that the Government may be given the benefit of their advice.
-Order! The honorable member’s remarks are quite wide of the bill before the House.
– I submit that my remarks are most relevant because they have a bearing upon national defence.
-Order! The honorable member may only make a passing reference to that matter.
– I submit that the establishment of a body along the lines of the Advisory War Council would provide a channel for co-operation between the Opposition and the Government in respect of defence matters. As a further means of achieving that purpose, the Government should arrange to hold a secret session of the Parliament in order to apprise honorable members of the latest information and facts relating to the country’s security.
.- I support the bill. It seeks to improve the potential defences of Australia and to enable us to fulfil our obligations to the United Nations by combating aggression wherever it may occur. Therefore, I am astonished at the attitude that the Opposition has adopted towards it. Speaking in the budget debate, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) said, in effect, that he was not sure that the Government’s proposed defence expenditure was justified-, and he supported that view by enunciating the -extraordinary idea that, as Australia is so small a nation, it could not contribute a great deal and, therefore, should do nothing. That is the most shockingly defeatist attitude that one could adopt.
– The right honorable gentleman did not say that.
– He did. And in this debate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has made statements which, I suggest, must cause astonishment and dismay in the minds of the 40 per cent, of the Australian people who voted for Labour party candidates at the last general election. I find it difficult to understand the attitude that he -adopted in respect of so vital a subject as defence. In the main, he endeavoured to justify the actions of the previous Government, and made some extraordinary remarks in the process. The right honorable gentleman has visited practically every country in the world. He has come into contact with the representatives of most countries and was intimately concerned in the formulation of the Chifley Government’s foreign policy. He has admitted from time to time that foreign policy and defence are intimately interwoven. Yet, he endeavoured to mislead the Australian public into believing that this country can be defended solely from within. He knows as well as every thinking person knows, that if we are to survive we must meet aggression and the threat of attack as soon as they become apparent, wherever the aggressors can best be defeated. Otherwise, we shall surrender the initiative and may never regain it. The conception that we need only to raise a force in this country and let it sit quietly under arms will not be accepted by 1 per cent, of the Australian people.
I am forced to the conclusion that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in making statements of that kind, did so purely for party political purposes. It is atrocious that the survival of this country should be made the subject of party political manoeuvring, particularly at a time when, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) said in his two most recent statements to the House, the world situation is explosive. I gathered that the Minister meant that the situation was liable to blow up. Yet, in the face of that fact, the Opposition through its Deputy Leader has proposed an amendment that seeks to delay the passage of this vital measure until a long dawn-out investigation by some committee can be completed. That amendment can only be construed as a party political move to enable the Opposition to avoid expressing a firm opinion upon the measure until it has had an opportunity to gauge political feeling in the country. Members of the Opposition are deliberately fencing; they are gambling with the fate of the nation in order to gain some petty party political advantage.
The statements that the Minister for External Affairs made recently to the House deserve the most sober and serious consideration. Unquestionably, the world situation is explosive. Point is lent to that fact by recent happenings in Korea. We now learn that the Chinese Communists have already committed an army corps in Korea. They are serious; they would not do that if they intended merely to play round. That view is shared by many responsible persons in the United States of America who, perhaps, are more closely in touch with the events in Korea than are the representatives of other nations. In fact, some responsible persons in the United States of America are already suggesting that the United Nations would be justified in using the atom bomb in Korea. Members of the Opposition and many superficially thinking people in Australia throw up their hands in horror at such a suggestion and claim that it is too inhumane and abhorrent to contemplate. But what are the facts? Is that view really justified ? The use of atomic weapons properly and at the right time could well save many lives and untold suffering. From a humane viewpoint, what should we wish to do if we are forced into another war? We should wish to win it with a minimum of casualties not only on our side but also among the enemy and with a minimum of misery to the people of the world as a whole. If our leaders were satisfied that total casualties would be fewer than would result if the atomic bomb were not used and the war, consequently would be prolonged, the timely use of atomic weapons would save life and prevent untold misery. To that degree those weapons could be regarded as humane. Any one who would criticize the use of atomic weapons in such circumstances would be a criminal humbug. I am not advocating the use of the atomic bomb at this stage, nor am I suggesting that war is inevitable. I believe that there is still time to avoid war, but it can be avoided only by a show of strength. Any exhibition of weakness or attempt at appeasement will prove to be fatal. Therefore, we must be ready to play our part at any time and to meet the enemy where he can best be defeated as soon as he appears.
The suggestion that Australia’s resources are so limited that it is hardly worth our while to make an effort is not only defeatist, but also the result of false reasoning or stupidity. No one can deny that Australia’s effort, however small, might prove to be just the amount of final power required to turn the battle in our favour. However, apart from that consideration, have we no self-respect? Every one realizes that we shall have to look to our friends should we become involved in a major war, but, at the same time, our manhood demands that we help ourselves before expecting anybody else to come to our aid. Do we believe that the people whom we represent would wish to let somebody else do their fighting for them? Of course not. Does any honorable member believe that the average Australian considers that we can defend this country merely by sitting behind trenches along our coastline, waiting for the enemy to attack? Of course not. The Opposition is completely out of step with public opinion when it opposes the Government’s request that it be given power to send Australian troops overseas. The statement of thehonorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) that the next war will be a bush-button war is dangerous. I admit that the advances that have been made in the application of science to modern warfare havebeen very marked and to a large degreehave changed the character of any possible future world conflict. But the idea that the next war will be fought by scientists who will merely sit in dug-outs and push buttons is dangerous. We must do our best to get such an idea out of the people’s minds. The raising and training of personnel for each of the three defenceservices must still be the basis of any effective defence plan.
Whilst I support the bill wholeheartedly as being a step in the right direction, I am not completely satisfied’ with it because it does not go far enough to provide for possible contingencies in: the critical times in which we live. I am perturbed by two major factors. Thefirst of them is the policy of relying for the defence of this country upon volunteers. Upon a close analysis it will be seen that that is what the bill really means.. If we are to defend ourselves effectively we must be prepared to co-operate with our allies in any part of the world. If we wait to go into action until an enemy comes to our shores, we shall lose any future war before it commences. To bedependent upon volunteers as a policyis, apart from military considerations, unjust and immoral. It isthe duty of every citizen who is competent and eligible to do so to serve in the defence of his country in a time of dire emergency. To rely only upon persons who are willing to shoulder that burden and to allow those who are not so prepared to stop at home and reap all thebenefit is to have a poor conception of justice. I do not like compulsion, Opposition members do not like compulsion, and, infact, nobody likes compulsion, but it is– futile for us to try to hide the stark realities from ourselves. If our very existence is threatened, it is the duty of every person, who is competent, to go to the assistance of the nation. But we know from experience that not all of them will rally voluntarily to the defence of the country. Consequently, in justice, they must be compelled to do so. I believe that this bill falls short of the desirable objective, because it does not embrace the essential factor of compulsory service, anywhere in the world, for the adequate and real defence of this country.
The other major point, on which I find myself in difficulties, is that the period of training prescribed in the bill is too short. It is most difficult to reconcile the idea that our young men can be trained effectively in six months with the fact that the United Kingdom now finds it necessary to adopt a training period of 21 months, whilst the period of training with the colours in the United States of America is two years. What particular quality have we, as Australians, that we are able to carry out effective training in six months when the United Kingdom and the United States of America find it necessary to train their men for substantially longer periods?
– Australia has not the same commitments as have the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
– That is true. The United Kingdom has standing commitments to provide troops for Malaya and elsewhere, and a similar commitment rests on the United States of America. I agree that a factor in determining the period of training is the necessity for having a specific number of troops with the colours at any one time to meet those commitments, but it is only a factor, and the United Kingdom and the United States of America have adopted training periods of approximately two years. I do not believe that our men can be trained in six months. I agree that some classes may be trained in that period, but it would be quite impossible in that time to train men for trades in the services that have no civilian counterpart. How can personnel be trained in six months in the maintenance of jet aircraft, radar controlled gunnery equipment in the Navy and in the Army, and similar scientific developments that have been applied to the services? What would be the practical result of a lack of trained maintenance personnel if we should have to send our forces to war? Highly efficient scientific equipment would be wasted. Of what use would it be to have half a dozen jet aircraft squadrons on the ground because we had not sufficient personnel to keep them airworthy? It would be sheer waste. Six months’ training may, or may not, be sufficient for men needed for trades in the services that have a civilian counterpart, because the major basic training requirement is, in that case, to convert the individual to the ways and methods of the services, but a much longer period of training should be prescribed for personnel required for the highly technical maintenance work that is peculiar to the defence services.
Opposition members have asked, “ How can compulsory military service, which will require technical personnel, be reconciled with the necessity for increasing production?” The answer to that question is perfectly obvious. The two cannot be reconciled but, as with every other activity in life, we must accept a compromise, and endeavour to get the best balance. Of what use is it to increase our prosperity and reduce the cost of living if, in the process, we neglect our defences and lose the lot? Alternatively, of what use is it to put all our resources into our defence if we are defending something that is not worthwhile, because our living conditions have been destroyed, and we have not the ability to develop our resources? So, as in everything else, compromise is necessary. The best balance must be adopted. I, personally, do not consider that we have struck that balance. In these critical times, more of our man-power should temporarily be devoted to the primary -purpose of security. But that, like all compromises, is a matter of opinion.
I am not completely satisfied with certain other features of this bill, but all of them are based on the two major deficiencies that I have indicated. Therefore I do not -propose to discuss them. A certain fundamental truth must be accepted. I mention it briefly. We cannot defend our country in an emergency unless we have the authority to send our men to meet the threat wherever it can be most quickly and certainly defeated. That implies compulsory military service anywhere in the world. The problem of providing adequate training for the technicians who are so essential for the maintenance of modern equipment must also be solved. All the unsatisfactory minor matters in this national training scheme would automatically right themselves if we were to adopt what, in my view, is a sound foundation on which our defences should be built.
I conclude by directing attention to a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his first broadcast address on defence on the 20th September last. I mention, in passing, that I drew great comfort from it at the time. The right honorable gentleman said -
We must face the facts of International life If there is to be a third world war, the safety of Australia will not be protected here in Australia but in some other area where, in the opinion of the western democracies, Australian participation is necessary for victory. And so the services must be designed and equipped, not for the last war, but for the next, not to meet some past enemy, but a new one.
I had hoped that, in view of that very proper and correct enunciation of the defence problem, the National Service Bill 1950 would be a closer translation of that conception than it is.
.- The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) has shown most effectively the importance, implications, and advantages of this bill, and other Government supporters have achieved a similar purpose in their speeches on it. Unfortunately, the only serious contribution which the Opposition has made to this debate is represented by an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill with the object of deferring it indefinitely while all sections of the community are given an opportunity to discuss the justification for it. Honorable members know perfectly well that when a bill is referred to a special committee for consideration, six months, or an even longer period, may elapse before the report is completed. The National Service Bill 1950 must not have such a fate. The position is far too serious. The time has come when not only the nation as a whole but also every individual in it should examine the Australian way of life, and consider whether it is worthy of protection, and what has given this country comparative security over the years.
The truth of the matter is that Australia is threatened to-day as it was never before. That threat is twofold. I refer, first, to the tremendous imperialism that is reaching out from a psychopathically ambitious and ruthless nation, the potential power of which is much greater than we believe it to be. The threat from that source is quite as serious as was the threat from Hitler. The second threat is the great Asiatic movement, which is “channelled” by the northern imperialism into open hostility against the remaining forces of democracy, particularly in the SouthEast Pacific. Who would have ventured to suggest twelve months ago that Australia would be threatened by a specific enemy? The very idea would have been almost inconceivable. Yet the veil has been rent, and the position is known to us only too well. A few days ago, one. of the most prominent Australian soldiers said that the enemy of this country and of its great allies is communism. He considered that world conditions resemble those of 1938-39, and he expressed his thankfulness that the democratic nations have decided to die on their feet if necessary rather than live on their knees. Those words a:. extremely serious, but they are justified by the events in Korea, Manchuria, the South-East Pacific and Tibet. He uttered those words to emphasize the necessity for action in the interests of selfpreservation, hoping that a national movement would develop to strengthen our defences. That is to say, we must prepare to defend Australia, not in a passive way as may be suggested by Opposition members, not in some territorial way, and not by standing inside the paper castles of our own isolationism, as has also been suggested from time to time by the Labour party.
I make a real plea to the Parliament and to the nation to recognize that the time has come when we must muster the strongest possible forces consonant with the need to maintain industrial activity. National service must be introduced to meet the imminent needs of the country. No one believes that the present uneasy peace can last. The threadbare fabric of peace can break at any time. Science, which has done so much for the welfare of mankind, has now demolished the barriers that provided for our safety in the past. We may expect no security because thousands of miles of water separate us from potential enemies. Isolation is today not even a gossamer thread as a means of protection. A person might as well shelter behind a paper screen from a bullet as seek to hide from the long-range aeroplane and the long-range submarine. We and our potential enemies are neighbours. Thousands of Australians in these taut days delude themselves when they think that they are far away from danger because of Australia’s geographical remoteness. It is incredible that people should so soon forget the panic that occurred in our coastal cities in 1942. The next war will be a war of sheer survival - not survival of the privileges that we now enjoy, such as the 40-hour week, or survival of Australia as a power in the world, but survival of our people. That is the cold fact. I make this plea in the hope that the Opposition will appreciate the extreme seriousness of the situation and the paramount importance of the bill.
The Opposition has declared very clearly from time to time that it will not accept this Government’s defence plans. That attitude is not in consonance with the Labour party manifesto, which calls for full co-operation between all units of the British Commonwealth against aggression. What inconsistency and humbug have been disclosed by the Opposition’s attitude to this measure! Does the Labour party claim that it can oppose universal military service and still offer co-operation to other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations?1 Will it continue to pay mere lip service to the United Nations? The statements that have been made in this House this year by members of the Labour party have clone irreparable damage not only to the reputation of the party but also to Australia as a nation. Other members of the United Nations are wondering, in view of those statements, how sincere Australians are when they talk about international co-operation. I direct the attention of members of the Opposition to” the following important statement, which was made in Australia recently : -
An examination of the various arguments raised against universal training shows lack oi reasoning. Many supporters of Labour, a few employers, and all Communists plug the line that the cost and possible disruption of our production preclude universal training. Those who believe in being prepared are accused of believing in the inevitability of war. . . . It is far better to have received training and never have to fight a war, than to fight without adequate training . . . In developing a democratic nation we seek rewards of higher living standards and individual freedom; we must also accept the responsibilities of democracy, an intelligent service to protect that democracy in peace or war . . .
Those are not the words of a member of the Liberal party. Neither are they the words of a big boss, a scholar, a capitalist or a military leader. They were uttered publicly by the deputy president of the Federated Clerks Union, Mr. Henry Brand. He realizes that Australia is over-shadowed by a grave threat, but unfortunately he has not been able to influence the men who dictate the policy of the party. Mr. Brand also said -
Our Asian neighbours And new freedom and cast envious eyes to the south-east where a vast granary is held by a few white people. We may honestly endeavour to raise thu living standards of our Pacific neighbours and in so doing raise a new Frankenstein monster, for with a taste for better things comes theinevitable urge for more . . .
One wonders whether the Australian Labour party has a defence policy of any sort.
Members of the Opposition have refused to help the voluntary recruiting campaign for the armed forces. Now they have declared their opposition to a universal training scheme and they also object to the proposal that army recruits shall be liable, as are navy and air force recruits, to serve in any part of the world. The Labour party is living to-day in an “ Alice in Wonderland “ atmosphere. Its members cannot make up their minds in relation to defence. Do they believe, in these days of atomic development, that we shall be allowed time in which to raise an army by voluntary enlistment if an emergency arises? Do they refuse to heed even the advice of our generals, who advocate immediate expansion of our armed services? The average Australian knows the facts and appreciates the dangers to which the country is exposed. But members of the Opposition are out of touch with the average Australian. The results of recent gallup polls have demonstrated clearly that the people are in favour of the development of a defence plan on which the nation can rely. All the false appeals to sentiment that we have heard to-day from members of the Opposition, including especially the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), can have no other effect than to help the fifth column in Australia which is endeavouring to trick the people into believing that Australia is not in any danger. The fifth columnists tell the people that the nation is adequately defended.
