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Thursday, 29 September 1955


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) . - The matter to which I wish to direct attention occurs on page 88 of the Estimates and is in relation to the allocation for civil defence. I have indicated to honorable members previously that, because I consider that the amount provided is inadequate, I shall be unable to vote for this group of Estimates. The position is this: Last year there was an allocation of £90,000 for civil defence - an entirely token and derisory allocation. But even of that quite small and silly amount, only £33,000 was spent. This year, it is true, there is a bigger allocation, £234,000, but it is quite nugatory and entirely inadequate and is one for which I feel that I cannot vote.

I think that honorable members will realize that, whatever the defence programme should be, a proper proportion of the defence vote should be allocated to civil defence. I am not trying to say that civil defence is the only thing, nor even that it is the major thing. But I am saying that it should receive its proper notice and its proper proportion of defence moneys. The situation was put very clearly by Field-Marshal Montgomery when he said, last year, that civil defence must be the fourth arm, coordinate with the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. It is the thing for the lack of which all the other services may fail and the whole defence effort not be worth the paper that it is written on.

This year, the United Kingdom has voted a minimum of £70,000,000 for civil defence. It has shown that a proper proportion - not a major proportion, but a proper proportion - of the defence vote should be allocated in this way. In the United States of America, also, there is a programme which does not take up a great part of the defence vote but which is not nugatory in terms of the defence vote. I am simply saying that, whatever the need may be, any allocation which does not provide a proper amount for civil defence is a bad allocation, and shows that the Government has not woken up to the new conditions of warfare and the new dangers with which Australia is faced. It shows a complete lack of appreciation by the Government of the realities of the defence situation. In these circumstances, I feel that I have got to take a stand and that I have got to say that this is wrong - that this should not be allowed to pass and that civil defence should have, not a tremendous allocation, but an adequate allocation in place of the token amount of £234,000, which is an insult to the intelligence.

Some people ask what need there is for civil defence. They say that there can never be a nuclear war. I join with all honorable members in hoping that there never will be such a war. But can we be certain of that? I think, whatever the position may be, that the danger of nuclear war waged against the cities of what I shall call the " fringe " countries is greater than the danger of a nuclear war waged against the cities of the central countries such as the United Kingdom and America. The major powers now. know that to attack one another in their main centres would mean disaster and the end of every kind of civilization as they know it. Therefore, apart from accidents, the .risk' of the Russians bombing London or New York, is a lessening risk because of the degree of retaliation which the Russians know must fall on them. But there is no way of any country or any city assuring that such an attack will not come. There is always the possibility that a " fringe war " - the kind of thing for which Australia must particularly prepare because of its geographical position - may develop into a nuclear war, and perhaps nuclear attacks may be levelled against our cities which, in this respect, now stand in greater danger than London or New York.

I am not trying to estimate the extent of the danger. I am only saying that, whatever the danger, it is greater here than it is at the centre because a possible enemy might estimate that an attack on Sydney would not necessarily light the nuclear fires in the centre; whereas any enemy would know that an attack on London must light those nuclear fires and set the whole world ablaze. We all hope that there will not be a war, but I think that the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) pointed out during the debate on the previous series of Estimates that we have now reached the stage at which we cannot say that there will be no war, because nobody has the power to impose sanctions and say that there will be no war. Just as the danger of retaliation makes it less likely that any one will launch a central war, so that same danger makes it more difficult for an ally to come to our aid with nuclear weapons should we ourselves be thus attacked.

I do not want to labour this point. All that I want to say is that whatever the defence programme may be, a certain proportion of expenditure should be devoted to civil defence. A defence programme which does not include such a proportion is a wrongful programme. Perhaps honorable members will want to know why the proper amount has not been proposed for civil defence. I think that the explanation is to be found, very simply, in the way in which our defence programme is laid out, and scheduled. Here, I think that we can learn something from an analogy with what is happening overseas. I remind honorable members that a book which has been published by Air Vice-Marshal E. J. KingstonMcCloughry, a South Australian, who was until recently the Chief Air Defence Officer of the Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom, gives an inside view of the working of the complicated machinery of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and its various ramifications with other defence organizations. The review of this book states -

He emphasizes that within the Committee, the three Chiefs of Staff are still representatives of their own services and are briefed by those services on their attitude. Their livelier allegiance is, thus, to their own service. Collective decisions are reached not by a majority vote but by force of personality, by compromise or by bargaining. The main weakness in the system, he says, is the partisan approach of the Chiefs of Stall' to problems.

