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Tuesday, 9 October 1956


Mr CHAMBERS (Adelaide) .- Over the years since this Government assumed office we have witnessed some very strange procedures. To-night we are debating the proposed defence votes. The amount of the defence votes that we are debating is £190,000,000 for the financial year. But the strange situation is this: The provision of £190,000,000 for the defence of this country in 1956-57 is based on decisions of the Government in accordance with its plan of defence which" has been drawn up in co-operation with the heads of the Navy, the Army and the Air

Force. Those persons having discussed the defence plan with the Government, an estimate in respect of that plan has been announced. Yet only a few days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in reply to a question which was asked in this chamber, announced that the defence of this country was in a better condition than in any other peace-time period in the history of Australia. That announcement was made about eight or ten days ago.

One would have thought that the basis for the provision of this £190,000,000 was realistic; that, having examined the defence requirements of Australia, the Government was going to plan accordingly. But when the Prime Minister was asked another question towards the latter part of last week what did he say? Although the provision of £190,000,000 for defence was under discussion and although the Prime Minister had stated, ten days ago, that the defences of Australia were never better in peace-time, the right honorable gentleman then announced to the House and to Australia that the whole plan would be capsized, that it would be reviewed from top to bottom, and that another plan would be enunciated.


Mr Anderson - Who said that?


Mr CHAMBERS - The Prime Minister. Although he announced, ten days ago, that the defences of this country were better than they had been in any time of peace in the history of this country, we find ourselves discussing a plan for the expenditure of £190,000,000 for defence purposes. What are we discussing here this evening? We are discussing the defence plan of Australia and what it will cost the Australian taxpayer £190,000,000. Yet, after that plan had been announced, the Prime Minister informed the House that there would be an immediate top-to-bottom review of Australia's defence programme. On what are we to spend this £190,000,000? What is the amount for?


Mr Cramer - We keep reviewing it.


Mr CHAMBERS - What does the Government propose to do? We are not told, ls it any wonder that the economy of this country is getting into such a sad state when we have as Ministers men who do not realize what this £190,000,000 is to be spent on?

Is it not to be spent on a plan that has already been put into operation? Did not that plan result from a meeting of the heads of the services with members of the Government?


Mr Cramer - I said that the Government has to keep on reviewing the defence plan.


Mr CHAMBERS - After survey and analysis and investigation, will the Government scrap the plan on which the provision of £190,000,000 is based?


Mr Cramer - Rubbish!


Mr CHAMBERS - lt is not rubbish. Since this Government came into office in 1949 it has expended over £1,000,000,000 on the defence of this country. Where are the defences of Australia to-day?


Mr Cramer - They are better than ever before.


Mr CHAMBERS - The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) says that our defences are better than ever before. But what has the Government to show for its defence expenditure? What has it got for the money? I have said repeatedly in this Parliament that I am opposed to the wasteful manner in which national service training is being carried out under this Government. I am opposed to such waste. I do not want the taxpayers' money to be squandered, year in and year out, on a defence policy which the Prime Minister has said has to be reviewed from top to bottom.

The defence of Australia is based on the principles that were observed in World War I. Neither the Minister for the Army nor the previous Minister for the Army will deny that I have asked questions in this Parliament about the training that is being given to national service trainees. If honorable members will go into any training camp in Australia, they will see the same set-up as we saw for the training of servicemen in World War I. It is the same training as was provided in World War II. But the situation has completely changed to-day. I was in Tokyo, Japan, in 1946, soon after the atomic bomb was dropped. I came back and stated in this House that there was no hope for the world if there was a third world war. I said that the next war would be an atomic war. I said that the more men a country had congregated in any one area, the greater the casualties would be.


Mr Anderson - That is wrong.


Mr CHAMBERS - The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) did not see the situation in Japan in those days. I did. I saw where the atomic bomb had been dropped. T saw the results of the dropping of that bomb. I knew that thousands of Japanese had been killed by that experimental atomic bomb. One who saw those dreadful things realized that another world war would not be fought with the equipment that was used in World War I. or World War II. Yet the Government has squandered virtually £1,000,000,000 of the Australian taxpayers' money, and the Prime Minister informed the Parliament only last week, that our defences are not up to date. I emphasize that the Government has squandered £1,000,000,000 of the taxpayers' money and the Prime Minister has informed the Australian community that our defences are not modern. I noticed an article in one of the Adelaide newspapers to-day which referred to the national service training scheme. Tt stated -

Both intake and length of training-

This refers to what the Government is to do, although we are debating the proposed expenditure of £190,000,000. The Government does not know where it is going. The article reads -

Both intake and length of training will be reduced, but details will not be worked out until the new review of defence . . .

Why are we discussing the proposed expenditure of £190,000,000 if the defence policy has not been worked out? What is the £190,000,000 for? The Government has announced that it intends to review defence measures because of the developments resulting from nuclear war. Have we not been testing the nuclear weapons at Woomera, the Monte Bello Islands and other places for years? The type of warfare that our boys are being taught in the various camps throughout Australia is nothing but a waste of money.

Before I resume my seat I want to refer to what the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), in his address on the defence Estimates, said concerning the late Mr. Curtin and the lack of requirements for the defence of this country in the days of which he was speaking. To-day I happened to find a report of something that Mr. Curtin said in 1943. He was speaking twenty months after the previous government was tossed out of office when two of its supporters walked across the floor of the House, so dissatisfied were they with its attempt to manage the defence of the country. It was unable to organize the Australian people. That was the situation at that time, and the same situation would arise if Australia were to go to war to-morrow. The present Government has not made adequate defence preparations. I invite the attention of honorable members to this statement by the late Mr. Curtin in 1943-

The Labour Government had to devote itself with unflagging industry, and often with heartbreaking pains-

This is the Prime Minister of 1943, Mr. Curtin, who had to take over from a Liberal government - to reshaping the country's war machine in all ils components because of the certainty of which it never lost sight, but of which a former war-time Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had said in a speech in London in March, 1941, could not happen - war with Japan.

In 1941, after the war had been going two years, the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Menzies), who is the present Prime Minister, said that war with Japan could not take place. The responsibility was left to Labour governments in those days - the Curtin and the Chifley Labour governments - to put this country on a sound war footing. I am convinced that that same responsibility will be thrust on a Labour government again. It is to the everlasting disgrace of this Government that the committee should be discussing Estimates for the expenditure of £190,000,000 on a plan that was put to this Parliament a few weeks ago, and now the Government is admitting that Australia's defences are not satisfactory.


Mr Turnbull - That is not true.


Mr CHAMBERS - lt is true, and honorable members on the Government side cannot deny it. The committee this evening is discussing the expenditure of money on plans which, on the word of the Prime Minister himself, are out of date. I hope that it will not be long before some responsible members on the Government side take a stand similar to that taken by honorable members in other years when a desperate situation arose, and they crossed the floor of the Parliament to support the Opposition. I hope that they will do that, and throw this Government off the treasury bench.







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