26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator COHEN - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. I am informed that on the 10.30 news broadcast this morning there was a report that another Fill aircraft had crashed on a training flight in Nevada. Naturally this is a matter of serious concern to all honourable senators and I ask the Minister whether he has any information about it. If he has not, will he make the information available immediately it comes to him?
Senator McKELLAR - I did not hear the news item but I happened to be listening to question time in the other place and I heard the Minister for Defence reply to a similar question. The substance of the reply was that a plane of the type mentioned had crashed in Nevada on a training flight. According to the Minister, this will have no bearing on the delivery date of these planes to Australia. I shall obtain for the honourable senator any further particulars that are available. I remind the Senate that the Minister for Defence, in the statement he made to the Parliament a few days ago, mentioned the excellence of this aircraft and reiterated and emphasised that we would not be taking delivery until very stringent tests had been carried out. I remind honourable senators also that the United States of America has far more at stake with these planes than we have. Surely it is only reasonable to believe that the United States will not make them available until any defects that have shown themselves have been rectified.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. If, as ministerial statements indicate, the result of our oil discoveries will be an increase of perhaps 2c a gallon in the price of petrol and that the real advantages of the discoveries will be general such as, for example, in our balance of payments and as a step towards self-sufficiency in oil, where is the justice in making the motorist alone pay for what is to be of advantage to the whole community?
– The Government has taken various steps to encourage the search for oil in Australia. It has given taxation concessions to people investing in companies engaged in the search for oil. To increase the impetus of the search for oil, the Government announced about 3 years ago that the price paid by oil companies for oil produced from Australian wells would be raised to 75c a barrel of 35 gallons above the price of imported oil. As a result of this we now find that we have in Australia enough oil to supply 70% of our requirements after 1971. This is largely as a result of the Government’s action. At the time when the legislation was introduced, nobody in the Senate objected on the ground that the motorist would have to bear the whole of the cost. The Government is currently examining the position because the present arrangement will expire in 1970. When these deliberations have been concluded, the Senate will be informed.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether his attention has been drawn to the leading article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on Tuesday last which stated that special censorship criteria were being applied to films being imported for screening at the Melbourne and Sydney film festivals due to start shortly. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the leading article in the ‘Age’ is substantially correct and, if so, why these criteria are not being applied to films being imported for the Adelaide Film Festival which is under the patronage of the Adelaide Festival of Arts and which starts next Monday? Is Australia a member of the International Federation of Film Producers? If not, why should the Commonwealth Government be influenced by its policies and activities? I should like also to draw the Minister’s attention to the disabilities inflicted on people in Adelaide who wish to lodge appeals against censorship decisions arrived at in Sydney and to ask whether urgent consideration can be given to the setting up of censorship facilities for 35-millimetre films in each of the capital cities.
– As to the first part of the honourable senator’s question, I have been approached by the film festival boards of Melbourne and Sydney asking that special consideration be given in connection with the films to be shown at the respective festivals. The answer I gave in writing to one of these boards was that I would give special consideration to the films provided they were shown only once and provided also that they did not contain any indecent scenes. These are to be the criteria that we shall use in relation to the films coming to Australia for the festival as against the ordinary criteria used with relation to films for public viewing. We have had no application from the Film Festival Board of Adelaide. I should say, therefore, that the matter has just gone through the normal channels. If we had received an application from the Adelaide Film Festival Board we would have given it the same consideration as we have given the other requests.
The honourable senator also asked about appeals. I cannot answer that question at the moment, but I can say that we have a Film Censorship Board established in Sydney. The honourable senator asked whether we could establish a board in each State. I believe this to be uneconomical. The present Board is comprised of eight members, all of whom live in and around Sydney. They have been selected because of their ability to ensure that films coming to Australia are decent and suitable for public screening. The honourable senator also asked whether Australia is a member of the International Federation of Film Producers. I shall have to obtain that information for him and I shall supply a written answer to his question.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. On 28th March I asked a question concerning the Developing Countries Protocol to the Berne Convention. Further to that, I now ask: Why was not the Australian Society of Authors consulted before civil servants and diplomats drew up the document giving up our authors’ ‘hard earned rights?
– It is true that on 28th March Senator Turnbull asked me a question about this matter. It is equally true that I obtained for him a very comprehensive answer providing background details of the matter. At the moment I am not in a position to give a further reply to the new aspect that he has raised, but as soon as I am able to do so I will provide the information.
– I ask the Minister for Supply a question. I understand that dismissal notices have been issued or are about to be issued to 110 employees of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd and the Government Aircraft Factories, Victoria. Will the Minister say whether the Corporation has reached agreement with the trade unions representing the employees in respect of pro rata long service leave payments to employees with less than 10 years service? If not, will the Minister consider making pro rata long service leave payments to all employees dismissed by reason of redundancy?
– lt is true that yesterday I issued a Press statement in which I indicated that 111 employees of Government Aircraft Factories would be stood down. The number now is 110. This is an indication of the degree of change that occurs in problems of this kind. These dismissals arise from the fact that the Mirage programme is nearing completion. That programme required a buildup of personnel to get it under way and as we complete the programme towards the end of the year employees will be stood down. I make it clear that this is a situation that arises in the aircraft industry all over the world. Unless you have a follow up programme of production you get peaks and troughs in the employment situation.
The honourable senator asked me a direct question about terms of service. I think I should answer that question in some detail. Personnel will get at least 4 weeks’ notice that their tenure of employment is limited and not less than 3 weeks after this advice has been received they will receive 1 week’s notice of the date on which they will be retrenched. Action is proceeding progressively to advise 84 wage employees and 26 temporary salaried staff that they are becoming redundant. This number includes 7 wage employees from Avalon. Final payment to these people will include all annual leave entitlements, including accrued and pro rata leave. Possibilities of alternative employment in other Department of Supply undertakings and other places, such as the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, are being kept under close surveillance. Twenty people not included in the figures I have given have already been placed with the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. The Department of Labour and National Service has agreed to make the services of employment officers available at the factory. In the case of salaried staff the Public Service of Victoria is being advised. Severance pay, as such - this goes to the heart of the question - is not applicable to Commonwealth employees. However, if any personnel with 8 years’ or more Commonwealth service are among those retrenched, they will be eligible for an additional lump sum payment in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Was the agreement entered into between the United Kingdom and America for the purchase of Fill aircraft negotiated on the basis of a fixed price? If so, will the Minister say why the agreement which Australia entered into with America was so markedly different from that entered into by the United Kingdom?
– To the best of my knowledge, when Australia agreed to purchase these aircraft from America there was no idea of the ultimate cost. I believe that the order was placed on the understanding that Australia would be a participant in the cost of producing the aircraft. The aircraft was of such a revolutionary character and so modern that it was not possible to assess the eventual cost of it. That is the only information that I can give the honourable senator. If he wishes me to get any additional information I shall be quite happy to try to get it for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. How are relations between his Department and the organisers of the impending Sydney Film Festival? Are any film entries in the festival held up pending censorship scrutiny?
– The relationship between the Film Censorship Board and my Department is quite amicable. I cannot say whether any films for the film festival are being held up at the moment but I shall make inquiries and let the honourable senator know.
(Senator Benn having addressed a question to the President) -
– I have no intention at all of answering that question.
– I rise to order. I think that this question should be expunged from the record.
– The question having been disallowed by me, it will not appear in Hansard.
– And it will not be broadcast.
– It cannot be broadcast. It has not been allowed.
– I take another point of order. I think that this was a disgraceful question and the least that the senator who asked it can do is to apologise not only to the senator concerned but to all members of the Senate.
– What does the Acting Leader of the Opposition have to say?
– You, Mr President, have disallowed the question and made a consequential order and I do not propose to say anything further about the matter.
– The statement was made over the air and I consider that the senator who made it should apologise to Senator Cormack.
– Senator Benn, I suggest that you reconsider your question. I do trust that you will see fit to withdraw it.
– In the interests of the decorum of the Senate I have no intention of withdrawing it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. On the 2nd May I asked the Minister a question in regard to the FI IIA aircraft which he failed to answer as, he stated, that information would be given in the statement made by the Minister for Defence. As this information was not given in that statement I now ask again: How much has Australia paid up to date towards the FI IIA aircraft? When is the next payment due and how much will it be?
– The answer to the first question is $A77.136m to 15th April 1968. The answer to the second question is that payments are made monthly. The next payment is due on 15th May 1968 and it will amount to $A8.904m.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. I preface my question by saying that I regret that this matter slipped my mind yesterday whilst we were debating a Bill. I ask: In order to complete the record of Commonwealth grants for science laboratories will the Minister obtain details of the payments made for this purpose to State and independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory since such payments do not come within the ambit of State grants?
– I shall certainly be pleased to obtain that information for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air and relates to his replies to questions about the FI 1 1 aircraft. I ask: In view of the announcements that he has made and that the Minister for Air has made in the other place about reservations in regard to the operation of these aircraft in Australia, will the Government now consider renegotiating the arrangement that was made regarding the cost of the aircraft because of their failure to meet the requirements of the Australian defence forces?
– Firstly, I strongly disagree with the honourable senator’s reference to the failure of the aircraft. Admittedly 4 or 5 of these aircraft have crashed but they have not been in operation in Australia. The Minister for Defence has stated that there will be rigid tests before they are introduced operationally here. I think that answers part of the honourable senator’s question. The other aspect of his question should be directed to the Minister for Supply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister administering tourism. Will he give consideration to approaching Qantas Airways Ltd and Air New Zealand Ltd with a view to those airlines making real efforts to institute direct air services between Christchurch and Tasmanian airports during the next tourist season?
– The honourable senator’s question happens to coincide with active interest that is being taken at the present time by Air New Zealand in instituting an air service from Christchurch to Adelaide via Hobart. I think that is a matter that the South Australian mission would have discussed in New Zealand during the recent visit to which I referred in an answer to a question about a week ago.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. I ask: At what stage can a senator invoke standing order 418? Does this have to be done immediately the objection is to be taken?
– I propose to take immediate action under this standing order. Senator Benn, your remarks and reflections on Senator Cormack were offensive and I ask you to withdraw them.
– Mr President, again I refuse to withdraw them in the interests of the decorum of the Senate.
– I name Senator Benn. (Senator Benn having left the chamber) -
– Mr President, I draw attention to the fact that under the Standing Orders Senator Benn is entitled to be asked to make an explanation or apology before I move for his suspension. Senator Benn has retired from the chamber. You may consider it proper, Mr President, to bring him back so that the matter can be brought to finality.
– Black Rod, I order you to bring Senator Benn back to the chamber. (Senator Benn having returned to the chamber) -
– Mr President, pursuant to your ruling in relation to Senator Benn and in accordance with standing order 440 I now call upon Senator Benn to make such explanation or apology as he may think fit concerning his offence in contravening your order.
– Senator Benn, do you wish to reply?
– No, Sir. I adhere to my previous decision.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That Senator Benn be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
– Senator Benn, you are suspended from the Senate for the remainder of the sitting.
– I thank you, Mr President. (Senator Benn thereupon withdrew from the chamber.)
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and refers to Chowilla Dam. In view of the continual disquiet in South Australia about the Chowilla Dam and having regard to the recent representations made to the Prime Minister by Mr Hall, the Premier of South Australia, the results of which have not been made known to the Senate, and the fact that Mr Hall is continuing to discuss this matter with the Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales, can the Minister give us any information about the kind of negotiations that were carried on with the Prime Minister? If he cannot do so at the present time, will he inform the Senate as quickly as possible of the position if it is different from that to which he referred in his previous replies?
– I understand that there is quite a lot of disquiet in South Australia in relation to the Chowilla Dam. I also understand that the Premier of South Australia has been in Canberra. Whether he discussed the Chowilla Dam with the Prime Minister, I am not aware. I will obtain the information that the honourable senator seeks and will advise him.
– Yesterday Sena tor Cavanagh asked me the following question:
Did the civilian employees of the naval dockyard at Garden Island go on strike yesterday? Did the civilian employees of the Williamstown dockyard go on strike this morning? Was strike action taken because of reclassifications of positions, with a consequential reduction in wages, and as a protest against the Naval Defence Bill now before the Senate?
I have obtained for the honourable senator a statement dated yesterday, 8th May, which sets out the position. Boilermakers were on strike until 9th May at Garden Island dockyard because a member of their society had remained at work during a halfday stoppage earlier in the week. Members of the Federated Ironworkers Association, the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Australian Society of Engineers went out on 8th May in sympathy. This has no connection whatever with the Naval Defence Bill. Departmental and union officials are holding discussions to resolve the matter.
Yesterday at Williamstown dockyard all employees were at work, but on Tuesday, the previous day, boilermakers were on strike in protest at the non-payment of a marking-off rate to some members. This has no connection whatever with the Naval Defence Bill, but concerns a correction of the payment of the marking-off rate to some boilermakers who were not complying with the definition. The matter is being further discussed between the Department and the unions.
(Question No. 97)
Senator MURPHY (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What is the Commonwealth doing to see that prisoners convicted of federal offences are not subjected to the disgraceful conditions admitted by the authorities to exist in New South Wales prisons?
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
The Attorney-General has not received any complaints in respect of the treatment of prisoners convicted of federal offences and imprisoned in New South Wales prisons.
(Question No. 98)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Is it a fact that highly skilled technicians and other staff are being dismissed by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority? If so, in view of the serious drought conditions throughout Australia, will the Minister intercede immediately with a view to retaining these men and their special skills to assist in the building of projects which the Government must be considering to overcome the water shortage in Australia?
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer:
Notices of impending retrenchment have been given recently to a relatively few technical and other staff of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. As has been said on a number of occasions in the last 12 months, the Government intends to retain the Authority to provide specialist skills to support engineering projects throughout Australia. The skills to be retained are in the Authority’s present investigation, design and scientific services sections, including the hydrological laboratories. The retention of work forces by the Snowy Mountains Authority to build water storages in the States is not necessary. The State Government Authorities are competent to construct such storages. I might add that such construction has been materially assisted by special grants and loans made to the States by the Commonwealth first for specific projects, for example, the Blowering and Ord projects and the Western Australian comprehensive water supply scheme, and secondly in the form of grants made under the national water resources development programme. Three projects are already being assisted by this programme, namely, the Nogoa Dam and two salinity reduction projects on the Murray.
