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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1213


Mr SINCLAIR (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(10.02) —I assure the House that I do not intend to avail myself of the full 42 minutes, but I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Young) for the opportunity afforded me. There is no doubt that Australia's defence is important. There is equally no doubt that the present situation regarding the availability of resources for the Department is just as significant. While commending the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) for having at least matured from that early flight of fancy that was represented by the report of the Dibb Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities into presenting something more realistic in the assessment of Australia's defence needs-this multicoloured publication called the White Paper-there are elements within this paper to which I want to draw the House's attention and around which, obviously, I want to offer a few comments.

I think the most important point about the White Paper is that it marks a significant defeat of the concept that Dibb advanced, that we could rely on another sort of fortress Australia. The old idea of having a maginot line a thousand miles out in the ocean surrounding Australia has gone, and so it should have. In its place is a far more realistic assessment of the need for Australia to have a defence capability to participate in our region and to participate meaningfully in accordance with our alliance responsibilities. However, there are, unfortunately, in the delivery of this policy, quite serious shortfalls.

Let me first address within the report the strategic assessment that the Minister advanced, because it is from that that the conclusions are necessarily reached as to what sort of a defence force we should have and the degree to which financial and other efforts should be attributed to it. There is no doubt that in the strategic assessment of the report the concept that there is only a benign possibility of any Soviet intrusion in our area has been put in far better perspective. Indeed, I was delighted to hear only this morning that the retiring Chief of the Defence Force has expressly stated that there is a worry about the intrusion of the Soviet Union in the South Pacific. That is a concern that is based not on any feeling that the Soviet Union immediately intends to attack our country but on a recognition of the way in which the Soviet around the world has had a disruptive effect, both personally, through its own initiative, and through the initiatives of surrogate states.

One need only look at the role, for example, of the Cubans in Angola and at the constant indications in Central America of the way in which the Soviet indirectly has tried to influence policies towards destabilising local regimes. One need only look towards Afghanistan or the situation in eastern Europe. In each of those areas the role of the Soviet Union has not been one of trying to proceed towards its own self-defence, but rather of taking advantage of either economic or social instability and, from that, promoting political instability and trying to seek political change.

The Opposition does not see the Soviet Union immediately, as a result of her entry into the South Pacific, mounting a threat against Australia. But we believe that in any strategic assessment of the future there must be a recognition that the Soviet, both in its increased presence in Vietnam and in the enhancement of particularly the Pacific fleet of the Soviet armed services, is going way beyond what one would see as being realistically necessary to preserve its own defence requirements. In those circumstances any defence approach by Australia must recognise the degree to which that new factor is worrying at a time when there are elements of instability, some of which have been picked up in the White Paper. I refer for example to the problems that are now apparent in the Philippines. Though everybody would wish that President Aquino could achieve political and economic stability, the circumstances of the New People's Army and the degree to which there is constant disruption in the southern islands of that country give cause for concern. If there is outside assistance to the New People's Army and a threatening of President Aquino's Government, of course it must affect circumstances within our region. That is but one illustration which we feel must be in the Government's mind in determining the force structure and capability of Australia's defence.

Within the strategic assessment in the White Paper there are a number of particular problems which I see as not being adequately addressed. Yet again they reflect the ideological prejudice of the Labor Party and the total inability of that Party in government to divorce its perspectives from an ideological commitment to defence or towards intrusions in our area which affect our security rather than look at matters realistically as Australians. First, with respect to New Zealand, the Opposition believes that the circumstances of New Zealand's withdrawal under Prime Minister Lange from ANZUS are far more serious than this Government has accepted. Indeed, I am appalled to read in the White Paper that the Minister says that Australia is not a party to the dispute. Australia is a member of ANZUS. Australia in a deteriorating military situation would look towards ANZUS as the ultimate basis by which we can add to our own security efforts. While self-sufficiency, reinstated in this document from the 1976 White Paper, is a doctrine to which we give wholehearted support, I cannot accept that Australia can just wipe its hands of New Zealand and say `It does not matter about the dispute between the United States of America and New Zealand over their ANZUS involvement, everything will be right' and hope, like Mr Micawber, that something will turn up. I do not believe that is good enough. I believe that the section of the document on Australia and New Zealand ignores the realistic consequences for this country of being called on to replace almost entirely the involvement of the United States in regional security arrangements involving New Zealand. I do not believe that we can happily continue to maintain a full commitment to our defence arrangements with New Zealand on some type of bilateral basis when it means that resources are required for that purpose which otherwise would be directed to the wider regional responsibilities of importance to Australia but also of importance within the ANZUS context.

