Reintroducing compulsory national service is not the assumed panacea for society's real and perceived problems

Citizenship equity, strategic utility, and economic and social philosophy issues must be part of any serious discussion about reintroducing compulsory national service.

 

Letter to The Canberra Times 
Tuesday, 26 May 2015
(not published)

John Perkins (letters, May 26) advocates reintroducing universal national service but, as with many, his nostalgic enthusiasm overlooks several key points (discussed in detail on the ADA website).

Civil conscription for medical services is expressly prohibited by Section 51 XXXiiiA of the Constitution.

The universal civic responsibility to render some form of military service is only necessary when expanding our defence force needs to be done substantially, swiftly and equitably (the Defence Act reserves conscription for times of apprehended or actual war).

Modern workplace health and safety requirements would probably require a service period over 18 months and conscripting, say, all the 250,000 males and females turning twenty each year would cause major labour market shortages and serious inflationary pressures across the economy.

Neither the ADF nor civil agencies could usefully employ such numbers anyway.

Conscripting only some of them, such as only males or those unemployed, would rightly be unlawfully discriminatory.

As the last universal* military conscription scheme throughout 1950s proved, the funds needed to modernise the ADF — and much of the force itself — were diverted to training very short-term conscripts, this provided a political cop-out for insufficient defence investment overall, and the ADF’s ability to deploy in the national interest actually declined.

Finally, it is all society’s job to fix society’s perceived problems.

 

[*The 1965-72 conscription scheme was a selective, not a universal, one.]

 

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