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Tuesday, 7 May 1957

Mr BOSTOCK (Indi) .- I find myself dissatisfied with the Government's concept of and plan for the future defence of this country. It seems to me that it is a plan formulated in the light of present conditions and that when it is completed in three years' time - if, indeed, it is completed in three years' time - will leave us in very much the situation in which we find ourselves to-day. It will be out oi date and obsolete. Defence planning is essentially speculative. To be useful, ii requires vision, imagination and foresight. It should take notice of the trend of scientific achievements and the probable lines oi development. A defence plan should be designed, as far as it is possible to forecast developments, to meet the situation which is likely to exist at the completion of the plan.

The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) clearly shows that we intend to make a contribution to collective security in the South-East Asian and Pacific areas. The Government proposes to enable Australia to take its place in the Anzus pact and the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. In other words, it plans that Australia shall be able to play its part in incidents in the cold war. All that is right and proper, but it is of secondary importance. It takes no cognizance of the great future threat of nuclear attack on this country. The Prime Minister has indicated that such a threat exists and has dealt with it by saying that we shall rely on our friends if we are attacked. I am not canvassing whether nuclear attack on this country is probable in a high degree or in a minor degree. What I am saying is thai it is possible. If it is possible, we should do something to protect our people against such an ultimate disaster.

The proposition that we should rely on our friends is. I think, without validity. I say that with some diffidence, but in all sincerity. To suppose that either of our great allies, the United Kingdom or the United States of America, should come to our aid in the event of an attack or the threat of an attack with atomic weapons is, I believe, unreal. Whatever treaties may be signed, however sincere the signatories may be, however honest promises may be, and however cordial our relations with our allies may be, the fact remains that if the leader of either of those great nations, when the time came, exposed his country to the danger of retaliatory attack, his action would be not only improper, but, in my view, immoral also. If the United Kingdom, with a population of about 50,000,000 people, or the United States of America, with a population of something like 150,000,000 people, were to be rendered liable to retaliatory attack merely to revenge 10,000,000 people in Australia, that would be, I repeat, not only immoral but also quite wrong from every point of view. I believe that if the leader of the United Kingdom or the leader of the United States of America were to take such action, he would be betraying his nation. So I believe that to dispose of this problem of defence against atomic attack, which everybody admits is possible, by saying that our friends will look after us, is to place our reliance on something that does not exist. Our enemies would have appreciated the situation in very much the same terms as I have tried to explain it and we should find that our reliance on our friends would not be a deterrent.

What is the alternative? The alternative is to become nuclear-armed ourselves. Whenever this proposition is put forward, it is met immediately with two objections. The first question asked is, " Could we be effectively armed? ", and the second question is, " Could we afford it? " In the limited time at my disposal, I cannot go into these questions in detail. I can give only the briefest of opinions and the briefest of indications. But I believe that we could be effectively armed, and I say that for this reason: Atomic bombs are no longer the rare and expensive things that they were a few years ago. People are still inclined to think that an atomic weapon is something which is very expensive and rare. Actually, to-day, it is nothing of the sort. In a semi-official paper which I saw only last week, I read that the United States already has a stockpile of 35,000 nuclear bombs. As is well known, the United Kingdom is already producing them also. I point out that the preliminary work of breeding the fissionable material is the expensive and long-drawn-out part of the process. Once the fissionable material - the plutonium - is available, production of the weapon is relatively cheap and quick. If we bear that in mind, and also the fact thai plutonium is a by-product of commercial atomic piles - which we shall need very soon if we are to develop this country - we shall be well on the way to producing our own atomic bombs if, as has been suggested, we use commercial atomic piles to produce power for mining bauxite at Cape York, and for similar purposes at Mount Isa. However^ that may take five or six years. In the meantime, I am told - and I believe it to be true - that the United Kingdom, which is already producing atomic bombs, could, if she were so persuaded, sell them to us at about £5,000,000 a dozen. Thai does not seem to me to be very expensive for such a powerful weapon.

I should like to go on from there and say that we could, for a relatively small amount of money, become an atomically armed nation. The aircraft to deliver the bombs is already in existence. The United States B-52 or B-56 is a suitable aircraft for our situation. Could we be effective? 1 think that we could. Using planes with an operating range of 3,000 miles, we could threaten, from Australian bases, Peking and the main industrial areas of Communist China to the west and south. That, surely, is a substantial threat. If we could obtain aircraft with an operating range of 4,000 miles, and they are in existence, we could, by staging them through American bases - and we are planning on America being our ally - threaten the important oil resources of the Soviet Union in the Caucasus and Black Sea and Caspian Seu areas. That is, surely, an effective threat Therefore, I think we can dispose quickly of the two objections to our becoming an atomic nation: first, that we could not be effective; and. secondly, that we could noi afford it.

This brings me to the point of the aircraft for delivery. I know that the B-52, the B-56 and aircraft of that type are very expensive. They cost perhaps £3,000,000 each, but we propose to spend £30,000,000 on 30 interceptor fighters. For that sum we could buy ten of these vehicles for the delivery of atomic bombs, and could get a weapon which was a real deterrent. In my view, interceptor fighters should be very low indeed on the priority list of defence armaments. The time has gone when you could prevent the enemy from hitting you. In past wars, anti-aircraft defences were able to destroy up to 30 per cent, of the attacking bomber force. Even that is an optimistic estimate, but those defences brought about a material reduction in the damage which resulted from the attack. When we are dealing with nuclear bombs, 30 per cent, destruction is just no good. Unless you can stop every enemy bomber from reaching its target, you are not achieving your objective. The last speaker indicated the dreadful, catastrophic effect of dropping one bomb on a centre of population. Anti-aircraft defence, either by interceptor fighter or any other method, is virtually ineffective. It can perhaps shoot down or destroy a proportion of the attacking force, but it cannot hope to destroy them all. You cannot prevent the enemy from hitting you with atomic bombs if he is determined to do so. Therefore, our only real, practical defence is the deterrent of ourselves possessing the means of swift and effective retaliation in kind. We must not rely on our friends to provide us with that deterrent. The enemy will appreciate that the best of friends cannot, in accordance with any humane or moral concept, come to our aid in such circumstances. We must do it ourselves. We can do it. We can make ourselves a deterrent nation, which is the only possibility of preventing our centres of population from being attacked.

The other aspect of the deterrent, if it is to be effective, is an efficient civil defence. We must not only be able to retaliate, but also convince the potential enemy that we are able to take it at least as well as he can. As I suggested in this House last year, the best way to provide an effective civil defence is to make it a responsibility of the Army and use the national service trainees for this purpose. By this means you would get an automatic distribution of trained civil defence personnel where they were most needed - in the capital cities and centres of population.

Our only hope of avoiding the dreadful possibility of a catastrophic nuclear attack on our country is to possess the deterrent. To be effective, the deterrent must be based on an ability to undertake swift and effective retaliation; and we must set in motion a civil defence organization which the enemy knows will enable us to take his attack. I believe sincerely that the people of this country and this Parliament should not allow this or any other Australian Government to ignore defence against the ul'imate disaster of atomic attack.

Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.i:i.

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