22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Supply a question in relation to a reported statement by a distinguished professor in the United Kingdom that in the next 20 or 30 years no fewer than 50,000 persons would die of bone cancer and leukaemia as a result of increased radio activity from nuclear tests which have already taken place. I think that the Minister for Supply has put a better view than that.
– It is the same view as I have always put.
– I think it is, but the Minister did not put forward the opinion of the Australian advisers as though they were inviolable. Will the Minister look into this situation, and ascertain whether an opinion has not been expressed on the same subject by Sir John Cockcroft who, I suppose, is the most distinguished atomic scientist in the world?
– Most certainly, this matter will be looked at. The Leader of the Opposition will remember that quite recently the Government decided to set up a national advisory radiation committee, which will be on a very high level and a completely impartial body. That is to say, it will be concerned with the overall problem of radiation throughout Australia and, indeed, throughout the world, not only from bomb fall-out, but from all causes. I know that many opinions have been expressed about this matter, and I do not want to enter into a controversy because, like every other member of the House, I have no qualifications to speak on it. But I have heard the opinion expressed in connexion with leukaemia which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned. I have heard it said by other equally eminent authorities that if there is an increase in the incidence of this disease it will be due not to bomb tests, but to radiation from X-rays and other sources, which might be described as natural causes. The matter that the right honorable gentleman has mentioned will be examined by the national advisory radiation committee, among other authorities. This is a clear indication of the fact that we regard this matter as one of national importance.
I know Sir John Cockcroft, and I have talked with him on this matter several times. I am quite clear in my mind that when it comes to nuclear tests, as distinct from thermo-nuclear and hydrogen bomb tests, Sir John, in common with other eminent authorities, would be quite specific in saying that the nuclear tests so far held in the world have not caused any disadvantage or danger to the human race.
– As distinct from the hydrogen bomb?
– As distinct from the hydrogen bomb and what might be called the “ big yield “ tests. I am not speaking of those.
– Arising out of the Minister’s remarks, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I invite his attention to a letter written to the leading scientific journal “ Nature “ by Sir John Cockcroft and published in the last six weeks. I do not say that it is contrary to what the Minister has said, but I think that it is most relevant.
– Has the attention of the Deputy Prime Minister been directed to certain very debatable remarks that were made in this House last night, and to certain very grave charges that were made against leading members of the Queensland Government, including the Attorney-General? It was charged that the Attorney-General had received a bribe of £800, and that a bribe of £75,000 had been offered for the withdrawal of the bill for the registration of petrol stations. In view of these grave charges, does the Deputy Prime Minister consider it desirable or necessary that the text of last night’s debate should be conveyed to the Premier of Queensland urgently in order that he may take such action as he may consider necessary?
– I have been informed of the charges that were made last night - I was not present at the time. I shall have a good look at the record and see what can be done, or should be done, to convey the allegations to the appropriate authority, namely, the Queensland Government.
– Can the Deputy Prime Minister say whether there is any truth in information that is circulating to the effect that there is to be a change in the control of the Commonwealth Investigation Service? If so, will the right honorable gentleman make a statement, giving details of the proposed change?
– I shall consider the honorable gentleman’s question as being on the notice-paper and see what information I can convey to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply. In view of a report that the Dutch Government is doing some work on the desalination of sea water by special processes, can the Minister say whether any work is being done in the laboratories or establishments of the Department of Supply on this important matter which could have great significance for the Australian economy, especially in arid areas?
– The laboratories of the Department of Supply are concerned primarily with matters of direct defence significance, although a good deal of work done there has an industrial and a developmental significance, too. The pulverization of brown coal for use in turbine engines is a matter that occurs to me in this respect. We have, I think, done some work on desalination, although not much, but elsewhere in the department, the honorable member may be interested to know, there is a specific piece of work which, I think, has a great deal of national significance. It is, so to speak, one of the byproducts or bonuses arising out of Australia’s agreement to establish the Maralinga testing ground. Those honorable members who saw one of the Maralinga tests probably also saw the machine to which I am about to refer. There has been brought to Australia and set up at Maralinga a new type of desalination plant which pumps up, from some hundreds of feet below, the very salt and mineralized waters of the sub-artesian basin of Central Australia. I am told that those waters are more salt than the Dead Sea. Approximately 120,000 gallons a day are pumped up and turned into sweet, potable water to the order of 60,000 gallons. This new type of plant is operated by the waste gases of the diesel turbine plant with which we generate our power, and therefore, in one sense, we obtain our fresh water free. We are hoping to develop and improve this type of plant, which offers numerous possibilities for Australia’s arid areas, especially if, a little later on, we manage to develop small nuclear plants. The prospects of being able to use the waste gases from small nuclear plants to desalinate either sea water or sub-artesian water are very encouraging.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether, following the recent increase of the federal basic wage by 10s. a week, it is possible to give urgent consideration to an early increase of social services payments. I know that on previous occasions when such questions have been asked the Minister has told us that these are matters of policy and will be considered when the budget is in preparation. However, as it will be some months before the budget comes before us, I should like to know now whether earnest consideration will be given to increasing pension payments earlier than would be the case if the Government were to wait on the production of the budget before doing so, seeing that these payments come out of the National Welfare Fund, and it would not be necessary to impose taxes to meet them immediately, as provision is made to recoup that fund at the end of the year by the amount necessary.
– Let me say that it is true that these matters are constantly under investigation by the Government. The social services scheme is under my personal scrutiny from day to day, and if there is anything I can recommend to the Government that might be done to relieve the situation from time to time I recommend it. There is, unhappily, a popular delusion that the funds that are made available to the Department of Social Services come from sources other than the normal taxation sources. That, of course, will not bear examination for a single moment. The total expenditure on health and social services now aggregates, as I have said in this House on a number of occasions, more than 1227,000,000. Every penny of that amount must come from taxation in the normal way. Neither this Government nor any other government has any other resources from which to meet expenditure of that kind.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of the infringement of the amateur radio band allocations by commercial stations and teleprinter and teletype services? If so could an approach be made to the international radio bodies concerned with regard to the removal of those stations and services from the assigned amateur band?
– This is a subject with which I have dealt previously in the House, I think, from recollection, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Capricornia. I am therefore able to give the honorable member for Maranoa some information on it. The honorable member has referred to the “ infringement “ by certain commercial users of the bands assigned to amateur radio operators. I suggest, with respect, that the term “ infringement “ is not quite the correct term, in that the use by commercial interests of parts of the spectrum allotted to amateurs is within their authority, acting under the provisions laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In other words there is no infringement, so far as the board is concerned. The overall position is that the use of the radio spectrum throughout the world is determined largely by the International Telecommunications Union. It is essential, in order to avoid cluttering up the spectrum, so to speak, that there should be international regulations governing the use of the various bands in the spectrum by those services that require them, so that there will be a minimum of interference. Consequently, all members of the union agree to accept regulations which the union promulgates from time to time, under which certain frequencies are allotted to amateur operators who, of course, play a very important part and do a great deal of international work. At the same time, provision is made for the allocation for other purposes by member countries of parts of the spectrum allotted to the amateur bodies, and each country is free, if it so desires, to make such allocations. That has been done in this case. The honor able member asked me whether this matter could be taken up with the International Telecommunications Union. It is not exactly within the province of that body, in these circumstances, because an overall assignment has been made and Australia has the right, if it considers it desirable to do so, to allot some portion of these bands to other users.
Following the question of the honorable member for Capricornia, I had a look at the uses made of these bands by services other than amateurs. My information to date is that there is no serious interference with the operations of amateur radio enthusiasts as a result of the use of a portion of the spectrum by other bodies. I will have another look at the matter for the honorable member, but my information at present is that there is really no need for an alteration of the present allocation.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is there any possibility of having a greater proportion of hard varieties of wheat grown in Australia and marketed as such, in view of the overseas demand for this kind of wheat?
– 1 am sure that there are opportunities for the production in Australia and for the marketing overseas of medium-hard and hard wheats. I think, too, that they could complement the sales of what are called f.a.q. wheats, which are produced so abundantly in Australia. I should like to say to the honorable member that within the course of the next two weeks a bill will be presented to the House dealing with wheat research, and that I propose to state just what is hoped will be achieved by the wheat research vote in developing medium-hard and hard wheats for sale in Australia and overseas. There is a second point I should like to make to the honorable member about wheat, because it has been in the public eye lately. Australia is a low-cost producing country, as my colleague, the Minister for Trade, when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, pointed out. If we could get diversifications of f.a.q., medium-hard and hard wheats, then, if there were not the great difficulty at present encountered because of the North American surplus disposals, I should be inclined to think that we could have a seller’s market for Australian f.a.q., medium-hard and hard wheats.
– I ask the Minister for Supply: Is it a fact that the Government is causing to be kept a running record of the amount of radio-activity in Australia at what are termed “ sticky paper “ stations throughout the country? If so, will the Minister advise whether there are any such stations located in the Wollongong and Port Kembla areas? Will the Minister state, also, what results are revealed by these records? Are these stations deemed to provide a fully competent method of recording radioactivity, compared with world standards of recording?
– The Government has about 100 of these stations mentioned by the honorable member, scattered throughout the Commonwealth, for the purpose of recording fluctuations in what is known as background radiation, partly for gathering scientific information which might be useful in connexion with nuclear tests, and partly because of obligations which Australia has as a member of the international committee concerned with radiation. I cannot say whether there is any such station in the Wollongong area. I would say “ No “ to that part of the honorable member’s question which asks me whether I will make the records available. They are of a highly technical character and they would convey nothing to anybody in this House. I cannot remember any other aspects of the honorable member’s question, but if he cares to see me privately 1 shall be glad to give him what information I can on this matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. All honorable members in this House are aware of the tremendously valuable work being done by the C.S.I. R.O. in assisting Australian industries, particularly primary industries, to overcome their problems. Could the Minister inform the House what facilities are available to assist honorable members to inform themselves on this most valuable work being done by the C.S.I.R.O.?
– I am grateful for the interest displayed in the work of the C.S.I. R.O. It has been my habit over the last five or six years to circulate in the course of each Parliament - and it could be done more frequently if necessary - to each member of both Houses a statement of the overall work of the C.S.I.R.O., the location of its research establishments in the capital cities and elsewhere, in particular the work being done in the State from which the honorable member or honorable senator comes and in even greater detail the work being done in the particular electorate or district from which the honorable member or honorable senator comes, together with the names of the officers in charge, their telephone numbers, and the principal items of research being undertaken. I have done that on numerous occasions and it has taken a great deal of work to get all that information compiled in order to enable each member of Parliament to pursue the matters in which he is interested and to visit establishments, either in his own electorate, his own State or elsewhere.
I can get that brought up to date and will very gladly do so, because it is now about twelve months since I sent out the last series of letters in that regard. I would like to do everything possible to encourage visits by honorable members and honorable senators to C.S.I. R.O. research establishments. Owing to the importance of governmentrun research in Australia to our whole developmental problem, I would certainly very much welcome personal interest by honorable members and honorable senators in the detailed work of C.S.I.R.O.
– My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to assure the House that additional finance is to be made available from the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks for home building? If the answer is in the affirmative, I should like to know from what date that additional money will flow into the channels of home finance, and furthermore whether this is a policy stem.ming from himself as Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
– The question raised by the honorable member is a very important one and has many implications. I will consider it as on the noticepaper and see what answer I can convey to the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to reported comments by the head of the government of Soviet Russia on the question of West New Guinea? Are the reported comments of the head of the Russian Government consistent with the attitude to colonial peoples within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and in satellite countries, particularly in central Europe, and more especially in Hungary?
– Remarks made by senior Communists of the Russian regime when abroad are not necessarily intended to promote the truth. They are more consciously designed to create mischief in the area that the individual happens to be visiting at the time.I think that that broad observation fits this case very well. As the honorable gentleman has rightly said, there are incorporated in Soviet Russia at the present time communities that can properly be said to be straight-out colonial communities. I refer particularly to the Muslim areas immediately to the north of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I think that one can be reasonably certain that, if the people of those areas had the right to determine their own affairs, they would assuredly be autonomous communities. At present, they are being held in subjection by force majeure by the Soviet Russian regime. If the honorable member is seeking consistency in these matters, I think he might just as well look for a needle in a haystack.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Department of Primary Industry making any survey of the general extension of drought conditions throughout Australia, which now approach serious proportions in many areas, with a view to the department and the respective State agriculture departments adopting a co-ordinated scheme to render the maximum possible assistance through the State departments in the travelling of stock to agistment areas where feed is available? Is the Commonwealth considering assisting the State governments to meet the cost involved, in order to avoid, or reduce to the minimum, losses of stock from drought, instead of leaving all the responsibility to the States?
– This Government has, of course, very carefully watched the reports of climatic conditions throughout Australia, and it constantly keeps under observation the prospects for the future, particularly in order to ascertain whether it can do anything, within its limited constitutional powers, to help if help is needed.I think I should say that this Government has shown more consideration for the interests of primary producers than was ever shown by the Government that preceded it in office. Climatic conditions vary considerably throughout Australia. I have been informed that the New South Wales Government, and Mr. Graham, the Minister for Agriculture, in particular, are very greatly interested in overcoming the problem of moving stock from probable drought areas to districts where feed is somewhat more abundant. So far, Mr. Graham has not communicated with me about the problem. I personally think that he and the New South Wales Government are able to handle it themselves. If the honorable member for Blaxland feels that Mr. Graham is unable to deal with the matter, it might be wise for him to convey that opinion to the New South Wales Premier. This Government will always stand ready to help, if it thinks that there is a real need for help, but it would be wise for us to recognize the constitutional functions of the State governments, because, unless we have an orderly system of federal government, we cannot govern this great country of ours satisfactorily. The Commonwealth is watching the position with great sympathy. If it so happens that the New South Wales Government thinks that help is needed, it will, I am certain, make appropriate representations to the Commonwealth.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether the initial quota of Hungarian refugees to be received into Australia has been filled. If so, has the
Government given thought to increasing the number? Has it negotiated with the Government of Yugoslavia with a view to bringing to Australia a number of Hungarian refugees now there who are reported to be living under conditions of restricted freedom?
– Australia’s action last year as a result of the troubles in Hungary earned expressions of admiration throughout the world. We were almost first, if not the very first, to help the Hungarian refugees with their problem. We gave £30,000 for immediate relief of the troubles of the people who were in Vienna. Then, we said we would bring 3,000 refugees to this country. We increased the number to 5,000, and later to 10,000. All those people have now been processed and are either here or on the way. That was an emergency procedure and involved 10,000 people. By taking that number, we gave greater assistance than any other nation did in proportion to its population. The honorable member mentioned Yugoslavia. That country presents a very difficult problem, because it is an iron curtain country and we have no representation there. We are now trying to ascertain what we can do for people in Yugoslavia and in other places. That assistance will not form part of the emergency movement of Hungarians to Australia but will be a part of the quota in the normal immigration programme for the next financial year.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether he is satisfied that the present campaign to attract British immigrants is big enough in scope to attain the desired objective. Is the Government using every effort to dispel from many British people their surprising ignorance of the attraction of Australia from a migration point of view?
– The honorable member may be interested to read in the Melbourne press to-day a report of a speech by Professor Copland, who is very well informed and who has given some most interesting figures on the number of British immigrants to Australia. He says, in part, as I have said in this House, that Australia is still attracting more British immigrants than Canada and New Zealand together and. over the years, has always been the country favoured by British immigrants. From our point of view, there is no restriction whatever on British people coming to Australia. As far as assisted passages are concerned, we book every available berth on ships from England. To-morrow, I shall sign an agreement with a new shipping company under which we have been able to obtain a newly air-conditioned and renovated ship, “ Fairsea “, which normally is used on European immigration and for other things.
This ship will be put on the British run. We have taken this action because, no matter how much we try to get berths, we still cannot get enough to accommodate the number of immigrants offering. A tremendous number of British people want to come to Australia. The only restriction on them is that of accommodation in ships and in Australia. Because the accommodation that is available is limited, we have started a “ Bring out a Briton “ drive, in which we are asking any one in Australia who can provide accommodation for Britons to assist us. That movement is gaining momentum every day. The first 50 families under the new scheme, which is additional to ordinary United Kingdom immigration, are on their way now. They are in the process of moving to Australia and will be here very shortly.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether all the information relevant to the hardships suffered by Australian aborigines has now been collected and studied. What degree of hardship is being suffered by these original inhabitants of Australia? Is there any legislation that the Federal Parliament could initiate to ease their conditions? Are they qualified to receive social services benefits and, if so, are there any chances of their being able to use them?
– The honorable gentleman has asked a wide series of questions. The point to be emphasized in answering them is that the conditions of people in the aboriginal race vary very considerably from place to place and group to group throughout Australia. Very happily, some persons of the aboriginal race are living either in the European community or very close to it and are enjoying conditions comparable with those of Europeans.
At the other extreme, out in what might be called the desert areas of Australia, there are a number of aborigines who have only recently been attracted towards the settlements, and who are still living in an extremely primitive condition. Their general problems are quite different from those of other members of their race.
In referring to cases of hardship, I assume that the honorable member had in mind principally some of the rather sensational reports that have emanated recently from Western Australia. Those reports had their commencement in the work of a select committee of the Western Australian Parliament, which is generally known as the Grayden Committee. That committee’s work has been followed by an inquiry of a much more thorough, and certainly a much more expert, kind - first, by a party of anthropologists from the University of Western Australia and, secondly, by a medical expedition led by the Deputy Director of Health for Western Australia, and comprising persons who are very eminent in the medical profession. I have read all those papers, and say quite emphatically and clearly that beyond doubt the least trustworthy and acceptable is the Grayden report. To the person who is just reading to gain information, the reports of the anthropologists and the medical experts have, on the face of it, the marks of a much more thorough, expert and trustworthy inquiry. They do not reveal the same sort of alarming conditions to which the Grayden report drew attention. That, of course, is a matter which honorable members can judge for themselves.
Social service benefits - pensions, child endowment, maternity benefit and unemployment benefit - are paid to aborigines. The qualification for the receipt of social service benefits is usually fixed by the State governments. If the laws of the State regard a person as what might broadly be termed a normal member of the community he will receive, although he is of aboriginal race, ordinary social service benefits.
– What does “ normal member of the community “ mean?
– Broadly, a person living after the manner of Europeans; one who is regarded under the laws of the State as not being an aborigine. I think that the principle that is being observed there applies also to sections of the white community.
The principle is that a person is not assisted in two different categories. Honorable members will be aware that if a person receiving a pension is committed to the care of a mental institution, he is no longer cared for as a pensioner once he enters the institution. The pension ceases and different arrangements for his care are made. Similarly, if an aborigine is being cared for as an aborigine, under the special provisions made for aborigines, he is not cared for as a social service beneficiary. That is the sort of consideration that applies.
– Does that include aborigines in mission stations?
– This matter, of course, comes within the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, but as I understand it, if an aborigine is being cared for in a settlement by a mission, and is regarded under the laws of the State as an aborigine, he does not receive the age pension although he may, and often does, receive other social service benefits, such as child endowment. I think that the complete answer to this question of social service benefits for aborigines is to quote a figure which was calculated as a result of a survey made in 1955 by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services. That is that, in 1955, £660,000 was actually paid out in social service benefits to persons of the aboriginal race. So social service benefits are being paid to persons of the aboriginal race.
– To some extent.
– To some extent. The only persons disqualified are those who are being cared for as aborigines. I trust that that answer, perhaps a little prolonged, covers the points that the honorable member for Flinders had in mind.
– Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House whether the Prime Minister’s advocacy of a fully rearmed Japan during his recent visit to that country was an expression of the Australian Government’s policy or whether the Prime Minister was expressing his own individual viewpoint?
– The Prime Minister never makes irresponsible statements. The statement that he made was made on behalf of the Government
– Will the Minister for Territories inform the House whether it is a fact that two aboriginal natives were discharged from a court in the Northern Territory recently because the word “ aborigine “ had been omitted from the new native affairs ordinance? Is it a fact that, as the natives refused to speak at all, the police were unable to take action?
– I have no knowledge of such a case. I would be extremely doubtful whether there could have been such a case because it is only within the last week or two that the new welfare ordinance, to which the honorable member has referred, was proclaimed. I would be extremely doubtful whether any court action under that ordinance had yet been taken. But what the honorable gentleman may have in mind is a decision given by the Chief Justice of the Northern Territory in what has been broadly described as the Eva Downs Case in which, action having been taken on behalf of two natives by the Director of Welfare, the Chief Justice ruled that the Director of Welfare was not entitled to act on behalf of the aborigines except with the express request and consent of the aborigines concerned. Because of that decision of the Chief Justice, certain proceedings in that case were not allowed to proceed, but I have no knowledge of any more recent case.
– Does the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization remember that, in each of its annual reports since he has been Minister, the organization has stated that its fisheries and oceanographical studies must continue to be limited to coastal waters until it can put a trawler into service? Does he agree that schools of tuna abound in the Tasman and South Pacific, and are being located and caught by Japanese trawlers? Does he know that the organization’s division of fisheries has only two research vessels, which are too small to use a trawl or to process material at sea, and are thus inadequate to study the movements of tuna on behalf of the Australian fishing industry? Can he say when it is likely that the division will be given the trawler for which plans were first projected by the Chifley Government, and for which amended plans were placed before him, according to reports, four years ago?
– The honorable gentleman is quite right. There is an unfortunate gap in our oceanographic knowledge, particularly concerning the eastern coast of Australia. I refer to oceanographic knowledge both from the scientific point of view and the commercial fishing point of view. I am very well aware of this gap, but it would be extremely expensive to fill. Not only is there a demand in Australia for it to be filled, but there is a world-wide demand from oceanographic scientists interested in scientific research. I think that the only answer that I can give the honorable gentleman is that we have so many things to do in Australia that it is impossible to do them all or, at least, it is impossible to do them all adequately. Consequently, we must try to pick out the things that are more important than average, and try to do those. The honorable gentleman called the projected vessel a trawler, but it would be a very much more substantial vessel than that. Its cost would tend to upset the Treasurer, taken in conjunction with the other things to which I hope very much he will be able to give me an affirmative answer in the relatively near future.
– by leave - By arrangement with the United States Government, 1 shall be visiting Washington later this month to initiate discussions on the equipment problems of the Australian Armed Services. I shall be accompanied by the Secretary, Department of Defence, Mr. E. W. Hicks, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal F. R. W. Scherger, the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Major General H. G. Edgar, and the Secretary, Department of Defence Production, Mr. J. L. Knott, who will be my chief advisers.
Honorable members will recall that, in the recent statement on Defence of the Prime Minister, he announced that the Government is planning to re-arm the Royal Australian Air Force with fighter aircraft of a performance equivalent to the Lockheed
F104 and with transport aircraft of the type Of the CI 30. The primary object of my visit will be to discuss these projects with the United States authorities with a view to reaching finality on the types to be acquired for the Royal Australian Air Force.
It will be remembered also that the Prime Minister referred to the decision to provide modern equipment for the Army, standardized or compatible with that used by the United States forces, and I propose to initiate discussions on the procurement of Army equipment. My discussions on general equipment problems will be, in the main, exploratory but, I hope, comprehensive. I am hopeful that they will lead to the visit to Australia of a United States technical mission and possibly further exchanges of missions at the service level in the future with the object of developing a co-ordinated equipment policy on the lines contemplated by the Government.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to care for the well-being of persons of aboriginal and part aboriginal blood by not providing State Governments with sufficient funds and not extending the payment of social services benefits to or on behalf of these persons.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– I am gratified that the House sufficiently realizes the importance of this matter to allow a discussion on it to take place. 1 hope that very important and influential people will take part in the debate and that, in doing so, they will remember that this is a human problem, and not a party political matter. It is a matter for which, perhaps, we all have to accept responsibility. It is time that this Commonwealth Parliament, with the resources at its disposal and the authority behind it, took steps to overcome the dis abilities which the aborigines have suffered since we first landed on this continent 170 years ago. I do not point the finger at any particular government. I say that this matter is the responsibility of all of us. The neglect of the aborigines goes back many years. About 120 years ago, Governor Gipps took violent action against certain citizens of New South Wales at Liverpool Plains. On the afternoon of Sunday, 10th June, 1838, a number of citizens suddenly surrounded a place where more than 30 blacks were assembled. The aborigines were tied to a rope in the way that convicts were sometimes tied, and marched away and killed. Governor Gipps, much to the horror of some people at the time, took action, and the men concerned were executed. He gave notice that, in future, whether a man was black or white, his rights were the same. It is not a matter of citing statistics of the things we give the aborigines, or of proving how much we spend on social services for them. It is a question of whether they receive the same “ go “ in this community as white people receive. It is our responsibility to see that they do. We know perfectly well, of course, that we do not spend as much on them as we do on ourselves. We do not do the things for the aboriginal people that we do for the white people. It is incumbent upon us here to-day to consider this matter and see what we can do about it.
The problem of the aborigines goes back to the beginning of our settlement here. Turning back the story of the aborigines, I found a report of a man who had been sent out to the government service in Victoria, in 1839. On 30th August of that year, he wrote - and this could have been written two months or twelve months ago -
I am distressed for the blacks - I cannot feed them as I would - I have no clothing for them - I find I shall be obliged to relinquish giving them flour as my stock is growing short. What a disgrace it is that the government makes no provision for them!
That was nearly 120 years ago. We come to 1915, and a request to the Government from churches to investigate the matter. In 1939, the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who was then Minister for the Interior, defined the policy of the government in this matter. He is a man of goodwill in this respect, as are most Australians although, for reasons which are perhaps beyond their control, they are prevented from taking action. This is what the Minister said then -
To this end 1 have envisaged a long range policy. A commencement must be made, however, and every step in the routine must be deliberately and conscientiously directed to the ultimate goal . . In considering our obligations to raise the status of these people, one must not think in terms of years but of generations. The policy is framed to define a final objective and to reconcile the long march towards that objective with the obligation to give immediate care and attention to the needs and training of these people.
The longer that is going to take, the more urgent it is for us to start now. That is why I hope that we shall be able to arrive at some conclusion, and that the House will express its support for this matter.
The aborigines of this country probably have never had a decent standard of living. If we turn back the pages of history, we shall see that Dampier regarded the aborigines as of a very low order of human beings. However, I know, from experience of teaching aboriginal children in schools, that it is possible to assimilate them and to enable them to take their part as useful citizens. If that can be done for one or two, it can be done for thousands. This Parliament has a responsibility to deal with the matter, particularly in respect of social services. In the course of answers to questions which I have addressed to various Ministers recently, I have received information explaining the general line that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has adopted. I do not blame the Minister for the neglect that has occurred. I do not claim to be an expert on matters pertaining to aborigines, but from the answers to the questions that I have asked, it is obvious that more could be done for them. Of course, in the Northern Territory, where this matter is a Commonwealth responsibility, and because the financial and other resources of the Commonwealth are available, the job is done best. Because of the resources available, there is no doubt that this Government is able to do a better job than can the State governments. The Commonwealth, under section 96 of the Constitution, could make grants to the States, but it does not do so.
In order to come within the scope of the social services legislation, an aboriginal must conform to certain standards. In Victoria, an aboriginal mother may receive maternity allowance if the Director-General of Social
Services is satisfied. Does that restriction apply to any other Australian mother? Do such restrictions apply to the ordinary Australian citizen? 1 do not think they do. A white Australian, by virtue of being born here, or merely because he is a human being, is entitled to these things. I say that aborigines also should be so entitled.
Similar conditions apply in respect of unemployment benefits. An aboriginal native may be paid unemployment benefit if, by reason of his character and the standard of his intelligence, he is entitled to it. Do we apply a standard of intelligence to any other Australian who seeks unemployment benefit? I admit that the Department of Social Services is administered effectively, and that in most matters it makes benefits quickly available, but I submit that these restrictions should not exist. Similar conditions apply to the payment of invalid and other pensions to aborigines. In my opinion, it is our duty to take steps, as the result of constructive discussion between ourselves, to see what we can do to improve the lot of the aborigines. A long-term policy is called for, as the present Minister for Trade stated nearly twenty years ago.
I wish now to comment on the wages that are paid to aborigines. In the Northern Territory aboriginal workers are relatively well treated, although I understand that they are not paid wages at the same rate as the white people are paid. In the course of an answer to a question which I asked the Minister for Territories recently, the following appeared: -
Many aboriginal workers, as a result of their own bargaining with employers-
I am surprised that that is approved - are paid more. There are numerous cases of stockmen receiving £4 a week plus food, clothing, tobacco and keep of their dependants and in some cases they receive £7 a week.
Apparently, these people are almost capable of earning half the basic wage! The answer continued -
In urban employment domestics earn from £l to £2 a week with everything found.
Is not that wonderful! Admittedly, if there were no ordinance, and if it were not for the paternal outlook of the Government, the aboriginal workers probably would be paid nothing. Wc have heard of distressing cases of that kind in the last few years. The Minister’s answer went on -
The minimum wage for aborigines employed by Administration departments in Darwin was increased recently from £2 per week to £3 10s. per week plus food, clothing, tobacco and accommodation. At the same time the casual rate was ^increased from 2s. 6d. an hour to 4s. as hour.
We do not apply these tests and restrictions to the white people in Australia. They do not have sub-standard wages. Their entitlement to social services is clear. It is our duty to attempt to fit these people into the community in the manner to which they are entitled. We must accept, first of all, the fact that, as human beings, they are entitled to the same rights as we are, whether those rights be financial, economic, or even electoral. On the whole, I think it is fair to say that we have treated the whole problem in an offhand fashion.
I turn now to a recent South Australian report on this subject and its reference to statistics concerning aborigines. Imagine the great care that we take to compile statistics concerning the activities of white people, and of the population generally. The South Australian report stated that although attempts had been made on several occasions to obtain an accurate census of the number of aborigines in South Australia, it had been found extremely difficult to do so, mainly on account of the nomadic habits of the natives. Is South Australia, or Australia, for that matter, so huge that it is impossible for that to be done? Does not that bear out my contention that, in many respects, the aborigines are treated offhandedly as being slightly sub-human and of little account when it comes to the important matter of keeping the records of the country straight.
These are matters arising from neglect by every one of us. People have been agitating for a century to have the lot of the aborigines improved, but relatively little has been done. I do not think that, no matter what the Minister may say, the Government can deny the continuing shortages, the hunger, the starvation and the privation among the aborigines of the Warburton Ranges. Even if there were only one aboriginal in the Warburton Ranges hungry, it would be a case for urgency. Some of them perhaps do not even have enough water.
These are matters that cannot be brushed aside by reports, or by the figures that the Minister quoted a moment ago. He said that £600,000 was spent annually on social services for aborigines. That amount works out at about £10 or £12 a head of the aboriginal population. But expenditure on social services for the population generally works out at about £20 a head, and when the per capita cost of services, such as education, medical benefits, hospitalization and so on is added to that figure, the total would probably be about £40 a head. Examination of the budgets of the States shows that the average rate amounts to about £15 a head for each aboriginal in respect of the provision of services and administration. That amount, of course, is much less than the amount we spend on administration for the benefit of Australians generally.
I suggest that we examine the Social Services Consolidation Act closely and remedy its deficiencies. By that 1 mean that we should remove the restrictions and exclusions that apply to our aboriginal population. If there are 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 aborigines incapable of looking after their own financial affairs, then we should appoint trustees to act on their behalf. A white person in our community who is incapable of work, as a result of invalidity, receives the appropriate pension. If an aboriginal is unable to take his place in our white community because of the disabilities of his background and ancestry and so on, an amount equal to that which we spend in respect of a white person so placed should be set aside to raise the standard of living of that aboriginal, to educate his children, and so on. So, I recommend that positive action be taken on the part of the rehabilitation service of the Department of Social Services. If we can spend £4. or £5, a week in providing for a pension to a white invalid unable to work in the community because of a physiological or psychological disability, then a black person whose disabilities are ancestral in character should be treated in the same way. I am certain that the Austraiian taxpayers would willingly pay taxes for this purpose.
