Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Friday, 20 February 1987
Page: 441

Mr HODGMAN(10.50) —Mr Deputy Speaker, Australia today is Australia undefended. In defence terms, Australia today is Australia asleep. Whatever parts of the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) we in Her Majesty's loyal Opposition might welcome, the plain fact is that it is too little and too late. The Minister's statement confirms my view that the Hawke socialist Government's defence policy is again based on the totally dangerous and crazy view that any threat to Australia will take 10 years to develop, that we will have 10 years warning. This totally ignores the sinister and massive buildup of Soviet forces in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is Pearl Harbour all over again.

Mr Slipper —Shameful!

Mr HODGMAN —Correct. There is a myth abroad that the Australian Labor Party, for some peculiar reason, has a better idea of the defence of Australia than the non-Labor forces. It is a total myth.

Mr Charles —Absolutely correct.

Mr HODGMAN —If the honourable member for Isaacs will listen for a moment I will tell him how a very great Labor Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, so frequently quoted today by Prime Minister Hawke, went completely off the rails just before World War II. Fourteen days before I was born, John Curtin-he was not then Prime Minister-made a speech in this House. I shall read into the Hansard what he said just 10 months before the start of World War II. It is recorded at page 1095 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 2 November 1938. Mr Curtin, who was later our war-time Prime Minister, and a very great one, had this to say about what he thought was the threat at that time:

Defence expenditure must depend entirely upon the conditions that prevail in the world from time to time. Obviously that must be the position.

I have no argument with that, but he then went on to say this:

I say that any increase in defence expenditure after the Munich Pact so far as Australia is concerned appears to me to be an utterly unjustifiable and hysterical piece of panic propaganda.

So 10 months before the start of World War II, Prime Minister John Curtin, as he later became, told the Parliament and the people of Australia that any call for an increase in defence expenditure after the Munich Pact was, in his words, `an utterly unjustifiable and hysterical piece of panic propaganda'. We have just heard my friend, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Charles), telling the people of Australia that there is no worry about the Soviet Union and that we are not to be concerned. The honourable member thinks the concern is grossly overstated. His argument is based on the premise that some predator nation is going to hold up a sign to give us 10 years warning of its intention to attack. Australia is worse defended today than it was in September 1939. The extent and proximity of the Soviet Union within our region is frightening. The destruction of ANZUS by Prime Minister Lange, with the meek compliance of Prime Minister Hawke, must concern-and I believe does concern-every thinking Australian.

Yet this Hawke socialist Government effectively says: `Fortress Australia, she'll be right, Jack'. That is its policy. Let me make it clear that I do not personally attack the Minister for Defence. Many of the things he says and many of the things he has tried to do I support. What I do attack is this weak pro-Moscow orientated, mad left wing of the Hawke socialist Government which drags down every defence initiative that comes from the more rational members of the Government and white ants, and white ants and white ants the Minister on every move.

If this Government were genuinely committed to the defence of Australia it would double our defence expenditure forthwith, and I mean today. Tomorrow will be too late. The plain fact is that the 1986-87 Budget is an absolute disaster from the point of view of defence. Those of us who believe in the prime commitment of defending the national security of Australia can only hang our heads in shame. Last year the Minister for Defence, Mr Beazley, wanted a 3 per cent increase in defence expenditure. It is an increase which I suggest would have been supported by all members of this Parliament and all people who believe in defending Australia. He was rolled and dumped in Cabinet. The pro-communist Moscow Left got its way. Instead of getting the 3 per cent increase which he sought he finished up with only a one per cent increase. Yet the Minister, despite this devastating and humiliating defeat, in some way claimed that he had had a victory. To me, that indicates the strength of the pro-Moscow Left in the Hawke socialist Government. If the Minister thinks he has had a victory when he gets a one per cent increase, after going for a 3 per cent increase, it makes me think that in that Cabinet room there are people who are not putting the right arguments in the defence of Australia. It pains me to say it, but I have to say it: The Minister, in the current situation, has been humiliated and rolled so often that he should really give consideration to resigning. It is quite clear that the Hawke socialist Government is now only inches away from decreeing a new flag for the Department of Defence, and that flag will be all white.

To complete the Government's shameful handling of the defence of Australia, I confidently predict that it will shortly arrange for carpenters and painters to erect two structures on our northern coastline, with messages emblazoned upon them as an aid to prospective aggressors `Please invade between these two signs'. The two madnesses that we have had inflicted upon us, particularly from the pro-Moscow Left of the Hawke socialist Government are: One, that we will get 10 years warning of an invasion; and, two, that if we up a couple of signs any invader will come in between those two signs. It is only a matter of time before the Government puts them up on the northern coastline.

Mr Goodluck —I wonder what they will put up in Tasmania.

Mr HODGMAN —My colleague the honourable member for Franklin will be delighted to know that I will be dealing with the Tasmanian aspects in a moment. Although the Minister does not realise it, on page 11 of the printed copy of his speech he said something, which I will come back to, which is ideally suited to Tasmania. I do not know whether he intended to say it, but I will certainly quote it back to him in a moment.

It is no surprise to me that the Defence chiefs disagreed with the strategic philosophy of the Dibb Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities. But in fairness, it is the Hawke socialist Government which must accept the blame for this, as it laid down Mr Dibb's guidelines. If we look at the executive summary which was prepared and presented to Mr Dibb, and which effectively was his charter, we see that the Government told Mr Dibb, in working out the details of his report, to act on this assumption:

It would take at least 10 years and massive external support for the development of a regional capacity to threaten us with substantial assault. But there are possibilities for lower levels of conflict-some of which might be very demanding-arising within shorter warning times.

There it is, 10 years warning. According to this Government and its executive summary for the Dibb report, we are now in a new world and a prospective invader will give us 10 years warning of what it intends to do. It is Pearl Harbour all over again.

