21st Parliament · 1st Session
– I rise to support the remarks that have been made by honorable members on this side of the chamber in connexion with the Government’s escapade in Malaya - it is only an escapade - which was agreed upon at secret conferences, about which the Parliament was not even consulted. I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) in the role of sabre-rattling, trigger-happy warmonger. I expected that a man who had spent quite a good deal of his time before he came into this Parliament preaching the word of God might have made at least a small effort to try to practise the things that Christ taught His followers. But no ! The honorable member for Lyne, although he was paid for many years by the Presbyterian Church to teach and preach Christianity, has spent almost the whole of his time in this Parliament advocating a policy that is diametrically opposed to the things that Christ taught.
It seems to me that supporters of the Government have either not noticed that there has been a conference at Geneva, or that they have deliberately chosen to ignore the decisions of that very important conference. I often think, when listening to speeches by members of the Liberal party, that honorable members opposite do not want peace, but that they want war - war at any cost! Their attitude seems to be, “If we cannot get war in one direction, let us intrude ourselves into the affairs of some other direction “. They have gone all over the world looking for local disputes into which they can buy, and risk valuable Australian lives. It seems that honorable members on the Government side of the chamber have not heard of the hydrogen bomb. Apparently they do not realize that one hydrogen bomb can cause the same amount of destruction as 50,000,000 tons of T.N.T. Apparently they have not read in the newspapers that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), a man who is not noted for favouring peace, only last week stated that the world faced a situation in which it had to choose between co-existence and non-existence. But honorable members opposite do not want co-existence. They want a war, not realizing that a war, as the Minister for External Affairs said, means nonexistence, because wars will be fought with hydrogen bombs, atomic bombs and perhaps weapons of even greater destructive force.
If we want to save Malaya from communism, -we must let the people of Malaya have the right to govern themselves. That is a right that they do not possess now. We could send all the Australian troops that it is possible to raise, and we would never stop communism in Malaya by trying to force the Malayan people to accept the capitalist way of life. Communism cannot be defeated in that way. Do you realize, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that over the last six or seven years as many as 300,000 troops, home guards and the like have been attempting to defeat the 6,000 terrorists in Malaya? Yet, there are as many bandits there now as there were six years ago in spite of the fact that 300,000 troops, including home guards, have been trying to drive them out of the Malayan jungle. The honorable member for Lyne is leaving the chamber. Apparently he realizes that what I have said about him is perfectly true.
– That is a foul and miserable statement.
– -The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) says that that is a foul statement. Let me say something about the administration of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis). He is the individual who deliberately refused to take any action in connexion with a case which I brought under his notice in which a member of the Regular Army, who expressed a desire not to go to Malaya to fight the Malayan people, had asked to be allowed to remain in Australia with the Regular Army. The Minister tola me that people in the Regular Army would go where they were sent. He said that if the man concerned would rejoin his unit the matter would receive consideration, but that he would give no guarantee. The man was not prepared to rejoin his unit.
The Government has no right to send any member of the Regular Army to Malaya against his will. It has no right to send any Australian soldier to
Malaya to fight to support the kind of conditions that exist in Malaya. The rights of the Malayan people have been subjugated in the interests of Chinese millionaire merchants, British exporters and the wealthy owners of tin mines and rubber plantations. The people of whom the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) spoke are, in the main, Chinese millionaires or their representatives and the representatives of the wealthy merchants, bankers, tin mine owners and rubber plantation owners. The honorable member for Evans has not discussed with the ordinary people of Malaya whether or not Australian troops are welcome in Malaya. He attempted to express, on behalf of all the Malayan people, views which had been conveyed to him by a tiny coterie of the vested interests which has a lot to gain by continuing to force upon the Malayan people the form of colonialism that has existed there for over two centuries.
Do honorable members realize that the Government is asking Australian troops to defend a government which allows arrest without warrant, search without warrant, and imprisonment without trial for up to two years? Do they realize that the writ of habeas corpus has been completely suspended in Malaya and that trial by jury is not known? Intimidation of union leaders aud the victimization of militant workers are the order of the day. All militant workers in Malaya are branded by the people with whom Government supporters fraternize when they visit Malaya as Communists in much the same way as in this country Government supporters brand every militant worker as a Communist. They invent an imaginary army of Communists, and by doing so, they give to the Communists the kudos that they are the only people who are capable of being militant. I deny that. I say that the Labour movement takes second place to nobody for militancy. It was the militancy of the early leaders of the Labour party that made it the great party that it is now. At the Hobart conference, the Australian Labour party was proud to proclaim its foreign policy which is not dictated by Communists.
– Communist imperialism !
– Nothing of the kind. Will the honorable member say that Mr. Joe Cahill is a Communist?
– He is just a squib.
– You say lie is just a squib.
– That is right.
– He is only a weakling.
– The honorable member for Yarra says that he is just a squib and the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) says that he is only a weakling.
– That is right.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) interjects that Mr. Cahill took the action that he did take in order to crawl out of a difficult position. We can realize how irresponsible is this corner group in view of the fact that they have described the Premier of New South Wales as a Communist.
– He is a squib.
– This afternoon, when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was speaking, in answer to the question, “Is Joe Cahill a Communist?” the honorable member for Darebin, by way of interjection, said “ Yes “.
– I said that he war following Communist policy.
– And the honorable member said that if he follows Communist policy, he is a Communist on that account.
– That is right.
– I am glad we have the record clear. The people of Malaya, as distinct from foreign investors, are opposed to Australian troops being in that country. Mr. David Marshall, the Chief Minister of Singapore, lias made it perfectly clear that they do not want Australian troops in Malaya. The Australian people do not want Australian troops in Malaya for the very good reason that they know that after Australian troops are sent to Malaya the Government will then send two divisions to Malaya. The people also know that the Government could only get those two divisions by conscription. The honorable member for Ballarat knows that the Government cannot get them by voluntary methods.
– Do not indulge in misrepresentation.
– The honorable member knows that the Government can get them only by conscription.
– The honorable member cannot put words into my mouth.
– There is the position. They advocate a kind of tiling which can be implemented only by conscription. When they realized that tl,ev were in a jam through putting forward a point of view which could only be implemented by conscription, they say, “ Wc are in a jam now. We had better get out of it as quickly as we can. What can we do? We shall submit an amendment and make it appear that we believe in the voluntary system of recruitment after all.” So there it is ! The honorable member for Yarra really staggers me. No one has any right to send any mother’s son to fight on foreign soil against the wishes of the people who belong to that soil. I am sorry to say it, but the Minister for the Army is quite hopeless as a Minister. His policy of forcing members of the Australian Regular Army to go to Malaya whether they like it or not will not promote recruiting. It is no wonder that the recruiting programme has fallen completely flat. The Minister’s administration could not fail to have the results about which he complains.
Malaya, like Goa and Cyprus, provides an example of foreign domination by people who preach, democracy at home but refuse to practise it abroad. The Government claims that it believes in democracy in Australia, but it does not believe in it in Malaya. Communism will continue to flourish while people in any country are forced to go hungry. I am pleased to note that that viewpoint was supported by Mr. Santamaria in Adelaide last week.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- If for no other reason, I wish to speak on these Estimates now to thank the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) publicly for the manner in which he has treated me every time I have approached him to make representations on behalf of my constituents. I could not have received more consideration from any one. The Minister has been most courteous and helpful to me and has done everything possible to achieve the results that I wanted and that were for the good of the country generally. I appreciate the Minister’s attention to my representations.
From the remarks that members of the Australian Labour party have made about Australia’s defence and the sending of forces to Malaya, it appears that, if they want to defend Australia at all - and I am very doubtful about it - they want to defend it on Australian soil. Every member of the Australian Labour party seems to be opposed to service overseas for the protection of Australia. Any one who has seen, in Malaya or other countries, the consequences of invasion, and who can picture the fate of women, children and civilians generally in an invaded country, will pledge himself never to afford any invading force the opportunity of entering Australia and, whenever possible, to send Australian forces overseas to fight our battles on other soil.
We have heard some remarkable speeches on the Defence Estimates. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) stated that the Government cannot obtain troops for the Malaya force except by conscription. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) depicted Malaya as a paradise where houses and servants are freely provided and to which Australian troops will eagerly rush. We have seen thesplit in the Australian Labour party that has resulted in the formation of the antiCommunist Labour party. It appears, from the opinions expressed by two prominent members of the party, that,, on the subject of defence, there is another split in the party. What are we to think about the Australian Labour party?
– Do not ask us.
– No one that I may ask will be able to tell me. As a member of this chamber, I have watched the activities of Labour closely for nearly ten years, and I find it impossible to understand that party. I am in the same position as are all Government supporters and as were the members of the present Government parties when they were in opposition. We cannot understand the Australian Labour party. At one time most Labour members expressed individually held views, and now some of them get together and, in fact, suggest that Australia should not fulfil its obligations as a member of the great British Commonwealth of Nations.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was pointing out that the honorable member for Hindmarsh had said that it was impossible to get men to go to Malaya voluntarily, and therefore, they had to be conscripted for service there. But the honorable member for Blaxland said, shortly before the honorable member for Hindmarsh spoke, that men would go to Malaya because they are getting houses, servants and good pay there. He more or less said that it was a paradise for the troops. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) expressed still another point of view. He pointed out that the troops had to face all sorts of hazards in Malaya. The views expressed on this matter on the opposite side of the chamber are so inconsistent that it is hard to follow the thinking of the remnants of the Labour party, now that the members who formed the Anti-Communist Labour party have broken away from it. Members of the Opposition have said that there is no enemy in Malaya now, but that if there was a war there the position would be quite different. I do not want to indulge in personal reminiscences, but I was in Malaya for nine continuous months before Pearl Harbour, and at that time there was no sign of war coming to Malaya. Some people were of the opinion that war would not come to Malaya. It was a peaceful place, and the Australian troops stationed there at that time were not engaged in war-like activities. But I say that there is an enemy there now. There are the terrorists in the jungle, who kill people in ambush, regardless of whether they are men, women or children. They murder them at night. The tragedies of that nature in Malaya have been appalling. The terrorists are committing act. against the laws of God and man. Let us be thankful that we have a man like the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), a Christian gentleman who is willing to rise in this chamber and fight in order to obtain some redress against those who are committing lawless outrages in Malaya. It is beyond comprehension that the honorable member for Hindmarsh should criticize him by saying something about his Christian standing. Labour party members have said that there are certain people in Malaya who resent the despatch of Australian troops to that country. I had no doubt about that. I had no doubt that people in Malaya who are friendly and sympathetic towards the terrorists in the jungle do not like Australian troops going there. People do not like a military force to enter a country to fight their friends. But. the large majority of the people of Malaya welcome the Australian troops. The Malay himself is not much of a fighting man, as I know. He is rather timid in his movements and actions, and would appreciate having some real help from Australian troops. I am willing to admit that there are a few people in Malaya, friends of the terrorists, who do not want Australian troops stationed there. I have discovered that in Australia there is also a certain section of the community which does not want Australian troops to be sent to Malaya. Some do not like them coming to Malaya from Australia, and some do not like them going from Australia to Malaya. They are the friends of the terrorists. .Speaking in the terms of the sheep man, if I was on the drafting race I would put them all in the same pen. It is my considered opinion that the people who do not want Australian troops to go to Malaya are exactly the same as those people in Malaya who do not want Australian troops to come there, because their sympathies are with the terrorists.
– With the Communists !
– Yes, with the Communist terrorists. I think that most Australians are proud that this country belongs to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Membership of the Commonwealth is our proud boast, and may it long be so. There are United Kingdom troops and New Zealand troops in Malaya. Let us take pride in being associated with them in trying to wipe out i his scourge of terrorists. Let us be proud of it, and not hang back like the Labour party does, and say we should not do it. After all, what is the foundation of the Labour party’s opposition to the sending of troops to Malaya, when all its views are summed up? It has resulted from a decision of the Hobart conference of the Labour party. I should like to ask any Labour supporter opposite who rises to speak in this debate to tell us how many high military officers or tacticians were present at the Hobart conference who could offer sound advice to the delegates. Were there any military officers there, or any men with experience in strategy? A colleague interjects that the right honorable member for Barton was there. I do not think that the right honorable gentleman would claim to be a military leader or a strategist. Honorable members opposite must admit that that conference was absolutely devoid of any sound advice as to the real merits of the situation, and acted only on grounds of political expediency. The delegates to that conference thought they might get the support of some weak-kneed Australians, but the Australian people are awake to those things. They are proud of their servicemen.
I deplore the fact that a member of the Labour party said to-day that Australian men were going to Malaya to cause trouble. I do not wish to repeat statements .hat I have made in this chamber at other times, but constant repetition of statements, true or false, is a technique of the Labour party, so I shall have no hesitation now in repeating my view that no matter to what part of the world Australian troops have gone, they have been our finest ambassadors. Does any honorable member think they are going to Malaya on a quest for gain? Does anybody think they are going to try to out- rage a weaker nation by lawless conquest ? As I heard a politician say some years ago, “Let us thank God their mission is as pure and noble as any soldiers ever undertook to rid the world of would-be tyrants “. Let us have faith in our men. We must be proud of them, and try not to speak about them in a way that will detract from their renown; and as memory is a part of the human mind, let us always fight against any attempt to depreciate the story of their deeds of valour, or their renown, or honour in which we hold them.
