22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question without notice. As the pearl-shell beds on the coast of Western Australia have been seriously depleted, will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not issue pearling licences for Japanese boats this season?
– This matter has been under careful consideration by the Government for some time. As soon as a final decision has been reached it will be conveyed by the Prime Minister to the Premier of Western Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. It concerns a block of flats - 24 Manion-avenue, Rose Bay - which, I understand, was formerly owned by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority and has recently been transferred to the Department of the Navy to house naval personnel and their families while stationed in Sydney. Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that several of these flats have been vacant for a considerable time, when accommodation elsewhere in the district has been extremely short? If so, when are these flats likely to be occupied? Would it be possible to let these flats for short periods but for the very restrictive effects of the current New South Wales landlord and tenant legislation?
– The block of flats to which the honorable member refers was, as I understand it, purchased by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to house staff working on the Sydney end of its project. In the course of time, when it became necessary to transfer some of the employee-tenants to Cooma, I understand that some of them refused the transfer and resigned from the service of the authority but, under the protection of the New South Wales Landlord and Tenant Act, they carried on with their tenancy of the flats.
There is also a suggestion that the provisions of the landlord and tenant legislation had been used by some people who had joined the Snowy Authority primarily with the idea of securing this accommodation and then resigning to work elsewhere. The result was that the building became of no further use to the Snowy Authority. As the Navy had a need for similar accommodation for long-service personnel, the building was bought for it, but only under a guarantee of substantial vacant possession on transfer from the Snowy Authority. That, of course, will account for the fact that some of the flats were necessarily kept vacant. Otherwise, the building would have been of no value to the Navy, except to put that service into the estate business. The property, as I recall it, passed to the control of the Navy about February of this year. At the moment, I think some renovations are being carried out to some of the flats. It is obvious that it would not be possible at this stage to extend tenancies, because to do so would fill the flats with permanent tenants, and the protection afforded to them by the New South Wales Landlord and Tenant Act would completely destroy the value of the building to the Navy.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in a position to give the House any information with regard to the proposed talks between leaders of the East and West? Honorable members have read reports in the newspapers, but I think everybody would like to have an account of the position from the Government’s point of view.
– I have had no information since yesterday about the prospects for a so-called summit meeting. If anything does become available to me during the day, I will seek an opportunity to let the right honorable gentleman know.
– My question to the Minister for Air refers to the Royal Australian Air Force base at Rathmines, New South Wales, where a reduction in activity has occurred owing to amendment of the national service training scheme. The Minister may recall that last year I asked him a question regarding the future of this base. I now ask him whether he can provide me with any information regarding the Air Force’s current plans for the use of this base.
– I can give the honorable member some information about the Air Force’s present plans for Rathmines. If I may say so, the honorable member for Robertson has persistently kept before me both the natural advantages of Rathmines as an Air Force establishment and the very great interest of the people of that district in the activities of the Air Force there. The difficulty about Rathmines is that it was the flying-boat base of the service, but since flying-boats have been phased out of the Air Force, as the saying is, it is no longer of any use for its prime purpose. At the present time, it is being used as an officers’ training school for training officers in administrative duties, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers and, in addition, officers of the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force.
I can assure the honorable member that it will be continued as an Air Force establishment, at least until the end of 1959. With the advent of the Hercules transports into the Air Force, more accommodation will be required at Richmond when the Hercules transports come there with the transport wing, and it will then be necessary to move the recruit training centre from Richmond. We proposed to move the recruit training centre to Rathmines in the course of the next few months. It is quite possible that it may be continued indefinitely as the recruit training centre. I acknowledge that it is quite suitable, but it is impossible to say, at the present time, whether that will be continued or not after the end of 1959.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the Australian Shipbuilding Board has decided as a matter of policy, following the calling of contracts, that it will not make public the price of the successful tenderer and that this policy is causing grave concern among shipbuilding firms, particularly unsuccessful tenderers. In view of the fact that it has been an established principle of long standing in the determination of government and semi-government contracts, to reveal the price of the accepted tender, and in view of the fact that the successful tenderer in this instance will receive the benefit of the Commonwealth shipbuilding subsidy, which represents one-third of the price, will the Prime Minister examine this position with the object of having the Australian Shipbuilding Board conform to what has been the accepted practice in matters such as this?
– This matter seems to be one for my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is in another place. I shall be very glad to direct his attention to it and also to examine it myself.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he is aware that the New Zealand Government has protested to the Government of Great Britain against the dumping of Swedish butter on the British market. If so, does he contemplate taking similar action in order to protect the market for Australian butter in Great Britain?
– Yes, I am aware that the New Zealand Government has sought from the United Kingdom Government action to impose anti-dumping duties on butter from certain countries. My information is that those countries are the Argentine, Eire, Finland and Sweden. There is existing United Kingdom legislation that would enable that to be done. I think I would be correct in saying that the existence of that legislation is the outcome of negotiations which I myself engaged in for this Government, in the course of which I requested that the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government should equip themselves with legislation to enable them, if they decided it was a proper thing to do, to take action to protect each other’s trade from dumping by third parties. The United Kingdom Government has had that legislation passed through its Parliament.
Now the New Zealand Government is asking the United Kingdom to take action. We have not made such a request because the United Kingdom-Australia Trade Agreement that we negotiated the year before last provides for regular consultations between the United Kingdom and Australia on a formal, annual basis and on a continuing basis at an official level. We have made our own interests quite clear to the United Kingdom in this regard and I believe that the United Kingdom can be relied upon to give quite serious consideration to the vital interests of the New Zealand dairying industry and the Australian dairying industry. I assure the honorable member that we have taken this matter up with the United Kingdom in the terms that I have just described.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that, under his instructions, secret discussions between wealthy oil groups and officials of the Department of Customs and Excise are now under way and may result in the removal of excise checks on refineries and warehouses throughout Australia. Is it a fact that the suggested removal of supervision is claimed to be an “ organization and methods “ innovation which, if adopted, will mean the elimination of measures designed to protect the federal revenue against fraud and evasion? Is it a fact that under the suggested new proposals-
– Order! What is the question that the honorable member is trying to arrive at?
– I want to know whether, under the suggested proposals, oil companies will be able to make their own assessment of duty, which would mean a free gift to the oil companies of £2,000,000.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. A tendency is creeping into the House for questions to become second-reading speeches. I ask honorable members to observe Standing Orders and make their questions relate only to urgent matters and to make them brief, in the hope that others will follow their example.
– I rise to order. I would like you, Mr. Speaker, in applying your ruling in respect of questions to ensure that, in answering questions without notice, Ministers also will refrain from making second-reading speeches.
– The point of order is not upheld. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will ask his question.
– Before I ask the question, Mr. Speaker, may I ask-
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member will ask his question.
– On a point of order, Sir!
– There is no point of order.
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that when you interrupt a question the honorable member is entitled to raise a point of order so that he can put his question to you again.
– I ask the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith whether he is taking the point of order that was raised by the honorable member for East Sydney, because I have given a ruling on it. If he is raising the same point, then he is out of order, as the Leader of the Opposition would be if he were taking the same point of order. I call the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would like your guidance as to whether a suggestion of fraud or evasion in the excise field is an important matter.
– Order! The position is that there is no substance in the point of order. I have already told the honorable member to proceed to his question.
– I want to know from the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that under the suggested new proposals the oil companies will be able to make their own assessments of duty, which will mean that they will receive a gift of an estimated £2,000,000 a year.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. I call the honorable member for Barker.
- Mr. Speaker, before you call on the next honorable member to ask a question, let me point out that one portion of the question asked by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith was apparently allowed, and I propose to answer it. The question was whether, on my personal instructions, something was being done. The answer is, “ No “. This is the- first time I have ever heard of this wonderful allegation, and I dare say that if an oath were required I would not hear it again.
– I would like to intervene on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that this matter has not been completely dealt with. The Prime Minister answered one question, and I presume, therefore, that that question was in order. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is trying to put a further question to the Prime Minister, and I suggest that he is entitled to do so and to get an answer.
– I say again that questions are becoming far too long. The report of a question that was asked yesterday occupies 24 lines in “ Hansard “. The Chair has some authority to deal with a question, but it has no authority to deal with a Minister in relation to his reply. A question should be confined to one urgent matter within the authority of a particular Minister, but I venture to say that a little research would reveal that some members have asked as many as eight or nine questions instead of only one. I ask honorable members to assist me in applying the provisions of the Standing Orders, so that more questions may be asked by honorable members and a better example set.
– I ask you to reconsider your statement that you cannot deal with answers in the same way as with questions. You have exactly the same control over answers, and the length and relevance of them, as you have over questions.
– I call the honorable member for Barker.
– Has the Minister for the Army been informed that a fire destroyed a workshop and equipment, worth at least £40,000, at Keswick Barracks in Adelaide during the week-end? Is he aware that allegations have been made that a lack of adequate water facilities at the barracks delayed and hampered fire-fighters? Will he have these allegations investigated, and, if they prove to be well founded, give instructions which will ensure that the defects are remedied?
– I am aware that an unfortunate fire took place at Keswick Barracks. I have not detailed information about it as yet, but an investigation is proceeding at the present time, the result of which I expect to obtain to-day or to morrow. I do not know whether there is any substance in the allegations mentioned by the honorable member, but if the investigation reveals that they have some foundation action will be taken to remedy the matter. I shall give the honorable member any available information as soon as I receive it.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question relating to the refusal to admit into Australia two Chinese Communists. I ask him to state the principle which guided the Department of Immigration in admitting Baron Krupp, a convicted war criminal, while, at the same time, excluding two Chinese Communists, who, it would appear, had no adverse personal record. I should like him to distinguish between the two cases, and tell us whether the department is departing from the undertaking which, I believe, it gave to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, that there would be no refusal of vises to persons otherwise legitimately entitled to travel to or from Australia.
– In this case, as I understand the situation, two Chinese Communists have sought permission to enter Australia for the purpose of attending the Easter Congress of the Australian Communist party. I am glad to say that, according to my information, there is no connexion with the trade union movement in this respect. So far as I am aware, the application is not sponsored by either the Australian Council of Trade Unions or any other trade union authority. The sponsors are entirely of the Communist party, and I would think, therefore, that honorable members generally would agree that there is every good reason why the two people concerned should not be allowed into Australia. It is not as if these Chinese Communists wished to come in for what, in accordance with present international custom, would be a fleeting visit of one or two weeks for the specific purpose of attending the Communist party congress. I find that application has been made for these gentlemen to come to Australia for a period of no less than six weeks, and I leave it to the House to see that there must be some ulterior motive actuating the Communist party in making this application. Finally, I must say that I am amazed that the honorable member should, in this House, ask this question and seek to speak on behalf of these people.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. As there appears to be a growing belief among some people that the native population is totally neglected by this Government, will the Minister advise the House of what is being done to assist these people?
– Although I think that most of those closely connected with native welfare on the mainland of Australia would agree that we are not doing everything that should be done, it is a demonstrable fact that, in Australia to-day, both Federal and State governments are doing far more for aboriginal welfare than has ever been done in the history of Australia, lt is difficult to assess, in accurate statistical terms, the size of the effort being made, because the work is being conducted under various forms, and by both Federal and State governments as well as by Christian missions. But, at a rough calculation, at least £3,500,000 is being spent by governments in Australia on direct measures of native welfare, and possibly something of the order of £600,000 a year is being spent by Christian missions.
Perhaps the clearest indication of the change can be given by direct reference to what is being done in the Northern Territory, which is under the jurisdiction of this Parliament. In the current financial year, the provision for direct assistance to native welfare is over £800,000. In addition to that, there is provision for capital works - the figure for which eludes me at the moment - of something of the order of £500,000. In addition, the aborigines of the Territory share in the expenditure on education for the benefit of the whole community, and the expenditure on health for the benefit of the whole community, and there are sections of the coloured population - the mixed bloods - who, now being regarded as full citizens of the Commonwealth, also share an additional provision for special housing and amenities to help their advancement. So, honorable members can see that, all over, in the Northern Territory, the direct and indirect expenditure in the current financial year on behalf of approximately 16,000 aborigines will be well over £1,000,000. The number of people engaged in the work has grown, and in addition to that, the Christian missions, partly with government assistance and partly from their own resources, are doing a great deal more than was ever done before. This work is showing results.
I add that, quite often, when the individual case of hardship comes to public attention, it does so simply because either the Federal Government or a State government or a mission has done something that has started to lift the individual concerned and has brought him from obscurity into notice. I would suggest to honorable members that they should recognize that financial provision is not the whole of this story. Behind the whole story of native welfare is a very difficult social question and an equally difficult question of individual adjustment. It is not simply a matter of spending money; it is a matter of grappling with, perhaps, one of the most difficult human problems with which any parliament can deal - a problem of social transition.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Does he recall that on 8th October last he said that he would consider issuing a public statement on housing generally, but with particular reference to the system of priorities being introduced for the allocation of houses in the Australian Capital Territory? Will the Minister again consider making such a full public statement, with particular reference to any system of priorities that has now been adopted or is to be adopted? In particular, will the Minister say whether the transfer of service departments to Canberra next year will mean a complete cessation of allocations on the ordinary housing list for Canberra and the complete handing over of allocations at that period to officers being transferred from Melbourne? Will the Minister recognize that this is really a matter of urgent and vital importance to the many hundreds of people in Canbera waiting for housing, and that to make a full public statement on such matters is always the best course?
– I think a full public statement of the proposals surrounding the allocation of houses would be very good at this stage, and I will see that it is made. The fact of the matter is, of course, that with the transfer of some 1,100 members of the defence services from Melbourne in 1959, it has been necessary to step up the rate of house construction in Canberra. The result will be that, over the latter half of this year, the rate of completion of houses will be much greater than has prevailed heretofore. Consequently, the normal waiting list will have been met a good deal ahead of schedule. It is quite true, of course, that once a movement of this kind from Melbourne begins, the departments involved will be considerably disorganized over the period of the transfer. It will therefore be quite clearly necessary to give first priority to transfers, but the actual increase in the rate of home-building means that the delay in meeting the normal housing list will not be very great.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that, when prices of primary products were rising, this fact was always the basis of claims for higher rates of pay under industrial and pastoral awards and that any subsequent rise in the price of goods was finally passed on to the primary producer? Is he aware that, if one section of the community - the primary producers - is asked to pay for its machinery, shearing, general labour and goods essential to production at rates applicable to its highest income year, now that prices for primary products have fallen sharply it will not be long before its production capacity will be so greatly reduced that a severe blow will be struck at our economic stability?
– Order! I ask the honorable member to ask his question.
– Will the Minister make a full investigation with a view to ascertaining the capacity of the primaryproducing industries to continue to pay the present high rates which were fixed on the basis of a temporary rise in the price of primary products, which prevailed until recently, and still produce our essential home requirements and export quotas?
– I am generally aware of the economic problems involved in the two questions asked by the honorable member for Mallee. As he will know, when the arbitration tribunal is considering the basic wage, the question of the capacity of industry to pay is thoroughly considered. The capacity to pay includes the capacity of the primary industries to pay the basic wage. As this matter is now before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the facts on behalf of both secondary industry and primary industry are being placed before that court, I suggest that the present moment is not an appropriate time for me to make any comment about it.
– My question to the Minister for Health arises from the answer he gave to a question that I asked him on 19th March, and also from the letter he was kind enough to send me on the same subject. The Minister indicated in his letter that if patients of medical practitioners whose salaries are subsidized by State governments are to be brought under the benefits provided by the medical benefits scheme the next move is up to the State Departments of Health. Will the Minister be good enough to explain what action he desires the State departments to take?
– It is not just a question of the medical officers being subsidized by the State governments. In this particular connexion the salaries of the medical officers are paid by the State governments, and if the National Health Act were to be amended in the direction desired it would have to be amended for one particular area of one State, which would not be a practicable proposition. As I indicated to the honorable gentleman when I replied to his previous question, the Commonwealth Government subsidizes by very considerable sums of money the hospitals on which these practitioners are based. It would, therefore, be quite competent for the State government, if it wished, to alleviate the position caused by the payments which are made by patients of those doctors, by remitting those payments because, in fact, the doctors are already fully salaried officers of State governments.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. I ask whether you would refer to the Standing Orders Committee a proposal that it recommend to the House some amendment of Standing Order 106a so as to prevent the discussion of matters of urgency under that order during the time allotted for private members’ business. May I say, Sir, that I am not suggesting any amendment of the standing order in regard to other times; but it is certainly essential, I think, that the very limited time available to members for private business of which they have given notice should be kept available to them. If you consult the Votes and Proceedings of the House I think you will find prima facie evidence of an organized conspiracy by the Opposition to use this standing order in order to prevent the discussion of motions obnoxious to themselves, particularly motions relating to communism.
– I wish to take a point of order, Mr. Speaker, ls not the honorable member being very verbose in arguing on those lines?
– Order! There is no substance in the honorable gentleman’s point of order. As for discussions relating to matters of urgent public importance, there is adequate provision in the Standing Orders to protect the rights of any member who cares to exercise them.
– Will the Minister for the Interior say whether an investigation has been made into the cause of the disastrous bush fires in the Tinderry Mountains area at the end of November and the beginning of December? Does the result of this investigation support the claim by the graziers that the fires were due to the failure of the Commonwealth Government to enforce, and carry out, its requirements for the making of fire-breaks around the eucalyptus oil distilleries and their camps and similar places? If this claim of the residents of the district is substantiated, will the Minister consider the Commonwealth’s paying compensation to them for the losses incurred through its failure to take the necesary action to prevent the out- break of these fires? I may point out that the fires resulted in the loss of many thousands of pounds worth of fencing, stock and buildings, as well as thousands of acres of grass, which was irreplaceable at that time because of drought conditions.
– I am bound to say that I am quite unaware of any allegations of the type to which the honorable gentleman has referred. Nevertheless, I shall have an inquiry made into the matter and let him have the information for which he asks.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As Australian wheat-producers assist substantially in the payment of wheat freights to Tasmania, will the Minister arrange for an investigation into a possible increase of wheat-production in that State? Will he also inquire into the possible use of seed varieties of wheat which could be produced in Tasmania and used for feed or for milling purposes? Will the Minister also, in order to encourage wheat-growing in Tasmania, investigate further the possibility of paying Tasmanian wheat-producers the full price of their wheat in the year in which it is delivered, instead of including the State’s crop in the overall wheat pool, as is the usual practice, which means that payment for it is spread over a number of years?
– The answer to the first question is, “ Yes “. However, as it is a matter of production of wheat in Tasmania, I suggest that the honorable member take it up with the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture which has full responsibility for it. I am surprised that that department has not taken action previously. The answer to the second question is also, “ Yes “. I will examine the third question, but I do not hold out any great prospect of success in meeting the honorable member’s request.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Immigration by stating that all honorable members have been impressed by his desire to keep the country free from corruption. Will he give a personal undertaking that during his term of office no person who has been convicted of a war crime by an allied tribunal will be admitted to Australia?
– I think that any Minister would be extremely foolish to give a carte blanche undertaking of that nature. Quite obviously my honorable friend on the back-bench who is laughing now so merrily at his own question had his tongue in his cheek when he asked it. All I can assure the honorable member for Wills is that so long as I have the honour to administer the Department of Immigration, I shall endeavour to exercise my powers in a broad, humane and sympathetic way, but always believing that the prime consideration is the security of Australia.
– Will the Minister for Health investigate complaints emanating from the fourth division laboratory assistants at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories? These complaints have arisen from a recent decision by the Public Service Board which has deprived those assistants of the advantages of a 361-hour week which has been granted as an inducement when working with third division personnel. The board is now enforcing the 40-hour week which normally applies to fourth division officers.
– All I can say to the honorable gentleman is that the facts are now being investigated by my department. When I am fully informed on the whole situation, I will be able to give him a definite answer.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Social Services by reminding him that many persons have to use aids because of failing hearing, and that many who would be greatly assisted by the aids are not able to afford the initial cost of them. Even those who purchase an aid find the cost of repairs and replacement of batteries almost prohibitive. As the failure of hearing is a severe handicap to normal living, any person so affected deserves our sympathy and assistance. Will the Minister consider introducing the necessary legislation during the Budget session to allow hearing aids to be supplied by the
Department of Social Services or at least to grant some subsidy towards their upkeep?
– The honorable member for Lang, who bears a royal and blessed surname, in spite of the disaster of Culloden Moor, displays a keen interest in social services. There was a time when I thought he confined his interest exclusively to child endowment, but apparently that was a passing phase. The Commonwealth Government does provide hearing aids for war widows, qualified ex-service men and women, and invalid pensioners and those persons who are likely to become invalid pensioners and are receiving training or rehabilitation. In addition, hearing aids are provided by a wide variety of agencies in all the six States of the Commonwealth. The general question of providing hearing aids for those who need them has been considered by my illustrious predecessors and by successive governments, but it cannot be separated from the question of supplying artificial limbs, spectacles, and devices and appliances of that kind. These matters are considered from time to time, and I have no doubt that they will be considered again when the next Budget is being brought down.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral’s attention been directed to a report circulating in Western Australia that, as from next month, telephone calls in rural areas between exchanges from 5 to 20 miles apart will be charged for at the same rate as an ordinary local call? In view of this report, has the Minister any information on the matter? If not, will he be good enough to examine the position and issue a statement as early as possible, because after to-day this Parliament will not resume its sitting until the 15th of next month, and there is some confusion in regard to this matter?
– My attention has been directed to the statement to which the honorable member refers. He himself mentioned it to me, as also did the honorable member for Moore. As it was obvious that the statement, which appeared in one of the Western Australian newspapers, was misleading, I have made some preliminary inquiries into the matter, and I can assure the honorable member for Canning that it is not correct to say that trunk-line calls within a radius of 20 miles of an exchange will be charged for at the unit fee rate, as the first paragraph of the press statement seemed to convey. On investigation, I found that further on in the same statement actual examples were given of the charges to be made for calls from nearby exchanges to Northam. These examples showed that the charges would vary from 3d. to about 9d., so the statement did not intend to convey that a unit call fee would be charged. I am inquiring further into this matter and I will inform the honorable member of the result. I think the report arose from the fact that certain changes are being made in the services provided in relation to trunk-line calls where there is only a very short distance between exchanges. I refer to such special services as fixed-time calls and particular person calls for which extra charges are made. These services are now being discontinued at exchanges which are close to the parent exchange, because they are not used. In order to cut down the accounting, a practice is being tried out whereby a trunk-line call from an exchange 5, 10 or 20 miles away, is not docketed as such, but is docketed on a two-unit call basis, that is, from an exchange for which the trunk-line rate is 6d. This, I think, gave rise to the statement in the press. I assure the honorable member that it is not correct to say that trunk-line calls from exchanges within 20 miles of a parent exchange will be charged for only at the unit call fee.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. Is it necessary to obtain an import licence before refined petrol can be imported into Australia? If so, did National Petroleum Limited of Brisbane obtain a licence to import refined petrol from Formosa, and what was the amount for which the licence was issued?
– I have said in the House before that I think it would be quite improper of me, as Minister administering import licensing, to disclose the private business of any organization which has to approach the Government for an import licence.
– Has the Prime Minister heard of the allegation that Victoria has been left high and dry by the Government in the composition of the Snowy Mountains Council?
– I certainly have not heard of the allegation. If there is any reason to suppose that it is true, or that it has been made, I shall be very glad to have the matter investigated. This is the first I have heard of it.
– On Tuesday last, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory asked me a question regarding a new regulation governing overtime conditions in Parliament House. In reply, I desire to inform the honorable member that the President and I, pursuant to the power granted to us by the Public Service Act, have recommended to His Excellency the Governor-General that a new regulation be made covering the payment of overtime to employees in parliamentary departments. It is expected that this regulation will result in improved overtime conditions.
Employees, or their representatives, were not consulted. Regulations for parliamentary officers are made under the statutory power mentioned, and no processes of arbitration have been set aside.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 15th April, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - proposed -
That Mr. Downer be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and that his place be filled by Mr. Chaney.
That Mr. Graham be a member of the committee in the place of Mr. Chaney.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
.- I should like to know what qualifications the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has to be a member of this study group that is called the Foreign Affairs
Committee. Honorable members on this side of the House would like to know something more about him. He has been in the Parliament a considerable time, but we have hardly been aware of his presence. We certainly know nothing about his knowledge of foreign affairs. If he knows as much as the average member of the committee, he would not know very much. The Opposition is not satisfied that there really is a Foreign Affairs Committee at all. I know that the bait of trips all over the world is held out to anybody who joins this study group, but those trips never seem to materialize. When a selection for a trip was made a few years ago, a bolter from the Government side of the House, who was not even a member of the committee, won the trip. He went to the United Nations to represent the Government. The House is never given any reports from this committee. We never hear what it is doing. The Opposition has no faith in the committee, and very little faith in the membership of the committee.
There is a tremendous gulf between the views of the Opposition and those of the Government with regard to foreign affairs. That is why we on this side of the House would not be found dead on this committee. The Government’s foreign policy is not always an Australian policy. In fact, it is rarely an Australian one. It is a policy that sacrifices Australian interests to overseas interests. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) listens to Whitehall on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week, and to Washington on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and on Sunday he composes Australia’s foreign policy for the ensuing week.
The Labour party is 100 per cent. Australian all the time. It refuses to sacrifice Australia’s interests. Honorable members on this side of the House do not relish the prospect of listening to the Minister regale the House from time to time with a statement that is written by the same old clerk in the Department of External Affairs, with a few phrases brushed up to meet the existing situation. I suppose that the honorable member for Perth will be as good, or as bad, as any other member of the committee. As the Opposition does not want to have anything to do with the committee, it gives the Government its motion at the end of a long shovel.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has sought to learn something of the quality and capacity of our very respected colleague, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). Those of us who know the honorable member for Perth will have no doubts as to the contribution he can make on this committee. He. has qualifications that are not shared by every honorable member in this chamber, in that he has given service outside this country in time of war and has been a representative of this Parliament in overseascountries in time of peace. Quite apart from his own personal qualifications and the contribution he can make, a very good reason for his appointment is that he is one of the comparatively new and junior members of the Parliament who make a close study of foreign policy, particularly the foreign policy of honorable members who sit opposite. In quite recent times one of the leading members of the Democratic Labour party has described one of the great barriers to unity between that party and the Labour party. This gentleman was for many years a member of the Labour party before the schism developed within its ranks.
– I rise to order. Must honorable members listen to this childishness? It has nothing whatever to do with the motion before the House.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– I should not have thought it necessary to pursue this line had it not been for the comments made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I want the House to be aware of what I believe to be a most important statement coming from a former key figure in the Labour movement. This man was a senior member of the Australian Labour party, and is now a senior figure in the breakaway group, the Democratic Labour party.
– To whom do you refer?
– I refer to Senator McManus. In recent times he has gone on record as saying that one of the factors that made it impossible for him to remain in the Australian Labour party, quite apart from its present undesirable leadership-
– That is very good of you.
– 1 am sure the right honorable gentleman would regard such a statement from that quarter as a compliment.
– Anything coming from you is a compliment.
– I shall endeavour to oblige the right honorable gentleman more often. Senator McManus has made it clear that a principal factor that makes unity in the ranks of the Labour movement impossible is what he describes as the pro-Communist foreign policy of the Labour party under its present leadership. If a significant section of the former Australian Labour party now believes it impossible to maintain unity with the Australian Labour party as at present constituted, because it remains convinced that the foreign policy of that party is proCommunist, then this country and members of this Parliament need to give not only increasing attention to foreign policy generally, but also to the foreign policy statements of honorable members opposite.
– The Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) has intervened on the one question of whether one honorable member should be added to the Foreign Affairs Committee. He knows that what he has just said has nothing whatever to do with that matter. However, he must come in on irrelevant matters. He does this kind of thing all through the session, but it has no effect. He did it the other day. (Mr. Cramer interjecting) -
– Order! The Minister for the Army must remain silent.
– And the Minister for the Navy as well.
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will cease interjecting.
– On “Grievance Day” last week, the Leader of the House intervened to discuss the status of the trade unions of Australia and indicated that he agreed with the American theory that they should be quite outside of politics - a shocking suggestion that is repudiated by all trade unionists in Australia. But the Minister wanted to ride that hobby-horse.
Now, he wants to quote a member of the Australian Democratic Labour party in another place. The Minister is very familiar with that organization because he knows how it came into existence and how it started its campaign. He has the impertinence to repeat the lying statement that the Australian Labour party’s policy is a pro-Communist policy. That is a deliberate lie, and I can prove it is so.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman must withdraw the expression, “ a deliberate lie “.
– I say that it is absolutely false.
– Order! I ask the right honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark, and say that it is an absolutely false statement. Let us look at it and simplify it. The Minister was referring, of course, to the decisions of the Australian Labour party’s conferences laid down by the representatives of the Labour movement, trade union leaders and political leaders throughout Australia, first at Hobart and later at Brisbane. What is pro-Communist about the Labour party’s foreign policy? Nothing at all. Of course, there are portions of it which honorable members on the Government side say are pro-Communist. They say that the policy that Australia should recognize China and trade with that country and that it should be admitted to membership of the United Nations organization is pro-Communist. That is completely false. A similar policy has been followed by the United Kingdom Government under both the leadership of Mr. Attlee, and also that of Churchill and other conservative leaders. Is the British Labour party proCommunist? This kind of slander indulged in by the Minister under the protection of privilege is scandalous.
Nothing could be more separate from the question now before the House than a general discussion of the Australian Labour party’s foreign policy. I repeat that the statement made by the Minister, whoever makes it, is a deliberate lie; and it should not be uttered.
This Government pretends that it wants a representative of the Opposition to sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee. It comes and implores us to be represented on it. In certain circumstances, as has been indicated, that might be a means of making a useful contribution to Australian foreign policy; and members on the Government side might then learn a little about the practical side of foreign policy. I say that the policy laid down at the Australian Labour party conferences has, with very few exceptions, been adopted in the councils of the world to-day. Summit talks were proposed at the Hobart conference.
– You have divided the party, and you know it.
– Divided the party? What a euphemistic description to apply to the party which the Minister did so much to bring into existence. Of course, whether our foreign policy divided the party or not is a question ultimately for the party itself. All political parties in this country have had divisions on questions of policy and if people object to the policy laid down at the Australian Labour party conferences and falsely call it a Communist policy, that is their responsibility. But I do not think that a great many of them would repeat such a suggestion to-day when one sees the correspondence between the Australian Labour party’s foreign policy and the practically accepted foreign policy in all the democratic countries of the world. To use the terms which the Minister used will not do his party any good. He abuses parliamentary privilege. The Opposition has no objection to the nomination; that has been made clear by my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). But the Minister says to himself, “ Here is a good chance. How can I get this in?”
– The Leader of the Opposition practically described the foreign policy of the Government as a nonAustralian policy.
– That is true. Broadly speaking, the foreign policy of this Government is the policy of a satellite; sometimes it follows the policy of Mr. Dulles. That can be substantiated. I am quite prepared to turn this discussion into a general debate on foreign policy. We do not have many such debates. The Government does not want them, but when we have them the Government gets severe treatment from this side of the House.
– Mr. Speaker- (Opposition members interjecting) -
– Order! I must ask the House to come to order.
– The subjectmatter before the Chair is an appointment to the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– And the Illawarra Cup.
– Order! The honorable member for Watson will remain silent.
– I do not feel that it would be desirable, now, to have the Opposition represented on this committee, for two reasons. The first is that I believe that there is this unfortunate division on foreign policy which is quite obvious; and the second is that I now know that the Opposition cannot be trusted, in view of the admission of a scandalous breach of confidence in the House recently by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in regard to the Suez affair during a debate on that subject. I repeat that that was the most scandalous breach of confidence and parliamentary convention which has occurred in any British parliament, to my knowledge.
– Where is your sabre?
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Mackellar to resume his seat. The honorable member for East Sydney persists in interjecting. I warn him that if he continues to do so, it will be necessary for me to take action against him.
– Mr. Speaker, I think you have been mistaken.
– Order! I heard the honorable member interject and I warn him, and other honorable members as well, not to interject again.
– The Leader of the Opposition, on his own admission iri this House, is not to be trusted because he is a betrayer of confidence.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask for that remark to be withdrawn. It is not a fact, and under the Standing Orders such a statement must be withdrawn.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
- Mr. Speaker, I can substantiate it.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw the remark.
– At your direction, Sir, I withdraw it.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw the remark unreservedly.
– I withdraw it. I should like, if I may, to refer the House to its own record - “ Hansard “ - of what the right honorable member for Barton, the Leader of the Opposition, said of himself when he admitted the betrayal of a confidence which was placed in him at the highest level. As to the substantial matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition, namely, the involvement of the Labour party with Communist party policies-
– Mr. Speaker, I ask for a withdrawal again. This is the same statement that the honorable member for Wentworth made before.
– No. I think that the honorable member for Mackellar is dealing with another matter.
– There will be no time, in the few moments at my command, to traverse the evidence. Perhaps I might indicate to the House the nature of the evidence so that it can be examined with more detail by honorable members themselves. Let me look at this matter under three counts. The first count is the organization of the party itself; the second count is the evidence tendered by former members of the party who were in its inmost councils; and the third count is the nature of the published policy enunciated from time to time by the party.
