22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1957-58.
Supply (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2)
Appropriation Bill 1957^58. Appropriation (Works and Services) BiJJ
– My question to the Minister for National Development concerns a statement that he is reported in the press to have made to the effect that he had complained about the lack of finance that had been provided by the private “banks for home-building. In view of that comment by the Minister, will the Government consider increasing the allocation -of money ito the ‘States for home-building, and (particularly to New South Wales? I believe that . the New South Wales Government could double the number of homes that are being built with its assistance in that State if .it could obtain more finance from the Commonwealth Government.
– It is a fact that I made a speech in which I set out the progress that the Commonwealth Government had made in overcoming the housing shortage. In the course of that speech, I advanced some constructive ideas on ways in which more could be done to -encourage home-building, -and I said that I ‘believed more money could have been made available by the banks for the construction of houses. However, I made a .’number of other statements which were much more important.
For example, I said that this year ‘the Commonwealth Government had made available for housing a record amount of £77,000i000. I also said that ‘no solution to the (housing problem could be ‘found along the lines that Senator Ashley has advocated which i entail ‘more and .more money being found :by ifhe iCoirrmonwealth Government ;because, rhaving ‘regard to the present state of the loan market, the provision of more money by the Commonwealth Government could mean only more taxation. What the honorable senator is advocating, in effect, is a substantial increase in taxes. The total expenditure on housing last year was £237,000,000 and if this Government is to find the difference between £237,000,000 and the £77,000,000 that it is already providing for housing, there is a problem ahead of us.
During the speech to which I have referred, I said that building societies were doing a very ,good job, but I .thought that they could make much more effective use of the money that was made available to them. I said that I believed it would be a good thing if the building societies received more support from institutions which have money to lend, and I referred in particular to insurance companies. I made some comment about building societies. I said that the societies were not doing enough to encourage thrift and savings schemes, and were not .directing enough funds of .thenown .to use for housing. All in all, I .made, in .a minor way, what i ;tho.ught was a constructive approach to overcoming and reducing the (housing shortage - despite, >I should add, the excellent -.progress we are making .at the present .time.
– I address a question to the Leader .of .the Government in the Senate relating to an article appearing in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in which it is -stated that the Australian Academy of Science has told the Government that the development of Australia will be tragically hindered and our standard of living lowered unless drastic measures are taken to train more scientists and technologists. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that conditions of employment for scientists and technologists in Britain and America are more attractive than those prevailing in Australia. If they are more attractive, can the Minister assure me that the whole urgent question df remuneration and conditions will be carefully examined so that in ‘future more ‘of our university students will be encouraged to ienter this 1ield of work and make it ‘their career?
– I did read recently that the percentage of students engaged in scientific studies in Australia is lower than in America and the United Kingdom. I understand also that the relative rate of pay is not so attractive here as it is in those other countries. In respect of this matter, the powers and resources of the Commonwealth are very limited, and it is giving the Commonwealth a great deal of concern. The honorable senator may rest assured that, within its limited powers, the Commonwealth Government will do all that it can to encourage more students to enter those realms of study referred to by him.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise tell me what principles he adopts in determining whether goods shall or shall not be admitted free of duty or at a reduced rate under by-law?
– The principle we adopt is that if suitably equivalent goods are not reasonably available, firstly, in Australia, or, secondly, from the United Kingdom, they may be admitted under by-law. For instance, if by-law entry is requested in respect of goods from America, the department makes investigations to see whether equivalent goods are available here. If they are available in Australia, no by-law admission is given. If they are not available in Australia, but are available from the United Kingdom, then they may be admitted at the concessional rate of 74 per cent.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Because of the widespread dissatisfaction amongst primary producers who, whilst not being liable for the payment of diesel fuel tax, are obliged, under existing regulations, to pay the tax of ls. a gallon on diesel fuel and wait for a period of three months for the return of their money, will the Minister urgently consider ways and means of exempting the primary producers from the payment of this tax at the point of purchase?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator is the subject of legislation to be introduced into the Senate within the next day or two. In those circumstances, I think that any comment I have to make should be held until that time.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the Commonwealth Office of Education has compared the number of applications for Commonwealth scholarships this year with the number to be granted. If a review ot the position discloses that applications exceed the number of scholarships to be granted, will the Prime Minister favorably consider increasing that number?
– I have no doubt that the Commonwealth Office of Education would have some record of the matters raised by the honorable senator. I could not give him the answers he seeks offhand, and I suggest that he places the question on the notice-paper.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. The Commonwealth Government has refused the Queensland Government’s request for drought relief, on a £l-for-£l basis, of subsidy up to £250,000 for each government, on the ground that the Commonwealth considers drought relief to be a State matter, covered by the tax reimbursement grant. In view of this I ask the following questions: - 1. Has the Commonwealth, at any previous time, assisted in drought relief? 2. How is drought relief provided for in the tax reimbursement to the States, having in mind the fact that when the tax reimbursement calculation is made a serious state of drought might not exist in a State? 3. As such relief in Queensland would help to preserve a national asset in that sheep or cattle saved would continue to earn badly needed overseas income, and result in the collection of additional income tax, considering the matter on a broad national basis, would it not be an advantage to save as much stock as possible? 4. Does the Commonwealth Government consider it wise to stand idly by and lose stock which might take years to replace, when a comparatively small subsidy would do much to preserve some of our best national assets? 5. Is the Government aware that, despite some storm rains, a considerable portion of Queensland’s beef and wool-growing areas is still badly droughtstricken? 6. Would the Government be prepared to reconsider the matter of drought relief for Queensland?
– I am sure that the honorable senator would not expect me to answer all his questions offhand, but 1 understand, as a matter of practice, that never in the history of Commonwealth relief to States has drought been put in the same category as flooding, bushfires and other calamitous happenings which can be very specifically located. After all, there are droughts and droughts. Some are of greater severity than others, and cause greater distress than others. People in business have a greater degree of prosperity in some years than in others. Similarly, they have years of very poor return. That is a circumstance which applies, unfortunately, to people engaged in rural pursuits. I suggest that the honorable senator place the other questions on the notice-paper. I should like to finish by saying that apparently it has never been the practice of any Commonwealth Government to render assistance to the States in cases of drought.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate and AttorneyGeneral whether he recalls that during the debate on the 1956-57 Estimates I queried the very small amount set aside by this Government for civil defence. Does he also recollect that in the debate on the 1957-58 Estimates I raised the matter again and dealt more fully with the neglect of civil defence, and the lack of a Commonwealth Government policy? Is he aware that the Minister who handled the Estimates informed the Senate that civil defence was not a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, indicated that there were constitutional difficulties in the way of the Commonwealth entering into the field, and stated that the matter was the responsibility of the States? I now ask him, as the Attorney-General: Will he provide a clear definition of whether the Commonwealth Government is barred constitutionally from setting up, and making provision for expenditure upon, the civil defence of this country? Further, is he aware that the
State Premiers, having attended a conference on civil defence at Mount Macedon, are now considering what they can do in the matter, but find that the field is severely restricted because they have not the requisite finance, and the Commonwealth has not stated whether it is prepared to enter fully into the provision of moneys for the civil defence of the people of this country?
– Without vouching for the accuracy, in every detail, of the honorable senator’s opening remarks, I can say that I do remember the matters now raised by him being raised on an earlier occasion. 1 think that we should seek to decide the respective powers, responsibilities and duties of State and Commonwealth Governments at a Premiers’ Conference, rather than by question and answer here. However, I shall have examined the constitutional limits or restrictions imposed upon the Commonwealth Government in this matter and I shall let the honorable senator know our views.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport seen a magazine article published by a Melbourne newspaper, the “ Herald “, advertising the State of Western Australia, and giving the various modes of travel available and the fares payable, but stating that aircraft and trains are completely booked out for December? Is it a fact that a shortage of rolling-stock on the Commonwealth railways would prevent extra trains from being run? If this is not so, will the Minister investigate the possibility of providing extra trains, so that more travellers may see this wonderful State?
– I agree completely with Senator Robertson that it would be deplorable if any Australian or any visitor from overseas were denied the privilege and the pleasure of seeing Western Australia. The Senate can rest assured that anything I can do to remove a hindrance, if it exists, will in fact be done. Year by year, the Commonwealth Railways have provided extra rolling-stock to meet the Christmas demand and have run as many trains as it was possible to run. I understand that similar arrangements will be made this year.
– Can’ the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service’ inform1 the Senate of the number- of unemployed persons in the town of Devonport on 31st March, 30th June; and’ 30th September, 1’957? Also, can he state- the number of unemployed persons in Devonport at- the- present time?
– I. am unable to give the honorable senator that information. However, I can assure Kim that not many people can be involved, because at the end of September only 695 people in the whole of Tasmania were, receiving unemployment benefit..
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer believe that the housing finance position would be improved if individual private lenders, as distinct from banks and insurance’ companies, were persuaded to return to or become more active in the. house mortgage market? If so. would he examine the possibility of bringing this about by granting substantial income- tax -concessions- in respect of income derived from interest paid on housing mortgage loans?
– Unfortunately, the position is- that in almost every- direction in which’ we require some national progress or development, the suggestion- is made that it should be- accomplished by giving some relief from taxation- or providing some taxation incentive. We cannot provide taxation incentives in- all directions’, because, after all, some one- has to pay income tax in order to provide revenue for the purposes of government.
– Has the Minister representing, the Minister for the Army any knowledge of. certain accidents that are stated to have happened, to three student cadets who- are- attending a public school inr Perth, when, one broke- an arm and, each of two others broke a leg. while taking part in- military, exercises? If- the Minister has, no knowledge of these matters, will he. make inquiries’ to ascertain, whether, in fact-,, the alleged, accidents- did occur? If they did,, will, he endeavour to have military exercises in which physical, injuries might be sustained held in. future, at a time, of the year when any student who sustains injury in them will not be precluded, from taking part in the examinations that mark the end of the school yeaT?
– I shall ask my- colleague, the- Minister- for the Army, to have the necessary inquiries- made to ascertain the facts- and let. the honorable senator know direct.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and. Transport aware that the Colonial Sugar Refining. Company Limited sends sugar to Western Australia by the Trans-Australian Railways? Will he try to arrange the back-loading of wheat from Western Australia in order to reduce the freight charges on this commodity and- so obviate all, or a part, of the proposed increase of 2d. a loaf, in the price of bread in New South Wales?
– It has been my beliefthat the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has, in the main, sent sugar from the eastern seaboard to Western Australia by sea, although I. have no doubt that a small quantity, is transported by rail. The question of freight on wheat to: be transported from Western Australia to the eastern- States- is1 currently receiving- consideration by the- Government which announced, only last week, that it: did not believe that the Commonwealth should be responsible to pay. the freight: involved. I understand that both the New South Walesand.’ Queensland.’ Governments are - to make representations for the matter- to be reconsidered. In due time, an announcement, will be made: as to the fate of- these - new representations.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing. the Treasurer, relates to the possibility of introducing, the. decimal, coinage system, into Australia. I. recollect reading a press announcement, some, time ago. to the effect that the Government would, be giving, some. consideration to the proposal. I now ask the Minister whether the Government has, in fact, considered introducing a decimal coinage system into Australia in substitution of the existing currency system. If it has not done so, will the Minister take steps to have the proposal brought before the Cabinet as soon as possible?
– I know that my colleague, Sir Arthur Fadden, has been in close touch with those who are keen on an alteration in the coinage; he has had a series of discussions with them. I am sure that, in those circumstances, the honorable senator will accept my assurance that the Treasurer is in close touch with the position and that, if he feels that events so require, he will bring the matter before the Cabinet.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the statement made by the President in answer to a question regarding the publication of the booklet entitled “ The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia “, in which he indicated that the Department ot Immigration proposed to issue a publication foi distribution at naturalization ceremonies, will the Prime Minister advise whether there is any cooperation on the issue of departmental publications and what steps are taken to ensure there is no duplication?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: -
The issue of departmental publications is coordinated through the Treasury Publications Committee, to which the various departments are required to submit proposals for publications, for the express purpose of avoiding duplication and unnecessary expenditure. It is not envisaged that the proposed booklet being prepared by the Department of Immigration for distribution to immigrants will duplicate the booklet “The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia “.
The proposed immigration booklet, to be entitled “ How Australia is Governed “, is intended to contain information of a comprehensive nature on government at Federal, State and local levels, including a brief outline of the history of self-government and federation. The information in this booklet relating to the Federal Parliament is necessarily not as detailed as that contained in the booklet dealing solely with the Federal Parliament, but will be sufficient adequately to inform newly naturalized persons of the functions of the Federal Parliament. - More* over, it is desirable that booklets prepared for immigrant readers should be written in a specialized simple form that will be more readily understood by them than a booklet intended primarily for general distribution. It will be seen, therefore, that the objectives and scope of the two booklets are separate, but in any event the proposed immigration booklet will be submitted to the Treasury Publications Committee for approval.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
Has any proposal been placed before the Government for the sale of Commonwealth aircraft factories to private enterprise?
– The Ministei for Defence Production has supplied the following answer: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: -
Plan. Other proposals which are currently under consideration relate to the provision of a permanent source of funds for research and sales promotion. These proposals will be aimed at reducing costs of, and stimulating local and overseas demand for, dairy products. It is my intention to introduce legislation to cover these proposals as soon as practicable.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied me with the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has furnished the following information -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ the following replies which have been furnished by the Treasurer: -
* Redeemable at the option of the Treasurer on or after the firstmentioned date upon notice. t Special loans not open for public subscription. t Special loans not open for public subscription. Australia's gold and foreign exchange holdings, at dates nearest to those mentioned by the honorable senator for which figures are available, were as follows: - 31st December, 1949, £508,300,000; 30th June, 1957, £566,500,000. These figures are not strictly comparable because the latter figure has been compiled on a revised basis but the difference is not substantial.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister foi Territories has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
In addition, the ordinance requires that workers be provided with accommodation, medical attention, food, clothing, cooking utensils and other items, together with rations and other items for the worker’s family if accompanying him to his place of employment, and fares to and from the place of employment. Wages for skilled workers much exceed this minimum wage and range up to an average monthly wage of more than £13 in some occupations. The Personal Tax Ordinance 1957 provides that the AdministratorinCouncil may exempt areas and determine lower rates in specified areas, and that any person asssescd for personal tax may appeal to the appropriate tribunal for reduction or remission of tax on the ground of hardship. It is not considered that this tax will impose unreasonable hardship.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
It has not yet been possible to complete the distribution of the Joint Organization profits. Australia’s total share of the Joint Organization profits amounted to approximately £93,000,000 and it was decided to distribute these profits to growers. The distribution of the profits, which was entrusted to the Australian Wool Realization Commission, was commenced in 1949, and by now all the profits with the exception of about £2,500,000 have been distributed. The outstanding moneys are comprised mainly of the profits on wool submitted by growers for war-time appraisement through dealers. The distribution of these moneys was held up until recently by protracted litigation known as the Poulton case. Owing to the delay caused by the Poulton litigation, it has not been possible to distribute the profits before the expiration of the period permitted under the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act 1948-1955. Accordingly, it will be necessary to amend the act extending the period so as to permit the distribution of the profits as far as possible. It is proposed to have the necessary amendment passed during the current session of Parliament, in which the period will be extended until 30th June, 1959, or such earlier date as may be determined. Profits that the commission is unable to distribute at the finally determined date will be paid into the Wool Research Trust Fund and will be used for the, benefit of the wool-growing industry generally.
Is it a fact, as suggested in the report of a statement made at the Returned Servicemen’s League of Australia conference in Hobart, that the Bring-out-a-Briton scheme is not working as well as was expected?
If so, what is thought to be the main reason for this position?
Is there a lack of Australian sponsors?
How many Britons have been brought out under this scheme since its inception?
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The Bring-out-a-Briton campaign was designed to afford to individuals and organizations anxious to increase the intake of British migrants an opportunity of assisting to give practical effect to their expressed desire for more British migrants. The campaign has a number of objectives, of which the two principal are - (a) By publicity and by dissemination of information of how to proceed, to increase the number of personal nominations under the assisted passage scheme being submitted by Australian residents in favour of relatives and friends in the United Kingdom; and (b) by enlisting community co-operation in seeking out employment opportunities and suitable accommodation to arrange the movement of British migrants who would not otherwise be able to obtain sponsors or qualify on occupational grounds for selection as assisted passage migrants.
The first part of the campaign is having remarkably good success. Personal nominations, i.e. sponsorship by persons in Australia of particular persons known to them in the United kingdom, have increased by more than 50 per cent, in the ten months of 1957 compared with the same period of 1956. The figures are -
January to October, 1956 . . 16,574 January to October, 1957 . . 25,150
In view of this increase, I have taken steps to ensure that there is shipping space available to carry these very desirable migrants to Australia by entering into a long-term arrangement for the use of two ships of an Italian shipping line to supplement the normal British commercial berths available to us for the carriage of British migrants.
The second aspect of the campaign has been slower in development because of the time it has taken to establish a network of 180 BringoutaBriton committees throughout Australia. Nevertheless, 120 families, involving 435 people, have come to Australia under this arrangement. * Approximately a further 40 vacancies have been notified to the London office of the Department of Immigration and it is expected that families will embark in the near future to fill these vacancies.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Is it a fact that new Australians have to apply for special permits to enter New Zealand? If so, what is the reason for this discrimination as between Australian citizens? Will the Government investigate the matter with a view to placing all Australians on an equal footing?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
Although Australian citizens do not require passports for travel to New Zealand, the New Zealand authorities do, as a rule, require naturalized Australian citizens to obtain a permit to enter New Zealand before they embark for that country.
The honorable senator will realize that the conditions which are imposed for the entry of different classes of persons to New Zealand are for the New Zealand authorities to decide and the Australian Government has no control over them. Nevertheless, in view of this Government’s earnest desire to ensure that there should be no discrimination against naturalized Australians in this matter, repeated representations have been made to the New Zealand authorities in an endeavour to have the distinction between naturalized Australians and others removed.
On Tuesday, 29th October, the Minister foi Immigration in New Zealand announced that the New Zealand authorities had now decided that naturalized Australian citizens will be exempt from the need to obtain entry permits for visits to New Zealand of less than three months duration. Although this decision does not give naturalized Australians the full recognition by New Zealand that we were seeking, it represents a step towards that goal.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, by stating that Australia is suffering from an acute shortage of trained engineers and scientists in both government and private employment and also that many trained technicians are unable to proceed to university degrees because of lack of finance.
