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
Wednesday, 20 March 1985
Page: 457

Senator CHILDS(10.28) —Last night, before the adjournment of the Senate, I was speaking to the motion for the adoption of the Governor-General's Speech. I was praising the initiatives of the Labor Government on the issue of arms control. I was referring particularly to the Star Wars proposals of President Reagan of the United States of America. I was reading from an editorial in the New York Times which was highly critical of President Reagan's Star Wars scheme and the internal inconsistencies in the logic that President Reagan has used to advance that scheme. I have consulted with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) and I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the editorial headed 'Star Wars' so that the rest of it can be in the record.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-


Mr Reagan saw even then that any defense, if paired with an offense, would be highly provocative to the Soviet Union, leaving it alone in danger of devastation. But Americans are not aggressive, he said. Besides, once the defense is completed, in 20 or 30 years, America would probably offer it to the Russians if they agreed to scrap most nuclear weapons.

When the experts caught their breath, they proved even to the Pentagon's satisfaction that a leakproof, Berlin-to-Tokyo, all-cities defense is impossible. Even if it became possible one day, it would be so horrendously expensive that the Russians could easily damage, destroy or elude the defense at a fraction of the cost.

Don't get excited, it's just research.

So the Reagan loyalists who found it impossible to support the vision of an all-cities defense retreated to a new line. They concede that it is a pipe dream to think that there will ever be a better defense for New York than the certain threat of destroying Moscow, and vice versa. And they are satisfied that this certainly will last into their grandchildren's lifetimes. But what is wrong, they ask, with a lively search for alternatives?

There is nothing wrong with modest research that can discourage the Russians from one day finding profit in renouncing the treaty against missile defense; indeed, the treaty envisions such search. But no program proclaimed with trumpets from the Oval Office, described as vital and funded with an initial budget of $30 billion, will be ''research'' in Soviet eyes. The mere pursuit of such vigorous planning and testing has to make the Kremlin fear a defense that might actually withstand a small attack. The pursuit of this research, in short, would provoke the Russians to pursue their own provocative defense and to rapidly expand their offense to guarantee penetration of any American shield.

Well, not just research; we do need it now.

Not just research is what another wing of the administration argues. These officials do not doubt that deterrence works, either. In fact they say they need ''star wars'' to preserve deterrence. What if the Russians keep building those big and accurate missiles, they ask, one day gaining the capacity to use only some of their missiles to knock out all U.S. land missiles and command centers in a single attack?

America would still have all its missile submarines, but they are hard to communicate with, it is said. There are bombers and cruise missiles galore, but they are slow and most effective against cities. No Russian leader would be crazy enough to order such a surprise attack, these strategists concede, but a Soviet leader might threaten one as a way of trying to exact impossible demands. A wobbly future president might capitulate to the blackmail, believing that his only alternative was to attack Moscow-thus also dooming New York.

That is the farfetched and unexamined theory that seems to be really driving ''star wars.'' It is the old, discredited ''window of vulnerability'' argument. ''Star wars'' is at best a scheme to defend land missiles, not people. It may also be an unadmitted scheme to make America the one that can threaten a surprise attack and benefit from ''nuclear blackmail.''

Well, what is wrong with that? One thing wrong is the calculation that the Russians could not keep up with America's defense technology. They surely would, at all costs, and would also build a sure-to-overwhelm offense. And that would drive America into an even more panicky weapons buildup.

Some defense can conceivably bolster deterrence, but only after offenses are shrunken and frozen. And that requires co-ordinating with the Russians at the outset, not after they start building their own ''star wars.'' Meanwhile, there are vastly cheaper and less provocative ways to allay anxiety about vulnerable land missiles. Their warheads could be dispersed among more launchers, and launchers could be made mobile, impossible to find.

Oh, really, it's just a bargaining chip after all.

When the practical arguments start sounding overwhelming, the entire Reagan team reunites on a fourth justification: arms control. Americans may be unimpressed but the Russians are mightily impressed. Why else did they come back to the bargaining table? Why else do they insist that ''star wars'' be included in the talks that resume next month?

If that is a serious question, there is a deadly serious answer. The Russians are indeed alarmed at being forced into a ruinously expensive new arms competition that they know will leave neither side safer and probably make the world riskier. They are scared of ''star wars'' for the same reasons that Americans should be. They must be desperate to learn whether it can be stopped at a tolerable price.

Can it? Mr Reagan says no, ''star wars'' is not negotiable. He is committed, no matter what. But if it is unable to defend cities, unneeded for defending missiles, too grandiose to be just research and not a bargaining chip, what is it? Whatever he may call it, it is still ''star wars''-the most farfetched, least considered venture of the nuclear age.