(Question No. 199)
Minister representing the Minister for National Development upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 204)
Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s; question:
(Question No. 222)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following reply:
Works have been completed at Cairns, Hobart, Launceston, Townsville and Canberra and are in progress at Coolangatta and MountIsa. Work will also commence shortly at Adelaide, Mackay andRockhampton where large runway improvements will be carried out. The Department of Civil Aviation is working in close liaison with the airlines on this subject and investigations and planning works for a number of other airports have been completed or are in progress.
– On 28th March Senator Bull directed the following question to me as Minister representing the Treasurer:
Is the Treasurer yet in a position to give any indication as to when the Government will be prepared to give an answer to representations mat have been made by primary producer organisations for the provision of drought bonds as a means of producers overcoming the bad effects of drought and fluctuating incomes?
The Treasurer has now supplied the following answer:
Various forms of drought bond or reserve schemes have been proposed Generally they would involve the allowance of income lax deductions for outlays by eligible primary producers in purchasingthe bonds or in making deposits in a special reserve account, with the proceeds of the bonds or deposits being included in assessable income on redemption or withdrawal. The bonds or deposits would not be negotiable and could not be redeemed or withdrawn within a set period of years except where a primary producer could show that he was affected by drought or other prescribed adversities.
Primary producers already have available to them a wide range of taxation deductions for purposes of property development or as ordinary business expenses which can be used to assist in drought mitigation, and the Commonwealth is also helping primary producers, directly or indirectly, in other ways to provide against drought or to carry on in business through, and subsequently to recover from, drought. The drought assistance arrangements in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia are an example. Moreover, there already exists a range of ways in which primary producers, like other members of the community, can temporarily invest surplus funds and obtain a substantial return thereon. Special Bonds, which after a short initial period can be cashed at a month’s notice at par or better, would provide a particularly suitable medium of investment for primary producers wishing to maintain a financial reserve against future contingencies.
The question as to whether a drought bond type of scheme would be practicable, and whether it could be regarded as a useful and justifiable supplement to the other facilities and forms of assistance available to primary producers, has been examined on several occasions in the past. These examinations have shown that there are a number of problems in the way of devising a workable scheme, which could be overcome only in an arbitrary way; for example:
A very arbitrary line would have to be drawn between the classes of taxpayers who would be eligible to participate in such a scheme and the contingencies that should be included within its ambit and the classes of taxpayers and the contingencies that should be excluded;
Criteria and machinery for determining what constituted drought conditions, etc.. and whether these were in fact present in particular cases, would have to be established. With the wide range of climate and topography within the Commonwealth, these criteria would also have to be quite arbitrary.
As the benefits such a scheme could confer on those eligible to participate in it would be related to their rates of tax and capacity to make investments, they would tend to be much greater for the larger and wealthier primary producers than for the smaller producers, to whom a scheme of this kind would normally be of little help.
It could be expected that some - perhaps a large proportion - of the funds (hat would be invested under such a scheme would be funds withdrawn or withheld from other readily realisable financial investments. To the extent that this was so, or to the extent that investments under the scheme were made by curtailing other activities, such as the building up of fodder reserves, aimed at providing against drought or other adversities, the value of the scheme as a measure for encouraging greater provision against adversity would be very much open to question. Draught bond schemes are, however, being further examined as part of a comprehensive study of drought mitigation measures.
– by leave - Honourable senators will recall that I advised the Senate on 4th April that the Department of Customs and Excise was investigating allegations that certain motor vehicles were being exported from Japan at dumped prices. I also advised the Senate that, because of information which had then come into the possession of the Department, I had given instructions that this inquiry was to be intensified. This investigation has culminated in a series of meetings between the Comptroller-General of Customs and representatives of each of the Japanese companies which are at present engaged in exporting cars from Japan. In the case of most companies, representatives came from Japan for these meetings.
The intention of these discussions was to establish whether the export prices of Japanese cars were in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Act. This Act provides that goods may not be exported to Australia at prices lower than the normal value defined in this Act. The normal value is defined as an amount equal to the fair market value of like goods sold in the country of export for home consumption in the ordinary course of trade’, with appropriate adjustment for internal taxes and delivery costs. This Act also gives power to prevent sales dumping, that is, to ensure that imported goods are resold in Australia at an amount not less than the normal value plus overseas freight, insurance, exchange, duty and landing charges, plus a normal or reasonable profit, distributor and dealer margins.
The Department has now reported on the outcome of these discussions and has advised me that it has now been able to assess the normal value for all cars imported from Japan. The export price of nearly all cars being imported from Japan is lower than the normal value. In some cases, the mark-up in Australia is insufficient to meet the requirements of our law. These amounts vary for each car.
– Each cnr or each make of car?
– Each make of car. At my invitation, representatives of the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry also came to Australia and were present during each of the meetings with the Japanese car manufacturers. Indeed, the Japanese Government has been advised at all stages of the developments in these investigations. The Japanese Government has now indicated that it appreciates the basis of the assessments of normal value made by the Department of Customs and Excise, and has no objection to the values which have been determined. The Government has considered the reports of the outcome of this investigation, and the fact that the Japanese manufacturers have represented that they did not fully appreciate the details of the Australian legislation in this field. These companies are now fully aware of the requirements of the Australian law.
Taking all these factors into account the Government has decided, following an assurance from the Japanese Government that the export prices of Japanese cars will be increased to the normal value in respect of all cars which leave the factories in Japan after midnight tonight, that action to invoke the provisions of the Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Act now will not be necessary. The Japanese Government has given an assurance that manufacturers will make these price increases. The Japanese Government will also ensure that these arrangements are fully carried out to meet the full requirements of the Australian law. These arrangements will affect the retail prices of Japanese cars, in Australia. In general terms, the retail price increases will be of the order of $100 for small cars, $250 for medium sized cars and $400 for small volume expensive cars.
The Government has considered whether retrospective action needs to be taken in respect of. past imports of these cars. lt has decided that no good purpose would be served in taking this action. It is satisfied that the commitments now given by the Japanese Government will overcome the problem. 1 will, of course, take any action necessary to ensure that these commitments are completely honoured. The Government is pleased that this satisfactory result has been achieved. It is particularly grateful for the co-operation of the Japanese Government in this mutter. Honourable senators can be assured that the provisions of the Australian legislation in this field will be strictly implemented in the case of all of Australia’s imports, and that Australian manufacturers will receive the full benefits of the protection accorded lo them in the Customs Tariff.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) rend a first time.
ti 1.51] - I move:
That the Hill hi’ now read a second time.
This Bill is one of two concerned with grants which have already been announced under the national water resources development programme. The Government has offered to the State of Queensland a grant under the programme of up to $20ni for the Maraboon Dam. on the Nogoa River, which is the basis for the Emerald irrigation scheme, and that offer has been accepted. The national water resources development programme was announced by the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, in his policy speech in November 1966. Under the programme the Government proposes to make available about S50m over 5 years for selected water conservation projects in the States, over and above the States’ own rural witter conservation programmes.
Under the Federal Constitution, responsibility for the assessment, development and control of water resources rests primarily with the State governments, and the programmes of water conservation being undertaken by the States bear ample testimony to their recognition of the need to develop and make available as much water as possible for use in rural areas and in towns and cities. However, following on the successful Commonwealth and State cooperation in the accelerated programmes of water resources measurement, to which the Commonwealth is making a significant financial contribution, the Commonwealth Government decided that an acceleration of the national effort in water conservation works was called for. The Government therefore established this programme, which will result in a substantial increase in capital expenditure on rural water development works.
The State Premiers were invited to submit proposals for consideration under the programme, and in due course submissions were received from all States of the Commonwealth, involving altogether thirty-two projects with an estimated total cost of $290m. The Queensland Government submitted four projects, but so far has provided reports on only two of these, the Emerald project in central Queensland, and the Kolan project near Bundaberg, lt requested that the Emerald project be given first priority. Some considerable time before the national water resources development programme was announced, the Commonwealth had been involved with the Queensland Government in studies of the merits of this project, and in 1966 the Queensland Government requested financial assistance for it. As I have mentioned, the Queensland Government’ again submitted this project as its number one choice for inclusion in the national waler resources development programme. .
Because of its involvement in studies of the project over a number of years, the Commonwealth Government was in a position to make a decision on it ahead of the other projects submitted for. consideration. During the period in which Commonwealth authorities, were involved in its examination, demonstration farms had been established to provide experience on most of the soils that- would be included in the project area, in order to supplement the quite lengthy experience already available from private irrigation development on some of the soils.
In addition, at the suggestion of Commonwealth authorities, some significant changes have been made in the proposed irrigation development in order to avoid some soils on which the long term prospects under irrigation were not altogether assured.
The Emerald irrigation project comprises a major storage dam on the Nogoa River, about 12 miles upstream from the town of Emerald, from which water will be supplied through a channel system serving irrigated land on both banks of the river in the vicinity of Emerald. The storage capacity of the reservoir will be about 1,170,000 acre feet, and the regulated flow normally available from the dam will be 120,000 acre feet per annum. The irrigated area will comprise 130 farms, each with an irrigable area of 450 acres.
The experience of private irrigators over a number of years, and more recent experience on the Government demonstration farms in the area, has shown that the soils in the irrigable area are suitable for a wide range of irrigated production, including lucerne, cotton, sorghum and wheat. The actual production undertaken by irrigators will be largely influenced by the economic conditions at the time. The area has good transport connections to most parts of Queensland, and is in the centre of a large and important pastoral area, and so is well placed for integrated development with the pastoral industry if, as is suggested by the Queensland authorities, this proves attractive.
In view of the magnitude of the total cost of the projects in relation to the suggested allocation of funds for the national water resources development programme, and also considering the desirability of the Queensland Government’s having some involvement in the project, the Government decided that it would offer a grant of up to $20m to finance the construction of the dam. The offer of this finance was conditional on the Queensland Government’s undertaking to construct the irrigation and other works, estimated to cost $8m, which are an essential part of the project, and this condition has been accepted. The assistance will take the form of a non-repayable grant.
I turn now to the Bill itself, which generally follows the pattern of measures granting financial assistance to the States.
The works themselves, in respect of which a Commonwealth grant is payable, are described in the Schedule to the Bill, and provision is made in section 5 for the works specified in the Schedule to be varied if this appears desirable in terms of the objectives of the legislation. Provision for nonrepayable grants is made in clause 4 of the Bill.
Clauses 6 and 7 set out requirements in connection with the implementation of the project, and cover the provision of information requested by the Minister, ministerial approval of the works action by the State to provide the other works which make up the total project, and approval by the Minister for contracts in excess of $500,000. Requirements for information in respect of expenditure are set out in clause 8, and the usual provision for the Treasurer to make advance payments, and for repayment of over-payments is made in clauses 9 and 10.
The large task of making a preliminary assessment of the other proposals submitted by the States for consideration under the national water resources development programme, in order to select those that appear sufficiently attractive to warrant closer study, has been going ahead as rapidly as possible, and it is hoped that it will be possible to advise the States on the results of these studies in the near future. As honourable senators will know, I propose to introduce in this chamber shortly a further Bill to give effect to the Government’s decision to grant assistance to the State of Victoria for two projects under the programme.
The national water resources development programme represents a very important move towards closer- collaboration between the State and Commonwealth Governments, and a more continuing and detailed involvement by the Commonwealth, in the development of Australia’s water resources. The present legislation will give effect to the first decision of the Government in connection with this important programme and will provide support for a project of great significance. I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the consideration of the Senate
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
[12.0] - I move:
Mr President, the purpose of this Bill is to establish financial arrangements for the Post Office more appropriate to its role as a business undertaking. Honourable senators will recall the decision of the Government last year to establish a Post Office Trust Account into which Post Office revenues would be paid and from which its expenditures would be met. The Bill gives effect to this decision and it is proposed that the new financial arrangements will operate on and from the 1st July 1968. Although the Post Office has a sound record as a business undertaking, proposed section 96h of the Act will now formally establish its business charter.
Up to the present, the Post Office, although expected to conduct its affairs as a business, has operated within the same financial machinery as any other department of state. It has been required to pay all its revenues into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and it has drawn from the annual parliamentary appropriations its funds for operating and capital purposes. These procedures are not suited to the operations of a business undertaking and, in a number of ways, detract from the ability of the Post Office to operate efficiently on a business basis. Problems have arisen from the need to present each year two separate sets of accounts, one on a Treasury basis related to the form of the Estimates, the other on a commercial basis.
The maintenance of these two sets of accounts - the Treasury or cash accounts, and the commercial accounts - causes confusion in the minds of both the public and the Parliament. Each year it gives rise to adverse comments because of the differing results obtained through using the cash figures instead of the commercial figures. This confusion will disappear under the new arrangements and a better understanding of the financial position of the Post Office will follow. The present system of parliamentary appropriations for expenditure, quite sepa rate and distinct from revenue Estimates, is no bar to clear understanding of the operations of a normal department of state. With a business undertaking like the Post Office, it obscures the inescapable direct relationship between revenue and operating costs. The large number of items under which Post Office expenditure is appropriated at present does not allow for flexibility in coping with fluctuations in demand for service according to the needs of the public.
The new arrangements are designed to enable the Post Office to operate in a more businesslike way, as Post Office revenues will be paid into the Trust Account, and operating and capital expenditure drawn from it. Provision for superannuation liability and interest on advances from the Treasury will be included in operating expenditure. Requirements each year for capital expenditure will be greater than the amount available from Post Office revenues. The difference will be treated in the Budget as a single line appropriation to be paid into the Trust Account as required. Taking the actual figures for 1966-67 and translating the figures into Trust Account terms, the appropriation would be:
I am sure that honourable senators will appreciate the benefits of such a system of appropriating funds for the Post Office. Not only will it enable the Post Office to proceed with full awareness of the relationship between revenues and expenditure but it will also assist internal management. The new system will also show clearly the amount that the Budget, as distinct from Post Office customers, is required to contribute towards the cost of providing new assets.
To ensure that Parliament is kept fully informed of the purposes to which the total amount available from Post Office revenues and the net funds provided from the Budget are to be applied, a White Paper will be presented at the time of the Budget. This
White Paper will give the Parliament comprehensive information concerning Post Office achievements, prospects and plans and so provide a basis for informed debate on the appropriation of funds for the Trust Account. It is proposed that the White Paper should include information on such matters as the estimated financial results, capital expenditure, and achievements for the year just ended. In addition, it will show the estimated financial results, proposed capital expenditure, expected achievements for the year ahead and other information on significant aspects of the operation, development and staffing of postal and telecommunication services. This information, brought together in a single paper, will for the first time enable honourable senators and others to gain a clearer understanding of the operations of the Post Office for the year just concluded and an opportunity to study its plans and prospects for the current financial year.