Although limited facilities do exist at present in some departments, will the Government examine the possibility of granting to all technicians in its employ who have successfully passed their highest departmental examinations some form of educational scholarship or bursary to enable them to complete their engineering or science degree at a university on the condition that they promise to remain in Commonwealth employment for at least five years after qualifying?
– I have been furnished with the following reply: -
An examination has been made of the steps which have been taken by departments and the Public Service Board in the direction suggested by Senator Hannan, to provide opportunity for Technicians in the Commonwealth Public Service to improve their academic qualifications up to degree standard.
Study concessions now offered to all officers in the technical grades allow attendance at universities or technical colleges during office hours. Maximum leave granted for these studies is five hours per week with pay, together with a reasonable amount of travelling time. In addition, a large number of cadetships and traineeships, particularly in engineering, are offered each year and technicians and other officers are eligible to apply. These training schemes provide full-time or parttime facilities for officers to undertake degree courses or to attain professional status.
Thus there are facilities for advanced study in the Commonwealth Public Service and officers with the necessary ability to complete degree courses now have reasonable opportunities to pursue these studies.
The Prime Minister has indicated that the problem of the shortage of scientists and engineers mentioned by the Senator is one which is currently engaging the attention of the Government, and of course the matter is referred to in the report of the Committee on Australian Universities which is at present under consideration.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– T move -
That the bill be now read, a second time.
The sole purpose of this bill is to raise the amount of the statutory exemption from payroll tax from the present figure of £6,240 per annum to £10,400 per annum. In future, only those employers who pay wages in excess of £866 13s. 4d. a month will be liable for tax, whereas tax was previouslypayable by employers whose pay-rolls exceeded £520 a month. Under the proposal, the increased exemption applies in respect of wages paid or payable on or after 1st September, 1957. It is therefore applicable for the first time in pay-roll tax returns lodged in October in respect of September wages.
The measure will relieve approximately 16,000 employers from liability to pay-roll tax, whilst those employers who remain liable to pay the tax will receive a greater margin of exemption. The latter are required to pay tax only on the amounts by which their pay-rolls exceed the statutory exemption. The increase in exemption will involve an annual loss of revenue of £2,750,000 or £2,000,000 in the current financial year. 1 commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is intended by this bill to give effect to the income tax proposals outlined in the course of presentation of the 1957-58 Budget. Each of the proposals - the substance of which I shall indicate - is of importance and serves to evidence once again the Government’s policy of taxation reduction according to prevailing economic conditions.
It is proposed under the heading, Allowances for Dependants, to liberalize still further the scale of concessional deductions allowable in respect of dependants generally. Honorable senators do not need to be reminded that since taking office the present Government has taken very tangible steps to ensure that the taxpayer with family and other domestic responsibilities is called upon to bear only his fair share of the burden of income taxation.
Consistent with this policy, the bill proposes a general increase of £13 throughout the scale of income tax deductions allowable for those dependants presently specified in the Income Tax Assessment Act. By way of example, the existing deduction of £130 for a dependent spouse will be increased to £143, while in the case of a daughter-housekeeper, or housekeeper having the care of children under sixteen years of age, the present deductions of £130 in each case will likewise be raised to £143. As I have explained, the increased deduction of £13 will be general and will therefore apply in respect of the different amounts allowed for dependent student and other children, invalid relatives and parents of the taxpayer also.
Opportunity is also being taken to include parents-in-law within the field of dependants in respect of whom income tax deductions are allowable. Accordingly, it is proposed that a concessional deduction of £143 be allowed in respect of a dependent parentinlaw, as is the case with dependent parents of the taxpayer. Additionally, the bill provides for the inclusion of adopted and other children within the class of dependants in respect of whom a taxpayer is entitled to a deduction for life insurance premium, sick and accident insurance, payments to superannuation funds and the like. At present, these deductions are allowable only if a taxpayer makes such payments for the benefit of his own children.
Further important features of this bill are the proposals relating to depreciation allowances which follow the Government’s adoption of certain recommendations of the Commonwealth Committee on Rates of Depreciation. As the income tax law stands at present, a taxpayer who owns and uses depreciable assets for the purpose of producing assessable income is entitled to an annual deduction for depreciation calculated by one or other of two methods - the diminishing value method, or, where he so elects, the prime cost method.
Tn short, the diminishing value method - after the first year’s depreciation has been determined by reference to the cost of the asset - requires that annually thereafter the fixed percentage rate of depreciation be taken upon a reducing balance, that is, the depreciated value at the beginning of each year of income. On the other hand, the prime cost method, as its name implies, involves calculation of the annual depreciation allowance by fixed instalments, arrived at simply by dividing the cost of the depreciable asset by the percentage rate at which depreciation is allowable.
It is generally accepted, however, that as long as the same percentage rate of depreciation is applied under both methods, as is the case at present, the diminishing value method does not give an equitable allowance over the estimated effective life of the asset as compared with the prime cost method. Indeed, the diminishing value method does not result in the cost of the asset being completely written off until it is finally scrapped or sold. The committee recommended that the two systems of calculation should be brought more into line for taxation purposes by the adoption of a 50 per cent, increase in the rates of depreciation where the diminishing value method is employed. The bill incorporates provisions to give effect to the committee’s recommendation. The increased rates are to apply to assets on hand at 1st July, 1957, as well as to assets purchased after that date. Concurrently with the increase of 50 per cent, in the depreciation rates where the diminishing value method is used, taxpayers are being afforded several choices as to the basis on which depreciation is to be calculated. Broadly, either method may be chosen for plant on hand at 1st July, 1957, and future purchases. Alternatively, one method may be used for plant on hand at 1st July, 1957, and the other for plant subsequently acquired.
Another of the committee’s recommendations being adopted relates to depreciation balancing adjustments. It occurs not infrequently that plant is sold at a price higher than its written-down value for income tax purposes. In such cases, the amount of excess depreciation, commonly called the balancing adjustment, is brought back into the assessable income of the year in which the plant is sold. As depreciation may have been deducted in several preceding years, there may be some inequity in the taxation of the balancing adjustment as income of one year.
The committee recommended that, in lieu of assessment in the year of receipt, the taxpayer should, if he so desires, have the right to set off the balancing adjustment against the value of other assets subject to depreciation. Honorable senators will recognize this principle as having been introduced last year in connexion with the assessment of insurance and other recoveries on the loss or destruction of depreciable assets. In effect, the taxpayer is given the choice between paying taxation on the balancing adjustment, or having his depreciation allowances reduced by an equivalent amount.
The proposals 1 have just mentioned are intended to apply to the income year commencing 1st July, 1957, and subsequent income years.
It is proposed that income derived on and from 1st July, 1956, by residents of Nauru from sources within the island, shall be exempt from income tax. Residents of Nauru will thus be afforded similar exemption to that which has applied for many years to residents of the Territories of Papua, New Guinea and Norfolk Island in respect of income derived by them from sources in those Territories.
The list of specified funds and institutions gifts to which constitute allowable deductions is being enlarged to include the following: - The National Trust in each of. the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia; public libraries, museums and art galleries; the Sydney Opera House Appeal Fund; the Sidney Myer Music Bowl Trust; and the Industrial Design Council of Australia. Gifts of £1 and upwards made to these funds and institutions on and after 1st July, 1957, will be allowable deductions.
I have given in brief the substance of the proposals contained in this bill. Several are necessarily of a complex nature, and an explanation of these and the other provisions of the bill will be found in greater detail in the explanatory notes already circulated. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’ Flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill also gives effect to those proposals in the recent Budget which relate to estate duty. Clause 4 of the bill has been designed with the object of ensuring that property which passes to an adopted child, stepchild or ex-nuptial child of a deceased person will bear no greater burden of duty than property which passes to a child of the marriage of a deceased person. A similar proposal is contained in measures relating to income tax and gift duty.
Those provisions in the Estate Duty Assessment Act which provide for the exemption of property passing for certain purposes or to certain institutions and organizations will be, by clause 5 of this bill, extended so as to exempt bequests, devises and gifts to public libraries, nonprofit hospitals, the Australian Council for Educational Research and the National Trusts in each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
I turn now to clause 6 of the bill by which it is proposed to insert in the Estate Duty Assessment Act a new section designed to allow a rebate of duty in those cases in which a person inherits property and dies within five years of the person from whom it was inherited. Such cases have come to be known as quick successions and it has been recognized in most of the Australian States and in several overseas countries that if duty is thus paid twice within a few years, some relief is then justified.
After a close examination of the systems which have been evolved both in Australia and overseas, the Government believes that the proposed basis of quick succession relief will reflect the best features of comparable legislation whilst reducing the complications of practical operation to a mini mum. Broadly, the proposed relief will operate where ithe dutiable value of aft estate or a part thereof becomes subject to duty on two occasions within a period of five years. The lower of the rates of <hity payable on each occasion will be applied to the value which has borne duty twice. The amount thus calculated will form the basis of the relief. If not more than one year elapses between the two deaths, then 50 per cent, of that calculated amount will be rebated. The percentage will be reduced as the interval between the deaths increases, so that it will be 40 per cent, in the second year and will further reduce, in proportion, until it is 10 per cent, in the fifth year.
I have arranged for notes prepared by my colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), to be circulated for the information of honorable senators. These notes explain in greater detail the technical features both of the proposed quick succession relief and of the other amendments proposed in this bill. The amendments effected by this bill will apply to the estates of persons dying on or after the date on which the bill receives the Royal Assent. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The primary purpose for which this bill is introduced is to extend to gifts to an adopted child, step-child or ex-nuptial child of a donor the provisions of the gift duty law at present applying to gifts to children of the marriage of the donor. This main feature of the bill will have the effect of exempting from gift duty premiums not exceeding £100 per annum paid by a donor on a policy of assurance effected by him on his own life for the benefit of an adopted child, step-child or ex-nuptial child. Payments of such premiums not exceeding £100 annually, are already exempt if paid on a policy for the benefit of the wife of the donor or children of the marriage of the donor.
The other provisions of the bill are drafting amendments which are designed to assist in references to the provisions of the principal act. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended. Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read » second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States in 1957-58 of a special financial assistance grant of approximately £23,800,000. The grant is to supplement the amount payable under the formula embodied in the State Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946-48.
In each of the last eight years the Commonwealth has supplemented the amounts payable to the States under the tax reimbursement formula. Last year, the formula grant amount to £154,645,000. In addition, the States received a special financial assistance grant of £19,405,000, which included a special allocation of £1,050,000 to Victoria. The total of the tax reimbursement and special financial assistance grants for 1956-57 was, therefore, £174,050,000.
The precise amount payable in 1957-58 under the tax reimbursement formula will not be known until the Commonwealth Statistician completes his calculations later in the year. It is estimated, however, thai the formula grant will amount this year to about £166,200,000. Unless, therefore, the Commonwealth makes a supplementary pay ment again this year, the States would receive about £7,850,000 less than the total tax reimbursement grant which they received last year.
This matter was discussed at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Canberra last May. At that meeting the Commonwealth offered to make a supplementary grant sufficient to bring the total amount available for distribution among the States in 1957-58 to £190,000,000. This is almost £16.000,000 more than the total of of last year’s grants. As the amount payable under, the formula is estimated at £166,200,000 this offer involves the payment of a supplementary grant of about £23,800,000. This grant is to be distributed among the States in the same way as the tax reimbursement formula grant which, for the first time, will be distributed entirely on an adjusted population basis.
With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate the following table in “ Hansard “.
In it, the estimated payments to the States in 1957-58 as authorized by this and the tax reimbursement legislation are compared with the total payments made last year.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed - That the bill be now read a first time.
– I shall take the unusual course of speaking on the motion for the first reading of a bill of this nature, and as it is a bill that the Senate may not amend, I am free to speak of matters both relevant and non-relevant. Speaking first of non-relevant matters, I should like to thank you, Mr. President, all honorable senators, the officers of this chamber, and the staff for their kindly inquiries and good wishes during my recent temporary incapacity. I appreciated them very much.
Now, leaving that note, I come at once to the subject that has inspired me to rise, and that is the very important question of the defences of Australia. I was disappointed to find that the application of the “ guillotine “ had permitted no adequate discussion of those defences during the recent debate on the Appropriation Bill 1957-58. Both for that reason, and because of a very violent attack that has been launched against the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently, in relation to his defence policy, and on the Government generally as to the operation of that policy, I think it fitting that I should put the subject of the nation’s defences on the beam once more.
It is not necessary for me to go back very far. I should like to lay a broad foundation by pointing out that this Government, while it has been in office, has been granted all the money that it has sought for defence - during the period, approximately £1,400,000,000, running very roughly at the rate of some £200,000,000 per annum. Up till quite recently there have been seven Ministers concerned with the defence services and the various defence activities. In the last twelve months or so, that number has been reduced to six by the amalgamation of two departments.
The next point is that back in 1951 - on 7th March, to be precise, the Prime Minister indicated to the nation that Australia had three years to be ready for war. That meant that there was an imminent danger of war and the country had to gird its loins and get the whole of its defences into order. As to the performance that followed that call to the nation, I have only to indicate that Sir Frederick Shedden, the former Secretary of the Department of Defence, indicated to the Public Accounts Committee in August of last year that, at the end of the three years, the nation was not ready for mobilization, nor was it ready at the time he spoke. It was that pronouncement by Sir Frederick Shedden that triggered-off a great deal of criticism of the Government and investigation of its defence activities or, more correctly, its lack of them.
The Prime Minister, stung into action at that time by Sir Frederick’s disclosure, stated on 2nd October last year that the defences of the nation in peace-time were never in better shape. Then, to the amazement of everybody, only two days later - on 4th October - he indicated that the Government would undertake a complete review of the defence programme of the nation from top to bottom. Well, it took a long time for that review to take place, and it was not until April of this year that the Government’s new outlook in defence was presented to the Parliament. I am certain that I do not over-state the position when I claim that that statement shocked this nation. It disclosed, on the face of it, an utter lack of preparedness on the part of Australia, the inadequacy of our equipment and the paucity of our defence personnel.
If one wants to prove the abject failure of the Government’s seven or eight years’ effort, one does not need to make any other case than to look at, and quote from, the Prime Minister’s own speech in April last. I think it is important to remind the Senate that he indicated, as regards the Navy, that there was a shortage of ships of the appropriate kind. After eight years of his Government’s rule and after all the money it sought had been made available, there was a shortage of ships of the appropriate kind! That was not the Opposition’s condemnation of the Government, but the Prime Minister’s own admission of the fault and failing of the Government.
The Citizen Military Force was, according to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), to be re-organized; some units were to be disbanded. Everybody recognizes the vast importance of the C.M.F. as the reservoir upon which the nation must draw in expanding its defence forces in time of war or approaching danger, yet that great reservoir is to be dried up! Apparently, recruitment, it is admitted, had dried up. There had been a great incursion of national service trainees to the C.M.F. and that, probably, was a factor that militated against defence training and disheartened those very good people in the community who were concerned to make some contribution in a personal way to the defences of their country.
Again referring to the Prime Minister’s April statement, I find that he announced - it was a shock to the Parliament and the nation - that the national service training scheme that had been running for some six years was to be completely discontinued for the Air Force and the Navy, it having then, as he indicated, no military value to eithcE of those, services. Now, it took six years and the expenditure of a vast sum of money to determine that. One has only to recount that fact to state a damning indictment of the Government. A training scheme applying to all major services was allowed to run for six years, and it took the whole six years to find out that it was completely useless from a military viewpoint. It surprised me that the Prime Minister was ever prepared to make such a damning admission.
With regard to the Army, the annual intake of national service trainees was cut by almost two-thirds - from 29,000 to merely 12,000. Again, it took six years to reach a decision on that matter. There has been a waste of man-power and a waste of money. In the circumstances, the Government might well have discontinued national service training for the Army altogether,’ but it has kept that token intake of about 12,000 a year.
One of the highlights of the April statement of the Prime Minister was the announcement of a proposed new brigade field force of some 4,000 men, to be equipped with the very latest type of weapons, to be completely mobile and able to move at an instant to any point of danger. The Government had to find the men for that force. It had some 21,000 men in the Regular Army, the great majority of whom were employed in caring for the Citizen Military Forces and the national service trainees, or employed in what I might term administrative base jobs. Of this force of 4,000 men, 2,000 had to be found from men who were training national service trainees. If the national service training scheme had not been curtailed considerably, it would have been impossible for the Government to find one-half of the force oi 4,000 men that the Prime Minister proposed should be established. I invite the Senate to consider the position after eight years’ effort on the part of this Government. We did not have sufficient men available to make up one brigade group. The Prime Minister told the people of Australia in 1949 that the minimum force would be two brigade groups. The mountain laboured for eight years, but did not produce even one.
– Not even a mouse!
– Not even a mouse. There were not enough men to form one brigade group. The Prime Minister has claimed that this force now is up to, I think, 94 per cent, of its proposed strength, but one-half of the men who constitute it would not have been there unless national service training had been, in effect, discontinued. Could anything indicate better just how slender are the real defences of this nation?
I now turn to the Royal Australian Air Force. This is probably one of the saddest stories of the lot - the one indicating the greatest dithering, the greatest procrastination and the greatest incompetence. The Prime Minister, in his April statement, indicated that it was necessary to re-equip the R.A.A.F. with new fighter and new transport aircraft. After eight years, when we might have expected the Prime Minister of this country to come to the Parliament and proudly recount all that had been achieved, we were told that the Air Force was to be completely re-equipped with supersonic fighters and other new types of aircraft. We were shocked to find that we lacked such aircraft.
– Who said that we lacked fighters?
– The Air Force lacked fighters of the right type, according to the statement of the Prime Minister.
– Who said so?
– He said so himself. He indicated very plainly that it was necessary to re-equip the R.A.A.F. with new fighters and new transport aircraft.
– That is rather different.
– I make that statement. The honorable senator can deal with it presently, if he so wishes. The Prime Minister went further and indicated the very type of fighter aircraft required by the R.A.A.F. It was the new Lockheed Starfighter, the FI 04, which was being produced by America. Within a few days, the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) stated that we would manufacture that type of aircraft in Australia and that it would be a noteworthy contribution to the Australian aircraft production industry. There is no doubt about those two statements. That was the type of aircraft selected by the Government after years of examination. After officials had travelled the length and breadth of the world looking at every type of aircraft, the Starfighter was chosen. That decision was a matter of mature consideration, one would say.
