23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2,30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Before the normal business of the House begins, Mr. Speaker, I crave permission to mention two deaths of heads of state that have occurred since we last met. I refer to the death of the Paramount Ruler of Malaya and that of His Majesty the King of Cambodia. We are diplomatically accredited to both of those countries, and we are on the most friendly terms with them.
His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agony the Paramount Ruler of Malaya, died early on Friday morning, at the age of 64 years. He suffered an illness in September of last year. He was, in fact, not active in his position at the time of my visit to that country, but was represented then by his deputy. He was the first of the Paramount Rulers provided for by the constitution of the recently established Malayan Federation. As such, he was elected for a period of five years by the heads of the individual States in the Malayan union. This system of government is quite novel from our point of view. It involves having a Paramount Ruler who is elected by persons who are themselves rulers of their particular provinces. The late Paramount Ruler was very deeply respected in Malaya, and his death will be a great loss to that country. It may be of interest to recall that at the ceremonies marking the establishment of the Malayan Federation, Australia was represented by the former Governor-General. I am sure that Malaya impresses all of us as a country enjoying the benefits of constitutional self-government and as a country that is making great progress. I am certain that all of us would wish to have conveyed to the Government of Malaya our profound sympathy on the very great loss that the country has sustained.
His Majesty the King of Cambodia is the head of state of a very ancient monarchy.
It is perhaps not a constitutional monarchy in the sense in which the term is applied to the British system, but it is a constitutional monarchy nevertheless. The King is elected from among the male members of the royal family. His late Majesty was born in 1896. He entered the Cambodian administration in 1918. He was aide-de-camp to the then King and head of the royal chancellery, and in 1920 he was Minister of Marine, Commerce and Agriculture. This kind of career is again quite novel from our point of view. He was appointed a Privy Councillor on the accession of his son to the throne in 1941, and in March, 1955, after the abdication of his son, he became king. His late Majesty, Sir, was a dignified monarch and was much venerated by his people. He did as much as any man could to preserve a sense of nationhood in his country and to attract the devotion of its people. We have an embassy in Cambodia, and1 Cambodia has an embassy here. It would be entirely proper, I think, if my friend the Leader of the Opposition would agree that we should, in this case, also extend our deep sympathy to the people of that country with whom we enjoy such friendly and forward looking relations.
– The Opposition associates itself with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister in respect of the late Paramount Ruler of Malaya and the late King of Cambodia. We should like to be associated with any expression of sympathy which goes from this House to the governments and peoples of the territories over which those two rulers reigned so recently. The Prime Minister, of course, will know, because he is the head of one of the great Scottish organizations in Melbourne, that the system operating in Malaya to-day is almost identical with the old clan system which operated in Scotland and Ireland. But the Malayan people have their own system of government. Under it they are prospering, they are preserving their national integrity, and they are surviving many threats, internal and external. I think we all wish them well. Our views in respect of Cambodia and our interest in the fate of that country are no less real and earnest. We wish Cambodia and Malaya a long national existence and hope that the very pleasant relations which exist, as the Prime Minister has mentioned, between Australia and both countries will long continue to the mutual advantage of all.
– Last week, the Prime Minister expressed the view that the tragic situation in South Africa was a matter of domestic concern for the Government of that country and of no concern of the United Nations nor of a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I ask him, in the light of the terms of the resolution approved by the Security Council of the United Nations on 1st April, dealing with the current tragic situation in South Africa, whether he will now announce his support for the resolution which stated, in short, that the present happenings in the Union of South Africa might endanger international peace and security, and then went on to deplore the policy and actions of the South African Government which had given rise to the present situation.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is canvassing the subject. He is not merely asking a question.
– I am basing my question on the resolution of the Security Council. I am asking the Prime Minister whether he approves of the terms of that resolution. Or does he still hold the views that he expressed last week?
-Order! I remind the honorable gentleman that this is questiontime.
– That is why I am so inquisitive. I conclude by asking the Prime Minister whether he agrees with that portion of the resolution which calls on the Government of South Africa to change its policy of apartheid and racial discrimination.
– The honorable member’s question falls into two parts. The first is the one with which he has just concluded. He wants to know whether the fact that the Security Council has passed a resolution - Great Britain abstaining - has altered the views that I put to this House the other day. Sir, they are not so easily altered. The views that I put to the House the other day stand.
As to the other part of his question, whether it was based on an assumption that I said this was not a matter for discussion at a Prime Ministers’ conference, I just want to avoid any misunderstanding on that point by reminding the House of what I did say: This is not a matter for discussion as a listed item at a Prime Ministers’ conference, and indeed, I can think of at least two or three Asian countries which would maintain that view with great vigour. As I said, it would be the end of the Commonwealth if, at a Prime Ministers’ conference, we all began to list and discuss matters which related to the domestic policies of other member nations, because that would mean that Prime Ministers would be sitting in judgment one on another. I cannot imagine a more rapid process by which to dissolve the Commonwealth.
On the other hand, as I said, it would no doubt be expected that when all the Prime Ministers are in London there will be informal talks on these matters. I think honorable members will recall that I myself said I would be very happy to hear what was said by the Prime Minister of South Africa to myself or to others in an informal way, because I am sure that at the end of that discussion I would know a great deal more about the true substance, form and effect of South African policies than I do now. Perhaps I am peculiar, but alone among all those who are in the field of criticism I do not profess to know all about these matters. I should dearly like to hear more about them. I still remain firmly persuaded that this is a matter to be dealt with by South Africa and it will be a poor day when we all proceed to deal with each other’s problems at the expense of dealing with our own - which are great enough, in all conscience.
– Can the Treasurer say whether the Government has yet given consideration to the marriage bar which deprives married women of the right to employment in the Public Service and which forces a single woman to retire from the service on marriage? The Treasurer will recall that on 19th March, 1959, he said the matter would be fully considered by the Government.
– According to my recollection, I said at the time that the Government would study the report of the committee which was inquiring into matters affecting the Commonwealth Public Service. I can tell the honorable gentleman that since that date consideration has been given by Cabinet to the terms of that report, including the particular matter to which he has referred. When finality has been reached and policy decisions can be stated, no doubt the Prime Minister will make a statement; but as at this point, these remain matters of policy which have yet to be announced.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the recent portrait of him painted by William Dobell highlights many of the qualities so often spoken of by members of the Opposition? In view of this fact, will he favorably consider incorporating copies of the portrait in all future government publications so that the electors may also appreciate these qualities and realize the need for a change of Prime Minister?
– All I can say to my genial friend is that this is not one of his best questions.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether the new pharmaceutical benefit arrangements have been responsible for a rise in hospital fees as announced recently in some States. Will the honorable gentleman say how hospital patients are affected by these new arrangements?
– The new pharmaceutical benefit arrangements could not possibly be responsible for any rise in hospital fees. For the honorable gentleman to understand how hospital patients are affected, I should perhaps explain the way in which hospitals provide the drugs used by patients. Public hospitals buy drugs in bulk. The usual practice was to supply the drugs to the patient without charge. The Commonwealth reimbursed the State hospitals for the drugs that were covered by pharmaceutical benefits. With the new scheme and the great widening of the pharmaceutical benefits list, the Commonwealth has made a new arrangement with the States, under which hospitals will be reimbursed in accordance with a formula. The formula will in fact give to State hospitals rather more than the old arrangement did.
With patients in private and intermediate wards of public hospitals, the former practice was that the pharmaceutical benefits were supplied free by hospitals and patients were charged the full dispensing fee for all other drugs. Again, with the widening of the pharmaceutical benefits list, a new arrangement has been made in at least one State. The hospitals will now charge a flat rate of £11s. a week to patients in private and intermediate wards. Obviously, this must involve some degree of hit and miss, because some patients will receive only a couple of injections of morphia, which would cost a few pence, and others will receive drugs which would cost more than £11s. This is an arrangement made by the hospitals themselves and in no way imposed on them by the Commonwealth. In fact nothing in this legislation compels State hospitals to make higher charges to their patients, or indeed necessitates their doing so. However, nothing in the legislation prevents their following this course. If hospitals intend to increase their charges because they supply drugs to patients, they certainly do. not do so because of any Commonwealth legislation or because of any treatment that they have received from the Commonwealth Government.
– In the absence of the Minister for Trade, I address my question to the Prime Minister. Has the Government given an assurance of tariff protection to the new Ampol-Sleigh-Caltex organization in respect of the £13,000,000 lubricating oil refinery at Kurnell, New South Wales? If such an assurance has been given, what is the nature of it? What is the reason for departing from the regular, time-honoured practice of giving tariff assistance only to establish industries after full consideration of operating costs and other factors by the Tariff Board? Has the Tariff Board yet been required to deal with this matter?
– I will see that the question is brought to the attention of the Minister for Trade.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health, who, no doubt, is aware of a report of the value of trioptic lenses for cases of near blindness. Can the Minister give me any information as to the value of these lenses?
– Mr. Speaker, this report was brought to my notice some time ago and I had some investigations made. The Ophthalmological Society of Australia has reported that it does not recommend these lenses and that, in fact, assistance in many cases of blindness is not to be sought merely in higher magnification which only gives a clearer view of an already distorted image. From such investigations as I have been able to make there appears to be not a great deal to hope for from these lenses.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Was Cabinet aware that negotiations were going on between Chevron Hotel interests and the Hilton Hotel combine? If Cabinet was aware of those negotiations, does that explain the lack of decision by Cabinet during the last six months in giving permission to Qantas Empire Airways Limited to construct an hotel on international standards in Sydney?
– If it is any comfort to the honorable member, I had never heard of these negotiations until I read of them in the local journal, the “ Canberra Times “, this morning.
Mr. Macmillan’s Speech to Union Parliament
– My question is addressed to ‘the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for External Affairs. It concerns South Africa but is divorced somewhat from events in that country in the last two or three weeks. Has the right honorable gentleman had the opportunity to study the text of the speech made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Macmillan, to the Union Parliament? If so, could he indicate whether, in his view, the opinions expressed in the course of that address are broadly in accord with those of the Australian Government and people?
– With great respect to my good friend, I would beg to be excused from offering, at question time, opinions on the validity of views expressed by another prime minister of the British Commonwealth. I do not think that is an appropriate matter to be dealt with at question time.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Will he ascertain what stage has been reached in the preparation of legislation for the dedication of park lands and recreation areas in the Capital Territory? In the meantime, and in particular, will he take whatever action is possible to protect from the hands of those who would seek to obtain it for other purposes the area set aside at Black Mountain for the establishment of botanical gardens? Will he, in fact, ensure that this area is kept for the use of the public?
– I cannot give the categorical assurance which the honorable member asks for in the latter part of his question, but I will examine the whole matter that he has raised.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. What stage has been reached in the current negotiations with Japan concerning limited access to pearling grounds in Australia’s northern waters? Will the prohibition against pearlers operating in the Western Australian area be continued? What is the position regarding Australia’s claim before the International Court of Justice that our pearling grounds are part of the Australian continental shelf?
– Negotiations between the Japanese and Australian Governments for the annual review of this matter have taken place. My department has naturally been interested in them, but, as is usual, the ultimate decision is taken in consultation with the Department of
External Affairs. To my knowledge, a final decision has not been reached, and I prefer not to say anything about quantities or areas until such time as the negotiations are completed. So far as the Australian claims to the continental shelf are concerned, there was a discussion at the Law of the Sea Conference at Geneva two years ago at which a majority of the nations represented favoured the viewpoint taken by Australia, but no submission has been presented to the court by Japan or Australia.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been directed to complaints made by pensioners and officers of pensioners’ organizations that pensioners are called upon to join benefit funds in order to obtain treatment in public wards? I ask the Minister to make it clear now that pensioners are not obliged to join funds in order to receive such treatment. Will the Minister give urgent and immediate consideration to the need to allow credits for money paid by pensioners for intermediate ward treatment, and where pensioners are not members of funds, to permit credits to be given to them for intermediate ward treatment?
– The position is that treatment in hospitals is subject to what might be called a gentleman’s agreement between the Commonwealth and State governments, under which the Commonwealth pays the State government concerned 12s. a day for each bed occupied by a non-insured pensioner. If a State government wishes to terminate that arrangement it has full power to do so. The hospitals are entirely under the control of State governments, and there is nothing that this Government can do to prevent a State government from acting in that way. 1 am not quite sure that I understand what the honorable gentleman means about credits being given to pensioners; but if any credit is to be extended in relation to a bed that is occupied either by a pensioner or any one else, it can be extended only by a State government and not by the Commonwealth Government.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has the
Minister seen the statement published in a business trade journal that costs would rise by 6 to 7 per cent, this year as against 1 to 2 per cent, last year? Since the primary industries are the main source of our overseas funds, will the right honorable gentleman give every consideration, when formulating the forthcoming Budget, to this grave threat to the cost structure of those industries?
– The Government is very conscious of the importance of maintaining a level of costs and prices in this country which would enable our vital primary industries to compete effectively in the world’s markets. It is with that kind of consideration in mind, as well as other important features of the general economic situation, that the Government recently announced aspects of the policy to which it was giving effect. It was influenced considerably by that consideration in adopting the general attitude that it disclosed before the recent hearing of the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission.
The honorable gentleman asks whether the problem of our primary exports in meeting competition overseas will be considered in connexion with the forthcoming Budget. Just as we have had that matter very much in mind at this stage of the year, it will continue to take a prominent place in our thoughts when we are shaping Budget policy.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question without notice. I desire to know whether it is a fact that as a result of an award of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission seamen on the Australian coast are now obliged to work on Saturdays and Sundays at a substantially reduced wage. If so, will he agree that such a drastic reduction in wages as has occurred would create industrial unrest and result in retaliatory action in any industry and on the part of any group of workers? In the circumstances, in the event of industrial trouble arising in this maritime industry will the Minister, in the interests of truth and honesty, refrain from making statements attributing this particular dispute to the activities of Communists?’
– As to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I shall wait until a critical issue does arise before I make any comment. The first part of the honorable gentleman’s question relates to the effect of the award. He should know that it is a comprehensive award which was made by Mr. Justice Foster and that you cannot dissociate one part of the award from another. In addition, it was made some weeks ago - perhaps even two months ago - and, frankly, I have not sufficient of the details in my mind at this stage to be able to say whether, on a full analysis, the seamen have lost anything. As the honorable gentleman probably knows, there is a difference of opinion about whether the seamen have suffered any real loss. I shall try to have an analysis made, and shall let him have the result of it just as soon as I can.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. Has the Government received from the Government of Western Australia a request for financial aid to the victims of the recent cyclone at Carnarvon, over and above the aid which is normally expected for the relief of personal hardship and distress?
– My recollection is that a request has been received. I cannot give offhand the full details of the Commonwealth Government’s reply to the request, but I shall see whether I can make the facts known to the honorable member later in the day.
– I direct a question without notice to the Treasurer. What are the proposed or expected terms of the 25,000,000-dollar loan which the Commonwealth proposes to raise in New York in the near future? Could such a loan have been raised in Australia on better terms? If not, why not? On past experience, how much of this borrowing can we expect to be offset by dividends and profits remitted this financial year to dollar countries by Australian companies and Australian branches of overseas companies? Finally, does the right honorable gentleman agree that public borrowings of this kind which are to be directed to essential public works, and which have a fixed interest commitment, are in many ways more desirable than private borrowings from overseas?
– I shall obtain for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the precise details of the new loan which is to be raised in New York as soon as they can be made available, but broadly I think I am able to assure the House that the conditions of the loan will not be less favorable than the conditions of the loan which was raised by the Government in the United States earlier in this financial year. If that proves to be the case, it is further evidence of Australia’s creditworthiness and of the support which we get when our issues are made there, particularly at a time when the bond rates and the international markets have not been steady.
In view of the ground which was covered by the honorable gentleman, may I say that I think that there is a lack of awareness, not only outside the Parliament, but also, having regard to the honorable gentleman’s questions, inside the Parliament, of the significance for Australia of these overseas borrowings. This year the Commonwealth and State governments have a total capital works programme of about £370,000,000. The Commonwealth had agreed with the States that some £220,000,000 of that amount would be sought by public borrowings, to the extent that it was available, and that the difference would be made up by the Commonwealth from revenue. In the Budget speech I indicated that we were looking to total loan raisings, overseas and local, of about £190,000,000 and, of that amount, only about £30,000,000 was expected from overseas. So our overseas borrowings, though useful and supplementary to what we can raise in Australia, were to be a small proportion of our total borrowings. The balance had to be found from revenue, and this represents a very substantial burden upon the taxpayers of Australia, but it is a burden which is necessary for our steady development and progress. In the result, we have gone along well with our internal borrowings, and our overseas borrowings look like being at least up to our estimate. If the New York borrowing is the success that I expect, we shall have raised more than what we estimated might be obtained from overseas.
I do not think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had much of a point when he asked how long it would be before we could expect this New York borrowing to be offset by increased remittances going overseas from investment here. Part of the overseas investment here makes Australia more self-reliant. Part of it comes back to us in further investments by overseas interests which find that expanding industry here calls for further capital provision by them. We are, and shall be for as far ahead as I can see, a capital-importing country. As one of our representatives overseas said not very long ago, Australia will probably have to look to the next century to become a capital-exporting country. This is the century of our national growth and expansion, and, for as far ahead as one can see, we shall need for investment not only all the capital that we can raise internally, but also fund’s from overseas to supplement our own capital if our immigration programme is to continue and our national development is to proceed as we all would wish.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. A few weeks ago, I asked the Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Australian Wool Bureau wanted more funds for wool promotion, the Government would contribute financially to the promotion of Australia’s most important product. The Minister replied that it was his understanding at that time that the bureau did not require more funds for promotion. Can he say whether the position remains the same?
– In recent days, the various graziers’ organizations have been considering the matter of additional funds for wool promotion, but, up to date, they have not made any request to me, as Minister for Primary Industry, for the imposition of a levy to raise funds for such purposes. I think that the organizations are in the process of discussing alternative methods of raising funds, and they may eventually put such a proposition to me. However, I understand that they have enough money in hand to make it unlikely that they will approach me within the next twelve months.
– I ask the Treasurer a question in his capacity as Leader of the House. I should like to know whether the right honorable gentleman is aware that the Minister for Trade, as reported at page 795 of “Hansard” of this House, has made the following statement: -
I state in the plainest terms that the practice of apartheid is entirely repugnant to us as a basis of relationships between fellow nationals.
– Order! The honorable member is now canvassing a matter that has already been the subject of a debate, and he is out of order.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Is the honorable member for Yarra not entitled to ask a question supplementary to one which I asked on the subject of apartheid, and in so doing to cite the opinion of the Deputy Prime Minister, which contradicts the remarks made to-day by the Prime Minister?
– I think that the honorable member for Yarra was canvassing a matter which has been debated. Furthermore, the matter is not under the control of the Treasurer.
– As the Prime Minister is absent, I direct my question to the Treasurer. It is understandable that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has a very broad outlook on colour problems, since different shades of red are represented on its executive. However, I ask the right honorable gentleman: Just how will the A.C.T.U. boycott of South African goods benefit the indigenous people of South Africa?
– Frankly, I do not feel competent to analyse the thinking of the members of the executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in relation to an aspect of policy of this kind. The Prime Minister has already stated this Government’s general attitude to a sanction such as has been proposed.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport to have, during his term of office, regular meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council? If it is, will the Minister give special attention to the formulation, in co-operation with the States, of methods of improving Australia’s inadequate roads system?
– It is my intention to have regular meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. Subject to what is put forward by that body, some arrangements will probably be made with the States for improving our roads. At this stage I do not intend to give an answer with regard to policy.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services: In view of the fact that there has been only one adjustment of the rates of child endowment payments during the last ten years of this Government’s term of office, will the Minister, in this year in which we all express joy at the birth of a royal prince, give urgent consideration to the plight of the mothers of this country in caring for our young Australians, and arrange for increases of child endowment payments to be provided for in the next Budget?
– The question of the rates of child endowment will be considered when the general question of social services is under review during the preparation of the Budget.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry say whether any steps are being taken to inaugurate a research scheme for the mutton and lamb industry, along the lines of the very valuable schemes devised by this Government for the wool, dairying, wheat and beef industries?
– I know of no direct action on those lines that has been taken, as yet, with regard to mutton and lamb. I remind the honorable member, however, of the legislation that was passed in recent days by this House with regard to the promotion of mutton and lamb sales.
– I address a question to the Leader of the House. Is it a fact that the Minister for Trade, who is the Leader of the Australian Country Party, still wants to recognize red China?
– The Leader of the Australian Country Party will be in the House during the course of this week, and if the honorable member is curious to know his policy views on a matter of this kind, I suggest that he put his question direct to the Minister.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that money borrowed overseas cannot be brought into Australia, but must be used overseas to pay for goods and services which may then be used in Australia? If this is so, how does the Government propose to bring to Australia, for the purpose of lending it to the States, the money that it is at present raising in America by way of loan?
– I do not think I should be invited at question time to embark upon an analysis of the various ways in which overseas borrowings can be applied. Quite apart from anything else, such borrowings have an obvious bearing upon the general level of our overseas reserves. They have particular significance at a time when we are admitting imports very freely in order to meet inflationary pressures in this country and provide a further spur to competition inside Australia. The fact is that to the extent that these borrowings make additional goods and services available to us, outside our own resources, they lessen the pressure upon our own resources inside Australia. This is important in a period when Australia ranks as one of the countries with the highest level of savings per capita, and requires all the investment that it can obtain for its development.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. Will you consider the provision of a gateway in the hedge surrounding the garden on the House of Representatives side of Parliament House, on the side of the garden farthest from the House, so that those private members who daily trudge from the Hotel Kurrajong to the House may enjoy the beauties of the garden en route, and may also be enabled to cut down the distance traversed?
Debate resumed from 31st March (vide page 850), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the following paper -
Defence Review - Ministerial Statement, 29th March, 1960- be printed.
– I would like to refer to certain portions of the statement delivered by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) in this House on 29th March, and to give certain views that I hold regarding the use of the Citizen Military Forces in Australia. In the opening portion of his remarks, the Minister stressed the Government’s belief that the possibility of global war was now quite remote. He said -
Briefly, we believe that because of the nuclear deterrent, the outbreak of limited or local wars is more likely than a global or full-scale war . . .
We therefore give priority in our preparations to the more likely threat, and the primary aim of the defence programme is to improve the ability of our forces to act swiftly and effectively, in co-operation with allied forces, to meet limited war situations.
The Minister said, further -
As I have said earlier, the type of hostilities assessed as most likely to-day are limited or local wars.
The whole tenor of the Minister’s remarks was directed towards this possibility or likelihood. The Minister also stressed the need for the Australian forces to be provided with all the modern arms available, and which this country could afford to provide.
It occurs to me that if we are to be engaged in what are described as limited or local wars, then the places with which we are most likely to be concerned are the islands and the territories immediately to the north of this continent. I would suggest that in those areas the great need will be for properly trained and equipped infantry soldiers. As the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) said in his. contribution to this debate, in these areas is the type of country in which final success depends on the number of properly trained infantrymen in the field. If the country to our north is that in which we are likely to be involved in a limited or local war, then I suggest that we are likely to be involved in what is essentially infantry country. There is no opportunity there for the use of the modern weapons that are now being devised. I suggest that our land forces in those areas would have to rely, as we did in recent events there, on the use of the rifle, machine gun, grenades and mortars, with possibly some support from field artillery, but not, I would believe, from the field piece which the Government has now selected - the 105-mm. howitzer - in preference to the 25-pounder field gun.