The Auditor-General will continue to inspect and audit the accounts and financial records of the Post Office. The DirectorGeneral will furnish annually a report to the Postmaster-General in relation to the operation of the Post Office services. This report, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General will, as at present, be laid before each House of the Parliament. The Post Office is undoubtedly the largest business in Australia. The Bill now before the Senate provides the Post Office with basic financial arrangements in keeping with its responsibilities. These arrangements will encourage and sustain improvements in Post Office managerial efficiency, with consequent benefit to its customers and to the community in general. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7 May (vide page 802), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following paper:
Defence - Ministerial Statement, 2 May 1968.
– The Senate is to discuss a statement on defence made by the Minister for Defence (Mr
Fairhall) in another place on 2nd May - one week ago today - and repeated in this chamber by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) on 7th May. It is perhaps the most unsubstantial and unsatisfactory defence statement of the many we have heard in recent years. It is a dismal and depressing document. It is testimony to the inadequacy of the Government’s thinking on defence matters. Indeed, as I propose to show during the course of my remarks, in respect of at least one important section of it - that dealing with the F111C - the Minister himself has shifted ground during the 7 days from the time when his statement was first made. Reading the statement, I thought that it indicated that the Government was awkward and ill at ease in explaining its defence policies. The statement covers a number of matters. There is a little bit in it about Vietnam, with the Australian Government shuffling awkwardly - indeed, one might say uncomfortably - onto the stage like a hawk amongst the peace seekers. What I mean by that is that this Government which has been amongst the most hawkish governments of all in relation to Vietnam is now sidling up alongside the President of the United States and acting as though it had always been peace-minded, leaving itself unable to explain satisfactorily the obvious shift in its attitude over the last few weeks. But more about that in due course.
There is a little bit in the statement about the situation left by the acceleration of British plans for a phased withdrawal of their military commitment in the Far East with the sobering but unhelpful statement that to date - I am using the Minister’s words - the Government has taken no decisions. There is a passage in the speech - a somewhat brighter passage - about Australia’s close relations with New Zealand. There is a little about the 3-year defence programme with a muted admission that there are no firm plans yet for the 3-year period after the present period ends next June. I think it worth while quoting one or two passages from the Minister’s speech on this because one gets a little sick and tired of hearing attacks on the Australian Labor Party for its defence policies. It is a rather fashionable game to tease the Labor Party–
– It is going out of fashion.
– It is going out of fashion, as my colleague reminds me, but it has been a favourite in recent times. I invite honourable senators to listen to this passage from the Minister’s speech that we are discussing and then tell me whether this does not fall into the category of meaningless mumbo jumbo. He said:
The 3-year period of the current defence programme which bas yielded so much in terms of strengthened and re-equipped defence Services, will end next June. While the content of a further 3-year programme to follow has been under study, a number of factors, including the uncertainties which surround the still fluid situation in Malaysia and Singapore, rnakes it undesirable to go firm on the future at this stage. -
This does not mean a cessation of, or any loss of continuity in, defence planning. It does not mean that the process of maximising the capability of our defence forces is to be halted, lt does mean adaptation of planning to changing circumstances. It does mean that it is, at present, premature to make a final choice between various possible plans.
It seems from that statement that in the Government’s view it is premature to make any choice among the various options that are open to Australia in the future. Almost half of the Minister’s statement is taken up with an elaborate piece of special pleading defending the Government’s record on the Fill aircraft, to which I will refer in due course. It is worthwhile noting that although the debate that took place in another place on this ostensibly important defence statement, which it was anticipated would include some plans for the next defence review and was to be an indication of where we are going on defence questions, included speeches by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth), no contribution was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), or the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly). Surely that is an indication that the Government did not want its big guns in the forefront of an exercise from, which it could not come out very well.
I think we are at an extremely important moment, in relation to the Vietnam situation. The world situation on this issue is very different from the situation of 2 months ago. I had the privilege of being in the United States of America within 48 hours of the statement made by President Johnson at the beginning of April as to his own future plans in relation to the presidency and announcing the decision to order a limited cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam. After talking with members of the United States Senate and other congressmen I had not the slightest doubt that they were conscious of the immense possibilities of the new situation and that the broad concensus that was likely to develop in the next few months in the United States - and I am speaking now of a period about 5 weeks ago - was a consensus for making the peace negotiations a success. That sentiment was not confined to any narrow section of the population; lt was very widespread. It was evident from a reading of responsible United States journals and it was evident from discussions with men in Congress that the people of the United States were hoping for a de-escalation of the war and for fruitful negotiation.
In the first week following the President’s statement, when there was a great rush of buying and a spirit of optimism, the VicePresident of the New York Stock Exchange said that there was ‘a tremendous sentiment for peace down here’. That was encouraging to me because I felt that what was happening was that the American people were swimming very much in the same direction as my own Party, the Australian Labor Party, has been swimming on this issue over the years. We have reached the stage where today the French Foreign Minister has referred to the possibility of the talks covering a wider area than merely the question of cessation of bombing, important though that may be. What should concern us in this Senate is that Australia should be heard wanting to express the kind of Australian spirit that we have always stood for. There has been too little independence so far in the attitude of the Australian Government. It has not attempted to stake out such a position in its relationships with the United States that our voice could be a quietening and arresting influence on the trend to escalation prior to the recent speech by President Johnson.
The Government was caught red-faced by President Johnson’s announcement because only a few days earlier its senior Ministers were cheerfully defending the bombing and were drawing attention to the importance of maintaining the bombing. There is not one word or any hint in the present defence statement which would indicate that that was the position. I hope that in the events that emerge in the next few weeks there will be an opportunity for Australia to be fully consulted and that Australia will not be pressing for continuation interminably of military activity but will be associated with every effort to bring this war to a conclusion. We have to stop the killing and get on with the talking. That is a policy that the Labor Party has always advocated and that is what we have tried to do again and again over recent years. To my mind what is now happening is a vindication of our policy.
I do not propose to speak at length on events in South East Asia and the announcement by the British Government of its projected withdrawal from east of Suez. The Labor Party has always felt that the proper way to approach the problem of the impending phased British withdrawal of its forces is not to seek to fill a power vacuum by military means but to attempt to help the nations of South East Asia in the political, economic and social spheres. We have always felt that the vacuum in South East Asia can properly be filled only by political, economic and social advancement of the peoples of South East Asia and that we must in the end have firm plans and a determination to understand and to aid that advancement. 1 now turn to the sorrowful story of the Fill aircraft. 1 suppose it is easy to be wise after the event, but since 1963 we have heard a story that has become worse and worse. Since 1963 we have had a determined effort by the Government to resent probings and to resist the search for information about what is happening with the Fill aircraft. It is interesting to recall the words of the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, when he made the original announcement regarding the purchase of these aircraft, just before the 1963 elections. He said:
All I can say is that if any honourable member on either side of this House had put before him a proposition, arising from the mass production techniques in the United States, so immeasurably favourable to the taxpayer in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, he could not have rejected it. That is where we stand.
The costing is only one aspect of the trouble that has arisen with the Fill. There are several questions that we have to ask ourselves. Firstly, has the Government been responsible, sensible and efficient in relation to the placing and the costing of the order and in relation to the estimates of the cost? Secondly, is there some doubt about the aircraft itself? I believe that all of us regret the need to refer to the safety aspect. Unhappily recent events have tended to underline the importance of this factor. Whereas for some time there had been merely a question of responsibility in costing and accounting to the public in relation to defence planning, there is now a further question which also involves some doubt as to the suitability of the plane for Australia’s purposes and as to its efficiency as a flying machine. I take no pleasure in mentioning this aspect, but it is of course one that has to be considered seriously al the present time. We have moved into a phase where everybody now is deeply concerned about this aspect.
The Minister for Defence made a special point, when he introduced the defence statement last Thursday night, of emphasising that the planes would be available to Australia in July and flying in Australia in September, I do not know that that is the Minister’s view now. He has taken into account the events that have occurred and the criticism that has come not only from members of the Opposition but also from members on the Government side. As I understand the Minister’s position as at the close of the debate in another place last night, he has conceded that there is proper concern over these matters and that, in any event, Australia would not take delivery of the FI 1 1 fighter bomber until the Government was satisfied that it had no mechanical faults. That seems to be a very different view from the one the Minister had last Thursday night when he was obviously optimistic that there were only minor matters to worry about and that we were entering an era when we could take delivery of the aircraft, which would be a great asset.
It is important and relevant, in considering the Government’s claim that it is adequately looking after Australia’s defence interests, to examine the history of the various aspects of this proposal. In 1963, when the original cost of the aircraft was announced, I think we were all given to understand by the former Prime Minister that Australia had a pretty good deal, that the cost of the aircraft was approximately $A125m and whilst there might be some minor increase in the cost lt would not be likely to go very much higher. By February 1966 that cost had risen to $184m. By May 1967 it was $213m. It is now $266m and the Minister says:
Back in May 1967, 12 months ago, Mr Howson, the former Minister for Air, admitted that the costing information that we were getting about the aircraft was depressing. That was one year ago, when the cost was $2l3m. It is now $266m. We have not yet reached the stage where the Government can say what the final cost will be.
– The cost has not reached its peak yet.
– We do not know that.
– The Minister for Defence went a step further than the point at which the honourable senator left the matter in relation to the question of piercing the ceiling.
– The M inister said that he does not know whether the ceiling will be pierced by the application of the provisos that he mentioned. I will read the next sentence, if that is what the honourable senator is worried about. The Minister went on:
However, our last advice from the United States authorities was that the ceiling price would not be pierced.
But we are dealing with advice that has been altered so many times over the years that it is not possible to rely on it. When the contract was first made, it was the subject of an investigation by the United States Senate Committee on Government Operations. There was a substantial hearing and an investigation into what was then called the TFX contract, by the Senate Committee and by its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, whose chairman, Senator John Mcclellan, himself has gone on record with some very caustic comments about the aircraft. He described it as a multi-million dollar blunder. Mr Gilpatric, an assistant secretary to Defence Secretary McNamara, gave evidence before the Committee. He was asked some very pertinent questions about the contract. Senator Mundt asked:
Just what kind of contract do you have with Australia? Are they going to ‘buy planes willynilly? If your figures are off $2m and the cost is $74m apiece, are they going to buy them for $10m? Have they any top limitation, or do they simply say ‘We will take two dozen planes at whatever price they are*?
Mr Gilpatric’s answer was:
That is the way the agreement reads.
The Government claims to have safeguarded Australia’s interests in the negotiation of all kinds of deals, including defence contracts of this nature. What is happening with the cost of the FI 1 1 is getting beyond a joke. I am not talking now of 1965 or 1966, when the costs were escalating. I am speaking of 18th, 19th and 20th November 1963, 3 or 4 weeks after Sir Robert Menzies made the announcement that the purchase was being considered. It was about the time of the Federal election in 1963. We have always maintained that this was a hastily improvised and hastily made decision, timed as other last minute proposals were timed.
– A poorly negotiated contract.
– Indeed, a poorly negotiated contract. It is an open ended contract and it is Australia that will do the paying. If there were some reasonable tolerance or some reasonable difference in the contract cost, I do not think anybody would want to say that the cost was out of all proportion. But we are dealing with a situation that is bordering on the ludicrous when, 5 years after - with delivery to Australia due to take place in July and with the aircraft, according to the Minister 7 days ago, ready to fly in Australia by September - we do not yet have a price. We have $5.95m as a basic price, but then there are all the extras, spares and so on. The Minister for Defence cannot say today that he knows what we will be paying for the aircraft. Yet the warning was there back in 1963.
I believe that one has to exercise some moderation in describing any technical difficulties that there are in relation to the aircraft. Frankly I do not pretend to know whether it is the best aircraft that could have been bought. There- have been many suggestions by people knowledgeable in defence that there were alternatives and less costly alternatives. Those alternatives have been mentioned by the aviation writers and the defence experts. I am not in a position to state that one aircraft would have been better than another. However [ do suggest that it is obvious that the Government did not know either, when it made its decision. Ever since then the Government has had to defend a decision which it made hastily. It has been left with all the embarrassment of not having a firm price contract and of having had a poorly negotiated contract: The Government is doing its best to brazen it out.
– The contract was made hastily and for political purposes.
– It was made for political purposes on the eve of the 1963 elections. 1 think the position is inescapable, that it is the proper function and duty of the Senate to discuss this question in the light of the realities of the situation. We are not treating this merely as a political argument. I regret that the Minister for Defence saw fit to suggest. in his statement that our criticism of the aircraft springs from political opportunism. 1 reject the Minister’s suggestion. Our criticism springs from a proper realisation that the Government does not know where it is going on this issue, as well as on many other issues.
I wish to refer to comments made iri journals that are hot remotely related to the Australian Labor Party or to the political opponents of the Government. The Financial Review’ of 3rd April 1967 described the Fill as the most expensive marginal increment to defence capacity ever made. ‘Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly’,’ a United States publication, said in its issue of 1 8th September 1967 that it is lime that the nation - that is a reference to the United States - cut its losses on this plane which is called ‘scandalridden’. 1 have referred to the statement by United States Senator Mcclellan, chairman of a United States Senate investigation committee, who described it as a multi-million dollar blunder. Other responsible journals have said that it could prove to be an absolute strategic setback for Australia. The honourable, member for Warringah (Mr St John) in another place yesterday described the contract as ‘buying a pig in a poke’. The United States ‘News and World Report’ of 25th September 1967 indicated that the Pentagon nickname for the aircraft is ‘McNamara’s albatross’. This conservative and responsible journal questioned whether the Pentagon should be spending billions of dollars to produce the Fill before it is really certain that it will perform as originally intended. It said that real fear is spreading among congressmen that the variable wing Fill is turning into a costly disaster. I have mentioned these criticisms of the Fill, not to say that it is inferior or superior to any other possible aircraft, but to show that a responsible Australian Government should be alive to the criticism, should be evaluating it and should be acting to protect Australia’s best interests.