If honorable members were to examine the evidence of the involvement of the Labour party with the Communist party, they might well examine it on those three counts. The Labour party claims - or boasts, or admits, whatever word the Opposition cares to use - that it is an offshoot of the trade union movement. We know that Communists are involved in the trade union movement and that they control many unions which are closely associated with the Labour party and which the Labour party boasts, admits, or claims are associated with itself. So there is no doubt that open Communists are very powerful in the formulation of the policy of the body which directs and controls the Australian Labour party.
The second count of evidence lies in the admissions of those who were close in the councils of the Australian Labour party and who found its pro-Communist policy so intolerable that, at considerable personal loss to themselves, they found it necessary to separate themselves from it. These were not people who had anything to gain personally from what they did. As a matter of fact, most of them have lost heavily, so it cannot be said that they did this from any motives of self-interest. Their testimony is that of people who know the inner workings of the Labour party. That testimony is that there were and are Communist influences at work inside the Labour party, directing its policy and shaping and formulating the things that it puts forward in this House and elsewhere.
I have no time to examine this in detail, but I indicate to the House the nature of the detailed evidence which could be brought forward without very much difficulty.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Do you rule that this has some connexion with the appointment of somebody to the Foreign Affairs Committee?
– I have already ruled on that point. I point out to the House that, in the event of this motion being negatived, it could mean the end of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– May I conclude by pointing out to the House the third head of evidence. This lies in the nature of the party’s policy as enunciated, over all, and in the nature of things said in this House and elsewhere by members of the Labour party, which happen to coincide with the real interests of the Communist party or which defend and protect individuals who are concerned with communism. An example is the extreme interest which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) displayed this morning in Communist delegates coming into this country and his endeavour to have them admitted to this country. That, standing by itself, would mean nothing.
– I rise to order. Must I sit silent-
– Order! The honorable member for Scullin will resume his seat.
– Must I listen to this lying?
– Order! The honorable member for Scullin will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it in exactly the same way as the honorable member for Mackellar withdrew his remark.
– The honorable member for Scullin will withdraw his remark unreservedly.
– I shall withdraw it exactly as the honorable member for Mackellar withdrew his remark.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw the remark that he made.
– Which remark?
– The honorable member knows the remark to which I refer, and if he persists in defying the Chair I shall take action.
– I withdraw unreservedly any remark to which you, Sir, object.
– I appreciate very much the recurrent tenderness of the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) on this count because not long ago he was associated with the anti-Communist faction in the Australian Labour party and he did not have the guts to go with his mates.
– I rise to order! I say again that the utterances of the honorable member for Mackellar are deliberate lies.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I ask, first, for a withdrawal of the statement that I have not the guts.
– You will carry out the instruction of the Chair. You will withdraw your remark.
– I withdraw it. I now ask for an apology from the honorable member for Mackellar and for the withdrawal of his statement that I have not the guts.
– The honorable member for Mackellar will withdraw the remark that he made in reference to the honorable member for Scullin.
– Indeed I shall, Sir, but I remind the House of the fact that the honorable member for Scullin-
Opposition Members. - Withdraw!
– Order! The honorable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. It is very difficult to hear what is going on while there is so much noise. I want the honorable member for Mackellar to withdraw unreservedly the reflection that he made on the honorable member for Scullin.
– Indeed, I have done so already.
– Order! The honorable member for Mackellar will withdraw the remark to my satisfaction.
– I withdraw it entirely, Sir.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. lohn McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).I have received a letter from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to establish an overall body to co-ordinate national roads planning throughout Australia.
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) -
– Last Monday the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) made a pronouncement that caused deep disappointment throughout the Commonwealth. It had relation to a request that had been made to the Minister by a number of interested transport bodies that the Australian Transport Advisory Council, of which the Minister is chairman, should formulate a national roads plan. Every one who believed in the necessity for an efficient roads system was hoping that the council would formulate a policy that would lead to an early implementation of a national plan. The Minister said that there was no lack of plans. He also said that the major problem confronting this country with regard to roads was not a dearth of planning, but simply a shortage of finance to implement the plans already in existence. He went on to say that the Commonwealth would be glad to receive suggestions from organizations concerned as to how the additional finance required for roads could be raised.
For many years we have heard widespread advocacy of the need for a national roads plan. The suggestion has even reached the stage of receiving government support, because a couple of years ago the Minister for Highways in the New South Wales Government declared that that Government would support any national roads plan that had as its basis the provision of a national system of primary roads. The New South Wales Government believed that a national roads system is a logical and necessary development in Australia.
Much serious thinking and research have been devoted to the establishment of a national roads plan. Supporters of the proposal gained heart when the Australian Transport Advisory Council set up a Committee of Transport Economic Research relating to road and rail transport. They thought that this committee would get somewhere. The committee brought forward a valuable report, which was submitted last year and in due course was considered by the A.T.A.C. The chairman of that council replied to the report in the negative fashion that I mentioned a few moments ago.
It is quite apparent that the nigger in the woodpile, if I may use that expression, is finance. It is of no use to say that the States have been responsible for the rejection of the idea of a national roads plan, because they have not sufficient money to implement any such plan. The Commonwealth is the only body represented on the A.T.A.C. that is in a position to provide the required finance. I should have thought that by this time the Government would have initiated a bold and courageous move to set up a national road-planning organization, because this would be in keeping with what has been done in other parts of the world where similar problems have been encountered.
I should like to show, for the edification of honorable members, the enormous problems that have been posed by the increase in road traffic in Australia. In 1940, there were 820,000 motor vehicles in the country, whereas to-day there are just on 2,500,000. It can be seen, therefore, that the provision of roads is not simply a parochial obligation to be left to various local authorities.
The problem has now assumed national proportions. It is one of Australia’s most pressing national problems and, as such, should be dealt with expertly at the highest national level. The Government has assumed - and rightly so - the responsibility for national development, and on this basis alone it should have more than a passing financial-disbursement interest in the road construction plans of the States. The Commonwealth Government is responsible for adequate defence planning, and the demands of modern warfare are based on an adequate roads system which will allow for the passage of large numbers of men and large quantities of munitions and ancillary materials of war. For these purposes, of course, we need an efficient, up-to-date roads system, which the States are quite incapable of providing.
It is quite evident that the only obstacle is finance. The Minister conceded this point in the public statement that he made the other day. It is quite evident, also, that the Australian Transport Advisory Council has been tried and found wanting. The Commonwealth Government’s representatives on that body are not prepared even to make a positive approach to solving the problems by providing the funds required. Because of the Government’s reluctance to face up to the realities of the situation - they are rapidly assuming the proportions of grim realities - the council has adopted a negative approach to road problems. At the Commonwealth Parliament level, the Government is dilly-dallying over the formulation of an effective roads policy. Twelve months ago, we were told, with a great fanfare of trumpets, that a Cabinet committee - the Committee of Transport Economic Research - had been appointed to investigate transport problems, but we have heard almost nothing of it since, and only an extreme optimist would expect any worth-while result from it. The only measure of hope that we are given by the Government is that the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act will be reviewed in 1959. We have to wait until then to alter the policy, or even to review it.
I think that every one will concede that the present system has failed lamentably. Slate governments and local authorities have not the financial resources needed for the job. Recently, in a report of the Committee of Transport Economic Research, we were told that the sum of £1,640,000,000 was required for our roads over a ten-year period. This represents an expenditure of £164,000,000 a year. So far as it is possible to compute the total expenditure on roads at the present time, it appears that about £110,000,000 is being spent annually by the Commonwealth and State governments, and by local authorities, on the maintenance and improvement of our road system. This leaves a deficiency of about £54,000,000 annually. I do not suggest that the Commonwealth should find that sum immediately, but it should at least take the preliminary steps to enable it to be found over a period of years, and should recognize that road works are national development in every sense of the term. A concerted effort on the part of all the bodies concerned is needed.
The Commonwealth has all the power in the collection of taxation revenues. It collects all the excise and customs duties and pays two-thirds of the return to the States, holding one-third for its own general revenue. It is time the Commonwealth Government realized that what was good enough in 1926, 1936, or 1946, is not good enough in 1958, and that the Commonwealth’s responsibilities, and its attitude towards the matter generally, must be completely re-assessed. The volume of traffic using our roads to-day is two and a half times as great as was the volume in 1939, and the number of motor vehicles in use is increasing at the gross rate of 460 a day. Allowing for the replacement of old cars that are taken off the road, we get a net increase of 380 vehicles a day. The volume of traffic is increasing every week. Indeed, the rate of increase of the number of motor vehicles on the roads is greater than the rate of increase of the population. Heavier traffic has intensified maintenance problems for State and municipal authorities. Even allowing for increased costs, the cost of maintaining the Hume Highway has increased by 78 per cent, since World War II. Highways built 30 years ago can be maintained only at extremely heavy expense, because the State governments have not the money that they need for the construction of new highways. Bridges that are bottlenecks are repaired instead of being replaced. The repair of washaways caused by floods imposes an extremely heavy burden on the limited financial resources of State instrumentalities, and limits the amount of other work that can be undertaken.
The Commonwealth Government must grasp the nettle firmly. Many things can be done to improve the situation, but the first step needed is a decision to devote the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax to a national road plan. It is idle for Government supporters to deny this solution of the problem by citing something that was done ten or twenty years ago. I know they will say that the Labour Government did not take the action that I now advocate, but it is eight years since the Labour Government went out of office. During the last eight years, the traffic problem has assumed enormous proportions. What was good enough for the Australian Labour party eight years ago is not good enough for it to-day. We who belong to that party realize that its policy must move with the times. The problems besetting the various governmental and semi-governmental authorities responsible for road works have increased so greatly that the Australian Labour party, if in office, would devote the entire proceeds of the petrol tax to road works.
We must remember that the astronomical increase in road transport in recent years has imposed on the States enormous financial burdens that they cannot carry any longer. I know it is said that the allocation to the States from the petrol tax has been increased. That is true, but, on the other hand, the share taken by the Commonwealth has increased also. In the financial year 1955-56, the Commonwealth retained £10,000,000 of the petrol tax; in 1956- 57, it retained £15,500,000; and in 1957- 58, it intends to retain £16,500,000. Although it may be said that the States are receiving more from the petrol tax - in the current financial year they will receive an additional £3,000,000 as a result of the imposition of a tax on diesel fuel - they are not, generally speaking, receiving from the increased allocations nearly enough to compensate for the enormous damage done to the roads year in and year out.
The Australian Labour party contends that petrol taxation is the best means available of apportioning the charge for road use according to the actual benefit received by each road user from his use of the roads.
It is the only means of metering road use if I may put it that way, on a reasonably equitable basis. We meter the use made of electricity, water, gas and telephone services, and those who use them are required to pay in proportion to the use made. That is looked upon as a very efficient commercial basis. The petrol tax is fair and equitable, and corresponds with passenger and freight charges on railways.
We should consider what is done overseas, because, after all, we in this country are not the Alpha and Omega of all knowledge about the financing of road programmes. In the United States of America, where, under a federal system, there are constitutional problems similar to ours, petrol taxation is the major source of funds for work on the main road system, and every penny of petrol taxation collected there is devoted to work on the road system. Taxing of road users, as a class, for purposes other than road works correspondingly reduces the opportunities to tax them for road purposes. It may be said that road users are being taxed more now for purposes other than road works, because a proportion of the petrol tax goes into the general revenue. The more this happens, the more difficult it is to tax them for road purposes.
It is vital that we keep our costs down if we are to compete with overseas countries. We are told this ad nauseam by members of the Australian Country party, who should support the arguments that I have advanced as much as they are supported by Labour. We are told that primary producers must keep their costs down if they are to sell their products overseas. A tax on road users for general revenue purposes, such as that being levied in Australia at present, increases costs and prices, and is directly contrary to Australia’s best interests. It is entirely wrong in principle to impose the petrol tax for general revenue in view of the present state of our roads, and it interferes with the adoption of a logical method of financing and developing an adequate road system.
In addition to the Government’s obligation to pay to the authorities responsible for road works the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax, it has obligations for other services rendered by those bodies. Therefore, it not only should pay to them the entire proceeds of the petrol tax, but also should make other grants.
– Order! The honorable gentleroan’s time has expired.
– Before I come directly to the terms in which this matter has been proposed for discussion, I should like to make one or two general observations relevant to it. Under the circumscribed - and, perhaps, in some respects, narrow - terms of the Australian Constitution, by which the Commonwealth is bound legislatively, there are certain fields in which the States have responsibility and certain fields in which the Commonwealth has responsibility. Matters such as housing and education fall mainly to the States under the Constitution, which gives to the Commonwealth no authority to legislate with respect to roads. So, over the years, successive Federal Governments have taken the view - this has been accepted also by the States - that the provision of roads is a matter for the States.
In the early days, when the Constitution was framed, it was completely impossible for even those men of tremendous wisdom who did the job, to foresee just how great would be the increase of road traffic and the wear and tear on roads. We can quite understand that. No body of men, whatever the extent of their wisdom, could possibly have foreseen what would occur in the years to come. For that reason, we find that the Constitution does not mention other matters which have become very important in our day. No mention is made, for instance, of civil aviation, because when the Constitution was framed even the Wright brothers had not flown. The Constitution does not mention anything about communism, which has become one of the biggest factors and problems in the world to-day. In the same way, the Constitution gave to the States the responsibility and the authority for determining road policies in the respective States.
Federal governments - I do not say Liberal governments or Labour governments - have always recognized the increasing burden that the States have had to bear, and have responded in an increas ingly generous way. I have obtained from the Treasury figures showing the amounts of money that have been spent on roads in the post-war years. In the immediate post-war year, total expenditure on roads in Australia was £26,680,000, of which the Commonwealth contributed £4,810,000. By the next year, the total had grown from £26,000,000 to £34,000,000, and the Commonwealth contribution from £4,000,000 to £6,140,000. In 1948-49, total expenditure increased from £34,000,000 to £35,240,000, and in 1949-50, from £35,000,000 to nearly £41,000,000. By then the Commonwealth subvention had increased from £7,000,000 to £8,770,000. So the story goes on, until we come to the year 1956-57 when we find that the total provision for roads was £105,000,000, of which the Commonwealth contributed £31,270,000. In those brief ten or eleven years, the £26,000,000 spent in 1946-47 had grown to £105,000,000 in 1956-57. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said, estimated expenditure for the current year is about £110.000,000, with the Commonwealth contributing about £34,000,000. The honorable member said, I think, that traffic has increased two and a half times since 1939. However, when we look at the figures, we see that expenditure has increased at a vastly higher rate than that.
The motion rebukes the Government for not having set up a national roads board or a national roads council. The reason for this is that the governments of the Commonwealth and of the States believe that we have in existence to-day a body which is doing precisely the sort of job that is proposed by the honorable member and by various organizations throughout Australia. There is a body called the Australian Transport Advisory Council. That is not a federal body; it comprises the Ministers for Transport and Roads in each of the States. Some of those States have Liberal governments, some have Labour governments. The council is presided over by the Federal Minister for Shipping and Transport. It has worked harmoniously and in co-operation with each State government and the Federal Government. It is doing a tremendous job. It has the benefit of the views of officials who are the equal of anybody on this subject. They have been overseas and have made examinations. The council has at its disposal a wealth of information about the roads in each of the States, and also knows what is being done in other parts of the world.
From time to time, suggestions are made that we should have still another body. Such a suggestion was made by the honorable member this morning. Perhaps the best illustration that I can give of this is the suggestion made within the last few days by the Australian Automobile Association. The proposition put by that association to the Government was this - I shall read the relevant parts -
There is no quarrel with that, even by the Federal Government or the State governments. The association’s second point was - and this is on all fours with what the honorable member suggested this morning -
To provide for nation-wide long-term planning of the vital interstate and strategic roads, these State authorities, together with officers of the Federal Government Departments concerned, should join to form an Australian National Roads Board.
Before I go any further, perhaps I should read extracts from a letter which was sent to the Australian Automobile Association and similar bodies by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge). In this letter, the Minister set out the point of view not only of the Government but also of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. He said -
At its meeting in Perth on the 14th and 17th March, 1958, the Australian Transport Advisory Council considered the subject of Australian roads planning and also the National Roads Policy as adopted by the Australian Automobile Association at its 1957 Annual Conference .
In previous submissions made by it during the past several years, your Association has concentrated upon the concept of developing planning in relation to certain national highways which total less than 5 per cent, of total roadways. The Council does not agree that this is a correct approach to the Australian roads problem. It is firmly of the view that a comprehensive Australian roads plan must necessarily include not only principal highways, but also secondary and feeder roads and roads within the cities and provincial centres. The assessment of a minimum finance requirement of £1,643,000,000 for the decade ended 1965/66, made by the Committee of Transport Economic Research appointed by this Council was assessed on the basis of essential works being undertaken in all these fields, not on principal highways only.
The Council considers that your Association’s National Roads Policy together with the publicity which your Association has given to this matter generally, reflects a misunderstanding as to the extent to which roads planning has taken place and is taking place in Australia. Based on this Council’s conception of what should comprise a comprehensive Australian roads plan, the Council is firmly of the view that the only truly competent authorities to plan and execute detailed road works are the member authorities of the Conference of State Road Authorities. Council has every confidence in the competence of these authorities, which not only have continuing day to day contact with the Australian roads problem and its basic requirements, but which are also engaged jointly and separately in constant study and research of the most modern techniques of road construction and maintenance. The Council decided to adopt as the basis of a national roads plan the roads proposals developed by the State Road Authorities and by the Commonwealth.
In order to dispel the misconception which exists as to the detail and nature of this planning, the Council will issue as soon as possible two maps together with supporting statements. The first will show the highways which will comprise the principal Australian roads network, and will show the extent of the bitumenous surfaces, while the supporting statements will show data on planning proposals for future roads development. The second map and statement will deal with the secondary roads system not included in the first map.
The Council believes that when this is done It will be clear to your Association and to others interested in the roads problem that there will probably be no roads which your Association has in mind which are not covered by this planning, but we should be glad to hear from you if there are any such. In the circumstances the establishment of an Australian National Roads Board for this purpose appears unnecessary, and the Council is unable therefore to accord support to its establishment.
The letter then deals with the point regarding finances, which was the point raised by the honorable member. It says -
The Council has no doubt that at present the major problem of Australian roads is not the dearth of planning, but simply the shortage of finance to undertake the planning which is already in existence. Over the past 12 months the Commonwealth and State Governments have given serious consideration to the roads financial problem and have taken action which will mean the availability of several million pounds additional for roads expenditure in the current financial year.
As the honorable member knows, and as I pointed out previously, the Commonwealth subvention is going up to £34,000,000 and the total expenditure on roads to £110,000.000. The letter continues-
Your Association’s attention has previously been directed to the fact that the Australian roads problem is primarily a financial one and your Association with other interested organizations was invited to place constructive proposals before this Council which might assist it in finding ways and means of raising the additional finance required.
In your Association’s latest national roads policy you have limited your views- to saying that the Federal Government should provide the finance necessary for your comparatively restricted national roads programme. The Commonwealth’s view, however, has been indicated above, and as much resources as possible are being directed to the roads field at this juncture having regard to other requirements. It may be that your Association has some other views that it may care to express on how the additional finance required for roads can in fact be raised. If this is so this Council would be glad to receive these views.
Consideration was also given to your Association’s policy that a Roads Research Laboratory should be established by the Commonwealth. It is the view of the Council members- [Quorum formed.]
There is virtually none of my time left, but I should like to say that, in our opinion, we believe that the Australian Transport Advisory Council, which is working now so harmoniously, is the most effective body we have ever had for achieving co-operation between the various State governments-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this motion, which condemns the Government for failing to establish an overall body to co-ordinate national road planning throughout Australia. The Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Townley) passed off this matter by saying that the Commonwealth has no responsibility with regard to it. He said that it was the responsibility of the States, and that the Commonwealth had no authority to act. There is some doubt whether that is the position and, as I go on, I shall refer to section 101 of the Constitution, which gives the Commonwealth some power to act. If the Commonwealth Government is adopting this attitude now, why did the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), when he announced this plan, and when six Ministers were appointed to deal with the transport side of it. say that the Government acknowledges transport to be perhaps the major problem for governments to examine in relation to the Australian economy, ana it was determined to find answers which would bring useful reductions in cost? I think there was a lot in what the Minister said, but at the same time the Government is not acting in accordance with that statement. We have had no report from the committee of six Ministers, and the attitude of the Government to this issue indicates that it is not doing very much about it. When the press printed news of the rejection of the plan only recently I was prompted straight away to the thought that the Government’s attitude was in keeping with its attitude on all matters of a national character. I do not know why the Government is called a “ national government “, because it certainly does not act like a national government. When the Minister for Shipping and Transport rejected the plan he said -
Economic planning on roads can be considered only with other national requirements like housing, water, sewerage, health and education.
Well, if the road problem is going to be handled in the same way as those other national problems have been handled by this Government, all I can say is, “ God help the roads! “
The excuse the Minister gave on behalf of the Government was that the State governments did not have enough money to build roads already planned. Why have they not got enough money to do so? Because the Commonwealth Government is hanging on to the purse strings, and does not intend the State governments to have the amount of money necessary for this big job. The sources from which the States can raise revenue are limited, but the Commonwealth’s sources of revenue are very extensive. The money could be found to do this job if the Government showed the necessary initiative. But, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) mentioned, the Government does not even return to the States, the full receipts from petrol tax, which is expected to yield £52,000,000 this financial year. Only £37,000,000 of that yield will be returned to the States, which means that £15,000,000 of it will go into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Since 1926. when it came into existence, the petrol tax has yielded over £450,000,000, of which only £245,000,000 has been spent on roads, the other £205,000,000 going into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. What a difference there would be in our roads if all the proceeds of petrol tax had been diverted to road purposes! I emphasize that since 1950-51 the Government has spent more than £1,300,000,000 on defence and the debate now proceeding on that subject indicates that there is very little to show for the expenditure of that money. Had a portion of that gigantic amount been diverted to roads-
– Order! That has nothing to do with the motion before the Chair.
– I say that roads have something to do with the defence of this country. Strategic roads are very important, indeed.
– They are not the subject of the motion before the Chair.
– The Committee of Transport Economic Research recently reported that Australia needs, during the next decade, to spend £1,643,000,000 on roads in order to bring them up to a proper standard. That is a very large amount, breaking down to about £164,000,000 a year. It is necessary that adequate funds be provided for roads if we are to ensure a reasonable and practicable programme of road construction. These are the matters that could have been considered under this national roads board plan.
It was revealed at a transport, traffic and science symposium held at the New South Wales University of Technology only recently that the annual expenditure on road transport in Australia is about 75 per cent, of the total annual expenditure on transport. Of that amount, 7.5 per cent, was spent on roads, and road expenditure appears to average about 1.7 per cent, of all national expenditure. But what about the work value of the money that is being expended on roads at present? I direct the attention of honorable members to the following extract from a paper which was delivered at that symposium by Mr. H. M. Sherrard, entitled, “ A Transport Plan for the Commonwealth “ -
In New South Wales, the extent of that inadequacy can be simply expressed by stating that the work value of the annual amount available for main roads is little more than that available prior to the last war, whereas traffic has increased two and a half times in the intervening period. Much the same applies in other States.
That is the answer. We are not keeping up our expenditure on roads in proportion to the increased traffic that is using them. One paper delivered at the symposium revealed that the present volume of road traffic would be doubled by 1970, yet this Government has said, in effect, that it has not a national road plan and is not doing anything about it. Not only are we without a national road plan, but we are not planning for all transport needs on a national basis so that each form of transport - sea, road, rail or air - can do the job best suited to it. In Great Britain there is a British Transport Commission to share overall coordination of transport planning. The Australian Labour party, in a report issued to honorable members only a little while ago, suggested some similar organization. The Minister has said that the Commonwealth Government has no authority to do anything about this matter, but I direct his attention to section 101 of the Australian Constitution, which states -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade a’id commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
When the. report to which i have referred was submitted, that portion of it was brushed aside and nothing was done about it. The fact is that transport is very important to Australia. One out of six of the work force is engaged in or connected with transport. That is approximately 17 per cent, of the work force. We spend more than one-third of our gross domestic expenditure on transport. That proportion compares unfavorably with that of other countries. Canada has the highest proportion in that respect, namely 10 per cent, of its gross domestic expenditure. I emphasize that in 1953-54, we spent on transport in Australia £1,305,500,000. If that amount could be reduced by only onethird, the annual saving would be about £435,000,000. The latest reports indicate that transport costs in Australia have risen to 35 per cent, of the cost of goods, and it is time this Government did something to treat transport oh a national basis.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) took advantage of the forms of the House to raise this subject for discussion as a matter of urgent public interest. After he had spoken for a few minutes only a handful of his colleagues in the Labour Opposition remained in the chamber. That fact gave rise to the thought that the Opposition’s original idea in having this matter discussed, which was held by some supporters of the Government, might have been correct.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order in discussing that matter.
– I was merely alluding to the proposition that, far from the matter under discussion being raised as one of urgency, the Opposition proposed the discussion in order to prevent debate on another matter which might have been embarrassing to the Opposition. I shall not proceed along that line, but appearances make me wonder because, having raised this subject on the basis of the “ failure of the Government to establish an overall body to co-ordinate national roads planning throughout Australia “, the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) proceeded to discuss finance.
Admittedly, money is at the root of this problem to a large extent, but I also point out that another idea might be prevalent in the minds of members of the Australian Labour party. That is unification to bring everything under the control of the Commonwealth Government. Is it the idea of the Opposition to try to get the roads system of Australia, and all housing and schools in Australia, under the Commonwealth Government in accordance with the Labour party’s unification policy? We know there is a shortage of money for roads. I represent a country electorate in which the majority of the roads are gravel. I know something about the condition of roads, at least in that part of New South Wales where I live. There are few honorable members who would not like to see better roads. Equally, there are very few honorable members who would not like to travel in better trains, see better houses and better schools and an improvement in all the everyday things of life. But can we afford all those things?
The New South Wales Government has complained continually that it has not enough money for roads, but it could find £30,000,000 to electrify a railway line, not into rural districts but only to the fringe of the larger centres of population. The same Government has complained about lack of money for roads, yet it could expend £1,800,000 to purchase a coal mine. So, it is questionable whether the matter before the Chair has been sincerely proposed for discussion.
The point is that honorable members opposite suggest that the Commonwealth Government has been remiss in failing to bring forward a national roads plan. This Government inherited a great many plans from the Chifley Labour Government. They were blueprints; and this Government has had to find money to carry them out. I ask members of the Opposition whether any of the State governments have approached the Commonwealth Government about the matter we are discussing. Have the State governments raised this question at meetings of the Australian Loan Council? Have they raised it at the conferences between Commonwealth Ministers and State Premiers? Can any honorable member on the Opposition side say that the matter has been raised in those quarters? I say that they cannot claim that it has been raised directly by the State governments with the Commonwealth Government. Admittedly, it has been raised in the Transport Advisory Council, but the fact is that the Commonwealth Government has no reason to be ashamed of what it has done over the years to improve Australian roads.
Let us take a quick look at what has happened regarding roads in the federal sphere. Originally, assistance was given to the States in 1923 by the Bruce-Page Government. That was the first year that the Commonwealth Government offered the States anything for roads. It gave the States £1,750,000 to be spent over three years. At the end of that period, the federal aid roads grant really commenced. That was in 1926 when £20,000,000 was given to the States to be expended on roads over a period of ten years. That plan, which was inspired by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has been extended enormously.
On the expiration of the second federal aid roads agreement in 1947 under the Chifley Government, the agreement was extended for three years. During that period, about £22,000,000 was given to the State governments. It has been said that the Commonwealth Government is holding back £15,000,000 and is paying over only £37,000,000 to the States. I think that was the figure given by the honorable member for Stirling. A quick survey shows that only between one-quarter and one-third of the amount collected has been retained by this Government, for reasons which I shall not go into now. During the Chifley regime, the Government retained threequarters of the amount collected in petrol tax, and handed over only one-quarter for roads purposes. Honorable members do not need reminding that during the post-war years the amount collected in petrol tax was substantially reduced because of the vicious petrol rationing, the promise of removal of which contributed very largely to the return to power of this Government.
In 1950, shortly after we came into office, the act was extended for a period of five years, and it was provided that not only was a certain amount of the petrol tax money to be devoted to general road purposes, but also that 35 per cent, of it was to be devoted to roads, other than main roads, in rural areas. That allocation has since been increased to 40 per cent. We also widened the provision of the agreement to allow local authorities to use the money received from this source for the purchase of plant and for municipal works, something which had not been permitted before.
In the first three years of the operation of this new agreement, grants approximating £43,000,000 were made to State governments as against £22,000,000 during the Chifley regime. This Government has never been remiss in looking ahead and ensuring that every opportunity is given to the States and to local authorities to get the greatest possible benefit from this agreement, which was originated by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). When there was a prospect of refining taking place in Australia, and so obviating largely the importation of petrol, a trust fund was established by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who until recently was Leader of the Australian Country party. He established a trust fund of some £5,000,000 against the day when locally refined petrol would replace imported petrol. The same thing was done only a very short while ago when a tax on automotive diesel fuel was introduced and special assistance was promised to the States to the extent of £3,000,000 annually for road purposes in 1957-58 and 1958-59, although in the first year the full amount will not accrue from the new tax because the legislation was not introduced until some months after the beginning of the year.
As a result of its various measures, the Commonwealth will have provided under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation during the last eight years about £180,000,000, as compared with only £80,000,000 provided by successive Commonwealth Governments during the preceding 24 years. Is the Labour party going to criticize the Government and say it has not done a fair thing by the States in the provision of money for roads?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Townley) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 26th March (vide page 724), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the following paper: -
Defence Organization - Ministerial Statement, be printed.
– In rising to speak in this debate on the organization of Australia’s defence, following on the report of the Morshead committee, I am well aware that throughout our parliamentary history the Government and the Opposition have differed in their views of what is the best method of defence. I was not really eager to speak in this debate, but in view of some of the criticism levelled at the Labour party I felt bound to say something. Last night, honorable members alleged that the Labour party had no defence policy, and that members of the Opposition could not agree on a defence policy. If we cast our minds back to the time of World War I. we will recall that a Labour government was then in office. The government of that day proposed to introduce conscription, and honorable members will recall that there was a division of opinion within the ranks of the Labour party as to the merits of conscription, but there was an equal division of opinion in the ranks of the Opposition. But who paid the penalty for wanting to provide this country with an effective defence? The Labour party was split, and went into the wilderness for many years over the conscription issue, not that its members were any more divided than the members of the Liberal party, as it is now known, but because the people held strong views on the subject.
At the outbreak of World War II. Labour was not in office. If honorable members claim that the Labour party has no defence policy I invite them to cast their minds back to the days of 1939, 1940 and 1941. What was the defence policy of the government at that time? The government then was exactly the same as it is to-day - a Liberal-Australian Country party government. It was that government’s responsibility to organize the defence of this country. Honorable members know that the large newspapers were then condemning the government. Talk about the Labour party having more than one policy! The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and others associated with them, and the late William Morris Hughes, could not agree among themselves. There were fights as to who should control the defence policy of the country. When honorable members rise in their places and gibe at the Labour party for being divided about a defence policy, I recall the anxious times during World War II. when the Liberal Government was divided about a defence policy, and I can only come to the conclusion that when honorable members condemn the Labour party, their tongues must be in their cheeks, or else they have forgotten what happened in 1939 and 1940. Eventually the Labour party was returned to office under the leadership of Mr. John Curtin.
– What brought it into office?
– It was brought into office because members of the government parties crossed the floor and voted against the government.
– What were they paid?
-I do not know-I was not here - but I know that they were only giving expression to what had been alleged in the newspapers. It was alleged at the time that members of the government could not agree between themselves. If one goes to a football match in which two or three members of a team want to be captain, that team is usually beaten. The same thing applies in war. The people of this country were the losers because of the divisions that took place in the government at that time.
As a result, a Labour government prosecuted the war, a government that had not been elected by the people. Talk about an efficient defence! Honorable members do not know even now what the Government really considers the main defence of this country. Does it consider our main defence to be an army equipped with Centurion tanks? Does the Government think that we should build up our military forces, or does it think that a navy would be better? At one time the Government says that it needs more ships for the Navy, and it spends £500,000 or £1,000,000 on refitting a ship, but before the work is finished the ship is put into mothballs. That has been the record of this Government since it came to office in 1949.
What about the Air Force? Should we have an efficient air force as our main line of defence? When 1 think of the Air Force I recall what the Labour party wanted to do in respect of Australia’s defence. In 1936 or 1937, a federal Labour conference was held in Adelaide. Mr. Curtin was present at that conference as leader of the party, and he submitted a policy for the defence of this country. I, too. was present as a delegate to the conference, and in my mind’s eye I can see Mr. Curtin standing there and advocating that, under the conditions then prevailing, the best defence this country could have was an adequate Air Force. He wanted to establish Air Force bases throughout the northern areas of Australia.
– And they laughed at him.
