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Thursday, 4 October 1956


Mr CURTIN (Kingsford) (Smith) . - It was rather pitiful to see the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) with his hack to the wall, trying to justify the Government's lack of achievement in defence. Perhaps the fact that the honorable gentleman recently participated in a photo-finish for last place in the election of deputy leader of the party he supports has taken some of the fire and enthusiasm from his handling of his ministerial duties. In the course of his remarks he took the Australian Labour party to task for allowing a little light to seep in on defence expenditure. He said that the supporters of the Labour party were concerned only with personal aggrandizement and party political advantage. Fancy accusing a party of seeking political advantage when it is merely telling the people the truth and letting the taxpayers, who pay for our defence projects, know what is being done!

The cold war psychology that has spread throughout the world since the cessation of the Korean war has given many so-called military experts the opportunity, which they have so eagerly sought for years, to strut the stage and set themselves up as political advisers to all and sundry. They stress the dangers of a hot, shooting war at the end of the cold war. Their opinions have been taken up by members of the Government, who are always eager to grasp at political straws. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), particularly, saw in their fears another means by which he could deceive the taxpayers of Australia regarding the international situation. In fact, the right honorable gentleman was fearful that, in all the world confusion, peace would suddenly break out. He harped on the possibility of war, a matter to which the Minister for Defence also referred to-night. Aided and abetted by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, the Prime Minister enlarged the Ministry by the simple process of splitting certain portfolios and appointing additional Ministers. By so doing, he appeased the vanity of the old gang of anti-Labour politicians who clutter the precincts of this Parliament. New departments were created at huge cost. We now find that the defence services are covered by six departments, the Department of Defence, the Department of Defence Production, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, the Department of Air and the Department of Supply, although only two departments are necessary if proper co-ordination is employed. The upkeep of those six departments entails huge expenditure, and that, of course, necessitates very heavy taxation. Indeed, the level of taxation is unprecedented in our short history.

Labour fought a successful war and had 1,000,000 men under arms, lt coordinated the huge tasks of feeding and equipping them, as well as organizing the civilian population. That co-ordination, which reached a very high pitch of efficiency, was necessary to pave the way for the great victory which followed. All of that was done at a cost very litttle greater than the sum which this Government has

Only yesterday in this chamber, I directed a question to the Prime Minister in an endeavour to get some clarity in this matter. I asked the right honorable gentleman the extent to which Sydney and other Australian capital cities had been equipped with radar detection equipment, and whether there was an air umbrella to defend them. The right honorable gentleman became really peeved - he always gets peeved when we ask awkward questions - and in a long-winded reply, full of flowery phrases, he skipped right round the question, so that we still do not know the nature of those defences. 1 am still waiting for an answer to my question about radar detection equipment. I asked the Prime Minister to what degree we had protection against possible air raids. What happened? All we got was a long tirade of abuse. Our cities are still at the mercy of enemy aircraft.

Another matter in relation to which the Government should be exposed is the state of the Army. My colleague the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), compared the number of officers with the number of other ranks. Of course, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who has only recently been appointed to that portfolio, had to speak up and say, " It is not true ". Set out at page 213 of the Estimates is a detailed statement of the composition of the Australan Regular Army. We find it consists of the Chief of the General Staff, two lieutenant-generals, 24 brigadiers, 45 colonels, 216 lieutenant-colonels, 2,801 majors, captains, lieutenants and second lieutenants, 2,364 warrant officers, 777 staff sergeants, 2,770 sergeants, and 4.919 corporals.


Mr Pollard - How many lance-corporals?


Mr CURTIN - There are 12,070 lancecorporals, privates, gunners, sappers and drivers. There are 870 more officers than privates. All this information has been collated at the express wish of the Minister for the Army. It is in print in the Estimates, and I do not wish to suggest that that document is a forgery.


Mr Cramer - Has the honorable membergone off his head?


Dr Evatt - Without allowances?


Mr CURTIN - All found. If honorable members want to know what " all found " means, it means the use of a car, all perks, and clothing. The two lieutenant-generals each receive £4,150 a year, and the eleven major-generals £4,074 each. This year, the major-generals receive an increase of £474 - a paltry £9 a week. When the proposed vote for the Department of the Army is analysed, we find that £23,541,000 . is set aside for the payment of wages and salaries, more than half of which will be absorbed in the payment of salaries for those from the rank of corporal up to the " top brass ". Less than half of the total allocation represents the wages and salaries of the real soldiers - the men who do the work.


Mr Turnbull - Who worked that out?


Mr CURTIN - The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) wants to know who worked out all that information. It was worked out by the experts and the advisers to the Minister for the Army for the purpose of presenting to the Parliament a proper statement of expenditure. We want to hear from the Minister whether it is a true account. If it is not, it must have been forged at the Minister's instigation. Recently, the Minister found it necessary to make a rush trip to New Guinea. He found that another great soldier - the Governor-General, Sir William Slim - was in New Guinea, and he did not wish to be left out. So one of his first social engagements after appointment to this portfolio was to visit New Guinea and bask in the sunshine of Sir William Slim.







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