The whole history of the Fill deal reeked originally of political opportunism and then of a desperate attempt by the Government to cope with the situation as it developed and to make the best of a very unhappy situation. The Opposition hopes that the criticisms of the aircraft are responsible. It is proper that the Government should have to account for these matters. We are hoping that it will not be long before we get definition both as to the performance of the aircraft - its suitability for Australia’s defence needs - and in the light of recent depressing hews about crashes, as to its safety. I do not want in any way to worsen the situation by stressing the safety aspect, although I suppose that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, in respect of the aircraft’s performance. Wc are all very anxious about it. It is just not good enough for the Government to try to put on a bold public relations front, as if to say, in effect: ‘What would you have dong?’ The fact is that there has been a notable inefficiency and irresponsibility in the conduct of the whole matter.
I have said what I wanted to say on the defence statement of the Minister. It is negative and disappointing. We were led to the situation of expecting a substantial statement on defence, but what we have been given, quite apart from the FI 1 1 aircraft, to which almost half of the statement is devoted, is the picture that the Government has every option open for the future and that it is for the time being post- - poning any real decisions about our defence position over the next 3 years. We cannot regard that as a satisfactory position.
– In dealing with the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) 1 think I should begin where Senator Cohen has left off and devote at least part of my speech to the Fill aircraft. I have no objection to attacks by an Opposition on one aspect of a statement made on defence. I have no objection to the Opposition’s taking, for example, the decision of the Government in 1963 to purchase the aircraft known then as the TFX and known now as the Fi 11, in its various categories. It is the duty of an Opposition to keep the Government on its toes. However, 1 think that on this occasion the attack is based upon fundamentally wrong foundations. The Government in dealing with the types of equipment to arm the defence forces must rely upon its professional advisers who are the only people competent to advise any government, whether present or future as to the types of weaponry necessary to fulfil1 the Government’s highest strategic defence responsibility.
I do not wish to enter into a discussion of the circumstances surrounding the placing of the contract, lt appeared to me valid at the time that the Government should accept the advice of its professional advisers and should enter into arrangements with the United States of America to buy the FI 1 1 aircraft, to be delivered as the first echelon in 1968. Much has been made of the cost of the aircraft. I think the Opposition is acting correctly in pointing out that there has been a series of escalations in cost, but when the contract was made there was no possibility of assessing the cost, even by the then distinguished Minister for Defence and Leader of the Government in the Senate, the late Senator Paltridge. It was not possible for him to discover what could be the flat contract price.
– Mr Townley was the Minister for Defence at the time..
– But the contract was signed by Senator Paltridge as Acting Minister for Defence. The reason why it was not possible to fix a flat price at that stage is quite clear. The price of any aircraft prototype, civil or military, must be based upon what is to be the end production run of that particular type of aircraft. The same is true of the production of motor vehicles. Therefore the price that would ultimately result from the enormous research and development costs involved in this new type of aircraft was not known. The proportion of that cost to be borne by Australia could not be calculated until the end production run was known, when a reasonable assessment could be made. I think it is fair to say that what has thrown this out of kilter at present is the fact that the United Kingdom Government, which decided to purchase fifty of these aircraft - and this would have given some idea as to what the end run of the aircraft might be and, therefore, the price could be fixed - cancelled the order. A whole new reassessment of the price had to be made, and I suppose is being made now.
There are two interesting aspects to this. The first is concerned with the question of why the United Kingdom placed an order for fifty FI 1 1 aircraft with the United States Government. It was as a result of the failure of the TSR2, which never got beyond three prototype aircraft, and because the Fil l is the best aircraft in the world, lt is a new generation aircraft. It is an aircraft capable of fulfilling multiple functions. It has the characteristics and capacity, when all the bugs are out of it, to be able to do what three types of aircraft were required to do until the production of the FU 1. This was acknowledged by the United Kingdom Government when it placed an order for fifty of the aircraft, and it showed the wisdom of the professional advice tendered by the advisers to the Australian Government. However, two significant things have happened since then’. One is that the United Kingdom has entered into a consortium arrangement with France to try to develop its own swing wing aircraft and the other is that the Russians have flown their first prototype of the swing wing aircraft. Surely this vindicates the conception of a swing wing aircraft that was observed in 1963 by the professional advisers to the Commonwealth Government. At least their decision was based on technical and professional competence, and the Government was wise to take the new generation, aircraft that will see Australia into the late 1970s if not to the beginning of the 1980s.
It is quite easy to make facetious remarks, as are made from time to time, and to say that the aircraft, which is a contour following aircraft in one characteristic, is an unsafe aircraft. I was talking to one of the greatest Australian manufacturers only last week and was discussing this particular problem. He said: ‘Let us take the motor car as an example. We produce a new motor car and we put it on our proving ground. We test it to the limit of our ability on the proving ground but in the final analysis the bugs are only got out of the car as a result of the performance of the production model under what might be described as active service conditions.’ The United States Government, for reasons best known to itself and pertinent to its situation, decided to hurry the first six Fill aircraft from the proving ground in the United States to operational conditions. Something has happened. There are bugs in the aircraft. I have sufficient faith in the technical competence and genius of the Americans to believe that they will be able to gel the bugs out of the aircraft.
What will this aircraft do for Australia? As I said, it has a multiple characteristic and a multiple capacity. First, it has capacity as to range. The British TSR2 aircraft was limited in movement and range to the north western European pl’ain. It was a contour following aircraft which, when on contour operations, had a limited range over mountainous conditions of 800 miles out and 800 miles in. It is obvious that that type of aircraft would not be useful to Australia, because we have a problem of space in relation to our defence. Long distances arc involved and an aeroplane intended for the defence of Australia would be required to have a range radius of 1,600 miles, in other words, double the capacity of the projected British TSR2 aircraft.
– lt would depend on where the aircraft was going.
– Of course. Let us take a supposititious case, and assume that it has to fly over New Guinea to Guam, which would be well within its range. The Owen Stanley Range rises to almost 14,000 feet, lt would be quite ridiculous for this contour following aircraft to travel from Cape York Peninsula across Torres Strait at almost zero feet and then suddenly stand on its tail and fly vertically - because that is what it would have to do - for 14,000 feet to cross the Owen Stanley Range and then dip down on the other side to almost zero feet again. The aircraft has a second characteristic, lt can fly at enormous heights. I do not know whether the characteristics of this aircraft are classified as secret, but I am informed - I cannot indicate the source of my information, but my informant was a man of some substance and I believe the information would be correct - that stripped down for its reconnaissance role the FU 1 has the capacity to fly at 90.000 feet. This is well beyond the capacity of any intercepting missil’e.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the luncheon suspension I was addressing myself to the Fill aircraft following remarks made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen). I do not intend to pursue that matter other than to add one final comment which I commend to honourable senators: The dedicated men of the three armed Services, who give their lives to a career in which they may have to meet the final test of war - something on which I will elaborate in a moment - are entitled to have the best weapons that the nation can afford to provide for them. As I said before the luncheon suspension, in my opinion the Fill aircraft will be proved to be the most remarkable weapon for the defence of Australia over the next 10 to 15 years.
Having mentioned the problem of war, which carries with it the responsibility of preparing for war in the sense of creating a defence force in three separate arms - the Navy, the Army and the Air Force - in order to provide a defence capability, if I may use that Americanism, I ask this question: Why is it necessary to create a defence arm? The answer, if one were looking for an epigram, would be to say, as has been said by someone else, that the operation of the defence arm means that the foreign policy has failed for some reason or other. Therefore the axiom is that a nation cannot have a defence policy until there is a clear discernment by the government of the problems, and the problems are related in the first instance to foreign policy. I do not think that should be denied.
I designate the responsibility in the two fields of external affairs and defence in this way: The government is involved in what I describe as the higher strategy of government, whereas the strategy of defence is the province of the professional commanders and advisers to the government. The Parliament should engage in the examination of the higher strategy of government. [ do not believe that at any time, except in the case of disaster, the Parliament should involve itself in the strategy that is the responsibility of the commanders and defence advisers. That means that the defence statement that has been presented to the Parliament has to be related to the realm of external policy.
Justifiable complaints may be made - undoubtedly they have been made in another place and will be made here - that the foreign policy of Australia is not clearly discerned at the present moment. 1 agree with that. But the reason why it is nol clearly discerned at the present moment is that the circumstances in which foreign policy in the past has been embedded and firmly fixed have now changed. The circumstances in which we conducted our foreign policy in the past are now in the process of partial disintegration because of the United Kingdom’s decision to withdraw from east of Suez by 1971. As I have remarked, and other people have remarked in this chamber from time to time, the Government finds itself in the situation that what the United Kingdom means by withdrawal from east of Suez by 1971 is not clearly discernible.
The Parliamentary Under-secretary to the Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom, Mr Ivan Richard, was in Australia recently. I notice that he has written an article which has appeared in the London ‘Times’ since his return from Australia. Tn that article he makes a rather obvious remark, although it is not obvious until one sees it in cold print. He says that spokesmen for the United Kingdom Government have said on many occasions that the United Kingdom will come to the aid of Australia if we are laid under some sort of attack. But he goes on to say: ‘But, of course, this cannot be a blank cheque’. Of course it cannot, because circumstances in north western Europe might prevent the United Kingdom coming to the defence of Australia. Therefore, in the bluntest terms, I suggest that this Parliament must brace itself to the fact that there exists in terms of external policy a problem for Australia, the solution of which is not readily discerned.
When the United Kingdom withdraws from east of Suez, that obviously means that it withdraws the capability, which existed until 2 or 3 years ago and which was best demonstrated in 1965, to present what might be described in higher strategical terms as a defensive plank enabling Australia to operate in a forward position to a substantial order. In other words, our foreign policy was always able to exist inside the foreign policy of the United Kingdom on the one hand and of the United States of America on the other. One of our partners is now in the process of leaving the area. It is obvious that that situation has limited the role that Australia has been able to play in foreign policy since 1949, or since 1945 for that matter. In other words, the foreign policy that we were able to conduct, I think, with some significance and with a great deal of integrity now has to be reassessed, and it has to be reassessed in cold and realistic terms.
I suggest to the Senate that a foreign policy must never outdistance the capacity of the defence arm to pick up the pieces when the foreign policy has failed. I suggest that whereas in the last 7 or 8 years it was very proper to adopt a forward policy which is illustrated by the situation in Vietnam, with the disappearance of the higher strategical capacity of the United kingdom we may not be able to operate our foreign policy as far to the north as we have been able to over the last 7 or 8 years. That is my opinion. I believe that it is a fairly sound opinion and that it is based on a good deal of logic. I peruse newspapers from all over Australia and read articles written by various students of higher strategy who seem to be able to see these matters with complete clarity from the comfort of their university offices. I suggest that we should still maintain our presence as far forward as we can.
On the other hand there exists in relation to the defence arm a school of thought which says that we should retreat to fortress Australia. I used that phrase in this place about 6 or 7 years ago; but I have always excluded it from my thinking in the last 6 or 7 years. I believe that the fortress Australia concept was a wrong policy and that the forward policy was the correct one. Undoubtedly pressures exist in a substantial area of Australia at present for a retreat to the fortress Australia concept. I reject that for the simple reason that we live in the South East Asian area and we are becoming involved in the problems of the area. What are the results that will flow in South East Asia, which is an area of high sensitivity to Australia, when the United Kingdom withdraws from east of Suez? These are not clearly determinable because it is not possible to obtain from- the United Kingdom ils true intentions as to its retreat from east of Suez.
For example, does the phrase ‘withdrawal from east of Suez’ mean that the United Kingdom will divest itself of its responsibilities for the Western- Pacific High Commission territories? If the United Kingdom does divest itself of those responsibilities, who is to sustain and underwrite those territories? Let me cite as an illustration the island of Bougainville which is part of the trust territory administered by Australia. The people of that island participate in the results that flow from the high rate of subsidy thai Australia provides, but just across the sea from Bougainville are areas administered by the British High Commission in the western Pacific. If the British find tha: they must reduce their existing subsidies to the territories what problem will that pose for Australia? I do not see that as a matter of any significance but it could bc :i matter of significance and, therefore. one that any government involved in an examination of the highest strategic problems, which arc the responsibility of governments, must take into consideration.
There are also obvious, areas of a high degree of danger which I would be ill advised to refer to in the Senate at this time, lt is clear that the five-power conference that is to take place in Kuala Lumpur cannot have any real validity until the attending powers have al least a clearer idea of the effects of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal1 from the area by 1971. That does not need very much elaboration except to say that I think it is an illusion for any of the nations attending the proposed fivepower conference to believe that Australia will take up all the responsibilities that the United Kingdom possessed in that area, lt does not lie within the economic capacity of Australia to underwrite the liabilities that the United Kingdom once assumed, if the United Kingdom’s presence has tested her economic capacity to the degree that she no longer can sustain the foreign policy she once pursued in that area, it must flow quite remorselessly and logically that we cannot assume (hose responsibilities.
This means quite clearly that the Australian Government of the day must examine its foreign policy in another area altogether. lt must try to discover from the United States of America whether that country will have a continuing presence in this area because we cannot fix firmly a concept of foreign policy unless we know clearly the intentions of the United Stales, ls the United States to take up, as it were, the responsibilities of which the United Kingdom has divested itself? ls the United States to move into the Indian Ocean where, to use a term that has been frequently used, a power vacuum has begun to develop? What is the significance of Russian overtures to India? What is the significance of the Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean? What is the significance of the Russian penetration of the eastern Middle East? What will flow from the problems that now exist following independence in Aden?
What are the Arab kingdoms and the oil stales of the Persian Gulf to do now that the strategic arm that protected them ibr so many years has gone and Russia begins to move into the Persian Gulf? We must bear in mind that 75% of all the oil consumed in Australia at the present time comes from the Persian Gulf. What will bc the significance of the Indian Ocean to our trade routes to north western Europe if another power inimical to Australian interests begins to dominate this ocean? These are problems of foreign pol’icy that must be cleared up before any effective defence policy can be enunciated to the Parliament. Obviously it is not competent for the Parliament to enunciate solutions to the highest strategic problems involved in foreign affairs unless the factors that compose them and the commitments that other nations are prepared to meet are clearly understood. lt has been staled that we have a defence responsibility towards the nations which comprise the proposed five-power regional conference in Kuala Lumpur, but there are also problems in relation to that which must be solved. For example, if it is proposed - I understand this to be the case - that the United Kingdom will hand over to Malaysia ils radar network, that radar network will be useless and impossible to operate because part of it is based on Singapore and part of it is based on Malaysia. A network cannot be cut in two. This means that Australia cannot take up an attitude even towards Malaysia and Singapore until the Australian Government understands what Singapore and Malaysia intend to do about their own defence and their capacity to contribute to their own defence.