Therefore, although in government we would look to maintaining a defence relationship with New Zealand, unless the New Zealand Government is prepared to change its stance towards ANZUS, and in particular towards port visits by the United States or other nuclear powers, we see extraordinary difficulties in Australia being able to maintain that preferred relationship which has existed for so long. New Zealand must accept the consequences of the political decision its Government has taken. It is no use turning a blind eye to the implications for Australia and every country in this region of the break-up of the tripartite arrangements within ANZUS simply because New Zealand has turned its back on its responsibilities. I regard it as deplorable that the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) and the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) have not been prepared to take a stronger stance against the attitude taken by the New Zealand Government and that they believe the whole problem will just go away. In any realistic assessment of Australia's security there is no more significant or deleterious fact that has affected us than the change in attitude adopted by the New Zealand Government, for ANZUS itself has for so long provided an infrastructure behind all the economic and political developments in this region; it has been the ultimate source of security. I deplore the fact that the Government seems to treat its own attitude to New Zealand in such a way that the Minister says `Australia is not a party to the dispute'.

Another area of concern to me is the problem of Papua New Guinea. Looking at the circumstances of Papua New Guinea, our former colonial relationship and the degree to which the financial constraints of that Government have tended to reduce the capability of the Papua New Guinea defence force, I do not think that anyone could believe that we could just turn our backs on that country. Nor does the White Paper say we are doing so. But regrettably the section on Papua New Guinea is far too brief. It is important that Australia undertakes a positive effort to try to maintain the quality and standard of training within the Papua New Guinea defence force and recognises that our relationship is far more than just doing as this White Paper says-providing for `formal consultations on matters affecting common security interests'.

If there is anything in the idea of some threat to Australia coming through the archipelagos to the north, Papua New Guinea will be critical in that approach. After all, so many people from Australia served, and many lost their lives, during the Japanese campaign in the Second World War. A very important part of the direct attack to Australia came through that country. For us just benignly to treat the whole problem of Papua New Guinea in the way described in this paragraph in the White Paper-by having only `formal consultations on matters affecting common security interests'-seems to be inadequate. It is important that we enter into proper defence relations with Papua New Guinea. While I too commend the Treaty of Mutual Respect, Friendship and Co-operation entered into between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia in October 1986, I think that we must realistically understand that in that region, as indeed in the Philippines and other areas around the South Pacific and South East Asia, if we are not prepared to play a participating and continuing contributory role, the circumstances in strategic terms could deteriorate.


Mr Charles —What would you do?


Mr SINCLAIR —I will tell the House what I would not do. I would not withdraw without notice from a financial arrangement entered into between the Government of this country and the Government of Papua New Guinea. I regard it as absolutely disgraceful that the Australian Government, certainly in a bid to cut Australian Budget expenditure, was prepared to cut without prior notice to the Papua New Guinea Government the infrastructure financial support that has been provided to the Papua New Guinea Budget. It is important that we maintain stability in our relationships, financially and in every other way, with that country. It is illustrative of the shortsighted approach to management that this Government has adopted that it is prepared to treat Papua New Guinea in this typically high-handed, former colonial master way. The way in which the Government withdrew that financial support is despicable and it is not a basis on which to enter any continuing long term relationship. All that will do is force the Government of Papua New Guinea to turn to other countries and away from the stability that the conservative side of politics has provided for so long in our relationship.

