Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 7 May 1957


Mr STOKES (Maribyrnong) .- While not doubting for one moment the sincerity of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) - for I must confess that I, in common with most honorable members and many other people, believe in ideals which are similar to his - at this juncture I am at one with the chaplain of the American naval service to whom is attributed the saying, " Have faith in God, and pass the ammunition ". In dealing with Australian defence planning, we must realize that any appreciation of the situation must first assess who are our likely enemies. If there is more than one then, categorically in each case, we must assess ihe courses open to him, having regard to the fact that any limitation of the courses open to us will naturally strengthen him in adopting a course for which we are either unprepared or improperly prepared.

Whilst the factors affecting the use of strategic, atomic or thermo-nuclear weapons may have been assessed on comparative strength of the main powers in these weapons and the likelihood, either of an agreement to withhold their use or of the withholding of their use due to the possibility of retaliation in kind, it appears unwise to ignore even a possibility of the use of this type of weapon. Further, a general war fought with conventional weapons, with or without atomic weapons, would have no guarantee of being confined to the tactical sphere if we take a pattern from the 1939-45 war in which one of the contestants resorted to the use of a strategical atomic attack the counterpart of which, in any future war, would inevitably be a thermo-nuclear attack. Therefore, national defence against thermo-nuclear or atomic attack should be considered as a priority, even though a war confined to conventional weapons, whether local or general, or one within our obligations to Seato may be expected to occur earlier in point of time.

Defence of this nature has two aspects. One is the ability to attack or counterattack, either as a deterrent or in actual retaliation. The other is the organization of the defence programme to enable us more effectively to withstand an atomic or thermo-nuclear attack, so that we can effectively carry out retaliatory measures. In connexion with this second aspect, I think that some consideration should be given to educating the people of this country in civil defence so that they may be enabled to save their own lives, and thereby assist in the survival of the nation.

Another factor is that of a general war, entirely with conventional weapons. In this case it must be accepted that we are not self-sufficient in money, man-power or resources, and cannot rely on our own efforts to withstand an invasion from a major power without outside assistance. Our main general role in this connexion would be the mobilization of our maximum forces for self-defence for which we would not have time in the present circumstances, without the immediate assistance of powerful allies. The next factor is that to be met by the local war fought outside the Seato area, or even within our commitments in that area. To obtain this objective, we must have a mobile expeditionary force at readiness at all times, and the Government has, to some degree, taken care of this in its planning, as was set out in the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In regard to the provision of a highly mobile and well trained mixed brigade group, I find myself in complete agreement with the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) who, early in this debate, stated that one mixed brigade group was not a sufficient contribution from a nation of some 3,000,000 effective males, in view of this nation's obligations in the Seato area. 1 consider, too, that our minimum should be a maximum of at least two mixed brigades in addition to the battalion and ancillary troops which form part of the strategic reserve in Malaya. If one of these brigade groups should be, as envisaged, armed with conventional weapons and highly mobile, then the other, I consider, should be armed with tactical weapons, guided missiles, rockets and field guns capable of firing shells with atomic warheads. This increase in fire-power would offset what we would lack in actual numerical strength.

The Navy's present role and armament will not need to be enlarged to any great degree in order to fulfil our obligations except, perhaps, to include provision of atomic delivery from submarines. The Air Force, in addition to its present role of reconnaissance and anti-submarine duties, could provide air transport facilities for the Army and deliver atomic and nuclear weapons, both strategical and tactical, with interceptor tactics in defence of our capital cities as a secondary task.

This brings me to a criticism of the expenditure of an estimated £30,000,000 for the purchase of 30 Lockheed Starfighters, and the intention to manufacture this type of aircraft in Australia. If these 2,000-miles- per-hour attack interceptors are intended to be used for the defence of our capital cities, it would appear that not only are their numbers insufficient, but also the lack of an efficient radar air-warning system would render them ineffective in this role. T am advised that the most efficient warning system could not be expected to give a warning time of more than seven to ten minutes, and with the limited range of these fighters - I believe the range is somewhere between 600 and 800 miles - in order to keep sufficient aircraft at readiness, a greater number would be required than in the case of planes with a further range. If, however, their role is to act as a small complement to American Forces of similar type, within the framework of the Seato organization, it may be that only about two-thirds of this number could be so employed, and the expenditure of £30,000.000 to give such minor assistance in police actions seems to me to be unduly excessive. A main disadvantage with this type of aircraft, I am informed, due to their limited range, is the necessity to keep the air bases from which they operate sufficiently far forward to ensure maximum efficiency.