– As my colleague says, they laughed at him. But who was found to be right? Was the Labour government right in adopting his plan? Two or three years later when the Japanese came into the war and a champion British warship was going to the defence of Singapore and Malaya, it was not the Japanese navy but Japanese aircraft that destroyed it. Under the defence policy of the anti-Labour government we had practically no air force at all. Later, in New Guinea, Japanese aircraft took a heavy toll of our shipping. Any one who visits New Guinea to-day can see the remains of allied ships sunk in the harbours there. Why were they sunk by the enemy? It was simply because we did not have adequate aircraft with which to defend them against enemy air attacks. It is only right and just when any one tries to make out that the Labour party is comprised of a lot of misfits who do not know how to do things, that I should refer them to the history of the last war for an answer. Only recently, a great deal of ridicule has been heaped upon the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). When he went to Darwin a year or two ago and visited other places in the north-west of Australia and then went on to Brisbane, he advocated not the building of submarines but a stronger air defence for this country.
I am not a military man. During the last war I did my little bit in the sphere in which I was permitted to work. I do not profess to be an authority on military affairs, but I agree that we have Chiefs of Staff, men who are learned in the art of war and defence, who should be able to advise us. But when I come to the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I find that he refers to the report and recommendations of the Morshead committee, and then gives reasons why they should not be adopted. I shall quote one short extract from his statement. He said -
As President Eisenhower recently said in an address to Congress:
One requirement of military organization is a clear subordination of the military services to duly constituted civilian authority. This control must be real, not merely on the surface.
I quote that passage because, in my opinion, it describes what has happened. As I have just said, we have military experts to advise us. The Government appointed a committee comprising Sir Leslie Morshead, the Secretary of the Defence Department, and others, to inquire into and advise the Government on necessary defence organization. The Prime Minister quoted President Eisenhower to the effect that military controls must be subordinate to the civil administration. I quite agree with that view. But if the civilian authority considers that it knows what is best to be done, why appoint a committee of this kind to advise the Government what should be done? If I go to a medical specialist and he gives me advice, anc! then I say, “ No, I do not like that; I think I will do something else “, what is the use of my going to the specialist? If I am in legal difficulties- and go to a solicitor, a man expert in the law, and he tells me what I should do, but I say, “ No, I think I will do this”, what is the use of my going to him? Two or three years ago, a Salvation Army captain told me that a man came to him and said, “ I want your advice. Tell me what would be the best thing for me to do.” The man told him all his troubles and what he proposed to do. The captain said to him, “That is not the way; you should do so and so “. The man replied, “No, I cannot do that”. He did not go to that officer to get advice; he went to him to get him to back up his opinion, and when he did not receive that support he ignored the advice.
I am afraid that the Government is in a similar position in this instance. The men who comprised this committee knew their job. They submitted advice to our Administration and to the heads of the Department of Defence on what is the best course to follow. I am not going to say that a single control over defence is best; I do not know. But I do know that if I went to people who understood the position, I should at least try to give effect to their advice. I feel that some honorable members on the Government side also are inclined to share that view. I admit that there is a difference of opinion. An officer in the army becomes skilled in the particular section in which he works; he is like a professor at a university who is an expert in his faculty and will advise a certain course of action. But another professor who is an expert in a different faculty may have a different idea, and he will advise what he thinks should be done. Similarly, there are differences of opinion concerning our defence organization; but in spite of them we should be able to get a body of experts who can decide on what is the best course to follow.
I agree with the Prime Minister on one point. He says that he is not prepared to follow the advice of this committee of experts in all the things it suggests should be done. He proposes to have a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff. This man will get the three Chiefs of Staff together; they will consider what should be done and the chairman will advise or direct them. In this respect the ‘ Prime Minister has put a proposal to us, and if we think it is satisfactory we can say that it is a good idea. But what will happen after the Chiefs of Staff have conferred in respect of the Navy, Air Force and the Army? Various opinions have been expressed by honorable members during this debate, some of them derogatory and some of them praiseworthy of the different Service Ministers. I am not taking up any stand at all, derogatory or otherwise. The Prime Minister has chosen the man whom he thinks is best suited to be Minister for the Navy and similarly he has chosen the men whom he thinks are best suited to be Minister for Air and Minister for the Army. I might disagree with him. I might say that I do not think they are the best men for those positions. But what will happen if this plan is proceeded with?
I am not satisfied that we are getting the best results under the Government’s present defence policy. Let me illustrate one aspect of it which I think is weak. If an enemy were to attack and destroy large cities, such as Sydney or Newcastle where large quantities of armaments are gathered, Australia would be immediately in a bad way and unable to assist our allies to whom we have immense obligations. I feel that our defence organization should be centred on the adequate defence of our cities.
This is particularly so, on the eastern side of our continent, where Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle are. The highest defence priority should be given to Newcastle and Sydney. We have read about submarines that can send a high explosive or hydrogen bomb a couple of hundred miles and destroy, perhaps, a city such as Newcastle. Consequently, I do not know that we should worry so much about the inner defence of Newcastle or the inner defence of Sydney. We should worry about the outer defences in order to ensure that we are protected in a proper manner.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This debate has been to me and, I expect, to most other honorable members, one of the most interesting discussions that we have had during this session. The contributions have varied from the careful analysis and constructive suggestions put forward by the honorable members for Indi (Mr. Bostock), St.
George (Mr. Graham), Barker (Mr. Forbes), Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and, I might add, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), down through the intermediate stages, as it were, where the Prime Minister’s statement was either damned with faint praise, in the words of Alexander Pope, or was supported on the basis that “ Hope springs eternal in the human breast”. Unfortunately, the line which follows that one is - “ Man never is, but always to be blest “.
From this intermediate stage it descended to the lowest stage of the debate which was inaugurated by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who felt that it was much more important to discuss “ Who won the last war “, than the present position and the subject of what is best for us in defence. As an exserviceman, I am not amused by a political debate on who won the war. I would rather listen to a Returned Servicemen’s League conference debating who lost the peace. In a debate of this nature, I do not think that party political lines should have to be adhered to. On defence policy, and on foreign policy, there may be a clash of loyalties in the minds of many of us; but, after all, loyalty to one’s country is the most important thing. It has been said that the art of statesmanship is the knowledge of when to give away on the lesser in order to gain the greater; the reverse would be cowardly. The Opposition has made my task easy because Labour members are much more engrossed in the disintegration of their own party than they are in such difficult problems as the integration of the defence departments. In a debate of this nature nobody can be 100 per cent, right. It is a very difficult and complex problem. Yet I think that the contributions to the debate, particularly those from the backbenchers on the Government side of the House, have been excellent in many ways and I hope the Government will give them serious consideration.
Since 1946, or at any rate since 1951, every nation in the world has had to evaluate the extent of the revolutionary changes that have been taking place in the realm of defence; changes which have made a mockery of traditional practices and experience and of previous concepts of war and peace. Therefore, one does not need to say any more about the difficulties that we have to face. These tremendous changes have been and are taking place, not only in weapons, but also in strategical doctrines. This is the place, but it is not the time, to discuss this matter. All I ask is that honorable members will note this fact in passing and register it as one of the biggest factors that must be faced in any discussion on defence. The changes that have occurred have caused the individual missions of the three arms of the defence forces, whether air, sea or land, to overlap to such a degree that very often they are no longer distinguishable.
The selection of weapons used also overlaps and as a result, most modern thinkers advocate, if not complete, at least partial integration of the defence forces as an absolute necessity. Lord Montgomery has been quoted in this respect. Honorable members should read the book written for the Council of Foreign Relations in America by Dr. Kessinger, “ Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy “ where the same thing is advocated. It has been advocated for a long time by the honorable member for Indi, who is a prophet, not without honour, except in his own country. Integration is advocated also, I think, as is exemplified by the honorable member for Wills, a serving officer of the Commonwealth Military Forces, by 80 per cent., if not more, of the serving officers of the rank of brigadier and lower but, unfortunately, by all too few of what we know as the “ top brass “.
Let me go on to the report. First of all, I join with those who have expressed great disappointment that it is not to be tabled. I admit under normal circumstances, justification of the reason that the report has been withheld in order to protect public servants. But this is not a normal occasion. When the Government appoints a committee with a fanfare of trumpets, and appoints somebody such as LieutenantGeneral Sir Leslie Morshead as its chairman, I feel that the report should be tabled. I should like to see, not only the report, whether the original manuscript, the revised version, or the authorized version - I understand that there are three - but also the terms of reference. It is difficult, however hard one may try, to interpret another man’s opinions and recommendations. It reminds me of the old story of communications drill which illustrates how easily mistakes are made. A message was put in at one end of a line of new recruits stating, “ We are going to advance. Send reinforcements “. After being passed down the line by word of mouth, the message came out - “ We are going to a dance. Lend three and fourpence “.
I do not for one moment suggest that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has not endeavoured in every way to put the recommendations before this House in the best possible manner, and in the fairest possible way. But at the same time, as long as that report, is not public, to my mind not only the Government, but also every Government supporter is open to the criticism so often expressed with regard to the Russians who are subject to the propaganda of the Kremlin, that they are “ stuffed with information and starved for truth “. I do not want such criticism to be hurled at the Government of which I am a supporter, nor at myself as a member of a back-bench.
Again, I agree with honorable members who have not been impressed by the reasons for not carrying out the main recommendation of that report - the integration of the defence departments. I am not impressed by those reasons, whether constitutional or political. No doubt the constitutional arguments will appeal to the legal minds. They always have had and always will have a lot of fun with constitutional problems. But some of the same legal minds have been able to get under, or over, or around, similar hurdles on many occasions in the past. Therefore, the Constitution is not a serious obstacle, or, if it is, it can quite easily be overcome as it has been overcome in the past.
Like the honorable member for Indi, I am not convinced that one defence department would be too great a job for one Minister or that the Parliament would lose control. There are many ways in which these difficulties could be overcome, but I have not the time to go into them in twenty minutes. It comes down to a question of whether it should or should not be done. That is a difficult problem and we can have differences of opinion, but I have never been in favour of throwing Chinese crackers in the hope that they will ward off evil and dissenting spirits.
I agreed with the remarks of the Prime Minister when he said that we cannot go back to the year 1938. What troubles me is that we do not seem to be able to come forward to 1958. Too many of the Government’s advisers seem to be down in the cavernous depths of the Maginot Line complex of 1940. Defence policy, we know, must be equated to political exigencies and to Treasury demands. Nobody questions that for a moment. If this decision with regard to the Defence Department is a political decision, I will not quarrel with it for a minute. If the Government feels that it should retain the full number of Ministers in Cabinet, that is all right. But. please, do not let political exigencies or decisions of that nature interfere with the major reform which is considered necessary by a committee of the calibre of the one that has just furnished this report.
– Has the honorable member seen the committee’s report?
– No, I have not, but I suggest that we should be able to see it.
– Well, why has he not seen it?
– As I have just said, I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision on that matter. Good administration, as I know and every one knows, is no substitute for proper strategy or for the proper selection of weapons, but may I say that without good administration there is not much chance of getting decisions, and, if we do get them, they are only half-baked decisions which merely make confusion worse confounded.
Let us leave that matter and go on to the next point in the Prime Minister’s statement, which concerns the amalgamation of the Departments of Supply and of Defence Production. This has been stated to be a step forward. We took a step backwards in 1949, and now, in the words of the old drill sergeant-major, it is a case of “ As you were “. We are back to where we were in 1949. Unfortunately, it has taken a long time, and it has involved the metempsychosis or transmigration of two ministerial souls to other bodies or other countries.
The third point in the Prime Minister’s statement has reference to an administrative directive that is to be issued to give the Minister for Defence proper authority and full control over the Department of Defence. That statement, Mr. Speaker, fills me with absolute horror, not because the directive is to be issued, most certainly not, but because for four years I was a member of the Cabinet and a member of the Defence Preparations Committee, and it never even crossed my mind that such an elementary foundation of good administration in the Defence Department did not exist. Only now can I understand why, when we asked for an appreciation of the situation in order to define our objectives, it was difficult to obtain, and always remained a mirage amongst a lot of desert dunes of unrelated details. It was a situation in which one found great difficulty in making decisions, and all because the Minister in charge of one of the junior of the service departments was a senior Minister in Cabinet and could override the Minister for Defence. I hope that the proposed administrative directive, even at this late stage, will correct this state of affairs.
I come now to the fourth point in the Prime Minister’s statement, concerning the appointment of a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. When I received my long service leave from Cabinet I felt that I should not make any statements on important subjects for some considerable time. I believe that time has elapsed, and I am not betraying any Cabinet secrets by saying that at least four years ago. both in the Government and out of it. some of us tried continuously to secure the appointment of a chairman of the chiefs of staff. Although it has taken four years, it is a step forward, but unfortunately by now the line has moved on. Experience in the United States of America and in the United Kingdom has shown, unfortunately, that the appointment of a chairman of the chiefs of staff will not cure inter-service rivalries and jealousies. That has been explained by other honorable members, and I will not go into it now, but let me say that I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) that unless we alter our present conception of a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff committee and appoint him as chairman of the defence committee, he will be only a conciliator and arbitrator and will be of no great assistance.
My own feeling is this - and I go further than the honorable member for Indi: I would give him not only the power to advise the Minister, in the upward direction, hut also the executive power in the downward direction to see that Government policy is carried out. We would have to appoint some one who has been in the services, who knows how a defence service ticks and who can see that it ticks properly. I can never understand why a citizen soldier is always left out of consideration as a Minister for Defence. In saying this I offer no criticism of my friend, the Minister at the table (Sir Philip McBride). In fact, I am an admirer of the Minister. I say, however, that the tradition of disregarding citizen soldiers when appointing persons as defence Ministers is a tradition that should have long since been abolished.
I come now to the fifth point. Several references appear in the statement to the matter of the promotion of common services. Let me say at this stage that I would have much more faith in the administrative directive about which I have already spoken if the Minister for Defence had been allowed to make this statement in the House. It seems, however, that these statements must always come from the top. As I say, the statement contained repeated references to the promotion of common services, but no examples have been given of the services that are to be promoted. We are told that common services will tend to integration of outlook and ideas. The integration of outlook and ideas is not enough in this day and age, and I do not know why we have not been given some examples. I might suggest that the Government start with an amalgamation or combination of staff colleges. Why should not Duntroon be amalgamated with Jervis Bay and with the Air Force staff college? This practice has been adopted in Canada, so that the rising young officers in that country may have a much wider perspective than has been possible in the past. The integration procedure could also be applied, as other honorable members have suggested, lo medical services, transport services, intelligence services and telecommunications. The statement could have given us a much clearer indication of what was about to happen with regard to these services.
Good intentions, I feel, are not enough in the modern age. f believe that every one of us. and the Government as well, should get cracking, cut out waste and improve efficiency. 1 do not want to talk about the defence forces that we have to-day, except to say that, unfortunately, the national service training scheme seems to be going the way prophesied for it eighteen months ago. The Citizen Military Forces seem to be suffering slow strangulation, although I take my hat off to all the members of that force who are fighting against this strangulation. In the Permanent Military Forces the wastage amounts to twice the number of enlistments. There is nothing wrong with the human material, but I think that we should try to improve morale, and consider other matters that have to be given attention with relation to our policy of full employment. If these things are done, I believe that we will get rid of the difficulties that some people see in the situation, and that we will have no trouble in getting the men required.
All in all, I wish, as do many other honorable members on this side of the House, that the statement had gone much further than it did. Summing the matter up, it appears to me that the mountain has been in labour and brought forth a mouse, if I may use the old expression, when what is needed is the perspective, the courage, the tenacity, the capabilities and the adaptability of a Tobruk Rat. Perhaps with the same thought in mind, the Government appointed the/ No. 1 Tobruk Rat, General Sir Leslie Morshead, to give it his opinions. When it did get the opinions, I feel that, with the exception of one or two of them, the Government put them on one side in favour of what I might describe as a tame mouse, a “ wee sleekit cow’rin’ tim’rous beastie “, routed out of its nest by the ploughshare of a Scottish bard. I feel very sorry that the Government has not seen fit to go further, but I hope that it will take notice of what has been said by honorable member after honorable member.
– The honorable member makes these statements without having seen the report.
– Well, I should like to see the report. I am relying on what we have been told in the statement.
– The honorable member has been quoting the report.
– I have quoted what the Government’s statement has told us is in the report. Surely, with the uncertain clouds on the international horizon, it is not a time for the Labour party to be devoid of any defence policy. Not one member of that party, I believe, except the serving officer, has made any suggestion as to what the party’s policy is. Honorable members opposite are living in the past, and that is a sign of decadence and decay. I am also sorry that the Government is showing a concern which I believe is far too mild, as is evident from the statement that has been issued.
.- Not for one moment do I expect to receive the excellent hearing that has been accorded to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), because, if I have learned anything in this Parliament, I have learned that the member who is prepared to attack his own leaders and the policy of his own party is always assured of a very good hearing.
– Why not try it?
– The interjection confirms the soundness of my observation. I admire, and always have admired, the honorable member for Chisholm. Although I cannot speak with authority for all Opposition members, I think I can confidently say that every member on this side of the House has always admired the straightforwardness and courage that the honorable member has exhibited in dealing with matters of the kind now under consideration.
The problems of defence cannot be dealt with adequately by any honorable member in the twenty minutes allowed to him under the Standing Orders. Therefore, those honorable members who participate in the debate on this important matter must condense their remarks and make them as brief as possible in order to make all the points that they wish to put to the House.
I deprecate the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in withholding from the Parliament the Morshead report, and I link that observation with remarks made by the honorable member for Chisholm. I should like to say at this stage, Mr. Speaker, although it may not be completely relevant, that, in my view, any government really concerned about defence should be ashamed of itself for removing from the Cabinet ranks a man of the calibre and courage of the honorable member for Chisholm, who is a great soldier. I know that the honorable member does not wish to hear me say that, but I take this opportunity to express my personal view of the matter. The honorable member for Chisholm stated that, so far as the Morshead report was concerned, he could comment only upon what was said about it in the statement made by the Prime Minister.
I remind the House that the Morshead report was paid for by the taxpayers represented by Opposition members as well as by the taxpayers represented by Government supporters. The initiation of a debate based, I suggest, on a report that has never been tabled in the Parliament, and has been seen only by the people selected by the Prime Minister to see it, is an indictment of the Prime Minister and the Government. It ill behoves a government that has spent approximately £1,200,000,000 on defence to withhold from the Parliament the report of the Morshead committee, which it found itself obliged to appoint to consider defence matters. I am sure that I express the resentment, not only of Opposition members but also of Government supporters, in relation to the withholding of the report. Honorable members have been placed in a position in which they cannot discuss, or comment upon, the recommendations made in the report, because the Government has become so arrogant that it thinks it can refuse to table in this Parliament a document that is the property of the Parliament. I put it to the House, with complete sincerity - Government supporters may laugh if they like - that the report is not the property of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. It is the property of the Parliament, and it should have been tabled in order that every member of the Parliament might examine it.
– It is not a parliamentary report at all.
– If the Minister and other Government supporters believe that the Prime Minister has acted rightly in suppressing the report, that is a matter for themselves.
The honorable member for Chisholm said, in effect, that it was a pity that members of the Australian Labour party were not more concerned about the problems of defence than they were about their own internal problems. If the present position in relation to defence were not so serious, Mr. Speaker, one could laugh at such a suggestion.
To-day, I attended a luncheon given to honour the presence in Canberra of John Curtin, Junior, who has come to represent his mother at the opening of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University. One might say that the ceremony will represent the unveiling of a memorial to the late John Curtin, and I should like to take this opportunity, if you, Mr. Speaker, will permit me to do so, to express my disgust at the attitude of the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), the Prime Minister, or whoever is responsible for the refusal of the Opposition’s request that the proceedings of the Parliament be suspended this afternoon in order that members and senators who wish to attend the unveiling of the memorial to this great man may attend. In accordance with the Government’s modern attitude, it has said, “ You may not attend the ceremony “. I am sure that Government supporters as well as Opposition members would like to attend. I know that all Opposition members have a particular desire to be present. I repeat that I take this opportunity publicly to express my disgust at the Government’s attiude. After all, how many hours of the Parliament’s time have been wasted by all sorts of functions of no importance? Yet the Government denies those of us who loved a great Australian the opportunity to attend what may be termed the unveiling of his memorial. When we talk of John Curtin, we inevitably think of defence, and that brings me back to the observation of the honorable member for Chisholm that it is a pity members of the Australian Labour party were not more concerned about defence than they were about their own internal problems.
– Hear, hear!
– Fancy the Minister for the Army projecting himself into a debate of this kind! Talk of internal problems takes my mind back to 1941, when there was some sort of an internal dispute. Those who, until yesterday, led the present Government parties were then the leaders of a Menzies-Fadden Administration, which had a majority in both houses of the Parliament. Of course, we were then at war. Whatever may be said about the Australian Labour party, I remind honorable members that we are not now at war, and Labour is not now in office. But what happened in 1941, when we were at war? The members of the Menzies-Fadden Administration could not agree, and a brawl took place between what was then the United Australia party and the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) said, earlier to-day, that everybody in that Administration wanted to be a general and nobody was prepared to be a mere soldier. What was the result? Although the country was involved in a terrible war, the government of the day could not govern because of internal disputes. There were disputes within the United Australia party and within the Australian Country party, and, finally, there was that insurmountable dispute between the two parties which forced the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who was then Prime Minister, to go to the GovernorGeneral and tell him that these things had made it impossible for the government of the day to carry on.
– That event was caused by the honorable member’s two cobbers - Coles and Wilson.
– Government supporters may laugh about it now. but there was no laughing then. As the honorable member for Adelaide has said, every newspaper, when its profits and its very existence were in danger, came out in support of John Curtin and made a malicious and relentless attack on the United Australia party and the Australian Country party, which formed the Menzies-Fadden Administration.
– Will the honorable member give us Labour’s defence policy?
– The Minister for the Army, the key man. asks me to give our defence policy! What I want to know is how anybody on the other side of the House can talk about a defence policy when they abdicated their responsibilities to this country while we were at war. Is that correct, or is it not correct?
– What about 1958?
– The honorable member wants to know about 1958. Of course, honorable members opposite want to forget about 1941, and I do not blame them. It was once said that the truth cannot be told too often. The truth is the truth, and what I have said is the truth. This man, whose honour this Government has refused-
-Order! I ask the honorable member not to deal with a subject that is outside the scope of the matter before the Chair. Up till now, I have allowed the honorable member to make some comments, but I think it would be wise not to canvass that line too much.
- Mr. Speaker, I certainly will not pursue it, important and all as it is.
– You have reached the stage where you could go no further, anyway.
– What is your defence policy?
– Tell us your defence policy.
- Mr. Speaker, whom am I to answer - the Liberal party or the Australian Country party? Or should ] observe Standing Orders?
-Order! I think u would be very wise if certain honorable members were to observe Standing Orders, and permit the business before the Chair to proceed.
– In 1941-
– I thought you were-
– Order! The Minister for Air is persistently interjecting.
– Now that order has been restored-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Did you or did you not rule thai the matters of 1941 were not the subject of this issue?
-Order! There has been no breach of the Standing Orders.
– I can appreciate the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) not wanting me to talk about the Menzies-Fadden defence policy of 1941, when we were at war, but I am going to do it just the same. After the abdication occurred, the MenziesFadden Government found itself unable to govern because of a lack of a defence policy and inability to keep its forces intact. To whom did it hand over the responsibilities of government? To none other than John Curtin. It was John Curtin and the members of the Labour part)’-
– And the two independents.
– And the two independents.
– What did you pay them?
– Let there be no misunderstanding; I give nothing but credit to Mr. Coles and Mr. Wilson for the fact that they were big enough Australians to recognize that we were at war. The Cabinet of the day was not able to recognize that fact. I shall reply to an interjection that the Labour party bribed Mr. Coles and Mr. Wilson. Whether it did or not, I do not know because 1 was not here, but I will say that those members who try to prevent me from speaking by making childish interjections should know all about bribes, because they have been mixed up in that sort of thing for a long time. We hear honorable members on the Government side saying that the Labour party has no defence policy, that we are Communists, that we are against the defence of this country and that we want the Soviet to come in and take it over. Did you ever hear such childish piffle in all your life? The history of Liberal party-Australian Country party governments is anything but good, and if honorable members opposite had been here at the time of which I speak they would not have been too happy about the situation either. We have heard about the expenditure of £1,200,000,000 on defence, but time will not permit me to offer some comments to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer).
– You have had your say. As a matter of fact, you have spoken almost as much as I have although I have had the call. Nobody knows better than does the Minister for the Army what T should like to say to him if time permitted. He would not welcome what I would say about his administration of the Department of the Army. I am sure that some honorable members opposite also, especially the members of the ex-servicemen’s committee, for all of whom I have the highest possible respect, would like to say something about the Minister for the Army and his administration. But, unlike the honorable member for Chisholm and a few others, they have not the courage to say it. The big Menzies thumb has been ground upon them, and they have not the courage of the honorable member for Chisholm and a few other members of the Liberal party who have spoken in this debate.
– The Evatt heel is on you.
– Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I take the risk now of anything that might come, lt seems to me that, with interjections and screaming laughter, there is one rule for one side of the House and another rule for the other side.
– That is a reflection.
– I take the risk of it being a reflection. I thought, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that you would have long since prevented members on the Government side from interrupting a member on this side of the House when he wanted to make some remarks, whether they were intelligent or unintelligent.
– Order! The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair.
– I want to express my appreciation for the way in which most honorable members have entered into this discussion on the reorganization of the Department of Defence. It is true that a variety of opinions have been expressed on this matter, and that is quite understandable, because it is a very important matter. It involves a number of aspects and is receiving the consideration of democratic countries all over the world. A number of facets of defence, both in the services and on the administrative side, are capable of improvement. However. I want to say quite firmly straight away that, although the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said some months ago that we would appoint a committee to examine the whole matter of defence organization, we did nol do so because we felt that the defence organization was in a chaotic state. The appointment of the committee showed our reasonable approach to this subject. We recognized that there were differences of opinion and that there may be deficiencies in the organization, and we were always willing to examine these matters on their merits and, if justified, make necessary adaptation. Now this is, and has been, the practice in relation to defence ever since the Department of Defence was instituted. People should realize that this organization has passed through many vicissitudes. It was established in 1901 as a united organization, and it continued on that basis until the end of World War I. It then became apparent that the organization, which had operated satisfactorily since its establishment, required adaptation, and it was after that decision had been reached at the end of the war that the Navy was placed under a separate department. That separation continued until 1921 when, not entirely because of the unsuitability of the set up but mainly, I suggest, because of financial requirements - in other words, the curtailment of expenditure - the Department of the Navy again was merged with the Department of Defence. The Department of Defence continued in that form from 1921 to 1938.
In 1939, the Department of Civil Aviation was established and, a few months later in the same year departments were formed to control munitions, supply and development. After the outbreak of World War II., the Navy, Army and Air Force were placed under separate departments, and the Department of Munitions and Supply was also established. As the war continued it became apparent that even with those adaptations further descentralization was necessary, and various other departments were established. The Department of Munitions was established in 1940, and was not abolished until about three years after the end of the war. In 1941, the Department of Aircraft Production was established, and operated until 1946.
I point these things out to show that the Department of Defence, which is the administrative organization controlling Australian defence, has developed by evolution. I suggest that all governments have, from time to time, realized the deficiencies in the set up, and have been willing to make the necessary alterations. Now, when we are certainly not at peace but, at least, are not under the stress of a global war, the Government considered that we should get some outside advice on defence. It therefore established a committee, which was chaired by Sir Leslie Morshead, a man of some distinction who had a great deal of military experience, particularly in the field. He had had little experience at head-quarters; he had been on the taking end of it. Associated with him were certain members of the Commonwealth Public Service - the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, and the First Assistant Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department. That committee sat on numerous occasions, and it presented a report.
Ever since this debate began there have been continual references from the Opposition side to the refusal of the Government to table that report. Now, I say with all sincerity that this is one occasion when a report could be tabled without a loss of prestige or “ face “ by the government of the day. We would have no hesitation on the score of prestige about tabling the report. But a very important matter of principle is involved in this case - a principle which this side of politics has adhered to strictly over the years, and to which, I hope, it will continue to adhere. That principle is that we do not place recommendations made to the Government by public servants in a position where they would be subject to public criticism. That is a principle to which, I realize, the Opposition, when it was in office, failed to adhere on numerous occasions, but it is one that we hold very dear, and one with which I am in complete accord. All I can say is that the reason for not tabling the report is that a question of principle was involved, and it has nothing to do with anything contained in the report.
– You are afraid to reveal what is in the report.
– I say, in reply to that, only that the Prime Minister has given in his statement the essence of the report, the recommendations which were made, the recommendations which we accepted and the recommendations which we rejected, as well as why we decided as we did. The Prime Minister’s statement was a very full and comprehensive report on the recommendations of the committee, the decisions of the Government and the reasons that brought the Government to its way of thinking. My colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), also discussed those points fully, and I do not propose, in the few minutes left to me, to traverse that ground again. Instead, I shall refer to several other matters.
The report contained three main recommendations. There seems to be some confusion, although it is certainly not in the minds of my colleagues, as to what the first recommendation really entailed. When we talk about integration of the defence administrative services, we are not talking about integration of the services themselves. That was never suggested by the Morshead committee or by the Government. The integration is entirely an integration of the administrative structure. After very full consideration it was decided that as this would be a major step forward, a step which has not been taken in any other country - in Canada the set-up is similar, but not quite the same - we would be wise to examine the recommendation very closely. We had certain objectives in mind when we established this committee and agreed to a review of the organization itself. These objectives were, to ascertain whether there were weaknesses and, if there were, whether the weaknesses could be remedied. We came to the conclusion quite decisively that, even with the present structure, we could eliminate weaknesses quite effectively without going as far as was recommended in the Morshead report. So we accepted certain of the other recommendations in the report - the amalgamation of the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Supply, for instance, which was a fairly obvious step, and was something that we quite readily accepted. We accepted other recommendations, including the investigation and introduction, whereever practicable, of common services.
The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who always makes a very thoughtful and informed speech, suggested that the sort of thing that would come into this category had not been stated. I think they have been stated. The few that have been mentioned are not comprehensive, and it may be that on examination more can be brought into the field. Among those that were mentioned was telecommunications.
– I do not think any of them were mentioned.
– I am sorry. However, I shall mention that one now. Telecommunications is one matter we have had under consideration for quite a time. We have considered medical services, transport services and specialized education, and there are a number of others that we could examine with the same object in view. It is true that we have not been unaware of these things, but it is also true - this is inherent, and I am not criticizing the services for it - that the services themselves are very jealous of their own requirements and the maintenance of their establishments. We wanted to get an outside opinion as to the practicability and the desirability of an examination of these matters. That examination will be proceeded with very promptly. I have no doubt at all that, unless some obstacle about which we know nothing at present is exposed, the amalgamation of these common considerations will be provided for.
We went rather further than the Morshead report and decided that it would be advisable to appoint a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. That committee has been in existence for years. It meets and discusses matters of a purely military character - and I use the word military in the broadest sense. However, it is felt that we need something more than that. We want a regularity in these meetings and we want direction to be given to them. It is tremendously important - I know that the honorable member for Chisholm will support me here because he has had Cabinet experience and mentioned the matter in his speech - that the Government should get purely military appreciations on a number of matters. That has always been possible in the past. The Chiefs of Staff have always had access to me and I have always had the right to call upon them for advice from time to time. However, I think greater formality should be given to this matter. We have decided to appoint a chairman, and that appointment will regularize the situation. We are not just acting in the dark because, as the honorable member for Chisholm has said, a chairman of the chiefs of staff has been provided for in the United States of America for some years. A similar system is operating in the United Kingdom. I am perfectly satisfied that with the new set-up, we will get more promptly and frequently military appreciations on a number of problems that the Government and 1. as Minister, are entitled to have.
I believe that the proposals of the Government are a real step forward. I admit thai there are many who would prefer to go further but. on balance, I believe it is wise to take steps which we can confidently expect to be successful. That is why we have decided on the programme that has been outlined in the Prime Minister’s statement. I can say quite frankly as Minister for Defence. that I welcome the changes that have been made. I believe they will lead to greater efficiency and more effective liaison between the Government and the military heads of the service departments. I do not want to say anything more about that, but in the few minutes left to me, I should like to refer to some of the comments that have been made by members of the Opposition. I admit that they are hardly relevant to the question under discussion, but they have been said and repeated with such regularity that they should be answered. One statement that has been repeated ad nauseam is to the effect that the non-Labour Government in 1941 deserted the nation in that time of crisis and handed over to the Australian Labour party so that alleged deficiencies in the services and various defence installations could be remedied.
– It is recorded in history.
– Something else has been recorded, and it has not been mentioned by the Opposition. I refer to a statement by the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. John Curtin, on his accession to the leadership of the government. I remind the honorable members opposite that although members of the Labour Opposition at that time would not participate in a national government, some of them sat on the War Advisory Council. Therefore, if all the dreadful conditions to which honorable members referred existed then, they shirked their responsibility as members of that council in failing to have them remedied. The fact is that with one or two exceptions where breaches of confidence were exposed, they knew pretty well what the position was. So, the Prime Minister of that day - a man whom I and most honorable members who knew him respected greatly - said on 12th October, 1941, just after he became Prime Minister-
– Who said this?