The Government’s decision on the integration of the Citizen Military Forces and the Permanent Forces seems to have reacted against the infantry units of the C.M.F. It is the infantry units which will suffer most in the re-organization, despite the Minister’s forecast that a target of 30,000 C.M.F. volunteers will be achieved, contrasted with a present force, stated by the Minister to be 21,000, but quoted, I believe, by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) as about 17,600.
I think the changes that are being made in the C.M.F. set-up will be felt most severely by the infantry units. The armoured units and the artillery are not so affected as the infantry units, the importance of which has been stressed by no less a soldier than the honorable member for Hume, who is a most highly decorated officer. In his contribution to this debate on Thursday, 31st March, the honorable member for Hume said -
In every war, armies are the decisive factors. I do not say that in disparagement of the other forces. We cannot get anywhere without a navy, and we cannot fight without an air force, but the final decision in every war depends on the holding of vital ground, and vital ground has to be held by an army.
Later, the honorable member for Hume said that his criticism of the battle group of the pentropic division was that the infantry core in the group was too small. He added -
To my mind the infantry component is most important.
Later still, the honorable member said - 1 am quite satisfied that not sufficient inducement has been given to prospective recruits for the C.M.F.
I would agree with the honorable member that the promise by the Minister that pay and allowances to members of the C.M.F. will be increased is not, in itself, sufficient inducement to persuade men to volunteer for training for ultimate service in the defence of their country. I am a firm believer in the voluntary system of training. There I disagree with the honorable member for Hume, the honorable member for Chisholm and a number of others who have spoken in this debate.
I have always maintained that if the young men of this country are offered proper inducement and conditions, and if their pay is a satisfactory recompense, in part, for the time that they spend, they will never be slow to come forward tor training and certainly will not be slow to come forward when the country is in need of their services. That has been proved over and over again. But it is not sufficient merely to increase the amount of pay and allowances that are available to those who volunteer to train in the services. I think that the steps which are being taken in relation to the C.M.F. will destroy much of the inducement to young men to train. I fear that the effect of the reorganization will be practically to destroy the C.M.F. as it exists to-day. It will be destroyed because there will no longer be the local content in C.M.F. units. There have been a great number of expressions of opinion on that point.
It is true to say that, for the success of any force, it is essential that the officers should have confidence in their men and that the men must have confidence in their officers. That confidence, I suggest, can be bred and established only in a cohesive unit which has a local interest and which provides the essential opportunity for officers to get to know their men and for the men, of course, to get to know the officers. Under the changes that are being made, the number of infantry officers in New South Wales C.M.F. units will be reduced from 323 to 106. I know that the Minister has said that no members of the C.M.F. will be retrenched or required to retire. But under the new infantry training establishment of the C.M.F. many officers will not have the opportunity to train men or to train with men and so develop that spirit and that confidence which are essential. It is all very well to say that the officers who will become redundant in the C.M.F. will be able to join study groups and continue their active service in that way. That will not be good enough for these men. I think that their interest will waver and that they will drift away from the C.M.F. Similarly, because of the reduction in C.M.F. units, the inducement of promotion which has always been an attraction to young men entering on this form of training will now be lacking and I fear very strongly that recruitment will fall off. It has been shown that the proposed wide-spread units - a company here, a company there and head-quarters somewhere else, perhaps hundreds of miles away - will appear to local communities to be something remote and distant and will not engender the active support and cooperation that is now received. In order to illustrate that point, I have only to mention the 3rd Battalion, the Werriwa Regiment, which at present has its bead-quarters in Canberra. Under the proposed set-un. the head-quarters of that battalion will no longer be in Canberra. One company of that battalion will be here, one will be in Goulburn and the head-quarters will be in the Newcastle area. I suggest that, in dispersing a unit in that way, the Government is destroying the local content and the value that can come to a unit that is established and controlled within a limited area. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) is at the table and, I assume, will follow me in this debate. I ask him to put seriously to the Government the need to retain some of these regiments which have very proud records, as the Minister well knows. I make a particular plea for the Werriwa Regiment. It has no present direct connexion with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) but I believe that it should at least have its head-quarters retained in the National Capital. Defence is a national matter. The head-quarters of the Department of Defence, and the Departments of the Navy, Air and Army have recently been transferred to the National Capital. We have the Duntroon Military College. We have navy and air establishments here. But we will have, in the National Capital, no effective part of the national defence system as illustrated in the C.M.F. proposal. I ask the Minister to reconsider the decision that has been taken. At present, we have in Canberra the headquarters of the 3rd Battalion. The components established here, are, first of all, the battalion head-quarters, then the administrative company, and a company with a platoon at Yass. B support company is at Queanbeyan, C company at Goulburn, and D company at Moss Vale and Bowral. Under the re-organization, the training at present carried out at Yass, Queanbeyan and Moss Vale-Bowral will disappear. We shall then have a company in Canberra, a company at Goulburn and the headquarters, apparently, in the Newcastle area.
The Third Infantry Battalion, Werriwa Regiment, is the oldest or the equal oldest infantry battalion in this country. Its battle honours go back to Suakim in 1885 and, of course, to the South African War of 1899- 1902. It was at the landing at Anzac and played a proud part in both World War I. and World War II. Of course, its exploits in the New Guinea campaigns in World War II. are well renowned. I believe that if a decision could be taken to retain the head-quarters battalion of this regiment here in Canberra there would be no lack of recruits to it.
I would add that in this proposed reorganization of C.M.F. units, Sydney and Melbourne will presumably retain their university regiments - in Sydney the two regiments, the Sydney University Regiment and the New South Wales University Regiment. Recently a bill was passed through this House which will incorporate the Canberra University College within the Australian National University, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself forecast for this city a great future as a university city when, in the years to come, we will have here one of the great universities of this country and, indeed, of the world. Perhaps the Minister might have that aspect in mind and also the prospect that here, in ten years’ time, we will have a population of 100,000 people. That is a firm estimate within the Govern ment’s power to achieve and if present planning is followed our present population of some 46,000 will, by 1970, exceed 100,000.
I suggest these national aspects: Here is the centre of national government, and defence is a national matter. We have here the head-quarters of the Defence Department and of the three Services. The Royal Military College at Duntroon offers excellent facilities for training officers and men, as do also the naval and air establishments located here. We have the prospects of a sizable city and, in the future, of a great university population. In view of these facts I would ask the Minister to consider asking the Government not to proceed with the disbandment - for that is what it would be - and the destruction of the Werriwa Regiment, but rather that the head-quarters of its battalion be retained here. I think he would find that with the potential not only in the university population, but also in the population of this place generally - which would be a growing potential - there would be no lack of recruits. Of course this would depend on the inducements available not only in relation to pay and allowances, but also prospects of promotion. At present the Werriwa Regiment here has some 35 officers. With the December promotions that number will be increased to 40, and 400 other ranks. Under the proposed set-up its numbers will be reduced to seven officers and 195 other ranks.
– Are they all in Canberra?
– Of the present 35 officers, 28 are residents of Canberra. These men will now become completely redundant. They are men who have trained for years. I would point out that an infantry officer is not trained in a matter of a few months; it takes four or five years, and perhaps his training is never completed.
If seven of these 35 officers are retained, 28 will become redundant. It is all very well to say that they can go into study groups or occasionally go away to a school. That is not the way to retain the interest of these men. I believe that the C.M.F. will lose them and, losing them, will lose some of the most valuable components of any future army. This will seriously affect the prospects of raising and training men for any army that this country may be called upon to provide. Unless officers and men are continually being trained there will be no hope of putting trained men into the field with any speed at all should the occasion arise, and God forbid that we should ever again be in a position where men not trained are asked to go into battle in the defence of this country.
.- Over the past few days we have had a strange mixture of arguments from the other side of the House. Some members of the Opposition have strongly criticized the Government for not doing enough for defence and others have criticized the Government strongly for spending too much on defence. They just cannot have it both ways. Others have been very loud in their criticism of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) because of certain retrenchments which have taken place as a result of the reorganization of the Army.
No one would know more about the necessity and the value of re-organization than honorable members opposite. The people of Australia and, no doubt, many people in other countries, through the press realize that Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament knows all about reorganization and retrenchment. They know full well that in changing circumstances, men holding positions of high office are sometimes found to be no longer serving a useful purpose. Those honorable members who have clamoured so loudly for the Minister’s scalp on this occasion because he has quite rightly and properly acted on a recommendation by his senior military advisers that certain officers and other ranks should be retrenched, should now hesitate themselves, for good reasons, to offer criticism. They used methods which were watched with very great interest indeed by many to find how their own senior officer, who could serve for them no further useful purpose, could be gainfully employed.
Applying the same principle as the Opposition, which did not just throw its member out into the street or sack him out of hand within five minutes, we can be confident that these officers and other ranks will not be badly treated but will receive compensation commensurate with their rank and service. These few officers have not been sacked at all, as the Opposition has implied. They have not just been thrown out into the street. They have not received :a “ snarler “ or the S.N.L.R. - “ services no longer required “ - notice. Many of us know how that can be handed out and many have received it over the years. But we can understand why that was not done in this case.
Honorable members know full well that the Minister for the Army would never have had any intention of having any stigma whatsoever cast upon these officers. This matter, which is part of the inevitable process of re-organization, would have been kept in proper perspective but for the sensationalism of the press and a cheap attempt by some members of the Opposition to gain some party political advantage, particularly the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen).
– It was a filthy thing to do.
– I agree. He went to the extent of having their names included in “ Hansard “ and published in the press for all to see. He ignored all the elements of common decency which surely demanded that this matter should never have been raised in this way. If any stigma or slur has been cast upon these officers it has now been firmly placed upon them by the honorable member for Parkes. It has served no useful purpose whatever and can do nothing but harm.
As an officer in the C.M.F., I have come in contact with these officers and know some of them quite well. I served under some in the Middle East, the Pacific campaigns and more recently in the C.M.F. I can speak with reasonable authority and knowledge in saying that they have served their country well in times of war and peace as have many thousands of others. But however well they may have served, I would be the first to protest against any suggestion that they should be accorded some extraordinary preferential treatment or compensation for what is no doubt an unfortunate, but nevertheless necessary retrenchment. There would be no end to a precedent of that nature, as honorable members know. They are regular soldiers, and they do not have to refer to military history to know that these things do happen from time to time. The honorable member for Parkes, and some other honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), who is so keen to interject on this matter, might do well to consider more the plight of other ranks. They are retrenched for similar reasons, but I hear no loud wails of anguish on this score. It is well known that the honorable member for Parkes and other honorable members opposite seem ;o be more interested in the plight of the “ top brass “, as they term these officers. They should, perhaps, pay more attention to the other ranks. In the main, the officers referred to would have far more opportunity for re-establishment because of training, rank, finance and contacts than would the other ranks.
Officers and other ranks are simply not dismissed out of hand. Some very definite ground is present before this course is followed. It may be well to remind honorable members that every year all members of the Regular Army, no matter what their rank, submit to a fairly thorough medical test. If a member fails in the test, he may be considered non-efficient. Reasons for non-efficiency, other than that to which honorable members opposite keep referring, may be found. No one with the slightest knowledge of the requirements of modern service in a tropical environment, where we are most likely to be committed, would have any great argument with that contention. Many soldiers over 35 years of age, who served in the Middle East during the last war and were still medically class I., were classified down for tropical warfare just because they were more than 35 years. Many were placed in guard units, the “ old and bold “, or other less physically arduous positions. Some were retrenched or discharged because they could no longer be gainfully employed. In this instance, the Minister has given an assurance that no soldier who can be gainfully employed will be discharged.
Obviously, these few senior officers, for one or other of the reasons that I have outlined, have been told that there is no place for them in the present plan of re-organization. We must view this in the light of their substantive ranks, their age, their medical classification and the fact that, with .this re-organization, the postings available for their particular ability are limited.
Re-adjustment and replacement often occurs, and is very often necessary. The Government has quite clearly defined its policy on the Army, and it is very difficult for us to argue about it. We do not have free access to the sources of military intelligence which are available to the chiefs of staff who make the recommendations on which these appreciations are based. It is their appreciation, looking as far ahead as they can, upon which the Government bases its policy, having regard to financial and political considerations. However, we try as earnestly as we can to make up our minds on the information available to us.
History has an unfortunate and sometimes most .uncomfortable habit of repeating itself, and therefore it gives us some useful lessons. We should bear this in mind when looking at the problem of compulsory service compared with voluntary service for our Armed Forces. After World War I., compulsory training was introduced, but it was scrapped about October, 1929. Voluntary enlistment was then successful until the early ‘thirties. During the depression, as many honorable members know, many men joined up merely to obtain a free issue of a pair of boots and a greatcoat. But, as the depression levelled off, a marked decline in voluntary enlistment was apparent. In fact, some battalions went into annual camp with as few as 80 men. Once again the C.M.F. went right into the doldrums.
– They were good quality men, though.
– Yes, and I have no doubt that the honorable member was one of them and that his training then stood him in very good stead when he later served in the Air Force.
In the late ‘thirties a form of universal training was brought in and we started to hear .the term “ choco “ and other uncomplimentary expressions applied to these troops who could not be sent overseas. We used to say .that .they were troops who could not be shot at. At all stages, reception facilities were available for volunteers, but it was not until the deterioration” of the overseas situation in 1939 that the intake improved markedly. During the first year of the war, volunteers came in a flood. From the disbanding of the Australian Imperial Forces in 1945 or 1946 until about March, 1948, there was no C.M.F. Its- reintroduction about March, 1948, brought about a surge of volunteers who had served during the war. Many of these volunteers, because of age and medical classification, would be affected by the retrenchment to which we have referred.
Again the C.M.F. went into the doldrums. In fact, so serious was this decline, that the national service training scheme was put into effect about August, 1951, having regard to the appreciation of the overseas situation. That scheme is now to be terminated. Various opinions as to its value have been expressed. In terms of money, it has cost a good’ deal, and it may possibly have inflicted some economic hardship somewhere along the line. But, amongst a number of things on the credit side we have now a large pool of well-trained young officers and non-commissioned officers and a very large reserve of partially trained soldiers. If, before their physical usefulness expires, a situation arises in which their services are needed, we will not be able to measure in terms of money the value of the national service training scheme.
I draw attention to these broad facts to show that my fear is that history may well repeat itself. If the present order of battle proposed for the Army is to succeed, we must ensure that we have learnt our lesson and are not prepared to accept failure. The scheme needs the full co-operation of all sections of the community. It needs the co-operation of the Public Service Boards of the Commonwealth and of all the States. And it needs a standard approach by industry so that nothing stands in the way of the young men who are keen to serve. As honorable members know, some firms grant leave without pay but others insist that any voluntary training should be done during the member’s annual holidays. Some firms have a mixed system of one week on leave without pay and one week on holidays for Army training, or perhaps one week with pay and one week on leave without pay. Various approaches are made by firms to this problem. Something positive needs to be done. We are losing a great number of potential volunteers because of the intolerant attitude of many employers. No man - particularly the young man with a family - should have to give up his annual holidays for voluntary service, but there is far too much of that going on at the moment. It only makes the community contribution to our volunteer army far more unequal than it should be. We should all realize just how unequal the voluntary system is at the present time. If we want to make it work, let us make sure that the conditions of service generally are the very best that we can give. I repeat that we should offer the very best terms and conditions of service.
I also hope that the Minister has not made his final decision on the closing down of all the training centres that he mentioned. I believe he should wait until the end of the year - I suggest the 31st December - when the picture will be clearer. There is a lot of enthusiasm in some centres at the moment to recruit and build up. The figures of the last few years are not a true indication of what is taking place at the moment because of the enthusiasm that I refer to. Where an infantry unit can maintain fifty plus and therefore be sure of fielding a full platoon for training and annual camp under our new approach it should be maintained.
There are some aspects of army clothing which I think should be examined. Coming as I do from a tropical environment, I think that is important. Apart from safari jackets, we have the same scale of clothing in Cairns as in Canberra, in Townsville as in Tasmania. The tropical issue in Port Moresby and Darwin, I understand, includes shorts, sox tops and puttees; but on the eastern tropical coast shorts are not issued although they have been requested for years and there is a definite requirement for them. Also included in the tropical issue for Port Mo esby and Darwin are greatcoats and pull-overs. We know that at an elevation, such as Wau, as on the Atherton Tablelands or at Charters Towers where we go into camp, it can be cold; but because the training is carried out on the tropical coast they are not issued. They are a definite requirement and consideration should be given to their issue. I understand they have been requested for years, but nothing has been done about it.
A further point which I hope will be gone into is the location of our army units for our regular battle groups. Surely the logical place for these camps - and I mean good permanent fixtures - is in Northern Australia, where men can live and train in the environment they are most likely to encounter in any commitment. The building up of good permanent establishments with family quarters would also serve the purpose of boosting civilian services and population. Attention should be given to this matter. If this current plan is to work it must have our full co-operation, and we must watch closely so as to be ready to stamp on any unfavorable developments. In reply to the argument that we might leave our country undefended by committing all our battle groups and the C.M.F. in one fell swoop, I say that realism is the essential requirement. If a situation arises where the C.M.F. must be committed, further mobilization will have to take place. It could be as serious as that. We could quickly tire of putting up hypothetical situations all of which would be unfavorable to us; in other words we could quickly tire of being armchair strategists. We must look at our objectives and our financial and physical capabilities.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) implied that I was only concerned about dismissals of the top brass and not of other ranks. I will quote what I said with reference to the dismissals. At page 813 of “ Hansard “ of 31st March, I am reported as having said -
Let us be honest about this issue of the retrenchment of Army personnel. We on the Opposition side want to see a reduction in the armed forces but we want to see an orderly progressive reduction in man-power. If the armed forces are to be reduced, we want to see the change made correctly. The technical know-how of the men in the armed forces should be transferred from the uses of war to the uses of peace. The men should be absorbed directly into private industry or other government departments. The personnel who are retrenched should not be sacked overnight and put on the breadline. The Government and this House should face up to these problems.
The honorable member stated that I am concerned only about the top brass. I am concerned about all Army personnel.
.- The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) commenced his address by saying there was some kind of contradiction in the attitude of the Opposition because on the one hand we were saying the Government was not doing enough for defence and, on the other hand, we were saying that the Government was spending too much. It should be quite clear to all honorable members that the Opposition has said both those things and there is no contradiction whatever. First, the Government is spending too much; and secondly, it is spending badly those amounts which it does spend on defence. That has all the time been the attitude of the Opposition, and it has been made clear. The second point made by the honorable member for Herbert was that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) had reflected on the officers who had been retired. Of course, it is not the honorable member for Parkes whom those men suggest they might take action against for libel. It is the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) himself who reflected on their efficiency and said that that was one of the reasons why they were being retrenched. The honorable member for Parkes spoke of their ability and said that those were the kind of men who perhaps should not have been selected for retrenchment. It is pretty clear that it was the Minister for the Army who reflected upon the retrenched officers, and that fact is most apparent to the officers concerned and to everybody else.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), in his statement, declared that the defence re-organization now proposed is based on strategic considerations. He said -
Any statement on defence would be incomplete without reference to the strategic basis of policy.
He does not seem to think there can be much argument about that. He continued -
Briefly we believe that because of the nuclear deterrent the outbreak of limited or local wars is more likely than the outbreak of global or fullscale war.
The first thing which has to be said about that is that it is an unclear statement. It does not say that the Government thinks that the outbreak of local or limited wars is likely or unlikely, and it does not even say whether the Government thinks that nuclear war is likely or unlikely, lt merely says that the outbreak of local or limited wars is more likely than the outbreak of global war. We can deduce how likely the Government thinks the outbreak of war is from an examination of its actions. There is- a connexion between the view of the Government about the likelihood of war and the amount it spends on war and defence. I shall direct the attention of the House to a few figures. In 1938-39,. with Hitler already invading Austria and Czechoslovakia, and with the probability of the invasion of Poland, we had a government in office exactly the same as the present Government which spent on war and defence £13,000,000 out of a gross national product of £949,000,000 - or 1.4 per cent, of gross national product, only a few months before Hitler invaded Poland. But to-day when, as I will show later, the Government thinks that war is unlikely, we are spending 2.9 per cent, of the gross national product on war and defence - relatively more than twice what we were spending six months before Hitler invaded Poland. I think that it should also be borne in mind that the position in 1939-40, when we were actually-
– What was the Labour Party doing then?
– I will tell you if you remain silent and stop shouting, which is becoming your custom. In 1939-40, with the war actually on, and with a government identical with the present Government in office and saying “ Business as usual “, only £50,000,000 out of a gross national product of £1,025,000,000 was spent on war and defence - 4.9 per cent.!
– What was the Labour Party doing?
– I will tell you in a moment. Try to be patient.
– It is very difficult.
– Of course, the Minister at the table is the essence of patience. One wonders sometimes whether he is alive or dead. The position is that in 1939-40 only 4.9 per cent, of the gross national product was spent on war and defence, yet in the post-war period, in 1952-53, with no sign of war, this Government was willing to spend 4.8 per cent, of the gross national product on- war and defence - almost as much as it was willing to spend when we were actually engaged in war with Nazi Germany. The Government spent a higher proportion of the gross national product on war and defence in 1952-53, when there was no war, than it did in 1939-40, when it was in office in the midst of one of the greatest wars in the history of mankind.
By interjection the young gentlemen on the other side of the House, with their distinguished records, have asked what we did in the war. In 1942-43, with a Labour government in office, the percentage of the gross national product devoted to war and defence was 36.9. Of course, at that stage, with the Japanese not far from Australian shores, every part of the gross national product that could possibly be devoted to war was devoted to war. In the year in which Labour came to office as the Government of this Commonwealth we more than doubled the proportion of the gross national product devoted to war and defence. Everybody knows that in 1941 the defences of this country were completely inadequate.
Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let us come to the post-war period and look at the connexion between strategic considerations and the proportion of the gross national product spent on war and defence, which is the best possible test of the substance of the defence effort. In the period following the coming to office of the present Government the percentage of the gross national product devoted to war and defence rose. It was 1.8 per cent, in 1948-49, 2 per cent, in 1949-50, 2.8 per cent, in 1950-51, 4.3 per cent, in 1951-52, and reached its highest post-war point in 1952-53, when it was 4.8 per cent. From then onward, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the proportion almost continuously falls. In 1953-54 it was 3.7 per cent., in 1954-55, 3.5 per cent., in 1955-56, 3.6 per cent., in 1956-57, 3.2 per cent., in 1957-58, 2.9 per cent., and in 1958-59, 2.9 per cent.
Those figures of the percentage of gross national product devoted to war and defence support a number of very interesting conclusions. I suggest that the first one is that the Government at present does not think war is likely, although it does seem to think that it is twice as likely as did the Government in 1938-39, because it devotes twice the percentage of the gross national product to war and defence to-day as was devoted in 1938-39. I think the second conclusion is that the Government thought war was just as likely in 1952-53 as did the then Government when the country was engaged in war with Nazi Germany. The third conclusion is that the Government thinks war is becoming less and less likely, because there has been a fall in the proportion of the gross national product devoted to war and defence, from 4.8 per cent, in 1952-53 to 2.9 per cent, in 1958-59.