– The Leader of the Opposition is suggesting that that was the first re-equipment in eight years?
– I did not say that.
– Yes, you did.
– I said that the Air Force was to be completely re-equipped in both the respects I mentioned.
– Not after eight years.
– It is true that other types of aircraft had been supplied to the R.A.A.F. during that time - the Avon Sabre, for instance - but it is clear from what the Prime Minister said that the R.A.A.F. lacked the latest and the best types of aircraft, and that it was only then that the Government was about to proceed to get them. What happened? The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) went to America to arrange for the production of the Starfighters in Australia and, it may be, to buy some. What was the amazing result of his visit? The Prime Minister made another statement in September last, in which he indicated that this type of aircraft, which had been selected with such care, after such expensive trips round the world and after such deliberation, was of no use to Australia at all. He said that we were not going to have the Starfighter, nor were we going to make it here. He staggered this country when he announced that the Starfighter project was not to be proceeded with. Referring to the visit overseas of the Minister for Defence, he said, discussing the Starfighter -
He discovered that there were two factors in its proposed use which rendered it inappropriate for adoption in Australia.
What were the two factors? Let us have a look at them. The right honorable gentleman said -
The first was that it has developed as a highly specialized machine to cope with the most modern of high-level attacking bombers and that it is in no sense an all-purpose fighter.
The second reason he gave was -
Its use would involve a literally tremendous refinement and expansion of electronic ground controls, at present, and in the foreseeable future, far beyond our own capacity.
Let me take the first of the two reasons. Why was it not discovered until after the Minister for Defence had arrived in America that the Starfighter was of that type, and was of no use to Australia? The Starfighter was not unknown. It was not a recent development. Its genesis was in 1951. It was flying in 1954. It had had nearly three years of flying operations, and had been in quantity production in the U.S.A. When our Minister and officers went abroad, did they go with their eyes and ears shut? Why did they not know what the Starfighter was like? After it had been decided that we should have a supersonic fighter, they had to go to America to find out that this type of aircraft was of no use to us at all.
– Would you sooner we had bought it?
– After due consideration, the Government decided that that was the aircraft for Australia. It convinced the country that no better fighter could be procured. What stupidity! Within two months the Government found that this aircraft was not suited for Australian conditions.
– What good judgment it was to act on that finding!
– But what stupidity to make the decision in the first place. It just shows how futile this Government is.
After surveying the whole field for three years, the Government arrives at a decision to introduce a fighter which it finds subsequently is completely useless for Australia. Anybody could have consulted the book which gives the record of all the world’s aircraft. 1 refer to “ Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft “.
– The 1912 edition?
– The 1956-57 edition. At least, it gives the history of the Starfighter. Any one who looks at this volume will find that development of the design began away back in 1951 and that the first flight of the first model was on 7th February, 1954, as I indicated a while ago. The improved model was in quantity production and flew for the first time on 17th February, 1956 - fourteen months before the Prime Minister announced the decision of this Government. Where were the Australian people who were looking at aircraft, that they did not know that this was a highlevel fighter, that it had qualities about which, only a few months after his announcement, the Prime Minister complained in the following terms: “ It is in no sense an all-purpose fighter “? Why did he not know that earlier? It is a dreadful indictment of this Government, and of its officers if need be, that such a stupid error was made - if the September announcement is right.
Now let us consider the second reason mentioned by the right honorable gentleman for rejecting this aircraft. He said -
Why was not that known earlier? Was there not for years ample opportunity to discover the performance and qualities of the Starfighter? Did not the Prime Minister know that in April? How did he come to make the grand discovery in September? It is a perfect instance of complete ineptitude; there is no other phrase to describe it.
Let us look at the tragic hiatus that that has produced in our production of aircraft. Sir Lawrence Wackett has complained year after year that the Sabre programme has been running out. He announced a year or two ago that it was then too late to keep the factory fully employed, that any new model determined upon would take a year, or perhaps two years, to tee up. It could not be put into production quickly. He indicated that there must be a lag. What has this Government decided? Now it does not want a supersonic fighter; it wants a sub-sonic fighter. It wants to improve the Avon Sabre, and at long last - of course, it is too late to keep aircraft production moving - it has handed out an order for some more Avon Sabres.
What has been the Government’s attitude? It has been dismissing men in recent years. It has driven out trained and skilled men who have seen the shilly-shallying of the Government and who are not likely to be attracted back into this field with its uncertainties. They could have little confidence about their future in that field in the light of the obvious shilly-shallying and cursed incompetence of this Government! There must be a delay of at least one year before we shall see any of the new Avon Sabres. There will be a gap between the last of the current production and the first of the new. What kind of defence effort is that? What kind of arrangement is that for our aircraft production industry?
I come now to the question of guided missiles - one more area of complete indifference, inaction and incompetence. When this Government came to office, the Woomera project was in operation as a guided missiles testing ground. It had been established by Labour in conjunction with the United Kingdom Government. During the last eight years, activities have been developed and expanded in conjunction with the United Kingdom, and all kinds of missiles have been tested. As the Government admits, missions have gone overseas during the years to inspect what has been done abroad, particularly in England, and to learn all about the missiles of the world. But how many guided missiles have our defence forces got after eight years of testing, investigation and activity? They have only one, because honorable senators will believe me when I tell them that the only ground-to-air missile that this country has is the Prime Minister of Australia himself, the right honorable Robert Gordon Menzies! He is the one ground-to-air missile that this country has after eight years of activity in this field! There have been words, an unending flow of words, bemusing the people of Australia year after year. The same sorry record applies to the FN .30 rifle.
– The honorable senator ignores all the favorable comment on Woomera that has been made by the British Minister for Defence.
– I am not talking about Woomera. I am asking: What guided missile has this country got after eight years’ experience? The Government has not yet determined the type of missile that shall be acquired. It cannot even tell us whether it intends to make the missiles here or to buy them abroad. After eight years, we have got nowhere, and we do not know what we are going to do.
– I have never heard such nonsense in all my life!
– If a decision has been made, I shall be very interested to hear the Minister for National Development give the answers to the following quesions: First, what guided missile has been selected? Secondly, is it to be made in Australia or is it to be purchased from abroad? Thirdly, when was that decision made, and when was it announced?
– The honorable senator knows that these things are not advertised in the press.
– I am just building a case to show the inepitude, delay and inactivity of the Government. I am dealing now with one more instance - the production of the FN .30 rifle. In 1954, the then Minister for Defence Production announced that we were to have an FN .30 rifle; but there has been complete dithering year after year while people have been sacked from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The truth of the matter, according to the latest announcement, is that we shall not have the FN .30 rifle until some time in 1958. Four years of dithering and fooling! Thank God the war that Mr. Menzies feared did not materialize!
But that is not the end of the FN .30 rifle. The Prime Minister indicated quite clearly that we were to standardize with America in relation to not only aircraft and artillery but also small arms. So that there will be no misunderstanding that his statement included the FN .30 rifle, let me read what he said - in our consideration of the Army, we have, in accordance with the principles i have already described, decided to provide modern equipment standardized or compatible with that used by the United States. Our re-equipment plans - i am talking about the Army - can involve expenditure of nearly £40,000,000 over the next three years. These plans include provision of the new FN rifle and its related ammunition and the United States 105 mm. field artillery equipment.
Did the Senate note that? The passage states -
These plans include provision of the new FN rifle and’ its ammunition.
The statement does not refer to ammunition alone, but includes the FN .30 rifle. Within days of that announcement, the United Slates of America announced that it would not adopt the FN .30 rifle, that it had chosen the .244 rifle as being better, lighter, more capable of mass production and more efficient in operation.
– But it uses the same ammunition.
– I agree, but I am pointing out just what little the Government knew. One day it was standardizing with America on the FN .30 rifle and within days of the announcement America discarded the rifle and adopted another. What happened? Did America inform this Government wrongly? Or is it a case of the Government’s having been stupid in not ascertaining the facts or not even knowing what was going on? These events show quite plainly that all this talk about standardization was only so many words out of the mouth of the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government. There had been no real co-operation or discussion. Otherwise, that could not have happened. Despite the announcement that we were to standardize in relation to artillery, aircraft and small arms, what has happened? We are no longer standardizing in relation to aircraft, and we have not the same important small arms unit. I shall be very interested to hear from the Minister for National Development what is happening in relation to artillery. Although we have had a mission from America looking us over, we do not know whether we are buying artillery, making it for ourselves, for the United States of America or for the South-East Asia area.
I would be interested if the Minister could tell us, in due course, how far we have proceeded in the standardization of artillery.
As I come towards the close of this summary of the Government’s ineptitude, I point out that there is not, in fact, any civil defence of any consequence in Australia. Infinitesimal amounts of money have been made available by the Government for civil defence, and there has been very little activity in that connexion. In contrast, the United Kingdom has 500,000 personnel trained in everything connected with civil defence against nuclear bombs. I was amazed to hear doubts expressed in the Senate that the Commonwealth Government would have the power to move into the field of civil defence. Was there ever a more essential need from the viewpoint of defence preparations than civil defence? No force can operate in the field, in the air or on the sea unless it has production and, above all, industrial might behind it. That means that we must preserve a civilian population. The easiest way to win a war is to wipe out the civilian population and destroy capacity to produce food and to manufacture armaments. Without a civilian population, all the armies and all the equipment in the world are useless. As the very essence of preparedness civil defence should be given a high priority, but that side of defence has been completely disregarded by this Government.
I direct the attention of the Senate now to one more example of this Government’s ineptitude. The Prime Minister said, in April, that there were disturbing deficiencies on our equipment. He was speaking of the whole field of military equipment. He pointed out that far too much money was being spent on maintenance and not enough on capital equipment. At whose door did the fault lie for eight years? The fault was the Government’s. It lies with nobody else.
Finally, I wish to mention the St. Mary’s filling factory. If the Government permits, I hope to have an opportunity to propose a motion on the Government’s policy in relation to the St. Mary’s project. Therefore, I will not say any more now on that subject, but I throw it in to show that although away back in 1951 the Government decided that we had to be prepared for war within three years, it did not decide to have a filling factory until the three years had elapsed. The danger period had passed before the Government reached a decision on this matter. What would have happened had war broken out in the meantime? That is all I wish to say on that matter now, but I hope to make another statement later.
– In the New Year. At. this rate, we will not get home for Christmas.
– If the honorable senator is correct, I can only say that the Opposition apparently may expect to be treated with the same contumely as it was, over the Estimates, and that it will be denied a proper and democratic opportunity to put a view. However, at least I shall be reminding the Government of the need for a discussion.
– We will be ready.
– I have no doubt about that and, at the moment, the Government has the numbers, but that situation may alter, too.
I now turn to more recent events which have largely inspired me to open up this subject in the Senate. I refer to three special articles that have appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ under the heading “ The Defence Failure “.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not write them?
– No, I did not, but it is extraordinary how much they contain of what I said in this chamber last May. The similarity really amazed me.
– Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition inspired them.
– That could be, but I deny the soft impeachment that I wrote one word of them. I find that the first article opens almost verbatim with something that I said last May. The article carries this headline “ Menzies Has Given Us Words But Not Soldiers “ and the introduction to the article states -
If words were battalions and promises were warplanes, Australia would have a formidable defence force - instead of virtually no defence force at all.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, has been building wordy defences, and conjuring up verbal regiments and squadrons ever since he declared in his 1949 policy speech: “We stand for adequate national preparations for defence “.
The article goes on to deal at length with all the promises and speeches of the Prime Minister about defence and how they have yielded no result. On Monday of this week, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ printed the second of the series of articles under the heading - “ Government’s Defence Showpiece is a Military Sham “. Those are very strong words and they lead me to the particular matter with which I wish to deal. From beginning to end, this article - another was printed to-day - is the most blistering indictment of the Prime Minister in his personal capacity as Prime Minister of Australia that has ever been penned.
– It seems to be tinged with personal malice, too.
– I will not contest that statement with the honorable senator, nor do I affirm it. He might have a better nose for that kind of thing than I have. Not only is this article a damning indictment of the Prime Minister and a criticism of him-
– It contains nothing constructive.
– Oh, yes it does! I suggest that it is also a damning indictment of the unpreparedness of Australia and what is happening now. The writers of this article have charged the Government with fraud - actual fraud - in relation to the fronting of our defences to the people of Australia. The writers have charged the Government with complete and absolute fraud. That is a serious charge in anybody’s language. If what I am about to read to the Senate is true, the Government is disgraced and dishonoured and should resign.
– If it is not true, will the Opposition resign?
– The Opposition would be delighted to resign its position as the Opposition. Let me deal with these articles. The persons who have written them are designated “ staff correspondents “. Each article carries this statement in bold type-
This is the first-
Or the second, or the third - of a series of articles by staff correspondents examining the Government’s defence record over the past eight years.
– Is this the newspaper which you say is the friend of the Government?
– There are occasions when friends fall out. That is a kindly phrase, and I do not want to be unparliamentary. I do not intend to be diverted from reading the articles to the Senate. The staff correspondents who have written the articles in this series are persons outside the ambit of politics with no axe to grind. They are on the staff of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, and the fact that the newspaper has published the caption I have quoted shows that the articles have the sponsorship and the approval of the newspaper. That is the point I wish to emphasize. These articles have not been written by somebody outside the newspaper. This newspaper is a great friend of the Liberals and of the Prime Minister.
– Of the Prime Minister?
– Only recently has the Government come into disfavour with it. I propose to read to the Senate, without further interruption if possible, this extract -
A Regular Army brigade group, “ mobile, wellequipped and readily available,” to enable “ an operational contribution to allied strategy of highly trained men”.
The other four highlights, I pass over. The article continues -
The show piece of all this is undoubtedly the brigade group, the “ cohesive battle formation “ (Mr. Menzies), ready to move “ at the drop of a hat “ (Mr. Cramer, Minister for the Army). In September, Mr. Menzies announced: This group has now been formed;-
That is only last month - its personnel have been posted to 94 per cent, of planned strength, and its training is being assiduously conducted “. The brigade group is a sham.
That is a serious statement. The article continues -
It is a military sham and a political fraud - in the light of the Government’s defence record, a particularly shoddy political fraud.
That is serious. Then the article goes on to say -
A Regular Army of a strength of only 20,000 men, more than 14,000 of whom are engaged on essential administrative, training and garrison duties, which has to keep a battalion group in Malaya is too small to support an additional brigade group.
That is a fact. Ii is a self-evident fact. It is a fact which is well known to the Army, and of which the Chief of the General Staff must have advised Mr. Menzies.
Presumably, Mr. Menzies insisted on having this useful bit of political window-dressing, and the order went forth to form the brigade group. Mr. Menzies’ April and September defence statements would indeed have looked rather bare without it.
Somehow, the overburdened Regular Army had to scrape up 4,100 men. It has done so, or very nearly done so. But the result does not bear examination.
The bottom of the barrel has been scraped. Trained military tradesmen have been dragged in a* infantry privates; men whose terms of engagement with the Army are due to expire in six months have been used to bring the numbers up.
Thirty-five is accepted as the top age limit for jungle service (and Mr. Menzies said that “ special attention “ would be paid, in forming the group, to “ the requirements of tropical warfare”), but, in order to make up the numbers, no age limit was put on the brigade group.
An armoured regiment, equipped with obsolescent Centurian tanks has had to be included. The Army has no tank landing craft to move the tanks.
The Army has no tank landing craft to move the tanks! The article continues -
The brigade group has no proper logistic support. There are yawning gaps in its logistics set-up. If it ever went into action, it would be entirely dependent on its allies for logistic support; in other words, it would be a liability to its allies.
– It will be the day when a brigade is a liability to any one.
– A brigade group is formed by this Government and the correspondents who wrote this article are talking about this brigade group. They say -
The brigade group is supposed to be on fourteen days’ readiness to move - to go into action in an emergency.
So it will be, once it is trained. But with every month that passes therefore, with the increasing need to replace time-expired men as well as the normal “ wastage “, the period of readiness will have to be extended as replacements are assimilated and trained.
By the end of twelve months, the period of readiness may well have to be extended to as much as six months.
But none of this matters very much, because the brigade group is quite incapable of going into action - for one very simple basic reason.
It has no first reinforcements. Yet reinforcements must be available before any unit can be committed to action - otherwise, with battle casualties, battle wastage and sickness, it soon ceases to be able to function.
It has no earthly prospect of getting its necessary reinforcements unless every single Regular Army recruit is diverted to the brigade group.
If this were done, it would mean that the rest of the Regular Army, the administrative, training and technical sections, and the battalion group in Malaya, would wither away and the whole Army structure would collapse.
As it is, recruitment for the Regular Army fails to keep pace with wastage from sickness, retirement, time-expiry and so on, and the Army is well under strength.
– Do you believe this nonsense?
– I am putting the matter to the Government for it to answer. 1 say the correspondents are making the charge.
– Do you believe it?
– Yes, I do.
– Then you know as little about Army organization as the writers know.
– I. say I do believe it. I find in all other respects in the articles my mind runs in complete accord with what the correspondents have written, and 1 would be amazed if what I am reading now is not right.
– What utter bunk!
– Look at the particularity of the charges and how easily they can be exposed if they are lies! Who suggests that it is a piece of imagination for responsible correspondents to write, “ They are taking men of any ages; they are taking in skilled tradesmen as privates; they are scraping the bottom of the barrel “? Could anybody imagine that to be said by any person who had no information? I do not know where the writers get their information. Their sources of information on that matter are certainly not available to me, and I do not know where they get it. Since the Minister asks me to say whether I believe what is written in the article, I say I do. I should be surprised if they are lying like that. There is a very easy way to dispose of it, and the Opposition will not be content with the Government’s merely giving a denial to these statements. We will not let the matter rest there.
