22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Acknowledgment by Her Majesty The Queen.
– I desire to inform the House that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General the following communication in connexion with the Address-In-Reply -
I desire to acquaint you that the substance of the Address-In-Reply, which you presented to me on the 10th April, 1957, has been communicated to Her Majesty the Queen.
It is the Queen’s wish that I send you and honorable members of the House of Representalives, her sincere thanks for the loyal message of which your address gives expression.
J. SLIM, Governor-General. 3rd May, 1957.
-I would like to ask the Treasurer to convey to the Prime Minister the best wishes of the House for his early and complete recovery from an illness which has undoubtedly been brought about by his recent very strenuous overseas mission.
– I appreciate the kind sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the House. Those sentiments will certainly be conveyed Co the Prime Minister at the first opportunity.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether, in view of the serious lack of rain in many parts of the Commonwealth, this would not be an opportune time for the C.S.I.R.O. to put its recently announced rain-making technique to a practical test. If any tests are being made in any districts, will the right honorable gentleman announce them in advance so that the country may follow their progress and assess the value of the discoveries?
– The C.S.I.R.O. is not yet ready to apply on any appreciable scale the rain-making techniques evolved in recent years and perfected, I think one can say, in the last two years. There has been only one large-scale controlled experiment, and that was in the Snowy Mountains. It certainly did produce a very satisfactory and proven increase in rainfall in the area concerned. However, other experiments have to go on and perhaps, in particular, an assessment has to be made of the approximate percentage of rain-bearing clouds in various typical areas of Australia, which may vary from something very small to something very large, in order that we may know something like the amount of alleviation that can be provided in any area generally. The importance of this matter is very fully recognized, and the C.S.I.R.O. is pressing on with its work in connexion with it, so far as its facilities and strength of staff allow. I think it can be said that Australia is ahead of the rest of the world in the technique of rainmaking and its application. We need more aircraft in order to complete the experimental work, and that is a matter which is already under discussion between the Treasurer and me. I shall certainly bear in mind what I think is probably in the minds of a great many other people in addition to the honorable member for Mitchell, which is that Australia - and particularly its primary producing industries - should have the benefit of this most remarkable piece of research by the C.S.I.R.O., done principally at the instance of Dr. Bowen. There will be no delay so far as the C.S.I.R.O. is concerned, but I cannot hold out any immediate hope that full practical application of artificial rainmaking will come about during the next twelve months.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer in the absence of the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman noticed, and has any attention been given by the Cabinet to, the view of the Senate in connexion with import licensing regulations? Does the Government intend that these regulations should continue in force, notwithstanding the apparent decision in another place that they should be terminated?I know that this matter is not directly under the Treasurer’s control, so
I ask him whether he will cause the responsible Ministers concerned to examine once more the problem of trafficking in import licences, which is still of very considerable dimensions, according to information furnished to us by people who complain about it. I ask the right honorable gentleman to see that this matter is not just left inabeyance, to drift on until some future meeting of the Senate deals with it.
– The only information that I have received respecting the position in the Senate to which the Leader of the Opposition refers is what I have read in the press. No decision has been arrived at. 1 understand that notice has been given that the matter will be raised. The position to which the honorable gentleman has referred will, I can assure him, be the object of constant vigilance by the Government. As to the alleged trafficking in import licences, I remind the right honorable gentleman that my colleague, the Minister for Trade, who is the appropriate Minister, has assured the House and the public on more than one occasion that if any specific evidence is brought to his notice in connexion with trafficking in import licences the matter will be investigated.
– Will the Minister for Trade say what action, if any, is being taken to encourage, and increase, trade with our near northern neighbours and, in particular, other countries east of Suez? Will he also say whether such actions as are taken, or will be taken, in that direction, if any, will be so framed as to ensure that Western Australia which, because of its geographical situation, is the natural supplier of those markets, will receive full consideration? That is to say, will the interests of Western Australia and its producers receive proper weight in the activities of the Department of Trade in the direction of promoting trade with Asia? I add that not only is Western Australia favorably circumstanced to be a supplier of goods to Asia because of its geographical position, but that its desirability as a supplier is further emphasized by the fact that the quality of its exportable goods is possibly the highest in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for Moore is touching on a very important issue, which is one that he has constantly raised with me. The Department of Trade is active in promoting new opportunities for trade in all the eastern countries. There is a very active and very large trade mission, organized by the department, which is at present, or has beer until the last few days, in India. According to the advice that I have, it has been operating with very fruitful results in the gaining of new business for Australia. New trade commissioner posts are being established. Indeed, I announced, at the week-end, the establishment of a new one at Kuala Lumpur, and a strengthening of other posts in the Far East. We recently arranged, and supported, the visit of a person with appropriate experience to the Persian Gulf area to ascertain what new trade opportunities may exist there, particularly in the new atmosphere that hat developed since the Suez Canal incident. 1 assure the honorable member that, in all these areas, the Department of Trade » highly conscious, not only of the general opportunities for new trade, but also of the particular opportunities for the export of the products of existing Western Australian industries. The Western Australian fruit and vegetable industries have a long history of exports to those markets, and I am hopeful that the markets for those product? will be expanded. Western Australian barley, like South Australian barley, goes’ chiefly to Japan. There is also a genera1trade in flour, meat and live-stock fo< slaughter from Western Australia, which has natural advantages in those markets, t shall be glad to keep in touch with thehonorable member and to keep him continually informed of what i« being done in this regard.
– Has the Minister to Trade noticed a report of a speech made at the “ Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Service “ at the Maughan Church in Adelaide h* Mr. W. S. Kelly, a leading grazier in South Australia, and a member of the Consultative Committee on Import Policy, on the subject “ Can Australia pay her way “ ? Mi Kelly said -
Australia should strive to find a better solutionto her balance of payment problem than the periodic imposition of import restrictions, and before we accept the dismal outlook of import controls remaining for a long time we must face up to the many serious objections to them. Con- trol of imports by the issue of licences is a clumsy interference with individual initiative and is liable to serious abuse. When tariff duties are printed on a schedule they apply to all, and a trader knows where he stands, but import licences may be granted to one and denied another. It places far too much power in the hands of a few officials.
– I rise to order. A question cast in this form is clearly out of order, Mr. Speaker, and I suggest that, in the interests of all members of the House, this kind of question be ruled out of order forthwith.
– Order! Is the question based on a newspaper report?
– No. It is based on a statement made by Mr. Kelly. I have nearly completed it.
– Order! The honorable member is making reference to a name, and the reference was not necessary in order to clarify the position. His question is out of order.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. Has the honorable gentleman received a guarantee from the Melbourne City Council that the area at present occupied by the Department of Supply on Debney’s Paddock in the city of Melbourne will be used as park land and not handed over to private interests in the event of the Commonwealth Government moving out of it? If the Minister has received such a guarantee, will he direct the officers of his department to seek alternative accommodation for the ordnance stores situated on this land, and thereby permit the return of at least twelve acres of park land to the citizens of a crowded Melbourne suburb? If the Melbourne City Council will not give the required guarantee, will the Minister refuse to have the Department of Supply stores moved from the area until the election of a new Victorian government, or a new Melbourne city council, that is concerned with principles and with decent ethical standards? in considering the foregoing questions, will the Minister bear in mind that the present Melbourne City Council is under suspicion and is being much criticized, with considerable justification, by the people of Melbourne and Victoria for its attitude?
– I certainly do not intend to get the Government or myself involved in local Victorian arguments about the Melbourne City Council. I do not remember having received any communication from the city council on the matter, and, perhaps, that is the complete answer to the question, except that the honorable member speaks of the department’s seeking alternative accommodation. It is seeking alternative accommodation all the time, but the problem is very complex, as the honorable gentleman knows.
– In view of the fact that the head of the Department of Defence Production is about to retire, does not the Minister for Supply consider that a golden opportunity is presented to reduce administrative overhead by amalgamating the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production?
– It is true that Mr. Breen is resigning as head of the Department of Defence Production as from to-day or to-morrow. The Government has decided to appoint Mr. Knott as the new secretary of the department. I agree that there are some advantages to be gained by bringing the two departments together, but at the present moment there would also be some administrative disadvantages. A number of complex problems are facing one or other of the departments, and they would be aggravated if the two departments were to be amalgamated. In the resultant readjustment, perhaps those problems would not get the attention that they deserve individually and which they can better get by being dealt with by separate secretaries. However, I appreciate the point that has been raised and, if 1 may make a forecast without prejudice, I forecast that the time will come when the two departments will be amalgamated.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether there are any authoritative Australian bodies - I emphasize the words “ authoritative Australian bodies “ - at the chief ports from which migrants sail which have power to veto the departure of any one whom they consider to be unsuitable for admission to Australia. In other words, are there authorities with power to screen immigrants for various and numerous reasons? If there are no such bodies, will the Minister recommend to Cabinet their appointment and thus meet criticism of the types of immigrants who are at present entering Australia?
– 1 could not hear the honorable member very clearly, but I understood him to ask whether immigrants who come to Australia are screened for various reasons.
– At the chief ports of embarkation.
– Briefly, the position is that immigrants are screened for health and security reasons.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– They are screened medically, in relation to age and so on, before they leave the other side of the world. There are always medical officers on the ships on which immigrants come to Australia, and we keep in touch with the immigrants after they arrive. If that does not answer the honorable member’s question, I ask him to see me later and I shall give him the correct answer.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of the decision of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia to stage a strike in Sydney to-morrow as a protest against unemployment on the waterfront? If so, will he give to the House any information that he may have in connexion with it?
– I understand that an unauthorized stop-work meeting will be held in the port of Sydney to-morrow by the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, the reason given being to protest against the amount of unemployment which is said to exist on the waterfront. It would be difficult to imagine more wasteful folly than action of this kind and under these circumstances. It is true that, as a result of a combination of factors, a good deal of attendance money has been paid to waterside workers in recent months. There has not been a full demand for their services consequent upon some reduction . of not .only shipping from overseas ports but also, quite significantly, interstate cargoes of a general character that are handled in Australian ports.
The irony arising from the situation which has been created by the Waterside Workers Federation and the proposed stopwork meeting is that the reduction in interstate cargoes has been quite notably contributed to by the course of conduct that the members of the federation themselves have pursued. Irregularity of schedules, inefficient handling of cargoes and slow turn-round of ships have all combined to drive shippers from using the interstate shipping services for cargoes and to use road transport and the railways. So to the extent that there is some unemployment on the wharfs, undoubtedly that has been a direct consequence of the actions of the Waterside Workers Federation itself. That is not the complete answer, of course. Import restrictions have had their effect also. But I do suggest that if the members of the federation desire to increase working opportunities on the wharfs, the way to go about it is not to have unauthorized strikes, but to assure shippers of regularity of movement of their cargoes, efficient handling of their goods and some reduction in costs.
– Has the Minister for Defence Production given consideration lo my letter to him dated 24th April last, in which I asked him to make sufficient provision for the conversion of acid plants so that more Norseman pyrites could be used in the manufacture of sulphur? Did the sulphuric acid committee present a report on the operation of the sulphuric acid bounty? Did that report deal with the cost of converting pyrites from Norseman, compared with the cost of converting pyrites from the eastern States? If so, will the Minister make this report available to honorable members before the debate on the motion for the second reading of th? Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill is resumed? Further, is the present bounty inadequate to encourage increased production of sulphuric acid from Norseman, which is the only place where a mine is operated for pyrites alone?
– I am sorry that the honorable member has not had a reply to his letter. My recollection is that I had signed a reply, but if I am wrong about that, I shall see that the reply is expedited. The House has been debating the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill. As the honorable gentleman was absent then, he was unable to hear the debate, and he does not know that some of the matters that he now raises have been discussed in the House. I offer the view myself that it might be desirable to raise the level of the bounty, but that is a personal view. What the Government has done has been to refer the question of the amount of bounty, and the length of time during which it should operate, to the Tariff Board tor as early an inquiry as we can obtain. That may take some time, but we will get the report as soon as we can. 1 believe that the Government will act upon the Tariff Board’s recommendations in that regard, certainly on the matter of the level of the bounty - and that that may cure some of the ills from which Norseman is suffering.
– Did the committee make a report?
– 1 am coming to that, if the honorable gentleman will be patient. The sulphuric acid committee did make a report to the Cabinet, and it was as a result of that report that action was taken by the Government last February to implement a number of recommendations designed to encourage change-over to pyrites production and also to encourage the producers of the indigenous material. 1 shall have to look into the question of whether or not that report can properly be made available to the House, and 1 shall let the honorable gentleman know about that as soon as I can.
– Can the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization say whether it is a fact that Australian scientists have discovered a new means of treating burry wool, and whether this discovery will result in less damage to wool in treatment, thus bringing in additional revenue for wool producers and improving the economy of this country? If this is a fact, has the Minister any information on this development to give to the House?
– Yes, indeed, it is a fact that the C.S.I.R.O. has worked out this new process. Tt is a technical matter and I am not really equipped, offhand, to give a technical description of it, but I shall be very glad later to inform the honorable gentleman, and other honorable members who are interested, about this subject.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, supplements the previous question and answer regarding employment on the waterfront. Can the Minister say, on the information available to him, how much attendance money has been paid on the waterfront in recent months? Having regard to the fact that at present there is great waste of manpower on the waterfront and that the Government obviously is adopting devious means of keeping men off the list of unemployed, can the right honorable gentleman say what advantages have accrued to the Government from the passing by this Parliament of legislation which was supposed to overcome all the difficulties on the waterfront?
– I can give the House a good deal of information on this subject at any time that it wishes to provide an opportunity for me to do so. I shall give the honorable member a few facts now which will assist him in his consideration of the matter. The House will have some idea of the decline in demand for waterfront services when I say that the number of man hours to be worked in 1956-57 - that is, the current year - are estimated to be 34,000,000, compared with 38,500,000 in 1955-56. Those figures reflect a quite substantial decline. Of course, import restrictions were operating throughout that period.
– Why blame the waterside workers for a situation brought about by import restrictions?
– 1 do not. I say that there were import restrictions in 1955-56, just as there have been in 1956-57, but it is significant that, in two years, there has been a decline of more than 22 per cent, in the general cargoes handled round the coast of Australia - our own coastal trade. That is directly due to the fact that the cost of handling goods by a means which normally should be the cheapest, has increased so greatly. Cost is not the only factor. Also involved is the irregularity of movements of ships, due to their failure to maintain a regular schedule, and that, in turn, is due partly to the irresponsible conduct which is evident on the waterfront of this country.
The honorable gentleman has asked what has been done through our legislation to after these circumstances. A great deal has been done. Some reduction in quotas, which will reduce the numbers on the waterfront? is taking place, but does the honorable member recommend that we should carry that through to a point where real hardship would be inflicted on the general body ot the work force? This, necessarily, must be a comparatively gradual process. There have been improvements in the award rates, annual leave has been granted, and a variety of other concessions have been given to waterside workers including, as my colleague, the Treasurer, reminds me, an increase of attendance money. Indeed, ] expect shortly to be bringing to this Parliament a measure to increase the stevedoring industry charge in order that we may maintain payments to waterside workers at current levels. So this Parliament has done a great deal to provide both continuity of employment and a considerable degree of security for this body of workmen, and we should be able to look to them for their contribution in terms of efficiency and regularity of performance.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, is supplementary to one asked last week by the honorable member for Farrer. Does the Minister consider that the current meat agreement with the United Kingdom restricts in any way the export of live cattle, and if not, does he not think that [his might be a very valuable field for trade with the countries of southern Asia and the south-western Pacific? Will the Government give active encouragement to this trade and assure cattle-raisers that no impediments will be placed in their way, so that they may undertake the necessary long-term plans for developing this industry and developing also the means of transport between Australia and these very valuable meat markets which might otherwise be closed to us?
– There is no quantitative limitation on the export of live cattle to Asian and South-East Asian countries. The export of live cattle has become valuable to us and it is expected that this year more than 10,000 head of cattle will be exported. This is one of the ways in which the problem of our overseas balance of payments can be solved, and the cattle industry is making a really worthwhile contribution. In the last part of his question, the honorable gentleman asked that no impediment be placed in the way of exports and that an inducement be given to exporters. The only qualitative restriction placed upon the export is to ensure that particular types of cattle go to particular markets. I mention as an example that the Philippines like a lean type of cattle and, therefore, the export supervision ensures that only cattle of this type are exported to that country. Further, as far as practicable, it is intended to export from Queensland ports rather than from ports in New South Wales or Victoria. This has a double purpose. We do not want to deprive the southern markets of supplies and we fee) that the northern ports are the ones most able to comply with the demand. I am glad that the honorable member has raised this question, because it is increasingly engaging the attention of the Government 1 assure him that there has been a substantial increase in exports recently; I hope thai increase will continue.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. By way of explanation, I point out that while the Minister was abroad I directed a letter to his colleague, the Minister for the Interior, regarding the concern of the Werribee Shire Council and residents of that area at the projected extension of the Laverton a1 strip. I now ask the Minister for Air whether he received those representation!: and what action, if any, he has taken to deal with the concern of the Werribee Shire Council and residents of the district.
– I have considered the representations and I have taken some action. I have discussed the matter with officers of the Department of Air, but have not reached a final conclusion. However, I can tell the honorable member that to make the existing facilities in use by the
Royal Australian Air Force satisfactory for future use in modern conditions by modern aircraft, an extension of the runway is inevitable. Failing this, the Air Force must leave that area and go elsewhere. 1 am informed - this is not a final figure, but merely a snap judgment by an officer of the department whom I asked - that about £10,000,000 of Commonwealth money is already invested in the Air Force installations in the district. I fully appreciate the inconvenience which will be caused to the planning of the future development of the surrounding district and should like to avoid it if I can. However, I feel a responsibility to balance the inconvenience and cost to the. local authorities in altering their plans for the future expansion of the district against the cost to the Commonwealth of uprooting existing facilities and moving them elsewhere. 1 think the decision, when I convey it to the honorable member, is almost certain to be that we regret very much that we cannot do otherwise than carry on with our plans. However, I shall let him have a final answer very soon.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry studied reports of an increased yield of tobacco leaf from the current crop this year, particularly in Western Australia? In view of this, has the Minister considered an increase in the percentages of Australian leaf to be used before duty concessions on imported leaf can be claimed? Will the Minister particularly bear in mind the importance of these percentages to Western Australian tobaccogrowers where the tobacco auctions are the last of the season and it is, therefore, important that buyers should still be anxious to obtain Australian leaf?
– The Central Tobacco Advisory Committee has, within the last two weeks, reported that there will be an increase in the production of Australian tobacco leaf from, I think, 3,100 tons last year to 5,100 tons this year. The honorable gentleman will recognize that that is a pretty substantial improvement, and is another real contribution to the solution of Australia’s balance of payments problem. Because of that increase in production, and the fact that there has been a proportional increase of production in Western Australia, consideration has also been given to an increase of the percentages of Australian leaf that must be used by manufacturers if they are to get what is termed a customs drawback. A decision has already been made, and 1 hope that it will be announced by my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, during the next day or so. I can assure the honorable member that, in fixing the percentages, the facts that are taken into consideration are the imports and the production of leaf as compared with consumption, and the policy behind the decision as to percentages is to ensure that an inducement shall be given for the purchase of all usable leaf by Australian cigarette and tobacco manufacturers. The special position of Western Australia is recognized and, therefore, when fixing the percentages, we take into consideration the fact that the last sales of the season take place in Western Australia.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry inform the House whether wheat is sold to country millers al the same price as is charged to metropolitan millers? If that is so, will the Minister review the position so that country millers are not penalized in the metropolitan market because of the freight advantagedenjoyed by their metropolitan competitors?
– The price paid to the producers for wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board is determined under the various State wheat industry stabilization acts. Therefore, the price is determined under a State act and not under Commonwealth legislation. The return i> decided on an f.o.r. basis at ports. H country millers obtain their wheat from a country wheat silo, they get wheat at the normal price less freight from the silo to the port. Similarly, if city millers obtain wheat through the Australian Wheat Board they pay the cost of sending the wheat from the. country silo to the port. I believe it is correct to say that if the country millers can obtain wheat at country silos, they gel the benefit of not having to pay the freight from the country silo to the port of shipment.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Immigration a question supplementary to that asked of him by the honorable member for Leichhardt. Are immigrants coming from overseas X-rayed for tuberculosis as part of the health test?
– Yes, they are X-rayed for tuberculosis, and for other complaints, too. The honorable member may be interested to know that that eminent Australian authority, Sir Harry Wunderly, was asked by the Department of Immigration to go overseas and check our normal screening methods.
– Screening for health?
– Screening for tuberculosis, and other things. He said -
The conclusion to be drawn from this overseas survey is that the selection of prospective migrants by Australian medical officers is satisfactory and, as a result of increased experience, is of an appreciably higher standard than in 1950. The present methods and procedures provide an adequate degree of protection against the embarkation for Australia of medically undesirable migrants from those countries where they are examined by Australian officers. This medical screening compares very favorably with that of the United States of America, Canada, Sweden and New Zealand, which countries have the same problem as we do.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Trade. In view of the fact that the report of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, released to-day, shows that exports for the ten months ended 30th April, 1957, have exceeded imports by £234,000,000, compared with a deficit of £67,000,000 for the same ten months last year, will the Minister give immediate consideration to either the total abolition of import controls or, alternatively, a substantial liberalization of them?
– I should like to make it clear that the fact of the existence of the policy of import controls and the overall level of import controls does not mean that such matters are a policy issue within’ a decision of the Department of Trade, nor indeed is the introduction of import licensing a decision upon which the Department of Trade has a primary view. It is an issue related to the overall problem of our balance of payments from year to year, and what is regarded as a desirable level of reserves of overseas currencies to be held. That is at the back of the economic and financial policy of the country, and these issues are decided by Cabinet, not by the Department of Trade. The honorable member will appreciate, therefore, that it would not be within my competence to undertake what he requests, but I might observe that the quotation of figures relating to imports and exports by no means disposes of the issue of balance of payments, because in the balance of payments there are very substantial invisible items that amount to much more than £100,000,000 a year. Indeed, I think the overseas freights might range somewhere about that level. While 1 regret that 1 have not the figure clear in my mind at the moment, the probability is that such invisible items as freight, interest, remittances and so on might well be of the order of £200,000,000 a year, so the two figures which the honorable member quoted are b) no means the only figures critical to this issue.
– But the comparison is, and he made a comparison between two periods.
– The comparison is sound, and it reflects two things, lt reflects, in itself, the circumstances which enabled the Government to decide to relax import licensing by £75,000,000 quite recently, and it no doubt will be also shown in due course to provide an increase in the overseas reserves held. To those who are concerned with import licensing, I offer the observation that the best assurance of escape eventually from import licensing- and that is the high objective of the Government - is to establish not only a high level of export income, but also a high level of overseas reserves held, so that if this country encounters a fall in export income in any one year because of drought, a fall in wool prices, or the general terms of trade, then, when adequately high reserves are held overseas, that would not instantly provoke the necessity for the introduction of import licensing or its tightening. I assure the honorable member that all that he had in mind when asking the question is equally in the mind of the Government.