The third area of the strategic analysis that worries me is Antarctica. I do not intend to speak on that at any length but we need to understand that, with the introduction of the 200-mile economic zone and particularly with the increased interest in fishing developments around our island dependencies and territories in Antarctica, we cannot turn our eyes against the degree to which we need to have at least some ability to operate vessels, particularly naval vessels, in those southern waters. Not for one moment am I suggesting that we should do other than work towards the preservation of the Antarctic Treaty, but I suggest that it is important that, within the force structure of the Australian defence forces, we recognise that the southern approaches to Australia are areas to which Australia must give some recognition. In that respect I certainly understand that we need to recognise that the 200-mile fishing zone has added new responsibilities which did not exist before.

In relation to the reaction of the Government to the Dibb concept of force denial I should say several things. The first is that I think the change from force denial to the three layers of defence is a marked return to sense and sensibility as far as Australia's approach to our defence requirements is concerned. I am delighted that both in the strategic assessment and in the reaction to that strategic assessment the Government seems to have accepted to a large degree the Opposition's approach which has been that we must be able to have a force structure designed to parti-cipate in events that might take place in our region of general strategic interest. To look at only low level exigencies, which essentially was the barb of the Dibb approach, is totally inadequate.

However, within the approach of the Government again I am concerned about elements of the White Paper and the Minister's response to it. In terms of the intelligence developments, while commending the Minister for his recognition of the joint facilities and accepting entirely his proposal with respect to the new intelligence facility in Western Australia, I think the most important part of our being able to develop our intelligence capability-this being the first layer within the defence effort-is that we have the interpretative capability within Australia. Regrettably, given the nature of electronic warfare and the degree to which the ability to read satellite communications in the intelligence area has given enormous volumes of material to Australia, I do not believe our ability to interpret that material is adequate.

One of the concerns that I would have about any further expansion of the intelligence area is that we give adequate resources to the interpretative side of that intelligence received by the Australian Government. Unless we are able to interpret that advice, regrettably much of the advantage that flows from those additional faci-lities will not be available for the government of the day to interpret what sort of a reaction is necessary to any developments that might be disclosed by those facilities. That aside, I believe the concepts and the statements of the Minister and this White Paper on the development of intelligence facilities is to be commended, and it is certainly again a marked change from some of those more prejudiced statements made by the left wing of the Australian Labor Party whose ideological bigotry in this matter is only too well known.

However, in looking at intelligence surveillance, I am disappointed that the Government has not given higher priority to airborne early warning radar. While commending the general concept of developing the Jindalee idea-that is, over the horizon radar-we do not want for one moment to think that we will be able to provide any air cover for elements of the Australian Navy, or indeed for merchant vessels, if there is not some type of an airborne early warning and control aircraft in service in the Australian De-fence Force. At the moment Jindalee will provide an additional information base. That is well worth while, but to my mind, given the nature of possible operations and the degree to which we would need to be able to protect particularly our surface vessels from any approach that might be needed towards an element of instability in our region, unless there is an AEW and control capability within the Defence Force I cannot see how we would be able to direct land-based attack and strike or even fighter aircraft towards supporting those maritime elements. It is for that reason that I would have given a higher priority to them.

While it is true that the Jindalee radar station needs to continue to be developed as a test bed for scientific engineering and operational developments, as the White Paper comments, it is not sufficient that we look only at Jindalee. I trust that the AEW and C systems will receive a higher priority than just being included in the five-year defence program, possibly to be deferred for other items because of budgetary constraints. I do not want to go into all the details of other elements of the intelligence area because in general I think it is a significant improvement on anything in the Dibb report, and it certainly seems to me to be a way in which, in government, this side of the House would be prepared to act, other than, as I have said, with respect to the priorities for AEW and C aircraft.

With respect to the second layer-that is, the air-sea approaches-I have difficulties in relation to a number of the recommendations of the Minister and the Government. Let me identify a few of them. The first concerns the F111 aircraft. I regard it as ridiculous for Australia not to have tried to develop as soon as possible, in the same way as the United States, a modern refit from the analogue to digital avionics aboard those aircraft. Equally, I think it is regrettable that in the upgrading of the 707s for aerial refuelling at this stage they are to be equipped for refuelling only the F18 aircraft and not for F111s. It seems to me that the obvious advantage of the F111 was well illustrated in the nature of the American effort in the Mediterranean last year. To the degree to which these aircraft are still very much in the front line of technology, we are foolish not to maintain their technical capability to operate indefinitely. While that might well mean a terminal life of perhaps 15 or 20 years, I am critical that in the air-sea warfare stage of any defence of Australia in that second layer the F111 is a vital part of our response, and I am disappointed that the Government has not given a higher priority therefore to its refit.