– I think that this debate has been very important and very interesting. The proposition put before the committee by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), in form asked for a reduction of the vote for the defence services, which is the formal method of opening a debate on the defence policy of the Government and the foreign policy in which that defence policy is embedded. Nobody knows quite what the Government’s foreign policy is. It is never enunciated. It has, of course, to be adapted to meet changing conditions, as everybody knows.
Let me refer to one or two minor points before I deal with the great question that has been debated to-day from various points of view, that is, the Government’s foreign policy and whether it is right to do what the Government is doing. The minor points concern the actual expenditure of public money. We listened on Tuesday night to a speech by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in which he outlined the condition of our economy and prophesied that great difficulties lay ahead of us. What are the facts about the defence votes for the previous two years? In 1953-54, the Parliament voted £200,000,000 for defence and the Government used £189,000,000. Taking into account the fact that £12,000,000 of the £189,000,000 was used for trust fund purposes, we see that, of the £200,000,000, no less than £23.000,000 was unexpended. That was a very large slice of the total vote - far more than 10 per cent, of it.
Then let us consider what happened in 1954-55. One would think that, in view of the experience of 1953-54, the Government would have got its officers to look more closely at the figures and make a better approximation of what would be spent. But no ! Again £200,000,000 was voted by the Parliament, trusting that the money would be spent and that the representations made to it were correct. What was actually used was £185,000,000. About £8,000,000 was paid into a trust fund. So in 1954-55 also £23,000,000 was unspent. There is nothing in these Estimates to indicate that, of the £190,000,000, which doubtless will be voted for defence this year, the sums unspent or devoted to trust funds at the end of the year will not be almost the same as in previous years.
If there was any justification at all for the analysis of the economy that was made by the Prime Minister on Tuesday night, this is no time to vote money unless we know how that money will be expended. That is the point that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has made. Why should the committee, without any examination of the matter, be ready to vote all that the Government asks for? But apparently the attitude is, “ Never mind. We believe that the Government is asking for about £23,000,000 more than it will spend, but we shall vote it “. That is, in effect, the stand taken by those members of the committee who have uncritically accepted these Estimates. They must be analysed. But what kind of an analysis have we had?
I shall refer to one other matter that appears to call for some examination. I refer to the framework of the defence forces. I shall take the Army by way of illustration. At page 201 of the Estimates the framework of the Army is set out. We see the numbers of personnel from the Chief of the General Staff down to the gunners and privates. We see that in the Army there are approximately 24,000 people of all ranks, but we see also that there are more officers and non-commissioned officers down to the rank of corporal than there are men of lower ranks. There are more corporals, sergeants, staff sergeants and other people with ranks up to that of lieutenantgeneral than there are people below the rank of corporal. I do not claim to have any knowledge of the actual organization of the Army, but those figures require some explanation. I think the organization is top heavy. I think it is overloaded with high ranks, and I should like to know the explanation of that.
All through the day, the Opposition, having put this so-called provocative amendment before the committee, expected that it would be considered on its merits. Instead, the arguments advanced from this side of the chamber have been met with a torrent of abuse. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who generally controls himself very well, except when he is talking about the prices of the commodities produced in his electorate, talked about the Hobart conference. I venture to say that he could not quote one clause of the propositions that were adopted by that conference. I should like the committee to allow me, in order to spread the information a little more widely, to incorporate the seventeen declarations of that conference in Hansard. I now ask formally for leave to do so.
– Is leave granted ?
Honorable Members. - No.
– It would be very reasonable to read the document, would it not? I ask the honorable member for Mallee, to whom perhaps I may refer as the acting Parliamentary Secretary for Commerce and Agriculture, to consider how much better informed he would be if he did read it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The right honorable gentleman may read so much of the document as relates to defence.
– I could not possibly read all of it in the time at my disposal. I want to incorporate it in Hansard.
– I hear the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) say “ No “. As he has denounced the document, he should regard it as the best instrument with which to attack us.
– I want the Leader of the Opposition to read it.
– Does the honorable member want me to read all seventeen clauses? I will not do that. I will deal with the matter in my own way.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The noise on all sides of the chamber must stop. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is entitled to a fair hearing.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order ! If I have to take action to obtain silence, there will be no “ Hear, hears “ then.
– Like every other member of the Opposition, I have had to take it all day. Now I want to do a little dishing out, but I do not want the process to take too long, because my time is limited. All that I asked the committee to do was to allow me to incorporate these propositions in Hansard so that honorable members could read them. That was a reasonable request. I do not think that a similar request made under similar circumstances has been refused before. May I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to inquire whether there is any objection to the document being incorporated in Hansard11.
– I have asked, and there is an objection.
– I heard a roar, but I did not hear a “No”. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) is waiting anxiously for the time when we shall discuss the St. Mary’s project. He does not want the truth about this conference to come out. I shall read one or two of the declarations of the conference. How ridiculous it is for the corner party with which the honorable member for Yarra is associated to say that those declarations are proCommunist! If the Labour party advocates higher wages and higher margins for workers and if the Communist party says that it believes in those things too, he says that our policy is pro-Communist. I say that when the honorable member uses that argument, he is doing exactly what that remarkable American figure, Senator McCarthy, does. He is using the argument that, because a group of people support the view of a certain person, that person is linked with that group. To any intelligent person, that is a ridiculous argument.
– I rise to order. The Leader of the Opposition has said, in effect that I am a McCarthyite. As he has been the greatest smearer in this country for the last twelve months or so, I consider that he should withdraw that remark. Nobody is a better or a greater exponent of smearing and McCarthyism than he is.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Is the honorable member objecting to being termed a “McCarthyite”?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Then I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw that term.
– I withdraw it, but I did not use it. I said that he was doing exactly what everybody associates with that name. He was permitted to describe our policy as communistic. However, I shall spend no more time on that matter. The Hobart conference formulated a positive programme. It dealt with the United Nations. The reference to Malaya was only one little incident in the whole programme. For instance, the conference declared -
The development of atomic weapons has reached such dimensions that the peoples of the world are now faced with the stark and terrifying spectacle of a possible atomic world war causing a danger to the very fabric of the earth, its atmosphere and all its inhabitants which is so real that distinguished scientists refer to the prospect with a sense of “ desperation “.
Honorable members will recall the words of Einstein and other scientists a few months ago. The declaration went on as follows : -
This desperation is partly due to the vacillation and delay in arranging high level political talks aiming at the effective prevention of the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs by any nation, whether for purposes of war or experimental purposes.
Is there any objection to that proposition? I hear none. I take it that only an idiot or a very wicked person could object to that declaration. The conference went on to say -
Conference therefore directs the Federal Parliamentary Labour party to press for effective action directed towards these great ends. We are convinced that in years to come, a nation’s true greatness will come to be measured by its courageous approach to the solution of these tremendous problems here and now.
That is our view on the admission of all applicant nations to the United Nations, and it is a principle that has been recently adopted in substance by this Government.
The declaration also deals with the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. The remarks of the honorable member for Yarra about that organization were completely untrue. The Labour party failed in its attempt to have the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty Bill amended. The Hobart conference also declared that the conciliation processes prescribed by the Seato pact had not been properly employed. It was always a question of what force could be sent, not how the outbreak or extension of trouble could be prevented. In other words, the conference adopted the positive approach of conciliation and peace in a world in which a nuclear war would mean the destruction of humanity. That is the spirit of the Hobart declaration, and it is in accordance with that spirit that we must look at the decision in relation to Malaya. The decision on Malaya represented only one aspect of the policy adopted by the conference.
I do not think there are many clauses in the declaration to which objection could have been taken by even the most fanatical opponent of the proposition that there should be a peaceful co-existence of all nations. Then the declaration took up the Indo-China conflict as an illustration of what is bound to happen if nationalist movements are not recognized in time. France did not recognize the problem in Indo-China until it was too late, and the Communist organizations had control of the nationalist movement. The result was disastrous to democracy in a great part of that country. Does anybody deny that? Indo-China is typical of those Asian countries in relation to which inexcusable delay in recognizing a genuine nationalist, anticolonial, movement has resulted in communism capturing that movement and in democratic nationalism suffering a severe setback. The conference advocated generous assistance to all Asian people who suffer from poverty, disease, lack of educational facilities and the like. State ments to the effect that the use of Australian forces in Malaya would injure Australian relations with Asian neighbours and would in no way contribute to the prevention of aggression were true.
– That is a lot of rubbish.
– The honorable member need not be so self-conscious when he says that. Those statements to which I have referred are true; they have been proved to be true. The policy that I have outlined is the policy of the Labour movement. It is the true policy for Australia. I am obliged to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and my other colleagues for the vigorous and fair argument that they advanced against the slanders of the corner party on this side of the chamber, notably those of the honorable member for Yarra.
– I have attended the sittings of the Parliament in Canberra for many years, and I must say that I have never heard a more pathetic contribution to a discussion on defence Estimates from the leader of any party than that to which I have been listening to to-night. If I want any confirmation of my opinion, I need only look at the faces of the honorable members who sit behind the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and who show no signs of enthusiasm or support for his statements. The Parliament and the people generally are entitled to something better in a discussion on the defence Estimates. Consequently, before I deal with other aspects of defence to which reference has been made by the Leader of the Opposition and a few of his supporters, I wish to give to the committee and to the country a brief summary of the money that has been expended on defence since the Government assumed office, and of what has been achieved by that expenditure.
I do not suggest that in the expenditure of more than £840,000,000 there have not been mistakes or waste, but I assert that every care has been taken by the administration to ensure that Australia has received the best possible value for the money expended. Since this Government assumed office, it has spent the following sums on defence: - In 1950-51, £93,000,000; in 1951-52, £159,400.000’; in 1952-53, £215,300,000; in 1953-54, £1S9,700,000; and in 1954-55, £185,500,000, a total expenditure for those five years of £840,900,000. For the information of the committee, I shall make a dissection of that expenditure. Of the total of £840,900,000, increased capital assets have accounted for £26S,200,000, or 32 per cent., and maintenance costs for £572,800,000, or 68 per cent. Of the total capital expenditure of £268,200,000, £190,000,000, or 23 per cent., has been devoted to the provision of new equipment or the modernization of existing equipment as in the case of naval vessels. Also included in the sum of £268,200,000 was £66,700,000, or 8 per cent., for buildings, works and acquisition of sites, and £11,500,000, or 1 percent. for machinery, plant and equipment for the Department of Defence Production, the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence. The expenditure of £572,S00,000 on maintenance included £101,500,000, or 13 per cent., for the maintenance of equipment, replacement stores, ammunition, and general stores of all kinds. The balance of £471,300,000, or 55 per cent., has been expended on pay, rations and general maintenance.
Much has been said about personnel. Let me remind the committee that when the Government assumed office in December, 1949, there were 34,000 members of the permanent forces. Those forces now total 52,000. The strength of the Citizen Military Force, including national service trainees, to the enlisting of whom the Opposition has been opposed all along the line, has risen from 22,000 to approximately 100,000. The national service training scheme, which was introduced by the Government in 1951, provides over 33,000 basically trained reserves each year. A total of almost 150,000 youths have been called up for training. Australia’s first contribution towards the cold war operations was the expedition to Korea.Within a few days of the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in June, 1950, Australian forces were placed at the disposal of the United Nations for operations in that theatre. Subsequentlv, Australia has maintained the following forces in cold war areas overseas: -
Navy. - Two destroyers or frigates were maintained continuously in the Korean theatre until October, 1954, and one frigate has been maintained since that date. In addition, H.M.A.S. Sydney served two periods of duty there.
Army. - One infantry battalion and supporting elements have been maintained continuously in the Korean theatre. An additional infantry battalion served there between February, 1952, and November, 1954.
Air Force. - No.77 Fighter Squadron was maintained in the Korean theatre from the outbreak of hostilities until December, 1954. In addition, a transport unit, which has served there since March, 1951, was built up and maintained at squadron strength between April, 1953, and March, 1955, when it was reduced again to a single flight.
The outstanding record of our forces in Korea bears witness to the gallantry, devotion and skill of the officers and men concerned, but it also reflects the efficiency and flexibility of the armed services as a whole.
A bomber squadron has been maintained continuously in Malaya since 1950 in anti-bandit operations, and a transport squadron was there from July, 1950, until its transfer to the Korean theatre in early 1953. In addition, a fighter wing of two squadrons was maintained in the Middle East from mid-1952 to early 1955. The peak strength of Australian forces overseas exceeded 5,000.