– The Prime Minister of the day, Mr. John Curtin.
– You said that he was a “ Comm.”.
– I have never said anything of the kind. I will not be diverted. Mr. Curtin said -
I have to pay tribute to the government which preceded my own for the constructive work they have done in defence and the foundation they have laid.
Six days later, he said -
The Navy was at its highest pitch of efficiency as demonstrated by the notable exploits of its ships overseas. The home defence army was well trained and its equipment had been greatly improved.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I can finish the remarks that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) was prevented from quoting by the expiration ot the time allotted him. The Prime Minister of Australia in 1941 had no alternative but to tell the world and the enemy that the nation was well prepared. Mr. Curtin, who was the Prime Minister of that day, would have been a traitor to Australia if he had told the truth to the world at that time. If he had risen in this Parliament and told the truth about the defences of Australia to the world, he would have stood condemned as a traitor. Had he told the truth to the people and the world, it would have been an open invitation to the Japanese and their allies to walk into Australia, because they would have known from the information that the Prime Minister could have told them that there was absolutely nothing in Australia to prevent an enemy from landing here and taking over this great nation. There were men being trained in the services at that time whose only weapons were broomhandles and sticks. They used them for training because they did not have enough rifles, let alone any other weapons, with which to defend Australia. For the Minister for Defence to rise in this chamber and use the name of Mr. Curtin - who was compelled by the serious situation of the day to make out that we were well defended - when the Minister knows that Mr. Curtin would have been a traitor to the country if he had told the truth, is one of the worst examples of the improper use of the Parliament that I have known in my political career.
It is quite true, as the Minister has said, that he welcomes the Government’s decision concerning the report that is under discussion. He has good reason to welcome it. The Government’s decision could have been much worse than it was so far as he personally is concerned.
– The Minister thought he was gone.
– Yes, that is true. He thought he was gone, because I have it on good authority that certain moves to replace him were contemplated. I overheard a conversation between two honorable members who occupy back benches on the Government side while travelling in an aircraft. One of them is looking at me now. I heard them say that they were under the impression that Sir Leslie Morshead had recommended the dismissal of the present Minister for Defence, claiming that he had been shown, over the past few years, to be a person who knew absolutely nothing about the job that he was charged with doing. These two members said, “ It is a pity that the Government would not take notice of Sir Leslie Morshead’s recommendations in this regard “. I heard them say, while they were on the subject, “ There is another Minister, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who ought to go, too “. I understand that Sir Leslie Morshead holds the same view insofar as that gentleman is concerned.
Order! I think the honorable gentleman is getting a little outside the scope of the debate.
– I am dealing with the report.
– I doubt it.
– Yes, I am dealing with the report. 1 am making a very good point, and 1 am coming to it now. What I am saying is that the failure of the Government to table the report lends colour to the rumours that are floating around this
Parliament about what is contained in the report. I for one would like to see the report, because I am very suspicious about it.
– I raise a point of order. Is it parliamentary for a member, on the basis of a rumour, to cast aspersions on the character of a Minister who has carried out his job in a capable manner?
– I rise to order. Is it in order for an honorable member to take a point of order when he is not in his seat?
There is no substance in the point of order. He was on his feet.
– No, in his seat. He is out of his seat. He should not be allowed to talk.
– Thank you very much, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. Before I deal with the recommendations of the Morshead committee, I should like to ask the Minister this: If the Government decides to call for an expert committee’s report on a matter, but has no intention whatever of carrying out the committee’s recommendations, what is the use of wasting the time of the committee by having it prepare a report? If the Government has no intention of paying any regard to the findings of the committee, why not be honest about it? If the Government wants alterations in defence organization, let it make them, but it should not pretend that the decisions it makes are in accordance with some committee’s report, when the Government knows perfectly well that they are not.
What did the committee report? We do not know. We never will know, I suppose, because the report is of such a revealing character and casts such serious doubts upon the efficacy of certain Ministers in the administration of their departments. For that reason, and for that reason alone, the Government has decided to keep the report locked away in a strongroom so that nobody will ever see it. 1 put it to the Government that surely it must be able to see the great advantages of having one Minister in charge of defence, with assistant Ministers to deal with various branches of the defence services. If the Government really believes that we must have a Minister for Defence, a Minister for the Army, a Minister for the Navy, and a Minister for Air, what is wrong with having a Minister for guns, a Minister for army transport, and a Minister for hand grenades? What about having a Minister for poison gas? Perhaps the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) would be a suitable candidate for that portfolio. What about having a Minister for bacteria? I suggest that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) could fill that position very well. Why not have a Minister for torpedoes? The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is going to torpedo the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) shortly, would be a suitable appointee. These honorable members would make admirable candidates for these various positions. I see as much logic in appointing Ministers for the different branches of the Army as there is in continuing to retain three separate Ministers for the three separate services.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) last night made an excellent contribution to the debate. It was a far better contribution than either the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or the Minister for Defence made. He directed attention to the situation that arose in America over the Sputnik programme. We had the American army secretly trying one form of Sputnik, and with great care preventing the navy from knowing what it was doing. It was the same with the navy, and no doubt the air force as well. Each service was jealously guarding from the others what it had discovered as a result of its experiments, because each was anxious to be able to say it was the first to get a Sputnik into the air. As a result of their competing, instead of co-operating, with one another in this venture, they allowed the Russians to beat them in this project and thus gain what was probably one of the greatest psychological victories any country has ever gained in the history of mankind.
Mfr. Roberton. - Rubbish!
-“ Rubbish! “, says the man who dances in kilts. I tell the honorable gentleman that it is not rubbish.
– It would be terrible if I danced without them.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON__ I do not think there can be any argument about that. The Minister ought to know; I will take his word for it. I simply put it to the Minister for Defence, who is at the table, that, in order to remove these doubts that are floating around the place, he ought to table the report and let us see the worst. Just let us see what is in the report, because it is generally agreed, I think, that if Sir Leslie Morshead had to make a selection for Minister for Defence, he would select the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). I disagree entirely with that honorable member’s politics, and I do not like him any more than I think he likes me personally, but I do say that he was a first-class Minister. In my view, he is the man who is most suited, of all people on the Government side, to fill the most important position of Minister for Defence. But, just because the honorable gentleman happens to be persona non grata with the Prime Minister, his talents are to be wasted and denied to the country which I know he would be so willing to serve. He is relegated to the back bench and prevented, very often, from saying what he would like to say, because he has that streak of decency in him which compels him to show at least some loyalty to the government of the day. Were he in a position to administer the Department of Defence, those features of the present administration of which he has been critical would be rectified and there would no longer be any need for criticism, either by him or by anybody else.
– I do not think your own supporters are interested in what you are saying. They are absent.
– The honorable gentleman says that my own supporters are not interested in what I am saying. That reminds me of the fact that although we are talking about defence, and the future of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, only one Minister is in the chamber, apart from the Minister for Defence, and he is a person who is not even in the Cabinet - the dancing Scot from Riverina. Even the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) is not even in the chamber, nor is the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson). I have not seen the Minister for the Navy in the chamber at all during the debate. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), that pompous gentleman who, in the presence of generals, pretends to be a man of great military genius, is not in the chamber either. He is outside. Goodness knows what those three Ministers are doing, but they ought to be here, listening to what we have to say about the three services. The only people who are in the chamber are the members of the ginger group on the other side of the House, the honorable members for Mackellar, Farrer-
Order! The honorable member might find difficulty in relating that matter to the statement we are debating.
– The members of the ginger group are dissatisfied, even as much as we are, with the fact that the Government refuses point-blank to table this report. Let me warn the Government that the members of the ginger group will not accept forever the way they are being treated by the senior Ministers and the Cabinet. These are gentlemen who have had wide experience in the services. They have served in the Army, the Air Force, or the Navy. I venture to say that honorable members on the back benches have more knowledge of defence than-
– Hear, hear!
– I am very pleased that the honorable member for Calare agrees with me. I am also pleased to note that for once the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) is laughingly approving of what I have said. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) is smiling, which indicates his complete agreement with my remarks. There is no doubt whatever that far more talent in matters of defence exists on the back benches than is ever likely to be found on the front bench while the Prime Minister is charged with the selection of service Ministers.
What is this marvellous proposal that the Government intends to put into operation? Instead of adopting the Morshead report, the Government is going to introduce something completely different. There will be three Chiefs of Staff, presided over by a chief of the Chiefs of Staff.
– The big chief!
– That is correct; this is the big chief. Presiding over all of them will be the Minister for
Defence, whom the Morshead report recommends should be dismissed. I ask the Parliament to ponder that thought. It is a frightening situation when we realize that the defence of this country is to be handled in such an incompetent, cumbersome, and stupid manner as is now suggested by the Government.
One of the reasons why we cannot get common sense from the various Chiefs of Staff is that the existing situation makes it impossible. How do honorable members think they will ever get the Chief of the Army to agree that compulsory national service training should be abolished? Yet, it should be abolished! Everybody who knows anything about modern warfare knows that the day of fighting wars with rifles and conventional arms is passed. We should be almost completely scrapping the Army and concentrating our resources on atomic defence and offence, and the means of saving the civil population in the event of an atomic attack. The next war will not be won so much by the people who send the weapons into the air as by the capacity of the civilian population to maintain their morale in the face of atomic attack.
This Government has done absolutely nothing about civil defence. May I say to his eternal credit that the honorable member for Mackellar years ago came into this Parliament and directed the Government’s attention to the pressing need for something to be done about civil defence. When the history of this country is written, especially if there is a chapter about a real hydrogen or atom bomb attack - which I hope will never come to pass - then it is the honorable member for Mackellar who will take pride of place so far as the last ten years are concerned. For ten years, the honorable member’s voice has been the only one raised on the Government side of the House about the need for civil defence. In that respect he is like Sir Winston Churchill who, before the outbreak of World War II., warned the Government of Great Britain of the impending threat of German attack.
What has the Government done about the honorable member’s agitation? Ministers walk around corners, laughing, and saying that the honorable member is not all there. They say, “Take no notice of him; he is a rat-bag “. They laugh and smile stupidly behind his back whenever he talks. But get the honorable member away from the subject of communism, about which I admit he is a bit scrappy, and you will hear from him more common sense in ten minutes than you are likely to hear from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) in ten hours. The honorable member for Mackellar would be nowhere near as irresponsible ,as he is if he were given an opportunity to serve in the Cabinet, or in some way to use his surplus energy. I believe that the reason why the honorable member goes off at such a tangent about communism, and works himself up into such an artificial state of hysteria, is because he does not have enough to do. I therefore suggest that, in order to use up his surplus energy, the Government should give him an opportunity to serve in a capacity dealing with defence, particularly as it relates to civil defence ,and hydrogen and atomic warfare.
I think I have shown conclusively that this Government is hiding something which, if it were disclosed, would be most detrimental to its reputation. I have convinced everybody that it is high time the Morshead report was bared to the world. Let us hear the worst, because the worst may not be as bad as most of us believe it to be.
.- I think the best part of the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was when he discussed honorable members who sit on the back benches on this side of the House. We who are in that position thoroughly agree with him. Indeed, the honorable member gave us such a good rap-up that I ask him to continue along those lines at some later stage.
The honorable member barely touched on the Morshead report except to repeat some gossip that he has heard. I wonder who has been pulling his leg by suggesting that such an eminent man as Sir Leslie Morshead would recommend that certain Ministers should be fired. That is the last thing Sir Leslie would do, particularly if he hoped to get the report accepted by the Government.
Honorable members on this side of the House are still waiting to hear the Opposition declare where it stands in relation to defence. It has been very silent on the matter. Honorable members opposite have been continually harking back to what happened in 1941. That was seventeen years ago. They forget that Australia has moved forward in the last seventeen years. They might not have moved with it, but Australia has taken tremendous strides in that time. Great changes have taken place and it is idle to hark back to seventeen years ago. Such behaviour is the sign of an old person who likes to talk about his childhood, and of times 20, 30 or 40 years ago. The Labour party dwells in the past and forgets what is happening to the present generation.
I turn now to deal with the Morshead report. The appointment of a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff is a move in the right direction, but whether it will be successful remains to be seen. Whether it will be really effective in practice remains to be seen. I hope that the Government will keep a close watch on the new arrangement, and if it is not working out-
– Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for East Sydney permitted to arrange for members of his party to leave the chamber, and then to call attention to the state of the House?
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.It is quite in order for the honorable member to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), in his customary forceful fashion, backed by great experience, put forward an idea which I think has great merit. I do not want to canvass it; I shall simply repeat what he said. Speaking about the Government’s plan to have a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, he said -
So, whilst the Government by this plan has smoothed out this vested interest in the Chiefs of Staff, it does nothing whatever to smooth out the recurrence of the wrangle when the problem goes to the Defence Committee. Although this is only a first step, I think it could be improved if the Government saw its way clear to make the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff also chairman of the Defence Committee.
The honorable member then gave his reasons, backed by his great experience. and I hope that the Government will have a close look at his suggestion and see if it can be implemented. Many members on this side of the House have warned the Government repeatedly that unless it improves the conditions of service in the fighting services, there will not be any men to man them and, consequently, there will not be any services left. The strength of the Navy, Army and Air Force is dwindling in an alarming fashion. Although I realize that it is a difficult job to encourage men to join the forces, the services are getting into a desperate state and we have to take a good look at the position.
The whole defence structure now looks a bit like a pyramid upside down. At the top, the huge base standing in the air is the machinery and organization for running the services; and tapering down to the peak are the fighting establishments themselves. How can we reverse this pyramid with the base comprising the fighting establishments, and the peak the necessary organization and machinery? What can the Government do in that respect? It must encourage men to join the services. That sounds very easy, but the first thing it must do is to help in regard to housing. I take the Navy as one case in point.
Recently, I wrote to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) and asked him certain questions about the establishment, reenlistments and so on. On 14th February, he replied that the establishment was now down to 3,384. Re-enlistment was only 12 per cent.; in the last twelve months only 256 were re-engaged of 1,972 who had been discharged. Ships are available, but they are of no use if there are no men to man them. Of the ships which are now in commission, seven have been scrapped, three have been put in mothballs and those remaining in commission now are the aircraft carrier “ Melbourne “, “ Voyager “ and “ Quiberon “. “ Anzac “ and “ Tobruk “ are in the Far-East reserve. They will come back to Australia very shortly and will undergo a nine months’ refit- What their future will be is very uncertain. Other ships are now being built - “ Vampire “ and “ Vendetta “ and also two A/S frigates. It looks as if, at the end of this year, we may have a navy of two ships with some being built. The main reason for this situation is that there is not the man-power to man them. The ship estab lishments are being reduced to a mere handful of men, and more and more personnel are drifting from the Navy.
How can this situation be remedied? First of all, housing is most important. It is quite obvious that unless the men are housed properly, particularly Navy personnel, so that they know their families are well and reasonably accommodated when they are serving abroad, very unhappy domestic life can result. That is one of the reasons why men are not re-engaging. Mum simply says, “ No, you are not going to re-engage”. It is obvious to every one that unless adequate and proper housing is provided for these men, there can be no hope of retaining them in the service.
There is also the question of a reengagement bonus. This practice has been adopted widely in the United States of America, where a very handsome re-engagement bonus is paid to men who sign on again for a number of years. They are also granted additional leave. These are important encouragements for them to sign on again. In the United Kingdom the re-engagement bonus system is in operation also. In Australia, however, for some reason that has never been revealed, the re-engagement bonus system has been turned down. Whether that has been due to a Treasury decision, I do not know.
There is the other point of pay and allowances. The pay is reasonable, admittedly; but it has to be better than just an equated amount or a sum similar to that received by a public servant or a man working in industry, because the man in the services, particularly the Navy, is on duty 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and he does not receive any overtime. Very often he lives in very uncomfortable conditions and under great hardship. Although he is not looking for great monetary gain, nevertheless he expects compensatory conditions. The Government will have to face this problem; it has drifted long enough. It will have to be prepared to pay additional money and make conditions more attractive. It will have to provide better housing to help the families of the serviceman so that when he is away he will have at least the assurance that his family is properly accommodated and looked after medically, and receives dental attention, as well as travel and other concessions. All these conditions may be of little monetary value, but they are matters of great consideration and help to the serviceman.
In conclusion, I should like to say that the Government is taking a step which is long overdue and definitely in the right direction. I hope that it will now turn its attention, urgently,, to the question of manpower. It is only by looking after the serviceman that we can hope to keep our services intact and our defences in a proper condition.
.- It is refreshing to-day to see members on the Government side enthusiastically talking about the defence of Australia. Yesterday, there was great reluctance on their part to talk about the great problem of using atomic energy for peaceful purposes in Australia, and we then witnessed the spectacle of one member of the Opposition after another continuing the debate. It was incredible to find that we were unable to inspire any interest on the part of Government members in that important subject. Therefore, it is encouraging to find comparatively lethargic members on the Government side participating in this debate to-day. The reason for the change is that they are absolutely riled at the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). He called for a report from a most distinguished and experienced Australian soldier and expert, who could well be expected to give the Government good and impressive advice, but then practically rejected out of hand the vital and salient points of the report which that distinguished gentleman and his committee submitted.
Of course, the supporters of the Government who have been in the services have a great respect for General Morshead and they are completely at a loss to understand why the Prime Minister has chosen to disregard his highly considered advice. It is for that reason that, with considerable enthusiasm and, I believe, with great sincerity, the supporters of the Government have voiced their protest on this issue. The Opposition is concerned, not just because of the failure of the Government to implement the Morshead report, but because of the complete and utter bumbling which has characterized this Government’s administration of defence. It is incredible to read of the expenditure on defence over the years that the Government has been in office. It is in the vicinity of £1,200,000,000.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), who has been talking about the Navy, said that six ships had been scrapped recently and that two were in moth balls, leaving about six or eight in service. What a sorry record! The way things are going, the Navy will have only a couple of ships in a very short time. The honorable member for Calare knows something about the Navy from the association that he has had with it for many years. He does not speak a great deal in this House but he spoke to-day with indignation. About £300,000,000 has been spent on the Navy since this Government took office. Yet we have been told that, m the near future, there will be only a couple of ships left. This is an appalling state of affairs, and the Government should hang its head in misery and shame.
There are a number of issues concerning the Navy about which I would like to speak. A number of Government supporters and a number of Opposition members have mentioned the Government’s handling of personnel. That the Government has little understanding and knowledge of men, is evidenced by the situation in the Navy, although there is also evidence of this in the other services. Good men want to get out of the services. They are not taking up the opportunity to continue in the services. I understand that destroyers have recently been stuck at Jervis Bay for weekend after week-end instead of returning to Sydney or one of the major ports from which many of the personnel come. The men have been stranded at Jervis Bay. I do not doubt that this has happened because many of the officers want to hob-nob in the exclusive and high-standard conditions available to the “ top-brass “ of the Navy at Jervis Bay, but it is tough on the married ratings to be stranded there while their families are in Sydney or Melbourne.
There are dozens of cases in which Sydney men are given leave in Melbourne and in which Melbourne men are given leave in Sydney. This may appear to be a minor matter, but let us not forget how pleased members of this Parliament are to get out of this place at the week-end and go back to their electorates, to the people they know, and to their families! This is a fundamental fact foi which the Navy should have regard. The existing conditions are causing ,a great deal of unhappiness in the service. I understand that some of the destroyers have been in the tropics for a very long time - almost a year. For personnel to come back at the end of that time and have to take leave in a port other than their home port is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. So much for the Navy. There are lots of things concerning the Navy which I would like to talk about and the opportunity may present itself later on.
I should now like to say something about the Army. I have heard some Opposition members say that we have not an Army, but it is not true. We do have an Army. I say that because we were able to hear the Duntroon military band playing to-day in the Parliament House courtyard. I think it was a good move on the part of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) to make that band available. I do not think that the Army is capable of effectively defending Australia’s snores. As honorable members know, a great amount of money has been expended on it.
– What would you really know about it?
– He would know as much as the Prime Minister knows.
– I think there is plenty of evidence to indicate that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) knows very little about the great variety of subjects on which he speaks from time to time. If it is necessary to participate in an activity in order to know about it, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) could hardly be justified in handling - or mishandling - high finance, which involves many millions of pounds. It is clear that he has had little experience of high finance. It is laughable to think of the Army defending Australia although £57,300,000 has been expended on it in this financial year.
Where is the Army in evidence? Is it in evidence in the vulnerable parts of Australia? Is it in evidence on the western coast, on the northern coast, or around northern Queensland? Is it in evidence in New Guinea and Papua? Is it in evidence on Manus Island, New Britain, or in New Ireland? I looked at these areas in the not far distant past and I was appalled to see the complete inadequacy of our defences, especially as far as the Army was concerned. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was precisely correct when he said that there is no Army defencein Papua and New Guinea except for the Pacific Islands Regiment which, I think, is- 646 strong, according to the Estimates. Of course, that figure includes the regiment’sScottish band - an impressive sight and an effective band but not capable of doing much to defend Australia. When I visited New Guinea and Papua as a member of a parliamentary delegation I looked for someevidence of Army activity but we wereunable to find it in that area.
I do not know the extent to which a real threat exists in the northern part of Australia, but the Government considers that there is a real threat. Therefore, there isgood reason to do something about it. But for the Government to contend that thereis a danger of the rebel forces or the government forces in Indonesia suddenly turning their eyes to Dutch New Guinea, and for the Government to fail to provideany defence in the areas I have mentioned’ is completely inexcusable.
I now want to mention the mobile forceswhich have been the subject of the Prime Minister’s recent speeches. On the 4th April, 1957, the Prime Minister made some crystal clear indications regarding, the transformation of the decaying service forces into smart, efficient and mobileorganizations. He said -
I have already explained that we are seeking in particular mobile well equipped and readily available regular forces. Moves have already begun to organize a Brigade Group of over 4,000- as a cohesive battle formation trained to thehighest pitch. This force will be equipped with the most modern weapons available. Special attention will be paid to mobility and the requirements of tropical warfare. The force will be additional to the infantry battalion group who will continue to serve in the Commonwealth strategic reserve in Malaya, which has a great part to play in the cold war.
The emphasis, according to the Prime Minister, will be on this nucleus - this highly geared, efficient, mobile force - which will be a strategic organization in time of national need.
But the fact is that the infantry brigade group is anything but what the Prime Minister indicated on the 4th April, 1957, that it would be, although a considerable- time has gone by. I think that honorable members, particularly Government supporters, have some obligation to look at this matter. The first infantry brigade group is located principally at Ingleburn. Honorable members may recall that the Prime Minister indicated that, in equipping this unit, the outmoded 25-pounders were to be replaced by 105-mm. guns. He said that it was very important to develop a close association with the United States of America forces, and on 19th September he announced that we would go ahead with the provision of these 105-mm. guns. The other day General Wells retired from the Army and was given a farewell in Sydney. There was a march-past by a large number of troops. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ was quick to size up the situation, and it pointed out that this so-called strategic mobile force was not equipped with 105-mm. guns, but that it moved through the City of Sydney with the worn-out and obsolete 25-pounders.
– They are not worn out.
– Well, they are obsolete and inferior, by world standards. That is the point we must remember. It is not only my opinion that these weapons are inferior; it is also the opinion of the Prime Minister of Australia. Frankly, I would not know whether t’.:y are superior or inferior, but the people whose job it is to know have told the Prime Minister that they are inferior. He said that they have to go, and that they would be replaced. That was in April last year, but the weapons have not yet been replaced. What a shocking state of affairs it is.
Similar remarks could be made with regard to the rifles used by the same strategic, mobile, hard-hitting fighting force. The old .303 rifles are still in service, although the Prime Minister said that they were to be replaced by FN rifles. During the comparatively short period, a little more than two years, that I have been in this Parliament, I have heard the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) persistently advocating that attention should be given to this great problem. He has mentioned the pressing need to put the Lithgow Small Arms Factory in a position to produce the FN rifle. His campaign was being conducted long before I came here, as may be seen from a perusal of “Hansard”. But the FN rifle is still a long way in the distant future, and the .303, which is many years out of date, is still in operation. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said-
For a country like Australia, with a major regional defence role to play and a very substantial defence vote, it was simply not good enough. There were 25-pounder guns and .303 rifles - not a hint of the 105-millimetre guns and FN rifles with which Mr. Menzies declared six months ago the brigade would be equipped. There were not even enough of the new-type bayonets to go round - the great majority of the infantrymen, and even the paratroopers, carried the old long bayonet. As for the brigade’s transport, with a few exceptions it looked as if it had seen honourable service in the Second World War, or perhaps in Korea.
The newspaper was not speaking of some small remnant of the Army, such as a unit of the Citizen Military Force, or a group of national service trainees; it was speaking of the strategic, hard-hitting, mobile force that is the very nucleus of our Army, and which is designed to be moved from one vulnerable place to another at any time.
What a shocking indictment of the Government this is! I ask honorable members to remember the advice that was given by the experts with regard to bayonets. Military enthusiasts who care to study expert opinion on the matter will find that the long type of bayonet is of no use in jungle warfare. We have been told to get rid of it and replace it with the smaller weapon. But honorable members who witnessed the march in Sydney would have seen a conglomeration of weapons. There were a few small bayonets, but the majority of them were long ones, which have been in use from 1914 or 1915. The position is laughable.
Consider the position with regard to transport. One would expect this army group to have the best transport available. We would expect the brigade to be on its toes at all times, because it is said to be poised in readiness to move quickly. After all, how much notice do we expect of an enemy’s intention to invade Australia? Do we expect to get a month’s notice, or three months’ notice? I have it on good authority that a short time ago some one connected with this brigade at Ingleburn wished to move a mobile canteen. He went to the officer in charge and found that of the twenty vehicles that were lined up not one could be pressed into service. The officer in charge investigated the position and found that the only vehicle that had any petrol in it was not available, because the driver had gone on leave and had taken the key with him. Somebody says, “ Nonsense “, but this is not nonsense; there are statutory declarations available to bear out what 1 am saying. A period of four and a half hours elapsed before one of these vehicles could be put into service to move a single mobile canteen. Yet we are told that this is the strategic, mobile, hardhitting force around which the Army is to be developed.
It appears to me, Mr. Speaker, that there are very good grounds for believing that the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are in the same kind of run-down, dilapidated condition, but unfortunately I have not enough time to go through details concerning the three services. The fact is, in the first place, that morale is low, because the services are badly directed. The personnel cannot be blamed, because excellent types have gone into the services, men prepared to do a good job. But what Australian worthy of the name would put up with the frustration resulting from inadequate equipment and bad administration?
We have not heard very much about the Army of late - apart, of course, from the Duntroon Royal Military College band. The only other activity in which the Army appears to have been engaged of late has been keeping the wild geese from the rice crop at Humpty Doo. I do not know whether the Army’s efforts have been successful there, because, from what I can gather, the rice crop is just about ruined.
There is one other matter I would like to mention before my time expires. I refer to the fact that many specialists were available after the war and were prepared to move into our service groups. Many of these men are in the special reserve of the Regular Army. They have various specialist qualifications. They consist of artisans, cooks and various other classifications. Many of them suffer from small disabilities which resulted from the service they gave to their country during the war years, and as a consequence of these disabilities they are debarred from obtaining the superannuation benefits ordinarily available to other servicemen. In these circumstances, we can hardly expect any enthusiasm from them. When the time comes for them to leave the services all they are entitled to receive is their long-service pay, and their war-caused disabilities result in serious prejudice to them. I believe that this is a matter should should be given consideration with the least possible delay.
There is no incentive for men to join the services at present. This applies particularly to the Army, where no career opportunities are available. Unless a man attains the rank of major, he must retire by the time he is about 47 years of age. If a man joins the Army, his family stands to benefit little, if at all.
I wish to say one or two words about the Prime Minister’s dramatic announcement that the Government was going to modernize the defence system around Australia, and that we were going to pay particular attention to new techniques. He said that some of our cities were to be ringed by rocket bases. The daily newspapers in Sydney and other cities published this startling announcement. I move around Sydney quite extensively. A long time has elapsed since the Prime Minister made his sensational and dramatic announcement. The contention that the Government is concerned with defence might have received some real credence if this plan had been proceeded with, but no rocket defences are to be seen around Sydney to-day.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We have just been treated to a diatribe of carping criticism on many small matters by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). He accused the Government of lethargy in discussing this matter of defence. While on the subject of lethargy, let me point out that only about three or four Opposition members have been present in this chamber at any one time this afternoon. [Quorum formed.] I thank the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for giving me an opportunity to address a greater number of Opposition members. I have mentioned the accusation of lethargy on the part of the Government made by the honorable member for Hughes, who accused the Government also of bungling. Whether or not we can accept the honorable member as an expert on defence, we can, perhaps, accept him as an expert on bungling, because he stated that the Army available to defend Australia was inadequate. He thereby gave an indication of Labour’s policy of, “ Give it away and let Australia be defenceless “. That has been the essence of the Opposition’s defence policy for as long as I can remember.
The honorable member for Hughes commented critically upon the fact that the artillery section of the mobile brigade group was not already equipped with 105-mm. guns and was still using obsolete 25- pounders. The “ obsolete 25-pounders “, as the honorable member termed them, are excellent guns. With the support of mortars, they can do everything that the 105-mm. guns can do, but the 105-mm. weapons will be better for use in conjunction with other forces, particularly those of the Americans, because standardization of weapons will promote greater efficiency. The honorable member thinks that there is a serious defect because artillerymen in the first brigade group have not already received 105-mm. guns for use in training, but that does not greatly matter, because any trained gunner can adapt himself to a different weapon after a very short familiarization programme, regardless of the calibre and type of the weapon on which he has been trained. The principles of gunnery remain the same irrespective of the weapon. I may tell the honorable member for Hughes that, in 1941, I was using, in the defence of Benghazi, Hotchkiss 2-pounder guns of 1891 vintage that had been taken from gun-boats that had formerly patrolled the Chinese coast.
The honorable member for Hughes also made allegations about the dilapidated condition of the three armed services. It is a pity that he does not do as some Government supporters have done, and get out among the men, live with them, and see the high degree of efficiency that they have attained and the excellent co-operation between the three services under the administration of the present Ministers.
To tura to the report of the Morshead committee, I should like to say at the outset that I think all Government supporters have only the highest commendation for the Government on the appointment of the committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Morshead, a gentleman who is well known as a businessman, and who is a fine soldier under whose command I am very proud to have served during what may well be described as his finest hour. I commend the Government, also, on its frankness in bringing forward the recommendations of the committee. I deny the Opposition’s allegations that the Government has not been frank. It has said that it adopts one recommendation, but, for certain reasons, rejects the others, and it has formulated another proposal of its own initiative.
How can the Government legitimately be accused of trying to suppress the report and keep it out of the way, when, with perfect frankness, it has announced that the committee has made three general recommendations, favouring amalgamation of the service departments under the Department of Defence, the appointment of two associate Ministers, on the same basis on which the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) holds the Navy portfolio, and the amalgamation of the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production? The Government has announced that it accepts the third recommendation, and that the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production will be amalgamated. It has said that it sees certain difficulties in relation to the other two recommendations, and it has set out those difficulties. Some Government supporters, including myself, do not agree with some of the reasons advanced for the rejection of the two recommendations that have not been accepted, and we make certain constructive criticism about that matter. But, in my eyes, that does not constitute an attack upon the Government.
I turn now to the reasons advanced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for the rejection of the recommendations favouring amalgamation of the service departments under the administration of the Minister for Defence, with the assistance of associate Ministers. One of the reasons given was that the recommendation envisaged that the responsibilities of the associate Ministers should be determined on a functional basis. I can see the arguments against the adoption of a functional basis, but I still think that the proposal for associate Ministers could be adopted with advantage if the associate Ministers administered the service portfolios on a service basis. We have heard talk of vertical and horizontal division of authority. I suggest a vertical division down to a certain level so far as the services are concerned. This would not in any way impair the principle of the subordination of military organization to civilian authority.
The proposal worked out by the Cabinet independently of the recommendations of the Morshead committee concerns the appointment of a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. It is proposed that the holder of this office will be the military liaison officer for Australia in respect to matters involving the Seato, Anzam, and Anzus treaties. He will be, also, a member of the Defence Committee. I detect a certain weakness in the proposed composition of the Defence Committee, which, I remind the House, at present has as chairmain the Secretary of the Department of Defence, and as members the heads of the Prime Minister’s Department, the Department of External Affairs, and the Treasury, together with the three Chiefs of Staff. To these is now to be added the person appointed to the new post of chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. A common doctrine may be accepted at the Chiefs of Staff Committee level under the aegis of the proposed chairman of that committee, but I foresee the possibility that, at the Defence Committee level, a Chief of Staff could obtrude his own personal ideas, no matter how well he had kept them in check at the Chiefs of Staff Committee level. For instance, in the deliberations of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Chief of the Naval Staff may say, “ I want two aircraft carriers “. The matter may be resolved by the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee saying, “ You may not have two. You may have one.” During deliberations on policy matters, at the Defence Committee level, the Chief of the Naval Staff may say that the Navy could do the job required of it if it had two aircraft carriers. It will be very difficult to prevent the thinking of a particular service from obtruding itself into the deliberations of the Defence Committee.
