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Thursday, 29 September 1955

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- I wish to ask the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) some questions concerning the Estimates which he might be good enough to answer when he is replying to the debate. The proposed vote for the Department of Supply includes an item, " Strategic stores and equipment ". In 1951-52, there was an appropriation for this item of £10,048,026, but in subsequent years there was no appropriation for strategic stores and equipment. That is one of the factors which accounts for the decline in the appropriations for the Department of Supply from £19,000,000. That decline is very marked if one takes into account the relative changes in the purchasing value of money. Why has the policy of the Government in connexion with appropriations for strategic stores and equipment changed over the past three years? Why is not provision made for this item in the Estimates for the future ?

The Department of Defence Production has a similar peculiar characteristic. Since 1952-53, expenditure "under the control of the department ", which is the expression used in the Estimates, has fallen from £7,397,000 to £4,124,000. Suddenly, in the Estimates for the current financial year, the appropriation for that department has been lifted to £10,193,000. What was the reason for the decline by almost half after 1953? I direct the attention of the Minister for Supply, who is at the table, to the fact that £7,000,000 in 1952-53 would be worth at least £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 to-day, and that, as a result, the effective expenditure of the Department of Defence Production is less than half the previous total.

During this debate, honorable members have heard a great deal about the great wisdom of the Government in defence matters by comparison with the ignorance of the Opposition. I remind honorable members on the Government side that the Government's naval policy is identical with that of the previous Labour Government.

Mr Osborne - The honorable member is quite wrong. There have been great changes.

Mr BEAZLEY - H.M.A.S. Melbourne and Sydney were ordered by the Chifley Labour Government.

Mr Osborne - They are quite different ships.

Mr BEAZLEY - I know there has been some re-equipment and modernization of the ships. Of course action has been taken in that direction, but surely the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) recognizes that the same chiefs of staff would have advised the Labour Government to modernize the ships in accordance with new techniques.

Mr Osborne - New weapons and methods of detection, also.

Mr BEAZLEY - In 1948', a five-year programme of £33,000,000 for defence research was drawn up by the Chifley Labour Government. Division No. IGO - Defence Research and Development, under the Department of Supply, contains provision for an appropriation of £0,547,000 for the current financial year. An amount of £33,000,000, expended over a period, of five years, is equal to annual expenditure of £0,000,000 at the 1948 level of purchasing power, yet this Government proposes to appropriate an almost identical sum this year when there is a very different level of purchasing power. What is the defence research that is envisaged by the Government under Division No. 160 ? Is that research on rocket ranges? Is it research for controlled falling of bombs? Is it for the Woomera rocket range, or has the Government some other defence research in mind ?

The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has spoken of civil defence. Without explanation, the Government proposes to increase the appropriation for civil defence from £90,000 last year to £234,000. I believe it is time that a public statement was made about the Government's theories on civil defence. The honorable member for Mackellar was denounced by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) for making some statements which the honorable member for Canning considered to be critical of the chiefs of the general staff. On that subject, all that we know from the published statements of controversies between the chiefs of staff in the United States of America, and from what one hears from time to time in Australia, is that there is tremendous disagreement between the heads of the services. We hear that Heads of the Air Forces regard expenditure on aircraft carriers as a waste of money because they consider that the aircraft carrier is an outmoded instrument of war. They believe that all naval aviation should be under their control, and the Navy lias the opposite view. Sir Winston Churchill has given many examples in his memoirs of the arguments between service chiefs who are loyal to their own services. As a result, decisions have had to be made bv civilian Ministers.

I do not blame the chiefs of the services for their loyalty, but I believe that the honorable member for Mackellar was quite right when he stated that not sufficient attention had been given to civil: defence because the whole of the training, of the service chiefs predisposed them to refrain from thinking in terms of civil defence. The honorable member for Canning seemed to suggest that the honorable member for Mackellar adopted a misleading attitude because he disagreed with the chiefs of the services, but that is not the implication when an honorable member speaks on such matters in this chamber. The increase of the appropriation for civil defence from £90,000 to £234,000 this year leads one to question what is the belief of the Government in connexion with civil defence. What kind of attack does it expect to meet with, such small appropriations for civil defence? If the Government is thinking of ordinary aerial attacks along the lines of those of World War II., the situation in a city like Sydney would be that certain areas might be heavily bombed, but work could proceed normally at Vaucluse and other suburbs. That was the situation in World War II.