The Government obviously finds itself at the present time in this area of uncertainty. Because of this area of uncertainty in relation to Australia’s foreign policy, which must be concerned with the defence of Australia, it is not possible to erect a defence policy which will be satisfying. But I do myself the justice of suggesting - I hope honourable senators will realise this - that when I speak in the terms that I intend to use in the next few moments my remarks spring from my own mind. 1 believe they have a great deal of validity because of the circumstances I have outlined. I take this opportunity, following as I do the Acting Leader of the Opposition in this debate, to say that nowhere in the debate that took place in another place or in the speech of the Acting Leader of the Opposition today is there acknowledgment by the Australian Labor Party of the policies that must be followed in relation to external affairs and, therefore, the policies that must be followed in relation to the creation of a defence structure. Australia must fashion a substantial new foreign policy to meet the requirements of the next 10 or 15 years and flowing from that policy there must be a new concept on defence which will provide for neither a forward posture - I certainly, do not accept that thought, in view of the changed circumstances - nor the posture of Australia as a fortress.
There are three areas that Australia must regard as of a high degree of significance. I put them as follows in my order of priority: First of all, it is of absolute importance, as was mentioned in a speech by Mr Howson, the honourable member for Fawkner, in the House of Representatives, to protect in its totality the capacity of Australia to maintain its trade routes across the Pacific. This means that ‘ in the order of priority for defence we must ensure, either in isolation or in conjunction with an ally - I assume that the ally in this case would be the United States of America - that we have a capacity to transit the Pacific Ocean whenever we like and whereever we like in order to maintain the channels of trade. I shall come back to that in a moment. The second priority, it seems to me, is also to do with the ocean. We must protect our channels of trade to the north with the island empire of Japan which is such a substantial customer of Australia and with which Australia’s economic fabric, to a large degree, is now being interwoven. Thirdly in the order of priority there must exist an alternative capacity to maintain our channels and trade routes across the Indian Ocean.
It is obvious, in the first instance, that the defence needs of Australia and the defence policy flowing from our foreign policy must be geared to enable our trade systems to maintain themselves in the event of war taking place outside Australia. It is of no use retreating to Fortress Australia. We must have a posture that is capable of maintaining our channels of communication in trade. If oil had not been discovered in Australia the problem of being able to transit the north Indian Ocean would have been of importance. But it is - certainly of great importance that we should be able to transit the Indian Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope, for example. However much this may seem objectionable to some honourable senators, or to the public outside, it means that South Africa could, in certain circumstances, be of great importance to Australia. This means therefore, that there may have to be a change in the attiudes that seem to exist in relation to South Africa. Those are the three priorities. Wc should be able to transit the oceans of this part of the world in order to maintain our trade routes, and this can only be done in association with allies that are beyond the shores of Australia.
I come now to the second phase of our defence problem as 1 see it. If the transit of the oceans is of paramount importance to Australia in relation to defence, then this supposes two things. It supposes first of all that we regard ourselves as an island and secondly, that we regard ourselves as an island dependent upon the resources that always are invested in an island. Australia is a very large island, lt is the largest island in the world. But, in the narrow confines of defence, if Australia is attacked physically in a conventional way - I am eliminating from my argument the problems of nuclear warfare - we must have the ability inside Australia to traverse on interior lines. lt is also true, because of the size of the island, that we must have the capacity to move on what military stategists call anterior lines - we must be able to move around the island. This means that we must have maritime power. Maritime power, as I see it in the modern context, is not naval power in isolation. And it is certainly not true that it is air power in isolation. A combination of naval power and air power is maritime power. Thus, both the Navy and the Air Force, instead of having what might be described as a tactical role, must, in conjunction, have a strategic role. This strategic role must be directed towards the maintenance of maritime capacity, and the maritime capacity must be directed towards enabling Australia’s trade routes to be kept open.
These arc the things that one would like to see in a defence statement, but these are nol the things that can go into a defence statement at the present moment because the extent of the problem cannot clearly be determined until the great number of matters which I mentioned earlier are cleared up. I conclude by making reference to the Army. In the past, our Army policy and our Army strategy have always been based upon a combination of the United Kingdom forces and our military forces. This means that our Army has been trained in a role in which it fits into the pattern of the United Kingdom role. In the past the strategical doctrine of the Australian Army has been embodied in the strategical doctrine of the United Kingdom. In the past the tactical doctrine of the Australian Army has always been based upon the tactical doctrine of the United Kingdom land forces. Now there is a change.
– Does the honourable senator say that these fitted into the pattern of the United Kingdom in relation to the efforts in the last war?
– Let me take as an example the 1939, 1940, 1941 period when the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government-
– At the very beginning of the war.
– Right at the beginning of the war. We committed ourselves to the strategical doctrine of the
United Kingdom in the Middle East, and it was a correct doctrine.
– But they did not fit into the pattern subsequent to that.
– No. I am suggesting that the condition of change has been accelerated and is going to continue lo accelerate. But in this new pattern, my concept - and I speak only for myself - is that the Army role in Australia is going to change because if we commit ourselves too far forward we shall be committing ourselves forward in association with an ally that could have a different strategical doctrine, and which certainly would have a different tactical doctrine from our own. In South Vietnam at the present moment, for example, it has been claimed by some newspaper correspondents and polemicists of one kind or another that Australian troops should be used in association with United States troops. This is madness for the simple reason that Australia’s tactical doctrine in relation to jungle warfare is entirely different from . the tactical doctrine pursued by the armed forces of the United States of America.
I forecast, as a result of my research and my deductions, that there has to be a substantial change in the whole posture of the armed forces of Australia over the next 10 or .15 years. This change will come remorselessly because of the changed circumstances’ and conditions which the Australian Government of this day, or the Government of the next decade, whatever its politics may be, will have to face, for then, to a substantial degree, we will be on our own. We will have to reassess the higher strategy of government in Australia. This, of course, will force changes in the strategic doctrine in relation to the three arms of the defence forces. Defence will probably become much more expensive than it has been in the past, but, in the sense that we intend to be isolated in the circumstances 1 have no fear of the future because I believe that if we are at least armed with the strength of moral judgments that can be made on this matter of defence; if we can sustain an internal policy also based on moral judgments and on a high order of national integrity, we have no cause to fear. Perhaps when the history of this decade comes to be written, it will be written along the lines that the Australian people, when faced with the issues that arose in the tale 1960s, reassessed their strategical position in the world with a strength of character and a quality of determination which enabled the nation to live out the balance of the twentieth century dependent upon its own resources.
– For some months past I have Celt an uneasiness about the attitude of the Australian Government to the all important question of defence. 1 felt that the Government was undergoing a change in its attitude not so much because of the changes that are taking place in world affairs but because it was submitting to a pressure that more should be done and that more should be expended upon national development than in the field of defence. 1 am not one who believes that national development is not important to the future of this country; but I recognise that the development of our natural resources and of the country itself are contingent upon adequate defence. I believe it would bc utter foolishness on our part if our national defence and our national development were not very closely correlated. To develop the country and neglect our defence could mean that we were developing it for the good of somebody else who could come here unarrested and take over the fruits of the work and expenditure we had put into developing this fair land of the Southern Cross. I regret to have to say that a perusal of the statement on defence made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) did not allay my uneasiness in any way. I had expected that greater emphasis would be placed on Australia’s security, but the statement was merely a sketchy outline of what has been done so far. In many respects it fell short of what was anticipated, lt failed to indicate the Government’s goal in many fields of defence.
A good deal of the statement was devoted to an explanation of - almost an apology for - the much discussed and controversial FI 1 1 aircraft. I do not propose to debate the merits or demerits of this aircraft because nobody in this chamber would know less about the quality or capacity of the aircraft than I would. But it is evident to me that whoever was responsible for negotiating the contract for the purchase of twenty-four Fill aircraft was not very astute. He left the Government and Australia open to increases in the price of the aircraft, without any safeguards or limitations. The price of this aircraft has risen faster than has the aircraft itself. If we can believe what we are told, the arrangement entered into by Australia for the purchase of these aircraft was quite different from that entered into by the United Kingdom Government. Our arrangement: reminds me of those cost-plus systems that operated during the war and which brought so much wealth to a section of the community at the expense of the taxpayers. A good deal of criticism has been levelled at the Government over its purchase of the Fill. Some of that criticism has been merited because of the Government’s clumsy negotiations of the contract in the first instance.
– Who initiated those negotiations?
– I do not know who was responsible, but whoever was responsible could not claim to have done a very good job. lt is not very pleasant to have an important matter such as the contract to purchase these aircraft debated with so much feeling not only in this country but outside and for the Government to be held up to ridicule. It is sufficient to have the Sydney Opera House ridiculed in the extreme without having such ridicule applied to the Fill. This aircraft will cost the Australian taxpayer a great deal of money. It may be worth this expenditure. I am not in a position to argue about that. But it cannot be denied that the aircraft is costing more than Australia bargained for. The explanations that have been offered so far regarding the increase in the cost of this aircraft have failed to satisfy a big section of the community, including myself.
In my opinion the Minister’s statement places too much emphasis on our defence relations with New Zealand. In the context of our overall defence problems our link with New Zealand, while important, pales into insignificance when compared with other and more important matters of defence. When we speak of defence our remarks are sometimes interpreted to mean that we are looking for trouble; that we are looking for war; that we are hawks; that we are opposed to peace. Such is not the case as far as I and my party are concerned. We believe in peace. We aim for peace. We try our best to bring about peace. I could claim to be a pacifist, but a realistic pacifist - one who believes in peace but believes also that the best way to save Australia from war is by preparation and defence. Australia’s record of selfreliance and defence is a very sorry one. In 1941 the late John Curtin, without a majority in either House of Parliament, inherited a defenceless nation. At a time when we were threatened by invasion he was placed in the humiliating position of having to call urgently for help from the United States of America. Mark you, it was fortuitous as far as Australia’s future was concerned that Japan made the mistake of bombing Pearl Harbour. Had Japan not bombed Pearl Harbour it is unlikely that the appeal made by the Australian Prime Minister would have met with the response with which it did meet, because honourable senators know as well as I do that the Americans at that time were opposed to entering the war. The major newspapers of the country were advocating neutrality and isolation. If the Japanese had come direct to Australia without first visiting Pearl Harbour I hate to think what would be the position in Australia today. In north Queensland volunteers had been trained in a few military exercises, using broomsticks as rifles.
– And pieces of downpipe.
– One of our fellows got riddled with white ants.
– Is that right? It is all very well to be humourous about this matter but when one reflects on it, we had a miraculous escape. It was very fortuituous Providence was very good to Australia. Then in the face of all that, when the war was over in 1945 we just sank back again into our state of lethargy and apathy as far as defence was concerned. The Menzies Government came to power in 1949 and for years did nothing to maintain defence. It appropriated the same amount of money year in year out without any alteration, regardless of the fact that the cost of equipment, material and other things required for defence was rapidly rising.
– -A great deal of that was certainly becoming obsolete.
– The obsolete equipment was not being replaced with modern equipment. There may be a case for getting rid of obsolete equipment but there is also a case for replacing it with modern equipment. For the second time we found Australia almost defenceless. It was not until the position of South Vietnam worsened and our involvement became necessary that the Australian Government saw the need for the preservation of the United StatesAustralian alliance and for doing something in South Vietnam. Firstly, it endeavoured to obtain sufficient troops by voluntary recruitment. That was a dismal failure. Then it was forced to take a percentage only of our young men, conscript them and force them into the war in South Vietnam. I believe the explanation for not taking more was that the Government did not have sufficient people to train them or sufficient equipment for them. Just imagine what our position would have been then had we had an assault on the shores of this country. Our defence has been stepped up a bit but we are going along as we have done almost throughout our history, relying on somebody else. For years and years we relied on Great Britain. We used to sing ‘Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves’. No doubt we are eternally indebted to Great Britain for its protection but the fact remains th’at in the Second World War Great Britain had more on her plate than she could handle and it was of no use to appeal to her for any aid. We were forced to appeal to America and thank God America responded as generously as she did to the call of Australia.
Men in government who are charged with the responsibility of governing this country have a grave obligation to see that it is adequately and properly defended. Let us have national development by all means but let us have it in consonance with defence. I repeat - and I cannot repeat too often - that it would be just utter foolishness on our part to go ahead with grandiose schemes of development for this country and neglect our defences, because the day would come when we would look back and say: ‘We did a grand Job in Australia for somebody else’s benefit.’ The Democratic Labor Party’s policy ali along the road has been self-reliance in defence. We realise that with a population of 12 million people we cannot have everything but at the same time we realise that if we have adequate defence we can hold at bay any potential invader sufficiently long, at least, for us to obtain the aid that we need. We are a small country as far as population is concerned, but let us utilise the small population to the best advantage. Let every individual be trained in some respect so that he can play his part in the event of war in this country. What better example can we have than the recent one in the Middle Bast when the people of Israel were able to engage in and finish a war in a matter of 6 or 8 days? They were able to do that because all members of the community had been trained to play their parts and when they were attacked they downed tools and filled the posts for which they had been trained.
– That is not finished, though.
– They finished the first encounter. The honourable senator will not quibble about whether it is finished. The conflict will never be finished, I suppose, in our lifetime or in our children’s lifetime because of the bitterness that exists between the Arab and the Jew. The fact remains that (he Israelis succeeded in repelling the aggressors because they were ready and equipped. We have never been ready and equipped. We wait until the danger is on us. Then we start to look around to see what allies we can get. We depended on Great Britain for a long time and then America came to our aid in the Second World War. Wc were content to go along sponging, as it were, on somebody else. What is our helicopter force in this country? It is practically nothing - a mosquito fleet. In Vietnam we are dependent on America to give us this and that. We. are -mendicants to a great extent. That is not- in character with Australia’s spirit of independence. We should do more in this connection but the Government appears from time to time to demonstrate a reluctance or a hostility to self-reliance in the matter of defence. We need many things. It is essential that we should have an aircraft carrier. We should bc building up our own aircraft industry and we should be examining the question of nuclear power.