The truth of the matter is that the Government has applied a policy of disarmament since 1952-53, but refuses to admit it. It talks war and acts disarmament. It talks danger, but it disarms. It acts differently from the way in which the strategic considerations that it tell us about would lead it to act. I suggest that it does that for a number of reasons - and one of those reasons undoubtedly is that an atmosphere of tension is useful to it for domestic political reasons. It has not acted consistently, because, in fact, in the time that it has supervised the defences of this country the proportion of the gross national product devoted to defence has fallen from 4.8 per cent, to 2.9 per cent.
If any one desires to answer that proposition he will have an opportunity to do so later. AH that the Government will say is that the chances of a local war breaking out are greater than the chances of a global war breaking out. I suggest that the truth of the matter is that the chances of either kind of war breaking out are extremely small. I think that the policy of the Government and its programme of disarmament indicate that actually it believes the same thing, but will not admit what it is doing. Its conduct in this field of war and defence is consistent only with one explanation - that it considers that war of any kind affecting this country is most unlikely.
When we turn to the actual defence structure, we find, I think, evidence to support the conclusions I have mentioned - that war is very unlikely and that the Government thinks so. First of all, I think that the defence system is a system of offices, stores and depots. It is a network of personal services, of men and women paid, of salaries and wages, pay and allowances. I think that the statistics show that to be the case. The Minister for Defence showed in his statement that between 1950-51 and the present day, 54 per cent, of all the money spent on war and defence had been spent on pay and allowances and general services, the amount so spent being £839,000,000. It also showed that only 36 per cent, of the money had been spent on equipment and maintenance - an amount of £560,000,000. The figures regarding expenditure in the present year will bear out the conclusion I am drawing. In the case of the Navy, £21,500,000 is devoted to pay and allowances, general services and civilian personnel. An amount of £21,500,000 out of a total expenditure on the Navy of £42,000,000! The percentage spent for the purposes I have mentioned is 50.4 of the total expenditure. In the case of the Army, £41,000,000 is being spent on pay and allowances, civilian services and general services, out of a total of £65,000,000. The percentage in that case is 62.7. In the Department of Air, £24,500,000 is spent in these directions out of a total expenditure of £60,000,000. The percentage there is 40.7. The aggregate for the three services is an expenditure on pay and allowances, civilian services and general services of £87,000,000 out of a total expenditure of £168,000,000, the percentage there being 51.9 per cent. The evidence shows that the defence system is a network of personal services with its offices, stores and depots. Without casting any reflection upon the people involved in those services, as individuals, any one who looks at them must realize that they are not capable of taking part directly in a war if one should break out.
The second point which we should consider is that the defence system is a system of machinery and weapons which is out of date and which, for Australia, must necessarily be out of date. The Minister made this admission starkly in his statement on 26th November last when he said -
It is therefore extremely doubtful if it is possible for a small navy such as the Royal Australian Navy to keep pace with modern developments in this field, without unduly prejudicing other essential defence activities, not only from the joint service aspect, but within the Navy itself.
The Minister has admitted that it is not possible to keep the Navy up to date. The Navy is even more vulnerable than the
Army and the Air Force in this regard. Millions of pounds have been spent on the Fleet Air Arm, on cruisers and on aircraft carriers which the Government, after four or five years of criticism from this side of the House, has now admitted to be out of date and useless. The same conditions apply to the Air Force. The decision to equip the Air Force with a new fighter has been delayed for three years. It is known that Australia cannot afford a modern aircraft, and so we have to accept second-line weapons like the Sabre and the Canberra which to-day, relatively speaking, are as second-line as the Wirraways were in 1939. Do not let us fool ourselves about these things.
If we consider the proposals to equip the Army - here we have more definite evidence - we find that the Army, too, will have outofdate weapons. The FN rifle may be a modern rifle, but in any real warfare to-day the FN would be as useless as a fly swat. The new machine gun which is supposed to come from the United States would be no more useful. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) pointed out the position with regard to the 105 mm. howitzers. These weapons are most expensive to buy, to use and to service, and are ineffective compared with the mortars and the missiles which are already available - but expensively available. These are the modern and up-to-date weapons. Missiles are the dominant military weapon of to-day.
The statements which have been made by Ministers have had little to say about missiles. We know that the Sidewinder has been attached to Sabres. It is an airtoair missile which is pretty effective. We know that the Bloodhound Mk. I. is a surfacetoair weapon which, I understand, is relatively not so effective. Then there is the Malkara, a surface-to-surface weapon which makes the 105 mm. howitzer completely out of date. But the Malkara, which was developed in Australia and which is being purchased by the British Army is, I understand, unsuitable for Australian conditions.
We have a right to know the Government’s attitude towards these missiles and to tactical nuclear weapons. Has any thought been given to this matter? The Government has said that there is no possibility of a nuclear war- It must hold that belief otherwise it would spend much more than £30,000 on civil defence. The Government has said that there is no need to provide for home defence, and that it will create a strategic expeditionary force - a Seato force, a force that has no particular relevance to the defence of Australia, but one which will be used for overseas adventures to suit United States foreign policy. By creating such a strategic force, the Government will be creating a body which will not be equipped with modern weapons; which will be used overseas without being backed up by a system of reserves and supplies from Australia, and a force which will not be designed in any way to meet the needs of Australia’s defence. That is the kind of action which the Opposition will not support and which it will expose continuously to the Australian people.
The defence needs of this country are declining. I have shown how the proportion of the gross national product which has been devoted to war and defence has fallen from 4.8 per cent, in 1952-53 to 2.9 per cent, to-day. The amount which is being spent upon technical requirements is insignificant. It is 7.6 per cent, of the total.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is notable that in this debate the three outstanding speakers on behalf of the Opposition have been the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), that old and bold centurion from Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is an excellent second-fiddle to his Deputy Leader in speaking on behalf of the somewhat leaderless legion, and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). At the outset, the honorable gentleman from Yarra said that because the government of 1938-39 had spent only a certain amount of money on preparation for war or for defence purposes, and because a greater proportion of the national product is being spent to-day in this direction, it follows that the government of 1938-39 did not genuinely believe that war was in the offing. The honorable gentleman seems to forget one thing: It is an acknowledged and a notorious fact that most of the governments of the pre-war period - not only the government of Australia - had made woefully poor preparations for the outbreak of a war. It is also a fact that in our present day and age the cost of armaments is incredibly higher than it was in 1939. A single aircraft to-day costs literally millions of pounds whereas in the pre-war period it cost in the vicinity of £20,000 or £30,000 or perhaps about £70,000 or £80,000 for the larger type.
Those are the arguments on which the honorable member for Yarra based his speech, but his arguments were pitifully inadequate and I cannot but believe that he knew they were phony before he uttered them.
Let us consider one point which he made: He said that the Australian Government of 1939 had done a very poor job in relation to defence. Then he mentioned what the Labour Government had done in its first few years of office. But he seems to have forgotten that the Labour war-time Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, said categorically that Australia’s successful war effort had been built on the very solid foundation which, had been laid down by the earlier Menzies Government. The honorable member went on to say that, in the early 1950’s, the Government apparently thought that there was going to be a war, and that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had said, at one stage, that there could be war within three years. It is quite true that, at that time, there could easily have been war within three years. I think that there are many honorable members in this House who do not realize how close the whole world then was to the brink of war and I believe that the defensive measures which were taken, and which, very fortunately, have proved to be unnecessary, were fully justified at the time.
– Why does the honorable member not tell the truth? It was the Korean situation, and nothing else, which forced up this Government’s expenditure on defence.
– That is entirely a matter of opinion. If Opposition members are honest with themselves, they will appreciate the accuracy of the argument that I am putting forward.
I think that the assessment contained in the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) is reasonably accurate.
I believe that this is the best statement on defence that I have heard since I have had the privilege of sitting in this House. But that does npt mean to say that the Minister’s statement is perfect by any means.
– The honorable member for Chisholm said that the statement contained the Chifley policy.
– I am giving my views now. It is not the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) speaking this time.
I must admit that, a few years ago, I was in some ways very critical about the state of our defence forces. I was at the time reminded of a statement made in the early part of World War II. by a Chief of the Air Staff, in the Royal Air Force, who referred to Bomber Command as being as useful as a cow without an udder. The situation changed as the war went on. I believe that, since the early 1950’s, Australia’s defence forces could be likened to a cow with one blind teat. Nevertheless, there has been a vast improvement in the last few years, and. I am sure that honorable members on this side of the House have been delighted to see it. So, too, in their hearts, have been Opposition members, I am sure, because none of them has brought out any major points of disagreement with the statement which the Minister for Defence made. They have pointed to inadequacies. But inadequacies are inevitable, because the necessary material, in the main, is unprocurable except in the long term.
In his statement, the Minister for Defence said -
As stated last November, the new programme is designed to meet present strategic requirements. I think there will be little argument over the strategic assessments on which our defence policy is based. These accord with the best expert opinion available, both in Australia and overseas.
One has to remember, Sir, that that expert opinion is now in a position quite different from the position of expert opinion in the years before the war. Before the last war, there had been a comparatively long period of peace, and the strategists and planners in many of our forces, particularly in the Commonwealth, had become somewhat long in the tooth and a little slothful. I remember that in the early 1930’s a gentleman who had laid down his ideas on what would happen in respect of mechanized forces if there were another war was prematurely retired from the British Army when he stated those ideas publicly. It is a matter of history that General de Gaulle took them up and wrote special books about them, and that those same ideas were studied very closely by General Guderian, of the German forces. The adoption of those ideas by the Germans resulted in what we came to know as the blitzkreig
The Minister made another noteworthy point when he said -
Those responsible for defence preparations are sometimes accused of planning to fight the last war.
Sometimes, Sir, that is understandable. A few weeks ago, I saw a film named “ Blitz.kreig “. The photography was mainly the work of German photographers, and the film depicted the activities of propagandadirecting companies, which were known as P.K. companies. These units went into the front lines with the German troops and took some very good films of the fighting. These films were then culled and the pick of them were mainly fed out to the German people for propaganda. Interspersed through “ Blitzkreig “ were some shots which had been taken by Russian photographers, the films having later been captured by the Germans. I was not very fond of “ Blitzkreig “, and I think that Lieutenant-General Horrocks, the British general who landed at Arnhem with the paratroops, made a very good comment when he said that, at times, the scenes in this film made him ill.
The point I want to make is that we have now announced that we shall have two pentropic divisions, which will be based on the battle groups and the eigel stellungen of the German forces in 1940. There is no doubt that the basic idea is the same. As a matter of interest, I may say that a friend of mine, Colonel Merrit, who was the first Canadian V.C. of the last war, complained, when he heard of the modifications introduced by the eigel stellungen, with their hedgehog positions, that he had put the idea to the British War Office some years before. He had been captured in the raid on Dieppe. He thought that his ideas on the eigel stellungen methods must have got to the Germans before the Dieppe raid. He was firmly convinced, too, that there had been a few leakages about that raid.
The only government which can possibly plan for strategic requirements in defence, Sir, is one which has ideas of aggression. It is the only government that can know what it will require, or very probably will require, by a certain date, by comparison with what a neighbouring country or a potential enemy may have. Therefore, it stands to reason that countries which have peaceful intentions must always be in great difficulty in defence planning.
I mentioned the Minister’s remark, in his statement, that those responsible for defence preparations are sometimes accused of planning to fight the last war, and I then went on to describe the film “ Blitzkreig “ and one or two of the lessons which could be learned from it. Even though some of the ideas which we are now adopting for the Austraiian forces were in fact adopted by other forces in the early 1940’s, it is not the fault of the Australian Government that we are only now using those basic Ideas. In the political chaos through which the world has moved over the last ten or fifteen years, it has been terribly difficult for any government to say what was the best thing to do in order to meet any particular set of circumstances. Australia being a small country, with no hope whatever of defending itself, by itself, against a major enemy, it stands to reason that we have no course other than to work in co-operation with firm and friendly allies. Until our major allies have made up their minds what form their armed forces shall take, it is extremely difficult for the Australian Government to decide what form our own forces will take.
There is a lot in the statement made by the Minister for Defence that I should like to discuss. I notice that he dealt with the Navy - though not at great length - and mentioned particularly that anti-submarine frigates would be coming into service in the comparatively -near future. I remember hearing discussed quite privately, three or four years ago, a suggestion advanced by a very experienced and gallant naval officer, who proposed that catamarans should be used for anti-submarine work. His reasoning ran along these lines: If you have a reasonable breeze, these craft can probably travel at 30 or 40 knots. They can be constructed of materials which render them immune from detection by a submarine under the surface, and they are silent. If there is no breeze and the catamarans have to use outboard motors, they will be no more costly than are some of the normal anti-submarine or submarine-detecting craft, and they could be manned by a crew of three or four men. They could carry adequate equipment. There is no doubt about their capabilities, because these catamarans are in use already, perhaps not in the suggested form, but in a more normal form, and we know what they can do. They would be speedy and silent in some conditions; in other conditions they would certainly have speed, and they would be no more noisy than other craft.
I can see some merit in an idea such as this. The gentleman concerned spoke of a particular stretch of the Australian coastline, of well over 1,000 miles, which he estimated could be patrolled reasonably well by four or five of these craft. I believe that ideas such as this might possibly be given a little more thought than is devoted to them at present. 1 have no doubt that the suggestion has been pigeonholed somewhere in the offices of the Department of the Navy, and that it has never been seen by a person with sufficient intelligence to realize the possible benefits of it.
Let me refer now to the Citizen Military Forces. We talk about the necessity - and there is a necessity - to have a good, strong C.M.F. I believe that we must first eradicate the rivalry that almost invariably exists, in one form or another, between the Regular Army and the C.M.F. There appears to be a feeling in the Regular Army that the spending of portion of the Defence Vote on amateur soldiering is regrettable. This attitude must be overcome. I notice that the Government intends to use two methods of encouraging recruitment in the C.M.F. One of them is to provide pay increases. This should have been done long ago. The second method involves granting leave on full pay to Commonwealth public servants undergoing training. This is also something that should have been provided long ago, but it leads to the further question whether C.M.F. pay should be exempt from income taxation. This suggestion has been put forward many times in this House. I can remember that at least nine years ago the then honorable member for Henty, Joe Gullett, put it before the House. I know that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) have mentioned it recently. I believe that if we are to give concessions to one section of the community, Commonwealth public servants, we should seriously consider granting concessions to all other men who spend their time voluntarily in training to defend their country.
There is another point I should like to mention. I understand that a member of the C.M.F. attending a school or undergoing a course can be paid for no more than nineteen days in any one year. I know of cases in which good, intelligent men have been asked by their commanding officers to undergo courses lasting for as long as 30 days in a particular year. If a man attends such a course, he receives no C.M.F. pay after the nineteen days have expired, unless special permission is given by a higher command of the Service concerned. I believe this is quite ridiculous when we are trying to establish strong Citizen Military Forces.
I say in conclusion that I regret that, probably for security reasons, we have not been told more about the real defence of Australia in the future. I refer particularly to guided missiles and such weapons, Which come more or less within the sphere of the Department of Supply. Weapons of this kind will undoubtedly provide the strength of our defence forces in the future. I realize that certain persons have advocated that Australia’s defence should be based on strategic atomic weapons. I hope that this policy will never be adopted, because I believe that .the more small countries - and this is only a .small country - are able to use atomic bombs, the greater will be the danger of an atomic war. It is a vastly different proposition, however, that we should have tactical atomic weapons for the use of our armed forces, and I hope that we will get them speedily, and in adequate numbers, in the fairly near future.
.- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) said in his statement on defence policy -
We believe that because of the nuclear deterrent, the outbreak of limited or local wars is more likely than a global or full-scale war.
This statement shows the basic approach of the Government to the question of defence. Let me remind the House that within the next couple of months red China will explode an atomic bomb. France has already exploded two. It has been announced that France has developed shells with atomic warheads of limited radiation range. These two countries, France and red China, are not members of the atomic club. With these facts in mind, the question may well be asked, in view of the statement by the Minister, whether the Government is suffering from a Siegfried or Maginot Line complex, or whether it is simply adopting this approach as an excuse for having failed to do what many people outside Melbourne and Sydney expect it to do, and that is to provide adequately for the defence of northern Australia.
It was announced in the press last evening that the United Kingdom authorities, in association with the Australian authorities, were contemplating the establishment of a military base in the north of Australia. The Minister for Defence subsequently denied this, but there is a further statement in the press to-day to the effect that the Australian Chiefs of Staff want this base. We can assume that the Chiefs of Staff know what is required for the defence of Australia. Tt appears, then, that the Government is using the argument of the nuclear deterrent simply as a cover-up for its failure to provide adequately for the defence of northern Australia. The press statements to which I have referred show that at least the United Kingdom authorities are conscious of the Government’s failure to accept its responsibilities in the field of defence.
It seems also that the Government’s approach to the matter of defence is conditioned bv considerations of costs. The Minister referred at length to our commitments in regard to the general development of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the first statement I mentioned, concerning the likelihood of a global war, is merely an excuse, and that the following statement concerning national development was made only to provide a further cover-up for the Government’s lack of defence planning.
Those who fear a global war, with all its terrible results, will not be in the least impressed by what the Minister had to say concerning the nuclear deterrent. Our defence position in 1960 is very similar to what it was before 1939. There is a similar lack of appreciation of our total defence requirements. We were caught once; never let us be caught again. Surely we must have learned a lesson, and learned it the hard way, in 1939, and particularly in 1942. The Labour Party believes in an adequate defence programme, although it is not a war party. When it is in power it accepts its full responsibilities for the defence of the Commonwealth.
We feel that this Government has fallen down on the job in relation to defence preparations despite the statement made by the Minister for Defence about defence planning. The Navy part of the plan mentioned by the Minister is thirteen years old. It was formulated in a period when there was- no such thing as a possibility of nuclear war. Surely we must have learned something since the days when Australian troops in khaki shorts were sent into the malariainfested jungles of New Guinea and Wirraways went into the air against Zeros. We want no repetition of those blunders.
The Labour Party is not a war party. We are a pacifist party but we believe that in time of peace the right thing should be done to deter those powers which might think of coming this way. The Australian public does not want a repetition of what occurred between 1939 and 1942. The Minister’s statement is far from reassuring to the public in the light of happenings in those years. A general survey of defence equipment shows that, after ten years of this Government with its huge defence expenditure, much of the defence equipment is to be scrapped. Expediency, apparently, has been the policy of this Government with regard to defence. All that has resulted has been waste. The muchpublicized national service training is to be scrapped and replaced by what Labour has always advocated - a voluntary system. Enough has been said about that matter in the course of this debate. H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “ has been in Sydney Harbour for seven years. Originally, she cost £1,800,000 to construct. In 1952 it was announced that £1,500,000 was to be spent on a refit. In 1954 it was announced that £1,200,000 was to be spent on a further refit and I understand that that sum was exceeded.
She is now to be scrapped - the most expensive scrap iron in the Commonwealth’s history. All I can say is that the Government’s defence policy has been a policy of muddle and of waste. Certainly, “ Hobart “ is a very costly piece of scrap iron from the point of view of the Australian public.
The Minister has indicated that we must look to other countries for assistance in the event of our being involved in a conflict. The Minister assumes that any conflict in the south-west Pacific will be away from these shores. But Australia is only as far from Indonesia as is Sydney from Canberra. Attention should be paid to our geographical position - to our situation between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. We do not want war. We do not want our shores to echo to the tramp of hostile feet and we do not want our women and children to go through what women and children had to go through in two generations in Europe. War should be eliminated as an instrument of policy, but while there is a lust for power as a driving force and a struggle to dominate people, the risk of war is always with us. The Labour Party believes in providing adequately for defence - a defence organization which can be rapidly expanded in the event of necessity. Other Opposition members have dealt with Labour’s approach to the Citizen Military Forces and the Army. I want to make one or two observations with regard to the naval position.
Ever since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent development of nuclear power, critics from all walks of life have challenged the usefulness of conventional armaments and also of conventional ideas. It is true that the battleship has had its day. It no longer serves a warlike purpose. Have a look at the publication “ Jane’s Fighting Ships “, which shows the ships that are obsolete and finished. The aircraft carrier’s days are numbered. That is the general opinion amongst nations which are preparing their defences against the event of a global war. But while it may be true that the aircraft carrier’s days are limited, some authorities say that they are not yet ended. The Royal Australian Navy, like the Royal Navy, goes about its job in accordance with the old tradition, while developing new ideas and new wea pons. The basic facts of sea-power must be seen against the background of nuclear weapons.
From an Australian viewpoint, due regard must be paid to the fact that this is an island continent, far removed from our allies. We must at all times keep our sealanes open so that we can receive, in the event of conflict, the support which we might need. We cannot stand alone in the event of a conflict in the Far East or the south-west Pacific and we might not get another Pearl Harbour breathing space. Because of our geographical position, we have at all times to keep our sea-lanes open and ensure that our supplies can get through. We can be invaded but we cannot be starved out. In order to keep the conflict from our shores we must have a highly efficient Royal Australian Air Force with modern aircraft - not second-line aircraft - and modern weapons.
We have had enough experience of the Wirraways to know that the Royal Australian Air Fo-ce must be equipped with modern aircraft and modern weapons. But now, after ten years, the Minister for Defence has announced that the Royal Australian Air Force will get twelve Neptunes! The Government is calling for a report on fighter aircraft. For ten years, the Government has been calling for reports. Even in the Navy, a report is being called for on the question of submarines - a matter with which I shall deal in a few moments. The 1939 outlook still prevails on the treasury bench. The need for modern equipment for the three services is urgent and vital and nothing but the best will do for us. We have the man-power and, in the event of trouble, we should have the best equipment procurable. There is no room for a continuation of the policy of expediency which has been followed by this Government. Every ship of the Royal Australian Navy should be equipped to launch guided missiles and fire shells with atomic warheads. Naturally, both the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, because of the size of our population, must be small compared with the air forces and navies of more populous countries. But at least they must be efficient and provided with the latest equipment.
Let us be guided by the pattern in other countries. The United Kingdom and the
United States of America have put thought and ingenuity into the production of a navy for the thermo-nuclear age. The threat of nuclear weapons is real and there is no escape from a direct hit or a near-miss, whether on land or at sea. During the period from 1946 to 1955 the Royal Navy added to its fleet - amongst other ships - eight aircraft carriers, eight Daring-class destroyers, 25 other destroyers and eighteen submarines. From 1951 to 1955 five frontline carriers joined the Fleet Air Arm. It is a bit difficult to follow the reasoning of the Minister when he says that the aircraft carrier “ Melbourne “ has to disappear. We take it that he is following the trend overseas. We take it that the Government is acting on the advice of its advisers; we do not know. We assume that the Royal Australian Navy will be equipped with killer submarines.
In 1947 the Labour Government made the basic purpose of its then naval plan the fighting of submarines off the shores of this country. The best way to fight a modern submarine is to attack it with submarines; but Australia has no submarines. After ten years this Government has just sent the Chief of the Naval Staff and some of his expert officers abroad to investigate the possibility of establishing a submarine fleet here. I know some of those experts personally. They are men who are highly conscious of their responsibility. Some of them assisted the Labour Government in 1947 in re-establishing a fleet air arm. They knew at that time that the Navy would have to be equipped to fight the submarine menace.