– 1 ask the Minister for Trade: Does he recall an amazing statement he made in this House last week when, in answer to a question by my colleague, the honorable member for Bass, he said that there was no unemployment in
Tasmania. Is the Minister aware that over the weekend 50 more men have been dismissed from the timber industry in Tasmania, bringing the total to 850 in the last two months? Is he aware, also, that 26 mills have closed down and that 46 are on part-time? In view of the serious situation in this industry, will the Minister have the Tariff Board inquiry into imports of timber from Malaya and Borneo speeded up and, if possible, have the Board’s decision ready for the industry within the next nine months, not two years, as we expect? The honorable member for Bass and I are both vitally interested in this problem.
– I think I have spoken on this issue on a couple of occasions. I recall saying that my advice from the Tasmanian saw-milling industry and the Minister for Forests in Tasmania was that seventeen small mills had closed in Tasmania. I said also that I had been told that, as a consequence, 500 people had lost their employment and further, that there had been some diminution of the extent of the timber industry in Australia generally. But as against that, I did mention what my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, told me - that last week, in the State of Tasmania, about 100 people were registered for unemployment benefits. It would appear that where there has been some disemployment in the timber industry, there has been an opportunity for other employment. The adequacy of the protective tariff for the Australian timber industry was referred by me to the Tariff Board, literally within 48 hours of my being asked by the industry to do so. At the same time, I asked the Tariff Board to treat the inquiry with the utmost expedition, having regard to other urgent matters, and I am assured by the Tariff Board that there will be no avoidable delay in this matter.
Many people who are quite properly interested in the well-being of the industry suggest that import licensing could be used to solve this problem, because we could, by import licensing, almost prohibit the importation of any timber into this country. There are classes of timber - softwoods,
Oregon and furniture timber - which, I am assured, this country needs, but, on the other hand, the timber that appears to come into competition with the industry in Australia is coming in from Borneo, Malaya and places like that. However, I remind the House now, as 1 have done previously, that our total imports of timber to-day are at just about the same level as they were pre-war, notwithstanding the tremendous increase in our consumption and population since then. In my opinion, it would be a pretty poor thing for this country to take the line that under-privileged people in countries like Malaya and Borneo, who want to buy, and indeed do buy, our foodstuffs - our flour, dried milk, butter and similar products - should be deprived of the opportunity to earn money in Australia to increase their standard of living. It is not the policy of the Government to exclude completely from our markets this kind of people, whose friendship and well-being we must have in mind. It is not the policy of the Government to prevent them from having an opportunity to earn money in this country.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 1067), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper be printed: -
Defence - Ministerial Statement
.- This is a resumption of the debate on a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in which the right honorable gentleman set out the programme of the Government in relation to defence. In any discussion on defence it is always possible to attack a defence policy as inadequate and wrong. It can always be contended that it is inadequate by measuring it against an unattainable standard of complete security. It is always possible to represent it as wrong by the simple process of measuring any particular weapon or unit of defence as if, inevitably, it would come up against a superior one which happened to exist. We can always belittle the aeroplane in production by comparing it with a superior one which is only on the drawing-board. Confronted with a defence plan costing £200,000,000, we can always postulate a superior one that would cost £500,000,000, without admitting or even trying to estimate the cost of the programme which we are postulating. I think the articles on defence in the Melbourne “ Herald “, whilst undoubtedly putting forward a defence plan superior to that of the Government in the fighting-power that it would give to the country, did nol face the cost of the programme thai ii was postulating. I think i! extremely likely that the Melbourne “ Herald “ would be very critical of the taxation necessary to finance a defence programme such as it was mentioning.
But all those things are really a pointless line of attack. We can only examine our defence programme in the light of the country’s capacity to pay, an evaluation of the international situation, an evaluation of the special position of Australia and an evalu-tion of weapons. I wish only to evaluate the international situation with respect to the prospects of disarmament. War will nol be made by any weapon, however powerful. War is made by men. It is not the decision of a weapon, but a decision of the will - especially the wills of men who control governments. The prospects of disarmament depend upon the will to peace. The acceptance of an international authority to police disarmament depends upon the will to peace. Preparedness to abandon sovereignty to an international authority depends upon the will for peace. It is not the technique of international policing which is primary, but a disposition of the will that will accept international policing. That is the first thing necessary. Refusal to accept international authority is a sign of a lack of will to peace. Peace is not merely a fear of nuclear war. lt is the presence of sufficient respect for the rights, interests and freedoms of others not to engage in actions which heighten international tension. Atomic disarmament means the acceptance of international authority because it is right. It implies also that you do not want to control any one else.
Let us look at the international processes surrounding Suez and Hungary, applying these tests. Britain and France, ordered out of Egypt, left Egypt. They accepted international authority. The Soviet Union, through Kadar, refused the admission of Hammarskjoeld to Hungary. The Russians refused any right of inspection of their actions. They refused cease-fire directions. They imposed their will on Hungary by force of arms and rejected international authority. I have no sympathy for the action of the British Government in Suez, but it remains a fact that, faced with the direction of an international authority, they left Egypt, and it also remains a fact that. faced with the direction of an international authority, the Soviet Union did not leave Hungary. I cannot honestly argue from that that the West ought to approach disarmament on the assumption of Soviet goodwill and willingness to accept international supervision. The rejection of Hammarskjoeld’s investigation argues a disposition of the will of the Soviet Government noi to accept international authority, and while that is the case the Soviet leaders need nol expect any disarmament proposal by them to be regarded otherwise than as a subterfuge. There was a clear opportunity for the Soviet to accept international inspection in Hungary on an issue which was not a life or death interest, and she did not accept it. Therefore, it is doubtful whether she would genuinely accept inspection on an issue which is a life and death matter - the question of disarmament. On the attitude towards international authority which was demonstrated in the Hungarian situation, 1 think that it is objectively true to say thai the prospects of disarmament which depend upon international inspection are not good.
What about the second test, the special position of Australia? None of our neighbours, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, nor so far as I know China, has nuclear weapons. Japan has renounced them. Burma has none, and has not the means of manufacturing them. Pakistan may acquire some tactical nuclear weapons from the United States. Defensively, we are in a transitional stage. Inter-continental ballistic missiles of long range have not yet been firmly developed and it is generally assumed that nuclear weapons will have to be carried by manned vehicles, either aircraft or submarines, or possibly ships. This transitional stage is likely to be temporary and to last from five to ten years. At the end of that time we may assume that longrange rockets with hydrogen warheads will be standard military equipment. At the present time, so far as Australia is concerned, inter-continental ballistic missiles may not yet reach us from any likely base. Submarine-based missile attack is a possibility, and the Commonwealth Government, following the policy of its predecessors in this respect, has equipped Australia with aircraft carriers, destroyers and fast anti-submarine frigates. It is possible that this programme is not really sufficient to give us an adequate measure of security against possible missile attacks from submarines.
Evidently the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) envisages air attack because, in the course of his statement, he spoke about a ring of radar stations around Sydney. 1 wish to speak about that at greater length shortly, but it seems to me that what is required in Australia is anti-aircraft rocket defence of each city, not merely of Sydney, (t would be more realistic to equip the Citizen Military Forces with anti-aircraft rocket regiments and, as has been done in the United Kingdom, to abandon batteries of anti-aircraft guns. Rockets which can attain heights of 60,000 feet are now in considerable supply, but it is quite certain that anti-aircraft guns cannot reach aircraft flying at modern heights.
The establishment of the proposed radar ring around Sydney, if it implies a fixed chain of radar stations, is extremely doubtful wisdom. In any conflict of the next five years, it is likely that the main targets on both sides will be the opposing air defence systems, and these include airfields, aircraft, radar stations and launching sites - anything which plays a direct part in the nuclear war. Warning radar should be as mobile as possible. It should not be in fixed stations. One can have radar stations on trucks, which may constantly be moved. These are common enough in the United States. One can have radar picket ships which, in the special position of the United States rather than Australia, seem to be necessary equipment. There are now available - and I speak especially of the modified version of the Grumman TF-1, which is now designated the WF-2 - aircraft fitted with a large radome housing very longrange antennae. The Commonwealth Government should consider the possibility of using these aircraft. Mobility of the warning system seems clearly to be necessary, therefore it should not be located in stationary targets.
The Government’s air defence policy, with one proviso, seems to me to be realistic if one is not prepared to postulate a very heavy increase of taxation. The English Electric Company’s Canberras and the Avon Sabres, which are being manufactured in Australia, are superior to most aircraft that we are likely to encounter in this part of the world. It is perfectly possible to postulate that every Australian Canberra ket will face the undoubtedly superior aircraft which do exist somewhere in the world, but in point of fact there is none superior to them in the South-East Asian area. Moreover, they are being manufactured in Australia, which is an important point.
The key to the new policy seems to be that the Government recognizes that Australia cannot support an aircraft industry large enough to permit constant alteration of the types of aircraft that we manufacture. It was not possible ‘ even for a country like Germany, which manufactured something like 90,000 aircraft in the last war, or Britain, which manufactured something like 138,000 aircraft, to keep altering patterns and bringing out, in mass production, every new type that was thought of. Those countries had to arrive at certain standardized types for mass production, and it is quite certain that we, in Australia, cannot sustain an ‘aircraft industry large enough constantly to alter its types. However, the Government should give clear security of tenure to the men manufacturing the aircraft that we do decide to manufacture, and it should extend the manufacture of spare parts for those types that we do decide to purchase.
The Government recognizes that there are aircraft superior to the Canberra. That recognition is revealed in the expenditure of £55,000,000 upon equipping the Royal Australian Air Force with 33 Lockheed F-104 Starfighters and twelve Lockheed C-130 transports. But it should be recognized that we are moving into an era when rocket interception will end the possibility of aerial attack. It is possible now to fire rockets with minor nuclear warheads at aircraft, to home on to them so that they cannot possibly dodge, and to explode the rockets in the middle of a formation, destroying the lot. No aircraft manned by human beings can be made to go faster than rockets, so that rocket interception of any aircraft attacking, or likely to attack, Australian cities should be a primary method of civil defence. The Prime Minister’s statement does mention the intention of the Commonwealth Government to purchase rockets from the United States of America.
I have said that, at the moment, Australia is not threatened by intercontinental ballistic missiles. We are among the fortunate nations of the world in that respect. But I stress again the possibility of submarinebased rocket attacks on cities. It seems to me that sufficient consideration has not been given, to the number of vital industrial points on the Australian coast that will need to be policed by fast, anti-submarine frigates at sea. Of course, when the range of intercontinental ballistic missiles becomes sufficient to reach right across the Pacific to Australia, the era of the anti-submarine frigate may have passed.
The Government has mentioned that it intends to have a striking force of 4,000 men. I doubt whether either the British Government or the Australian Government would be correct in completely abandoning conventional weapons. There are many forms of warfare in which nuclear weapons cannot be thrown about indiscriminately. For example, the West has been in conflict with communism in Greece. In that conflict it was not possible to throw thermonuclear weapons about without destroying the Greek people. There were phases of the Korean war in which, if nuclear weapons had been used, the Korean people, in whose defence the war was being undertaken, would have been destroyed. If enemy commando forces were to land on our own coast we could not defend ourselves by throwing nuclear weapons around our own cities and among our own population. There must have been a number of conflicts since World War II. in which thermo-nuclear weapons could not have been used.
The striking force of 4,000 which the Government envisages, while it is within our defence expenditure of £200,000,000, is probably not adequate for Australia. It seems to me that the Government, by the statement of its intention to reduce the armed forces to 4,000, has left the 26,000 men who joined the Permanent Army rather in the air as to their future. “ Facts and Figures”, a publication issued by the Government, shows that the Government’s recruiting campaign for the Permanent Forces has been extremely successful. If, through some turn of the wheel, the men who have been recruited are not engaged, and a smaller and more mobile striking force is envisaged, I hope that the Government will keep faith with the men whose lives it has appropriated in its armed forces.
The Government has about 120 Centurion tanks in the Australian Army. Tanks are vital in this transitional stage and the Government’s proposed expenditure is probably justified for the next five years. Tanks give a high degree of protection against heat, blast and radio-activity. They have cross-country mobility, which makes them independent of damaged road systems and communications, which allows of effective control under chaotic conditions. Their conventional fire power is great.
The Prime Minister’s speech, which indicated many valuable new aspects of defence policy, seems to indicate that the Government has started to think realistically. Rockets with a. 6 or 7 mile range for use against aircraft are strictly defensive. We often speak of countries such as India as nations which undoubtedly desire peace, and I think that that is true. But let us not forget that in this country we are spending 18 per cent, of our budget on defence whereas India, a country which we regard as being undoubtedly of a peaceful disposition, is spending 35 per cent. So it cannot be said that, by the standards of any other power in the South-East Asian area, even some with greater problems of poverty than we have, the Australian appropriation for defence is excessive. I hope that the Government’s statement will be clearer than some of its other statements have been in order to reassure the public that what is being spent is being spent validly; that is to say, that it is producing a modern defence system within the limits of the expenditure that we are prepared to face.
.- While not doubting for one moment the sincerity of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) - for I must confess that I, in common with most honorable members and many other people, believe in ideals which are similar to his - at this juncture I am at one with the chaplain of the American naval service to whom is attributed the saying, “ Have faith in God, and pass the ammunition “. In dealing with Australian defence planning, we must realize that any appreciation of the situation must first assess who are our likely enemies. If there is more than one then, categorically in each case, we must assess ihe courses open to him, having regard to the fact that any limitation of the courses open to us will naturally strengthen him in adopting a course for which we are either unprepared or improperly prepared.
Whilst the factors affecting the use of strategic, atomic or thermo-nuclear weapons may have been assessed on comparative strength of the main powers in these weapons and the likelihood, either of an agreement to withhold their use or of the withholding of their use due to the possibility of retaliation in kind, it appears unwise to ignore even a possibility of the use of this type of weapon. Further, a general war fought with conventional weapons, with or without atomic weapons, would have no guarantee of being confined to the tactical sphere if we take a pattern from the 1939-45 war in which one of the contestants resorted to the use of a strategical atomic attack the counterpart of which, in any future war, would inevitably be a thermo-nuclear attack. Therefore, national defence against thermo-nuclear or atomic attack should be considered as a priority, even though a war confined to conventional weapons, whether local or general, or one within our obligations to Seato may be expected to occur earlier in point of time.
Defence of this nature has two aspects. One is the ability to attack or counterattack, either as a deterrent or in actual retaliation. The other is the organization of the defence programme to enable us more effectively to withstand an atomic or thermo-nuclear attack, so that we can effectively carry out retaliatory measures. In connexion with this second aspect, I think that some consideration should be given to educating the people of this country in civil defence so that they may be enabled to save their own lives, and thereby assist in the survival of the nation.
Another factor is that of a general war, entirely with conventional weapons. In this case it must be accepted that we are not self-sufficient in money, man-power or resources, and cannot rely on our own efforts to withstand an invasion from a major power without outside assistance. Our main general role in this connexion would be the mobilization of our maximum forces for self-defence for which we would not have time in the present circumstances, without the immediate assistance of powerful allies. The next factor is that to be met by the local war fought outside the Seato area, or even within our commitments in that area. To obtain this objective, we must have a mobile expeditionary force at readiness at all times, and the Government has, to some degree, taken care of this in its planning, as was set out in the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In regard to the provision of a highly mobile and well trained mixed brigade group, I find myself in complete agreement with the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) who, early in this debate, stated that one mixed brigade group was not a sufficient contribution from a nation of some 3,000,000 effective males, in view of this nation’s obligations in the Seato area. 1 consider, too, that our minimum should be a maximum of at least two mixed brigades in addition to the battalion and ancillary troops which form part of the strategic reserve in Malaya. If one of these brigade groups should be, as envisaged, armed with conventional weapons and highly mobile, then the other, I consider, should be armed with tactical weapons, guided missiles, rockets and field guns capable of firing shells with atomic warheads. This increase in fire-power would offset what we would lack in actual numerical strength.
The Navy’s present role and armament will not need to be enlarged to any great degree in order to fulfil our obligations except, perhaps, to include provision of atomic delivery from submarines. The Air Force, in addition to its present role of reconnaissance and anti-submarine duties, could provide air transport facilities for the Army and deliver atomic and nuclear weapons, both strategical and tactical, with interceptor tactics in defence of our capital cities as a secondary task.
This brings me to a criticism of the expenditure of an estimated £30,000,000 for the purchase of 30 Lockheed Starfighters, and the intention to manufacture this type of aircraft in Australia. If these 2,000-miles- per-hour attack interceptors are intended to be used for the defence of our capital cities, it would appear that not only are their numbers insufficient, but also the lack of an efficient radar air-warning system would render them ineffective in this role. T am advised that the most efficient warning system could not be expected to give a warning time of more than seven to ten minutes, and with the limited range of these fighters - I believe the range is somewhere between 600 and 800 miles - in order to keep sufficient aircraft at readiness, a greater number would be required than in the case of planes with a further range. If, however, their role is to act as a small complement to American Forces of similar type, within the framework of the Seato organization, it may be that only about two-thirds of this number could be so employed, and the expenditure of £30,000.000 to give such minor assistance in police actions seems to me to be unduly excessive. A main disadvantage with this type of aircraft, I am informed, due to their limited range, is the necessity to keep the air bases from which they operate sufficiently far forward to ensure maximum efficiency.
The matter of their manufacture in Australia needs to be carefully considered, having regard to the sorry turn-over by our aircraft industry in the past. I understand, too, that allegations have been made in respect of the efficiency of many of the personnel employed in the industry. I shall mention but one made by a technician employed in the industry for over four years. His allegation was that some foremen and a number of leading hands were not able to read the blueprints. It would appear that some efficiency survey should be made in this connexion in view of the expenditure of the huge sum involved and fo ensure that the taxpayers’ money is not wasted through inefficiency.
However, to return to the broad question. 1 think we are faced with the necessity for making a decision whether or not we should incorporate the means of strategic atomic retaliation in our defence planning. Ignoring the expense item for the moment - ‘ shall return to that later - the matter appears to rest on two directly opposite factors. Will the possession of strategic atomic weapons (a) act as a deterrent, or (b) invite attack to prevent their use? Other factors include the belief, or hope, that allies will intervene on our behalf. If Australian cities were used, for example, in a “ show of force “ no protection would be available against such a “ fait accompli “. A complacent belief that our allies would jeopardize their own populations by retaliating as an act of revenge on our behalf, with the possibility of initiating a global wai. becomes intolerable of acceptance ov humanitarian grounds alone.
Some thinking undoubtedly leans toward* the limitation of atomic or nuclear strategic weapons as being confined to a global wai and has chosen to ignore the possibility of these weapons being used in what people are pleased to call “ side issues “. To revert to the question of “ to have or to have not”, 1 should like to make an analogous reference to America’s Far West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With the advent of Samuel Colt’s six-gun, the small man gained in stature an equality with a physically bigger opponent, and the fact that he had a gun on his hip, and a doubt as to the speed with which he could bring it into action, proved a great deterrent to hostilities. Carrying the analogy further, I point out that despite the legal penalties involved many unarmed mec were still shot. To-day, Soviet Russia with an overwhelming preponderance in conventional weapons and personnel, is being held at bay by the fact that the Western Powers also have atomic and thermo nuclear weapons. We have this example ot the ability of atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons acting as a deterrent. In passing. I may say that it also demonstrates the insincerity of the Soviet’s present attitude ip agreeing to ban the use of atomic anc* nuclear warfare whilst retaining its large conventional forces. Until there can be established complete international control of atomic, thermo-nuclear and conventional weapons, we can have no real hope of peace. Until that time comes, Australia should not lose the opportunity now given to a numerically small nation more effectively to defend itself by possessing such weapons as will act as a deterrent to its involvement in a side issue.
I return to the question of cost. I believe that the purchase of sufficient long-range bombers, with a range of some 4,000 miles, and the purchase from the United Kingdom of sufficient atomic or thermo-nuclear bombs could be undertaken for not much more than the £30,000,000 that is earmarked for the purchase of Starfighters, plus the cost of their manufacture here. Such a component would be capable of dealing with targets in Soviet-occupied territory and, indeed, as far away as the
Black Sea. In any case, in my opinion it would be better to spend double the amount on such a force than on fighter-interceptors. The recent testing at Woomera of the guided missile known as the Firestreak indicates an alternative to fighterinterceptor aircraft for use against enemy bombers. It should be used to protect our vital and vulnerable targets.
There is another factor in the defence plan that has not been taken into account, as far as we are aware; that is the development of Darwin as a full-scale base for operations in the Pacific area. The Conservative Commonwealth Council, which met in London last week, was told that should the fall or non-use of Ceylon and Singapore occur, we must have a base from which to operate, and that in the event of the fall of Singapore, the main base in that area would be in Australia, probably Darwin. It was stated that this port should be developed as a full-scale base now.
I consider that the present plan is a step in the right direction, but further consideration should be given to our defence planning so that our plans will be at least up to date at the conclusion of the period of planning - not, as has been the case in the past, practically obsolete before the plan has even been initiated. I suggest that we need both imagination and realism in our defence planning.
. -The statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), to my mind, is the clearest possible indication that what the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) has been pleased to call the taxpayers’ money has, in fact, been wasted over the past six years by the present Government. It will be recalled, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that during the debate on the Defence Estimates in October last - and it ought to be remembered that twelve months prior to that, the same thing occurred - the Opposition moved the traditional motion that the first item of the Defence Estimates be reduced by £1. Broadly, our attack was based on two grounds: First, sheer inefficiency and lack of planning in regard to the expenditure that was being considered; and secondly, that the basis of defence in Australia was antiquated, in the light of atomic and nuclear weapons.
I suggest that this statement is a belated recognition, in 1957, when nearly £1,200,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money has been expended, that, by and large, the majority of that money has been wasted in terms of what can be called defence in this age and generation.
– That is complete nonsense.
– It is not nonsense if you read between the lines. No one could follow the mumbling apology of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) when he spoke in this debate last Thursday night The Prime Minister made it clear in his statement that there had been an undue emphasis on man-power and that there were disturbing deficiencies on the equipment side. This matter, to be seen in its proper perspective, needs to be viewed in the light of the statement that the Minister foi Defence made last year. In the course of that statement, he summarized the position Referring to defence expenditure since 1949-50, he said-
The total expenditure over the six years 1950-51 to 1955-56-
There is now £190,000,000 to be added- has been £1,031,000,000, including £20,000,000 paid to the Defence Equipment Trust Account; £324,000,000 or 32 per cent, has gone into increased capital assets, and £707,000,000, or 68 per cent., has been required for maintenance costs. Of the total capital expenditure of £324,000,000, £226,000,000 has been devoted to the provision of new equipment for the services or the modernization of existing equipment; . .