The matter of their manufacture in Australia needs to be carefully considered, having regard to the sorry turn-over by our aircraft industry in the past. I understand, too, that allegations have been made in respect of the efficiency of many of the personnel employed in the industry. I shall mention but one made by a technician employed in the industry for over four years. His allegation was that some foremen and a number of leading hands were not able to read the blueprints. It would appear that some efficiency survey should be made in this connexion in view of the expenditure of the huge sum involved and fo ensure that the taxpayers' money is not wasted through inefficiency.

However, to return to the broad question. 1 think we are faced with the necessity for making a decision whether or not we should incorporate the means of strategic atomic retaliation in our defence planning. Ignoring the expense item for the moment - ' shall return to that later - the matter appears to rest on two directly opposite factors. Will the possession of strategic atomic weapons (a) act as a deterrent, or (b) invite attack to prevent their use? Other factors include the belief, or hope, that allies will intervene on our behalf. If Australian cities were used, for example, in a " show of force " no protection would be available against such a " fait accompli ". A complacent belief that our allies would jeopardize their own populations by retaliating as an act of revenge on our behalf, with the possibility of initiating a global wai. becomes intolerable of acceptance ov humanitarian grounds alone.

Some thinking undoubtedly leans toward* the limitation of atomic or nuclear strategic weapons as being confined to a global wai and has chosen to ignore the possibility of these weapons being used in what people are pleased to call " side issues ". To revert to the question of " to have or to have not", 1 should like to make an analogous reference to America's Far West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With the advent of Samuel Colt's six-gun, the small man gained in stature an equality with a physically bigger opponent, and the fact that he had a gun on his hip, and a doubt as to the speed with which he could bring it into action, proved a great deterrent to hostilities. Carrying the analogy further, I point out that despite the legal penalties involved many unarmed mec were still shot. To-day, Soviet Russia with an overwhelming preponderance in conventional weapons and personnel, is being held at bay by the fact that the Western Powers also have atomic and thermo nuclear weapons. We have this example ot the ability of atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons acting as a deterrent. In passing. I may say that it also demonstrates the insincerity of the Soviet's present attitude ip agreeing to ban the use of atomic anc* nuclear warfare whilst retaining its large conventional forces. Until there can be established complete international control of atomic, thermo-nuclear and conventional weapons, we can have no real hope of peace. Until that time comes, Australia should not lose the opportunity now given to a numerically small nation more effectively to defend itself by possessing such weapons as will act as a deterrent to its involvement in a side issue.

I return to the question of cost. I believe that the purchase of sufficient long-range bombers, with a range of some 4,000 miles, and the purchase from the United Kingdom of sufficient atomic or thermo-nuclear bombs could be undertaken for not much more than the £30,000,000 that is earmarked for the purchase of Starfighters, plus the cost of their manufacture here. Such a component would be capable of dealing with targets in Soviet-occupied territory and, indeed, as far away as the

Black Sea. In any case, in my opinion it would be better to spend double the amount on such a force than on fighter-interceptors. The recent testing at Woomera of the guided missile known as the Firestreak indicates an alternative to fighterinterceptor aircraft for use against enemy bombers. It should be used to protect our vital and vulnerable targets.

There is another factor in the defence plan that has not been taken into account, as far as we are aware; that is the development of Darwin as a full-scale base for operations in the Pacific area. The Conservative Commonwealth Council, which met in London last week, was told that should the fall or non-use of Ceylon and Singapore occur, we must have a base from which to operate, and that in the event of the fall of Singapore, the main base in that area would be in Australia, probably Darwin. It was stated that this port should be developed as a full-scale base now.

I consider that the present plan is a step in the right direction, but further consideration should be given to our defence planning so that our plans will be at least up to date at the conclusion of the period of planning - not, as has been the case in the past, practically obsolete before the plan has even been initiated. I suggest that we need both imagination and realism in our defence planning.







Suggest corrections