We ask these questions: First, how many infantry men are skilled tradesmen who have been taken away from their propei work in the service? Secondly, how many anembers of the Regular Army are due to retire in six months, as alleged by the article? Thirdly, how many are due to retire in .twelve months, how many in two years, and how many in three years? Let us have a look at those matters and we shall know whether the writers are lying. Let us get down to facts about this. Just give to the
Opposition the numbers in each of the age groups and we shall be able to determine the issue easily. My purpose in rising here to-day is not to ask for a denial. We will not accept a denial. To help force the Government on to the position, 1 have said to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) that I believe that what the article says is right. I have said so in the hope that it will help to move the
Government to supply the facts. There is only one answer to charges like these; it is to put up the facts. That is what we demand from this side of the Senate. I say frankly to the Minister that a mere denial is nothing. It will not be believed by the
Opposition, nor will it be believed by the people of Australia. There is only one answer to allegations like these. Give the facts. Let the facts speak for themselves. Look how serious this is, if it is true! Jl means that the Minister for the Army (Mr.
Cramer), the Prime Minister and defence personnel are in a conspiracy over this matter, lt must imply that.
– Not another conspiracy!
– I am putting up the charges that have been made in public against the Government. They are a reflection upon the Prime Minister personally. He cannot afford not to answer them. He must answer them, and the only adequate answer is to give the facts.
– ls any other newspaper making these allegations?
– This is a very responsible newspaper. I confess that myself. It is a well-known newspaper. It was in the highest repute with everybody on the Government side until very recently.
– Oh, no.
– One must acknowledge that it is one of the leading newspapers in Australia. Does anybody want to deny that?
– As I say, it is one of the leading newspapers of Australia, and I am certain these articles are written and presented with so much obvious care and deliberation that I shall be surprised if they have not got all the answers when the Minister replies. It is the duty of the Opposition to face the Government up in public to charges of that nature, and I should be ashamed of a government that needed to be goaded into answering them. I do not propose to pursue that further at the moment. I think I have said sufficient to put the Government in a position to face up to these charges. They have not come from the Opposition. They have been made publicly, and they demand an answer. 1 propose now to take up once more in this chamber the question of the Government’s manipulation of trust funds. These newspaper articles have referred to trickery in another sense. I want now to show how the Government has employed trickery in relation to defence trust funds. I am not binding behind any one when I speak on this matter. It is no new topic, so far as I am concerned. Honorable senators have heard me refer to it frequently. Year after year I have directed attention to the fact that huge defence trust funds were being established. The Government did not appear to be listening, and year after year I asked whether there was a real reason for the funds or not. Time and again I have been answered in the affirmative. I remind the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) of the answer which he gave to me on 19th October, 1955, when I made a broad approach to this question. I may say that I do not hold him personally responsible for his answers, for he was doubtless putting what he had been told by the Ministers’ whom he represents in this chamber.
Referring to the Defence Equipment and Supplies Account, standing at ?20,000,000, I asked -
Is there a real need, in fact, for that fund at all, or is it a mere repository for an amount that would otherwise figure in the surplus over the year’s transactions?
Senator Spooner gave me the following answer: ;
It is correct that, in the view of the Government, there is a need to maintain that amount in trust because of overseas commitments, such as goods purchased but not paid for.
That is unequivocal. I am told that against that £20,000,000 there were commitments which had not bee.n paid for; that the money was required for that purpose. On the same date I asked a question regarding the Strategic Stores and Equipment Fund - a much bigger fund running to about £48,000,000. I asked-
Is it true that that account is really required for the purpose that its name indicates - that is, for the purpose of establishing a strategic stores and equipment reserve? … I should like the Minister to inform the committee whether the real purpose of those funds still exists - if it existed at the time of their creation.
I received the following answer, again through Senator Spooner -
Some transactions are still occurring, and goods are being purchased which the Government considers are necessary in the national interest.
Let me refer to those trust funds for a moment. The Defence Equipment and Supplies Fund was established in 1953-54, more than three years ago, with a first payment from revenue of £12,000,000. There was no expenditure in that year. In the next year, 1954-55, £8,000,000 was added to the fund. Not a penny has been expended from the fund at any time. During the last financial year the Government decided that the money was no longer required for the purpose described, and transferred it to Consolidated Revenue where, no doubt, it found its way into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve and, ultimately, was used to support State works programmes.
– In the process, £2,500,000 was lost.
– In the process £521,404 was lost. What a glorious position for a trustee to find himself in! He sests up a fund for a purpose which he says is real, but which, in truth, is not. He invests the money for purposes not connected with the trust at all, and in due course lends the money to himself as Treasurer. In the process of returning it to Consolidated Revenue he loses the sum of £500,000.
– It was £2,500,000.
– For the moment I am speaking of the Defence Equipment and Supplies Fund only. The Strategic Stores and Equipment Reserve Fund was established in 1951 by a first payment of £57,000,000. In that year £9,000,000 was paid out. During the intervening six years a total of £67,000,000 has been paid into the fund, but only £18,000,000 has been paid out. At page 98 of the Treasurer’s financial statement, in the section relating to trust funds, we find a debit, under the heading “Expenditure” of £2,068,906. It is shown there as expenditure, but one has to turn to the Auditor-General’s report to find that it was really a loss on investments.
The balance in the account in 1951 was £48,000,000. In the second year it had risen a little, to £50,000,000, but at the end of the whole period a total of £48,000,000 had been invested by the Treasurer in his own Government’s securities. When he finally released this money, for the purposes of the national revenue, the sum of £2,068,906 was lost. One finds that out, not from the Treasurer, but from the report of the Auditor-General. At page 67 of that report losses of £521,404 on the Defence Equipment and Supplies Fund, and £2,061,509 on the Strategic Stores and Equipment Reserve, are shown. What a performance from a trustee! He creates a trust fund simply to put away surplus funds from the defence vote and deceive the people, into believing that large sums are being spent on defence.
– How could any one be deceived if the amounts involved were shown in the trust accounts?
– Money supposedly spent on defence was diverted to trust funds. Sir Frederick Shedden gave the show away in August, 1956. He said that that kind of thing had happened to funds totalling £100,000,000. The Government was only pretending to the people that it was spending upon defence all the money that it appropriated for that purpose. The Treasurer put £20,000,000 into the Defence Equipment and Supplies Account and £48,000,000 into the Strategic Stores and Equipment Account - all on the pretence that the money was needed for defence. In truth, it has never been needed. But what a time for the Government to decide that the money should be returned to Consolidated Revenue! In order to carry out the Prime Minister’s defence policy, announced in April last, it is supposed to be re-equipping the Army and the Air Force, and putting down new ships for the Navy, and surely needs this money, which it has now diverted to the support of State works programmes.
One has only to state the facts to see that the Government has been guilty of trickery from beginning to end. My purpose in mentioning the matter is simply to expose that trickery. The money was never required for the purposes described to the Senate. It was put aside into these funds so that the people would think that it was being spent on defence. It was so badly invested that the loss on the conversion of the two accounts was £2,500,000. Worst of all, the money is now being returned to Consolidated Revenue - and at a time when it was never more urgently needed for the equipment of the forces. 1 conclude willi the comment that this merely adds to the exceedingly disgraceful performance of the Government in the matter of defence.
– It is fitting that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) should acknowledge the spiritual source of his little address this afternoon. He made an attack on the Government, if it could be called an attack. It was a charge and a retreat, coupled with evasive tactics, and was really quite a lot about nothing.
– You are very sensitive.
– I am very sensitive about the fact that a man of Senator McKenna’s standing should base such a poor argument on statements coming from such an unreliable source. It has been well known for some time past, particularly since the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made some reference to it in the House of Representatives on 15th October, that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, that once great and respected newspaper, has, by its conduct, forfeited all right to be regarded as a responsible and reputable newspaper.
– It is still one of the best newspapers in the Commonwealth.
– It depends on what the honorable senator means by “ news “. The Prime Minister, stating unchallenged and unchallengeable facts, gave the lie direct to reports published by that newspaper concerning certain phases of this
Government’s administration. Some parts of the reports could even be regarded as an attack on him personally, although there was not one tittle of evidence to support such an attack. On the contrary, there was ample evidence to blast the rumours completely. In spite of that, the newspaper persisted in its attack, and the articles that have appeared during the last three days are merely a continuation of that attack.
Senator McKenna has based his attack on statements from a most unreliable source. Most of the matters to which he has referred were dealt with completely and adequately in the statements on defence made by the Prime Minister in April and September last. Senator McKenna made much of the fact that minds and approaches to problems change. Of course they do. We are living in a rapidly changing world. Senator McKenna pointed with pride to a history book, “ Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft “. History will not be much good to us if, having decided at some time to follow a certain line of action, we persist in following that line in the face of changed situations and developments, knowing that such persistence would be folly. Sometimes consistency can constitute great folly. Our attitude is that we should have the very latest and best equipment for the defence of our country, in spite of what the story books say.
Most of the points raised by Senator McKenna can be answered, and I propose to answer them by quotations from the statement made by the Prime Minister on 19th September last. Obviously, honorable senators opposite have not studied that statement. Let me deal first with the old, old story about our not being ready for mobilization. The comments made by Sir Frederick Shedden before the Public Accounts Committee were taken completely out of their context. Any intelligent person knows that no country, not even a totalitarian country, is ready for immediate mobilization. The reply given by the Prime Minister to a question asked of him in the House of Representatives in 1956 gave a complete explanation. For some silly reason, honorable senators opposite want the world to think that they believe our defences are in a wretched and backward state, when they know that, in fact, such is not the case. I really do not understand the mental attitude of honorable senators opposite in that regard. This is the answer that the Prime Minister gave in connexion with the statement made by Sir Frederick Shedden to the Public Accounts Committee - . . Sir Frederick Shedden has never said that the defences of this country are in a hopeless position. On the contrary, he gave a lot of evidence before the Public Accounts Committee which showed a vast development in defence expenditure and preparations. If the honorable member failed to pay any attention to the statement made by my colleague, the Minister for Defence, about the defence position, then I regret it; but that statement made abundantly clear - and every word of Sir Frederick Shedden’s evidence supports the statement - that the defences of this country were never in a better shape in time of peace in the history of Australia. A great deal has been made of a grossly distorted newspaper report and there has been a campaign to the effect that Sir Frederick Shedden is supposed to have said that Australia’s defences, or the Australian defence forces, were not in a state of mobilization.
– We have read that.
– I remind the honorable senator that this is the answer that the Prime Minister gave. There is no more responsible person to give an answer. I am reading it for the benefit of honorable senators opposite, and I hope that they will remember it. I can understand that they do not like their leader’s so-called attack being blown sky-high. He quoted Sir Frederick Shedden’s statement in a context to which it had no application. I want to put on record the context in which Sir Frederick Shedden made his statement. The Prime Minister continued -
Over the week-end I read every word of the 118 pages of evidence given by Sir Frederick Shedden, and I want to say that it is a pretty stimulating account of the dynamic approach that has been made towards Australian defences under my colleague the Minister for Defence, with a revamping and rebalancing of our defence programme. The critics always have their little bit of criticism given headlines. I noticed the other day that a former Chief of the Air Staff, in commenting upon his desire that there shpuld be a forward programme for building some new type of aircraft, also went on to say that the air defences in Australia were better than they had ever been before. That part of his comment did not get the headlines; it is the point of criticism that gets them. Sir Frederick Shedden, quite accurately and honestly, when asked the question, “Could you mobilize to-day at once?” - I am not quoting the precise words - said, “ No “. And the; same answer would have to be given by any other Minister or official in any other country except a totalitarian one. If this country is to be, on theinstant, ready to mobilize a great army, navy and air force ready for action - that is the point - then it cannot be ready unless it has not only a full-bodied system of long-range and long-period’ conscription with men callable at will and fully trained, but also devotes from its revenues such an enormous increase in money that it is able to have, if it can get it locally or abroad, all the modern’ equipment that goes to make a modern army, navy or air force. Under those circumstances, it is just simply theoretical nonsense to criticizea statement that immediate mobilization is not possible. The fact is that a country like thishas to aim at being, as far as possible, along the road to effective mobilization in time.
I commend the remainder of that answer also to honorable senators, because it deals with the progressive development of our defences under the present Government.
I come now to the specific questions raised by Senator McKenna. He asked what we were doing in regard to artillery, as if we were doing nothing at all. He did not quote the statement - it is not a stale one - made by the Prime Minister a little over a month ago, on 19th September. After all, nobody in this land has greater authority than the Prime Minister to speak for the Government, and I could not do better than to quote his words. I hope that honorable senators will take note of them.
– Is this statement our defence? Will we use it when the time comes?
– I thought Senator McKenna was dealing with defence. He said he was. At least, I do him the courtesy of saying that he dealt with defence. I understood that that was what he was talking about. The Prime Minister stated on 19th September -
We announced that we proposed to adopt the United States 105 mm. field artillery equipment, which has trajectory characteristics most appropriate to wooded and hilly country because it combines the virtues of the howitzer and the 25-pounder. . . . With this in view, also the specific proposals to manufacture the 105 mm. howitzer and its ammunition here, to which I have already referred, the United States Government agreed with Sir Philip McBride to send a technical mission to Australia to study at first hand the available and potential capacity of industry to manufacture United States type military equipment.
– How many howitzers?
– These are not made like scones in an oven. I can see that I am completely devastating the points that have been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister continued -
The mission to the United States conducted by Sir Philip McBride has brought the production and/or procurement of the 105 mm. weapon materially nearer.
After describing the structure of the Air Force, I indicated that we were planning to re-arm, by the addition of fighter aircraft of a performance equivalent to the Lockheed F104 and the transport aircraft of the type of the C130.
Senator McKenna mentioned these points ;
Sir Philip McBride’s top level inquiries in the United States, inquiries conducted with high technical assistance from the Australian armed services, confirmed the desirability of the C130 and resulted in agreement about the securing of this craft and feasible means of paying for them. Apart from the usual characteristics of large modern transport aircraft - a large uplift capacity coupled with a range of approximately 2,000 miles and a cruising speed of approximately 300 miles per hour - it has the additional feature of being able to land and take off in relatively short distances on improvised landing grounds and could certainly use any strip which is currently used by DC3 aircraft.
Arrangements about the C130 are now complete. Twelve of them will be incorporated in our Air Force in the course of 1958.
The Lockheed F104 had been recommended on the strength of investigations made some time before.
Senator McKenna said that the recommendations that had been made some time before were changed. He implied that, regardless of changed circumstances, those recommendations should have been adhered to. The Prime Minister continued -
These investigations had indicated that it would be the last word in speed, height and manoeuvreability.
Having regard to the almost alarming rate at which military aircraft become obsolescent and finally obsole’.e. it was thought that the last word would be the best.
But the type of aircraft which may be needed must always be considered in the light of the country in which it is to operate and the nature of the air forces which may be expected to be deployed against it.
Sir Philip McBride’s investigations were of immense value on these points. His American discussions look this problem out of the world of abstract perfection into the world of realism and accepted probabilities. He was able, by virtue of’ his office, to discuss these matters with those who make policy and determine the over-riding strategic conceptions which are involved in American policy. He discovered that the operational employment of the F104 was still, to some extent, in the experimental stage, but that there were two factors in its proposed use which rendered it inappropriate for adoption by Australia.
The first was that it has developed as a highly specialized machine to cope with the most modern of high-level attacking bombers and that it is in no sense an all-purpose fighter.
In the second place, its use would involve a literally tremendous refinement and expansion of electronic ground controls at present and in the foreseeable future, far beyond our own capacity.
To add to all this, the Minister was strongly advised that the Australian Avon Sabre is at least as good as any other sub-sonic fighter plane in the world, and that for South-East Asian purposes and from the point of view of efficient co-operation in Seato, we would be playing our most effective part and also usefully continuing our aircraft production programmes by placing additional orders for the production of these aircraft.
Sir Philip, in the light of these discussions, reported back to the Government. We have accepted his report; the placing of orders has been approved by Cabinet and the orders themselves have been given to the company. No new major modifications have been incorporated in these orders. The Air Force, the Department of Defence Production and the manufacturers will, however, continue to maintain a close technical liaison and investigate any modifications which might further improve the operational performance of the aircraft or which might be required for the use of air to air guided missiles in the future.
If anything in this statement appears to involve criticisms of the technical advice we have previously received, I want to say that I make no criticisms, nor would I think them useful.
And this is particularly for Senator McKenna’s benefit -
The fact is that the circumstances are constantly changing and that the international conceptions of Seato defence are only now beginning to emerge. Even at present, planning under Seato is, of necessity, in its relatively early stages.
The main thing to be said is that as a result of my colleague’s important discussions, which were designed to be merely exploratory, but which turned out to be much more than that, we have been relieved of the tremendous problem of finding many millions of scarce dollars for the F104; we have been able to ensure the continuity of military aircraft production in Australia with all its advantages in skill, employment and finance, and are in a position to watch, and when necessary, take advantage of the development of an alternative all-purpose fighter with the special characteristics of high performance, long range and operational versatility. This prospective development was discussed by Sir Philip McBride.
I think that these are apt quotations from the very important statement on defence that was made by the Prime Minister only a month or two ago. They show quite sufficiently that the attack - or purported attack - made by Senator McKenna has no foundation at all. It is the same old story about the time the Prime Minister was in office when war broke out. He was criticized then, as he is criticized now; but apparently there were some reliable men in the Labour party at that time who were not prepared to allow their sense of justice, fairness and decency to be blinded by party political enthusiasm. Before John Curtin came to office, he stated, as reported in “ Hansard “, volume 167, at page 25 -
Notwithstanding that there are political parties in this country, I claim that the war has been prosecuted to the maximum of Australia’s capacity, and I doubt if any great improvements could have been made upon what has been done by the Government working in collaboration with the Opposition.
Yow will remember, Mr. President, that it was only a matter or five or six months later that Mr. Curtin became Prime Minister of this country. He made this statement when he was Leader of the Opposition. Subsequently, when he became Prime Minister, he said -
I have to pay tribute to the governments which preceded my own for the constructive work they have done in defence and the foundations they have laid. The Labour movement accepted the responsibility for not making preparations for war. It thought the world had finished with the determination of disputes in that fashion.
That was a very fair and a very generous tribute from a very generous man. I do not know why, in the name of sanity, of all the things perhaps on which this Government may be open to criticism, the Opposition always picks on defence. With the exception of the time of Andrew Fisher and John Curtin, no government’s record has bees worse, since federation, than Labour’s record. Yet, honorable senators opposite, with the weakest possible little walking stick, come out and attack a mastiff.
I conclude on this note: I appreciate Senator McKenna’s acknowledgment of the spiritual source of his attack. It is a source which has become embittered. As I said before, this newspaper has forfeited the right to be regarded as a respectable and responsible newspaper.