It is now quite obvious that the dead hand of this Government has been at work behind the scenes, because of the three ships mentioned in the Minister’s speech in the naval section two Battle class destroyers were actually commissioned and two Daring class destroyers were on the slips when the Labour Government went out of office. This Government inherited the policy laid down by the Labour Government in 1947. but it has not been able to profit by it. This shows how far behind the times this Government is. That policy was laid down before the age of nuclear power. This Government is to blame for Australia lagging behind in equipment. In 1949, the Labour Party left this Government with two five-year defence plans. It is still working on the first - after ten years. That is how far it is behind the times.
Modern submarines have been extensively developed in recent times by the use of nuclear power for propulsion. This enables them to move at 30 knots below the surface, and they can stay down indefinitely. Some Russian submarines have a range of 25,000 miles or more, but a nuclearpowered submarine has an unlimited range. “ Jane’s Fighting Ships “ says that the Russians say that they have 60 Z class submarines with a range of 25,000 to 26,000 miles. But if it were suggested to this Government that Australia should buy a nuclear submarine there would be a chorus of howls and squeals and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) would lead it. Apparently, conventional submarines are to be the order of the day. I know that the Chiefs of Staff would favour nuclear submarines and, personally, I believe that this would be a step in the right direction.
We have to appreciate what is taking place in other parts of the world. The United States already has five nuclearpowered submarines - “ Nautilus “, “ Escape “ and “ Seawolf “ - and two others-“ Swordfish “ and “ Dagar “- were to be commissioned last August or October. Modern submarines have increased in size, propulsion power and destructive power. The United States of America has 200 ordinary submarines.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This debate on the defence review statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) has been interesting because of certain factors it has revealed. When one reads the opening words of the Minister, one gains an appreciation of the complex problems confronting this Government in regard to the re-organization of our armed services. The Minister said -
Briefly, we believe that because of the nuclear deterrent, the outbreak of limited or local wars is more likely than a global or full-scale war. In a country with limited resources such as Australia, which has heavy and continuing commitments for national development, the scale of the defence effort must be determined by priorities. Large sums of money must be found for the wide range of projects aimed at developing our natural resources and expanding our industrial capacity, such as the Snowy Mountains scheme, the Improvement of communications, and the search for oil. In addition, we much continue our immigration programme. All these measures will contribute to our long term defence strength and capability.
When one reads that statement one gains an appreciation of the complexities of the problem which confronts the Government. It highlights some of the complexities in the situation which has been confronting this Government over a period and in respect of which it would seem action is only now to be taken. This is a great problem in a country the size of Australia with a small population. I have mentioned this aspect on previous occasions in this House; and bearing it in mind any person who thinks about this subject will appreciate that it is far easier to criticize any re-organization of the services than it is to effect re-organization.
Much has been said about the part which Australia can or will play in any future war whether it be limited or global war. I think we have an appreciation of the full contribution that can be made to any war whether it be local or global. The men and women of our fighting services are making a contribution to the defence of this country at this particular time. This Government has made a contribution to our defence also by its activities in the international scene. Sometimes the importance of that fact is lost sight of. I refer to our activities in the United Nations and at various world conferences, to the part we have played in assisting under-developed countries through the Colombo Plan, and to the work we do in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. All these activities have contributed to the defence of our country. I think also of the pacts that we have made, such as Seato, Anzus and Anzam, and the co-operation we have with other countries, particularly in the Asian area. These arrangements also are valuable from a defence viewpoint.
One of the prime objectives for which any thoughtful person would work is surely that we should try to defend our country as far away from our own shores as possible. Yet I feel that honorable members opposite have advanced the old idea of waiting until the enemy lands on our shores before we take any action against him. I will have something to say later about the contributions made by honorable members opposite to this debate.
Two factors have caused me a deal of concern. I admit that any re-organization is not easy, but what I am disturbed about is the attitude of the Government to the Citizen Military Forces in this reorganization, and also its attitude to rifle clubs, which could be linked to the C.M.F. It appears to me that if the action now being taken will weaken - perhaps that is too strong a word - the C.M.F., the rifle clubs, particularly those in country areas, should be encouraged to play an increasingly important part in promoting the interest of young men in the value of the rifle and of its use. I feel that the Government has not given sufficient consideration to this factor in forming its attitude towards rifle clubs. The other factor that causes me concern is the attitude adopted to the C.M.F., particularly in country areas. Country people have made a vital contribution to our defence and anything that would detract from that contribution is, in my view, detrimental to the safety and security of the nation. In his statement, the Minister for Defence said -
The final decision to close or retain a depot has been given by the Minister for the Army only after carefully weighing all factors. The Government has naturally been reluctant to take any action to the possible detriment of its objective of building a strong and efficient C.M.F. by voluntary enlistment, but on the other hand the use of regular personnel and the expenditure ot money, in keeping open uneconomic training depots, could not be allowed to prejudice other aspects of the re-organization. Of a present total of 292 C.M.F. training depots throughout Australia, 238 will still be retained, and 54 will be closed.
Later, the Minister added -
Special conditions of attendance at parades and annual camps are being devised for this purpose, and will be announced by the Minister for the Army. Likewise, Sir, no volunteer for C.M.F. service will be prevented from enlistment because some centres have been closed, and the Government will conduct a vigorous recruiting campaign to attract new volunteers.
I think that is an expression of supreme optimism by the Government. Let me read a letter that I have received from one of the municipal councils in my area, regarding the re-organization of the C.M.F. The letter is in these terms -
Council resolved to again indicate to you that the community and the Council sincerely value the affiliation which exists with the Macquarie Regiment. Council also appreciates that the Regiment sets a desirable standard for the young men in the community. These two aspects are considered to be most important and vital to the Town.
The Council feels that the current proposal will prove a great loss to the Town and Council is asking the citizens to assist in encouraging young men to volunteer for service in the C.M.F.
That shows what may be lost through this re-organization of the C.M.F., and points to a factor that has not perhaps been given adequate consideration. A loyalty exists between some of these regiments and the area in which they have been placed. This factor has also been mentioned by other honorable members, and should be given a good deal of weight. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) made a statement in which he said -
To ensure that no present volunteer is prevented from continuing to serve by virtue of the centre he has been attending being closed, the following formula has been approved: -
If a member is resident within a radius of 10 miles - he will attend all the prescribed home-training parades and the annual camp with his unit;
If a member is resident within a radius of 10-25 miles - he will attend the annual camp and a minimum of four days home-training parades;
If a member is resident beyond a radius of 25 miles - he will attend at least the annual camp with his unit.
That appears to me to be something that will not prove effective. I refer, as an example, to the provision that, if a member is resident beyond a radius of 25 miles, he will attend at least the annual camp with his unit. That means that a lad will go to one camp with his unit and not have any other association with the other members of the unit. That will break down the continuity, the strength and the morale of the units. Those who reached these decisions must have had certain information before them that is not available to me, but I cannot understand why it would not be possible to keep these units open and have these young men training without necessarily having permanent Army officers with them. This would have overcome the difficulty of expense which influenced the decision to close down these units. Two areas in my electorate will be closed, and I ask that the Government consider giving them, say, twelve months, to see how many young men will volunteer, how many others can be encouraged and what the possibilities are of the units being able to continue.I am afraid that the possibility of success of a vigorous recruiting campaign will be reduced because these lads will not have had continuity in training.I think that these matters should be given considerably more consideration, particularly in their application to country areas. Some of these regiments have proud records, and we should not throw them away over-night in this reorganization.
This debate has revealed the lack of appreciation of honorable members opposite of the full situation and has shown the Australian public how completely impossible it would be, in more ways than one, for Labour ever again to come to the treasury bench. This is perhaps one of the most vital debates that we have had, but some of the statements of Opposition members have shown a lack of responsibility. They have referred to the statement made some years ago by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the possibility of war was so real and so serious that we should commence to prepare for it. Does anybody believe that when those words were uttered this possibility did not exist? As my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) said, we had the Korean war. and that gave evidence of the strength of the Western countries and proved a deterrent to a continuance of events that may have led to an even more serious conflagration. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) gave facts and figures which showed a weakness of argument because an effort was made to cause confusion. The percentages he gave showed that his case had no strength at all.
Honorable members opposite also referred to what they termed a change in the foreign policy of the Government. They said that we now favoured a summit conference after being opposed to a summit conference at some other time. That is not true. The Government expressed the view that unless certain agreements were reached a summit conference would be completely hopeless. The fact that a summit conference will be held does not make the statement issued at that time incorrect nor does it mean that the Government was against a summit conferencein any event. Then they go on to say that they are a party of peace. The supporters of this Government are a party of peace. We believe in peace, and we believe that peace is an inherent right of all men. But I point out to members of the Opposition that there must be agreement along those lines between all parties before peace can become a reality. Can any one say that since the close of the Second World War any of the nations of the Western world - the United Kingdom, the United States of America or ourselves - has ever gone out of its way to try to bring about war? Members of the Opposition should study what has been happening behind the iron curtain, on the Russian side, and then ask themselves who in this world really wants peace. They should ask themselves exactly the same question in regard to the tragic happenings in South Africa. Did we hear the same cries of protest from members of the Opposition in regard to the diabolical attack that was made on the Hungarian people by Russia? On that occasion we did not hear anything like the outcry which members of the Opposition now voice in respect of events in South Africa and, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, honorable members were also silent when whites were attacked in Kenya.
This debate has proved conclusively, if proof was needed, that members of the Opposition at the moment certainly have no sense of responsibility, and therefore would be completely incapable of being effective on the treasury bench. However, I believe the Government has left itself open to attack on this defence re-organization, in that, unfortunately, it has been handled very badly, politically. But the mere fact that members of the Opposition have not been able to put any substance into its so-called attack on the Government proves once again how futile and ineffective the Opposition is.
.- lt is very easy for the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and other Government supporters to cast the kind of aspersions that the honorable member cast in the latter part of his speech and talk about a lack of responsibility on the part of the Labour Party in respect of defence. The Australian people as a whole remember vividly the part played by the Australian Labour Party in guiding this country to its destiny through the most tragic war that has ever come our way. Some people claim that that war effort was based on the efforts of the previous Menzies Government.
– Yes, I do claim that, because I was in the war and saw what that government did.
– Nobody is denying that there is some foundation for that claim, but the honorable member will not say that that Government was not put out because of its mishandling of the situation. He will not lay claim, I am sure, to the great work of rehabilitation that the Labour Government carried out after the war on behalf of more than 1,000,000 exservicemen who fought in that war. I am only trying to make some reply to the pathetic allegation that the Labour Party has no responsibility in respect of the defence of this nation. I do not think there is any group in the community more patriotic than the Australian Labour Party; it shares that patriotism with all others in the community irrespective of their political beliefs. I would be glad if the honorable member would recognize that Labour’s sentiment as far as Australia and its defence is concerned will stand up to any challenge, as it always has done in the past.
In the last ten years of the present Government’s term of office, no less than £1,767,000,000 has been spent on so-called defence. I have always believed that for the most part the expenditure of that money has been no more than a political fraud. I do not believe that much of it has been spent in any thoroughly realistic attempt to defend this country. There has been an expectation that the Government would spend a certain amount on defence. The money has been duly collected and spent without any clear or determined purpose. I am very much aware of the seriousness of the allegation I am making, because I am very much aware of the alternative uses to which the colossal expenditure of more than £1,700,000,000 could have been put. I am very much aware of the use to which it could have been put in education, hospitalization and other things. I read in this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ an article referring to the appalling state of public hospitals. We are constantly reading of the chaotic transport conditions in every capital in Australia, and we still read of the vast undeveloped portions in the north of Australia despite their potentialities.
When we think of all the alternative uses to which this colossal amount of money could have been put, it is indeed a serious allegation to say that its expenditure on defence has been a political gesture rather than a determined effort to provide for the defence of Australia; but I make that allegation in all conscience and as an exserviceman of the Second World War. As a matter of fact I am prepared to admit that, for the first time in ten years, the Government’s present outline of policy and activity in respect of defence at least reflects some sense of realism and responsibility which has been sadly missing in the past. That is not to say that I think the present proposals or activities in any way meet the situation; but I admit they reflect some realism.
I realize that the Government is confronted with the difficulties which a small nation with a limited economy must experience in obtaining the necessary equipment in a world of scientific and technological change. Furthermore, we have only a small population to defend this vast continent. These are real difficulties. I realize that the Government is confronted with the choice of a large paper force - that is all I am prepared to call it - woefully inadequately equipped, such as we have had in the last ten years, or what the Government is now proposing - a small but better trained and much more highly mechanized mobile army force. That choice is realistic. This talk about how many thousands of young fellows have had national service training seems to me to be so out of this world at this time when other great nations are mechanizing their defence services. I have no regrets that the national service training scheme has been abolished. That will be all to the good, especially when we realize that out of that £1,700,000,000 odd which has been spent on defence, only just over 20 per cent, has been expended on the purchase of ships, aircraft, weapons and other modern equipment. It is an appalling situation when in every other aspect of modern life we are trying to develop all the processes of mechanization, yet in our defence foi ces we have been neglecting to do so and have been spending too small a proportion of our resources for that purpose.
I am glad to see that there is to be some diminution in defence man-power. I hope there will be a substantial set-up of modern equipment to service the Army. Nevertheless, I have to say with all sincerity that the present proposals are markedly inadequate and still reek of typical government indecision on a number of important points, many of which have already been mentioned. I am in substantial agreement with the assumption that the only kind of warfare that Australia can effectively participate in would be localized, small-scale and substantially conventional warfare mainly involving police action. I mean the sort of thing we have seen in Malaya and Korea. If we assume that, I think we have a distinct place with a highly mobile and highly mechanized force. But who are we to judge whether or not the kind of organization or re-organization involving a pentropic force is going to meet the circumstances that might arise? Inevitably there will have to be some re-organization if we are to concentrate on mechanization and a high level of fire power as well as a high level of mobility and on the ability of our forces to break up and re-assemble quickly, which is expected to be necessary in tropical warfare. So there seems to be some realism in that approach.
I think, however, that participation in a global war is beyond the bounds of economic possibility for us. The only kind of participation in such a war that I can think of is of two kinds. They include, first, the sort of thing we are doing in co-operating with our friends on such projects as we have at Woomera, which are designed to assist our friends and, in the long run, to assist us if we become involved in the catastrophe of war. On the other hand, we could take a more positive role by lending all the active support we can to the promotion of world peace and world disarmament, and the institution of an effective, universal world government, and by doing all we can to bring about the adoption of a universally accepted code of morality in man’s relations with man.
In this respect I think it is most unfortunate that the Prime Minister of this country has taken the attitude he has taken in regard to what is happening in South Africa.
We must get beyond this isolationist approach, not only in respect of trade with other countries, not only in respect of our defence, but also in respect of the morality of human actions. If we are ever to gain universal peace there must be a universally accepted code of morality. To talk about any nation having a domestic right to kill other people, particularly when these people have a different racial background from that of the people who are killing them, is most unreal and highly dangerous. One can readily observe that that kind of antagonism between races, even within the geographical limits of one country, must inflame, and has inflamed, people in other parts of the world, and as such it constitutes a danger to peaceful international relationships.
I submit that any attempt to invade Australia would bring to our assistance, very readily and quickly, in their own interests as well as ours, other forces which are armed with nuclear weapons. In other words, I do not think that Australia will ever have to rely for its defence on the kind of reserves who have had the kind of training that we have been providing under our national service scheme. I do not think that we shall be involved in the sort of war where they will be of any use, where conventional forces, particularly with the inadequate conventional training that has been given under our national service scheme, will be of any use. Therefore, I think that to spend our money on the kind of training given under that scheme is not only a gross betrayal of our defence, but also a gross waste in view of the other things that we could do with that money.
As other speakers have mentioned, the Government has been a dithering government, and it continues to dither in a number of important respects. For instance, there is the question of the Fleet Air Arm. It is now proposed that in 1963 it will be virtually disbanded, and that only a comparatively small operational fleet will be maintained. There is uncertainty about the introduction of a submarine force. The Minister for the Navy has promised1 to make “ further investigations “ in the matter. It has been typical of the Government right through the piece to call for further investigations, for further reports, to send groups of people overseas to make further inquiries. That is the pattern that runs through the whole of the Government’s defence effort - dilatoriness, indecision. These are the characteristics of this Government’s defence planning. It always tells us that further inquiries are to be made.
– That is most unfair.
– Just listen to what I have to say. Further inquiries are to be made about modern destroyers and mine sweepers. The Minister says in his statement that it can be seen that the final form of the naval programme cannot be determined at this stage. But this has been going on for years, as if we had interminable time in which to make up our minds. He tells us that further examinations are to be made of our requirements. Then there is the case of the FN rifle. 1 think that references were probably made to this matter even before 1957, but certainly in 1957 there was a very definite statement about equipping the forces with this rifle. Yet it was only in October, 1959, that the field forces - the actual fighting forces - were eventually equipped with this weapon. Now it is stated that the C.M.F. will not be fully equipped with this rifle until 1963. Yet the C.M.F. are to consist of 30,000 out of the 50,000 proposed for the new pentropic force.
Then we have the new fighter aircraft with which the Royal Australian Air Force is to be equipped. The Minister quite properly says that we have to be careful about this. But he was saying the same thing in 1956 and 1957. I remember that in March, 1958, there was a report in which the Minister said that there had been delays, but it would not be long before a decision was made. Two years later we are no further advanced towards getting the new fighter aircraft! The Government is making such demands in relation to the performance of the new fighter that it will be impossible to meet them. One of the reasons is that we have not sufficient airfields in the north of this country, and therefore are demanding such tremendous things, in terms of range, of the new fighter as would be impossible to satisfy. The Minister says that the Government is not prepared to gamble on such a costly project as obtaining the new fighter. What about the costly project of Australia itself being gambled with? The Government is not prepared to gamble on a new fighter but gambles on Australia. Other countries have not been so dilatory in this matter, and some of them are not much better off economically than we are. They have not had delays of the kind to which we have been subjected in this respect.
Then there is the Malkara anti-tank weapon.After all our involvement in the production of this weapon, the weapon finally produced is not suitable for Australian conditions and may be modified in the future. In the meantime we are importing from the United States the 106-mm. recoilless anti-tank weapon to take the place of the Malkara.
All those things are most confusing to the public at large, who want to know why these delays, these investigations and these alternative plans are necessary. In the Minister’s statement there is some token mention of the fact that defence may be tied in with national development. Several speakers in the debate have directed attention to the need to improve road and rail communications and port facilities, the shortage of scientists and technicians who would be part and parcel of a modern war effort, and to the shortage of hospitals and medical facilities. These are factors that could limit our defence effort, and I am sure that nobody, not even the Government, could claim that we are doing anything like what we should be doing in respect of them. These are matters that affect both our national defence and our national development, and we are lagging in respect of all of them.
The civil defence programme is a farce. I think that about £750,000 has been spent on civil defence, and probably most of it has gone on wages and administrative costs rather than on the effective means of civil defence. Since 1954, we have spent £750,000 but we have no civil defence! Civil defence is just a political catch-cry, and that is why I said in the first place that the Government has perpetrated a political fraud.
Let us look at the northern part of our continent. Even after all this expenditure our airfields are still woefully inadequate. The Government has not said anything about a radar system covering our northern approaches. I would be prepared to bet that there is no radar system. There are no decent houses in Darwin for the servicemen, even after all this time. A reporter from one of our newspapers was in Darwin recently and he referred to it as a shanty town. I shall read what he has said because it indicates the position after a huge expenditure over ten years. He said -
I saw airmen’s families living in rusty, low, corrugated iron sheds like decrepit bush humpies. In a temperature of 95 degrees there were no fans and no proper ventilation … In the airmen’s canteen, the wretched kitchen is stocked with inadequate and worn-out utensils.
Time will not permit me to read the whole of the reporter’s statement, but it is indicative of the present position.
The Government stated in November last year that it had decided to abolish the national service training scheme, but the scheme will drag on until 30th June of this year, a very convenient but a most unreal date. The decision to wipe it out was made, so why not wipe it out? Between now and 30th June it will cost thousands of pounds which could be devoted to other defence uses or ancillary purposes.
There are other items to which I have not time to refer. We have been unreal in discharging commitments at the Butterworth base in Malaya. Here again, we have involved ourselves in great expenditure in providing what I understand to be a very modern airfield which has very modern aircraft - the best that we have at any rate - but so far there is no indication that we have decided upon what will happen in the future.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr.FALKINDER (Franklin) [5.32].- The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) has me so confused, because he so often contradicted himself, that I am not entirlely clear on what he was talking about. But I am clear about one allegation which he made. He said that the Government’s defence policy over the last ten years had been a political fraud. To begin with, I say very positively to him that that is a serious allegation to make against the competent senior officers of our services. If he knows anything about the procedure of government, he will know that the senior officers of the services make recommendations to the Government which eventually become Government policy. Therefore he has given a gratuitous insult to men who have devoted practically all their lives to their country and who have been responsible for what they believe to be the best defence policy for Australia.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) said quite clearly in his statement that there was a possibility of a contained war but that the global threat had receded. However, the threat of a global war is not to be discounted entirely. Like the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm), I should like to know more details of the tactical weapons which we are producing. As the honorable member has said, this information may have been kept from us for security reasons, but if we were able to obtain those details we would be greatly assisted.
I propose to criticize some portions of the statement, but I want to make clear at once that it is, I believe, the best statement on defence that we have had in the number of years that I have been in Parliament.
I join with those honorable members who have made some criticism of the fact that the statement does not contain any reference to civil defence. I must repeat for the third or fourth time in this House that civil defence, as such, still seems to me to be quite a disjointed effort. Various States have a system of civil defence in operation, but no cohesive action has been taken by the States as a whole. We have an excellent school of civil defence at Mount Macedon. Every person who has been there, whether a member of Parliament or a private individual, has left with exactly the same feeling - that it is an excellent school. But it is regrettable that once the training course there has been completed, the knowledge which has been gained is dissipated in the States for want of cohesive application. For that reason the States should join with the Commonwealth in a positive joint CommonwealthState venture and carry this matter through properly. Even if an atomic war does not eventuate, surely the training will not be wasted because many civil disasters occur in which the training in and knowledge of civil defence can be put to significant use. It would be of great value in such an eventuality.
Another omission from the defence statement was a reference to integration. Since the presentation of the Morshead report to the Parliament, only one significant, course of action has been taken - the appointment of the joint chiefs of staff committee. There have been one or two very minor changes. There was the so-called integration of .the canteens service which does not seem to have been very popular recently. Medical and transport services are positive fields of integration, but nothing has been done. There seems to be still a strong resistance in the services to integration on the sole principle of reserving their separate identities. They are probably being very loyal in their outlook, but because of our limited resources and our limited forces, surely we should follow a policy of integration to the limit to obtain the best value for our own effort.
Let me turn, briefly, to the individual services. I accept that the Navy might be called the senior service and, accordingly, shall direct my remarks to the Navy first. For a very long time I have advocated in this House the abolition of aircraft carriers. I have never made any bones about it. I go back to the time when the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) was Minister for the Navy. It was he who permitted the very first of our carriers to become a component part of the Navy. At that time, in 1947-48, I submitted that an aircraft carrier was, particularly for Australia, an extremely expensive and a rather useless acquisition. To begin with, carriers are very vulnerable and need a very heavy escort. Further, they are not as highly mobile as we might have been led to believe. I hold the firm opinion that the proposal to cut down on the Fleet Air Arm, which has done a magnificent job over the years, is a proper course of action for the Government to take.