As announced by the Prime Minister earlier this year, Australia is participating with the United Kingdom and New Zealand in the establishment of a strategic reserve in Malaya. Australian forces in this reserve will comprise -
Navy. - Two destroyers or two frigates, an aircraft carrier on an annual visit, and additional ships in an emergency;
Army. - An infantry battalion with supporting arms, and reinforcements in Australia; and
Air Force. - A fighter wing of two squadrons, a bomber wing of one squadron and an airfield construction squadron.
Emphasis has been given to the provision of modern equipment for the forces, and as I have stated, 23 per cent. of total defence expenditure over the past five years falls under this heading. A feature of modern defence preparations, which has an important relation to the proposed defence vote, is the ever-increasing complexity and cost of weapons and equipment. To take examples, a post-war Mustang piston-engine fighter cost approximately £40,000 as compared with approximately £250,000 for a Sabre jet fighter of to-day. The cost of a presentday “ Daring “ class destroyer is over five times as great as that of the “ Tribal “ class destroyer of World War II. This trend seems likely to continue. I shall give some indication of what has been done to provide modern equipment for the services. In the Navy, the following ships are in commission: - One aircraft carrier (operational). The new one which is nearing completition will be of the most modern type; one training ship (the second carrier will be used for this role on a non-flying basis) ; four destroyers ; seven frigates ; five ocean minesweepers; and various auxiliary craft. In addition, a substantial reserve fleet is being maintained in good condition against any future emergency. Some 147 aircraft have been delivered to the Fleet Air Arm since June, 1950, and it is shortly to be re-equipped with modern Sea Venom and Gannet aircraft for which orders were placed some time ago. The aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. Melbourne is nearing completion in the United Kingdom and a fleet tanker has just been completed there. Local construction in. progress includes three “ Daring “ class ships and four modern anti-submarine frigates at present on order, together with two inshore minesweepers and other miscellaneous vessels. Also since 1950, a “ Battle “ class destroyer has been completed, and two “ Q “ class destroyers have been converted to fast antisubmarine frigates while two more are in course of conversion. The modernization of two “ Tribal “ class destroyers, and eleven ocean minesweepers out of a total of twelve, has been completed.
The equipment acquired for the Army since June, 1950, includes over 100 Centurion tanks, 130 other armoured fighting vehicles, and 2,700 mechanical transport vehicles. During the last financial year, new orders to the extent of £21,000?000 were placed for additional high-priority items of equipment. A further £8,000,000 was paid to the Defence Equipment Trust Account for Army equipment or additional production capacity. As mentioned earlier, the adoption of the new FN .300 rifle has been approved, and plans are in hand for its production in Australia, together with the necessary ammunition.
A total of over 300 aircraft has been delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force since June, 1950. At the present time, Canberra jet bombers, Avan Sabre jet fighters, and Vampire jet trainers are in production and are being supplied to the Royal Australian. Air Force. In addition, Meteors and Neptunes have been, obtained from overseas. Production of the Winjeel trainer has also begun. The re-equipment of the Air Force with the various types of aircraft is a continuous progressive task planned years ahead. In this connexion, to establish the replacement types of aircraft required, a mission representative of the department of Air, the Department of Defence Production, and the aircraft industry, recently visited the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and the recommendations of this mission are now under consideration.
In the defence production field, progress has been made in the expansion of production capacity and the replacement and modernization of existing facilities. Total expenditure from the 1st July, 1950, to the 30th June, 1955, on this programme exceeded £12,000,000. There is also the £23,000,000 filling factory at St. Mary’s, near Sydney, on which an immediate start has been made. The Long Range Weapons Establishment, which is a joint project with the United Kingdom for the testing and development of guided weapons, continues to be the main feature of the research and development programme. The total expenditure by Australia on this project since its inception to the end of last financial year exceeded £44,000,000, including £33,000,000 since June, 1950.
It is essential to a sound defence programme to maintain a proper balance between man-power and equipment and productive capacity, within the overall defence vote that the country can sustain. The Government’s programme does this in a most effective manner. An efficient service organization has been built up, including fighting forces, and command training and maintenance elements capable of rapid expansion in time of war. A high standard of training has been achieved and despite some deficiences, the forces are better equipped than they were when the Government came into office.
That is the progress that has been made by the Government in relation to defence. While a good deal was said by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on other occasions about wastefulness, and his belief that at this time this expenditure is not necessary, I should like to remind honorable members that the Leader of the Opposition, in making these statements, is following precisely Labour policy over the years. I remind honorable members that when the Lyons Government was in office, in 1938, there was held what was known as the Munich conference. From that conference, it was suggested that peace would ensue. But that was not the opinion of the Government of this country, nor was it the opinion of the governments of any of the other democratic countries. They did not reduce their defence efforts from then on ; they continued them. The Australian Government suggested an increase of the defence expenditure which, I admit, was very low at that time. Speaking from memory, I think it was in the region of 9,000,000. However, the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin, opposed an increase of defence expenditure to £16,000,000. When I make that statement, I am not reflecting in any way on the Leader of the Opposition of that day. t have a tremendous admiration for him, because when it paid him to change his principles, he did so. However, at that time he was following not what I believe to be the teaching of his experience but this rigid Labour policy of not developing our defences but relying on talking people into peace. Mr. Curtin said in this Parliament on the 2nd November, 1938 -
I say that any increase of defence expenditure after the Munich pact, so far as Australia is concerned, appears to me to be an utterly unjustifiable and hysterical piece of panic propaganda. That is what I say in respect of the alarmist statements that have been made.
What a comparison! The Geneva conference has been held and following that conference, the present Leader of the Opposition said in his speech on the budget quite recently -
Again I think the present international situation not only permits but actually demand* a very substantial reduction in the defence expenditure of this country.
They run parallel! They have not moved! They have learnt nothing from their experiences over the years ! The Leader of the Opposition was reluctant, initially, to state a figure, but later he became more expansive. In an impromptu effort after the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on Tuesday, he did mention a figure. He said -
Government expenditure has to be cut down and the point where it could be cut down, as we have mentioned before, is the extravagant and wasteful expenditure under the Defence vote. That could be cut to a very large extent, and £40,000,000 could easily be saved in that way.
Did he give one atom of justification for that statement? It was simply in line with the right honorable gentleman’s general procedure. He makes statements, hoping to curry political favour with the unthinking, but he has never yet been able to justify to this Parliament any of the statements he has made. Consequently, I say that the people of this country have already made their estimate of this man’s value and I have no doubt about what will happen at the next election.
We have heard a great deal about the foreign policy of this country, and about how we should, by our foreign policy, so appease the probable enemies of Australia that they will not attack us. Surely we have not forgotten that it was proved to the people of this country-
– I rise to order. Is it in order for the Minister deliberately to take the debate outside the Estimates for the departments now under consideration?
– Order ! The Minister may continue.
– The Australian people will not forget the experience that they had in the last war. That experience proved to them that Australia cannot defend itself unaided. This Government has undoubtedly succeeded in attracting help from other countries. We were able to negotiate the Anzus Pact with the United States of America and New Zealand, and we are a signatory to the Seato treaty. But does anybody imagine that those countries which are signatories to those agreements will come to our aid in time of need if we ourselves have not played our justifiable part? I point out to honorable members, whatever the alleged Labour party of this country might think about the international situation, that all those countries to which we shall look for aid in time of need are not merely maintaining their defence expenditure, which is exceedingly high, but in some cases are increasing it at this time. In Australia, we spent, as the Estimates show, £1S5,500,000 last year on defence. We are budgeting for an expenditure of £190,000,000, or an increase of £4,500,000 this year. Canada, a country almost under the umbrella of the United States, a country which at least perhaps could “ sit back in the breeching “ if it felt so inclined, is increasing its defence expenditure from 1,680,000,000 last year to 1,775,000,000 this year.
– Dollars or pounds?
– They are Canadian dollars. The United Kingdom, which has borne an exceedingly heavy burden by way of reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes, spent £1,639,900,000 sterling on defence last year. This year, the expenditure of that country will be a little less, but it still will be the huge sum of £1,537,000,000.. The United States, with an exorbitant expenditure of 40,644,000,000 dollars last year will be spending 40,458,000,000 dollars on defence this year. Little New Zealand, alongside us, a country which budgeted for £25,000,000 last year, is proposing to spend £29,000,000 this year. Does anybody suggest that we can do less in those circumstances?
Let me put it in another way. What it means is that Australia is spending 4.8 per cent, of its national income on defence, while Canada is spending 9.5 per cent., the United Kingdom 9.9 per cent, and the United States of America 13.5 per cent. I ask in all sincerity, does Australia expect those countries with which we have agreements, those countries from which we shall expect some assistance in time of war, to come to our aid if we have not played our part? The Leader of the Opposition is the only man in public life throughout the democratic world who believes that the international situation has improved to that extent. As always, Johnny is the only one in step. The Australian people should beware of the catch-cry to save on defence expenditure and spend the money elsewhere at a time when, should war break out, this country would be under a dire threat. We hear a great deal about the likelihood that war will not now take place because of the development of atomic and hydrogen bombs. Nothing is further from the truth. Does any one imagine that the people of Indo-China, South Viet Nam and Laos think that there can be no war ? Does any one imagine that the people of Korea believe that war is impossible? Of course a war can occur. The best justification for saying that is the fact that the Communist countries are not reducing their defence effort. In conventional weapons they outstrip all the democratic countries combined. Moreover, they have at their command huge resources of man-power. They have achieved this by telling the people that they shall have guns instead of butter. In those countries, the development of atomic and conventional weapons continues apace.
Australia would be foolish to underestimate the position. While we all hope that there will not be a third world war, no one can, with justification, say that there will be no war in the immediate future. This Government, while providing the maximum defence effort that Australia can sustain, is doing everything in its power to create in the international sphere peaceful relationships that will bring peace in their train. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is doubtless annoyed that my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has, in season and out, extended the olive branch and supported his gesture by action as well as words. From other quarters all we have received is words. Following the top-level conferences at Geneva there have been further negotiations, but nothing, concrete has been evolved. We have had disarmament conference after disarmament conference, and discussions are still continuing. We sincerely hope that something will come from them. W e shall play our part. We shall show the Communist countries that we desire peace and are prepared to accept peaceful co-existence, but until they give us something more than words Australia cannot possibly reduce its defence expenditure.
It is quite futile to discuss this matter as the Opposition has done to-day. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) was the only honorable member who attempted to make any contribution to the discussion, and he could do no more than move that the vote for the Department of Defence be reduced by fi. The Leader of the Opposition tried to explain the amendment, but he spent so much time in explaining the resolution passed at the Hobart conference that he did not really tell us very much about the amendment.
We have heard a great deal to-day about the ill feeling allegedly caused by the decision to send Australian troops to Malaya. It is most curious that the Opposition said not a word when Australia sent naval and air forces to that part of the world. Units of those services have been fighting terrorists in Malaya for the last five years. Have they created any ill feeling towards Australia in that country? Of course they have not. Now it is suggested that that will be the result if Australia makes its contribution to the strategic reserve which is being built up, with the co-operation of New Zealand and Great Britain, in order to deter external aggression towards Malaya. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) said that he had substantial evidence that the proposal was resented by the Malayan people. I suggested then, and I repeat now, that the only evidence that he had was obtained from the Tribune. Let us look at the opinions of responsible persons who represent the people of Malaya. The position is interesting because there have been elections in Malaya since the proposal was first made, and the voters have expressed their views on this and other matters. I might mention that the troops are in Malaya and not Singapore, though there was no objection on that score either. The three parties that supported the sending of Australian troops to Malaya won 52 of the 58 seats in respect of which voting took place. Moreover, the Chief Minister in the new government, Mr. Tenku Rahman, had this to say over the radio on the subject -
The intention of the Australian troops here was not because they wanted to use this country as a training ground or to make it a battle field but only to help to safeguard the peace of this country. Especially at this time the Australians realize that Malaya is progressing towards independence quickly with whatever help they can give us. They say if Malaya is independent on the same status as they are, they can be friends with us and help each other. Their relations with us would be very close.
I am more inclined to accept the view of that gentleman than anything that appears in the Tribune or is quoted by the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, or any one else on that side of the chamber.
.- Only one minute is left in which to comment upon the speech of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). Every honorable member must be disappointed with the way in which he dealt with the proposed reduction of the defence vote. He gave us a recital such as we would expect from a purchasing agent - so many ships here, so many units there and al] that sort of thing. We are asking him, “ How are you spending the money ? Are you spending it in the light of modern strategy, or are you making the same old mistakes?” There are two Ministers concerned with defence - the Minister for Defence, and the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison). Like Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee, they sit on the front benches grinning at the criticism from this side of the chamber, and refusing to give the people of Australia information on how these millions are being spent, or to explain why there is so much wastage. The Minister for Defence began with a weary recital such as a purchasing agent would give and finished with a peroration of what Rahman, the new leader in Malaya, had said in regard to these things. We have had no satisfaction on the questions that we have raised, and we are not likely to get it.
