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Thursday, 9 May 1957


Mr TURNER (Bradfield) .- I have been listening to this debate to see whether I could ascertain from the speeches of honorable members opposite their policy for the defence of this country. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said that he felt there was no chance of peace until we all got around the table and talked matters over. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who led the debate for the Opposition, said that the greatest weapon to-day was friendliness between nations. That is all very well. I hope that, in time, reason may prevail in the world, but at the moment we are concerned with something more realistic than meeting the armies of our enemies with smiles.

It appears that Labour relies on negotiation through the United Nations or by means of round-table conferences. It appears that, as far as our armed forces are concerned, Labour relies on volunteer forces. On no account must anybody be conscripted. On no account must any Australian be sent outside Australia. It may be all right for British people who have been conscripted to do two years' service in the Rhineland or the jungles of Malaya, and for American conscripts to serve anywhere from Iceland to Okinawa, but Australians - no! They must not be conscripted or sent abroad to protect this country.

Of course, according to the Opposition, we must have a strong Air Force, but the aircraft must be made in Australia. At the same time, they must be in the very top class. How one reconciles those two requirements I am not quite sure. Then, of course, we must have civil defence. The honorable member for Parkes noted that there was no reference in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the provision of deep underground caverns for protection against air raids. Those would appear to be the general defence ideas of the Labour party.

Let us turn to the Government's policy, the essence of which, as I understand it, is that we must have a powerful, mobile striking force. Because a local war in South-East Asia appears to be envisaged, I do not quarrel with that appreciation. It must be a small, professional force, and it must be able to serve outside Australia. It must have transport - air transport and associated transport - so as to be mobile, and it must be armed with the most modern equipment. I imagine that it will have nuclear artillery, and that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), when he gets to the United States of America, will secure for it such modern arms as can be had. That is an excellent conception. I think the House will agree that it is realistic. It is no use having a lot of partly trained men who are not properly armed, and who are not liable for service outside Australia. This mobile force is designed to meet the present situation.

The second aspect of the Government's policy is the curtailment of national service. That proposal, to some extent, is linked with the creation of a mobile striking force, not only in order to save money, but also to save the instructors who at present are engaged in national service training, and who will be required in the mobile force. I shall say nothing of the Navy and Air Force, because I do not know sufficient about them to be able to make any comment on the Government's plan. In a moment, I hope to make some referenceto the very notable speeches delivered in* this debate by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Their speeches were so notable that they should not pass without comment by honorable members who think seriously about these things.

Coming back to the mobile striking force, my only comment is that brigade strength is totally inadequate for this force. Having been seconded during the war from my battalion to act as staff captain of a brigade group, I know how very small such a force is. It is ludicrous that Australia should depend on a force that is so small. 1 imagine that at least two brigade groups are necessary, if not a division. I can say no more about it except that a nation which is not prepared to do as the British and Americans do - to conscript men for twoyears and send them anywhere they are needed, including dangerous places - and which depends on volunteers must pay through the nose for that privilege. Either we must do what the British and Americans do, or, if we are to have a professional army, we must be prepared to pay for an adequate professional army, and a brigade group is not an adequate force.

I think that means whereby more troops could be attracted to the Army have been put forward by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes), the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) and other honorable members who have spoken in this debate. All these improvements cost money, and without money we will not have an adequate force. I have mentioned curtailment of national service. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), I think, calculated that a saving of about £7,000,000 a year would be made by curtailing the national service scheme. That is such a relatively small sum that I can only believe that the major consideration in the mind of the Government was the utilization in the mobile force of trained soldiers who would otherwise be acting as national service training instructors. But surely instructors can be had from elsewhere! Surely there are many men from the last war who. although not fit for active service in a mobile force, might carry out this work of training. If the role of the Commonwealth military force or the national service trainees is conceived to be very largely civil defence then, indeed, instructors are readily available for such training. Instructors for that purpose could be very largely supplemented by people from outside the military forces.

For the reasons which have been set forth so often in this House, I believe that national service training should not be curtailed. I believe, with the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), that a nation is able to defend itself and win wars with the help not only of its weapons, which are indeed essential, but also with the help of the morale of the people. It is entirely good that the young people of this nation should realize that they have a duty to defend their country. This is not an obligation which should fall only on a few people so that, war after war, the cream is skimmed off the population.

I come now to nuclear deterrents. I find myself very much in agreement with the views put forward by the honorable member for Indi, and the honorable member for Mackellar. I know that those views do not find favour in Government circles, but the honorable member for Indi is not only one of the clearest thinkers in this House, but he is also a man of great experience in this field. He has given great thought to these matters, and he was not talking on a purely technical matter such as the class of aircraft that we should buy, a subject on which he might be out of date. He was talking on a principle in regard to our defence. The honorable member for Mackellar, I imagine, has more knowledge of nuclear developments than any honorable member in this House, not excluding Ministers. Therefore, one cannot ignore the views that these honorable members have put forward, supported by valid argument.

