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Tuesday, 7 May 1957

Mr R W HOLT (WANNON, VICTORIA) .- The explanation by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) is a first lesson by him to atomic beginners, in which he lightly glosses over certain very, very important and significant aspects of nuclear tests and in which he attempts to perpetuate this fiction of a socalled clean bomb, a fission-fusion-fission bomb. If the international physicists, and the authorities which I read, are correct and the Minister is not correct, then such socalled clean bombs do radiate the deadly strontium 90 into the stratosphere. It is useless to try to create any impression to the contrary.

The other point I want to mention is that last August the Minister accused me of misrepresenting the spirit, if not the letter, of the report of the National Academy of Sciences. I say to him that I accurately quoted the spirit of that report. It was that report, in June, 1956, upon which President Eisenhower was alleged to have based his decision to continue with hydrogen bomb tests, on the ground that they could be continued without detriment to the human race. We now have Dr. Sturtevant of the California Institute of Technology challenging that very report. Professor Neumann, another eminent world physicist, also says that the report is now long overdue for revision. These men challenge the assurance given that strontium 90 could be increased to one-tenth in proportion without harm to the human race. The most ardent supporter of that report, Willard Libby, concurs that a revision of the report is now urgently necessary. I know that the Minister would desire to write down all these things, but we can, unfortunately, find all too many physicists, like Professor Titterton, Willard Libby and Neumann, who have views on this matter to the contrary. Some of them agree, some do not, and there is sufficient element of doubt for us not to take advantage of it for political purposes. I hope to have more to say on that at a later date.

I come now to the Government's desire for parliamentary approval of a new and changed policy of defence, as outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr Menzies) in this House recently. One queries the very need for the change in policy. Defence concerns everybody, and therefore is a national matter and, as the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) has said, it is not approached in a parochial or partisan manner by members on either side of the House. The prime responsibility of every government is to defend the lives and livelihood of its people. A country must do so either by means of its own strength or by means of the collective strength of nations of like mind. The Prime Minister issued the Government's first major defence policy in 1950, shortly after he came into office. Since that time the Government has expended more than £1,000,000,000 on defence. In American eyes, no doubt, that is not a large sum. President Eisenhower has just presented to Congress a record peace budget in which he proposes to spend an amount of 71,800,000,000 dollars. Fiftynine per cent., or approximately three-fifths, of that colossal amount is to be spent on defence, including military preparedness, atomic research, mutual security - that is, in military aid to other countries - and in stockpiling. We have to husband our limited economic resources, and every penny has to be spent with the utmost care and consideration for the maximum return in defence. However, one cannot escape the wide feeling of public misgiving in regard to the recklessness and careless expenditure indulged in by the Government to date. The people look to see what has been achieved. At a time such as this, when any government is required, wisely, to review its defence policy from time to time, the people, whom we represent in this Parliament, expect some justification from the Government for its expenditure on defence of more than £1,000,000,000 since 1950. Now it emerges, after the constant constructive criticism of the Government's defence policy from members on this side of the House - by our leader, Dr. Evatt, and other members - that, unfortunately, our misgivings are all too truly confirmed by the Prime Minister's statement.

I propose to give a few instances of the self-confessed failures of the Prime Minister and his Government, and then to suggest one or two constructive remedies to which I think the Government could give more than favorable consideration. I have mentioned the need for periodic reviews of our defence requirements. If there has been a change in the grouping of the nations of the world, and if the balance of power, or the orientation of power, has moved from one quarter to another, if new weapons make necessary new tactics and new overall considerations of strategy, then the Government would normally review its policy and effect changes. But, to-day, we find that there is nothing new upon which the Government can base a changed defence policy, and which was not known to the Government in 1950. It is true that about 1945 those of us who were members of the military staff of the brigade group towards the end of the war discussed the future possible role of atomic warfare and the need for dispersement and agreed that there should be no concentration of ground, sea or air troops to any great degree because of their vulnerability to atomic attack. All this information was available to the Government. But all this, as I say, is a matter of conjecture, and no government, including this Government, can to-day base a positive defence policy on matters which are purely conjecture at this stage. We have no atomic weapons, and we should accept some of the realism that is characterized by Mr. Duncan Sandys' White Paper. The Prime Minister, or his Ministers, should tell the public straight out that there is no defence against atomic warfare, but that in regard to the concept of limited warfare there is something we can do - and the brigade group is the answer, to a very limited extent.

A change, in the not too distant future, in our tactics, and in the basis of our tactical considerations, is imminent. We find that to-day, Mr. Harold Stassen, President Eisenhower's adviser on disarmament, writes down the air force - I mention this with all respect to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) - and says that, as a result of the use of anti-aircraft missiles which will automatically home on aircraft bearing atomic arms, there will be comparatively little use or role for the longrange strategic bomber to play in atomic warfare. Likewise, Professor Teller, the reputed father of the H-bomb, say's that we should concentrate on having a fleet of atomic submarines - in other words that our navies should go underwater. So, I say that we cannot base any constructive policy of defence, so far as it affects this country, on conceptions such as this, which are purely hypothetical, but we can be realistic and tell the people that we have no defence against atomic warfare. So we ask ourselves: In view of the fact that there has been no change of the overall strategic picture confronting the Government and no change in the grouping of international forces confronting the Government, why are these changes necessary? The information available to the Government now was available to it in 1950. There has be;n no appreciable change, so why are these changes necessary? We are forced to the conclusion, as I said earlier, by the Prime Minister's own admissions, that it is because of the failure of Government planning and the failure of appreciation on the part of the Government that we now face the proposition that we have to write off a considerable portion of the money already spent on defence. We have to start over again at the beginning, where we should have started in 1950.

