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Wednesday, 10 October 1956


Mr WENTWORTH (MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I support the views put forward by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock). The three practical courses of action that he has suggested are well worth while. I add to them only one suggestion: The people should be trained in survival procedure in the event of their being in an area of radioactive fallout. The lethal area of fallout can be very much greater than the area directly affected by bomb damage, but fallout need not be lethal if we know how to deal with it. Therefore, in comparatively large areas those who have been trained will survive an atomic explosion, while those who have not been trained will die.

It is with great regret that I notice the meagre provisions made in these Estimates for civil defence. Indeed, the whole position with regard to civil defence is regrettable. The Government has not faced up to its responsibilities, and it is sadly neglecting this vital matter. I do not suggest that civil defence will ever be anything more than part of a complete defence plan, but I am reminded by the honorable member for Indi of the words of Field Marshal Montgomery, who said that without adequate civil defence all other defence preparations are likely to be brought to nothing.

What is the position in this country with regard to civil defence? Last year, the Government allocated for this purpose the miserably inadequate sum of £234,000, and of that amount it spent barely one-third. On civil defence last year we spent only £88.000, and this year the allocation is even less than that amount, being a mere £70,000. I suggest to the Government that it is nonsense to restrict our expenditure to this amount. Something is wrong. This, surely, cannot be the considered plan of any person who looks at the situation sensibly. In other parts of the world very much more has been done in the field of civil defence, but even in other countries, such as the United States of America and Great Britain, it is admitted that what is being done is still inadequate.

We have been told that the Government is following an appreciation of the situation made by its military advisers, and that there is no danger. I do not know whether the appreciation that is spoken of is to that effect or not. All I can say about it is that the enemy will not consider himself bound by even the most intelligent appreciation of our Chiefs of Staff. There is a risk, there is a possibility, and, as the honorable member for Indi said, while that risk and possibility exist we should do something about them. Some people say that Australian cities are not targets of a sufficiently high priority to warrant anxiety on our part. That kind of argument portrays complete ignorance of what is happening in the world to-day. The present situation is this: The enemy is not short of nuclear resources. By attacking targets of lower priority he will not in any substantial way diminish his power to attack targets of higher priority. Indeed, the targets of lower priority are, perhaps, the more likely to be attacked, for reasons that Sir Winston Churchill has given. He has suggested that the great powers, the present possessors of nuclear weapons, are not likely to embark on a metropolitan war involving the destruction of their own cities. Fringe wars, however, are not ruled out by this concept of the situation, and the nations that have no nuclear resources may find themselves exposed to the danger of these fringe wars, and even to the use of nuclear weapons against their territories by their enemies, simply because they are without the power to retaliate. The very fact thai it is unthinkable for the Great Powers to embark on courses which mean metropolitan war for them, means that they limit their power to come to the aid of those countries on the fringe that may be attacked. Therefore, looking at the thing reasonably and logically, one would say that the cities of Australia are in at least as great danger of nuclear attack as are the cities of Great Britain or America - perhaps even greater danger, because we are a fringe nation and have not that power of atomic retaliation which alone is likely to deter an enemy from attacking. lt is therefore, I think, a matter of very grave negligence that the Government is leaving this aspect of our defence preparations entirely untouched. The honorable member for Indi said a moment ago that the Department of the Interior was not the right place from which to provide this defence service. There, again, I agree with him. He is doing no more than echoing the most responsible opinion overseas It is wrong to consider this purely as a subsidiary function of a department, and put it in a place in the budget - even in this slightly contemptuous form - to which it does not belong. Though it is defence expenditure it is put under the control of the Department of the Interior.

We have done nothing of any consequence as yet. The fact that we spent only £88.000 last year shows how little wc have done. It is true that at Mount Macedon the Commonwealth Government has set up a defence school. Of its kind it is an excellent and efficient establishment. I was privileged to be present at the opening ceremony. I know some of the instructors and I have had the privilege of seeing the courses which are being given to the trainees. There is nothing wrong with the school or the way in which it is administered, but it is miserably inadequate for the kind of emergency with which we might be faced. The school is training a few people, but it is not a few people that one needs in an emergency such as may - we hope it will not - come upon us.

The honorable member for Indi has been quite right in stressing that we should train masses of people in the measures essential for their own personal survival. This cannot be done by conducting two or three classes a quarter, each graduating from one small, single school. This school has, however, one very valuable aspect. Its indoctrination courses may allow other people to learn of the problem and thus spread an awareness of it throughout the community. In this way the school, although not directly of very much consequence, may have the excellent,, indirect effect of generating public opinion of the kind that will force upon the Government a proper, more comprehensive and more adequate policy for the present situation.

I was very pleased to hear the Minister remark some weeks ago that he would be glad if, at some later time, honorable members of this House could undergo a short indoctrination course at the school. They would learn the facts of nuclear warfare in their most authentic form - one which they could not query - and realize the political implications of the physical facts which they face.

Honorable members will recall that for some time now I have tried to press this matter by every means in my power. I am afraid that when it was before the Parliament last year the Government misled the House by telling it of the great plans that allegedly were being made; that it was not necessary to mobilize the States or to have liaison with them and that, as everything was in hand, all we had to do was to leave it to the Government.

It has not turned out that way nor, as honorable members can see by the miserable allocation of £70,000, is anything of the kind projected for next year. It is true that one State - my own State of New South Wales - has endeavoured to set up a rudimentary organization. It is, however, no more than rudimentary, though the officers concerned are doing an excellent job within the resources allocated to them.

But the crisis, if there is to be a crisis - and we all hope that there will not be - may come upon us quite suddenly. Who could have told us even a few months ago that the Suez affair would boil up as it did? Who could have told us, a few weeks ago, that the Suez affair would pass off without resort to force of any kind? Who can tell us that now? It may be that, if this organization is to be needed, it will be needed at quite short notice.

I wish to say quite clearly and definitely that the implementation of a proper civil defence policy cannot be achieved quickly. It could not be achieved quickly even in a country where there were no constitutional difficulties, but in this country, where the constitutional division of powers between this Parliament and the State Parliaments is an extra impediment to quick and efficient organization, even more time is needed. I appeal to the Government once again to get the States together and try to iron out these constitutional difficulties; not to repeat the eyewash which it tried to put over this House when the subject was last being debated, but to get on and do the job.

I am not suggesting that even the most efficient civil defence is enough. Nor am 1 suggesting that the defence programme has not to include a great deal more than civil defence. This is only one small corner of defence, but for lack of this the who, programme might fail. For lack of this the lives of our people are in danger. We all hope sincerely that the world-wide plan for effective nuclear control will become a reality. We know that civil defence, at its best, can be only a temporary expediency, but until we can induce Russia to join us in a system of nuclear control which would remove the fears of mankind we must take these other precautions. Survival is part of defence.







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