– The Government’s job is to answer them.
– And to initiate a plan that will provide for the strongest possible defence force consistent with the civilian man-power needs of the nation. I believe that Australia will suffer eventually unless we establish now an adequate force that will be ready to fight in any part of the world.
We should hit an enemy on his own territory instead of waiting for him to strike at lis. Are we going to witness such harrowing scenes as the people of Europe witnessed during World War II., when fighting raged through the streets of cities and even in the homes of the people? That fate will befall us unless we establish an army that is capable of serving the country in any part of the world. By declaring itself in favour of a stay-at-home army, the Opposition has declared itself in favour of a stay-at-home war. Every dictate of common sense tells us that we should endeavour to confine any future war to the area in which it breaks out. Those who oppose universal national service for action anywhere in the world are merely asking that war be allowed to overwhelm Australia. Furthermore, we have obligations not only to other member countries of the British Commonwealth, but also to the United Nations. We depend for our security largely upon the armed strength of the British Commonwealth and the United Nations, and therefore it is up to us, in return, to provide all the assistance that we can muster, should the necessity to do so arise. Notwithstanding the obvious realities of the situation, the Opposition has refused to co-operate with the rest of the British Commonwealth and with the United Nations. It has announced to the world that it is not prepared to help Australia to do what Australia has asked other countries to do. In other words, it is fiddling with the safety of the nation. It pays only lip service to the United Nations when it refuses to help that organization to settle international disputes peacefully. I again remind honorable members of the Opposition of the statement that was made by the deputy president of the Federated Clerks Union. Mr. Brand concluded his declaration by saying -
We learn the lessons of history slowly, often too late, hut even the most apathetic of citizens will agree that this atomic age, with its violent clash of ideologies, does not provide a safe place for isolationists or those who shut their eyes to realities . . .
Here is an instance of a member of the Australian Labour party criticizing his colleagues.
– How does the honorable gentleman know that he is a member of the Australian Labour party?
– He is the deputy president of the Federated Clerks Union and a member of the Labour party. He has referred, to his fellow party members as isolationists and as persons who shut their eyes to realities. If members of the Opposition believe that Australia would be able to emerge safely from any future conflict after having made only a halfhearted effort to prepare for its defence, they must be blind to realities. I appeal to them to reconsider their decision in relation to this measure, even at this late stage, so that they may support the Government’s efforts to provide for the protection of the nation. They should resolve to make a whole-hearted effort to co-operate on this issue so that we may raise our armed forces to the limit of our capacity. Let us act now, for the time may be far later than we suspect thu* it is!
– We have heard during this debate a great deal of talk by Government supporters about lack of cooperation by members of the Opposition. It it my duty and it gives me pleasure to support the amendment that has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to the effect that the Government’s proposals for the introduction of compulsory military service be investigated and reported upon by an appropriate all-party committee which should be authorized to examine the defence requirements and economic needs of Australia and to call defence personnel and representatives of labour, industry and commerce as witnesses. That is the proposition which this House should he debating. After listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) and the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), I recalled a portion of the second-reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). There has been a great deal of discussion about the necessity for sending Australian troops overseas to fight anywhere in the world. Such a discussion might be appropriate at some later date, but it is not appropriate to this debate. During the course of his secondreading speech the Minister said -
In short, the scheme which this bill authorizes is aimed to provide a reservoir of trained men who will be available to be recruited for service with the Defence Force in the normal way in the event of an emergency. Naturally, in the circumstances, the bill does not change any existing provisions dealing with liability for overseas service. The law on that matter is contained in the existing defence legislation.
Having listened to the honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Isaacs, and having read that statement of the Minister, the urgency of the need to adopt the amendment which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved has been more, strongly impressed on me. It is obvious to me, as it must be to other honorable members, that an investigation of Australia’s reserve of man-power and of its capacity to do what the Government desires shall be done is necessary so that all parties may achieve common stand-point.
Honorable members heard a very fine dissertation by the honorable member for Isaacs, who inferred that honorable members of the Opposition are not concerned about the defence of Australia. The amendment is designed to enable the Opposition to co-operate with the Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed that an all-party committee be formed, the object being to enable the Opposition to co-operate with the Government, and not merely to investigate the provisions of this bill, because, as the honorable member for Indi has said, if the conditions are as bad as the Government claims that they are, this bill will not provide adequate means for meeting the situation. It is a squib. Something more substantial is required. Australia should bring into being a defence force which will not undermine its economy. Production, defence and development are three important matters which stand on an equal footing. They are three vital factors which this Parliament must consider. It must be ascertained how much can be done in respect of each without adversely affecting our standards of defence and economic stability. The Government is merely trying to push through this bill, which means very little, in order to take a rise out of the Labour party which, for many years, has been decent enough to keep its own name and fight for its own policy and principles. Honorable members opposite have given to their party different names and have supported a dozen policies. At no time has the Australian Labour party acted in a manner that was inconsistent with its policy. Whatever the defects of that party may have been its members have always been proud of it and of the policy it espoused. On that basis and with no change of name they have always been prepared to go to the country without making specious promises in order to delude the electors.
I share many of the doubts expressed by the honorable member for Indi. The technical knowledge that is needed for the operation of the modern machinery of war is such that troops require more than six months’ instruction in order to be properly trained. The Government has not the equipment that is necessary to give proper training yet it proposes to put recruits into camp for only six months. Although it has been in power for twelve months the Government introduced this bill only two days ago and because honorable members of the Opposition have not agreed with its provisions they have been charged with failure to protect the interests of Australia. We are prepared to co-operate but the defence of Australia is the Government’s responsibility. This bill is not designed for defence. The Minister for Labour and National Service said -
In short, the scheme which this bill authorizes is aimed to provide a reservoir of trained men who will be available to be recruited for service with the defence forces in the normal way in the event of an emergency.
The bill provides for the training of 13,000 men each six months. Honorable members opposite claim that Australia is in dire peril of being invaded and its people of being annihilated. Yet, the proposal by the Opposition that the matter be investigated by a committee on which the Government would have a majority of the members is to be rejected. If the Government were honest it would suggest that it might be some time before the committee could commence to function and ask for an assurance of an early completion of the investigation. The Government has not done that, but has suggested that the Opposition will not co-operate, with it.
Military training was first introduced in Australia by a Labour government. During the recent war, conscription was introduced by a Labour party government and if an emergency again arose it would be found that the Australian Labour party would support similar measures in order that the welfare of Australia might be protected. That I have stated the truth is not controverted by the smirks of honorable members opposite. This is an electioneering idea. Having won the general election in December last by making a lot of promises, the Government introduced a fictitious budget.
– Order !
– I wish to show the relationship between the budget and the production of this Measure, which is merely showmanship. Honorable members opposite do not know what they want. I heartily agree with the honorable member for Indi, that six months’ training will be useless. The old compulsory training scheme was a farce and a waste of public money. Those who remember it know the waste of time and industrial effort that was involved in putting men into camp for a few weeks now and then. The training provided for in this bill will be a little better, but certain people are to be exempt from it. Because it held the balance of political power, the Australian Country party was able to insist on the insertion of a provision for the protection of rural workers. That is party politics at its worst. It is the sort of thing that these ultrapatriots try to put over in order to oppose the Labour party. If men in certain age groups are to be called up, there should be no exemption. It may be possible to argue that it is not economical to bring men hundreds of miles to attend a camp when they are to receive only a week’s training but when they are to go into camp for six months that alibi fails. These men are to be exempt from the provisions of the bill merely because of the weight of party political votes.
I do not regard this bill as anything but a reasonable basis for investigation. The country needs a proper defence programme. It is possible that in a few years Australia will need a trained army and the. Opposition is very concerned to ensure that that army shall be capable of defending the country. At the same time, economic stability must be maintained. In the event of another war, Australia will be expected, as it was in the latter part of the last war, not only to send a force into the field, but also to supply food and clothing to its allies. Consequently, we must not forget the necessity to keep men behind the lines in order to supply those who are fighting at the battle front.
I had not intended to speak on this measure but after comparing the bill with the second-reading speech of the Minister and after listening to what honorable members opposite had said I considered it was time that this Parliament should forget party politics. Let us co-operate on this matter. Working men will fight when called upon to do so but they want a proper system of training, not a halfbaked system such as this one, which could achieve nothing in the event of a war.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8.1 p.m.
– I shall endeavour, as far as possible, to confine myself to the main purpose of the bill, which is to impose compulsory training on certain classes of male citizens in this country. I have long been of the opinion that it is the duty of men who enjoy the privileges of citizenship in a free country to defend that country if it is assailed. In the first session of the First Parliament in 1901, I expressed my views on this matter to the House of Representatives. I quote from Hansard, Vol. III., the 31st July, page 3242-
I .believe that as a nation we may extend the right hand of fellowship to all civilized peoples. We may welcome all that they bring us, and all the benefits which flow in the train of commercial relations; at the same time we should be ready to present to an enemy such a firm, undaunted and formidable front that no nation would dare to attack us . . . We have seen, and we continue to see, day after day, the process of eating up the unoccupied or weakly defended portions of the world. This country needs a sure and certain defence
The responsibility of citizenship carries with it the right - duty - of defending one’s country. In return for the privileges we enjoy in a free country, we should do everything that lies in our power to defend it in the hour of need. And this implies training and discipline. Without training and discipline, effective defence is impossible.
What I propose is this - that every adult member of the community should undergo a period of training. He should be drilled and trained and disciplined.
I made it clear that when I spoke of “ drill “ what I meant was that he should perfect himself in everything that goes to make an efficient soldier. Some years later, I succeeded in incorporating compulsory military training in the platform of the Australian Labour party. In 1909 compulsory military training was introduced by the Deakin Government, with the help of the Labour party of that time. The Royal Military College at Duntroon was established, a small arms factory opened at Lithgow, and a scheme that involved the training of senior and junior military cadets and adult training provisions by the Defence Act were enforced. By the end of June, 1912, the total number of junior cadets in training was nearly 53,000, the number of senior cadets was 89,000, and the strength of the Citizen Military Forces was ‘ 89,138. Compulsory military training remained a part of Labour’s policy until 1917, when the split occurred over conscription for overseas service. Compulsory military training for home defence was then scrapped by the Labour party until 1941, when Mr. Curtin, who had been elected on the solemn pledge that compulsory military training for home service would not be re-imposed, introduced both military and industrial conscription behind the people’s backs. For the moment I leave the history of the subject and pass on to consider the position in which the country finds itself to-day.
It has been said by supporters of the Labour party that we are now at peace, and that if war occurred they would willingly co-operate in introducing conscription. In their view, all will be ready to follow the policy which Mr. Curtin advocated and effectuated in the early days of the last war, hut they refuse to co-operate in having our young men trained to defend their country effectively if unhappily war should come. They would have us believe that there is no immediate danger of war. I agree with those who say that war is not inevitable. Nothing is inevitable to mortal man expect death. But I point out to honorable members that every country in the world faces war and is adopting a policy of conscription. Every country in the world is making stupendous efforts to improve and to strengthen its defences. The United States of America and the United Kingdom have the largest peacetime military forces in their history, and they are still strengthening them. The United States of America is expending stupendous and fantastic sums in order to make itself safe from aggression. Great Britain, impoverished as it is as a result of its heroic efforts in the recent war, which saved the world, is making extraordinary efforts to re-arm itself, and now has an army of approximately 800,000 men. What those two countries are doing is being done in every other country in the world. *
I put it to honorable members that although, technically, we are not involved in war, Ave are skirting round the edge of its abyss, and any day we may find ourselves rushing down the declivity into disaster. No country is more vulnerable nor more inviting than is Australia. We have a population of only a little more than 8,000,000. That population 13 scattered throughout our country at a density of only 2.6 people per square mile. How are they to defend it? The policy of compulsory military training that had been introduced in this country before World War I. resulted in our having available at the outbreak of that war S9,000 cadets and 45,000 members of the Citizen Military Forces. In 1914 we had a population of ‘ 5,000,000. To-day, although we have 8,250,000 people, on the authority of the Minister who introduced the bill, we have a total armed strength in all services of only 53,000 men. The Government is not satisfied with that position. It recognizes -indeed, it has been compelled to recognize - its obligation to the United Nations which was established to preserve world peace. Since the United Nations organization has no military force of its own, it necessarily calls upon the member nations to supply their quota of armed forces.
For the benefit of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Gordon Anderson), and other members of the Opposition who spoke this afternoon, it is necessary to emphasize that this measure has no relation whatever to overseas service. It is designed to protect this country, to protect Australia. Like the original compulsory military training scheme, to which I have referred, this measure is designed for home defence. About this system of compulsory military training there is something that is not only material but also psychological. It is essential that there shall be a reserve from which forces depleted in war can be replenished, but it is also necessary that the people of Australia should realize that liberty must be paid for. We are the proud inheritors of a wonderful system of government that has given us, and o.ur kinsmen overseas, the greatest measure of liberty accorded to any people, in any country, in any age. The position of every nation in the world to-day is the result of war, of victories won or of defeats suffered. The area of land it occupies, its resources, it strategic value, all have their roots in war. War has been the dominant factor in shaping the destinies of mankind throughout all the ages. The years that have passed since the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia have been among the most eventful in the history of mankind. They have seen, amongst other things, the two greatest wars the world has even known. They have seen revolutionary changes in every phase of our industrial, social and political lives. They have enabled those who were cast down to be lifted up. They have swept away that isolation that separated up by an abyss of waters from our kinsmen overseas. To-day one can speak to London as easily as I speak to you now, Mr. Speaker. One can go from here to London in two or three days. All those things have come to us as a result of war. We are here because we came, we saw, we conquered. There are some honorable gentlemen opposite who talk as though they were apostles of peace, although their actions on some occasions seem to be somewhat at variance with their protestations. But they tell us they stand for peace, for justice! Well, where are the aborigines? What have we done for them? It is not for us to talk about aggression by other nations for we live in a glasshouse !
We are, as I have said, at once the most vulnerable and the most desirable and inviting of all countries. Well, what are we doing? What are we going to do? Thirty-six years ago we were able to send 360,000 fighting men overseas in five years as a result of the compulsory military training scheme and its effects, both material and psychological. At least So per cent, of those men who enlisted in 1914 had some measure’ of military training at the time of their enlistment for service overseas. Every one of them was a volunteer for overseas service.
Although this measure is not concerned with voluntary service, the example set us by our forefathers surely ought to stir us to prove ourselves worthy of our breeding and of our liberties. We now face our hour of trial. The nations of the world expect war and are preparing for it. But what are we doing? Honorable members opposite say that if war came they would be in favour of. compulsion. I heard the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith speak about the futility of the proposed period of training. He said that it was not long enough. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), on the other hand, said the proposed period of training was too long and that industry made a clamant demand for the labour that was required to produce goods that are in short supply at present, and so could not spare men for military training. That comes very strangely from men who have seen, times out of number, coal miners refusing to mine coal, waterside workers refusing to handle cargo, and iron workers threatening a nation-wide hold-up. But they reconcile these things somehow with the views they express. According to them it is quite fit and proper for Labour to fritter away its energies on strikes that account for a greater loss of time than would suffice for half a dozen compulsory military training schemes.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith deplored the lack of range in the proposed scheme. He said that he wanted it to cover a wider field and to take in more men - in fact, to take from industry more of the most valuable asset that we have, man-power. Let me remind honorable members that this measure is before this Parliament at a time when war, although not inevitable, is most probable. Every nation in the world considers that war is probable and is taking no chances. “What is happening in Korea to-day? “What was the position in this country when the Korean conflict started? We were asked by the Security Council of the United Nations to send a token force to assist in resistance to aggression in Korea. We sent that token force which was composed of air and naval units. Later, when we were asked to send ground troops, it was many weeks before we could muster up the equivalent of half of one battalion. That is a scathing reflection upon this country. If we wish to retain the liberties that we now have and to reach out for still higher standards we must be ready to fight for them and in order to fight effectively our young men must be trained.
