1976 - present: post-Miller era

Graw, Stephen (2005) 1976 - present: post-Miller era. In: Burla, Robert, (ed.) Crossed Boomerangs: a history of all the 31 battalions. Australian Military History Publications, Australia, pp. 405-416.

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In 1964 the Army was substantially reorganised (with the scrapping of the Pentropic organisation) and a selective form of national service was introduced. Those eligible for conscription (males turning 20 years of age) were 'balloted' on the basis of their birthdays and could elect either two years service in the Australian Regular Army (ARA) - subsequently reduced to 18 months - followed by three years in the regular reserve, or six years service in the CMF (subsequently reduced to five years).

Those who opted for the alternative of CMF service had to do so before their national service 'ballot' occurred - which meant that they had to have enlisted and be serving in a CMF unit before their 'ballot' took place. It also meant that they had to continue serving for the full six (or five) year period of their original enlistment, irrespective of whether their 'number' came up for conscription when their 'ballot' was held.

When Australia committed troops to Vietnam in 1965 the national service legislation was amended to make conscripts into the ARA eligible for overseas service - but CMF 'optees' were not placed under the same obligation. The government's clear policy (as reiterated by Malcolm Fraser, the then Minister of the Army, in 1966) was that the CMF existed to provide a back-up in case of defence emergency and an expansion base for major war. The Defence Act prevented the deployment of CMF troops except 'in defence of Australia' so they could not be and would not be committed to Vietnam.

The CMF alternative to conscripted service in Vietnam resulted in increased enlistment and in 1968 CMF manning throughout Australia peaked at 36,000. That, however, did little for the CMF either in effectiveness or status. Many 'optees' had no real interest in military service and, therefore, did only the minimum training required of them. Further, as well as sharing the general unpopularity of the Army both in the latter years and in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, the CMF also came to be perceived as a haven for those who only wanted to avoid conscription and possible war service.

Consequently, as Australia's commitment to Vietnam wound down (from 1970 to 1972) and especially when the newly-elected Whitlam government suspended national service and abolished conscription in December 1972 - and announced that serving national servicemen and CMF 'optees' could seek immediate discharge, there was a significant drop-off in CMF numbers. By early 1974 the CMF had a posted strength of fewer than 20,000 - less than one-third of its authorised establishment of 60,000 - the result of both post-national service discharges and a sharp decline in new recruits.

Item ID: 4991
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 1-876439-67-X
Keywords: army history
Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2009 04:35
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210399 Historical Studies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 81 DEFENCE > 810199 Defence not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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