When someone talks about nuclear weapons people throw up their hands in horror and say: ‘Here is another warmonger”. However, we must have regard to the weapons possessed by the countries which might attack us. Communist China already has a minimum range missile capacity and by 1971-72 it will have a full scale inter-continental hydrogen bomb system as well as a range of tactical atomic bombs. We spend about $9m a year on nuclear research: Canada spends about $300m. We are a long way behind other countries in this field. Whilst I am on the subject I. want to express my view and the view of the Democratic Labor Party that Australia should not sign the non-proliferation treaty. We will live to regret it if we tie our hands with this treaty.
The Minister’s statement and- previous statements which have been made by Prime Ministers and Ministers on Britain’s withdrawal from east of the Suez would lead one to believe that it was something that came on them suddenly and found them unprepared. This is not true. Over the years there has been ample evidence of Britain’s intended withdrawal from east of the Suez. In the late 1950s the DLP warned the Government of the possibility of Britain’s withdrawal. The DLP was laughed at, ridiculed and told that this would never come to pass. Well, it is coming to pass. Britain has stepped up her withdrawal and the new target date is 1971. As Britain’s plans for withdrawal were worked out during 1965-66 her intentions must have been known to the Australian Government. in his statement the Minister referred to the Pacific Islands Regiment. A minor but characteristic example of unwarranted and undue optimism can be found in statements that have been made and in replies to questions that have been asked on this matter. In 1961 Dr T. B. Millar published a book entitled ‘Australia’s Defence’ in which he stated:
In May 1963, the Prime Minister announced an expansion of the Pacific Islands Regiment to two battalions, and in the recent defence review h« said it was now planned to increase the force to three battalions and supporting units with a total strength of 3,500 by June 1968. The fact that the PIR increased by only about 100 between June 1963 and June 1964 raises doubts as to whether the Prime Minister’s target will be achieved in the time mentioned.
On 13th October 1966 1 asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What is the total strength of the Pacific Islands Regiment?
The reply I received was:
The strength of Pacific Islanders in the battalions and supporting units of the Pacific Islands Regiment at 31st August 1966 was 1,819.
J also asked:
Does the Government still believe that the Regiment will have a total strength of 3,500 by June 1968, as planned in the Defence Review of 1964?
The reply to that question was yes. Those questions and answers can be found in Hansard of 13th October 1966 at page 1028. In the statement we are now debating the Minister for Defence admitted that the Pacific Island Regiment is now approaching a strength of 2,400, which is considerably less than he had anticipated. The estimate in the 1964 defence review was unrealistic. Even though the Government, in 1966, thought that the target of 3,500 would be reached, we can see that the final result is 33% short of the planned target. Yet we sec this demonstration of complacency, lt seems that everything is all right: nothing is likely to happen to Australia and no-one is sufficiently interested in us. The Government would lead one to the view that it is so much nonsense to believe that Australia is in danger. The more we adopt this attitude the greater the risk that we run.
The subject of regional co-operation occupied a portion of the Minister’s statement. Honourable senators know that for years the DLP has been advocating greater regional co-operation in Asia, not only for defence in the event of war but for trade, economic and security reasons. We have always advocated a greater spirit of cooperation amongst the non-Communist nations of Asia. Originally, when we spoke of a confederation of states in South East Asia we were ridiculed by the Press and others; it was said that this would be utterly impossible. When a conference was convened in the Philippines 2 years ago - not by Australia or the United States but by the smaller nations in South East Asia - as a result of which the Asian and Pacific Council was formed, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) threw a wet blanket on the idea. He said that it could not succeed; that it would be another failure. However, he condescended to go to that conference. At least he showed evidence on his return - inarticulate though he is - that he had been convinced of the merits and possibilities of such a gettogether. We have to be closer to these people; we should get together with them.
If making this country secure means that we are going to be a garrison country - to use the expression of Senator Cormack - then let it be a garrison country. We are entitled to security. We are privileged to live within the boundaries of the greatest country in the world; an affluent country; a country where people have opportunities and freedoms unequalled anywhere; a country where the standard of living is high. Some people apparently believe that this country is not worth defending. Those people should get out of it and let others who are prepared to defend Australia get on with the job. 1 am not suggesting that defence should be at the expense of the pensioners or the less fortunate people of our community. However, many people have more to lose than we have in the event of war and in the event of this country succumbing to the hoof of an invader. Let those who have most to lose do more for the defence of this country. Let them defend, in a practical way, what they have.
– ls the honourable senator suggesting a capital levy?
– There are many levies. The honourable senator may call them what he likes, so long as they provide the means of defending this country. We do not want to disturb the peace of any person or any country, but we want to preserve our own peace. That is what I mean when I say that I am a realistic pacifist. I do not want to take up much more time, hut I want to emphasise that none of us, irrespective of the political party to which we belong, can afford to relax our enthusiasm or our energies in relation to the defence of Australia. I join with the Minister in expressing our gratitude to national servicemen - and I. believe I can speak for the great majority of the people of Australia-
– The honourable senator cannot speak for the great majority, noi on his Party’s vote.
– One of my colleagues would bc worth ten of the honourable senator’s type any time.
– My colleagues are all right.
– One was sent out of the chamber today. The honourable senator has been chipping in all the afternoon. I was saying, when I was so rudely interrupted by an insignificant member of the Opposition, that we owe a debt of gratitude to our national servicemen and regular servicemen and to the men and women who have done and are doing a grand job. They are carrying out their duties courageously and competently. As the Minister said, they are doing so in a way that merits the nation’s admiration. We all believe that, 1 hope. Let us take this opportunity of expressing our gratitude to the men and women who are doing such a noble job in several theatres of war at the present time - on land, at sea and in the air.
– In rising to participate in this debate I. desire to make a few observations concerning the conference which is expected to open in Paris tomorrow between representatives of the United States of America and North Vietnam in an endeavour to find a formula for peace in Vietnam. As Washington and Hanoi edge warily towards the conference table, it is difficult to judge the feelings, hopes and fears of the leaders iri South Vietnam. In the power game, as played in Saigon, personal rivalries and changing allegiances seldom bear any recognisable relationships to political conviction. While the world applauds the attempt to find a Vietnam peace based on a compromise between Washington and Hanoi, the world is speaking a language which is not understood in South Vietnam and which is absolutely incomprehensible so far as the South Vietnamese leaders are concerned. They have indicated already, in no uncertain manner, that in their opinion there is absolutely no basis for a compromise, in the Western meaning of the word. Notwithstanding this, 1 believe that there could be an internationally underwritten agreement whereby the Vietnam which emerges from this war could be neutral in the strategic military sense, as are Finland and Austria today.
A possibility arising from the Parts conference is that while Vietnam could be neutral, it would not be politically neutral because the major issue today is: Who is to control and dominate the government in Saigon? ls it to be North Vietnam or South Vietnam? That is what the war is about. We all know that compromise between political antagonists is feasible if they share basic social and economic principles. But there is nothing in common between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. They are poles apart. It could be of assistance if a substantial number of well balanced leaders, commanding the trust and respect of the people of South Vietnam, were appointed and were strong enough to counter the extremists in that area or to hold the balance of power. But these pre-conditions simply do not exist in Saigon today. One could travel the world and not find people as intelligent as are the Vietnamese but who lag so far behind the rest of the world in political commitment. For that reason it is difficult to determine the amount of support that the Saigon Government has from its own people concerning its policy in prosecuting this war.
One assessment, widely supported in Saigon, is that approximately 20% of the people are hard core anti-Communists, while another 20% support the Vietcong. While the Saigon regime is riddled with corruption and torn by factionalism, the Veitcong appear to be a tightly knit, dedicated force. In between those two groups are the majority of the people, the other 60%. They do not support one side or the other. They do want to become involved in the war or in the basic social or economic motivations that would take them beyond their hamlets and away from their families. Numerous religious leaders offer alternatives to militant Communism and antiCommunism. A few members of the National Assembly are respected for their independence and integrity. But the ineffectiveness of these well-meaning people is amply demonstrated by the disentegration of the National Salvation Front, established by Senator Tran Van Don. Only two months ago he gathered around him more than 2,000 leaders representing all sections of the community and established the National Salvation Front. His aim was to counter the psychological gains of the Vietcong in the recent Tet offensive and to mould national unity on a broad front.
The National Salvation Front received the blessing of the United States, but because of internal suspicions and petty jealousies it quickly deteriorated until today, only two months after its commencement, it is practically non-existent. At present Senator Don is the target of violent accusations that he is ready to be manipulated by the Vietcong. That could be true, but it is also possible that it is nothing more or less than a filthy slander directed against him by people in high places who are afraid that the National Salvation Front would prefer other people to themselves. Against Saigon’s background of continual bickering and political ineptitude, a conference such as that commencing tomorrow to find a formula for peace in Vietnam is starting a long way behind scratch. Even if the United States of America were to offer to agree to a coalition government which would include a few de-fanged Communists occupying minor portfolios, I am doubtful that that arrangement would be acceptable to either side.
The South Vietnamese Government has already said in no uncertain manner that there is no basis for a compromise. The Hanoi Government in North Vietnam has mainland China breathing down its neck. China has already intimated that in the event of North Vietnam’s coming to a compromise agreement with the United States, no further aid will be forthcoming from China. The Americans have made it very clear that they do not intend to be levered out of Vietnam tomorrow or the next day on any terms that would leave the gate wide open for a takeover of the government in Saigon. It is all very complicated. Nevertheless, as I said before, I believe that an agreement should be internationally underwritten so that the Vietnam which emerges from this war could be neutral in the same strategic military sense as Finland and Austria are neutral today. North Vietnam indicts the United States, contending that the United States is the aggressor who is fighting in a foreign country against the people of that country. The United States contends that North Vietnam is the aggressor who has invaded South Vietnam. I believe that the United States of America should not have sent its troops into Vietnam in the first place. I was strongly opposed to Australia’s becoming part and parcel of that conflict. I am certainly strongly opposed to the policy of this Government in conscripting 20-year old boys - they are only boys - and’ shipping them overseas to fight in an undeclared war in Vietnam. I am certainly opposed to that policy. I believe that every honourable senator assembled here today is hoping that the Paris Conference tomorrow will be able to find, at least as a beginning, a formula that may lead to permanent peace in Vietnam.
I wish now to thank the President and Deputy President of the Senate for the assistance they have given me from time to time. It has been greatly appreciated. I also want to thank Mr Odgers, the Clerk of the Senate, and his staff; Mr Bert Nicholls, the Usher of the Black Rod; the Hansard staff and the Senate chamber attendants who have assisted me greatly during the last few difficult years of my term in the Senate. I pay a tribute to the dining room staff, the staff in the dispensary, and the manager and staff , of the Hotel Kurrajong who have gone out of their way to ensure that I have received meals prepared in accordance with the restricted diet I am compelled to follow. I greatly appreciate what they have done for me.
I also pay a tribute to the staff of the Government Printing Office who do a mighty job in supplying the printing needs of this Parliament, very often in difficult circumstances. The greatest credit is due to them for the job that they do. In conclusion I wish to say that during the 24 years I have been a senator I have made many friends, not only on this side of the chamber but also on the other side. I will miss them when my term expires on 30th June. However, I will receive a life pass and I will be able to come to Canberra occasionally to see everyone here when the spirit moves me. I have an idea that the spirit could easily move me in the mushroom season, which is the time of year I like best in Canberra. Au revoir, and thank you all very much.
– I should like to .say how delighted I was to hear my old friend, Senator Nicholls, speaking. Between us there are some differences of opinion politically at times, but there has never been other than a happy personal association extending over many years. It was indeed a pleasure to hear him, to note the acclaim he received and to realise the esteem in which he is held by the Senate.
I have listened with keen interest to those honourable senators who - have spoken in this debate on defence. I admire the depth of thought that has gone into their contributions. We heard from Senator Cormack the type of address that we have come to expect from him. It contained much original thought and indicated a deep appreciation of foreign affairs generally. He made purposeful suggestions about our future approach to defence. I feel very raw in debates such as this when 1 hear the speeches of experienced senators. I realise what a wealth of wisdom, understanding and perception there is in this chamber, particularly on matters related to defence and foreign affairs. There comes a time when it is desirable to give credit where credit is due. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) carries one of the most onerous responsibilities of any person in this country. He discharges his duties with a dedicated, down to earth approach and I admire him greatly, but rarely do we hear words of encouragement to him in the Senate. This underlines the import of the Minister’s words which, he says, are of some consequence to him. He said: . . few appear willing to concede that silence is essential 10 much being considered or done in the defence field and is not indicative of failure to perceive, let alone cope with, the problems that face us.
– Is the Government silent because it has nothing to boast about?
– I think that generally we have done pretty well in recent years in respect of defence. I appreciate that much of the work that is done by responsible people in the defence field is often misconstrued or not correctly assessed because of the limitations placed on such highly responsible officers in speaking of what is being done and of future intentions. Reticence is essential, but it can be misconstrued. The Minister also said: . . it is in the nature of things thai achievement earns little acclaim. But the fact is that over the last 10 years a first-class and highly effective job of increasing, (raining and re-equipping our fighting forces has been done by those concerned with defence - civilians and servicemen alike. I believe their efforts ought to be widely applauded.
Our whole nation should be proud of the performance, in peace and war, of our defence Services. It would be a boost to their morale to have it acknowledged. Whether on land dr sea, or in the air. whether national servicemen, regular servicemen or members of the Citizen Military Forces, our men and women have done their duty steadfastly, courageously and competently - in » way that merits the nation’s admiration. The Government believes this. 1 believe the Parlia ment as a whole, and the Australian people, believe this. This needs to be emphasised.
I could not agree more with those words. We are, as it were, at the parting of the ways. Throughout our entire history we have been associated with Great Britain and we are now entering a new phase as a result of Britain’s announced retirement from east of Suez. We are in the situation where we have a moral obligation to do what we can to meet aggression where aggression arises and to give assistance) to those people who have been the subject of aggression and who are seeking help. We believe deeply in the preservation of the freedom of minorities and we must honour treaties that we have entered into that are in accord with our beliefs. The new situation in which we find ourselves is in a state of flux at present and it calls for a review of our defence measures which arise from our foreign policy. Defence policy must stem from foreign policy.
We are a peace loving nation and we look forward to developing Australia to the maximum of our financial ability, ensuring, in balance with it, an ability to defend our shores and also indicating to those who have unfriendly thoughts towards us that we have an ability for defence. Then we must concentrate more and more on developing, or assisting to develop, the economies of under-developed countries quite near to us with a view to living with them in peace and prosperity. Australia is an outpost of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and we want to do this not as an English speaking country in an Asian setting but as a country making a purposeful and sincere endeavour to be a good neighbour to those about us.