– Order ! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Defence, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army and the Department of Air, has expired.
Question put -
That the vote proposed to be reduced (Mr. Crean’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Supply
Proposed vote, £14,134,000.
Department of Defence Production
Proposed vote, £11,253,000.
Proposed vote, £975,000. (Ordered- to be considered together.)
– The matter to which I wish to direct attention occurs on page 88 of the Estimates and is in relation to the allocation for civil defence. I have indicated to honorable members previously that, because I consider that the amount provided is inadequate, I shall be unable to vote for this group of Estimates. The position is this: Last year there was an allocation of £90,000 for civil defence - an entirely token and derisory allocation. But even of that quite small and silly amount, only £33,000 was spent. This year, it is true, there is a bigger allocation, £234,000, but it is quite nugatory and entirely inadequate and is one for which I feel that I cannot vote.
I think that honorable members will realize that, whatever the defence programme should be, a proper proportion of the defence vote should be allocated to civil defence. I am not trying to say that civil defence is the only thing, nor even that it is the major thing. But I am saying that it should receive its proper notice and its proper proportion of defence moneys. The situation was put very clearly by Field-Marshal Montgomery when he said, last year, that civil defence must be the fourth arm, coordinate with the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. It is the thing for the lack of which all the other services may fail and the whole defence effort not be worth the paper that it is written on.
This year, the United Kingdom has voted a minimum of £70,000,000 for civil defence. It has shown that a proper proportion - not a major proportion, but a proper proportion - of the defence vote should be allocated in this way. In the United States of America, also, there is a programme which does not take up a great part of the defence vote but which is not nugatory in terms of the defence vote. I am simply saying that, whatever the need may be, any allocation which does not provide a proper amount for civil defence is a bad allocation, and shows that the Government has not woken up to the new conditions of warfare and the new dangers with which Australia is faced. It shows a complete lack of appreciation by the Government of the realities of the defence situation. In these circumstances, I feel that I have got to take a stand and that I have got to say that this is wrong - that this should not be allowed to pass and that civil defence should have, not a tremendous allocation, but an adequate allocation in place of the token amount of £234,000, which is an insult to the intelligence.
Some people ask what need there is for civil defence. They say that there can never be a nuclear war. I join with all honorable members in hoping that there never will be such a war. But can we be certain of that? I think, whatever the position may be, that the danger of nuclear war waged against the cities of what I shall call the “ fringe “ countries is greater than the danger of a nuclear war waged against the cities of the central countries such as the United Kingdom and America. The major powers now. know that to attack one another in their main centres would mean disaster and the end of every kind of civilization as they know it. Therefore, apart from accidents, the .risk’ of the Russians bombing London or New York, is a lessening risk because of the degree of retaliation which the Russians know must fall on them. But there is no way of any country or any city assuring that such an attack will not come. There is always the possibility that a “ fringe war “ - the kind of thing for which Australia must particularly prepare because of its geographical position - may develop into a nuclear war, and perhaps nuclear attacks may be levelled against our cities which, in this respect, now stand in greater danger than London or New York.
I am not trying to estimate the extent of the danger. I am only saying that, whatever the danger, it is greater here than it is at the centre because a possible enemy might estimate that an attack on Sydney would not necessarily light the nuclear fires in the centre; whereas any enemy would know that an attack on London must light those nuclear fires and set the whole world ablaze. We all hope that there will not be a war, but I think that the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) pointed out during the debate on the previous series of Estimates that we have now reached the stage at which we cannot say that there will be no war, because nobody has the power to impose sanctions and say that there will be no war. Just as the danger of retaliation makes it less likely that any one will launch a central war, so that same danger makes it more difficult for an ally to come to our aid with nuclear weapons should we ourselves be thus attacked.
I do not want to labour this point. All that I want to say is that whatever the defence programme may be, a certain proportion of expenditure should be devoted to civil defence. A defence programme which does not include such a proportion is a wrongful programme. Perhaps honorable members will want to know why the proper amount has not been proposed for civil defence. I think that the explanation is to be found, very simply, in the way in which our defence programme is laid out, and scheduled. Here, I think that we can learn something from an analogy with what is happening overseas. I remind honorable members that a book which has been published by Air Vice-Marshal E. J. KingstonMcCloughry, a South Australian, who was until recently the Chief Air Defence Officer of the Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom, gives an inside view of the working of the complicated machinery of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and its various ramifications with other defence organizations. The review of this book states -
He emphasizes that within the Committee, the three Chiefs of Staff are still representatives of their own services and are briefed by those services on their attitude. Their livelier allegiance is, thus, to their own service. Collective decisions are reached not by a majority vote but by force of personality, by compromise or by bargaining. The main weakness in the system, he says, is the partisan approach of the Chiefs of Stall’ to problems.
That must be how the defence committee functions in Australia. One would find that the Chief of the Air Staff would say, “ I cannot support civil defence because if I do, I will lose a squadron “. The naval man would say, “I cannot support civil defence, because it means that I will lose a frigate “. The army man would say, “ I cannot support civil defence because it would mean that I would lose a battalion “. No one is at the meeting to represent civil defence, and the interests of which are not put forward. They fall by the wayside and a bad decision is reached, just as happens in the United Kingdom, apparently, if one accepts the view of that very eminent authority. It is the business of the Government to ensure that a balanced view is presented to this committee.
I find it less difficult to understand how the present situation has developed when I consider the functioning of the Defence Committee, which consists of the three Chiefs of ‘Staff, and Sir Frederick Shedden, who represents the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). Sir Frederick Shedden is a very able bureaucrat and a dominating personality who has ruled the Department of Defence with a rod of iron. The Chiefs of Staff have not known what to do about it. Several years ago, they made Sir Frederick chairman of the committee in the belief that he would then be committed to the committee’s decisions and that, by that device, they could impose their views upon policy. It did not turn out that way, because Sir Frederick, as chairman, was still the channel to the Minister. He simply took the papers to the Minister and made sure that the Minister disapproved those decisions of which Sir Frederick disapproved. As a result, the virtual strategic chief of the Australian armed services has been, for a long time, Sir Frederick Shedden, and not the nominal chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who have had to bow to his will. I do not suggest that the Minister knew how he was being used or what was happening; I do not think he did. But this has been the position for some years. However able a bureaucrat Sir Frederick Shedden may be - and no one would endeavour to detract from his capacities in that field - I venture to suggest that he is not entirely the best adviser on these matters of high strategic policy.
– He is a clerk.
– These are matters that, as the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) reminds me, cannot be determined by a clerk, however many schools that clerk may have attended in London for superficial indoctrination into the old doctrines that he has not, perhaps, entirely understood, but is now endeavouring to impose on the Australian defence system. There has been a very bad appreciation of the defence situation, and I am sure that it is related to the position that exists on the Defence Committee.
Some time ago, as honorable ‘members will recall, I endeavoured to have this matter rectified by introducing a bill that is still on the notice-paper. It is a good bill, and I hope it will be debated in accordance with the pledge given in this chamber on the 7th September by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. (Sir Eric Harrison). To-day I looked through the speech made on that bill by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who, I am sorry to say, is not at present in the chamber and apparently does not consider that the matter is of sufficient importance to justify his presence here. According to him, there was no need for the bill, because everything possible was being done and everything in the garden was lovely; the Government had everything tinder control. I tell honorable members that the situation is not under control and that nothing is being done. A preparatory meeting was held last May, and subsequently the matter was mentioned at the Premiers Conference in June as a mere side issue of no importance. All the Premiers stated that they could do nothing more until the Commonwealth gave them a lead. Since that time, only New South Wales has done anything. It is not often that I am able to say anything in praise of the
Premier of New South Wales, but I must say that, in this instance, whatever the reason, he understands the position a little more clearly than the other Premiers do, and he has at least begun to get together a staff. Nothing practical has been done, but he has taken the commendable action of getting together a staff, whereas the other States have not done even that. The Minister for the Interior, whether intentionally or unintentionally I do not know, seriously misled honorable members during the debate on the Civil Defence Council Bill 1955, which took place, as honorable members will recall, approximately four or five months ago. The Minister seriously misled honorable members by telling them that everything possible was being done and that there was nothing to worry about because the Government had everything in hand. The point is that the Government has done nothing, and something must be done.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to make a few brief comments about several departments, and particularly about the Department of Defence Production. I notice that the Estimates provide for an expenditure of £11,253,000 by that department, which is under the control of the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison). Earlier in the week, I asked the Minister where the department’s head office was situated, how often he visited it, and how long be spends there. The Minister did not even confirm to my satisfaction that he knew where the head office of the department was. Furthermore, I have serious doubts whether he is known at the head office. As he would not give me any information, I made a few inquiries. I have ascertained that the Commonwealth at least pays rent for a building in Melbourne for the Department of Defence Production. That must be where the head office of the department is situated. My information is that the Minister rarely, if ever, visits that office. Probably, it is not necessary for him to be there throughout the week, but one would expect the ministerial head of a department that is to undertake the expenditure of £11,253,000 at least to take a personal interest in the department. I should like the Minister to tell me this evening where the head office of the department is situated, whether it is a fact that he is hardly known there, and whether it is true that many of the staff think the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) is the E. J. Harrison who is associated with the department. The honorable member for Blaxland is the much more competent man of the two. Undoubtedly, the confusion is caused by the fact that the Minister rarely visits the office.
The Department of Defence Production is worth special investigation. We all know from the lagging expenditure on defence that the Government is not giving effect to a reasonable defence policy through the Department of Defence Production and is not spending the money allocated for defence production. If expenditure on defence lags, we must, to a great degree, blame the Minister for Defence Production, who is responsible for the administration of the department. Who are these officers whom the Minister rarely, if ever, visits? The department has the following staff: - One secretary, five assistant secretaries, five general managers, 23 directors, assistant directors, controllers, and so on, 126 professional and technical officers, 24S accountants, finance officers, personnel officers and clerks, 171 typists, machinists and assistants, and 93 cadet engineers, cadet personnel and cadet draftsmen. I do not criticize the employment of those people. It is probably justified. But I want to know what they are doing. What does the Minister know about them. Has he any idea who the 248 accountants, finance officers, personnel officers and clerks are? Does be know who the five general managers are? Somebody must run the department, and as the Minister rarely visits it, probably the employment of these people is justified.
Will the Minister, while the Defence Estimates are under consideration, explain what the department is doing, what authority he exercises over it, what part he plays in the Government’s failure to make adequate provision for defence by failing to expend all the money allocated for the purpose, and also its failure to give us any indication that we are better off than we were when we spent a fraction of the amount that this Government has allocated for defence. It is all very well for the Minister, in his facetious way, to fail, in effect, to give an answer when an honorable member asks him where his department is. I should like him to state this evening whether he has visited the department in the last twelve months, whether he ever goes to the offices of the department in Melbourne, or whether he sits in sublime isolation at the Federal Members’ Rooms in Sydney and allows the staff of hundreds of assistant secretaries, general managers, directors, and so on, to run the department. Parliament and the people are entitled to some explanation of these matters. I want the Minister also to say what are the functions of his department. When he replies, I hope that he will not speak for the balance of the time allowed for this debate, because he could give an adequate reply in five or ten minutes. I merely want to know what is his association with the department, what are its functions, what part he plays in the allocation of funds, what expenses are involved and what control he has over them. This department is located a long way from his home State and his centre of political activity. On a previous occasion, during a debate on the Estimates, I raised this matter. I am not criticizing the Minister’s staff or reflecting on their competence, but the public are entitled to know how the vote of £11,000,000 is being spent.
I hope that the Minister will give a better explanation than he gave a few days ago in reply to a question I asked. It is extremely disturbing to me to notice that the taxpayers’ money is being expended in this way. The Minister does not even visit this centre of his department’s activities, and he refused at question time to give any explanation. How do the activities of his department conflict with or overlap those of the Department of Supply? Is it necessary to have both a Department of Supply and a Department of Defence Production? Surely the two could be correlated or combined so that the Government might make a more effective approach to its defence programme.
I have referred to only a few of the matters that are the basis of contention. The Government’s defence programme is lacking in many respects and, in common with many other citizens, I am extremely doubtful whether a fraction of the £200,000,000 allocated for defence is being used effectively for that purpose. Despite the fact that in this department there are 248 under-secretaries and accountants, it is beyond doubt that the united efforts of the Army, Navy and Air Force were necessary recently to bring down a pilotless plane flying over Sydney. The Department of Defence Production, with other sections of the defence organization, in some respects show evidence of incompetence and lack of wisdom in the expenditure of money.