The other point 1 wish to make is that power to control native affairs should reside in this Parliament. Section 96 of the Constitution has its limitations. Under it, the States bear the burden in relation to aborigines. The States that bear most of that burden are Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland and, to a smaller degree, New South Wales. Those States could well be asked to refer power over native affairs of the Commonwealth. The exclusion of Commonwealth power over native affairs, which was written into the Constitution 56 years ago, will have to be overcome. 1 suggest, as a first step, that the Commonwealth should approach the State governments and ask them to cede to it the power to administer aboriginal affairs. I hope that the Constitution Review Committee, which is now engaged in taking evidence on constitutional reform, will recommend that the Commonwealth seek power from the States to control aborigines on an Australia-wide basis.
There are no aborigines in my electorate, but 1 believe that the people of Brunswick, Coburg, Heidelberg and Cheltenham, in Melbourne, have as much responsibility for the care of the aborigines of the Warburton Ranges as have the people who live in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. The accident of State boundaries should not enable us to avoid our responsibility in this respect. During the recent parliamentary recess I visited Dimboola, in Victoria. The small community there is attempting to rehabilitate the local aborigines. I say that such work is not the responsibility of the people of Dimboola. Those people are to be respected and congratulated for what they are doing, but I believe that the responsibility belongs to all of us. The final responsibility must, as a matter of logic, lie with this Parliament, and I hope that this debate to-day will be the first step towards our making a constructive, long-range plan to absolve us from the blame attachable to us for neglect of aborigines over the last 170 years.
– The Government welcomes an opportunity to discuss this very important social question. Perhaps, we regret that it should have been brought before the House in this particular form, but we certainly do not shirk the occasion to discuss questions of native welfare, nor do we want to avoid any sort of discussion on it. Moreover, I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) for the studied, non-partisan way in which he has broached this question. His speech reminds me of the fact that on a similar occasion in 1950, when I was a private member sitting on the Government side, I also brought the same topic before the House and, I think, initiated a debate which, as I hope the present debate will be, was some sort of contribution to the understanding by the Parliament, in a nonpartisan way, of what our responsibility is and what our obligations are towards the aboriginal section of our community. 1 do not differ in the least from the emphasis which the honorable member for Wills placed on the fact that when we speak of the aborigines we are speaking of human beings. That has always been a point on which the Government, and I, as Minister for Territories, have insisted - that these are human beings, that we are dealing with a human and social problem. But there is one point which we have to recognize as part of the facts of the case. That is, that this particular group of human beings is living in a wide variety of conditions, and that many of them are living under conditions completely different from those with which most honorable members would be familiar. I would have hoped that the honorable member for Wills might have had longer discussions than I think he has probably had with some of the members of his own party who have a first-hand and close acquaintance with the conditions of aborigines who live in the outback and less closely settled areas. I refer to the honorable members for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), who could have given him vivid and real pictures from first-hand experience, of the primitive and backward conditions in which these people live, not because of anything that has happened as the result of white settlement but because they are a primitive people living in a country and according to customs which, in their primitive state, did not allow them to rise to a higher standard of material welfare. We do have to recognize that fact - that some of them are unacquainted with even the lowest levels of hygiene, that in their natural state their range of foodstuffs was extremely limited, that their acquaintance with what we call economic activity was limited to roaming the country and picking up or hunting their food where they found it. Those are part of the facts that cannot be escaped.
There is a long history of consideration of this subject as between the Commonwealth and the States. 1 will not go any further back than the 1937 conference, initiated under a government of the same political complexion as the present Government. Then there was the 1947 Premiers conference, under a government of the opposite political persuasion, which gave attention to this question. That was followed by a very useful conference presided over by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie who was, at that time, Minister for the Interior, in 1948. That was followed by a further discussion at a Premiers conference presided over by Mr. Chifley in August, 1948. Those conferences have been followed, during the term of the present Government, by a number of other discussions between the Commonwealth and the States with a view to bringing about an improvement of the way in which we, as Australians, in the total, handle this question.
Implicit in the honorable member’s proposal for discussion by the House, although he did not develop it to the point of great length in his speech, is the idea that the Commonwealth Government has failed in some way to provide special money for special work among aborigines by the State governments. On that point I want to quote, as expressing the standard view of the Federal Treasury, a statement made by Mr. Chifley at the Premiers conference in August, 1948. He said -
It is not desirable that the Commonwealth should make individual grants for a variety of purposes. It is far better to deal with all these matters together than to deal with them piecemeal. The proposal for assistance on a £l-for-£l basis (for aborigines) is not acceptable. We believe that matters such as this one come within the ambit of the tax reimbursement grant.
That view, expressed by Mr. Chifley, who was then Treasurer as well as Prime Minister, has been the consistent view of all Commonwealth Treasurers: First, that under the Constitution the States have the responsibility to discharge this function; secondly, that any financial assistance should be sought by the States in respect of their whole budgetary position and not in respect of one single administrative responsibility; and thirdly, that if special assistance were granted for this, that or some other special purpose, it would lead to a very considerable problem in trying to distinguish and sort out the various applications that would come from the States for help on this, that or the other thing. In fact, money has been made available for work on native welfare by the States as part of the general provision of revenue to the States. This, being a State function, is one of the items, among other items, that has been taken into account in fixing the amounts of tax reimbursements grants. In recent years, of course, the amount of money available to the States by way of tax reimbursements and special grants or, in the case of the claimant States, grants recommended by the Grants Commission, has greatly increased.
Perhaps I could illustrate the point J am making by taking the example of one State that has been under notice recently, namely, Western Australia. If we go back to the point when Mr. Chifley stated the principle, 1948, we see that in that year the tax reimbursement grant to Western Australia was £3,807,000. There was no special grant. In the current year, the same State has a tax reimbursement grant of £12,252,000, plus a special grant of £1,454,000, making a total of £13,706,000 in tax reimbursements and supplementary grants, compared with £3,807,000 in 1948. On top of that, as a result of the adoption of a recommendation of the Grants Commission, the same State has, to-day, a grant of £9,200,000, compared with a grant in 1947-48 of a little under £3,000,000. In summary, that State, with the responsibility, among many other responsibilities, of caring for the aboriginal people within its own borders, has, to-day, from the Commonwealth a revenue of close on £23,000,000 to allocate as it thinks fit, compared with a revenue of £6,750,000 in the previous period. My point is that the State does have more money available to apply to this or to any other purpose, and the decision whether it gives more to aboriginal welfare or gives less is a decision which is made by the State Government. In making that decision, this particular State Government of Western Australia is certainly not worse off to-day - far from it. It is in a much better position to-day to make liberal allocations for native welfare than it was some years ago. Moreover, since Western Australia is a claimant State, it has the opportunity of making a special case to the Grants Commission on the ground that this particular social obligation places on it burdens which do not fall on other States.
I want to make the point also that, since 1948, as the previous Government did, the present Government has attempted to seek closer co-operation with the States on matters of native welfare. Under my own chairmanship, two meetings of the Native Welfare Council were held and, I think, produced useful results. But, unfortunately, at that point, through the unwillingness of the State governments to continue to confer, the council lapsed. I must say, quite plainly, that my own decision then was that, rather than concentrate my efforts on trying to get co-operation where co-operation was, perhaps, not readily forthcoming, I could best serve the interest of the aborigines of Australia by concentrating my efforts on doing a job in what we might call our own backyard - doing more and more in the Northern Territory to improve the welfare of the aborigines there, for whom the Commonwealth was directly responsible. L acknowledge, gratefully, the kind words of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), admitting that, in the Northern Territory, we are attempting to do far more than has been done before - that we are attempting to carry out our responsibilities.
Linked with this question of finance is, of course, the question of the transfer of powers. Under the Constitution, the responsibility for native welfare is placed upon the States. Up to date, the States have been rather unwilling to have any transfer of powers to the Commonwealth. The people of Australia, at the single opportunity they had of expressing an opinion - at a referendum introduced by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he was Attorney-General - refused to transfer powers. I would not comment on whether or not a transfer of powers would be desirable, except to say that most of the functions which are going to be of direct benefit to the aborigines are functions which are carried out by the States. The things that will make the biggest difference for aborigines in this generation, particularly the backward ones, are things related to their health and their hygiene, things related to their education - in many cases it has to be a basic and very elementary education - things related to their better housing, things related to their settlement and the provision of land on which they can settle, and things related to their vocational training and their placement in employment, so that they can sustain the higher level of living to which they are being educated. Ali of these functions, of course, reside in State departments of health, education and lands, State housing commissions and so on. That is a factor which should always be borne in mind when we are considering the question of a transfer of powers.
In the very brief time remaining to me 1 should like to refer again to the question of social services benefits which I alluded to during question time in the House to-day. 1 would permit myself this observation to the honorable member for Wills. We should not regard money - coins - as the only crutch on which the aboriginal should lean. I would say quite definitely that in many cases the handing out of sums of money to an aboriginal who has not yet become accustomed to handling it causes a bigger handicap to his advancement towards civilization than if he were without money.
– That is what they said about white people.
– I do not know what they have said about white people, but it is a fact that the easy possession of money, given not in return for any effort or work done, but just handed out, is not conducive, in all cases, to the improvement of the welfare of the aboriginal who receives it. In some cases there are aborigines who still need protection, guidance, education and the careful tutelage of those placed in care of them. They do not need money; they need assistance of a more fundamental, careful and humanitarian kind. They need a charity of the spirit rather than a charity of throwing coins. The easiest thing you can do to some under-privileged persons at a low level of civilization is to throw them some coins. The throwing of coins may ease one’s conscience, but it will not be of much benefit to them. What they want is our tutelage, care and teaching.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Opposition supports the action taken by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). I am very pleased that the debate has broadened out in the speeches of both the honorable member for Wills and the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). The Minister expressed a view, the validity of which is, perhaps, the real question involved. He said, in substance, that the main thing in the treatment of the Australian aborigine is not so much to improve his financial position as to provide for his health, education and welfare. In one sense that is true. But I think the whole climate of public opinion in relation to the Australian aboriginal has now changed. As the Minister said, it is true that in 1944 a referendum to give the Commonwealth limited powers over aborigines was defeated. Fourteen points were all wrapped up together. Every State Premier agreed to them; every State Leader of the Opposition agreed to them; all parties in this House agreed to them; and then some of the States and some honorable members in this House went out to the country and opposed them. That is why the attempt to get some slight amendment of the Constitution by consent foundered. There was a complete breach of faith. But let that pass, because power was sought for five years only and that period would have expired long since.
It is obvious that public opinion in this country and in the world generally has changed in relation to the treatment of native races. My view is - and I am sure I speak for the political and industrial Labour movement - that the only thing to be done with the Australian aboriginal, full-blood or Otherwise, is to give him the benefit of the same laws as apply to every other Australian. I admit that in connexion with social services you might have to appoint a trustee to administer the money. That may be arguable, but the important thing is the development of the personality of these people. That is vital. Indeed, it is dangerous in the international sphere for the Australian aboriginal to be grouped with other races which have not full civil rights. What is the reason for the denial to the Australian aboriginal of full civil rights and elementary social services?
In 1946 the Labour Government secured the passage of a special amendment to the
Constitution relating to the provision by the Commonwealth of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment benefits, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, dental services, family allowances, and benefits to students. We did not say “ except for the aborigines “. In other words, it seems to me that the time has arrived to have another look at this position, even from a constitutional point of view. The usual argument that is brought forward is that the power to make laws under section 5 (xxvi.) of the Constitution for the people of any race other than the aboriginal race, in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws, is simply a safeguard in the Constitution, so that if the Commonwealth wants to make laws of a racial character those laws cannot be applied to the aboriginal race in the States, lt could make laws, for instance, for any members of Asian races in Australia, but it simply cannot deal with the aboriginal race under that head. However, that is a minor point because there is no doubt about the power of the Commonwealth to meet the cases mentioned by the honorable member for Wills.
– Do you think there should be more Commonwealth power?
– I am coming to that. What was proposed in 1944 is the policy of the Australian Labour movement - that this Parliament should have power, to be exercised at its discretion, in relation to Australian aborigines, for all Australia, without limitations or qualifications or conditions. 1 think that the question of social services can be dealt with under the present law without difficulty. That is the Labour party’s view.
The Minister, in question time to-day. answered certain questions. He referred to members of the Opposition who make a special study of this subject, and one of those members is the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). Today, not one full-blood aboriginal in the Northern Territory receives any age or invalid pension. The honorable member for the Northern Territory assures me that that is still the position. Secondly, no fullblood aboriginal in the Northern Territory enjoys full citizenship rights as an Australian - not one.
– That is not true.
– There may be some qualification to that. I do not want to overState the position. Is that not substantially correct?
– There are some - not many.
– Except for the few the Minister indicates, the general position is that our fellow citizens in the Northern Territory, full-blood aborigines, do not enjoy civil rights. It is true that even some of our aboriginal artists do not enjoy full rights. They are placed under restrictions. It is said that this is for their benefit. But more important than their education or physical welfare is their recognition as human beings and respect for their dignity. If they are treated on that footing of equality, then we will get results. It is a bad position and I do not think that the Minister, although he puts up facts from his own point of view, and is very expert on the subject, can really support this.
I would like to see a charter giving these people full rights at once, at any rate in the Commonwealth territories.
I see no reason why these people should not enjoy social services. The exceptional case where it may be said that the individual cannot use the money given by way of social services can be met by the interposition of a trustee. It is very hard, 1 suppose, for the Commonwealth Ministry to deal with all the State authorities as well, and the answer to that ultimately is concurrent power in the Commonwealth to deal with the subject as a whole.
I am not limiting my remarks simply to the blood aboriginal. I refer to all aborigines. I say that they have to be treated as fellow Australians. If we do that, we can speak in international affairs about the status of native races and other peoples in countries such as South Africa, Russia and its satellites, and the United States, where under various fancy names there is still a tendency towards segregation. In the long run I do not think it will do anything but good to Australia as a whole if that new approach is made. Therefore the Opposition entirely supports what the honorable member for Wills has put forward and I am sure that the honorable member agrees with my views.
– I should have preferred a greater opportunity to prepare to speak on this subject, and I am sure every member in this House will echo that sentiment. I want to refer at the outset to what I consider to be basic, and that is the two principles which were laid down by the Minister a short time ago. The Minister said that in shaping policy and deciding on administrative action the first principle which animated his department was assimilation. The only possible future for the very small minority of aboriginal people, said the Minister, was to merge into, and be received as full members of, the European community which surrounds them. The second principle is that the administrative problem is primarily social rather than racial, and that the task of administration is to help these people to live happily and usefully in our society. I think that that clearly states exactly where Australia is going in the administration of the native people.
My own experience of this problem arises from three separate circumstances. In the New England electorate, there is a remnant of the old aboriginal population, now very largely mixed, which is accustomed to go to the New England Tableland in the warm summer months, and to move down to the coast during the severe winter weather. Those people have engaged the interest of the people of the City of Armidale and the surrounding districts. Here I pay tribute to Dr. Ellen Kent Hughes, the sister of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes), who has taken a continuous and valuable interest in the welfare of these people. I can assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there is every reason to think that this interest will persist.
In 1936, I visited Darwin en route to the other side of the world. I spent some days in the town, and, as Minister for Education in New South Wales at the time, I took a particular interest in visiting the schools. I found that the main school was occupied very largely by children of mixed races, and that the aboriginal children were taught in a special school. I regret to say that the aboriginal school did not compare at all favorably with the school in which the white and mixed-race children were taught.
Subsequently, as Minister for Education in New South Wales, I had direct contact with this problem, owing to a peculiar incident in a part of my own electorate involving a school of approximately 70 children, 22 of whom were coloured. All the parents of the white pupils went on strike, as it were, and refused to send their children to the school at one stage. This was not the result of any racial friction. It arose solely from unfortunate decisions of a magistrate who decided that two neglected and verminous coloured children should remain under unsuitable guardianship. This decision caused administrative problems, and it became my responsibility, as Minister for Education, to lay down a policy that, I believe, happily is still adhered to throughout New South Wales. I ruled that no coloured child should be excluded from any school, except for the same reasons that a white child might be excluded - its state of health or some other condition that called for the care of the Child Welfare Department. In the Armidale schools, in particular, coloured children have been admitted and trained with white children. As regards the other aspect of the matter, white children have been excluded from certain schools for other reasons. The Education Department sometimes has had to rule, for reasons of accommodation, that white children should attend the school nearest to their home. The department rules that aboriginal children residing at an aboriginal settlement shall attend the school at the settlement, not from any considerations of colour, but simply as a matter of convenience, owing to accommodation and other problems.
I want to make it clear that the fact that only a certain number of full-blooded aborigines has been accorded full citizenship rights, to which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) referred in discussing the question of differences of treatment, does not indicate that there has been any discrimination based on colour. Any difference of treatment is solely because it is in the interests of the aboriginal, at a certain stage of his development, that he should be treated as being under guardianship. I would not lightly cross swords with the Leader of the Opposition on a constitutional question, but, as one who has studied the debates of the Federal Conventions that preceded the drafting of the Australian Constitution, I point out that placitum (xxvi.) of section 51 of the Constitution was specifically inserted to enable the Commonwealth to discriminate, not against the aborigines, but against people of other races against whom it might be deemed necessary to discriminate. This placitum reads -
The people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws:
The implication is that the aborigines are to be treated, as far as possible, as any other Australian citizen is treated.
In considering these problems, I am deeply impressed by the broad grasp of humanitarian principles demonstrated in a practical way by the Department of Territories under the present Minister for Territories. That broad grasp of humanitarian principles is shown by some statistics that I shall cite, though not for party political purposes. In the financial year 1949-50, financial provision for the welfare of aborigines in the Northern Territory amounted to £101,064, compared with £525,000 in the current financial year. Financial assistance to missions, which undertake a very important part of the work of educating and caring for the aborigines, was £26,730 in 1949-50, compared with £184,650 in the current financial year. On the basis merely of financial provision, it seems to me, as one who has studied this matter carefully, that the funds devoted to the welfare of the native people have been increased constantly and generously.
I bow to the wider experience of some honorable members in relation to the Northern Territory. As I understand it, the cattle industry is the most important industry in the territory.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join with other honorable members in expressing concern for the welfare of the Australian aborigines. In the past, we seem to have regarded the condition of these people as being somewhat remote from our own lives, because they are a people whose customs and traditions are separate and apart from our way of life. However, the continued development of this country has inevitably meant that we have tended more and more to intrude the white man’s way of life into the reserves that have been set aside so that the aborigines may continue to live in their tribal condition and preserve for themselves their traditional way of life which is so important to them. Places that were formerly available to native races are now being used for commercial activities and mining operations. Members of our aboriginal race are being denied areas which are possibly among the very best for their way of life. We owe something to these people, and we should provide facilities for them so that they will not be placed at a disadvantage as a result of our development and the usurpation of areas that were formerly available to them.
Recently, I saw the screening of a film which depicted conditions under which our aborigines were required to exist. It was a terrible indictment. Our aborigines are not being provided with much of that humane care that it is our responsibility to afford to them. They should be given a greater degree of hospital care. To see much of the affliction and deformity caused by medical neglect makes one realize that we can do something more than we are doing at present. The Commonwealth has a definite responsibility to do much more than it has done. Divided authority under the Constitution denies to the Commonwealth the opportunity to govern effectively many of these situations. Nevertheless, we should be providing, and constantly urging State authorities to provide, those things necessary for a better standard of living for these people who have the first claim upon us because of the unique position they occupy as citizens of this country.
There should be no discrimination against these people in social services. They should be given all the advantages and benefits that we can make available to them. The Minister should urgently consider granting additional aid to missions that care for these people. I know the difficulties, but I earnestly appeal for greater Commonwealth assistance for those who are engaged in this class of work. Education is another means by which we can materially help to develop members of this race so that they can qualify for many of the higher standards that we claim to have and take advantage of the opportunities that should be available to them. Many aborigines who have had the advantage of education have proved themselves capable of performing duties that we thought were beyond them. In the interests of our reputation as an enlightened people, we should show to the world that we are capable of undertaking the trusteeship of our native race. These matters are subject to review from time to time by the
United Nations. We know that a constant check is made of the work done for this class of people to see whether the basic claims and rights of primitive races are being observed by those who are responsible for their general well-being. If we are to prove that we are a nation with advanced ideas and that we are capable of setting an example to other nations, we should provide that care for native people which will ensure their well-being and progress. We should develop the conditions that will help to raise their standards and make them truly a part of the nation to which they belong. They should be enabled to enjoy the benefits of Australian citizenship. The circumstances that prevent these advantages being given to aborigines should be removed. If we are beset with constitutional difficulties, surely we should get busy and ensure some co-ordination to provide a policy and plan for the general well-being of our aboriginal race. I am afraid that to-day many of these people are not enjoying the care and consideration that is their right.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am sure that we all agree with the expressions of goodwill towards the aboriginal race made in this House to-day. There is no doubt that the ultimate ideal is to have these people completely assimilated with the white race. The ultimate ideal is that they shall become members of the community and live under the same conditions as we live under. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), with the best intentions, has over-simplified the position. Honorable members who followed him, on both sides of the House, to some degree, have overlooked the fact that the problem is intensely complex. The aboriginal population is characterized by all sorts of conditions and graduations. Relatively few - approximately one-third of all the people of aboriginal blood in Australia - now live under their original tribal conditions. The graduations in the living conditions of the aborigines begin with the tribal natives, and go right down through those who are in casual employment for odd periods, in the northern part of Australia, to those in the southern States who are more or less in constant contact with white people and live almost, but not quite, up to their standards.
If we start at the beginning, we must appreciate that in many cases we are not offering the aboriginal race compensation for having disturbed their way of life but, in effect, passing a judgment on those who live under their original tribal conditions - telling them that their standards are not suitable and that they must live by those standards that we lay down.
That is the beginning of the problem. If that is the objective we must inculcate in the natives a desire to raise their living conditions to ours. I have in mind the extreme case of the tribal native who is living with little or no interference from white people and is told that his conditions are really sub-standard and must be brought up to the level of our own. He is told, in effect, that he must enjoy all the benefits of our civilization. It is not very easy to explain the wisdom of that to such a native. That problem is encountered, in greater or lesser degree at all levels, from the tribal native to the native who is completely assimilated. That is one matter which honorable members opposite have not faced.
We cannot, overnight, say to a native, whatever his degree of assimilation, “ You are to be treated for all practical purposes as a white man. You are entitled to all the cash, and other benefits, of our civilization “. He simply cannot appreciate it, and when I use the term “ appreciate “ I mean that he simply cannot begin to understand the position in which we are trying to place him.
It is very true that in those areas where native children are educated alongside white children, they can up to a certain standard absorb education equally well. They have a similar degree of intelligence. But beyond that point, lacking the home environment of white children, they begin to fade away, and lose the competitive race with white children. Therefore, though more money may help, it hardly begins to solve the problem.
Mention has been made of the work of missions in the aboriginal field. I am sure that church leaders would agree that mere money could not begin to solve their problems. Every mission to aborigines will tell you that they are short of men of sympathy and understanding who will work among the natives, attempt to understand their difficulties, and be prepared to lift them up to the level that we desire.
It is, because of the different degrees of assimilation, an intensely complex problem. In Western Australia, for example, you have over wide areas the tribal native, the native who is working as a more or less permanent employee of large stations, and the native who is to be found in the south-west - very often a quarter-caste or half-caste who takes casual work from place to place. His headquarters is probably near a country town so that his children can receive education, and he is probably living in housing of a very makeshift type.
For all those reasons I do not believe that we get any further towards solving the problem by merely transferring authority from the State Native Welfare Departments to the Commonwealth, as was suggested by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). The State Native Welfare Department of Western Australia has certainly approached the matter with a great deal of sympathy. It has tried to study the individual. I do not think that in any other State an aboriginal student is attending a university. We have, in the city, a home where native children are brought up as white children. They mix with the white community as equals. At the same time, we cannot deny that despite the spotlight that has been thrown on the conditions of natives in the Warburton Range area, there are, close to the metropolitan area of Perth, natives living in degradation and misery, under conditions which are a far greater blot on our administration of native affairs than the plight of the tribal or semi-tribal natives in the Warburton Range area. The natives who live on the fringe of the city at East Perth and Bassendean have not the same publicity value and consequently nothing, or very little, is done for them.
– There are a few down in Footscray, too.
– 1 cannot speak of the conditions in other cities, but it would be highly undesirable to centralize the administration of native affairs. It has been suggested that the aboriginal native should be entitled to receive full social service benefits. The Minister for Territories explained very clearly that the mere handing out of cash would not necessarily do any good. It has also been suggested that in those circumstances the money should be kept in trust for the native. The basic principle underlying the administration of native affairs in both the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia is that the head of the department is the protector of aborigines. Indeed, he enjoys that title. The additional food, clothing and other amenities that are given to natives are a substitute for the normal cash benefits that are given by the Commonwealth to needy white people. A trustee must work for the benefit of his ward, and such restrictions as are placed upon natives with a lower living standard than that of white people are imposed simply for their own benefit.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- There can be no disagreement on the point that this is a matter of great urgency. Therefore, the attitude of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is astonishing. No one would question the fact that the Minister takes an academic interest in the aborigines, but whenever this question is raised in the Parliament, the Minister, without any feeling at all for the people involved, quotes at length from reports, and talks about tax reimbursements. He passes the buck to the States, saying it is a State responsibility, and refuses to face the actual issue involved in the matter which has been quite properly raised by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant).
What did the Minister say? He said that this was a State responsibility. But the States have argued, every one of them, that they are being financially starved, and that they lack the money to do the things that should be done for the Australian aborigines. In certain parts of Australia, these people are actually dying from starvation. They lack food and, in places, they lack water. Yet the Minister says, “ Let the States apply to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the consideration of this matter as a special case “. What would happen then? The Commonwealth Grants Commission would wander on with its deliberations, taking months and months before it reported to the Government. Then, for months and months, the Government would pigeonhole the report and go on delaying action, although the aborigines are a dying race.
If there is one thing to the discredit of Australia it is the treatment of the aborigines over the years that we have had possession of their country. The Minister has, in the past, complained that these things ought not be said because they would be misunderstood overseas. What is the record of Australia’s treatment of aborigines? One does not have to go very far back in the history of this country, because we have only a short history, to learn that it was quite common practice among members of the squattocracy, because there were few foxes in this country, to go nigger-hunting at the week-ends. There was once a considerable number of aborigines in Tasmania, but they have now completely disappeared. There is not one of them now living in Tasmania. While the white population continues to increase, 1 understand that it has been estimated that there are no more than 50,000 or 60,000 aborigines in the whole of Australia to-day. If Australian governments have been caring for them as adequately as the Minister for Territories suggested, I should like to know what has happened to the members of the aboriginal race who previously existed in this country. They are a disappearing race.
It is interesting that mention has been made of the Grayden report. Does anybody question the accuracy, the authenticity or the honesty of the report which was made by the parliamentary delegation from Western Australia? The man who led the delegation, and whose name has been given to the report, was an anti-Labour member of this Parliament for a period, and is now an anti-Labour member of the Western Australian Parliament. What did the Western Australian delegation do? They went into the interior of Australia to find out something about the present living conditions of natives. They took films so that the members of this Parliament could see the conditions that existed. When the film was brought to Canberra there were two screenings of it. I understand that three Ministers had sufficient interest in the aborigines to view the film, and the Minister for Territories, who is supposed to be responsible for the welfare of the aborigines, was not one of them. He talks of the aborigines as if they were fourthclass citizens, an inferior race, instead of seeing that they are properly treated by the Government
There may be some difficulties in the handling of this problem, but the Commonwealth refuses to do anything about it and the States declare their inability to do anything because of the financial restrictions imposed on them. Let us look at how the aborigines have been treated when they tried to do something to help themselves. Have they been assisted by the Government? Quite the reverse. It is not a fact that all of these aborigines are so backward in their educational standards that they cannot be regarded as equal to any other Australian citizen. They have singers, painters, theatrical performers and qualified doctors among them. Those of them who have obtained the benefits of the Australian educational system want to improve conditions for their people. What has happened to them? Everybody knows the case of Donald McLeod, who was denounced roundly by members of the Government because of his activities.
Honorable members will remember the case of Waters in the Northern Territory who, in recent times, committed the great offence of complaining against the standard of food provided for the natives in the Northern Territory. What did this antiLabour Government do? It immediately said, “ This is a Communist plot “. If honorable members examine the newspapers of that time they will find that the Government said that Waters had been under Communist influence because he had complained about the standard of food provided for his people. What did this allegedly sympathetic Government do to Waters? Without giving him a fair and proper trial it deported him to an inland mission, where he was compelled, at the risk of his personal safety, to associate with a tribe with which he was unacquainted. He was taken away from his own family without being given a proper trial, merely because the Government regarded him as an agitator who was causing trouble. What a lot of rubbish!
What about the exploitation of aboriginal labour? The Commonwealth Arbitration Commission has actually excluded aborigines from certain provisions of awards, so that when they work for members of the squattocracy they do not work under the same conditions, and for the same rates of pay, as do white men. It is the same old story of the exploitation of coloured labour.
– And the pastoral industry is the only one in which they can secure employment.
– Yes. They are an exploited race. Does the Minister for Territories suggest that the value of their labour is less than that of the white worker who is employed in a similar occupation? These natives are beginning to understand the degree to which they are exploited, and this is one of the reasons why they refuse to stay in their employment and are continually going walk-about. Why would not they leave their employment when they are working under different conditions from those of white men?
In the short time that I have left to me. let me turn to the question of social services. The Minister has tried to make out that, because the Government is expending approximately £600,000 a year on social services benefits for aborigines, it is doing its best to give them the benefits of Australian legislation. He again attempted to put the blame on two State governments by saying that the State governments determined which aborigines would obtain social services benefits. Nothing of the kind! The State governments have nothing to do with the administration of Commonwealth social services payments. It is true that the Australian Government does not pay Commonwealth social services benefits to aborigines who are obliged to reside in mission stations? Why does it refuse to do so? Why does it discriminate? Is it not a fact that the best conditions that a native can obtain, generally, are obtained in a mission station? They prefer to go there to get the benefits that can be conferred upon them by those in control of the mission station. But the moment they go into the mission station they cannot get the age pension, the invalid pension or any of the other payments provided under Commonwealth social services legislation. What this Government, which talks about what it is doing for the aboriginal race, does about social services is this-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This debate, which started off on a dignified and high level, has, as might well be expected, been dragged into the gutter by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). That is standard, normal procedure in this House with him. The honorable member made an attack by way of personal abuse on the Minister. He quoted false figures and, generally, he did no service to the cause which was promoted by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) when he opened this debate. The misstatements throughout the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney were too numerous to catch up with in every case. He spoke about the aboriginal population being 50,000. lt is not. lt is 75,000. He suggested that the aboriginal population in the Northern Territory was decreasing, lt is not. It is increasing, and increasing for one reason - the humane administration which has been given to the aborigines by the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and by this Government. In attacking the financial attitude of the Commonwealth, the honorable member was attacking the late Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, because Mr. Chifley’s attitude in the matter of financial arrangements was exactly the same as that of this Government.
– We have been more generous.
– Indeed, we have been. Five times, six times or even seven times more has been given by way of grants by this Government than was given by the Chifley Government during corresponding periods.
This is a matter of importance and one that deserves the attention of the Parliament. It has had that in good measure in the course of commendable speeches from both sides of the chamber, but in these matters one must not overlook the fact that sometimes there is a great deal of exaggeration in the charges that are made. I might illustrate that statement in the few moments that are available to me by referring to the celebrated Grayden report in Western Australia. That was one of the most unreliable documents, resulting in the worst possible service to aborigines, that has ever been promoted in any Parliament or publicly delivered. After the report came out it was necessary for a series of official and responsible public persons to point out the facts. Mr. Murdoch, the publisher of the “ News “ in Adelaide, made a special trip to the area and said, on his return -
No aborigines in the central Australian reserves are dying of thirst, starvation or disease. The nationwide consternation for these people has not been necessary.