Honorable members opposite this afternoon have referred to submarines, and they have suggested that the Government has been shilly-shallying about this matter. Let this be clear: If the Opposition talks about atomic submarines, it should understand what they cost. Their cost is far beyond that of an aircraft carrier. To say the least, the Opposition’s comments on submarines were rather poor.
– What do you suggest?
– I suggest that we should use submarines to the utmost, and I believe that the Government will follow this course. There is no question in my mind that they are one of our main killer forces. I have said before in the House that we need a submarine force, even if we have to lease it or borrow it from one of our friends. We should have also an effective anti-submarine service and an escort force. That seems to be the basic intention in the defence statement.
I want next to deal briefly with the Air Force, Sir. May I say, at this juncture, that those who say that we have been left defenceless over the last few years and that there has been shilly-shallying over the adoption of a new fighter aircraft are approaching the problem wrongly. The Sabre is certainly becoming out of date, but, until very recent times, wars of the kind about which we have been talking and in which we may have to participate - contained wars - would have found the improved version of the Sabre quite well suited to the role that our Air Force would have to fill. I, for one, would find it pretty difficult at the present time to decide exactly what kind of fighter we need. I am not too sure, besides, whether we need a bomber. What place has the bomber in the scheme of things? One may ask: What place, has the fighter? I think that, ideally, a fighter-bomber- something between the two - would be the thing. Perhaps we should have one aircraft which could fill both roles. I believe that that is perhaps the way in which the Government is thinking.
What Opposition members do not seem to understand is that, these days, technical changes in aircraft occur so rapidly that you have to be completely sure about the aircraft that you buy. I quite agree that it would be ridiculous if the Government were to go on, ad infinitum, declining to buy new aircraft. But I am definite that you must be quite sure about the aircraft that you buy. Not only that, but, as the honorable member for Bowman has said, we have to consider the cost of new aircraft. The cost of a Spitfire was £12,000 and that of a Lancaster was £80,000, I think. We are now talking in terms of aircraft which cost millions of pounds each. Therefore the
Government has a responsibility to be quite sure about the aircraft that it buys.
– But the purchase of new aircraft should not take five years, surely.
– i have said that, up to this point, the Sabre has been pretty well suited to our requirements. I admit that it is becoming out of date and will eventually be obsolete. In the meantime, it has been sufficient for our purposes in the kind of war in which we might have been engaged.
I have not much time left, and I should like to make one or two comments on the Army now. It seems to me that, basically, the new system of two pentropic divisions with the support of the Citizen Military Forces is sound in itself. But the Government will have to back the scheme very solidly in order to ensure that the C.M.F. not only retain their strength, but become increasingly strong. If their strength does not increase, the scheme may fall to the ground.
One thing that rather intrigued me was an observation, in one of the statements on this matter which I read, that, because of the cessation of national service training, which is sometimes known as N.S.T., a large number of warrant officers and noncommissioned officers would become redundant. I always understood that the Army’s view was that experienced men who were needed in the Regular Army were being drawn off by national service training. So I cannot understand that argument.
I wish to turn now to the dismissal of certain senior officers. On this matter, I want to make my position quite clear. I believe that the terms on which these officers were originally to be retired represented a breach of faith. I say that quite positively. The new system which has existed in the British Army for a couple of years provides a generous scheme of retirement. It seems to me that the terms and conditions on which eight senior officers of the Australian Army were originally to be retired were quite unjust. If I read aright the speech made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), he said that the Allison committee would have a look at these retrenchments. I should like an assurance from the Minister that this committee will look not only at the number of
N.C.O.’s and other ranks who will be affected, but also at the position of the eight senior officers who are being retired.
– The honorable member says that these officers have been unjustly treated. What has been the practice in such cases?
– I say that the retirement benefits that they will receive are not what they were entitled to, and that, in this respect, they have been unjustly treated. I think that makes my meaning clear.
In conclusion, I want to say that members of the Australian Labour Party have expressed criticism again in the same way as they have always expressed it in the fourteen years during which I have been a member of this House. Their criticism is based on the assertion that Labour won the war and that, since the war, the present Government has not carried out its commitments with respect to the defence services. In this debate, Opposition members have again dragged out their thread-bare old claim that, when Labour took office during the war, there was no basis of defence for it to build on. The fact is, as has been said this afternoon, that John Curtin, who was Labour leader at the time, stated very positively that a firm defence base existed for Labour to build on.
– The honorable member knows the reason for that statement. Mr. Curtin could not reveal to the world how defenceless we were.
– I do not intend to go into the matter further. It seems to me that the defence statement that we are debating is the best that I have heard since I have been in this Parliament. I believe that it has faults, and I have offered one or two criticisms of it. But I feel that, apart from the few faults that I see in it, it is progressive and useful, and I thoroughly support it as a very good statement.
.- Mr. Speaker, I suppose that all honorable members would agree that they could not be discussing a more important subject than the adequate defence of Australia. I find a great deal lacking in the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley). In saying that, I do not set myself up as an expert on defence matters. However, I have ordinary common sense and normal powers of reasoning, and I should like to know from the Government how we can determine what is adequate for the defence of our country if we do not know what our commitments are. All that we are told about the various collective security agreements into which we have entered - and we are told it repeatedly - is that we are committed in certain directions. But we are never given any specific details to indicate exactly what it is that Australia would be required to do in particular eventualities. I should like to know, for instance, whether, if sufficient man-power were not readily available under the voluntary system, the Government would propose the introduction of conscription of Australia’s manhood for overseas service in order to meet these commitments into which we are said to have entered.
We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) talk about limited and global war. We can assume from what the Government has said that, in a global war, we should play a very minor part, because we should not have the capacity to play any greater part. But, in a limited war, evidently, Australia is expected to make the maximum effort. What does the Government mean by the term “ limited war “? Malaya refuses to join in the collective defence agreement under which Australia is committed, but, according to what we in this Parliament are told, that country welcomes the presence of Australian troops. I have never been convinced that the situation in Malaya was not like that which we have seen in many other South-East Asian countries in which national movements have grown up, and I am not convinced that we are not using Australian forces merely to maintain internal order in Malaya. I do not think that such a function is a proper one for Australian forces. When Government supporters seek to justify the use of Australian troops for this purpose in Malaya, they continually adopt the very convenient argument that a Communist menace exists there. I suggest that the few troops that Australia has sent to that country would play a very minor part if there were any real menace.
The Prime Minister made a very significant statement when he dealt with nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons. He said that
Australia should not become involved with such weapons. With that I agree, because the enormous cost would be so burdensome for this country that we should be very unwise to try to equip ourselves with such weapons. The Prime Minister then went on to say that there was advantage for the world in having nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons in the hands of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and no other countries. That appears to be something of a departure on the part of the Prime Minister from his previously stated attitude. He appears to suggest that if nuclear weapons were in the hands of only the United States and Great Britain, those countries could not be trusted not to use them. What the Prime Minister is saying is that it is a good thing for the security of the world that the Soviet Union acquired these weapons, because the possession of them by the three countries constitutes the deterrent. It is the first time I have ever heard such a frank admission by the Prime Minister. He evidently welcomes the fact that the Soviet Union possesses such terrible weapons of destruction. If any member of the Opposition had expressed such a view, he would have been branded either as an outright Communist, or as a fellow traveller, or at least as a person having some sympathy with the Communist cause.
But what is the position to-day? We find that the field has widened. France has these nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons’, and there is a very strong suspicion that Japan and China are well on the way to obtaining possession of them. It seems to me that Australia is now in a most unfortunate position. The Prime Minister himself said that a limited war could grow into a global war. I should imagine that it would be almost certain to grow into a global war, because I believe a limited war would not commence unless the participants received the backing of some of the major powers, and those major powers, on either side, would not hesitate to use their great weapons of destruction if they believed that by so doing they could bring victory to their own side.
We should all be concerned about the adequacy or otherwise of our defences. It appears that we are not to have nuclear weapons. In any case, I do not believe we have the capacity to acquire them, nor that it would be a good thing to widen the field. What is the state of our defences today? We have spent a good deal of money on defence, considering our limited population. When it is considered that we have spent f 1,800,000,000 on defence during the last ten years, it becomes obvious that the provision of defences, even on a minor scale, is very costly. Our Navy, which must guard a coastline of 12,000 miles, at present consists of three Daring class ships, two Battle class destroyers, three fast antisubmarine frigates and training and survey ships, and for good measure the Minister throws in miscellaneous small craft, and he refers to one aircraft carrier. He has the audacity to suggest that this is a modern and effective naval force. It may be modern, in the sense that the ships themselves are of modern design and construction, but it could not be regarded as an effective naval force unless one knew the forces that would be ranged against it.
In 1950, the Prime Minister pointed out the danger to this country. Having in mind the words of the right honorable gentleman at that time, it is obvious that the defences of Australia have deteriorated shockingly. In 1950, the Prime Minister said that a few submarines could do irreparable harm. He said they could cut off our imports of oil and petrol, which would obviously bring our transport almost to a standstill. He said that our exports, which were so essential to our allies, would be cut off. He said, further -
The fast modern ships of the Royal Australian Navy will need, for any campaign against submarines, powerful aid in terms of both reconnaissance and attack from the Air Force.
He also said that naval aviation had been established. In three years’ time we will not have an aircraft carrier at all, and I want to know how we are going to provide air cover for our naval vessels, few as they are in number, which have to operate in Australian coastal waters. The aircraft carrier “ Melbourne “ is to be scrapped. It will become completely obsolete in three years’ time, and it is not to be replaced because, so the Government says, this would be too costly. I agree that defence is very costly, but it appears to me that the Government has failed to answer the charge that much of the money provided by Australian taxpayers for the provision of defence has been absolutely wasted, and that we have very little to show for this money.
Not only will the aircraft carrier become obsolete at the end of three years, but also the aircraft on that carrier will be ready for the scrapheap. However, while the Government is planning to disband completely its naval air forces, it is spending money on the Navy’s land depot at Nowra, H.M.A.S. “Albatross” - and let nobody make the mistake of thinking that it is a vessel of the fighting fleet - in extending air strips and providing other facilities for which, in three years’ time, it will have no use, because there will be no naval air arm.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was directing attention to the deplorable state into which this Government had permitted the defences of Australia to drift. I dealt particularly with the Navy. If you examine the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) you will discover that all the Government is proposing to do is to investigate, to have inquiries made and, generally, to put aside any positive action to correct the situation. He said - i said in November that the Government was considering a number of new naval projects which might be commenced in this programme. These included the possible introduction of a submarine force, guided weapon destroyers, modern mine sweepers and other proposals.
These are all propositions. There is nothing positive about them. The Minister went on to say that the fullest information would be obtained by the Government before it arrived at a decision. This is typical of the Government’s defence record in the ten years that it has been in office. It has always been inquiring, investigating and proposing, but never taking any positive action.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), who preceded me in this discussion, referred to the delay by the Government in making a decision about a new fighter aircraft to re-equip the Royal Australian Air Force. Honorable members will recollect that the honorable member said that the design of aircraft of this description changes so rapidly, and they are so costly, that we have to take the greatest care in making a selection. But Air Vice-
Marshal Murdoch first went overseas in 1955 - five years ago - to inquire on behalf of the Government concerning the type of aircraft with which the R.A.A.F. should be re-equipped. The Minister said -
The House is aware that it has been decided to re-equip the R.A.A.F. with a new fighter aircraft.
As I have said, the first mission went overseas in 1955! The first announcement on the subject was made by the Prime Minister in this Parliament in 1957. Now, the Minister tells us that the Government is interested in a number of possible types and that a choice will be made as soon as the Government is in a position to do sol In 1957, the Prime Minister said, in one of his defence statements, that the Lockheed F104 had been recommended on the strength of investigation made some time before. So, at that time, according to the Prime Minister, the investigations had already been completed. Sir Philip McBride, then Minister for Defence, was sent to the United States of America to make purchases on behalf of the Government. When he returned, he reported to the Government, and to this Parliament, that this type of aircraft was inappropriate for adoption by Australia. The Prime Minister, in commending the Minister upon the success of his delegation to the United States, said -
As a result of my colleague’s important discussions we have been relieved of the tremendous problem of finding many millions of scarce dollars for the FI 04.
So, although the Prime Minister had recommended these aircraft and had sent his Minister abroad to arrange for their purchase, he regarded it as a great accomplishment and a success on the part of the Government when the Minister failed to do so, because, as he said, the Government had thereby been relieved of the responsibility of finding scarce dollars to pay for them. The Prime Minister said -
The type of aircraft which may be needed must always be considered in the light of . . . the air forces which may be expected to be deployed against it.
Of course, that is so. But is it not rather remarkable that while the Government has been trying to make up its mind on the type of aircraft required to re-equip the R.A.A.F., Japan has recently scrapped the Sabre jet and is re-equipping its air force with the F104 Starfighter, which this Government was talking about five years ago? According to the statement by the Minister for Defence -
Satisfactory progress is being achieved in all the main decisions announced in November.
He added that the order for twelve Neptune maritime reconnaissance aircraft had been placed. I remind the House that we have merely placed an order. We have not got the aircraft. With regard to helicopters, the Minister said that an evaluation of types is proceeding. That does not mean that we have the helicopters, nor that we are likely to get them.
Concerning the Bristol Bloodhound Mark I. surface-to-air guided weapons unit which we were told in 1957 was to be established in the vicinity of Sydney, the Minister said -
A strong technical team from the Bristol and associated companies visited Australia to confer on details of the purchase.
Judged by past experience it will be many years before this guided weapons project is established near Sydney.
Let us turn to the Australian Regular Army. We are told that this is now fully equipped with what is known as the FN rifle. We were first told in 1954 that this was to be done. So, it has taken the Government six years to provide sufficient FN rifles to re-equip the Regular Army. The first issue of the new rifle to the Citizen Military Forces is to be made in July. No pronouncement has been made as to when the whole of these forces will be equipped with this new weapon, so, again judging by this Government’s past performances, we can expect that it will be many years in the future.
According to the Minister’s statement, by the end of July, the Australian Regular Army, which is supposed to be a modern effective armed force, will have been completely re-equipped with 105-mm. howitzers. Yet everybody knows that this weapon has already been discarded as obsolete by the U.S.A.! The Minister also said -
A new range of field wireless sets … for the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces has been received.
He said that the objective was to increase the strength and effectiveness of the combat elements. I do not know how it is intended to do that. According to the
Minister’s own statement the Government proposes to reduce the strength of the commands, and to reduce the strength of the training and administrative organizations. Yet as a result, the Government hopes to build a strong and modern Army because the Minister said -
A strong and modern Army will be built within this framework.
Recruitment to the Citizen Military Forces is to be encouraged by arranging that Commonwealth public servants who volunteer to serve in those forces will be given leave with full pay. What does the Government propose to do for other sections of the community who might volunteer for those forces? The Minister said -
The Government hopes that its practical encouragement of enlistment in the Citizen Military Forces will be widely followed by other employers.
But the Government knows full well from experience that very few other employers will follow its lead. Therefore there will be members serving in the C.M.F. under entirely different conditions.
The Army is to get medium landing ships. Two have been purchased from the United States and, according to the Government, have already arrived in Australia from Japan. Two more are expected. Why are these not being constructed in Australian shipyards? Australian shipyards have unused construction capacity which could be utilized in providing this type of equipment if the Government had any initiative in the matter.
In the couple of minutes remaining, let me turn to a question that has been greatly discussed in this Parliament, namely, the retirements from the Regular Army. I do not share the great concern expressed by some honorable members because eight senior officers in the military forces have been declared redundant and have received their walking orders. As a matter of fact, I have always believed that if a vote were taken in the armed forces of this country the officers would always be able to outvote the privates because there are more officers than privates. I am not objecting to the number of officers being reduced. In fact, I am rather amazed that more were not declared to be redundant. But how can members on the Government side argue that these people are being unjustly treated? I heard the
Minister for the Army, in replying to a question, say that they would receive liberal pensions and were to get six months’ notice. I do not like to see anybody lose his employment, no matter what it may be. I know that when workers in industry are declared to be redundant they are lucky if they get a week’s notice of the termination of their services. The Minister said that Sir John Allison is now chairing a committee which is to go into the question of retirement benefits. In my opinion that has already been covered and catered for by the provisions that have already been made.
One final word in regard to the action of the Government itself on a number of matters.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Compared with his normal style, we have just listened to a most restrained speech from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Despite that, before I pass to my own remarks, there are one or two answers which I should like to make to some observations which the honorable member addressed to the House. Honorable members will recall that when he resumed his speech after the suspension of the sitting he reminded the House that before the sitting was suspended he dealt particularly with the Navy. When doing so he expressed regret that our aircraft carriers would not be replaced when they became obsolete, and he charged the Government with not appreciating the situation for the proper defence of Australia. Honorable members will recall that the Government has said that because of the expense which would be incurred by the replacement of these ships it believes the money can be spent more efficiently in other ways.
It might be useful to ascertain how genuine the honorable member is in his criticism of this announced proposed action by the Government by comparing his present remarks with what he said on a previous occasion. In September, 1936, the honorable member said -
I am dealing with a particular item - the proposed construction of a naval vessel. I oppose such a proposal on the grounds that a naval vessel is not an arm of defence, but is one of offence and I suggest that if this Government were concerned purely with the defence of Australia it would be providing only arms of defence, and would not be building up a navy having a range far beyond the coast of Australia with the object of using it in wars of other peoples. The Australian Labour Party should not support such a policy.
When speaking regarding the naval arm of the proposal, honorable members may recall that the honorable member for East Sydney referred to the need for protecting the approaches to Australia. That is a summary, and I hope I am giving the sense of what the honorable member said. Once again, I remind the House that in November, 1938, when referring to the approaches to Australia, the honorable member said -
It is amusing to hear people say we will not give up New Guinea. To these people I would say that, if it should become necessary to defend our Mandated Territories they should defend themselves.
I think it is wise that I should remind the House of these things which have been said by the honorable member, because it puts in its proper context what he has addressed to the House to-night. The honorable member also referred to the presence of Australian troops in Malaya. Again summarizing what he said - and I hope I am doing so correctly - he stated that Australia should not post troops in other countries. He made special reference to the rise of national movements within these countries and said that Australian troops should not be used for the purpose of keeping internal peace. In that respect, he instanced Malaya. Having been there myself and had some opportunity of studying the position, I say to the honorable member that the leaders in Malaya themselves are very glad to have the Australian troops there. No one in Malaya believes that the Communist terrorists represent a nationalist movement which Australian troops are being asked by the Government of Malaya to help Malayan troops suppress. They are not a nationalist movement. They are Communist terrorists; they are Communists themselves, and they get their orders and inspiration from Communists outside Malaya. I felt that it was necessary to remind honorable members of these facts when considering the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney.
I should like to refer also to the speech delivered this afternoon by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). Honorable members will recall that although he expressed general admiration for the statement which the House is presently debating, he said he had two criticisms to offer. One was that the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) contained nothing worth while regarding the Government’s intentions on civil defence, and the other one was that there was no mention of the integration of national service units within the Navy, Army and Air Force. Without wishing to indulge in repetition, and having listened with interest to what the honorable member for Franklin said, I simply bring these matters to the notice of the House once more and support what the honorable member said under those two headings.
With respect to the statement before the Chair, I shall first make some general observations. I think it is true to say that there will always be critics of a defence policy while there is peace. There will be those, like the majority of the members of the Opposition, who will say that the Government is spending too much on the actual defence of Australia and should devote some of that expenditure to national development or other purposes rather than on war. While we all hope that war will not break out. we have to prepare for that eventuality. Should war come there will be many more people who will say that not enough has been spent by way of preparation. Since I have been in the House, Labour has often said that the size of our armed forces should be cut and that there are too many officers compared with privates. I immediately reply that, with the possible exception of the honorable member for East Sydney on account of the remarks which he just addressed to the House, honorable members opposite within the last few days have complained that some officers are to be retired because of Army reorganization - a re-organization which most people believe to be necessary and which, some people have said, should have come much earlier.
We know also that for many years members of the Opposition have been opposed to national service training, although we can go back many years when the Aus tralian Labour Party considered itself to be the defence party and many of its members advocated conscription in the service of the country abroad. But we know also that with the influx of different thinking and a change in the objectives of the Labour Party, that objective fell by the wayside and it has not been in the Labour Party’s platform for many years. In fact, the Labour Party has to take responsibility for the restraint that has been put upon national service trainees which will not allow them to serve beyond a certain latitude outside Australia.
When one considers the policy that has been adopted by our close allies, such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, our defence policy indeed needs to be reviewed. May I say that a true defence policy should have as its main objective the containment of any potential enemy within his present boundaries. It is necessary to have an appreciation of what that means insofar as it may entail sending our troops overseas. The Minister saysand I believe quite truly - that although the risk of global war has receded, there is still a great risk that has to be expected from time to time in some local war. In my interpretation the phrase “ local war “ would mean that we could be called upon to assist our allies under the various treaties which we have entered into with South-East Asian countries. Therefore, I say that it is not right to implement a policy which provides for the defence of Australia only from our own shores. If the enemy were to reach Australia, our allies would have been defeated and we would have little chance of standing alone. We have heard of Labour’s conception of our defence, and we have heard honorable members opposite refer to the units that we have at our command being dotted around the tremendously large foreshores of Australia. Those of us who have had any experience of the armed services know that it is completely unreal to think of a defence of Australia within those terms.
The statement that we are debating has referred, in general, to the re-organization of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. While time does not permit me to go into these matters in detail, could I for a few moments say something about the reorganization that is planned for the Army. This affects the greatest number of personnel and the greatest part of the debate has been concentrated on it. Quite a number of people who have served in the Citizen Military Forces since the war and who have continued to take a great interest, not only in this particular arm of the Services, but in the defence of Australia as a whole, felt a great deal of concern when the first announcements were made regarding the re-organization of the Army. I believe that a number of people felt that the effect of the proposed re-organization would be that senior command within the Army would in the future rest only with regular soldiers and that the C.M.F. would be under their command with no opportunity to produce its own leaders. These people felt that a further effect would be to dissipate the trained nucleus to which we have given so much time, energy and money. We have found from experience that this nucleus of C.M.F. leaders is the core around which the Army can be expanded in war. This, very nautrally, has been the true concern of people who have been engaged with it. We all know that in time of war in the past, the bulk of our armed forces has been drawn from citizen soldiers. It has always been the aim of the C.M.F. to produce the leaders so that the Army could be quickly and greatly expanded in time of emergency 1 think it is true to say that it has never been the conception of members of the C.M.F. to produce big battalions in time of peace; but it has produced, and it can still produce, first-class leaders in all grades in the establishment of the Army around whom the war-time units can be quickly formed. I think we all agree that the effectiveness of a force is judged by its capacity to produce its own leaders, and the purpose of those leaders, when trained, in the field.