I ask honorable members to compare that information with the statement of the Prime Minister that there are still disturbing deficiencies on the equipment side. Even though £226,000,000 was spent on new equipment, there are still disturbing deficiencies on the equipment side. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is interjecting, has already said something, and no doubt he still has a lot to say. I ask him to let me say my piece. The Minister for Defence continued - £84,000,000 has been spent on buildings, works and acquisition of sites, £14,000,000 on machinery, plant and equipment for the Departments of Defence Production. Supply and Defence. The expenditure-
Again. 1 ask the House to note this in term* of the-
– Where are most of the members of the Opposition now?
– I am not worried about . where they are. What you should have explained more adequately to the House and the country is where is the value for the amount of nearly £1,200,000,000 that has been spent on defence. In the past, we on this side of the House have been bamboozled by large numbers, but now we are threatened to be blinded by science. The shift is now from large numbers to something that can be called the mystical side of defence. The question now is whether we are to have conventional weapons - that lovely term! - or atomic weapons. No indication has been given to the House of how much emphasis is to be placed on atomic warfare and how much on conventional weapons. The statement went on -
The expenditure of £707,000,000-
That is a tremendous sum of money - on maintenance included £124,000,000 for maintenance equipment, replacement stores, ammunition and general stores of all kinds. The balance of £583,000,000 has been spent on pay, rations and general maintenance, including the maintenance of buildings and works.
Now we are told that Australia’s allocation of man-power and its defence expenditure, which has formed the bulk of our expenditure, has largely been misdirected, in terms of the circumstances of to-day.
– That is not true.
– The Government is scrapping and dismantling its whole defence project.
– You cannot even read, let alone understand the statement.
– One needs to be able to do more than read to follow the defence policy of this Government. I submit that there has been no policy. There has been confusion. There has been change, almost in the middle of the consideration of the Estimates. On 2nd October last, my colleague, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), asked a question of the Prime Minister on defence, and the Prime Minister, in reply, said -
The defences of this country were never in better shape in time of peace in the history of Australia.
That was said by the right honorable gentleman on 2nd October, 1956. On 4th October, 1956 - two days later - the Prime Minister announced that it was proposed to undertake a complete and thorough examination of the defence policy of Australia. That complete and thorough examination was undertaken only because of the criticism in the press and from this side of the House of the Government’s defence policy. We said that the Government did not know where it was going. It certainly knows very little better now. I submit that this House requires a great deal more information and a great deal more re-assurance than we have so far received from the Minister for Defence or the Minister for the Army.
What does the Opposition want? It wants from the Government, first of all, a much clearer indication than was given in the Prime Minister’s wordy statement of what Australia’s role is intended to be, both in its own defence and in relation to overseas commitments. In the past whenever a finger of criticism has been pointed at the Government in relation to its defence expenditure, the Government has tended to reply, “ You are unpatriotic; you do not believe in defending your own country”. But that charge cannot seriously be laid against the Labour party. As speaker after speaker on this side of the House has said, we of the Labour party have as much love for the Australian people and as much regard for our country and its great traditions as have members on the Government side, and I would suggest that at least our honesty and sincerity of purpose should be conceded when we are making this criticism.
The Opposition has no confidence in what it has been told of the Government’s defence measures, either in relation to civil defence against the great terrors of potential atomic warfare, or in relation to the relative roles to be played by the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. There has been no clear picture given of where the Government believes the emphasis should be. Indeed there has been a considerable number of variations of policy from time to time. We have been told for instance that a modern army is not as reliant on man-power as were armies of the past. But when it is pointed out that over half the total expenditure on defence in this country in the past has been on man-power, the Government dodges the issue. At least it is clearly conceded in this defence statement that in the past there has been an undue emphasis on man-power so far as the balance of Australian forces is concerned. These are not my words; they are the words of the Prime Minister. This House is entitled to say, “ We told you so more than two and a half years ago, and you did not do anything about it”. In fact, nothing is being done about it now. As I have said, in the past more than half the total defence expenditure has been on man-power, yet, although the Government is reducing the man-power of the services, it maintains that defence expenditure for the year ended June, 1957, is still going to be £190,000,000!
– Do you not agree with that?
– 1 do not agree with it if it means that a large part of it will be wasted as it has been in the past. I am as one with my friend the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) when he says that the taxpayers’ money should not be wasted. I say that in the past the taxpayers’ money has been wasted and that we have not got value for it.
– I did not say that.
– No, but the honorable member said that consideration should be given to whether the taxpayers’ money has been wasted. We on this side of the House say it has, and we want greater assurances than we have had in the past about what the £190,000,000 is likely to be spent on. There has been no clear indication by the Government of what is to be got from this continued large expenditure, even conceding that there are to be some changes.
– You have the budget.
– We should not have to rely on the budget for that information. I suggest that the Government, which has sheltered behind its high man-power commitment in the past, is now going to seek refuge in a different way. The Prime Minister said -
It is, for obvious reasons, not desirable that the whole of the military appreciations which have guided our analysis should be made public.
Well, it may not be desirable to make everything public, but I submit that it is desirable that a great deal more should be made public to the people of Australia about this important matter than has been made known in the past. We did not get much from the Minister for Defence the other night in his mumbling apology, and after all, he is the architect of the defence programme of this nation. It involves a matter which can be seen by anybody who reads the chart attached to the back of the twenty-ninth report of the Public Accounts Committee. Apparently, that has been shown to be the unwieldy method of doing things, because in the Prime Minister’s statement it is indicated that changes are to be made.
– Wherever necessary.
– Yes, and I suggest that a lot are necessary if events of the past are a guide, lt is said that to improve the swift co-ordination that is necessary, the Government intends to shift the head-quarters of certain defence activities to Canberra. That is rather ironical, because this improved co-ordination is not going to begin until 1959.
– It needs more than words.
– The Prime Minister is a very good man at spinning words. His speech was very little more than a web of words and it gives very little comfort to the people of Australia, who, like people in other parts of the world, are very fearful of the likely consequences of another war. I have heard talk of the great scientific changes that have taken place, but those great scientific changes merely mean that the power of destruction in 1957 is much greater than it has ever been before. I have in my electorate of Melbourne Ports three aspects of defence activity in this country, and to my mind they are a good illustration of the Government’s failure to indicate clearly where it is going. I have the major part of the aircraft industry including the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, and the Department of Aircraft Production. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) so tellingly pointed out the other night, there is a kind of creeping paralysis among the workers of that industry, because they do not know what their future is. Similarly, 1 was asked a fortnight ago by the workers at the Williamstown Naval Dockyard to go down and hear some of their views. They are in a similar position to workers in the aircraft factory at Fishermen’s Bend. They are men who have contributed a great deal in the past to the defence of this, country. They are men who have a great pride in their craft and in the work they are doing,
Hit they, like everybody else, have families to look after, and they are wondering whether they should stay in the industry or should go out into what might oe regarded as safer jobs economically; because there has been no indication on the part of the Minister for the Navy as to what future construction work will be given to the Williamstown Naval Dockyard. Now, I suggest that an indication, given well in advance to these undertakings, of their likely work programmes for the next two or three years, would not be any breach of national security.
Finally, 1 have in my electorate that great white elephant, the Williamstown rifle range. We are told that we are to get a new kind of rifle in a year or two, for use by the Army; but, by and large, there is not the same emphasis on rifle practice to-day as there was in the past, and time after time the Williamstown City Council has approached various Ministers for the Army asking them what their intentions were for these many hundreds of acres of land reserved for the rifle range, and scarcely used at all in any defence capacity.
– Why did not Labour deal with this matter when it was in office?
– The Labour Government promised in 1946, at the end of the war, to do something about it but, as the Minister well knows, certain construction problems were involved, and there were other things of relatively more importance to be done first. In 1957 the same excuse does not hold water. The opportunity is now available to the Minister, as Minister for the Army, to do something definite about the Williamstown rifle range. I am sure that if the Minister were to order the vacation of the rifle range by the Department of Defence the Williamstown City Council would have pleasure in naming the area “ Cramer Park “ after him, and he would then at least have some memorial of his occupancy of his present position in the Government.
I repeat, the criticisms that the Labour party levelled against the Government’s defence programme more than two and a half years ago are proved, by the statement presented to us and which we are now debating, to have been justified. Those criticisms were that there have been inefficiency and lack of plan in regard to expendi ture on defence and also that the basis of defence in Australia is inadequate in the light of the development of nuclear weapons, and the possibility of atomic warfare. The Government, having belatedly come to admit that point, should now do what it has failed to do in the past - it should give greater publicity to defence requirements and measures, it should take the people of Australia into its confidence more as to what it intends in this vast field of defence. As the honorable member for Parkes said in his speech last week, defence is far too important a matter to be left entirely in the hands of generals. It may be the generals who will run the war, should a war come, but whatever part of the nation’s resources is devoted to defence means that so much less is left over for the normal welfare of the people.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has, I regret to observe, fallen into the habit of certain members of this House and, more seriously, of people outside it, of making unpleasant animadversions about my friend, the Minister foi Defence (Sir Philip McBride). Accordingly, I should like to begin my remarks this afternoon by paying a very sincere tribute to the Minister for his administration of a most difficult portfolio in recent years. Last year, particularly in quarters outside this House, he was most unfairly attacked, and when he refused to fall into the trap which, no doubt, his critics hoped to set for him, and create a big public controversy in the course of which secrets, as they hoped, might have been revealed, they moved one stage farther and started to condemn him. Sir, 1 do not agree with every aspect of the Minister’s policy, as 1 shall indicate later, but I think that most people who know him, both in this Parliament and throughout Australia, will agree that there are few men in this Government his equal as an administrator - and none of us here excels him in probity and honesty of purpose.
I listened very carefully to the Opposition’s view of the Government’s defence programme, which was put in the speech by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) on Thursday night, when he led. officially, for the Opposition in this debate. 1 also listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) this afternoon. The honorable member for Parkes, as one might expect, entertained us with a polished, amusing speech, and just now the honorable member for Melbourne Ports added to the Opposition’s expressed view on the defence statement some very forceful criticisms. But both of those honorable gentlemen, in what they have put before the House, are saying things that are negative, that are lacking in construction. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, in particular, in his attempted flagellation of the Government’s large expenditure, completely overlooks the fact that the defence role of any country, in the times in which we live, must vary. Surely, the most fatal thing of all, the most cardinal of blunders, would be for a government to be static and to try to delude itself, its supporters, and the people whom it controls, that defence is a matter of positive absolutes. I would think that, on the contrary, however unpleasant it may be in the quickly changing revolutionary world in which we find ourselves, the criterion of sound defence policy must be suppleness, and courage on the part of the Minister for Defence to alter the course whenever he deems it to be necessary for him to do so.
In the criticisms which Opposition members have levelled - and I refer particularly to the honorable member for Parkes - they have most adroitly tried to throw a smokescreen over the official statements of their leader, from time to time, on the larger questions of Australia’s defence policy. I should imagine that, by now, most people have realized that if the Opposition had its way, as expressed - I emphasize this - by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), it would throw away all the cards we hold at the present time. For example, the Leader of the Opposition is continually saying, not only in this Parliament, but also throughout the country, that he wants A-bomb and H-bomb tests abandoned, irrespective, it seems, of the action of other countries, particularly of our potential enemies. He is doing his best, whether deliberately or unconsciously, to generate on this question a scare atmosphere among Australians.
Surely, all of us agree that nothing is so unbecoming to a virile, progressive country such as Australia as to try to flurry the public into an attitude of mind resembling that of a pack of frightened old women. The right honorable gentleman and his followers, as we who were inthis Parliament in 1951 remember so well, denounced national service training in every form. Now, of course, the Opposition - admittedly being perfectly consistent - has moved an amendment to the National Service Bill proposing the immediate abandonment of so much of the national service training as the Government proposes toleave in existence. Repeatedly, the Opposition had previously opposed the despatch of Australian troops to, and their stationing in, Malaya. The Leader of the Opposition himself continues to be sneeringly critical of the military aspects of Seato. He is openly antagonistic to any real Australian military assistance to Great Britain, the United States and our other allies in any efforts that we may formulate to stem the surge of communism southwards in Asia. “ Let others brandish the sword “, he seems to say: “ That is not for us. We will quench communism with smiling faces and peaceful words “. That is the attitude of honorable members opposite, and the people of Australia should realize that it is an attitude that will bring comfort only to our enemies, and will fill the minds of our friends withthe gravest apprehension.
Any defence plan must turn on the answer to what is perhaps the most difficult of all the questions that a modern government has to face: What kind of war are we likely to face in the future? I agree with the analysis of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that a global war involving the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs ispossible but improbable. I agree, too, with respect, that we in Australia are far more likely to be involved in localized conflicts involving the use of so-called conventional weapons - the kind of conflict that we have seen in the last ten years in Korea, IndoChina, Malaya, and more recently, of course,, in the Suez Canal area. Nevertheless, surely it is prudent for us to insure against the contingency of a world-wide atomic war. I should imagine that nuclear weapons are most necessary for a country with the disadvantages of geographical configuration that Australia has. One cannot help thinking of our continental area, our sparse population, our slow communications, and the reluctance of most men tr join the services to-day on account of the widespread prosperity that most people are enjoying. But let us all beware of the folly of discarding conventional weapons too hurriedly. Recent statements of great military authorities such as Field-Marshal Montgomery, and only a fortnight ago, General Maxwell Taylor, a distinguished American visitor to Australia, all emphasize the need to retain conventional weapons for a good many years to come.
I feel that the Government is right to redesign our defence structure, in the way that the Prime Minister has outlined, but I hope that the right honorable gentleman’s speech can be taken as only the first instalment rather than a fully rounded scheme. In making our plans, let us never forget our commitments under the Anzus and Seato treaties, the readiness which we, as a member of the British Commonwealth, must always show to help our Mother Country, the United Kingdom, and, of course, our obligations, as a member of the United Nations, towards that organization, in the light of these undertakings, of the constant unrest in the world, and of Russia’s patent strategy of abetting a series of probing wars in both the eastern and western hemispheres during the next twenty years, the Government could not safely or conscionably do less than it has announced it will do. Indeed, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, we might very well ask it to tlo more. Feeling that as I do, I was pleased that my friend the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) put a similar thought to the House on Thursday evening and pleaded with the service Ministers for a more accelerated policy in this respect. One brigade group ready for instantaneous service, as is planned, together with the battalion that we have stationed in Malaya, should, I think, be taken as an expression of a principle rather than as a goal in itself. But I believe - and I think that my friend the honorable member for St. George also was aiming at this - that if we are to fulfil adequately our international obligations, we should aim, at the very least within an immediately measurable time, at having one division ready for immediate service anywhere.
Sir, I am quite unmoved, as are many honorable members on the Government side of the House who have spoken in this debate, by the size of the defence bill.
Australia’s expenditure on defence has been compared with that of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, with its almost insoluble financial difficulties, Canada, and, of course, the Soviet and its satellites. I think that, in passing, we might remember that the cost of the implements of war is ever rising. This is due, not solely to inflation, but also to the increasingly scientific and intricate nature of contemporary and future warfare. Therefore, it is quite misleading for honorable members to base any criticism, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports tried to do this afternoon, on a bare statistical statement that £190,000,000 is being spent this financial year, or that £1,200,000,000 has been spent over a seven-year period. I think that most people will agree with many parts of the Prime Minister’s statement. In realistic terms, we must accept the wisdom of the standardization of Australian equipment with that of the United States. 1 agree, too, as any sensible person must do, with the transfer of the defence departments to Canberra. One can only regret that this move was not made much earlier. I have already mentioned my qualified support of the plan to have a brigade group ready for immediate service anywhere, which the Government is now seeking to implement.
My chief regret, and my main criticism of the programme that has been announced, is that the Government and its advisers have decided to reduce national service training for the Army. I admit that the case for a reduction with respect to the Navy and the Air Force is strong, but I feel that, in the case of the Army, Ministers have made the decision too quickly, and, if I may say so without, I hope, appearing to be unkind, apparently without maturity of thought.
Of course, one would not pretend that the great national service training scheme was perfect. As those of us who have been in the services are only too well aware, any form of military training involves a certain degree of waste. There is something about service training, it seems to me, that develops a predatory instinct in man. But, without any cavil at all, every member of this House must admit that national service training has done a great deal for Australian youth. We all have seen how camp life has improved physique, inculcated much-needed discipline, and educated our youth in some of the realities of the dangerous world in which we live. It has taught our young men the usefulness of co-operation, and, most importantly, it has inter-mixed all classes in the community and generated the best possible understand-‘ ing among them of one another’s problems. lt has given these young fellows at least a basic military training and some knowledge of army life, and this must have great potential usefulness in civil defence, a fully developed scheme for which I hope will be put before the people in the very near future. Indeed, the Government, in the statements made by some Ministers, has admitted that national service training has had these great benefits, but I do not think that Ministers realize sufficiently that, in accomplishing all these things, national service training provides the very best foundation possible for the quick assembling of a large field force in times of emergency when general mobilization is required. If a nation does all the things that I have mentioned for its’ young men, it surely has a magnificent foundation to build upon speedily.
What is put before us now? Henceforth the essence of national service training is to be distilled to the point of destruction. Only two and a half years ago, the call-up was limited to 33,000 personnel, together with a virtual exemption of men in country areas. Under the new scheme, the intake is to be pared down to a mere 12,000 men. National service training, having already lost its universality, is to be emasculated. This I lament, because the idea for the short time, historically, that it was in operation was fast becoming an accepted feature of the curriculum of Australia’s youth. What will be the monetary saving of this supposed reform? I understand that it will be something to the tune of £7,000,000 a year. Let us compare that with the accomplishments of officers and men alike in the training camps, and let us compare it again with” the size of the defence vote. As an economy, it is surely neither here nor there.
A more compelling reason put forward by the service Ministers is the drain that national service training has made on regular Army instructors to the point where the efficiency of the regular Army has been affected. If the choice is between continuing National service training at the rate of 33,000 men a year and moulding from the regular Army a brigade group ready for immediate service, then, even in to-day”s circumstances, the Government may be right; but I am not satisfied that this is the only alternative. I ask the Ministers how far in actual fact they have gone in seeking to relieve the regular Army by. for example, older officers and noncommissioned officers from the C.M.F. or retired regular officers who are over age for active service purposes. I should say that, if we were still short of instructors, perhaps they could be reinforced by others recruited from the army in Great Britain, always providing, of course - and 1 emphasize the importance of this very much - they can condition themselves to the necessities and the temperament of Australian life.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) sounded very depressed in his approach to this important matter, and I feel that it was not because of his chronic complaint against the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), but because of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). We all listened with very great interest to the review by the Prime Minister, on 4th April, of Australia’s defence preparations. If the righthonorable gentleman’s statement has done anything, it has confirmed the contention of the Opposition, which has stated, from time to time, that this Government has spent a tremendous lot of money on defence preparations, but has not anything to show for it. Reference to the records will show that defence expenditure during this Government’s, term of office amounts to approximately £1.200,000,000, but that, on the credit side, there is very little to show apart from a lot of obsolete junk. Of course, we have the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory, which, although the experts say otherwise, will produce only conventional equipment. I feel that, eventually, it will be of very little value from the defence viewpoint. I hope that the plant, which is costing £23,000,000, will become useful as a factory area in time, but I repeat that, from a defence viewpoint, it is of very little value.
When the leader of a nation makes a statement on such an important matter as defence preparations, he should also mention what preparations he is making for peace, and should advance some proposal for establishing peace. But the Prime Minister did not say one word about disarmament plans, even although it was an opportune time for him to do so. We cannot expect any such contribution from the leaders of the big nations. They have such an enormous potential for producing defence weapons, and such a large capacity to defend themselves, that I feel that, from time to time, they are submerged in their own smugness and we are not likely to get a lead from them in relation to disarmament. Although Australia lacks quantity, it does not lack quality, and I believe that we should be giving a lead to other nations, particularly the small nations, by presenting a bold front in an effort to bring about disarmament. Australia should take a lead in moves made within the United Nations organization to achieve disarmament. There is a sub-committee on disarmament within the United Nations organization, and I repeat that the Australian delegation should constantly be advancing this cause.
I listened, as I said earlier, very intently to the Prime Minister’s speech, but it seemed to me to be more like a declaration of war than a statement on defence preparations. I wish to make it clear that, when I say that, I do not hold the view that we should not make defence preparations. On the contrary, the policy of the Australian Labour party is to have adequate defence preparation; but Labour believes that our preparations should be arranged in a better way than that in which this Government is arranging them. The Labour party, by its performances, has proved its capacity for defence preparation. I do not think any one will take me to task when I say that war is not one of Australia’s national pastimes. We are a peace-loving nation, and our conception of war is self-defence. The Labour party believes that we should always be in a position to defend ourselves. The main purpose of welding the Australian Slates into a Commonwealth was to place us in a position to defend ourselves. At the time of federation, we were surrounded by enemies, or potential enemies, in the Pacific area. The Germans were in New Guinea and the French were in New
Caledonia, and we know that their colonization policy was to grab any area that was. not strong enough to defend itself. lt fell to the lot of the Labour party, in the 1910’s, to give effect to what wasintended in the establishment of the Commonwealth. Labour established our Navyintroduced military training on a voluntary basis, and proved its capacity for defence* during two major world wars. Labour was in office for a period of eight years during and after World War II. Thi* Government has been in office for a similar period, and in times of peace has spent almost as much money as did the Labour party during the last war. World War 1.1 cost Australia £1,500,000,000, but, as J pointed out earlier, so far this Government has spent approximately £1,200,000,000 on defence in times of peace. When th« Labour party was in office, there was something to show for a big defence expenditure, but under this Government there is nothing to show for it. Had the Labour party still been in office, we should have more to show for the expenditure of £12,000,000 than we have under this Government.
When the Prime Minister took office in 1949, he said that we had to be ready for war in 1951, or not later than 1952. A little later on, the then Minister for Defence Production, Sir Eric Harrison, who is now the Australian High Commissioner in London, said that we had to be completely ready by 1953. Let us have a look at what a defence expert has said about this. I refer to a report of proceedings before the Public Accounts Committee. Sir Frederick Shedden, our chief defence administrator, gave- evidence. The report reads -
– Can- we go back again, Sir Frederick, to the matter of the programme? When we were dealing with the Supplementary Estimates you will remember that we found there had been considerable under-estimates in several items due to the circumstances you have indicated and to which we drew attention. We did not have an opportunity to ask you or the Defence people about it when we were discussing the Supplementary Estimates, so Mr. Leslie will do so now!