Some honorable members opposite have told us that we should not harp upon communism. The world fears another war. Prom what quarter do the free nations of the world fear that war will come? It may come from any quarter, but all eyes now are turned on one quarter - Russia. There is no doubt that Russia now bestraddles half the world. Why do nations go to war? Because one nation wants what another nation has, and so reaches out to take it. Nations want more power. They want strategic advantages. But above all, they want security. With some nations the demand for security is a justifiable demand. But with others it is a mere pretext. It is under cover of that pretext that Russia has been extending its power all over the world. It has annexed Poland. I sat at the Peace Conference table in 1919 beside Paderewski, of Poland, who was almost delirious with joy at the prospect of his country being at last free. I knew Benes and Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, and Antonescu, of Roumania, countries that for the first time wore about to shake off the AustroGerman yoke and be free. Those countries have all been swallowed by Russia, which was never so secure in its history as it is to-day. It is the only nation in the world that gained territory from the last war. It gained territory and prestige. It has its agents in every country of the world. Nobody knows better than do honorable members opposite how assiduously and tirelessly those friends of Russia work. They have insinuated themselves into the trade union movement. Where is the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Healy, who now controls the federation I established and of which I was for many years president ? He is in Warsaw or Moscow and is working tirelessly in the interests of peace. I don’t think !
I do not complain because this bill does not go far enough, although in common with the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, I regret that it does not go much further. But I shall support it because it, is at least a step in the right direction. The suggestion that we should submit this great matter of preparing to meet our obligations in the event of war, to an all-party committee, it; futile. The Opposition has submitted an amendment for the submission of the measure to such a committee. I regard that amendment as a sort of Apocalypse - another addendum to the Scriptures. What the amendment says, in effect, is, “ Do not do anything now. Do nothing at all. There is danger of war but it may never happen “. Is America spending tens of thousands of millions of dollars without on use? Consider what is happening in Korea. For week after week we were told that the United Nations forces were sweeping victoriously through the country. Now we are told that if they do not watch their step they will be cut off and, wiped out. That position arises from the fact that 200,000 or more Chinese “ Reds “ are coming into the war. Who is sending them in? Our friend Mr. Stalin. He is the man whom Mr. Healy has gone to see. No doubt Mr. Stalin will make a suggestion to Mr. Healy that he should lead a campaign for peace.
I shall not weary the House with any further comments. Much more could be said, and should be said, and, with the help of God, will be said on this measure. But I do say that Labour is now following its traditional policy on defence. It stood for voluntary recruiting in 1917 and did nothing to help voluntary recruiting, lt stands for voluntary recruiting to-day and does nothing to help voluntary recruiting. Well, we intend to do something, and, with God’s help, we shall do it.
.- I rise to oppose this bill and to support the amendment moved. by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). On one matter it may be taken that all honorable members of this House are united. That is the need for the defence of Australia. The disagreement among honorable members is in relation to the methods whereby the best defence of Australia can be secured. We must admit from the start that the problems involved in Australia’s defence are many and varied. The first fact that we must take into consideration is that Australia is an island continent, with a coastline of 12,000 miles and a population of 8,250,000 people. Then we must take into consideration the attitude that we desire to adopt towards our neighbours and the policy and principles with which we, as a nation, are actuated. Aus- tralia has no territorial ambitions. We desire to have peace with our neighbours, and we believe that we have a right to develop this country as quickly as we can and in the best possible manner.
Having laid down those principles, we must ensure that the policy we adopt shall be so markedly defensive in character that our neighbours with whom we desire to be on good terms will not be led to regard: our actions as indicating possible futureaggression. Unless we bear in mind that that endeavour must be at the back of our defence proposals, we are likely to have difficulties with the neighbours with whom we desire to promote goodwill. A great deal has been said about possible aggression against Australia. I ask honorable members frankly, who is the possible aggressor of Australia in the near future ? It is certainly not Japan because that nation has been deprived of all military and naval power. There is no near neighbour of Australia which is so equipped with the means of war that it could in the near future invade this country. When dealing with the matter of defence honorable members must visualize all the possibilities involved in an act of aggression towards this country. We must then develop this country in such a way that we shall be able to meet whatever we believe might occur.
It is possible that if aggression takes place against Australia we may be completely isolated from any other country in the world. That would mean that the whole of our defence would fall upon our own shoulders. This measure fails to take that possibility into consideration. In addition it fails to provide the effective defence necessary for this country. Defence means considerably more than calling up men for service in some branches of the services. Defence means that this country should from within its own resources provide all those things that are necessary to enable an attacker to be beaten off.
– That is impossible.
– If the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) thinks that that is impossible, then surely he is admitting that the effective defence of Australia is impossible.
– Yes, without cooperation.
– We must consider whether our first duty to Australia at present is not to build up and develop this country and its industries to such a degree that we shall be able adequately and properly to defend ourselves should the occasion to do so arise. I have heard a Food deal said in the course of the debate to the effect that the man who is not trained is the man who is killed. It has been said that men must be trained so that they will not become easy enemy targets. Whilst it is easy for honorable members opposite to say what our responsibilities are towards the training of men, this Parliament has the responsibility of ensuring that if men are compulsorily or voluntarily trained they shall have behind them the resources and equipment necessary to enable them properly to fight in the defence of the country. What are we producing at the present time that would assist in the defence of this country? If we enlist men in the armed services, are we going to ensure that sufficient guns, shells, rifles, tanks, transport vehicles and other essentials shall be made available to them? If they are not to be made available, we shall be deluding the men whom we propose to put into our armed services. Concurrently with our efforts for properly defending this country so far as men are concerned, we should not fail to ensure that the things that are necessary for the men to use shall be made available to them. When we say to people, “ It is your duty to take up arms in the defence of this country “, they are entitled to say to us, “ As a Parliament, what are you doing to. see that if we do take up arms, compulsorily or voluntarily, you will have a ready supply of materials and equipment available to enable us to do an effective job?”. Are we producing in this country all the things that are necessary to-day for the equipment of an army? Are we producing tanks, ships, guns and transport vehicles?
– Can we do so?
– The honorable member says, “ Can we do so ? “ By that does he wean that the defence of this country must depend on somebody else? Does he mean that we must run away from the problem of properly equipping our armed forces in the hope that in the future some other country will provide the necessary articles and that really the responsibility is not ours ? One can quite understand from the constant interjections of the honorable member for Bowman that he is unable to face up to the real practical difficulties of defence.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I take personal exception to those words.
– The honorable member cannot make a personal explanation at this stage.
– I do not ask for permission to make a personal explanation. I take personal exception to the words used by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey).
– What are the words to which the honorable member takes exception?
– The honorable member for Bendigo implied that I have no knowledge of these matters.
– The words complained of are not unparliamentary ; they merely express an opinion.
– I desire to point out two things that must be recognized when considering the defence of Australia. The first is that the industries of thi? country must be so built up that we shall be able to produce all the things required for our own defence. In addition to being able to make guns, bombs, shells, rifles and other . small arms, we should be able to make tanks, and to provide transport vehicles of the various types required for defence. We should also be able to produce, instead of importing from elsewhere, bulldozers and aircraft of all kinds to enable a reasonably efficient air defence policy to be undertaken.
– What aeroplanes are we not making?
– I suggest to the House that the equipment necessary for our armed forces must ultimately be produced in Australia by Australian industry. I shall say something later with regard to the production of aircraft. I therefore stress that we must he in a position, industrially, to produce the things required, quickly and in sufficient quantity. This bill deals with the matter of training soldiers. It gives us no information, nor did the Minister who introduced the bill give us any information, about the vital service equipment needs of the men who are to be trained.
At this stage I desire to advance some reasons why I believe that a committee of inquiry such as that suggested in the amendment is desirable in order that the best methods for the defence of this country might be ascertained. I suggest that because Australia is an island continent, it is apparent that any attack upon it must be made either by air or by sea. The measure before the House deals with the defence of this country in the event of an attack. The proper defence should be one that endeavours to prevent the aggressor from landing on the shores of this country. The views that I now intend to express are views which are largely influenced, not by anything that I have conceived myself, but by views expressed by one of the most distinguished aeronautical authorities in the world. I propose to quote some of the views expressed about defence by that eminent authority, Major Alexander de Seversky He wrote Air Power: Key to Survival and also Victory Through Air Power. Major de Seversky has had considerable experience in connexion with aeronautical problems, and his views in regard to the use of the aeroplane were found to be very sound during “World War II. He visualized two likely trends in the use of air power, and certain of his contentions are applicable to Australia. In Air Power: Key to Survival, he wrote -
Now a basic law of victory, valid throughout history, is that war must be geared to one primary force. Dependent on its geography, a nation seeks clear-cut superiority in a single medium, looking towards a decisive battle that will confirm its mastery there. Other elements of support are provided - but never at the expense of the main forces in the decisive medium. Absolute dominance in one decisive medium - that is the essence of true strategic balance . . .
That principle might well be applied in this country if we substitute for the words “war” and “victory” the word “ defence “ and say that our defence must be geared to one basic force. That policy has been put into operation by several of the great powers in the past. For many years Great Britain concentrated its attention upon building up a great navy because it realized that naval superiority was essential to its security. Consequently, the strength of the British aimed forces was always relatively small. Likewise, Japan, in the early stages of its development, based its defence upon a strong navy. It did not commence to organize its military forces on any substantial scale until it became an aggressor nation and engaged in territorial expansion. The United States of America also made its Navy the basic force in its defence organization, and it was not until towards the end of World War II. that the American military command developed its existing conception of air power. It did so because it realized that the United States of America should be as strong in the air as it had previously been on the high seas.
– Has the honorable member ever heard of the Royal Air Force?
– -Yes ; and I am not suggesting that Great Britain itself, as the complexities of war changed, did not make adjustments to meet those changes. However, the Minister for Air (Mr. White) will realize that great as the achievements of the Royal Air Force were, the United States of America, because of its greater industrial and manpower resources, was able to build up an air force that was much stronger than the Royal Air Force.
The principle that has been enunciated by the aeronautical expert from whose book I have quoted should give a lead’ to us in the! building up of Australia’s defence forces. We should make a basic force of that arm of the service that will be able to do more than the other arms will be capable of doing in the defence of this country. However, under the measure now before the House, the” Government, instead of planning to resist a potential invader before he*’ actually reaches our shores proposes to make the Army the basic force and to-‘ treat the Air Force and the Navy as’being of less importance.
– Can the honorable member point to anything in the bill that would support that stupid statement ?
– The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) says that the statement that I have just made is stupid. I shall substantiate it by quoting the following statement that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) made in his second-reading speech when he was introducing this measure -
As to the numbers who will be’ trained under the scheme, all I need say is that, as has already been announced, the plans for the first twelve months are to train at least 13,500, with a progressive increase in the following year. This 13,500 will be divided among the services as follows: -
I should like honorable members to note the figures that the Minister gave. They were as follows: -
Royal Australian Navy - 500 to be called up in two groups of 250 - the first to commence training in March, 1951.
In respect of the Air Force which, in my opinion, should be the basic force in our defences, the Minister gave the following figures : -
Royal Australian Air Force - 3,000 in four groups of 750 - the first to commence training in April, 1951.
And in respect of the Army the Minister gave the following figures: -
Army - 10,000 in three groups, the first 3,300 to commence in May, 1951.
On that basis the Government proposes that during the next four years the three services shall be brought up to the following strengths: The Royal Australian Navy, 2,400, the Royal Australian Air Force 12,000, and the Army 40,000. Those are minimum figures. However, they indicate that under the- Government’s proposal the Air Force and the Navy, which should be the basic forces of our defences, are to be starved of men and are to be treated as though they are of much less importance.
– The honorable member does not understand the Government’s proposals.
– (The words of the Minister for Labour and National Service speak for themselves. It is useless for the Minister for Air to say that the position will be different from what I have indicated that it will be: The defence of
Australia can best be provided for by building up the Royal Australian Air Force to a strength that will enable it. to maintain complete mastery of the air in Australia and over our adjacent waters if an attack should be made upon our coastline. Our defence preparations should be based primarily upon concentration on production, development and improvement of aeroplanes of all types, and on measures that will enable us to keep abreast of the latest advances in the development of radar and electronic devices. “Whilst it is true that aeroplanes are being manufactured in this country, our present rate of output of aircraft is totally inadequate to meet our defence needs. Our capacity to repair aeroplanes also is totally inadequate. As one supporter of the Government has pointed out, we have not available trained technicians in radar and electronic devices, which are being used to an increasing degree in modern aeroplanes. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) said that it was necessary to make provision for considerably more training for personnel that are drafted to the Royal Australian Air Force in order to meet that particular need. If an air force of the size and standard that will be required for the adequate defence of this country is to be established the Government must provide for a considerable expansion of the production of aeroplanes of various types and also enable those concerned to cope with constant changes of aircraft design and of methods of propulsion. For that purpose we shall need to be able to improvise and to adapt machines in accordance with those changes. Secondly, the Government should make provision in respect of all the things that are subsidiary to the establishment of an adequate air force. If due regard were paid to the importance of providing an adequate air force it would far outstrip the navy and army numerically.
In addition to providing as a first priority an air force that would be capable of maintaining mastery in the air in Australia and over adjacent waters, the Government should give second priority to the development of the Navy by making provision for increased numbers of submarines, des- troyers, small naval craft and aircraft carriers. In order to do that, it will be necessary to establish additional sea bases, docks and shipbuilding yards. I believe that honorable members will recognize, in the light of what I have said, that we should approach the problem of defence from a viewpoint different from that from which the Government has approached it under this measure. I take it that the Government is anxious to make our defences a9 strong as it possibly can make them in the existing circumstances. If that be so, I can see no reason why it should not agree to the amendment that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed, that an all-party parliamentary committee be appointed to investigate this matter as a whole. If the Government is anxious that all parties shall be united and shall co-operate in defence matters, as has been so earnestly suggested in the course of this debate, it should accept the amendment. The period which such a committee would require to conduct its investigation - it would not exceed six months at the most - would be well used, particularly as, within a similar period under this measure, not more than 13,000 men would have commenced training. If the Government desires unity and co-operation among all parties in respect of defence it will be unwise to reject the amendment. If it believes that the appointment of the proposed committee would involve delay, it could limit the period of the investigation. Full co-operation will be achieved on those lines, whereas there will be no hope of achieving it if Government supporters remain content merely to tell members of the Opposition that they do not know what they are talking about, and vice versa. If we do not attempt to deal with the vital problem of defence in a statesmanlike manner, we shall not be worthy of the trust that the people have reposed in us. It would be helpful if supporters of the Government, instead of jeering and sneering at members of the Opposition, were to give calm thought to this matter. It would be wise for the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), for instance, to abandon his Boer War attitude towards modern defence problems.
He and his colleagues should approach this matter with the object of doing what will be in the best interests of Australia.
– The speech that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has just made reveals how desperate is the plight of the Labour party when it endeavours to lead the people to believe that it is genuinely interested in the problem with which this measure deals. The honorable member made four points. He gave the best exhibition possible of upside down and topsy turvy thinking when he endeavoured to convince the House that it should accept the amendment that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has proposed. The honorable member for Bendigo made it perfectly obvious that he is completely opposed to the bill. Of what use would it be, in those circumstances, to refer the measure to an all-party committee? I shall tell the House later why Opposition members wish to take that course. The honorable member for Bendigo realized that the bill, if it were referred to an all-party committee, would be shelved for at least three months. I suppose, by the same token, that we can say to the Communist forces in Korea, “ Stop fighting for a while. We wish to appoint a committee to discuss the situation. The Labour party wants to consider the best method of defence. The honorable member for Bendigo thinks that de Seversky’s ideas are the best, but perhaps some new strategic concept will develop. Would you mind giving us three months’ respite ? “ The honorable member for Bendigo asked, in one breath, “Where is the aggressor that is likely to attack Australia ? “ In the next breath, he said, “ If an aggressor attacks us here, we shall be cut off from the rest of the world “. That is the kind of logic that we have to listen to from a man who is supposed to have a reputation for sound thinking. If he had such a reputation before, he lost it completely when he made his speech on this bill. He said, “ Name your aggressor. There is no danger here. There is no need for compulsory military training”. Then he said, for tb purposes of developing another argument, i£ If an aggressor attacks this country, we shall be cut off from the rest of the world. Theref ore, our duty is to expand our own resources, so that we may manufacture tanks &c., &c.”