In this connexion, I should like to turn to the British White Paper on defence written by the Right Honorable Duncan Sandys, and presented to the House of -Commons last month. I should like to read passages which have been quoted before in this House. This is what Mr. Duncan "Sandys has said -

Ft must be frankly recognized that there is at present no means of providing adequate protection for the people of this country against the consequences of an attack with nuclear weapons.

That passage has been much quoted by the Opposition. The White Paper goes on -

This makes it more than ever clear that the overriding consideration in all military planning must be to prevent war rather than to prepare for it.

That passage, as I shall point out in a moment, has been torn out of its context, and completely misrepresented by the Opposition throughout this debate. The White Paper continues -

While comprehensive disarmament remains among the foremost objectives of British foreign policy, it is unhappily true that, pending international agreement, the only existing safeguard against major aggression is the power to threaten retaliation with nuclear weapons.

That paragraph I would sideline and underscore. The very essence of this White Paper is that the only existing safeguard against major aggression is the power to threaten retaliation with nuclear weapons. Mr. Sandys arrives at that conclusion because it is not possible to prevent bombers from getting through; the only thing that can be done is to stop them, by the threat of retaliation, from dropping their bombs.

The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and other honorable gentlemen opposite who have spoken, have referred to the first part of that paragraph, in which Mr. Sandys said that there was no defence against atom bombs, and they seemed to draw the inference that, therefore, we should throw up our hands in despair, or sit round a table and talk about it. The essence of the White Paper is thai to prevent atomic bombs from being dropped we must have the power of nuclear retaliation. That has been wickedly passed over by the members of the Opposition who have referred to this White Paper. Mr. Sandys goes on -

The free world is to-day mainly dependent for its protection upon the nuclear capacity of the United States. While Britain cannot by comparison make more than a modest contribution, there is a wide measure of agreement that she must possess an appreciable element of nuclear deterrent power of her own.

I would underscore the words " of her own ", because precisely the same considerations apply to this country. The White Paper goes on to speak about civil defence. I hope that most of us who have spoken in this debate believe that something ought to be done about civil defence, especially those of us - and I am one - who have attended the civil defence school at Mount

Macedon. If it is good enough for Britain to say that the only protection she has is the power of retaliation, why is it not good enough for Australia to say the same?

We have just heard from the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) what I understand to be the appreciation of the Chiefs of Staff of the defence policy that has been put forward. Of course, Australia could play no great part in a future global war. That would be a battle between the giants, the United States and the Soviet Union; but surely the great threat, as the appreciation has admitted, is of a local war. Suppose that a local war broke out in South-East Asia, not, perhaps, by design so much as by accident, and that Australia rushed to the aid of her great American ally, as of course she would - and I can imagine the speeches that could be made here about that. We would send our gunboats or mobile forces and proclaim our support. Because the enemy would have the numbers, we would have to rely on nuclear weapons, such as nuclear artillery. And so the local war would tend to spread and in the area in which it was being fought many natives might be killed. Russia, of course, would be at the side of China, assuming that the war involved Chinese expansion. If we used nuclear weapons, no doubt Russia would say, " We are going to retaliate ", and I suggest that Australia would be precisely the country that Russia would retaliate against, because we would have entered the war after being warned that, if we did so, we would have to take what we got. Nuclear weapons would be used against us, because we had used nuclear weapons - call them " tactical " weapons, if you like - against the natives of the country where the fighting was going on. Russia might say. " Suppose we give a white city a taste of what the whites are giving to the Siamese ". or whoever they might be. So, far from being in the rear, we are in the front line when it comes to a nuclear war. It is not likely in the first instance to be a nuclear war between the giants.

The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) has pointed out why we cannot depend on our British and American friends to retaliate on our behalf on those who have dropped the bombs on us. The reason is that by doing so, they would invite retaliation on their main centres. I merely say that we must be prepared for this kind of war, the war of the future, if there is to be one, and I believe that the Government should give much more consideration to> preparing for the kind of war that could happen in three years' time, when this programme comes to fruition - the kind of war which is likely to be a local war, to involve nuclear weapons, and to be a threat to thiscountry. What the Government is doing now may be all right for to-day, but as I have said, this is a plan which will come tofruition in three years' time, lt is to be hoped, of course, that in the interval, reason will prevail amongst the Great Powers. I can imagine nothing that would bring about more determination on the part of the Great Powers to seek control of nuclear weapons, than the fact that all and sundry, including Australia, were arming themselves with nuclear bombs. It would be a much too dangerous world for the giants to live in if all and sundry began to acquire these terrible weapons. So, far from putting an end tothe prospects of peace this course would not only protect us in the interval but also would move the world a step forward to an adjustment of these matters and ultimate disarmament.







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