– You made a remark this morning which, perhaps, will indicate what I want to get al. You said that the Prime Minister stated at the outset in connexion wilh this programming that the proposal was that we were to be ready for mobilization by 1953? Would we have been?
To this, Sir Frederick Shedden replied, “ No sir “. Mr. Leslie asked, “ Would we be now? “ This was in 1956. Sir Frederick snedden replied, “ No sir “. The Secretary of the Department of Defence thus confirmed the Labour party’s criticism. We -vere correct when we contended that
Although a lot of money was being spent, a’e were in no position even to mobilize then if it was necessary to do so.
The Prime Minister also said in his statement that defence policy and economic policy must run together. That is what the Labour party has been saying for years, ever since we have been discussing the budgets presented by this Government. The Prime Minister says that that is what he believes. but he confirms, in his statement, that the Government has not run those policies together, because we have neither adequate defence equipment nor national benefit to show for this expenditure.
Time will not permit me to deal with all the matters that should be discussed in this debate, but one matter should be referred to briefly, namely, the weakness in administration and the need for co-ordinating defence organization. The Prime Minister did say a little about that matter. He said (hat the Government’s intention was to bring the defence chiefs to reside in Canberra side by side. 1 feel, however, that that will not contribute much towards improved administration or the coordination of our planning, because, after all, the defence chiefs now reside in Melbourne, which is only about an hour and a half away from Canberra by air. Therefore, this will not provide the answer to that important problem. The Department of Defence is like any other big business; it has separate sub-departments. Business undertakings do not have a number of managing directors; they have one. I believe that the defence of Australia should be under one command. There should be a commander-in-chief of all the Australian naval, air and military forces.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the armaments race between the great powers. This should have been commented upon by the Prime Minister. He should have given some lead in the cessation of this race. If the colossal world expenditure on armaments, which will wind up only in the destruction of civilization, were put to peaceful uses, it would do away with all the poverty and slavery that exists in the world and meet all the great civil needs. All the money that will be spent this year on defence would cure many of the serious ills that exist in the world to-day. We know that during World War II. the world spent trillions of pounds on armaments, and moves should be made to avert a repetition of a tragedy of that sort.
The Prime Minister did not say much about civil defence. I know that we have a school of civil defence at Mount Macedon. I have not had an opportunity to go there, but some of my colleagues have had the opportunity, and 1 have discussed the school with them.
– All of the Ministers refused the opportunity.
– That is right. I understand that all that students are learning down there is how much destruction atomic bombs will cause and how we will be affected if they are used against us. It is handy to know that kind of thing, but i> is not of much help when it comes to defence. I believe that the best civil defence we could engage in would be expenditure on roads and lines of communication so that, if need be, we could at least evacuate people from danger areas. I venture to say that if our metropolitan areas were attacked with these bombs - I know Sydney best - we should all be killed in the attempt to get out of the way. We would destroy each other If defence and the development of the economy should go together, as the Prime Minister said, we should at least build s> road or two as a part of our civil defence preparations. A question was asked the other day of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), to which he replied that only £7,000,000 had been spent on strategic roads in Australia since this Government had been in office. That money did noi come out of the defence vote; it came from the petrol tax collections. The Commonwealth has collected nearly £450,000,000 in petrol tax, but we have not many road* to show for it. The Government should spend some money, in preparation foi defence, on lines of communication, which are very important. Roads, harbours, railways and aerodromes are indispensable from the defence point of view, and the> are great assets for the development of Australia. The Labour party had to provide those things during the course of the last war. We built harbours and roads, including about 1,000 miles of all-weather road through the Northern Territory.
– And this Government is letting it fall to pieces.
– This Government is letting it fall to pieces. The road is starting to crumble and transport is bogging down on it. If the Government could spend a few million pounds on maintaining that road or on building extra roads, it would be money well spent from the viewpoint of defence. lt is important that greater expenditure should be made on our railways. Recently, a Liberal party committee made certain recommendations to the Government for the standardization of railway gauges. We all know that railways are indispensable from a defence point of view, and that it is necessary to be able to move troops and heavy equipment quickly from point to point. We bogged down on that in the past because of breaks of gauge. The Liberal party committee to which I have referred recommended that, for the present, or as a first instalment, standardization of gauges should be limited to those lines between Albury and Melbourne, Port Pirie and Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie and Perth, so that there would be a direct route between Brisbane and Fremantle. The cost of the undertaking would be £41,000,000, which would not be missed from the defence vote. What great value such a direct route would have if we had occasion to defend ourselves! Itwould mean that we could move our troops and equipment, from one side of the continent to the other without having to trans-ship them several times at State borders.
The Labour party believes that defence and national development should go together, and that the huge sums which have been wasted from the defence vote each year should have been spent on roads and railways. All honorable members remember that the Clapp report recommended the standardization of railway gauges. Had that been done in 1945, the cost of the entire work would have been £45,000,000, whereas now, that sum would cover only a portion of it. The Government has fallen down very badly in its defence preparation measures.
My time is running out, but in the few minutes remaining to me I wish to say something about the control of atomic and nuclear weapons. I think that the Prime Minister should have said something about this matter when he spoke to the House recently. Atomic and nuclear tests continue to be conducted, and judging from what I have studied on the matter, it seems, clear that if the tests go on it will not be necessary for a war to break out to destroy civilization; atomic and nuclear tests will bring that about.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It was refreshing to hear the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) at least make some constructive criticism of the statement on defence which we are examining. During the debate so far, other honorable members opposite have been critical but not constructive. I remind the House that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in making his statement to the Parliament, said that it was a review of overall government policy on Australian defence. It was not intended to be a detailed statement of policy or to deal with past expenditure on defence. After all, honorable members have an opportunity to discuss those matters from year to year during the budget and other sessional periods. The statement of the Prime Minister was an attempt, in a very limited time, to give an overall picture of the policy of the Government. The right honorable gentleman listed as the possible kinds of war, global war, limited war, and cold or economic war. He did not attempt to deal in full with any of those subjects.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who led the debate for the Opposition, took the Prime Minister to task and said that, in newspaper language, the right honorable gentleman had had a lead in and a lead out, but very little left for the speech. I am not surprised that the honorable member for Parkes remained a buck private in the Army, to use his own words, if he has always been in the habit of failing to appreciate a subject before voicing his opinion on it. I understand that it is basic defence strategy to evaluate a situation before suggesting corrective measures, and that in suggesting such measures the way should be left open for change if the circumstances demand it. As the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) has said, a man who has the courage to make a change when he finds that a change is necessary will produce a very desirable result.
So we get back to the statement of the Prime Minister which, in brief, first of all gives the House an opportunity to study the possible kinds of war that might be encountered, and secondly, details the overall policy of the Government in dealing with the situation that might arise in consequence of war. I cannot conceive of a more difficult task at this time than that of trying to decide the type of defence that is necessary for this vast continent, and the likely foe. There are very good indications, of course, of where the danger lies. I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who pointed out that Russia’s activities in Hungary left her very suspect. I invite the attention of the House to the remarks of my colleague, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who said that Russia, not being a maritime nation, would hardly be likely to develop the largest fleet of submarines in the world unless she required it for aggressive purposes. It certainly is not required for purposes of defence, because she is not liable to attack from the sea. We may start off, then, by saying that Russia, or a Russian satellite, is the potential enemy. I need hardly remind the House of the possible danger of red China, with a population of 600,000,000 and an annual increase greater than our total population at the present time. We cannot overlook the menace of that country now that she has been indoctrinated with communism. So we face the question: What is Australia to do to ensure reasonable defence? I do not say “ adequate “ defence, but reasonable defence, particularly in co-operation with other friendly powers. Our association with the United States of America, and with New Zealand and other South Pacific countries in various treaties, means that we have to show at least a willingness to take our place with those nations, to integrate as much of our defence forces as we can with them, and to adopt the type of weapons and equipment that they use.
The general overall plan that has been laid down takes into consideration an appreciation of the position without disclosing completely - which would be unreasonable - the whole of the military, naval and air force development. After all, complete details of that matter should not be handed to the enemy on a platter. The statement gives a reasonable explanation of the general policy which the Government feels to be necessary. The Opposition has been very critical, not only of past defence measures, but also of the present plan. I remind honorable members opposite who are in a critical mood, of the old proverb that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. It is all very well for the members of the Opposition to say that they have the know-how in matters of defence preparation, but the only justification of that claim that they have advanced was that given by the honorable member for Banks, who said that a Labour government was the first to establish an Australian navy. Surely, they do not think that we would be unmindful of that! The honorable member also said that Labour was responsible for a voluntary system of military training in 1910. My recollection is that, in 1910, there was a system of universal military training on a compulsory basis. I do not deny that it was very good training. Indeed, it stood the country in good stead. But that is not a very great contribution to the defence of the country.
The other contributions made by the Opposition have been made during the stress of war when the necessities were obvious and when the generals, belittled by the honorable member for Parkes, would indicate fairly precisely what they required. Moreover, there was not a very great deal of trouble regarding finance at that time. Our allies were anxious and willing to do for us, on a lend-lease basis, those things that we could not do for ourselves. I remind the Opposition that it has not very strong grounds for criticism of the defence effort of this Government. It has not very strong grounds if one remembers, for instance, the manner in which it dealt with the disposal of equipment which had been bought with borrowed money during the war years. During 1947, 1948 and 1949, from memory, £135,000,000 was received from the sale of disposals equipment. That equipment was purchased with borrowed money. The disposal of it at a fraction of its value resulted in a sum of more thar £! ‘10,000.000 being obtained, which was surely little enough.
– One hundred and thirty-eight million pounds.
– I thank the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) for correcting me. That money was paid into Consolidated Revenue and enabled the socialist government of that time to reduce taxation. That is not a very creditable effort. At the end of a war, the country was made practically defenceless because the government at that time sold quickly everything it possibly could to get some money into the Treasury.
– What happened to Manus Island?
– An Opposition member asks: What happened to Manus Island? That is a page in the Labour government’s hook that might well be closed.
– I do not agree that it should. lt was a crime against this country.
– Yes, the episode was not creditable. The greatest naval base in the South Pacific, which cost 600,000,000 dollars, was given away because the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who was then i member of the socialist government of that time, could not come to terms with .mr allies. He preferred to see the base destroyed. All that is left is a wreck, which any one can see to-day. That is a page of history that the Opposition would be glad to bury. It would be just as well for Opposition members if they did not criticize too freely this country’s defence policy!
A few minutes ago, an Opposition member commented that the Prime Minister said that man-power would be cut, or some such thing. I shall read from the Prime Minister’s statement, because that assertion needs correction. In his statement, the Prime Minister said -
The emphasis is not, any longer, so much on numbers as on mobility, equipment and fire power. This is not to say that man-power is unimportant.
The Prime Minister did not indicate that man-power was unimportant. On the contrary, he said -
This is not to say that man-power is unimportant. It will still be necessary in the event if a great war to commit large forces to the struggle, but in the upshot speed and the capacity o hit will determine victory.
The basis of the Prime Minister’s statement is that we should spend more money not on man-power, but, rather, on equipment which will give us speed and the capacity to hit. but not to the exclusion of man-power. 1 congratulate the honorable member foi Fremantle, who said that the defence appropriation, in his opinion, was not excessive. A similar comment was made by the honorable member for St. George (Mt. Graham). The defence appropriation is not excessive; indeed, in the opinion of many honorable members, it is not sufficient. lt has been said that we are not putting all we possibly could into this job. lt is a tremendous job, the limit of which we do not fully appreciate. We are putting in a certain amount, but whether we are putting in enough is questionable.
I shall make some suggestions as to how we could increase further our defence effort; and I do not suggest for one moment that we should reduce what we have already proposed. The Prime Minister’s statement was based on a military appreciation, and that, to a very large extent, transcends civil affairs. Reverting to the Prime Minister’s three classifications ot “ global “ war, “ limited “ war and “ cold “ or “ economic “ war, 1 say that, whilst at this stage “ global “ war is something that possibly we cannot discuss as animatedly as we should like because we do no* thoroughly understand it, we understand * “ limited “ war and we understand that codventional weapons will be required, dc matter what type of war it is, if it is te be carried to its conclusion, unless the world1 is to be wiped out. The story of “ pug , button “ war is possibly fantastic. Ever if it is not, conventional weapons will still be required.
It might be suggested that we should have atom bombs or other atomic weaponsand that we should be able to use them if necessary, as a deterrent to other countries using them. I am not completely or that opinion. There is still some doubt whether that would be sound, and I am not prepared to discuss it. However, weshould take advantage of every opportunity to provide the conventional weapons whichwe are likely to require in a limited wai Further, we should consider those phase*of our civil life which lend themselves to building what might be called the economic side of our defence. We found that, whenthe last war broke out, there was immediateoccasion for all types of equipment to bemade in Australia. Some factories wenprepared to do so, and some were able trchange over quickly, but others were not.
At this stage we should encourage those factories which can be converted to war production to expand as much as they possibly can. I do not suggest how this should be done, but the Government must consider that aspect of our economic life. The Government must consider not only our military, naval and air force defence, but also the economic defences that we can encourage in this country.
In addition, we have aero clubs, yacht clubs and rifle clubs, representing the three arms of the services. The budget provision for these clubs is not good enough. The last budget provided £ 1 83,750 for aero clubs. Australia has 23 aero clubs. The total enrolment of student pilots is 1,674, of private pilots 1,709, and of commercial pilots 222, making a grand total of 3,605. The aero clubs are doing a tremendous job. They come to the help of the public in times of flood, fire and national distress, but are receiving relatively little support from the Government. At the present time, one club is seeking to buy from England two Chipmunk aircraft with which to train pilots in a country town. The club has to go through the process of obtaining a licence from the Department of Trade before it can buy these aircraft at its own expense to do a job which is of national importance. That is where we are slipping. Let us give all the encouragement we possibly can to people who are willing to help themselves. The aero clubs, which are training 3,605 student, private and commercial pilots, are receiving only £183,750 from a very big budget allocation. T suggest that that is not good enough.
T cite also the case of the rifle clubs. They get an allowance of £71,600 from this Government. That is much less than the aero clubs receive. There are between 60,000 and 70,000 riflemen in Australia. The grant of £71,600 includes provision for ranges, efficiency awards to rifle club members who attend a certain number of shoots each year and qualify as marksmen, the Commonwealth council, the State associations and prize meetings. The allocation for those items is £30,300 of the £71,600 allocated to rifle clubs. The balance is made up largely of salaries of supervisors, inspectors, range clerks, clerks and a typist. Those charges amount to £25,224.
I suggest that that is another direction in which the Commonwealth could assist those who are prepared to help themselves. The riflemen build and maintain their ranges and carry out regular rifle practice. The Minister for the Army has alway, been sympathetic to them, and his main complaint is that they shoot off a lot of ammunition which his department has to supply at a reduced rate. If they did not use the ammunition, it would be carted away and dumped at sea. The riflemen are a splendid body of men and could be relied upon to act as home guards, if nothing else, in the event of a civil defence call being made upon them.
I suggest also that the service departments should not have to rely upon the Department of Works for their construction programmes. If the operations now being conducted by the Department of Works at the Hotel Kurrajong are an example of its efficiency, we can obtain some idea of the cost of work done by i> for the service departments. This shocking state of affairs cannot continue. Repairs, to the roof of the library in Parliament House cost £6,000. I suggest that the work force of the Department of Work> should be replaced by contract labour foi all defence work. If we did that, we would get some results.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Timson). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Since 1950, when the Prime Minister (Mr Menzies) announced the first defence programme of the present Government, we have been treated from time to time with regular defence statements and programmes. Each has been years behind the times and has been prepared almost before any action has been taken to implement the previous programme. The statement the House is now debating, which was made by the Prime Minister on 4th April last, is not different from its predecessors. It makes few alterations in relation to the various arms of the forces, but before any marked changes can be noticed, we can be sure that the Prime Minister will be announcing a new defence programme. The defences of Australia, in the meantime, will continue to stagnate.
The Government must make a firm decision on our defence needs and work towards that goal. This programme, like all actions of the present Government, lacks foresight, initiative and judgment. Apparently the advisers of the Government on defence are more inclined to protect the arm of the force they represent than to come to a firm understanding on the defence needs of Australia.
Like most other people in the world, I would like to see nuclear and thermonuclear weapons banned, and indeed I should like to see war itself banned. A conference is proceeding in London now between five of the great nations on nuclear weapons and disarmament. It is to be hoped that that conference will come to a firm, watertight and all-embracing agreement on those matters. However, I believe that the nations of the world are in a similar position to political parties - even those in Australia - and refuse to trust each other. No nation is prepared to trust the other. For that reason, 1 believe that Australia must do something about its defence plan. We can only hope and pray that the expenditure on defence will be needless and wasteful, but while there is a lack of trust between individuals within nations, and between nations themselves, it is our duty to do something about the defence of Australia.
I have been greatly disappointed, therefore, with the defence efforts of this Government. Since 1950, we have never got down to a firm basis on a defence programme. We have never made up our minds what our defence needs are. We have made programmes from time to time but each time those programmes have been years behind.
I am absolutely certain that the Australian Government, whatever its political flavour, would never go to war against another nation unless Australia was attacked. Consequently, our defence programme should be based on preparedness for defence, and not for offence. Acting on the presumption that Australia will not attack any other country first, I believe that our defence programme should be based upon that premise. Australia is a large country with a small population. Consequently, we are unable to protect our shores with our own people. No matter how large a defence force we built up in Australia, we would still be vulnerable to attack from any large power in the world.
Therefore, I believe that our defence commitments must put us on an equal footing with other countries in terms of weapons. We must let others know that the Australian people have no intention of attacking any other country. We must convince them that our defence programme is being put into effect only because we . want to protect our land from any aggressors. For that reason, I believe it is essential that our armed forces should be equipped with the most modern weapons.
If we are allies of the United States of America and the United Kingdom, two of the great powers which possess nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons, they should trust us with those weapons and make available to us the necessary data for their construction for use by Australia in the case of attack. It might be argued that, if every nation gets those weapons, they might use them, but I believe that possession by a nation of such weapons will act as a deterrent against attack by any other nation.
How far are we from war to-day? I would say that no man in the world could answer that question. There is one frightening thought, however. That is that Khrushchev, after one of his vodka parties and in his drunken arrogance, might start a world war. That is a very live thought. It could become a reality at anytime because, repeatedly, over the past year or so, we have had outbursts by Mr. Khrushchev which could easily be carried a great deal further at a later date.
Let me revert now to the supply of atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons from the United States or the United Kingdom. We in Australia have made available to the United Kingdom the Woomera rocket range and the Maralinga atomic testing grounds. We ask, in return, that the people who are willing to use this country for testing their atomic weapons have sufficient trust in the Administration of Australia to give us the secrets which will allow us to have these atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons at our disposal in time of war. And 1 pray God that never in our time will we see another war!
What could Australia do in a limited war? I should say that there is not a great deal that she could do, particularly under the defence programme outlined by the Prime Minister in April of this year. The
Australian armed forces are being curtailed. In any case, what are the prospects of another limited war taking place? Already in the past few years we have seen that the United Nations has power to deal with nations taking part in a limited war. We have seen the successes achieved by that organization in Korea, Indo-China and the Middle East.
Mir. Turnbull. - What about Hungary?
– That was not a limited war between two nations. It was a limited war in Korea, Indo-China and the Middle East. I admit that the United Nations fell down on its job in Hungary; I make no excuses for it. But if we do not give the United Nations power to act in connexion with limited wars, we could have limited wars breaking out regularly during the rest of our days. The United Nations has demonstrated that in most cases it can deal successfully with a limited war, and its power in this direction should be strengthened so that never again in our days shall we see a limited war. 1 feel that the only likely prospect confronting us is a global war. If we are to have a global war, it appears to me to be absolutely certain that atomic and thermonuclear weapons will be used. Should that happen, then I feel that the world as we know it will be devastated and most of its population destroyed. That is a horrifying thought,” and I am confident that the peoples of the world, the ordinary men and women of the world, never want to see such a tragedy.
The Prime Minister’s statement on defence is not positive. It is a stop-gap statement. It makes no plans for the ultimate defence of Australia. This Government, ever since it formulated its first defence programme in 1950, has continually shifted its ground on the question of defence. If we intend to do anything about defence, let us make up our minds to do it, and do it quickly. Let us make up our minds to obtain from the United States, or from the United Kingdom, the most modern weapons that are available to mankind, and let us make it known to the other nations of the world that those weapons will never be used by Australia for the purposes of attack, but will be used solely for purposes of defence in the event of an attack on us. I feel that if we lay down that policy we should have some hope of being able to live in peace with our neighbours in the Pacific.
One matter which was not mentioned in the Prime Minister’s statement and one which I feel is extremely urgent in these days when there are threats of atomic and thermo-nuclear attack was civil defence. 1 have no intention of laying down a programme for civil defence because I feel that, like defence, civil defence could always prove to be a source of needless expenditure; but there are certain things that could be done in the development ot this country which would be of great advantage to us should Australia ever be subjected to atomic or thermo-nuclear attack. Those things are the stockpiling of food, clothing, oil, petrol and blood plasma; the decentralization of industry; the building of hospitals in non-target areas; the preparation of a plan for the evacuation of nonessential personnel from target areas; the standardization of rail gauges; the unification of fire-fighting equipment; the building of new highways; the conservation of water; and the preparation of statistics relating to motor vehicles, such as trucks, utilities anc! so on, as was done under the national security (emergency service) regulations during the last war. Most of those things could be done here and now to develop Australia and, should there ever be an attack on Australia, even with highexplosive bombs, they would be of advantage to this country. During the last war, Japan and Germany found that civil defence was. necessary. England found that her civil defence programme was a great moralebuilding asset, that her civil defence organization kept the morale of the people high when they were under attack from the Germans.
When we talk about civil defence, we must necessarily think in terms of atomic and thermo-nuclear attack. I feel that the horrifying effects of such an attack should be made known time and time again to the people of Australia, and indeed to the people of the world, because, the more we know about the effects of atomic and hydrogen bombs, the less chance there is that the people of any nation will agree to use them against another nation. During the last war, an atomic bomb was dropped upon
Japan. The strength of that bomb was the equivalent of the strength of 20,000 tons of T.N.T., and I point out that the explosive power of 20,000 tons of T.N.T. is capable of lifting the liner “ Queen Mary “ 70 miles into the air. Thermo-nuclear, or hydrogen, bombs have been developed to the strength of 40 megatons, or 40,000,000 tons of T.N.T. Experts claim that the bomb which is most likely to be used, should there be another war, is the one known as the 500X bomb. It has a strength of 10 megatons or the equivalent of 10,000,000 tons of T.N.T. If one of those bombs were dropped on Sydney at midday on any working day, 1,000,000 persons would be killed and 400,000 would be injured. If it were dropped at midnight, when many people would be out of the city and home in bed, the figures would be reversed; that is to say, 400,000 people would be killed and 1 .000,000 would be injured. Again, if one such bomb were dropped on one of our capital cities, all the public utilities would be completely destroyed and the morale of the people would be shattered. Unless we had a civil defence organization in outlying areas which could come in and do some work in cleaning up the debris, chaos would reign supreme. The people would panic and nothing could be done to preserve what little was left of our capital city.