The honorable member cannot have it both ways. Yet he will not tell us where he stands. The truth of the matter j3 obvious to the House. The honorable gentleman has not commenced to think about the dangers that confront all the free nations of the world. Does any honorable member venture to suggest that we can afford to wait for three months before we commence to strengthen our defences, and in particular, increase our supply of trained men? I have never been able to understand why the Labour party has opposed compulsory military training. Tor 38 years, the Defence Act has provided that, in time of war, men may be called up to defend their country. Apparently that provision is quite democratic, but it is not democratic to call up men, before the first gun is fired, to be trained to defend their country. In my opinion, such an approach is utterly hopeless. Yet it is not new, because it is the traditional way of thinking of the Labour party.
I shall deal quickly with the other points that were made by the honorable member for Bendigo, because I wish to devote some attention to the provisions of the bill. He said that we must pick what he called a “ primal defence arm “, and, shortly afterwards, he trotted out de Seversky’s idea, as if the air arm was the sole defence of this country. I remind the honorable gentleman of something that he appears to have forgotten. The preceding Labour Government prepared what was called a five-year defence scheme, the financial provision for which was divided almost equally among the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The honorable member for Bendigo said that we must be careful about the way in which we expand our resources. He suggested that the first step should be to increase the supply of munitions and the number of tanks, but he omitted to make any reference to the need to train men to use the weapons of warfare. His idea, apparently, is that, when those reserves of munitions and equipment are estab- lished, we can begin to think about training men to use them. That is the kind of thinking which passes for reasoning in the speeches of members of the Labour party. The honorable member then pointed out that according to de Seversky the air arm was obviously the means o.i defence upon which we must rely. Thu honorable gentleman was completely oblivious of the fact that the Labour party, when in office, laid down a defence plan for five years the financial provision for which was to be divided equally among the Army, Navy and Air Force.
It must be obvious to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who was a member of the War Cabinet and a member of the preceding Labour Government for eight years, that the scheme put forward by that administration as a defence plan was based upon the advice of the Australian chiefs of staff. We have proceeded upon the same basis, yet the honorable member for Bendigo says, “ Let us postpone the national training scheme. I have heard of a man named de Seversky, who is the best authority on these matters. We are going off half-cocked “. Nothing could be more stupid. The truth of the matter is that the speeches of Opposition members in this debate reveal clearly that a palace revolution has taken place in the Labour party. Government supporters and the public know perfectly well that some Opposition members would support this bill if they were free to do so, and that, other Opposition members are bitterly opposed to it. Obviously, they seek the postponement of the bill for a dual 1711’Dose : first, to mislead the people into believing that they are really interested in the subject-matter of the measure, and that they are genuinely desirous of examining it closely, and, secondly, to wait until next March when the masters of the Labour movement will meet, and doubtless determine their policy on compulsory military training. It is as cicalas a pikestaff that some one has had the bright idea of shelving this bill. We are familiar with the technique. The Opposition was eager to push the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 aside, and to give it the death of a thousand knives. Honorable members will recall the Opposition’s performance on that bill. The Labour party, which has a majority in the Senate, took action to refer the Commonwealth Bank Bill of 1950 to a select committee. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition now asks this House to refer the National Service Bill 1950 to an all-party committee. We can visualize what took place in caucus. Labour members said, “ Let us get a compromise agreement between those of us who wish to support the bill, and the others who are strongly opposed to it. Of course, we shall ditch the bill, but we shall make it appear that we are genuinely interested in it. We shall move that it be referred to an all-party committee for consideration and report “.
Mr. Rosevear interjecting,
-I may remind the House of some of the statements that have been made, by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) about defence. His performance in the defence of this country is about as lamentable as a man’s performance can be. The bright idea of referring the bill to an all-party committee is intended to convey the impression to the people that the Opposition is really eager to co-operate with the Government. But we are well aware of the measure of their co-operation, and the public is not misled by their protestations of sincerity. The amendment to the motion for the second reading is as follows : -
That the Government’s proposals in the bill to provide for compulsory national service in the Defence Forces be investigated and reported upon by an appropriate all-party committee
I do not know what would happen if the members of the committee were evenly divided on any matter. I suppose that they would begin again - which should be authorized to examine all the relevant defence, man-power and economic needs and capacities of Australia and to call witnesses including defence personnel and representatives of labour, industry and commerce.
The only matter that was not mentioned in the amendment was the fee of £2 128. 6d. that members of the committee would receive for each sitting. Apart from that, the amendment covers everything. But what is the purpose of it? Does any one in his right senses imagine that such a proposal, if adopted, would produce anything but a farce? Does any one in his right senses believe that the amendment was submitted for any other purpose than to find a way of destroying the bill? That was the Opposition’s game. That is characteristic of the Labour party.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to defence policy before the outbreak of World War II. and, unfortunately for him, I shall follow his example. I rarely delve into the past in that way, but I shall do so since he has given the lead. I shall show clearly the record of the Labour party on defence. It has the reputation of opposing measures when it is in Opposition, and of adopting them when it is in office. It opposed every defence proposal that was submitted by the government of the day before the outbreak of World War II.. including compulsory training, the sending of Australian servicemen overseas, and the National Security Act. I shall begin with the period shortly before the outbreak of World War II. in order to show the consistency of the attitude of the Labour party in opposing compulsory military training, and to prove that this amendment is complete humbug, and a pitiful and shameful subterfuge. As the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) has stated, Opposition members have not the courage to say where they stand, so they seek to mislead the people until they can obtain their instructions from their masters next March when the Labour party will tell them what to do. Yet they are supposed to represent their electors in this House. The leader of the Labour party said in November, 1938, just after the Munich Agreement-
I say that any increase of defence expenditure after the Munich pact so far as Australia is concerned appears to me to be an utterly unjustifiable and hysterical piece of panic propaganda. That is what I say in respect of the alarmist statements that have been made.
The right honorable member for - Melbourne Port9 (Mr. Holloway) said in the same month that the Government was expanding defence too rapidly and was making plans for more than the adequate defence of the country. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that he would not expend 3d. on armaments or on defence works of any kind in Australia.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is a great authority on defence, said on the 23rd November, 1938-
As I pointed out earlier-
He always points with great wisdom to everything that he pointed out earlier - this Government has, in various ways during recent weeks attempted to create in this country a war hysteria. We were told first of all that the critical period was in September last. Subsequently, we were told that, due to the efforts of Mr. Chamberlain, the critical period had then passed and that Australia would enjoy at least a breathing space; but there was no relaxation of effort on the part of this Government in expending large sums of public money on the purchase of war equipment.
That speech was made about nine months before the outbreak of World War II., yet the honorable member for East Sydney and his colleagues went round the country time after time telling the people that the Menzies Government had let Australia down by failing to make adequate defence preparations. I shall now get nearer to the bone. The policy of the Labour party is opposed to compulsory military training. For 38 years the Defence Act has provided the power for calling up men in war-time. The Scullin Government, within six weeks of assuming office in 1929, removed from the act the provision relating to compulsory military training in peace time. That decision by a Labour Government is characteristic of the record of the Labour party since that time. The leader of the Labour party in November, 1938, in a reply to the then member for Parkes, Sir Charles Marr, who had spoken in favour of compulsory military training, said, “ We object to it to-day “. The Labour party objects to it now. It did not speak of postponing the introduction of compulsory military training in 1938 by referring the matter to an allparty committee. It simply objected to it. The then leader of the Labour party went on to say, “ Compulsory military training is no longer a part of the programme of the Labour party”. Compulsory military training was not (he policy of the Labour party before World War. II., and is not its policy to-day. Opposition members have not changed their minds on that issue. On the first day on which the Parliament met after the outbreak of World War II., the leader of the Labour party made a declaration which appears in Hansard of the 6th September, 1939. He said -
The principles of the party include two things, amongst others - no compulsory military training, and no Australian Expeditionary Forces.
I emphasize that the leader of the Labour party made that declaration after the outbreak of World War II. The honorable member for East Sydney said -
The Opposition will not concede to the Government that this obligation should he extended to provide that Australian troops should be compelled to go overseas.
Later, the leader of the Labour party again said of compulsory military training, “ I say that we are against it. There is no justification for it “. The attitude of the Labour party has not altered. I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that we heard exactly the same story, as we have heard from Opposition members during this debate, two or three months before Pearl Harbour and the entry of Japan into World War II. I shall read a pertinent reference from Hansard of the 21st August, 1941, but first I remind the House that that right honorable gentleman now seeks to convince us that the right thing to do is to submit the bill to a committee! He is made about committees. He wants to run wars with committees, deal with governments through committees, and destroy this legislation by referring it to a committee. This quotation shows that the right honorable gentleman always adopts the same tactics. He said -
I have said publicly, and I now repeat, that during the period between Saturday the 8th August, and the 12th August, the possibility of war with Japan on account of Thailand was exaggerated . . . My colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has referred to the make-believe, and the buildup .. . Before this House and the country I say that, whoever was responsible, that was an untrue build-up; it was an exaggeration which did damage to Australia.
That was not the end of the matter. Members of the Labour party continued to agitate against the taking of any effective measures for Australia’s defence. They said, “Why, there is no further danger in the Pacific “. Perhaps Tojo had told them that everything was all right! They sought to have reduced the period of compulsory training that was then in force. The story is a lamentable one of inconsistency and opposition to all measures for the adequate protection of Australia, except when war poised an imminent threat to us. Although the Labour party urged us to shorten the period of compulsory training from six months to three months, it changed its view as soon as the Curtin Government assumed office.
The primary purpose of this bill, about which there ought to be no dispute, certainly does not need to be referred to any committee. It provides that youths are to register upon reaching the prescribed age and that, from the age of eighteen years they may be called up for specific service. What does the Opposition want the proposed committee to investigate? Does it want this special body to inquire whether there is a real danger of conflict in the world to-day? I should have thought that even a school child would know that we are balanced on a knife edge between peace and war! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition himself drew attention this morning, in the course of a question, to the dangerous world situation. But that is of no consequence to the Opposition when Labour tactics are concerned. It is much more important, in the view of the Opposition, to achieve a tactical victory in this chamber than to apply itself to the real problem of defending the country. What problems need investigation by a committee? As I have said, I should have thought that there would be general agreement that Australia and all other free countries are confronted with grave dangers. Only today the United States Secretary of State warned the people of America, “ Hope for the best, but yo.u must prepare for the worst “. Yet to-night the Opposition says that the Government ought to build tanks and manufacture munitions before calling up anybody. It wants us to change our strategy. Apparently it would call upon advisers from the industrial movement to tell the Government how to conduct the defence of Australia !
Another question that the proposed committee might be called upon to consider relates to the need for trained men.
Is there any dispute about that? I should have thought that it would be clear enough to anybody that there is such a need. Is it not democratic to train men to defend themselves in a crisis? I have stated the answer to that question in my earlier remarks. If danger confronts Australia and there is a need for trained men, what further need could there be for an investigation? Does the Opposition propose that evidence about the defence capacity of Australia be called from defence officers and representatives of labour, industry and commerce ? Why, it takes the Deputy Leader of the Opposition ten days to argue the Communist case in the High Court. It would take him about ten years to get through such an inquiry as this. If it were not so. pitiful and so tragic, the proposed amendment would be funny. Notwithstanding five years of war and the great sacrifices that were made by free people everywhere, we stand to-night in peril as great as the peril that threatened us in 1939. And at this time the Opposition talks about referring our defence plans to a committee ! A long speech is not needed to deal with the matter. The elements are clear, and it is a standing disgrace to the Labour party that it has opposed the bill.
.- If ever evidence that an investigation of this very important subject was needed, such evidence has been provided by the confused speeches that have been delivered by honorable members on the Government side of the House during this debate. It might be well for the Australian people to remember that this scheme has been devised by the same sorry crew that let the country down in 1941. It is interesting to note that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), notwithstanding the importance of the subject that we are discussing, has scarcely entered the chamber during the debate and has not spoken upon the bill. He has left that task to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), who is so egotistical that he believes that he is the only worth-while authority on defence matters in Australia. I recall an occasion when the honorable gentleman returned from a visit overseas and tried to take great credit to himself for the capture of Bardia. He told the Parliament, “ I conferred with the General Staff at dawn”. He has accused the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) of introducing a great deal of topsy-turvy thinking into this discussion. Let us consider some of the pronouncements that he has made on the subject of defence at various times. When China was fighting valiantly against Japan, prior to the outbreak of World War II., the honorable gentleman advocated the maintenance of peace with Japan. During a pre-war trip overseas, he talked about the impregnability of Singapore. As a Minister in the Advisory War Council, he pressed for the diversion of Australian troops to Burma when they were required for the defence of Australia. This is the honorable gentleman who says to the Parliament, “ Leave it to us “ !
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Is anybody who has been a member of the Advisory War Council entitled to say what happened at meetings of the council? If so, there will be some exposures.
– The honorable member for East Sydney was never a member of the Advisory War Council.
– That is correct, Mr. Speaker, but I know a great deal of what went on at meetings of the council.
This Government is war-crazy. That is the trouble with it. It wants more and greater wars. The bigger the wars, the more will it be pleased. This peace-loving Minister for External Affairs, at Lake Success recently, was the only delegate to raise his voice in favour of the use of the atomic bomb in Korea. He also wanted the United Nations forces to go to the Manchurian border. Let me say this to the honorable gentleman: the persons who have to accept the responsibility for the state of the defences of the country at any period are the members of the Government at that time and in the preceding years. The party of which he is a member commanded a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, not for just a few years, but for a long period until the Labour party took over the reins of government in October, 1941, not because it had been voted to power at a general election, but because the anti-Labour Government - the team of misfits to which the Minister then belonged - fell to pieces and proved that it could not govern the nation in a crisis. In a secret session of the Parliament during World War II.-
– Order ! Nothing that took place at a secret session may be disclosed.
– There is no need for secrecy to-day, Mr. Speaker, because this matter concerns events that have passed into history and are no longer secret. They are known to the outside world. It has been stated in many . discussions in this chamber that, when the honorable gentleman was Minister for the Army in a former government, he declared that one Japanese division landed in Australia would have successfully overrun the continent.
Is it not a fact that the defences of Australia were then in such a deplorable condition that “ the Brisbane line “ strategy was brought into existence before the Labour Government took office ? Supporters of the Government may laugh as much as they like, but the fact is that the general who is in charge of United Nations operations in Korea to-day, General MacArthur, referred to “ the Brisbane line “ strategy when he gave his first press interview after he had been in command of the allied forces in this theatre of war for twelve months. His statement was reported in the daily newspapers throughout the world. I ask the Minister for External Affairs now whether it is not a fact that the Tocumwal air station was constructed as the base from which a last stand was to be made. The air defences of the cities of Sydney and Melbourne were to be conducted from that base ! That fact indicates the nature of the outlook of the honorable gentleman and his colleagues then. Yet now they talk about their capacity to organize the defence of Australia !
– What did the Governor of Queensland say?
– The gentleman who was Governor of Queensland at the time referred to “ the Brisbane line “ strategy upon his return to England. There is an abundance of evidence on the subject.
The Minister scoffed at the proposal to appoint a committee to investigate the terms of this bill and tried to discredit the amendment by implying that the purpose of the Opposition was to cause delay. Furthermore, he said that the members of any such committee would be mercenary and would protract its inquiry for the sake of the daily allowance of £2 .’12s. 83. for each member. That was a ridiculous and cowardly statement. I guarantee that, if the Government appoints the proposed committee, the Labour members will act without fee. That is the answer to the suggestion. I have one further pertinent question to ask of the Minister. If the international situation is as critical as he has said that it is, and if it is so urgently necessary for him to he i;i his place to attend to these problems, why did he delay his return to Australia so that he could stay for one week at Honolulu ? Was there some international conference there that he had to attend ? The honorable gentleman has cited American authorities in order to support his arguments. I recall that, when the lute John Curtin, at a critical stage of the last war, appealed to the United States for aid in order to provide for the adequate defence of Australia, the honorable gentleman sneered at him and his efforts, and said that he had no right to look to that quarter for help. I hope that many Australians have listened to the broadcast of this debate, because those who have done so must be aware that the great body of opinion on the side of the Government to-day is concerned, not with the home defence of Australia, but with the proposed conscription of Australians for service overseas.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member’s remarks are personally offensive to me and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– There is no point of order.