I do not accept the idea of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) that the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee should be the chairman also of the Defence Committee. In my view, that would present a weakness, as I have previously mentioned, because the military authority would come between the Secretary of the Department of Defence and the constituted civilian authority vested in the Minister for Defence. I do suggest that, perhaps, the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee be constituted the military member of the Defence Committee, and that the Chiefs of Staff attend the committee’s deliberations merely as observers to advise the chairman of the committee, or the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in his capacity as the military member of the Defence Committee. In the past, the custom has been to co-opt to the Defence Committee, as and when required, a representative of the Department of Defence Production. In my opinion, the head of the new Department of Supply should be a permanent member of the committee.
I move now to the question of the integration of the armed services. At this time, our numbers are relatively small. We have no long tradition of independent services, such as exists in the United Kingdom. We have an acceptance of the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff committee as the dominant military commander. In other words, he is the military liaison officer with Seato, Anzam and Anzus, and has the functions, if not the title, of a supreme commander. I admit that the Government is moving forward step by step, but I see no reason why the services should not be integrated. In the Army, we have specialized units such as armour, artillery, engineers, signals and medical units. All these are capable of detachment, say, to support an infantry division, and there is no reason at all why they could not be detached to support any of the three services. I see no real reason why the commander of the integrated force could not detach an air component, a sea component, a land component or a mixed force.
It has been argued that the detachment of units from the main command weakens the command of the commander in chief. I point out that the late Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Blarney was Commander in Chief of the Australian Land Forces, but one division was detached and sent to a different theatre under a different command. That did not weaken Sir Thomas Blarney’s authority over the administration of the unit. A similar event happened in my own case with a light anti-aircraft regiment.
One battery was sent to the western desert, one to Crete and one to Syria, but the same regimental head-quarters administered the sub-units, although each was under a separate operational command. Nothing in this argument would prevent the appointment of one man to command the three services.
It has also been argued that an integrated force is not practicable because we rely on allies to assist us in various theatres. However, on the question of morale, I believe that, if we put into the field a purely Australian force to perform limited operations, we would find that the Australian infantry would much rather have an air strike by the Royal Australian Air Force than by the air force of some other member of Seato. In the same way, in a joint landing operation, I am sure the Australian infantryman and members of ancillary services would much rather be transported in Australian ships. I cannot see anything against an integrated force, with the fighting services keeping their own separate existence down to the supporting services level.
Integration does not necessarily mean one type of uniform, one seniority list and one set of ranks. The operational fighting services would remain separate and intact, right down to the supporting components. For instance, in the Army, personnel concerned with engineering and electrical matters are in the one corps. Similarly, personnel concerned with supply are in one corps. They could be detached and sent to the various fighting units as required. I was very pleased to hear the Minister say, in answer to a remark made by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), that although it was not mentioned in the statement by the Prime Minister, the supporting services could be integrated and certain items, such as equipment, transport and clothing, could be standardized. This would result in considerable saving. The enlistment and basic training of personnel could also be standardized, as was mentioned by the honorable member for Chisholm, and we could have unification of staff cadet training in the initial phases before the cadets commenced specialized training.
The Opposition has criticized the Government for its defence policy. Earlier this week, I asked the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) a question about Manus Island, and he quite effectively replied that the Opposition had let it go. Yet, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) accused the Government of sending Manus Island back to the hermit crabs and the jungle! In an editorial in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ the following statement is made -
During its last term in power, the Labour Party put defence at the bottom of its list of priorities; it took no interest in it; it grudged money spent on it. Under Labour, the Regular Army was a mockery and the Citizen Forces on the verge of disintegration; the R.A.A.F. had been reduced to ineffectiveness; and the Navy was in little better shape.
We have been accused on many occasions of having wasted £1,300,000,000 on defence. For many years, I have been paying insurance premiums so that I would obtain some recompense if my house were burnt down. I do not consider that that money has been wasted. In the same way, we pay our police forces to watch over the community. A policeman walks around, apparently doing nothing, but he is there to prevent riots and other unlawful acts. Some honorable members from Victoria may recall that, when we had a police strike, unlawful elements engaged in looting and other similar acts. We have had a time of peace, and the £1,300,000,000 has not been wasted.
When it is convenient - I understand the difficulties surrounding it - three associate Ministers should be appointed, with alternate portfolios, to administer the three service departments on a purely service basis, as at present. I suggest that the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee be elevated to a rank equivalent to that of full general, so that he would be given dominance as military head of the Australian forces, subservient only to the Commander in Chief, - who is His Excellency, the GovernorGeneral. The chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the head of the Department of Supply should be executive members of the Defence Committee, with the Chiefs of Staff as advisory members only. Lastly, I suggest that the initial integration of the three services be attempted on the basis that I have mentioned, by the amalgamation of the supporting services of each arm - for instance, medical, transport, equipment and communications. I am very pleased to hear that this is in train, although it was not mentioned in the statement of the Prime Minister.
.- Any discussion on defence is, of necessity, of great importance, because it concerns the sovereignty of the Commonwealth itself. Since defence is such an important matter there must be a wide divergence of opinion among honorable members on different aspects of policy. It is not a misstatement to say that there is a marked divergence of opinion on defence policy even in the ranks of the Government’s own supporters. Of course, members on this side of the House do not agree with every facet of the present policy, but I think that is all to the good. When this House descends to the status of a mutual admiration society, and everybody agrees with everything that everybody else says, there will be no future for parliamentary democracy in Australia.
– There will be no Parliament either.
– And there will be no Parliament either. So I must deprecate the statements made by honorable members opposite, deriding and vilifying the points of view put from this side of the House. The Opposition puts its views on defence in all sincerity. Our ideas have been formulated for one purpose only - to ensure the preservation of Australia and the Australian way of life. We play second fiddle to nobody in our care for Australia’s welfare as a nation. The Labour party’s defence policy is a policy which is calculated at all times, and under all conditions, to ensure that Australia will never be subservient to a foreign power.
It must be admitted that there are many side issues which necessarily intrude into the formation of a policy, and in relation to which tempers may flare. There may even be incidents between honorable members which they will regret later. But we should never forget that the focal point of our discussions must be the survival of our country. Honorable members must never forget that, whatever varying points of view may be advanced in this House, we are all Australians, irrespective of political allegiances. So I hope that unjustified sniping at members of the Labour party because they express opinions on defence that do not necessarily coincide with those of the Government and which Government supporters seem to imply mean that we are anti-Australian, will cease. As an Australian, I deeply resent some of the comments made by Government supporters, because I happen to know what makes the Labour party’s policy tick. It is a policy which, under all conditions, is concerned with Australia’s interests.
While the Labour party supports to the utmost the provision of adequate and modern military equipment for our forces, and a comprehensive defence scheme, we differ from the Government in relation to a number of other important factors. I do not think any honorable member would disagree with my statement that one of the essentials of our defence is clear and inspiring leadership from the Government. Any defence scheme which is not given a positive and direct lead by the nation’s leaders must be innocuous. Whilst there is room for honest differences of opinion on defence there must be no ambiguity about the direction in which Australia’s defence policy is headed.
It is idle to deny that there has been widespread anxiety over our defence position, not only among honorable members on this side of the House, not only among a large number of members on the other side of the House, but also among very influential sections of the community. That anxiety is of such a nature that the Government cannot continue to disregard it, as it did in the past, when it looked upon criticisms of its defence policy as mere transient criticism. I am very much afraid, however, that even now the Government is not conscious of the fact that our defence system is not all it should be.
Some months ago the Government heeded the mounting dissatisfaction with our defence and appointed the Morshead committee to examine many facets of defence policy. I regret to have to say that this debate, which has centred on certain aspects of the report of that committee, has not brought about that unity or purpose which the country would desire, because it is quite apparent to me that many Government supporters have themselves recognized the inadequacy of the measures being taken by the Government following its consideration of the report. Since April last year, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced a review of the defence policy, the public has been harassed and frustrated by a chain of shifts and by evidence of uncertainty on the part of the Government. There are now many issues that have to be clarified before that public anxiety will be allayed. I think I can epitomize this viewpoint by stating that our defence policy in recent years has been one pitched and tossed by circumstances rather than one directed by a Government with a steady view of the defence role of this country. The Government does not give the impression of being in a position to meet an increased demand on our defence resources. I do not think it has enough in reserve.
The time has arrived when we are entitled to expect a clear definition of Australian defence policy and its widespread ramifications. There is a strong public desire to ensure that the most effective use is made of our limited resources and that we get the best possible value for our defence expenditure of about £190,000,000 a year. Unfortunately, however, there is also much evidence of uncertainty on the part of the public about the Government’s policy. To support that assertion I point out that last April the Prime Minister announced a plan to re-equip the Royal Australian Air Force with fighter aircraft of a performance equivalent to that of the American Lockheed 104 Starfighter. But this plan was no sooner announced than it was dropped and the public has waited in vain for an alternative plan.
In the same statement the Prime Minister announced that it had been decided to restore the aircraft carrier “ Sydney “ to a flying training role. But in January of this year it was announced that “ Sydney “ was to be laid up. Also, the public has not heard, up to the present, the result of the American military mission. As far as I can ascertain, in the absence of any clear and positive information from the Government, our defence policy is to be based on the use of conventional weapons. The Labour party and, I think, the public at large, want an assurance that we are not using too much of our financial resources to buy and produce armaments that are quickly becoming obsolete in this atomic age. A more economical and purposeful administration of our defence policy and defence services seems to be essential to our present-day needs.
There are far too many departments concerned with defence. There is too much duplication of facilities in relation to the number of men that we can put into firstclass modern fighting shape. The cautious and evasive character of official explanations has not helped to develop public confidence in the Government’s defence policy. I want to advance that point further by referring to the Prime Minister’s statement on the aircraft maintenance branch of the Department of Defence Production, which offers very little comfort to those who believe that the Government is neglecting an essential arm of defence - the aircraft industry. For about two years, the aircraft industry has been in a state of uncertainty. The Government seems to dilly-dally with the programme. It makes a pronouncement one day and alters it a week later. The latest turn of events is that the Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production is investigating the future of the aircraft industry. I should have thought that, because of the importance of the aircraft industry, this investigation on a ministerial level would have taken place at least two years ago when the industry began to decline. It should have been started, or the preparations made, when large numbers of employees were being dismissed from various industries which formed our aircraft industry.
The attention of the Government was drawn to the situation many times in this House. There was quite considerable comment in every respectable conservative and cautious newspaper in Ausralia; but the Government has taken two years to consider this matter on a ministerial level and to examine the future of the aircraft industry. The Minister is to study the problem. There should be little need to study whether we need an aircraft industry. What we want is a plan to resuscitate it, because, under present conditions, it is obviously very sick. I could almost say without exaggeration that it is dying. I hope I am wrong, but that is the impression of those who have given years of service to the industry and who naturally are very concerned about its future and fear for their personal future in it.
The arguments in favour of developing the aircraft industry are overwhelming. It provides a pool of trained man-power in a specialized field which is essential in time of war. A man cannot be trained for the aircraft industry in five minutes. One can take a skilled turner and filter and put him in the aircraft industry, and he will be a mere tyro. One can put a skilled metal worker into the industry, and he will have to learn his trade again. An electrician who knows all about wiring and other aspects of the electrical trade in general, when put into the aircraft industry does not know what it is all about. It takes years to train skilled tradesmen in aircraft construction. Therefore, it is most necessary that we always have a pool of these trained personnel in case of war.
The aircraft industry will provide also a basis for research so that we may keep pace with important developments abroad. Instead of waiting for developments overseas and getting a copy of a report sent to us, we should have men on the job here to make experiments. As has been proved by the production of the Jindivik, we have technicians and draftsmen capable of doing such research. They are as good as any in the world, as results have proved. Therefore, the men in the industry should be kept together so that they can produce results essential to the industry in general.
Further, the aircraft industry can maintain and multiply the aircraft which are used oy the Royal Australian Air Force. That result cannot be achieved without a properly established industry. We cannot expect mechanics serving in the Royal Australian Air Force to do that work. It must be tackled by an industry and not by a handful of men possessing a few tools in a kitbag; it must be done on an industrial basis. It requires the operation of numerous machine tools, and that can be done only in a modern aircraft factory. We must not lose the technical experience that we already have in Australia. The aircraft that have been built here, including super-jets and Canberra bombers, have won widespread praise from overseas experts. The industry is essential to the maintenance of efficiency in the Royal Australian Air Force. It is vital to our selfsufficiency, and as a form of insurance. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) said that the expenditure of £190,000,000 a year on defence could be considered as a measure of insurance. I know of no better way of expending £190,000,000 as a positive means of insurance than to spend some of it on the maintenance of the vital aircraft industry. We need to re-establish healthy optimism among those who work in the industry. I hope that the Minister will not delay reporting to the Cabinet that it is essential not only that the aircraft industry should be maintained at its present level but also that it should; be expanded until it is adequate to meet all contingencies in the future.
Another aspect of defence in respect of which the Government has fallen down on its job is this: It has displayed no great interest in roads as a defence component. It is true that some roads were built during World War II., but since then there has been complete lack of interest in roads from a defence point of view. This is in marked contract to the attitude that has been adopted in the United States of America. American military leaders have repeatedly emphasized the need for improved roads for defence purposes. I shall cite a few American authorities who know something about the defence of their country. A special report to Congress on “ Highway Needs in the National Defence “ was prepared in 1949. The Secretary for Defence, in submitting that report stated -
The National Military Establishment considers a relatively small “ connected system of highways interstate iti character “, constructed to the highest practical uniform design standards, essential to the national defence. Because of the time required and cost, such a system must be planned for and constructed during peace-time.
Major-General Paul F. Yount, present Chief of Transportation of the United States Army stated -
To-day’s crucial national defence needs lie in improving to modern standards the 40,000-mile interstate Highway System. This vital network must be able to handle the tremendous volume and weight of military, industrial and civilian traffic that will flood our arterial highways in the event of a national emergency.
The opinions of those authorities must be respected. We know that during World War II. we had to build roads quickly. We built roads from Alice Springs to Darwin, from Mount Isa to Tennant Creek, from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie and from
Rockhampton to Charters Towers; but time was on our side. The enemy had not invaded our shores. The next time, we might not be so fortunate. We are told that our military strength rests on our mobile units. If I know the definition of words, “ mobile “ means that our forces must be able to move quickly. But could we move our mobile forces rapidly from southern to northern Australia in allweather conditions without .good roads? Of course not.
I appeal to the Government to recognize that up-to-date roads should loom prominently in any plans for an integrated defence scheme. The Americans realize the need for good roads. First-class highways would strengthen Australia’s defence potential. From the point of view of insurance it would pay us to expend some of the £190,000,000, which is allocated for defence, to provide all-weather roads which could be used in the event of hostilities. Nobody wants war but, from a defence point of view, we must make provision for every contingency. The experience of Australia in the last war showed the need for good roads. Luckily, we were able to construct them because the war did not actually reach Australia; but we might not be so lucky again. The Opposition has been twitted about having failed to present constructive ideas on defence. I am making positive suggestions for a defence programme and I recommend to the Government urgent consideration of the development of the aircraft industry and the provision of good military- roads.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has dealt with matters that are not unimportant but are scarcely germane to the statement that the Prime Minister has delivered. Nor do I propose to deal with matters that have concerned other members of the Opposition in the course of this debate. They have mainly fought the last war, and I have the simple faith that it was won not by politicians, not even by the people who, at no great personal loss to themselves, provided arms, but by the airmen, the sailors and soldiers, who were locked in actual combat with the enemy.
So I do not propose to deal with what the honorable member for Batman said or with that rather interesting but irrelevant debate which occurred earlier.
The important matter comes down to one very simple issue, and that is the question of whether the Government’s proposal goes sufficiently far in the direction of integration of the forces. There may be some ambiguity about this expression “ integration “ or “ unification “. Of course, nobody supposes that other than sailors will man ships, that other than airmen will fly aeroplanes, or that other than soldiers will operate tanks and artillery. Nobody supposes that for one moment. What, I think, becomes quite clear when you are involved in war is this: You have this integration at the top level between the civil government authority and the services, and integration at the top command between the services themselves. During the last war in England you had the War Cabinet, or that committee of the Cabinet that was called the War Cabinet, in direct communication with the Chiefs of Staff. When the Americans came into the war, you had the combined Chiefs of Staff operating. Then you had your theatre commanders, like MacArthur in the Pacific and Eisenhower in Europe, and you had combined operations such as the invasion of Normandy. In all those cases, at the top you had complete unification or integration of command, and an interlocking of the services. I think that that is what is meant by integration - not in the lower levels, but in the government and at the top service levels.
If that is necessary in time of war - and it is apparently necessary because in fact it happened - why is it unnecessary or undesirable in time of peace? I think that that is the very essence of the argument of those who, like myself, believe that the Government has not gone far enough. I think we should give careful thought to the time element. In past wars we have always been fortunate enough to be given the time and the opportunity by our enemies to gather our forces together and to experiment, perhaps at considerable cost. We were given the time to find the right kind of organization and the best means of achieving our object. Few people can suppose that in any future war our enemies will be so liberal with us so far as time is concerned.
So now there is every reason to embark upon that form of organization in peace which in war-time would be forced upon us and which we may not have time to organize when a war comes.
Indeed, the Morshead committee, to which reference has been made by the Prime Minister, has made a recommendation along those lines. Let me remind the House that that committee consisted of not only Sir Leslie Morshead himself, but also very experienced public servants - the Chairman of the Public Service Board, the Secretary of the Department of Defence, and the Assistant Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department. It was not a committee of outsiders who were unfamiliar with the methods of administration that are necessary within government departments. It was an extremely knowledgeable committee, and when it made this recommendation, it was with full knowledge of the implications of the proposals. The report did not come merely from an outsider who was unfamiliar with departmental administration.
The essence of the proposals was that there should be at least political integration at the top level, that is, that the Minister for Defence should become paramount and that the Ministers assisting him should not be Ministers controlling each of the services, but assistant and subordinate Ministers, controlling functions that cut across the three services. That would have been a very great step forward in this process of integration that I think, quite obviously, is necessary. It is a trend that cannot be resisted for very much longer. This view was entertained not only by the Morshead committee but it has been supported also by other most powerful people. Within this House it has been supported by perhaps the most experienced men in these matters, whether of the Ministry or of the back benches. I refer, of course, to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock). I would say that there is no man here who has had more experience in this matter than he, including the Cabinet and the whole of the Ministry. He supports the Morshead committee, and he is not alone.
– How do you know what the Morshead committee said?
– I shall leave that for a moment. The honorable member for
Barker (Mr. Forbes) has quoted at some length the opinion of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery. 1 suppose that honorable members are entitled to take account of what persons with great experience have said upon this matter. This view is not just an idiosyncrasy of the honorable member for Indi. It is supported by the Morshead committee, and by Field Marshal Montgomery himself. A great deal of thinking along the same lines has gone on, in both the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I shall not weary the House with further references to this matter beyond saying that a great body of literature exists which honorable members can easily study and which shows that this line of thinking has been, I would say, predominant amongst those people who are of a progressive mind, during and since the last war, and as a result of war experience and a contemplation of the possible shape of a future war.
The Government says that this step has not been taken in the United States or in the United Kingdom. It is also true, of course, that in those countries there are forces of very great magnitude. That is most important. Even in peace-time, as President Eisenhower has pointed out, the United States has 3,000,000 men under arms. There has been no integration there because the United States disposes of vast resources. It can afford to let three flowers bloom; to let each of its services experiment with new weapons and so forth. It has vast resources, and in that respect it differs very much from this country. Finally, in the United States there happens to be a president who himself, professionally, is well able to reconcile the differences between the rival services. The United Kingdom has in Mr. Duncan Sandys a man with great experience, for example, in the British Department of Supply, who is very familiar with the kinds of problems that the man at the top must resolve. Therefore, when it is said that we are doing no more towards integration than is being done in the United States and the United Kingdom, we must remember those very great differences - the magnitude of the problem they deal with, the enormous resources of the United States, and the personal qualifications of the civilian men at the top in those countries. May I conclude by saying that I have every reason to believe that thinking in Australia, among the more progressive people in the services, is along the same lines.
The Government has given reasons for the rejection of the recommendations of this committee. We are somewhat at a loss because the report of the committee has not been laid on the table. The Prime Minister has given reasons; they may be good reasons, but we are at a loss. It is rather like perusing the inscriptions of the ancient Egyptians without the aid of the Rosetta stone. We can only guess what was in the report, but we know that there was a report and a supplementary report- The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) tells us that there were three reports, which he calls the manuscript, the revised version, and the authorized version. We do not know. Was it that the committee made a report and that the Government said, “ Certain things we cannot accept”? Did the committee then make another report on that basis? Or was the supplementary report merely an elaboration of some recommendation that had already been made? Nobody knows, but it would be most important and most interesting for us to know. For example, did the Government say, “We will not accept your idea of abolishing the three service departments and throwing them into one Department of Defence. Now, have you any more to say, assuming that that is our decision? That is most important, because if the Morshead committee was not approached in that way, one would like to know what it would say if it were confronted with the Government’s failure to amalgamate the three departments. Are there any other means whereby more integration could be brought about?
The Government has rejected these proposals because it says that there are constitutional difficulties concerning associate Ministers. For my part, I feel that that is a somewhat flimsy reason. If the Government were in earnest it would be cognizant of the fact that there is a Constitution Review Committee at present inquiring into the Constitution, and that committee might well be able to remove any obstacles in. the way of appointing associate Ministers. If the Government were enthusiastic about the proposals of the Morshead committee, it would, say: “ At the moment we cannot do it. but at the first opportunity, when the constitutional impediments are removed, we will do it.”
It is also plain that there are some administrative difficulties. The Government asks: What would be the responsibility of associate Ministers who were in charge, not of a particular service, but of some horizontal function, such as personnel or logistics? The Parliament has something akin to an associate Minister in the person of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who is an unrecognized but functioning Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade. Is his responsibility vertical or horizontal? Clearly, that honorable member has been given some responsibility, lt does not matter what it is; the point is that he is, in effect, an associate Minister, and he has been given a responsibility. Whether that responsibility is a vertical one or a horizontal one does not matter. If the Government were in earnest these administrative difficulties could be cleared away. Associate Ministers would be given their sphere of responsibility, whatever it was, and if there was need for co-ordination1, or if matters in dispute had to be referred to a higher authority, then the Minister for Defence would be the man to resolve those matters.
I dismiss as phantasmagorial the idea that in time of peace an integrated defence department with something of the nature of a supreme commander would be a threat to the civil power. It is true that Cromwell usurped civil powers in his day, but I think it is fantastic to expect anything like that to happen to-day. I see no difficulty in regard to parliamentary control if a Defence Minister and associate Ministers are appointed. If necessary, the United Kingdom system of answering questions could be introduced. In Westminster, Parliamentary Secretaries, rather than Ministers, generally answer questions of which notice is always given, and supplementary questions arising out of them.
There are two points with which I should like specially to deal, and which I do not think have been raised so far in the debate. I believe that the step taken is a move towards integration - a very small and timid step, and one that must be greatly extended in the near future. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) said very clearly - and I could not agree with him more - that we have not yet found the final answer. He said that our allies were still searching also. My suggestion is that in, say, two yeaTs’ time, when perhaps constitutional obstacles to the appointment of associate Ministers have been cleared away, and when the new system has been given a trial, the Government would be well advised to have another investigation conducted by Sir Leslie Morshead, and perhaps others associated with him, but without public servants being associated with the investigation. Thereby, the way would be clear to lay the report on the table in this House. I think the Government would be wise to say now that it proposes to review the whole matter in, say, two years’ time.
I believe another most important step towards integration is the mental attitude of the heads of the three services. There should be a different form of training for our general staff officers in the future. In the United Kingdom, there is the Imperial Defence College, the Joint Services Staff College and the School of Land-Air Warfare, where the officers of the three services meet and get to know each other’s points of view, and the specialists in each service learn to know quite a deal about the other services and how they function. In the United States, there is the National Army College, again a joint college, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, where there are not only officers from the services, but also civilians associated with the civil departments that co-operate with the armed services. In India, there is a common staff college for young officers of all the services. In Canada, at Royal Roads, officers of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force are trained together. In Australia, we have simply the School of Land-Air Warfare, which some honorable members were privileged to visit recently. I understand that it is intended, not to build upon that idea, but rather to curtail its functions.
What we need above all, if we are ultimately to have integration, is officers in charge of our services who are really general staff officers, and who, though specialists in their particular service, know not a little, but a great deal, about the functioning of other services. We need those people in our head-quarters in time of war, and we need them as commanders who may have to take command of forces com prising the three elements. So a most practical step towards integration would be to produce officers of that type. My first proposal is that the Government should look at this matter in two years’ time in the light of how the present system works, and, secondly, that it should give careful consideration to the long-term move towards integration - that is, production of general staff officers who are not trained and hide-bound in one service. It has been suggested, somewhat facetiously, that a fund to pension off senior officers who fail to have an appreciation of the other services might be money well spent.
.- The House is at present debating a statement on defence organization made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 19th March last. It is one of many such statements on defence that have been made in the last twelve .months by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). Defence is an important subject, and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) spent some time in stressing that point. Unfortunately, the practice :is growing up in this Parliament whereby statements on subjects of importance are made by the Prime Minister. This is just another occasion when the functions of the Minister for Defence have been usurped by the Prime Minister. The same thing has happened on other occasions when economic statements have been made by the Prime Minister, whereas they should have been made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The same thing happened when the Prime Minister, instead of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), made a statement about the Suez crisis. I am beginning to believe that the reason the Prime Minister makes these statements instead of the Minister controlling the respective department, is that he is of the opinion that his eloquence will cover the faults in the Government’s economic, foreign affairs or defence policy. I .must say that he has good grounds for believing that his eloquence can do that. In my opinion, if the Prime Minister had not entered politics, Sir Laurence Olivier would not be the foremost British actor to-day. There is no doubt that the right honorable gentleman can string words together. Generally speaking, it has been my experience that when the
Government is in difficulties because of the failure of its policy in various fields, the Prime Minister comes in and makes a statement to cover up the situation.
Ministers and back-benchers on the Government side are treated with disdain and contempt by the Prime Minister when he adopts this practice, because, in fact, those who have been put in charge of their respective departments are not allowed to make a statement. I should say that the majority of members on the Government side know that the Government’s defence policy is not the correct one to be followed. It does not indicate that this Government has the welfare of the Australian nation at heart. Unfortunately, it seems that the backbenchers on the Government side are not prepared to take a stand in their party meetings, where a stand should be taken. They come into the House and mate their criticisms, but when the vote is taken we see them all lined up as directed by the Prime Minister or the Government. If they want to make a fight on defence - and apparently from the statements that have been made during this debate at least some of them have enough courage to come into the House and criticize Government policy - the place for them to do it is in their party meetings where they should stand up the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence and their respective service Ministers and deliver their ultimatum there. It is of little use their coming into the House and making criticisms which they have no intention of supporting by their vote.
The Government “ rebels “, as we might call them, have shown dissatisfaction with its defence policy not in the last few months only, but since 1949 when the present Government parties took office. During this debate we have heard such renowned soldiers, airmen and sailors as the honorable members for Indi (Mr. Bostock), St. George (Mr. Graham), Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and others, criticizing the various aspects of our defences and also the statement on defence organization now before the House. This Government, after being in office for eight years, has not yet evolved a satisfactory defence policy.
– Tell us yours.
– The Minister for the Army asks me to state the Australian
Labour party’s defence policy. The reason members on this side do not disclose the defence policy of our party is that the Government, which has had eight years in which to implement a satisfactory defence policy, has not been able to do so. Time and again the Government has used Australian Labour party policy for its own ends, and this is another occasion when it would like to do so. I can understand the Minister’s interjection; one could guarantee that if he were invited to attend the next Cabinet meeting - but being one of the junior Ministers he might not even get an invitation - he would put forward the defence policy of the Australian Labour party as his own. It is up to the Government, which controls the Treasury, to think out a defence policy which will meet with the approval not only of its own backbenchers but also of the Australian Labour party and the people of Australia.
Among members on the Government side who have criticized the defence policy of their own party are men who have distinguished war records. They have had experience in the subject of defence and have, undoubtedly, given a great deal of thought to it. They are men of courage and ability, and their opinions should be respected. Their colleagues who are not prepared at the moment to back them, should at least realize that they deserve encouragement and that they have the interests of Australia at heart. They are endeavouring to see that the inefficient administration in the Cabinet is brought to its senses and made to realize that Australia has to be adequately and efficiently defended. Members on the Government side who have been forthright and honest enough in this debate to say that the Government’s policy is not adequate should be supported. Their attitude must prove to everybody that something is wrong with the Government’s defence policy. When we hear the honorable member for Chisholm and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and some of their colleagues agreeing with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) on this subject, it should prove beyond doubt that there must be something drastically wrong with the Government’s defence policy.
The proposed appointment of a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff is one of two major changes that are to be made in our defence organization. Various reasons have been advanced why a chief of the Chiefs of Staff should be appointed and why such an appointment will be a good one. The recommendation, as I see it, was made because of lack of harmony between the present Chiefs of Staff. At their meetings they have not been able to reach agreement on various subjects. That is because of certain prejudices, loyalties or affections which they hold for their respective arms of the services. The purpose of the appointment of a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff is to establish harmony among the Chiefs of Staff. For many years inter-service jealousy has prevailed. I recall that during World War II. the Army, Navy and Air Force each thought it was the major arm of the services. Army personnel referred to the Air Force by various names and told various jokes about naval personnel. The Navy and Air Force did exactly the same thing with regard to Army personnel. That type of thing still goes on from the top of the services to the bottom.
The man who is to be given the job of trying to bring about harmony among the Chiefs of Staff is to be a man of military experience. The Prime Minister made that quite clear in his statement when he said -
We have, therefore, decided that there should be a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee who is not himself currently one of the Chiefs of Staff. He must, of course, be a military man of eminence and therefore drawn from one of the services. But his duty will not be towards his former service but to the Minister in respect of the overall defence picture.
I sincerely trust that the Government has found such a man. Hitherto, there has possibly not been a man big enough to forgo inter-service jealousies and forget his prejudices and say, “Well, the main problem is the defence of Australia, irrespective of whether the decision reacts against any particular arm of the services or not”. On this committee there will be two men from a particular arm of the services - one in civilian clothes and one in uniform. Human nature is human nature and I feel that the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, whoever he may be, will still retain some of the prejudices that he had before he came out of uniform.
The system which is now being introduced, although possibly designed to improve the meetings of the Chiefs of Staff, will not be completely satisfactory.
The various arms of the services could be regarded as being parallel to various political parties. When a committee of this House is appointed consisting of members from the various parties, the Government always insists that its parties should have a majority of one or two. In the new Chiefs of Staff Committee it will be found that one service, the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, will have the superior numbers. Consequently, harmony will not always exist. I sincerely trust that the man who gets the position of chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee will be able to submerge his prejudices, forget his loyalty to the arm of the services from which he came, and look at defence problems from the national point of view. But as human nature is human nature I doubt whether he will be able to adopt that attitude on all occasions.
– The commander-in-chief is able to achieve that in war-time.
– Perhaps it can be done in war-time; but war and peace are completely different. Things are done in wartime that would not be contemplated in peace-time and the commander-in-chief, in war-time, ‘certainly has a great deal of authority that he would not normally expect to have in peace-time.
On most occasions, it is inter-service jealousy that causes disharmony. If I were to say to an air vice-marshal, “ We are going to cut out the air force “, he would fight to the last ditch to prove that my proposal was wrong. The same attitude will exist in the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I think that if the chairman endeavours to persuade the Chiefs of Staff that a certain decision should be made, he will find that he has a difficult task in front of him.
I feel that the only solution to our present defence problems, particularly on the administrative side, is to have one defence Minister. It might be a bit hard on the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) to lose his portfolio, but I know that he is big enough to say that, in the interests of this great country, he is prepared to sacrifice his portfolio. If we cannot get harmony between the Minister for
Defence and the three arms of the services the world generally cannot expect to live in harmony. I say that because the arms of the services are made up of people of Australian nationality; people who believe in the same things, who have the same standard of living, and who generally see eye to eye. Surely they should be able to work in harmony. If the three arms of the services cannot work in co-operation in time of peace I feel that there is not much hope for the nations of the world, who are so wide apart on various matters, to exist in harmony. It is up to the Chiefs of Staff of the various arms of the services to demonstrate that their concern is the welfare of Australia, not their private ambitions or the desires of their particular arm of the services.
Another reason why the defence forces should be under one portfolio is that in Australia we have only a very small number of people in the various services. Each service is a separate entity, having its own nature, its own administration, and its own personnel. I cannot see that there is any need for all these things to be separate. I think that while the Army, the Navy and the Air Force could be separate in certain respects, in matters such as administration, supply, ordnance and equipment they could be integrated and controlled by a governing body. I think that an almost parallel example of what I am indicating is provided by the Public Service Board which generally controls all the departments of the public service.