That is the comment of a responsible person. The reply of the chairman of the committee was to threaten Mr. Murdoch with contempt proceedings for daring to differ from the opinion contained in the report.
Mr. Murdoch planted himself in Perth, made a special trip there, and said, “ Here I am “. Naturally, nothing happened.
– Like the honorable member for East Sydney, the chairman of the committee ran away.
– Yes. Mr. Brady, himself the Labour Minister in charge of natives, specifically denied that the charges were correct. Dr. Ronald Berndt, the senior lecturer in anthropology in the University of Western Australia, went with his wife, who also is a celebrated anthropologist, to the area and made a survey. They said -
There is no evidence of widespread or general malnutrition or disease in excess of what is found in other marginal areas.
A medical party under Dr. W. S. Davidson, the Deputy Director of Public Health in Western Australia, went to the area and reported to the effect that there were no signs of starvation among the natives of the Warburton Range who were examined by the party. So we could go on.
I point out these things because it is no service to the case of the aborigines for these exaggerated and inflammatory statements to be made. They get found out and there is the obvious reaction, that people dismiss all allegations about aborigines, so that their last state is worse than their first. We must stick to the facts of this matter. So far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, the one fact that sticks up like the rock of Gibraltar in this debate is that the Commonwealth Government, through the present Minister for Territories, has done its utmost to care for and advance the welfare of the natives under its charge.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 1194), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper be printed: -
Defence - Ministerial Statement.
.- A characteristic common to all national leaders, and, I am afraid, to almost all people in all countries to-day, is an attitude of uncertainty, confusion, puzzlement and even hopelessness as we face the future in this atomic age. Statements by scientists only help to confuse the issue. While some scientists continue day and night to increase the diabolical power of nuclear fission and fusion bombs, other scientists are working day and night to warn the world of the terrible slaughter that faces humanity in an atomic war, and of the permanent damage to the human race that will result from the continued fall-out of radio-active material as the result of nuclear experiments. Today’s press gives us another startling illustration of this. I quote from the Melbourne “ Sun “ of to-day, from a report datelined “ New York, Wednesday “, which reads -
New traces of potentially dangerous radio activity have been found in milk. Dr. Arnold B. Kurlander, an assistant to the Surgeon General of the United States, said to-day the discoveries had been made since the testing of nuclear weapons began.
He said milk normally contained traces of radio-active potassium, but recent tests had disclosed traces of strontium-90 and cesium-137, both radio active, and potentially dangerous. People could also eat these radio-active elements in vegetables exposed to fall-out, just as milk cows did while grazing.
In Washington, a Public Health Service spokesman said tests were being made of milk samples from various United States cities.
So it is on! The effect of radio-active fallout will go on increasing; so, even if we do not have a war, millions of people will be destroyed or permanently disabled as a result of fall-out. National leaders, on the other hand, tell the world we must prepare for war to prevent war, and that any talk of peace is weakness. Some even suggest it is communistic to mention peace to-day.
Caught up between all these conflicting forces the ordinary people of the world, who matter most, to me anyway, are bewildered, looking for sanity and finding none, asking questions and receiving no answers, looking for hope and finding only despair. Others just become cynical. Others close their minds and refuse to think about it, riding on the tide of easy living, materialism and personal enjoyment.
Tragically, humanity seems to get scant consideration in all these statements we read from national leaders and scientists. National leaders should remember that the pawns in litis military game are not battleships, tanks, launching sites, aircraft and defence fortifications, but human lives; and the sooner our leaders realize that it is human lives that count in this world rather than these material things and concentrations of military power, the faster we will get a warless world. There is a sense of desperation in much of the defence preparations of all countries - certainly of Australia - Communist and non-Communist, and no matter whether leaders live in Moscow, Peking. London, New York, New Delhi, or the United Nations, fear grips them all. That is the common denominator of all the world to-day - fear! All the brave words uttered in the United Nations and in the parliaments of the world are only screens hiding the fear that k creeping into the hearts of men and women everywhere.
Who wants war? The ordinary people of every country never want to see it again, and they make up 98 per cent, of the people of the world. Whether they live behind the iron curtain, the bamboo curtain, or in the free world - whether they are black or white, peasants or preachers, farmers or artisans, Hindus or Christians, men or women - none of them wants war. I had an excellent opportunity to see this for myself when I made some trips overseas, during which I talked with the ordinary people. Ordinary people in all countries are the same as the ordinary people in this country. They want to live in peace with their neighbour if they can. They want a home and they want to raise their families in security. They want work. They want to be able to worship in freedom and mix with their fellow-men on a local level, and they also want to live in reasonable, rational, sensible peace. So, who wants war? I am convinced that if the leaders of Russia, the armament makers, war profiteers and the like, were converted to the ideology of moral standards and of democracy, war would become a subject for the museum, armchair chats, history books and memories. The present position is that about 2 per cent, of the world’s people are in a position not only to force the world intoa mad armament race like that of to-day but also, through the power of evil leadership, to plunge the world into war. Two per cent.!
I should like to mention another point here. We know the colossal cost of defence. Millions of pounds pour out in armaments, man-power, administration, &c. India, when I was there in 1952, was spending 45 per cent, of her small budget on defence, when millions of her people had nowhere to live and were suffering from semi-starvation. Pakistan is spending about 60 per cent, of her budget on defence when she needs it so much for other development. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are spending from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent, of their incomes on defence when we, too, cry out for homes, irrigation, modern transportation and development.
The drive for power, therefore, by a few men, means the pouring out of the economic life-blood of nearly every nation of the world, the only exceptions being probably Sweden, Switzerland and Ireland. In South-East Asia, think of it, 133,000,000 people are homeless, and heavy defence expenditure means they will remain homeless and semi-starved for years to come. But for the huge defence expenditures, taxation, too, could be lighter, apart from the fact that more money would be made available for construction purposes for the good of humanity.
Who is going to start making peace, anyway? Some one has to start somewhere, some time. When will nations start trusting the other fellow? The United States puts up a plan to stop nuclear stockpiling. Russia suspects a trap in it and rejects it. Russia puts up a plan, even for “ open skies “ over vast areas, and the United States says, “ No good, we cannot trust the Reds “. The United Kingdom puts up a proposal for multilateral disarmament - the United States is lukewarm and Russia is suspicious. This is international lunacy on a frightening scale. It means that no scheme to save humanity is any good unless the individual nation’s own plan is accepted, which means, in effect - “ My way to peace, or no peace; my way to disarmament, or no disarmament “. At what stage is one nation going to start trusting the other? When are the nations going to find a common denominator of agreement between East and West, enslaved and free, between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the rest of the world?
What has Russia got to do before she will be trusted? What has America got to do before Russia will trust her? Have nations got to agree to everything before they will agree to anything? I repeat that. Have nations got to agree to everything in this mad nuclear age before they will agree to anything? We have to start somewhere. Some scheme put up by one of the nations should be tried for a start. Let us give Russia’s scheme a try. Let us give America’s scheme a try. We have to start somewhere and we can call the Russian bluff once we have started. But we will never get anywhere the way we are going, except into another war.
I think that we should talk more of the battle for peace to prevent war than of preparing for war to stop war. That has never worked yet in the world’s history. We must go on winning friends across the frontiers and regard this as one of the greatest weapons against a future war. Friends do not kill each other. We must widen our friendships and narrow our hatreds, increase our agreements and narrow our prejudices. Had we built more friendships in the past 50 years we would have had to build fewer battleships. I wish to refer to the speech of my colleague the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who led for the Opposition in this debate, owing to the absence of our leader through illness. He said -
The subject of defence must be lifted from the level on which it is asked, “How many rifles, how many guns, how many bodies and how much brass and how many sergeant-majors have we? “ The question must be asked, “ How many friends have we in a hostile world? “ We have not many. I had the privilege of talking to two journalists who came here from Singapore and other eastern countries. They were delighted with the friendliness of Australians, at the kindliness shown to them in this House and with the kindliness shown to them at the Snowy River Authority.
Later on he said-
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in reading from “ Hansard “ a speech delivered in this House in the same debate?
-Order! The honorable member would be in order if he drew on the “ Hansard “ report of that speech for reference only, but he is not in order in quoting from “ Hansard “.
– He is reading it.
– What is wrong with that? The honorable member for Capricornia will be under the ground, the same as I will be, if war comes. His attitude is typical of the mentality of this Government.
– The honorable member has just been talking about friendship.
– The honorable member for Perth should keep quiet.
– Order! The honorable member for Perth will cease interjecting.
– I have tried to quote from the speech of a’ member of this House in this debate, but the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) - God bless him! - has raised a point of order, suggesting that I may not read from “ Hansard “.
– That was not my decision but the decision of the Parliament. I was only acting consistently with my duty, and the honorable member ought to do the same.
– A nuclear war would be the most diabolical thing ever set in motion. By comparison, the savages of days gone by were gentlemen. They killed only their enemies. It was largely a mantoman war, but the white races are preparing for mass extermination. Nothing the savages ever did could compare for one moment with the diabolical nature of nuclear warfare with its obliteration of millions of innocent people- the women and children, the aged and infirm - in a flash. Atomic war would not be against armed men, but against fortified cities-. It would be a war on the defenceless, for there is no defence against nuclear war. The safest place could very well be with the armed forces. The cities, with their transport spearheads, their armament factories, their food arsenals, their docks and wharfs and their administrative nerve centres, will be the real targets of atomic weapons, dropped from fast, long-range, atom bomb-carrying aircraft or fired from atomically driven submarines. Cut off from supplies, all three services could be stranded in a short time and the war effort brought to a standstill. It would be a short war, but few would survive.
One trend has been noticeable in our defence expenditure month by month since this Government came into office. At the present time, I understand, about £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 remains unspent of the defence vote. Only a month or two remains until the end of the financial year. Every year the average monthly expenditure, up to March, has been about £14,000,000. Then, in the last three months of the financial year, the defence departments have spent at the rate of £25,000,000 a month in a desperate, lastminute effort to dispose of the rest of the money allocated for defence. That is wasteful and wrong.
Another interesting point was raised by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) the other night. He spoke of the percentages of money spent on the navy, army and air forces in the various countries. I think he quoted the United States of America, Canada and Australia, and said that in the United States 28 per cent, of defence expenditure was on the navy, 24 per cent, on the army and 48 per cent, on the air force. In Canada the navy received 20 per cent., the army 28 per cent, and the air force 52 per cent. In Australia 26 per cent, is spent on the Navy, 37 per cent, on the Army and only 37 per cent, on the Air Force. He admitted, in his speech, that Australia should concentrate more and more on air defence, as the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) has pointed out to this Government for the last five years. That is sound reasoning, because in a great continent like Australia it is necessary to have fast-moving mobile defence units if the enemy is to be stopped at any one point. We will not be able to depend on the railways, roads, or even on sea transport to get the attack there “in time. Obviously America has concentrated on the air defence of its vast coastline. Why cannot Australia follow suit? We should cut down on the other two services and spend more on modern aircraft for defence.
– That is what John Curtin said.
– The honorable member for Macquarie points out that that was the policy of the late John Curtin in 1937 - to build up our Air Force. He was laughed at at the time, as our late leader in Tasmania, the Honorable Albert Ogilvie, was laughed at in 1938 when, on returning from overseas, he said that Australia would need to have the sky black with aeroplanes if it wanted to win the war that was coming.
– Did he say that theyshould be Wirraways?
– He did not say what sort of aircraft, he just said “ aeroplanes “. When my colleague the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) was speaking, he pointed out the difference between the expenditure on capital equipment and the expenditure on administration in the defence departments. The figures he quoted were amazing. He pointed out that the report of the Public Accounts Committee showed that Army maintenance expenditure for the financial year 1955-56 totalled £48,980,000 and that capital expenditure amounted to £12,466,000. This means that about 57 per cent, of the entire Army vote of £84,761,000 was absorbed in administrative costs. Those figures show where vast sums of the defence allocation are being spent. They are going down the drain in administrative costs. I do not think that this Government has done anything to prune administration. It has pruned the national service training scheme, but 1 wonder how much it will save on administration. That will be a question for consideration when the next budget is under discussion and honorable members have the chance to review this defence scheme after it has been in operation for several months.
– Is the honorable member taking into consideration the payments to servicemen?
– I have taken into consideration everything that was mentioned. Administration expenditure represents 57 per cent, of the total.
– The report did not say thai it was administration expenditure.
– Order! The honorable member for Moore is not in order in interjecting.
– In this ideological age in which we are living I would recommend the establishment in this country of a department of ideological warfare. I shall have more to say about that on a future occasion on a motion for the adjournment of the House.
– I rise to order. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) raised a point of order in relation to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) reading from “ Hansard “.
– I have already ruled on that. Are you questioning the ruling? I ask you to resume your seat. You are out of order.
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) began with a very pleasant dissertation on the philosophy of international life and finished up, not as an expert, but advocating that one arm of the services, namely the Air Force, should be stronger than the others. Nobody will disagree with the ideals which he put forward. Nobody who went to one war wants another war. Anyone who has been to two wars certainly does not want another war. ThereforeI trust that I will not be accused of war-mongering if I suggest that in this day and age Australia still needs a defence force and a defence policy. I would like to say to the honorable member for Wilmot, if it is any comfort to him, that whilst fear is a very big factor in the world to-day, a most comforting thought is that it will not be the soldier in the front line who gets the first knock in a global war; it will be the politicians at the nerve centres, and that is perhaps one of the greatest deterrents of all to the starting of any global nuclear war.
This debate has been notable for the fact that a large number of members have spoken and nobody seems to be happy with the proposals, except the Government. The Labour party’s attitude, as exemplified by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) - and the honorable member for Wilmot will recognize this also - may be summed up as -
Isn’t it terribly,terribly sad;
It does not help very much just to say, as the Labour party says, “ Our policy is, first, to ban nuclear warfare, and secondly, to seek disarmament “. Nobody will disagree with those aims, but in this world there are international thugs as well as individual thugs, and until we can get an international police force, just as we have a police force at home, I do not feel inclined to commit idealistic suicide by leaving Australia completely unarmed and defenceless. Nobody who thinks of Korea, Tibet, Hungary, and Jordan, can feel very happy about going it alone as a small nation, or leaving ourselves defenceless and unable to stop the depredations of somebody who is stronger than we are. Nor is it any good going to the international conference table unless you have strength, which is the one thing that the Communists respect. They are also adept at exploiting weakness.
We all know that this Government and every honorable member in this House advocates following up and doing all we can to support the work of the Disarmament Commission; but until agreement can be reached, we must continue to be able, with our small effort, to add to the general strength of the free world so that we will not be overrun. The Australian defence policy is based on two things. The first is foreign aid through the Colombo Plan, in which I think Australia has done magnificent work. Both the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and his predecessor should receive great credit for the way they have advocated and supported the Colombo Plan. The second is that our defence policy consists of integrating our arms, our equipment, and, I take it, our policy, with those of the United States of America. However, although it has been announced that the Government intends to integrate our arms and equipment with those of the United States to a very large extent, I am not sure how far consultation with our strong ally in the Pacific has gone on the question of what are the best means by which we, within our capabilities, particularly our economic capabilities, will be able to provide the greatest addition or accretion of strength to the overall Pacific nonaggression defence policy. How can we best assist our allies in Seato and Anzus? I take it that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who will visit America very shortly, is going there for consultations of that nature. What I am a little surprised about is that those consultations have not been brought much further forward than they are at the moment when thisparticular policy is being announced.
I do not want to pose as an expert on any form of defence. It is twelve years since I was last in the services. I do not consider that there is much, or anything, that I can add to what has been said about the types of planes we should purchase and the things of that nature; but there is one thing that worries me very much indeed, and it has worried me for many moons, if not many years, past. That is the intolerable length of time that we take to come to any decision. In other words, it is the indecision which I feel is one of our chief faults. It is not easy in the present day and age, with all the complications involved in defence thinking, to make decisions, but it is far worse to continue with worn-out theories just because we cannot make up our own minds. The other night the Minister for Defence said that in 1954 a decision was made to emphasize the defence potential of the Air Force to a greater extent. It is now 1957, and apparently that decision is now to be carried out, but we have not decided what types of planes we are going to buy. It has not been definitely stated whether we are to buy the Starfighter or certain transport planes.
It has been obvious for a long time to a novice, let alone an expert, that all our lines of communication in time of emergency must be eastwards and not westwards; in other words that the Suez Canal as a line of communication was out from the time the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Yet, we have gone on for a long time spending money on arms and equipment that we knew would eventually have to be changed. Apparently the Labour party, too, has been in favour of this principle, because I have never heard its members speak against it. I think the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) first spoke of this matter in this House about 1950 or earlier - it could not have been very much earlier because he came into this House only in December, 1949. There has been a consistent demand along the line that I have mentioned, yet it is only now in 1957, perhaps brought about by the greater realization of the necessity for it since the recent Suez crisis, that that decision has been made.
Take the question of moving the defence departments to Canberra. I had a headache for my last two years in Cabinet as Minister for the Interior on this particular phase of development. The proposals all hinged on when the administrative building was to be finished, which will be the end of this year. First of all, and I am not disclosing any Cabinet secrets, it was announced as a matter of policy that all the departments except the defence departments were to be moved to Canberra. Then when we got a committee going on the matter it was decided that it would be better perhaps to move the defence departments and not the other departments. So another committee was formed to investigate that. Then the Department of Defence was asked to submit its proposals in relation to the move. When I heard them, I thought that it might well have been the proprietor of a large group of Arabian oil wells, because its demands were utterly preposterous. This sort of thing leaves in one’s mind a doubt about what goes on in the top-heavy administration of the services. Now - and only now - have we been told that a decision has been made, and that the Department of Defence is to be moved to Canberra. However, the administration building is to be completed this year, and apparently it will lie idle for two years until the move is made. If honorable members do not believe that, let them ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) what he has to do. He has to provide houses and schools, and all the necessary services, such as sewerage, roads and water. All these things cannot be provided overnight merely by a decision communicated orally.
Again, as the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) pointed out, there is the question of whether we shall continue to manufacture aircraft in Australia. It seems to me to be the height of conceit to think that we shall continue to manufacture top-line aircraft in Australia. Can we do it? Of course we can do it, but we must reckon up the cost and the time it takes to get into production with a new type. Anything we decided to manufacture would be out of date by the time we got into production after the lengthy process of tooling up. It seems to me that it would be very much better to send our technical men overseas to acquire the necessary know-how, or to make an arrangement similar to that existing between Japan and the United States of America for the manufacture of aircraft of a particular type. Furthermore, we are inclined to think thai we are a little better than we really are, and, when we decide to produce aircraft of a new type, try to improve them. However, we sometimes find that these supposed improvements cause difficulties, such as those experienced in relation to the firing mechanism of the Sabre aircraft, the guns of which could not be fired at a height of more than 10,000 feet. As a result, the aircraft had to be altered again. This sort of thing greatly increases the expense and the time taken to produce a front-line aircraft. At one time, as a result of this interference with original plans, we had Sabre aircraft that had no bomb-sights. That does not seem to be wise from the standpoint of either economy or time-saving, and we should not repeat that experience.
When 1 was a Minister, the Cabinet made a firm decision to construct the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory. I do not know how the project stands at present, but I do know that, at one time, it was accorded high priority. 1 think that, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that the chiefs of staff still considered that it should have the highest priority, he had forgotten one or two things that have happened since. As a result of the change of policy, only the small arms capacity of the factory - about 50 per cent, of the total capacity - will be used, and even that may not be used until 1961 when the FN rifle will be in production. This ammunition filling factory, which has been built at a cost of £23,000,000, is like the Eildon Weir in Victoria, which was completed in record time, but is not yet serving its purposes because the main channels to take the water to the irrigation centres have not been completed. I fail to see why it was necessary to construct the St. Mary’s factory in such a terrific hurry, in spite of a statement made at the time of commencement that it would cost less to construct it quickly than to complete it over a period of five years. All these things add up to the fact that we are not making decisions.
I propose now to turn to civil defence, which is another factor in the defence problem. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is now at the table, to listen to the remarks that I am about to make with particular attention, and to submit to his colleagues in the Ministry the suggestions that I intend to make. It is not fair to the Minister for the Interior to put civil defence under his administration. I know that only too well.
The Minister for the Interior has no control over civil defence funds, which are provided from the defence vote, and he has no control over civil defence policy, which is determined by the Defence Committee. But he is subjected to criticism by every one who thinks that the Government may not be doing what is right in civil defence, although he is not able to control the funds voted or the policy to be followed! It is a most unfair position for any Minister to be placed in. Civil defence should be taken from the charge of the Minister for the Interior and made a responsibility of the Department of Defence, which determines what shall be done about it, particularly if, as has been suggested, partly trained national service trainees are to be used to provide a civil defence organization. If they are to be used, the situation will be even more absurd than it is under the present scheme of things.
– At the present time, civil defence is like an orphan child.
Minister who has to look after the orphan child, although he did not father it, and has not the means to feed it, is in a much more difficult position than is the child. However much the Ministry may agree or disagree with my views, I urge it to take note immediately of the unfairness of charging the Minister for the Interior with responsibility for civil defence administration. It was made the responsibility of that Minister originally only because the Minister for Home Affairs in the United Kingdom controlled the police and the other organizations that undertook civil defence duty in World War II. But times have changed. Also, the Minister for the Interior does not control the police force in the Australian Capital Territory, and there is no rhyme or reason for making him responsible for civil defence; but there is every reason for placing the responsibility elsewhere.
Generally, the new defence policy is an improvement on the old one, and, therefore, I support it. However, like many other backbenchers who have spoken in this debate, I trust that the new policy announced by the Prime Minister represents only an outline of the shape of things to come. I, too, cannot understand why the expenditure on the Army, which represents 37 per cent, of the defence vote - Canada spends 28 per cent, of its defence vote on its army, and the United States of America 24 per cent. - has produced only one brigade group and one battalion group for service overseas. If more money has to be spent on other things that are more important than the Army, I suppose that will be done, but I emphasize again that one brigade group and one battalion group for service overseas is not enough. The Prime Minister himself said that we cannot count partially trained men to-day in our defence potential. Those are his very words. Therefore, I think that the value obtained for expenditure on the Army wants very close consideration and review.
Finally, I want to emphasize again that, having decided to integrate our arms and equipment - and, I hope, our policy - with those of the United States, which has a great deal of interest in the Pacific area where our main interests lie under the Seato and Anzus pacts, we do not weaken our ties with Great Britain. But this does not mean that we have to slavishly imitate or follow the United States in everything, although it very definitely means that we cannot smack our best friend in the face in the conduct of our foreign policy, and let that friend know nothing about what we are doing until he reads about it in the newspapers or on the ticker-tape. That is how grave misunderstandings and other troubles occur.
It is of no use for the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to go to the United States unless he has been authorized to be free and frank with the Americans, in a friendly way, and to tell them what is our policy with respect to the recognition of, and trade with, red China. We may have our friendly disagreements, but let us not try to put anything over our friends, and let us avoid misunderstandings. That is very important, because, obviously, the Communists, who have adopted a policy of “ divide and conquer “ in relation to the United States and the British Commonwealth, are not so keen on United States recognition of red China, although they would like to see us recognize that country in order to isolate the United States still further. Even if one thinks that the United States is wrong, one must think about that very carefully. Therefore, we must remember that, if we integrate our defence policy with that of the United States, there is an implied responsibility on us to direct our foreign policy accordingly. Though I am not happy with the defence programme, it is an improvement. I ask all on this side of the House who are responsible to try to get rid of the indecision of the past which has caused so much delay and expense. From the Army point of view, the brigade group is not good enough. Whether our contribution in the Navy and Air Force is sufficient can be thrashed om by others. I trust that when the Minister returns from the United States he will know more and we will be told more abou: the integration of the policy in the Pacific. The Labour party can rest assured that we are just as keen for peace as it is.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
on any matter relating to the defence of this country. When he said in the latter portion of his speech that there should be no misunderstanding between friends, he touched upon a very important issue. He said, in effect, that we should not slap a friend in the face and do something behind his back. I say to the honorable member for Chisholm and members of the Government that, if that is the policy on which we are to build our future, it is a very wise one. But it should not be restricted to one spot because it is thought some assistance may be obtained from that spot. We should be big enough to extend that policy to red China and to other people adjacent to our doors to try to get some understanding, instead of looking for war.
This debate is fast drawing to a close. To the extent that honorable members on both sides of the House have agreed on one salient feature, some value has been derived from it. That feature is the determination of every honorable member to see that Australia is defended to the maximum of its capacity. I do not think that there is any division of thought on that problem. Whilst we all agree on that point, there appears to be very wide divergence of thought on what is the best for the defence of this country and on what part we should play in world affairs not only on the level mentioned by the honorable member for Chisholm but also on the defence structure if world events should prove that we cannot make friends with the Communists - and that cannot b. decided lightly - and if the Communists determine, as we to some extent have determined, that there cannot be co-existence in this world. Two features emerge. We have to consider whether we believe that there is no possibility of co-existence and, therefore, that the Communists are moving step by step to place us in a position where we will be at a disadvantage if they attack at the weakest point in the strategy of the Western world. If we believe that, we look at our own nation, keeping in mind all the time that every one believes that Australia must be defended to the maximum of its capacity.
We have all agreed that war could take one of three forms. The first is the “’ global “ conflict. Australia is in a peculiar position. I say “ peculiar “ because our global position is unique. No other country has such a vast continent populated by a mere 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 people, and no country has the prospects for future development that exist in Australia. We must always keep that picture in mind. No other country has the obvious possibility of development, with good food and everything that goes with a decent standard of living, so close to millions of Asiatics who are crying out for some improvement in their standards. Whether we like it or not, that is the reality of Australia’s position. We should not believe that we can look to America for aid or that the fleet of Great Britain is standing in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The true position that confronts this nation must be kept in mind when we think in terms of defence.
I mention those features because in this debate there seems to be the thought that we are confronted with a possible threepronged attack. It is the responsibility not merely of the Government but, indeed, of the Parliament to defend this nation; and it is on that basis that I propose to speak. The question arises of the part Australia will play in the event of a “ global “ war. Secondly, we must consider our situation in what is regarded now as “ limited “ war. Lastly, of course, is our position in a * cold “ war. Let us take what I believe to be the defence requirements and the likely outcome for Australia in the event of such a stark tragedy as a “ global “ war. If such a war is to be fought with atomic or hydrogen bombs - and that is too terrible to contemplate - we must remember that the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6th August, 1945, killed 70,000 people and wounded or maimed as many more. We know that the hydrogen bomb is now a thousand times more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
If a “ global “ conflict were to take place involving the use of thermo-nuclear weapons, we get the picture that New York, London or Moscow could be annihilated with only one hydrogen bomb, if that devastating instrument were used. If that is the future of the world - and I say this quite frankly, having given it a lot of thought for a long time - Australia can forget about defence; because the commencement of a world conflict on that level would leave starving, broken humanity in a position in which defence would be no longer necessary. If that ever happens, all we are talking about now on defence does not mean anything. If we believe that that is the ultimate, our effort has been wasted and we should be using the money now spent on defence to develop our nation and to help feed the people close to our doors, and be done with it! On the other hand, I believe - and the honorable member for Chisholm touched on this point - that self-preservation will prevent the tragedy I have mentioned. I do not believe that the politicians in Moscow, whether they are called Communists or something else, or the politicians in London or New York, would tolerate the launching of a hydrogen bomb to destroy an enemy city, because they know that within the following hour their own cities would be destroyed.
I turn now to the “ limited “ war, because that is the feature we should be considering. A “ limited “ war can become a very important factor for Australia. If the Communists have all the techniques that we are led to believe they possess, they will look for the weakest spot in the defences of the Western democracies to commence a drawing-off process. In my view our own country is that weak spot. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said on 4th April that limited war would always be possible. We have seen it in the Middle East and in Indo-China. Our voice may be heard in respect of a limited war, but in respect of the cold war, the third possibility mentioned by the Prime Minister, it would not. The cold war policy will be decided by the Great Powers. It is because I believe that a country of 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 people cannot hope to exert an influence in the cold war, that I propose to devote the remainder of my speech to a consideration of our part in a limited war. If we are to be of any assistance to the Western Powers, we should be looking at the Middle East and SouthEast Asia. I do not say that without first giving the matter some thought. The South-East Asia area represents the weak link in the defence chain of the Western democracies, and if the Communist is as bright as we are led to believe, he will work night and day to strike at that weak link.
We have two alternatives. The first is to become a friendly power - to try to win South-East Asia from the Communists by friendly means. The Government believes that that is not possible. History will reveal whether or not the Government is right. However, if the Government does not believe co-existence to be possible, we want from it a plan for the defence of this country - a plan to strengthen this weak link in the Western defence chain.
I was surprised that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) should have been so ready to accept the plan that is before us. I thought that when he had finished speaking I should not be left very much to say. I could not believe that a great soldier would express himself as satisfied with a plan such as this, which will give us in 1960 11,000 men in the Navy, 20,000 men in the Australian Regular Army, and 16,725 men in the Royal Australian Air Force, a total of 48,725. If we believe that, finally, the Communists will force war upon the world, any one who stands in his place and says that he is satisfied with the present plan for strengthening this weak link is rendering a great disservice to the future of democracy.
The total man-power in the armed services represents only one man for every quarter-mile of our coastline! If, as has been suggested, the Communist can convince the people of South-East Asia that his philosophy and form of government is preferable to ours, we cannot with any conscience accept a figure of 48,725 men, by 1960, as enabling us to play our proper part in the Western defence system. If the Government believes what it says about Communist infiltration, there is no evidence of it in our defence preparations. The prospect of a limited war in South-East Asia is very real, so let us be frank about it. Under the Government’s plan, which the honorable member for Chisholm accepts, we shall have neither the man-power nor the financial capacity to wage even a holding war in this area-. Our task is to protect this country, not for ourselves, but for posterity. Our task is to strengthen the weak link in Western defence. If the Communist is as bad as this Government says, we must not merely go to America, find out what they will give us and come back, finally, with twelve or even twenty planes. If, as the Prime Minister has said, the part-world war, or small war, can lead in the ultimate to global war, let us be realistic about it. If the Communist is going to start the small war in preparation for the global war, he will attack the weakest part of the Western defence chain. If that is so, and if America and the United Kingdom are sincere, let us accept the fact that we are trying to defend this country for Western democracy as a whole. We are not fighting for ourselves alone, but also for those who live around us and can protect our way of life, and for our children and grandchildren to come.
Let us be big enough to go to our allies and say, “ We have not the means with which to purchase or build the “ black sky “ of planes that may be necessary for the ultimate defence of this part of the world. We believe that the Communist cannot be trusted, and so do you. We believe that, finally, he will strike and that when he does he will direct his attack at the weakest point in order to draw away your strength from the vital areas. Let us have lendlease now “. Let the future citizens of this country pay for the security that we are now ensuring. If what Government supporters have said about Communist technique is true there is no time to lose. After all, if we embark upon lend-lease and, after blackening our skies with planes find that there is to be no world war, our allies will still have made the best possible investment - an investment in freedom. Let us not say, merely because our population is 9,000,000 and we can afford to spend only £190,000,000 each year on defence, that we shall be satisfied with fewer than 50,000 men as our contribution to the defence of Western democracy. If we believe that ultimately the Communists will strike, let us not be ashamed of the fact that we have a population of only 9,000,000. Let us say to our allies, “ Give us lend-lease, and let us have the equipment that we need “. Let us also build up our own potential. Let us develop our aircraft factories, and the other industries that we need, in order to maintain ourselves in this country. If the Government believes in the principles that it has put forward, it will do two things: It will try to create friendship with China and the rest of SouthEast Asia; at the same time, it will show our allies that we are resolved to become a strong link, and not the weak link, in the Western chain of democracy and of world freedom.
