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Thursday, 29 September 1955

Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) . - I cannot quite follow the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It seems to me that he wants to spend a tremendous amount of money on civil dpfence. Yet a study of the Estimates show? that last year £90,000 was voted for the purposes of civil defence, but only £33,551 of it was actually expended. This year the proposed vote for civil defence ic £234,000, which is more than £200,000 above last year's expenditure on that section of the Government's activities. I do not know how the honorable member for

Mackellar thinks we can increase civil defence activities sufficient to absorb the amount that we are asked to vote this year. The honorable gentleman is interested in the subject of atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb attacks which, he seems to think, represent the greatest danger to this country. If one-half of all we hear regarding the destructive powers of either the latest and most powerful atomic bombs, or hydrogen bombs, is true, and if they are even half as destructive as the honorable member himself says, all the civil defence in the world will be of no avail to us. I think that the Government realizes that the best expenditure on civil defence is expenditure made with the object of preventing bombing attacks on Australia.

We on this side of the chamber are often misjudged. We have heard a great deal said to-day about the kinship of the Labour party's defence policy with communism. There is no connexion between them. We of the Labour movement, which some people have the audacity to term the " so-called Labour movement ", thereby implying that it is not what it used to be, have, right from the inception of the Labour party, been members of a pacifist party, a party that does not believe in war. We believe in working in every way possible to prevent war. That is our policy to-day. The sending of Australian troops to Malaya is not the way to protect this country from attacks that may be made on it by 68,000,000 Indonesians or other hordes from Asia. What we are concerned to do is what we advocate, which is to bring about what the Prince of Peace wanted - a brotherhood among men all over the world, irrespective of their colour. I know that some people earnestly believe that the only way to achieve peace is to indulge in old-style sabre rattling. It is thought that by sending a small contingent of troops to Malaya we shall be informing our potential enemies that the rule of law has still to be reckoned with, and that there is in existence a force to uphold it. I do not know that we will achieve that result.

I come now to the matter " of civil defence. I agree that there should be a proper meagre of civil defence to protect our people if war comes to Australia. Put when the honorable member for Mackellar says that £234,000 is not enough for civil defence, I think he is trying to produce a state of panic in this country, and to convince us that something will happen which will destroy the people of Australia.

In the short time that is allowed me to speak on these Estimates, I wish to make some remarks about the St. Mary's ammunition filling factory. When I consider the action that was taken during World War II. for the establishment of such factories, I cannot understand the decision that has been made to spend £23,000,000 on the factory at St. Mary's. This evening we heard the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) saying that it is of no use having all kinds of munitions, such as guns, bombs and other things, unless we have the powder or other material to pUt into them. He said that it is of no use having an 8-in. gun on a warship, or having anti-aircraft guns, unless we have suitable cartridges and other material to fire from them. I quite agree with that. If one goes to a pictureshow one may see a man shoot off all six cartridges from a revolver, and then when he pulls the trigger the gun simply goes " click, click, click ". The revolver is then of no use to him. That is the attitude of the Government. It says, " We must have guns which are capable of being used, and so we must have ammunition for them ". To my amazement, 1 find that the Government intends to establish the filling station for the provision of these munitions right on the eastern seaboard, near Sydney, at a place where the factory could be easily destroyed by the enemy. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin) was closely interested in these matters during World War II. Why did the Government, establish ammunition factories in South Australia? Why did it buy hundreds of acres of land at Salisbury, where it had small buildings constructed, at safe distances apart, in which these charges were prepared? We were told at the time that it was because the factories should be as far away as possible from places where they could be attacked from the sea. Now we are told that the Government intends to build one overall unit at St. Mary's. If the Government conscientiously believes that it is necessary to have a ?23,000,000 filling factory, I shall not argue with the experts on the necessity for it. But I do not think that the army, navy or air force chiefs would recommend that the filling station should be built close to the coastline, where it is most vulnerable to attack.

Sir Eric Harrison - We have located the factory in exactly the same spot as the Labour Government did, at St. Mary's.

Mr THOMPSON - The Labour Government put one of those factories at St. Mary's, but this Government intends to build the whole plant there. I know that we had one factory at St. Mary's, but there was another one in South Australia, and the reason why it was built in South Australia was not because there was no other suitable land for it near Sydney or near Melbourne. It was built in South Australia because that was the safest place in case war came to our shores.

Sir Eric Harrison - May I put the honorable member right. There were three such factories at that time, one at Maribyrnong, one at Salisbury, and one at St. Mary's. At present we have one at Maribyrnong and one at St. Mary's, and at Salisbury-

Mr THOMPSON - What is wrong with Salisbury?

Sir Eric Harrison - That is the base for the long-range weapons establishment.

Mr THOMPSON - I do not want the Minister to take up all of my time. He will have his opportunity later to speak on this matter. The factory at Salisbury is no longer in existence. The filling factor" is not at the rocket range. What sort of a filling factory is there? There was previously another factory for small cartridges for machine guns and .303's at Hendon in my electorate. There were two big sections of it there. They are now being used by Philips Electrical Industries of Australia for making electrical appliances, and they are being put to good use. I do not object to that. There was a filling station erected there for safety's sake. I say to the Minister that the people, of this country will not be happy to learn that the Government is spending this money to provide a filling factory at a place where it will not be adequately protected.

We have been told to-day about the speed and size of modern submarines, and about what can be done with them. They can now travel for long distances under water. We know that, to-day, there are submarines from which an aeroplane can operate. With those things in mind, I suggest that if it is considered necessary to have a filling factory of this nature it should be located where there is some chance of giving it adequate protection.

I now wish to refer to the matter of recruiting, for which a total of ?384,000 is provided in the Estimates. In addition, an amount of ?222,000 is provided for the administration of the National Service Act. We have been told by Government members of the fall in the rate of recruitment, and that one of the reasons for it is the prosperous state of the country. We have been told that because there is full employment men can get jobs elsewhere. I know that that has a lot to do with it, and I also know that if the Government did not have the power to keep men in the services when they wanted to go elsewhere it would have far fewer members in. the services than it has now. I think it was the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) who dealt with the twelve-year period of service in the Air Force, and also with the treatment that airmen received. Men serving in the Navy are continually coming to me, saying that they have spent six, or eight, years in that service and that they want their discharge. They cannot get it, although they may have a wife, or children, who need their attention at home. The Government will not release them. The same applies to men serving in the Army. Government members will say, and perhaps quite rightly, that those men have been trained, perhaps as mechanics to look after Army machinery and plant, and that the Government cannot release them after they have been given that training. If a man is considering entering one of the services, but knows of cases of other men who cannot obtain their release when it is urgently required, he will not put himself in the same position. I agree with the honorable member for

Ballarat that, in order to attract the men whom the services need, we must have a more elastic system for the granting of discharges on compassionate grounds in genuine cases of hardship. We have been told that already discharges are granted on compassionate grounds, but I have had brought to my notice cases where men who had rendered good service applied for compassionate discharges, but met with a cold refusal. If we want to make a success of our recruiting campaign, we must see to it that men who have reasonable grounds for discharge will be discharged. We are not at war at the moment. Our servicemen are not on active service, and we are depending upon them for the defence of the country against an enemy. Therefore, it is time that we put into operation a more elastic system for the granting of discharges than we have at present. I am not blaming the Minister.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member's time has expired.

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