Senator CHILDS —I thank the Senate. I have referred to a number of articles that are critical of President Reagan. One article that took my attention which indicates the President's strong position is in the International Herald Tribune. It is headed: 'The Unshakable Reagan: Body Language Conveys His Deepest Convictions', and a sub-heading states: 'When He Talks of Space Defense, a Hand Gesture Can Be a Show of Force'. That article states:

When President Ronald Reagan sits down face-to-face with four reporters by a roaring fire in his Oval Office . . . he seems more unshakable on certain pet ideas than he does on the television screen or in print. The force of his position comes across as much in his body language as in what he says.

The article continues:

He conveys a clear division between the issues forced on him by circumstances or the bureaucracy and those on which he has deep personal feelings.

It states further:

Consider the Strategic Defense Initiative, his proposal for a space-based defense against nuclear missiles. In a 30-minute interview that raised 27 questions, mostly on foreign policy, it was clear that this was the issue that moved him most deeply, the one on which he had the strongest convictions.

The article, in another significant section, stated:

But when the issues of strategic defense came up, his personal chemistry and his body language changed. He became totally engaged. He leaned his body into the discussion, moving forward in the chair and taking the conversational offensive. Words flowed with little prompting.

I mention that because it indicates that the President of the United States is following a course. There is strong opposition in the Congress and in the Senate in America and, of course, strong controversy in the American public on this issue. I believe that the arms race is scandalous in its waste of material and human resources. The economic future of the whole world is imperilled by the Reagan Government's Star Wars initiative, but no country is in greater jeopardy than the United States itself. The whole world is now aware that the United States and the Soviet Union are each producing four or five nuclear weapons per day.

Leaving aside the moral aspects of this mad escalation of the arms race, what are the economic implications? The new Budget announced by President Reagan reflects the biggest surge in military spending since World War II. The defence budget is now projected at $313.7 billion, which represents an increase of 12.7 per cent. Defence spending represents 28.5 per cent of the total budget. The interest on the mounting United States debt was estimated in November 1984 at $256m per day. As Walter Heller pointed out in the Wall Street Journal; the way things are going now, the United States will become the world's biggest debtor nation by 1986.

Mr Heller went on to say:

The combination of big deficits, escalating Federal interest costs and a Federal debt schedule to rise from $1.6 trillion today to $3.1 trillion in 1989 keeps the financial community uncertain, uneasy and in fear of a new outbreak of inflation.

A country that doesn't earn its way puts its military capacity in jeopardy, says Alan W. Woolf in the Washington Post, in an article from which I will quote because he points out that every nation must pay for its defence. He states:

Britain liquidated overseas assets, the investments of generations, and borrowed heavily to wage war against Germany. After the war it chose policies of current consumption rather than savings and investment. It did not earn its way in world trade and was quickly surpassed in economic strength and military potential by former adversaries. The United States is pursuing policies today not unlike Britain's after the war.

He continues:

America has embarked upon a military buildup without paying for it out of current revenue. Instead it is borrowing $2 billion a week from foreign countries. High U.S. interest rates, the direct result of not taxing to pay for spending, extract this capital from other countries.

He concludes in one section:

The manufacturing base is being eroded; the technological lead is being undermined; by curbing economic growth in Europe and Japan, relations with allies are being strained; in the Third World, the cause of democracy is receiving a severe setback.

There we have an expert in the field reminding us of the danger to the American economy of the tremendous amount of money going into the arms race, particularly the Star Wars concept proposed by President Reagan. Another aspect of the economic distortion that is occurring in the United States was pointed out by John Kenneth Galbraith, one of the most distinguished American economists, in an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists entitled 'The Economics of the Arms Race-and After'.

Senator Messner —Why don't you quote Milton Friedman rather than Galbraith?

Senator CHILDS —I think Kenneth Galbraith is quite a respectable authority. What he is doing in the United States is drawing attention to the fact that, as he says, we have been using our capital for industrially sterile military purposes. I do not know whether Milton Friedman is also into the Star Wars concept. Nevertheless, Kenneth Galbraith is saying that it has resulted in the United States economy being left behind in regard to steel, automobiles, chemicals and a great range of other industries which have been weakened, especially in relation to Germany and Japan. In this rather lengthy article referring to America, Kenneth Galbraith points out:

In 1977 . . our military spending was $441 per capita; that of Germany was $252; the Japanese spent a mere $47 per capita. It was from the capital so saved and invested that a substantial share of the civilian capital investment came back which brought these countries to the industrial eminence that now challenges so successfully our own.

Galbraith pointed out that the investment in improvement of civilian plant was broadly the reciprocal of what went for weapons. The point I take from the Galbraith article is that high and escalating costs are certainly a great burden on the United States economy. Because it is the key economy in the world its high interest rates reflect on the whole world, including all the allies of the United States and particularly the Third World countries. An article which appeared in the Washington Post on 13 November, just after the American election, by the Associate Editor Robert G. Kaiser headed 'The Invisible 40 Million: America's Poor' stated:

The United States is deeply divided along class lines. According to an ABC News exit poll, Americans earning more than $30,000 a year favoured President Reagan over Walter Mondale by more than 2-to-1. But those earning less than $10,000 a year favoured Mr Mondale by landslide proportions.