In the second part, as far as the maritime side of affairs is concerned, on this side of the House there has not been the enthusiasm for the eight new surface combatants to which this paper refers. I am concerned that we will have yet another type in service within the Navy. There are problems at the moment with manpower in the Navy. Every time we get another type of vessel we have to duplicate every area of facilities, such as the technicians who will be there repairing and maintaining the equipment on board the ship, the land facilities to back them up and the type of equipment on board. One thing that we must do wherever possible is try to establish, to the maximum, similarity between vessel types, equipment types, combat systems and so on.

I accept the difficulty in trying to maintain and establish quite the right level of vessels. Indeed on this side of the House the FFG was never our favourite beast. As many will recall, we looked at a vessel called the DDL, thinking we might be able to get some design, development and shipbuilding capability in relation to that vessel, but in the event during the Whitlam days the initial contracts were let for the FFGs, and I confess that those who are operating and who have operated the FFGs believe them to be a very suitable and capable vessel. If that is so, as I have commented on other occasions, rather than going to yet another design it would be better to see whether some adaptation of the FFG design can be used to meet this patrol frigate requirement. It could be, as the Minister has contested, that the cost of doing so is too great and that we cannot have sufficient of the vessels to meet the requirement, but I am worried that we will have yet another type.

In a moment I want to come to one of the principal defects of this report when it gets to personnel. Significant problems are emerging in trying to maintain adequate standards of technical competence to refit and maintain this sort of equipment in service. I am worried that, unless we do something to try to get greater similarity, the degree to which we could, for example, give senior sailors adequate leave when a vessel comes to port is restricted because each type of ship is different, we need different skills to maintain the equipment, and so we have to have more people. At a time when the supply of people is short we have to be able to utilise similarity and comparability of equipment in order to maximise the output from those who are available. That is the second area with respect to the second layer.

The other field which worries me about the report is that as far as maritime operations are concerned the whole reference to amphibious forces is contained in one paragraph alone. I believe there could be a requirement for an amphibious capability in the Services. In particular, the ODF unit at Townsville needs to have that capability, and I am disappointed therefore that I believe nothing adequately addresses that particular field of defence requirement. Once again I make the point that, while Australia has no aggressive intent and while the general military purpose set down in this defence report has our support, I do not believe we can just turn a blind eye to the sorts of circumstances that might happen, perhaps in an island state in the Pacific-perhaps even in a territory of Australia, such as Christmas Island or the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. For us not to have a greater amphibious capability than that provided now principally by HMAS Tobruk, and with other vessels being used largely for naval surveying or being laid up, I believe is not adequate. I believe that there is a need for us to maintain that capability to a greater degree than that indicated in this report.

As far as the mine-sweeping capability is concerned there is little difference between the Government's policy and ours. I am delighted that the Government is proceeding with the catamaran minehunter that was developed during the coalition days. It seems to me to be an area where we have a serious deficiency and I commend both the Minister and the White Paper for their recognition of the consequences of our not having adequate mine counter-measure forces.

With respect to land warfare, or the third layer of defence, I again have particular concerns. I am worried about the degree to which what seems to be an increased reliance on the reserves is not matched by an increased allocation of resources to the reserves. There is no doubt that the Minister's announced intention to change the call-out provisions is something that should have been done long ago. I must confess that I have always been totally in favour of it and I am delighted that the Minister has actually brought legislation to that effect into this House. However, within the operation of the land warfare arm, there seems to be an increased emphasis on the role of the reserves, in part because of the change of those call-out provisions, but without providing to those Army elements the training hours to develop the necessary skills that are an essential part of that change. If we are to give the reserves a greater role, which I believe is necessary, we must make sure that standards of efficiency can be obtained and we must make sure that the reduction in training hours, which in the last little while has affected so many within the reserves, is adequately addressed.