– If the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) takes objection to my statement, I suggest that he read the speeches that have been made by members of his own party. They have made no bones about the matter. The Labour party has a clear policy in regard to home defence. We believe that it should be adequate and that it should be worked out according to a balanced plan so that the economy of the country will not be unduly affected. As a result of the activities of the Labour Government during the last war, Australian industries have been developed to a stage at which they have a greater capacity to provide for the requirements of defence than they ever had before. The honorable member for Bowman will not deny that he said that this country could not be adequately defended. He has admitted that this measure does not provide merely for the defence of Australia. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) has suggested a two-year period of training and the imposition of compulsory service in any part of the world. When honorable gentlemen opposite talk about home defence they do not refer merely to fighting inside Australia or in Australian territories. They shift the frontier as it pleases them to do so. One day it is in Korea; another day it is in Malaya; the next week they will have it in China. Wherever there is a fight in any part of the world these gentlemen believe that Australian troops should participate in it. But the matter is not one merely of participation. We must ask, “ What is the capacity of this country to participate ? “ Must we bleed the country white of its manhood? What is to become of the future of Australia? Are we to have the blood of Australian troops drained out in every battle theatre of the world? What is the capacity of our country to participate in international conflicts? What are Australia’s obligations ? Those honorable gentlemen opposite who have spoken have talked about Australia providing its quota of troops in order to uphold the decisions of the United Nations. But what is our quota? Who is to tell the Australian people what their quota is ? Has it been determined ? Are other nations providing their quotas ? These are the questions which the Australian public wants to have answered because they want to know what exactly are their obligations. Are there secret agreements under which obligations have been entered into on behalf of this country? If so, the public is entitled to know what they are. Is every man that the Government can secure to be thrown into these overseas conflicts? What is to happen to our own country?
In Australia we nave been carrying out a programme of development. The Government has accelerated the rate of immigration in order to increase the population. Honorable gentlemen opposite should recognize that this country has a population of a little over 8,000,000. The Government’s attitude is that of a fighter who has won his first four-round preliminary bout and wants to fight the champion of the world. One must recognize the limitations imposed on this country by its small population and the vast territories it is obliged to defend.
I think it was the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) who spoke of the conflicts in Malaya and Korea, referred to a possible conflict in China over the occupancy of Formosa, mentioned Indo-China, and talked about the Communist campaign in Tibet and the occupation of the Baltic States. Do honorable gentlemen believe that this country should send troops to drive the Communist forces out of all those places that they have occupied? That would be a ridiculous proposition. Yet the honorable member said that the Opposition has no realization of the need for this measure. The Australian people have no confidence in this Government. If they trusted it there would have been a greater response to the recruiting campaign. Is it not a fact that the recruiting campaign is lagging? Is not that evidence of lack of confidence and trust in this Government? One of the reasons why the recruiting campaign is lagging is that the Government has changed the basis of enlistment in the Citizen Military Forces. It has obliged recruits to sign for service in any theatre of operation. It is quite evident that the Government favours conscription for overseas service but realizes that it is politically unwise at present to say so. The Minister directed attention to the fact that this bill does not provide for conscription for overseas service. But practically every honorable member opposite who has spoken has talked about the need for having men ready to go into action anywhere in the world. They have said that no troops were ready when we were required to send aid to the United Nations in Korea. I think it was the honorable member for
Angas (Mr. Downer) who suggested conscripting youths in age groups other than that of eighteen years. If this Government thought that we were faced with imminent attack and invasion, then this bill would be inadequate. I shall quote the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to show that the opinion that I express in opposition to conscription for overseas service is shared by him. The decision of whether a man shall go overseas and participate in conflicts away from the shores of Australia and in its territories should rest with him. He should be entitled to exercise his personal liberty of judgment in this matter because there is no man in this Parliament or elsewhere who can know the particular circumstances of any individual. Therefore, I repeat, it is for the individual to make the decision. That is the opinion held by the Prime Minister. I consider that to be the reason why he has not participated in this debate.
Honorable members will recollect the occasion on which the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) was Prime Minister for a short period after the death of Mr. Lyons. I do not wish to reflect on the Prime Minister in making this statement because I think he was quite right in judging for himself whether he was able to enlist for overseas service. On that occasion the then leader of the Australian Country party said -
I am not calling into question the reason for the right honorable gentleman’s action, nor would I question the reason of any other individual in similar circumstances.
The Prime Minister, in his reply to that speech, said -
I come now to. the third round of attack.
He was referring to the attack by the leader of the Australian Country party. He continued -
The attack is, “ You did not go to the war “. That is a statement which, I daresay, has occasionally been directed to some members of the party led by the right honorable gentleman.
There are certain people who regard it as their ordained mission in life to pry into the private reasons for the actions of other people; to put them up against a wall and say, “ Why didn’t you do so and so?” . . . He said, with all its deadly implications, that I resigned a military commission a year after the Great War broke out. … I was in exactly the same position as any other person who at that time had to answer the extremely important questions - Is it my duty to go to the war, or is it my duty not to go? The answers to those questions cannot be made on the public platform. Those questions relate to a man’s intimate, pergonal and family affairs, and, in consequence, I, facing those problems, problems of intense difficulty, found myself, for reasons which were and are compelling, unable to join my two brothers in the infantry of the Australian Imperial Force.
Mr. Frost, who was then a member of this Parliament, by way of interjection, said, “It is the business of no one but yourself”. The Prime Minister replied, “ I say that “. I think it is only fair to assume that if that was the opinion of the Prime Minister in those days it is still his opinion. It is the right of every individual to make a decision of that kind. Nobody can know the circumstances of every member of the community. The decision is one that each must make for himself. It would be a sorry day for the people of this country if they ever permitted the Government to introduce conscription for overseas service. Great numbers of people may believe that there is no danger of conscription for overseas service being introduced without the prior approval of the people. They probably remember the years 1916 and 1917 when two referendums were held and were defeated by the Australian people as well as by a majority of the soldiers who were on active service. I am not referring to the total service vote, but to the vote of the men who were on active service, the majority of whom rejected the proposition. The reason why the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who was then Prime Minister, gave the people the opportunity to decide the question was that he was not sure how his proposal would be treated in the Senate; he was not sure that he had the requisite numbers to carry the necessary amendment of the Defence Act; and he was not sure, for political reasons, that it was a wise thing to attempt. He was confident of success at the referendum. But what is the position to-day ? It is quite true that there is no provision in this measure for conscription for overseas service. Fortunately, the Government is not in a position to introduce conscription for overseas service at the moment because the Labour party has a majority in the Senate but if the Government were to gain control of both Houses of the Parliament on some future occasion it would be possible, by an amendment of the Defence Act, for it to be enforced. That is the real danger to the Australian community. This bill may appear to be quite innocuous, but it embodies a regulation making power similar to that embodied in all bills. Therefore, it is necessary to remind the Australian public of their experience of the compulsory training scheme which existed some years ago when military law was to an extent substituted for civil law. On that occasion thousands of Australian boys were placed in the ‘custody of the Army. Most of those affected by the scheme were minors, and many of them refused to register on the advice of their parents. But what regard has the Government for parental authority? It provided as it does in this bill for the imposition of a penalty on the parent as well as on the son. If the parent advised the boy against registration for service, the boy and the father were both penalized. During those terrible years a boy of fifteen years and nine months was imprisoned at Broken Hill on two occasions. This case is on record. He had to live on bread and water for the first seven days of his imprisonment.
– In what year did that happen?
– It happened in August, 1913. The boy concerned was named Victor Yeo. I mention that fact because similar incidents could occur under the scheme now proposed by the Government. If my recollection of the Defence Act is correct, many of the provisions of the present measure are identical with those contained in that act. Therefore, I say that whenever the military power supplants the civil authority there is danger to the Australian people.
In order to prove that the Government is afraid of the reaction of the public to this measure, I point out that when the Minister for Labour and National Service introduced it he sought to win favour with the people by emphasizing that an important feature of it was that it would improve the physical fitness of the nation. He went on to say that the Government proposed to include in the training youths not quite up to the usual standard of fitness as it was the aim to improve their condition of health. However, he contradicted himself later when he said that in the initial stages the Government would not he calling up all the hoys who would be required to be registered and that those who were not up to the physical standard would be exempted from service. Was it not sheer hypocrisy on the part of the Minister and his colleagues to pretend that this measure was being introduced in order to improve the physical standard of Australian youth?
The honorable member for Evans de. el a red most emphatically that the burden of war should fall evenly on all. Of course, such statements are mere platitudes, and are invariably invoked when the reactionaries discuss such proposals as that embodied in this measure. Is it not a notorious fact that the burden of war does not fall evenly on all? If the Government was really earnest about improving the physical standard of the youth of this country it could adopt a suggestion that I shall make to it. Our housing conditions are absolutely deplorable, and every one admits that something should be done to improve them, because so many children are suffering in health to-day on account of that fact. If the Government really wanted to improve the physical standard of the youth of this country it would begin by improving their housing conditions. In every capital city in Australia there are mansions that are not fully occupied.
-Order! The honorable gentleman must confine bis remarks to the bill.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and shall not pursue that aspect of the matter beyond saying that if the Commonwealth acquired those mansions it could provide decent housing for a. large number of people.
– ‘Order ! The measure does not deal with housing, conditions. The honorable gentleman must relate his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.
– The bill provides that the training of many classes of youths shall be deferred. My colleague, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Gordon Anderson), directed attention to the great influence that has apparently been brought to bear by the Australian Country party in the preparation of this measure. The deferment provisions of the bill will enable the callup of youths in some county areas to be deferred if local training facilities are not available. Since the training period is to last for six months would it be impossible to arrange to transport youths from country areas to the places where training facilities are available? The bill also provides that training may be deferred in cases of “ exceptional hardship “. Honorable members will note that the term used is not “ in cases of hardship “. What constitutes “ exceptional “ hardship ? Is any member of the Government able to state exactly what a person will be called upon to prove in order to establish “ exceptional hardship?”
I shall deal now with one or two matters connected with the economic effect that the measure will have upon the community. If we increase our population to 10,000,000, which is not very much greater than our present population, we shall be producing just sufficient food to feed that number of people. Official figures have been prepared for me by a person skilled in these matters which show the quantity of foodstuffs produced in Australia, and the quantities exported and consumed locally. They indicate clearly that if our population increased to 10,000,000 we should not have more than sufficient foodstuffs to feed our people. In other words, with probably one or two exceptions, we should not be able to export any foodstuffs whatever. The only primary produce that we should be able to export in any quantity would bp wool and, subject to the occurrence of favorable seasons, a limited quantity of wheat. The whole of the remainder of our primary produce would be required for consumption in Australia. That fact indicates clearly the urgent need to develop and increase primary as well as secondary production in this country. And how are we going to hold Australia unless we develop it? The Labour party, if it were in office, would honour its international obligations, but emphasizes that our first obligation is to provide for the defence and security of our own country and its people.
It is all very well for honorable members opposite to talk about fighting overseas, but if Australia were actually threatened most of our working people would have to remain here and, therefore, they have most to lose from an invasion. If there was a real threat to the safety of Australia, many of these people who are now talking about our safety would leave this country, if aircraft were available to transport them elsewhere. Therefore, I say to honorable gentlemen opposite that they should pay a little heed to the real requirements of Australia. I conclude my remarks by referring to the Minister for External Affairs, who, sitting in his place at the table, reminds me of an incident that occurred during the recent war. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is my authority and will bear me out in what T say. I refer to the occasion when it was learned that the Minister had promoted himself to be a lieutenant-colonel in the Army.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- For the last half-hour the House has listened to a speech exactly similar to those that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has been making for years. I have listened to that kind of speech ever since I became a member of the Parliament four years ago, and it must be the sixth time that I have heard it. I submit that the position that confronts Australia to-day is such that we must get away from the usual diatribes in which reference is made to “ the Brisbane line “ and to alleged misdeeds of ten years ago, and the use of such terms as “ conscription for overseas service “ in an effort to stampede the people. It is time that the House got down to the basic need to make proper provision for the defence of Australia, and that is what the Government now proposes to do by means of this measure, which provides for the introduction of universal military training for the sacred task of national defence. This is a subject on which I have been hammering ever since I entered the House four years ago. I therefore welcome the measure, which proposes to take some steps to provide properly for the urgent defence of the country.
During the debate frequent reference has been made by members of the Opposition to the desirability of retaining the voluntary system of enlistment. I submit that that system has failed dismally to provide for the proper defence of this country. That failure constitutes one reason why we cannot afford any longer to rely upon such a system to provide for the proper defence of the country. The failure to obtain sufficient recruits for the Citizen Military Forces is so notorious that I do not need to stress it. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. .Swartz) pointed out, in the course of his speech, that the voluntary system, which has been in operation- for a number of years, aimed at providing a citizen military force of 50,000 men, but that, in fact, it succeeded in attracting, according to statistics, only 19,000 men. I know that members of the Labour party contend that the voluntary system of enlistment for the Citizen Military Forces that they introduced was not intended to attain the target number of 50,000 members until 1952, and that they have sought to take comfort from the fact that already 19,000 men have been enlisted in those forces. Of course, that contention ignores the fact that since the original target figure of 50,000 was fixed, the world situation has deteriorated very seriously and has assumed a most threatening aspect. In any event, the contention is unsound, because although, nominally, 19,000 recruits were obtained for the Citizen Military Forces, that number is really only a paper calculation. The actual strength of the Citizen Military Forces would not be more than 10,000. At times, the intake of recruits has been barely sufficient to equal the number of men who have withdrawn from the militia. I think that we may conclude, therefore, that the voluntary system has failed utterly, and that we can no longer rely upon it.
There is another reason why no country should rely upon the voluntary system to provide for its defence. That reason is that the scheme is completely unfair in its incidence. By adopting the voluntary system we condemn the cream of our youth possibly to be killed in the defence of the country, and leave those whose sense of responsibility is not so strong as is that of the volunteers to survive and enjoy the advantages of living in a free country. I need hardly remind honorable gentlemen that our freedom has been purchased at the cost of the lives of tens of thousands of those who volunteered to defend this country. No country can afford to risk only the best of its youth of every generation being destroyed, because in that way the life-blood of the nation would seep away. Every Australian who looks forward to the future greatness of this country must ponder over that fact. It is high time, therefore, that we discarded the voluntary system.
I have always been puzzled about why the Labour party opposes the system of compulsory military training for the defence of the country because, surely, a political party which believes so earnestly in compulsory trade unionism should also believe in compulsory military service. Compulsory membership is, I believe, one of the cardinal principles of trade union policy. I desire to make it quite clear that I do not condemn that principle, but, on the contrary believe in it. If I were to ask members of the Opposition now why they advocate a policy of compulsory unionism, the principal argument that they would advance in support of it would be that the old and tried principle of “ one in, all in “ should apply. They would not tolerate thousands of workers reaping the benefits of better wages and improved conditions that had been obtained by the sacrifice of a handful of men, who had been decent enough to risk their jobs, their money and, possibly, their future in order to obtain an improvement of the conditions of their workmates. That principle is obviously sound. What, then, is the difference between compulsory unionism and compulsory service in the defence of the country? Surely all the arguments in favour of compulsory unionism can be adduced in support of compulsory military training? I know it, of course, to be a fact, that many members of the Labour party believe personally in the policy of compulsory military training, but, unfortunately, they are not able to gain sufficient support for their views in the party. The voluntary system can no longer provide for our defence needs, and every one who is concerned about the safety of the country must admit that to be a fact.
Whilst I welcome the introduction of the bill, I do not pretend to be completely satisfied with all its provisions. At the risk of having my remarks misrepresented in a cheap manner, as the continents made by some supporters of the Government, who had the courage to offer helpful and constructive suggestions, were misrepresented by the honorable member for East Sydney, I propose to mention certain respects in which I believe that the scheme could be improved. There are two aspects of the scheme with which I do not entirely agree, and which I think should be amended. I refer first to the differentiation that exists under the proposal in relation to the men who are to be trained for the Army, as compared with those who are to be trained for the other two services. I believe it to be unsound to tell young men who desire to be trained in the Navy or the Air Force that they will be sent anywhere in the world but to tell other trainees who wish to join the Army that they are to sign on merely for service at home. That differentiation must be dealt with at some time or other. It is intrinsically bad. The second point that I consider to be worthy of some discussion and criticism is that, as far as the training for the Army is concerned, the present proposal retains some undesirable features that crept into our armed forces during the last war. I have very unpleasant and vivid recollections of the state of affairs that developed as the result of the differentiation between what were commonly known as the “A.I.F.” and the “ Chockos “. Under this proposal that state of affairs can again ultimately develop in our trained forces unless action is taken to deal with the matter. I commend such action to the attention of the Government.