We know that recent decisions made in this re-organization have meant the suspension of the national service training scheme which provided a major part of the strength of the C.M.F. The decision to discontinue national service training has not been taken lightly or with any judgment that the training was not good or was not effective. It comes down to what I have been trying to show to the House, that we are in times of sudden and quick changes and we must reorganize our forces quickly to meet those changes. However, I am glad to say that the re-organization, as I understand it, does not mean the disbanding or the downgrading of the C.M.F., as quite a number of us feared when the first announcements were made. As I understand the situation under the new plan, there will be two divisions. The First Division will have its head-quarters in New South Wales, and Third Division will have its head-quarters in Victoria. The First Division will consist of two Regular Army battle groups and three C.M.F. battle groups.
In his statement supplementary to that given by the Minister for Defence, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) announced the location of these battle groups and of their various sub-units. I understand that the First Division will be commanded by a Regular Army Major-General, and he will have two deputies, a C.M.F. brigadier and a Regular Army brigadier. Two of the battle groups will be commanded by Regular Army colonels, because they will be Regular Army units, and three will be commanded by C.M.F. colonels, because they will in turn be C.M.F. groups. The Third Division will have as its G.O.C. a C.M.F. MajorGeneral, and his deputy will be a C.M.F. brigadier. All groups in this division will be commanded by C.M.F. colonels. So, some of the original fears of the C.M.F. personnel have not been realized. I believe that we should thank the Minister for the Army because in the discussions he has realized the importance of the C.M.F. in the true set-up of our Army establishment, as I described earlier in my remarks, and he has made these changes possible.
As we know, the present paper strength of the C.M.F. is in the vicinity of 50.000, but the volunteer component is only about 21,000. Under this new plan, the target of the volunteer C.M.F. will be raised to 30,000. That brings into debate the very important matter of whether the Australian Armed Forces should1 in the future be composed mainly of volunteers or whether we should follow the system of conscription. Time will not allow me to develop this theme but I hope that there will be an opportunity for me to do so later. Other honorable gentlemen have addressed themselves to it. I do not think it is an easy problem to solve in the space of a few moments, especially when we compare the effort that is being contributed towards the safety of the free world by Australia and, as I have intimated previously, by our allies such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
I sum up my remarks by saying, first, that I think in one sense it is sad to see disbanded the famous Australian regiments and battalions which have contributed so much to our history. But every new military invention means completely new tactics and new military establishments. The changes now taking place have been forecast for some time. Our minds have been conditioned to the fact that we are about to have a complete change in our war-time defence establishments. In the mdoern defence plan, we need a mobile force co-operating with our allies, and a force that can be moved speedily with its hard-hitting equipment. Behind this, we need a force of well-trained personnel to provide quick support. I believe that in the rc-organization and the new establishments that have been forecast in the statement made by the Minister, Australia, to the best of her ability, will be providing just that.
.- The problems which confront Australia in forming a defence policy are many and varied. First, local problems must be taken into account, and in these I include the fact that we are a large nation with 12,000 miles of coastline, with 3,000,000 square miles of territory but with a population of only 10,000,000. There is the matter of finance which also must be taken into consideration. Our industries for the manufacture of arms, weapons, aeroplanes, tanks, vehicles and other equipment needed for war are insufficient to meet the demands of even the small force that this Government intends to equip for the purposes of Australia’s defence. Then there are also the strategic considerations to be taken into account - whether there would be a global war, a limited war, or a cold war; whether Australia is likely to be attacked or called upon to assist its allies in a limited war and whether Australia can depend upon its allies for assistance if it is attacked. Is there a greater likelihood of a limited war or of a global war? Will the limited or the global war be fought with conventional «w nuclear weapons? Will the Navy, the
Army or the Air Force play the predominant part in our defence? The answers to all those questions differ greatly and during this debate honorable members on both sides of the House have given their opinions and their answers to some of them. All those answers have been based on their opinions and on guesswork rather than on knowledge. The questions are all hypothetical and the answers are necessarily subject to great variety and to day-to-day or year-by-year change, and consequently, I have great sympathy with the Government in having such difficult questions to answer and such difficult decisions to make. Nevertheless, I believe that the decisions should be made.
The Government of this country has a duty to defend Australia, to co-operate with her allies and to do everything possible to ensure that Australia will be safe if a third world war, whether limited or global, should eventuate. This Government has been in office now for ten years and during that period it has made many defence statements in this House. We had Sir Philip McBride, as Minister for Defence, making statements early in the 1950’s; and, while he was still Minister for Defence, from 1956 onwards we have had statements on defence and external affairs made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). This Government’s defence policy up to the present can be called one of indecision because the Government’s actions during the ten years it has been in office have been indecisive in every way. Its only approach up to the present has been to say, “We are devoting £200,000,000 each year for defence, and having done that we believe our defences are adequate”. Because it has been devoting a great deal of finance to the defence of Australia the Government has not bothered to see that that money was spent on modern equipment and that it was not squandered. Over the last ten years defence expenditure has amounted to approximately £1,800,000,000, and that is an enormous sum.
The Labour Party does not believe that money should not be spent on defence; it believes that it should be expended on a defence plan which is laid down and adhered to and one that has been considered fully in all its aspects. We should ensure that money so allocated shall be spent on equipment and on formation!’ of out armed forces which will be of greatest benefit to us should any conflagration occur. The plan which the Government has outlined in the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) has been foreshadowed on many occasions by various Ministers for Defence, and by the Prime Minister himself, since 1950. A previous Minister for Defence, Sir Philip McBride, in 1954, was talking about mobility, equipment and fire-power rather than man-power in our armed forces. The Prime Minister, in April, 1957, and in September, 1957, echoed the same thought and devoted a great deal of time to saying what the Government intended to do.
Now, in November, 1959, we have the present Minister for Defence laying down the plan which had been foreshadowed in 1954 and in 1957 by the previous Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister, and that plan is the one that is now being put into operation. It has taken the Government all those years of talk, indecision and consideration of this and that aspect of the plan before it has finally got down to something tangible for the defence of Australia. Yet, since 1950, the Labour Party in debates on defence has been suggesting that a plan similar to the one which is now being followed by the Government should be the plan for the defence of Australia. Despite the fact that the Government has had the suggestions of the Opposition and that a previous Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister himself indicated that a plan similar to the one now being put into operation would be put into operation, it has taken the Government ten years to show any action on the matter. The Government’s indecision on defence matters is indicated in various aspects of defence organization.
I will deal, first, with national service training. When the scheme was first suggested, it was one which placed a liability to serve on all youths of eighteen years of age, and on 4th April, 1957, after it had operated for a few years, the Prime Minister announced, in this House, a modification of the scheme. On that occasion, he announced the pick-a-box system under which the dates of birth of the candidates were placed in a hat and those unlucky enough to have been born on the dates drawn from the hat had to serve. Even at that date the Prime Minister in his statement to the House, after talking about the undue proportion of the annual expenditure being laid out for the maintenance of the. existing forces and the fact that the bulk of those forces were insufficiently and partly trained men, said -
Such, however, have been the immense social advantages of national service training that we have been reluctant to modify that great scheme. I say “ modify “ because we have never thought of abandoning it.
That was in November, 1957, and in 1959 the scheme was abandoned. The Government could not make up its mind whether it wanted a total or a partial national service training scheme; and it has now made up its mind that it does not desire a national service training scheme at all. That is the policy outlined by the Labour Party since the introduction of the national service training scheme. There were many faults in that scheme. There was not the overall necessity for all youths of eighteen years of age to serve. There were reasons for men being given exemptions, and the Labour Party was of the opinion that unless every person of eighteen years of age was expected to serve we should not have a national service training scheme at all. When the scheme was modified so that the annual intake was only a few thousand youths, the Labour Party again said that the scheme should be abolished. And as from June of this year it will be abolished.
Then there is the indecision shown by the Government on the matter of equipment. In regard to fighter planes, for instance, only a few years ago it was taken for granted that the Government would re-equip the Air Force with the Starfighter, but after the Minister for Defence at that time, Sir Philip McBride, went to America the Government decided that that was not a satisfactory plane and the purchase of the Starfighter was rejected. Since September, 1957, the Government has still been trying to decide which fighter plane would be the best with which to re-equip the Air Force. In regard to the Fleet Air Arm, the Royal Australian Naval College was transferred from Melbourne to Jervis Bay only about eighteen months ago because it was considered that Navy personnel could be more efficiently trained at Jervis Bay; but now the Fleet Air Arm is to be abolished. On numerous occasions we have found, in statements made by various service Ministers, mention of the development of a submarine fleet for Australia. From subsequent statements, however, it was clear that the idea of having a submarine fleet had been pigeon-holed. But in the statement made recently we find that the development of a submarine fleet is again under consideration. The fact is that the Government cannot make up its mind whether it wants to build up the Army, whether it wants to build up the Navy, or whether it wants to build up the Air Force. lt has been indecisive on every aspect of defence policy.
Then we have the standardization of the equipment of the defence forces with that of the Americans. In the statement made on 4th April, 1957, the following words, which appear on page 6 of the printed copy of the statement, were used by the Prime Minister: - . . it seems clear that in the event of war we will be fighting side by side with the United States. Particularly in the event of a “ global “ war, it would be manifestly difficult for the United Kingdom to maintain a line of supply to SouthEast Asia, though the United States undoubtedly could. Common sense dictates that under these circumstances, we should pay considerable attention to the logistic aspect of war, and standardize so far as we can with the Americans. Though this is a wholeheartedly British nation this is not a heresy. It merely recognizes the facts of war. It is based upon exactly the same reasoning as that upon which, I am sure, the United States would wish to see Great Britain, France, Germany and the other European Nato countries standardizing as among themselves their own weapons and techniques so as to eliminate the necessity for excessive stocks of spare parts or precarious technical reinforcements over the waters of the Atlantic.
It is for this reason that, as I will point out, we have decided both in aircraft, in artillery, and in small arms, to fit ourselves for close cooperation with the United States in the South-East Asian area.
But we find now, Mr. Speaker, that the Government, having decided to obtain a surface-to-air guided weapon, completely disregards the argument advanced by the Prime Minister in 1957 for standardization with the Americans, and we have purchased, or are going to purchase, the British Bloodhound weapon. Surely the argument that the Prime Minister used in 1957 on the necessity to standardize with the Americans would still hold good to-day. Surely it is still a valid argument, because the lines of supply from Great Britain to Australia would be exactly the same as the lines of supply that the Prime Minister mentioned in his speech in 1957.
A further point which I desire to mention is the top-heavy administration in the service departments and in relation to the Ministerial portfolios for those departments. First, we have a Minister for Defence. Then we have a Minister for the Navy, a Minister for the Army and a Minister for Air. The present establishment in the Australian Regular Army would be approximately 21,000 members The establishment of the C.M.F. under the new scheme will be 30,000. The present establishment in the Navy is about 11,000 and the present establishment of the Air Force is 15,721 members, which the Government hopes to raise to about 15,750 by June this year. That gives a total of 77,721. Yet we have four Ministers in this place holding defence portfolios. It is worth mentioning, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister for the Navy is a man who was a distinguished pilot in the war, and the Minister for Air is a member of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, holding, I understand, the reserve rank of Commander. The Minister for the Army - well, the least said about him the better. If the Government had a genuine desire to give this country a good defence surely the man who has some knowledge of Air Force procedure should be the man who is appointed Minister for Air, and the man who has some knowledge of the Navy should have the appointment as the Minister for the Navy. The point I want to make is that there is no need, with only 77,000 or so persons in the defence forces, for four defence portfolios.
– If you count the Minister for Supply, there are five.
– As the honorable member for Barton reminds me, we have five, counting the Minister for Supply. Surely there is no need for that state of affairs to continue when the Government, as is disclosed in the statement we are debating, is curtailing the defence forces in every direction. If there is to be curtailment in the ranks, surely it is time they had a look at the top-heavy administration in this Parliament itself. I believe that no more than two Ministers with defence portfolios are necessary.
Now let us look down to the next echelon - the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Only recently the Government decided to appoint a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Now we have a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, a Chief of the Air Staff, a Chief of the General Staff, and a Chief of the Naval Staff. Surely it is time we integrated the defence administration and had fewer defence portfolios inside this Parliament, and fewer chiefs of staff outside. It is time that the defence forces were more integrated, and the administrative expenses and the time-lag in making decisions were curtailed. In all arms of the forces, as the member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) pointed out, there are many more senior officers than are merited. Consideration should be given to the amalgamation of the defence portfolios and the integration of the various activities of the forces, as well as to the appointment of one Chief of Staff for the whole of our defence forces.
The Prime Minister made a statement in this House not so many months ago, after the Morshead committee’s report was submitted to the Government. The Prime Minister has not made that report available to members of the Parliament, and it would be interesting at this stage to discover how many of the recommendations made by the Morshead committee - an expert committee set up by the Government - have been implemented, and how many have been disregarded.
The only other matter I desire to mention, Mr. Speaker, is the lack of consideration given to the civil defence of Australia. No mention of civil defence appears in the statement made by the Minister for Defence. For ten years this Government has been in office, and while it has set up a Commonwealth directorate of civil defence it was not until September of last year that it bothered to make any statement on a Commonwealth policy on civil defence. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) who, for some reason, controls civil defence, made a statement which outlined the civil defence programme to be followed by the Government. There are five or six points in this statement but I will guarantee that it will take the Government ten years - as in the case of the re-organization of the Navy, the Air Force and the Army - before it actually brings down a programme of civil defence. The Government has started to talk about civil defence, and it will talk about it for the next ten years. Ultimately it will decide to do something about it. Because of lack of time, Mr. Speaker, I am unable to discuss civil defence at any great length, but I sincerely trust that this Government will not take the same-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired. -Mr. BARNES (McPherson) [8.49].- I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House, but I should like to congratulate the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) on the defence review he gave to the House and the people of Australia. I believe that the defence policy of Liberal Party governments throughout their existence has provided the best defence consistent with the resources of Australia. Ofl the other hand, we have heard varied views from members of the Opposition, views which range from approval, more or less, to condemnation. We have heard the speech of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who is a former Minister for the Navy. In its early days - the days of Andrew Fisher, Joseph Cook and others - the Labour Party was great. It introduced compulsory military training which was the first step in defence in Australia. Unfortunately, a great degeneration commenced during the First World War. The Labour Party split on the conscription issue. One section came over to this side of politics and the other went further to the left when it embraced international socialism in 1921. The Labour Party’s defence policy seemed then to sink to its lowest ebb.
We can quite easily understand how certain Labour people thought that resistance to defence was a very easy way to obtain votes, particularly the votes of women who were anxious to protect the lives and the livelihood of their husbands and sons. Labour also obtained the votes of the many thousands of shirkers whom one will find in any community. The Labour Party has played to those sections for many years. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has criticized this Government. I shall read to honorable members an extract of a speech which he made and which is reported on page 1570 of volume 152 of “ Hansard “ of 5th November, 1936. This was just three years before the outbreak of World War II. The honorable member said this -
Let us, however, examine the question of whether this country is actually in danger. Panicstricken, the Commonwealth Government, along with the Imperial Government, is spending an enormous amount of money on what it claims to be defence provisions, and is using the same propaganda as was used to usher in the Great War.
On page 1571 of the same volume of “ Hansard “ he is reported as having said -
I should not be prepared to take up arms against the workers of any country whether they be German or of any other nationality. As a matter of fact, because I am not prepared to do that, I am not prepared to tell others to do so.
As I have said, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for East Sydney made those statements just three years before the outbreak of World War II. And this is the honorable member who recently nearly became the Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party! On his own allegations, he missed out because the forces were stacked against him. Therefore, the statements to which I have referred were made, not by some back-bencher of the Labour Party but by one of its most prominent members. I believe that the history and the actions of the Labour Party must be viewed with a great deal of reserve.
The defence statement indicates that there have been many changes in methods of defence. The advances in nuclear research have altered the whole complexion of war. Both Russia and the United States are practically equal in their store of nuclear and thermo-nuclear bombs, and obviously that has acted as a deterrent. The prospect of nuclear warfare has altered our strategic position and our outlook on defence, because our defence must be considered on the basis of collective security with other nations, and having regard to our moderate resources. As the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) pointed out to-day, we could not possibly afford to build nuclear-powered submarines or to have the most up-to-date aircraft in our Air Force. That is completely beyond our resources. I suppose that the aeroplane has brought about these tremendous changes. Great distances can now be covered at a very fast rate, and new weapons such as guided missiles and radar have also come into the picture. It is sad to see the end of our glorious battalion histories but, after all, we are not seeking glory so much as the defence of Australia. These new weapons mean a tremendous change in tactics and manpower needs, and we have to meet those demands.
Weapons to-day play a tremendously important part in warfare because a few men armed with adequate up-to-date weapons can wreak more damage in ten hours than an Army in 1940 could have done in ten weeks. Another factor which must be borne in mind is that one of the latest submarines, such as America possesses, could stand 1,000 miles off, say, Brisbane, and wreck that city with a Polaris missile. We have to be prepared for these things.
The whole secret of our defence is mobility; the ability of small units to move rapidly and to carry these lethal weapons with them. Our limited resources are needed to develop our young country. Therefore, our expenditure on defence must be commensurate with our safety. Although the compass of our effort may be small, it must be of the maximum efficiency.
In conclusion, I congratulate the Minister for Defence on the policy which he has put before us and which, I feel sure, must be accepted by every thinking and responsible person in Australia.
.- At the outset, let me take this opportunity to remind the House, and the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes) in particular, that there need be no apology for Labour’s performance in the field of defence, because it was the Labour Party which was faced, in the early war years, with the problem of retrieving a most difficult situation which had arisen because of the actions of those who now sit on the Government side, and especially of the predecessor of the honorable member for Mcpherson. In those days, Zeros were attacking our outmoded Wirraways, and the way things are developing now, if another crisis should arise, and Australia should be involved in it, we would find the same outmoded aircraft defending us.
We are debating the defence programme which was outlined by the Minister for
Defence (Mr. Townley) only a week ago. The Opposition takes this opportunity to express its great displeasure with the performance and the proposals of the Government. The statistics which are made available from time to time indicate that expenditure on the various departments and services associated with defence has totalled £1,767,000,000 since this Government came to office. That money has been spent, not only unwisely, but also quite recklessly. This Government lifted defence expenditure from £91,000,000 in 1950-51 to £215,000,000 in 1952-53. In recent years, it has levelled out at an average of something like £190,000,000 a year. We charge this Government with having been lazy, lethargic, lax, and indeed lightheaded in dissipating the enormous funds which have been made available for defence purposes. It has been completely inconsistent and void of any guiding principles in the formulation and administration of its defence policy. A total of £1,700,000,000 has been spent - scattered to the four winds - with nothing of any consequence to show for it.
Let me say at the outset that, like the Government, I recognize our inability to defend this country against the devastating and horrifying devices that may be used in a twentieth-century global war. I long for the return of a government obsessed with the desire for peace and prepared to advocate and work for the cessation of tests of nuclear weapons, and international disarmament. I hope that, some day, Australia’s only military force will be a component of a United Nations police force, and that Australian personnel will play their part, side by side with peace-loving people from other parts of the world, in preserving peace for. mankind.
I propose now briefly to trace the record of events, and to give the history of this Government’s defence programme, because I believe that, when these things are put in their proper perspective, it will be recognized that this Government, by its inefficiency, its dangerous and outmoded foreign policy, its muddled thinking and its disgraceful squandering of public funds, has deprived the Australian people of some hundreds of millions of pounds which, otherwise, could have been used for national development, and particularly for development of the kind which has a Teal meaning in terms of defence. When we think of what could be done, for example, in respect of the standardization of railway gauges, when we think of what could be done to meet the obvious need for decent connecting highways between our capital cities and other strategically important cities, when we think of the need for air services, airports and bridges, we realize that a great deal of money has gone down the drain and has been completely wasted. Much of this money could have been used to improve educational facilities and to provide water and sewerage services and housing throughout Australia. And, of course, much of it could have been devoted to improving the present substandard social services which -are evident throughout Australia. This Government’s administration of defence matters contrasts sharply with the declaration made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech for the 1949 general election, in these terms -
We stand for adequate national preparedness for defence.
Since that time, we have never been prepared, as I shall attempt to show.
First of all, it is important to see the setting - the international atmosphere or climate - which, according to the Prime Minister, has prevailed, and which he says justified events in respect of defence. On 22nd September, 1950, the right honorable gentleman made this interesting statement -
If there is a third world war it is most unlikely we shall have time to prepare. Hence the C.M.F. must be enlisted and trained as a force which, with the regular units fed into it, is itself an expeditionary force.
– Who said that?
– This was said by the Prime Minister, and this was the Government’s fundamental - and fundamentally bad - approach to defence, particularly to Army organization. This was the rock upon which the Government’s plan for Army organization perished - a plan for a citizen military force enlisted as an expeditionary force and linked with the Regular Army. The Regular Army was to be expanded threefold - from 15,000 to 45,000 men. The unfortunate arrangement was the link with the national service training scheme. We can just imagine a force enlisted for overseas service and integrated with a force recruited for home service. This could never prove satisfactory. As events have established, it certainly did not prove satisfactory.
In his speech of 22nd September, 1950, the Prime Minister indicated, also, that two brigade groups would be established. At a Premiers’ Conference, six months later, he made his historic pronouncement about war in three years. Things were really getting desperate, according to the Prime Minister, and we had to pull our socks up. We on this side of the House expected action, because, at the Premiers’ Conference on 2nd March, 1957, the right honorable gentleman said -
The possibilities of war are so real and so serious that Australia cannot, with justice to herself or her allies, grant herself more than three years to be ready.
But what happened at the end of the three years? When the Korean situation deteriorated in 1953, for example, we were far from ready. Not one unit of the Citizen Military Forces could have been sent overseas, as each unit had such a large national service, or home service, content, which could not have been sent out of this country, lt would have been criminal folly, for that matter, to send the national service trainees away without at least an additional six months’ intensive training. This was the situation that had been allowed to develop when, according to the Prime Minister, war could break out at any time. The Regular Army could not have contributed more than two battalions - a lot less than the two brigades promised by the Prime Minister three years earlier.
The Suez crisis came three years later. The Prime Minister and his Government then sounded very tough and resourceful. We all recall the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) saying that our forces were ready to go to Egypt at the drop of a hat - an inappropriate remark for him to make at a time when the Prime Minister was negotiating with Colonel Nasser at the peace table. Then along came Sir Frederick Shedden, who was at the time Secretary of the Department of Defence. In August, 1956, he announced that Australia was unprepared and that we had been unready at the time of the Korean crisis. This was said by the man whose job it was to know how well we were prepared. He was a topline public servant in this field, and he suddenly felt a twinge of conscience and, with no personal gain to himself, indicated that the Government had failed. As a consequence, of course, the Government relegated him to the task of writing his memoirs. In reply to the great storm that followed Sir Frederick’s announcement, the Prime Minister, on 2nd October, 1956, said that Australia’s defences were never in better shape in peace-time. But, alas, only two days later, the right honorable gentleman had a second thought about this matter. Having reflected on our defences, which he had only just described as never having been in better shape in peace-time, he announced that a sweeping overhaul of the Australian defence programme would be undertaken. Then, on 4th April, 1957, the Prime Minister gave details of the new plan. Its centrepiece - its show piece - he said, was a new mobile brigade group. Not two mobile brigade groups as he had promised in 1950, but only one. This was a retrograde step. The right honorable gentleman, on this same date, said -
Moves have already begun to organize a Brigade Group of over 4,000 as a cohesive battle formation trained to the highest 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.