I believe that by progressive development of our communications and associations with those near to us, and by mutually acceptable arrangements regarding economic, social and political activities, we can achieve much in the peculiar situation of our country. We have no need to follow the ‘policies of other countries. If we can follow a policy based on the desire for peace and its maintenance and of friendship with those about us, we will be heading into a future that will be to the best advantage of ourselves and our neighbours. I am concerned that: being so far from our markets across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, we should be able at all times to maintain our channels of communication with the old world - Europe and America. In this respect the importance of our maritime power is emphasised. These aspects of defence thinking were dealt with fully by Senator Cormack. He put his finger on the pulse very well. I repeat that I have very great admiration for the Minister for Defence who has given us this very forthright and comprehensive paper on the situation as it now is and the thinking for the future. I have much pleasure in noting the paper.
– I join with other Opposition speakers in making fairly stringent observations on the defence statement. As my colleague Senator Nicholls pointed out, it is obvious that if peace comes in Vietnam as a result of the talks that are to commence in Paris tomorrow that will bring about a considerable change in the cost of our defence programme. Referring to the defence statement and the Government’s achievements, I cannot help relating the section of the statement under the heading United Kingdom Decisions’, which refers to a vacuum that will be created by the British withdrawal from east of Suez and to Australia’s future relations with Singapore and Malaysia, to Senator Gair’s remarks in expounding his Party’s theory. To my way of thinking, there is a tremendous difference between the stability of Singapore and Malaysia and that of some of the other countries on which 1 believe we are inclined to place too much reliance at times, in view of their economic and social weaknesses.
I do not think any of us have any aggressive intentions in respect of Singapore and Malaysia. I believe it is reasonable to assume that in any arrangements that are made with those two countries there will be a higher degree of teamwork than we can expect in arrangements with some other Asian countries. The British Defence Secretary, Mr Healey, has good relations with those two countries and that has led to the existence of a reasonable launching pad for further developments. 1 say that advisedly because I do not think anybody can express any serious criticism of Mr Healey’s role. No-one could have expected the British taxpayers to continue shouldering excessive burdens. I am not suggesting for one moment that Australia should expect to fill completely the gap that will be caused by the British withdrawal. If we want to obtain value for every dollar that we spend, we can expect the word of the rulers of Singapore and Malaysia to mean more than that of the rulers of one or two other countries who in some respects are jingoistic. In any case, in the stake that we have in that area already we have indicated our sincerity.
Again I come into dispute with Senator Gair. We can have our armed troops in the area as a sort of caretakers, but unless the Asian masses really believe that we are helping them we are wasting our time. That is one of the lessons to be learnt from the South Vietnamese campaign in which masses of troops and sophisticated weapons have been used. When about 60% of the people are disinterested or acutely neutralist, as Senator Nicholls said, the task is pretty difficult. But in Singapore, where there are massive housing programmes and other schemes, the people have the will to fight because they have a stake in their country. In some of the other Asian countries that will is non-existent. I am not one of those people who are so Utopian in their attitude as to believe that one can always rely on the good nature of people. Often, good nature has to be backed up with other measures. If one just makes wordy utterances and is not able to prove by example the sort of society that he is seeking to build, the response will not be very good.
I turn now to the activities of the Department of Supply generally and what has been achieved. Let me refer firstly to the Navy. I can remember that in the early 1950s the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, stumped the country talking about threats from the north. One of the points that he made was exemplified earlier this week when Senator Sir Kenneth Morris referred to the illegal operations of overseas fishing vessels. When Sir Robert Menzies raised this matter in the 1950s we were told that we were to have twenty-odd patrol boats. Now, in 1968, we are told that eleven of the twenty-odd patrol boats are in operation. In view of the urgency of the need for these boats, I am amazed that a higher priority was not given to this matter so that we could have had the twenty-odd patrol boats in operation now.
People refer to the cost factor. But the Government is trying to convince the general public that there is a real urgency about defence matters. When, not so long ago, we enacted legislation for the extension of our fishing rights from a 3-mile limit to a 12-mile limit, some people, particularly Senator Keeffe, hammered this theme. It was expected that as a natural corollary of that legislation our patrol boats would be in the area to see that our fishing rights were protected. But in view of the matters that Senator Sir Kenneth Morris has raised, it seems that the Government has been a little laggard in not having these patrol boats available much earlier.
I think of countries in the middle group, such as the Scandinavian countries. They have a coastline to patrol, lt is true that it is not as big as ours. But they have had problems in connection with fishing rights and have backed up legislation with the provision of efficient patrol boats. Another example <s the United States coastguard fleet. It seems to me that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) glossed over the reason why these patrol boats were not put into operation much sooner. I am not talking about defence only in the real sense. The Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), who is at the table, knows as well as I do that there are many sections of our coastline where we need more efficient protection. I am thinking of the colossal profits made from drug smuggling. The efforts of the customs officers would be much more effective if the Royal Australian Navy had its full complement of patrol boats so that it could patrol the entire coastline.
We often talk about self-sufficiency. I do not know what the situation is at the present time because it is not mentioned in the defence statement. With reference to anti-tank guns, as far as I know quite a lot of the components were made under licence from Sweden. In the statement we are told about some of Australia’s achievements in the communications field, particularly in electronics. I would not try to decry those achievements for one moment. But 1 have looked in vain for reference to an achievement of the present Government comparable with that of the Curtin Government during the war years, when it took an Army corporal named Owen out of the ranks and gave him more or less an open cheque, with the result that he came up with the Owen gun. When I read in certain American magazines about the sophisticated small arms equipment of the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong, I am a little curious as to whether the Government is satisfied with some of our basic military equipment and what it has done to encourage Australian inventors in this field.
Reference has been made to middle powers such as Israel and the Scandinavian countries. On the matter of aircraft, whatever our problems with the Fill may be, the fact of the matter is that we could have shopped around for French aircraft, as Israel did. it might be argued that our gamble came off in that we were not involved in a conflict, as Israel was in the Middle East. At the same time if they had been in the queue waiting for the FI 1 1 or some other American aircraft that was being made the subject of Pentagon politics they would have been in a peculiar situation.
Let us consider the trainer aircraft. The complete story of how the Victa people suddenly went to the wall has never been told. With a little more encouragement I believe they would have been still in business. The Government may have a story to tell in relation to the field of communications but on the general question of encouraging Australian industries it appears that, having regard to the output from the factories at Lithgow, Maribyrnong and other places, the position that obtains in Australia is similar to that obtaining in the Scandinavian countries and in America. Obviously many dollars are involved in the defence industry in the United States. Retired lieutenant-colonels and majorgenerals are appointed to the boards of organisations operating in the defence industry and they become lobbyists - this will happen in Australia eventually - and suggest that this equipment or that equipment should be purchased. I do not mind that finding its own level in the United States but if we have to mark time until things adjust themselves we could find ourselves in danger.
I know it may be argued that certain retired members of Parliament want to play the lobbying game, and I say to the Leader of the Government in the Senate that the time has come, not only in relation to the defence procurement field but in other fields as well, when we should adopt the Scandinavian principle and license lobbyists so that we will know whom they represent because in the defence field things should not be done at the whim of some person. That practice is most pronounced in the United States. How often do we find a decision on defence is based on electoral considerations and the use made of a certain port in a particular State? I have always felt that Canberra symbolised the national approach. The more that lobbyists can be curbed the more equitable will be the approach to defence contracts generally. There are so many fields in which something can be done.
The defence statement contains only a passing reference to the experiment in Canada with the integration of the various Services. 1 do not suggest that if the Australian services were integrated there, would be a common uniform and that the various Service traditions would be submerged. My point is that mass buying of many component parts used by the Navy, the Army and the Air Force would result in considerable savings. lt is no part of my function in this debate to argue whether . Robert McNamara was right or wrong politically in relation to Vietnam but I think he proved once and for all the benefits and savings obtained by mass buying of equipment. He was able to eradicate much of the rivalry that existed with inter-Service buying. 1 have yet to be convinced that that situation does not apply in Australia, lt is obvious that the different Services have their own attitudes. I need mention, only foodstuffs, bedding and clothing. Let no-one to’ to tell me that bulk buying for. the three Services would not result in lower prices with consequent savings. It may be argued that the Commonwealth spreads its contracts to provide employment in the various States. That is laudable but 1 think we should look at this matter to see where we are going.
Now let me refer to the agreement relating to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. How many honourable senators have read the book by Bernard Newman titled ‘Blue Ants’ in which the author visualises an atomic war between Russia and China within the next 10 years? That book is not science fiction. Bernard Newman has a broad political background. He had a very fine record in espionage and at different times during the Second World War carried out special missions for the
British Government. The lesson to be learnt is that we should not underwrite the internal situation in the Soviet Union. Whether we like it or not, a diplomatic milestone was passed when Khrushchev and Kennedy were able to ease world tensions at the time of the Cuba crisis. We know that with their ideological conflicts there is a certain fear that if China and the Soviet Union bury their feud the power balance will be in a different position. Anyone who has had the opportunity to obtain the reports of the long drawn out conferences in Geneva which have as their purpose the limiting of nuclear weapons must realise that in Europe today the younger people are coming to the top in Communist con: trolled governments. We can see the danger in having bigger and better atom and hydrogen bombs and 1 do not think the lesson has been lost on them. The only point in the thesis expounded by Senator Gair that I accept is that atomic know-how possibly could be used in the industrial field to the detriment of other countries. That is true, but I do not believe that on that ground we should refuse to be a signatory to the agreement. The Government may not be prepared to accept the Russian’ view, but if the President of the United States felt that a genuine effort was being made to get the big powers to agree to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons 1 would go along with him.
Leaving China aside for the moment, does anyone imagine that in their saner moments the big powers want Nasser to have the opportunity to obtain an atomic bomb or a hydrogen bomb? I would have great fears even if De Gaulle or someone like him obtained the bomb. It might be said that he is going his own way and is not prepared to sign the agreement. That may be so. But if the chips were down 1 would much prefer to be on the side of Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union rather than take a risk and encourage some of the maverick nations personified by China, France and countries lower down the scale until we reach the level of a President of some South American state who is a bit warhappy, or Nasser or someone else in the Middle East. Of course risks will have to be taken but let us be realistic about this. We have guided missile destroyers which carry nuclear warheads. Those things are there, and the Labor Party is prepared to go all the way on this issue to get some constructive effort in this field. No matter what argument one may advance, someone will always see a flaw in it.
It may be argued that the reverse position applies to China. The Communist countries in Europe now have younger people at the top. They are more flexible and more malleable than were the old Communist leaders. They want more consumer goods. From conversations with people in eastern Europe under the age of 35 years I have learned that far more progress can be made with them than with the old hard line Communist Party members. It might be said that this is not manifesting China with Red Guardism but I think that there is in China a growing group which wants a more stable policy.
None of us knows what the final outcome of the agreement will be. The Labor Party is realistic about this. We understand that the big powers are endeavouring to do something now to hold the line over the next decade. It is true that China probably will receive some nuclear parity but when her own people suffer from the effects of nuclear explosions 1 am sure that there will be a gradual awareness of the dangers. But that does not mean that Australia has to be denuded of defences. We agree that there is value in what has been done but our own secondary industries must be given every incentive. Our signature on the treaty will not mean that we will be unduly committed to any particular ally, even with our nominal allies at the present time. We do not need to become involved in the commercial rat race in which rival industrial combines in Britain and America are engaging. We must be pretty hard headed when we go to America on purchase missions. My other point brings me a little nearer home. It relates to Asia. This reminds me of the attitude of the late President Kennedy who, when speaking about the Vietnam situation, said that it was their war and they had to fight it. I feel that that is the test that should be applied. So long as we are dealing with people like Prime Minister Lee of Singapore who has encouraged his people to be active, and has offered them strong leadership, we can have some confidence in any arrangements we make with the country concerned but I feel that we should exercise great caution in our arrangements with some other countries on the Asian mainland. Indonesia, of course, is another matter. My Leader, Mr Whitlam, has advocated non-aggression pacts with various Asian countries. Adam Malik was rather circumspect about the matter when he arrived here. Senator Willesee and others have been strong advocates of going a considerable way with Indonesia. We want to be friendly with Indonesia. We should not be patronising. Honourable senators may remember that recently in this chamber I suggested that there should bc a more tolerant attitude in some countries, and I referred to the recent problem in connection with trade unionism in South Korea. Tolerance has been suggested in connection with our dealings with Indonesia in view of that country’s social problems. I hope that the present leader of Indonesia will not make the same mistake as was made by Sukarno when he became obsessed by . his own ambitions, built palaces all over the country and hunted round the world for lady friends. That sort of thing did not give him a very good image in the eyes of the world. I suggest that in framing a policy for defence and the attainment of certain political objectives, the adoption of the guidelines that I have put forward and which are supported by the Labor Party would lead to a much more stable situation and the avoidance of the atomic upheaval which we all dread.
– We are discussing a statement on defence which was made in this place on behalf of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). As is usual in a discussion of statements of this kind, mention has been made of a wide variety of things. Indeed, the debate has ranged over the whole fields of defence, international affairs- and international relationships, lt is true to say that it is impossible in any one statement to answer all the questions which arise in connection with defence. For this reason, the statement which is the subject of debate today relates only to certain parts of the total defence programme. Some parts have been spelt out in detail. These have been referred to either by implication or in passing. But in” whatever way they have been mentioned, they all emphasise the importance to Australia of what is a highly involved and closely integrated defence plan.
The Minister has drawn attention in his speech to the total involvement of this closely knit programme by using the phrase: We are in the grip of history in the making.’ By this statement he demonstrates that he is appreciative of the fact that the speedy changes in international developments have a great effect upon our relationships. This afternoon, we have heard references to parts of the Indian Ocean, we have had reference to the Pacific Ocean, and we have had reference to our relationship with Africa and with countries in South East Asia. I made reference to developments in the Indian Ocean in another context last week. Here again the Indian Ocean emerges as an important area not only in international affairs but also in the whole question of Australia’s defence both as presently framed and indeed as it is planned for the immediate and distant future.