[3.16J. - I have a short twenty minutes in which to devote myself to a subject which, if it were to be covered thoroughly, would require a great deal more time. Therefore, I do not intend taking up very much of this short twenty minutes in dealing in any detail with some of the statements which have emanated from the Opposition side of the House. In this debate, we have had ample evidence of the inconsistency of the Labour party on defence as, indeed, we have had on other occasions in the past. Not long ago, in one of the general election campaigns, Labour pledged that, if it were returned to power, expenditure on defence would be reduced by at least £50,000,000 so that more money would be available for the purpose of doing things which are more pleasant than defence measures and more likely to attract votes.
In some quarters, that attitude has been, evident during this debate, but some speakers have adopted the alternative attitude. I think that some of the remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) could be interpreted as meaning that, in his opinion, the Government’s defence plan does not go far enough. On the other hand, one Opposition member stated last week that it was unnecessary for us to expend so much money on defence. The proposed expenditure would be wasted, he said, because if Australia were to declare itself in favour of peace we would be left alone, because other nations would say, “ Australia is not going to fight, so we will not touch it “. Thus, there are inconsistencies in the Opposition’s argument. I suggest that a policy based on such inconsistencies in a party could not succeed in its objective of ensuring the security of Australia.
I should like to try to clarify the position by going back to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) at the initiation of this debate. I remind the House that the Prime Minister pointed out that the defence policy enunciated in that statement was the result of an appreciation of the defence situation and defence requirements, not only in Australia, but also in the Far-Eastern areas. That appreciation, he said, had been made by Australian Chiefs of Staff. There is a bit of a tendency in some quarters to sneer at our Chiefs of Staff, and other officers of similar rank, as being “ top brass “. In this respect, I was particularly struck with the wisdom and sense of the remark made a little while ago by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes). Although he has had, as we all know, long and honorable service in the defence of this country, he said that, at this stage, twelve years later, he would hesitate to challenge or criticize the opinions of those who have had experience equal to that of any of us in this House, and who have the advantage of being kept right up to the minute on the latest international developments and the latest developments in military science.
That is an attitude which I myself adopt. I claim to have had some such service and some experience. But if, in planning the defence of Australia, I found that I differed radically from the Chiefs of Staff, I would hesitate long before condemning them, and saying that they did not know what they were talking about, and that I did. As a matter of fact, I am pleased to find that I am very much in accord with their overall appreciation of the defence position. This appreciation indicates that a new pattern has developed for the defence of this far-eastern Pacific area. Australia is not playing a lone hand.
In developing an appreciation of any situation it is a very common and very sound military practice, in the widest sense of the word “ military “, to take into account, first of all, the main factors which have a bearing on the objective of the appreciation. In order to get back to the basic facts that we are trying to determine in respect of our defence policy, I shall cite to the House what I consider to be the major factors which have influenced this appreciation. The first factor is the nature of the threat which Australia and our eastern neighbours are facing. The second factor is the force available to meet that threat. The third factor concerns the around most suitable on which to meet the threat. The fourth consideration is the important time factor. May I deal with those factors in some detail?
There is no doubt as to the nature of the threat. The only threat to Australia and to neighbouring countries is the possibility of the onward march of communism, down through China and the countries of Eastern Asia, right to the north of Australia. That is the threat of communism, and it could come in any one of three ways. It could come in the form of a cold war, or a global war, or what is now known as a limited war. As the Prime Minister mentioned in his statement, once we just talked about war. Now we have the cold war, the possibility of global war, and the limited war. The cold war is carried on by the subtle subversion of countries which are being literally attacked. It is carried on by the use of banditry in areas which lend themselves to that sort of thing as Malaya does at the moment. Subversion is also effected by infiltration, which is cleverly arranged where the conditions of life are such “ that they provide a fertile soil for communism. We know the threat of the cold war. We have Australian components in the strategic force in Malaya, and our men have been fighting in Malaya for a long time in order to deal with the cold war there.
The second threat confronting us is global war. Those who are in a position to know have stated quite recently - and I think it can be accepted - that a global war would be a conflict between world communism and the major democratic nations. These people have said that should such a war break out - and it is unlikely - Australia’s role would be a relatively minor one, at least at the start, and we would not be in danger of atomic attack. I mention that in passing because some speakers have attempted to influence this debate by concentrating on the terrors of atomic attack. I agree with their description of the terrible results which would follow the dropping of an atomic bomb. I, too, have seen what happened in Hiroshima. But let us not be misled into thinking that if a global war occurred we would be immediately smashed. I disagree with the honorable member for Blaxland, who said that, because we appear to be the weak link, in a global war we would be the ones on whom the enemy would concentrate first. That is foreign to all sound thinking.
– I did not say that.
– I am sorry if I have misconstrued the honorable member’s remarks. It is conceded that, in the event of a global war, it will be a case of America and Great Britain versus the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and each group would go flat out to smash the enemy before there was any possibility of an extension of the war. The third threat is of a limited war, which we believe could, unfortunately, break out with little or no warning at a not far distant date because something might happen, or somebody might get a little trigger happy. If that should happen in an area which is of vital importance to our own Australian security, Australia will be forced to play a relatively major part in its conduct. A limited war, possibly because those behind it would not want to commence the use of atomic weapons, would have the accent mainly, although not wholly, on what we still call conventional weapons, lt would be a war in which troops would still be necessary to take and hold ground, and those troops would need to be supported by the usual methods, such as air cover, ground support by low-flying aircraft, and naval forces capable of keeping open our sea lanes so that troops could be transported, operating in conjunction with the air forces of the threatened areas. We should need naval forces capable of dealing with hostile submarine and surface vessels, which could be used against us even in a limited war.
This, our advisers tell us, is the most likely threat which Australians face in the immediate future, and it is that for which we are planning. The next factor that I have listed concerns the forces available to us. It is a factor which has not been taken into account very much in this debate, and it is one which has been very largely affected by the recent international developments. The obvious realization by the United States of the vital importance of preserving the strength of democracy in :this southern Pacific area, and of halting communism in that area, is a very real factor. A matter which influences the position in this regard is that fact that there has been, in recent years, the emergence of groups of countries just developing into nationhood to the north of us - countries which are determined to uphold their nationality and to defeat communism. As a result, we have this phase in our Australian defence policy, when we are forming a series of mutual defensive pacts. This is a part of our defence and of our plan, and it is one of the reasons for the action that we have taken in placing this paper before the House. The countries with which we are involved in these pacts are the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, France, the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan. That is a formidable array. As a result of the mutual defence pacts that we have made with those countries, We must, in preparing our defensive plans, take into account their co-operation, and we must set out to integrate our forces with the forces of our allies who would be operating with us in the event of a war.
I come now to the factor of the ground most suitable for defence. Surely, from what I have said during the last ten minutes, it will be evident that there is no question about the location of the ground most suitable for our defence. It must be the outer, northern fringe of the democratic part of the Pacific area. By making this choice, our advisers have ensured, first, that we will have every opportunity to preserve the territorial integrity of our allies, which is just as important to us as is the preservation of our own territorial integrity. Secondly, it will have the advantage that we shall be fighting far from our own soil. Then there is the time factor. Obviously, in the present circumstances there will not be any extended period of time for the preparation of our forces. We must be prepared’ to fight at the drop of a hat. Therefore, we come to our plan - the plan on which the Prime Minister’s statement is based, and in the course of which the right honorable gentleman stated that we must provide forces for immediate action to the limit of our financial capacity, capable of integration with the forces of our allies, and capable also of meeting the various types of threat which we expect. At the same time, we must also provide for the ultimate reinforcing of those initial forces, as time permits and as we succeed in holding the first onrush.
My colleagues, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), have already dealt with what this policy means so far as their services are concerned. It is my privilege, on behalf of the service which I have the honour to represent in this House, to give just a few brief facts to show how the present organization which is being developed in the Navy conforms to the policy and to the factors which I have just enumerated. There has been a little cheap criticism about the number of admirals that we have. Criticism of that kind used to be made in the days ot bows and arrows by those who wanted soapbox stuff to put Over to the unthinking. Our naval plans provide for a relatively small put powerful force capable of hard hitting and designed to carry out the role which I outlined a few moments ago in relation to the defence of our sea lanes, the support of troops, and so on. What have we in the Navy to enable that to be done? As the Prime Minister said in his statement, we have first of all, “ Melbourne “, one of the most modern fast light fleet carriers, equipped with five squadrons of 40 aircraft, comprising Venoms and Gannets. In spite of what has been said once or twice in this House, the Venom is not an outdated aircraft. It is one of the latest all-weather jet fighters. The Gannet. turbo-prop, anti-submarine aircraft, is one of the best anti-submarine aircraft. It is fitted with the latest devices for detecting submarines and is a very fine aircraft for this purpose.
There has been some criticism about “ Sydney “. Honorable members will notice that, in the Prime Minister’s statement, the right honorable gentleman points out that the Government, under this plan, proposes to recondition “ Sydney “ so that it will be able to carry out a limited flying role also. If there should be a limited war, that will enable us to use our Sea
Furies very effectively in close support of our ground troops. We also have three “ Q “ class destroyers which have been converted to highly effective anti-submarine vessels. We are concentrating on speed and the power to hit fast, particularly against light aircraft and submarines. We are developing the Daring class ships, which are virtually more powerful than pre-war cruisers. Furthermore, let us remember that practically the whole of the hulls, machinery, equipment and armament of these vessels has been manufactured and assembled in Australia. We have one of them in commission. Another will be in commission shortly, and the construction of a third is well under way. In addition, we have four modern anti-submarine frigates under construction.
Again conforming to our policy, we have modernized our ocean mine-sweepers. In addition, we have done something about which most people who have asked, “ What do you do with all the money? “ do not know. We have purchased for the Navy a modern, fast, 20,000-ton fleet tanker.
This is a very brief summary of the planning behind the defence policy which has been adopted and, so far as the Navy is concerned, of the way that that policy is being carried out. In addition to this planning, the great value of the work which this Government has done in recent years to build up the pacts to which I referred a few moments ago should not be overlooked. We now have the Anzus pact, the Anzam pact, and the Seato pact. Those who have had anything to do with our allied nations, such as America, New Zealand, Thailand and the other components of Seato, and who have seen how sincere and determined these countries are to work together in collaboration with all the democratic nations of the area, will have been very heartened indeed. There may be need for some adjustments of our planning as we go along, but we have built very effectively and very well. In conclusion, may I ask whether any one in this country believes that the co-operation and the trust, which is the basis of these pacts, would have been accorded to a government led by the Leader of the Opposition, as it has been accorded to this Government led by the Prime Minister?
.- The new proposals of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on national defence are an indication of the Government’s confused thinking and of its lack of constructive ideas and of any real plan of defence. They constitute a vindication of the criticism of Opposition members and other sections of the community, and even of a number of Government supporters, in regard to the Government’s defence policy, or lack of a real defence policy. The previous appro.ach of the Government in regard to defence was more in terms of providing a certain amount of money for defence than of having a real policy. Its practice was to allocate a good round sum for defence and leave it to the services to expend that amount of money, whether or not it was warranted. That attitude was typified by the Prime Minister in 1954, at Hobart, I think, during an election campaign, when, dealing with the allocation of the defence vote, he said, “ It is a case of £200,000,000 or nothing “. In effect, that meant “ Take it or leave it “.
Since then, the Government has had to modify the annual expenditure on defence to £190,000,000. Now, after it has spent some £1,200,000,000 on defence, the Government is giving some real thought as to how the defence vote should be spent. To continue the Government’s past practice of allocating money for defence and leaving it to the services to spend, provides too much temptation to the services to spend the amount provided, whether or not its expenditure is warranted. The St. Mary’s munitions filling factory is a classical example of that. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) has already referred to that to-day. That undertaking was entered upon, apparently, without any proper inquiry as to whether its establishment was warranted, and particularly as to the suitability of the site. The Government has been very vague as to the experts, if any, who advised it on the proposal, as to whether any proper inquiry was entered upon before the decision to establish the factory was made and, for instance, as to whether due inquiry had been made on what has been done in that regard overseas. Not so long ago, the Government sent the Director of Civil Defence overseas to ascertain what was being done in other countries. According to what he told us on his return, he and those associated with him in his investigation were impressed with what was being done by Sweden in regard to underground munitions factories. The whole of this £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 being spent at St. Mary’s could prove, in the long run, to be entirely wasted, not only in regard to the undertaking itself, but also in regard to many other munitions factories and other industries in its proximity; because, obviously, the existence of those factories in that area make it a prime target in the event of an atomic war. It could happen that, as a result of an attack on the area, we would have not only no factories, but also no munitions supplies.
The responsibility for this state of affairs is certainly the Government’s responsibility, but it also devolves on the whole Parliament, because it is not just sufficient for us to castigate the Government on this matter. Rank and file members should be taken into consultation by the Government. We know only too well that when the Estimates come before us each year there is insufficient opportunity in debate to elicit any real information regarding the various arms of the services. I commend to the Government the establishment of an all-party committee on defence, especially in regard to defence expenditure, thus emulating the example of governments during the war, when we had in existence the War Expenditure Committee. I was on that committee for a time, and I saw something of the waste that can occur in war-time when there is a lack of proper supervision. In fact, it got to the point where the mere existence of that committee acted as a deterrent against wasteful expenditure. I recollect one occasion when it was arranged that the committee inspect a large undertaking - a well-known organization. We were to make our inspection on a Wednesday. On the Monday of that week the organization concerned suddenly announced that it had discovered that it had overcharged the Government by an amount of £100,000 and was making a voluntary restitution of that amount. When we got there on the Wednesday our job had really been done. We did not have to do anything other than be entertained by the management.
Millions of pounds were saved by that committee. I think it is high time that the Government established something of that nature. After all, there is an old saying that everybody’s business is nobody’s business. It seems to be assumed that we are dealing with peace-time requirements; but we are being continually reminded that the cold war is still in existence, and surely the same prudence and the same care should be exercised in the cold war as would be necessary if the war became a hot war. It would be much simpler to exercise the necessary supervision now than it would be in time of actual war, because we know that in wartime the key people are preoccupied in one of the fighting services or in other aspects of war administration. Perhaps, many honorable members on both sides of the House could be better occupied in that connexion than in being preoccupied with many of the unnecessary and controversial issues that arise in this House.
On the other hand, there is little point in our airing our views here while the Government simply digs in its toes, stands on its dignity, and turns a deaf ear to any suggestions, constructive or otherwise, that may be made by honorable members.
– It has a closed mind.
– That is so. After all, even experts can be wrong. The Government reversal of its defence policy is sufficient evidence of the truth of that statement. Surely to goodness we can pool our brains as well as our material resources. Honorable members on both sides of the House have their ears to the ground, and observe many things and form many ideas in regard to defence as well as other aspects of administration. Many honorable members on both sides have had practical experience of defence matters. They may be right or wrong in their ideas-, but the fact is that under present conditions they have no access to the experts. The humblest member of this House may be able to put forward some constructive suggestion.
I was on the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “ with other honorable members on the occasion on which the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) was good enough to arrange a sea trip for us. What went through my mind when I was on that ship was the question whether that very craft might not be out of date already, and the expense involved, not only in capital outlay, but also on upkeep, might not be justified. Recently, I was at Norfolk Island and the thought that went through my mind there was that that island might well be used as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. It could be established as such at less expense and with a lower cost of upkeep than can the huge floating aircraft carriers which are really sitting ducks for enemy bombers. With Phillip Island used in conjunction with it, Norfolk Island could well be an unsinkable aircraft carrier, lt is one mile long and one mile wide, and there is a huge hill under which a hangar could be constructed to accommodate aircraft. With a breakwater across to Nepean Island, a submarine base could be established there. Norfolk Island was used as a submarine base during the last war by the American forces. That is something I commend to the Government’s consideration, because it could constitute part of a huge air umbrella from New Zealand to the north of Australia.
I think that honorable members in general are quite sincere in this debate and are concerned as to the position in respect of our defences. I hope the suggestions that have been advanced will give the Government food for thought and that the Government will take some notice of them, even if only a little notice. It seems to me that one thing that has been overlooked is that we are now confronted with a warfare different from the kinds we have known to date. It is generally accepted, or, at least, stated, by the Government that the immediate enemy is international communism. Let us consider the matter from that point of view without going into the question of whether or not there may be a resurgence of totalitarianism from the right. International communism does not confine itself to shooting wars alone. Certainly it encompasses force in all its phases, if necessary, for the attainment of its objectives. But military war, for which it seems to be well prepared, is only one aspect. Direct action on the industrial front is another. It is on the propaganda front that it uses its most potent weapons, and it is well organized, prepared and continually active on that front. Communism well recognizes that we are engaged in ideological warfare. Its continual changes of front to meet changing situations is evidence of that. The so-called “ cold “ war, the debunking of Stalin, the cult of the individual, the de-Stalinization process and various goodwill missions of Messrs. Khrushchev, Bulganin, Chou-En-lai and others are all part of the plan. But the objective is always the same - world revolution and the imposition of the Communist ideology and form of government on the whole of the peoples of the world.
What are we doing in Australia to counteract this and to unify the nation? The Communists have unity of action, even though regimented, but we were never more divided among ourselves, politically and otherwise. There are some interests in the community that are bent on spreading disunity. Preparing to use force to meet force is not sufficient, especially if we are a divided nation and do not know where we are going. Nor is it sufficient to leave the matter to those who have a vested interest in war, munitions and the things that demoralize a nation - some people engaged in the fighting services, the production of munitions and so on. When the last war was over, an attempt was made to keep the war going, as it were, under the points scheme. Under that plan, it might have taken two or three years to demobilize the forces and those people who had vested interests in keeping the war going would have benefited. Likewise, there are some sections of the community that are concerned only with selling those things and encouraging those habits that debase, demoralize and disunite the nation. They are not concerned with propaganda to lift morale and spread positive ideas throughout the community.
We must first ascertain if we are really united in our opposition to revolutionary communism and sincerely regard our way of life as better than that which the Communists have to offer. I am not sure tha! we are not divided on that question. In some quarters there seems to be an attitude that communism will inevitably come to this country, as it has come to other countries, and, therefore, it might be just as well for us to give in and swim with the stream because, after all, the Communists may have something better to offer than we have. In my opinion, that is a very dangerous frame of mind, but it is quite understandable because the fact is that the other side is beating us on the propaganda front. Public opinion is the greatest force on earth. An enlightened public opinion. working for truth and justice in the open, will always prevail against a regimented one and forces working in darkness. That was well illustrated the other day when an attempt was made to set up a totalitarian dictatorship in Haiti, in the West Indies. The plan was nipped in the bud because the whole of the people in the community rose up at once and struck at the would-be dictator. He was defeated without a shot being fired. That was done, although the people in the community had no newspapers or means of propaganda such as we have. They passed the facts round by word of mouth to each other and were able to prevent the coup d’etat that was contemplated by the President of Haiti, who wanted to set up a dictatorship in that country.
In order to meet the problem of communism in Australia we must ascertain whether we are united and also do everything possible to acquaint the public with the facts. What real effort is the Government making in that regard, and what are other responsible sections of the community doing to ascertain the truth of the situation and get it across to the people? The people behind the iron curtain may have the truth kept from them, but are we getting it completely in this country? A good deal of doubt seems to prevail in the community, and there is much uncertainty in the public mind. I venture to say that if we were attacked suddenly, chaos would result because we are totally unprepared, ideologically.
Our approach to the question of communism is purely negative. The Government is spending £1,000,000 a year on the security services, but what for? Have we seen any results whatever from that expenditure? Has there been any disclosure that subversive elements are operating in this country? If there are, the people should be told the facts; but if not, the Government should scrap an organization of that nature and use the money now spent on it to spread positive items of news and mould public opinion in the right direction. For example, the Government might well consider reconstituting the Department of Information, which operated during the war for the purpose of building up public morale and of obtaining the co-operation of the people generally in regard to defence and other matters that vitally affected the community as a whole.
One honorable member to-day raised the question of civil defence. Recently, 1 attended the Civil Defence School and 1 heard the complaint of the Director of Medical Services. He had been waiting for about six months for authority to publish a little booklet on first aid, which he intended should go into every home in the community. The total cost would have been only £10,000, but because he had not been able to obtain the necessary authority to publish it, nothing had been done. Recently, I submitted a question to the Minister foi the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is in charge of civil defence, about this matter, but he did not seem to know anything about it. If that little booklet were published and distributed throughout the community, it would have a vital effect, not only by making available knowledge about first aid, but also by informing the public what to do in the case of an emergency. It would also play an important part in building up the morale of the community and generate a spirit of team work among all sections of the people.
In conclusion, I suggest that we should give our consideration to dealing with the things that create communism. A fine example in that regard was given by President Magsaysay, who showed how to cope with communism in his country ai the end of World War II. I have here a newspaper published in Manila, containing a full-page statement about communism. Publication of propaganda of this son should be undertaken by this Government. If the press is not prepared to bring the facts about communism before the people and build up their morale, the Government should publicize matters of this nature. J wish to read this statement as an illustration of the sort of approach made by President Magsaysay to international communism. It is headed, “ War against Communism “. and is as follows: -
We are called upon to fight a new enemy in a new kind of war. It is a war over the loyalties and allegiance of men. It is a war that cannot admit of neutrals because it involves every one
Let us identify this enemy clearly. Our enemy is: Communism. Its ranks comprise communists, pro-communists, communist spies and communist agents.
Communism, the new enemy is an idea, a system and a military force. It should not be confused with liberalism, socialism, or any democratic philosophy or program.
Our objective is clear and definite. We want to eliminate communism from any role in the conduct of our public affairs.
How do the agents of communism seek to obtain their ends? Through open rebellion or aggression, through infiltration and subversion, through propaganda and diplomatic pressure, through political and economic warfare.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
-I ask for leave to have the rest of this statement incorporated in “ Hansard “.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.Leave is not granted.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that every honorable member in this House will accept the proposition that no nation will spend one penny of its revenue upon arms save that it has an affection for liberty or an ambition for power. Whether or not that proposal is acceptable to all honorable members, I want to say that it is the premise from which I proceed in this debate. Taking that as my premise, it would seem clear that we in this country have no design on the lands of other nations. We are not to be styled a colonial power. We are not to be described as an aggressive power. Whatever our national faults may be, and they are many, covetousness is not to be included among them. We in this country, I believe, can take a decent pride in the fact that we are the devotees of democracy and not its destroyers.
Moving a step farther, one may ask why it is that we spend money upon defence, and there, quite clearly, the other arm of the proposition comes into play. We spend money on defence in this country because we do have an affection for liberty. We have no ambition for power. But can the same be said of the Soviet Union, which in all conscience stands before the world as the major threat to world peace and has proved before the world that it has a startling capacity for aggression?
One comes to the conclusion that, standing in front of the issue of armaments, standing in front of the issue of disarmament, standing in front of the issue of defence, there is the greater issue that must be faced, and that is the political issue.
– What do you mean by that?
– I will explain it later. I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to contain him self. Standing before us is the conclusion that before there can be any disarmament there must be a settlement of the political issue; that is, the political conflict between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Western Powers. With a very real measure of regret, I have heard many honorable members of this House say that Soviet Russia does not stand poised as a threat to world peace, but that some of the blame and some of the fault can be attributed to the Western Powers. I find that very difficult to accept and I think it may be of value - I make this submission with humility - if the House considers in some degree of detail the size of the Soviet armed forces. Nowhere have I been able to find an estimate of the size of the Soviet air force that falls below 20,000 planes. That was the estimate given by the new chairman of the United States Chiefs of Staffs Committee, General Twyning. He went on to say that by 1958 the Soviet Union will have 30,000 aircraft, made up as follows: -
Big jet bombers - 500 long-range Bisons.
Medium jet bombers - 1,000 Badgers.
Close range jet bombers - 4,000 Butchers.
Supersonic jet fighters - 4,500 Farmers.
Sonic jet fighters- 8,000 MIG 17’s.
Sub sonic jets- 8,000 MIG 15’s.
All-weather jet interceptors - 4,000 Flashlights.
It is interesting to know that until five years ago the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had no long-range jet bombers. It is also interesting to know that to-day the Soviet Union is producing more of this type of bomber than the United States of America.
The Soviet Union has at its disposal and deployment to-day 175 land divisions, and many of those units are equipped with tactical weapons. The details of the size of the Soviet navy are somewhat obscure, but what is known is that approximately 600,000 men are in the Soviet navy. What also is known is that the submarine fleet of the Soviet Union exceeds 400 vessels, 80 of which were built last year. If that figure should, by some chance, be unimpressive to honorable members of this House, may I point out that Germany, on the declaration of war in 1939, had 75 submarines, and we all know the terrific devastation that the German submarine fleet caused. In addition to the size of the Soviet armed forces, we know that the Soviet to-day has an enormous stockpile of thermo-nuclear weapons and atom bombs. The knowledge of the construction of those weapons was spied out of Western countries by people like Nunn May, Fuchs, and Pontecorvo, aided by the tolerance of the democracies. In the field of intercontinental ballistic missiles there is every reason to believe that the Soviet Union is, if anything, ahead of the Western Powers.
What I have said does not take into consideration the size of the forces at the disposal of the Soviet Union from its satellite countries, nor does it take into consideration the strength of red China. Mao Tse-tung has said that by 1965 red China will have 2,000 divisions. Is it because we are possessed with an insensitivity that we are unable to appreciate the massiveness of 2,000 armed divisions? Admittedly it may be said that the deployment of 2,000 armed divisions would present immense logistical problems, but the hordes of Genghis Khan would seem as nothing if that swarm of human locusts was to be released.
Honorable members may recall that last year Mr. Speaker announced to the House that he had received from the Soviet Union a letter relating to disarmament and that I moved for the printing of that letter, my objective being to endeavour to arrange a debate on the matter. However, the procedures of the House, with the prorogation of Parliament, wiped from the notice-paper my motion for the printing of that letter. I want to refer to it now because I am going back to meet the impatience of the honorable member for Hindmarsh by getting to the political problem which is, and remains, the core of the entire question of defence, of disarmament, and of armament.
It may be said by some honorable members that my move to precipitate a debate on the letter from the Soviet Union smacked of presumption. It may further be suggested when I announce to the House now that I had prepared a reply to the Soviet’s letter relating to disarmament that that is a greater manifestation of presumption. Be that as it may, I want to read to the House the draft of the reply I was going to suggest be sent on that occasion, because this, I believe, identifies the political problem. I do not think there is anything in the letter which is anachronistic. I do not think there is anything in the letter which can reasonably .e described as offensive. The letter reads -
The sentiments contained within your appeal on disarmament to Parliaments of all countries of the world have not gone unnoticed by us. We say at once that nothing would provide us with more satisfaction than to heed your appeal promptly and completely. We are restrained from so doing for one notable reason - the attitude of your Government, and your adherence to a political theory which cannot be consummated until all the nations of the world conform to its ordination.
Please forgive us if we address ourselves with frankness to your appeal. We have no wish to offend, only a desire to be honest. If we err in our assessment of the situation - the U.S.S.R. vis-a-vis the rest of the world - then we ask you to apprise us of the facts.
We direct your attention to the following statements made by the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mr. N. S. Khrushchev. As you will recall, the first two were made by him when presenting the report of the Central Committee to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on 14th February last year. The third statement you will identify as being made by him at the secret session of the 20th Congress on 24th February last year, when, we understand, he alluded with a measure of frankness to the failings of your former leader, the late Joseph Stalin.
Statement 1. “Revolutionary theory is not a collection of petrified dogmas and formulas, but a militant guide to action in transforming the world, in building communism. MarxismLeninism teaches us that a theory isolated from practice is dead, and practice which is not illumined by revolutionary theory is blind.”
Statement 2. “Under the banner of MarxismLeninism, which is transforming the world, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union will lead the Soviet people to the complete triumph of communism.”
Statement 3. “ The twentieth congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has manifested with a new strength the unshakable unity of our party, its cohesiveness around the Central Committee, its resolute will to accomplish the great tasks of building communism.”
Naturally these statements have a significance for you. We want you to know that they also command significance for us.
For many years our people regarded lightly the political theory to which you remain attracted. You will not misunderstand us when we say we are now no longer disposed to discount that theory.
Having seen the success that has attended its play in many parts of the world you will admit our enlightenment is justified.
The instruction of our minds has not stopped at developing a mere appreciation for the acquisitive tendencies of Communism. We have become aware that Communism must persist in its habit until its character is absolute throughout the world. “ Fidelity to Leninism is the source of all our Party’s successes,” said the First Secretary of the Central Committee of your Party, Mr. Khrushchev. We don’t doubt this contention, but neither then will you be in doubt as to why we have concluded that Communism aims at world conquest.
We won’t weary you by elaborating on the tenets and instructions of Lenin. We believe they are not unfamiliar to you.
Loyalty to a cause is much admired by us, but we submit with respect that in this day, loyalty to a cause which professes that all countries of the world shall be brought under its authority is not loyalty, but folly.
It is clear to us, as it must be clear to you, that science has brought mankind to the point where life on this planet can now be extinguished entirely. Confronted with this simple yet stark fact, you will agree with us that the nations of the world have passed beyond the stage where national ambition can be pursued to the excess of total war.
The weapons of modern war mean that neutrality is no longer feasible, victory can no longer be gained, defeat can no longer be suffered. The battle for survival will either be won by all peoples, or lost by all peoples.
Whether or not life on this earth is to be brought to an end is a responsibility which, we believe, rests rather more upon you than upon us. We have no territorial ambitions. We have yet to be convinced the same may be said of the cause you support.
If you genuinely want to remove international tension, the fear of war, achieve wide and general disarmament among all the nations, then we invite you to -
Abandon the doctrine of Karl Marx, and repudiate the whole concept of world domination postulated by Communist theory.
Withdraw your forces from all satellite countries, and allow the people of those countries to elect freely their own form of Government.
Agree to the reunification of Germany, and the conduct of free elections.
Free from enslavement all those who are now bent to your will because they disagreed with it.
Close all concentration camps.
Abolish the one-party system of Government that operates within your country.
Remove all forms of censorship.
Cease all forms of sabotage and espionage.
Allow your people and our people to visit each other’s countries without let or hindrance other than complying with the recognized practices of international travel.
Declare to those people who hold to communism, and who live in countries outside the U.S.S.R., that communism is no longer practicable.
I apologize to the House, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, for having read that letter. It represented my views on the political issue when the Soviet letter was received, and those views will remain unchanged until such time as the political issue has been resolved. Any suggestion of disarmament, and any suggestion that this country should weaken its defences, I can describe only as a manifestation of madness. Millions of people throughout the world are calling for disarmament, and I for one have no doubt that their calls, their appeals, and their pleas, are quite genuine. But. for the most part, they are completely unrealistic. Calls for disarmament before the settlement of the political issue may, in my judgment, subject, as it is, to great imperfection, be likened to a serenade of simpletons. If the democracies disarm while the Soviet Union still holds to the idea of world domination, the consequences will be so horrible that even the ghosts of liberty will be ashamed to walk among the ruins. I say, with all respect and humility, that a legislator in a democratic parliament who advocates total disarmament while world dictatorship remains the ambition of international communism is not merely foolish; he is criminally insane. That is my view, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, and I make no apology for having uttered it.
Many other things, understandably, can engage one’s attention in a debate on defence. I have not the time to refer to many other matters in detail. I can merely adumbrate them. First, I want to lend my voice, however humble it may be, in support of the declaration of the honorable and gallant member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) that atomic-bomb bases should be established in this country. I consider that that is of the utmost importance. This contention may be unacceptable to other honorable members, but I think that the power of the deterrent increases proportionately to its dispersal. As I turn to the second matter upon which I wish to touch, I am very pleased to see at the table the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I want to tell him, in all sincerity, that many who sit on the benches behind him and support the Government are very seriously disturbed at the suggestion that modern front-line aircraft should be built in this country. We do not disagree with the construction of aircraft in Australia; do not misunderstand me. What concerns us deeply is the fact that, by the time those aircraft come off the production line, they will have become obsolete.