Under this bill the youth of the country are to be required to undergo a certain period of training. I shall not digress here to say whether I consider the period proposed to be sufficiently long or otherwise, because I can do that in another place. After their period of training our youths will be drafted to Citizen Force units for further training and service, and will serve with volunteers who have signed on for service in the defence of Australia anywhere in the world. I say that having in the one unit two distinct classes of soldiers whose basis of service is different is bad for training, bad for discipline, and bad for esprit de corps. I have had experience of the matter and I know what I am talking about. I well remember that in 1942, when the subject of where the Australian forces could be used came to a head, I was in command of a unit composed partly of Australian Imperial Force volunteers and partly of militiamen. It was realized by every one that the time had come when the whole army should be merged into one force that would be prepared to go anywhere in the world. Every man in that unit confidently expected that the Labour Government then in office would have the courage of its convictions and would realize the need for action to resolve the “A.LF.” and “Chocko” difficulty. I remember the complete wave of utter disgust that swept through the whole unit when it was found that the Labour Government had refused to face the issue and had decided to rely on what it called the spirit of Australians and to leave it to the men themselves to volunteer for the Australian Imperial Force. Hundreds of men in my unit were thoroughly disgusted with the attitude of the Government. It is because I believe that a somewhat similar state of affairs could develop under this proposal and that it would hamper the successful operation of the scheme, that I now voice my opinion about it.
There are a few other points in the bill on which I could offer comment were it not for the limited time available. I shall content myself by pointing out that the criticism that I have offered so far has been intended to be constructive. I believe that the measure is long overdue. It will have my full support, not only in relation to its passage through this House, but also in relation to any action that I may be required to take outside the Parliament for the purpose of helping to ensure that the scheme shall operate effectively. Whatever criticism may be voiced about particular aspects of the measure the fact remains that it seeks to lay essential foundations on which we may build a comprehensive scheme which, when vigorously carried out, will provide Australia for the first time in its history with an adequate means of defence which is to be founded on a scheme of compulsory training for universal service.
The scheme is not one that will run along smoothly from its inception. Difficulties will have to be faced and I believe that the people of Australia generally will have to decide whether or not they will assist the Government to make it a success. We have already asked the Labour party for assistance which it has refused to give. The scheme will have to rely for its success on the co-operation of the various sections of the community, particularly the employing section. The greater the degree of cooperation afforded by all sections of the community, the greater will be the degree of success achieved. It is because I am convinced of that, that I deplore and condemn the attitude which the Oppositon has adopted towards the scheme. In my opinion that attitude is completely indefensible, because honorable members opposite, instead of coming straight out and stating definitely that they are either for or against the scheme, have adopted the same stonewalling tactics that they have been using for months past in relation to other legislation that has come before the Parliament. This scheme is designed to meet a problem that has not suddenly arisen, but has confronted Australia for years. In fact, the Labour Government when it went out of office was setting out to deal with that problem, which does not require consideration by any committee of inquiry.
The Opposition has submitted an amendment which reads in part -
The Government’s proposals in the bill to provide for compulsory national service in the Defence Forces be investigated and reported upon by an appropriate all-party committee which should be authorized to examine all the relevant defence, man-power and economic needs and capacities of Australia and to call witnesses including defence personnel and representatives of labour, industry and commerce.
Did not the Labour Government, when it was preparing its defence scheme - and some of its members claim that our scheme is based on the Labour party scheme - examine all the relevant “ defence manpower and economic needs and capacities of Australia “ ? Do honorable members opposite assume that this Government failed to make such an examination before it submitted this measure to the Parliament? Obviously there is nothing that a committee such as that suggested in the amendment could do that would be of any advantage. All it could do would be to delay the operation of the scheme for two or three months. The honorable member for East Sydney at one stage of his speech to-night, made somewhat of a slip when he said that it was the responsibility of the government of the day to provide for the defence of the country. This Government does not propose to try to transfer its responsibility for the determination of a defence plan for the country to any committee, whether it be an all-party committee or any other kind of committee. I say that any government would fail to face up to its responsibilities by appointing some outside committee to determine what should be done in the matter of defence, would deserve the opprobrium of the whole of the community, and would also deserve to meet extinction at the next general election. The time-wasting amendment that the Opposition has submitted is simply a. means of stone-walling, and cannot be too strongly condemned. Of course we know what the procedure will be. Obviously the amendment will be defeated in this House, and it is just as obvious that it will be carried in another place. We shall find therefore that the scheme prepared by the Government to clear up the mess into which our defences had deteriorated as a result of about eight years of Labour rule, and with which it is now ready to move ahead will, in consequence of Labour’s stonewalling in another place, not go into operation for some months. If the Labour party is successful in this move, the people can be sure that there will be no real, effective training of the youth of Australia for its defence before, at the very earliest, some time late next year.
Let us remember that this bill is before the Parliament at a time when, as the recent developments in Korea have shown very plainly indeed, our defences are in a state of pitiable weakness. Other honorable members have said that the Korean show proved that we did not have one man available to put into the task of defending Australia had that been immediately necessary. Those statements have been challenged by some honorable members opposite, but they are, nevertheless, correct. When the conflict in Korea started we did not have available one man who could have been put to the immediate defence of Australia had we been suddenly attacked at that time. Even our force in J Japan, small though it was, had to be re-enlisted for the special purpose of fighting in Korea. The reinforcements that had to be sent to our forces in Korea had to be taken, not from young men whom the country had trained since the end of the last war, who should be rightly expected to step into the breach, because there were no such young men, but from ex-servicemen of the previous war who had already done their bit for the country. Yet at a time like this we find the defence proposals of the Government being deliberately delayed, although every other free country in the world is preparing its defences urgently, not because they want to go to war but because they realize that they must be prepared to defend themselves. Even this morning’s news shows that the position is developing so seriously that the events in Korea in the last few days have been such as to evoke the use of the dread term “ Dunkirk “. It is at such a time that we find the Labour party submitting an amendment which, whatever intention may be claimed by honorable members opposite, if adopted, certainly would delay the operation of our defence scheme for many months.
Another point to be considered is whether there is any certainty that the Labour party would accept the determination of the proposed committee if it were appointed, and if it found that the Government’s proposal was sound and should be carried out, as I believe it would. Of course it would not! We well know that there are two main objects behind the Opposition’s move. There is a very definite and deep cleavage in the Labour party on this matter, and the proposal for the appointment of a committee is simply a face-saving device so that the cleavage will not develop into an open split. Some honorable members opposite believe that the scheme should be proceeded with and that no opposition should be offered to the bill. They have said, “ We are not opposing the bill, we are only suggesting that the Government should submit it to an investigation by a committee “, and so the faces of the members of that particular section’ of the Opposition will be saved by the amendment. The faces of those honorable members’ opposite who are bitterly opposed to the measure will also be saved, because the Opposition’s delaying tactics will allow sufficient time for the whole proposal to be referred by it to a body outside this Parliament for direction, as was done in relation to another bill that was recently before the Parliament. That is the reason for this proposal. That means that it is of more importance to the Labour party to save the face of its members than to prepare for the proper defence of Australia. In adopting that attitude the party is doing a great disservice to Australia. It would be well for the people to realize that this is the second time within six months that such a disservice has been done to Australia for similar reasons. The first occasion was when the Parliament was dealing with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. A major difference of opinion developed within the Labour party as to what its attitude should be towards that bill: As a result of that division of opinion this House and another place were the scenes of stone-walling and sham fighting such as had rarely been seen before. Ultimately directions were taken from a body outside the Parliament and the bill was passed. But valuable time was lost while the Labour party adopted those delaying tactics.
This measure is in the same position as was the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. No more important pieces of legislation than this measure and the bill to ban the Communist party are likely to come before the Parliament for a long time. Again because of difference of opinion in the Labour party and because that party believes that it may be able to gain a party political advantage, the Opposition has adopted a policy towards this measure which can only be described as stone-walling and which must ultimately affect the defence of this country. I believe that the amendment before the House is the result of a compromise between two sections of the Labour party. The defence of Australia permits of no compromise. If the Labour party persists in its attempt to hold up the Government’s measures it will probably be successful in another place, but then only one alternative will face the Parliament. That will not be the appointment of time wasting committees, but will be a reference of the matter to the people. If that occurs we shall say to the people, “ The Government proposes to do this thing but the Opposition will not allow it to do so. Give us your direction on the matter “. That should be clone, and it will be done unless the Labour party adopts an attitude more in conformity with the needs of the Australian people. [Quorum formed.]
.- After listening to speeches on this measure from both sides of the chamber, it has become clear to me that the Parliament as a whole, irrespective of party politics, believes that this country should be adequately defended. The differences and recriminations that have occurred between honorable members are unworthy of the Parliament in view of the vital issues at stake. It is unfortunate that both the Minister at present in charge of the measure (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson), who has just resumed his seat in attempting to prove their case cast asperions upon the attitude of the Labour party and its motives in supporting the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). If the honorable member for Dawson wants to have recriminations and expects a reply to his statement that the defence of Australia has deteriorated over the last eight years, we have only to point out that during the eight years that he referred to there was built up in this country an economic defence potential greater than Australia had ever previously known. I remember that when the war broke out in 1939 and a conservative or “United Australia party Government was in office, an eminent general who was a member of the Australian Country party told me that the Royal Australian AirForce did not have a solitary bomb-rack to attach to any aeroplane in Australia. But the position had changed entirely after eight years of Labour rule.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable members on both sides of the House must refrain from interjecting otherwise I shall take action. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is conversing audibly.
– At the beginning of the eight years mentioned by the honorable member, the defence preparedness of this country was practically non-existent, but after eight years of Labour rule it was powerful and adequate. During a secret session of this Parliament in 1941, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) said that we did not have sufficient equipment to hold up one brigade of an invading army. I have no doubt that the Minister will not deny having said that.
– What does the honorable member say that I said ?
– That the Minister said in this Parliament in 1941 that the state of our defence preparedness was such that if attacked we could not successfully hold up one brigade of an invading army.
– I said that if a Jap anese armoured division were landed on the north coast of Australia it could not be resisted.
– I suggest that the Minister referred to an enemy force that had landed on the east coast of Australia. He has forgotten the geography he learned. I also point out to the House that that was our position up to 1941, although from 1932 to 1941 anti-Labour governments had ruled the country. Therefore is is useless for the honorable member for Dawson to say that the Labour movement was responsible for the defenceless state of the country in 1941. The honorable member also said that recently we were unable to raise the forces required to meet our obligations to the United Nations in the Korean dispute. That is not true. It is true that in Japan there were trained Australian soldiers. They had not been enlisted for service in Korea, but because they were in close proximity to the theatre of war they were re-enlisted for service in Korea. They were the most convenient troops at that time and their training could be completed more quickly than could that of the forces in Australia. If the Government uses that to gain support for this measure, quite clearly it regards the measure as an instrument whereby, under similar circumstances, forces will be conscripted for operations similar to those taking place in Korea. If that occurs, opposition can be expected from the Labour party, because it has traditionally stood for the right of any person to volunteer for overseas service.
It is true that for a limited period during the last war the area of service for compulsorily enlisted soldiers was extended beyond” what had normally prevailed in peace-time. I do not know whether anybody has considered that members of the Government parties in this Parliament are wrong in their assumption that conscription is necessary for adequate defence. They believe that conscription is necessary to prevent war. I do not pose as an authority, but when we study the history of the major powers of the world we find that every major power that depends for its defence upon conscription has suffered invasion, devastation, or defeat. That indicates that conscription is not necessarily the answer to the defence problems of any country. Nor does it indicate that conscription is essential for adequate defence. Germany is an illustration of the force of what I have said. Many years ago Germany was the major military power first to introduce a policy of conscription for military service. Ultimately, from a conscripted force for defence purposes, the Germany army became an instrument of aggression. The other great European power which adopted conscription was France. The French believed that a conscripted army was necessary to prevent invasion of their country. But honorable members will recall that in recent years France has suffered the greatest loss and damage through invasion.
If one believes that size of armies alone will prevent war, a little reasoning will disclose the fallacy of that belief. Is it not obvious that a potential attacking power will obtain accurate knowledge of the armed forces of its proposed victim? It will make itself familiar with details of its population, the number of men called up from time to time and its actual and potential defence power. If an aggressor is bent upon attack, whereas the defending power may call up two soldiers, the aggressor will call up three. If the defender calls up four the aggressor will call up five or six. Ultimately, conscription on the part of the defending power will not ward off the aggression of the attacker. Probably the powers that fear attack by Russia are endeavouring to train the maximum number of conscripted soldiers’ available to them. Russia is perhaps training more than is any other country. Therefore, it is very doubtful whether any useful purpose is ever served by conscription. Conscription is an exceedingly doubtful defence measure for any country to adopt. Having regard to the element of doubt that exists in this matter, supporters of the Government, if they are really anxious to obtain the co-operation of the Opposition, should cease making accusations of the kind that they have made against the Labour party. They should realize that members of the Opposition are just as earnest as they are to serve the best interests of the nation. Both parties can be enabled to work on that basis through a committee of the kind that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has proposed shall be appointed. It is impossible for any honorable member to foresee what the outcome of an investigation by such a committee would be. It is sheer nonsense for the Government to say that this problem is so urgent that it cannot afford to delay the implementation of this measure for even three months. What are the facts? Not even the Minister for External Affairs would suggest that Australia is likely to be attacked within the next twelve months. If such an attack were to occur the Government would have at its disposal the permanent military forces and the militia forces and in such an emergency it could rely upon at least 500,000 men in this country who had service in World War II.
– The same old troops again.
– I shall not be trapped by that sort of humbug, which implies that I am suggesting that the burden of defending this country should be placed on those who saw service in the last war. No honorable member can deny that if Australia were attacked within the next twelve months the Government would be obliged to rely upon every physically fit man who saw service in the last conflict. I am too old in the tooth to fall for the humbug of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) when he implies that I am advocating that in any circumstances we should rely solely upon those men to defend this country. I repeat that it is nonsense for the Government to contend that the measure is so urgent that it cannot afford to set up an all-party parliamentary committee to investigate this matter as a whole. Such a committee would hear evidence of a military, economic and commercial nature as well as evidence on behalf of the trade union movement, on this vital problem. In those circumstances, one would expect that reason would prevail among supporters of the Government and that they would be only too willing to accept such means of bridging the gap between the Government and the Opposition. Even if the threat of invasion became imminent .within twelve months - and it is most unlikely that such a. threat would arise for at least several years - we should not be able to train to the required standard those who would be called up during that period under this measure. Those men would still be raw recruits. Therefore, a delay of three months would be neither here nor there. Traditionally, I am an anti.conscriptionist. I have always believed that I have no right to say that another man should be compelled at the risk of his life to do certain things that I myself was not required to do or was prepared to do voluntarily. However, even though I hold that principle to be sacred, circumstances could arise in which to a large degree it would have to be overridden. That happened during the recent war when the late John ‘Curtin, as Prime Minister, was obliged to introduce conscription of men for military service outside Australia. . At that time, I yielded to the necessity of the moment.