That must be how the defence committee functions in Australia. One would find that the Chief of the Air Staff would say, " I cannot support civil defence because if I do, I will lose a squadron ". The naval man would say, "I cannot support civil defence, because it means that I will lose a frigate ". The army man would say, " I cannot support civil defence because it would mean that I would lose a battalion ". No one is at the meeting to represent civil defence, and the interests of which are not put forward. They fall by the wayside and a bad decision is reached, just as happens in the United Kingdom, apparently, if one accepts the view of that very eminent authority. It is the business of the Government to ensure that a balanced view is presented to this committee.

I find it less difficult to understand how the present situation has developed when I consider the functioning of the Defence Committee, which consists of the three Chiefs of 'Staff, and Sir Frederick Shedden, who represents the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). Sir Frederick Shedden is a very able bureaucrat and a dominating personality who has ruled the Department of Defence with a rod of iron. The Chiefs of Staff have not known what to do about it. Several years ago, they made Sir Frederick chairman of the committee in the belief that he would then be committed to the committee's decisions and that, by that device, they could impose their views upon policy. It did not turn out that way, because Sir Frederick, as chairman, was still the channel to the Minister. He simply took the papers to the Minister and made sure that the Minister disapproved those decisions of which Sir Frederick disapproved. As a result, the virtual strategic chief of the Australian armed services has been, for a long time, Sir Frederick Shedden, and not the nominal chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who have had to bow to his will. I do not suggest that the Minister knew how he was being used or what was happening; I do not think he did. But this has been the position for some years. However able a bureaucrat Sir Frederick Shedden may be - and no one would endeavour to detract from his capacities in that field - I venture to suggest that he is not entirely the best adviser on these matters of high strategic policy.


Mr Jeff Bate - He is a clerk.


Mr WENTWORTH - These are matters that, as the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) reminds me, cannot be determined by a clerk, however many schools that clerk may have attended in London for superficial indoctrination into the old doctrines that he has not, perhaps, entirely understood, but is now endeavouring to impose on the Australian defence system. There has been a very bad appreciation of the defence situation, and I am sure that it is related to the position that exists on the Defence Committee.

Some time ago, as honorable 'members will recall, I endeavoured to have this matter rectified by introducing a bill that is still on the notice-paper. It is a good bill, and I hope it will be debated in accordance with the pledge given in this chamber on the 7th September by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. (Sir Eric Harrison). To-day I looked through the speech made on that bill by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who, I am sorry to say, is not at present in the chamber and apparently does not consider that the matter is of sufficient importance to justify his presence here. According to him, there was no need for the bill, because everything possible was being done and everything in the garden was lovely; the Government had everything tinder control. I tell honorable members that the situation is not under control and that nothing is being done. A preparatory meeting was held last May, and subsequently the matter was mentioned at the Premiers Conference in June as a mere side issue of no importance. All the Premiers stated that they could do nothing more until the Commonwealth gave them a lead. Since that time, only New South Wales has done anything. It is not often that I am able to say anything in praise of the

Premier of New South Wales, but I must say that, in this instance, whatever the reason, he understands the position a little more clearly than the other Premiers do, and he has at least begun to get together a staff. Nothing practical has been done, but he has taken the commendable action of getting together a staff, whereas the other States have not done even that. The Minister for the Interior, whether intentionally or unintentionally I do not know, seriously misled honorable members during the debate on the Civil Defence Council Bill 1955, which took place, as honorable members will recall, approximately four or five months ago. The Minister seriously misled honorable members by telling them that everything possible was being done and that there was nothing to worry about because the Government had everything in hand. The point is that the Government has done nothing, and something must be done.







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