.- When I consider the reply that has been made to a very important and effective attack on the Government’s defence policy, I can only say that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan) merits the description applied by the press to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), namely -
His characteristic weakness for believing that eloquence is a substitute for action, that a policy announced is a policy carried out, that a committee formed is a plan achieved, was once again to be given full play in the field of defence.
When the Senate receives only a very short statement, mostly read, in answer to a considered case that took 40 to 50 minutes to present, we are entitled to believe that there may be some substance in the articles that have been published by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. I am amused to find this organ of the press, no doubt because of the prickings of its conscience, for once printing something that may cause the people of this country to give more thought to the question of defence.
I thought that the Minister, who answered on behalf of the Government, would have told us something about the brigade group. Irrespective of the degree to which our views may differ on methods of defence, no one on either side of the chamber desires to see this country undefended. In the light of world events, we all believe that Australia should have the most up-to-date defence system it can afford. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) asked some specific questions. He desired to know whether, as this newspaper alleges, men who have been trained as tradesmen have been used as infantrymen in order to make up numbers? I understand that about 4,100 men constitute a brigade.
The Opposition wants to know the facts. If the statements contained in these articles are not true, I should be one of the first to condemn the newspaper for attempting to inculcate distrust in the minds of the people of this country on the question of our defences. The Opposition desires a reply from the Government to some of the questions that have been asked. It does not help the defence of this country to have, every few months, a statement on defence presented by the Prime Minister, the latest statement very often contradicting a previous one. We are told in one statement that something is going to be done, but after waiting a few months we find that nothing has been done. We are then told that the reason for the inactivity is that new machines have been perfected.
The Government talked a lot about a new rifle and the tooling up process at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. When the factory was almost in a position to commence rolling the rifle off the production lines, as it were, the Government found that the rifle was no longer suitable. Nobody would criticize the Government for changing its mind if world events made that necessary. However, we have representatives in the United States of America. We are closely allied to the United States, and I hope we will remain in that close association. If we decide to link our armaments with those of the United States, surely it should not take us long to find out what is necessary. Why should we tool up our factories to produce a certain rifle, only to find that the rifle we are ahout to produce is out of date? Surely no honorable senator is satisfied with the frequent changes of policy that have taken place or with the state of our defences on which we have spent ?1,200,000,000 or ?1,300,000,000 in the last few years.
We take these newspaper articles for what they are worth. Quite candidly, I do not claim that they are correct.
– The honorable senator does not mind giving them a bit of publicity.
– This is one of the joyful times. Old friends have fallen out, and now the ordinary man in the street has been enticed to turn his mind to a subject that is of vital importance to all of us.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. President, you will recall that, when the Leader of the Government was replying to Senator McKenna or, shall I say, attempting to reply-
– He blew him out.
– I shall leave that to the imagination of Government supporters. Senator O’sullivan clearly stated that Sir Frederick Shedden’s statement had been taken from its context. Let me nail that charge. In the minutes of evidence on which is based the 29th report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) is reported as having asked Sit Frederick Shedden the following question: -
You made a remark this morning which, perhaps, will indicate what 1 want to get at. You said that the Prime Minister stated ‘at the outset in connexion with this programming that the proposal was that we were to be .ready for mobilization in 1953. Would we have been?
Sir Frederick Shedden replied
I do not know how that could be regarded as having been taken from the context. Mr. Leslie further asked -
Would we be now?
Sir Frederick replied ;
Ji the Leader of the Government says that those two unequivocal answers to straight questions have been taken out of their context, one wonders where the context is. Perhaps it As in one of the books that we do not Tead. At any rate, the report from which I have quoted is the only document containing that statement by Sir Frederick Shedden which caused ;a tremendous stir amongst those who were and are anxious about Australia’s defences.
Following the giving of that evidence by Sir Frederick Shedden, the Prime Minister said that the defences of Australia were never in better shape. Then out of the blue two days later, the Prime Minister reviewed Australia’s defence policy. Is it any wonder that not only the newspapers which, let me say, have always backed the Government at election time - that is a pretty important time - but other members of the community have raised the question of our defences? Is it true, as Senator McKenna said, that this .review shocked the nation. The Prime Minister said, in regard to the Navy -
Naval construction will, as I have said, be speeded up to correct the present shortage of ships of the appropriate kind, and as a means of reducing overhead costs.
The right honorable gentleman, in his September speech, stated -
The naval programme is going very well; there has been no occasion to alter it for some time. . .
Having made a statement on 4th April, the Prime Minister said five months later, in flowery language, that the standard of training and efficiency was high.
But what do we find after September? It was reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, of 24th October last, that the Government had spent £1,300,000 on remodelling the cruiser “ Hobart “ and, having partly completed the work, put the vessel into mothballs. Is it any wonder that one of the leading newspapers of this country has taken the Prime Minister to task? The few statements I have read show clearly that the Prime Minister has been using words and still more words but there is little defence preparedness.
Let me refer again to the right honorable gentleman’s April statement. As has been pointed out, that statement shocked not only the Parliament but also the- nation. It contained the famous announcement that the national service training scheme as it related to the Navy and the Air Force was to be scrapped. It took the Government six years to discover that to take national service trainees into the Navy and the Air Force was useless. In that time the Government spent £1,300,000,000 or £1,400,000,000 on defence. I can recall when the Government said that if national service training were applied to all arms of the forces Australia would have an excellent potential defence weapon. But on 4th April the Government announced that the yearly intake of trainees was to be reduced from 29,000 to 12,000! I shall refer later to the reason for the Government’s decision.
– What does the honorable senator think of that idea?
– As I said in this chamber before that decision was taken, I think it does no harm to the lads from the viewpoints of teaching them discipline and health but, as a military exercise, it is as useless with an intake of 12,000 as it was with an intake of 29,000.
– The honorable senator voted for it, anyhow.
– I have just reiterated what I said when the National Service Bill was before the Senate. What I said then I say now. The scheme has had no defence value at all, and what concerns most of us is that six- years elapsed before that fact was discovered. A number of youths have had some experience of discipline but they have no practical military, air force or naval training.
Let me revert to the statement that was made by the Prime Minister in April. The Government reduced the number of national service trainees from 29,000 to 12,000. It instituted a brigade force. The Prime Minister announced that that force would be fully equipped with the most up-to-date weapons so that it would be mobile and ready at a moment if needed. I simply ask the Government now to answer the questions that were submitted to-day by the Leader of the Opposition. I repeat those questions which relate to the brigade force - How many trained military tradesmen are there in the regular army brigade as infantry privates or, I will go further, as non-commissioned officers? How many members of the brigade are due for retirement in six months, a year, two years or three years? Is there any age limit on mem. bership of the brigade and what are the age groups, year by year, of members of the brigade?
The Opposition is entitled at least to an answer to those questions. The Government must have the figures and the Senate is entitled to know the answers. What is more, the people of Australia, particularly those who have read the articles that were published by an erstwhile friend of the Government, will want to know the answers. The people will not sit down for ever and allow the Government to vote about £200,000,000 a year for defence without a challenge. They are entitled to ask what they are getting for their money. I ask the Government to answer the questions that I have repeated so that there can be no equivocation about them. Let us consider the Air Force. In his speech on 4th April the Prime Minister said -
The Air Force should include fighter aircraft of the most modern kind to ensure local air superiority and to deal with any raiding bomber . . We are planning to re-arm with fighter aircraft of a performance equivalent to the Lockheed F104.
In September, the right honorable gentleman discarded the statement he had made in April. Apparently the Prime Minister is no longer concerned with raiding bombers. Now, he says, in effect, we do not need what we needed in April because in his later speech he made a statement to the effect that the Avon Sabre aircraft would be all right in South-East Asia. Does that mean that we will defend Australia only so far as South-East Asia is concerned? Are our financial resources such that we cannot plan our defences beyond South-East Asia? I remind the Government that the war went much further afield than South-East Asia on the last occasion. If we wanted Lockheed F104’s iri April, why were they discarded in September? This nation is entitled to have the most modern Air Force that it can obtain. I am amazed at the apparent change in the situation.
When I read the speech that was delivered by the Prime Minister in September I thought, “ These are wonderful words “. That viewpoint at least supports the attitude of the section of the press which has given so much of its space to Australia’s defence recently. Referring to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), the Prime Minister said -
His American discussions took this problem out of the world of abstract perfection into the world of realism and accepted probabilities.
Let us examine those words again. When we wanted the Lockheed F104’s, according to the words of the Prime Minister himself, they came within the category of “ abstract perfection “. And I remind Government supporters that we are spending nearly £200,000,000 a year on defence. Is it any wonder that the newspapers have said that the Prime Minister will talk you blind. He will tell us, in effect, that the defences of Australia are almost as good as those of the United States of America and other large nations and from then on we get words, words, words.
Let us examine further what has been done in connexion with the air arm of our defence services. Everybody knows what has been done with the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation factory. On 10th October, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Production what work was being undertaken by the Department of Defence Production at Fishermen’s Bend, Victoria. This was the reply -
The only undertaking of the Department of Defence Production at Fishermen’s Bend, Victoria, is the Government aircraft factories. Current work there comprises -
Design, development and production of Jindivik radio-controlled target aircraft.
Design, development and production of an anti-tank weapon.
Design and manufacture of modifications for Lincoln and Canberra aircraft.
Manufacture of spare parts for Canberra and Lincoln aircraft.
I also asked the Minister how many persons were employed by the department at Fishermen’s Bend at 30th June, 1955, and how many persons were employed there in October. The reply was -
Two thousand five hundred and sixty-one at June 30, 1955, and 1,298 at September 30, 1957.
Most of them were skilled men. So the Government will not be buying any Lockheeds; it will be relying on what may be called outmoded aircraft.
– No, it will not.
– The aircraft are outmoded. They are subsonic aircraft. I hope that the Government is right in its belief that we shall have to worry only about South-East Asia. I join with the Government in its desire to defend the country to the best of our ability, but we should not be so stupid as to think that once we have dealt with the position in South-East y*sia everything in the garden will be lovely, that we will be able to go on our merry way, that we will continue to provide £200,000,000 a year for defence, and have only £9,000,000 floating round in the air. It seems that the Government has been doing this, that it has had £9,000,000 floating round in the air and that then somebody suddenly decided to put it to the defence estimates. When we remember these actions, we cannot wonder at some newspapers publishing articles such as those referred to to-day. If we had in this country a press that would print facts and give news instead of views, not only the Sydney press but the whole of the press in Australia would be taking up this matter and honorable senators on the Government side would not be as complacent as they are now.
– But those are not facts. -Senator KENNELLY.- The honorable senator cannot argue that the reply given to the Leader of the Opposition was a complete answer to his statements or the chargeshe repeated from three press articles. Surely he does not suggest that the Leader of the> Government answered those charges merely by reading, ‘ reading and reading as he did. While he was reading at great length, I glanced at the faces of honorable senators on the Government side, and I know from what I saw that they felt most uncomfortable. All that the people of this nation want is an answer to Senator McKenna’s questions and it should be an authoritative answer. In fact, I say without any equivocation whatever that I should like a committee to be appointed to investigate the whole matter, and I do not say that with any idea of adversely affecting the defence of this country. The plain fact is that the Government cannot get away with its attitude all the time.
Let me conclude by quoting the following reference to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) as published in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ -
Is it too harsh to go back once again to the assessment Mr. Paul Hasluck made in his civil history of the War from 1939 to 1941? He said of Mr. Menzies that, “ having reached an impeccable conclusion by faultless logic and demonstrated the argument clearly to the public, he had a sense of achievement and an expectation that from that conclusion the inescapably correct consequences would flow. Of course, they seldom did.
– This debate is, in many respects, a rehash of the numerous arguments we have heard hurled towards the Government side of the Senate before by the Leader of the Opposition and those who sit behind him.
– And you will hear them again, too.
– I dare say we will. However often they may be shown to be completely without foundation, however often they may be shown to be old, tired, flaccid and feeble, I dare say we shall hear them because, in my opinion, no proper criticism can be made.
There has been given to what we have heard before a new impetus because of three articles which have appeared recently in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, and which I have no doubt the Leader of the Opposition read at leisure and on which he based a number of his attacks on the Government. New flaccid fabrications have been added to what we have heard before. Whatever the reasons behind these fabrications may be - and I, for my part, think they are dishonorable - I believe they should be answered as they have appeared in a newspaper with a national circulation. I also believe that they can be answered: because I think they are completely irresponsible. I think that insofar as they tend to lead the nation to regard the brigade group which has been established as a political sham, they are a danger to Australia. I believe they discredit this country. I believe that if they cannot be sustained - and in my opinion they cannot be sustained - then those who are responsible for publishing them in a newspaper with such a huge circulation and such responsibility have fallen down in carrying out their duty to the Australian people. If I may say so, seeing that the Leader of the Opposition nods approbation, those honorable senators opposite who accept and endorse those criticisms, unless they are sure that these criticisms are adequately based, also do discredit to the defence of this country and to the Australian nation.
Before going on to consider in more detail the allegations made in this newspaper, I think it right that some of the general observations made by the Leader of the Opposition should first be answered. Of course, they have been answered before. Those general observations are that this Government has been inept in the matter of defence, inefficient in the matter of defence and has secured nothing to show for the money which has been expended over the eight-year period since it has been in office. I think that, in considering those observations, we must first examine what the situation was when this Government took over from the Labour administration.
I do not blame Labour for what it did then; I merely mention its actions as a statement of fact. If we look back to the period immediately following the second world war, we remember the general feeling obtaining then in America, England and Australia was that we could hope that war was an instrumentality of the past, that war was something which no longer needed to be resorted to if we could persuade the Russians that we were genuine in our desire for peace. Because of that feeling, we, in conjunction with the United Kingdom and the United States, demobilized the forces that we had at the end of the war. This meant that towards the end of 1949’ Australia did not have in being an air force of any significance either in numbers or equipment. It was small in numbers and equipped with DC3 transports and Mustang fighters. At that time we did not have a
Navy of any significance in either numbers or equipment. It was small in numbers with no aircraft carriers, few destroyers and a fleet air arm equipped with obsolete aircraft. Further, we had only the nucleus and skeleton of an army.
I am glad that this country demobilized its forces .to that extent at the <end of the second world war. We :showed the way to peace in the world by demobilizing in conjunction with the United Kingdom . and the United States. I lay no blame on Labour for doing what it did then; I merely state that that .is in fact what .happened. The munitions establishments, on which the .armed forces rely .in war-itime for munitions and instruments of destruction were disposed of in like manner - Salisbury to the Woomera rocket range, and St. Mary’s to private enterprise.
– Would that not have been on the advice of the service chiefs?
– I do not blame the present Opposition for that state of affairs. 1 arn glad that at that time this country took that step towards peace. I merely wish to establish the fact that it happened. Probably, it was a result of a political decision designed to show that we were genuine in our desire for peace. We demobilized our armed forces and the factories on which our armed forces depended for supplies.
– In order to build up an industrial force.
– Quite. That was the position which obtained until the end of 1949. Unfortunately, all countries did not demobilize. Equally unfortunately, all countries did not believe that we, in common with our present Allies, were genuine in our desire for peace. It became evident, step by step, in Europe and the Far East, that our genuine gesture was being construed as weakness, and that if we did not look to our defences we should be in danger of being overthrown by .those who had not demobilized.
From *hat day - the day when this Government came to office - onward, it was necessary to turn round and build up, once again, the armed forces and the logistics upon which they depend. Facing that proposition we found, too, .that there had been such immense advances in aviation, in the requirements of an army as to munitions and supplies, and in the requirements of a -navy,, that a level of expenditure which might previously have proved adequate was now completely laughable. We found that a Mustang fighter which had previously been adequate, and had cost £5,000, was now quite out of date. There were no jets in Australia when this Government came to office. ‘The Mustang had been superseded by jet aircraft which cost tens of thousands of pounds per unit. We found it necessary to provide for the Navy aircraft carriers and a fleet air arm equipped with aeroplanes enormously more expensive than we had been accustomed to - with a consequently greater burden on the defence vote.
We found it necessary to rebuild our armed -forces from almost nothing, and provide them -with all the equipment and munitions which ,they needed to acquit themselves in modern conditions - indeed, as “they idid in ithe war in which Australia found herself engaged towards the end of 1950. We have been told that all the expenditure to that end has been wasted. We began from the situation which I postulated, without blame to any one, towards the end of 1950, and finally reached a situation in which we had fighter squadrons equipped with Avon Sabres, bomber squadrons equipped with Canberras, long-range anti-submarine reconnaissance squadrons equipped with Neptunes, and our own brigade group, and a battalion group, equipped and supplied from this country. We had also the controversial, but nevertheless physical facilities, available at St. Mary’s to supply these fighting forces of all arms with the bombs, shells, and munitions which they and our allies would need in the event of war.
We are told that all this has been wasted, but at least they have been provided - they are physically apparent. The force has been in being, in the form of an army, a navy and an air force, and has been paid, for eight years. An aircraft carrier and other equivalent and necessary ships have been in being. I agree that our air force has not been equipped with the FI 04, but it .has had good Avon Sabre fighters and Canberra bombers, with all the electronic and meteorological aids which are necessary in an air force these days. Aerodromes have been built throughout this country and New
Guinea, as well as in Malaya, by units of the Royal Australian Air Force construction squadrons. All these are physical things which can be pointed to as the result of eight years of effort. Yet we are told that all this money has been wasted - thrown down the drain.
What is the basis of this criticism? First, it is a statement by Sir Frederick Shedden that this country was not ready for mobilization in 1953 or 1956. Great play has been made upon that statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly), but those gentlemen have not directed attention to what the Public Accounts Committee itself had to say on the subject. It was, of course, the committee before which this evidence was given. I refer especially to paragraphs 82 and 83 of the committee’s report. Therein the following appears: -
By 1943 that strength had been reached.
The next paragraph reads -
That refers to total mobilization of all national efforts for a war. That was, of course, quite true. Is it not also true that no democratic nation, and few totalitarian nations, can at any given moment of time be mobilized in that sense, unless they have complete conscription of man-power, and all forms of materials, all the time - so that at any given minute they can be said to be ready for mobilization. That is the only sense in which Sir Frederick Shedden referred to mobilization.