The .third matter to which I wish to refer ;is the establishment of civil defence units within Army formations. Fourthly, I think that we should have a national plan to instruct civilians in civil defence. Finally, I urge the Government, with all the emphasis at my command, to consider seriously the establishment of a directorate of psycho.logical warfare. The honorable member for >Reid (Mr. Morgan) referred to the cold war. The simple truth of the matter is that many of the gains made by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have been achieved ideologically by capturing the minds of people. Once Soviet Russia has captured their minds, it has been able to control their actions and activities, and manoeuvre them at will. If we are to win the cold war, we must set about the task properly and try to understand thoroughly the precise nature of the cold war. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has at its disposal an immense propaganda mechanism. We have at our disposal, by contrast, simply nothing.
Finally, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, may [ say this: There may be disagreements between honorable gentlemen opposite and honorable members on this side of the House, but I hope that, in the final analysis, we all shall remind ourselves that we are Australians. I hope that, no matter what may be the nature of the conflict, we shall constantly remind ourselves, to the point of being completely and nauseatingly tedious, that, when the will to resist tyranny withers, then liberty is in the process of being lost, t consider that the Government’s defence programme merits general support, but there is every indication that it should go farther. I repeat that we must remind ourselves that, when the will to resist tyranny withers,, then liberty is in the process of being lost.
. I have been interested in this debate to hear the views of honorable members on both sides of the House. Some honorable members opposite have complained that the Government is not tackling the problem of defence in the right way, and have suggested other systems. Honorable members on this side of the House have objected to the slowness of what is being done by the Government and have advocated that more should be done quickly. At the same time, honorable members have pointed out that, as soon as something is made here, it is out of date by world standards. I listened intently to the honorable members for Indi (Mr. Bostock) and Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes). I must confess that I cannot follow the lead they have given. This question is so big and the methods of warfare and defence are advancing at such a rate that, unless one is an expert in these matters, it would be very difficult to suggest what type of defence we should have. However, I approach the question of defence from the angle of the man in the street. The ordinary Australian believes that the government of the day should make every effort to ensure that we have an adequate system of defence, compatible with the ability of the country to maintain such a system.
The question arises: How are we to achieve that objective? Some honorable members have complained about the reduction of national service training. There is only one system of national service training in which 1 believe - and I. said that I believed in it when it was introduced by this Government - and that is a system in which there is no distinction. Every one should be required to undergo a period of national service training, and not merely a selected few. I do not like the idea that the number of men undergoing national service training will be reduced to about 12,000. If we attempt to do that, we will waste money. In addition, national service training will become a gamble. The drawing of marbles related to dates of birth will determine which young men shall undergo a period of training. That is not a good system. I admit that national service training has improved the stature of many of our young men and improved their outlook in connexion with discipline. The present system has been a success to that extent, but a system of physical training that would not cost 1 per cent, of the amount spent on national service training would be just as successful. I agree with the decision of my party on that matter.
The next question I ask, is: If an army is necessary to defend this country, how would it be obtained? Last night, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said very definitely that the Labour party believes in a proper defence system and that that system should be efficient and up-to-date.
How will we achieve that purpose? Honorable members who come in contact with young men who have enlisted in the Navy - I am not speaking of national service training - for six or twelve years, know that many of those men seek to be released after three or four years. Honorable members know also that despite all the efforts that are made and all the money that is spent on advertising to attract people to enlist, we cannot get sufficient men to form an efficient force.
If we are not able to build an efficient defence force in this country, what will we do? If we are to have a defence force, what is it to defend us against? It must be against some potential enemy. If we cannot obtain an efficient defence force to defend ourselves against a potential enemy, through limitation of numbers or of finance, we must work with others to create an efficient defence force of which we will be a part. That raises the question of the attitude we should adopt in regard to the pacts we have with other countries. We have the Anzus pact and the Seato pact. An honorable member mentioned that Pakistan and other countries in South-East Asia are members of Seato. If I am any judge, I can assure the House that those countries are most concerned about their own defence. I am most concerned about our defence. Unless all members of Seato are prepared to play their part, I cannot see how a defence force can be created that will be sufficient to meet any aggression against us.
Mention was made last night of the number of United States troops in the Pacific area. The figure was given at approximately 500,000 men. Though the Americans have 500,000 men in the Pacific area, we ourselves, if we are very fortunate with the defence proposals now put before the House by the Government, will have in 1960, in round figures, only 60,000 men. That is a very small number compared with the number of United States forces in the area. However, the United States should feel that we are in earnest, that we want an efficient defence force, that we want to work with them as allies in a proper defence system, and that we wish to have the best. Have we the best? I do not agree with the view that we have nothing to show for the £1,000,000,000 that we have spent on defence. I do not say that we have obtained full value for that money; and I know that we have spent a tremendous amount on defence. Those who question whether we have anything to show for the money we have spent should consider the amount of money that has been spent on maintenance of personnel in the forces. The aim of this country is to obtain efficient equipment. Those who say we have nothing to show are correct to a degree, if they compare Australia’s effort with the effort of the United States.
– What sort of an air force have we?
– We have Sabre jet fighters and we are told that, of their type, they are very suitable. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) advocates the purchase of a different type of jet altogether. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has emphasized that we should be able to put into the air planes that will stand up to the enemy. The Sabre jet could have done that very well indeed four or five years ago, but to-day it could not combat the super jet bombers of the Soviet Union. Whether we are able to purchase the type of plane that would is another matter altogether.
Earlier, in referring to enlistments in the Army and the Navy, I said that the greatest call to our young manhood was that of learning to fly. Figures have been given of the numbers who, in aero clubs, are training voluntarily at week-ends. The clubs are, to a certain degree, subsidized by the Government, and their members may some day take part in the force that I believe Australia most needs. I recall that, away back in 1936 or 1937, the Labour party had a federal conference in Adelaide. The Menzies Government was then in office and, even in those days, the late John Curtin was advocating that the Labour party’s policy should be to develop an efficient and up-to-date air force. He regarded an air force as the most mobile and effective force that could be employed in the defence of this country. I do not want to say anything about the Wirraway, and what happened when the Japanese attacked, but the fact is that the Government did not carry out the policy that Labour had advocated. I am a great believer in having an efficient air force. I believe that it should still be in the forefront of government policy. However, any force, to be effective, must be able to employ the most modern armaments. In this matter I come down on the side of the guided missile and the atomic warhead. As much as I hate and detest the thought of war, I believe that to train men and put them in aeroplanes that have not the fire power of the most modern types is akin to returning to the days when the Wirraway fought the Japanese Zero. We must see to it that the men who offer for the defence of this country are not asked to use a blunderbuss against the latest type of machine gun.
How are we to obtain these modern armaments? The Labour party established in South Australia a testing ground for guided weapons, and big sums of money have since been spent on what is to-day regarded as one of the greatest testing sites in the world. It has cost millions and has, on the surface, provided little in the way of defence materiel. But we know that in fact the money has been well spent in providing us with the most advanced guided missiles and other armaments.
Many honorable members have said that it takes years to get this or that done, but as a member of the Public Accounts Committee I found that the defence departments were not always able to spend the money that they had been allocated. I think that not more than about £20,000,000 annually could be spent upon equipment. Reference has often been made to the evidence given by Sir Frederick Shedden. That gentleman told us that the department was not able to spend some £9,000,000, and that this money had been put aside for the purchase of later equipment that would bring us up to date. I am not unaware of the great difficulties that beset the defence of this country, but as a member of the Opposition, it is meet for me to criticize the Government, which has the responsibility of doing everything possible to provide this country with an effective defence.
I was pleased that my own leader emphasized on behalf of the party that we wanted a good and effective defence policy for this country. I agree, also, that we cannot go on year in and year out spending huge sums of money in order to deter the other fellow from attacking us. The world must return to a frame of mind in which it will be possible to get together round a table and talk things over. I detest communism, but when it comes to the recognition of red China, we must be realistic. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) suggested that when our representative went to Washington he should promise that we would not recognize red China. We may well object, with all the. power at our command, to the form of government in that country, but how are we to alter it? Government supporters know, as well as I do, that the millions of Chinese who accepted communism did not know what it meant. Most of them were illiterate and of the coolie type. They worked in the fields, and lived little above the level of animals. Naturally, when they were told that they would no longer have to work hard, or live miserably in a mud hut, passing over a large proportion of what they grew to some one who did not work at all but would, instead, be given the right to use the land and take the produce for themselves, they were willing to agree. We may say it is all an illusion, and that nothing will come of it, but it was no illusion to the Chinese coolie. His condition will not be cured by our saying that we will not recognize red China. Whether you call it co-existence or something else, it must surely come.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have been listening to this debate to see whether I could ascertain from the speeches of honorable members opposite their policy for the defence of this country. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said that he felt there was no chance of peace until we all got around the table and talked matters over. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who led the debate for the Opposition, said that the greatest weapon to-day was friendliness between nations. That is all very well. I hope that, in time, reason may prevail in the world, but at the moment we are concerned with something more realistic than meeting the armies of our enemies with smiles.
It appears that Labour relies on negotiation through the United Nations or by means of round-table conferences. It appears that, as far as our armed forces are concerned, Labour relies on volunteer forces. On no account must anybody be conscripted. On no account must any Australian be sent outside Australia. It may be all right for British people who have been conscripted to do two years’ service in the Rhineland or the jungles of Malaya, and for American conscripts to serve anywhere from Iceland to Okinawa, but Australians - no! They must not be conscripted or sent abroad to protect this country.
Of course, according to the Opposition, we must have a strong Air Force, but the aircraft must be made in Australia. At the same time, they must be in the very top class. How one reconciles those two requirements I am not quite sure. Then, of course, we must have civil defence. The honorable member for Parkes noted that there was no reference in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the provision of deep underground caverns for protection against air raids. Those would appear to be the general defence ideas of the Labour party.
Let us turn to the Government’s policy, the essence of which, as I understand it, is that we must have a powerful, mobile striking force. Because a local war in South-East Asia appears to be envisaged, I do not quarrel with that appreciation. It must be a small, professional force, and it must be able to serve outside Australia. It must have transport - air transport and associated transport - so as to be mobile, and it must be armed with the most modern equipment. I imagine that it will have nuclear artillery, and that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), when he gets to the United States of America, will secure for it such modern arms as can be had. That is an excellent conception. I think the House will agree that it is realistic. It is no use having a lot of partly trained men who are not properly armed, and who are not liable for service outside Australia. This mobile force is designed to meet the present situation.
The second aspect of the Government’s policy is the curtailment of national service. That proposal, to some extent, is linked with the creation of a mobile striking force, not only in order to save money, but also to save the instructors who at present are engaged in national service training, and who will be required in the mobile force. I shall say nothing of the Navy and Air Force, because I do not know sufficient about them to be able to make any comment on the Government’s plan. In a moment, I hope to make some referenceto the very notable speeches delivered in* this debate by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Their speeches were so notable that they should not pass without comment by honorable members who think seriously about these things.
Coming back to the mobile striking force, my only comment is that brigade strength is totally inadequate for this force. Having been seconded during the war from my battalion to act as staff captain of a brigade group, I know how very small such a force is. It is ludicrous that Australia should depend on a force that is so small. 1 imagine that at least two brigade groups are necessary, if not a division. I can say no more about it except that a nation which is not prepared to do as the British and Americans do - to conscript men for twoyears and send them anywhere they are needed, including dangerous places - and which depends on volunteers must pay through the nose for that privilege. Either we must do what the British and Americans do, or, if we are to have a professional army, we must be prepared to pay for an adequate professional army, and a brigade group is not an adequate force.
I think that means whereby more troops could be attracted to the Army have been put forward by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes), the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) and other honorable members who have spoken in this debate. All these improvements cost money, and without money we will not have an adequate force. I have mentioned curtailment of national service. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), I think, calculated that a saving of about £7,000,000 a year would be made by curtailing the national service scheme. That is such a relatively small sum that I can only believe that the major consideration in the mind of the Government was the utilization in the mobile force of trained soldiers who would otherwise be acting as national service training instructors. But surely instructors can be had from elsewhere! Surely there are many men from the last war who. although not fit for active service in a mobile force, might carry out this work of training. If the role of the Commonwealth military force or the national service trainees is conceived to be very largely civil defence then, indeed, instructors are readily available for such training. Instructors for that purpose could be very largely supplemented by people from outside the military forces.
For the reasons which have been set forth so often in this House, I believe that national service training should not be curtailed. I believe, with the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), that a nation is able to defend itself and win wars with the help not only of its weapons, which are indeed essential, but also with the help of the morale of the people. It is entirely good that the young people of this nation should realize that they have a duty to defend their country. This is not an obligation which should fall only on a few people so that, war after war, the cream is skimmed off the population.
I come now to nuclear deterrents. I find myself very much in agreement with the views put forward by the honorable member for Indi, and the honorable member for Mackellar. I know that those views do not find favour in Government circles, but the honorable member for Indi is not only one of the clearest thinkers in this House, but he is also a man of great experience in this field. He has given great thought to these matters, and he was not talking on a purely technical matter such as the class of aircraft that we should buy, a subject on which he might be out of date. He was talking on a principle in regard to our defence. The honorable member for Mackellar, I imagine, has more knowledge of nuclear developments than any honorable member in this House, not excluding Ministers. Therefore, one cannot ignore the views that these honorable members have put forward, supported by valid argument.
In this connexion, I should like to turn to the British White Paper on defence written by the Right Honorable Duncan Sandys, and presented to the House of -Commons last month. I should like to read passages which have been quoted before in this House. This is what Mr. Duncan “Sandys has said -
Ft must be frankly recognized that there is at present no means of providing adequate protection for the people of this country against the consequences of an attack with nuclear weapons.
That passage has been much quoted by the Opposition. The White Paper goes on -
This makes it more than ever clear that the overriding consideration in all military planning must be to prevent war rather than to prepare for it.
That passage, as I shall point out in a moment, has been torn out of its context, and completely misrepresented by the Opposition throughout this debate. The White Paper continues -
While comprehensive disarmament remains among the foremost objectives of British foreign policy, it is unhappily true that, pending international agreement, the only existing safeguard against major aggression is the power to threaten retaliation with nuclear weapons.
That paragraph I would sideline and underscore. The very essence of this White Paper is that the only existing safeguard against major aggression is the power to threaten retaliation with nuclear weapons. Mr. Sandys arrives at that conclusion because it is not possible to prevent bombers from getting through; the only thing that can be done is to stop them, by the threat of retaliation, from dropping their bombs.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and other honorable gentlemen opposite who have spoken, have referred to the first part of that paragraph, in which Mr. Sandys said that there was no defence against atom bombs, and they seemed to draw the inference that, therefore, we should throw up our hands in despair, or sit round a table and talk about it. The essence of the White Paper is thai to prevent atomic bombs from being dropped we must have the power of nuclear retaliation. That has been wickedly passed over by the members of the Opposition who have referred to this White Paper. Mr. Sandys goes on -
The free world is to-day mainly dependent for its protection upon the nuclear capacity of the United States. While Britain cannot by comparison make more than a modest contribution, there is a wide measure of agreement that she must possess an appreciable element of nuclear deterrent power of her own.
I would underscore the words “ of her own “, because precisely the same considerations apply to this country. The White Paper goes on to speak about civil defence. I hope that most of us who have spoken in this debate believe that something ought to be done about civil defence, especially those of us - and I am one - who have attended the civil defence school at Mount
Macedon. If it is good enough for Britain to say that the only protection she has is the power of retaliation, why is it not good enough for Australia to say the same?
We have just heard from the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) what I understand to be the appreciation of the Chiefs of Staff of the defence policy that has been put forward. Of course, Australia could play no great part in a future global war. That would be a battle between the giants, the United States and the Soviet Union; but surely the great threat, as the appreciation has admitted, is of a local war. Suppose that a local war broke out in South-East Asia, not, perhaps, by design so much as by accident, and that Australia rushed to the aid of her great American ally, as of course she would - and I can imagine the speeches that could be made here about that. We would send our gunboats or mobile forces and proclaim our support. Because the enemy would have the numbers, we would have to rely on nuclear weapons, such as nuclear artillery. And so the local war would tend to spread and in the area in which it was being fought many natives might be killed. Russia, of course, would be at the side of China, assuming that the war involved Chinese expansion. If we used nuclear weapons, no doubt Russia would say, “ We are going to retaliate “, and I suggest that Australia would be precisely the country that Russia would retaliate against, because we would have entered the war after being warned that, if we did so, we would have to take what we got. Nuclear weapons would be used against us, because we had used nuclear weapons - call them “ tactical “ weapons, if you like - against the natives of the country where the fighting was going on. Russia might say. “ Suppose we give a white city a taste of what the whites are giving to the Siamese “. or whoever they might be. So, far from being in the rear, we are in the front line when it comes to a nuclear war. It is not likely in the first instance to be a nuclear war between the giants.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) has pointed out why we cannot depend on our British and American friends to retaliate on our behalf on those who have dropped the bombs on us. The reason is that by doing so, they would invite retaliation on their main centres. I merely say that we must be prepared for this kind of war, the war of the future, if there is to be one, and I believe that the Government should give much more consideration to> preparing for the kind of war that could happen in three years’ time, when this programme comes to fruition - the kind of war which is likely to be a local war, to involve nuclear weapons, and to be a threat to thiscountry. What the Government is doing now may be all right for to-day, but as I have said, this is a plan which will come tofruition in three years’ time, lt is to be hoped, of course, that in the interval, reason will prevail amongst the Great Powers. I can imagine nothing that would bring about more determination on the part of the Great Powers to seek control of nuclear weapons, than the fact that all and sundry, including Australia, were arming themselves with nuclear bombs. It would be a much too dangerous world for the giants to live in if all and sundry began to acquire these terrible weapons. So, far from putting an end tothe prospects of peace this course would not only protect us in the interval but also would move the world a step forward to an adjustment of these matters and ultimate disarmament.
– The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) has complained somewhat bitterly of the fact that Labour, in the present debate, is attacking the Government’s defence policy, and he also has complained that the Labour party has not put an alternative policy before the House. I remind the honorable member that this debate is primarily a debate on the defence policy of this Liberal party-Australian Country party Government, and that, as such, it is being attacked not only by honorable members on this side of the House but also by some supporters of the Government. Australia, of course, knows that it can rely on a Labour government, if and when required, to implement an effective defence policy, because Labour had such wide experience during World War II. If the occasion arose again, Labour would be able to do as it did in World War II.
I take part in this debate because I, in common with many other honorable members on both sides of the House, am very much concerned about where the defence policy of this Government has led us in the past, and also about where the proposed policy will lead us in the future. I have only to look about my own electorate, and to ponder what I see there, to have grave misgivings about the future and to feel that, as a result of the past defence policy of this Government, Australia is in a very precarious position indeed. The Government has no reason to be proud of its achievements in respect of defence. I venture to say that the defences of the northern part of Australia, along the northern coastline extending from Cairns on the Queensland side to Geraldton on the Western Australian side, have never been in a sorrier plight, despite the fact that we have had the experience of a war to guide us. If a war were to break out again, we should be faced with the same difficulties as faced us on the previous occasion. We are still relying on Singapore as the main pivot of our defence system. I ask honorable members to pause and think of what would happen to Singapore in a future war. I suggest that it would meet the fate that it met in World War II. It would be attacked and destroyed and the way would be open once again for an island-hopping enemy to proceed southwards to Australia. I take it we are all agreed that in the event of war the attack must come from somewhere to the north of us. We have no enemies to the south, the east or the west. So, we will have the same set of circumstances as before; the drive against us will be southward towards the main base of the Allies in this area, which will once again be Australia. .
I am mindful of the fact that nuclear or thermo-nuclear weapons will be used in a global war. I also realize that not all the nations of the world, especially the nations to the north of us, at present possess that type of weapon. It could be, therefore, that in a localized war which might take place to our north, north-east, or northwest, we would be drawn in against our will, and that that war would be carried on, at least for a time, with conventional weapons. So, in fact, we would have a similar set of conditions as prevailed in the last war. In actual fact, the position would be much the same as it was in the last war, because on that occasion the fall of Singapore laid us open to the enemy; and on the next occasion, of course, we could be denied, and most probably would be denied, bases by a neutral India and a neutral Ceylon. So, our position would really be worse in the next war than it was in the last war. The fall of Singapore would again leave the way wide open to a fresh attack which, of course, would be launched against Darwin and its installations. Such an attack would be easy for an enemy, because there is nothing much in the way of installations at Darwin to discourage it.
It is a sorry fact that, after a colossal defence expenditure exceeding £1,100,000,000,- there is not at present one installation of a permanent nature in the whole of our northern area. The only item of permanent construction there is an airport now being built. So, we have at present in Darwin, which is our main base in the north, and always has been, no air force. We might have 30, 40 or 50 air force personnel at Darwin, but I doubt if we have even that number. We have certainly an airfield construction squadron which is at present building a very fine strip suitable for use by the most modern fighters now under construction in the Western world. When that is finished it will be a great asset to the north, but there are no other such facilities about the place. Not only have we no air force there, but we have very little in the way of naval installations. We certainly have no army of any account up there.
The construction of the air strip I have mentioned is a very good thing, but it does not appear to be so good when we remember that it is the only airfield in the north at present and will be the only airfield there in the foreseeable future that can act as an alternative airfield to the airfield at Darwin. It is an axiom that every airfield must have an alternative airfield for use in case of emergency or for any other reason. A string of bombs across an airfield can render it absolutely useless, and in the north there is no alternative to take the place of the airstrip I have mentioned. We can no longer rely even on the airstrips laid down by the Army and the defence authorities during the last war. because they, too, have fallen into disrepair. Even if they had been maintained they would be quite unsuitable for the landing and handling of high speed modern fighters, transports and bombers. So, we see that in this respect the building of a single airstrip at Darwin will be of little use unless it be accompanied by the construction of alternative airfields on the coast around Darwin and in Queensland and Western Australia.
Apparently, the Government in its defence planning has abandoned the idea that the Navy will play any part in the next war. The naval establishment at Darwin is being reduced and eventually, I believe, it is the intention to withdraw the Navy altogether from Darwin. I believe the naval authorities will be handing back to the Civil Administration in the Northern’Territory areas along the foreshores of Darwin which they have contended, right up to the present, to be absolutely essential to the defence of Darwin and, therefore, to the defence of Australia.
We know, and have known for some time, that there are very few army personnel in Darwin. In fact the only army personnel at present in Darwin are a few men who are being used for caretaking purposes in and around barracks. We know also that the Government contends that it will have a mobile force capable of being rushed to those places at a moment’s notice. But” I feel that it would be very difficult, and, indeed, virtually impossible under the conditions that prevail in the services to-day, to rush forces of any strength to any point in Australia at a moment’s notice because we have not the requisite fighters, bombers and transports to do so. The result is that the main body would have to be moved by sea or by land, and that would take a long time.
The position in the north is so bad that the Government and its defence chiefs are not even maintaining the vital strategic roads laid down in the last war, which serve as the main lines of communication with the north. I refer to the north-south highway, the Stuart Highway, and the Barkly Highway from Queensland. We had the sorry spectacle only this year of having the north-south highway declared unfit for ordinary traffic, and the road was closed to transports for a period. As a result, traffic on the road was brought to a complete standstill. I do not know whether the Government intends to use that means of transport to move its mobile force; but if it does, bogged trucks will be strewn on the roads from Mount Isa to Darwin and from Alice Springs to Darwin. Those highways have not been maintained even at a strength that would permit normal peacetime traffic.
I suggest that the Government immediately accept the advice of the DirectorGeneral of Works, Mr. Loder, and spend” £2,500,000 to bring these highways up to a standard that would enable them to be used’ for civil and defence purposes. While the Government is about it, it could extendthe road from the Northern Territory south to South Australia. We would then have a. complete highway for use in times of peaceor war as an alternative to the railway should a bottleneck occur on that railway line. In the past I have always viewed the defence policy of this Government as beingcompletely negative, and I have the sameattitude towards most of its future policy. I consider that the best contribution that any government can make to the defence of Australia is to encourage population. If the Government set aside portion of its defence expenditure, say to the extent of £10,000,000 a year, additional population could be established in the northern parts of Australia along the coastline, and that would do far more for the defence of Australia than the out-moded policy that hasbeen implemented in the past. Population and defence go hand in hand.
Every mile of road constructed and’ every mile of railway built in the north will have an important effect in opening up nowunpopulated areas, and will be of immense value to defence as well. Goodness knows* it is time that railways were built to serve the north. In the event of attack, troops and equipment will have to be rushed to the north, irrespective of whether the war is waged with nuclear weapons or with conventional weapons. An urgent requirement for the defence of Australia is the completion of the north-south railway. The Government should push on also with the building of an inner defence railway, as has been advocated by defence chiefs, from Bourke, in New South Wales, through to Queensland, and perhaps on to Darwin. If such a railway were built, it would be a connee ting link with the main Australian centres of industry and population in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and would be invaluable for conveying troops quickly and efficiently to any spot in the north where they were needed. I conclude by asking the House to remember that a populated Australia - especially a populated northern Australia - will remove the temptation to land-hungry people to attempt to take possession of it.
– The speeches of honorable members from both sides of the House have been interesting for the diversity of opinion that they have contained. Although members of the Opposition have said many things with which I do not agree, I think it is a good thing that in a debate of this sort a diversity of opinion should be expressed. I feel that one of the best speeches along a certain line was that made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who spoke on Tuesday. The points made by the honorable member are well worth thinking about, and perhaps even well worth repeating. He stressed a point which is sometimes overlooked. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) pointed out that defence is related to two factors, first, aggression, and secondly, the defence of one’s country against aggression. When we consider the defence of this country, we must do so in the light of those two factors. I am sure that all honorable members and all people throughout the Commonwealth will agree that we have no aggressive intention. Therefore, in this debate we should consider those things which will contribute to the safety of this country.
Honorable members have spoken about the development and the great potential of Australia, but in my opinion those things are of secondary importance. What is of primary importance is that we shall be prepared at all times to defend this land. After all, if we give away our defence, there is no purpose in developing the country. If we say that we are not going to worry about defence, we are simply developing the country for the benefit of a future occupying power. In his speech, the honorable member for Fremantle said -
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 evaluation of weapons.
I wish to refer to that part of the honorable member’s speech in which he deal with international processes. He said -
Let us look at the international processes sur rounding Suez and Hungary, applying these test*. Britain and France, ordered out of Egypt, left Egypt. They accepted international authority.
I now come to the part which I feel is worth repeating, and which cannot be repeated too often. The honorable member said -
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 arm* and rejected international authority.
The honorable member then said something with which I disagree -
I have no sympathy for the action of the British Government in Suez.
I have sympathy for the British Government and I personally feel that it took the right action. The honorable member then went on -
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 inter national supervision.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Fremantle. I feel that what the honorable member said is the crux of the matter in regard to the defence of this country and the policy of this Government for that defence. When we are considering a matter of this kind, surely we must always keep before us the fact of the broken promises of the Soviet Union over a period of years. It is unwise to reject out of hand any moves made by the Soviet which appear to offer hope for a lasting peace and the co-existence about which we speak, but I feel that we should go into discussions or conferences on defence having in mind the attitude of the Soviet Union over a period of years. We should, in very truth, approach these matters with our eyes open. The latest move of the Soviet Union is its open skiesand inspection proposal. I feel that we should discuss the question of disarmament with a consciousness of the number of times in the past when we felt there was some glimmer of hope that the Soviet would’ take a step towards making co-existence possible, only to have those hopes dashed to the ground. I feel that in this debate there has been a lack of realization on the part of the Opposition of that point of view.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred to three types of war - a cold war, a local or limited war, and a global war. We have seen a cold war in progress for a considerable period. Local or limited wars have been fought in the Middle East, Korea and Viet Nam. At the moment, one is being waged in Algeria. In all these incidents, the influence of the Soviet Union has been obvious, causing trouble and creating disturbances. On a number of occasions the question has been asked in regard to various countries in which there have been uprisings: Why should not these countries be granted independence? But if we trace through the incidents in those countries we find that on every occasion the Soviet Union has been assisting the immoderate elements, if I may put it in that way, to stir up disorder and create chaos. That is happening in Cyprus at the moment. On a number of occasions in this House I have mentioned that the British Government has said that it is prepared to discuss the independence of Cyprus and the return of that country to Greece. The Government cannot discuss it, however, while the terrorists are in charge or are creating disturbances on the island. Is there any move on the part of those who are creating those disturbances to call them off and have a round-table conference about which honorable members on the Opposition side speak so constantly? As I have said previously, the Turkish minority in Cyprus must be considered. With this as a background, and with all the goodwill in the world, one must view with a degree of suspicion certain moves that are made from behind the iron curtain.
That leads me to the matter of nuclear tests. Honorable members on both sides of the House have said that one of the greatest dangers confronting the world arises from the nuclear tests and the danger of nuclear war. I believe that the scientists are playing with something, the full dangers of which they themselves are not aware. The suggestion is that nuclear tests should be abandoned by the West. I say quite openly that to abandon such tests without having definite and concrete cer tainty that the Soviet Union will also abandon them would be giving the game away and handing it over to the Soviet Union.
If we examine the situation that existed prior to World War II., we find that the motive and the thought behind Hitler’s actions was to divide and rule. All the countries which were occupied by Germany stood out of a collective security plan bebecause they believed that if they did so, they would be safe. We know what happened. Hitler took one country after another and was able to do so because, with the weight of the German nation behind him, he was able to attack the countries individually. If those nations had stood together, Hitler’s task would have been far more difficult. Yet the lesson inherent in that experience does not appear to have been learned by many speakers on the Opposition side.
I have been amazed at the number of times that Opposition members have accused this Government of having failed to prepare Australia for war in 1939. Opponents of the Government have stated that when a Labour government was returned to office early in World War II., Australia was unprepared. That does not seem to tie up with some suggestions made during this debate by members on the Opposition side that we should not prepare ourselves for defence, that we should have nothing to do with nuclear tests or be ready to play our part in a nuclear war if it comes, and God forbid that it should. Do not Opposition members realize that Hitler achieved as much as he did because the Western democracies, over a period of years, tried to work for peace by being unprepared for war? They wanted to show that, obviously, they did not want war because they were not preparing for war. Many of the people in those nations did not want war either. At one time, Mr. Stanley Baldwin said that he would not make rearmament a plank of his party’s platform because if he did his party would be defeated at an election. Mr. Baldwin should have made rearmament a plank of the party’s platform, for then his conscience would have been clear when war came. The mere fact that we do not prepare for war will not avoid war, as honorable members who support the Government have said. That must be obvious to thinking people who have a knowledge of history.
One of the best ways to bring about peace is to prepare for war. That appears to be a contradiction, but unfortunately it is an axiom that has always been true. If we are strong and have the power to retaliate, and if we are able to defend ourselves, a would-be aggressor will think twice before attacking us, but if we are weak in defence, our enemies will take the lead. In that connexion, I cite an editorial to which I have referred before -
Nuclear war would indeed be a hideous disaster, but nuclear war will become more likely, and the likelihood of our defeat greater, if the Soviet leaders convince themselves that our fear of war has become so basic to our foreign policy that they can safely count us out as an effective factor in the equation.
History has shown that those words are true. If an enemy believes that we have not the strength to defend ourselves, that enemy will keep on demanding more and more until he demands the ultimate, and that means that we go to war with weak defences and weak forces or submit to subjugation. The course of history since the close of World War II. has shown that every time the West has made a show of strength, the Communists have retreated from their advanced position. One event that comes readily to mind is the Berlin blockade when the West stood firm and refused to submit to the Communists. Because of the purpose and strength that was shown on that occasion, the Soviet leaders backed down. That is one of the greatest factors of the situation. If we show strength, we will have a greater chance of securing peace than we would have by constant shilly-shallying.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) said that the United Nations was a failure in Hungary and a success in the Middle East. I referred to that earlier when quoting a portion of the speech by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). The United Nations certainly was a success in the Middle East, but only because Great Britain and France agreed to international direction. The United Nations was a failure in Hungary because the Russians refused to agree to international direction. It is as well we should remember that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at that time, Sir Anthony Eden, unfortunately suffering from ill health, agreed to the direction of inter national power under international law. 1 am sure that every honorable member will be gratified to know that Sir Anthony has recovered from a recent operation and that his strength and health are improving.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is a statement that was made by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) in his reference to the recognition of red China. He said that we could not fail to recognize red China merely because we did not like the regime or the behaviour of its Government. That is not the reason why we, who oppose the recognition of red China, maintain that opinion. We believe that the Government of red China, and China itself, have not subscribed to any of the basic principles of international law and justice. We believe that it is a government that cannot be trusted to stand by any firm international undertaking. Until the Government of red China shows that it is prepared to accept international law and international justice; until it is prepared to contribute to the well-being and the peace of this world, then I for one will continue to advocate non-recognition of that government.