I want to turn in a moment to the whole personnel problem. When we look at the reserves situation it is particularly worrying that we seem not to have enough recruits for the effort that has been put into the campaign by the Government to enlist more people. It also seems to me that there is no recognition of the fact that part of the shortfall problem lies in the degree of satisfaction given to people who serve in the reserves. That means that we have to have more training hours and a greater capability to be able to give those people in the reserves compensation for the work they do.

There is no need for me to mention again that the changes introduced by this Government affecting the withdrawal of the tax concession available to service pay, while now corrected, unfortunately was one of those hiccups that certainly detracted from the incentives that people with skills in the civilian work force had to participate in the reserves. But I say to the Minister: Unless he is prepared to increase the training hours and the general opportunity for service in the reserves I doubt whether he will be able to meet his recruiting targets or whether those in the reserves will be able to play the role that will be asked of them. I certainly believe that there are other elements in the utilisation of civilian skills, which I will address in a moment, that we need to pick up. As far as the other services are concerned, the reserves should also have a far higher priority than this paper or the Minister's attitude suggests.

I have a number of other concerns about the actual recommendations on land warfare. I notice that the 2nd Cavalry Regiment is to be deployed to Darwin. The only concern I have there is that part of the long term worry we have had about military facilities around Australia has been the extent to which any type of military commitment within a capital city is progressively enclosed by ordinary civilian suburban housing developments. I would be far more inclined to think for that reason that the 2nd Cavalry Regiment would be better placed somewhere near the Royal Australian Air Force facility in Katherine rather than in Darwin. However, I wait to be convinced by the Minister of where it should be relocated. I recognise that there needs to be some communication facility from Tindal to Darwin for the families of servicemen if the general satisfaction of service, which is an important element of morale, can be maintained for those who are posted there.

As far as Army vehicles and equipment are concerned, I would like to address a number of developments within this report but I will not spend much time on them. I am delighted to see that project Waler apparently will be reinstated. It is being recognised that the unit's track M113 vehicles have serious shortcomings and I am delighted to see that, once again, apparently a selected range of vehicles is to be evaluated under northern conditions. The whole concept of project Waler, which was scrapped by this Minister and this Government, was to develop a light armoured vehicle designed for Australian conditions. Frankly, unless we do that, I do not believe that the military use of the M113 can be seen as satisfactory other than for training. I believe that it is necessary for us to develop a new light armoured vehicle and I am delighted to see that the White Paper is again going back to that field of forward planning by the coalition Government.

The Blackhawk helicopters, about which I have spoken on earlier occasions, are an excellent selection but I am hoping that undue resources will not be wasted in diverting the training and repair and maintenance facilities of the Blackhawk from one service to another. I do not dispute that the absolute command of the personnel flying those helicopters must go to the land force commander. My only worry is that we cannot afford, with the fairly scarce resources available, to divert too many of those resources to yet another training and repair and maintenance facility. For that reason I feel that it is better to leave those who are operating the Blackhawk helicopters in the Air Force seconded to the Army and under Army control for the period that they are operating in that role and to make sure that repair and maintenance and logistic support remain within a service that already has the capability of providing that facility without a significant increase in financial commitment.

There are a number of other areas in the report on which I want to spend a little time. The first obviously has to be looked at in terms of the defence infrastructure. I think some of the changes that the Minister has made are to be commended, but unless we are prepared to a greater degree to try to integrate Australia's industrial capability in the private sector with defence requirements we will have enormous difficulties. The chief defence scientists in the Defence Science and Technology Organisation have done a great deal of truly worthwhile work but, unfortunately, they seem so often to be operating on a shoestring. I believe that we need to look to a greater degree at our tender procedures and at the degree to which we can offer out to the private sector work in the development of new pieces of equipment for the Australian services.