I do not doubt the Government’s earnestness in respect of this measure. However, it is quite possible that it has been badly advised and that its judgment in the matter may not be so sound as it might be. It may be found upon investigation that it is placing too much emphasis upon military training. Whilst it is essential to train the nucleus of defence forces, preferably under the voluntary system, it is clear from the trend of modern warfare - although this may not be borne out by events in Korea - that economic strength is of vital importance in defence organization. Our great weakness is not a weakness of trained military personnel. Regardless of where the threat of attack may originate, Australia, at least for many years, will have adequate warning of it. Our great weaknesses are our small population, limited productive industrial capacity and an unprotected coastline. Only recently, it was revealed that Australia is 1,000,000 tons short of its annual steel requirements. To a corresponding degree we are short of coal. That means that we shall not be capable for a period of less than ten years of standardizing our railway gauges, which is a great military necessity. In addition, we have not yet engaged in the production of aluminium on a substantial scale whilst our production of cement is inadequate to enable the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme to be completed expeditiously. At the same time, we are restricted in our housing programme. If the Government immediately implements universal military training and calls up 26,000 youths annually it will to that degree restrict the production of building materials, retard its immigration programme, and discourage natural increase of the population because it is well known that young people, when they cannot obtain homes, are not anxious to have families. Our greatest needs are to develop our economic resources and to increase our population. Those needs are much more urgent than is the immediate institution of universal military training.
In any defence scheme, the government of the day, regardless of its party political colour, must have the full cooperation of the Labour movement not only in the political sphere but also, and more particularly, on the trade union side. In view of the facts that I have cited, a delay of only three months in the implementation of this measure would not be vital. Even if only the glimmer of the prospect existed for uniting all parties in their approach to the problem of defence as a whole, the Government would be well advised to set up a committee to examine the problem as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed in the amendment that he has submitted.
Supporters of the Government have voiced a good deal of nonsense about the inadequacy of Labour’s contribution towards defence. Before Labour assumed office in 1941 not one motor car had been manufactured in this country on a commercial basis. We had not made an aeroplane, apart from a few Wirraways. There was no satisfactory civil aviation service; and we had not established a tinplate strip-rolling mill which was indispensable for the provision of tinplate for the canning of food for members of the defence forces. The Labour Government gave considerable encouragement to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in its efforts to establish a tinplate strip-rolling mill and also helped considerably in the establishment of the aluminium industry. It also developed the shipbuilding industry, particularly for the building of merchant ships that could be converted for use for war purposes. The Government must not only persevere with those projects but also establish other basic war industries.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) referred to the necessity for providing for technical training under any defence training plan. The Government would be well advised to use the man-power that it proposes to call up under this scheme for military service in the provision of a greater number of technical schools throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in country areas. Such training would make our youth far more efficient in modern warfare than would training of the kind that is usually given in the armed forces. The greatest advantage that the German army possessed at the beginning of the two world wars was that practically all its troops, with the exception of those that had engaged in professions and clerical avocations, had been trained as technicians in civil life. At the outbreak of the last Avar the lack of such training was one of the greatest disadvantages that confronted the people of the United Kingdom and of Australia. In dozens of towns in Victoria no facilities whatever exist for the provision of technical training. The sons of country residents, who are the cream of our population, should be given every opportunity to be trained in the arts and technical crafts. There are no technical libraries for the use of youths in the pursuit of hobbies of a kind that would prove very valuable as an introduction to technical training. The Government should direct its energies towards assisting the States to provide adequate technical training for all who desire to undergo such training. During the last war, that deficiency was so serious that the Labour Government had to take urgent steps to expand facilities for technical education and to overtake the lag that had occurred in that sphere, particularly during the depression. I support the amendment that has been proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The delay that would be involved in the setting up of a committee of the kind that he has proposed would be amply justified. It offers a means of achieving unity and cooperation among all parties with the common object of providing for the adequate defence of Australia. Not even the nastiest speaker on the Government side of the House will deny that the Labour movement has played its part in the- defence of the country, and in war operations. We have been, traditionally speaking, opposed to conscription, and many of us, including myself, retain that opposition. I make no secret of it.
– Did we not get a great, deal of assistance from America?
– Never mind about America ! I admit that we owe much to that country, and we have rendered thanks to it, but it should not be forgotten that we, in proportion to our population, rendered as great a contribution to the overall war effort, if not a greater one, as the United States. It is of no use the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) to endeavour to disparage the Commonwealth of Australia because it was rendered assistance by America.
– Order ! The honorable member had better keep off that subject.
– It may well be said that Australia rendered a contribution to the United States itself. I conclude my speech by expressing the hope that common sense will prevail, but I say to the Minister for External Affairs that I regret that he fell so low to-night–
– Order !
– I regret that the Minister fell so low to-night as to take from their context some words which I used in a speech in 1938.
– The honorable gentleman would have been ashamed had I made a longer quotation of his remarks.
– The Minister should be able to “ take it “. He said that 1 stated in 1938 that I would not spend 3d. at that time on defence. I made that statement, and I do not apologize for having done so ; but had the Minister been manly, decent and honest, he would have read the whole passage. I said that I would not spend 3d. on defence at that time while thousands of our citizens were unemployed and starving. He did not have enough decency to make that position clear. He did not see a shot fired in battle, but when he was the Minister for the Army he promoted himself to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. What a hero he was ! Yet he would conscript the lads of this country for military service.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) finished his speech in the strain in which most of this debate has been conducted by Opposition members. I do not know how he expects honorable members generally, and particularly members of the Opposition, who pride themselves on being the chosen leaders of the people of this country, to take cognizance of the perilous situation in. which not only Australia but also other countries are placed to-day. He talked a lot about happenings in the past. I do not think anybody is particularly interested at the moment in who won the last war. What we want to know is the best thing that this House as a whole should recommend to all the citizens of Australia in order to try to avoid the next war and, if a war cannot be avoided, at least to ensure that we establish the best possible insurance policy, so that we shall be able to minimize the sufferings which would undoubtedly occur if, unfortunately, another world war should break out.
I must confess that I have not been impressed by the querulous quibblings of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who, as a former Minister for External Affairs, might have taken a larger perspective instead of the myopic view that he did take. I was not impressed, either, by the rabble-rousing of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who completed his speech in a similar strain to that of the honorable member for Lalor by suggesting that, if this country were invaded, Government members would be flying off on the first ‘planes available to a place of safety. That remarks comes ill from a member of a political party of which only six out of 48 members are exservicemen. Of the 75 Government supporters 63 are ex-servicemen. I am not criticizing any individuals, because there may have been good reasons why they did not serve, but it ill became the honorable member for East Sydney to make such a remark in a debate of this kind.
All of. us will agree that no bill which has come before this House since V.P. Day 1945 has been of greater importance and urgency, or will have more farreaching results, than this measure. The bill should have produced a debate on the highest possible plane. Nobody who has not been through the experiences that some of us in this House have had, can realize as fully as we did on V.P. Day 1945, or a week later, after we recovered from the first hysteria of regaining our liberty, how much the world has changed. If we did not realize it in the first week after i-e.gai.ning our liberty, we realized it as soon as we set foot on the first piece of allied soil, the deck of an American hospital ship in Darien. That experience immediately jet-propelled our thoughts to what the future would hold in store. Those of us who had been through two wars were hoping to God that there would not be another war, and that we would be able, after World War II.. to establish a better co-operative spirit, a better brotherhood of man, and a better world than we had been able to build after World War I., and to profit from past mistakes. When we look round the world to-day, we cannot help being disappointed, but for goodness’ sake do not let us be dismayed. 1 do not want to be considered a schoolmaster, but I think that everybody will agree with me that it is the duty of every honorable member to tell the public of Australia the stark, staring, naked truth, as we see it. What man - I repeat the word man - of the Labour party has told the people in this debate the stark, staring, naked truth that he knows in his heart of hearts exists. How many meetings have Opposition members held for the purpose of discussing this bill? They meet in caucus, caucus, “ cork-us “. It is rather a good name. They are bottled up. How many meetings have they held to try to decide their attitude to this bill ?
– Have not members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party held meetings to discuss the bill?
– We had one meeting. That was quite sufficient. Government members will support the bill whole-heartedly, even if many of them believe it does not go far enough. Members of the Labour party, after their caucus meetings, have not been able to decide their attitude to the bill, and, consequently, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading with the object of having the measure referred to an all-party committee.
– We want to co-operate with the Government.
– I accept the offer. After the bill has been passed I shall be very pleased to co-operate with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) if nobody else wants to work with him, or if nobody else wants to work with me. Perhaps we may be able to persuade the people of Australia that a real emergency exists, because I know that the honorable member, in his heart of hearts, is not feeling very happy about the attitude of the Labour party to this bill. We do not have to be mind-readers to know what members of the Opposition are thinking. We have only to look at their faces. I advise many of them not to indulge in a game of poker. I can see, from their faces, that many of them believe that this bill should be passed, and that some of them believe, as some of us believe, that it does not go far enough. As a matter of actual fact, the two first speeches in this debate might have been an academic discussion in a university debate, but the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) put the position fairly and squarely to the people of this country. The Minister for Defence is the person who is principally concerned with this matter, but the Minister for External Affairs is closely allied with him in the work that has to be done. The Minister for External Affairs has stated that, at present, the international situation is balancing on a knife edge. Some of us who know Korea, and the conditions there, have been saying for some time that we were very frightened of what would happen once winter really sets in, because it is not easy to become accustomed to a temperature of 20 degrees below zero when one has no winter quarters to which to return after one or two days’ fighting.
The international situation is balancing on a knife edge. I say quite frankly to the Government that, although I consider that the bill is an excellent step in the right direction, I believe, as some other members on this side of the House believe, that it will not persuade the people of Australia that the emergency is so serious as we believe it to be. Those of us who have been through two wars are the last people in the world to want to see another one. At the same time, those of us who have seen what some of us have seen do not want to see this country left in a state in which our womenfolk, our sweethearts, our wives and our daughters would be placed in a position in which many unfortunate women in the world have been placed during the last two wars. We do not want to feel in our own hearts that we, knowing the position, fear our electors more than we fear for the future of the country, and, therefore, are not prepared to tell the truth in case a part of it may be an over-exaggeration. That is what is happening with members of the Labour party to-night. They fear their electors and their Federal Executive more than they fear for the future of their country. That position is most unfortunate.
The- Government desires universal military service to be instituted for the purposes of defence, for one reason, and one reason only. It may be good for national fitness. Indeed, it is. It is one of the best things in the world from the stand-point of shuffling the pack, and teaching one-half of the country how the other half lives. It is one of the best things in the world to get into camp with Tom, Dick and Harry and find that there is a close alliance of brotherhood with them. If more of the spirit of the Returned Sailors, Soldier? and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia could be spread throughout the country, we should solve many of our problems other than the military ones. All those things could spring from our attitude to this bill, but they are not the main reason for it. Our main reason for supporting the bill is that we firmly believe that, if we are to do the things which have to be done and create the insurance policy which is necessary for this country in this day and age, we must introduce universal military training.
Reference has been made in this debate to the United States of America. I admit that we Australians did all that we could, and did it well, in World War II. But where would we have been had the Americans said, “ Our universal military service is only for service inside the coast line of America “ ? America is expending from 18 per cent, to 22 per cent, of its national income, and the United Kingdom has increased its expenditure from 11 per cent, to 16 per cent, of its national income on defence, whereas Australia’s expenditure for the same purpose is about 6 per cent. Some Australians say we cannot do any more. I think that I am correct in saying that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said, during the last general election campaign, “ We have not got the time “. Other honorable members have used similar words in this debate. We heard the turgid and tendentious testimony of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who said, “ We haven’t got the time. We must build up our industries “.
What are we fighting ? We are fighting communism, which, in its essence, is gross materialism. We must therefore eradicate some of the gross materialism which exists in Australia to-day if we are to fight communism successfully. That statement does not apply to any one section of the community. The Opposition has said that we have not enough time for the national service scheme. But, if we are going to institute a defence plan that will be commensurate with our resources of man-power and materials, what time do we lack? The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said in his second-reading speech that the number of working days lost annually under the training plan would not represent one holiday. If necessary, can we not give up two holidays? If we do not give up the time, we may not have any holidays. If the plan affects our standard of living, is it not better to protect that standard than to have no standard or only the slave standard that some of us have experienced ? I think that everybody will agree with me on that issue. It is not a question of time. We have the man-power and the other resources with which to do the job that has to be done, and we can train the men who ought to be trained and build the machines that ought to be built if we ave determined to succeed. In that respect an all-party committee may be of considerable assistance, after the bill becomes law, in gaining the co-operation of all sections of the community; and not merely in doing the job which is set out in the legislation, but also in doing the far bigger job that must be undertaken if we are going to give the country the chance in the future that it should have. If we are serious about this plan, let us go ahead with the job. But let us not go in for a lot of half measures that probably would be unpopular and certainly would be ineffective. It would be useless to have masses and masses of half-trained men. That would be waste of money, waste of material and waste of energy. We must have fully trained formations that are fully equipped and ready to go into action at very short notice.
Although I support the voluntary aspect of the Government’s programme, I consider that volunteering in this day and age is race suicide and that it is unfair and unjust. That is why we are not getting enough volunteers for the armed services. “ One in, all in ! “ should be our call. Australians understand that call. But I cannot understand the attitude of mind of Australians who advocate compulsory unionism, so that a man can earn a living at his trade only if he is a unionist, but who will not accept compulsory service in order to defend compulsory unionism.
– Does the honorable gentleman believe in compulsory unionism ?
– I do believe in compulsory unionism; but, unlike the honorable member and his colleagues, I believe also in compulsory service to defend that system. Members of the Labour party apply compulsion when it suits them to do so, but when compulsion hits back at them, they funk it. That is not the way to tackle such problems. The defence of Australia is, or should be, a non-party matter. It is vital to all of us, and I hope that the Labour party will abandon the attitude that it has adopted and extend its co-operation to the Government. Members of the Opposition have asked, “ What does a delay of threemonths matter?” We all know that a certain conference is to take place in March, which is four months away. But whether the delay would be three months or four months is of no importance.
Many of us who came back from the Asiatic countries knew when we returned to Australia that there was truth in the statement by Lin Yu Tang in one of his books, that “ Asia is too big to be spanked and too roused to be pacified “. “We have watched week after week, month after month, and year after year go by amd we have felt more and more uneasy. “We have tried to tell people the truth, hut few will listen. We know the truth only because of the experiences that we have had. We do not claim to be supersensitive or super-intelligent. We know also as the result of our experiences that the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition, when he was Minister for External Affairs, allowed his ideals to run away with him. He failed to mix realism with his idealism, and the result was that Australia developed a foreign policy and a defence policy which were tragic for the nation.
– That foreign policy is now being followed by this Government.
– That is a matter of opinion, but the view that I have expressed has been substantiated by developments in relation to Dutch New Guinea and many other issues of international importance. After having listened to the right honorable gentleman speak on this bill, I am more than ever satisfied that my original estimate of his actions was correct. I admit that the right honorable gentleman acted in good faith and believed in his ideals, but an admixture of realism was needed to give them an ordinary, everyday sensibility. As a result of the defence policy that was adopted by the Labour Government, we found, when we wanted to send one battalion to Korea, that we could not send even one man overseas.
We must warn the people of Australia of the danger of their situation. The Government has decided that it cannot :go beyond a certain point, and I do “not blame it for that decision. However, as «m individual, together with other individuals on this side of the House, I consider that we should fail in our duty if we did not say that we thought that the Government had not gone far enough with this measure. Does the Government intend to train only the men who will be called up under the national service scheme? Goodness knows, exemptions will be granted on all sorts of grounds. As a member of the old Light Horse Brigade, I know that country men have supplied some of the finest soldiers that the world has ever known. Yet men who live 5 miles or more from the nearest drill hall will not be included in the training scheme ! The bill provides for too many exemptions. But, even if that were not so, the fact remains that the plan provides not only for the training of men, but also for the development of industry. The Labour party can do much to help with the development of basic industries.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that much of the Labour Government’s defence policy was based upon principles that were stated by LieutenantGeneral Rowell in a speech in Adelaide. I do not like to criticize people who cannot answer back from the floor of this House, but it was most unfortunate that the right honorable gentleman should have brought that speech into this debate. It was a most unfortunate and tactless speech for a candidate for the position of chief of the general staff to make.
– That is a reflection.
– It was a most unfortunate speech for a deputy chief of the general staff to make, and I do not like to be told in this House that a government’s defence policy is that which is approved of by the chiefs of staff. I do not think that the names of those officers and their opinions should be imported into debate.
– The Minister for Defence mentioned Lieutenant-General Rowell’s speech.
– But I do not like the introduction of such matters. There is a committee between the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Minister for Defence, and no chief of staff is responsible for government policy. A chief of staff can advise, but he cannot lay down policy. Therefore, he should not be either praised or blamed in this House for any policy that is proposed.