The second point is that if we recognize at this moment the Government of red China, we recognize a regime that is not fit to enter the United Nations. Also, we immediately cast aside the regime of nationalist China and, if I may use the expression, we put “ out on a limb “ millions of overseas Chinese who would then have no other link but the link through the Government of red China. I feel that it would be a travesty of international justice if at this moment we recognized the Government of red China.
So, I support the Government in its defence statement. I feel that it is a step in the right direction, in that we are working together in close co-operation with the United States of America and with the United Kingdom in the defence of this country. In any war the contribution made by Australia will be linked with the contribution made by the United States and the United Kingdom, and when we plan our defences, when we plan our military appointments, we must plan those defences and those military appointments with the consciousness that we will not be fighting, alone but alongside all those who, with us, believe in freedom and democracy.
.- Mr. Acting Speaker, the statement on defence made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), which is the subject of debate before the House at the present moment, is a statement which was necessary for this House to receive after we as a nation had spent some £1,250,000,000 on defence in the last seven years. In addition, £190,000,000 is listed for expenditure on defence during this current financial year. When one looks at the document and finds that it first of all deals with our external treaties, then deals with the arrangements that are made for the defence of Australia by the three services, and finally, gives some indications for the future, one must feel a very great sense of disappointment at the absence of information as to where defence expenditure has gone and as to the strategic values of the proposals which are somewhat vaguely listed in this document.
I express the opinion that the present system of defence which has been adopted by this country is outmoded when we consider the lessons that were learned first from World War I. and secondly from World War II. I think it is entirely wrong to place the responsibility for the defence of this country mainly upon the Army, which is regarded by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), according to the statement he made in the House recently, as the first line of defence for Australia. In adopting that attitude, apparently there has been a total lack of appreciation of the lessons of World War II.
The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) gave us some very important and precise information about what is being done in relation to defence in other countries which will be our allies in the event of war. I shall repeat these figures because of their very great importance. We find that in the United States of America, of the total amount of money spent on defence, 28 per cent, goes to the Navy, 24 per cent, to the Army, and 48 per cent, to the Air Force. The figures for Canada are 20 per cent, for the Navy, 28 per cent, for the Army, and 52 per cent, for the Air Force. The adjusted figures that were announced by the Minister for Australia are 26 per cent, on the Navy, 37 per cent, on the Army, and 37 per cent, on the Air Force.
If we are to have a defence system it must be an effective defence system, because unless it is an effective defence system it is no system of defence at all. The dangers that we have to .bear in mind are the dangers that we would have to face as a nation if we were the victim of aggression, because our whole system is built on defence and not upon aggression. Therefore we have a defence system for the express purpose of enabling successful resistance to aggression in this country.
We have 12,000 miles of coastline. We must maintain our lines of commerce with other countries, otherwise, as a war proceeds, we will find ourselves woefully deficient in commodities that are vital to our existence. Therefore the primary task of our defence force is that of preventing an aggressor reaching the shores of Australia. I suggest, therefore, that the whole system of defence in Australia must be based on three principles. The first is the securing of complete mastery of the air. Our second line of defence is naval action against submarines to enable the lines of commerce to be maintained. Our third line of action would come into operation only if Australia itself were invaded, and that is the use of the Army to repel an aggressor.
I suggest that so far as our defence budget is concerned, if those three precepts are recognized, the money should be spent in proportion to the value of the role to be played by each of the services in the task of repelling aggression. I say further that under present-day conditions, if we take any note at all of the lessons of World War II.. neither the Navy nor the Army can be effectively used unless there is absolute air mastery by the Air Force. 1 therefore suggest that complete air mastery is the first thing that we have to strive for in Australia. We need an air force with sufficient fighters, bombers and transport planes, to enable the 12,000 miles of coastline, particularly our northern coastline where aggression is most likely to take place, to be so guarded that air mastery will be ensured. Once air mastery is achieved we would have some chance of resisting aggression and effectively destroying the forces that are to be used to invade this country.
Under present conditions the type of aircraft which would be used would be either transcontinental or transoceanic in character. Unless we have that type of equipment, we have no hope in the world of being able to resist the aggressor. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), by interjection, suggests that it might be otherwise, but let me say this: Certain events in World War II. that must be known to the Minister indicate that without air mastery neither navies nor armies can make much contribution towards defence. What comes to my mind straightaway is the fact that the Battle of Britain was won because the Royal Air Force was able to repel the bombers of Germany and inflict such losses upon them that the bombardment had to cease. If one wants another case, one cites the loss of the battleships, “ Prince of Wales “ and “ Repulse “. Both were destroyed because they had no air cover to protect them.
If the Minister desires a further illustration I refer him to the destruction of “ Bismarck”, the German battleship which eluded the British fleet after the destruction of the battlecruiser “ Hood “. Aircraft from a British carrier destroyed the rudder of “ Bismarck “, and practically immobilized the battleship, enabling units of the British Navy to intercept and sink it. If the Minister desires a further illustration, I remind him that in the Mediterranean Sea the aircraft carrier “ Illustrious “ was put out of commission by a few bombers. 1 suppose the classic case, which might convince the Minister for Defence that his strategic plans need to be revised in order to ensure that our Air Force will have air mastery, is the Battle of Midway. In that battle, the surface ships never met. It was a great battle to obtain mastery of the air. When four of the Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk, the remaining Japanese naval vessels retreated and the Battle of Midway was won.
I point out these things to indicate that an aggressor will attack Australia either by air or by sea and that we must have the means of destroying his forces before they are able to reach these shores. Even our Navy would not be able to keep our lines of commerce open unless it had an air cover to enable it to carry out its work effectively. I think those are the great lessons that were learned as a consequence of World War II. We know that before air power came into prominence Great Britain was able to defend itself against assault by sea because of strength of its Navy. The warship’s kept its shores safe from aggression. The Navy has now been supplanted by the Air Force in this role and, therefore, I suggest to the House that our first task is to see that our Air Force is equipped with long-distance aircraft so as to be able to strike an effective blow against an aggressor before he comes anywhere near our shores.
I suggest that our second line of defence is the Navy. The battles of World War II. indicate that a new type of naval vessel is required for the defence of Australia. It is not a matter of aircraft carriers because they can operate only if they have adequate air cover. It becomes a matter of destroyers, frigates and above all, submarines. Unless we have submarines to enable us to prevent our own ships from being destroyed, and to be used as a counter to the submarines of other nations, we will not be able to make our Navy as effective as it should be. The Navy can carry out its task of ensuring that our commercial lifelines are maintained only if we have air mastery. 1 have made the position clear in regard to our first and second lines of defence. The military forces would be used in the actual defence of this country once the enemy had made a landing upon our shores. 1 think everybody will agree that it is far better for us to prevent the enemy from landing than to allow him to land and then try to eject him from the continent.
Following from that, the question arises as to whether the economic preparations in connexion with the effective defence of Australia are as satisfactory as they might be. I have read the document distributed by the Prime Minister and I heard him make his speech. One certainly was surprised, even in spite of the proposals for the re-organization of the defence forces of this country, at the little time and space given to defence production.
The provision of the things necessary to enable our defence forces to operate is dismissed in three small paragraphs in a very lengthy statement. The only things referred to are St. Mary’s filling factory in some eight or nine lines, the production of the FN rifle in two lines, and the Jindivik pilotless aircraft in four lines. As our lines of communication may be interrupted in war-time, it is necessary that replacements, spare parts, equipment and munitions should be manufactured in the country.
Above all, if we are to have effective air mastery we must have in Australia the plant, equipment and skilled men necessary to manufacture aeroplanes. Instead of that being the position, we have been very gravely concerned during the last few months to find that the factories which have been producing the aircraft- the Canberra bombers and jet fighters - have been diminishing their output. Staff has been put off and the orders placed with these factories are gradually cutting out. We will find in a very short time that the whole of our aircraft industry has been closed down.
There is a proposal that we buy certain machines from America, and that may be necessary in order immediately to procure the right type of aircraft for the defence of this country, and to have sufficient of them to enable us properly to defend ourselves. But that is no justification for not producing aeroplanes, having spare parts available, or continuing to maintain plant to make repairs. Unless that is done then air mastery, if achieved, could be very quickly lost because of our inability to replace wastage and increase our air coverage as may be required.
In addition, we have to consider two other things. We have to make sure that our lines of communication in Australia are efficient enough to enable supplies to be taken from the south or east of Australia to the north-west, Darwin or anywhere else in the northern part of our country where the aerodromes would be situated. In that respect, it was very interesting to hear the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) tell of the deterioration of strategic roads and the condition of disrepair of the airfield at Cloncurry, which is gradually being overgrown and becoming useless. The Government is wasting money instead of improving our internal communications and increasing our defence strength. I suggest that the House might well consider the question of whether our defence funds are being expended wastefully and ineffectively. It is necessary for us to review the whole of our defence expenditure in order to obtain the best value for the people of Australia.
We want a defence programme that we can be confident will enable us to defend ourselves properly. Unless our programme is effective, we may as well have no programme at all. No one knows when the day of aggression will come. We want to be sure that, when it does come, we shall have properly planned defence forces available to protect us and repulse the aggressor. The Australian people want to feel safe and secure under the protection of their defence forces. They do not feel secure at the present time. It is imperative that we have mastery of the seas around our shores.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - A year ago, when the first annual economic survey was presented to the Parliament, we had just passed through the critical stages of an inflationary phase and it was beginning to appear that action by the Government, culminating in the legislative and other measures of early 1956, would succeed, finally, in reducing the pressure on resources. The promise of a more balanced economic situation, which was then detected, has since become a reality. We have now moved to a situation where, in aggregate, internal supply and demand appear to be in approximate balance. Labour demands have levelled off; prices and wages are, generally, more stable. Overall, employment and output have been maintained, though some adjustments in the pattern of production and the distribution of labour have occurred. Furthermore, and most significant, the balance of payments has swung sharply in our favour.
We are entitled to draw a good deal of satisfaction from this great improvement in the economic position, especially when we contemplate the difficult and uncertain prospect which faced us scarcely more than a year ago. Indeed, we can, with high confidence, look forward to a period of continuing prosperity and progress, provided always, of course, that we safeguard the stability which has been achieved. For thisreason, we cannot afford to set aside caution and restraint in the matter of demand on total resources. Although inflationary pressures have, for the moment, abated, there is to be found in the present situation a potential for renewed inflation which could upset the internal balance we now enjoy, and pose a further threat to costs and prices.
Higher export receipts and rising wage rates will, directly and indirectly, provide a stimulus to domestic demand and business activity. In parallel, there has been an expansion of total money supply, as reflected in the deposits and liquid assets of trading and savings banks, and this will tend to work in the same direction.
World commodity prices, especially for wool, on which the prosperity of our external accounts is so largely based, are always liable to sudden fluctuations quite beyond our power to influence. Should these prices fall, we could quickly find ourselves again struggling with a deficit in the external accounts. It is as well thai we should remind ourselves of this fact, the more so since our international reserves cannot be said to have yet been restored to a satisfactory level and since the level of imports, even after the recent relaxations, will not be sufficient to enable all existing demands for imports to be met.
The character and rapidity of recent changes in the economic position serves, once more, to emphasize the point which has been made time and again, namely, that Australia’s economy is highly exposed to external changes and, since the war, subject, at the same time, to the strains and stresses inevitably associated with the rapid rate of economic growth to which we are now committed. Difficulties of the kind which we have experienced in the recent past could again threaten us. For this reason, the present easier economic situation does not admit complacency.
The first part of the economic survey, which I now propose to table, covers more fully the aspects to which I have referred. It traces, in some detail, the upsurge of expenditure between mid-1953 and the end of 1955, and illustrates how the boom subsided during 1956. It is, I think, worth drawing attention to the conclusion that this boom was wholly the product of forces within the economy, and occurred without provocation from abroad and despite a firm control on public expenditure. To quote the words of the survey -
What does seem to be demonstrated most clearly by this analysis is the need, in a phase of growth, for restraint on total expenditure.
Ideally, of course, such restraint ought not to have to be enforced by governmental or related action but should proceed from general understanding of the problem and appreciation of a common interest in stability.
There are, however, other longer-term problems which we judge to be of such importance that we have devoted a major part of the present survey to a discussion of them; these are the problems which arise from a rapid rate of economic growth.
Last year’s economic survey discussed Australia’s post-war economic growth. What we have tried to do in the present survey is to think ahead about the shape of future growth, especially as this is determined by the needs of our future population, and about issues to which we ought to be directing our attention if we are to secure a varied and balanced growth and avoid or mitigate the disorders which a rapid rate of growth can bring. There arc here some large and complex questions.
The sources of growth will be, of course, immediately apparent and quite familiar - increases in the population and work force both from natural increase and from immigration, increases in capital investment, increases in productivity, exploration and the development of new resources.
There is no basic reason why this country by exploiting the resources at its disposal should not continue to maintain the rates of growth which it has achieved over recent years. Consider, by way of illustration, the great increase in mineral production ir northern Australia which is now in prospect, or the gains which may be expected from the application of new techniques in agriculture and industry.
When we come to consider more closely the means by which economic expansion is to be sustained it is clear that there are many risks and difficulties. One ever-present and indeed over-riding risk, is that in our eagerness to press on with desirable and necessary developments we will attempt too much at the one time and in doing so disrupt the balance of the economy, and frustrate the very purposes which we set out to achieve.
Forecasts of population growth over the next decade, which assume continuance of present rates of immigration, suggest some quite striking changes. One effect of these changes will be to restore - partly at any rate - the percentage of the population in the working age groups. We have therefore to provide not only for a larger population, but within this, for a relatively larger working population. And that means in turn a rising demand for jobs and for working facilities.
The enlargement of the capital structure for this additional population is likely to run up against a number of difficulties. There is not only the problem of making sufficient resources available for investment purposes but also that of getting those resources into those avenues where they can make their best contribution. Closely allied is the problem of financing capital expansion in both the public and private sectors, which becomes the problem of inducing a sufficiently high level of community savings and of attracting overseas investment. For public authorities it raises the whole vexed question of an alternative to financing capital works from revenue.
A principal determinant of the rate of economic growth is the level of output - not only the level of output, but also its composition. I think I might best illustrate this by reference to our balance of payments problems. Over the next five or ten years expansion of our economy is certain to increase our demand for imports. Though we may cover some part of the cost of these additional imports by borrowing abroad, the bulk of their cost must be covered by an increased level of export returns. As the survey points out these are two important considerations in expanding exports. First, we must concentrate our energies and resources on those activities in which we have the greatest advantages, natural and other, and which offer the greatest scope for economical expansion. Secondly, we must try to keep down costs so that our exports will be competitive on world markets. Opportunities for the expansion of exports do exist; it remains for us to proceed, and to be in a position to proceed, to exploit them.
These then very briefly are the kinds of problems discussed in the second part of the survey - problems on which there are bound to be different opinions but certainly problems which must be faced in the interests of future economic growth, and ones to which we will inevitably revert in future annual surveys. I lay on the table the following paper: - 1957 and Beyond: An Economic Survey, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 2nd May (vide page 1040), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Haylen had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ because the compulsory training scheme is to all intents being abandoned by the reduction of annual intake of 33,000 to 12,000 youths, all of whom are to be drafted to the Army alone, and because youths are to be selected by a system of ballots, the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the abolition of compulsory military training “.
.- I rise to speak for the second time on the further amendment to the National Service Act. The national service training scheme was introduced originally in 1950 by the present Government. It was a step which, I feel, was made with some political trepidation as to its acceptance by the people of Australia. Since that time, it has been amply demonstrated that national service training, in its sense as such, has been a very eminently successful policy of this Government completely accepted by the people. Approximately two years ago we had cause to amend the national service training scheme by reducing the intake. We are now faced with a further and somewhat drastic amendment which will reduce the intake very considerably.
Quite frankly, 1 am one of those who oppose this measure. I believe that national service training, as such, may have little potential service on defence value. I think that is agreed by quite a number of honorable members on both sides of this House. But I do say precisely that it has a tremendous value as far as the morale of the young people of this country is concerned. I suppose one can be accused of adopting, shall we say, a Victorian father’s outlook for saying that discipline is good for the young man, but it is true to say that there is not a young man, no matter in which area he may live, who suffers by good and decent discipline, because good and decent discipline is something that we learn during our school lives and in various facets of our later lives.
– And in our political lives.
– And in our political lives. I will accept that amendment, if it is agreeable to the honorable member.
The point I wish to make is that no harm comes to any young man who is trained under a system which gives him understanding with his fellow young men, and discipline, not necessarily imposed discipline but, to a large degree, self-discipline. In that we find one of the greatest inherent qualities for the betterment and good of the young people of Australia.
What are we proposing to do? We are proposing to reduce the intake of national service trainees to a degree which, I regret to say, I quite honestly believe to be somewhat farcical, because, in the final result it means that by ballot of birthday, if I may use that term, there will be but a few men trained and there will be many who will not be trained. I am not arguing the question whether we should train all our young men of that age for defence purposes; I am arguing that it is very wrong indeed not to train in citizenship all those of our young men who may be involved.
There are many honorable members on this side of the House - I hope there are some on the other side - who honestly believe there is an alternative to the present proposal to put before the House. Quite simply stated, that alternative is: “ Let us accept the fact that the defence value is low, but let us not ignore the fact that we can make a very real contribution to this country by accepting the proposal that although the defence value is low we should train these young men in civil defence “. There are many who do not see the inherent dangers in having a people, allegedly remote from atomic attack, not only untrained, to defend their country but not trained in the means of protecting themselves in the event of an atomic attack. I honestly believe that a really good purpose could be served by training in civil defence protection those men who are to come under the national service training scheme.
Unlike some other honorable members, I have not yet had the opportunity of going to Mount Macedon to see the training given there, but I have spoken to many honorable members who have been there and every one of them, irrespective of which side of political thought he supports, has said to me, in effect, “ For the first time, my eyes have been opened and I realize how important is this business of doing something in the way of civil defence “. I believe the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) was one of the first of the members of this Parliament really to draw attention to this fact and I do indeed regret that this Parliament, and from it the Cabinet, have not seen fit to do something positive by way of civil defence training.
Without canvassing the whole scope of defence - we have had a debate on that question already - I suggest that it is simply a matter of looking at two simple facts. The first is the possibility that we can be attacked by atomic weapons, whether it be by some guided missile, whether it be by an atomic weapon projected from an aircraft carrier, or whether it be an atomic weapon discharged from a submarine into Sydney, Melbourne, or any other major part of Australia. In view of that possibility, then, of course, if one is sensible, one tries to do something to correct the situation we have now. We have not corrected it. We could correct it by providing some means of clearing up the mess that we will have if an atomic attack does happen.
I believe it is idle for honorable members opposite to advocate that we should be friends with the rest of the world and that we should forget about defence as such. Until we have a world police force, as was suggested earlier this evening by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) we should be foolish not to make preparations for the defence of our country.
I hope I am not disgressing too much by referring to defence, but I do want to point out that I am in agreement with one pertinent principle of the measure under discussion. I refer to the proposal that all national service trainees who are to be trained in future shall be trained by the Army. I repeat I am in complete agreement with that. I also believe that it is not untrue to say that the national service training undergone by those trained in the Air Force or the component of the Air Force associated with national service training, was rather futile. Young men were selected because they had been members of an air training corps or because their fathers had been in the Air Force. Those were the criteria adopted to induct them into the Air Force for national service training. The truth of the matter is that a very large proportion of these young men, who may have been potential recruits for the permanent Air Force, were trained in the most menial of jobs and, in my view, were not given proper instruction at all. It is probable that training in the Navy was considerably better. However, accepting national service on its original basis, it is straight-out training of an elementary kind to induce or to make young men learn the rudiments of carrying a rifle - and there is not very much more to it than that in the military sense. The naval training fell far short of giving these young men any qualifications that would make them useful in the Navy. Because national service is essentially an Army function - under this bill it will be, and I commend it - a very proper step has now been taken for the better.
The proposal now before us contains an element of stupidity, to put it in the plainest terms. From now on, there will be two intakes a year in Tasmania. Those intakes will be so small that, in effect, the result will be a waste of time for instructors. Why should not the Army authorities, who will be responsible, discard the proposition of two intakes of a small number and have one intake ‘ annually of a larger number? That would be a great deal more convenient for people who may be called up and who are, for want of a better phrase, in reserved or important occupations, such as university students. Let us have only one intake, completely trained as a larger unit, and thus have a little efficiency and, at the same time, effect a saving.
As I said at the beginning, I do not intend to speak at length on this matter. I have expressed my opinions previously. What we are debating at the moment is a half-hearted measure: it is the best of neither worlds. We are doing nothing more nor less, in my view, than deferring the indecent burial of the national service scheme. I want to come back to my original point that the value of the nationalservice scheme does not necessarily lie in: its defence aspect. It lies very strongly, and for the good of the country, in its citizenship value for our young men. ] know that some people are prepared toscoff at that idea; but it is not the outlook of a father of the Victorian era to have young men imbued with a sense of discipline and, more importantly than that, to give them the experience of living each with the other. I have seen these intakes of lads from the country and cities, from their various occupations or pretensions tooccupations, and have observed how they mix. Because of the very system, they become better young men. I deplore very strongly the attempt which is being madeto reduce the national service scheme.
.- I. agreewi th some points in the speech of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). However, I disagree with hi* suggestion that any honorable member does not approve of discipline, public serviceand community spirit. The policy of the Labour party, for which I speak, is based on those very qualities; but we say that the national service scheme does little, if anything, to engender those qualities, lt is highly expensive and the general aimsof the system fail to be achieved.
I have indulged in the seasonal sport of looking at what the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said when he introduced the proposal in 1950. He said that it was to be a system of national service which would give to our young men the advantages of a period of regular, disciplined training under expert instruction. The second point he made was that it would produce a reservoir of trained men. The third point was that necessary basic service training would be given, and also an introduction to more specialized forms of service. The £103,000,000 already spent on this scheme has produced very little result. Therefore, it ought to bs abandoned, and we should adopt a scheme of traditional voluntary service by people who have the community spirit before they start. A defence system cannot be built upon experimental methods; its principal objective is fighting. If more mystical things are to be achieved, some other methods must be tried. When the scheme was first introduced, we opposed it. The present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) moved an amendment that the Government’s proposals to provide for national service in the defence forces be investigated and reported by an appropriate all-party committee.
The Government is not quite prepared to surrender its loudly-trumpeted plans for national service. Indeed, it is not game to withdraw them completely. It realizes, as do most honorable members opposite, that the scheme has failed and has not produced the result we want. Therefore, it should be abandoned and the Labour party’s proposals adopted. One interesting point arose in the Minister’s speech in 1950. Referring to the plans of the previous government, to which he paid a compliment when he said that it had laid the basis for the defence system at the time, he said -
Our main quarrel with what that Administration did is that it was not enough and appeared to rely much too heavily upon the scientists, a few specialists and small permanent service cadres.
If the system of defence now being discussed is not exactly the system that was criticized six or seven years ago, what is it? In the interim, this Government has spent £1,000,000,000 to arrive at the conclusions which were offered by the Labour party six or seven years ago. That is typical of the general attitude of the Government to most matters. After expending fabulous sums of public money, it arrives at a conclusion that we have been expounding all along. That is the way in which this proposal should be examined.
In introducing the bill, the Minister said -
The Government did not take the decision to cut back the National Service Scheme without reluctance, and only after detailed discussions with our highest service advisers. The Government remains very conscious of the considerable social value of this scheme.
That is not the object of the defence service. It is certainly a valuable incidental to good military, naval or air force service; but a defence system is not designed to produce those things. That is not the way in which the defence vote should be used.
If the Government wants to produce a sense of discipline and improve health standards, the money should be spent in more appropriate fields to achieve that purpose. In answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) on 19th September, 1956, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) said that until 30th June, 1956, the national service scheme had cost £103,500,000. including £27,000,000 expended on capital works. How many high schools or hospitals could be built for that money? If the Government wants to produce discipline, public service, social value, community effort and proper moral standards, the proper place to do so is inside the educational system; and £100,000,000 could be spent on those objectives because, comparatively speaking, the expenditure of that money has not achieved any defence. Just imagine what the Government could have done if it had spent £103,000,000 in the social field! No more than £60,000,000 is spent on education by the State governments of Australia each year - less than 60 per cent, of the money that has been wasted in this mad pursuit of outmoded and antiquated military objectives. Napoleon found conscription very useful, and it raised armies for other nations during the first and second world wars; but it has not produced results in this country. The Government should be indicted severely for having used a steam hammer to crack a nut. It could have attained its aim much more effectively in other ways.
The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) also said that a prime element of the defence policy was speedier mobilization and deployment. Will any Government supporter suggest that the defence system, of which national service has been the core, has produced that result? I think not. I object most of all to the decision that conscription should be confined to the Army. What has the Army done to deserve this ? What has the Navy and the Air Force got that the Army has not? I regard this matter as serious. If there is any tradition of service in this country it has been built around military service by the Australian Imperial Forces in the two world wars. If the Government has failed to attract young men into the Army because it has not made this country a land fit to fight for, it must stand condemned. To suggest that the
Army should be based on conscription, while the other two services are composed of volunteers, will only create a feeling of inferiority in the Army - a complex similar to that which existed in the early years of World War II., before every one was regarded as being in the same show, and some were thought of as conscripts only. The Government has killed voluntary enlistment in the Australian Regular Army and is now trying to kill the Army itself. I have spent a considerable time in the Army and I believe that my criticisms should be heeded. The present defence policy has done little more than cripple the morale of the Army. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred to the proposed “ birthday battalions “ and “ lottery lads “. How can any service scheme be truly national unless it includes every one who is eligible? Why should there be compulsion in some cases and not in others? The Government will only succeed in creating the feeling that one is lucky not to be called up for the Army; that the. lucky ones are those who do not have to serve. When the birthday dates are announced the mothers will be looking in the papers, not to see whether their sons are to serve their country proudly, but to see whether they are to be the “ lucky “ ones who are to miss out. To foster such an outlook is indefensible. An honorable member suggests that as Liberal party members are here largely by chance, the president of the local branch of the party will no doubt be in charge of the drawing ceremony. That would be appropriate.
Again, why should young men be exempted from service merely because they live 5, 50 or 500 miles from a training depot? Why should any person who lives in Australia be able to avoid defending it? Clearly, that is a bonus to the Australian Country party. Last year I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) a question concerning deferments. I learned that of 26,053 current deferments, 1,054 were in respect of rural workers engaged full-time in the production of food or raw materials, and 22,194 were registrants residing too far from training centres to be trained. Of the 26,000 deferments, 23,000 were in respect of country dwellers - the sons of those who rule the broad acres! Some, no doubt, were living in their father’s home in the town itself. There is no reason why young workers in the electorate of Wills should be undergoing military training while the young farmers of Farrer are driving around in their fathers’ Cadillacs. The year’s training is based largely on an annual camp of a fortnight or three weeks. Surely it would not be difficult in this modern age to bring young men great distances to camp. The whole scheme should be reconsidered, and no further bonuses should be given to Australian Country party interests.
The Minister for Defence has spent a considerable time in attempting to explain the inexplicable and to defend the indefensible, but there are other aspects of the matter to which one could well refer.
I want to speak especially of the effect that the national service training scheme has had upon the Citizen Military Forces. The whole scheme has been unfair, and has brought frustration to those who wanted to serve. It has resulted in bad public relations and has crippled enthusiasm for voluntary service. As long ago as the beginning of last month I put on the noticepaper a question asking what percentage of national service trainees had volunteered to continue serving in each service since the inception of the scheme. I do not know whether Army statistics have gone to pieces, but I have not yet received an answer. One would expect that the Minister for Defence would be constantly interested in such things; that he would want to know what effect the national service training scheme had had upon the Army generally. When the scheme was initiated the Minister said that national service trainees would be encouraged to serve on. At that time, the Citizen Military Forces numbered 17,000. That figure has now dropped to about 14,000. The Citizen Military Forces are going downhill fast. The Government has succeeded only in strangling what should have been the basis of the Army in the next war, whether it be global or any other kind.
I have seen an orderly room corporal come along and tell a national serviceman that he had finished his service. The young man was cleaning a pair of boots. He had finished only the left boot but he dropped the other immediately - he was a Liberal - and went, there and then, without waiting for lunch. I have seen that sort of thing happen over and over again. The spirit of voluntary service has been killed, and good
Regular Army soldiers have been driven out of the forces. The Government should abandon its present policy and institute a system that will produce an army with a high morale and a desire to serve. The Minister for Defence has decided that we shall have a conscript army, and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) has produced from somewhere a figure of 12,000 - perhaps it has something to do with his State lottery which has a prize of £12,000. There is no basis of scientific consideration. The Army must be based upon the Citizen Military Forces. As has been pointed out, they have been the basis of the Army for many years. The history of compulsory service in the Australian forces has not been a happy one.
What has the Government done in the field of public relations? It has a few glamour units which troop the colour or wear kilts. But what has it done to foster public interest in its defence measures? Before 1914, some men in the forces were compulsory trainees, but they were members of local units, drawn from the surrounding district. The following statement is contained in the “ Commonwealth YearBook “, No. 8, at page 942:-
In general, the trainees are alert and well disciplined while on parade; and the interest and enthusiasm of the lads is shown by the large number of candidates seeking promotion at competitive examinations (practical and oral) after courses of lectures, demonstrations and special parades.
It also makes the following comment: -
Further, a great deal of voluntary service is rendered in all branches of the service, and the rifle clubs of the citizen units are well patronized. Many of the regiments have athletic, gymnastic and swimming clubs, and sports meetings are frequently held.
How much has the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) and his understrappers done in this connexion? The “ YearBook “ continues -
Patriotic citizens in local centres have contributed generously to funds for establishing bands, regimental clubs, annual sports gatherings, &c.
If we are to have a citizen army, it must be based on appeal to the citizens of the nation. 1 repeat, for the benefit of the Minister, who, last night, was scornful of people who offered advice on the Army, that the Opposition offers advice, not in any spirit of carping criticism, but in an attempt to be helpful. I understand that the Army has three infantry divisions at the moment. Let us base it on that, and provide sufficient equipment to ensure an effective formation. I suggest that a unit, such as a brigade, should be trained all at once for a sufficient period to enable its members to learn how to handle the equipment and vehicles that they would have to use in combat. In this way, we might hope to foster that spirit of unity and discipline of which the honorable member who preceded me spoke. Perhaps the men could be called up for four or five weeks. I do not think that there is any need for the training to be based on a period of one year. It could be for eighteen months or longer. But the Government, instead of making service a compulsory task, should make it something of which those who are called up will be proud. It is necessary to have morale. These forces can be built up only by an appeal to the community spirit, the national spirit, and by giving the formations themselves some objective. I believe that one of the principal reasons for the appeal of voluntary service before World War II., and before World War I., was that it was based on locality. I served with a unit in which the members came from all over Melbourne. It had no real local spirit, although it was composed of men who were good citizens. If the Government will not base the training of units on a locality, thus making use of the community spirit, its training scheme will not be successful.
