On conscription, Menzies and Curtin

David Salter writes: Re. “Gerard Henderson responds to David Salter” (Tuesday) Gerard Henderson says he stands by his claim that Menzies was “the first and only prime minister to implement conscription for overseas military service”, yet fails to support that claim with facts. Here are a few simple OED definitions that might help him understand his mistake:

first a., n. & adv. earliest, or earlier in time or order

only adv. & conj. solely, merely, exclusively

implement v. put into effect

conscription n. compulsory enlistment for military service

overseas advs. adjs. foreign, pertaining to countries across the sea

As Henderson himself confirms, the Curtin government introduced wartime conscription for military service in the South-West Pacific, beyond Australia’s borders, in early 1943. Menzies legislated for conscription in 1964, so he was neither the “first” nor the “only” prime minister to do so. 

Richard Barlow writes: Re. “Gerard Henderson responds to David Salter” (Tuesday)

Gerard Henderson, am I wrong in thinking that while overseas service may have been limited to our region it was still, in your own words, overseas ?

On the new home affairs “super agency”

Paul Montgomery writes: Re. “Dutton anointed, Brandis humiliated. Malcolm Turnbull has finally lost it.” (Tuesday)

I was so pleased to see Bernard Keane pick up on the absurdity of Malcolm Turnbull’s presser on Tuesday, “Dutton anointed, Brandis humiliated. Malcolm Turnbull has finally lost it”.

Flanked by the Chief of the Defence and standing in front of an inflatable boat with six heavily armed and gas masked special forces soldiers, the PM was centre-stage of a spectacle that was more Pythonesque than the real thing. In more normal times, the question to be asked would have been what were Turnbull and his cohorts thinking with this absurd theatre? 

But as Keane so capably pointed out, preposterous imagery and purported escalated threat levels are now integral parts of whatever is deemed to be the newest incarnation of the War on Terror.  But I expect the average engaged punter to see it for what it truly is, a diminished Turnbull that has now sunk so low that they no longer take any notice. Of course, once again, it calls into question whether Turnbull is as smart as the media constantly says he is? Is he a political master whose difficulties only result from him being captive of sections of his own party?

To this question, I am reminded of journalist Peter Hartcher’s recounting of Paul Keating’s advice to new PM Kevin Rudd and the possible threat Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull posed. Keating said that Turnbull was brilliant, showed no fear, but added damningly that Turnbull had no judgment. Prescient.

It may be that poor judgment is the mark of the man. Anyone remember manic Malcolm and the Godwin Grech Affair, or the obsessive ring barking of the ALP’s NBN cable rollout for example?

Could it be that sound judgment is much more important in politics than brilliance or fearlessness?

John Richardson writes: Re. “Dutton anointed, Brandis humiliated. Malcolm Turnbull has finally lost it.” (Tuesday)

Bravo Bernard; your farewell to poor Malcolm was simply superb. Who would have thought that young Bligh, determined to regain centre stage after being eclipsed by the spectacular Dr Who announcement, was so desperate that he would hand the leadership chalice to the former Queensland walloper & detention centre specialist, Peter Dutton.

In one foul swoop, Malcolm has done away with the need for cabinet government.

In fact, given his government’s determination to outsource, privatise or abolish all government activities not directly engaged in enriching the private sector, while handing everything-else to the humourless stormtrooper, he has effectively transformed his government into a ministry of one. And that minister isn’t named Malcolm! Orwell would be proud of our emerging police state.

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Peter Fray
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