With all other members of the Opposition I am completely disappointed and dismayed that the Government has not seen fit to table the Morshead report. It is a report that took some months to compile. It was prepared by men of integrity and by men who could be expected to make recommendations to the Government which would be of vital interest to all members of this Parliament. I would say that very few members of the Government have seen the report and that they would be largely members of the Cabinet. If the Government back-benchers are prepared to- submit to the Government’s refusal to take them into its confidence, they deserve- to be treated with contempt by the Government. This report should be made public.
I consider that the report, which was compiled by Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead and others, would have covered far more points than were covered in the defence organization statement made by the Prime Minister. I should like to know whether the report said anything about civil defence. I should like to know whether it said anything about outmoded and obsolete methods of training. I should like to know whether it said that one arm of the services should be given preference in equipment and recruitment. I believe that the report had far more recommendations in it than are covered in the speech of the Prime Minister. The report should be made public and the Parliament should be given the opportunity of debating it in full instead of debating the statement that has been made by the Prime Minister, apparently after he has picked the eyes out of the report.
Finally, I desire to speak on civil defence. The printed, policy of the Australian Labour party on civil defence states that we believe in -
Intense investigation of atomic and biological warfare with a view to development of adequate protection for the civil population.
Australia is a large country. It has a relatively small population.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) was critical of the statement on defence organization delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). He has questioned why it was delivered by the Prime Minister and not by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). He inferred that, by delivering the statement, the Prime Minister had affronted the Ministry and the backbenchers on the Government side of the chamber. I think that the effectiveness of such criticism is rather lessened because it was made by a member of the Labour party whose knowledge of what occurs within the ranks of the Government parties could only be provided by his imagination and would possibly be based on his own caucus procedure.
I should like the honorable member for Lang to know that the members of the Government parties are quite free to speak as they feel in the House as well as in the party room. We cannot feel that the same freedom exists among members of the socialist Opposition. They are restrained in their remarks and should they do anything that does not meet with the approval of their leader they are castigated for it.
– Yes, they might even be expelled. He said further, as the result of an interjection, that Labour did not give a policy on defence, and he leaves us with the belief either that the Labour party does not have a policy - which is quite possible - or that Opposition members are not prepared to give the Government the benefit of anything contained in their policy.
– That is right.
– The honorable member for Lang says that that is correct. I am surprised to hear a frank admission by an honorable member of this Parliament, on either side of the House, that he is not prepared to work in with the Government to get the best defence policy for Australia. As I say, I am surprised, but, after all, it is in keeping with what we have experienced from members of the Labour party previously. I am reminded that the late John Curtin complained that, after Munich, any further expenditure on defence was criminal extravagance. That is the thinking of the Labour party. I also remember that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), speaking in this House a few years ago as a spokesman for the Opposition, said that the Opposition would not co-operate in anything, good or bad, that this Government put forward. If we are to meet that type of non-co-operation, it ill becomes any members of the Opposition to criticize the Government and its efforts.
Mr.- Bowden. - It is an impertinence.
– As my friend, the honorable member for Gippsland, says, it is an impertinence for Opposition members to dare to criticize a government which has achieved so much in the face of the Opposition’s refusal to co-operate in anything, good or bad.
The defence organization- statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been attacked on several grounds, and I should like to deal with them briefly. The first complaint is that the report of the Morshead committee has not been made public. The Government realized, of course, that the problem of defence was of tremendous magnitude. It is a very wide subject for any individual to study. Private members of this House do not have access to information that is available to Ministers, of course, but although the Cabinet has access to all the information at the command of a government, the Prime Minister and other Ministers still felt - and all the more credit to them - that they should ask an independent committee to examine the position and make a report. As has been stated in this House, it was decided, on a matter of principle, that the report, which was compiled by members of the Public Service and others, should not be made public. I believe that every honorable member in. his heart respects that decision. Nevertheless, we still hear the criticism that the Government has some reason for not making the report public. The fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister has given an assurance that there is a difference of opinion between the Government and the committee on only ohe aspect of any consequence; that is, with regard to the integration of the three service departments and the Department of Defence. I ask again: What right has the Opposition to criticize the Government for taking the very logical step of getting experts in their particular spheres to investigate a matter and present a report for the examination of the Government?
– We do not!
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Opposition does not criticize the Government for that reason, and that Opposition members criticize the Government only because the report has not been presented to Parliament. It has been explained quite adequately, however, that the decision not to disclose the report was reached on a matter of principle, a principle which I believe both sides of the House agree with. I think we must all agree that such a document should not be open to public inspection. It is prepared for a specific purpose, and there is every reason to believe that those preparing it did not expect that it would be bandied about and picked to pieces by persons who did not know sufficient of the background to understand what it was all about.
Other criticism levelled by Opposition members during this debate concerned the Government’s defence policy up to this time. I was surprised to hear Opposition supporters saying that a Labour government had had experience in defence matters and that, in effect, that Labour government had won the war. That is all very well, but did we hear any mention of all the defence preparations that were made before the change of government which resulted in the Labour party coming to power?
– There was none!
– From ignorance, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith says that there was none. Did he ever hear of the Empire air training scheme, the greatest conception in the whole history of the war? Did he hear of the divisions that were sent to the Middle East, or of the men who went to Malaya? Did he hear of the Navy that sank the Italian Navy? Surely he must realize now that by the time the change of government came about in 1941 the war was half won so far as Australia was concerned. Did the honorable member ever hear of the organization set up to coordinate the activities of the people in the back country to ensure our food supply? All these splendid achievements, in which were involved not only the services but also the people at home, were well under way before any change of government occurred.
I do not detract in any way from what the Labour government did during the war years, but do not let Opposition supporters criticize the government that preceded it because of any lack of preparedness. Members of the Opposition have claimed that the Labour government raised enormous sums of money during the war by way of loans, but, of course, the government did not do the whole job simply by raising loans. Does the Opposition overlook the people who subscribed to the loans, or the fact that there was no other avenue open, for the investment of money? Does it overlook the fact that we are still paying off those loans? That is a point that is often forgotten. The loans raised during the war years represented purely paper money, and we are still converting those loans and paying them off.
Opposition members overlook the fact also that at the end of the war countless millions of pounds worth of equipment was disposed of in a hurry in order to bolster up government finances. I think that about £135,000,000 was raised from the sale of equipment left over after the war. I do not know, and I doubt whether any one knows, the true value of that equipment, but it was sold in a hurry and the money was paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, in order to enable the late Mr. Chifley to reduce income tax in his last year of office. That was one of the reasons why he had money on hand.
I do not want to deal with these matters any further. I think I have said enough to show the House that this Government has always followed a policy of getting the best brains possible to advise it on matters of importance.
The proposals that have been put forward have met with general acclamation, with possibly one exception. There is some difference of opinion, and again I say that the members of the Government parties have demonstrated that they are perfectly free to express their own opinions in this House. Our opinions may not be correctly based, but at least we have the right to express them, and some Government supporters have said that they do not agree entirely with the proposals contained in the statement before us. For my own part let me say that while I believe that the general policy laid down in the statement is very satisfactory, there are many matters on which some comment may be made. In particular, I do not altogether agree that the decision not to amalgamate the service departments - I do not like the word “ integrate “ - is necessarily sound. To my mind, the point that has been overlooked in this debate is that there are four elements in any proposal to amalgamate the services. They are the integration of the service departments, the integration of the services themselves, the administrative aspect, and the operational aspect. Whatever is done in peace-time, at either the administrative or the operational level, must be designed to permit a quick gearing up of the war effort if the services are called on to make the defence effort for which they have been built up. So it seems essential that we should decide whether we look at the amalgamation of the services from the departmental stand-point or the operational stand-point. If it is looked at from the stand-point of departmental administration, we must consider how far the amalgamation will affect a change-over to an operational basis in the event of war.
It seems to me that the present proposals tend to relate the defence structure to political considerations. Some of the suggestions that apparently were made by the Morshead committee appear to have been rejected because they would have upset the present political structure of the defence administration. I do not refer there to the subordination of the military services to civilian authority, upon which President Eisenhower commented. I do not wish to be misunderstood. President Eisenhower is reported to have said -
One requirement of military organization is a clear subordination of the military services to duly constituted civilian authority. This control must be real, not merely on the surface.
I entirely agree with those remarks.
I believe that there could be some measure of amalgamation of parts of the services, at least, in order to make a better military machine that would work more smoothly. So far as I know, there is no intention that the three services must be preserved separately and inviolate. In fact, it has been suggested that, as time goes on, they may come more closely together. We know very well that, in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, there are various branches charged with special functions. For instance, in the Air Force, there is the General Duties Branch, which is concerned mainly with flying. There are also separate branches for administration, special duties, equipment, barracks, accounts, personnel, and signals, including radar services. There are special musterings in each of these branches. A similar division of special functions applies to the other two services. However, at higher levels, integration of the services would enable the higher officers to obtain, not an expert knowledge, but a working knowledge, of all these things. It seems to me that our objective should be to give higher officers a general knowledge of the three services to fit them for the post of chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. This objective can be attained only by some measure of integration or amalgamation of the services at a low level.
There is much to be said for the retention of the individual branches of the defence forces. One of the advantages is the development of traditions. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) said that there was jealousy between the services. I do not think that “jealousy” is the correct term. Most serving members and former members of the services, I am sure, will agree that what existed was not jealousy but a pride in the particular service to which one belonged, and a high regard for the traditions that that service had built up over the years. That is very valuable. I believe that, even with a measure of amalgamation of the three services, members of the forces would take pride in belonging to and observing the traditions of, the services generally, just as, at present, members of all the branches of one service take pride in that service.
A great deal has been said about the standardization of equipment and operational procedures, and much more could still be said.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension, I had expressed my personal approval generally of the defence organization proposals. I had expressed some hope, however, that there would be some form of amalgamation of the services. We feel that that must come and that it could, at this stage, be well considered, particularly keeping in mind that defence functions should not be subordinate to administrative considerations. I had pointed out that there were, in my opinion, four aspects to be considered. They were that these proposals must take into consideration administrative and operational functions, that they should be considered in the light of peace and war, but that, whatever proposals were adopted, they should be capable of smooth transition from a peacetime defence service to a war-time basis. That is most important and has, possibly, been overlooked in the course of this debate. Indeed, I doubt whether all honorable members have really considered whether they are looking at these proposals from the peace-time or the war-time angle.
I was very pleased to note that one of the statements made by the Prime Minister was -
There is an urgent need, as the committee has emphasized to us-
That is the Morshead committee - for the elimination of overlapping, for the coordinating of activities and for the development of common services.
That is most important and, if I had more than a few minutes of my time left, I could give many instances to justify that statement. I was particularly heartened to hear the Minister for Defence say today that that is to be done. Many ancillary services, such as equipment, transport, signals and medical, lend themselves to this form of standardization to prevent overlapping.
In my opinion, to produce the best chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, some form of amalgamation of the services at a lower level must take place. This is the only way in which we will eventually - not immediately - obtain a chairman who is not biased towards any one service, but who, having a general working knowledge of all services, will be able to give full and proper consideration to the big problems that inevitably will come before him.
.- This debate, which has been going on for some considerable time now, is giving honorable members an opportunity to discuss the report submitted by the committee presided over by Sir Leslie Morshead and the excuses advanced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for not implementing the recommendations made by this distinguished soldier and citizen. I feel that Sir Leslie Morshead was appointed chairman of the committee to inquire into the inefficiency of the defence services because of the attitude of many of the “ forty-niners “ on the Government back benches who, encouraged by the attitude of the late Sir Henry Gullett, decided to follow his line and be severe critics of the Government, hoping to obtain positions in the Ministry. Some of the critics have been successful, but not all. Consequently, the criticism has continued, and the Prime Minister, in order to placate some of his junior followers, as he has done so effectively for many years, appointed the committee to inquire into the administration and activities of the departments associated with defence. We know that the committee was set up under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Morshead. Who is Sir Leslie Morshead?
– You tell us.
– I am going to tell you right now. He was perhaps Australia’s most distinguished soldier during World War II. He was the general commanding the Ninth Division and his name is gloriously associated with the siege of Tobruk and the general campaign in the western desert in Africa. Whilst he may not have been the most distinguished general sent overseas by Australia, there is none more distinguished in war service. No one knows more than he about the requirements of a force in defence or in attack. At the conclusion of hostilities in 1945, he returned to civil life and was as distinguished in civil life as he was in military life. He rose to the peak of his profession in the shipping world. I am very loath to pay compliments because of my ancestry, but I would say that the Prime Minister is to be complimented on having selected Sir Leslie Morshead, whom I regard as one of the most competent men in Australia to-day to advise on the reformation, if I may use the word, of the departments associated with defence. I feel that the few crumbs that fell from the table when the Prime Minister was delivering his statement on Sir Leslie’s report have been to the advantage of the nation. If the recommendations of the committee had been implemented, they would have been of real benefit to the services as well as to the nation.
We are indebted to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), whose analytical mind has permitted him and compelled him to glean from conversations with various members of the Government parties some of the information contained in the Morshead report, which has been denied to honorable members of Her Majesty’s Opposition. We are as keen as honorable members opposite are to see this nation adequately and efficiently defended. We know from the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the report is to be denied to members of the Opposition. It may have been denied to most members of the Government. I do know, judging by the speeches of those who followed the Prime Minister, that they have not been fully informed on Sir Leslie Morshead’s report.
I feel that an obligation rests on the Prime Minister to make the report compiled by this distinguished soldier and citizen available to members of Parliament and, through them, to the whole of the Australian people. Surely the Prime Minister, after leading this country as Prime Minister since 1949, has nothing of which to be ashamed in the administration of the defence departments; or do his actions in denying the people access to Sir Leslie’s report suggest that he feels in conscience that he has something of which to be ashamed? Is that the reason why he is denying people access to the report? He is evading the issue.
I want to touch on an important matter raised by the Prime Minister in his statement. He quoted a few sentences from the Morshead report, in which reference was made to the integration of the various services and the appointment of associate Ministers under the control of the Minister for Defence. The Prime Minister hastened to excuse the Government’s refusal of those suggestions. He pointed out that, some time ago, a system under which assistant Ministers were appointed was tried, and was not altogether successful. He made the very mercenary observation that it would be unfair to ask Ministers to serve when they might not receive salary for their services. He said that the Attorney-General had advised the Government that there was a grave doubt whether an assistant Minister could receive a salary for his services.
If that is the only reason why the Morsehead report is not to be implemented we can debunk it immediately. During the short time I have been a member of this Parliament, I have seen one Minister serving as Minister for the Army and Minister for the Navy. Because of that gentleman’s distinguished services in this field, he received the lowest grade of knighthood in a recent New Year’s honours list and was kicked upstairs to the Australian ConsulateGeneral in New York. Later we saw two members of the first eleven who comprise the Cabinet occupying successively the twin positions of Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air, but that state of affairs has since been altered or rectified - I do not know what is the correct word to use - because the Prime Minister does not seem to be able to make up his mind in relation to the defence of the nation. At the present time, we have a glorious example of what could be done in relation to something that is merely suggested in the Morshead report. We have the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) also holding the position of Postmaster-General.
The Prime Minister has referred to the suggestion in the report that a member could be appointed a Minister of State and receive a salary as such. For example, he could be the Minister in charge of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and also assistant Minister to the Minister for Defence. Now we have almost reached that stage with the Minister for the Navy. He is a Minister of State as PostmasterGeneral, and he could easily be an assistant or associate Minister to the Minister for Defence. The same could apply to other Ministers. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has not much to do in his portfolio. He could quite easily be Her Majesty’s Minister of State for Primary Industry and also be assistant Minister to the Minister for Defence. I shall not list the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) among the Ministers who could be assistant Ministers to the Minister for Defence, because he has a tremendous task to do in administering his portfolio. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) could easily fill another portfolio and be assistant Minister to the Minister for Defence.
As the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) pointed out, one thing that will come out of the Morshead report is that the position of Minister for Defence will have to be clarified. This, he said, should have been done years ago. Well, I think we all agree that it should have been done years ago - in fact, immediately after the Menzies Government came into office. We were told by the Prime Minister in his statement to the House and the nation that we cannot go back to 1938 - his own words. But I fear that in regard to defence we are rapidly going back to 1938. We know that the strength of the various armed forces is decreasing rapidly, that we are fast going back to the old days of the first Menzies Government, which was in office before and during the early part of World War II. It is suggested that there will be more administrative staff and fewer fighting men in the defence services. Statistics show that there are fewer men in the armed forces now than before. For example, in 1953 we had a total of 137,899 men serving in our permanent and citizens forces.
In the year ended June, 1957, that total had dropped to 132,988. It is expected that in the year that will end on 30th June, 1958, the total number of serving members in the forces will be 123,645. So it looks as if our forces are getting to be like the Portuguese Army, with more generals than privates. That is, of course, not the actual fact, but it is true that the number of serving soldiers is falling rapidly at a time when the Government is proposing to appoint more administrative officers.
The Government’s proposal is to integrate the services - but not entirely. It will integrate them to the extent that we shall appoint a Chief of Staff to be Chief of Staff to the Chiefs of Staff. We will, in effect, appoint a kind of big chief, and one good, fighting big chief comes readily to my mind -Big Chief Little Wolf. .
No doubt, for the top positions we shall want men who know something about the armed services. But I am afraid that, the way things are going, we shall still have inefficiency and bungling in the control of the three armed services. We have to get away from that. The counsel of Sir Leslie Morshead, to whom the whole nation is indebted for his war service and his advice to the Government at this time, should be heeded. We know that, all through the years that this Government has been in office, the state of the defence services and their administration have caused thinking people great concern. I gather from speeches made by honorable members on the Government side that the position has caused Government supporters also very grave concern. But I am afraid that those critics on the Government side can quickly be silenced by being appointed as junior Ministers. That is something that is not to the credit of the critics. They should persist in their criticism, not merely as loyal members of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party, but as loyal Australians. They have a duty to this nation to see that its defence services are at their highest peak of efficiency.
The hand of inefficiency seems to be directing everything that happens in the defence services, both on the fighting side and the supply side. In the supply arms of the services things are far from satisfactory. We are spending huge sums of money and seem to be getting no satisfactory return for it. Despite this tremendous expenditure of £1,200,000,000 over the last six years on defence, every type of defence equipment manufactured in Australia - munitions, aircraft and naval material - is suffering from creeping paralysis. Those who are employed on this production do not know from week to week whether their work will finish any day.
We know that quite recently, the Government opened the St. Mary’s filling factory with much publicity. We have been told that it is the most modern filling factory in the world; but because of bungling somewhere, the factory cannot produce to capacity. Shell casings must be imported to ensure that the St. Mary’s plant can produce to capacity. Somebody has blundered somewhere along the line. We are reminded of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Somebody blundered then; and somebody is still blundering in the defence administration of Australia to-day. A grave obligation devolves upon all members of Parliament to do everything possible to raise the standard of defence, improve the efficiency of the defence forces and lift the morale of those who are serving in them. We must do everything we can to make the people of Australia proud of the defence services and confident of their preparedness. The best thing that this Parliament and this Government can do is to give complete support and absolute effect to the report that has been submitted by the committee headed by so distinguished a soldier and citizen as Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead.
– The House has been debating the statement that was presented recently by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on changes in the organization of the higher defence machinery. It is very difficult in the short space of twenty minutes to discuss a topic as wide and important as this. If I had the time, I should like not only to speak about the changes in the defence machinery but also to answer some of the sneering criticism of the Opposition at the present state of our defence forces - criticism conceived in ignorance and delivered in malice; but as there is little time, I must first address myself to the proposed changes.
Probably there is no more difficult administrative problem facing the democratic nations than the organization of their higher defence machinery. It has worried us all and, for .all I know, it is worrying the Russians too. In 1946, Great Britain under a Labour government reorganized its defence machinery in the light of all its experience during the war. Great Britain adopted a system on which our own is very substantially modelled. There is a Minister for Defence in Great Britain responsible for policy, the allocation of resources between the three services, questions of common policy for the services and inter-service organizations. He has a Ministry under him. There is a Defence Department, somewhat differently constituted from our own, it is true, but serving much the same purpose. There is a Chiefs of Staff committee responsible for preparing strategic appreciations and military plans and submitting them through the Defence Department to the Minister for Defence and also responsible, in Great Britain, for the joint staff system. In Great Britain, too, there are three service Ministers responsible for the administration of their services under the general policies laid down by the Minister for Defence.
There has been no substantial change in the British system since 1946 except that, in 1955, an independent chairman was appointed to the Chiefs of Staff Committee. It is very significant that in 1946 in England the abolition of the service departments and the establishment of a single Ministry of Defence responsible for both policy and administration were considered and rejected as impracticable, just as they have been rejected in Australia.
We in Australia have experienced several particular difficulties which promoted the recent examination of our system and the changes that have been announced by the Prime Minister. The Government has felt the need for quicker and more responsive means of obtaining advice on purely military problems. Things change so quickly these days and military questions are so involved with those of international politics that military advice must be right up to date and immediately available. We cannot afford a ponderous planning system in which the ideas slowly emerge from the lower levels of the defence machinery to the top. We must have a sensitive and responsive system in which ideas can be clearly injected from the top. Another problem we face is to develop a truly joint service attitude at the top as well as further down through the services, particularly when it comes to the allocation of resources between the services and the division of the defence vote. The Government’s answer to this, as I would express it in my own words, is to re-establish the position and authority of the Chiefs of Staff.
It seems to me that, in the post-war years - perhaps the process began during the war - the corporate position of the Chiefs of Staff, not in administrative matters but in their advisory capacity, has been rather overlaid by the civilian element in the defence machinery. The appointment of a chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff should, at one stroke, give them a single voice through which they can speak and, at the same time, encourage and strengthen the development of a joint service attitude. It is the Government’s clear intention that in matters of military advice and planning, the joint Chiefs of Staff, as advisers to the Minister for Defence, will have a clear and louder voice. This is a forward step and one which I welcome very much. The Chiefs of Staff and their chairman will be members of the Defence Committee.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) in his speech yesterday expressed the fear that matters of inter-service rivalry, which had been settled in the Chiefs of Staff Committee under the authority of the independent chairman, would break out again in the Defence Committee. The nature of the independent chairman’s position is such that he should be able to prevent this, and I have no doubt that he will. He will be the principal military adviser to the Minister for Defence, and his views should prevail in the Defence Department as the view of the Chiefs of Staff collectively.
Two other changes announced by the Prime Minister have so far escaped much attention in this debate, yet both are very important. The Minister for Defence is to intensify the practice of bringing the service and supply Ministers into consultation with the double purpose of keeping them informed on matters of policy and of giving them the opportunity to make some contribution in policy discussions from the knowledge drawn from their administrative experience in their own departments. The function of a service Minister, as each of the three service Ministers acknowledges, is an administrative one within his own service department; but one cannot in this world entirely separate policy from administration, and it is certain that the exercise of administrative functions promotes thought on policy matters. I am very glad of this opportunity to acknowledge the generous and friendly support which I myself have received from my senior colleague, the Minister for Defence, since I took up my portfolio. He has at all times been completely accessible, helpful with advice and always ready to listen to suggestions. But the establishment of a more formal means of consultation between the Minister for Defence, the service Ministers and the Minister for Supply, is a forward step and one which I very much welcome. Similarly, the Prime Minister announced steps for frequent consultation between the permanent heads of the Department of Defence and the service departments, accompanied, when appropriate, by their military and scientific advisers.
– What is wrong with facing the Opposition?
– You interrupt too much with interjections. All of us with high responsibility for the defence of the nation want to develop the greatest possible integration of ideas and actions within our respective departments in order to forward the common purpose. Right through the three services-, from1 the top to the lowest level, the strengthening of the means of consultation at the top will have its effect. 1 believe that consultation between the permanent heads of the Department of Defence, the three service departments, and the Department of Supply, will help to promote a> common service attitude, and that is the best means of forwarding a common purpose within the three services.
A lesser change, which is of great importance to my department and will overcome the long-standing difficulty of resolving our remoteness from aircraft construction and repairing firms on which we greatly depend, has been mentioned by the Prime Minister. In future, as he said, the work of the Aircraft Maintenance Branch of the Department of Defence Production will be limited to the allocation of plant and essential production and resources, leaving the Air Force free to contract directly with suppliers for service and spare parts. This action is of decided advantage to the Air
Force. All these changes are important and will, 1 believe, bring much progress.
– I rise to order. May I point out, Mr. Speaker, that it is very difficult for members of the Opposition to hear the Minister when his back is turned to us. I ask him to turn round.
There is no substance in the point of order.
– All these moves are important and will, I believe, bring, much progress,, but this debate has more or less passed them by. It has turned, in the main, on the Government’s decision not to adopt the central recommendation df the Morshead committee to amalgamate the service departments- with- the Department of Defence, and to establish one defence ministry responsible for- policy and administration’. This suggestion, as I acknowledge, came from a competent committee presided over by a gallant and very exprienced citizen soldier, and composed otherwise of three senior public servants. The suggestion was rejected, and I am convinced that it was rightly and wisely rejected’, primarily, for reasons of parliamentary and political administration.
The essence of the defence problem to-day in this confused and fast-changing world, in which politics, ideology and defence are all inextricably mixed, is to be informed and flexible enough to make the right decisions and to form the right plans in time. As against that, purely administrative matters within the three services are relatively unimportant. To-day, more than ever before, the Minister for Defence needs to be free from the besetting demands of administration, to’ concentrate on the essential questions of policy and planning. As the Prime Minister so clearly pointed out, in our parliamentary democracy, if a Minister is responsible for administration, he has to go right to the root of that administration. He must give it all his attention, and the adoption of the central suggestion of the Morshead committee would have done the reverse and created a portfolio of intolerable burden. At the same time, in my opinion, it would have created an over-centralized and overpowerful secretariat of defence, in grave danger of setting up the greatest administrative bottleneck in our history.
In this debate, the Opposition has had virtually nothing constructive to contribute. Most of the intelligent and thoughtful criticism of the Government’s action has come from the Government side. (Conversation being audible) -
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert will remain silent.
– Honorable members have expressed regret that a single Department of Defence was not created. I have given my reasons why that was not done, and I am convinced that that recommendation was rightly rejected.
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert at the table continues to converse in audible tones. I warn him that if he persists in disregarding the instruction of the Chair he will be dealt with.
– Some honorable members on our side have expressed regret that a single- ministry of defence, including the service ministries, was not established. Others have expressed a belief in the need for a unified defence service under a single command. The principal proponent of this view is my friend the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), the Air ViceMarshal. I enjoy and greatly value his friendship,, and I have immense admiration for his long and valuable service to the Royal Australian Air Force, and his inspiring leadership of one of its principal forces during, World War II., but I do not share his views on a single defence force. He and most of the members who have expressed this criticism are members of a body known as the Government Members’ Defence Services Committee. I myself was previously a member of that committee and, indeed, the chairman of it, and I have known for many years of the views of the honorable member for Indi on a single defence force. I have disagreed with them since I first heard them. They might be valid if Australia had to face a war to be fought alone, without allies, and in Australia, but they are not valid otherwise. In any future war ships of our Navy will be engaged on escort duties or keeping open the sea lanes which link us with other allied nations. Some of our Army units will be disposed where they can best contribute to the joint allied purpose and some units will probably be retained for home defence, according to the circumstances at the time. Our aircraft are likely to be engaged, some of them in concert with aircraft of our allies in the distant fields of war, some defending the sea approaches to our country, and some in home defence and training. Circumstances in which all our services would be available together in one place under one command are inconceivable.
I know that there is a strong case - an overwhelming case - for the appointment of a supreme commander in a single theatre of war. All the allied experience of the last war demonstrated that, but the creation of a single defence force under a single command at home in peace-time would mean a cumbersome structure existing in theory and’ in peace only, which would have to be dismantled as soon as the country went to war.
– Do you know more than Sir Leslie Morshead?
– Sir Leslie Morshead did not recommend that. If the honorable mem,ber reads the Prime Minister’s statement of the recommendations, he will find that that is not included in it. As for the fanciful idea of the honorable member for Barker (Mr- Forbes), of the creation of a marine commando force - what becomes of that when our escort destroyers are spread out over the Pacific and Indian Oceans, or over wider fields, in pursuit of their natural duties, when our aircraft are deployed first here or there at great distances from our country in association with the air forces of our allies, and when our soldiers, quite probably, are engaged elsewhere. The possibility of all the Australian forces fighting together in a single theatre under a single command could arise only if we were deserted by our allies and our friends and brothers and’ were facing imminent disaster alone. The conclusive answer to this theory about a single integrated defence force under a single command ought to be found in our present engagements in peace-time. The Navy has two of its ships, and very often a carrier, under the command of the Commander-in-Chief Far-East, in FarEastern waters. The Army has a battalion in
Malaya, fighting in the jungle and forming part of a Commonwealth force. The Air Force will very shortly have three squadrons - one of Canberras and two of Sabre fighters - operating under an Australian Air Commodore from an advanced base of our own construction in Malaya. How on earth does this discharge of our obligations tally with the idea of a single defence force under a unified command? It does not, and it cannot.
I wish I had more time to answer some of the sneering criticism that has been levelled at the Government about our defence forces. In the Air Force, to which I confine myself, we have three squadrons of Sabres, two squadrons of Canberras, six other squadrons of lesser jet fighters, and two squadrons of maritime aircraft. For a small power that is a very considerable and modern air force, lt is operated by about 14,600 service personnel at the present time, together with 2,000 civilians, which is a ratio of civilians to servicemen lower than is ordinarily achieved in this or any other country.
Australia is the only small power to have a sizeable, modern, jet bomber force. Leaving aside the four great powers, in which I include Communist China, only two other countries have any jet bombers at all, and until recently Australia was the only other country. These things should be taken into account by members of the Opposition before they sneer at the state of our defence forces. For a small nation, Australia has a modern and well-equipped Air Force, whose personnel have a high morale and a high standard of efficiency. I am sick and tired of constantly hearing our defence forces being run down. The Opposition does not know the state of our defence forces. It does not care. It only wants to abuse them for political purposes.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- This debate is an astonishing one. Parliament is called upon to engage in a debate about a report that it has not yet seen. It is amazing that whenever a statement on defence is made it is not the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) who makes it, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The report of the Morshead committee recommended that the Minister for Defence should accept full responsiblity for the defence of this country, but the Government has chosen to disregard that recommendation. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has complained about the lack of time available to debate this matter. All honorable members will join with him in deploring the fact that the Government has treated the defence of Australia in such a cavalier manner that honorable members have been granted only twenty minutes each in which to address themselves to one of the most important matters facing this country. The Minister complains about something for which he is in part responsible.
The Labour party to-day stands for the defence of Australia, as it has done in the past. The Labour party has never deviated from that course. The earliest definite plans for this country’s defence were promulgated by a Labour government. On 5th November, 1936, the late John Curtin made a memorable speech in which he directed attention to the problems facing this nation and the need to face reality. That speech is reported in volume 152 of “ Hansard “. On that occasion he was chided for his forthright Australianism by honorable members who now sit on the Government side of the House. Mr. Curtin stated that Australia should have an Air Force capable of meeting any aggressor. He pointed out that Singapore might fall and that Australia would then be imperilled. On that occasion, even as now, members of the anti-Labour parties took him to task. They were complacent and self-satisfied. They were content with the situation that existed. To-day, only a fool would be content with the situation in this country. It is not at all surprising to hear the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) - the Air Vice Marshal - declare their dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister’s statement and those of other Government spokesmen. It is well known that seething discontent with Australia’s defence runs through the ranks of the Government parties.
On this occasion, Parliament is engaged in a stop-gap debate merely for the purpose of filling in time in the closing hours of a parliamentary period, discussing defence as if it was a light and airy matter unworthy of consideration. There is an urgent need to consider in full the statement made by Sir
Leslie Morshead, one of Australia’s most distinguished soldiers. Sir Leslie Morshead, together with Sir William Dunk, Mr. Hicks, and Mr. Bunting, was called upon not by the Opposition, not by the Press of the nation, not by some pressure group outside the Parliament, but by the Prime Minister to investigate this country’s defence organization and to make a comprehensive report. That committee was asked to indicate what should be done to put Australia’s defence force on a proper basis. Honorable members have heard the Prime Minister’s statement. It was an elaborate expenditure of words on a wasteful expenditure of public funds. We have new statements, new plans and new reports, but little or no definite action. Honorable members have to be satisfied with this stop-gap debate instead of a careful study and appreciation of the problems facing Australia. We should be turning our minds to the security of this country, the protection of our civilian population, and to making sure that justice is done to those who are engaged in the services so that they may be better able to enter into the defence of this country. Instead of that, honorable members are carrying on a desultory debate during the closing hours of this parliamentary period.
The Prime Minister’s statement was just another spate of words, phrased, as usual, in a delightful way to say that the Morshead report is to be rejected. If the Morshead report is to be rejected, what is to take its place? Obviously, the Government is not satisfied with the situation; otherwise it would not have appointed this committee to inquire into Australia’s defence organization. But because of agitation by the daily press this committee was appointed, and has reported to the Government in unmistakable language. Yet the Government is not prepared to accept the findings of the committee. The present apathetic Ministers - the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson), the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) - each doing his own particular job, are more concerned about the priorities and claims of their own departments than the overall defence of Australia. Naturally, they will rally to the Prime Minister’s cause in opposing any plan for co-ordination of our fighting services.