The air-raid precautions wardens could come from undamaged areas to cope with an attack on vital areas. Large numbers of persons were having a normal home life. The aspect of atomic and hydrogen bombing which interests me is that it is said that soldiers who were in a trench 5,000 yards from the centre of explosion experienced a great shock but were otherwise unhurt. It is important to realize that in that connexion the reference is to the effect of only onebomb. Suppose that 50 or 60 of such bombs were dropped, as is quite possible. Suppose that 200 were dropped. We know that one bomb with the explosive power of 20,000,000 tons of T.N.T. will cause colossal damage, although certain areas may escape damage because of the topography of the ground. Suppose there was a deliberate attempt at obliteration bombing. What would the.n become of civil defence? If we proposed to make an appropriation to meet such n contingency, we would have to provide for absolute mass evacuation from cities. Centres to receive thousands of children would have to be scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land. Industry would have to bc decentralized, and the various stages of production would have to be carried out at scattered locations. Component parts of factories would have to be widely separated. We should like to hear from the Government a report on such matters as these. It is quite clear that an appropriation of £244,000 for civil defence could not be regarded realistically as an adequate amount for training a real civil defence organization to meet ordinary bombing of the type experienced in World War II. It is quite clear that it has no significance whatever in terms of an atomic attack, especially an attack which was designed for obliteration. The Government may consider - this may be a defensible theory - that the great powers, if they were in conflict, would be afraid to use the ultimate weapons, in the same way as Nazi Germany waa afraid to use the terrible poison gases which it possessed because of fear of retaliatory attack. If the Government's theory in relation to civil defence is that modern weapons are so terrible that they cancel one another out, and the only weapons which the powers would dare to use would be the conventional ones, it would be interesting to hear the Government say so, but it is very hard to understand the theory of civil defence which underlies the appropriation of £234,000. After all, civil defence means -a defence of the country's capacity to carry on its norma] life and production, with the safe existence of the families of men in the forces, which, of course, is vital to their morale. It means, in effect, the very maintenance of the will to resist when engaged in conflict. Civil defence, instead of attracting an appropriation of £234,000 in a total of £190,000,000 would attract a far greater appropriation If the Government recognized that under any likely circumstances civil defence is the defence of the will to resist. If men had to fight in Malaya, Java, or New Guinea, knowing that in the rear an obliteration attack was taking place, what a terrible dissolvent of morale that would be. It would be a blow at the will to resist, because it would strike at the reason for resistance.

Civil defence means not only the. defence of the national will to resist, but also, in a physical sense, the defence of stores and supplies within the cities and vulnerable areas, the provision of hospitals, deep shelters, and so on. It is an interesting fact, and I do not state it by way of denunciation, but merely so that we may realize its implication to defence, that we consistently locate our most vital resources on the coast. In my own electorate of Fremantle, the Kwinana, oil refinery, which cost £40,000,000, is located within a few yards from the sea water which it uses. Alongside it is constructed a great new power house, the largest in Western Australia, and adjacent to that a steel rolling mill is being erected. Anybody knows that submarines, heavily armed even with conventional weapons and not atomic weapons, could with a few shots paralyse some of the facilities which are most vital to our defence. The honorable members for Mackellar has raised this problem. There is no answer to it. While the facilities are there, what is the sense of pretending that they are not extremely vulnerable? In drawing attention to the problem, the honorable member for Mackellar may not have provided a solution, but it i,? the Government's duty to provide a solution. I do not say that I have any solution, but it does seem to me that as we are in an era of what we might call absolute weapons, we need an entirely new approach to the subject. We know that a hydrogen bomb has an explosive power equivalent to 20,000,000 tons of T.N.T. As these absolute weapons have this colossal destructive power, it is perfectly clear that defence moves into a new dimension.

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