The significance of this article lies in estimating how people voted. The article continues:

Who are those people living in families with earnings of less than $10,000 a year-that is $192 a week, before taxes? Surely they constitute only a small part of the population? No more than 40 million Americans live in families with incomes of less than $10,000 a year. They are part of an America you did not see in those feel-good Reagan ads, an America of poverty and near-poverty that is amazingly large.

In today's United States, one out of every four children lives in poverty. That is not a typographical error; one in four.

The reason that is significant is that in the current United States Budget it has been necessary to cut welfare payments. We do not know how those payments will finally end up, but it seems that there is a certain agreement that United States welfare programs will be cut even further, adding to the number of Americans who face a great deal of discomfort and unhappiness. The human effects of the technological space race in armaments recall the words of President Eisenhower, also a Republican President:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed.

Unfortunately, the tragedy is that neither President Eisenhower's own country nor others have heeded his words. I am confident that the debate in America will curb the President Reagan initiative regarding the Star Wars concept. I certainly have confidence in the American Congress, in the tremendous movement towards a freeze in nuclear weapons and in the fact that current negotiations might help us to curb the zeal of President Reagan to develop this very expensive weapons system. I was interested to read in an article appearing in the International Herald Tribune headed 'For Russia, Too, Guns or Butter' a reference to the Central Intelligence Agency. I am not the sort of person who usually quotes the CIA. However, this article is quite amazing. Stephen Rosenfeld points out in the article:

It is this impression of relentless, implacable growth in Soviet military programs that provides the emotional fuel for the administration's own tremendous defense surge.

That is the surge to which I have referred. It is the highest since the Second World War. Rosenfeld continues:

The best estimates available come from the CIA, and the CIA has made public a new estimate suggesting that although there has recently been 'some acceleration in the rate of increase in Soviet military spending,' the rate remains near the 2-percent-a-year level that has been noted since 1975.

The article also points out:

But there are a couple of things to be said for the credibility of the CIA estimates. The CIA alone subjects its methods as well as its results in this field to criticism from outside as well as inside the government. And the CIA is currently run by one of the original Reaganites, William Casey, a partisan hard-liner who is just about the last person you would suspect of coming in low on Soviet military spending.

The point is valid that the Reagan Administration is ignoring many of its friends in pushing ahead with this ill-judged and badly designed method that will destabilise the balance between the world nuclear powers and which will certainly threaten the Soviet Union, leading to a dangerous escalation on both sides. The authorities I have used, conservative authorities, express that concern. I certainly agree with it. I am proud of the position of the Australian Labor Party. At our national conference we took a position on this issue that was unequivocal, because we see the great danger of this development in outer space. Our resolution on this matter reads:

Supports the use of space and all celestial bodies for peaceful purposes exclusively. It opposes any military bases, installations, fortifications or weapons in outer space. It also opposes the conduct of military manoeuvers in outer space. It also condemns the researching, testing or redeployment of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons or space-based anti-ballistic missiles (AMB) weapon systems . . .

That, of course, refers to the Star Wars concept I have mentioned. The resolution continued:

Such military developments threaten to destabilise mutual nuclear deterrence between the two super powers, and thereby increase the risk of nuclear war.

In conclusion, I turn briefly to a second matter for which the Government deserves great commendation. I refer to the fact that the Government proposes to have a review of taxation in this country. That review will allow discussion of all the perks and rorts that are the heritage of 35 years of conservative government. The Labor Party has had only five years to rule. I refer to situations that have allowed so many people in this country to be disadvantaged. The Government has been very bold to urge all Australians to look at the taxation system. I know that the Opposition will be hesitant to allow the Government to do that because we will find only that the Fraser years have led to tax avoidance and evasion on a grand scale. The Liberal Party, the National Party and the Australian Democrats will have the opportunity to face some of the problems that they have caused when we reintroduce legislation that will give the opportunity to take some ill-gotten gains from people who have been involved in tax avoidance.

The taxation debate in this country will perhaps be the precursor of a more democratic approach to a whole range of issues. We can make sure that people get a fair go in this country only if we have information before us. Senator Walters smiles, but she has lived under the Fraser Government regime, when the only people who really knew the system were the lawyers and the accountants-and perhaps the doctors if we want to add some of the other highly placed people in the society who have known how to use the system. We are trying to make sure that people have the information so that ordinary people might realise, from the way in which the Australian taxation system has gone, that it is now on the verge of collapse in that equity has been lost and that this Government has the courage and the responsibility to carry through reforms which will bring equity back into the taxation system.