These are important considerations. It is public relations which will decide whether the Commonwealth Military Force will be an effective force or not. This is something to which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) could turn his attention. One of the difficulties of the compulsory system has been its infringement of what people call their traditional rights. It is the compulsion that they do not like. Regular Army men, who have to put young fellows on charge sheets in order to force them to do this and that, do it reluctantly. It causes frustration. The officers do not like it, and the fellows who are charged labour under a sense of injustice. People have been court-martialled because on coming back from week-end leave they have tangled with the provosts. In other cases, they have suffered injury, and it has taken them two years to get workers’ compensation. These are aspects of public relations to which the
Government must pay attention. It must ensure that military units make some appeal to the local community. Training should be based on first-class equipment. We must gather into the Army people who desire to serve. Surely, out of the total number of men between eighteen years and 40 years of age, who number 1,500,000, the Government should be able to obtain all it wants for three brigade formations and ancillary troops - perhaps 60,000. What is the country coming to if the Government cannot get 3 per cent, of these men to serve?
On this side of the House we feel very strongly about national service. We do not think that the present scheme is national, and we do not think that it is service. We do not think it has contributed to the aims that the Government has set out - the creation of a spirit of discipline and a good morale. It has no defence value whatsoever. If the Government has £103,000,000 to spend in the next five or six years there are plenty of other objectives on which it could spend the money. I suggest that if the Government’s objectives are as they have been stated, the Government should spend the money on education.
.- I find myself unable to support this bill because it reduces the number of national service trainees from 33,000 to 12,000. I also strenuously oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition, because it proposes to destroy national service training entirely. I have the honour to represent a party which places defence and national service in the forefront of its policy. The objective of the Liberal party of Australia is to have an Australian nation safe from external aggression, and living in the closest communion with its sister Dominions of the British Empire, and playing its part in world security by the maintenance of the necessary forces to defend the peace. National defence is a matter of universal duty. The spirit of patriotism is fostered by Australians uniting in the common service of their country. I believe that national service training is one of the Government’s finest achievements. It was part of the policy on which the Government parties went to the country in 1949. In pursuance of the objectives of the Liberal party, the then Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt), on 21st November, 1950, introduced a bill, for national service training. The Minister said -
But whilst national training is directly linked with the nation’s defence, the Government’s approach to the principle of national service is directed to the attainment of two objectives. The first is the contribution which can be made in this way to our defence preparedness, and the second is that we should improve the physical fitness - using that phrase in the widest sense - of our young manhood.
Almost every member who has spoken in this House, and all those who have spoken from this side of the House, have paid a tribute to national service training for the part it has played in the fitness of the youth of this country. The Minister, when introducing the bill, said -
The Government remains very conscious of the considerable social value of the scheme. Quite apart from its value to the services, the scheme has encouraged a sense of discipline and it has improved the health standards of those who have come within its scope.
When national service legislation was first introduced, there was quite a deal of opposition to it. It was strenuously opposed by the Australian Labour party, and the early gallup polls taken in respect of national service training showed that only a small majority of the people were in favour of it. Each year that has passed since then has produced a greater majority of the people of Australia strongly and overwhelmingly supporting the scheme. Those people are not entirely conversant with the defence needs of the country, but they know the value that national service training has been to the youth of this country.
The Minister himself has paid tribute to its value to the physical fitness of the population. Are we now to sacrifice the fitness of the youth of Australia because, for financial or other reasons, the Government is unwilling to carry on universal training? Are we to sacrifice the health of the community because the Parliament is unwilling to retain the scheme? I believe that the physical fitness and health of the youth of Australia is as important as any other consideration in the community.
What arguments are advanced for this very substantial reduction in national service training? The first argument is that it will save £7,000,000 a year. It has been said that the defence chiefs have stated that they will be able to spend that £7,000,000 in better ways, from a defence viewpoint, than on national service training. In a budget of £1,000,000,000, a sum of £7,000,000 is not very large. For the sake of £7,000,000, are we to jeopardize the physical fitness and the health of the young manhood of our community? The second reason advanced by the Government for the abandonment of the scheme is the lack of instructors. The Army, in its new role, will need to be highly trained and mobile, and apparently the defence chiefs say that they will require all the regular Army for that new role. They suggest, therefore, that they will be unable to provide the necessary instructors to continue national service training on the same scale as heretofore. If that is so, I suggest to the Government that efforts should be made immediately to enlist a special corps of instructors to train national service trainees. I have no doubt that instructors could be obtained. Many people join the Regular Army knowing that they will be sent to other States and even to other parts of the world. That is the career they want; it is the career they choose. There are others, particularly family men, who even in times of peace think that an army career interferes too much with their family life, but who would be just as loyal and just as willing to serve in time of war. I suggest that they would be available and would willingly volunteer for a corps enlisted especially for the training of national service trainees. I think that neither of the two reasons that have been advanced for this very drastic reduction of national service trainees is valid.
My personal belief is that the whole approach to this problem has been erroneous. I do not challenge the presently accepted belief that, if there is another world war, atom bombs and hydrogen bombs will be used, and that that situation must be met; but if atom bombs and hydrogen bombs are to be used, the probability is that the safest place will be in the armed forces and that the people who will really “ get it “ will be the civilians. That being so, what is more necessary than to have a disciplined population? What better method have we for imparting discipline to our community than national service training? I recently had the privilege of attending the civil defence school at Mount Macedon. We had explained to us there the devastation that occurred in Japan after the dropping of two comparatively small atom bombs. If one thing was impressed upon us, it was this: Above all, we need a disciplined population which understands first aid, fire fighting techniques, self-protection, and methods of saving oneself and one’s friends.
I believe that national service training provides the essential basis of training for civil defence and that there should be formed another arm of the services, a civil defence arm, which should be equally as important as, if not more important than, other arms of the services. I believe that national service training should be the medium through which the whole population, over a period of years, is trained in civil defence. It may mean that the basis of training could be altered, or may even mean that it could be somewhat shortened; but it certainly means that in the long run all our citizens would be trained in such matters as fire fighting, first aid, and the saving of those who are injured as a result of raids.
It was pointed out to Us at the civil defence school that civil defence against an atom bomb or a hydrogen bomb is only slightly different from defence against any other hazard. The only difference lies in the magnitude of the destruction. It was pointed out that the training that would be needed to cope with a flood or a fire would be substantially the same as that which would be needed to meet an atomic or hydrogen bomb attack. If, as I suggest, we had this fourth arm of the services, the civil defence arm, of which national service training formed the basic training, we would have at all times a body of men available for any national emergency. What a wonderful thing it would have been if, during the disastrous floods in South Australia last year, a civil defence corps could have gone into action! Millions of pounds worth of damage could have been obviated and, at the same time, the civil defence corps would have had one of the best possible practical training experiences to fit it to meet an atom or hydrogen bomb attack. So I suggest that the Government should reconsider this matter. It should appreciate that this legislation was introduced originally to serve two purposes. In proposing to curtail national service training, the Government is looking at only one of those purposes and is ignoring entirely the value of such training from the discipline, health and civil defence aspects.
Recently, we have had a visit from a very distinguished American admiral who was both friendly and outspoken. What was his message to us on his arrival in Australia? He said, “ Australia needs forces ten times as strong as it has to-day “. While that gentleman was in Australia he saw this bill come before the Parliament for the purpose of reducing the number of national service trainees, small though that number was, from 33,000 to 12,000 a year. During the same period, President Voroshilov of Russia was visiting Indonesia, stirring up trouble in that country and urging the Indonesians to make an attack on Dutch New Guinea. Suppose, for example, that the Indonesians, either in the near future or in two or three years’ time, responded to that propaganda. It is not unusual for the government of a country which is torn to pieces by internal strife, as Indonesia is torn to-day, to divert the attention of the people and try to unite them on some matter related to external affairs. What if Indonesia decides to attack Dutch New Guinea? Are we going to stand by, or will we marshal our forces to play our part? I venture to say that far too much attention is being given to so-called push-button warfare. I am afraid there are too many buttons and not enough push, and that what we really need is not only the most efficient and up-to-date equipment, but also the trained man-power behind it, with the necessary organization to train the manpower.
In my opinion, the national service training scheme has been one of the greatest monuments of this Parliament, and it is most hurtful to me to see it so drastically cut down at the present time. I should like to see every young man in this country trained through the national service scheme, and I should also like to see such training available for civil defence purposes. The Government should realize that this scheme has been one of the most valuable avenues for the assimilation of migrants. What better way is there to assimilate young migrants than to put them into national service training camps where, shoulder to shoulder with natural-born Australians, they will learn discipline and engage in healthy exercise, and at the same time, become thoroughly and efficiently trained?
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) himself said on this matter -
We consider that training for national service alongside Australians of the same age would play an important part in the assimilation of migrants.
Are we now to abandon that important aspect of immigration policy by substantially reducing national service training? If only one of every six of our eligible youths is to be trained, it is obvious that the scheme will be of little value. It is obvious, too, that many immigrants who otherwise would be assimilated by close association with Australians will lose that great privilege. I believe that universal training is both a privilege and a duty. It improves the physical fitness of the community, as well as teaching hygiene. It eliminates class hatred and class distinction. It gives discipline to the whole community, and it is valuable, as I said before, in relation to the assimilation of migrants. I therefore urge the Government to reconsider its whole attitude to this matter and to give serious consideration to the establishment of a new arm of the services to deal with civil defence, to which the national service training organization could be attached.
.- After listening to the melancholy dirge of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), it is quite apparent that the Government is facing a most perplexing situation. There undoubtedly has been a palace revolt in the Government ranks, because up to the moment, every honorable member opposite who has spoken, with the exception of the Minister who introduced the bill, has been most critical of many of its phases. If there is such great dissatisfaction with the propositions contained in the measure, I am surprised that the discontented members have not moved an amendment for the purpose of referring the bill back for reconsideration, and also for the purpose of investigating this matter of civil defence. However, apparently honorable members opposite are so firmly under the thumb of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Cabinet that they are content to confine their protests to a splurge of verbal opposition, and to let it go at that. One honorable member after another on the Government side, both in the debate on defence and the current debate, has risen in his place and castigated the Government for many facets of its defence preparations, lt is quite apparent that on this subject the Government does not speak with a united voice. Government supporters on many occasions have hurled across the chamber allegations of disunity in the Labour ranks, but I cannot remember an occasion when there has been so much divergence of opinion on one side or the other since I have been a member of the Parliament. As a matter of fact, this bill is a classical example of the disunity on the Government benches. It is hypocritical for Government supporters to say to us, to-night or any other night, that we are a divided party, because this bill shows beyond doubt that there is a welter of disunity amongst Government supporters as to the proper approach to national service training.
– Order! The honorable member for Hindmarsh must cease his conversation.
– Why do you not rebuke the Minister for talking to him?
Mr. Whitlam interjecting,
– Order! If the honorable member for Werriwa interjects again, I shall name him.
– Thank you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. May I proceed? To my mind, the bill is a confession of the failure of a scheme initiated with a fanfare of trumpets six years ago. The Government has beaten a strategic retreat from a system which has failed to live up to the expectations of its sponsors. I remember the introduction of national service training six or seven years ago. We were told that all sorts of advantages would flow from the operation of the scheme and that it was ushering in a golden age of military preparations. All sorts of “ hifalutin “ speeches were made in which it was said that the system represented the last word in the defence preparations of this country, and because we of the Australian Labour party, true to our traditions and to the principles upon which we were elected to this Parliament, pointed out what would undoubtedly be many weaknesses in the system, we were literally branded as traitors to the Commonwealth. Expressions to that effect were hurled across the chamber at us, but now the chickens have come home to roost, because the attitude of the Labour Opposition six years ago has been vindicated by the appearance of this legislation before the House.
The best that I can say about the bill - it is very hard to say anything good about it - is that it is a compromise to close a schism in the Government’s ranks. The Government realizes that it must make some gesture to the malcontents in its own ranks - and there are certainly plenty of them, judging from their speeches during the last week. So the Government has trotted out this poor, still-born scheme, which is receiving praise from neither friend nor foe politically.
To me it appears that this scheme will be painfully inoperative and sporadic in its incidence. To talk about a universal training scheme and this bill in the same breath is to make a farce of the whole thing. It is only a shadow of the scheme that was launched so optimistically in 1951. If the Government were politically honest and had sufficient courage, it would give the scheme a speedy and decent interment. It would ensure that the energies which will be misdirected and the expenditure which will be incurred as a result of this bill were used to good account in some other avenue of our defence efforts.
The Australian Labour party is not suggesting that the money that would be saved should be used for anything other than defence. We realize that the modern conception of defence entails the expenditure of large sums of money, but this scheme will cause a gross, painful and wicked waste of public money. Money will be squandered on a scheme which will serve no useful purpose. Labour’s attitude to this bill is supported by opinion in other parts of the world. After all, we are not the alpha and omega of knowledge of military requirements, although some honorable members opposite pose as experts on military strategy. We should be humble on oca.sions and take upon ourselves a mantle of humility. If we look round at other countries which know something about military preparation and have had far more experience of the actual business of war than we have, we find that there is almost universally a sharp move away from the conventional thinking about defence, which is exemplified in this bill, with its emphasis on man-power, to the new pattern that has been developing since the war. The old basic conceptions of warfare are being discarded and replaced by a new appreciation of the strategical and tactical demands of the nuclear age.
It has been felt for some time, both in this Parliament by honorable members on this side and by the people outside, that our system of national service training has long since passed the stage where it had any special value as an integral part of a modern defence policy. Great Britain has recently revised its conception of national service training, and the scope of the British scheme has been severely restricted. The money saved has been used to build up other branches of defence. That is the course that the Australian Labour party has advocated should be adopted here. If national service training is not of much importance in Great Britain - apparently the British Government does not think that it is, because the system has been cut to the very bone - it is of much less value to Australia. The British system required service for two years, and in many instances the trainee was involved in active service abroad. That system ensured the existence of a large pool of experienced men in the event of any large-scale national emergency. When we compare the British scheme and our previous scheme - which could have been called a scheme when it was fully operative - with this poor, paltry scheme that we are expected to support now, we find that our own programme of short and irregular training has provided little more than initiation into service life. By the time the trainee has become accustomed to his uniform and has learned the element’s of discipline, the effective period of training will have come to an end. That certainly does not fulfil the purpose of establishing the trained reserve about which we heard so much six years ago, when the scheme was inaugurated. The scheme has cost the country an enormous amount of money, which could have been employed far more usefully in other defence activities. The weaknesses are so apparent, even to the blind, that this Parliament, in the interests of the national welfare, should abolish national service training. To prolong its life, as proposed by this bill, is to display a reluctance to face incontrovertible facts.
With a substantial partnership in guided missile research and development in the Woomera and Maralinga enterprises, the foundation for a transition to the new order has been laid. The emphasis has now been shifted from man-power to missiles, but this Government cannot seem to grasp that idea at all. As in most things, it is living in the mists of the past in relation to defence.
The Minister who introduced the bill is the only one who has shown any enthusiasm for it. He said that there was nothing very complicated about the measure. Well, 1 can certainly agree with him on that, because the reasons for the bill and its implications are quite simple. The Government is convinced, in spite of itself, that the scheme has not fulfilled its early promise, because it is cutting down the intake of men for national service to a truly remarkable degree - from 33,000 to 12,000. Because the Government is convinced that the scheme has not fulfilled its early promise, then, to that extent, Labour’s prognostications in 1951 have been verified by events. In other words, we have been right once again. The weaknesses in the scheme have been so glaring that the Government realizes at last that the taxpayers are not receiving value for their money. The present bill spells the virtual abandonment of the system.
I suggest that the Government should take the advice given by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) in this House about an hour ago. The honorable member said that all the bill was doing was deferring the indecent burial of the national service scheme. The Government’s proposals are so bad that a front-line fighter, the honorable member for Franklin, who, in everybody’s opinion, has some knowledge of defence requirements, thinks the present system ought to have burial as early as possible - “ indecent burial “, he calls it.
I believe that the Government would like to scrap the whole scheme because it realizes that it has failed lamentably; but it has to placate a section of its own supporters. And it seems to me that this section is rather large, judging by the comments we have heard to-night and over the last few days. But, in attempting to placate its supporters, the Government has succeeded in pleasing nobody; because its efforts have not been successful in smoothing over the dissension in its own ranks. “1 submit, for the consideration of the House, that the true test of any facet of a defence policy is what purpose it will play in relation to the operation of the defence policy as a whole. Honorable members who accept the truth of that axiom will find it very difficult to sustain the argument that the present proposition - this poor, palsied scheme that has been submitted to us for our judgment - will play any useful purpose in relation to our defence.
Government supporters have pointed out during this debate the impotence of the scheme. Every member on the Government side who has spoken so far - with the exception of the Minister himself - has said that the scheme will not do this, that or the other; in other words, they have no faith in its efficacy.
Mr. Anderson interjecting,
– I do not believe that the honorable member for Hume thinks it is an efficient scheme.
– I do not like it, but I. say it is efficient.
– Then the honorable member is a very exceptional man, because he is the first Government supporter I have heard, other than the Minister, who says that he approves the scheme.
I should like to ask honorable members who claim to have some knowledge of military tactics whether there is any military advantage in having an annual intake of 12,000 trainees. I want to know: Will this proposition be a positive contribution to our state of military preparedness?
– It will.
– I do not think it will.
– I shall tell you about that.
– The Minister will have an opportunity to do so later. Last night, he attempted to make some apologies for this proposal. I do not like telling the Minister this, because he is a friend of mine, but he made a very poor job of it. Nobody can dispute the fact that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) has some knowledge of military strategy and concepts. Yet, he feels that in its present form the national service training scheme is an unqualified failure. He made that statement in this House two days ago. Other honorable members have made similar statements. If an annual intake of 33,000 trainees over the last few years could not make the scheme successful - and, on the admission of the honorable member for Chisholm, it is not successful - surely, it follows that a reduction of the intake to 12,000 is a step further in the wrong direction.
I strongly suspect that when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) prepared his second-reading speech, and gathered together his reasons for seeking the support of the House for the bill, he found himself in dire straits. Possibly, the hardest job he has ever had to do as a Minister has been to compile a speech to persuade the House that the Government’s proposition is really worth while. In attempting to justify the bill the Minister stated what he thought to be the benefits of the scheme from the point of view of the individual. I should think that the scheme would have for its purpose a national plan for the national wellbeing and would not be designed to benefit individuals who take part in it. The benefit from the scheme should be a benefit in respect of our defence position and the lot of our nation in this very uncertain world.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister say that the discipline and health standards of the youth of the country have been improved by the scheme. That is very nice to know, but I have yet to learn that when a system is established to give us security in times of national danger and to protect our national sovereignty, we are very much concerned about improving the health and the discipline of the individuals who comprise any particular branch of the services. After all, what we should ask ourselves is: Is the acquisition of these very desirable qualities, discipline and health standards, an adequate return for the colossal amount of money that has been expended in this direction? That amount will be possibly £103,000,000 by the end of this year, and perhaps £125,000,000 or £130,000,000. There are any number of very estimable bodies in the community which render a signal service in improving health standards and giving the youth of this country good doses of discipline. In my electorate there is a branch of the Police Boys Clubs of Victoria, which is doing a splendid job in that direction. I understand that its activities are curbed because of the lack of finance, and I suggest that if the Government is obsessed with the idea of inculcating discipline and improving the health standards of youth, a decent subsidy to the Police Boys Clubs of Victoria would not be amiss. But, surely, it is fantastic to suggest that money expended ostensibly for the purposes of defence should continue to be spent on improving the health and discipline of the youth of the community. Such a suggestion leaves me entirely cold.
This expenditure of £103,000,000 could have been incurred in some other branch of the defence services with much more beneficial results for our defence plan as a whole. The Minister said that the requirements of 1957 are vastly different from those of 1951. He certainly was correct in that statement. The scheme started to creak most audibly in 1955. Certain alterations were made in the nature of the call-up. The universality of the scheme went by the board, because exemptions were given to certain privileged sections of the youth of the community. Since 1955 the position has got worse, because the creaking has got louder to such a degree that the whole structure threatens to collapse because of its total ineffectiveness in our defence system as a whole. Now, in 1957, we find that further fundamental changes are proposed - changes so fundamental that the whole structure of national service training is tottering and threatens to fall at any moment. I am satisfied that if the Government were courageous enough and were not frightened by the opposition in its own ranks, it would unhesitatingly agree to the Labour party’s amendment and wind up the scheme forthwith. The scheme is unworkable; it is not producing any worthwhile results for defence. Why has not the Government the political honesty to admit that the Labour party was right in 1951 when it said that the scheme would be no good. If it did so, we would say that on this occasion it had done the right thing by the people.
The Minister has announced that the Navy and the Air Force will no longer be connected with the scheme. The reasons he gives for this change of front are logical. I hope that nobody will misunderstand me when I say that. The reasons that he gave for the exclusion of the Navy and the Air Force from the scheme, I repeat, were logical reasons; but I am very much afraid that the Minister went off the rails completely in attempting to justify the retention of the scheme in its application to the Army. This is the logic of the reason why the Navy and the Air Force were cut out of the national service training scheme: The value from a service viewpoint in continuing national service training would not measure up to the effort that would have to be expended, and the diversion of resources from other more pressing requirements. All 1 can say on that point is that if those conclusions can be applied to the Navy and the Air Force, they can be applied with equal force to the Army. The reasons that I submit why the Navy and the Air Force are no longer required to be participants in this scheme are the very reasons why the Government should remove the Army from it.
Apparently the Government believes that the complete abandonment of the scheme would mean that it would lose face. Members of the Government are determined that they must not lose face. They have such inordinate opinions of themselves as statesmen that they are not prepared to admit that they have made a mistake, although they know that that is the truth. They are not prepared to face up to mild public criticism or to criticism from members who sit on the back benches on the Government side, that would be voiced if they vacated the whole field of national service training, although they know that the money saved could be diverted to some other useful purpose.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) condemned the military side of national service training because they want the whole military service to be used for civil defence. They think that this business of getting a rifle and bayonet, living in a tent and doing exercises with a bayonet is no longer necessary in this atomic age. They might have something there, but at least they agree with the Australian Labour party that the present scheme, with its methods of training, is not applicable to the problems that confront us to-day.
The Government’s case for the retention of the scheme was demonstrated when the Minister for Labour and National Service said that the continuance of the national service scheme in a modified form was necessary for the maintenance of the Army as an effective force. That statement was not supported by any facts whatever. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) made some futile effort to justify it, but, to be honest, I do not believe that he convinced one person in this House, and I doubt whether he convinced himself. lt is possible that his statement was prepared for him by somebody else, and he merely read it.
Nevertheless, the statement presented by the Minister for Labour and National Service is open to serious contradiction. No substantial or compelling reasons have been advanced in this debate to prove the point of view stated by the Minister. According to his statement, the Government appears to be hopeful, or even confident, that the plan to train an intake of 12,000 men will result in even better trained national service personnel. The Government has tried to convince us that that will be the result. It has said, in effect, that while the number of trainees will be cut down from 35,000 to 12,000 and that is deplored, at least the 12,000 will get training that will make them equal to 35,000. The reason advanced is that there will be a wider selection of instructors. The panel to be selected from will be bigger and possibly a better class of instructors will be available. The Government believes that they will be able to produce better trainees.
At best, that is specious reasoning - most specious reasoning. I would like to ask the Minister for the Army this question: While he might get better results from a wider selection of instructors, what will be the feeling of the 12,000 trainees who will be selected under the proposed ballot? The mere fact that it is a ballot will undoubtedly cause much resentment among the lucky drawers of the marbles because some will be required to serve and many will not have to do so. I cannot believe that the lucky 12,000 will march into camp full of enthusiasm because they were fortunate enough to have their names drawn in a ballot. While there might be more enthusiasm on the part of the instructors, there will be a dashed sight less on the part of the personnel who are selected because they will be discontented and annoyed with the whole system. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of the 12,000 drawers of the marbles will offset the increase of enthusiasm on the part of the instructors. The total result will be pathetic and not what the Minister expects.
There are to be exemptions. We are told that 66 per cent, will be exempted and 33 per cent, of those available to register will be called up. In any form of conscription, exemptions cause bad feeling. The liability to serve as a result of the ballot will not exactly cause any wild enthusiasm among the new trainees. The real weakness of the scheme is the effect that it has had on the numerical strength and efficiency of the Citizen Military Forces. I have been looking up the “ Hansard “ reports of statements that were made in this House in 1951 about the national service training scheme, and I had a good laugh when I read what we were told by supporters of the Government when the scheme was introduced then. I wish Government supporters would read their own statements of that time. They would have to admit that the forecasts they made then about the scheme were quite astray.
We were told that the national service scheme would strengthen the C.M.F. units considerably. That has not been the case. The honorable member for Chisholm and other honorable members on the Government side have admitted that. If the Government wants to do the right thing by the C.M.F., it should revert to the entirely voluntary basis upon which the C.M.F. used to be recruited. It should not have a mixed force of conscripts and volunteers because the attitude and the approach to service of the two sections are entirely dissimilar. Their ideas are as wide apart as the poles, and it is beyond my comprehension how any intelligent Government could expect to get a successful military training scheme to operate in that way. The Labour party is opposed to the bill, not because we /ire opposed to defence preparations, but because we think the present system is outmoded and inefficient.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to take to task the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) or to traverse in detail all that he has said, nor do I propose to criticize in detail what has been said by other honorable members who have expressed dissatisfaction, although 1 might mention some of their statements. The debate so far as it has. gone has shown clearly that the Australian Labour party as a whole is opposed to national service training. It has shown also that, on the Government side of the House, there is some dissatisfaction because the intake of trainees is to be cut down to 12,000 when many honorable members would like to have seen that number larger. In other words, honorable members on this side of the House have agreed to an extended system of national service training while the Labour party opposes national service training altogether.
Of course, that is the traditional attitude of the Labour party. At all times throughout its history it has opposed compulsory national service training. It has opposed such training particularly in recent years since the supporters of the Labour party became socialists.
This bill merely puts into effect the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) which was debated earlier. It provides for national service training to be continued in the Army but not in the Navy or the Air Force. That decision has been reached for a very special reason. Although that was not fully explained in the Prime Minister’s speech, it should have been obvious to anybody who thought about it. It has had the effect of reducing the intake into the Army from 29,000 to 12,000 and it has made a major change in the periods of service. Under the old order, the initial training was a period in camp of 98 days and then there were two terms of 21 days each in the C.M.F. over a period of two years, making a total of 140 days. Under the new system, the trainee will have 77 days of initial or basic training in camp and then, within the next three years, three periods in the C.M.F. of 21 days each, making the same total of 140 days. There is no difference in the aggregate number of days, but there is a good deal of significance in the fact that from now on the trainees will be in the C.M.F. for three years, instead of two years. As the Minister in his speech said, that should have a big effect upon the inculcation of the spirit of the C.M.F. into the trainees, who will spend three years there, instead of two years.
I dispute with any one who says that the national service training scheme, up to this point, has not been a great success. In my opinion, it has been a magnificent success throughout Australia. It is true that, for physical reasons, it was not possible to give national service training to every young man who had reached the age of eighteen years, but 180,000 young men have received valuable training, both for defence and from the civic point of view, during the period that the scheme has been in operation. That statement will be verified even by members of the Opposition. I heard an honorable member opposite say this afternoon that he agreed that the scheme has done a great deal for the young men of this country. Of course, it has helped the Army also, because it has helped to sustain the C.M.F. Although I agree that it has not had a great deal of military value as such, it has been very helpful up to this point, and the new scheme will be even more helpful.
Although this was not the reason for its introduction, the scheme has been of amazing citizenship benefit to the young men who have been trained under it. I have observed, as no doubt all honorable members have, that lads who began their period of training quite undisciplined and resenting the fact that they had to undertake national service training, were entirely different lads after their first 98 days. They were imbued with the spirit of the scheme, and the discipline to which they had been subjected made an enormous change in their outlook on life.
The conduct of the national service training scheme has imposed a tremendous burden upon the officers of the Regular Army and, indeed, upon many of the C.M.F. officers. The number of Regular Army personnel in this country is limited. We now have some 22,000, and included in thai number are the staffs of the commands and other head-quarters. A tremendous burden has been imposed on the Regular Army to maintain the training of national service trainees. I pay tribute again to those officers who have gone far beyond the scope of their normal duties in carrying out the work of training these young men. Australia cannot thank them too much for the work that they have done. I know of many cases in which instructors worked themselves into the ground training these young men, purely from a sense of loyalty and duty. They have done a magnificent job.
In the debate it has become quite evident that there are tremendous misconceptions about this scheme. Some honorable members want the national service training scheme to be abolished, but others want it to be increased. Many people seem to think that the Government is half-hearted in this matter and is reducing the number of trainees to 12,000 just to keep the scheme going. No one seems to have implanted in his mind the fundamental reasons why the number is to be limited to 12,000 and the selection of trainees is to be made in the way that is proposed. The fact is that the Government intends to preserve the system of national service training. I think the Prime Minister made that perfectly clear. The Government has no intention whatever of abandoning this scheme. At this point we can accommodate only 12,000 trainees, but who knows what the future holds? Some people in Australia may think that this new plan is simply a case of scaling down the number of men who are to be trained. That decision has been made for a very special purpose. I will explain why the number is to be 12,000, but I repeat that the Government has no intention of abandoning the national service training scheme.
There are certain limiting factors that honorable members need to be aware of when they are considering this scheme. The first of the limiting factors is that the Government has only a certain sum of money to spend on defence. It has £190,000,000, of which the Army’s quota is something like £60,000,000. That £190,000,000 is the total amount to be spent on defence in Australia in the next year. That is laid down in the statement of the Prime Minister which has been debated in the last couple of weeks.
– That is a fair wad of money.
– I agree that it is a fair wad of money, but it is not enough to do some of the things that many honorable members want to have done. However, it is the sum that the Government, in its wisdom, has allocated for defence. The Labour party, in fair weather and foul, has tried to suggest that the Government should clip £50,00*0,000 off the £190,000,000. but
I have not heard that argument used in the recent debate on defence. Honorable members opposite did not say anything about money then. In fixing the sum of £190,000,000, the Government has taken into consideration, its commitments for national development, social services, immigration and all the things that make up the cost of running the country. It is on the basis of spending £190,000,000 on defence that the Government has fixed the rate of taxation for the people. If honorable members opposite want more than £190,000,000 to be spent on defence, will they agree to an increase in taxation? I do not know of anybody who wants taxation to be increased at this stage. I think that most people are of the opinion that we are paying full and plenty in taxation at present. The fact is, of course, that the whole scheme is guided by the fact that a limited sum of money is available to be spent on defence.
The next factor - and this must be considered in terms of national service training - is that the first Army priority is a front line field force - a brigade group of 4,200 men. As honorable members know, we have 1,430 men in the Strategic Reserve in Malaya. These are front-line troops numbering almost 6,000 and they have to be culled from a total of 22,000 regular army personnel. Tt is very difficult. The House should remember that this total of 22,000 takes in everybody in the Army including those in the commands, in the islands, in the women’s units and all the rest; it takes in the whole lot. It is not easy to get more than 6,000 from a total of 22,000. It would appear, and we are working on the basis, that on an average taken over the next three years the number will be about 21,000.
A number of speakers have suggested that we should have two brigade groups. It is not possible to get two brigades out of the existing number. I remind honorable members opposite that the whole system of the regular army and the C.M.F., other than for national service trainees, is a voluntary system. Australia is unlike the countries that have been referred to which have their national service trainees on an entirely different basis. In this country the whole system of service outside of Australia is a voluntary one.
The third factor, of course, is the C.M.F. itself. It is the very core of the
Army. There is a brigade group, which, of course, gets first priority, and that must be established out of the personnel in the Army. The build-up or the real core of the Army is actually the C.M.F. and without it there can be no proper defence for this country. Let us be perfectly clear about that. The core of the Army is the C.M.F.
– Does the Minister mean that the core of the Army is comprised of volunteers?
