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Thursday, 4 October 1956

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Bowden - Order! The honorable member may not refer to the Governor-General.

Mr CURTIN - I am sorry, sir. After his trip to New Guinea and while still basking in the sunshine, the Minister was surrounded by reporters and asked for a statement about Australia's' defences in the far north as he saw them. He said he thought it would be possible, out of the 2,000,000 natives of Papua and New Guinea, to organize a force - a regiment of those fuzzy-wuzzy angels who projected Australia in the past and who in civil life are now earning the munificent sum of 15s. a month. That is their, reward for saving this country from the Japanese. The Minister thought it was an excellent idea, but he did not imagine that there would be a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the fuzzy-wuzzies. While in New Guinea he saw a few parades of the Pacific Islands regiment, and he thought all was set to conscript the remainder of the natives of Papua and New Guinea into a new force in order to defend our native land. Having recently visited New Guinea as a member of a parliamentary delegation, I can tell the people of Australia that there is not a gun in New Guinea that could be used in the defence of Australia.

We have heard a lot of talk about Manus Island and what the Labour government did in relation to it. What happened was that the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, and the present leader of our great party, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), refused to hand over one of our possessions to America unless, as a reciprocal arrangement, it granted to us a base off the American coast. That is the real story about Manus Island. I think our leader acted with great propriety in refusing to be stood over by any other nation, irrespective of what nation it was, and in that respect he had the full support of the Labour party.

Mr Cramer - Tell us more about the fuzzy-wuzzies.

Mr CURTIN - About the Minister's fuzzy-wuzzy army? I think the people of Australia should ever remember that the first gem of thought that proceeded from the mind of the new Minister for the Army when he discovered that he had more than £20,000,000 to spend on wages and salaries alone, not including his own salary, was that there should be an enlarged Pacific Islands Regiment which would be able to defend the northern coast of Australia. I return now to the question of our air defences. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), who is an ex-airforce man, agreed that we should have an air defence umbrella right around Australia. He is only a new member of the Parliament, and I should like to inform him and the people of Australia that in 194S that was the idea of Ben Chifley, the then leader of the Labour party, that there should be an air defence right around Australia and that radar detection equipment should be installed right around Australia.

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