As an Australian, I am ashamed that this Government continues to turn a blind eye to the frightening Soviet buildup in the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is just like Chamberlain with nazi Germany. There are members of this Government who deny that there is a Soviet naval base, one of the biggest in the world, at Cam Ranh Bay. A few weeks ago a member of the Soviet Embassy even wrote to the Press saying that it is an absolute myth, that there is no Soviet base at Cam Ranh Bay. Let me say that that statement is untrue, because I, and a few hundred passengers on an Alitalia Airlines flight which, because of weather conditions, was re- directed in 1982, at about 30,000 feet, flew over what the captain announced to us was Cam Ranh Bay. I looked down and saw the most enormous naval base I have ever seen in my life. I do not think the Russians would have demolished the whole thing in the last five years, but I suppose that is possible! The plain fact is that we have only to look at Jane's Fighting Ships to find out all about Cam Ranh Bay and the Kiev class aircraft carriers and the Moskva aircraft carriers. I was in Singapore in 1980 when the aircraft carrier Minsk went through the Straits of Singapore, and it was front page headlines in the Singapore Straits Times. Yet when I got to London four days later, the people did not even know that the Minsk had been moved from the Indian Ocean into the Pacific Ocean. If honourable members opposite do not believe it, the fact is that even Secretary-General Gorbachev, in his speech in Vladivostok, talked about an increased Soviet involvement. Do honourable members opposite think that the Soviets will have an involvement in the South Pacific all the way from Vladivostok, when they have Cam Ranh Bay at their disposal?

While we are thinking of that, why is the Government not saying firmly and categorically that we are concerned about the fact that the Soviet Union now has a virtual free go in our near region? We have a situation, as the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) will confirm, that because of the death of ANZUS, the Tasman Sea is now totally lacking in naval surveillance from Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Why? The Royal Australian Navy does not have the capacity to do it. It is a criminal shame that in the year of its 75th anniversary the Australian Navy was the weakest it had ever been because of what has been provided by this Government. The Royal New Zealand Navy is tiny; it cannot do a thing. The United States Navy cannot conduct surveillance in the Tasman Sea because it cannot get access to New Zealand ports. So the Tasman Sea has become a virtual naval playground for the Soviet Union. Anybody who says that there are no Soviet vessels around Australia should go to Western Australia. My colleague the shadow Minister, the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack), will tell us that there have been sightings of Soviet vessels off the coast of Western Australia. The same goes for the southern oceans in the Antarctic. On the most recent visit, bar one, the Deputy Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, counted some 27 ships on the horizon of the Antarctic coastline, of which 21 were Soviet vessels. What do honourable members opposite think they are doing there? Having a picnic? When the Soviet marine science vessel got into engineering difficulties in 1979 and sought access to the port of Hobart for repairs, did it come in alone? No it did not, as the honourable member for Franklin will confirm; it came in accompanied by a Soviet submarine. That berthed at Princess wharf No. 3, and our telephones ran hot with calls from many of our very strong ethnic supporters. I got on to the phone to Sir James Killen and said: `What is going on?'. He said: `We have given permission for this marine science research vessel'-which was bigger than HMAS Jervis Bay-`to come in'. I said: `But they have brought a damn submarine with them'. The ratings from the sub actually stood with submachine guns on the Princess wharves Nos 3 and 4 in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1979. So I have actually seen armed Soviet personnel standing on a wharf in Hobart.

Mr Goodluck —The anti-Americans weren't down there.

Mr HODGMAN —No. Of course, a couple went down with a welcome sign saying `Welcome, comrades'. This is the blindness. It is the same group. We hear of the moratorium ex-Vietnam brigade. They are the ones who are shaping the defence policies of the Hawke socialist Government. The Minister should get full marks-he is very presentable. But his colleagues are ripping at him all the time, white-anting him and not supporting him in Caucus or Cabinet. He goes for 3 per cent and he gets one per cent. I bet the Minister for Social Security was delighted. If he had got his way, the Minister for Defence would have got zero per cent.

Mr Carlton —He would have given the money to the Soviet Union.

Mr HODGMAN —Of course. It would be funny if it were not so serious. It is a combination of Munich and Pearl Harbour all over again. I am informed by a former Chief of Defence Force Staff that Australia today would be flat out lasting three weeks in a conventional combat situation. One of our most distinguished recently retired Australians said to me, less than six months ago, that we are in a worse position to defend ourselves today than we were on 3 September 1939. Does that not frighten honourable members opposite? Does it not frighten this Government? The former Minister for the Army, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), will confirm that we have an army in which young trainees are allowed only one hour in three months in a Leopard tank. They do not have boots to march in. We have a Royal Australian Air Force that cannot fly and a Royal Australian Navy that cannot go to sea. Our uniformed personnel have dropped below 70,000, and for every person in uniform we have 1.1 public servants trotting along with them. It is an absolute disaster. The Russell Hill Offices are now known as Malfunctional Junction. The Soviets must be laughing and laughing; yet the Minister says: `Fortress Australia-she'll be right, Jack'.

Let there be no doubt about it: The Soviet Union regards Australia as the richest prize in the Pacific. It has sent to our shores a diplomat of such seniority that we can only question the motive for his being here. Dr Samoteikin is a very senior ranking Soviet diplomat, one of the highest in the world. I warn Australia and I warn this Government that the sands of time are running out. Unless the Government gets its act together and defends this country, we will lose it. If we lose it, this Government will stand condemned by future generations. It is not defending Australia; it is permitting Australia to be undefended; it is permitting Australia to sleep. Shame on it! The sooner it is thrown out and we get into office and really defend this country, the better for Australia and for future generations of Australians.