Turning to the vote for the Department of Supply, I recall that last year the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) went abroad, and. £4,800 was allocated for his trip. I am not criticizing him for taking that trip. The Minister could do with a great deal of education, and if he gathers knowledge by going abroad he is entitled to spend ail the money he requires in doing so. Like other members of the Ministry, he needs a great deal of experience and knowledge, and if travel abroad can provide those essentials, members of this Government should be the champions of all time. I notice from the figures that the Minister for Supply returned with 7s. 6d. out of the £4,800 allocation. I am intrigued with the accuracy of the accounts of that trip, and I am wondering whether the Minister could present to Parliament a detailed list of his expenses and how he arrived back with a balance of 7s. 6d. It is a credit to the Minister that he brought back any change. The story is that he arrived in Sydney with 7s. 6d. in his pocket singing the old song “ Put another nickel in the nickelodion “ to the tune of “ Pennies from Heaven “.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The trip abroad of the Minister for Supply does not come within the items under consideration.
– I was dealing generally with the question of supply, and I thought that the Minister’s travel exploits, together with the administration of hi? department, were covered in these items. However, I should like to know how the figure of 7s. 6d. was arrived at. It is something that Parliament is entitled to know. It is regrettable that the Minister for Supply is not in the chamber. He administers an important department, but he is not here. The Minister now at the table (Sir Eric Harrison) knows very little about the department. I had intended to raise several matters connected with the Department of Supply, but what is the use of my doing so when the Minister for Supply is not- present and the Minister at the table knows nothing about that department? The Minister will talk outside, but he will not come into the chamber and hear the criticism levelled at his department. I should like the Minister at the table to convey a request to his colleagues in the Ministry that whenever a department is being discussed the appropriate Minister should be present in the chamber to hear, at first hand, any criticism that is levelled at that department, and also to answer questions asked by honorable members.
This Government treats the Parliament with contempt. Ministers refuse to answer criticism, or they arrange for one of their Ministers to talk out time when they fear that criticism is likely to be expressed. Failing that, the Minister concerned walks out of the chamber without making any reply to questions. That sort of conduct was neither tolerated nor contemplated by the Labour Government. Labour Ministers were always in their places in this chamber, irrespective of the fact that they had to face unjustified attacks from members of the then Opposition, launched with a political purpose. Members of the present Opposition engage in only constructive criticism. It is regrettable that the Minister at the table knows little about the departments under discussion, and that probably no other Minister is within a 20 miles radius of Parliament. I register my protest at the Government’s attitude of contempt for Parliament and the failure of Ministers to be present in the chamber while their respective departmental Estimates are being discussed.
.- f was amused to bear the remarks of the honorable member of Grayndler (Mr. Daly). Obviously, he is innoculated with the knowledge of what happened during the years when he sat on this side of the House as a supporter of a Labour government. During that period, the then Opposition frequently complained about the time taken by Ministers in committee deliberately and persistently taking out time so as to prevent members of the Opposition from criticizing their administration of departments when the relevant Estimate was under discussion. Ministers in the Labour Government did not answer questions, but indulged in reiteration and tedious repetition of stock excuses for their failures. The only occasion during the debates on these Estimates when the time allowed for discussion has been “ talked out “ was this evening when the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) properly gave the committee and the people an analysis of defence expenditure. I hope that he convinced members of the Opposition of the need to spend this money. His speech lasted for a little longer than the usual quarter of an hour, and now members of the Opposition are accusing Ministers of talking out time. They make that accusation, but when Ministers do not rise, obviously because they wish to give honorable members more opportunity to speak, they are not satisfied even then. However, I did not rise to make a speech about the honorable member for Grayndler, so I shall pass on to the subject about which I rose to speak.
Honorable members may have heard me ask the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), by way of interjection, a question in which I endeavoured to ascertain from him whether he had obtained information that he had used in a most despicable attack on the chiefs of staff, from the chiefs of staff themselves. I do not know whether or not he heard my interjection, but the fact is that he did not answer it. Not for one moment do I wish to be associated with the comments made by the honorable member on the chiefs of staff - the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Minister for Defence, and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes). Unless the honorable member received his information from the chiefs of staff, he has done something to our defence establishment of which he ought to be downright ashamed.
– He is a “ Com.”.
– I am not worried about that. Things are coming to a pretty pass when an honorable member speaks in the manner in which the honorable member for Mackellar spoke tonight of Lieu tenant-General Sir George Wells, Sir John McCauley, the Chief of the Air Staff, and Vice-Admiral Dowling, the Chief of the Naval Staff. It is especially so when the honorable member who speaks like that sits on the same side of the chamber as I do. If what the honorable member said has a germ of truth in it - and I pray that the people of Australia and the members of this Parliament will give no credence whatever to his statements - it is time that we got rid of the chiefs of staff, and we would have a sorry state of affairs if we reached that point.
– Or get rid of the honorable member for Mackellar.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) can take his choice. If the chiefs of staff, who are men with very creditable records both in peace and war, are overruled by a civil servant, who is a knighted gentleman - I know him - it is a pretty sad state of affairs. If they are being overruled, as the honorable member claimed to-night, by the Secretary of the Department of Defence, then the chiefs of staff should have immediately reported the fact to their Ministers, and if their Ministers know what is happening and have not taken the matter up with the Minister for .Defence and had it clarified this nation is in a. sorry state. I do not for one moment believe a word the honorable gentleman said, and I take strong exception to the terms that he used being employed as a means to discredit people, just because an honorable member has not achieved everything that he wanted to achieve.
– This Parliament is a forum for the people.
– The honorable member has every right to say that, and I have every right to say what I am saying. But the honorable member for Mackellar went even further, and charged the Secretary of the Department of Defence with coming here and placing before his Minister his interpretation of a plan, and kidding the Minister to sign it. I take very vehement exception to that statement. The honorable member went on to say that the Minister for the Interior came into this chamber and seriously misled honorable members.
– That is what he said.
– I have yet to learn of Ministers adopting that attitude.
– I think you are both nuts.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has proved, not once but a dozen times, that he is not only nuts, but something else, and he can take his pick of what it is. I just want to say that an attack by any member of this chamber, whether he be on the Government side or the Opposition side, against our chiefs of staff in general - and he spoke of them collectively to-night - alleging that these men were being held under the thumb of the Secretary of the Department of Defence, is something to which I take strong exception. I do not care from, what side of the chamber it comes or from what honorable member, I shall definitely not associate myself with it, and I object strongly to the language used by the honorable member to-night in his attack.
– I cannot quite follow the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It seems to me that he wants to spend a tremendous amount of money on civil dpfence. Yet a study of the Estimates show? that last year £90,000 was voted for the purposes of civil defence, but only £33,551 of it was actually expended. This year the proposed vote for civil defence ic £234,000, which is more than £200,000 above last year’s expenditure on that section of the Government’s activities. I do not know how the honorable member for
Mackellar thinks we can increase civil defence activities sufficient to absorb the amount that we are asked to vote this year. The honorable gentleman is interested in the subject of atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb attacks which, he seems to think, represent the greatest danger to this country. If one-half of all we hear regarding the destructive powers of either the latest and most powerful atomic bombs, or hydrogen bombs, is true, and if they are even half as destructive as the honorable member himself says, all the civil defence in the world will be of no avail to us. I think that the Government realizes that the best expenditure on civil defence is expenditure made with the object of preventing bombing attacks on Australia.
We on this side of the chamber are often misjudged. We have heard a great deal said to-day about the kinship of the Labour party’s defence policy with communism. There is no connexion between them. We of the Labour movement, which some people have the audacity to term the “ so-called Labour movement “, thereby implying that it is not what it used to be, have, right from the inception of the Labour party, been members of a pacifist party, a party that does not believe in war. We believe in working in every way possible to prevent war. That is our policy to-day. The sending of Australian troops to Malaya is not the way to protect this country from attacks that may be made on it by 68,000,000 Indonesians or other hordes from Asia. What we are concerned to do is what we advocate, which is to bring about what the Prince of Peace wanted - a brotherhood among men all over the world, irrespective of their colour. I know that some people earnestly believe that the only way to achieve peace is to indulge in old-style sabre rattling. It is thought that by sending a small contingent of troops to Malaya we shall be informing our potential enemies that the rule of law has still to be reckoned with, and that there is in existence a force to uphold it. I do not know that we will achieve that result.
I come now to the matter “ of civil defence. I agree that there should be a proper meagre of civil defence to protect our people if war comes to Australia. Put when the honorable member for Mackellar says that £234,000 is not enough for civil defence, I think he is trying to produce a state of panic in this country, and to convince us that something will happen which will destroy the people of Australia.
In the short time that is allowed me to speak on these Estimates, I wish to make some remarks about the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory. When I consider the action that was taken during World War II. for the establishment of such factories, I cannot understand the decision that has been made to spend £23,000,000 on the factory at St. Mary’s. This evening we heard the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) saying that it is of no use having all kinds of munitions, such as guns, bombs and other things, unless we have the powder or other material to pUt into them. He said that it is of no use having an 8-in. gun on a warship, or having anti-aircraft guns, unless we have suitable cartridges and other material to fire from them. I quite agree with that. If one goes to a pictureshow one may see a man shoot off all six cartridges from a revolver, and then when he pulls the trigger the gun simply goes “ click, click, click “. The revolver is then of no use to him. That is the attitude of the Government. It says, “ We must have guns which are capable of being used, and so we must have ammunition for them “. To my amazement, 1 find that the Government intends to establish the filling station for the provision of these munitions right on the eastern seaboard, near Sydney, at a place where the factory could be easily destroyed by the enemy. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin) was closely interested in these matters during World War II. Why did the Government, establish ammunition factories in South Australia? Why did it buy hundreds of acres of land at Salisbury, where it had small buildings constructed, at safe distances apart, in which these charges were prepared? We were told at the time that it was because the factories should be as far away as possible from places where they could be attacked from the sea. Now we are told that the Government intends to build one overall unit at St. Mary’s. If the Government conscientiously believes that it is necessary to have a ?23,000,000 filling factory, I shall not argue with the experts on the necessity for it. But I do not think that the army, navy or air force chiefs would recommend that the filling station should be built close to the coastline, where it is most vulnerable to attack.
– We have located the factory in exactly the same spot as the Labour Government did, at St. Mary’s.
– The Labour Government put one of those factories at St. Mary’s, but this Government intends to build the whole plant there. I know that we had one factory at St. Mary’s, but there was another one in South Australia, and the reason why it was built in South Australia was not because there was no other suitable land for it near Sydney or near Melbourne. It was built in South Australia because that was the safest place in case war came to our shores.
– May I put the honorable member right. There were three such factories at that time, one at Maribyrnong, one at Salisbury, and one at St. Mary’s. At present we have one at Maribyrnong and one at St. Mary’s, and at Salisbury-
– What is wrong with Salisbury?
– That is the base for the long-range weapons establishment.
– I do not want the Minister to take up all of my time. He will have his opportunity later to speak on this matter. The factory at Salisbury is no longer in existence. The filling factor” is not at the rocket range. What sort of a filling factory is there? There was previously another factory for small cartridges for machine guns and .303’s at Hendon in my electorate. There were two big sections of it there. They are now being used by Philips Electrical Industries of Australia for making electrical appliances, and they are being put to good use. I do not object to that. There was a filling station erected there for safety’s sake. I say to the Minister that the people, of this country will not be happy to learn that the Government is spending this money to provide a filling factory at a place where it will not be adequately protected.
We have been told to-day about the speed and size of modern submarines, and about what can be done with them. They can now travel for long distances under water. We know that, to-day, there are submarines from which an aeroplane can operate. With those things in mind, I suggest that if it is considered necessary to have a filling factory of this nature it should be located where there is some chance of giving it adequate protection.
I now wish to refer to the matter of recruiting, for which a total of ?384,000 is provided in the Estimates. In addition, an amount of ?222,000 is provided for the administration of the National Service Act. We have been told by Government members of the fall in the rate of recruitment, and that one of the reasons for it is the prosperous state of the country. We have been told that because there is full employment men can get jobs elsewhere. I know that that has a lot to do with it, and I also know that if the Government did not have the power to keep men in the services when they wanted to go elsewhere it would have far fewer members in. the services than it has now. I think it was the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) who dealt with the twelve-year period of service in the Air Force, and also with the treatment that airmen received. Men serving in the Navy are continually coming to me, saying that they have spent six, or eight, years in that service and that they want their discharge. They cannot get it, although they may have a wife, or children, who need their attention at home. The Government will not release them. The same applies to men serving in the Army. Government members will say, and perhaps quite rightly, that those men have been trained, perhaps as mechanics to look after Army machinery and plant, and that the Government cannot release them after they have been given that training. If a man is considering entering one of the services, but knows of cases of other men who cannot obtain their release when it is urgently required, he will not put himself in the same position. I agree with the honorable member for
Ballarat that, in order to attract the men whom the services need, we must have a more elastic system for the granting of discharges on compassionate grounds in genuine cases of hardship. We have been told that already discharges are granted on compassionate grounds, but I have had brought to my notice cases where men who had rendered good service applied for compassionate discharges, but met with a cold refusal. If we want to make a success of our recruiting campaign, we must see to it that men who have reasonable grounds for discharge will be discharged. We are not at war at the moment. Our servicemen are not on active service, and we are depending upon them for the defence of the country against an enemy. Therefore, it is time that we put into operation a more elastic system for the granting of discharges than we have at present. I am not blaming the Minister.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman. [Quorum formed.^ The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) referred to the difficulty encountered by some service personnel in obtaining discharges on compassionate grounds, even though they have been in the services for some time. I take it that the honorable member meant that the service departments should grant discharges on compassionate grounds more freely than they do. I think it is very important for any service to protect its interests, particularly when, as to-day, there are greater financial attractions outside the services than inside. After all, a serviceman undertakes to serve for a specific period, on certain conditions which he knows and understands at the time of enlistment. No business could function properly unless it knew with some degree of certainty that it would have men when it required them. We know that some departments of the services, particularly the technical departments, are finding it very difficult to get the man-power that they require.