One would have thought, on an occasion such as this, that for the overall good of
Australia an attempt would be made to find a new plan to meet the needs of the Australian people and provide for the security and defence of this country. One would think that that should come first. When I look at the expenditure of public funds in the defence of this country since the present Government parties came into office in 1949, I discover that from the 1950 Budget until the present time more than £1,400,000,000 has been voted and spent on defence. With so little to be seen for that expenditure, there is little wonder that the Morshead committee, whose report we should have before us as it forms the genesis of this debate, calls for very drastic and substantial changes in our defence organization.
One would think that in this age of intercontinental missiles, rockets, nuclear submarines, and man-made defences based on the most modern standards, there would be a new conception and appreciation of the problem of defence. One has only to take the statement made by the British Minister for Defence, Mr. Duncan Sandys, to find him forthrightly declaring that the problem is one of the greatest concern, not only in the United Kingdom but also to mankind generally. It poses the important question of just how far we should continue spending vast sums of money such as have been spent with such pitiful results as one may observe at the present time. Mr. Duncan Sandys, in a recent statement, said -
Since there was at present no effective means of protecting the population against attack with nuclear weapons, it was not thought right to waste the people’s money pretending to do what was impossible.
That is a most important statement. It represents the sort of matter that ought to be considered fairly by this Parliament. If the Prime Minister and the Government are not prepared to take the Parliament into their confidence and discuss these matters, what hope is there for our democratic institutions? Surely, the fundamental questions of modern weapons of war, how they are to be used and the right of our soldiers, sailors and airmen to go forth in the defence of this country with equipment equal to that of the servicemen of other countries ought to be paramount. Never again should our airmen go forth as they did in World War II. in Wirraways, having to match their skill and prowess against Zeros and other superior aircraft. That is one of the great scandals that should never be repeated. To-day, we are faced with the question of whether our weapons are adequate for the defence of Australia. Are our aircraft equal to the world’s best? If they are not equal to the world’s best, they are not good enough. How is this Parliament to find out? Over a period of years I have submitted to the Parliament the need for the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee for the purpose of investigating defence expenditure and of seeing to it that this nation is prepared. I have put to the Parliament on other occasions, and I do so again to-night, the need for the appointment of a defence expenditure committee and a defence preparedness committee, which could go into such subjects as the Morshead committee investigated and be available to investigate the spending of public money on defence undertakings such as the St. Mary’s project. The work of such committees would inevitably be of great benefit to this country.
During World War II., when a Labour government was in office, the Joint Committee on War Expenditure was in existence and its very last report was signed by none other than the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), as deputy chairman. Attention was drawn to the outstanding work of that committee and I submit that a body of that kind could be appointed with great profit to the people of Australia. It could watch carefully defence expenditure in this country. I pay tribute also to the Public Accounts Committee. It is doing a good job in its own way, but, unfortunately, it can make its examinations only after expenditure has been incurred. One function of a defence expenditure committee would be to watch projects in the course of erection, and, generally, to ensure that the best value was obtained for expenditure of the taxpayers’ money. The last report of the former Joint Committee on War Expenditure which, as I have said, was signed by the Minister for Labour and National Service, dated 8th August, 1946, contains this paragraph - ft is also pointed out that on several occasions during the existence of the War Expenditure Committee, the Prime Minister of the day has referred to it subjects for special investigation and report.
In our opinion the existence of a Committee for such a purpose under peace-time conditions is equally necessary.
– The Menzies Government set up that committee in the first place.
– Honorable members in this place who served with distinction on that committee include the honorable members for Grey (Mr. Russell), Brisbane (Mr. Lawson) and Reid (Mr. Morgan), and, as I have already said, the Minister for Labour and National Service was deputy chairman of it. It reported on a variety of matters such as petrol consumption by the armed services, and the “ cost plus “ contract system. That would have been an excellent committee to investigate expenditure on St. Mary’s, instead of that work being done by committees appointed after the work had been done and the money had been expended. A vigilant committee could have been of very great value in watching such a project. Another matter investigated by the Joint Committee on War Expenditure was the “ cost-plus “ contract system as it applied to annexe contracts. The committee also investigated defence construction in Queensland and the Northern Territory. The cost of construction of military hospitals was also investigated. The construction of 300-ton wooden ships in Tasmania was another subject with which it dealt. The reports on each of those subjects clearly indicated the need for a committee of that type; and I am making a plea to-night that a similar body should be appointed to deal with this special class of work. The former War Expenditure Committee was first appointed by an anti-Labour government, and it was maintained by a Labour government to the end of the war. It should be re-created for the purpose of watching defence expenditure at the present time.
When I think of the inactivity of the Government in regard to defence matters my mind goes back to the statement of the Prime Minister in 1951 when he declared that there would be war in three years and that it was urgently necessary for the nation to be prepared. He said that we should sacrifice everything so that this nation would be able to meet any challenge which might arise. Despite those statements we know the sorry story which has been unfolded since that time. The production of the FN rifle in my home town of Lithgow in my electorate, is a matter which could have been profitably investigated and reported upon by a committee of the kind 1 have mentioned. The production of this rifle has engaged the attention of myself and of the Government for some time. I pay a generous tribute to the technicians, engineers and workmen engaged in the production of that weapon. They work in. my electorate; I know their quality and skill and I know that the .303 rifle which they have produced has been selected by marksmen throughout the world as being one of the best rifles produced anywhere. It was a product of the skill and ability of people employed in the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow.
Any comment I may make about the tardy progress in the production of this rifle does not reflect in any way upon the employees at that factory. The delay in this matter has been purely political and has had nothing whatever to do with the men on the job. It was not until Mr. Beale, the former Minister for Defence Production, sent overseas some engineers and technicians from the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory and enabled them to make contacts with other experts and, on their return, to contribute their knowledge to the planning of this rifle that any progress was made in its production. Until that time, the steering committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization functioned without an Australian representative. Who was responsible for that? Not the men at the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow but this Government which had failed to exercise Australia’s right to be represented at the meetings of the steering committee. When the Australian representatives were finally sent to the meetings they were able to play their part and to bring back plans to this country so that the rifle could be mass produced at some date in the foreseeable future. I have in my hand a copy of a statement made by a former Minister for Defence Production, Sir Eric Harrison, who said, in September, 1954, that the F.N. rifle would go into mass production immediately. He said -
In order to obviate the; necessity to rise later to reply to the honorable gentleman in respect of the one matter, I now inform, him that we have placed orders for the new standard service rifles, which will be manufactured at Lithgow.
Those orders were placed on 16th September, 1954. Three years and six months have elapsed since then and the rifle is not expected to be produced until next year. In Canada and the United Kingdom the rifle is already being made. We are lagging behind only because of the indolence, ineptitude, carelessness and incompetence of this Government which has failed to face up to its responsibility and give our men a chance to do their work.
– This debate is supposed to be upon a defence reorganization statement which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). During the course of the debate, members of the Opposition have made no attempt whatever to deal in a constructive way with that statement nor have they attempted to suggest any alternative plan. It is to me, and it must be to the country at large, a very pitiful display by a great party which presumes to expect to become the government of this country. Opposition criticism, particularly that of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) who spoke last night, has been a mere petty tirade of abuse with no facts whatever. The figures that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition used were completely wrong. He stated that there was practically no army, practically no air force, and practically no navy. He said that £1,500,000,000 had gone down the drain. That was just cheap talk. So that he could claim to have said something constructive, he said that the country wanted a defence force.
While this Government has been in power, the Opposition has fought consistently to prevent defence expenditure in every shape and form. But let us look at Labour’s record. I am speaking of the Army only, not the other services. When Labour was returned to power in 1946, it had 46,784 persons in the Australian Regular Army and in that year it spent £123,600,000. In the following year it spent £71,000,000; in the next year it spent £61,000,000; and in the next year, which was its last year of office, it spent £54,000,000. That shows how the Labour Government allowed the whole defence structure to collapse.
When this Government came into power the strength of the Australian Regular
Army had dropped from 46,000 odd, to 14,000 odd, of which 7,000 were warrant officers and non-commissioned officers, 2,400 were officers, and 5,300 were privates. The Labour Government had, on paper alone, at that time, Citizen Military Forces of only 17,000. When this Government came to power it found that the Citizen Military Forces were doing practically no training. It was difficult to find many of the men who were in those forces because they had long since changed their addresses. The Labour Government had also set out on a campaign to sell valuable equipment worth millions of pounds and this Government has had to spend many more millions of pounds in order to replace it. I could give details of that equipment but I have not sufficient time to-night.
Contrast that record with the record of this Government! In the first year that this Government was in office it spent £91,000,000 on defence and that amount has increased each year until it is now spending £191,000,000 a year. What have we to show? Australian Regular Army troops at present number 21,000, and Citizen Military Force troops number 63,000. In addition to those numbers we have, trained and liable for service, a further 70,000 personnel and we have many thousands trained but not now liable for service. Since this Government established the national service training scheme, 175,972 youths of this country have been trained. Is that not a worthy record? In addition, we have 33,000 school cadets in preliminary training. Last night, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that in the Pacific Islands Regiment in New Guinea we had one company and twelve officers. We have just on 700 troops and 22 officers in that regiment. So much for the honorable member’s figures.
As time is short, I now want to refer to the differing views that have been expressed in this House. It is quite understandable, on this side of the House, at least, that men who are expert in matters of defence should have differing views. I can quite understand it. We have had no views from the Labour party at all. But constructive though differing views have been expressed on this side. The Government encourages its supporters to express their views. There is no need, in a debate of this kind, for Government supporters who know about these matters to be inhibited by party political considerations. There is no reason why they should not express their views. They were encouraged to do so. Experts in every country in the world have differing views on defence. There is a great variety of views.
Nearly all the major countries have had reports and commissions of all kinds dealing with this kind of problem. The approach to defence is changing violently throughout the world. No longer can we look back on the past in order to set our standards in accordance with the types of weapons that were previously used and the approach that was previously adopted. It is natural, under those circumstances, that there should be a trend towards centralization. But we do not know, nor does the government of any other country know positively, what will happen. We are not sure. No other country has attempted the step which was recommended in the report under discussion. Neither the United Kingdom nor the United States has attempted it.
May I briefly refer to some of the press reports which have made attacks, particularly relating to the Army? The members of the Labour party have agreed with those, attacks because their only purpose in entering into this debate is to try to gain some political advantage, not to contribute anything to the country’s welfare. I have no objection to press criticism or speculation. None at all. But I suggest that the press should be fair. If it is found that statements published have been wrong the newspapers should say so publicly, because those wrong statements can be very damaging. Let me refer to the brigade group that some newspapers have spoken of as a sham and a phantom, and composed of old men. It has also been said that no reinforcements are available for it. Let me answer those allegations categorically. The brigade group is not a sham. The average age of its members is less than 25 years, which is most satisfactory by any standards. There are reinforcements available. Just on 500 of them are in training at the present itme, and they will be used to fill up any gaps that occur in the brigade group.
When this group marched in Sydney recently certain newspapers criticized the equipment that it carried. They said that it had no FN rifles, that it did not have the 105-rnm. howitzer and that it had no nuclear weapons. Everybody knows that no country in the world has an army that is fully equipped with FN rifles. The armed forces of the United States of America, of course, are equipped with the 105-mm. howitzer. The press knows these things. Press representatives are well aware that we are at present getting ready to produce the FN rifle, and that it will come off the production lines next year. They know, too, that negotiations are at present proceeding between the Governments of Australia and the United States of America in connexion with the provision of the 105- mm. weapon. So far as nuclear weapons are concerned, every one knows that it is impossible to equip an army anywhere with these weapons at the present time. The Army is, however, equipped with standard modern weapons, as good as those in use in any other country.
Let me say frankly to the members of the press that while I concede their right to criticize, they should give us some help. Our biggest problem at the moment is manpower, and I can tell honorable members that some of these young servicemen get a bit browned off when they read all this criticism. We want the help of the Labour party and of the press. We want the help of every one to ensure that we can maintain the defences of this country. The matter should not be placed on a party political basis.
I wish now to refer to what has been said with regard to the various service departments. The matter before the House is one of the greatest national importance. There are admitted faults in the present organization, but we are dealing with services that have a background of strong tradition, and we must be sure where we are going. We must not be stampeded into violent change, merely because of widespread press criticism and other propaganda, or perhaps because other countries are also confused with regard to this matter. I believe that there is room for great improvement, particularly in the following fields: first, the rationalization and integration of many aspects of our service operations; secondly, the streamlining of administration in order to achieve greater efficiency; and, thirdly, the attainment of a clearer vision and consideration of our higher defence policy.
While endeavouring to achieve these objectives, we must carefully keep in mind certain essential facts. First, as I have said before, there is age-old tradition connected with the individual identity of the Navy and the Army. The Air Force also has its strong traditions. Although this service has had a much shorter history than the other two, it has captured the imagination of the world in recent times. The value of these traditions in the individual services must not be lost. What is, perhaps, more necessary than anything else is to retain the British system of democratic parliamentary control over our defence policy and operations. Therefore, the domestic activities of each branch of the services must not become remote from ministerial jurisdiction.
It is of the utmost importance to harmonize what may be called the purely military functions with the civil, political and financial aspects of the complete defence organization. This cannot be done without ministerial control, and it is of the greatest possible importance that it should be done.
The suggestion has been made in this House yesterday and to-day that there should be only one department concerned with defence and one Minister for Defence. Many honorable members have made that suggestion. I am leaving aside for the moment the proposal concerning assistant Ministers because, as the Prime Minister has said, it is not constitutionally possible at present. Many honorable members, however, have suggested that all the defence functions could be carried out under the supervision of one Minister. The main duty of the Minister is to control the overall defence policy and to maintain a strategic appreciation of our defence forces. Let us not forget that even with only one defence department, with one Minister in control, there would still be three Chiefs of Staff and three services. I submit that an organization of that kind would be of such colossal size that the Minister for Defence could not possibly be acquainted with everything that was happening right down the line in the three services.
It has been said that they are only small services. Let me point out that the same functions are performed in a small service as in a large one - the same functions, requiring the same kind of detailed work. While it is true that the three Australian services are small when compared to those of other countries, it is also true that our Department of Social Services, our Department of Health and our other departments are smaller than the corresponding departments in other larger countries. Dealing with the Army, for a start, let me pose this question: Is it a small service that handles over £400,000,000 worth of stock and equipment, and over £100,000,000 of real estate, with a quantity of covered stores, throughout Australia, so vast that it would not fit into the heart of the City of Sydney? Is it a small service that has over 100,000 persons on its payroll, making it a bigger employer of labour than the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and as big as the great organization of General Motors-Holden’s Limited? Yet honorable members opposite tell me that this service does not require ministerial control. If that is so, all I can say is that my understanding of these things is all wrong.
The Government has decided that full power will be given to the Minister for Defence. There will be - and I do not want to repeat these provisions unnecessarily - a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, whose job it will be to ensure the maximum of rationalization and standardization within the three services. Another matter that has escaped the attention of many honorable members and is of vital importance is the necessity for frequent consultations between the Minister for Defence, the three service Ministers and the Minister for Supply. This will be most important because, under the new scheme, it will be necessary for service Ministers to know what the top-level policy is, in order that that policy can be reflected in the administration of the services. It is also most important that the departmental heads of the service departments should be brought together in the same way, so that integration may take place to the benefit, ultimately, of the whole defence force. The statement that the Prime Minister has presented shows that the Government’s plan will achieve integration to a maximum extent short of direct amalgamation of the services. In addition, we will preserve and hold fast to the vital principle of civilian control by the people’s elected representatives in this Parliament.
These are vital considerations. I think that great confusion would have been caused if the scheme of assistant Ministers - one responsible for logistics, and the other responsible for personnel - had been adopted. There would have been no direct control over the Chiefs of Staff in the way that that control is to be established under the Government’s proposals, and there would have been no direct parliamentary or ministerial control over each of the services - and that control is most necessary. There would have been considerable overlapping, because, in many instances, the assistant Minister dealing with logistics, and the other assistant Minister dealing with personnel, each would have been dealing with the same man in the Quartermaster-General’s branch of the Army, and with the same man in the branch administered by the MasterGeneral of the Ordnance, for example; and this would have applied to all the branches charged with the separate functions of the services. Such a scheme would have been fatal to parliamentary control over the services.
The tendency throughout the world is towards integration, and, although I do not say that the future does not hold something else, the requirements that I have mentioned make it impossible for Australia to integrate its services at the present time. Indeed, the leaders in defence planning in the United Kingdom and the United States of America have admitted that it is impossible, for the same reasons, to integrate the forces of those countries. Therefore, the Government should be, not criticized, but commended, for taking the action that it has taken to achieve a greater measure of efficiency, and to improve the organization of the forces. In these measures, the Government is entitled to receive assistance from the Opposition. Such assistance should always be forthcoming in defence matters, in both peace and war, not only from an opposition, but also from all the other elements in the community that can help to develop and maintain defence forces adequate to enable us to take our place with the other nations with which we must co-operate in order to ensure our salvation.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Throughout this debate, Mr. Acting
Deputy Speaker, Government supporters have been protagonists in a dual struggle - first, in argument against the report of the Morshead committee, and secondly, in argument against some of the views expressed by Opposition speakers. Whether the Government has had a victory over the Morshead committee, I have no idea, because we do not know what the committee said in its report. Indeed, I rather had the impression that I was watching on television a duel in which only one of the protagonists was visible on the screen. The Morshead committee’s report certainly seems to have stirred up the Government, and we have had this great discussion about the integration of ministries. The integration of ministries may be quite important, but, in the face of the defence issues that confront this country, that matter is very petty and minor indeed.
We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) enunciate a new constitutional theory - that there is a doubt whether we may appoint Ministers without portfolio - and he has used this doubt as an argument against the integration of ministries by the appointment of two Ministers without portfolio to assist the Minister for Defence. I have examined the “ Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook” for 1938, which covers the history of ministries from that year back to the time of federation, and I have taken some ministries at random. The Barton Ministry, right at the beginning of our federal history, was led by a man who was one of the fathers of the Australian Constiution, and at least half of his Cabinet also were fathers of the Constitution. Two Ministers without portfolio were appointed in the Barton Ministry, and Deakin, who was Attorney-General, saw no legal difficulty in this procedure. The second Deakin Ministry had three Ministers without portfolio. Isaac Isaacs, who was later Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, and subsequently GovernorGeneral, was Attorney-General in that ministry and he saw no legal barrier to the appointment of Ministers without portfolio. The fourth Hughes Ministry had nine honorary Ministers. The Bruce-Page Ministry had six honorary Ministers. The Scullin Ministry had eight honorary Ministers, and the Lyons Ministry, in which the present Prime Minister was Attorney-General, had eight Ministers without portfolio. So, it seems that, if all those people were liable to a -fine of £100 for every day that they sat in the Parliament after appointment as Ministers without portfolio, and if they were liable also to all the terrible penalties that the Prime Minister has mentioned, many of the Prime Ministers of the past, including some of our most distinguished lawyers, and some of the founding fathers of federation, were thoroughly irresponsible in the appointment of ministries.
Any pursuit of the subject raised by the Prime Minister is a diversion, because, in view of the gravity of the defence situation, the issue of the amalgamation of the Defence ministry and some other ministries is quite a minor matter. The defence situation in the world to-day is that no nation has security, and the defence situation of this country is that Australia has no military security. The revolution in strategy and weapons of the last 44 years can be traced if we sit back and contemplate - not very profoundly - the position of Great Britain. In 1914, the Grand Fleet gave Great Britain absolute security. In 1939, the Royal Air Force and the Home Fleet gave Britain relative security. They could not prevent the bombing of cities, but fighter aircraft could intercept bombers, and a high degree of security was built up in the celebrated Battle of Britain. To-day, nobody pretends that inter-continental ballistic missiles, or rockets with hydrogen warheads fired from submarines, can be prevented from landing on British cities. London “ Punch “ published a brilliant cartoon after Duncan Sandys, the United Kingdom Minister of Defence, had stated that fighters were a thing of the past. It showed an air force marshal outside Buckingham Palace with one of the Horse Guards mounted on his horse, the Horse Guard leaning over and saying, “ What does it feel like to be obsolete? “ That is the situation as far as Great Britain is concerned. Duncan Sandys makes no bones about the fact that the country has no security whatever from attack with hydrogen weapons.
During the Suez Canal crisis, the Russian Government sent to the British Government a note specifically directing attention to the fact that Britain had no security against rockets with hydrogen warheads, and pointing out that it was not necessary even to transport such rockets by submarine or ship in order to launch an attack. The only security that we can say we have is provided by the deterrent to the use of these weapons - that is to say, the security of retaliation. The United Kingdom does not pretend that London could not be totally obliterated in a nuclear war. The only security against that, in a military sense, is the fact that Moscow also could be totally obliterated.
In spite of this, we are faced with the fact that conventional weapons are both obsolete and not obsolete. They are obsolete if the enemies are completely separated and can fire inter-continental ballistic missiles at one another, but there could be many circumstances in which that would not be so. If, in World War II., for instance, Holland and Germany had had nuclear weapons, when the German forces poured across the Dutch frontier, it would not have been possible for the Dutch, defending themselves in the circumstances of 1940, to use nuclear weapons without loosing them among their own people. Consequently, they could have resisted the invasion only with conventional weapons. There are many circumstances in which conventional weapons would have to be used. Let us assume, for instance, that the United Nations had decided to take military action over Hungary. Could United Nations forces have used hydrogen weapons in Hungary as a means of expelling the Russian forces? They could not have done so without destroying the Hungarian people, whose rescue, presumably, would have been the object of such an operation. So, it is necessary, in thinking of the modern politics of annihilation, to think not only of the weapons of annihilation, but also of conventional weapons.
What of Australia? The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) has spoken of the defence record of the Australian Labour party. In that connexion, I think of the Australian fleet. The Minister knows that the aircraft carrier “ Melbourne “ was purchased by the Labour government. He knows that the aircraft carrier “ Sydney “ was purchased by the Labour government. He cannot name a single ship in the Royal Australian Navy that he cannot see described in “Jane’s Fighting Ships” for 1948, when the Labour government was in office. The decision to lay down and to purchase “ Daring “ class ships all appears in “ Jane’s Fighting Ships “ for 1 949.
– You are not right about that.
– Why do you say that? I am giving you a specific reference. I challenge the Minister to get “ Jane’s Fighting Ships “ for 1949. He will see that those vessels were on order. Of course, I recognize that the decision to construct the “ Daring “ class ships had just been made, and this Government continued with that policy. That is the position, but the naval policy is unchanged. Some of it has come to fruition under the present Government. It is important for us to remember the expense of defence projects. Many honorable members this afternoon attended the opening of the John Curtin School of Medicine. It is an immense building; it is the largest medical research institute in the British Commonwealth of Nations. It cost £1,300,000. That is about half the price of a “ Daring “ class destroyer, which costs £2,500,000. The immense cost of comparatively slight weapons is one of the problems of defence to-day. But the whole conception of Mr. Chifley - and he made no bones about it - was that the Royal Australian Navy was designed to answer submarines. His conception was not that of the Minister who spoke about Australian naval forces engaged in escorting. Escorting belonged to an era of submarines that attack ships, not to an era of submarines that attack cities. Escorting belonged to an era when you brought your enemy down by attrition, as the United States of America did in its submarine warfare on the Japanese mercantile marine in World War II. That was a process in which 1,000,000 tons of enemy shipping might be sunk in a month. Some of this loss would be offset by current shipbuilding, but nevertheless there would be a process of attrition.
What are we faced with to-day? We are faced with submarines that will not even bother to attack ships. They are nuclearpowered, nuclear-armed submarines. Let us have a look at those expressions, because they are a fact to-day. I shall take first the expression “ nuclear-powered “. On 8.3 lb. of uranium “ Nautilus “, “ Skate “ and a number of other American submarines can travel 60,000 miles submerged at a speed of better than 20 knots, which no submarine in World War II. could do submerged. I repeat those figures - 60.000 miles on 8.3 lb. of uranium. To travel that distance with conventional machinery would take 17,000,000 lb. weight of oil - but only 8.3 lb. of uranium did it! Constantly, the Government, in its defence philosophy, speaks of Australia as one of the remote countries. It seems to envisage a war in which, somehow or other, there will be a vast political umbrella extending all over Australia, and no one will use nuclear weapons against us; the battle will take place somewhere else. The Soviet Union is reputed to have between 400 and 600 submarines - the figures vary - but it certainly has the greatest submarine fleet that has ever existed in history. There is no reason to assume that, since they are making nuclear-powered ice-breakers, they do not also make nuclear-powered submarines. There is nothing to prevent them sending submarines from Vladivostok right down the Pacific to the Australian coast.
Nuclear-powered means running 60,000 miles on 8.3 lbs. of uranium, but what does nuclear-armed mean? The United States submarines are equipped with a rocket known as the “ Polaris “. They do not even surface to fire this rocket. The rocket has a range of 1,500 miles and can be fired submerged. The submarines can mount 18 of these hydrogen war-headed “ Polaris “ rockets. When the British tested their hydrogen bomb at Christmas Island, it was the equivalent of 5,000,000 tons of high explosive; it was a 5-megaton bomb. Let us contrast that with, shall we say, the navies of World War II. The two biggest battleships, from the point of view of fire power, were “ Rodney “ and “ Nelson “ with nine 16-inch guns throwing a broadside of 9 tons of high explosive. The bomb exploded at Christmas Island was the equivalent of 600,000 broadsides of a battleship such as “ Rodney “ or “ Nelson “. Therefore, “ Rodney “ and “ Nelson “ are to the days of the bow and arrow what the Christmas Island bomb is to the days of “ Rodney “ and “Nelson “. That one bomb, the equivalent of 5,000,000 tons of high explosives, was the equivalent of all the bombs dropped by all the air forces in World War II! So, this conception of wars of attrition, if nuclear weapons are to be used, is completely outmoded.
Accumulations of supply and so forth need not be bothered about, unless one step has to be taken. The most significant event in the military affairs of the world to-day is the decision of Khrushchev that the great cities of Russia shall be decentralized, that their administration shall leave them and that their factories shall be removed. If over a period of five or ten years that is done in Russia and is not done in the West, then the West will be subjected to pressures to which the Soviet will not be subjected, and the Soviet will start with an initial advantage.
I should like to say more about that nuclear-powered nuclear-armed submarine again. It is a true submarine, not a periodic submersible. The position of the West is highly unfavorable. Outside Russia, 50 per cent, of the world’s population lives less than 50 miles from the sea. In the West, there are 50 cities with a population exceeding 1,000,000, and 41 of them are ports - the most vulnerable cities to this form of submarine attack that could be imagined. One has only to think of the position of Australia with seven capital cities. If they are subjected to attack by seven rockets, the economic life of this country ceases to exist. Yet, in all the Government’s statements on defence over the last eight years, there has been no adequate statement on civil defence; no adequate statement as to whether the Government ever intends to arrange for a dispersal of population; no revelation of what has been done about an accumulation of medical supplies; and no revelation of any accumulation of food, safe from atomic contamination. In fact we have been told nothing that would indicate any sort of realism in the face of the possibility of an atomic attack.
We need from the Government a statement on civil defence. The Prime Minister says that new consideration is being given to that, but this is nine years after the Government took office. We have yet to hear whether there is any intention to protect water supplies from radio-activity. There are also minor questions. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) has told me in a letter that we have six helicopters in the Navy. Since then, one fell into the sea and that leaves five. Actually, the position from the point of view of the security of the country is laughable. Helicopters are not something that is utterly unobtainable.
Assuming that somebody intends to use aircraft to attack our cities, and that is still a possibility, nothing has been done about the rocket defences of our cities or the formation of rocket regiments. We need widespread training in radar; we need aircraft equipped with radar going out from our cities; we need aircraft equipped to drop sonar buoys to listen for submerged submarines. We have none of those things. Above all, we need a foreign policy which avoids foolish and arrogant action and which treads carefully in a world where action such as that taken over Suez may touch off an uncontrollable hydrogenexplosion war.
It is important for us to remember that the German attack on Holland, when Rotterdam was subjected to a most terrible bombing without the declaration of war, was taken because some minor officer had misread his instructions. It had not been the intention of the German High Command to launch such an attack on Rotterdam. We should remember that in the modern world we are not dealing with what were called “ big bombs “ in World War II., one of which was equivalent to a metric ton of explosives, such as the Royal Air Force dropped on the “ Tirpitz “ and considered the biggest bomb of the lot. We are dealing with bombs each one of which is the equivalent of 5,000,000 metric tons, which could be used in just such a situation of irresponsibility as arose in the German Air Force because of a blockage in the chain of command. So we should remember that in the world we live in to-day we need to walk much more carefully because of the nature of these weapons.
I am not certain that the Government’s idea of having a small mobile force is the right thing. In the modern world it may be necessary to have large forces very much dispersed. I am quite certain we would begin to feel there was realism in the plans for the security of this country if the Government were going in for the accumulation of prefabricated houses such as can be established by being inflated, which are used in connexion with American civil defence. We should be able to see in the Government’s policy a recognition that if world affairs get out of hand concentrated targets like Sydney and Melbourne must be evacuated. Dispersal is the only real form of civil defence in the hydrogen age.
– I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) for a very constructive and thought-provoking contribution to this debate. That does not mean that I agree with all that he has said, but it does mean that I think he has made the most constructive contribution that I have yet heard from the Opposition in this debate, and one of the best contributions made to it on either side of the House.
I have given some thought to the subject of the appointment of assistant Ministers, to which the honorable member for Fremantle referred. I suggest that having an honorary Minister assisting a Minister who is actually vested with a portfolio is entirely different from having a Minister who actually has the responsibility for a portfolio, but is subordinate to another Minister. I think that, constitutionally, there is probably considerable substance in the objection that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) voiced on behalf of the Government to the recommendation for the appointment of assistant Ministers to the Minister for Defence. I am quite sure that honorable members who have served as Ministers will agree with me that it would be an impossible position for a Minister, sworn in as the head of one of the departments, with a portfolio, to have somebody all the time using him as a kind of office boy. I have seen quite a lot of assistant Ministers and honorary Ministers, and I realize that the system under which these Ministers operated is entirely different from that now suggested. It is also entirely different from the system of having a Minister to coordinate the decisions of the defence services as a whole, which I regard as a practicable proposal. The Prime Minister has at times acted in that capacity, and I am quite sure that another senior Minister could serve in a similar capacity, in the same way as a senior chief of staff can co-ordinate the work of various establishments without actually taking over the detailed control of them.
A man who was a very able man indeed in private and public life, who is now dead, made a remark to me, when I was discussing with him a situation involving the organization of services, which I think every one should seriously consider in discussing a subject like that now before us.
The man to whom I refer was a man of tremendously wide experience. He said, “ It is quite easy to get a man who can control 100 men. It is more than ten times as difficult to get a man who can successfully control 1,000 men. But when you come to getting a man who can control 10,000 or more men, a man who will not run round in circles and kill himself, the difficulty is out of all proportion to the number of men to be controlled “.
The point I am making is that if you want to appoint a super Minister, you have to find a man able to do the job. If you do not find a man who has extreme drive, initiative, imagination and determination, the last stage will be worse than the first, because you will have paralysis right through. The same applies to a super-chief of staff, who must be a man of very great ability indeed if he is to carry out even the duties which are indicated in the report. While I bow to the experience of honorable members who have an intimate knowledge of the working of the services, which I have not, I suggest that the points which I have put forward are common to all situations in which human beings are engaged in organization.
One point arises from the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle to which I wish to refer. This Government has been twitted continually, not only by the Opposition, but also by the press, for not having pursued a consistent policy. I think that the honorable member for Fremantle quite unconsciously answered that argument when he pointed out the rapidly changing nature of defence and war preparations since the end of the last war. That, I think, is the key to the whole thing. Every government in the world has been asking these two questions: How far can we rely on conventional armaments? How far ought we to rely on the new means of defence and destruction? There is one overpowering consideration in discussing that matter. It arises from the fact that if you are going to have a number of minor wars started by the international Communist policy of infiltration, you must have a certain proportion of conventional armaments to meet that situation. If you do not, then you are left with the alternatives of selling the pass or of immediately using the nuclear weapons you may have at your disposal, and so touching off a nuclear war.
The plain fact of the matter is that the use of nuclear arms for war will be very hesitantly entered upon unless a mad impulse takes possession of some dictator and he unleashes forces which he will be unable to control. That is always the danger. Every responsible leader of people, no matter what his ideology may be, will be very loath to start this game unless he believes he has sufficient superiority to render his opponent incapable of hitting back.
I pass on rather quickly to a point which was raised by the Prime Minister and which was referred to, not directly but by implication, by the honorable member for Fremantle. The Prime Minister quoted, with approval, President Eisenhower, who said in an address to Congress -
One requirement of military organization is a clear subordination of the military services to duly constituted civilian authority. This controlmust be real, not merely on the surface.