The arrival on the scene of new powers and new administrations, the emergence of new nations and of new nationalities and the emergence of new associations between one nation and another all affect our relationships and our defence programme. The influence of newly independent governments has an effect on our defence thinking, as does the departure of the British forces from the area as well as the fact that China is showing up as a nuclear power. As the Minister has stated, these are all parts of history in the making and they all have some effect on Australia’s defence policy.
Our involvement in Vietnam, of course, is the overriding factor. The future prospects of this struggle as well as the possible outcome of the discussions now going on all have a direct and close influence on the total and detailed pattern of Australian defence.
The Minister has detailed in his speech something of the current 3-year programme which will come to a close at the end of June this year. He spells this out against the background of his own phrase that we are in the grip of history in the making. In these days, any defence programme must have an extraordinary degree of flexibility. It must be capable of receiving and promoting new thoughts and new ideas. Indeed it must be prepared from time to time, sometimes at very short notice, to change what we have always regarded as some of the cornerstones of defence programming.
I repeat that in programming for defence in these days we are confronted with special difficulties. Therefore, the Minister’s current 3-year programme is not only interesting and very relevant to our own situation al this particular time, but it also has an influence on what the programme for the next 2, 3, 4 or 5 years may be.
The Minister went so far as to claim - and I agree with him - that the current 3-year defence programme has yielded a great deal in that our defence services have been strengthened and their equipment has been increased. The Minister also points out what I think most of us know. It is that the designing of a 3-year programme for the immediate future has not been completed because of certain developments which are pending. The most important of these are the five-power talks to be held in Kuala Lumpur next month. But, because there has not been spelt out in so many words a detailed programme for the future, that does not mean to say there has been any cessation of planning. It certainly does not mean that there has been any cessation of continuity, lt does not mean that there has been any halting of capability in the defence forces. But it does mean, as I tried to point out a few moments ago, that there must be some flexibility of planning in order that the programme may be adapted to the various changing circumstances with which we in Australia are faced from a defence point of view.
I think one of the most important things to observe today is that the defence expansion that we have seen in recent years is developing momentum and will continue to do so. It has an on-going quality. Orders have been placed for new equipment and approvals have been given for the raising of new units. These have yet to be completed. Many other things which are on the move now will’ go forward to completion. Back in 1964 at the beginning of the 3- year programme, the then Prime Minister announced the introduction of the national service scheme. Along with it he announced proposals to strengthen the Services in terms of manpower, ships, aircraft and military equipment of all kinds. All of this programming was estimated to cost almost $2,500m for the 3-year period ending June this year. But as fast as this programme was put into effect, events added new obligations. Honourable senators will be familiar with the development of and our involvement in South Vietnam.
I think it is appropriate when discussing our defence programme to refer to the unqualified success of the national service training scheme. The Minister did well to emphasise the fact that the national servicemen have been completely integrated with the voluntary regulars without any distinction in conditions of service or indeed anything else. The national servicemen have made a magnificent contribution. I think the Minister said that they were doing a professional and praiseworthy job. I was filled with the highest admiration of them when, only a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being present at an investiture when a national serviceman received a very high decoration for bravery in Vietnam in protecting a wounded officer with his own body. By their devotion to duty these people are writing the defence history of Australia. The Minister spelt out the progress being made in the Navy, Army and Air Force under the 3-year defence programme now nearing completion. Two or three things in the review are important. It is important, firstly, to underline the tremendous progress made in this programme since the triennium began. It is important also to highlight the Government’s ability to meet changing needs and pressures, particularly in our part of the world. It is important also to note that the programme has reached what I will call a ‘very good springboard point’ to enable it to adjust and perform capably in the period immediately ahead. The Defence Report 1967 stated:
Australian Defence policies, and the defence and assistance programmes that support them, derive basically from two central propositions: that the extension of hostile influence and control over wide areas of South East Asia, particularly by militant Communism, would create a situation that would undermine the security of the countries in the area and present a threat to the strategic interests of Australia; that a South East Asian region comprising free and independent states working effectively in a secure environment on economic, political and social advancement is essential to the prevention of the spread of hostile power, and to international order and progress.
Here we have in words plain and clear to understand something of the policy and progress of the Australian defence programme. It has been said on more than one occasion in this place, and in another place, that although Australia is a country of limited capacity and size, she is placed in probably one of the most interesting areas of the world, strategically and geographically, and must continue to have a diverse and complete defence programme. The Defence Report of 1967 continues:
An important consequence of this strategy is that the countries of South East Asia, who are building confidence by their own achievements, draw strength from the demonstration that Australia and other allies are prepared to assist as necessary and where they are wanted in contributing towards security for these countries. In the area as a whole there is now much greater hope that South East Asia can become the kind of region its people want, and in this development Australia has played its role.
Indeed, Australia has played a significant and important part in the development of the region. The claim in the Report that countries in the area have drawn strength from the things which Australia and her allies have endeavoured to do stems, I suggest, from our consistent involvement in the area over a number of years.
There would be varying opinions as to whenour involvement in Asia began. Perhaps it was in the 1948-50 period. Perhaps it was when the Korean War broke out that Australian involvement in Asia more acutely and directly received attention. It was probably the Korean War which made many Australians realise that there were Communist powers prepared to infiltrate and adopt revolutionary processes and generally work an insurgent’s way down through that part of the world. During the Korean War Australian forces were engaged with the United Nations force, not only because of our obligations to that organisation but also in the interest of assisting to stop Communist expansion for our long term defence. It will be recalled that the Malayan emergency had in it similar elements that have come to be very familiar and readily recognised. The Malayan situation lasted for about 12 years. Australian forces were involved in the area alongside British forces. In the mid-1950s - perhaps 10 years ago - it became apparent that Australian forces could be committed in much larger scale operations in the eventof Communist pressure elsewhere in Asia. The principal danger spots at the time were north east Thailand and, later, South Vietnam.
So over the years it has become clear that Australia has a very important role to play in the defence of this area. This fact was emphasised when confrontation towards Malaysia was declared by Indonesia. During the period of confrontation, which lasted from 1963 to 1966, Australian troops were used in a variety of ways, such as on construction work and in some military operations.
The Vietnam conflict has been referred to many times. It follows in succession the incidents to which I have already referred. We have in South Vietnam today a force of about 1,000 men, supported by a variety of units. All df these happenings, spread over almost 20 years, have given Australia a special involvement in Asia. I refer particularly to our role in the total defence of the area. Our contribution and involvement with many countries of Asia at the defence level have been significant and are reflected in the Minister’s statement in terms of our achievement and in terms of the things that’ we’ can do in the future and which we may be called upon to do.
The most significant problem of immediate concern to us in formulating defence policies has been the British decision to withdraw forces .from the Malaysia, and Singapore area by 1971. In the light of the forthcoming five power talks in Kuala Lumpur between Malaysia. Singapore, the United Kingdom. New Zealand and Australia it is interesting and significant to note the extent to which honourable senators who have taken part in this debate have speculated on Australia’s position as the British withdrawal proceeds. It is important to place on record the fact that Britain has stated her intention in this matter quite clearly. In a statement on defence last year the British Government slated:
Our aim is thai Britain should not again have to undertake operations on this scale outside Europe.
This year Mr Healey, speaking in the House of Commons on the defence estimates, made it clear that Great Britain regards her role as being principally in Europe. He staled that economic considerations had forced this conclusion on Britain and that strategic thinking in- the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has had a considerable influence on Britain’s policy. Mr Healey said that the NATO powers believe that in the event of war in Europe it is essential to provide resistance to aggression on such a scale and in such a way as to maximise the allied capability to resist attack in”
Europe. These statements highlight the fact that the United Kingdom has sufficient forces to make only nominal contributions outside Europe if she is to retain an effective place in the NATO structure. Naturally, the United Kingdom has a deep concern to remain in an effective way within the NATO structure. The indications arc that the United Kingdom has decided that European defence is her prime consideration.
As wc refer to these matters it is relevant to give some thought to the size of the forces that the United Kingdom might be able to commit to South East. Asia or even to Australia to meet treaty obligations. I think it is fairly clear that she would be unwilling to send more than what I would term a ‘modest force’ and this may come in a variety of ways according to circumstances. I have seen an estimate that it might be a force of between 20,000 and 30,000 men. In trying to gauge the intentions of the United Kingdom it is also important: to look for a moment at what her Government said about the area to which wc have been referring, lt is expected and it has consistently been stated that Britain will honour her obligation, both under the Malaysian Defence Agreement, in which she accepts certain responsibility, and under the SEATO Treaty, which requires her to act in the event of aggression against any of the member nations. It is also clear that the British Government appreciates the fact that there is a moral obligation arising from her commonwealth relationships, lt is not to be assumed that she has no capability to meet these obligations in a limited way. We must certainly nol assume that she has no intention of doing so.
At the same time, she has nol earmarked any forces to act outside Europe and; as explained by the Defence Minister in the House of Commons only last month, any future involvement that she has outside Europe will depend on her obligations and the circumstances of the time. In spite of the run down of Britain’s forces she will still be the most powerful nation in Europe except for Russia and her naval strength is exceeded only by that of the United States and the Soviet Union. She is departing this scene and it is emerging from a study of her intentions and capabilities that she does not want lo maintain great defence forces in this area and that the need would have to be very great to convince her that she should do this. Considering her European role, her capability to send forces possibly has some limitations and it is not without relationship to her present economic situation and what I might describe as the easing of the threat of war in Europe’. All of these things tend in her present circumstances to encourage her to make some reductions in her armed strength and we do not know whether there will be any further substantial reductions in the future. So from a national security point of view it would be unwise to rely upon British assistance in the South East Asian or Australian area, as we have done over the years, the simple reason being that the security of Britain must come first.
In a consideration of Australia’s defence thinking or of any five power talks in which Australia may engage, we must realise on the one hand that British assistance can be considered as not being available to us and on the other that we have an involvement in South East Asian countries that is very creditable indeed and has spread itself over a wide range of activities and interests. All of this highlights the fact that Australia’s defence programme is entering an altogether new phase. The Minister has said suffiicent to indicate that the Government is alert to events, demands and responsibilities. We may not be able to fill the vacuum caused by the departure of British interests but from our involvement and our readiness it is clear that Australia’s defence programme is geared not only to defending and preserving this country but also to ensuring peace and stability in neighbouring areas.
Another feature which is an integral unit in the- total wider pattern of defence ‘has been referred to in the defence statement, perhaps more by inference than in detail. I refer to defence aid as outlined in the defence report of 1967 which is associated with this statement. The Government is continuing its defence aid programme in Malaysia and Singapore, so enabling those countries to strengthen their ability to defend their national territories and to maintain effective internal security. Perhaps not as colourful as other aspects of our defence programme, this defence aid, consisting as it does of equipment and training, is of relevance and significance. It is tied up with relationships conducted by the Department of External Affairs and also with our economic relationships with countries in the area. Therefore, 1 want to say a word or two about it. Perhaps one of the most significant comments made upon it was the lead given by the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) during the Higgins by-election campaign when dealing in extended detail with our defence programme and foreign policy.
He pointed out that there was a long term need for Australia to concentrate on defence aid in a number of spheres. He referred to other matters which I have been discussing and especially .to the departure of the United Kingdom forces because this was a major event which would lead to a major vacuum. He said that it was important for Australia to have an alliance with significant and powerful allies. He emphasised that if we accept the duties of an ally we must contribute in the interests of our own security. He pointed out that within the last couple of years we had provided S45m in defence aid to Malaysia and Singapore. That aid money has been used both for the armed forces of Malaysia and for the internal security police force. The latter force undertakes not only work in relation to internal security and military matters but also normal police duties as we understand them. The money provided is spent on equipment, training courses in Australia, and meeting the cost of seconding Australian servicemen to the Malaysian armed forces. These include sailors, soldiers and airmen. Amongst them we find leaders, including senior naval advisers to the Malaysian Navy. A .large number of Malaysian servicemen have been trained in Australia. This is all part of the defence aid project. They have been given instruction in about 125 different courses held under what we would regard as normal Australian conditions. They are normal training courses which include Australians.
As would bc expected, the bulk of the money that is spent on equipment for Malaysia and Singapore is spent on modern military defence equipment- munitions, vehicles, assault boats and engineering equipment. In addition to strengthening the armed forces the aid provides assistance for the economies of the area, and I think that this fact should also be ‘ considered in terms of our defence involvement throughout this part of (he world. The provision of heavy earth moving equipment for the armed Services assists in many major undertakings and in the provision of amenities. The fact that this aid has been of considerable benefit to the armed forces has been recognised by both Malaysia and Singapore. They have acknowledged that this substantial assistance has greatly attributed to the build-up of their defence programme.
Various other forms of aid are provided in the South East Asia area. This aid comes from two sources, lt is provided by the Department of External Affairs under the SEATO agreement and by the Defence Department in the form of defence aid. Aid is nol only provided in the form of defence support but also for economic purposes. These arc inter-related and there is coordination between the two forms. Where Australia gives economic support she virtually gives defence support in countries such as those that I have mentioned. Aid is provided under the SEATO agreement in the form of military technical training schools, vehicle workshops and various training centres. I know of one such centre in Thailand. Some of these projects have been in operation for a number of years. They are manned by Australian Service personnel and other nationals, such as the Thais, on a joint basis. As I said a moment ago, the whole matter of defence aid is not as colourful or as substantial as some of the other elements within our defence programme but: at least it provides for our involvement in the area. It all comes back to the essence of the Minister’s statement that we are at cross-roads in our defence programme. We are looking to the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and South East Asia, and by our involvement over the years we have indicated something of our concern and we have demonstrated our good faith, willingness and preparedness to undertake further work in the defence of South East Asia.
Mr President, ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– At question time this morning Senator Benn asked a question which was highly disorderly. I disallowed the question and subsequently ordered Senator Benn to withdraw it. Senator Benn refused and his suspension from the sitting of the Senate followed. I am much concerned by a question of the type asked by Senator Benn. It was offensive and without basis in fact. Certainly I have the power to disallow such questions, in which case no record appears in Hansard, but what concerns me is that disallowed statements of this type will almost certainly be referred to in broadcasts and in the Press. In the circumstances, there may well be times when the Senate considers that the dignity and standards of parliamentary debate demand that stronger disciplinary action than usual should be taken. These are matters of real concern to all senators. Should the circumstances arise again, I may feel bound to refer the matter of further action to the judgment of the Senate, in which finally rests the responsibility of protecting senators and upholding the high traditions of Parliament.
– I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Senate adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 May 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680509_senate_26_s37/>.