I have come across quite a number of unfortunate cases. In the great majority of instances, the men have received sym pathetic consideration from the Minister concerned. I know that the discharges were granted when that could be done without placing the services concerned under a great disadvantage. There are some men in key positions who can cause great inconvenience to a service if they leave the job for which they have been trained. We must not forget that it costs a great deal of money to train a man to be a skilled tradesman, nor must we forget that, in a considerable number of cases, the whole cost of the training is borne by the services concerned.
I think that, on the whole, the services act quite fairly in this matter, although, as I have said, I have come across one or two unfortunate cases. There is one about which I am still a little concerned. A man applied on three occasions, I understand, for a discharge from the Royal Australian Navy on compassionate grounds, and on each occasion his application was rejected. I am relating the supposed facts as they were presented to me. On the 10th November of last year, having received notification that his third application for discharge had been rejected, he made the very foolish mistake of “ shooting through “. Subsequently, on the 17th November, as the result of a separate application made by his wife, his discharge was granted and his ship was duly notified. That was seven days after, technically speaking or factually speaking, he had deserted. When he heard that his discharge had been granted, he gave himself up.
He had two good conduct badges. He had been in the service for nearly nine years. He had joined in waT-time and had stayed on. One of his good conduct badges was taken away from him, and he was left with one. He was sentenced to 21 days’ confinement, which he served. If I remember rightly, the sentence expired on the 5th January and he was discharged on the 6th January.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! Will the honorable member, link his remarks with the Estimates that we are discussing?
– My remarks are directly relevant to a matter that was raised only a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Port Adelaide.
The position that arose was that the man was told that he had forfeited well over £200 deferred pay, although he still had a good conduct badge and although his discharge papers made no mention of a dishonorable discharge. I understand that, technically speaking, he became a deserter after having been absent from his ship for more than 24 hours. I believe that that rendered him liable to the forfeiture of his deferred pay. But it strikes me as very strange that a man who has one good conduct badge, who has served a sentence of 21 days’ confinement and whose discharge has been granted after having been rejected three times, should lose over £200 in deferred pay. I mention this case because it is the type of case to which the honorable member for Port Adelaide referred.
– - As affecting recruiting.
– It has some effect on recruiting.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that we have already dealt with the Estimates for the Department of the Navy.
-I understand that we are dealing with the Estimates for “ Other Services “.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is dealing with the Navy.
– I take it that the words “ Other. Services “ mean other defence services, of which I should have thought the Royal Australian Navy was one. I return to the point that I wish to make, which is that some encouragement should be given to men who have been trained by the services, and have served for considerable periods, to remain in the services after the periods for which they have enlisted expire. I do not think it would be impossible for some form of bonus scheme to be worked out. I saw such a scheme in operation in England when I was serving in the Royal Air Force. A man who re-enlisted for a further period received a bonus which, at that time, was not a very large one. I can see no reason why we should not do the same. The training of an airman probably costs between £2,000 and £3,000, and I think we should give an airman who re-enlists a considerable portion of that sum - at least some hundreds of pounds - as an inducement to him to allow his skill to be retained in a service with which he is already familiar.
I wish now to make a brief reference, under the Estimates for the Department of Supply, to the aluminium works down at what has become almost affectionately known as “ Beale Bay “. Knowing nothing about events that had gone before this connexion, and purely as an observer, I went down there last week, at the invitation of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, to witness the opening of the works. I can only say that, regardless of the money that has been expended there, the plant is a most impressive one. Having regard to the speeches that were made on that day, 1 think it can honestly be said that never before had so many politicians realized that there was so much goodness in other politicians. The function was most enjoyable and interesting.
In going over the factory, I was impressed, as I am sure most other people were, by what had at last become a reality, and by the spirit that was abroad that day. I believe that such a spirit can serve a really useful purpose for our country. T understand that there is likely to be a certain amount of bickering as to how much somebody or other is going to charge for electricity, but I do not know much about that matter. There is always a little sniping and back-biting, but on the whole, I think that the spirit which prevailed at the birth of this new industry presaged a very good future for it. Some of our economic experts tend to think that that is unlikely, but having watched the opening function and having listened to the obviously sincere views of people at the works, I should say that the industry has a considerable chance of success. I sincerely hope that it has, for the sake of all of those who have been concerned with it.
I come now to a point that I have mentioned several times previously when the Estimates have been before th, Parliament. I refer-to the cost of production of aircraft in Australia. Last year, I think it was, the Minister invited me to go down and have a look at the works, but I have not jet taken up that invitation. I hope to do so one of these days, because 1 understand that the works are really worth looking at. At the same time, I cannot help feeling that there are types of aircraft that we need and that we cannot build in time, or economically, in Australia. It seems to me that the aircraft factories that we have already established should not be disbanded, but should be turned over to the production of essentia) spare parts for aircraft. I think that that assistance would enable the industry to become a much more economic project. I have been battered down on this matter before, but I have popped up again, and I do not know that the answer, on this occasion, will be very much different.
– The consideration of the items before the committee gives to honorable members an opportunity to assess our defence preparedness and to consider the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money in relation to that preparedness. In doing that, I want, first, to support the expressions of opinion of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. “Wentworth) who, rightly, vigorously and fairly, complained to-night of the failure of the Government to proceed with an orderly plan of civil defence, which is of the utmost importance to every person in this country.
The spending of vast sums of money in the manner in which money has been spent on defence will be of little avail unless this Government approaches civil defence problems in the light of existing circumstances and conditions. What is the situation at the present time? The Government, willy-nilly, without planning, has succumbed to pressure groups. It is always obedient and ready to satisfy those who are in possession of power. The Government, with monotonous regularity, has established industry after industry on the coastline, and it is undoubted that those industries would be targets in the event of war. That means that the civil population which lives in close proximity to those factories is exposed to the dangers inherent in such a situation.
The honorable member for Mackellar has drawn attention to this matter very vividly indeed. The establishment of an atomic reactor on the coastline, on near enough to it, the scattering of oil refineries and munitions annexes around Sydney and the coastline of New South Wales, from Port Kembla to Newcastle, is a matter that all thinking people must deplore. It is unfortunate that it is necessary for honorable members to have to speak repeatedly in this Parliament on a matter which is of such outstanding importance to every person in the country. I take up the cudgels, with the honorable member for Mackellar, and ask that this false policy and this dangerous practice be discontinued. .The civil population should be considered, and a plan of defence should be developed by this National Parliament.
The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, was praised this evening by the honorable member for Mackellar because of the practical steps that he has taken in regard to civil defence. I join with the honorable member for Mackellar in expressing appreciation of the efforts of the Premier. I am grateful for his forthright manner, his vigorous and practical approach to this problem, and his wisdom in appointing such a distinguished and gallant soldier as Major-General Dougherty to take charge of civil defence in New South Wales. The Government of that State has chosen very wisely indeed and deserves the praise of every person in the State. We, too, without reservation, should express our thanks to the Government of New South Wales.
The remarks of the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) call for very few comments. He complained, as he complained last year, about the establishment of aircraft factories in this country. Let me say at once that I disagree emphatically and violently with any idea the implementation of which would destroy Australian industry. Surely no member of the Parliament wants to see Australia, in the event of an attack, reduced to the condition of -Egypt or some other backward country, begging in the market places of the world for weapons of defence. I wish to go further and to praise to the greatest possible degree the ingenuity, skill and ability of the workmen, technicians and other persons who are associated with our defence organization. It is true that a snarl may be made here and a complaint may be made there about something not being done, but that can be said of any organization or society. I know especially well some of the workmen in the Lithgow small arms factory who at one stage were not versed in the production of small arms but who, with the mere smattering of knowledge that they gained in the United States of America before World War I., were able to come back to Australia and produce a rifle that was regarded by marksmen throughout the world as being the very best that could be procured. I feel that a tribute and an expression of goodwill is due to those men who have made such a worthwhile contribution to the security of Australia.
It is true that more should be done, and I am somewhat disturbed by the fact that the government annexes and factories have not been expanded to the fullest possible degree. The difficulty of obtaining skilled technicians and tradesmen such as toolmakers who are required for the expansion of our defence effort constitutes a bottleneck. If such men are required - and I know they are required - it seems logical to me that an all-out drive should be made to bring them to Australia from overseas. I am aware of the fact that there are skilled technicians, skilled tradesmen such as toolmakers, and draftsmen of very high quality who would be eager to come to Australia if homes could be provided for them here. If our defence means as much to us as the Various Ministers and Government supporters lead us to believe, surely a larger and more imaginative housing plan could be instituted to enable such men to be brought to this country.
There is another aspect of defence to which more serious consideration should be given. I refer to the position of boys in country districts who are leaving school. Those boys, many of whom have matriculated, experience some difficulty in finding a niche in our munitions factories. I have submitted to the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) that there should be closer liaison, and that boys who have attended fine technical colleges should be allowed to enter the munitions establishments on a basis no less favorable than thai accorded to youths who have had the privilege of a university education. At Lithgow, which is the site of the Small Arms Factory, there is a fine organization known as the Youth Welfare Advisory Committee, which is eager to work in with the defence chiefs and those persons who are in charge of munitions establishments, to give our young people an opportunity to advance, and at the same time to contribute towards the defence of our country.
I noted, when running somewhat quickly through the list that was mentioned by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), that, although provision was made for thirteen cadet draftsmen in 1954-55, there seems to be no such provision for 1955-56. I think some explanation of that fact is called for. Honorable members should be given some information about it, and we ought to be assured that our defence effort will proceed to the fullest possible degree. Labour men have never taken a back seat or played a secondary role in the defence of Australia. Originally, when the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory and the Royal Australian Navy were being established, the Australian Labour party was to the fore. Labour supporters are a peace-loving people. They believe in establishing friendly relations throughout, the world; but they believe also that there is a need for the maximum building up of our defences. Consequently, I urge the Australian people to make every effort possible to develop our defence organization.
I have referred to the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and to the need for ite expansion. I also wish to direct the attention of the committee and, in particular, of the Minister for Defence Production, to the urgent necessity of establishing a foundry in conjunction with the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory. Without a foundry, that, organization is not complete. I hope the Minister will confer with the departmental heads to ascertain whether this factory can be expanded. Not far removed from it is a munitions annexe which was built during the last war by the Labour Government when it was establishing munitions annexes throughout the central-west of New South Wales and elsewhere. I refer in particular to the annexe which is situated at Portland. It is a very fine building in which no wheels of industry are turning. I suggest to the committee and to the Minister that that building might be used, and that in it there might be employed men who find themselves out of work as a result of the Government’s policy in other directions. The young men and young women of the local community should be given an opportunity of employment at that factory to speed up the manufacture of the F/N .30 rifle. It has been stated that the production of that rifle is lagging, and more dramatic steps should be taken to ensure its production at the earliest possible opportunity.
I now wish to express my disapproval of the fact that some of the activities of the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory have been farmed out to private enterprise. The question of profits should be left out of consideration, and those activities should be returned to the people’s enterprise. I do not express these thoughts in a carping or critical manner. I do so in a constructive manner in the hope and in the belief that, even if the Executive or the Minister for Defence Production does not take heed, at least some Government supporters will do so and will insist that the Government, as quickly as possible, will make a maximum effort for our security, for civil defence, and for the provision of those things that are essential to our survival. [Quorum formed.]
.- I wish to ask the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) some questions concerning the Estimates which he might be good enough to answer when he is replying to the debate. The proposed vote for the Department of Supply includes an item, “ Strategic stores and equipment “. In 1951-52, there was an appropriation for this item of £10,048,026, but in subsequent years there was no appropriation for strategic stores and equipment. That is one of the factors which accounts for the decline in the appropriations for the Department of Supply from £19,000,000. That decline is very marked if one takes into account the relative changes in the purchasing value of money. Why has the policy of the Government in connexion with appropriations for strategic stores and equipment changed over the past three years? Why is not provision made for this item in the Estimates for the future ?