The Prime Minister went on to say -
This statement expresses the traditional and sound view in Australia. Parliament votes defence moneys on behalf of the people who have elected it. Parliament is entitled to control that expenditure.
I would go further and say the statement not only expresses the traditional and sound view in Australia but also presents in clear and concise words what a democracy must always insist upon; that is that the military derives from the civil, and not the civil from the military, and, consequently, the civil arm must control the military arm. Having made, that statement, I want to make clear why it is necessary that the civil arm must control the military. The reason is this: The military organization is charged with the responsibility of preparing the nation in its massing of armaments, selection of arms, disposition of forces, and generally preparing its defences and enabling it to repel attack, whilst the government of a country is vested with the responsibility of mobilizing every factor within the community in the defence of the country. The government has to integrate - and I use that much abused word - every force and every resource within the country for the purposes of defence.
Therefore, defence organization goes far beyond the mere business of providing arms and armaments. It includes, as has already been stated, external defence policy, external economic policy, trading relations, counter-propaganda against subversive action, seecurity within the country, development of the resources of the country, the disposition of industries in the least vulnerable places, as the honorable member for Fremantle quite rightly said, and the education of the people so that the maximum results will be obtained from science and research. The honorable member for Fremantle anticipated something that I was going to say myself. The population of Australia as at 30th June, 1956, was 9,643,079, and of that number 5,136,200, or approximately 51 per cent., lived in the capital cities. Further, we get a more horrifying picture in that of a total of 7,861,409 people in the four States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, no fewer than 4,467,880, or about 56 per cent., live in the capital cities of those States. As the honorable member for Fremantle has clearly pointed out, this poses a first-class problem which the nation is not attempting to face.
Every military thinker whose observations I have studied asserts that the greatest danger in modern warfare will come not from the air but from the sea and the projection of thermo-nuclear devices of destruction fired or delivered from submarines. Yet, we are content to go on intensifying the present shocking concentration of our resources and our population engaged in industry in the most vulnerable places. 1 do not admire the Russian people for many of the things they do. They are anathema to me as one who believes in individual rights and freedom, but I admire the common sense that caused them decades ago to face up to this business of transferring the great bulk of their industries and population to the interior. I urge upon this Government which comes before us with a programme of defence organization that here is a vital matter which we cannot further ignore except at our peril. Are we to continue this suicidal policy and not make one really constructive contribution to its solution? All the talk and all the arguments we indulge in about the disposition of forces while ignoring the supreme danger reveals a blindness and lack of imagination which we cannot any longer afford.
To any one who would tell me that in a democratic country we cannot decentralize our resources as I suggest, I would reply: As this is one of the most urgent problems to which this Government could address itself, it should call a conference of leading financiers, businessmen, trade union representatives and transport authorities and put the facts in cold blood before them. They should be told that we must work out a policy of dispersing our industries and population beyond the range of danger, and not indulge in what my colleague, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), described as the sheer lunacy of establishing £25,000,000 worth of plant in our most vulnerable target area. That is where we have our present filling factory. I am not committing myself to any of the Opposition’s arguments for or against the actual building, or the way in which its construction was carried out; but I do echo the words of a man who has been Prime Minister of Australia and say, in the interests of the people, that that was a blunder which should not be repeated.
I want to move on to just one other matter before my time expires. How does the Government intend to combat the threat that has been so ably outlined by the honorable member for Fremantle?” I refer to possible attacks with nuclear weapons, from either the air or the sea. So far as my understanding goes, it appears that such attacks can only be met by the development of radar, which may even have a boomerang effect upon the electronic devices of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or missiles delivered from submarines, or even aircraft. How can we achieve preparedness in these scientific defence techniques? We can achieve it only by following the advice of a very distinguished scientist, Professor Marcus Oliphant, who has said that we are not facing the danger realistically unless we divert some of the millions of pounds now expended on conventional defence to the education, especially the scientific edcucation, of our people. I am saying things that are not comfortable to this Government, but there comes a day when men must tell the truth and stop hedging simply because they fear the truth might cause embarrassment. In this instance, there is a real need for the diversion of funds into scientific, educational, and research work in every field, because in the final analysis we must have a full mobilization and development of our resources. If we do not achieve this state of preparedness we shall find ourselves in serious difficulties when faced with - in Henry Lawson’s words - “ A savage foe at the harbour gate and a raging drought behind “.
– After listening to a multitude of speeches on defence, I should like to bring honorable members back to the one focal point. What has become of £1,200,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money? That is what we are debating to-night. I have heard Ministers, one after another, traverse the world in their speeches. Honorable members on the Government side have taken us to high altitudes in telling us what should be done. Why do they not tell the truth? I agree with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who said that the truth must be told.
What is the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) covering up? Why does he not table the Morshead report, which was produced at great expense and at the instigation of the right honorable gentleman himself. I am sick and tired of listening to the Prime Minister. His deceitful actions are well known.
– Order! You cannot impute improper motives to another honorable member. You will withdraw that assertion.
– What assertion?
– You will withdraw the remarks you made about the Prime Minister.
– I withdraw the reference to deceit.
– And moderate your language.
– The different statements made by the Prime Minister in his efforts to deceive the people of Australia in regard to our defences need some explanation. Six months ago he was alarmed at the state of our defences. Are we not all alarmed? Then, at great expense, he got a distinguished soldier, Sir Leslie Morshead, to draw up a report, after an intensive investigation of the position. Why has that report not been put before the Parliament?’ Instead of doing that, the Prime Minister, being afraid of something that was in the report, made a statement to the House. Weare not debating the Morshead report tonight. Why? We are debating a statement made by the Prime Minister, after being, nine years in charge of this Government and spending, wisely or otherwise - that isa matter of opinion - £1,200,000,000 of the taxpayers’ hard-earned cash. What have we got in return in the way of defence?” Let us be realistic and come to the point. Unfortunately, we still have the PrimeMinister. Over the years, the Prime Minister, practising his usual deception, has.lulled our people into a false sense of security.
– Order! The honorable member will not continue in. those terms.
– From time to time thePrime Minister has lulled the people into a false sense of security by advising them that” all is well. His so-called defence Ministers all joined in the chorus. All was well, and the Prime Minister’s tactics were fullysupported by those Ministers. The peoplewere told that in the event of hostilities breaking out we could shift our defence force at a moment’s notice to any point in Australia. But what is the true state of our defence forces? A parade was held recently in Sydney, at which I was fortunate enough to be present. The Minister” for the Army (Mr. Cramer) said that all themobile equipment would be on parade and he hoped the citizens of Sydney would be present in their thousands to give our boys a rousing welcome. Those peoplewho lined the roads and saw the parademust have been deeply shocked at the strength of our defences. A terrific shock indeed was handed out. A lot of outmoded* junk was rumbling about the city for anhour or two. Even the daily press wasforced to comment adversely upon it. The “ Daily Mirror “, in an editorial, demanded to know the real state of the Australiandefence forces. It said that the Government should be ashamed of the defence picture held up before the people. It condemned the Government out of hand and said that something must be done to stop this criminal mismanagement and waste.
The parade brought into bold relief the statement of Sir Frederick Shedden, former Secretary of the Department of Defence, in reply to one statement by the Prime Minister on our defence preparedness. Sir Frederick Shedden said that if we were called upon to mobilize a battalion to defend Australia we would not be in a position to do so. That was the opinion of the former Secretary of the Department of Defence, a man held in the highest esteem. He said that we were not in a position to raise a battalion to defend our 12,000 miles of coastline! The Prime Minister, of course, just waved him off with the usual contemptuous gesture, as much as to say, “ What does Sir Frederick Shedden know?”
Let us examine the Prime Minister’s statement on the Morshead report. The members of Her Majesty’s Opposition, who are elected in a democratic manner by popular vote of the people who shoulder the burden of the cost of that report, are denied access to it. Why? Is the Prime Minister afraid of being exposed once again, so close to an election? Has the Morshead report become a secret document? The Australian Labour party wants to know. What did the Morshead report contain? Government supporters are denied that information. They are told nothing. All they are expected to do is say “ Yes “ when the Prime Minister waves his hand. “ Field Marshal “ Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia, has decreed that we are not entitled to see this report. He went on to say -
We have adopted several proposals. But as we have rejected the recommendation of the Morshead committee-
He has rejected the recommendations of this great and distinguished soldier - for a complete amalgamation into one Department of Defence and the three service departments-
Here we see again the superb self-confidence of our Prime Minister. He goes to great expense to obtain a report on all the weaknesses in our defence organization and when a great and distinguished soldier lays i: before him says, “That does not suit me, the Prime Minister “. He knows more than do the great generals, and rejects their recommendations. He says further -
Our defences must be put on a sound basis.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing, but the Prime Minister has proved that he is incapable of doing the job. He has had nine years in which to do it. He has spent £1,200,000,000 of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money. What have we got in return from this great general, our Prime Minister - the great dictator? After spending money to obtain this report he discovers that he does not need any advice after all. What an extraordinary individual he must be. I think he should be examined! Labour has at least the satisfaction of knowing that the people of Parramatta, a supposedly blue-ribbon Liberal seat, recently expressed at a byelection a resounding vote of no confidence in this great dictator.
Let us have a look now at the defence Ministers. The Prime Minister is very clever at putting incompetent men into those positions. He confuses them so that he can control them. He has men in the Parliament who have all the attributes needed by good Cabinet Ministers, but he leaves them in the back benches and brings on to the front benches all the no-hopers. Let us have a look at that great man, the Minister for the Army, who has just spoken at great length. Of course, his profession of estate agent makes him tend to exaggerate. He said, “We have great stores of equipment, worth millions of pounds”. What are the great military stores in my electorate used for? They are let to General MotorsHolden’s Limited for the storage of refrigerators which that firm could not sell. That is the equipment in the military stores at Bunnerong-road, Maroubra! This Minister has distinguished himself - in the field of real estate. In Parliament he has distinguished himself by discovering 40,000 non-existent vacant homes. That was one of his greatest discoveries! He has control over our Army personnel who, according to last year’s estimates, number 24,000 in all. Of these, 13,000 enjoy the rank of corporal or above. That leaves us with 11,000 foot-sloggers. We have 12,000 miles of coastland around this bonny country of Australia - my native land - therefore we have not one soldier to the mile. Why cannot this wonderful organizer tell us the true situation in the military forces? Of course, he assures us that all is well.
Let us leave him and turn to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson). Being a shipbuilder, I can speak with some authority about the situation in that arm of the services. During the war we worked night and day to build naval craft. When the Chifley Government left office the Navy was right up to strength. Since 1949 this Government has let go corvettes, minesweepers, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, aircraft carriers and other naval vessels. The people of Australia will be alarmed to know that the Prime Minister has sold more scrap iron - not pig iron this time - to the Japanese, in the form of naval vessels which helped to defend our native land. H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “, which was reconditioned at a cost of £2,500,000 eight years ago, has gone to the Japanese for £16,000.
– That is only chicken feed.
– It is chicken feed to a Prime Minister, who gives away our assets and thus betrays our nation. We should keep in commission all our naval vessels - not sell them to our arch enemies, the Japanese war criminals. Something should be done about it, but it will not be done by Government back-benchers, who may not speak in caucus or deny the right of the Prime Minister to do as he wishes. Our Prime Minister is a menace to Australia. He is a menace to the security of our native land. The Prime Minister should be removed from office. No man in the history of world politics has had more failures than he has; and no man has wasted more of the taxpayers’ money, including the amount of £1,200,000,000 spent on defence. No man has been guilty of more deceit during his discredited career-
– The Prime Minister has been a failure. In 1939, on the eve of war, 238,000 people were unemployed. He deserted the ship when the Japanese were at our gates; and he will do so again.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I would not attempt to answer the multifarious supposed facts that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) has presented to the House. I remind him that the Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies), to whom he devoted a considerable portion of his speech, has led the most successful coalition government in the history of Australia and, indeed, in the history of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It has lived the longest and has been the most successful coalition government that the British Commonwealth of Nations has ever seen. Honorable members on this side of the House are proud of that fact. If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith and some of his colleagues had been in the House this afternoon they would have saved themselves the futility of saying much of what they said. They devoted a considerable time to the fact that the Morshead report has not been tabled in the House.
I point out that the House is debating not the Morshead report but the Prime Minister’s statement, which dealt with the recommendations of the Morshead committee - those which the Government has accepted and those which it has rejected. The reasons for not tabling the report have been given. The committee was not a Parliamentary committee reporting to the Parliament; it was not responsible to Parliament. It was set up by Cabinet and was responsible directly to Cabinet. Three of the four committee members were Commonwealth public servants. If the Parliament wishes responsible public servants to engage in this kind of activity in the future, it cannot have their opinions and arguments on subjects such as this canvassed on the floor of the House. The Prime Minister was quite correct in not tabling the report. If there had been anything in the report which the Government wished to keep private, honorable members would have been told that the committee had made its report and that the Government had decided to do certain things. But the Prime Minister took the frank and open course of detailing the recommendations that had been accepted and those that had been rejected.
Adequate defence for Australia is fundamental to our existence as civilized people, nothing is more important than the defence of this country. Over the last few years it has become increasingly difficult to maintain adequate and modern defences in an extremely fast-changing world. It is a tragedy that in such circumstances the Labour party is unable to agree with the
Government on this vital subject. Quite clearly the Labour party cannot agree with the Government on its defence measures because that party seeks to undermine the essential foreign policy upon which our defence programme is planned. From the outset the Labour party has taken a view completely opposed to that of the Government on all major items of foreign policy that have been put forward.
I should like to devote a few moments to some of the more important aspects that the Labour party has brought forward in the last few years and on which honorable members opposite opposed the Government in every particular. One of the first that comes to mind is the question of sending troops to Malaya. The attitude of the Labour party in that instance was one of the principal reasons for its resounding defeat at the elections in 1955. Honorable members opposite said that Australia should have no troops in Malaya helping the Malayan people to fight Communist terrorists. The Labour party urged that those terrorists should be fought not by troops but with ideological weapons. I suggest that the Communists in the jungles of Malaya would pay little attention to the ideological weapons of the Labour party and its leader.
In his speech to the federal conference of the Australian Labour party held in Brisbane, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that the South-East Asia Treaty Organization was no longer an instrument for peace. He implied that it was an instrument for war. He said that it was being used to bolster reactionary regimes in certain parts of South-East Asia. Nothing is further from the truth, and the right honorable gentleman’s counterparts in other countries of the British Commonwealth do not support him. The Leader of the Labour party in New Zealand, Mr. Nash, supports Seato and its present intentions and ideals to the full. The Leader of the Labour party in the United Kingdom also supports the concept of Seato.
On the subject of nuclear weapons, we find that the Labour party almost but not quite says that the democracies, unilaterally, should disarm and discontinue hydrogen and atom bomb tests. To do that would place us in an extremely vulnerable position; we would be completely at the mercy of the Communist powers. In trying to gather support for their attitude, members of the Opposition have quoted figures relating to the dangers of radiation and from strontium 90, but their statements are not in accordance with the facts. I should like to quote from a United Kingdom publication in respect of the hazards to man of nuclear and allied radiation. This booklet compares the radiation from radio-active fall-out as a result of atom bomb explosions with that from other causes. The booklet states that in the natural background surrounding us all the time the approximate dose of what the scientists call gonads is 100. The fall-out from test explosions is less than 1 per cent, of this 100, less than 1 per cent, of the natural background of radiation. It is interesting to note that radiation from a luminous watch is greater than that from a test explosion. The amount- of radiation that a person can receive from having his feet X-rayed when buying a pair of shoes is .1 per cent.
The Labour party is constantly urging that international problems should be dealt with by the United Nations, but it never says what the United Nations should be told or what policy it would pursue in the United Nations. To support the United Nations and to submit positive arguments to it are two different matters. In this respect the Labour party is completely without policy. It is ducking the final decisions on these matters and leaving them to somebody else. Let us look at Formosa. Whatever one may say about Communist China, I would never have thought there could have been two minds on the question of Formosa. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), on his recent visit to Peking, said that the policy of the Australian Labour party included the return of Formosa to Communist China. If that is not supporting the Communists in everything they do, if that is not adopting the Communist line right down the road, it is very difficult to say what it is- I know very well that honorable members opposite are not Communists, but I do not know why they always have to say that their own people and their own friends are the enemies of mankind, thereby implying that the Communists and the Russians are pretty good fellows. They are doing a grave disservice to their own people and a much graver disservice to Australia.
If we look at the Australian Labour party’s defence policy, we find that in the years after the war, as the Minister has said, a Labour government sold up the defences of this country. Even though the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) tried to say that the opposite was the fact, the Labour party was responsible for the Americans being forced or frozen out of Manus Island as a base.
– That is a lot of rubbish. That has been contradicted thousands of times-
– It has been contradicted, but falsely contradicted. Every contradiction that comes from the honorable member for East Sydney is false. The Labour government’s defence budget fell during its last year of office to a mere £50,000,000. That figure has been raised by the present Government to £200,000,000 However, if we can believe what the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) said a short while, ago, if the Labour party were returned to office defence expenditure would be reduced to £100,000,000. I do not believe that that would be sufficient to provide adequate defences for this country. If. there are any people in Australia who object to the sum of £200,000,000 being used each year as an insurance for the future security of our people, they do not deserve to enjoy the advantages and benefits of being Australians.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith attacked the Government on costs. He said he did not. know where the £1,200,000,000 or £1,300,000,000 has gone that has been spent on defence during the term of office of this Government. If the honorable gentleman would like to look at the cost of equipment and all other things which go to make up our armed forces at the present time, he would realize all too clearly how the fast-changing requirements of modern war have greatly increased the cost of equipment. I should like to compare the cost of the aircraft used during the war and the immediate post-war years with the cost of the machines which are doing equivalent jobs at present. A Mustang fighter cost £40,000, whereas an Avon Sabre costs £265,000 - a multiplication by six and a half times. A Wirraway trainer cost £10,500, whereas a Vampire trainer costs £90,000, eight times as much. A Catalina cost £60,000, whereas a Neptune costs £650,000, or eleven times as much.
– That shows how money has lost its value.
– It does not. It shows how the increasing cost of equipment for modern warfare has thrown a far greater strain on the resources of this, country. ,
The Government’s three proposals will do a great deal to bring about better co-ordination of the administration of our defence department. The Minister for Defence is to be made supreme. He will have the responsibility .to cut out overlapping between the various defence departments and the various services. He will have dear authority to do that. The chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee will be responsible for tendering purely military advice to the Government. In addition, overlapping in certain other spheres is to bc cut out.
– You are terribly mixed up.
– I am not so mixed up as are some honorable gentlemen opposite, and their leader in particular. He is like a muddle-headed little boy who does not know in what direction he is going. If you want another description, but a less kind one, it could be given.
Certain criticisms have been made in this debate. It has been said that one Minister could look after all our defence requirements. I for one do not believe that to be possible. Defence is becoming an extraordinarily complex business. In this country there are five Ministers looking after defence. Comparisons have been drawn with the position in the United Kingdom, but it has not been stated that there are five full-time Ministers looking after defence there, together with five assistants. There are altogether ten Ministers in the United Kingdom doing a job similar to that which five men are doing in this country.
Certain honorable members have drawn attention to the speech of Field Marshal Montgomery. I feel that the quotations that have been made from that speech tend to suggest that the field marshal is in favour of a greater degree of integration than in fact he is. I should like to make certain quotations myself from his speech. Speaking of integration, and what should be done at the present time, he said that certain preliminary steps should be undertaken. I will show that those steps will be taken here as a result of the measures which the Government has put in hand. Field Marshal Montgomery then said -
But we might well introduce such a close integration between the three services that the final step could be taken without confusion if it were ever decided it was necessary.
That shows quite clearly that on this question of integration the field marshal himself has some serious doubts. When we come to the field marshal’s requirements for modern defence organization, we find right down the line that the proposals that this Government has put in hand meet those requirements. He said there should be a Minister for Defence, wholly supreme in policy responsibility and action. That we will have. He said there should be an under-secretary for each service ministry. The Ministers responsible for the various services here are comparable with such under-secretaries. Our chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is comparable with what the field marshal calls the Chief of Staff of the armed forces.
Looking at the functions which the field marshal says should be performed by such a Chief of Staff, we find that the functions that will be performed by our chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee are in many ways similar. Then the field marshal said that the Chief of Staff of each fighting service should be the sole professional adviser to his under-secretary - in this country, to the appropriate Minister. The field marshal’s requirements are met in the decisions that the Government has taken. The two major changes proposed by the Government, the primacy of the Minister for Defence and the appointment of a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, will achieve greater efficiency, control and direction at the very highest level. To those who would like a higher degree of integration at lower levels throughout the services, and at the same time one commander and one Minister, I should like to say that a division of power is essential in a democracy. I am not sure that one force, with one person in charge of the whole machine of defence, would be in the best interests of the people of Australia and the preservation of democracy. One such supreme commander could, perhaps, in the future challenge the civil authorities. The position has not yet been decided one way or the other, but it is something that cannot be ignored in the future.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
– As Chairman, I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Mr. Dean) - by leave - proposed -
That the report be agreed to.
.- I wish to occupy the time of the House for two minutes on this question.
– The honorable member did that earlier to-day.
– I did. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) is being useful at last. Approximately in August last, the House ordered the printing of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but honorable members received copies of the report only this week. I hope that the Printing Committee and the officers of the Parliament will see to it, when a motion of the sort now before the House is adopted, that honorable members receive copies of the relevant reports within a reasonable time. I am sure that good arguments can be advanced by the Government Printing Office for the delay on some occasions, but if it is necessary to overhaul the Government Printing Office or build a new printery or increase the staff in order that honorable members may be supplied with reports which Parliament orders to be printed, let that be done as soon as possible.
I do not hold the chairman of the committee, who has moved this motion, responsible for any delay, but I hope that he will bring the matter to the attention of his colleagues so that there will not be delay in the future as there has been lately in making available to honorable members reports which were ordered, months earlier, to be printed.
.- On the last occasion on which the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) moved a motion similar to that now before the
House - which was on 5th December last year - he told honorable members that the Printing Committee intended to investigate several matters including the standardization of printing, the sizes of parliamentary papers, uniform production and the availability of parliamentary papers throughout the Commonwealth. I should like to know whether the Printing Committee has yet considered these matters or any of them. I should also be particularly interested to know whether the committee has done anything about the matters which were raised on that occasion.
In view of a report which you, Mr. Speaker, circulated to honorable members in answer to a question I asked you in the House, I point out that this Parliament never orders to be printed reports such as those of the Commonwealth Grants Commission or any of the reports dealing with Commonwealth business enterprises and marketing boards. On the other hand, all the Tariff Board’s reports are ordered to be printed. I am still of the same mind as I expressed then, that such valuable administrative reports as those of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, Commonwealth business enterprises and such vital trade and commercial reports as those dealing with Commonwealth marketing boards should be considered by the Printing Committee and should be ordered to be printed and thus be available in the parliamentary papers to any of our fellow citizens and not be made available only to such members as are able to get them from the Clerk of the Papers.
.- in reply - Replying to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), I may say, briefly, that it is quite true that the Printing Committee is taking a greater interest than it has taken hitherto in the matter of printing various papers and documents and is also giving consideration to the standardization of some of the documents. I inform the honorable member for Werriwa that discussion on these matters has continued. However, we have found it necessary, and think it would be helpful, to consult with the Government Printer. The committee met only to-day; and arrangements have been made for its members to visit the Government Printer and, if necessary, ask him to meet the committee. We will interview the Government Printer on 18th April.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Diplomatic Immunities Bill 19S8. Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 1958.
Life Insurance Bill 1958.
Without requests -
Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1958.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I was impressed to-night by a remark by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) when he said he felt that he should speak the truth even though speaking the truth might cause embarrassment. I might slightly change that expression and say that I do believe that members of this Parliament should say what they think on matters which they consider to be of vital importance irrespective of what the consequences to them may be.
What I am about to say will probably, perhaps inevitably, evoke from some honorable members and perhaps some people outside the charge that I am a Communist, or a “ fellow traveller “ or a sympathizer with Communists and with people who are, or who have been engaged in Communist activities from time to time. But that will not deter me, because I feel, after listening for the past week to the long debate on the defence situation in Australia and the need for conventional and not so conventional armaments, that there is a need at some time or other for somebody to say something about the prevention of war by the utilization of less dreadful and frightful methods.
I believe that as in some circumstances armaments - and nuclear armaments in particular - may be necessary to defend a nation, likewise a nation should ever be engaged in using moral forces - Christian forces and example - as a deterrent to war. I direct the attention of this House to the fact that within recent times Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second entertained Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev at Buckingham Palace. I believe that those two eminent Communist leaders presented Her Majesty with a magnificent Arab charger which Her Majesty was pleased to accept. I could go on and give numerous illustrations of that kind. More recently still, Earl Attlee, a distinguished leader of the Labour party in Great Britain and a man whom, I suppose nobody would deny has deep Christian principles, visited Communist China. More recently even than that, four distinguished members of this Parliament visited Communist China.
– Only Labour members.
– So did Archbishop Mowll.
– My colleague reminds me that a distinguished clergyman from New South Wales visited that country also. I further remind honorable members that no less a distinguished and famous clergyman
– What about Lord Lindsay?
– I will deal with him later. He is more distinguished than the honorable member will ever be, because the honorable member will be extinguished when he is still distinguished.
I know honorable members opposite do not like what I am saying, but it is regrettable to think that the Chinese Communist government has not admitted Lord Lindsay to Communist China. I disagree with the Chinese Government’s action there. The point I was about to make when I was rudely interrupted was that I believe that since Khrushchev and Bulganin visited England and Attlee visited Communist China, and since my distinguished friend on this side of the House visited Communist China the cold war is not quite as bad as it was. I believe that possibly Bulganin and Khrushchev were impressed with Her Majesty and her very gracious hospitality as well as with the attitude of the British people towards them.
Not so long ago, four trade union leaders from Communist China visited this country. I had the privilege of meeting them. They were delighted at the hospitality and reception we gave them. We committed ourselves not one iota to the policy they espoused. Speaking for myself, I know that I was glad to indicate to them that we were interested in events in Communist China and to indicate in particular that we hoped that the degree of liberty enjoyed by the people of Australia would create a profound impression on their minds and influence the course of events in Communist China, even though that influence might be only minute. We felt that we had nothing to lose by showing our interest in them. I believe that when my colleagues went to Communist China, they were graciously received. Yet I have not the slightest reason to believe that they have been impregnated with communism. I point out also that the distinguished American clergyman, Monsignor Fulton Sheen, said that you should love Communists but hate communism. I thought that a very wise remark.
All this leads up to the fact that I understand that within the last few weeks this Government has refused to allow a Communist leader from China, and his interpreter, to enter this country. Imagine the timidity of a government which is fearful that if a Communist leader and his interpreter come here, he might gain the impression that this Government has left Australia in such a mess that our system is utterly hopeless. If this Government believes it has here something that is good, then, far from refusing to allow this man and his interpreter to visit Australia, the Government should welcome him with open arms. Indeed, the Government should offer him hospitality; it should take the contrary course to that which has been adopted in Russia over the years. The Government should say to him, “ Go where you will, brother. Even enunciate your doctrine, if you will. We believe in another system, a more democratic form of government, which we feel establishes a better state of affairs in this country than you will ever be able to establish in Communist China “. Is the Government afraid of what we have to show in this country? Is it afraid that a bad impression will be created in the minds of such visitors? Or does it believe that we have something good? The fact is that under our democracy we can vote as we wish. We drop a ballot-paper in a ballot-box, and if a majority of people vote in a certain way at the polling booths, they can take what they will of the material wealth this country produces. I hear the honorable member for Balaclava interject again. I know that his mind is so narrow that I could not get even a pinpoint into it, so I am not worrying about what he has to say by way of interjection.
My great concern is that it may go forth to the 600,000,000 Chinese next to whom we have to live in future years that we are so ashamed of the system under which we live that we are afraid to allow one of their leaders to come here for the short period of six “weeks. What an absurd attitude, what a stupid attitude for this Government to take!
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I feel that the House might consider the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) misguided, but it would not take violent objection to what he said. However, I do think that he has failed to appreciate the true and proper facts of the situation. Let me endeavour to put the matter in perspective.
It is, I think, necessary for countries on both sides of the iron curtain to keep contact, one with the other. As he says, it is the only means of avoiding a disaster which would envelop all humanity. That is where the honorable member for Lalor and I might find ourselves in substantial agreement. But the honorable member does not realize that what he is advocating is, in fact, one-way traffic. The people from China - I mention them only as an instance of the Communist agents who come to Australia - were coming here to engage in Communist organization and propaganda. It is not open to us to do the same in China, Russia, or indeed any country on the other side of the iron curtain.
If there is to be this contact, then let the scales be held fairly. Let us give those people the same opportunities, neither more nor less, than they accord to us on their side of the curtain. That is something which we can do unilaterally without their permission. It is necessary for us to obtain inside Russia, inside China, inside all the iron curtain countries, facilities for cultural, political, religious and other organization in the same way and to the same degree as we accord them here. That seems fair and reasonable, and I think that so far honorable members opposite agree fully with me.
Let us follow this to its logical conclusion. The only way in which we can get these countries to give us these facilities for organization, for showing the democratic flag and for showing the democratic way of life inside Russia and China - that is the important place for it to be shown - is to say to them, “ Unless you give us the facilities, we will not accord to you corresponding facilities inside our country “. They need these facilities for contact just as much as we do. If we are firm, we can get a bargain. I am not suggesting for a moment that the honorable member for Lalor is a Communist propagandist, unless, of course, he be innocently misled. I am not making any imputations against his motives.
The Communist propagandists are getting us to give away our bargaining power so that the arrangement will work only one way - the way in which they want it to work. If we give them freedom to come here and organize, what will we get on our side of the bargain? How can we force them to give us similar opportunities on their side of the iron curtain? Here is a bargain of contact which would be advantageous to both sides because both sides need these advantages. But we will not get these contacts if we give away our bargaining power at the outset.
These people are asking us to give away everything and to get nothing in return. The Communists are very specious in saying that they will let our people in, but they do not allow our people any freedom to organize. In fact, they are somewhat discriminatory and they do not let in those people whom they think will be dangerous and inconvenient because they may be in a position to learn the truth.
For example, Lord Lindsay was mentioned in this House a few minutes ago. Why was he excluded from China? He was excluded because he could speak Chinese and had, in his wife’s family, people in China, who could give him the truth. He would have been able to move around and make contacts, not through an interpreter but at first-hand. He could have learned the truth and therefore he was not allowed in.
The smile of the Oriental or the Russian is very welcoming and hospitable to the innocents who cannot speak their language - the people who can be shepherded through an interpreter or who, even if they can speak the language, have no contacts and must therefore be in the hands of their hosts entirely. This is clever, but do not let us be taken in by it. Let us look to our own interests - to the democratic interests. Let us see that the contacts between these two ways of life on the ideological plane is conducted on terms of equality and with the scales held firmly. (Several honorable members rising in their places) -
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has replied as follows: -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What funds were allocated for amenity purposes in his department in Queensland in each of the years 1949-50 to 1956-57, inclusive?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The recorded expenditure for welfare equipment in Queensland for the years 1949-50 to 1956-57 is as follows:- 1949-50, £1,451; 1950-51, £3,135; 1951-52, £4,358; 1952-53, £3,181; 1953-54, £2,459; 1954-55, £3,213; 1955-56, £3,216; 1956-57, £4,939; 1957-58, £5,000 (estimated). Items recorded under the vote for equipment are: - (a) Food services equipment such as cafeteria and kitchen plant, furniture and equipment including pots, pans, dishes, &c. (b) Welfare equipment, including waterheating units, food heating units, refrigerators, refrigerated water coolers, teapots, jugs, crockery and food cupboards, furniture for rest rooms, first-aid kits. The amounts shown do not include salaries and other costs of the Welfare Section which are included in general expenditure. Camping parties of over 30 men are provided with tents, crockery, cutlery, bedding, furniture, lighting, stove, hot water system, safes, refrigerators, copper, wash troughs, wash basins, bath tubs, portable shower, radio, first-aid kit. Similar equipment is provided for smaller camping parties which are usually housed in caravans. These costs are not recorded separately in the department’s accounts. In addition, some of the expenditure associated with new building works is for amenities in buildings. The costs are not shown separately in the accounting records of the Post Office.
z asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
A total of seventeen stories were attributed to Mr. Dawson and Mr. Macdonald. Of this total, twelve were attributed to Mr. Macdonald and five to Mr. Dawson. All seventeen were included in Queensland State bulletins in the period of three months, that is December, January and February, but were not carried by the National news bulletins. Total estimated time occupied in the reading of these stories was about 10i minutes. In reply to section 3, the question related to statements made by Mr. Dawson as federal president and State secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union and by Mr. Macdonald, as secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in Brisbane. Sometimes reference to Mr. Macdonald represented only part of stories which contained other information not attributed to him. The subjects covered were - Basic wage; beer price increase; cost of living; court ballots; unemployment; bankruptcy act; hire-purchase relief, rehabilitation of injured employees; recovery of parklands.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 March 1958, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580327_reps_22_hor18/>.