I have some figures which show the destructive forces of bombs of various sizes. The first, the nominal bomb, which was the type of bomb dropped on Japan during the last war, would have a total destruction area of half a mile, an irreparable damage area of three-quarters of a mile, a moderate to severe damage area of 2 miles and a light damage area of 3 miles. A ten megaton bomb would have a total destruction area of 21 miles, an irreparable damage area of 5i miles, a moderate to severe damage area of 9 miles and a light damage area of 12 miles. A 40 megaton bomb would have a total destruction area of 3i miles, an irreparable damage area of 7 miles, i moderate to severe damage area of 11 miles and a light damage area of 15 miles. These figures give some indication of the destructive force of nuclear and thermonuclear bombs. So long as these figures are made known to the people of Australia and to the people of the free countries of the world, I feel that there is some hope of a ban being imposed on hydrogen and atomic bomb tests and on the use of hydrogen and atomic bombs in warfare. I earnestly pray, as do most people throughout Australia, that never, in our time, will we see another world war.
The policy of the Labour party is for peace. It is a policy that has been supported by leaders of the churches and by leading statesmen throughout the world. I feel that this Parliament has nothing to lose by always supporting and advocating a policy of peace. At the same time, our defence forces should be kept ready for use as a defensive weapon rather than as an offensive weapon.
.- I find myself dissatisfied with the Government’s concept of and plan for the future defence of this country. It seems to me that it is a plan formulated in the light of present conditions and that when it is completed in three years’ time - if, indeed, it is completed in three years’ time - will leave us in very much the situation in which we find ourselves to-day. It will be out oi date and obsolete. Defence planning is essentially speculative. To be useful, ii requires vision, imagination and foresight. It should take notice of the trend of scientific achievements and the probable lines oi development. A defence plan should be designed, as far as it is possible to forecast developments, to meet the situation which is likely to exist at the completion of the plan.
The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) clearly shows that we intend to make a contribution to collective security in the South-East Asian and Pacific areas. The Government proposes to enable Australia to take its place in the Anzus pact and the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. In other words, it plans that Australia shall be able to play its part in incidents in the cold war. All that is right and proper, but it is of secondary importance. It takes no cognizance of the great future threat of nuclear attack on this country. The Prime Minister has indicated that such a threat exists and has dealt with it by saying that we shall rely on our friends if we are attacked. I am not canvassing whether nuclear attack on this country is probable in a high degree or in a minor degree. What I am saying is thai it is possible. If it is possible, we should do something to protect our people against such an ultimate disaster.
The proposition that we should rely on our friends is. I think, without validity. I say that with some diffidence, but in all sincerity. To suppose that either of our great allies, the United Kingdom or the United States of America, should come to our aid in the event of an attack or the threat of an attack with atomic weapons is, I believe, unreal. Whatever treaties may be signed, however sincere the signatories may be, however honest promises may be, and however cordial our relations with our allies may be, the fact remains that if the leader of either of those great nations, when the time came, exposed his country to the danger of retaliatory attack, his action would be not only improper, but, in my view, immoral also. If the United Kingdom, with a population of about 50,000,000 people, or the United States of America, with a population of something like 150,000,000 people, were to be rendered liable to retaliatory attack merely to revenge 10,000,000 people in Australia, that would be, I repeat, not only immoral but also quite wrong from every point of view. I believe that if the leader of the United Kingdom or the leader of the United States of America were to take such action, he would be betraying his nation. So I believe that to dispose of this problem of defence against atomic attack, which everybody admits is possible, by saying that our friends will look after us, is to place our reliance on something that does not exist. Our enemies would have appreciated the situation in very much the same terms as I have tried to explain it and we should find that our reliance on our friends would not be a deterrent.
What is the alternative? The alternative is to become nuclear-armed ourselves. Whenever this proposition is put forward, it is met immediately with two objections. The first question asked is, “ Could we be effectively armed? “, and the second question is, “ Could we afford it? “ In the limited time at my disposal, I cannot go into these questions in detail. I can give only the briefest of opinions and the briefest of indications. But I believe that we could be effectively armed, and I say that for this reason: Atomic bombs are no longer the rare and expensive things that they were a few years ago. People are still inclined to think that an atomic weapon is something which is very expensive and rare. Actually, to-day, it is nothing of the sort. In a semi-official paper which I saw only last week, I read that the United States already has a stockpile of 35,000 nuclear bombs. As is well known, the United Kingdom is already producing them also. I point out that the preliminary work of breeding the fissionable material is the expensive and long-drawn-out part of the process. Once the fissionable material - the plutonium - is available, production of the weapon is relatively cheap and quick. If we bear that in mind, and also the fact thai plutonium is a by-product of commercial atomic piles - which we shall need very soon if we are to develop this country - we shall be well on the way to producing our own atomic bombs if, as has been suggested, we use commercial atomic piles to produce power for mining bauxite at Cape York, and for similar purposes at Mount Isa. However^ that may take five or six years. In the meantime, I am told - and I believe it to be true - that the United Kingdom, which is already producing atomic bombs, could, if she were so persuaded, sell them to us at about £5,000,000 a dozen. Thai does not seem to me to be very expensive for such a powerful weapon.
I should like to go on from there and say that we could, for a relatively small amount of money, become an atomically armed nation. The aircraft to deliver the bombs is already in existence. The United States B-52 or B-56 is a suitable aircraft for our situation. Could we be effective? 1 think that we could. Using planes with an operating range of 3,000 miles, we could threaten, from Australian bases, Peking and the main industrial areas of Communist China to the west and south. That, surely, is a substantial threat. If we could obtain aircraft with an operating range of 4,000 miles, and they are in existence, we could, by staging them through American bases - and we are planning on America being our ally - threaten the important oil resources of the Soviet Union in the Caucasus and Black Sea and Caspian Seu areas. That is, surely, an effective threat Therefore, I think we can dispose quickly of the two objections to our becoming an atomic nation: first, that we could not be effective; and. secondly, that we could noi afford it.
This brings me to the point of the aircraft for delivery. I know that the B-52, the B-56 and aircraft of that type are very expensive. They cost perhaps £3,000,000 each, but we propose to spend £30,000,000 on 30 interceptor fighters. For that sum we could buy ten of these vehicles for the delivery of atomic bombs, and could get a weapon which was a real deterrent. In my view, interceptor fighters should be very low indeed on the priority list of defence armaments. The time has gone when you could prevent the enemy from hitting you. In past wars, anti-aircraft defences were able to destroy up to 30 per cent, of the attacking bomber force. Even that is an optimistic estimate, but those defences brought about a material reduction in the damage which resulted from the attack. When we are dealing with nuclear bombs, 30 per cent, destruction is just no good. Unless you can stop every enemy bomber from reaching its target, you are not achieving your objective. The last speaker indicated the dreadful, catastrophic effect of dropping one bomb on a centre of population. Anti-aircraft defence, either by interceptor fighter or any other method, is virtually ineffective. It can perhaps shoot down or destroy a proportion of the attacking force, but it cannot hope to destroy them all. You cannot prevent the enemy from hitting you with atomic bombs if he is determined to do so. Therefore, our only real, practical defence is the deterrent of ourselves possessing the means of swift and effective retaliation in kind. We must not rely on our friends to provide us with that deterrent. The enemy will appreciate that the best of friends cannot, in accordance with any humane or moral concept, come to our aid in such circumstances. We must do it ourselves. We can do it. We can make ourselves a deterrent nation, which is the only possibility of preventing our centres of population from being attacked.
The other aspect of the deterrent, if it is to be effective, is an efficient civil defence. We must not only be able to retaliate, but also convince the potential enemy that we are able to take it at least as well as he can. As I suggested in this House last year, the best way to provide an effective civil defence is to make it a responsibility of the Army and use the national service trainees for this purpose. By this means you would get an automatic distribution of trained civil defence personnel where they were most needed - in the capital cities and centres of population.
Our only hope of avoiding the dreadful possibility of a catastrophic nuclear attack on our country is to possess the deterrent. To be effective, the deterrent must be based on an ability to undertake swift and effective retaliation; and we must set in motion a civil defence organization which the enemy knows will enable us to take his attack. I believe sincerely that the people of this country and this Parliament should not allow this or any other Australian Government to ignore defence against the ul’imate disaster of atomic attack.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.i:i.
.- The House heard the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) declare, “ I find myself dissatisfied wilh the Governments concept and plan for the future defence of this country “. Coming from so distinguished a gentleman as the honorable member for Indi, who is a former air marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force, that comment is more significant than any that could be uttered by any other member in this House. In view of the fact that we have long since’ accustomed ourselves to believe that the best defence for this country is the air arm there could be no better authority to advise us than the honorable gentleman. It is to the credit of the late John Curtin that years before any other parliamentarian he proclaimed his belief in the efficacy of the air arm. Indeed, he proclaimed it before ever he became a parliamentarian. But the view of the honorable member for Indi is shared not only by a minority of Government supporters, but also by members on the Opposition benches and, I believe, by most Australians. A remarkable thing about honorable members who constitute this Ministry, and about those who constituted the Ministry that held office just before the outbreak of World War II., is that they make nice speeches about defence but never provide any real plans for effective defence. On 31st August, 1939, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was Prime Minister then, also said -
For the first time in history Australia has so thoroughly prepared for eventualities that it has complete plans, fully documented for taking all those steps . . . which would need to be taken after an actual declaration of war. The Army is prepared. The R.A.A.F. is in a very good state of preparation.
As everybody knows, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour two years later, there were no forces that the new Government could mobilize immediately for the defence of Australia. The position was so bad that the Minister for the Army in the then Government, Sir Percy Spender, told this Parliament that if the Japanese had landed one brigade in the eastern part of Australia after Pearl Harbour they could have captured the Commonwealth.
– What did Mr. Curtin say?
– He said this in his 1943 policy speech -
In two months, with so much to do, and so much to set right, the Labour Government faced war in the Pacific - the inevitability which had governed all its actions in that pitifully short period. The nation looked to Labour and it did not look in vain. The inheritance the Labour Government accepted from its predecessors was a heavy burden. Blind to the dangers in the Pacific, the Menzies-Fadden Government had left Australia very much unprepared. The essentials for defence to the hands of the commanders as the result of the previous Government’s policy were so sadly inadequate that only a limited disposition of forces could be made. But the Labour Government rejected that concept. In association with the commanders, it developed a plan to prevent this great country from being doomed. It rejected the concept that the little islands to the north of Australia would be taken, that upper Queensland and the Darwin area would be overrun by the enemy. It determined and made the necessary provision that the battle for Australia would be fought in the islands on the north, north-east and north-west of Australia, and not in the environs of the peopled areas of the Commonwealth.
He said, for instance -
When my Government took over only 267,000 men had volunteered to fight anywhere in the world with the R.A.N., A.I.F. and R.A.A.F. To-day the figure is 530,000. Volunteers for overseas service are now 70 per cent, of total enlistments in all Services. We have almost doubled the strength of the A.I.F. and more than doubled the strength of the R.A.A.F. The R.A.A.F. is equipped now with the most modern bombing and fighter aircraft.
Those were the opinions that the late Prime Minister of Australia expressed to the people of Australia. The views that he expressed convinced the Australian people that the then anti-Labour forces should be swept into political oblivion. They were defeated, and they deserved to be defeated.
– Now give us your policy.
– I will state the policy of the Australian Labour party, as expressed by the Leader of the party, lt has been set out very clearly, and is as follows: -
Whereas the Labour party carried into effect the policy that it announced, our opponents use words, not for the purpose of expressing what they mean, but for disguising what they mean. They pretend that they are producing a defence policy, but they produce nothing at all. That has been typical of them all through the years in which they have occupied the government benches. The Bruce-Page Government created a depression the effects of which the Scullin Government inherited, and that depression led to the abandonment of compulsory military training. The Scullin Government was chided for having abandoned compulsory military training, but the Lyons Government which succeeded it did not restore compulsory military training, and it had a lot more money than did the Scullin Government. In the days of the Scullin Government there was destitution and poverty in the secondary industries and in the primary industries. The Menzies Government has been seven years in office, and so far has not produced an effective defence policy. What it is doing now is what the former Menzies Government did in 1939, and what the Lyons Government did in 1938. I have here an article from the Melbourne “ Herald “ of 24th October, 1938, which reads as follows: -
The weakest link in Australian defence at the present moment is the Federal Cabinet.
They could say that again in 1957 with perfect truth. The article also said -
During these last critical weeks the Australian Government has failed Australia.
That was the Lyons Government, and that was the period of Munich. The article continued -
So far as results can show, any realization that these days are days of national emergency has not penetrated the consciousness of Federal Ministers.
They could say that of the members of the present Ministry, too.
This Government contains no less a figure than the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is now deputizing for the Prime Minister. His view of the defence of this country within a few months of the outbreak of war was stated in this House on the 23rd May, 1939, as follows: -
Some honorable members have become so proEnglish that they are now a anti- Australian, although they do not recognize it. We must give serious consideration to our defence responsibilities, and do everything in our power lo reduce expenditure on the defence programme, even though we may be told by our experts that it Ls essential.
Three months before Hitler struck, and nine months after Munich, the then right honorable member for Darling Downs uttered those sentiments. I suppose he included the honorable men, ber for Indi (Mr. Bostock) and other distinguished soldiers, airmen and naval officers in the following criticism when he said - . Naval and military experts often seek to take advantage of critical limes in order to urge expenditure on projects calculated to advance the interests of the professional sailors and soldiers rather than those of the country.
– What did Admiral Ward say?
– I want the honorable member to realize that the Deputy Prime Minister of his own Government made that statement just before Hitler struck at Poland, and later at France, Britain and the other free nations of the world. Criticizing the present Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), the present Treasurer continued -
How can the country have any confidence in people who utter such banalities, such nonsense and such dangerous stuff? Whatever honorable members might say about some loose words that might have been used from time to time by honorable members on the Opposition benches, sentiments of that sort were never uttered by us. Of course, the Treasurer was taken into the government a few months later and he changed his views. Over the last seven years he has had the unenviable experience, and he has one of the most unenviable records, of having wasted £1,000,000,000 on defence without anything to show for it. I have here the statement of the Prime Minister. From what he has to say there is to be a complete reorientation of everything. The cruiser “ Hobart “, on which £2,000,000 has been spent during the last few years, is to be left in mothballs. There is to be no navy at all, virtually, and there is to be no air force - not a real air force. The number of men in the Air Force will be 16,000, only 1,000 more than we have to-day. The Army is to be reduced to negligible proportions. No wonder Sir Frederick Shedden, the secretary of the Department of Defence, told the Public Accounts Committee on 8th August last year, in answer to a question, that Australia could not go to war because Australia’s defence services could not mobilize for war in their present condition.
– Who said that?
- Sir Frederick Shedden. One member of the Australian Country party, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), wanted to know whether Sir Frederick Shedden was trying to sabotage the Government. Sir Frederick Shedden was proving that the Government was trying to sabotage Australia. What has happened between 9th August last year and 7th May of this year to prove that the Government has repaired the defences about which Sir Frederick, who was its own Secretary of the Defence Department for many years, made such strong comments?
The Government says that it proposes to integrate our forces with those of America, that our aircraft and equipment are to be standardized with American aircraft and equipment. Yet, extraordinarily enough, it proposes to use a Belgian rifle which the British Government has adopted, the F.N. rifle, whereas the United States has never used that rifle and does not propose to use it now. It has a newer and better rifle. Should we not integrate the Australian rifle with that used by the United States forces?
– We are using the same ammunition.
– If it is a different sort of ammunition, let us make the same sort of ammunition that will be needed.
– It is the same ammunition.
– Then the case of the Government is even worse.
Government members interjecting,
– Yes, it is, because if you read the report on the American rifle you will find that it has a much greater performance than the F.N. rifle!
– Government members can turn on their kookaburra chorus if they like. If the Government is prepared to accept most American equipment, why does it not accept the lot? As I said, the Prime Minister delivered his statement the other night, but there was nothing of real consequence in it. It was a well-delivered speech, but it really meant nothing; it got us nowhere. It was full of platitudes. I should like to regale honorable members with a few of these. He said -
It is obvious that defence policy and economic policy must run together.
Who could deny that? There are two or three other insipid truisms which I should like to cite -
It is of immense importance to us that the free countries of South-East Asia should not fall one by one to Communist aggression.
Who wants the free countries of the world to fall to Communist aggression?
– A lot of the honorable member’s party.
– The honorable member knows that that is untrue - that it is a miserable, contemptible smear. He will have to do better than that if he is going to inherit the mantle of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy. The next insipid truism of the Prime Minister was -
Security in the area must, therefore, be a collective concept.
Of course it must! Then we reach the conclusion -
Despite the re-organization of her forces which is now in hand, the United Kingdom will continue to maintain substantial and flexible striking power in this region.
That is completely untrue. The United Kingdom is not in a position to maintain striking power in this area. The United Kingdom, unfortunately, cannot defend itself properly these days, lt is sending four out of its five battleships to the scrapheap and has practically abandoned the whole of its defence to the American forces. I shall read an extract from “ Time “, of 15th April, 1957-
The British decision to convert almost completely to nuclear-armed missiles had deep meaning for all of the world, but for the United States it had very special significance.
This is what the British White Paper said to justify that comment -
The free world is to-day mainly dependent foi its protection upon the nuclear capacity of the United States.
Why build our defence on false hopes and expectations, just as we have done in the trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia?
– Can the honorable member tell us what he would do?
– I would get rid of this Government first. Then I would see that a Cabinet was elected to do for Australia in 1957 what John Curtin’s Government did in 1941. If the honorable gentleman has any further questions to ask me, he can put them later.
I just want to finish by saying something with regard to our aircraft industry. When the Curtin Government came to office there were not even plans for making aircraft in this country. We did not have the planes and finally when they had to be made-
– That is completely untrue.
– As a matter of fact the whole aircraft-building industry was a triumph of improvization - a credit to the men and women, the grandmothers, mothers and daughters who worked to produce our aircraft. This Government is destroying the aircraft industry once more, and its decision to purchase all further military plane requirements from overseas should cause a nation-wide protest. In the event of another war, this disastrous policy will land Australia in the same defenceless position in regard to air attacks as the Lyons and Menzies Governments left the nation when World War II. broke out. 1 say, and the Australian Labour party says, that even if Australian-built machines cost twice as much as those we import, it is not so much the money loss that matters. That money loss can be more than made up in having trained personnel employed in wellestablished industry. It will be a small premium to pay against the risk of massive aerial bombardments rained on our capital and provincial cities and towns.
– It cannot be said that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is not entertaining, but he disappointed me to-night because he has disproved the proposition I was going to put to this House, which was that the debate in this House on the defence statement has been on a high level on both sides. I am afraid the honorable gentleman, in his speech to-night, has not bothered to make even a nodding acquaintance with the truth. His statement about Sir Frederick Shedden can obviously be disproved by any one who takes the trouble to read the evidence which Sir Frederick Shedden gave before the Public Accounts Committee. His statement about the F.N. rifle was a gross distortion of the facts, as I shall take an opportunity to tell the House on another occasion.
In this debate on the Prime Minister’s defence statement, there have been some extremely interesting speeches. 1 believe it to be true that, on matters of defence and international affairs, the House has the benefit of the best kind of speeches we hear in this place because, by and large, honorable members on both sides have a sense of responsibility and make contributions which are, I think, a credit to the House and to the people they represent. Sir, I commend in particular the speech delivered just before the suspension of the sitting by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who, I thought, made a most moderate, thoughtful and constructive contribution.
In his defence statement, the Prime Minister dealt with the possibilities of global war and with the deterrent effect of nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons. It is on that subject that I wish to speak to-night, as many other honorable members have spoken. Again, I say that 1 thought that on all sides, and in almost all cases, there was the clearest evidence of real interest in this matter and a real consciousness of its importance. One speech was made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who urged us to drop our politics in discussing this matter of atomic bombs and to talk about this subject in an objective and rational way. But he did not take hisown advice, because his own speech wasvery much the opposite. However, I shall accept his invitation to-night. I want to say something about the kinds of atomic weapons with which we are concerned in. this discussion, the kinds of tests that we carry out in Australia, the forthcoming tests in the Pacific, and the vexed, but very important, question of the suspension of atomic tests throughout the world. Quite obviously, in matters of this kind a Minister must be dependent upon the advice he receives from the Government’s advisers. No Minister would pretend - he would be foolish to do so - that he spoke from his own original knowledge. In Australia, as in Great Britain, we have the benefit of the advice of scientific men of high repute and of great patriotism, with a great sense of responsibility and a great scientific knowledge. It is upon them that we rely. In most of the things I am saying to-night, I am relying upon what they have advised the Government.
The three kinds of bombs with which we are concerned have been classified by Professor Titterton. He saw that a great deal of confusion was caused by the misuse of technical terms and he sought to simplify the matter. As the House knows, he is the Professor of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University, and at present he is the chairman of the Atomic Weapons Safety Committee, which advises the Government.
– Does the Minister agree with the classification?
– The scientists will not disagree with this classification. Professor Titterton says that, first of all, there is the nuclear fission bomb, sometimes loosely called the atomic bomb. Usually it uses uranium. There is a radio-active fall-out as the result of it, but it is in fact of a small yield. There is, comparatively speaking, a small amount of energy released, with the result that the radio-active fall-out is local, not global. When I say comparatively, 1 mean compared with the big bombs of which I shall speak in a minute. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who is interjecting, is not interested in what I am trying to put before him as a factual presentation of this matter, he should get away from the table and stop speaking into the microphone to interrupt the proceedings. If, when I have done, the honorable member feels that he is in a position to correct Professor Titterton, I invite him to do so. For the moment, let us deal with bombs of that type. Those are the bombs that we have been testing in Australia and which have been tested in Nevada. They are the low-yield bombs by comparison. They give rise to local but not to global fall-out. That is important because this controversy about discontinuing tests has arisen because of the anxiety felt in certain quarters about the hydrogen bomb and its global fall-out.
The second type of bomb is what is known, so the scientists say, as the true thermo-nuclear bomb. It is, ironically enough, described as a “ clean “ bomb, for the reason, apparently, that there is no, or very little, radio-active fall-out with this type of bomb. The menace and danger of this weapon arises from its intensity, from the energy released, rather from the radio-active fall-out. It is one of the types of bomb that has been tested.
– It is reasonably safe, in other words?