I ask the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, or any one who sits behind them to read the whole report of’ the committee on the defence services and the relevant estimates, and disagree with me when I say that the evidence given by Sir Frederick Shedden, to which most of the report is devoted, shows that right up to the time at which he was speaking - last year - there had been a steady and constant growth of the defence potential of this country, even though we were not ready at any given moment for the total diversion of national resources to war, yet that is one of the grounds on which this criticism is based.
– The remark of Sir Frederick Shedden was taken out of its context.
– That is so. What are the other criticisms? One which we heard this afternoon was that we had no guided missiles. Guided missiles of what kind - ground-to-air, air-to-air, or airtoground? We were not told. I believe that, in fact, we have guided missiles of an airtoair type - a very significant type developed at Woomera which was, if you like, a joint enterprise of the Opposition and ourselves. I do not think that we have at the moment a ground-to-air guided missile - if that is what was referred to - but I do believe that, as a result of what has been done at Woomera by the joint efforts of our own Government and the Government of the United Kingdom, the development of a ground-to-air guided missile has been greatly accelerated and that we are much closer to adopting a proper prototype than we have been before.
But I do not want to deal any more with what we heard before. I want, rather, to deal with the criticism which is the real basis of this attack on the Government - the criticism voiced by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ as, I believe, the result of a personal vendetta. I think it is malicious and completely irresponsible. I want to look at the first of this series of articles on which much of this attack has been based. The Leader of the Opposition read the words at the top of this article and claimed - I think justly - that they were a paraphrase of what he himself had said some time previously in the Senate. Personally, I do not think he is entitled to take any credit for that, because these words constitute not an objective study of our defence position or of what we have done, but a personal attack on the Prime Minister - the kind of personal attack which it is easy to make on any man at any time.
Let us look at some of the allegedly factual statements made in this first article. The writer of the article was referring to the years 1951-1953. He wrote -
What would Australia’s position have been if war had broken out by 1953?
He ignored the Korean war.
That left the Regular Army. Far from having two brigade groups, it would have been hard pressed to put two battalions in the field, let alone supply them wilh the necessary reinforcements.
Since the outbreak of the Korean war towards the end of 1950, the Regular Army had had two battalions on active service in Korea. It kept them there till the end of the war and supplied them with reinforcements. In addition, it supplied with ammunition, not only those battalions, but other elements of the Commonwealth Division. Yet we are told that the Regular Army would have been hard pressed to put two battalions in the field! They were put there and they were kept there. They were not there alone, because, with the backing of every senator in this chamber, one of the first elements which took part on the side of the United Nations in that war against communist aggression was Number 77 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force, which was in action within the first four days of the war. Nor were those forces without support from the Royal Australian Navy. That is one of the allegedly factual statements in this series of scurrilous articles. What is another? Referring to the Prime Minister, the article continued - “ If Malaya is vital to our defence “, he declared, “ we must make Malayan defence our business “. How? Mr. Menzies did not explain. The total force that we were capable of sending to Malaya was one battalion group, two R.A.A.F. wings, and a few naval units.
We had one battalion group in Malaya, quite apart from the other defence commitments we had to meet and quite apart from our home forces. In this article, on which this attack is based, the fact that we were able to send to Malaya a battalion group, two R.A.A.F. wings, and what is described as “ a few naval units “, is brushed off in a casual, contemptuous way. We are told that there is nothing to show for the defence expenditure of this country. Those forces did not only go there. After they arrived, they operated, sustained casualities and were maintained on active service, yet that is contemptuously brushed aside.
But worse even than that is the article on which the Leader of the Opposition based more of his criticism. It is the second article, which described as “ a military sham “, “ a political fraud “, and “ a particularly shoddy political fraud “, the brigade group raised by this nation for the discharging of its responsibilities to its allies in the area to our north. I could not agree more with the Leader of the Opposition’s statement that those were grave and serious charges to be disseminated amongst the public of this country in regard to our front-line troops, our first defence against aggression.
On what is this general condemnation based? It is based on a number of unsubstantiated statements by an anonymous writer. One of the first things on which it is based is this statement -
Everybody will agree with that. Of course, reinforcements are necessary before a unit can be committed to action. When I read that very definite and unequivocal statement, I got in touch with the Deputy Chief of the General Staff in Melbourne, to ask whether it was, in fact, true that this brigade group had no first-line reinforcements. Not on my own authority, but on the authority of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, I make the definite statement that it does have first-line reinforcements - that there are now in training, apart from the 4,100 men who comprise the establishment of the brigade group, 450 first-line reinforcements, or approximately 10 per cent, of the establishment of the group. They are ready to fill any vacancies caused by sickness, incapacity or otherwise. In addition, there is a cadre, which will be replenished, to keep at least 10 per cent, of that establishment in training as first-line reinforcements. I specially dwell on that, because anybody who has been a soldier - and there are many ex-soldiers on both sides of this chamber - must have been shaken by an unequivocal statement that there were no first-line reinforcements in training. We all know that it is essential that there should be such reinforcements. I prefer to believe the Deputy Chief of the General Staff rather than an anonymous journalist. I hope that any anxiety on this matter which may have been caused will now be removed. What does the article state after that? It states -
An armoured regiment equipped with obsolescent Centurion tanks has had to be included.
These. “ obsolescent Centurion tanks;” are the- current equipment tot the United; Kingdom, armoured, forces serving with, the Nato regiments, on the continent. It may- ber- . I do> nob know^that there-. are perhaps- in> Russia- new tanks with heavier armaments, 06 greater force, of more resistant armour. But at least, if the United. Kingdom- is equipping its Nato force which will take the first shock of any direct Russian blow with Centurion tanks, then surely it is not a very cogent criticism to level at the Australian regular brigade that it, too, is equipped with Centurion tanks of the same kind and of the same capability. Rather it must be stretching to the utmost any attempt that can be made, to denigrate any force described by this despicable article as the scrapings of the barrel.
The Leader- of the Opposition asked a number of other specific- questions all’ of which - although I anticipated to some extent what he would say - I am unable to answer at this stage, but- 1 do know - and this again is said, I emphasize, on the authority of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff - that it is true to say thatthere is no age limit for enlistment into the regular forces or into this brigade group. It is also true that every man. enlisted in this brigade group must be passed as medically A 1 fit for service anywhere in the. world. I would say that a. medical assessment of that kind of the capability of the soldiers enlisted in this force would give better results than would an arbitrary and unalterable age limit.
Another criticism which has been made - and this one is not as completely devoid of all substance as were the previous ones - is that a brigade group, if sent abroad - and it is ready to go abroad at fourteen days’ notice - would not be able to be sustained completely logistically from this country. I presume that this is what this article means; it- is not what it says. It says- -
The brigade group has no proper logistic, support. There are yawning gaps in its logistics set-up.
That means that it- has some logistic support, but not as much as it should, have; but in any case that, is different, from having no proper logistic support-. It: has, never been envisaged that this brigade group’ would- operate as- an entirely separate unit from the forces with which it was working, in the. Seato area. For that reason, it has been integrated with the United. States forces, the Viet Nam forces, the Korean forces,, the Formosan forces, the Thai forces. - all the forces in that area. For that reason,, it will use the same small arms, ammunition, the same howitzer ammunition and the same aircraft ammunition, as the forces of tho.se countries, and operate in that way with those forces. For it. to be called a liability is, I suggest again,, something which can only do disservice to this country - something, which I was very sorry indeed to hear, the Leader of the Opposition, endorse as. his own opinion.
Well, that is the gist of that second article. I have approached the Minister foc the Army. (Mr. Cramer) and asked him whether, he would supply to tha Leader of the Opposition, specific, answers to the otherspecific questions that he has asked, that is to. say, the number of- men. whose time will be “ up “ in six months. B.ut again, speaking on the authority of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, I say this: No man was enlisted in that brigade group who did not have at the time of his enlistment 12 months of his service to run. It may be that, at the.present time, some men have six months; undoubtedly, at any time you choose to. take in the future; because men are enlisted in the Regular. Army for three or six years, some men will have only six months- to run, some three months, and some, of- course, three years. A force of that kind is not a static thing but something that is being turned over from time to time. Men are approaching the end of their enlistment, men are beginning the term- of their enlistment or men who, after the first six months’ service, have two and a half years to go. As the Leader of the Opposition wanted to know specifically how many have only six months to go - I do not think it is significant in view- of what I have said - I have asked the Minister whether he would supply an exact answer to. that question.
I think there is only one specific query that has not been answered, that is; the number of tradesmen who are employed- as- infantry privates. If I werethe Minister for the Army, I would like to know more of what is required before I’ tried to- answer that- query. Is a man who goes out with patrols– with front line platoons, who is in charge of a walkie-talkie set but is armed, too, who has the tradesman’s skill to keep his set in order and to keep his transmitter and receiver operating, a tradesman or an infantry private? In fact, he operates as both. Is a fitter and turner who goes out with a patrol, but is armed, who is driving a jeep or maintaining a jeep, a tradesman who has been drafted in as an infantry private, or is he one of those- very necessary persons in a modern army, a fighting soldier with a trade? He operates as both. Until it is made a little clearer just what is meant and wanted in that way, that particular question would be hard to answer.
Having answered as best I can these specific queries, having expressed my own opinion that these arguments are a farrago of quarter truths, that they have been spawned by personal spite and cannot stand up to proper examination, that the Leader of the Opposition has been misled by regarding them as objective criticism and that the statements made in them and therefore the statements made by him based on them are untrue - demonstrably untrue - I merely wish to conclude with these statements: The overall problem of defence is, and must always be, a most complex and most difficult one. It is very hard to tell whether we in this country should concentrate purely on atomic defence, on civil defence with the capacity for an atomic offensive to the detriment of conventional arms, because if we do that and if those who are likely to be our opponents have conventional arms and attack us, then we are placed in the dilemma of either submitting to their conventional attack or initiating atomic war. Yet, if we rely simply and solely on conventional armaments, then we are at the mercy of any country which has atomic armaments able to wipe us and our armies out. It is easier for countries like the United Kingdom and the United States to guard themselves on both these fronts. We, with our limited capacity and our need for development, cannot properly do that. We cannot have the most modern aircraft of all types, the most modern tanks, the most modern ships, the largest army and the largest capacity to deliver atomic blows. But we can, in accordance with the advice of our Chiefs of Staff and of our Allies, create a force designed to integrate with the forces of our Allies in whatever type of war may come, should any type of war come at all. That will involve, of course, changes from time to time. When these changes occur, it will be open to any member of the Opposition so inclined to say that what was spent previously on a previous type of armament was completely wasted, yet those who may be so inclined to criticize should remember that in the years that have passed the safety of this country has depended on such armaments, even though now they may have become obsolete and need replacing.
Honorable senators opposite, or any one else who attacks this Government, or the defence services as apart from the Government, or those in the services, should think of the wars which have been fought in Korea and Malaya and of the ground work which has been done in this country. The speech made in April by the Prime Minister, which has been quoted so often, indicates that in that time we have built up a navy, although it may not be sufficient of itself to protect us, and an air force which, on the advice of the Chiefs of Staff, is of the type necessary to enable us to contribute to the common defence. We have also built up a brigade group for which we are supplying reinforcements, and we are correlating its arms and those of our Allies. At the same time, we are maintaining in Malaya, in the Strategic Reserve, a battalion group, two wings of the R.A.A.F. and a few units of the Navy. We have installed the most modern radar equipment. We are conducting at Woomera, in conjunction with the United Kingdom, experiments in guided missiles, and we are conducting, in conjunction with the United Kingdom, atomic experiments at Marilinga.
With all that, we have kept in being, during all those years an army sometimes fighting and sometimes protecting us merely by being in existence. I finish as I began. None of those things were present at the end of 1949. Who can say that the bringing of those things into being has wasted money, as we were told earlier in the debate?
– I do not propose to make other than a passing reference to the statements’ contained in the articles in the “Sydney Morning Herald “. I find it rather strange to see the Government being attacked by one of the daily newspapers of this country, and obviously the Government finds it strange, too, because it is very bitter about it. I detect a note of insincerity, almost of hypocrisy, in Senator Gorton’s claim that this newspaper is conducting a scurrilous vendetta against the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I think it would be fair to say that if the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ set out to attack the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or in another place, Senator Gorton’s comment would be “ More power to their elbow “. Let us be practical about these things. Why all this sob stuff in defence of the Prime Minister because he is attacked now and again, when probably he merits more than the attacks that have been made against him?
– The press has not attacked the honorable senator yet.
– It has done so from time to time. If the honorable senator were to do something useful some day, it might attack him. I want to refer to some of the statements made by Senator Gorton, but before doing so I will acknowledge that he does apply his mind very closely to debates of this character. What I have to say in criticism of the arguments he has advanced will be in no way directed against Senator Gorton personally.
At various stages of his address to-night he set out, I think, to describe situations in a way which he himself felt was not correct. He described them in a way which did not give the Senate a true picture. He dealt, first of all, with the state of the defences of this country when the MenziesFadden Government assumed office in 1949. He said that at that time certain arms of the services were at a comparative low ebb, but he went on to say that he did not blame the Labour government for that situation, because it had been brought about - I think I am correct in paraphrasing him in this way - by the fact that at that time there was a desire for peace throughout the world and this country was merely following the same trend as other countries by decreasing the strength of its armed forces.
That, of course, is not the true picture. That desire for peace may have had something to do with the situation in 1949, but the basic reason for speedy demobilization was the post-war rehabilitation requirements of Australia. When the war ended, the government of that day was faced with the great task of bringing back to this country hundreds of thousands of servicemen and servicewomen and rehabilitating them in civil life. It was beyond the financial and physical resources of this country, having expended so much on prosecuting the war, to maintain our armed forces at full strength after the war. Senator Gorton would have been more correct if he had told the Senate that the main reasons for the situation that existed in 1949 were the requirements of post-war rehabilitation.
I wish to make a passing reference only to the statements contained in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ articles. Senator Gorton denied that there was any substance in the criticisms and referred to them as a host of quarter-truths, but, by doing so, he acknowledged that there was some foundation for some of the statements made by the newspaper. I think that is a fair assessment of the position. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) were perfectly right in saying that some of the allegations made by the newspaper had been previously stated from time to time by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, but the fact that the newspaper has reiterated those allegations does not indicate that we on this side were the first to become aware of them. As 1 develop what I have to say, I shall remind the Senate of some of the things that honorable senators on this side of the chamber have said during the last three or four years and which have been proved to be true, some of which are inherent in the criticisms contained in the articles in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “.
Before dealing with a statement made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan), let me say that I do not think he contributed very much to this debate. As a matter of fact, he did not reply, or even attempt to reply, to the claims of the Leader of the Opposition. He went into the realms of the past and referred to statements made by John Curtin. He said that Mr. Curtin congratulated the preceding government upon having taken certain defence measures. I am not disputing the fact that at some time in 1941, 1942 or 1943 Mr. Curtin made such statements, but
I am not unaware of the circumstances in which he made them. Perhaps those who have been members of the Senate for much longer than I have, and who have had some association with war-time government, will recall that to a certain degree the hatchet was buried during that period. Some of the statements made by John Curtin and quoted by the Leader of the Government in this place this afternoon may have been made out of the kindliness and generosity of his nature rather than from the viewpoint of accuracy.
In view of the fact that Senator O’sullivan has made such a song and dance about the situation that existed at that time, and because of the obvious insincerity of his remarks, I propose to quote a passage from a speech delivered by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson) on 23rd September, 1942, which gives a very clear indication of the state of Australia’s defences when the Curtin Labour Government took over from the MenziesFadden Administration in 1941.
– Are you trying to repudiate what Mr. Curtin said?
– I am not repudiating what he said. 1 am about to tell the Senate what a member of the Curtin War Cabinet said. I quote the following passage from the “ Hansard “ report of Mr. Johnson’s speech -
When matters affecting the defence of Australia have been raised I have generally remained silent because I have been reluctant to mention publicly the true state of Australia’s defence. To-night I am impelled by the arguments of the Opposition
That is, the Menzies-Fadden Opposition - to say that until a Labour government came into office there was no defence of Western Australia. Before leaving Canberra in July last for Western Australia, I asked the permission of my party to be absent from the next sittings so that I could visit the north-western portion of that State, which had already been attacked by the enemy. When I told the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) of my intention he said that his party would grant me a pair during my absence. However, when I reached Western Australia and discussed my proposed trip to the north-west with Major-General Plant, who was in charge of the defences of that State, I was astonished to hear him say that it was no use for me to go there, as instructions had been received to abandon all the north-west of the continent. Mr. Marwick. - When was that?
Mr. JOHNSON. In July last. From my discussion with Major-General Plant I learned that the whole of the north-west was to be abandoned. When I inquired what area was included in the territory to be abandoned the General said that the most northern defence line would be More River, which is 65 miles north of Perth as the crow flies. When I asked whether that meant the whole of the north-west of the State, which includes Geraldton, with its valuable harbour, .and Mullewa, with its important railway station, as well as all the rich midlands, he replied, “ That is the position. With the forces and equipment at my command there is no alternative “. It was then that I advised the Government of the position in Western Australia.
Mr. Baker. ; The position in North Queensland was just as bad.
– Labour had been in office then for nearly twelve months. That statement is an indictment on the Labour government.
– Of course, the Curtin government had been in office for some six or seven months prior to that.
– It had been in office for nearly twelve months.
– It was in the process of cleaning up the mess that had been left by the previous administration.
– A silly lie! They were building on what had been done before, as Curtin said himself.
Government supporters interjecting,
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order!
– What is the use of a post-mortem at this juncture?
– The Leader of the Government in this place spent the whole of his time in engaging in a post-mortem.
– But not back as far as 1942.
– The statement of Mr. Johnson was devastating, and it was not refuted by any subsequent speakers on behalf of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party. I looked through “ Hansard “ in vain to see whether any one had leapt to his feet in anger to deny that there was any such plan. I could not find any statement which sought to prove that Mr. Johnson’s allegations were not true. When we hear the Leader of the Government talking about what happened in 1941 and 1942, it is well for use to recall these things.
Now I wish to refer to the present. I do not want to devote the whole of my time to past events, even though I think it is proper to remind Government supporters at times about the deficiencies of the parties to which :they belong. The fact is that their defence :record is very poor indeed.