I understand that the size of our service and the degree to which we rely on fairly advanced and sophisticated technology inhibit that opportunity. For example, it would have been a lot better for us to have developed a new light rifle in Australia and to work with other countries in our region, in the Association of South East Asian Nations and in the South Pacific. I believe that we could have designed and developed such a piece of equipment within Australia instead of relying in this instance on an Austrian design. True, the weapon will be manufactured in Australia, but we should not just be hewers of wood and drawers of water. Surely to goodness in 1987 we can do at least as well as we did in 1943 and 1944. Yet this Government seems to turn its back on design in Australia while certainly accepting domestic manufacture. In the whole field of infrastructures and support systems for the defence forces I would like to see a far greater emphasis on the private sector, encouraging to the maximum that amount of money that must be spent on logistics to enable us to develop our civilian technological base. It has been done in countries such as Sweden, from which we are at the moment trying to buy a submarine, and it has been done elsewhere; and I can see no reason why it cannot be done in Australia.

Of course, Australian industry is looking very kindly at what is happening in the design of the new submarine. I am still worried about the design selected by the Government. While I understand the degree to which the whole process has involved very significant expenditure by private sector companies in Australia, I am worried about a number of elements of the two preferred designs going now through the project definition study. It is true that when we come into government it will probably no longer be possible for us to look at the nuclear propelled alternative, which I said long ago to the Minister should at least have been examined, given the tremendous leap in technology in this area. We need to think about the two advantages of nuclear propulsion-speed under water and endurance under water. Regrettably, neither of those elements can be matched by the ordinary diesel-electric alternative. But if we are precluded from looking at that I think we will still need to be satisfied that either the German or the Swedish design, which seem at the moment to be on a course towards being the preferred vessels for construction by the Government, meet Australian defence requirements. For example, I was most concerned the other day in discussions with the Swedish Defence Minister not to have the assurance that we would not again have the problems that we had with the Karl Gustav missile gun during the Vietnam campaign. I can see no circumstances where we may well have difficulties. But many people will remember the difficulties we had during the Vietnam campaign when a Swedish company said that certain spare parts and equipment that were needed would not be provided because it disagreed with the commitment we had at that time.

Given the uncertainty of the strategic situation in our region, we on this side of the House want the maximum possible flexibility for future Australian governments so that our defence assets can be used where the government of the day and the people of this country believe they should be used. So I was concerned that the Swedish Minister did not give me the assurance that there would not be the same problems with the Swedish submarine as there have been in the past with the Karl Gustav missile.

In respect of the other elements of design and development, I can assure everybody in Australian industry that it is not our intention in government to move away from any firm contractual obligations that have been embarked upon. Equally, we will not just rush into the next stage-that is, proceeding beyond firm contracts without being totally convinced that the design and construction, be it of the submarine or any other piece of equipment, are within the best interests of Australia and the defence forces. But it is certainly our intention to maximise the use of Australian civilian resources. We would be looking at the tendering procedures to give greater opportunity than is now available for the design and development within Australian industry. We will also look at defence exports. One of the criticisms we have had of the defence co-operation program-the DCP-in the South Pacific islands and in South East Asia, but particularly in the South Pacific islands, is the undue emphasis this Government has given to the Pacific patrol boat. So much of our resources is in that area that we have not been able to provide the training or help the island nations to develop adequately the other skills that are needed. I am quite concerned that it is important for us to look at that wider field rather than just look at the narrow provisions of a particular piece of equipment as far as developing the skills and capability of the South Pacific nations are concerned.

As for exports, I would hope that we can work with nations in our region to develop mutually a manufacture and design capability for our defence industry. Surely, with the overall demand for defence equipment right through the South Pacific and the South East Asian countries, we can jointly collaborate to produce many items of equipment and by so doing help to offset some of the problems of the order of market requirement. In other words, if producing 1,000 pieces of a particular type of equipment is inadequate to achieve economies of production, why can we not look at getting a larger demand by working with other countries? I think such an arrangement would be very much in our interests.