– It is reasonably unsafe from the point of view of its devastating effect, but it is not so dangerous from the point of view of its radio-active effects.
The third type has an awkward name. It is called the fission-fusion-fission bomb. It is a mixture of the two processes. It has a very high radio-active fall-out. It is usually of a very high yield.
– It is a dirty bomb?
– It is a very dirty bomb, as the scientists call it, which releases the dangerous strontium 90 of which we have heard so much. I have taken the time of the House to distinguish between these three types of bomb, because arguments are adduced and generalizations are made with respect to one type as if they were all the same, although generalizations affecting one type are false and invalid when applied to another.
Mr, Clyde Cameron interjecting,
Order! The honorable member for Hindmarsh must refrain from interjecting, particularly from where he is sitting now.
– Some members of the Opposition make the most emotional and extravagant statements about this matter, yet when one tries to put before them, not one’s own facts, but facts presented by responsible scientists, they are not anxious to listen. I believe that the Australian people want to hear a cool, sober presentation of this problem as a national problem, free from emotion and free from party political considerations.
As to Australian tests, in this country we have only tested the nuclear fission bomb - the first type of weapon - which is of low yield and with only a local fall-out. We have no intention of ever testing any other kind of bomb. We have no intention of testing the hydrogen bomb. We have never been asked to do so. Our agreement with the British Government stipulates that we shall not do so. So arguments about the dangers from the so-called atomic bomb - using the term in a general sense to cover all these weapons - are invalid so far as Australian tests are concerned, because the tests here are tests of bombs of low yield and only local fall-out.
Our first test in Australia was at Monte Bello in 1952. lt was a small-yield weapon, placed in the hold of a ship to simulate conditions which may happen in war, when a weapon is planted in a ship steaming into an enemy harbour, lt was, from the scientific and military point of view, a most valuable test. It was conducted in complete safety. It was followed by several tests at Emu Field, in Central Australia, in 1954, again conducted with complete safety. These were followed by two more tests at the Monte Bello Islands in 1956. again conducted in complete safety. Following that, there were four more tests at Maralinga in October last year. Honorable members of this House saw one or more of those tests, which were again conducted with complete safety, as the scientists said they would be conducted.
That is the Australian experience, and our arrangements with Great Britain, which were entered into at her request as a contribution by us to her defence and Commonwealth defence as well as our own, in exactly the same way as the Woomera project was agreed to by the Labour Government in its day as a contribution to British and Commonwealth defence.
– We started it.
– I have just said that, and I think it was an honorable and proper thing to do. I do not suppose anybody at that time thought it would develop to the extent it has done, but it has developed and has been an enormous contribution to Commonwealth defence. In the same way we have given the undertaking that we are prepared also to test certain atomic weapons of low yield under conditions of complete safety laid down by us, advised as we are by scientific advisers of the highest repute. We have gone ahead with these tests and they have been conducted without untoward incidents and with complete safety to the Australian people.
May I refer, thirdly, to the Pacific tests? These will be conducted later this year in the Pacific area. They are hydrogen bomb tests - using that phrase in the sense of describing the types of bomb numbers 2 and 3 which I mentioned before. They are to be conducted 4,000 miles from Australian territory. They are British tests, not Australian. The Australian Government has played no part in the decision to conduct those tests, and it is not entitled to play any part in them, but we have received from the British Government complete assurances that the tests will be conducted in safety. In this House and outside it there has been a good deal of agitation by certain people. I refer not only to the Communists, although they have had a Roman holiday over it, but to a lot of other people who have nothing to do with Communists but who nevertheless have idealistic and trustful ideas about what should be done. People of this sort have been proposing that Great Britain should stop now, on the threshhold, and not conduct her tests, and should wait, say, six or twelve months as a gesture to Russia, hoping that Russia will not test any more of her bombs. They say that if Russia does not fall into line, Britain can then continue to make tests. That proposition has been put up in certain quarters. It does not lie with the Australian Government to decide this matter, but I suggest that the British Government would be very foolish indeed to accede to a proposition of that sort, just when she is on the threshold, about to prove to the world, including Russia, that she too has the great deterrent weapon; that she too, plus the United States, possesses the power to make the hydrogen bomb. I believe that that deterrent weapon is the real thing likely to keep the peace and prevent global war in this world. And just at this stage Britain is being asked to discontinue! I venture to suggest that a moment’s consideration will satisfy honorable members that the best thing to do is to have this test, to give the proof to the world, and after that to go to the conference table, so that those negotiating on the other side will know that not only the United States but also the third great power in the world, Great Britain and the British Commonwealth, has the power and the ability to manufacture and deliver this deterrent weapon.
I pass now to the fourth matter, and that is the question of agreement to discontinue these atomic tests - using the word “ atomic “ in its widest sense. I agree with members on both sides of the House that it is eminently a desirable thing to do. There has been much exaggeration, and much emotional talk in some scientific quarters, about the danger of these tests, but there is no doubt that if these high-yield tests go on indefinitely, they will mean danger to the human race. Facing that fact, it is obvious that the time must come sooner or later when we will have to get some sort of an agreement to discontinue tests or to control them in some effective way. All honorable members of this House agree on that. There is still, I believe, on the best scientific evidence and advice we have, a wide margin of safety, but the longer highyield tests go on, then the narrower that margin becomes. So. it behoves us all throughout the world to bend our best efforts to see that an agreement of some son is brought about. But I am entirely opposed, and the Australian Government is entirely opposed, to the proposition that there should be unilateral discontinuance of these tests, because, as has been said, that would be suicide. An Opposition member asks “ Why not? “ That is the first time 1 have heard it genuinely suggested from the Opposition that there should be unilateral discontinuance. I have heard a lot of equivocal talk, but I have never heard any member of the Labour party come out into the light and advocate unilateral discontinuance of tests. Well, we now know that some of these hydrogen bomb tests can be carried on without detection. What sort of position are we to be in if we discontinue unilaterally - Russia has already had about a dozen tests since I spoke last year on this matter - and if Russia is to continue, ignoring our protests, or carrying on tests without our knowing that they take place? We must have agreement in this matter and it must be an effective, enforceable agreement, with provision for inspection and all sorts of checks. And we must keep on trying to get that agreement.
T.n this House some months ago, in an answer, I think, to the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt), I catalogued all the things the free world had tried to do over the years to get agreement on tests. We have failed, but we must keep on trying. Australia will continue to use its utmost influence on all occasions. We are a small nation and it is simply ludicrous for us to pretend that we can, by getting up and making a noise, bring this agreement about; but our influence will always be used, and there are encouraging signs that the climate is changing, and that there is much greater likelihood of getting agreement than there has been hitherto.
I see that to-night’s Melbourne “ Herald “ contains a report from London indicating that Britain has now brought forward to the United Nations Disarmament SubCommittee proposals concerning nuclear tests. The report reads -
The proposals carried the British position a stage further by suggesting the establishment of an expert committee on the possibility of limiting nuclear tests and of supervising an agreement on limitation.
They embodied the Anglo-American proposal for an agreement with Russia on registration of test explosions made last March after the Bermuda conference.
Britain reiterated its view that cessation of test explosions could take place only as part of a general disarmament agreement.
Honorable members on both sides of this House hope that this will come about. I believe it to be equally true that all members of this House will do their utmost to see that it is brought about.
.- The explanation by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) is a first lesson by him to atomic beginners, in which he lightly glosses over certain very, very important and significant aspects of nuclear tests and in which he attempts to perpetuate this fiction of a socalled clean bomb, a fission-fusion-fission bomb. If the international physicists, and the authorities which I read, are correct and the Minister is not correct, then such socalled clean bombs do radiate the deadly strontium 90 into the stratosphere. It is useless to try to create any impression to the contrary.
The other point I want to mention is that last August the Minister accused me of misrepresenting the spirit, if not the letter, of the report of the National Academy of Sciences. I say to him that I accurately quoted the spirit of that report. It was that report, in June, 1956, upon which President Eisenhower was alleged to have based his decision to continue with hydrogen bomb tests, on the ground that they could be continued without detriment to the human race. We now have Dr. Sturtevant of the California Institute of Technology challenging that very report. Professor Neumann, another eminent world physicist, also says that the report is now long overdue for revision. These men challenge the assurance given that strontium 90 could be increased to one-tenth in proportion without harm to the human race. The most ardent supporter of that report, Willard Libby, concurs that a revision of the report is now urgently necessary. I know that the Minister would desire to write down all these things, but we can, unfortunately, find all too many physicists, like Professor Titterton, Willard Libby and Neumann, who have views on this matter to the contrary. Some of them agree, some do not, and there is sufficient element of doubt for us not to take advantage of it for political purposes. I hope to have more to say on that at a later date.
I come now to the Government’s desire for parliamentary approval of a new and changed policy of defence, as outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr Menzies) in this House recently. One queries the very need for the change in policy. Defence concerns everybody, and therefore is a national matter and, as the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) has said, it is not approached in a parochial or partisan manner by members on either side of the House. The prime responsibility of every government is to defend the lives and livelihood of its people. A country must do so either by means of its own strength or by means of the collective strength of nations of like mind. The Prime Minister issued the Government’s first major defence policy in 1950, shortly after he came into office. Since that time the Government has expended more than £1,000,000,000 on defence. In American eyes, no doubt, that is not a large sum. President Eisenhower has just presented to Congress a record peace budget in which he proposes to spend an amount of 71,800,000,000 dollars. Fiftynine per cent., or approximately three-fifths, of that colossal amount is to be spent on defence, including military preparedness, atomic research, mutual security - that is, in military aid to other countries - and in stockpiling. We have to husband our limited economic resources, and every penny has to be spent with the utmost care and consideration for the maximum return in defence. However, one cannot escape the wide feeling of public misgiving in regard to the recklessness and careless expenditure indulged in by the Government to date. The people look to see what has been achieved. At a time such as this, when any government is required, wisely, to review its defence policy from time to time, the people, whom we represent in this Parliament, expect some justification from the Government for its expenditure on defence of more than £1,000,000,000 since 1950. Now it emerges, after the constant constructive criticism of the Government’s defence policy from members on this side of the House - by our leader, Dr. Evatt, and other members - that, unfortunately, our misgivings are all too truly confirmed by the Prime Minister’s statement.
I propose to give a few instances of the self-confessed failures of the Prime Minister and his Government, and then to suggest one or two constructive remedies to which I think the Government could give more than favorable consideration. I have mentioned the need for periodic reviews of our defence requirements. If there has been a change in the grouping of the nations of the world, and if the balance of power, or the orientation of power, has moved from one quarter to another, if new weapons make necessary new tactics and new overall considerations of strategy, then the Government would normally review its policy and effect changes. But, to-day, we find that there is nothing new upon which the Government can base a changed defence policy, and which was not known to the Government in 1950. It is true that about 1945 those of us who were members of the military staff of the brigade group towards the end of the war discussed the future possible role of atomic warfare and the need for dispersement and agreed that there should be no concentration of ground, sea or air troops to any great degree because of their vulnerability to atomic attack. All this information was available to the Government. But all this, as I say, is a matter of conjecture, and no government, including this Government, can to-day base a positive defence policy on matters which are purely conjecture at this stage. We have no atomic weapons, and we should accept some of the realism that is characterized by Mr. Duncan Sandys’ White Paper. The Prime Minister, or his Ministers, should tell the public straight out that there is no defence against atomic warfare, but that in regard to the concept of limited warfare there is something we can do - and the brigade group is the answer, to a very limited extent.
A change, in the not too distant future, in our tactics, and in the basis of our tactical considerations, is imminent. We find that to-day, Mr. Harold Stassen, President Eisenhower’s adviser on disarmament, writes down the air force - I mention this with all respect to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) - and says that, as a result of the use of anti-aircraft missiles which will automatically home on aircraft bearing atomic arms, there will be comparatively little use or role for the longrange strategic bomber to play in atomic warfare. Likewise, Professor Teller, the reputed father of the H-bomb, say’s that we should concentrate on having a fleet of atomic submarines - in other words that our navies should go underwater. So, I say that we cannot base any constructive policy of defence, so far as it affects this country, on conceptions such as this, which are purely hypothetical, but we can be realistic and tell the people that we have no defence against atomic warfare. So we ask ourselves: In view of the fact that there has been no change of the overall strategic picture confronting the Government and no change in the grouping of international forces confronting the Government, why are these changes necessary? The information available to the Government now was available to it in 1950. There has be;n no appreciable change, so why are these changes necessary? We are forced to the conclusion, as I said earlier, by the Prime Minister’s own admissions, that it is because of the failure of Government planning and the failure of appreciation on the part of the Government that we now face the proposition that we have to write off a considerable portion of the money already spent on defence. We have to start over again at the beginning, where we should have started in 1950.
The Prime Minister admits that we have concentrated too much on personnel and not enough on having sufficient of the right type of weapons. He says that we need to standardize. Whose fault is that? It is the fault of his own Government! He says that we have not sufficient quantities of the right type of equipment. That is his own Government’s fault, because he admits that it has concentrated too much on man-power, and ignored the technical side of the requirements of our armed forces. A considerable proportion, which we cannot accurately estimate, of the amount of more than £1,000,000,000 that the Government has spent has been wasted because it has been spent on things that are of no use for the defence of Australia. That is an undeniable fact, and all honorable members and the taxpayers must face up to it right now. It is the Government’s own fault that it has now to adopt a policy that it should have adopted in 1950. It is not due to changes in external affairs or to tactical changes.
The Prime Minister now says that the compulsory military training scheme has placed too much emphasis on personal training. It is true that the Australian Labour party was in favour of it, and that recently it has decided against it. 1 have no doubt that, when the present generation of trainees has moved on out of the training age group, and it is expedient and necessary for the defence of Australia, the Australian Labour party will re-introduce, or give its approval to the re-introduction of, compulsory military training again. If it is necessary for the defence of Australia,
Labour will support it again, but it will not put the Australian people in the position in which they are given a very false idea of their security, and it will not run away from the necessity to tell them that there is no defence that we can adopt against the kind of warfare that the Prime Minister mentioned.
By what means, then, can we meet the position that we have reached? The brigade group that has been mentioned is designed, because of its great flexibility, to be adaptable to the various kinds of warfare that may be met in different theatres of war in defending this country and in carrying out our treaty obligations and our commitments to the United Nations. One of its chief features is that it must be moved quickly. First, I should have thought that a statement on defence would have contained a reference to the provision of broad arterial highways along which armies or brigade groups, and heavy equipment, could be moved. We should have learned a lesson from the Germans in the last war, who were able to fight on two fronts only because of their ability to move their armoured and mobile columns from one side of Germany to the other. But there is no reference to the provision of the necessary highways.
Secondly, if we want to move a brigade group - and it may be necessary to move it overseas under our commitments to the United Nations and our treaty obligations - how are we to move it? At the present time, without training for combined operations, and with the existing organization of our services and the present obsolete or obsolescent means of transport that we have, it would take us three or four months to get such a group, if we had it, off the ground and overseas, and thus the whole purpose of the brigade group would be defeated. If we decided to move the group by air, what would happen? We should have to borrow aircraft. At the present time, we should have to borrow them from Britain or from the United States of America, and if those countries were committed to any extent - as they certainly would be if we were engaged in active warfare - we should not be able to get the necessary aircraft from them until such time as they were able to free them for our use. We had that experience in World War II. It was not until the war in Europe had turned the corner that we were able to get arms and equipment for the Burma theatre and the Western Desert. We just would not be able to move our brigade group by air, because we would not be able to borrow the necessary planes immediately. If we are to have a brigade group that can be used effectively, the Government is under an obligation at least to provide means for us to transport it overseas without depending upon the United States or some other country for transport facilities.
Labour believes that the present training system should be terminated now. If we wanted to complete the training of the 180,000 semi-trained men that we have, and put them in the field if necessary, we should not have the officers and equipment to do it. We have reached saturation point with respect to the facilities that we have. I appeal to the Government to live up to its responsibilities and set an example in wisely spending defence funds. First, the Government should get rid of the dual control of the service departments, including the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production. This dual control of the service departments existed during the war, and those of us who served on the staff had frequently to pause and think which war we were fighting. Half the time, we wondered whether we were really fighting the bureaucrats of the civil service or the Japanese, and what was the object of the exercise. The civil section of the Department of the Army, under the administration of the secretary of the department is responsible for the financial affairs of that service. The men who are to use the equipment on which the money is spent have no say in the spending of it. Has the Minister any idea who is responsible for the preparation of the estimates of the department? I suggest that he has not. We who were fighting the war could not find out, either, although we were supposed to share in the responsibility for preparing them.
The first step in the re-organization of the control of the defence departments, as I suggested earlier in a question, should be the combining of the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Supply. The second step should be to coordinate the three service departments under a single Minister for defence who would administer them with the advice of a defence committee on which the three services were represented. This would then make it possible to meet the overall need to appoint a committee to investigate the overlapping of authority, the tangle of red tape, and the mass of pettifogging detail that encumber the services at every turn. The thought of it reminds me of the Duke of Wellington, who, during the Peninsular wars, wrote to the United Kingdom Home Office stating that, if he were to attend to the mass of futile correspondence that surrounded him on every hand, he would be prevented from attending to the duties that he had been sent out to attend to. Much the same thing applies to the defence departments to-day.
The existing multiple control should be removed. The only way to do it effectively, efficiently, and in the interests of the taxpayers and, above all, of the organized and effective defence of this country, is to appoint a committee to investigate this overlapping and to conduct cost-accounting investigations, and, generally, to undertake the same kind of investigation of the defence services as was undertaken in Britain in 1902, when officers of the Treasury were stationed at all operative levels in the policy-making commands of the Army. Let us restore the war-time commands and place the responsibility on the individuals concerned. Treasury authority should be delegated so that policy decisions affecting finances, and the like, can be made on the spot without reference to a redundant military board, business board or body of business advisers, or the numerous ad hoc bodies that are created by this division of responsibility among a multiplicity of authorities. At one stage, we had a service checking on the Army. There was another service checking on the service that checked on the Army, and so the whole thing was built up. I am amazed to find that this kind of thing still continues twelve years after my association with the services has ended.
I conclude by pressing upon the Government the great need to combine the three service departments in a unified defence department. If that is not possible, a topranking committee with a business executive of persons drawn from outside this country should be appointed. I say that because I do not believe that managerial efficiency exists in Australia.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In the comparatively short time during which he has been a member of this House, the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) has given us reason to expect from him thoughtful and considered speeches, but I must confess that to-night he has profoundly disappointed me. He has made a lot of disconnected and unsubstantiated complaints. He said that there was nothing new in the Government’s review of defence policy. With those few words he dismissed the complete and most profound changes that have occurred in the defence services in the last twelve years.
– I did not say that.
Order! The honorable member for Darebin must not interject.
– Does the honorable member wish to tell me that he did not talk about writing off equipment as being outmoded? I. am not aware of any wholesale writing off of equipment. He said that if we want to move a brigade group, we have to borrow the aircraft. If he has read the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) he obviously has not comprehended it, because he has overlooked the statement that the Royal Australian Air Force is to be re-equipped with modern transport aeroplanes of the American C.130 transport type.
– Where is the Air Force going to get them from?
– If the honorable member is patient, he will find out. They are made by the Lockheed company at Marietta, in Georgia, so presumably, if the Air Force is to get C.130 aircraft, they will come from Marietta, in Georgia. The honorable member compared the state of our defence with that of Germany. He compared this large island continent, with its sparse population and its problems of distances with one of the most intensely developed and highly populated countries of Europe. How does he imagine that we can build autobahns from Melbourne to Darwin and all over the country for defence purposes? If we attempted to do so, we would not have any money left for development, quite apart from defence. That is the kind of ill-considered general criticism that comes from an Opposition which obviously does not understand the problems of defence. Fundamentally, it does not believe in defence. It believes in defence by words, not by-
Mr. R. W. Holt interjecting,
Order! The honorable member for Darebin will remain quiet.
– When the honorable member for Darebin and his colleagues in the Opposition criticize the Government for not having embarked upon a re-equipment of this kind before, they completely overlook the fact that at this very date the services of the United States of America are being drastically re-organized, and that the services of Great Britain are undergoing the most drastic re-organization that they have ever known. So it seems to me that, instead of being behind the times, we are marching forward step by step with our greatest and most dependable allies.
The changes that have been announced by the Prime Minister affect the Air Force very considerably. The task confronting the Air Force is to provide for the defence of Australia and its territories, to play an effective part in the cold war, and to be ready to make a contribution in the event of another limited war or of total war. For that task we need three things. First, we need a mobile operation force that is able to make a contribution towards the Commonwealth strategic reserve for the defence of the free countries of South-East Asia. I remind the House that, if those countries remain free, the defence of Australia at a distance from our shores is assured. Secondly, we need an operational reserve of aircraft and trained air crews to back up our section of the air component of the Commonwealth strategic reserve. Finally, we need a home defence force for the protection of our lines of communication and the mainland of Australia in time of war.
– And a few new Ministers.
– Some of us are fairly new, as the honorable member knows; at least we are entitled to a short trial. For the tasks to which I have referred, we now have fifteen operational squadrons as a framework. Our bomber squadrons are equipped with Canberra twin-jet aircraft which are still very useful. As the House knows, they are made in Australia. The first line of our air interceptors consists of Avon Sabre jet aircraft, which also are made in Australia. They are not in the front line of the most modern aircraft that are being introduced into the United States air force; but they are very useful front line operational aircraft, and all the advice that I can get indicates that they will remain so for a very long time. They have a second and very important function - that of ground attack. We also have our home defence fighter squadrons, which are equipped with Meteors and Vampires. One home defence reserve squadron is still using Mustang aircraft, lt is very easy to decry our defence effort, but the formation of fifteen squadrons by a small country of the size of Australia, with its problems of development, is no mean effort.
If is easy to say that these squadrons are inadequate for the complete air defence of Australia, but what small country can afford all that it needs against all the contingencies that face it in this dangerous world to-day? I think the Opposition would do better to examine the effective potential of our present defence forces, and to examine constructively the plans that have been made to improve them, than to decry the very effective effort which has been made with the limited means that are available in this country.
In addition to the aircraft that I have mentioned, we have two maritime reconnaissance squadrons, one of which is equipped with Neptunes which, as I have reason to know, are very up-to-date aircraft. The other squadron is equipped with refitted Lincolns. These facts present a picture of a useful air force which represents a very commendable achievement by a young country which has other problems on its hands. No small country can do all that it needs to do for its defence against all contingencies.
The Air Force has some pressing problems. The Air Staff advises me that the most immediate need is for the reequipment of our transport squadrons, which are still equipped with Dakota aircraft. As the Prime Minister has announced, they are to be re-equipped with C.130 aircraft, which I know, having recently seen and flown in one, are very remarkable aircraft indeed. Their performance is quite beyond anything that we had thought about in Australia, and they are likely to remain in the front line of transport aircraft for a very long time. Secondly, we need fighter squadrons equipped with modern fighter aircraft. We need bombers, too.