We on this side of the chamber have =said repeatedly that we are entitled to more information about the £200,000,000 that is :spent each year and about some of the adventures - I use the word “ adventures “ in the widest sense - that this Government embarks upon. If that information were more readily available, perhaps the Government would not blunder quite so much and would receive a greater degree of cooperation from the Opposition. We are not satisfied with the way in which the Government is spending the money, nor are we satisfied with the answers that are given to questions that are asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and his deputy in another place. To-night we have received from Senator Gorton who, like myself, is a mere backbencher, a better reply on defence matters ‘than members in another place receive from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). If honorable senators read the “ Hansard “ report of to-day’s proceedings, they will find that Senator Gorton has submitted more detail. Of course, whether we agree with it is another matter.
– Senate speeches are always better than the speeches delivered in another place.
– I have a due sense of modesty and I am not prepared to debate that assertion. Some of the matters that give rise to suspicion about the way in which Australia’s defence programme is being carried out and which lead the press to publish articles such as have been published by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ are the vague and incomprehensible answers that are given by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence. No one, including, I think, even Government senators, can say that the replies that -are given to the probing questions of Labour members in another place are satisfactory. No one will disagree with me when I repeat that Senator Gorton has given us more information to-night - whether it is accurate remains to be seen - than has been given by the two top men of this country in reply to questions that have been asked in another place.
The Minister for Defence, like the Prime Minister, has come in for a lot of criticism from the press during the last twelve months or so. Whatever the state of Australia’s defences, I do not believe that all the blame can be placed on Sir Philip McBride. Perhaps some of the criticisms that have been levelled against him are unjust. He inherited the .defence portfolio at a jime when our defences were not good. Perhaps his predecessor should accept more blame than the present Minister, and I am not speaking against him in this debate on a personal ‘basis.
I suggest that the Minister is the victim of an inept government and, perhaps, an inept predecessor. It has been said that when the Minister for Defence went to Washington recently to negotiate with the United States Government on an interchange of weapons and some .degree of standardization of weapons, he failed in his mission. Again, the press were the culprits in making that charge. I use that expression, not in a sense of condemnation, but because I believe Government supporters have made the press the culprits. They set out to establish that the Minister’s mission to Washington had failed.
The fact that emerges very strongly is that the members of both chambers have not been given the full facts about what really happened in connexion with the Minister’s mission to the United States. I defy any honorable senator to establish to my satisfaction that any member of this Parliament has received complete information on the Minister’s mission. There seems to be a lot of hush-hush about it. I am sure that some of the back-benchers on the Government side know no more about the Minister’s mission than I do. Certainly they do not look as though they know anything about it.
There are several features of defence which I consider to be particularly important. The Opposition has stated that there has been wasteful expenditure on defence. We believe that to be the truth. During the past three years when I have spoken on defence in the Senate I have attacked the wasteful expenditure that has been associated with national service training. I know there are two schools of thought on this matter. Those who subscribe to one view go all out to place every young person in Australia in training for military service even if it costs millions of pounds. They believe that the end is worth the expenditure. The Opposition believes that the truth is that the average young man who undergoes three months’ national service training forgets all he has learned in the next three months, and the money expended on training him has been poured down the drain.
– He never forgets it.
– He does. If any honorable senator questions a young relative who is not particularly interested in military matters six months after he has had his national service training, he will not be able to answer a few basic questions concerning his training.
– What counts is what he can do and not what he can say.
– What the trainees can do in 1957 and what they might be called on to do in 1960 if war breaks out will have no relationship at all. The Opposition has stated with some justification that expenditure on military training is wasteful. That is supported to some extent by the statement that was made by the Prime Minister in April. The right honorable gentleman stated -
It may be appropriate to explain our proposals in relation to national service training. This scheme has given great benefits to our country in instilling ideals of personal discipline, loyalty and service. We introduced it and we are very proud of its results. Largely as a result of its introduction, we have today, as I have already indicated, a total of over 180,000 men who have received basic training. But we are no longer able to count defence potential in terms of numbers of partly trained men.
That is important. The Prime Minister continued -
We have been forced to consider whether devotion of the same effort to the initial training of national servicemen would cost, in time, money, and man-power, a disproportionate amount as compared with what should be expended on quickly available defence forces.
What the Prime Minister said in about 150 unnecessary words was that the Government was concerned about the amount that was being expended on national service training and, as a consequence, proposed to curtail it. He could not skate around the proposition. What the members of the Australian Labour party have stated in this chamber last year, the year before and now has been supported to some degree, belatedly perhaps, by the Prime Minister himself in that statement. No Government supporter can argue successfully against that contention.
I direct attention now to another very important section of the Prime Minister’sstatement. I am sorry that Senator Gorton is not in the chamber because I am sure that he would appreciate the potency of my argument. A section of the defence statement to which I refer related to the Air Force. The Prime Minister said -
We are developing a powerfully equipped and efficient air force.
That is a matter of opinion, but apparently the Prime Minister believed it to be true. I am really concerned with this statement by the right honorable gentleman -
The strength of the regular Air Force will be built up from its present level of 15,000 to 16,725, by June, 1960.
Every honorable senator will acknowledge that air defence is a basic need and that that section of our armed forces must receive the closest attention. The safety of Australia is irretrievably wrapped up in air defence. The Prime Minister has said that the Government visualizes that, in almost four years, the strength of the regular Air Force will be increased from 15,000 to 16,725. That is an increase of 1,725 in four years.
– That is fewer than in 1955.
– That is true. One cannot read such a statement without disquiet. Anybody who can say complacently that such a plan suits him cannot have any regard for Australia’s defence. Nobody should be happy about it.
– That figure must have been fixed by the air vice-marshal in charge of training in conjunction with the Chiefs of Staff!
– But who is governing Australia - the air vice-marshal?
– I should hope that the Chief- of the? Air Staffi would be governing that side of the national interest.
– It is extraordinary that Senator Kendall should practically admit that the Government is not in charge on this matter at all and that it is left to the air vice-marshal. That is the only construction that I can place on Senator Kendall’s statement, and it is even more disquieting.
I come now to a point which 1 have stressed frequently in this chamber. I believe it is just as important now as it was when I first referred to it. 1 refer to aircraft building in Australia. Some three years ago, thousands of men who were highly skilled in the art of putting aircraft components together were scattered throughout the various States of Australia. I reiterate that before a person can achieve the degree of skill necessary for him to qualify as an aircraft worker, he must undergo considerable training. The Government had work being done in its own establishments, and in addition, entered into contracts with big firms throughout Australia - I know of two in my own State - which utilized their own machinery, as well as that owned by the Government in some instances, for the assembly of aircraft components. Approximately 1,200 highly trained men and women were employed in this work in South Australia. To-day, il would not be possible to find 100 skilled workers in the aircraft building industry in Adelaide, and Senator Kennelly and other honorable senators have mentioned that the position is somewhat similar in their respective States. This means, of course, that aircraft building is virtually at a standstill in this country. lt will be remembered that I asked a question of the appropriate Minister recently on this subject and the answer given was that the only people now employed in that field of activity are those engaged on aircraft maintenance at Parafield and that there will be no revival of aircraft production work in Australia. The consequences that flow from such stupid actions on the part of the Government are twofold. First, if it should be decided at some time in the future to begin some type of aircraft construction in this country, the Government will have to comb the employment markets of Australia to find suitable. men for the work. Without doubt, it will approach those who worked in the industry previously, and, if my knowledge of workmen may be taken as a guide, they will refuse to come back. It was an absolute blunder on the Government’s part to let such a valuable industry slide, simply because the Government wanted to expend probably wastefully in some other direction the money it had been spending on this work.
The only thing I can say in commendation of the Government - I do not want to be attacking it continually - is that I agree with the suggestion made by the Prime Minister in his statement on defence that all sections of the armed services should have their head establishments at Canberra. That is a step in the right derection, and I hope it is put into effect. lt seems to me wrong that some sections of defence are established in one capital city and other sections in another capital city. They should be co-ordinated and broughl to the National Capital where they will be readily accessible to the Government in times of requirement. I repeat that I agree with that proposition suggested by the Prime Minister.
Let me conclude by saying that honorable senators on this side are just as conscious as Senator Gorton and others on the Government side of the complexities of present day defence needs. We are fully aware of the fact that with advances in science weapons may change from day to day. We are not unaware of the possibility that the Government could get caught with expenditure on some type of weapon that could be modern this month and perhaps obsolete in six months’ time. If the Government would only come forward with a reasonable and logical explanation of the situation, the Opposition would be satisfied. What is causing us concern, what is obviously causing the newspaper world concern, and certainly what is causing the people of Australia concern is the fact that there is too much mystery about the way in which this money is being expended. Whenever anybody has the temerity to ask a question, it is suggested that he is doing something detrimental to the proper defence of this country.
We say to the Government, “ It is obvious you have made some blunders, and you will do your best to cover them up, but now is the time to come out into the open. If you want co-operation instead of criticism from this side, you will have to take us into your confidence to a greater extent than you are doing at the moment. Until you do so, you will continue to get justifiable criticism from honorable senators on this side, and you will continue to get justifiable criticism from the press of this country “.
– lt is so much easier to produce destructive criticism than it is to do a good, solid, constructive job of work. It is very much easier to be critical than it is to be constructive, and no target is easier than the defence effort.
I think, with respect, that we have seldom heard sillier criticism than that which emanated from Senator Toohey who said that there is too much mystery about the way in which the Government is spending its money on defence. I remind Senator Toohey of the information that was distributed to all honorable senators during the Budget debate. I draw attention, in particular, to the many pages of information giving statistics relating to the numbers of the forces, expenditure under the various headings, and the graphs showing the way the money was spent, and to the separate explanatory statement of the defence estimates isssued by my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). Never was more information provided to a House of Parliament by responsible Ministers than was distributed during the debate on the Estimates which has just concluded. With respect, I suggest that Senator Toohey’s statement that there is too much mystery about the way in which money is being spent on defence is completely indicative of the calibre of the criticism levelled at the Government in the Senate to-day.
There is no mystery about the way in which the money is being expended, and there is no suggestion of any mystery about it. The fact that honorable senators opposite have had to dredge to the bottom of the barrel is indicative of the fact that they have really no substantial ground for criticism in any stage of the debate.
I have said that, for the critic, no target is easier than the defence effort. This is so because of the conditions with which we have to contend. Those conditions are difficult not only because we live in an atomic age, not only because we live in a changing world but also because the only prospective enemy with respect to whom we have to make our arrangements is geographically situated at the centre of a circle and can change the venue of his pressure from Europe to the Middle East ot to the Far East, and different defence conditions obtain in connexion with each different venue. Our prospective enemies are capable of putting pressure in the Middle East, of putting pressure in Europe, and of putting pressure in the Far East. The citizens in most countries controlled by them have got to do as they are told and pretend to like it. They are capable of a defence effort very different from our own. They have great material resources on which to draw, and can, by enforcing their wishes upon others, absorb a greater proportion of those resources for defence than we could hope to do.
Any one who enters this debate with any intention to act fairly will agree that, to begin with, in a democracy the profession of arms is truly a thankless one. The officers who graduate at the colleges at Duntroon and Jervis Bay undergo preliminary training equivalent to the winning of a university degree. They must maintain that educational standard and degree of scientific knowledge throughout their professional lives. They must also maintain great physical fitness. This demands a life of devotion, and constant study. History shows that it is almost a truism to say that in a democracy, in which it is difficult to divert an adequate share of resources to military preparedness - in contrast to what happens on the other side of the iron curtain - men who follow the profession of arms during the years of peace often lose their professional reputation, their most cherished possession, on the outbreak of war, for they are not backed by the resources that are available to their fascist or totalitarian enemies. A democracy needs some time, at least, in which to accumulate the resources needed for a military effort, and those who must lead the democracies in the early stages of a war must bear the burden of this.
I believe that that is a reasonably accurate picture of what happened in 1914 and 1939. In the lieht of that, nothing could be more feeble than the attempt of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
McKenna) to place great weight on the statement of Sir Frederick Shedden that in 19.5.3 Australia was not ready for mobilization. The way in which that statement was played up is a superb illustration of the fact that newspapers always seek the sensational. .No democracy can ever be ready during peace-time for immediate mobilization. That will be just as true in the years to come as it was in 1953 and in the years before and after. No democratic government, whatever its political colour, will appropriate a sufficient proportion of a country’s resources to enable it to be ready for mobilization in peace-.time. The adoption of such a feeble argument does the Leader of the Opposition no credit. .
– Has the honorable senator read the report right through?
– I have certainly read the relevant paragraphs, and I do not wish to retract one word that I have uttered concerning them. The type of criticism that we have heard from honorable senators opposite is just as invalid as the continual newspaper criticism which is echoed so thankfully by honorable senators on the other side of the chamber. One would think that there was vice, not virtue, in our having a Prime Minister with such a great gift of expression. We are indeed fortunate to have a man with such attributes as Mr, Menzies at the helm of this nation. Of course, this criticism comes from the Prime Minister’s enemies, political and otherwise, within Australia. If we could conduct an ‘international -gallup poll we should find that no other man is regarded as a greater figure on the international political stage. Honorable senators opposite do not like ‘to admit it. I ask them: Who was chosen to lead the -mission to President Nasser?
Let me look now at such of the criticism from the Leader of the Opposition as can be described as definite, and not merely vague and indiscriminate. I described Senator Toohey’s remarks as the most foolish 1 had ever heard, but I think he was surpassed by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that a brigade of the Australian Imperial Force could be a liability. Interjecting, I said, “ That will be the day! “ During the suspension for dinner, I have been wondering how I could improve on that interjection and have found that I can- not. We are asked ito accept the view that a brigade of men who have >no -equal as fighters in the world would be so poorly equipped as to become a liability. Nothing could more adequately prove that we are a nation of knockers, and that the Australian Labour .party is ithe prince of all knockers. Honorable senators need have no doubt about the matter. When troops are needed the fiercest competition of all will be for the services of the A.I.F.
I have -said already that the profession of arms has its problems. 1 might add, not without some diffidence, that the measure of success in military effort, particularly in a democracy, notwithstanding all the changes that have taken place in modern warfare, is the state of the volunteer forces. After all, the members of the permanent forces choose their calling voluntarily. Therefore, not entirely, but to a material extent, we must look to the effect of our policies on the volunteer element in the forces. I refer the Senate -to the numbers of men in the Navy, Army, and Air Force, as shown by .the defence statistics. In 1950 the total number of men in the forces was 57,568, whereas to-day the total is 132,988. I do not say that we have done everything that we should have done, but after all, irrespective of technical advances, it still remains true that in any circumstances it is the personnel of the forces that provides the backbone of defence preparedness. I think that a good deal of satisfaction can be felt in the growth of the forces from 57,500 to nearly 133,000 in the period I have mentioned.
We heard what I regarded as confused arguments on the intake of national servicemen. Defence is -a very costly business, and there is a limit to the ‘depth of the purse and the amount of money that we can .provide. We have to spend the money that is available to what we consider to be the best advantage. It is true that, as the years go on, an increasing proportion of the overall defence expenditure is being directed to what might be called the scientific services. In Australia we have been fortunate that the United Kingdom is doing an increasing proportion of the work in that direction that is being done at Woomera. We are trying to achieve a balanced effort. We are aiming at a Commonwealth military force of about 50,000 men, of which the national service intake will provide 12,000. 1 wish to refer particularly to one irresponsible statement on the part of the Opposition. I get ‘the statements of the Opposition and the newspaper somewhat confused. Perhaps I should not do so. One point that emerges, above all others, from this debate, is that all that the Opposition is doing is jumping on the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ bandwagon and trying to ride it home. The Opposition has no views or policy of its own. All that it is prepared to do is to adopt the criticism of any critic of the Government, no matter whom he may be. The particular criticism to which I refer is that the Government should have discontinued altogether the national service training scheme. That is an irresponsible statement.
– Who said that?
– Some one said it in the course of the debate.
– Nobody said it.
– I have it in my notes, and it is underlined.
– We asked why the Government took six years to find out all the mistakes it had made in that one undertaking.
-^I do not know that it took us six years or thai we have made any mistakes. I hold the view that the national service training scheme has been one of the greatest .contributions to the building of national character in Australia, and I should have liked us to have the resources to maintain it. It is irresponsible to say that the scheme should be discontinued, because it makes a substantial contribution to the defence effort. Not only does it provide the numbers to make up the Commonwealth military force, but it also provides in that force a substantial proportion of tradesmen and other skilled personnel.
It was also stated that the brigade group is a military sham and a political fraud. Nothing really could be further from the truth. All the advice that we have is that this brigade group of the Regular Army will be a highly trained, hard-hitting, mobile force which, in the early stages of any emergency, could make a most effective contribution. Of course, we wish we had two brigade groups, but we have one, and it is a very effective force for the purpose for which it is needed. It is said that tradesmen ;have been -drafted as infantry privates and than men ‘with ‘only -‘Six months more to serve and men over sthe age of 35 years have been posted to the brigade group. All that we can say is that we are unable to find proof of these allegations, lt is a new method of approach “for the Leader ‘of the Opposition to call on us to disprove these allegations, and ‘to conclude by saying, “Here is this newspaper criticism. I want answers to question’s A, B, C, D and E. I want this information provided by the Government “. Opposition senators produce criticism which is not substantiated and put on the Government the onus of disproof. Instead of being men enough to substantiate the allegations they rely on newspaper reports.
One of the newspaper articles states that there are no reinforcements for the brigade group. The fact is that 450 to 500 men, Who can be used for that purpose, are always in ‘training. The Army makes the best use of its manpower. It would be nonsense for the Army indiscriminately ‘to transfer tradesmen into non-trade appointments. The establishment of this brigade group has required a large scale reorganization. When thie Oppposition makes such an allegation, it is the responsibility of the Opposition to prove it and not to hide behind the skirts of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. This is the Parliament of the country. If the Opposition wants to make this allegation, let us have chapter and verse in support of it. I do not believe for one minute that it is correct. In a large scale reorganization, there may have been a few such instances, but if so we have not any knowledge of them. The job of the Opposition is not to make vague statements; If it has a sense of responsibility it should give us some specific illustrations.
-^-They were not statements. They were question’s asked.
– They were not questions asked. The Opposition produced them as allegations, but lacked the courage to say that it made the allegations. It is quite wrong to say that men who are on the verge of retirement are transferred to the brigade group, because, so far as we know, nobody with less than twelve months to serve has been transferred to the group. The criticism is that they have been, transferred.