I have two principal concerns with the White Paper. The first concerns personnel and the second money. As far as personnel is concerned, I think this White Paper deals very peremptorily with the fundamental problems caused by changes in circumstances within the Defence Force. There is a reference in the paper to women in the Defence Force. While we on this side of the House recognise totally the rights of women to take up whatever job or occupation they might wish to, I am concerned that the implications of the additional recruitment of women to the Defence Force at a time of personnel reduction have not been addressed. There are all sorts of problems. For example, I am told that senior sailors now have to spend significantly longer at sea. Because women are not allowed to go to sea, posts on shore are filled by women, which means that there are no posts ashore for senior sailors. There are difficulties in trying to integrate women into as many responsibilities and roles as I gather the Government is now intending.

Beyond that, we are particularly concerned at the increase in resignations. Without going into the full statistics, there is no doubt that in the 12 months to January, the total loss from the Defence Force was 8 per cent greater than the total gain. Given that every time we recruit an individual to the Services it costs $3,000 in advertising and administrative expenses, we are getting into a very expensive area if we do not address the difficulties of trying to maintain the morale and capability of people in the Services. We would look to the private sector more in respect of housing. We would be prepared to try to give greater financial delegation to those within the Defence Force. For example, the force commander at Holsworthy should have far greater discretion in replacing the antiquated houses than he has at the moment in that establishment. With 15,000 of the 22,000 homes owned by the defence forces being below standard, I am not convinced that the Government saying that it is going to spend $750m over the next 10 years will do anything immediately to address the problem.

Fundamentally, we have to understand that, apart from anything else, incentive should be provided to servicemen to own their own homes. There is no reference in this paper to the defence service homes scheme. We should be looking at providing financial incentives for servicemen to buy their own homes. I see no reason why they should not have an immediate entitlement to Defence Force retirement and death benefits and Defence Force retirement benefits money that is available to them. They should be able to draw from their defence service homes and DFRB entitlements. When they are transferred they should be able to sell their houses, pay the money back and have the right to another draw. We have to encourage private ownership in the Services in the same way as we do everywhere else.

Equally, there has to be a recognition of the problems faced by the families of servicemen. It is ridiculous that so little has been done to understand that the wives of servicemen want to work just as much as the wives of so many others in our community. With two income families more predominant than they used to be, there has to be a recognition by the Government that it cannot ignore these problems. We have to look at providing career streams to avoid the problems that are created by people having moved every two years from one base to another and having to cross State borders and encounter the problems of re-registering their motor vehicles or finding that their qualifications as, for example, a teacher or a nurse, do not apply. These are fundamental problems.

Unless adequate conditions are provided for defence personnel we can forget all these other grandiose schemes. Indeed, one of the fundamental problems in this report is the Minister's boast that there has been a significant increase in financial allocations for equipment without realising that pressure is being placed on personnel. If we cannot provide personnel, we have no base from which we can operate that equipment, nor have we any ability to be able to train future generations to operate and maintain it.

Another deplorable issue is the treatment by this Government of service conditions. The Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal has not really picked up comparable pay and conditions for service personnel that exist outside. Within the last year, there has been a 2 per cent reduction in entitlements under the DFRDB and DFRB schemes. Service personnel have been treated in a way worse than employees around Australia would dream about. Frankly, it has to be changed.

Economically and financially, this White Paper has failed miserably. The Government really has not given any figures. I am concerned that in 1984 John Moten, now a deputy secretary in the Department of Defence, told the Brisbane Defence Seminar that to maintain the current Defence Force infantry over the next 30 years would require 3 per cent real growth in the defence budget for the next 10 years and 2 per cent thereafter if the real cost of defence equipment did not grow. The real problem is that there is no financial resource to back this program. Of course, it will be difficult but it is no use creating an illusion that it can be delivered unless the money is there. We believe 3 per cent of gross domestic product is a base from which we should try to attain defence funding for Australia. This has fallen behind in recent years. The White Paper talks about 2.6 to 2.9 per cent of GDP. But unless the financial resources are there, the White Paper itself will be no more than a lot of rhetoric. The concepts are grand but I am afraid the ability to deliver is very short. I believe that much of the White Paper is to be commended but serious questions are raised within it.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The right honourable member's time has expired.