I have told the House that the Canberra jet bomber is still a very useful and effective aircraft and would be particularly useful in the kind of warfare in which Australia could conceivably become involved. But to keep up to date, we will eventually need bomber aircraft, and will also need to enter into the field of guidedmissile defence. The Government’s decisions go a long way towards satisfying those needs. I have said more than once that the Prime Minister has announced that we will re-equip our transport wing with aircraft of the Lockheed C.130 type. It is planned to buy twelve of those aircraft over a period of time. That may not seem to be many, but when one realizes their capacity for carrying troops and great weights, and the multiple uses to which they can be put, including parachute dropping and inflight refuelling tankers, one realizes just how great will be their usefulness. Twelve of those aircraft will provide a very formidable transport wing for the Air Force. As a beginning, we are to have a squadron of modern supersonic fighter aircraft. The Prime Minister has announced that they will have a performance equal to that of the celebrated F.104 fighter, which is produced by the Lockheed company.
Over recent years, the Air Staff has informed the Government of its requirements. Its principal advice has been based on technical discussions which were held a couple of years ago, and it is necessary that that advice should be brought up to date. That will be done. The Air Force having given its advice, the matter is now primarily one for my senior colleagues, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) and the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale). I am confident that a decision will be made soon and will be given effect. As the House knows from the statement of the Minister for Defence Production, the aircraft that will be used will be substantially manufactured in Australia. The Air Staff supports that decision, because the problems of operating modern aircraft in Australia without a manufacturing component to fall back on in the event of modification or for repair of damaged aircraft are almost insuperable. 1 said that in the course of time we will need replacements for our bomber squadrons. At the present time, to provide ourselves with the desirable kind of longrange bomber aircraft is beyond our capacity, nor is a suitable bomber for our purposes immediately available. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), who, in view of his long experience and the very high rank which he held in the Royal Australian Air Force in war, must command a respectful hearing at any time in this House, has suggested that we would do better to use our available funds to buy twelve B.47 aircraft, with the idea of discouraging any attack on this country by a capacity to destroy at long range. I disagree with him. As I have said, I pay great attention to what he says, and I have a profound respect for the experience which lies behind what he says, but in this instance I disagree with him completely, and I do so on the advice and information which I have gained from the Air Staff.
I do not believe that to take part in the intercontinental destruction race is the function of small powers. One function is to look after ourselves. I described the functions of the Air Force at the beginning of my speech. They are to make our contribution to the strategic reserve, to back up that strategic reserve and, in a contingency, to look after the defence of Australia. I think that the plans which have been made, within the means available to us, represent the best ways in which those purposes can be achieved. T think that the honorable member for Indi, in putting forward this argument that we put all our eggs into a small basket of modern bombers, overlooks completely the excessive vulnerability of the modern bomber to defensive equipment. At the present stage, although we concede that it is extremely difficult to prevent one, or a small number, of a large bomber force from getting through, it would be comparatively easy for a wellarmed and powerful enemy to destroy all of a small bomber force. We would be in the position of having all our eggs in one basket with a rather defective handle.
At the present time, there does not exist, so ‘far as I am aware, a light bomber within the means of this country and suitable for our requirements. It is not at all inconceivable that such a bomber may be developed in the years ahead. I have formed the impression, from discussions elsewhere recently, that the tendency to require the highest performance the technology of the time can produce is passing. We appear to be entering a period in which consideration will be given to the economics of the matter and to the simplicity, manoeuvrability and “ usability “ of aircraft, if I may use such a term. It is by no means inconceivable that a light bomber of simpler construction, but still of high performance, will be produced in the course of time. 1 hope that when that position is reached, we will be in a position to re-equip our bomber squadrons with modern aircraft capable of speeds on the threshold or beyond the speed of sound. At the present time, the decision to rely on our Canberras, which are still very effective for the purposes for which we will need them, is, I think, wise and, indeed, inevitable.
As the House knows, a decision has been made to make a beginning on missile defence. I feel, however, that some warning should be issued about this. There is a strong tendency in Australia to believe that once we have a missile, all piloted aircraft will cease to be necessary. I believe thai to be completely fallacious. A series of missile defences suffers from an immobility compared with manned aircraft, and from other defects, lt will be many years, I believe, before piloted aircraft will be replaced completely, or even substantially, by guided missiles, though, quite obviously, the development of guided missile defence must proceed from now on hand in hand with piloted aircraft.
The Air Force is affected by the decision to reduce the national service intake and. indeed, to give up national service training for the Air Force and the Navy. The Ai, Staff has advised for a considerable time that the direct contribution of national service to air defence is very slight indeed and it would have preferred to spend the resources that have gone -into Air Force national service training on things with a more direct application to air defence. This has a more considerable effect on the Air Force, however. The reduction of the national service intake for the Army, which. I believe, is the beginning of a very considerable change in our attitude towards Army defence, means the removal of a heavy drain on our defence expenditure and the prospect of allotting more of our funds to the Air Force. That is, 1 think, a necessary trend.
– The honorable member for Indi has been telling you that for five years.
– I am glad to find myself in agreement with the honorable member on one subject at least. Over the last few years, the average percentage of the defence services vote in this country allotted to the Air Force has been 32 per cent. Under the new scheme, it will rise by 5 per cent, to 37 per cent. I believe that this is a tendency which is inevitable and correct, and one which must continue. In the United States of America, for example, the Navy gets 28 per cent, of the total vote, the Army 24 per cent, and the Air Force 48 per cent. In Canada, the Navy gets 20 per cent., the Army 28 per cent, and the Air Force 52 per cent. In Australia, the allotment under the new scheme will be, for the Navy 26 per cent., the Army 37 per cent, and the Air Force 37 per cent. 1 do not disguise my own opinion that the tendency to devote more of our expenditure to the air is necessary and inevitable, and one which I hope and expect to see proceed in the years ahead.
In 1954, my senior colleague, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), announced in a White Paper -
There will be a weighting of the defence effort in favour of the Air Force.
That was re-affirmed in a further statement by him in September, 1954. That process has gone on steadily, and it has now reached the point where the Air Force is getting 37 per cent, of the total vote. As I have said, it is an inevitable process. The whole logic of the times and of events leans that way. This is a technological age. In weapons of offence and defence, the advance of technology has been at a far greater rate in the Air Force than in either of the other services. I know very well that some of my friends on this side of the House, with whom I served in the past on the Government Members’ Defence Services Committee, may feel some amusement at recollecting the vigorous defence of the naval vote that I have made in the past, but I will not be the first person to whom responsibility, work and knowledge have brought a change of mind. I have no desire to underrate the needs of naval defence, or, indeed, of naval aviation, because all that I say about the needs of the Air Force applies, I believe, with equal force to aviation for the maintenance of sea power. But in a country where the butter of defence has to be so thinly spread, because of our resources, over a vast area, it is inevitable that we should seek the most effective means of spreading it. Defence, just like superphosphate and other things of an agricultural nature, can be spread very effectively in difficult terrain by air.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The credit for the present shake-up in the defence forces of this country, if I may use that term, must go to the Public Accounts Committee, and to Sir Frederick Shedden, who, at the time the committee made its inquiry, was the Secretary of the Department of Defence. Unless somebody had drawn attention to the very bad state of Australia’s defences, there would have been no announcement from the Government and no new plan of defence. The Government would still have gone on muddling along, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made his statement on 4th October last to the effect that the defence programme was to be revised from top to bottom, only after Minister after Minister had tried to discredit the statement made by Sir Frederick Shedden. Then we discovered - no doubt to the great surprise and horror of the Australian public - the sorry state of affairs that existed in our defences. I was a member of the first Curtin Labour Government in 1941 and I have a very clear recollection of the state of affairs that existed when we took over the reins of government. History is repeating itself, because it is with the same type of government and with the same Prime Minister that we are dealing at the moment. The only difference between the two situations is that in 1941 we had been at war for some considerable time, whilst fortunately at the moment, when we make this great discovery, we are not at war with anybody.
The Prime Minister said that these great changes are necessary because there have been great scientific and technological developments in the recent past. What the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) said a little while ago is perfectly true. In 1950 and 1951, when we were criticizing the Government’s plan to introduce national service training - and any honorable member who cares to look at the “ Hansard “ reports may read the speeches of members of the Opposition - we told the Government that it was thinking in terms of the Boer War instead of having regard to the developments that were then apparent. Does anybody suggest that in 1950 or 1951 it was not clear to every member of this Parliament who had given any thought to the matter that the next war would nol be a war fought by infantrymen forming fours and using rifles but an atomic war? But the Government, instead of preparing for that kind of eventuality, went on in its old incompetent way, muddling the affairs of this country and wasting its finances.
Evidently, in 1950 and 1951 the Prime Minister was fully aware of what the Government was preparing to meet, because when he returned from overseas he said that the position was so grave that “ if we are to be ready we cannot and must not give ourselves a day more than three years “. He was not talking about a minor war. Wars are now divided into major wars, in which you do your best and use all the weapons you have, and minor wars, in which you do not use all your weapons. But this was to be a major war, because the Prime Minister said he was preparing for the contingency of a third world war. Apparently, the grave situation had not improved by 1 4th May, 1952, because the Treasurer of the Commonwealth (Sir Arthur Fadden) then said that Australia must prepare for possible mobilization for hostilities by the end of 1953. That is the type of thinking that has been guiding the affairs of this country!
Including the last budget provision, we have spent approximately £1,250,000,000 on defence since 1949. Listening to the Ministers who spoke to-night, one might have imagined that we had an effective defence machine, and that this country and its people would be in no danger, no matter from what quarter a threat might come. But that was all exploded by the former secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Frederick Shedden, who, when giving evidence before the Public Accounts Com mittee, said that not only was Australia not ready for mobilization in 1953, but it was not ready now. He went on to say that the services were 5,000 below strength.
– When did he say this?
– Quite recently - a few months ago. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ leader had something to say about it, and surely nobody would suggest that that is not a source which normally is favorable to the Government. On 10th August. 1956, that newspaper said -
Sir Frederick Shedden’s evidence will confirm the fears long held by many Australians that our defence programme is ill-conceived and badly administered The first conclusion to be drawn is the need for a new and stronger Minister for Defence That the time has come for a high-level shake-up there can be no doubt at all.
Well, we are not getting a top-to-bottom shake-up, because we find that immediately after Sir Frederick Shedden made his statement the various Ministers rushed in to try to discredit what he has said, although Sir Frederick Shedden had for many years, including the war years, been the Secretary of the Department of Defence. I should imagine that he would be one man in this country who would know something about the subject of defence. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), in an attempt to combat what Sir Frederick Shedden had said before the Public Accounts Committee, stated -
Never in any earlier period of peace had Aus, tralia been better prepared and equipped to meet the emergency of war than in 1953. It is certainly no less so to-day.
Then we had the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). Listen to his contribution -
Despite uninformed criticism the statement by the Minister for Defence was literally true.
What do you mean when you say that a statement about the defence programme is “ literally true “? He went on -
We have at least 140,000 fully trained or partly trained mcn, equipment to the value of approximately £400.000,000-
And then, as a qualification, he added - much of it, of course, cf last war vintage, but still very useful in the event of war.
That is exactly what the Menzies Government said way back in the early days of the last war, when our heroic airmen were using training aeroplanes in trying to combat the efficient Zeros used by the Japanese. The Wirraway aeroplanes were very useful!
We find, too, that a former member of this Parliament, a member of the Australian Country party, had something to say on this subject. Labour members will remember Mr. J. P. Abbott. In a letter to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 17th August, 1956, he said-
The difference between the Secretary of the Defence Department and the Minister-
That is, the Minister for Defence - is that the former spoke for the security of the nation and the latter to excuse the deficiencies of the Government.
What are these deficiencies? Let us have a look at the defence structure that has cost the taxpayers of this country £1,250,000,000. Let us take the Navy first. By the way, apparently the Prime Minister is satisfied with the plan in respect of the Navy, because he has announced that there is to be no change in it. We have two aircraft carriers, One, H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “, has a speed of approximately 24 knots, compared with the 33 knots of a similar type of aircraft carrier in the United States fleet. The other aircraft carrier was used for training purposes until only recently. In addition, we have five frigates, a few destroyers, four minesweepers, four boom vessels, one tug, one ammunition store carrier, and sundry small vessels. So what are we worrying about? I think that the Prime Minister made the understatement of the century when he said that the Government had been spending too much on the man-power side of defence and not enough on equipment. To command the Navy, we have one chief-of-staff, six rear admirals, four commodores, 154 commanders, 55 captains, and junior officers, so that we could have a rear admiral, or at least a commodore, to command every vessel from frigates upwards! It seems that the Prime Minister was not as complacent about the position as were the so-called Defence Ministers, because in the course of his statement he said -
We have for some time been greatly disturbed.
And so would I, if I had known the state of affairs at the time -
Too small a proportion of our expenditure has been available for equipment.
Now let us turn to aircraft production. The Minister for Air has spoken about the Air Force. What would happen to our Air
Force if our allies were busily engaged elsewhere and could not provide us with aircraft, or with spares for the aircraft we had procured? The aircraft production industry that was established and developed by the Labour government has been allowed by this Government to go down the slide. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ has had something to say on this matter also. On 10th August last it stated -
The story of aircraft production alone, as told by the surprisingly frank Sir Frederick Shedden, is a severe indictment of ministerial competence.
The Treasurer, in his budget speech, said -
The defence programme has been lagging and the Armed Forces have been losing strength instead of gaining it.
Why would they not be losing strength? Look at the men in charge of the various defence activities! The Prime Minister said -
We have quite frankly disturbing deficiencies on the equipment side.
Let us consider the Ministers. I said that there had been no shake-up from top to bottom. Surely, in view of the apparent deficiencies and the wasteful expenditure over the years, the first thing the Prime Minister should have done, if he wanted to do anything in respect of defence, was to shake these drones out of the positions they occupy in the various defence departments. Let us examine their places in the team. The Prime Minister is a bad captain. We have, first the Minister for Supply. In addition to being in charge of supply and defence production, he is in charge of the development and production of nuclear weapons. With all due respect, there are men on the Government side who have had more experience than the Minister has had and who could have done a better job in that portfolio. I do not want to belittle the Minister’s efforts, but I understand his principal contribution during the last war, to gain administrative knowledge, was to organize the defence of the oyster leases at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River. Then we come to the Minister for the Army. His experience was as a member of the Volunteer Defence Corps. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) also had similar experience. I turn now to the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne). He served with great distinction in the Navy, and, because of that, he was made Minister for Air. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) had distinguished service in the
Army, so he was made Minister for the Navy. Then we come to the Minister for Defence. He is completely hopeless. Any one who heard him speak in this debate must have realized that. This is not merely a case of a government being compelled to change its defence policy because its existing plan had proved to be a failure; the facts are that, by its wasteful expenditure, it has left this country completely defenceless. 1 turn now to nuclear warfare. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock; asked why there was no mention of civil defence. Why are we not frank and honest about it? ls there any adequate defence against nuclear warfare? Even if the plans of the honorable member for Indi are carried out and warning is given in time to permit people to go sufficiently far underground to miss the effects of the bomb, what happens about the effects of the bomb on the earth itself? Does it not destroy all life? Where is the difference between being burnt to death by the bomb and dying of starvation if one survives the effects of the bomb? The result would be the same. There is only one effective defence against nuclear warfare and that is to prevent any such war from taking place. According to the Minister for Supply, we are very anxious to obtain an agreement to cease the tests of the atom bomb and to guarantee that it will not be used in warfare. I suggest to the Minister that he examine the speech of the Minister for Defence, who said quite plainly that, even if th; Soviet were prepared to forgo nuclear tests and to undertake not to use nuclear bombs in warfare, we still would not agree, though we believed that the Soviet was sincere in its approach. According to the Minister for Defence, we will agree to the discontinuance of these tests or undertake not to use the bombs in warfare only if the Soviet and other nations agree to disarm completely.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with that, if it is capable of being accomplished. No realistic member of this Parliament, knowing the world situation, would suggest that that was a feasible proposition at the present time, or one likely to succeed. Why cannot a start be made to discontinue the use of nuclear weapons? The
Prime Minister said that if a major war - that is one involving the use of nuclear weapons - occurred, it would lead to mutual destruction. 1 think it was the Minister for Supply who said that the moment we know a bomb is on the way to us. we press a button and a bomb is on the way to the enemy; there is nothing to worry about, every one will die together. That is the type of thinking we get from these gentlemen. The Minister for Defence admitted that there may be some danger from radioactive fall-out, but it would not be very great and, therefore, we need not worry about it.
In the few moments that remain, I want to refer to a rather remarkable situation. Whilst this country has been obliged to spend £1,250,000,000 on defence, that does not necessarily mean that we would have only one potential enemy. That is the trouble with the thinking of honorable gentlemen opposite. When they talk of defence preparations, they talk in terms of the threat coming from only one quarter. But does anybody dismiss completely the idea, horrible as it may be, that some day in the future we may again be challenged by an aggressive and armed Japanese nation? When the Prime Minister paid his recent courtesy call on his old friend, the Emperor of Japan, he advocated the complete rearmament of Japan, and no: just a police force to maintain civil order in that country. Has he any guarantee that a rearmed Japanese nation would fight on our side in the next war? There is no guarantee of that at all. The Japanese may become possessed of nuclear weapons. Already, according to newspaper reports, some of these nuclear weapons are to be placed off the coast of China. As these weapons are spread around the world, more danger spots and more threats to peace are created. That is not the way to obtain a settlement of these terrible disputes and to overcome the possibility of wholesale human destruction.
Let me deal, briefly, with the new defence proposals. The Prime Minister said that we are now to have a completely new defence structure, which is to be co-ordinated with the forces of the United States of America. My opinion is that a nation is always vulnerable from the viewpoint of defence if it cannot maintain supplies for its armed forces from the resources and production of its own industries, because its allies may not be able to continue to supply the necessary items. As far as it is practicable, it is good to work in this way with those who are our allies or our potential allies. Mention was made of the F.N. rifle. Everybody knows that this Government has delayed, vacillated and messed around so much that, by the time it decided to use this rifle, it had been abandoned by the United States.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- lt was expected that to-night at 8 o’clock we would hear the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). However, 1 understand that he has not been well, and perhaps that prevented him speaking. I hope that he will soon be fully recovered and back in this House, because we like to hear him, although we do not necessarily agree with him. As he did not speak at 8 o’clock, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke, and I want to say something about his speech. In the first portion of my contribution to-night, I wish to rebut some of the statements he made. I am not one of those who come into this House with a prepared speech, determined to make it no matter what happens. One or two things that have been said to-night should be rebutted. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking, I interjected, and asked, “ What did Mr. Curtin say “ ? I asked that question for the simple reason that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted Mr. Curtin as an authority. He had prepared some statements, but goodness knows upon what authority or where they came from. He read them from notes that he had with him.
I want to read one or two statements that Mr. Curtin really made. I was not in Australia at the time, I am pleased to say, although 1 do not mean that to be an expression of opinion against Mr. Curtin. I was away while he was Prime Minister not because 1 did not want to be here but for other reasons. However, as I was not here, I want to refer to “ Hansard “, the Parliamentary record. As honorable members on both sides of the House know, I. could not refer to a more authoritative document when I wish to recall statements that have been made in this House. Honorable members will recall that the Labour Government came into office on 7th October, 1941. On 28th May, 1941, Mr. Curtin made a speech in this House. That was about five months before the Labour party was elected to office. In that speech, Mr. Curtin said -
I claim that the war has been prosecuted to the maximum of Australia’s capacity and I doubt if any great improvements could have been made upon what has been done by the Government working in collaboration with the Opposition.
– Who said that?
- Mr. Curtin said that on 28th May, 1941, five months before the then Government, which was virtually a Liberal-Australian Country party government, was defeated and Labour was elected to office. Time went on.
– Of course it did.
– It always does, as the honorable member for East Sydney has indicated. The Labour party was elected to office as the Government on 7th October, 1941, and the first session of the Sixteenth Parliament was opened on 29th October, 1941. I turn again to “Hansard”, the document of authority, to see what Mr. Curtin said as the Prime Minister of the day on 21st November, 1941. This is what he said as the Prime Minister -
The policy that has been applied in Australia has brought about an increasing war effort and Australia was never before so well prepared for war as it is now.
– Who said that?
- Mr. Curtin said that just after he was elected to office as the Prime Minister in 1941. No one in this chamber will suggest that between 29th October and 21st November - approximately three weeks - the Labour Government had changed everything! Even if the Labour Government had maintained the situation that existed before it was elected, Mr. Curtin might have been said to have been referring in the “ Hansard “ report to the preparations by his predecessors. So everything that has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition falls to the ground when we consider the logic or the truthfulness of the statements that were made by Mr. Curtin as the Prime Minister. I am informed, although I have no knowledge of
Mr. Curtin personally, that he was respected on both sides of this House then, and that he still retains that respect in the memory of those who knew him.
Let me go a little further. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition struck at the real crux of the situation, so far as the Australian Labour party is concerned, when he answered a question that had been put to him by way of interjection to-night. I invite honorable members to refer to the “ Hansard “ report to-morrow to test the truth of my statement. The question came from the ranks of Government supporters. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking about how bad things were in connexion with defence, and he was asked, “ What would you do? “ It was a reasonable question. The immediate reply of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was, “ I would get rid of this Government “.
This Government came into office in 1949. The honorable member for Melbourne made the same statement in 1951, but not in this House; he said it during an election campaign. He made the same statement in 1954 and 1955 and he will make it again, but he should add a few words to that remark. He should say now, “ I would get rid of this Government and introduce democratic socialism “, because, according to press reports, he said that Labour would fight the next election on the principles of democratic socialism.
Now, I believe that the whole life of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and of most of the members of the Opposition is engrossed with the idea of getting rid of the Government. When they speak in this chamber, they do not debate what is right or wrong but whether they can get back to the treasury bench. That over-rides all their thinking. If honorable members read “ Hansard “ or listen to the debates they must be impressed by the methods that members of the Opposition are using in trying to intimidate the people or get their support, but any chance they had of getting support from reasonable thinking people has passed away, now that they have adopted a policy of democratic socialism.
I am pleased to note that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has returned to the chamber. I ask him to read the report of my speech in “ Hansard “ because I do not like to speak against any honorable member when he is not present in the chamber. I do not know where the honorable member has been, but that does not matter.
We have just listened to a speech by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He makes a great show in this House of what should be done and what a great patriot he is. I do not believe in going back into history, but it is necessary to do so sometimes in order to rebut statements that are made by members of the Opposition, and so I remind honorable members of several statements that were made by the honorable member for East Sydney quite a long time ago. The honorable member was reported in “ Hansard “, volume 151, at page 269, to have said this on 17th September, 1936 -
I strongly protest against the expenditure of even £1 of Commonwealth revenue on implements of destruction.