The Department of Defence Production has a similar peculiar characteristic. Since 1952-53, expenditure “under the control of the department “, which is the expression used in the Estimates, has fallen from £7,397,000 to £4,124,000. Suddenly, in the Estimates for the current financial year, the appropriation for that department has been lifted to £10,193,000. What was the reason for the decline by almost half after 1953? I direct the attention of the Minister for Supply, who is at the table, to the fact that £7,000,000 in 1952-53 would be worth at least £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 to-day, and that, as a result, the effective expenditure of the Department of Defence Production is less than half the previous total.
During this debate, honorable members have heard a great deal about the great wisdom of the Government in defence matters by comparison with the ignorance of the Opposition. I remind honorable members on the Government side that the Government’s naval policy is identical with that of the previous Labour Government.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. There have been great changes.
– H.M.A.S. Melbourne and Sydney were ordered by the Chifley Labour Government.
– They are quite different ships.
– I know there has been some re-equipment and modernization of the ships. Of course action has been taken in that direction, but surely the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) recognizes that the same chiefs of staff would have advised the Labour Government to modernize the ships in accordance with new techniques.
– New weapons and methods of detection, also.
– In 1948’, a five-year programme of £33,000,000 for defence research was drawn up by the Chifley Labour Government. Division No. IGO - Defence Research and Development, under the Department of Supply, contains provision for an appropriation of £0,547,000 for the current financial year. An amount of £33,000,000, expended over a period, of five years, is equal to annual expenditure of £0,000,000 at the 1948 level of purchasing power, yet this Government proposes to appropriate an almost identical sum this year when there is a very different level of purchasing power. What is the defence research that is envisaged by the Government under Division No. 160 ? Is that research on rocket ranges? Is it research for controlled falling of bombs? Is it for the Woomera rocket range, or has the Government some other defence research in mind ?
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has spoken of civil defence. Without explanation, the Government proposes to increase the appropriation for civil defence from £90,000 last year to £234,000. I believe it is time that a public statement was made about the Government’s theories on civil defence. The honorable member for Mackellar was denounced by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) for making some statements which the honorable member for Canning considered to be critical of the chiefs of the general staff. On that subject, all that we know from the published statements of controversies between the chiefs of staff in the United States of America, and from what one hears from time to time in Australia, is that there is tremendous disagreement between the heads of the services. We hear that Heads of the Air Forces regard expenditure on aircraft carriers as a waste of money because they consider that the aircraft carrier is an outmoded instrument of war. They believe that all naval aviation should be under their control, and the Navy lias the opposite view. Sir Winston Churchill has given many examples in his memoirs of the arguments between service chiefs who are loyal to their own services. As a result, decisions have had to be made bv civilian Ministers.
I do not blame the chiefs of the services for their loyalty, but I believe that the honorable member for Mackellar was quite right when he stated that not sufficient attention had been given to civil: defence because the whole of the training, of the service chiefs predisposed them to refrain from thinking in terms of civil defence. The honorable member for Canning seemed to suggest that the honorable member for Mackellar adopted a misleading attitude because he disagreed with the chiefs of the services, but that is not the implication when an honorable member speaks on such matters in this chamber. The increase of the appropriation for civil defence from £90,000 to £234,000 this year leads one to question what is the belief of the Government in connexion with civil defence. What kind of attack does it expect to meet with, such small appropriations for civil defence? If the Government is thinking of ordinary aerial attacks along the lines of those of World War II., the situation in a city like Sydney would be that certain areas might be heavily bombed, but work could proceed normally at Vaucluse and other suburbs. That was the situation in World War II.
The air-raid precautions wardens could come from undamaged areas to cope with an attack on vital areas. Large numbers of persons were having a normal home life. The aspect of atomic and hydrogen bombing which interests me is that it is said that soldiers who were in a trench 5,000 yards from the centre of explosion experienced a great shock but were otherwise unhurt. It is important to realize that in that connexion the reference is to the effect of only onebomb. Suppose that 50 or 60 of such bombs were dropped, as is quite possible. Suppose that 200 were dropped. We know that one bomb with the explosive power of 20,000,000 tons of T.N.T. will cause colossal damage, although certain areas may escape damage because of the topography of the ground. Suppose there was a deliberate attempt at obliteration bombing. What would the.n become of civil defence? If we proposed to make an appropriation to meet such n contingency, we would have to provide for absolute mass evacuation from cities. Centres to receive thousands of children would have to be scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land. Industry would have to bc decentralized, and the various stages of production would have to be carried out at scattered locations. Component parts of factories would have to be widely separated. We should like to hear from the Government a report on such matters as these. It is quite clear that an appropriation of £244,000 for civil defence could not be regarded realistically as an adequate amount for training a real civil defence organization to meet ordinary bombing of the type experienced in World War II. It is quite clear that it has no significance whatever in terms of an atomic attack, especially an attack which was designed for obliteration. The Government may consider - this may be a defensible theory - that the great powers, if they were in conflict, would be afraid to use the ultimate weapons, in the same way as Nazi Germany waa afraid to use the terrible poison gases which it possessed because of fear of retaliatory attack. If the Government’s theory in relation to civil defence is that modern weapons are so terrible that they cancel one another out, and the only weapons which the powers would dare to use would be the conventional ones, it would be interesting to hear the Government say so, but it is very hard to understand the theory of civil defence which underlies the appropriation of £234,000. After all, civil defence means -a defence of the country’s capacity to carry on its norma] life and production, with the safe existence of the families of men in the forces, which, of course, is vital to their morale. It means, in effect, the very maintenance of the will to resist when engaged in conflict. Civil defence, instead of attracting an appropriation of £234,000 in a total of £190,000,000 would attract a far greater appropriation If the Government recognized that under any likely circumstances civil defence is the defence of the will to resist. If men had to fight in Malaya, Java, or New Guinea, knowing that in the rear an obliteration attack was taking place, what a terrible dissolvent of morale that would be. It would be a blow at the will to resist, because it would strike at the reason for resistance.
Civil defence means not only the. defence of the national will to resist, but also, in a physical sense, the defence of stores and supplies within the cities and vulnerable areas, the provision of hospitals, deep shelters, and so on. It is an interesting fact, and I do not state it by way of denunciation, but merely so that we may realize its implication to defence, that we consistently locate our most vital resources on the coast. In my own electorate of Fremantle, the Kwinana, oil refinery, which cost £40,000,000, is located within a few yards from the sea water which it uses. Alongside it is constructed a great new power house, the largest in Western Australia, and adjacent to that a steel rolling mill is being erected. Anybody knows that submarines, heavily armed even with conventional weapons and not atomic weapons, could with a few shots paralyse some of the facilities which are most vital to our defence. The honorable members for Mackellar has raised this problem. There is no answer to it. While the facilities are there, what is the sense of pretending that they are not extremely vulnerable? In drawing attention to the problem, the honorable member for Mackellar may not have provided a solution, but it i,? the Government’s duty to provide a solution. I do not say that I have any solution, but it does seem to me that as we are in an era of what we might call absolute weapons, we need an entirely new approach to the subject. We know that a hydrogen bomb has an explosive power equivalent to 20,000,000 tons of T.N.T. As these absolute weapons have this colossal destructive power, it is perfectly clear that defence moves into a new dimension.
– I have available some of the information which has been sought by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), but I suggest that it might be more convenient, perhaps, if I spoke next Tuesday and gave him all the information he desires, some of which is not before me at the moment.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has made some observations which I think form a useful contribution to general thought on the subject of civil defence. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) made some pertinent remarks, with which I substantially agree, on the same subject this afternoon. I propose to address myself to that subject. I do not altogether agree with everything that the honorable member for Mackellar said, although I am in substantial agreement with him. For example, I’ do not altogether agree that the cities of Australia are more likely to be subjected to atomic attack than the cities of the United States of America or the United Kingdom. These thoughts, of course, lead us to the kernel of the whole problem, which is to decide whether we are likely or unlikely to be subjected to this form of attack in the event of a third world war. In order to reach a decision on that matter, we have to bear in mind recent events and evaluate them in the light of our knowledge of our potential enemies, their doctrines and intentions. Since the Geneva conference, there has been a tendency, because of the apparent change of attitude by the Russians, to say that the probability of a major war has materially diminished. Some persons seriously and honestly believe that the Russians no longer seek world domination for international communism. If that is a correct view, and I do not believe that it is. it is only due to the fact that the Western democracies have so strengthened their defences that they have convinced their potential enemies that war will not pay. We must not forget that it is part of the published Communist doctrine that the end justifies the means, and that lies, dishonesty and deceit are regarded by the Communists as legitimate instruments of diplomacy. Therefore, to be deluded by an instrument of their own diplomacy is the height of stupidity. I am convinced that if the Russians have for the moment given up their ambition to dominate the world, if necessary by armed force, that attitude will last only as long as we retain our relative superiority in weapons of war, and only as long as we can make it obvious to them that if they precipitate a war it will be unsuccessful from their viewpoint.
I believe that the possibility of atomic attack on Australia still remains, although the probability may be small. It will remain until we achieve some effective method of armament control and the banning of atomic weapons ; that is, some method which involves a foolproof system of inspection and control - and we do not seem to be making much progress towards that end. So if we are forced to the unhappy conclusion that nuclear weapon attack on this country is a possibility, any government that does not make some sort of plans and preparations for such an event could be charged with criminal negligence.
The only effective defence against this type of attack is by widespread dispersal of population, and by the evacuation of our cities before the attack occurs. That, for very obvious reasons, is quite impracticable. But because we cannot achieve the ideal in protection we should not fail to do what we can. Certainly it is no reason for not having some plans, and some organization to deal with the survivors of a bombed city. Our reliable estimates have shown us that there might be as many as 50 per cent, casualties in a city like Sydney if it were attacked with atomic weapons. Therefore, about 500,000 people would be left in Sydney who were not casualties, but who would soon become casualties by radiation unless something were done for them.
I believe that we should have some organization now which could arrange for the collection of injured persona and for attention to be given to them. The injured will be in large numbers, and if we rely on our peace-time organization, our hospitals and medical services will by no means suffice. We shall not be so much concerned with the dead because, unfortunately, they will be dead, but we should think about dealing with the survivors, and the injured who will be in large numbers. We should also be thinking about an organization to deal with those who are not injured, but who might become casualties as the result of radio activity. All that points to the evacuation of the uninjured as rapidly as possible to areas outside the zone of the fall-out. Such a plan involves preparation for housing, for food, shelter, sanitation and everything that makes it possible for hundreds of thousands of people to survive when they are taken away from their normal city amenities and services.
To carry out such a task completely may be impracticable, but we should do something and we should be planning. It is little short of criminal, when there is a possibility, however small the probability, of atomic attack in which there would be thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands if we did not evacuate the injured, to complacently sit back and do nothing about it except organize a school for instructors in some form of civil defence which is probably out of date.
All the planning and organization that I have mentioned would cost money, and would require careful thought and organization. But we should be doing that planning. I know that because any such organiaztion involves State authorities and instrumentalities it is primarily a matter for the States, but it is also for the Commonwealth to give directions, and to co-ordinate the State efforts. I believe that in practice it will be the Commonwealth’s responsibility to carry out any such plans, because if a city like Sydney or Melbourne were to suffer nuclear weapon attack it would inevitably have to come under martial law. Therefore, the plans and organization before the attack must be based on State instrumentalities such as medical services, police services and so on, but the Commonwealth is concerned because martial law will certainly have to be enforced and the Commonwealth, through its services, will have to ensure that the plans are carried out.
As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said, probably the chiefs of staff committee is the proper authority to co-ordinate and direct the work of civil defence. He pointed out the disabilities of our present defence committee set-up, and he was unjustly attacked by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) for doing so. The honorable member for Mackellar was quite correct when he said that the training of each of the chiefs of staff prevents him from coming to a proper decision on any matter which is not completely concerned with his own service.
I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) that such a state of affairs is not inescapable. The fault lies with the organization, and we can only overcome it by adopting the American system where there is a chief of staff committee with an independent chairman whose duty it is to co-ordinate the views of the three chiefs of staff, and interpret those views to the Government in the light of his service knowledge gained from his experience. It we had such a change in the chiefs of staff committee, it could effectively tackle such matters as the co-ordination and direction of an effective civil defence plan, knowing that, in the unfortunate circumstances of an atomic attack becoming a reality, it would have to put the plan into operation under martial law. This is a serious matter. I have been concerned about it for a long time. I fear that we are not justified in sitting back complacently and assuring the public of Australia that the possibility of atomic attack is so small that it is negligible. While the possibility exists, the probability is not negligible, and we must do something about it. Unless we attack this question properly, no government can regard itself as having done the best it can in the interests of the people of Australia.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Sir Eric Harrison) read a first time.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I rise in protest at and to correct a grossly distorted, misleading and even damaging report’ printed in this afternoon’s edition of the Sydney Daily Mirror. This article does very little credit to the journalist who wrote it, and considerably less credit to the individual who has sought in the article to have his private views made to represent the views of an entire committee. The article in question purports to he the story of the formation of a Government members’ private committee to examine matters dealing with electronic communications. It was an informal association of private members prompted by a desire to increase their knowledge of the technical problems of broadcasting, in particular in association with the introduction of television in the very near future. The article begins and ends with gross misrepresentation. It begins with the headline, “ Private Members Start Probe of Government’s Television Plan “. In actual fact, as honorable members of this House will not require to be reminded, it is a completely informal committee, having no official status, and having no powers to call and hear witnesses or to order the production of documents and so on. Therefore, the committeehas no ability, even if it had the inclination, to set out on any probe of the Government’s television plans.