The Prime Minister admits that we have concentrated too much on personnel and not enough on having sufficient of the right type of weapons. He says that we need to standardize. Whose fault is that? It is the fault of his own Government! He says that we have not sufficient quantities of the right type of equipment. That is his own Government's fault, because he admits that it has concentrated too much on man-power, and ignored the technical side of the requirements of our armed forces. A considerable proportion, which we cannot accurately estimate, of the amount of more than £1,000,000,000 that the Government has spent has been wasted because it has been spent on things that are of no use for the defence of Australia. That is an undeniable fact, and all honorable members and the taxpayers must face up to it right now. It is the Government's own fault that it has now to adopt a policy that it should have adopted in 1950. It is not due to changes in external affairs or to tactical changes.

The Prime Minister now says that the compulsory military training scheme has placed too much emphasis on personal training. It is true that the Australian Labour party was in favour of it, and that recently it has decided against it. 1 have no doubt that, when the present generation of trainees has moved on out of the training age group, and it is expedient and necessary for the defence of Australia, the Australian Labour party will re-introduce, or give its approval to the re-introduction of, compulsory military training again. If it is necessary for the defence of Australia,

Labour will support it again, but it will not put the Australian people in the position in which they are given a very false idea of their security, and it will not run away from the necessity to tell them that there is no defence that we can adopt against the kind of warfare that the Prime Minister mentioned.

By what means, then, can we meet the position that we have reached? The brigade group that has been mentioned is designed, because of its great flexibility, to be adaptable to the various kinds of warfare that may be met in different theatres of war in defending this country and in carrying out our treaty obligations and our commitments to the United Nations. One of its chief features is that it must be moved quickly. First, I should have thought that a statement on defence would have contained a reference to the provision of broad arterial highways along which armies or brigade groups, and heavy equipment, could be moved. We should have learned a lesson from the Germans in the last war, who were able to fight on two fronts only because of their ability to move their armoured and mobile columns from one side of Germany to the other. But there is no reference to the provision of the necessary highways.

Secondly, if we want to move a brigade group - and it may be necessary to move it overseas under our commitments to the United Nations and our treaty obligations - how are we to move it? At the present time, without training for combined operations, and with the existing organization of our services and the present obsolete or obsolescent means of transport that we have, it would take us three or four months to get such a group, if we had it, off the ground and overseas, and thus the whole purpose of the brigade group would be defeated. If we decided to move the group by air, what would happen? We should have to borrow aircraft. At the present time, we should have to borrow them from Britain or from the United States of America, and if those countries were committed to any extent - as they certainly would be if we were engaged in active warfare - we should not be able to get the necessary aircraft from them until such time as they were able to free them for our use. We had that experience in World War II. It was not until the war in Europe had turned the corner that we were able to get arms and equipment for the Burma theatre and the Western Desert. We just would not be able to move our brigade group by air, because we would not be able to borrow the necessary planes immediately. If we are to have a brigade group that can be used effectively, the Government is under an obligation at least to provide means for us to transport it overseas without depending upon the United States or some other country for transport facilities.

Labour believes that the present training system should be terminated now. If we wanted to complete the training of the 180,000 semi-trained men that we have, and put them in the field if necessary, we should not have the officers and equipment to do it. We have reached saturation point with respect to the facilities that we have. I appeal to the Government to live up to its responsibilities and set an example in wisely spending defence funds. First, the Government should get rid of the dual control of the service departments, including the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production. This dual control of the service departments existed during the war, and those of us who served on the staff had frequently to pause and think which war we were fighting. Half the time, we wondered whether we were really fighting the bureaucrats of the civil service or the Japanese, and what was the object of the exercise. The civil section of the Department of the Army, under the administration of the secretary of the department is responsible for the financial affairs of that service. The men who are to use the equipment on which the money is spent have no say in the spending of it. Has the Minister any idea who is responsible for the preparation of the estimates of the department? I suggest that he has not. We who were fighting the war could not find out, either, although we were supposed to share in the responsibility for preparing them.

The first step in the re-organization of the control of the defence departments, as I suggested earlier in a question, should be the combining of the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Supply. The second step should be to coordinate the three service departments under a single Minister for defence who would administer them with the advice of a defence committee on which the three services were represented. This would then make it possible to meet the overall need to appoint a committee to investigate the overlapping of authority, the tangle of red tape, and the mass of pettifogging detail that encumber the services at every turn. The thought of it reminds me of the Duke of Wellington, who, during the Peninsular wars, wrote to the United Kingdom Home Office stating that, if he were to attend to the mass of futile correspondence that surrounded him on every hand, he would be prevented from attending to the duties that he had been sent out to attend to. Much the same thing applies to the defence departments to-day.

The existing multiple control should be removed. The only way to do it effectively, efficiently, and in the interests of the taxpayers and, above all, of the organized and effective defence of this country, is to appoint a committee to investigate this overlapping and to conduct cost-accounting investigations, and, generally, to undertake the same kind of investigation of the defence services as was undertaken in Britain in 1902, when officers of the Treasury were stationed at all operative levels in the policy-making commands of the Army. Let us restore the war-time commands and place the responsibility on the individuals concerned. Treasury authority should be delegated so that policy decisions affecting finances, and the like, can be made on the spot without reference to a redundant military board, business board or body of business advisers, or the numerous ad hoc bodies that are created by this division of responsibility among a multiplicity of authorities. At one stage, we had a service checking on the Army. There was another service checking on the service that checked on the Army, and so the whole thing was built up. I am amazed to find that this kind of thing still continues twelve years after my association with the services has ended.

I conclude by pressing upon the Government the great need to combine the three service departments in a unified defence department. If that is not possible, a topranking committee with a business executive of persons drawn from outside this country should be appointed. I say that because I do not believe that managerial efficiency exists in Australia.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence).- Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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