The honorable member for East Sydney is reported in “ Hansard “, volume 154, at page 766, to have stated on 8th September, 1937- .
Personally I do not share the fears of honorable gentlemen opposite that Australia is in danger of an attack from a foreign power.
The honorable member is also reported in “Hansard”, volume 187, at page 1149, to have stated -
It is amusing to hear people say that we shall not give up New Guinea. To these people I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our mandated territory, they should defend it themselves.
Honorable members who compare those remarks with the statements that we have heard to-night from the honorable member for East Sydney would not believe that they were made by the same man. The honorable member also has a complex about getting back into office. He does not care what he says in debate. His first object is to get the reins of government.
We have heard other speakers to-night, and I do not wish to confine my speech to statements that have been made by members of the Opposition. I want to say something about supporters of the Government. Their speeches should be criticized when criticism is justified. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) said quite a lot. Perhaps one of his most striking statements was his suggestion that to suppose that the United Kingdom or the United States of
America would come to our aid was unreal. The honorable member said that, in fact, it would be immoral and dishonest for them to do so. He said that if they came to our aid in a nuclear war, they would suffer bombing in their own countries and we could not expect them to help us.
Let us analyse those statements which were made by a man who has had wide experience. I honour his experience although 1 do not honour the views that he has expressed to-night. If we cannot depend upon our allies and friends among the English-speaking and other free nations of the world to assist us, we cannot assist anybody. It cuts both ways. That means that we are isolated. Naturally, in those circumstances, we could not assist any other nation. We would be isolated and the cold war would turn into a hot war. Australia would be defeated by Russia because no nation would come to our help. Then some other country is attacked in the same way with bombs and no one will come to its aid, and finally there will be only the United Kingdom in the British Isles, and the United States on the mainland of America with which Russia has not dealt. Does any one seriously suggest for one moment that all the great promises which have been made by the Secretary of State and other great leaders of the American people as well as the leaders of the peoples of the British Commonwealth of Nations, from Canada to New Zealand and even the United Kingdom itself have been just idle talk? 1 cannot accept that suggestion at all. 1 believe that when the representatives of those great English-speaking nations and others make such statements, and that when nations join such organizations as Anzus and Seato, they will stand firm under their flags - especially the members of the British Commonwealth of nations - to protect those countries which have been attacked. As has been suggested to-night, some of the other countries may be unable to come to our aid for the simple reason that they have their hands full of a global war. If they are so engaged, then, to the extent that Russia or some other country is subjecting them to onslaught on the other side of the world, perhaps tn Europe or America, we shall be relieved of the pressure of attack. Whichever way it goes, I believe we enjoy the confidence of all those people whom we regard as out allies. I am confident that if war came to this country, we would have the help of the people with whom we have co-operated in the past with such great success, and I am equally confident that with their co-operation we shall be just as successful in the future.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) referred to the Prime Minister’s statement and suggested that the Government was scrapping its whole defence programme. I have not had time to check his quotation, but he said that the Prime Minister had stated on 2nd October, 1956, that our defences were never better, and that two days afterwards he said there would be a complete and thorough investigation of them. There is nothing wrong with that. Even though our defences are never better on a certain day, it is still necessary even two days after that desirable position is achieved, to make a thorough investigation in order to ascertain the best ways of keeping our defences in that excellent state. I believe that investigation is necessary not only two days afterwards but continually. It is essential that we maintain eternal vigilance. That suggestion is not made merely from any whim; it has a sound foundation. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Eternal vigilance is essential if we are to keep our armed forces and defences at the highest state of excellence possible in Australia. That being so, the Prime Minister was correct in what he said.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also mentioned the fact that we had a new kind of rifle and said that there is not the same interest in rifle club training to-day as there was in the past. I believe that his sole reason for mentioning that was to give him an opportunity to refer to the rifle range at Williamstown. That happens to be in his electorate and he wants to keep on the good side of his constituents, who are urging that the land now occupied by the rifle range be used for housing. Those are the facts.
Let me point out the true position in connexion with rifle clubs. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that they lack support, that no interest is being taken in them. I contradict that :by quoting the following report of a statement made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) on 12th March, 1957, which is not so long ago, under the heading “ More Interest in Rifle Shooting “: -
An increased interest in rifle shooting in Australia had developed during the last financial year, with an improved membership to 43,822 in Australian rifle clubs.
The report went on to say -
There had been an increased membership of 859 members.
The Minister said that the efficiency of these clubs was higher than ever before. He pointed out that the highest standard of efficiency was enjoyed by Queensland, where it was 97 per cent., that the average for the Commonwealth was 94 per cent., and that the amount of money made available by the Commonwealth Government to assist rifle clubs was £45,249. He also pointed out that additional money had been made available for administrative costs and travelling. Under those circumstances, it will be readily appreciated that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was a long way off the mark when he said that there was no interest in rifle shooting clubs to-day. As I pointed out earlier, his only purpose in saying that was to obtain the opportunity to refer to the Williamstown rifle range. I do not wish to enter into a debate as to whether rifle shooting should continue at Williamstown. My sole purpose is to approach all questions on a sound basis. As this debate has been in progress for some time, honorable members will appreciate that it is difficult to introduce new matter, and here I pay tribute to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). In my opinion, he made the best speech I have heard during this debate on this subject. He introduced two vital questions. He asked: “ Why does Russia want such a vast submarine fleet and such a huge navy; and why does she want such a tremendous army if she is looking for peace all the time “ ? Those are pertinent questions, and the honorable member for Hume certainly made a most important contribution. After all, he is a man who has gained his experience under the most adverse conditions, in Malaya and other places, and whenever he speaks on military matters we must respect his opinions.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) said, “ Let us hope, trust and pray that we will never have another war “. He reminds me of a statement made when
Napoleon was captured and imprisoned on the island of Elba. That statement was, “ Now is the time to beat our spears into pruning hooks and our swords into ploughshares “. A few days after that statement was made, Napoleon had escaped from the island of Elba and the whole world as it was known then once more was aflame. We cannot rely on any indications one way or the other about war.
The honorable member for Lang said he opposed the use of nuclear weapons. He is not alone in that stand. I, too, oppose their use, but unless the ban on them is world wide it will add to the threat to world peace. Here. I suggest, it is pertinent to refer to a statement made by the Duke of Wellington. When asked by a lady, “What is a great victory like? “ the Iron Duke said, “ The greatest calamity in the world, madam, except a great defeat “. In war, irrespective of whether we win or lose the conflict, we always lose. The honorable member for Lang might express the hope that we shall not have another war, but I cannot see any foundation for hope of continued peace under a doctrine that suggests that the free nations ban the use of atomic weapons while Russia is allowed to continue perfecting them. Such a course could only give Russia world supremacy in this field, and divest us of our freedom. I believe in peace, but I do not believe in peace at any price.
.- I am sure that after listening to the broadcast of this debate, the Australian nation is satisfied that members of the Opposition have stated a substantial case in challenging the Government’s handling of defence expenditure, particularly over the last six years. Mishandling and extravagance in this direction have been such that the AuditorGeneral has seen fit to offer very caustic comments about the matter, with the result that the Public Accounts Committee has made an investigation with a view to devising means of conserving public finances and protecting public interests.
The report of the Public Accounts Committee on this matter contains some very interesting information which should be made known to the Australian community. In the six years to which I have referred, the tremendous sum of approximately £1,200,000,000 has been expended on defence, and little or no justification can be found for it. In paragraph 56 of the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Defence Services and the Estimates the expenditure for the year 1955-56 is set out. For the Navy, £36,000,000 was spent on maintenance, but capital expenditure for arms, equipment, buildings, works and so on, was only £11,287,000. For the Army, of a total sum of £61,446,000, £48,980,000 was spent for maintenance purpose, but only £12,466,000 was devoted to capital expenditure on arms and equipment. For the Air Force, of a total of £52,138,000, £37,625,000 was expended on maintenance and only £14,513,000 for the purchase of equipment. Summed up, the position is that of a grand total of £161,608,000, only £38,266,000 was used for the purposes of equipment essential to the needs of our defence forces. Those figures certainly indicate how essential is a new outlook by the various branches of the departments responsible for the defence of this country.
When I was a member of the Curtin Government, 1 was given the responsibility of organizing the munitions projects of Australia and also of supervising the activities of the Navy. At that time, we had to prepare to meet an enemy almost at our door. We were bereft of the things essential to our defence, although the previous government, which had been led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), for many years had assured us of the nation’s ability to meet its responsibilities in regard to defence. We found how handicapped we were at that critical moment because we were unable to exert the strength that was essential to our defence.
I now direct the attention of the nation to the fact that in many respects during the last six years, a recurrence of that lack of preparedness has been apparent. Although the huge sum of £1,250,000,000 has been expended, there has been practically no addition to the establishments essential for defence and nothing of a substantial character exists to justify that expenditure. Australia is in great need of more durable roads and better harbour installations, as well as of more aerodromes, particularly along the north-western coast, which to-day is practically unguarded. Radar stations and other installations of that kind are urgently needed also for defence purposes.
The professions being made from the Government side are not convincing, in view of the lack of essential requirements. It is necessary that Australia should be safeguarded against finding itself in an unfortunate position similar to that which existed when World War II. broke out. In order to provide that safeguard, a complete revision of defence policy is required.
There seems to be a desire on the part of the Government to make Australia a mere appendage to other nations. We do not seem to be capable of undertaking our own defence responsibilities. With regard to the rifle which is to be the new standard equipment for Australian servicemen, I want to say to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) that I strongly suspect that when it is produced in .1959, it will be found to be obsolete. Although preparations are now being made to tool up to manufacture this rifle, I find that the American authorities are producing an improved pattern. If there is available equipment of a later pattern which would provide more effective defence for the free world, surely it should be made available to us. Our servicemen should not have to use a weapon that is antiquated and obsolete from the very beginning. I offer my objection to having something palmed on to us that is not right up to date and efficient. The lives of the members of our defence forces depend on the effectiveness of the weapons with which they are armed. I say to honorable, members on the Government side that any equipment which is other than the best is not good enough for our servicemen. If such equipment is brought into service, that will be a further indication of the inadequacy of this Government to meet its responsibilities for the defence of Australia.
It has been said that only a partial form of defence is possible for Australia because there is not enough money available to enable all necessary defence measures to be undertaken. The Government has not even expended the defence vote for the current year. As the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) reminds me, the Government has failed to spend £25,000,000 which it had set aside for the defence of this country. Clearly, the Government cannot claim that it has not had the money to carry out any plan that it might have made for our defence. Even the Prime Minister has recognized that whatever the Government may have accomplished in the last six years, there are “ alarming deficiencies “ in the equipment that is available to protect Australia.
– Who said that?
– It was said by no less a person than the Prime Minister himself, lt is evident that the Australian people have not been fairly treated so far as the application of the defence vote is concerned. This Government has continued to deny to the people of Australia that security of life and well-being that every nation should enjoy.
Turning now to the Government’s policy on defence training, 1 find that, of all things, the young men who are to be selected for this purpose will in future be obliged to take part in a lottery. The drawing of a marble wilt decide whether a man should render service to this nation or not. Surely the question whether a young man is fitted, by his outlook, his willingness to serve and his physical and mental capabilities, to undergo training for the defence of this country, is not likely to be resolved intelligently or logically by recourse to a. lottery. I am sure that if a sample of public opinion upon this matter were taken, the Government’s action would be not merely rejected but condemned. A system of voluntary enlistment would be far preferable. We could then avail ourselves of the services of those young men who are anxious to give of their best on behalf of their country. We should then be getting the very best value for the money expended upon training young men for leadership in any armed forces.
Because of the limitation of time, my remarks on the subject of nuclear warfare will necessarily be brief. Although we have been assured that there is no danger in the kind of test that is shortly to be made, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) did admit to-night that every atomic explosion produced some “ fall-out “, and that eventually this might constitute a very serious threat to the health of men, women and children everywhere. If there is no danger, why is it necessary to appoint a select committee of expert scientists to advise the Government on the degree of danger, if any, involved in these tests?
This merely shows that the Government itself is not convinced, and is seeking a further examination of the matter.
To-day, the two great opposing forces which seek domination in the world are those of communism and capitalism. Is co-existence possible? I cannot answer that question, but I can surely say that we need a new way of life which will incorporate more of the Christian formula - a life of freedom from the acquisitiveness that to-day detracts from universal well-being, and of freedom from the tyrannies o/ frantic fanatics who seek to enslave our civilization. It is surely not too much to ask that these thoughts should guide us in making decisions upon the tremendous and challenging issues that mean life or death to the people of our time, and to future generations.
– I assure the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) that I would have a far greater faith in the future of mankind if the words which he used in closing his remarks had been spoken in some country other than Australia. I do not think that even he would doubt the sincerity of any honorable member in this chamber, who sought a formula for world peace. As in the past, we have not the alternative of saying whether there shall or shall not be peace. The mere fact that this is a debate upon an Australian defence statement is sufficient indication of the fact that in Australia we always talk in terms of defence, never offence. Any one who believes in freedom, and also believes that he can live in peace for the rest of his life without taking adequate defence precautions is doomed to disappointment and extinction. it surprised me, during this debate, to hear so many honorable members opposite citing so openly the findings of the Public Accounts Committee and of the AuditorGeneral. Obviously, that body and thai individual are placed in their positions by the Government to do the very thing that they are doing. Far from expressing surprise that they have found deficiencies or lack of planning, we should appreciate their findings because they all add up to efficiency for the future.
I suppose that honorable members opposite will acknowledge that while they were in government the various service Ministers themselves could not be the highest authority on the department over which they had jurisdiction. They had to be led in their decisions by submissions from the top service people in whatever service was concerned. Because there is a most healthy rivalry between the services and because each service chief tries to get the most that he can for his own service, one can never have one over-all defence plan to satisfy everybody, as is indicated by the tenor of remarks in debate by members on both sides of the House.
Only a fortnight ago, I was privileged 10 hear a talk by Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry, who, as most honorable members know, was head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Air Force in the European theatre. He said that he believed that we were lulling ourselves into a false sense of security by believing that we were still at peace. He said that there was no such thing as peace. He said that the “ cold war “ was really a war of politics and a war of economics. He said that the scientists of the world had almost reached the stage at which war would be outlawed because of the terrors that it would conjure up to mind. This brings me back to the point that even if war or thermo-nuclear war, that terrifying thing, could be outlawed one would still have to take into account the type of police action or local war that has occurred.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in the speech which he made to-night, said that it was ridiculous to talk about training infantrymen in 1951 when it was obvious what type of war would come if it arrived. A year or two later the conflict in Korea broke out in which conventional arms were used and manpower was an important factor. The casualties suffered by the Americans alone in the Korean war were greater than the casualties that they suffered in World War I. Yet, conventional weapons were used in Korea. In 1941, the infantryman was as important as he has ever been. Conventional weapons and troops will still be needed by this nation and the nations of the world where there is still a threat of local action.
– What are conventional troops?
– I know that the interjector is an extremely learned gentleman and I imagined that he understood what I was trying to convey. The defence of a nation is dependent on the area and population of that nation. I have heard in this House certain criticisms of the expenditure of various countries on defence per head of their population. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), in a very forceful speech, said that the United States of America was spending £109 a head on defence whilst Canada was spending about £54 a head and Australia about £20 a head. We must realize, in Australia, that an adequate defence force must centre round what the economy of the country can stand and what we can hope to achieve with what we have at hand. We can never get the type of defence force in the Army, Navy or Air Force, which would adequately cover the whole area of Australia which has a coastline of about 1 2,000 miles. We have some 9,000,000 people against America’s 159,000,000 and Great Britain’s 50,000,000. Great Britain has a national income of £15,000,000,000 whilst Australia has a national income of about £3,714,00,000. The national income of America is about 300,000,000,000 dollars. It will be seen that we cannot hope to do more than is set out in the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
Our area, in itself, in a thermo-nuclear or atomic war, might be one of our best sources of defence because it is obvious that the destructive power of thermo-nuclear weapons increases as the density of population increases. In Australia we have only three people to the square mile as against 539 to the square mile in Great Britain. 52 in America and 25 in the Soviet Union. This fact alone might be of advantage to us. I realize that the majority of our population is in the cities, but perhaps in this atomic age we should give serious consideration to a system of decentralization which will have two results, one of very good defence value and the other of value to the economy of the nation as a whole.
Since we have reached this atomic age, in the interests of defence, we have to look at the training that is going on in the sciences and engineering. It is interesting to note that last week Professor Baxter, who I believe comes from the University of Sydney, expressed alarm that only 10 per cent, of students in our universities were taking engineering. He said that we were slipping behind in our technological skills and technological information. The United States of America in the next ten years will school 900,000 scientists and engineers. Soviet Russia, in the next ten years, will school some 1,200,000 scientists and engineers which is far more than it needs for its own purposes; and it will be in a position to export technical assistance to other countries.
It is no use trying to stop the expansion of Soviet Russia if we are not prepared to do something to beat that country at its own game. We in Australia, together with other Western powers, must send to those people who need technical assistance the scientists and engineers who are capable of giving it to them. In the atomic age, there is an urgent demand on the academic system, first, to train scientists and technicians who will keep us in the forefront of military and technological achievement; and, secondly, to understand human behaviour to enable us to prevent the suicide of civilization. In the training for development, under the heading of defence we must see that the maximum number of students in Australia is given the greatest possible opportunity to undergo technical training to fit them for this atomic age.
I must comment on two or three things that appeared in the statement of the Prime Minister. He stated -
The Citizen Military Forces itself is, of course, vital to the rapid expansion of our forces in time of emergency.
If it is proposed to retain the Citizen Military Forces as a part of our forces - and I know it is - the Government should make a firm gesture of the kind which I have suggested on previous occasions in this House. At the present time, the men of the C.M.F., whether noncommissioned officers, officers, or other ranks, do not receive a very great amount of money in return for the services that they render. It is a service which they render gladly, devoting many of their week-ends to the service of the country. Yet, when the end of the financial year comes they are expected to submit for taxation purposes the amount that they have received as C.M.F. pay. In many cases this means that it costs a man money to be a member of the C.M.F. because the little extra amount that he receives puts him in a higher income group and he has to pay a higher rate of income tax in respect of the whole of his income. The least that the Government should do is totally to exempt C.M.F. pay from taxation.
I now desire to comment upon that part of the statement that refers specifically to Western Australia. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) to-night give details of the part the Air Force played in our defence forces; but it would be hard to convince any one in Western Australia that the Royal Australian Air Force possessed any aircraft at all because the only aeroplanes the people see in the skies above Perth are an occasional DC3 and extremely antiquated Wirraways, and at odd week-ends a Vampire or two.
– They are planes from the last war.
– They were built and delivered to squadrons in 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945. At least one of the squadrons to be formed in the new set-up of the Royal Australian Air Force should bc based in Western Australia where it would have an ideal situation and a permanent Air Force station ready to receive it. The defence of Australia, like some of its economy, is lop-sided towards the eastern half of the continent, and it is time that we in Western Australia - a State which has in the past, in war and in peace, shown itself to be extremely patriotic - saw some evidence of the defence forces of Australia. We see a warship once every six or twelve months when on its way to Malayan waters, it pays a visit to the port of Fremantle. Apart from that, one would not be aware there was a Navy in the possession of the Australian Government.
The Prime Minister stated -
Two other important new projects in Air Force preparedness will be the introduction of the first ground-to-air guided weapons unit and the settingup of mobile control and reporting units at Darwin and at Perth.
I take more heart from the last part of that statement because if we are to have a mobile control and reporting unit, obviously it will be necessary to have something to control and report upon. Perhaps in the near future we will see in Perth a guided-missiles unit or a squadron capable of being used to advantage for the work it will be asked to do.
It does not matter how much time is occupied debating this defence statement; the fundamental thing is that we, as an extremely small nation in size and economic capabilities, must to the best of our ability contribute towards the defence of the free world. The doubt expressed in this House as to whether we shall receive assistance from other nations in time of trouble will be dispelled if we are prepared to do our utmost. I remind the honorable member for Bonython and other honorable members on the Opposition side that if they have any doubt about the preparedness of Australia in 1941 they should read that excellent book entitled “The Turn of the Tide”, which set out the shocking state of preparedness in Great Britain following the disaster, or near disaster, of Dunkirk, and also the shocking state of preparedness of the forces of the United States of America because for two or three years sufficient strength could not be mustered to open any sort of a front in Europe. If the state of preparedness of the free nations were compared, I am sure it would be found that Australia was not lacking.
All we can do is look as far ahead as we can and try to keep out in front in the development and possession of the kind of weapons that promise to contribute some important element to our security. The surest path to maximum security lies in the development of healthy competition amongst the services, demanding also that the services recognize their fundamental roles as members of the same team.
Debate (on motion by Mr. L. R. Johnson) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The number of casualties in the Hungarian revolution will probably never be known precisely and estimates of casualties resulting from the fighting vary.
Budapest radio announced on 15 th January that, according to the Kadar regime’s Central Office of Statistics, about 3,000 people had been killed and about 13,500 wounded. However, most other estimates have varied between 20,000 and 30,000 killed. The Prime Minister of India, who sent a special representative ta Hungary to report on the revolution, has said that it would appear that about 25,000 Hungarians and 7,000 Russians had been killed.
b asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
War Service Homes.
Mfr. Daly asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What number of applications for war service homes is outstanding in each State and in Australia?
What is the waiting time for applicants before finance is available?
n. - The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Note. - Experience has shown that due to withdrawals by applicants and refusals, not more than 60 per cent, of these become effective.
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
As building materials, paints, &c, are very expensive, will he give consideration to a sum not exceeding £50 spent for home renovation being an allowable deduction for income tax purposes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The cost of renovating a taxpayer’s own residence is essentially expenditure -of a private nature and it would be difficult to find any concession of this nature that would operate equitably as between taxpayers. It would appear that a taxpayer who rents his home might claim, with as good reason, that he should receive some income tax allowance in respect of the rent which he pays. Consideration will, however, be given to the proposal when the 1957-58 budget is in course of preparation.
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he agree to an amendment of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act to provide that verifiable fares or reasonable transport costs incurred by workers in travelling to and from their place of employment shall be allowable deductions for income tax purposes’
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Such expenses are regarded as being of a private or domestic nature, the deduction of which is expressly excluded from deductible expenditure by section 51 (1) of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. Proposals for an amendment similar to that suggested by the honorable member have been considered from time to time, but up to date the Government ha* not found it possible to grant the concession The matter will, however, be re-examined when th, 1957-58 budget is in course of preparation.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570507_reps_22_hor15/>.