The Government has laid down the policy for which this bill provides and, as a supporter of the Government, I intend to support the measure fully. However, I hope that, at no very distant date, we shall be able to enlarge upon the plan and go very much further than the plan in its present form will enable us to go. I want the people to understand the danger of Australia’s position to-day. In this legislation, we are repeating one of the unfortunate errors that was committed at the beginning of the last war. We” are again creating an A.I.F. and an F.I.A. - an Australian imperial force and a “ forever in Australia “ force. That arrangement caused a lot of heart-burning during the last war, and it will do the same again. We should have one solid, united team that will not have to be split up in an emergency. I do not care whether the force is recruited by selective drafts or by the ballot system. Under the arrangement at present envisaged, it would be necessary to take men from several units, and fit them together like a jig saw puzzle before they could bc trained for overseas service. That is another reason why we should go further than it is proposed to go in this bill.
In my opinion, the situation is so serious that I do not believe that we can keep our immigration and developmental programmes going, however important they may be, and put into operation the defence programme which this country can and should have, without going back to at least 50 per cent, of war-time defence controls. Extraordinary powers have been given to President Truman by Congress to deal with the present emergency. Similar powers are being asked for permanently by the Prime Minister of Great Britain. He would have been better advised to ask for temporary powers. The Canadian Prime Minister is also asking for extraordinary powers. This Government should seek similar powers if it finds, as it will, that it cannot put an adequate defence programme into operation without them. I do not suggest that petrol rationing or things of that nature should be re-introduced, but I shall be surprised if it is not found necessary to introduce wage pegging, prices pegging, capital issues control, and man-power control.
– Has the Government a mandate for that ?
– If the honorable member is prepared to challenge those controls he may do so. Let us not shut our eyes to the seriousness of the situation. The fact is that certain measures must be taken, and it is of no use to suggest delaying matters for three or four months. There has been too much delay already. Those who suggest delay are acting ignorantly, or they are traitors to the country they profess to love.
– With one sentiment which was uttered by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) and thehonorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) I am in agreement. It was that the defence of the country should be above party politics. I also believe that the Government has shown little desire to seek the co-operation of the Opposition in the formulation of defence plans. This has been evident in two recent decisions. The decision to change the system of enlisting the Citizen Military Forces was taken without consultation with the Opposition. The decision was made and thrown on the table, and we were told that we must accept or reject it. It was also intimated that if we did not accept it, our action would be evidencethat we did not want to co-operate with the Government in the defence of the country. The other matter to which I refer was the decision to introduce thisbill which, at the very best, is rather a puny measure for the purpose which it purports to serve.
When I was Minister for Immigration, I tried to keep immigration above party politics, and I sought the co-operation, of every person of goodwill in the community. I said that immigration was the most important peace-time defence portfolio. I see no reason why defence should not be handled as I handled immigration and as my successor has handled it. However, the Government has refused to accept our suggestion that a committeeshould be appointed, and has criticized our proposal as a subterfuge designed todelay action.
It comes badly for the Leader of theLibera] party to attack the Labour party on the matter of co-operation on defencefor he is the same gentleman who led the members of the United Australia party out of the Australian Advisory War Council in 1944, and refused any further co-operation with the government of the day. Not only that, but with the assistance of the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who introduced this bill, he succeeded in expelling the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) and the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) from the United Australia party because they insisted on cooperating with the Government on the Australian Advisory War Council in the proper conduct of the war. That has not been forgotten. The right honorable member for Bradfield has had a unique record. He was expelled from the Labour party in 1916 for advocating conscription in World War I., and he was expelled from the United Australia party during World War II. for insisting on co-operating with the Labour Government in marshalling the full resources of the nation to ensure victory for our forces. All the leaders of the Australian Country party remained members of the Australian Advisory War Council, together with the honorable member for Warringah and the right honorable member for Bradfield, until the war was over.
The honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) expressed the opinion of most honorable members on the Government side of the House when he described this measure as pitifully trivial. Honorable members who support the measure would, I believe, like to hand it to the Government on a pitchfork. They do not believe that it is the kind of measure which the Government parties promised the people during the last election campaign, nor that it is the kind of measure that should be introduced to-day in the light of the existing international situation. The honorable member for Lowe waxed eloquent about what he called the honesttogoodness labourites of other days. All Labour leaders are honest-to-goodness people, and the leaders of the Labour party to-day are no different from those whom he praised for what was clone in 1903. They are just as honest-to-goodness as were the labourites who had to fight the honorable member’s grandfather, and the Sydney sweaters, for what they tried to do to the workers of that period.
The Labour party has not changed its platform regarding compulsion in the event of war. It is idle for the honorable member for Chisholm to say that we have funked the issue. Our record shows that, in time of war, the Labour party is prepared to do everything that a government should do in defence of the country. In spite of what the honorable member for Lowe 9aid about eight years of socialist rule leaving the country defenceless, undisciplined and dispirited, the fact is that the Labour Government did so marshal the forces of the nation in time of war that Australia’s record was not equalled, or even approached, by that of any other country engaged in the last unfortunate conflict. As a matter of fact, nearly 1,000,000 of our citizens, including 68,000 women, wore the uniform of one or other of the three forces. America’s performance was great, but it had only 13,000,000 people in its services, and if it had marshalled, its resources to the same degree as Australia did under a Labour government, it would have had an army of 20,000,000. Australia’s war effort was better than that of Britain, Russia or any other country.
-Order ! I think that the honorable member had better not make comparisons between countries. They do not relate to the debate.
– I think I am entitled to answer the charge that the previous Government left the country defenceless.
-The honorable gentleman can do that without comparing Australia’s record with that of our allies.
– I shall quote from the manifesto that was issued by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) on the occasion of the by-election as the result of which he was first elected to this Parliament. It stated -
It would be a tragedy if we allowed the splendid fighting services which we have built up during the war to lapse again into the inefficiency and totally inadequate condition prevailing in 1930.
Was not that a reflection on the leaders of the present Government, who, in 1939, left Australia in that totally inadequate condition? Of course, the honorable member, forgetting what he said in 1945, to-night expressed approval by interjection of the criticism levelled against the Labour party for what it allegedly failed to do in those eight years which the honorable member for Lowe has mentioned. The honorable member for Lowe said that socialists are opposed to compulsory military service. Socialists are not pacifists. They are the very opposite. The socialist Government of Great Britain and the former socialist Labour Government of New Zealand both applied compulsion in time of war and have applied compulsion since. Our prospective enemy in Europe is being resisted by socialist and social democratic governments. There is not one capitalist government on the continent of Europe, and every government that is doing anything there to prevent the spread of communism and to prevent the occurrence of a third world war has a strong socialist content, is exclusively socialist, or is a social-democratic government. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Charles Russell), the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), the honorable member for Angus (Mr. Downer), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) and the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) have argued against the voluntary system, yet the Government proposes to continue that system. Enlistment for the Citizen Military Forces is to be on a voluntary basis, with the provision that those who enlist should agree to serve wherever they may be required. But the inference to be drawn from the observations of these honorable gentlemen is that compulsion must be embraced for compulsion’s sake, and that conscription is to be supported both for home defence and service overseas. The honorable member for Chisholm and the honorable member for Indi were very honest in the statement of their views, which are quite understandable. The governments of Great Britain and France and various other countries compel service overseas. They have colonial possessions and therefore they have obligations that this country has not and probably never will have.
The honorable member for Evans said that the voluntary system of enlistment takes the cream of our manhood and leaves the rest. Whilst the voluntary system may take many gallant and capable young men while others remain out of the service, the effect of that argument is that in order that there may be equality of sacrifice there should be universal conscription for service overseas as well as for home defence. If that is the view of honorable members opposite they cannot be too happy about this bill which proposes to make so many exemptions. Under these proposals only 26,000 boys of eighteen years of age will be called up. Those who are fortunate enough to be apprentices or. who are attending universities, those who are employed in coalmines and those who are employed in other reserved occupations will be exempted for periods of up to eight years and probably will never serve. It was a valid criticism of the exemption system during the last war that far too many people avoided any obligation and that only those who volunteered or who did not have a skill or trade or educational qualification which should not have carried any weight were called upon to do the service required. The honorable member for Maranoa said that national military training was a great leveller because it helped to destroy the spirit of the class war which was fostered by the Labour party. The Labour party does not foster the class war. It merely recognizes that it exists as an unfortunate and inescapable fact in our social life. No amount of compulsory military training can eliminate it. It might even intensify it.
The Minister for Defence made the only really bitter speech in the course of this debate. He said that the Government’s proposals should be regarded as urgent and important in the interest of national defence. If they are urgent why has the Government waited for eleven months before introducing them? If the proposals are important why does the bill provide for the enlistment of so few young men for the defence of the country? If this is the sort of measure that the Government wants people to believe if to be it should be more embracing. The Minister said -
Let us look at the world as it is to-day when the cold war is on practically all over the globe and, in fact, when it is becoming warm and even hot in some places.
The Minister who made that statement and who tries by his eloquence to stir people to a sense of the imminence of war with Russia went to the Soviet Embassy in this national capital only a few days ago and was photographed with the Soviet ambassador, toasting the Russian revolution and drinking success to the Soviet Union. The Minister for Defence attacked the Leader of the Opposition for saying that army authorities invariably requisition for five times the volume of the material that they really need. Honorable members opposite apparently consider that that was a reflection upon army administration but in order to give them an idea of how the Army did over-buy during the last war I ask them to bear in mind that the Government is still disposing of surplus army goods five years after the war has ended. While the Government is calling for tenders for fresh contracts for army supplies it is still disposing of surplus materials purchased for the purposes of the last war.
The Chifley-Dedman plan was attacked by the Minister. That plan was devised on the advice of the government’s expert advisers. A government which will not take notice of the advice of its military experts has no right to govern. At least it must seriously consider the advice tendered to it. If it will not accept advice from the chiefs of staff whom it has appointed it should dispense with their services and get others in whom it can have confidence. Whatever was done by the Chifley Government in relation to defence was based largely on advice from General Sturdee and LieutenanteGeneral Rowell. The statement mad<: by Lieutenant-General Rowell in Adelaide was made not by choice but by compulsion, because there was a whispering campaign at the time which was attacking the whole plan and attacking the professional soldiers who were advising the Government. Lieutenant-General Rowell was entitled to do what he did and to defend what he had recommended to the Government.
I realize that there is a danger of a third world war. I said something similar to that on the occasion to which the honorable member for Chisholm referred.
I shall repeat what I did say at that time. I said that this country had only about 25 years in which to make the best possible use of its second chance to survive.. I argued that we should get as many more people into this country as quickly as we could because I doubted whether, even if we had a population of 20,000,000, we would be able to hold Australia against a resurgent Japan, a nationalistic or Communistic China, or any other force in Asia, or even against Russia” using Indonesia as Japan used that territory. I still hold the belief that this country has little time in which to prepare against eventualities. I hate to think that a third world war is inevitable, but I doubt whether we shall see real peace again for many years. We have not known real peace since the outbreak of World War II. In 1945, we did not pass from a state of war into a state of peace; we passed into a state of no war, and there we have remained. We fear for the future, not so much for people like myself or the Minister for External Affairs, who are past the half century, but for our children and our children’s children. I do not agree with the Minister for External Affairs nor with the other distinguished gentleman who shares his opinion, Generalissimo Stalin, that the Communist world and the non-Communist world can live in peace. If the present uneasy peace is disturbed, it will be as a result of Communistic aggression. That is what I have always said, and that is what I have always believed. I believe, too, that, if this Government wants co-operation, it must make some effort itself. It must show a desire for co-operation. The statement of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) that the Opposition should let this bill pass and then seek the appointment of a committee to examine the defences of this country in accordance with the terms proposed in the Opposition’s amendment, is not satisfactory to the Labour Party. The bill should be temporarily held over while a committee considers its entire implications. There is no reason why a committee should not report in a month or in six weeks; but the Government says, “ Either you accept the bill without amendment, or we shall make the measure a party issue and say that the Labour party is opposed to the defence of this country “.
– ‘Will the Opposition pass the bill and then move for a committee?
– I have just dealt with that matter in my comments on the suggestion made by the honorable member for New England in his very thoughtful speech. The Minister has not said that he would accept the Opposition’s proposal, even if a limit were set on the time in which the committee would make its report. The Government is convinced that its plan is so perfect and complete that an investigation of it would be useless. One reason for the lack of enthusiasm among honorable members opposite for the appointment of a committee may well be the fear that such a committee would find out certain things about the failure of the current recruiting campaign that could be used against the Government. At least the 1947 plan introduced by the Chifley Government was intended to provide for the effective defence of this country in accordance with Australia’s potentialities and available resources.
Some honorable members opposite claim that Labour should not have allowed our armed forces to be disbanded or the defences of this country to run down after 1945. Honorable members opposite themselves contributed most towards the dissolution of our forces. They wanted to get men back to civil life as quickly as possible. During the 1946 election campaign, members of the present Government parties vied with each other in appealing for votes by promising the greatest possible taxation reductions that the country could afford. No government can reduce taxes and still have enough money to maintain defences. When honorable members opposite were urging tax reductions, they were, in effect, urging that we should not have defence forces.
-Order ! The honorable member is getting beyond the scope of the bill.
– I am doing my best and I hope, doing it effectively.
– Do not blame the cook, he is doing his best.
– The Minister has not done anything except say, “ We want this bill and nothing else but the bill “. The issue is now in the party realm, and if it goes to a double dissolution as the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) threatened so vigorously, it will not be a good thing for the country or for the Government. The honorable member talked about this measure and the Communist Party Dissolution Act as being two important measures that this Parliament has had before it. I believe that the defence of this country is entirely removed from any consideration of how we should deal with the Communist party or any other body ; but if honorable members opposite again want to tie up communism with the defence of this country they can have that issue too. I remind them, however, that it will involve us in a conflict and a splitting of this country when, as honorable members opposite themselves admit, we have very little time in which to prepare against the dangers of another aggression.
– The honorable member wants the same type of co-operation as Joe Stalin wants.
– The Minister for Defence gave Joe Stalin’s representatives plenty of co-operation at the anniversary of the Russian revolution 23 days ago. The Minister for Labour and National Service said in his second-reading speech on this measure -
The conception in which defence planning is being pursued is that there would not bc time in the event of another emergency to turn complete^- untrained men into an effective fighting force.
He proposes now, and the Government proposes, to train 26,000 men a year for five years. Therefore, this great danger is to -be met in five years’ time with a force of 120,000 men ! That is the Government’s policy. The Minister further said -
We have to plan on having available in the first weeks of war a force capable of defending this country and of meeting whatever obligations the Government of the day has decided to assume.
So, if the war comes within the next twelve months we shall have 26,000 men fully or partly trained for the defence of Australia. I do not think that the legislation now before us is anything but a sorry piece of appeasement. It tries to rope everybody in and to satisfy everybody, but it will satisfy nobody. I am certain that it satisfies nobody on the Government side of the chamber. Had honorable members opposite been given a proper say on this measure in their party room, which presumably did not happen, they would have made a much better measure than this puny, paltry thing that we are asked to pass, but which we shall not pass without first referring to a committee.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Honorable members on thisside of the committee agree that the vote having been taken on the principle whether there should or should not be an all-party committee, have no objection to the bill being taken as a whole, because the fundamental issue has been debated and decided.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1950.
Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1950.
Without requests -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1950.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Repatriation Department - N. Burgess, K. P. Daly, E. W. O’Keefe. J. W. Straede.
House adjourned at 11.56 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
On the 20th, 22nd and 25th September,I made three personal broadcasts on national defence from the Melbourne studios of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The duration of the first was 27 minutes, the second, 25 minutes, and the third, 18 minutes, a total of 70 minutes “ live “ broadcasting. Because I had an engagement at Wangaratta, Victoria, on the 1st October, a nine and a half minute speech for the opening of the recruiting campaign on that date was recorded. As the Director-General of Recruiting (Sir Edmund Herring) was in Tasmania at the time, his speech was also recorded beforehand. Both speeches wore then broadcast from 2CY Canberra.
l asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following reply : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 November 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501130_reps_19_211/>.