National Service

In a recent essay on the future of the Liberal Party, I wrote: “National service in its many forms: time spent in our nation’s defence forces; volunteering to help those less fortunate or facilitating community events; lending a hand when natural disasters strike; are ways in which Australians can demonstrate their link to something bigger than their own immediate interests.”

Now when one mentions ‘national service’, the immediate image is of forcing young men and women into the army for a year or two of training. This meets with strong support in some quarters and vigorous resistance in others. I believe one of the key areas of resistance to this is from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) itself.

Many in the ADF believe that the military are better prepared and provide a better service if the soldiers actually want to be there, rather than forced to be there. I happen to agree with them.

Forcing people to take front line or combat roles against their wishes could compromise the safety and effectiveness of the unit. I can’t think of anyone who would want that to occur.

But national service is much more than forcing military training. National service is about committing to one’s community.

I believe that every Australian should do what they can to make our nation a stronger, more united and resolute one. The concept of serving our fellow Australians, in any number of capacities, should be viewed as an integral part of what makes our nation great.

But community service is like any other virtue, it needs to be learned early to become a habit. Just as we force our children to brush their teeth, comb their hair and go to school, why wouldn’t we make national service (in whatever form) a mandatory part of the transition to adulthood?

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