– I mean that the C.M.F. is that body of people which forms the structure on which we can mobilize the nation in time of war. The C.M.F., then, is the core of the defence system so far as the Army is concerned. Surely no one in Australia, and especially in this House, would say that we should completely destroy the structure of the C.M.F. I think that would be furthest from the minds of the people of Australia.
I remind honorable members that in this scheme the total number of C.M.F. personnel is 50,700. That is divided up into three divisions at two-thirds strength. It is quite possible that if war did break out, because we have a large number of almost fully trained and fully trained men in the C.M.F. we would be able to get a division away in reasonably quick time, within five or six months, that could back up our brigade group, lt would be possible to put a second division in the field within six months and a third if necessary, under this scheme in, say, nine months. This is the body of the Army which, in any conflict that may take place, will back up the front-line troops engaged in the first place. So, the structure of the C.M.F. is vital in the interests of the build-up of the Army.
I may remark at this stage that it has been argued that we should carry this on as a voluntary system. As I said last night, the Labour party tried that in 1947. It did exactly the same thing as we are doing to-day. It provided for 50,000 volunteers in the C.M.F. and went out to get them by every means in its power. How many did it obtain? All it got was 13,000. There has to be some means by which the C.M.F. is built up because, as I pointed out last night, the C.M.F. is the ground upon which the officers and non-commissioned officers are trained. Officers and non-commissioned officers cannot be trained unless they have troops, so it is necessary to have a national service training scheme.
That brings me to what I call the fourth factor, the national service training scheme itself. It is quite unfair to say that the Government wants to scrap it and that this is the end of its life, and all that sort of nonsense. The national service training scheme is vital, and, if it were abandoned, it would mean we would not have an effective army. That is the position. These 12,000 national service trainees are the people who enable the C.M.F. to do the things we want it to do. Some honorable members who have taken part in this discussion have not attempted to think in those terms at all. The number of 12,000 is a calculated figure. lt is not a figure taken out of the air; it is not a guess in any shape or form; it is a calculated figure. It is the largest number that we can train with the instructors we have available in the Regular Army. It would be impossible to train more than 12.000 and at the same time provide a brigade group. That is all that can be done with the money allocation that has been made. On the other hand, 12,000 national service trainees are needed to build up the required strength of the C.M.F. to 50,700 and that is why the number 12,000 has been scientifically worked out. Contrary to the arguments that have been used in this House, the 12,000 national service trainees are necessary. They are vital to the whole scheme of the Army and to the defence of this country.
I repeat that the Government is not deserting national service training in any way. Very sound arguments have been put forward from this side of the House in regard to the value of civil defence, but that is another story. We are not dealing with that at this stage. Those arguments are not related to this scheme. The national service training scheme is related to the construction of the Army and nothing else at this point, so those arguments are not pertinent to this matter. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has said, the Government intends to continue with the full registration of all eighteen-year olds. That is essential. The Minister has already pointed that out, and I wish to emphasize the fact in case there is some misunderstanding t throughout Australia.
Failure by any of these young men to register will mean that they will inevitably be called up. I hope that fact will sink into the minds of the people of Australia, because it will no doubt discourage some who are thinking that because the Government is calling up only 12,000 they may be able to slide out of registration. I hope none do.
Criticism has been offered of the ballot system. Nobody has suggested in this House any fairer system than the ballot system put forward by the Government. Something has to be done to obtain 12,000 from the 60,000 eighteen-year-olds who will register. They all cannot be accommodated. We are not now accommodating all of them. The Army is accommodating only some 29,000 out of 50,000 or 60,000 eighteen-year-olds. No one denies that it would be a good thing if we could, but the circumstances of our economy and the general position in Australia do not enable us to do that. In these circumstances, what could be fairer than this ballot proposal? I think that the Minister is to be congratulated for thinking of a scheme that will be fair and just to every young man. There is nothing unfair about it in any way. Some one has to be called upon to do the job and it has to be done by a system of ballots. Ballots are carried out in other countries in circumstances similar to this. There is nothing unfair about a ballot, and I think it is only cavilling to argue the point about it. I would like to point out that any young man in Australia who is not called up under this ballot system but who feels he would like to volunteer will be very welcome to come in, and there will be a place for him. He will be accommodated, because we do not propose to turn our backs on any young volunteer who wishes to be trained.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney must cease interjecting.
– I know that there are many young men in this country who will consider themselves unlucky not to be in the draw. Some honorable members opposite have stated that they would be unlucky to be in the draw, but I feel that they will be unlucky if they miss out.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) suggested that there be one large annual intake in Tasmania instead of two small ones. These things are now being looked at. I know there will be a good deal of turmoil throughout Australia in connexion with this matter because changes will have to be made. Changes will have to be made in relation to the units, but I assure every one that great consideration will be given to the oldestablished units before any of them are cancelled. At the same time, there will have to be training re-adjustments in all the commands because the number is being reduced from 29,000 to 12,000.
The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) laid great emphasis upon the volunteer system. I have answered that largely because this Government is prepared to face up to reality. It is not guesswork at all. It is a reality that unless we introduce this system we will not have the personnel we need to carry out the training and to keep the Citizen Military Forces alive.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that the scheme will not play any useful purpose, and speaker after speaker has spoken in that strain. What useful purpose does it serve? Well, can you imagine anything more useful than that 12,000 young men should go into the C.M.F. each year to build it up and to maintain it at the strength of 50,700 men, ready and willing to defend Australia in an emergency? I cannot imagine anything more important; yet it is said here that we might as well abolish the scheme altogether! Honorable members should know that we cannot abandon it if we are to carry on with the defence plan that we have put before the House, and of which I am sure the majority of the people of Australia approve. It is a plan which is in keeping with modern world conditions, as I told the House last night. It shows that we are abreast of what is happening in the world, and that we are prepared in this country to take our place along with our own friends, particularly in the South-East Asia area, where we may be called upon to defend Australia. Instead of being criticized the Government should be assisted in a difficult situation - because it is difficult to deal with this question. We know the values of national service training and we have to have those 12,000 men each year in order to maintain our C.M.F. and to support the structure as I have explained.
– I should not imagine that anything I say at this stage of the debate will influence the vote to be taken shortly on this measure. .1 do not envy the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) the task he has had of trying to justify in this House what several members on the Government side have called a stupidity. 1 think the Minister was completely out of his depth in his attempt to answer the arguments that have been advanced against the Government’s proposals for national service training. I support, wholeheartedly, the amendment that has been moved calling for the abandonment of the compulsory system of training and the re-introduction of the voluntary system.
I speak as one who has had some experience, at least, under both systems of training. I can recall the training that was given to junior cadets and senior cadets in the years 1920 to 1924, when, under an anti-Labour government, boys of twelve to fourteen years of age were clad in little rag hats and were, in fact, given military training. They were even trained in the use of the .303 rifle with the Morris tube. I had some training in those years. No doubt, it proved useful. Later, in 1927 and 1928, I was fortunate - or unfortunate, as the case may be - to have experience of the compulsory system of militia training. 1 was in the militia at the time the change-over to the voluntary system was made, in 1929, and I stayed on under that system. So, I know something of the approach of young men to both those systems of training. I know the change that came over the units of the militia forces when the voluntary system was introduced. 1. can assure the House that the men who gave their service in the voluntary units, after 1929, gave a better service, a fuller service, because they were men who saw the need to serve, who had had the need to serve put before them, and who developed in their units a very fine spirit indeed. The change from the compulsory system to the voluntary system was. of course, most marked. The government of those days - and it was a Labour government - saw the need to attract young men into the armed forces. It took the steps necessary to attract them and, 1 believe, maintained its militia units at a very satisfactory level. It is, of course, the tradition of this country that overseas service in the Army, Navy, or Air Force is on a voluntary basis. It was the volunteers, in 1939 and the years immediately after that, who formed the battalions and the regiments that served overseas and defended this country in the areas in which they were called on to fight. It is true that the initial forces of the Second Australian Imperial Force were officered largely and, indeed, composed largely, of men from the Citizen Military Forces units - the volunteer C.M.F. units of those days.
In the early part of my service in the recent war it was my duty to train recruits coming into an artillery training depot. Do not let me mislead the House - I was a lance-bombardier. I had no high rank in that unit, but lance-bombardiers seemed to be doing most of the training. Once again, I was confronted with the marked contrast between a volunteer coming into the service and a conscript coming into the service, because it was in those years that we had the first intakes of compulsory trainees. Believe me, the difference between those bodies of men was most marked and I suggest most strongly that this Government should restore the voluntary system of training. If that were done I believe there would be no difficulty in securing the 12,000 men that the Minister for the Army says he needs to build up the strength of the C.M.F. The Minister has pointed out that in 1947, when the Labour government sought to increase the voluntary forces of this country to 50.000, it could obtain only 30,000.
– No, 13,000.
– I am sorry; I misheard the Minister. I believe there is a most ready explanation for that, because after all, 1947 was. just two years after the conclusion of World War II. The people of this country, and perhaps of every country in the world, had had a surfeit of war and everything connected with war, and I believe they did not feel that there was a need in those days to come forward and serve. But I am perfectly convinced that if this Government were to tell the people quite frankly of the threats of attack from overseas that the country may face, and of the probable effects of an atomic attack - do not keep civil defence just a matter of words among a few people who have attended a school in Victoria - young men would respond, just as they have always responded to an appeal from a government that puts the facts squarely before them. Australia’s young men have never been lacking in a sense of responsibility. Young men have always come forward to serve this country when it needed them, and I believe that they would continue to come forward for training if the Government treated them frankly and honestly.
What can we hope to gain from compulsory training when only voluntary forces cao be sent overseas? I suggest that the Government should give very considerable thought to this matter. It may be, as the Minister for the Army said, that the C.M.F. are the core of the Army and of Australia’s defence effort. That core is composed substantially of volunteers, and the Minister properly paid tribute to them.
There is apparently some doubt as to why young men are reluctant to serve. I believe that it is primarily because they have not been told frankly how greatly they are needed and exactly what they are needed for. The young men who are entering on national service training to-day, are doing so reluctantly, in the main, and they are glad to be finished with it, because they have no sense of any imminent need or of any responsibility on them, or likely to fall on them, to serve in the defence of their country. If they were shown the need, they would come forward in thousands to serve their country.
It may be, Mr. Speaker, that, over the years, we have destroyed in our youth the spirit of adventure and the willingness to take risks that gave us, in past years, our best soldiers, airmen and sailors. I suppose that, after every world conflict, there is a revulsion of feeling against war and against all things military. Indeed, we are now told by child-guidance experts and psychiatrists that children must not be allowed to play with toy soldiers or other war-like toys. We are told that we must teach them that they should aim at peace, and we have great campaigns to promote safety first. Perhaps we destroy in our children their natural adventurous spirit by teaching them that they must always be cautious, that they must not do one thing, because it is risky and they may be hurt, and that they must do something else for the sake of safety It may be that we have to examine the teaching that we give our children in the schools, and our homes, in order to see whether we, in fact, are destroying something in our young people, and preventing them from responding to the call to prepare themselves to defend this country.
I do not propose to take up any more time on that aspect of the matter, except to repeat that I believe that the interests of Australia would be best served if the compulsory system of training, particularly as proposed in this bill, ‘ were abolished. It has been said that no one has suggested an alternative to the proposed ballot system. It is an awkward system. Some one has called it the birthday ballot system. I think that there are other ways of obtaining the number of men required.
– Does the honorable member know of a fairer way?
– The ballot could be based on the initial letter of the surname instead of on the birthday. Would that be any less fair, or any more fair, than the proposed birthday ballot system? I am just saying that it is an alternative. The Minister for the Army has said that no alternative has been suggested. That one at least could be considered. If it were adopted, every one, whether his name began with “ A “ or “ Z “, would run the same chance in the ballot. I believe that the young people who are wanted for the services will come forward to serve their country if they are treated frankly, and told what threat hangs over this country, and what may be the effects of atomic attack upon their families and the cities and towns of Australia. If they were told those things, there would be no shortage of young men offering their services under a voluntary scheme, whatever number were needed.
.- I should like to say at the outset that I wholeheartedly support national service training. I think that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) also indicated that he supports it. His main criticism was directed at compulsory service as opposed to voluntary service. He admitted, perhaps rather reluctantly, that he had derived some benefit from his service at an earlier age. For my part, I say definitely that I derived very great benefit from service in what I think were called the compulsory cadets, in 1912 or 1913, and I found that that early service stood me in very good stead 30 years later.
I do not propose to discuss the bill, which I support, but I do want to discuss the manner in which it may be administered. The principal act provides for a complete call-up. The idea was that there would be no exceptions, and 1 think that most honorable members agree that that is a very sound principle. I know that many Government supporters have resolutely set their faces against any attempt to relieve people of their obligations, and the scheme was very successful. However, there came a period when certain deferments of service were made. This introduced complications, which, to my mind, will possibly become even more aggravated because the size of the call-up is to be reduced. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said in his second-reading speech, referring to the existing arrangements -
Present arrangements under which service is deferred of young men who live at such a distance from a Citizen Military Forces training centre that it is impracticable to train, or who are employed full time on a rural holding, as permanent rural workers engaged in the production of food and raw materials, will continue.
Trainees are called up at the age of eighteen by the Department of Labour and National Service, but when they are sent to a unit to undertake their service, they come under the control of the Department of the Army. This causes an anomaly. I realize that it may affect also those employed in industries other than the pastoral industry, but, after all, I know my own industry best. A considerable number of country lads of eighteen are working on the family property, and they do not, at that age, know exactly where they are going in life. Having been called up. they become members of the Citizen Military Forces. They do perhaps one year’s training, and have three years’ parttime training to complete afterwards. If they engage in rural production for the first time after completing the full-time training, they are not allowed deferment under the arrangements mentioned by the Minister. If they make application to their military unit for deferment, they do not always get it. They certainly do not get it automatically, as the Minister’s statement might lead them to believe they should do. I think that the anomaly should be corrected.
The authorities may ask what should be done about those who have gone out of rural production if those who have left one occupation to go into rural production are to be exempted. This Parliament makes laws, and, through the Executive, it makes regulations to achieve a certain purpose. If, in doing something, we impose hardship on people, we or the Executive have a duty to find some way to remove that hardship. I am not content to be told that these problems exist. I believe it is our job to solve them.
I shall briefly recapitulate what I have said. If at the age of eighteen years a boy is called up, and at that time is not employed in a rural occupation - which no one will doubt is of tremendous value to the country - he becomes liable for service under this legislation. But after a year or two years he may decide to engage in share farming. What is more natural than for a lad of about twenty years of age who has saved a few pounds to say, “ I can get a bit of plant. I know a farm where there is more plant, and I can start off on my own “?
– It sounds all right.
– It is done in many cases. Having got into that occupation, he finds that he must do his military training. I know of numerous cases in which a man who was going to sow his wheat, just after a heavy fall of rain, was required to go into camp for three weeks. In such cases, the whole of the man’s income for the year may be lost and a crop that might have been produced may be lost to the nation. That seems to me to be most unreasonable. The position is that at the time of call-up a lad is under the Department of National Service, but after he has been transferred to a unit he becomes a part of the Citizen Military Forces, under different control. It has been said that every attempt will be made to hold camps at times suitable to these seasonal occupations. For the benefit of those honorable members who are not familiar with these seasonal occupations in country districts, let me explain that it is impossible to tell to a day, to a week, or sometimes to a month, when a particularly important function will be necessary, such as harrowing just after rain, sowing after rain or, perhaps, crutching when the flies are bad.
What do we find? A camp that is held in the first half of the year is most unsuitable to men engaged in rural occupations, yet from my district men are taken to camps at Singleton which have been held invariably in the first half of the year. Only the other day I had an application for a lad who was called into camp in March, when he was preparing his ground for sowing. He asked for deferment for twelve months, because the previous camp had been held in January, which was quite suitable. He did not get the deferment for twelve months, but was deferred to a camp held at the end of April - that is, just at the beginning of the seeding season. He asked again that he be granted the deferment he had asked for, but he heard nothing further about it. It was not until just before the camp was due that I. heard of the case.
These things are continually occurring. I have quite a file of these cases. Therefore, I ask the Minister who would be responsible for the regulations governing this type of thing to look into the matter and to see that these cases are dealt with in the spirit that was intended, so that men who are employed full-time on a rural holding or as permanent rural workers producing food and raw materials will be granted deferment, irrespective of whether they require it at the time of call-up or within the first year or so of their training.
– in reply - I do not propose to speak at any length in closing the debate, but there have been some criticisms of this measure from both sides of the House about which I would like to make a few comments. The criticisms, although they have come from both sides, have been made for very different reasons. The criticisms which have come from the Opposition side of the House express the traditional hostility of the Labour party to the principle of national service training. There is nothing novel about that, and honorable gentlemen opposite have made their position clear. It remains unchanged. They intend to oppose this bill. If they had their way, national service training would be eliminated altogether.
– No, it would not.
– In that case, I have misunderstood what some of the honorable gentleman’s colleagues have been saying.
– You know that.
– I do not know it. If the members of the Opposition are trying to imply that they would support a national service scheme - national in the sense that it extended throughout Australia, but not national in the sense that it produced an equal obligation for people of the same age and in the same category - that is another matter. Those of us on this side of the House can recall very little enthusiasm when the co-operation of honorable gentlemen opposite was sought in the past in order to make a system of voluntary training - voluntary national service, if you like to put it that way - a success.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has been addressing himself to this question. He may be interested to know that once I had the privilege of serving in a very inferior capacity under his brother, who was a very able officer of artillery, in a scheme of voluntary training in peace-time. I should be very surprised if his brother endorsed the confidence which the honorable gentleman has expressed in the likelihood of a great body of young men coming forward in response to an appeal from the Government at this time. I do not intend to reflect on the young men of this country, who, as I said in my second-reading speech, have contributed to the success of the present scheme of national service training. They have responded admirably to their obligations. But the figures that I gave to the House previously show that since we gave an opportunity to persons to volunteer who would not otherwise have been called up - less than 50 per cent, of those who are in the relevant age groups have been called up in recent years - 125 persons have offered themselves as volunteers throughout the whole of Australia, of whom 74 were accepted. I mentioned previously that even in that number - not a very large one - there were some people who had found when they offered themselves for employment for policemen they were required to have gone through a period of national service training. I think it is only the most sanguine who would expect the kind of response to a voluntary system that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has indicated.
But I do not propose to devote much time to analysing the attitude of honorable gentlemen opposite; that has been done on other occasions. What I would like to turn my attention to is the criticism which has come from some honorable gentlemen on the Government side of the House, and I repeat that those criticisms have been made for radically different reasons than the criticisms offered by the Opposition. Honorable members on this side, far from wanting to abolish national service training, have attacked the Government because it is reducing the number of people who henceforth will be liable to do national service training. In making the comments which they have made, some of our supporters have emphasized the value which, as a nation, we have derived from the training of those who have been called up under this scheme - not merely the military value to the nation, but the social and community value, the value in terms of health, standards, and the higher degree of discipline which has been inculcated in the young men coming under the scheme. I admit every one of the comments made along those lines. We appreciate the value which we, as a nation, have gained from the scheme. But, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) have pointed out, a military problem had also to be approached. That problem was how to make the most effective use of regular trained service personnel and to continue our national service training scheme in its current form and, at the same time, have available in the numbers we wanted regular trained service personnel. The two things could not be managed together. Therefore, we have brought forward the best scheme to meet the military needs that our advisers have been able to produce for us. That does not mean that we have deserted the national service principle or that this is necessarily the last word on national service training.
Some very helpful and constructive comments have been made by those who are loath to see us reduce the extent or scope of training in this country. They have pointed to the modern problem of civil defence and have indicated that, in an atomic age, under the threat of atomic warfare, we need to do more to bring home to our people, not only the dreadful consequences of atomic war, but also the means of survival which may be open to us if we are aware of the dangers and are weD trained to meet the . awful incidence of atomic destruction if we should unhappily come within its path. The Government is by no means unimpressed by what hasbeen said on that aspect. I am authorized by my colleague, the Minister for Defence to say that the Government will arrange for a careful study to be made of the feasibility of including in some scheme of civil defence, a degree of national service training. lust how practicable and feasible such a scheme may be is, of course, not readily determined at this point. It will require careful study and some examination of what is being attempted by other countries in this direction. But the study will be made; and, if it is proved practicable within the means of the Government to extend the national service principle in order to give some training, which would have the advantages of extending the range of disciplinary training and at the same time equipping our young manhood to assist the community in meeting a problem of civil defence, should it arise in those circumstances, then we shall see that the fullest consideration is given to that practicability.
– Will that be surplus to the 12,000 or out of the 12,000?
– I imagine that, if it was to have the value which has been pressed for by honorable gentlemen, it would necessarily be surplus. That does not mean that those included in the 12,000 might not, in the course of their own training for other purposes, be given some sort of training in dealing with the problem of civil defence. The sort of thing I am putting forward as a matter for study by the Government is whether we might usefully be able to take advantage of the service of our young manhood in a scheme which would not be conducted along the military lines of the present national service training scheme but which would be specifically directed to the problem of civil defence. No details have as yet been worked out; but the assurance I am now giving on behalf of my colleague and the
Government is that a careful study will be made along the lines I have mentioned. I commend the second reading of this bill to the House.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Haylen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved intheaffirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Business of the House - Taxation Branch - Australian Airlines - Import Licensing.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to indicate to honorable members the programme, as the Government sees it, between now and the end of the session. I do not propose at this stage to fill in all the details; I propose rather to give honorable members an indication of the sitting days so that they can make their plans accordingly. lt is proposed to conclude these sittings, if practicable, by 22nd May. As will be known, 1 think, to most honorable members, some Premiers have been asking the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for an early meeting of the Australian Loan Council, and it is now proposed to commence a meeting of the Loan Council on 23rd May. That would indicate that we may be required to sit on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the week after next. Whether it will be necessary to do so will depend upon the progress we make with the business which it is proposed to put through in the remainder of the session. I am not suggesting to honorable gentlemen at this stage that there necessarily will be a sitting of the House on Monday week, but I do suggest to them that they keep that possibility in mind in making their own arrangements.
– You are not standing over us?
– Not at all. The Government has no wish to stifle discussion on the measures which will be coming up, and it may be found desirable to sit beyond the date I have mentioned. As has been the practice throughout the earlier part of the year, I shall be in touch with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who no doubt will indicate to me the wishes of honorable gentlemen opposite in this regard; but for immediate planning purposes I suggest that honorable members have in mind the possibility of the House rising on 22nd May, and the further possibility of a sitting on the Monday of that week.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) no doubt, for many other, if not all other, honorable members, I should like to thank the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), who has extended to us a courtesy to which we have yet to become accustomed, in telling us, in advance, the Government’s proposals for the sittings of the House. We should have been told about these matters in years gone by, but we have never received that courtesy. It is of great convenience to honorable members to be given some idea of the duration of the sittings.
Before I deal with the principal matter upon which I rose to speak, I want to correct an insinuation that was contained in a question which I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) last week concerning tax evasion in South Australia. 1 asked whether it was a fact that one or two persons had been gaoled for malpractice in that State, and that these persons had, to use an Australianism, “ squealed “ to the police! giving the names of colleagues who had been allegedly involved in the same practices.
I have since found that three persons were gaoled, and have discovered to my regret that what I suggested is certainly not true, at any rate of one person, a Mr. Gentle, whose particular case has come to my notice. He has asked that his name be mentioned in the House in order to make it quite clear that he did not give any information at all. He is still serving his prison term and wants it to be made clear that, whatever else he has done, he has not “ squealed “ on his mates. From my special knowledge of the case, I have every reason to believe that that is absolutely correct and I wish to say so for the benefit of this man’s feelings.
I pass now to an important matter to which reference was made in several newspapers, and I shall quote from a comment in the “Adelaide News” of 7th May. It followed a previous report in the fairly well-informed privately circulated newsletter, “ Inside Canberra “, written by Don Whitington. In the issue of the 14th March he forecast that the Government was shortly to make some move towards either selling Trans-Australia Airlines - though he did not seriously suggest this - or merging it with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which is fast becoming bankrupt. Since that forecast was made, events have taken a more definite turn.
The Government has been in private consultation with representatives of A.N.A. The discussions have been surrounded with the kind of secrecy as accompanied the ultimate sale of the Commonwealth’s share in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and of the whaling enterprise, as well as the proposed sale of the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited. This newspaper makes some rather serious insinuations which the Government has not yet seen fit to deny. 1 hope now to give it the opportunity to deny them categorically, if it is in position to do so.
The report states that these discussions, which have been informal and private, are based on a plan to achieve further rationalization. This, we are told, may result in more sharing of services, such as accommodation at airports, and transport to and from airports, and a further reduction - this is important, coming from a government that claims to believe in healthy competition - in competition. I know that newspaper reports cannot always be relied upon, but very often where there is smoke there is fire. I want to know whether it is correct that A.N.A. is again having difficulty in making its services pay, but is unwilling to sink its identity in a single airline corporation owned jointly by itself and the Government. The insinuation is that it would be quite prepared to join if it retained its identity. The purpose of the proposed plan to share transport and accommodation is further to reduce costs. That is a laudable objective if it does not interfere with the convenience of passengers, but I cannot see how inconvenience can be avoided if transport is to be shared. Timetables would have to be exactly the same or passengers catching later planes than other passengers would have to leave the terminal at the same time.
Any attempt to reduce competition in this field is not likely to result in reduced fares and freights. One must remember that when, in 1955, A.N.A. increased its fares and freights T.A.A. did likewise. T.A.A. did not seek the increase. It had just shown a large profit for the year; but under the agreement between the Government, T.A.A. and A.N.A. in 1952, T.A.A. had to increase its fares if A.N.A. did so. Clause 7 of the agreement provided that if T.A.A. did not increase its fares in such circumstances the matter should go to arbitration. If, then, A.N.A. could show that it was losing money, the arbitrator would undoubtedly decide in favour of increased fares. Conversely, T.A.A. may not reduce fares without first obtaining the approval of A.N.A.
I would like the Minister to tell me whether it is, indeed, proposed to form a jointly owned company, and also, whether any conversations, official or unofficial, have taken place in connexion with this matter. It is noteworthy that shortly we shall have before us a bill dealing with the relationship of A.N.A. and T.A.A. This seems to suggest that there might be a nigger in the woodpile somewhere, and that the bill might be part of the softening-up process for the eventual merging of these two organizations. The Government could later sell out its share in the new merger to private enterprise - probably to the private half of the new company. We should then be left completely at the mercy of the privately owned airways, just as we were left at the mercy of the oil companies because C.O.R. was no longer operating as a semigovernmental undertaking. But for that, we would not have had the spectacle of the Queensland Government being obliged to bow to the dictates of a private oil company.
I want to remind the Government of some of the things that were said in this House when the agreement was ratified. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) told us that, from the Government point of view, one of the most important things was to maintain healthy competition between A.N.A. and T.A.A. I am prepared to say that competition is a good thing, provided that it is healthy and real. There is no healthy competition between such undertakings as the trading banks, and we shall not have it in our airways either unless we see that T.A.A. remains a separate entity. T.A.A. is pushing A.N.A. out of the air simply because it is more efficiently run. A.N.A. enjoys advantages that T.A.A. does not. For example, from 1947 to 1952, when T.A.A. was paying the prescribed landing fees, A.N.A. refused to do so and the Chifley Government had to begin litigation in the High Court for the recovery of nearly £1,000,000 in landing fees.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to say in the short time at my disposal this evening something about import restrictions. Most honorable members doubtless appreciate the necessity to conserve our foreign exchange. It not only gives the nation solvency and obtains for us the confidence of our suppliers, but also, whichever method we may use to increase our balances overseas - by exchange control or restriction of imports - must be irksome and unpalatable to the people affected. But the Government’s attitude to these restrictions is commendable.
To-night, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stated that our balance of payments had swung sharply in our favour. Yesterday, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), in line with what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said recently, stated that import restrictions would be abolished as soon as possible. He said that they would not be retained any longer than was absolutely necessary. That is a step in the right direction, and I hope it will not be long before import restrictions can be entirely lifted and the shackles taken off the business community. The recent relaxations of restrictions undoubtedly were most welcome. They have contributed to the removal of anomalies and hardships and enabled the granting of some special licences.
However, the relaxation of restrictions to the extent of £30,000,000 which took place in January, and the relaxation to the extent of £75,000,000, which was made recently, have not benefited traders who have not a quota, that is those who had not, prior to the base year, established a quota for their business, although it may have been established prior to the fixing of the arbitrary base year. Neither has any provision been made for that group of people who have genuinely established a business since the base year was chosen. Those two categories of importers, or retailers, consist mainly of small businessmen, and it is on their behalf that I make this plea to the Government. The tenor of the replies I have received to my representations has been the same as that of replies given prior to this relaxation of restrictions. It is that at the present time no money is available for the establishment of new quotas.
Everybody appreciates the Government’s attitude. The restrictions have to be administered within the arithmetic of the ceiling which has been set by the Government. But I hope that this group of businessmen whose businesses have been subject to government restriction for a number of years will not be so affected for a further indefinite period. They have been forced into the buying of licences and the transfer of licences. They have been forced to pay a commission or a percentage of the value of the goods imported in order to continue their businesses. Of course, licences have only been transferred from that section of the business community which was fortunate enough to establish a quota in the base year. Naturally, the holder of something which somebody else wants only transfers his commodities - in this case licences - on his own terms.
I believe it is entirely repugnant that people should be forced into these activities and be restricted by them for years simply because they have not had the good fortune to establish a quota in the base year. These firms and individuals are denied the right to trade correctly and take their correct place in the business community. In many cases, owing to these circumstances, they have found it extremely difficult even to make ends meet. That approach to licensing has retarded the progress of business. It does not tend to allow a trader to give of his best. There is no incentive towards efficiency or production. The additional cost that the importer has to pay for his licence must add to the cost of living and to our inflationary spiral.
It is an extremely depressing thought that business men must be dependent on the goodwill and opinion of Public Service officials who, by the very nature of their profession, are inexperienced and do not know the ramifications and the needs of the various markets in a rapidly changing world of commerce and business. Public servants are called upon to administer licensing under the policy of the Government that they serve, and they are under a severe handicap. I do not doubt the genuineness of the decisions that are made. I do not doubt that they are made in the belief that they are in the best interests of the national economy within the arithmetic of the ceiling set by the Government. But if licensing must be continued, the whole structure should be reviewed. I think it should be taken out of the hands of public servants and entrusted to an independent body composed of business and commercial men from various sections of the business world who have a very wide knowledge of the wants of the business community.
Furthermore, a proportion of the sum of £75,000,000 which has not already been allocated should be made available to the two categories of persons I have mentioned. We have only been told of the allocation of £60,000,000 of that amount of £75,000,000. Whether the other amount of £11,000,000 that has been mentioned as available to the motor industry will come out of it or not, I do not know; but I presume that it will. If so, a certain amount of money will still be left for allocation, and I urge the Government to take into consideration those people who have been unfortunate enough not to have established a quota in the base year and those people who have been endeavouring to establish a business since the introduction of import licensing. I believe that the present state of affairs is not encouraging to the younger men who are learning the intricacies of a business of their own.
If this state of affairs is to continue what will be the future of our business world? If no relaxation can be made on this occasion I ask the Government to take into consideration the hardships suffered by these people. It is unfair to ask any man to continue shackled with import restrictions and without the incentive which is so necessary to enable him to survive in private enterprise in which this Government believes. A person cannot obtain an import licence simply because he did not have the good fortune to have established a quota in the base year. That is a principle which I do not support. I strongly urge the Government to take into consideration the two categories I have mentioned in any future relaxation of restrictions and thus give some hope to those people of continuing the productivity drive and helping not only to reduce the cost of living, but to give the nation a foundation on which our future business community may continue to expand.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
son asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
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The French Government has indicated that it cannot enter into such an agreement unless Australia exempts French citizens from the need to secure vises for visits to Australia. Australia has not been able to agree to this because -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
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Lending for housing purposes is conducted by the Commonwealth Savings Bank in two ways -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
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Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570509_reps_22_hor15/>.