– No, the article said there may be people who have only six months to go.
– Why does not the Opposition give some information in support of these statements, instead of only froth and bubble? Not one substantial statement has come from the Opposition during the debate. The men who were transferred to this brigade group had to undergo a most rigorous and vigorous medical examination. Everybody posted to the brigade group, so far as we are informed, was classified medically as being class 1.
I think that the criticism that has been levelled at the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) is grossly unfair. He is one of the most capable and experienced Ministers in the Cabinet, and I should think that no Minister has a more difficult portfolio to administer than he has. It is all very well to sit in an armchair, or on the Opposition side, and refer loosely to the FI 04 fighter aircraft. We, as a government, are always willing to provide the best material and equipment that we can for our fighting forces, within the limits of our resources, and I hope we are always willing to look at things sensibly and not be afraid to do what is right each time.
I find no problem in acting upon advice which says, in effect, that remembering the integration of forces that will come in an emergency, remembering that this nation will do this, and that nation will do the other thing, the best course for Australia to adopt is to re-equip with the Sabre. I find no difficulty in that. It is to our credit that we have done so, even though there may have been a temptation to have a more spectacular machine. What we have done, events in the future will show to have been the sound, proper and correct course.
Then there is all this nonsense about the FN rifle. We are getting the FN rifle just as quickly as it is possible for us to do so. You cannot make a rifle without plans and specifications, which you cannot get until they are released from overseas. This has to dovetail with other arrangements. It is completely wrong for the Opposition to say that there has been delay in this matter. With respect, I say that the Opposition has got to learn the lesson that abuse is not criticism. That has been the tenor of the debate. There has been no criticism of consequence, and no constructive statements from the Opposition.
I shall repeat what I said earlier, that I doubt whether a more detailed explanation has ever been given than was given during the debate on the Appropriation Bill. Remembering the wealth of information that was provided, I say that it does no credit to anybody to say, or to insinuate, that the Government has put its defence effort forward in an attempt to commit a fraud, or to deceive the country. Everything has been open and above board. The Opposition hardly mentioned defence during the debate on the Estimates.
– We did not have an opportunity to do so.
– Honorable senators opposite devoted most of their time to talking about other things, because they knew that they had no real ground on which to criticize the Government’s defence measures. They could have applied themselves to that subject if they so desired.
Senator McKenna had the effrontery to say that there has been trickery in dealing with the trust funds. All these trust funds are before the Parliament each year. They go before the Auditor-General, and I think I am correct in saying that the majority of them have been the subject of examination by the Public Accounts Committee. As I have said, it is all out in the open. In 1950-51, £57,000,000 was paid into the Strategic Stores and Equipment Reserve. Tn the following year, 1951-52, £10,000,000 was paid in, making a total of £67,000,000. The defence allocation in 1950-51 was £133,400,000 and we expended £148,000,000 thus overspending the defence allocation. We would have been justified in drawing upon the trust account to the extent of the over-expenditure, but we did not do so. We felt that it was a wise and prudent course to let the trust account run on in order to provide for contingencies that might arise in the future. In 1951-52, the vote was £149,000,000, but we expended £159,000,000. We drew on the trust account to increase expenditure by a further £7,800,000. In the third year, 1952-53, the vote was £200,000,000, but we expended £215,000,000. Again, we might have drawn on the trust account for the excess, but did not do so.
To summarize the position, 1 point out that in 1950-51 and 1951-52 we paid into the trust account a total amount of £67,000,000, and in the three years we withdrew £18,100,000 from the trust account, leaving a balance - I think this figure is correct- of £48,900,000. Therefore, the defence expenditure ran close enough to the appropriation year by year, in the last two years being almost exactly equal to the estimate.
In the early years, there were great difficulties in getting equipment. The Government acted wisely and cautiously in making appropriations to cover those contingencies and in not drawing upon the trust account when it perhaps could have done so because its total expenditure on defence exceeded the votes. When we got to the stage at which appropriation and expenditure were running fairly evenly, we decided there was no further need for the trust account and we transferred the balance in that account to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. In truth, we took the money out of one pocket and put it into another. As is always the case, I understand, in these transfers of government accounts, the transfer was made on the basis of the market price of the securities as at the date of the transfer.
– There was a loss of £2,500,000.
– There was no cash loss; the Government did not lose any money. If the Government had kept the money in its left-hand pocket until the securities had matured, it would not have lost a penny piece. By transferring the money to its right-hand pocket and keeping the securities there until they mature, it has not lost a penny piece. It is a transfer as between one fund and another, and the Government will not lose a penny at the date of maturity.
– The Minister can tell that to somebody else.
– I am telling it to you, although I doubt whether you understand it. That is the case in brief. It must be remembered that in debates on defence the Opposition has consistently talked in terms of reducing the defence vote, but never at any stage has it given any indication of the way in which it says that the defence vote could be spent to greater advantage than it has been spent by this Government over the years. For the reasons I have given, and against the background I have portrayed, I say that the criticism of the Opposition is not justified.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), along with his colleagues the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) and Senator Gorton, spent a considerable time condemning the series of articles written by the staff correspondents of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. The headline of the first article was, “ Menzies Has Given Us Words But Not Soldiers “. Senator Spooner, Senator Gorton and Senator O’sullivan have given us words, but n«* answer to the charge made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) thai the Government has not made the best use of the money it has expended on defence and that, in fact, the Government has no defence policy at all. It has changed and chopped its policy every few months as a result of the activities of the Minister foi External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who has been running round the world minding every one else’s business.
If we are to accept as a criterion the piffling platitudes that have been uttered this evening in defence of the Government’s policy, it is no wonder that our defences are so vulnerable and so open to criticism. The Opposition is duty-bound to raise lithe Parliament at the first available oppo> tunity the criticisms that have been made of the Government’s defence policy by the press. I commend the Leader of the Opposition for the brilliant manner in which he presented his case to the Senate this afternoon. Not one of the points he raised has been answered effectively.
Senator Gorton used extravagant language. By virtually abusing every one on this side of the Senate and by abusing those who write for the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, he demonstrated the weakness of our defences and of the defence policy of the Government. One of the article’s commenced with these words -
If words were battalions and promises were war planes, Australia would have a formidable defence force.
The writer then quoted a statement made by Mr. Menzies in his policy speech -
We stand’ for adequate national preparedness for defence.
Senator Spooner quoted from a statement of defence statistics recently circulated by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). That statement in itself is eloquent testimony that Sir Frederick Shedden was quite right when he said that in 1953 Australia was not ready for mobilization. One article says, “ Menzies has given us words but not soldiers “. The figures contained in the statement circulated by the Minister for Defence bear out that assertion. The statement gives the personnel strength of the Defence Forces for the period from June, 1950, to June, 1957, and the estimated strength for 1957-58. The estimate for 1957-58 is 123,645, compared with an actual figure of 132,988 in June, 1957. That is an estimated reduction from 132,988 to 123,645. The figure for June, 1956, is shown as 146,576.
– Now give the figure for 1950.
– The figure foi June, 1950, is 57,568, and for 1953, the year when we were going to have a war, it was 137,899. In 1955, it was 144,830; in 1957, 132,988; and the estimated figure for 1957-58 is 123,645. Is the article wrong when it says, “ Menzies has given us words but not soldiers “?
I do not mind the Government giving explanations and making excuses for the frequent changes of its defence policy, but I should like Government senators to answer the series of charges that have been made. The article says, “ But there is still no ‘ adequate national preparedness for defence ‘ “. Can any one on the Government side say there is adequate national preparedness?
– The honorable senator should have listened to Senator Gorton’s speech.
– Senator Gorton did not add one tittle of information. He spent his time uttering piffling platitudes that were not worth listening to. It is annoying to find the Government, as it were, running away from this debate with its tail between its legs and not answering the charges that have been made. It is a crying disgrace that we have such people responsible for the defence of this country. The Opposition has a duty to criticize. It also has a duty to support any move that is made by public spirited and responsible people in the community to check upon the Government’s policy, or lack of policy. I would not mind so much if the Government had a policy, but although the Prime Minister has dealt with all sorts of things in his various defence statements, what he has said really amounts to nothing. On one occasion, he said- -
We announced that we- proposed to adopt the United States 105-mm. field artillery equipment, which has trajectory characteristics most appropriate to wooded and hilly country because it combines the virtues of the howitzer and the 25-pounder.
I should like to know why we are talking about guided missiles and expending money at Woomera if we intend to go in for that type of thing. Do we intend to have forces that can fight in other countries, or, in view of what we can afford to spend, are we going to depend on an essentially defensive force? The Government should make up its mind.
– It cannot make up its mind until some one tells us what sort of warfare we will have. No one can answer a question like that.
– The trouble is there are too many ex-navy wallahs and ex-army wallahs in the Government ranks, but not enough ex-air force wallahs. The FI 04 is an aircraft which can travel much faster than the speed of sound. Aircraft of this type could protect this country adequately from attack by any present long-range aircraft. There is a barrier to aircraft travelling much faster than, say, 4 or 5 machs. It is the heat barrier. Because metals start to melt, we cannot get past the heat barrier as we can get through the sound barrier. Therefore, if we were to have aircraft like the FI 04, which can easily break the sound barrier, we would have efficient aircraft for some years at least until guided missiles were developed with such accuracy that they replaced aircraft or until metals that could withstand the heat barrier were developed. So far, aircraft that can pass the heat barrier have not been developed. If the Government were to have aircraft like the FI 04 to defend our shores-
– Tell us their range.
– You would like us to have a war somewhere else.
– Do not be silly.
– All you are thinking about is war in some other part of the world; 1 am talking about defence.
– Stop the abuse and get down to facts.
– This is an island continent. We have had too much trouble in the past as a result of wasting our substance, without getting mixed up now in other people’s business. If the United States of America intends to take us under her wing, she should supply us with these F104 aircraft as part of the scheme for defending the Pacific. We could handle the defence of the Pacific quite adequately with such aircraft. The Government, in neglecting to equip the Air Force with aircraft capable of breaking through the sound barrier, has done a grave disservice to that arm of our defence services.
– You are supposed to be an ex-Air Force man. What is the range of the F104?
– I am quite certain that the honorable senator would not have the information that is available in America, even though he might be the leader of a one-sided foreign affairs committee.
– Does that mean that you do not know?
– I have an idea what it is, but not sufficiently accurately to be able to quote it. In fact, the Americans are not prepared to supply the exact details on the ground of security. Let us get on with a consideration of the Government’s policy or lack of policy. Great play has been made of the speech that the Prime Minister delivered on 19th September. The right honorable gentleman, referring to his April statement, said -
After describing the structure of the Air Force, I indicated that we were planning to re-arm, by the addition of fighter aircraft of a performance equivalent to the Lockheed F104 and the transport aircraft of the type of the C130.
Then he described the CI 30 as having a large uplift capacity coupled with a range of approximately 2,000 miles and a cruising speed of approximately 300 miles an hour. The Government proposes to buy a dozen of those aircraft, which are to form the transport command. To purchase twelve such aircraft is just a piffling token rather than a proper workmanlike approach to the problem of defence. I emphasize that we are not talking about offence but about defence in these days of inter-continental guided missiles. We cannot throw our weight about and bluff our way; we must be content with defending this country in conjunction with our allies.
The Government not only has not honoured its promise to provide adequate defence measures but also has adopted the attitude that, if anv one dares to raise the subject by way or” asking questions, to divulge the information sought would be to breach security. If the matter is raised by way of open generalized criticism, the Government adopts the attitude that it is inspired for political purposes. We need only to take the replies that have been given by the Leader of the Government in this place and the Minister for National Development to show that the Government has no policy at all but that it is leading the Australian people up the lane, so to spealc, and is giving them a false sense of security.
Co-ordination is lacking, particularly in regard to the maintenance and construction of roads. Every time the question of roads is raised, the Minister for National Development says it is a State matter. The State Premiers are continually crying out for more money for roads. The co-ordination of the various State roads programmes should be a defence responsibility.
Figures indicating the enormous cost of the maintenance of aerodromes have been quoted. Half of the money that is being expended on the Air Force is being used for this purpose. If this country were to be threatened, I do not know where the Government would obtain the necessary finance to manufacture a fast aircraft to supersede the Avon Sabre. Even though, as Senator Kennelly has indicated, 50 petcent, of the personnel employed in the aircraft production industry have been allowed to drift to other industries, I believe that we must retain intact the nucleus of our aircraft production industry. That so many people should have been allowed to drift from the industry is an indictment against the Government. I believe that, in the absence of a satisfactory alternative, we should have squadrons equipped with Avon Sabre aircraft, at least to train men in the operation of jet aircraft. There is no doubt that jet aircraft will be the weapons of the future until such time as guided missiles are perfected.
The defence departments have no definite continuity of policy. The Government’s policy has been one of chop and change, as is illustrated by the fact that the Prime Minister’s April statement is almost quite the reverse of his September statement.
I should like to mention one other passage from the right honorable gentleman’s September speech, which is germane to the matter now under consideration. He said - lt is important that I uJould again say something about the strategic and tactical conceptions which determine the nature of the Australian armed forces, lt is quite impossible from the point of view of the national economy to prepare simultaneously for every conceivable kind of war.
Senator Spooner said that no democracy would appropriate a sufficient proportion of its resources to enable it to mobilize in peace-time. The Government cannot have two bob each way. Even though we do not mobilize in peace-time, we must have a line of defence to protect the internal structure of the country until such time as we do mobilize. I say without equivocation that the Government has no defence policy, that the statements on defence are more or less a sham, and that we are being furnished with a lot of words but no soldiers.
The reassessment of defence needs in other parts of the world has been drastic. The Prime Minister said that Great Britain had been compelled by circumstances to increase her expenditure considerably.
Behaviour of Australian Troops. The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to, and to protest against, what I might call a pipe opener for the publication of a book in England. Apparently the author is seeking publicity to make his book a best seller. In this case, I believe that it should not go unchallenged. I wish to quote from a statement that was published to-day in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “. I realize that probably most Australian newspapers have published this statement. The “ Daily Telegraph “, under the headline “ Australian troops ‘ blasted ‘ “, carried this story -
Australians were the worst disciplined troops carried by “ Queen Elizabeth “ and “ Queen Mary “ in World War II, says a doctor who served fifteen years in the ships.
The doctor, Joseph Maguire, has written a book entitled “ The Sea My Surgery.” My own hope is that his book will find a watery grave. I know it is the custom of cheap writers to make money from their books by condemning a prominent figure. We have had books by cricketers, war lords and others who have condemned prominent persons and have allowed their condemnation to leak out to the press in the hope that the feelings of the public will be stirred. Only recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was the victim of such a publicity-seeking practice. Other cheap authors practically pray that their books will be banned and that the censor’s ban will then be lifted so that they may make a fortune. That is their sales talk.
As for Dr. Maguire, I know that he was not the ship’s doctor on the first voyage that “ Queen Elizabeth “ made as a troop transport. The ship sailed from Sydney on 1st April, 1941, with 3,500 Australian troops for the Middle East via Hobart. I remember that there was a doctor on the ship and he inspected some troops in the sick bay. When he had finished talking to one digger and had moved away, the man who had been examined turned to his cobber and said, “ I wonder what he did in Ciwystreet”. Perhaps he wrote books like Maguire.
In criticizing the statements that have been made by the author of this book, I claim that I have some small knowledge and much sincerity. T was orderly room sergeant, ship’s staff (military), on “ Queen Elizabeth “ when it sailed on that voyage from Sydney, and I would be the first to say that it would be easy to upset the 3,500 troops aboard who were leaving on a voyage of mystery to embark on a life fraught with danger.
There was trouble on board the ship, but it was not caused, as this penny comic author has tried to suggest, by the indiscipline of Australian troops. The trouble was fomented in the five ports of call that were made after 1st April. I make these allegations sincerely and with a lot of knowledge. First of all, “ Queen Elizabeth “ had a polyglot crew of British merchantmen. For security reasons, they were put on the ship in the United Kingdom not knowing where they were going or what was in store for them. They thought the ship was to undergo trials in the Firth of Forth. The members of the crew were not volunteers. While they were at sea, they were frightened of what the future had in store for them. They tried by every means, at the five ports where we called, to delay the sailing of the ship. 1 exempt the officers of the ship and the engine room crew from any criticism that I am levelling or any charges that I am making to-night. I do say that the other members of the crew took action - and, in some ways, effective action - to cause disturbances. The service personnel included members of the Air Force and, I believe, naval men as well as soldiers, but the trouble was not caused by the indiscipline of the Australians. The crew tried to cause trouble which Dr. Maguire has attributed to lack of discipline among the Australian troops.
First, the crew tried to burn the vessel in port. I will stand in any court in this land and prove that allegation to be correct. The members of the crew stole the food that should have been issued to the troops. That was a dastardly action in any man’s language. In a clandestine manner the crew tried to sell and, unfortunately, did sell some of the choice joints of meat at prohibitive prices to hungry men of the
A.I.F. and the R.A.A.F. Would not these actions cause disturbances? In safe Australian waters, and not after we left Fremantle, members of the crew tried, by insidious propaganda, to stir up feelings of uncertainty about and dislike for the service life for which Australians had volunteered. Generally, their attempts to stir up disloyalty were abortive.
The ship’s staff had to combat these pseudo-communistic practices. We knew that there were communist elements among the polyglot crew on “ Queen Elizabeth “, but they forgot they were dealing with Anzacs. I say in reply to Maguire - cheap publicity seeker as he is - that the men of the R.A.A.F., the R.A.N, and the Second A.I.F. aboard that ship were not undisciplined. They volunteered for service as did the men of the original A.I.F. in World War 1., and attempts to spread communist seeds of discontent fell on barren ground.
I do not deny that there was trouble on board the ship. There was almost a brawl in Fremantle. That was the last port where the ne’er-do-wells had an opportunity to cause dissatisfaction in a comparatively safe area. The reaction of the troops was more in the nature of psychological worry, not physical trouble, and I say to Dr. Maguire that the A.I.F. marched and sailed according to custom and tradition. I say to him also, because evidently he thinks his pen is mightier than the sword, that he will fail dismally if he attacks the troops of the Second A.I.F. and the members of the R.A.A.F. who sailed in “ Queen Mary “ and “Queen Elizabeth” between 1939 and 1945.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 November 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571112_senate_22_s11/>.