|John Stapleton | January 23, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THE Young Liberals are proposing nine months of compulsory national service for all young Australians, to be completed before age 24.
The service would not be restricted to the military but include community and foreign service and trades.
POLL: Do you support the idea of national service?
Under the plan, young Australians could do their service overseas, working in foreign aid and development, either in programs run by the Australian government or helping non-government bodies such as the Red Cross or Doctors Without Frontiers.
The domestic option would enable people to serve in hospitals, old age homes and other community organisations.
Participants could also have the option of working and studying in various trades including plumbing and electrical.
Young Liberal president Noel McCoy said the aim was to provide a sizeable low-cost workforce that would help to offset the effects of the financial crisis.
At the same time he said it would help instil a work ethic and sense of national pride in young people.
Areas suffering from chronic inter-generational welfare dependence would benefit from having people returning to their communities having acquired broader experience, skills, discipline and values.
“We're a big believer in a hand up, not a handout, and this is a very practical way of achieving that,” he said.
Mr McCoy said under the proposal students would not be able to graduate from university without a certificate of completion of national service.
“There are a number of national and social benefits,” he said. “It would help lessen the potential youth unemployment crisis we are facing as a result of the global financial crisis.
“It would also provide a social benefit by developing a deep appreciation of Australian society and its traditions. It is a good way of integrating young Australians of all backgrounds and socio-economic stata in a shared experience of serving their country.”
Mr McCoy said for those taking the trade option it would help encourage young Australians to take up trade careers and encourage the transfer of skills from experienced trades people to young workers.
The Young Liberals are hoping for bipartisan support for the idea, but that now appears unlikely.
In 2006 NSW Young Labor, Australia's largest political youth group, proposed a similar idea for compulsory national service, to be completed before graduation from high school, similar to schemes operating in Sweden. It also included the notion that national service could be served in the community or foreign aid sectors.
However current Australian Young Labor president Matthew Walton said they were no longer supportive.
He said he would like to know when the Liberal Party threw away its commitment to personal choice and personal liberty.
“I don't think the Young Liberals are all that serious about this - I think it is more to generate a headline,” he said.
“I don't think anyone realistically believes that in Australia today young Australians should be compelled to give up almost a year of their life clearing trees or working for the army.”