We might justifiably have again expected results after that announcement on 4th April, 1957, and we waited patiently for the modern weapons that we had been promised. We waited, for example, for the FN rifle, which was destined to replace the 303 weapon of 1914 and 1939. We were told that the Lithgow small arms factory was tooling up for the production of this rifle in May, 1955, but the Minister for Defence told us only last Tuesday that the issue of the FN rifle for the Citizen Military Forces will not commence until July, 1960. What is the explanation of this? Then there is the matter of bayonets. We have been using the bayonets that were in use away back in the 1914-18 war. A special committee reported that these were outmoded and that we should have the short, stocky tropical bayonet. But, a short time ago, we found that the old-fashioned type was still in use.
We waited, too, for the 105-mm. howitzer which was to replace the 25-pounders of the First World War and the Second World War with which our field artillery is equipped. The new howitzer is now starting to come through. But we find that, in the United States of America, where they originated, they have been replaced by the model II. 4.2-in. mortar, which is said to be a far more accurate and more devastating weapon. It is cheaper and more portable, and it is thoroughly up to date. Yet we are still plodding along pursuing our orders for the outmoded old howitzer for which we have waited so long. We waited for Centurion tanks to be provided, and then we found that we had no transport that could move them. Just a short time ago, the Minister for the Army, in reply to questions that he had been asked, indicated that, if we wanted to move these Centurion tanks, say, from Puckapunyal, in Victoria, to Perth, up to fifteen days would be needed for the job. If we wanted to move them from Puckapunyal to Darwin - that strategically important location on the north coast of Australia, a place where we could possibly expect some kind of hostilities to develop - it would take fourteen to 21 days to do so. How much notice would this Government need of the intention of some other country to invade our shores?
– Six months.
– It would need at least three weeks, because it would take that long to get our few Centurion tanks to the places where they might be needed. Going further into the position, we find that we have only two landing ships to carry these tanks - and these, indeed, have only recently been acquired - with a capacity of five tanks each. We could, then, have just ten tanks at a time moved in these ships - ten tanks to deploy strategically around this great island continent. What an incredible and shocking state of affairs!
We have also waited for the Malkara anti-tank weapon. It is being supplied, we have been told with great pride, to the United Kingdom forces. But the Minister has also told us that it is not suitable for use in Australia. It is not suitable for use in the country in which it originated and wherein it was designed! How can we reconcile such anomalies with a genuine concern about the defence of Australia?
Continuing the story, we suddenly discover that our crack mobile brigade - not two brigades, but just one - is without reinforcements. The Regular Army is under strength to the extent of about 5,000 men. Having spent £1,500,000 on recruitment, and still failing to keep pace with losses through retirement and sickness, it now seems that we are going to retrench 1,700 Army personnel. There is no consistency whatsoever in the Government’s policy.
We also have the startling revelation that maintenance has accounted for 80 per cent, of our Army expenditure, and that little has been available for research and new equipment. It is also revealed that the Government intends to ignore the Morshead report on integration of the three armed services, although this was a report of a committee established by this Government. Looking at the matter of civil defence, to which my colleague, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), made reference, we discover that a miserable £749,000 has been spent by the Commonwealth in the last five years in this direction. I ask honorable members opposite: Does the average citizen in Australia have any appreciation of what he should do in a state of emergency? Have we made any impact on the problem of civil defence? I venture to suggest that honorable members would all agree that the answer is “ No “. This is a government that warned of an impending war. “We have three years to go”, the Government said. But practically nothing has been done in respect of civil defence. This Government has spent £1,700,000,000 during the time it has been in office in preparing for war, but it has spent only £749,000 on civil defence. There can be no excuse foi this kind of inconsistency.
Consider the position of our Air Force. We are still waiting for replacements of the Avon Sabres. A recommendation was made by the re-equipment mission in 1955 that these aircraft should be replaced by the Lockheeds, but nothing has been done since that time. Reference was made to the Bristol Bloodhound Mark I. surface-to-air guided weapon. An announcement was made by the Prime Minister in 1957 to the effect that our cities were to have the benefit of this weapon. Now we find that some investigatory group is at present in the United Kingdom taking another look at the situation. We find also that we have just three helicopters for use throughout this continent. There are two at Woomera and one at Williamtown. We will probably need much more than a month’s notice to get those aircraft into position.
Then we look at the position in respect of the Navy. We have no submarines at all - not one! Forget about atomic-powered submarines; we have no submarines at all. There is just a hazy idea on the part of the Government that it may look at this new notion. It has suddenly struck the Government that the submarine is a modern instrument of war. We have a number of ships in mothballs. We have sent millions down the drain in expenditure on “ Hobart “. Soon we are to scrap “ Melbourne “, the aircraft carrier on which so much money has been spent. In this year, 1960, our Navy consists substantially of three Daring-class ships, two battle-class destroyers, three anti-submarine frigates, one aircraft carrier which is shortly to be scrapped, and a couple of smaller craft used for survey purposes and the like.
Consider, then, the arrangements with regard to national service training. What an incredible situation is to be seen in this respect! We have a sudden announcement by the Government that it intends to abandon national service training. Between July, 1951, and June, 1959, about 200,000 young Australians were called up for national service training. About 188,000 have had some basic training, but how basic can it really have been? There is no doubt that the training they received would be of little use in a real war situation. National service training has cost £143,000,000, and finally it is to be abandoned, for the very reason for which it should never have been initiated. The integration of a national service or home service unit with one destined for overseas service is completely impossible, but it took this Government nine long years to realize its costly mistake. A sum of £143.000,000 has simply gone down the drain because of the Government’s ignoring the advice of the Labour Opposition.
I consider all the shortcomings and deficiencies of this Government in the field ot defence, I look at our outmoded weapons and the Government’s complete lack of policy, and I contrast the position with that prevailing in other countries. 1 think, for example, of a statement made a short time ago by the United States Army’s Chief of Research and Development, Lieutenant-General Trudeau. He said: -
We envision the time when the individual soldier will be equipped with almost unbelievable fire power. He will go into battle with weapons and equipment that just a few years ago were to be found only in science and fiction . . . The future fighting man may have a two-way helmet radio, perhaps television and infra-red equipment. He may ride a flying platform or an aerial jeep, and he may carry in his individual shoulder weapon the thunderbolts of atomic fire power.
Compare these forecasted weapons with those that will be used by our servicemen in future hostilities, and it will become obvious that this Government has made a failure of its defence programme.
– The House is addressing itself to the question of defence at a time when the world’s primary concern is with disarmament. This is no anomaly, because although we all hope and wish for disarmament, and regard it as a necessity, the time of transition, until we reach the stage when disarmament is accomplished, will be one of particular danger. It is the duty of this Government, and of other Australian governments, to see that our country is protected as best it can be during that time of transition. We say this without in any way lessening our real support of disarmament as an international policy. We do not know whether this time of transition will be short or long. It may last for three years or for 30. We know that the world must find a means of effective disarmament or it must perish, but we also know that in this time of transition individual nations must keep their guard up. Indeed, by so doing they may hasten the acceptance of disarmament.
It is not my prime purpose, nor indeed, I believe, is it the prime purpose of this House, to defend the Government. We are here to defend Australia, and that is a much more important thing. It seems to me that the Opposition has been committing the error of confining itself to attacks on the Government, and has not addressed its mind to ascertaining what is the best defence policy. It has been trying to score political points. This, I think, is something which is reprehensible and which the country will condemn.
I do not believe that the Government’s policy is a perfect one, but at least it has a policy, which is more than the Opposition has. We heard the last speaker, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) for example, demanding that all the weapons required by the forces be made available immediately. To-morrow we will hear the Opposition demanding that the total expenditure on defence be reduced. They cannot have it both ways.
There are two truisms which I think the House will forgive me for repeating. The first one is that the Government, and, particularly, a responsible Minister, cannot be quite frank with this House on matters of defend because what is said here is heard by the enemy. The second one concerns a matter in which the Government is, perhaps, in some degree of error. This is that the enemy is not bound by the appreciations of our general staff. The general staff appreciates in that way and this what we need to defend ourselves. But the enemy is not bound by such an appreciation, and, indeed, the situation is not static. It is affected by what we ourselves do. The things against which we guard are the things which the enemy, by that very guarding, may be deterred from doing. I know that a small country like our own cannot do everything. We cannot be strong at all points. But let us not make the error of thinking that the points at which we have no guard are the points which the enemy will not attack.
T agree with the dictum of the Minister for Defence that, in laying down any policy, one must think of the overall position. He said that, except by accident, a global war is not likely. What we have to guard against in this period are limited or fringe wars. This dictum is true because of the nature of the atomic weapon and the new factors which have come into international strategy as a result of it. Those nations which are safe under sn atomic umbrella will not be attacked in any form because they have the power of retaliation. That very power of retaliation guarantees them against attack. But there is an unfortunate corollary of this. If it is true that global war is unlikely except by accident, the corollary is that the fringes now become expendable. We cannot expect nations which, on our own correct statement, are not going to engage in global war, to expend their forces in the defence of fringe countries such as Australia. We are, in a sense, out on our own as we have never been before. These are unpleasant facts to realize, but I think the House and the country had better address their minds to them because a proper appreciation of them may be the necessary condition of national survival.
– Do you agree that the United Nations will act as a deterrent to a limited war?
– Unfortunately, I do not agree that the United Nations represents an inevitable deterrent to a limited war. It may be. But remember that, in the United Nations, the power of the veto paralyses that organization and the Security Council cannot act against the power of veto. However, I shall not go into this question in detail because I believe that it might well occupy a whole debate. We hope that the United Nations would be a deterrent but to rely on it implicitly as a deterrent is wrong.
The atomic change is one change that has come about. But there are two other changes, the existence of which I think the country had better realize, and neither of them makes pleasant thinking. The first is that no longer have we the individual superiority, man for man, which once we possessed. We said, generally correctly, during the last war, in spite of the shock of the Japanese, that one of our forces was worth ten of the enemy. That was, with the exception I have mentioned, probably true. It is true no longer. In the conventional field, numbers are now counting once more, and we have not got the numbers. Furthermore, we are not willing to make the necessary effort. Our defence expenditure, pitifully small as it is as a proportion of our national income, is even smaller than it looks because a lot of the expenditure goes in maintenance and pay. Some potential enemy countries with whose expenditure ours might be compared do not pay their soldiers. Consequently, their expenditure may seem relatively small but the effective result is much greater than the financial figures would show. That is the first thing that we have to keep in mind.
The second is that new weapons, particularly submarines - I am not thinking of atomic weapons now - have interdicted help from overseas. It is no longer possible, with the Communist submarine fleets in the Pacific, to think that massive conventional forces could come to our aid over the water - and our allies are separated from us by wide wastes of water. Our enemies, unfortunately are under no such disability. There is a virtual land bridge which leads down towards the north of Australia and is directed at our heart. So, when we are talking about the power of our allies to come to our aid with conventional forces let us remember that the submarine, as it has been developed as a weapon, virtually interdicts the sending of massive reinforcements by sea. Even in the Pacific, Russia has an immense submarine fleet.
These conditions are both unpleasant but they should not be overlooked. Let us remember that the Government, in dealing with this situation, is dealing with a much more difficult situation than has faced any preceding Australian Government. The situation is much more dangerous and much more threatening. Instead of the kind of captious criticism that we have had from the Opposition, let us consider the necessity to get together as a Parliament and thinking out an effective defence policy for Australia. I shall put one or two theses to the House and then, in the short time remaining at my disposal, I would like to lead up to one or two conclusions in regard to the present defence policy. The first is this: In this south-east Asian theatre of which we are part, we cannot hope to win with conventional forces because the balance of numbers is now too much against us. I am not saying, of course, that conventional forces are entirely useless. I am saying that we should not rely on them. Conventional forces in this area may be of use for police purposes provided that a police action could be settled without major war. For these police purposes - not a major fighting role - conventional forces still have a very real significance.
This is something which is hard, perhaps, for people who have been associated with the forces to stomach. It is hard for them to realize that we are now living in quite a new world. I fear very much the generals of the last war. I fear very much that the experience of the last war may be misleading us to-day. I think the truth of what I am going to say is obvious: There is no defence against a non-conventional attack on Australia or any other country in the world, except the deterrent effect of the possibility of non-conventional counterattacks in retaliation. If you lack that, then you are open to non-conventional attack and you cannot and should not rely on your allies using their non-conventional forces in your defence. It is futile to think that it is of any use for them to use their nonconventional forces in this limited theatre, because all that happens is that this theatre then becomes the centre of devastation and the real instigators, lying outside, are not in any way deterred. The only place where non-conventional forces can be a deterrent is against the main centres of the aggressor - another unpleasant fact which I think we had better face up to.
Let me go on to the next point - that the maintenance of adequate conventional forces may help us to grapple our allies to us in any future crisis. I have pointed out that by reason of the submarines intersecting ocean movements now, we cannot hope for massive conventional forces to come here. But at least that nagging doubt in the minds of our enemies as to whether non-conventional retaliation against them may follow an attack on Australia - that nagging doubt which we want to put in their minds - will be increased if the alliance between us and our main supporters is a strong alliance. It is only by making our contribution to that alliance that we can help to strengthen it.
The only effective fighting role of conventional forces - I mean a role in war as opposed to police action - would be in the first shock of attack directed against the Australian mainland which is by no means now an impossibility in the foreseeable future. For that, it is of great significance to have this mobile striking force in being, not for export overseas, unfortunately, but for the defence of our Australian mainland territory itself. Even in this, time may not be on our side because we may not be able to maintain air supremacy over the narrow waters to the north of Australia. It may well be that our enemies will have the opportunity of drawing upon air equipment which would give them the superiority in this area.
There is another role for our conventional forces, and that is the protection of at least some part of the Australian people in a disaster and under conditions of martial law if anything bad should happen there. The population may well need a disciplined force to supply the survivors and to keep going the inherent life of the Australian people. This is a dreadful thing to contemplate, but all war is dreadful; and it may be that the comfortable assurance we have always had that major war would be outside the Australian territory is now taken from us for ever.
On that basis - and this has been an attempt to put into a few compressed words what I should like to expand, modify and refine, because any compressed statement must only be a partial one - let us look at what we want from the Navy, the Air Force and the Army. From the Navy, 1 think we want first a submarine force. 1 am glad that the Government has turned its hand - or its mind - to this. I wish it would turn its hand to it. We cannot, perhaps, in the first stage think of nuclearpowered submarines, but at least let us start with a conventional force, and start quickly.
As for the air - and again I must say this very shortly - I am not at all certain that we need a new type of plane. If we had it now it would be good, but if we are not going to get it for two, three or four years, it may have little significance in the type of warfare which may then be emerging. I would rather see us probably relying on using our scarce resources to obtain planes which are much more modern than we have now, but which are being discarded from the conventional forces of those lucky powers which shelter under a nuclear umbrella - and they do not include us.
As for the Army, I do not think there is much significance now in big fighting forces. It is better for us to think, and the Government is wise in thinking, of a smaller mobile force. But I think that the Government is unwise in this: That in the civil defence role of the Army - which we hope will never be needed, but which could be a vital role - we may need massed forces. I am worried that national service training is being discarded at the very moment when it may have a useful role to play, because it is from our citizen forces that we look to draw the citizens who could protect and defend the survivors of the Australian people in any disaster.
.- The statement on defence now under discussion is another of the many statements which have been made in this House from time to time by various Ministers for Defence on the other side of the Parliament. As previous speakers have stated, in 1950, 1954 and 1957 the Government enthusiastically announced changes of policy in regard to defence, but the vast majority of them have been thrown overboard. To-night, therefore, we are debating again a matter which shows further changes, further indecision and the complete inability of this Government to face up to a defence policy adequate to the needs of Australia.
Therefore, I feel that we must view this constant change of front by the Government, and in criticising, as the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) a few moments ago would have us do, we cannot, with any confidence, praise the Government for its measures because we do not know whether, within a week or a year, this policy may be completely changed. The changes of policy by this Government have caused great concern not only to members on this side of the Parliament but also to the people throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I had hoped that the Government would have kept this debate on the high level on which it was set by members of the Opposition. I am su’prised, therefore, realizing the need to discuss this matter constructively, as the honorable member for Wentworth has stated-
– It was the honorable member for Mackellar.
– I want to refer to the allegations
– It was the honorable member for Mackellar who spoke. The honorable member wants to get his electorates right.
– If the honorable member would put his foghorn away, I could continue my speech. I ask you, Mr. Deputy
Speaker, to call the honorable member to order. I have a difficult enough task to convince him, without his interjections, and I can only hope that my words of wisdom will penetrate what he uses for brains.
-I had hoped that this debate would have been kept on a high plane, but the honorable members for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) and Robertson (Mr. Dean) and others on the Government side used this opportunity to make outrageous allegations against the administration of the Curtin Government in war-time. I intend to remind honorable members of the complete incompetence and inability of the Menzies Government to govern during war-time, as exemplified by its actions at that time. Everybody in this country knows that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was the only prime minister in the whole of the British Empire who was thrown out of office during war-time by his own supporters. Every one to-day knows that Mr. Coles, an independent member, voted the Menzies Government out of office, because he realized that that was the only way that this nation could survive at that critical time of our history. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who has a distinguished war record, does not believe me. Let me bring him up to date by reading from the speech of Mr. Coles, reported at page 709 of “ Hansard “ of 3rd October, 1941. Just before he cast his vote, he said -
My decision has been made in the hope that Australia may have a change from the present unsatisfactory position, either by an appeal to the electors or by the present Ministry inviting the Opposition to take over the reins of government. Australia requires responsible government that will result in throwing the whole of the resources of this country into the war effort.
– Who said that?
– Arthur Coles, the independent, who did a notable service for this country when he voted the Menzies Government into oblivion. His view was subsequently endorsed overwhelmingly by the people at an election. Let us have a look at a few other events of that time, to bring the Government up to date. I quote from the policy speech of the late John Curtin, who was recognized by all shades of political opinion as one of the greatest Prime Ministers of our time and as a man who, in the Australian Parliament, ranked with Churchill in his contribution to the salvation of the world. In his policy speech delivered on 26th July, 1943, which resulted in an overwhelming victory for Labour, he said -
The inheritance the Labour Government accepted from its predecessors was a heavy burden. Blind to the dangers in the Pacific, the Menzies and Fadden Governments hadleft Australia very much unprepared. Australia’s resources were spread over many far-flung battle fronts. The men of the three services fought with fine efficiency and made conspicuous contributions, but at home the then government had left the country almost undefended. Australia was a sector as menaced, and as hopeless, as the Philippines.
The essentials for defence to the hands of the commanders, as the result of the previous Government’s policy, were so sadly inadequate that only a limited disposition of forces could be made. But the Labour Government rejected that concept. In association with the commanders, it developed a plan to prevent this great country from being doomed. It rejected the concept that the little islands to the north of Australia would be taken, that upper Queensland and the Darwin area would be over-run by the enemy. It determined and made the necessary provision that the battle for Australia would be fought in the islands on the north, north-east and north-west of Australia and not in the environs of the peopled areas of the Commonwealth.
What a sorry commentary, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on the party of which you are a member and on members of the Liberal Party who have criticized the Australian Labour Party. Mr. Curtin then went on in his policy speech to give the strength and disposition of Australia’s forces when Labour took office. He said that of initial requirements the Army had only 20 per cent. of rifles at that time, 28 per cent. of sub-machine guns, 41 per cent. of light machine guns, 15 per cent. of anti-tank rifles, 21 per cent. of anti-tank guns, 9 per cent. of anti-aircraft guns and 56 per cent. of field guns; five Royal Australian Air Force squadrons were outside Australia, but the Air Force had no fighter aircraft and the Air Force personnel at the time to which he referred was only 44 per cent. of what it was in 1943. Australia had ten light tanks when Labour took office in 1941 . That is the tragic commentary on this Government which now chides us. In addition, Mr. Curtin said that we had no air force to oppose the enemy’s advance.I could well incorporate this policy speech in “ Hansard “ so that Government supporters would have available for their information a factual survey of the incompetence of the Liberal-Australian Country Party Government which administered the country in war-time. Mr. Curtin went on, speaking in 1943-
The Royal Australian Air Force is equipped now with the most modern bombing and fighter aircraft - a contrast to the days when Wirraways tackled Zeros.
In those days, Australians died because of the incompetence of this Government. Mr. Curtin went on to remind the people at that time that Labour intimated as early as 1937 that an air force was necessary. His speech is there for all to see, but it was ridiculed by members of the Government parties. However, we came to regret that notice was not taken of his words by the government of the day. I quote those few extracts from the speech of a great Australian to show how a government of the political ilk of this Government failed the country in a a time of need.
Let us look at a few other matters of interest that occurred at this time. I have in mind the honorable member for Mackellar, who has just resumed his seat. When all is said and done, he did wreck Cronulla and was cashiered out of the Army for doing so. At the same time, though he gave a practical demonstration of the lack of ability of the Menzies Government, because, although that Government said it could not be taken, he took it by himself. I shall give also some other facts that arise from this time when the Menzies Government was in office. Mr. Coles and Mr. Wilson of the Australian Country Party voted the Menzies-Fadden Government out of office because they were not satisfied with its capacity to wage a 100 per cent, war effort. I heard the honorable member for McPherson criticize the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for something he said in 1936. A booklet I have in my hand says this -
Although Mr. Menzies visited Europe in 1938 and was there six months after Munich and must have known war was inevitable, he returned to Australia and did nothing about it.
In 1941 Mr. Menzies instigated the closing of the Burma-road to appease Japan. When the
Japanese struck at Rabaul there were only 1,100 A.I.F. and 400 Militia there and their total equipment was two 6-in. batteries.
Under Menzies a Home Guard of 500 was formed at Canberra; they had 25 rifles.
Furthermore, at a secret meeting of the Federal Parliament, the Prime Minister protested against the Labour Government’s decision to bring the Sixth and Seventh Divisions of the Australian Imperial Forces back from the Middle East. He wanted the Seventh Division to go to Burma. He was backed by all his party and by the Australian Country Party in his objection to bringing back Australian divisions to defend this country against the Japanese, who had by that time occupied northern New Guinea. That is a sorry commentary. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a former member of Her Majesty’s forces, know how incompetent and incapable this Government was at the time to which I have referred. Its incompetence is shown by the statements to which I have referred. When Labour took office, 600 miles of the coastline of northern Queensland were protected by a Home Guard which had only 2,000 rifles - three rifles for every mile. What a great way that was to defend 12,000 miles of coastline! We must remember that this Government was in office for almost every year since federation. According to a report in the “Daily Telegraph” of 18th July, 1941, when Australia was seriously menaced by the enemy, Mr. Hutchinson, a member of the United Australia Party in Victoria, said -
The vigorous war policy expected of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has not materialised. Any drift in war measures cannot be tolerated as, for example, the deplorable position that has been allowed to develop regarding petrol supplies.
At that time we had only a smear of petrol in Australia, according to Mr. Beasley, who was then the Minister for Supply and Development, because this Government had failed to provide adequate supplies. At that time, Mr. McCall was a member of the Parliament, but I have since had the privilege of defeating him. However, I have to agree with some of his comments, and this is one of them -
The war effort (of Mr. Menzies) may be aptly described as a series of jolts forward and jerks backward. That has gone on for two years and there is no sign of improvement.