The article proceeds to suggest that the committee has its origin in the dissatisfaction of members of the committee - and perhaps others - with the administration of the Postal Department by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). I want to give the lie completely to that suggestion. There is absolutely no foundation for the assertion that this was one of the reasons for the formation of the committee. This committee is purely the result of an idea that developed out of the great need recognized by its members to bring their own knowledge up to date on the rather involved technical considerations that lie behind broadcasting, television and facsimile, as well as the various other aspects of communication which come under the control, in the final analysis, of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Finally, in the poorest of taste, the author of this scurrilous article has sought to suggest, and to put into the mouth of another the suggestion, that the PostmasterGeneral sought to hamper the formation of this committee. I want to give the lie to any such suggestion, and in doing so, it might be desirable for me to clarify completely the attitude of the Postmaster-General towards this matter, because no more unfair attack could be made upon the Minister than that contained in the final paragraph of the article to which I refer. In. refutation of it, I read the following passage from a letter written by the Postmaster-General towards the end of June, in relation to the suggestion for the formation of the committee : -
I think that this might he a very good idea, particularly in view of the advent of television.
I shallbe very happy to discuss this with you when Parliament re-assembles.
In a subsequent letter written before the present sittings of the Parliament, the Postmaster-General said -
I also recognize the advantages which would follow thu formation of such a committee.
He proceeded, in a rather lengthy letter, to point to matters to which the committee might direct attention, and which might be of aid and benefit to the members themselves, and might well result in aid and benefit to the administration of the department. The Minister pointed out that he was quite willing to accept suggestions put up by the committee if suggestions of that type should arise from our work. He went on to say -
So that the committee can be established without unnecessary delay, I would suggest that you raise the matter at the next meeting of the Joint Parties so that members may be selected.In this connexion, it might be a good plan to have representatives from all the States so that the operations of the Post Officer, which cover all settled areas of Australia, can be embraced.
That is the clearest possible evidence that the Minister was, in fact, keen to see such a committee established. In the final paragraph of his letter, he wrote -
It may he necessary on some occasions for the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, or the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to be consulted, but if any requests for information on matters coming within their province are made to the Director-General or me, the requisite details will be obtained.
I repeat that there we have the clearest possible evidence that the Minister wascooperative towards this idea of establishing an informal and unofficial private members’ committee to consider these problems.
If any further evidence is wanted on this matter, I think it would be proper to say that whilst this particular journal has pointed out that members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had given evidence before the committee, no such event could have taken place,. because we have no authority to hear evidence. What happened earlier this week was that officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board were in Canberra. Their visit was arranged by the Postmaster-General, who attended a meeting at which there was some most valuable but nevertheless unofficial and informal discussion between this committee and those officers.
So I want to give the lie direct to the rumours, untruths and damaging distortions which are inherent in this, article. Nothing is more likely to prejudice the usefulness of a committee such as this than this type of unfair and destructive press article. I hope that in future when the gentleman who prepared this article wants some information, he will seek a more authoritative source for it, and so do a little less damage to an idea which, to all sides of the Parliament, is constructive.
– I am sure the House has been very touched by the appeal of the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) to the press gallery to act fairly and justly towards what he has been pleased to designate an unofficial private members’ committee which has concerned itself with television. I am sure also that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) could not have needed a more satisfactory apology than he has received, if he did have any fears that there was an incipient rebellion amongst the backbenchers against his administration.
The honorable member for Paterson would have been more effective if he had suggested to the Minister that the Government might revive the statutory committee known as the Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting so that members of all parties in both Houses could examine this question to which this unofficial committee is paying attention. I am sure that the honorable member for Paterson, who has had so much experience himself in the world of broadcasting, would not be averse to the restoration of that committee at its former status.
– I would hope it would not tout for business as it did when it Operated under a Labour government.
– It never touted for business when it was under a Labour government because it was set up by the former Menzios Govern ment upon the recommendation of the Gibson Committee, a very fine committee upon which some of the most distinguished members of this House served in their time. 1 was thinking of the present ambassador at Washington, among others, lt was a good committee, but it was destroyed in a moment of pique. I suggest to the honorable member for Paterson that he should not be so thin-skinned about press criticism. He docs not rise in his place with resentment because of what the press says about members on this side of the House, when they lampoon, ridicule and caricature us. That goes on day by day, and honorable members opposite have their little laughs and get maudlin satisfaction when the press once in a while says our party is an intriguing body, or something to that effect. Honorable members opposite, protected as they are from the affects of “wind and weather” to quote from the Prime Minister’s speech the other night, use all sorts of expletives and expressive statements.
I do not want to say any more about, that except to add that I know that the press does engage in errors and damaging distortions. But why should the honorable member make his protest about it now when he has remained silent for over five years? It is only when the press flips him occasionally that he feels constrained to make a protest. If I were the Postmaster-General, I do not think I should swallow quite so easily the apology that the honorable member has just made. There is a little revolution going on in this matter as well as in a number of other matters.
– Has the honorable member for Melbourne ever tried to destroy the press for criticizing him?
– The proudest boast I have is that I ran them off the streets in 1944; and if I had to do it again in similar circumstances, I would do so. What happened then was that I accepted the advice of the censor, and the action taken on that occasion was designed to protect the interests of the men who were then fighting in defence of this country. That is the answer I make to that.
The more important matter to which I wish to direct attention is the difficulty which honorable members on this side of the House, and some on the other side, have in addressing questions to Ministers at question time. Honorable members cannot use the facilities afforded by the House to the extent that they may desire, and in some instances have to go two, or three, days before they can obtain the call to ask a question. This is because the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), and the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) make long and lugubrious speeches in reply to questions and occupy so much time involving themselves in all sorts of complexities and getting lost in their parentheses that honorable members on both sides who want to ask questions, and have the legitimate right to ask questions, cannot do so. [ suggest to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) that he should lecture those gentlemen in turn and commend to them the splendid example of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself who, very laconically, says “No”, or “Yes”, or “I do not know “, or “ I shall have inquiries made “. But nothing seems to be able to stem the tide of loquacity of the Minister for Supply and his colleagues.
– It would have as much effect as it would have if I were to lecture the honorable member for Melbourne.
– The leader of the House then admits they are beyond redemption. The worst offender is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The Prime Minister at least gives his answer, but these gentlemen use a spate of words trying to give the impression that they know something about the questions they are asked. And, generally, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), or some other honorable gentleman, has to come to their assistance and put the question to them so that they can extract the information which is sought.
I rarely talk on the adjournment, although I was a practitioner once of very great skill and pertinacity. I put it to the Vice-President of the Executive
Council - my friend, colleague and collaborator, almost my fellow-traveller - that he should ask the Prime Minister to lecture these offenders so that when questions are asked in future, honorable members on both sides of the House will have the opportunity to ask their questions and receive answers and not ill-considered and often factually incorrect replies to the inquiries they address to Ministers.
– Sometimes the replies are impudent. ° Mr. CALWELL.- Occasionally, the Ministers concerned are impudent, but 1 will say they are improving ; their dissertations are not as impudent as they used to be.
. I am sorry that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition-
– So are we.
– I am glad that honorable members opposite know who their deputy leader is; they do not know who their leader is. I am sorry that the honorable member for Melbourne tried to make political capital out of the matter raised by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). It is not a personal matter with him or with me, but one which concerns the good working of the Parliament. Over a period of time Government members have formed unofficial committees in order to learn more about the various subjects that come up for discussion in the Parliament. We attempt with all the information that Ministers gladly make available to us to inform ourselves to the fullest degree. This is not the first occasion on which the press has made unfair remarks and distorted comments about committees of this kind. We had a similar experience in respect of our mining committee which had done an excellent job of work at some expense and inconvenience to its members. Now, we have the latest attack by the press upon the unofficial communications committee that has been set up by Government supporters in this chamber.
In the particular article that was published in to-day’s Sydney Daily Mirror it was claimed that this committee was operating in spite of the wishes of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony). As I happen to be secretary of the committee - the honorable member for Paterson is the chairman of it - I shall refer to the minutes of the meetings that have been held. At the inaugural meeting, a message was received from the PostmasterGeneral to the effect that he welcomed the suggestions made by the committee, and he promised every cooperation that he could extend to it. The Postmaster-General attended the second meeting of the committee and in the course of his remarks, as reported in the minutes of that meeting, he completely approved of the committee’s activities. He said that it was rendering useful support to the Government parties and assistance to the Parliament and that he be would be prepared in future to allow departmental officers to attend meetings of the committee provided such requests were kept within reasonable limits. He also said that whenever important persons in his department came to Canberra, he would advise the committee in order to enable it to have discussions with such officers. This committee is not an isolated example. It is regrettable that whenever committees are set up these unfair comments should be made by members of the press who obtain their information by devious means or draw upon their imagination for their material. The committees cannot work properly under those conditions. The majority of thinking people are pleased to learn that private members of Parliament are so interested in their work here, and in the government of the Commonwealth of Australia, that they are prepared to undertake the task of forming themselves into committees so that they will be fully informed. I hope that the committee system will continue to expand and that each committee will receive from the respective Minister the degree of support that the Postmaster-General has promised to the Communications Committee.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)
I’ll. 22]. - I want to refer to a matter that is of far more importance than the matters that have been referred to by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) and the honorable member for
Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). All that they are trying to do is to cover up the fact that there is on the Government back benches a cave that is trying to undermine the authority of a Minister. What is going on is perfectly obvious to every one. These poor little creatures, whose attempts to become Prime Ministers or Postmasters-General have been thwarted, are trying to undermine and belittle the Ministry in the eyes of the Parliament and the community generally. They are doing this by holding undercover meetings to work out a way of cutting the ground from under the feet of Ministers. We should applaud, rather than condemn, the press for being sufficiently wide awake to the motives of the back-benchers. For once it has been able to see the under-cover moves of the cave in the ranks of Government supporters as clearly as it professes to see imaginary caves in the ranks of members behind the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
– That is not a cave, but a tomb !
– I wish that the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) would moderate his voice. It is like a foghorn.
I want to refer now to the far more important matter of the so-called supergrade petrol that is being sold in Australia for 4d. a gallon more than the ordinary petrol, the price of which is controlled. I want the Government, if it will take sufficient interest in this important matter, to examine the octane content of so-called super-grade petrol to ascertain what advantage it has over ordinary petrol. Further, I want the Government to tell honorable members the octane value of the controlled petrol when super-grade petrol was introduced, and whether it is taking any action to ensure that that value is being maintained. From personal experience I know that super-grade petrol-
– Did the honorable member drink a gallon of it?
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) is becoming, more like a fascist every day. He seems to be trying to outdo the honorable member for Deakin, and is, perhaps, jealous of the fact that I described that honorable member as having a foghorn voice. There is very little, if any, difference between ordinary and super-grade petrol, though the latter is 4d. a gallon dearer. I have a motor car and I find that the mileage, using super-grade petrol, is about one mile a gallon lower than it is when ordinary price-controlled petrol is used. I want to know whether a secret agreement has been reached between some one and the oil companies of Australia to work a “ swiftie “ over the community by allowing those companies, as a result of a high pressure advertising campaign, to introduce what is called super petrol at an uncontrolled price that is 4d. a gallon higher than that of ordinary petrol when, in fact, it is no better. Within a very short space of time - if it has not already occurred - the octane value of thecontrolled petrol is likely to diminish gradually so that there will then be a real difference betwen the quality of that petrol and that of the petrol sold at the uncontrolled price. We know that the oil companies of Australia exert a powerful influence upon this Government. We remember only too well how the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), though holding the office of Attorney-General, actually went into court and defended the interests of the oil companies before a royal commission into the petrol industry. I am not accusing the Prime Minister of anything, but I want an assurance from some one who is capable of giving the facts, that the right honorable gentleman is not still working in the interests of the oil companies, as he did in the case that I have cited.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As the honorable member well knows, the administration of the Government’s civil defence programme is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, whomI have asked to reply to the questions that have been asked.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Will he make available a copy of the agreements now operative between the Australian Overseas Transport Association and Australian shippers of primary products?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Australian Overseas Transport Association is the body which ratifies agreements entered into by individual shippers and the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association. As such it cannot enter into contracts with either shipper or shipowner.If the honorable member has in mind the normal commercial contracts entered into for the carriage of goods overseas,I would point out that these are purely private business agreements between the parties concerned. They arc not available to the Government.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I have received the following advice from the Minister for Repatriation : -
a asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550929_reps_21_hor8/>.