Arising out of the remarkable war effort of the Government, the present honorable member for Mackellar gave this commentary in 1943 on the contribution of the Liberal Party to defence -
Mr. Menzies can neither call nor command as a leader. Under his leadership the party broke up and yet he refuses to co-operate under the leadership of anybody else.
In these circumstances the greatest national service he can render the party and Australia would be to quit politics.
Those of us who stand for a more vigorous policy are anxious that Mr. Menzies’ inevitable failures should not block the path of future progress.
That comment of the honorable member for Mackellar was printed on 13th April, 1943, in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, the organ of which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is the darling. I can well understand why the Treasurer is interjecting; he was amongst the incompetents who ran the country in time of war. The party of which he is a member remained in office until the people realized that it had to be voted out. Is it any wonder that Mr. Coles and Mr. Wilson crossed the floor of the House and did a national service and saved this country - if we speak in practical terms - by voting in a Labour administration led by Mr. Curtin, which was subsequently able to get assistance from our great allies across the world and at the same time undertake a war effort in this country which saved Australia. When we speak of these things, we should recall the words of men in other days who realized that they were elected to implement an effective defence policy. It is no wonder to us that members of the Government change their minds. Since they assumed office they have pursued the same policies they advocated when they were in office previously.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) referred to the fact that half a dozen Ministers are dealing with 77,000 or 78,000 men, with their departments overstaffed; and now the Government has suddenly decided to sack a lot of men in the forces, all of which could have been avoided under a constructive policy over the years. Is it not tragic that with the expenditure of over f 1,700,000,000 on defence, this country to-day is practically defenceless, as Sir Frederick Shedden declared a few years ago? Debates in this House from time to time have shown that this country is de fenceless. In the last ten years, expenditure by all departments on defence has amounted to over £1,700,000,000, including £415,000,000 on the Navy, £698,000,000 on the Army and £509,000,000 on the Air Force, with £146,000,000 spent by the Department of Supply and £7,000,000 expended on miscellaneous defence purposes. Defence expenditure has run at £200,000,000 per annum with practically nothing to show for it.
The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), mentioned earlier that £143,000,000 had been spent on the national service training scheme. On two or three occasions in this Parliament prior to the ending of that scheme, I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) whether it was true that the Government intended to abandon it and they denied categorically in this House that such was the case. But almost within a week it was abandoned - after the Government had poured £143,000,000 of defence money down the sink. That shows that the Government does not know where it is going; and we do not know whether the policy it presents to-night will be followed a week afterwards.
The Labour Party believes in adequate defence and believes that this country should be adequately protected; and in wartime it gave practical evidence of that belief. But since the present Government came into office we have criticized not so much the amount of money that has been spent as the general waste in the administration of government departments, in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. More than a fortune was spent on the transfer of the naval college to Jervis Bay not long ago. The Minister for the Army ordered 50-ton tanks and the people know that they are not as mobile as we would want them to be. We know that modern equipment has not been pu-chased for the Air Force, and that the Navy is not efficient at the present time not because of the people in it but because of the Administration. Therefore, is it any wonder that we criticize the Government in respect of defence? The people of Australia should be awakened to the facts.
Too much is being spent on administration compared with expenditure on equipment which is necessary. Figures produced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) show that more is being spent, overall, on administration and general upkeep than on equipment necessary to maintain the three Services in the field. Yet the Government does nothing about that fact; it merely announces a change of policy. Even though a few years ago our present resident Minister in London announced that there would be war - he always wanted war - within two or three years, we find the Government doing nothing to speed up the defence programme. Throughout the period of office of the present Government the defence vote has been £200,000,000 every year. I would like the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to tell us how the Government arrived at that figure. Is it not remarkable that in each of the last ten years the defence vote has been exactly £200,000,000? Why should it not be £187,000,000 one year, or £198,000,000, or £178,000,000? How did the Government arrive at exactly £200,000,000 for ten consecutive years if it knew changes would be necessary in respect of its administration? I should say the Government did it by a process of imagination, and if any inquiry is needed in this country it is an inquiry into the Government’s spending of that £1,700,000,000 on defence since it came to office. We find what ought to be done in regard to expenditure exemplified in the following statement published in the “Daily Mirror” of 20th August last -
If war and the national policy on defence were merely the trappings of comic opera, we could afford to treat the Federal Government’s performance in this sphere with the derisive shoulder shrugging it so richly deserves. But the hard fact is that this miserable mouse of military preparedness has struggled forth from the mountain of government paper effort at a cost of over £1,500,000 during the past ten years.
We can go right through the Government’s sorry record and see similar statements made by newspapers of practically every political colour in this country. We find the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who is never short of a few comments, saying in an interview -
Liberal back-benchers will press for more positive activity on defence. There are many people in the Liberal Party who are quite sincere in their desire to get something done. They are determined to get a policy directed to effective defence.
We know that these comments are made in many places, but in Parliament, as one of my colleagues said one night, when the great white master waves his wand honorable members opposite fall into line and vote for any kind of defence policy. Let me say again that I regret that this debate was reduced to a very low level by the introduction of comments such as those made by the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes) and others, which I have done my best to answer truthfully and well.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Indeed I do, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) referred to an incident which took place at Cronulla some eighteen years ago - an incident in which I still take considerable pride - and asserted that it took place under the Menzies Government and therefore showed up the military ineffectiveness of that Government. That incident took place under the Curtin Government.
.- It is comparatively simple to consult any volume of “ Hansard “ and look under the appropriate headings, since these matters are all indexed, and find statements made by various Ministers or members many years ago and then quote them in this House. I do not object to that, because I think it right and proper that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) should make a few quotations. I have a few quotations from “ Hansard “ which might be of great interest to him in view of what he said. In 1938, Mr. Holloway, who became a distinguished member of the Curtin Government, said -
The Government is expending much too rapidly on defence. It is making plans for more than the adequate defence of Australia.
In 1938, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) - who also became a distinguished member of a Labour Ministry - said -
I would not spend threepence on armament works or on defence works of any kind in Australia.
That was in 1938. Then we come to October, 1941. In the Sydney Town Hall the Labour Prime Minister, 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 foundations they have laid.
On 18th November, 1941, Mr. Curtin said -
When I came into office 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. The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased, both in respect of home defence squadrons and the training resources of the Empire Air Scheme.
May I say at this stage, Mr. Speaker, that if the Menzies Government had done nothing else prior to 1941 but institute the Empire Air Scheme, it would have done more to win the 1939-45 war than was done by any other factor in the planning of the war. Mr. Curtin went on to say -
The equipment of the Air Force had also been much improved. Finally, munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly.
On 28th May, 1941, as reported in “ Hansard “, volume 167, at page 25, Mr. Curtin said -
I claim that the war has been prosecuted to the maximum of Australia’s capacity.
When a colleague mentioned one of these statements the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) interjected and said, “ You know why he said that. He did not want to let the enemy know there was nothing here.” I think it should be obvious, even to the honorable member for East Sydney, that Mr. Curtin could have said nothing at all on the subject, either in the Sydney Town Hall or in this House. The difference between Mr. Curtin and the honorable member for East Sydney is that Mr. Curtin was an honest man.
The second speaker on the Opposition side was the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen).
– What did Curtin say in 1943?
– I am not going to devote my time in this short debate to an argument with somebody on the other side whose opinions I do not value. The honorable member for Parkes said, as reported at page 806 of “ Hansard “ of 31st March, 1960-
We on this side of the House argue as laymen, not as military experts.
I think that, as the debate has gone on, the truth of that statement has been conclusively proved. Now I want to make some reference to a speech, the report of which I read in “ Hansard “ with great interest, but which I was not present in the House to hear. In that speech the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), after telling the House that he spoke subject to correction, said -
I do think the senior officers - down to the rank of brigadier, anyhow, in the C.M.F. could have been consulted before the final decision was taken and the re-organization went into operation.
As far as I know that is exactly what did happen. Prior to this statement being presented to the House, prior to its being promulgated throughout the Army, the senior officers of the C.M.F., including the brigadiers and the three major-generals, were called together by the Chief of the General Staff. They attended a conference for three days in order to discuss the whole plan. At that conference every opportunity was given to these officers to discuss the project, to say what they thought of it, to criticize it as much as they wanted. I believe that at the conclusion of that exercise they went away firmly believing that the plan, as presented toy the Government after consultation with its advisers, would work to the great advantage of Australia’s defences.
I cannot speak for any State except my own, which, as I said previously, has the 13th Infantry Brigade. That formation tecently staged a tactical exercise without troops - which ex-servicemen know as a “ tewt “ - which lasted for two days. It was well conducted. At that exercise there were 130 officers of the C.M.F. At the conclusion of the exercise the whole theory of this plan was explained to them, and they were free to vote as they felt inclined. When the vote was taken to see what they thought of this plan which has been outlined to the House. 80 per cent. of the 1 30 officers said that the plan was vastly superior to any that they had worked under in the past, 20 per cent, said it was considerably better, and not one said that it was inferior.
That brings me back to the statement made by the honorable member for Parkes that we criticize this plan as laymen. That does net apply on one side of the House alone. Anybody who reads the report of this debate and sees what has been said on both sides of the House by various people who have taken an interest in defence, and have put forward their theories, will realize that it would be impossible to have a system of defence that would incorporate all their ideas. Somebody has to make the decisions in these matters. I ‘believe that the decision that the Government has made has given us, for the first time, the type of defence we need to deal with the kind of conditions we might meet. It has given us the type of defence forces we need.
The problem with this debate is that it may in the end have the effect of nullifying the good that could come from all the work put into the preparation of this defence statement. The criticism that has been levelled at it from both sides of the House, may serve to break down the confidence of the officers of the Regular Army and of the C.M.F. in the plan as envisaged. Not only that, but the parents of boys asked to enlist, and the parents of others who are already members of the Regular Army and the C.M.F. may, as the result of all the criticism which has been levelled, believe that their sons are taking part in something which is not worthwhile. I think the Parliament owes a duty to this country to support this plan in its entirety, and to see that it works to the best advantage of Australia.
The Minister for Defence talked about recruiting for the C.M.F. He said that measures had been taken to see that recruits were attracted to the services, and that two methods were envisaged. First, the Government had approved of increases in pay for the C.M.F. to bring its pay rates in line with the increased rates of pay and allowances recently granted to the regular forces. I do not believe that pay rates will be a deciding factor in whether or not a man volunteers to serve in the militia. I believe that those who volunteer for the militia are driven to do so by some idealistic motive, anr1 are prepared to serve without any regard for the scale of payments and allowances. They probably do not find out what the pay is until they have enlisted and become members of a unit. The second method of attracting recruits was to give certain trainees full pay for the period of their annual continuous training and also for the period of one school class. I think that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) has covered one aspect of that rather well.
The point I want to make is that I think that in order to attract recruits and retain people who have already enlisted the Government should implement a system providing that C.M.F. pay be not taxable. Men who join the C.M.F. give up quite a lot by doing so and thereby performing their duty for this country. At week-ends, when they are engaged in C.M.F. activities, they cannot take part in the normal sporting activities of people in their age group. If they are married they are separated from their families at week-ends and during camp periods. I think it is wrong for the Government to say that the small amount of pay that these men receive for C.M.F. training shall be treated as income for taxation purposes. The inclusion of this pay as income brings men into a higher income bracket, and sometimes the result is that a man pays more in extra tax than he receives in pay from the C.M.F. So he suffers financially through serving his country in time of peace. I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to providing that C.M.F. pay will no longer be taxable.
The Minister, in his statement, as reported at page 830 of “ Hansard “, talked about the traditions of units that are now to be re-organized into various groups. He said -
The traditions of the C.M.F. battalions will be preserved, because the new regiments will inherit all the battle honours of the old C.M.F. battalions. Moreover, the titles of those battalions and the battle honours they have won will appear for all time in the Australian Army list … As an example of how this may be effected, and I stress that this is only a proposal at present, it has been recommended that the 11/44 Infantry Battalion, City of Perth Regiment, become the 11 City of Perth Company of the 1st Battalion, the Royal West Australian Regiment. The numerical designation, 44, of the original regiment is still being considered for one of the other companies of the battalion.
I hope that considerable thought will be given to this matter because, to me, it is a most important factor in the whole scheme. Most of the Australian battalions which are at present serving as militia battalions have records over two world wars equal to those of any battalion in the British Commonwealth, and it would be a great pity if any of their battle honours were lost or put away in this new set-up which, I believe, is in the best interests of Australia. Every effort should be made to display their colours on ceremonial parades. No unit’s colours should be put into mothballs unless this can be avoided.
I wish to comment on that section of the report which deals with the re-equipping of the Royal Australian Air Force. There has been considerable criticism of the Government because it originally intended to equip the Air Force with F.104 fighters. I believe that the then Minister for Defence, Sir Philip McBride, was wise in going to America to investigate the capabilities of this particular aircraft. On his return he advised the Government that he did not think it was in the best interests of the Air Force, or of Australia, to proceed with the arrangements that had been made to purchase these aircraft. I doubt whether at that time there was an airfield in Australia capable of taking the F.104. Let me mention three important points: First, the tyre pressure of these aircraft is about 350 lb. to the square inch; secondly, their approach speed is about 200 miles an hour, and thirdly, their landing speed is about 164 miles an hour. Even with the special airfields which have been constructed in America, the aircraft need a parachute attachment at the back to enable them to pull up within the length of the runway. If you consider the sphere of operations in which we are likely to be engaged, I cannot see that having an aircraft of that kind will be of any great advantage to us.
We have to remember the magnificent work that has been done by the Sabres and the Canberras. Although the Sabre has been criticized as being an obsolete aircraft, it is well to remember that the Sabre - of a type not superior to the Avon Sabre - is the only aircraft to be pitted against the Russian M.I.G. 15’s - I think they were 15’s - which has acquitted itself very creditably over Quemoy and Matsu, having shot down about 80 per cent, of the attacking M.I.G.’s. It is useless to talk about obsolete aircraft unless you know the kind of engagement you will be carrying on. The Wirraway certainly was obsolete in 1941 in the role of a fighter aircraft, although in those days it was believed to be superior to anything that the Japanese possessed. I can remember going to aircraft recognition lectures and being told that the Wirraway could out-gun, out-climb and out-manoeuvre any Japanese fighter. That belief was not dispelled until war with Japan broke out on 7th December, 1941. However, any person who served in New Guinea will pay tribute to the Wirraway for its performance as an Army cooperation aircraft. The Meteors and the Mustangs were obsolete when the Korean war broke out, but they were the most useful aircraft to be taken to Korea because of their close support for ground troops, and for their work at low level for which the Americans had no comparable aircraft.
– The Wirraways were not very useful to the men who were shot down in them over Darwin.
– I think you will find that a greater number were shot down over Rabaul than over Darwin. That brings me to the point that in planning any defence force the most important arm is the intelligence section because, without a competent intelligence section to give you some idea of what you will be pitted against, you can never prepare for and have the necessary weapons ready to meet an attack by an aggressor. The whole blame for the misleading statements which were made about the capabilities of the Wirraways must rest with the intelligence section of the day which believed that the Wirraway could out-fight and out-gun any aircraft which the Japanese could put into the air.
When we talk of expenditure on defence we should consider the cost of aircraft. I think that the FI 04 fighters cost somewhere about £1,000,000 each. No one can criticize the Government for purchasing the Hercules transports and the Neptune antisubmarine patrol aircraft. The Government must be complimented for its great foresight. The Hercules transports are essential if we are to have the complete mobility which we talk about, and if we are to build up an army which can be transported from place to place.
I think that occasionally the Minister for Defence should be authorized to put into practice manoeuvres to counter an attack of the kind that might be launched against us in the future. If the Government decides to have a military exercise in North Queensland, the Minister should not issue instructions or make a request that the exercise take place in six months time. He should have the power suddenly to order the armed forces to co-operate and land a force 2,000 miles away. If the operation takes three weeks instead of three hours or five hours, we should find out why because it is too late, in a state of emergency, to correct your mistakes. We must learn about our mistakes and correct them before the emergency arises. At present, exercises are conducted with the peace-time idea that time does not matter and that mistakes can be corrected. As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has pointed out, in 1960 you make only one mistake - your last.
I should like to comment on a statement which has been made by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) to the effect that very shortly a mission will proceed overseas to investigate this matter of fighters. If we are to buy 20 fighters at a cost of about £30,000,000, I do not think it a waste of money to send a mission overseas at a cost of a few thousand pounds. It is money well spent so long as the decision which is arrived at finally proves to be the right one. The mission will comprise the Air Officer Commanding Operational Command, two Air Force officers and Mr. Fleming of the Department of Supply. As we are so vitally interested, the mission should also include members of the Parliament. Unless we in this Parliament are represented at some level, we shall know less and less of the matters about which we have to make decisions.
Two or three years ago when the present Chief of the General Staff was General Officer Commanding, Western Command, the theory was going around that you never had to worry about Australians because they were born soldiers. He made the statement that there is no such thing as a born soldier. Everybody has to be trained and disciplined, and unless you have the material with which to train them and the officers to lead them, you have no hope of making any bunch of men into anything more than a rabble.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
- Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has said that the statement which I made in this House, to the effect that the C.M.F. brigadiers were not consulted before certain action was taken, is entirely wrong. All I can say is that the source of my intelligence was such that I still believe what I said to be true. I do not doubt that the honorable member for Perth may be correct. I do not believe that people on either side are telling untruths, but it would appear that the times at which conferences took place are very different. Without doubting that the conference to which the honorable member has referred may have been held either before the re-organization or before the policy was decided upon, I still believe that what I said was true, having regard to the source of my intelligence.
– Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr. Chaney. - Yes, I have been misrepresented again now. I did not say that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was entirely wrong. 1 said that he asked for his own words to be corrected in “ Hansard “, and I said that if my own information was correct, this was what I believed him to be doing.
Question resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.20 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: -
4 to 7. It is normal practice for the Presiding Officers and the Prime Minister to agree upon an invitation list which includes senators and members of Parliament, heads and deputy heads of diplomatic missions in Australia, representatives of the various political parties, representative citizens, senior government officials and members of the press gallery. It is also the normal practice for an invitation to be extended to the wife of an invitee.
A function of this kind is usually held in connexion with the opening of Parliament. In the past it has been considered by both sides of the House to be appropriate and the cost has not been excessive.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the Honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
A scholar’s own income is taken into consideration after assessing his living allowance on the adjusted family income. The living allowance assessed on the adjusted family income is reduced by the amount by which the scholar’s income from all sources (including other awards but excluding income from employment during the long vacation) exceeds £2 per week.
In 1956 the maximum living allowances were £169 per annum for students living with parents and £240 10s. per annum for those living away from parents. These amounts were raised to £195 and £299 at the beginning of 1958 and to the present rates of £221 and £338 respectively from 1st January, 1959. The adjusted family income on which maximum allowances were payable was £600 in1956. It was increased to £650 for 1958, to £675 for 1959 and to £720 for 1960. In calculating the adjusted family income the deductions allowed in 1956 for dependent children were £100 for the first and £50 for each other. In 1959 these amounts were raised to £150 and £75 respectively. The rate at which the maximum allowances were reduced in 1956 was £3 for every £10 by which the adjusted family income exceeded £600. In 1959 the rate of abatement was altered to £2 for every £10 of the adjusted family income between £675 and £1,350 and £3 for every £10 in excess of £1,350. For 1960 the abatement rate is £2 for every £10 of the adjusted family income between £720 and £1,440 and £3 for every £10 in excess of £1,440.
Changes have also been made in respect of the way in which income received by the student is taken into consideration. In 1956 a student’s living allowance was reduced by the amount by which his income during term and short vacation exceeded £1 10s. per week. The corresponding amount in the long vacation was £4 10s. per week. From 1957 a scholar’s income from employment during the long vacation has been disregarded in applying the means test and from the beginning of 1958 the amount he might receive from other sources has been £2 per week.
However, in order to overcome the administrative difficulty in awarding the full number of 3,000 scholarships the Commonwealth Scholarships Board authorizes each State to make such number of initial offers as will ensure that its quota of places will be filled. The number of offers is based on the numbers who declined awards in pre vious years and although the procedure has many advantages it has resulted in variations between quotas as determined on a population basis and the actual number of scholarships accepted. The number of offers of scholarships accepted in each State in the period 1956-59 has been -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information requested by the honorable member is set out in the following table. Item numbers given refer to the numbers shown in the paper “ National Income and Expenditure, 1958- 59 “. Definitions of each item are set out in Appendix D of that document. Figures shown in brackets are not exactly comparable with those for more recent years.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice - Will he supply an answer to the following question which 1 placed on the notice paper on 30th September, 1959: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Yes. The Common Cold Research Unit of the Medical Research Council of Great Britain has recently succeeded in identifying and cultivating certain viruses derived from human patients suffering from common colds. It may be hoped that the discovery will lead to identification of the cause of the common cold. However, the workers themselves plead for caution in assessing the importance of their discovery, insisting that it is still to be proved that their viruses do in fact cause the common cold. Meantime it will now be possible for the first time to conduct experiments on volunteers to test the pathogenicity of particular viruses demonstrably associated with and reasonably suspected of being causes of the common cold.
s asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee consists of an officer, with pharmaceutical qualifications, of the Commonwealth Department of Health, four medical practitioners appointed from six medical practitioners nominated by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia, a pharmaceutical chemist appointed from among three pharmaceutical chemists nominated by the Federated
Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia, and a pharmacologist. The present committee was appointed on 13th April, 1954.
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The wife of a person who is in receipt of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman’s pension would not be a pensioner as defined in the National Health Act, nor would she be a dependant of such a pensioner, and therefore would not be eligible for the benefits of the Pensioner Medical Service.
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What are the details, including prices, of orders placed in Japan for rolling stock required by Commonwealth Railways?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Commonwealth Railways has placed an order with the Kinki Sharyo Company Limited of Japan for the supply of four second-class sleeping cars, two second-class lounge-sleeping cars, four composite brake and crew vans, and two power vans, together with essential spare parts. Air spring suspension bogies for two of the cars are also being obtained for testing purposes with a view to ultimate manufacture of this type of bogie in Australia. The total cost will be £344,524 (Australian).
z asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
e. - On 15th March the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) asked the Minister for Trade without notice a question concerning the provisions of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. I now supply the following answer furnished by the honorable the Minister for Customs and Excise: -
The comments of the Tariff Board in its last annual report on the deficiencies of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act have already formed the subject of close analysis by officers of the Department of Customs and Excise. Critical examination of the existing legislation is being made and the question is presently under discussion with the Department of Trade and the Tariff Board. Although the act does lack provisions to enable it to be invoked in certain circumstances these up to date have only occurred infrequently. In order to provide for these circumstances and to abide by our international obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade it has been found necessary, however to review the complete legislation rather than attempt piecemeal amendment. The present act has been on the statute-books since the early 20’s and is sufficiently adequate to cover the majority of dumping cases. Pending the introduction of amending legislation it is not anticipated therefore that, should imports increase, any particular difficulty will be experienced in providing protection to Australian industry in those cases of proven unfair trading practices.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 April 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600405_reps_23_hor26/>.