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Tuesday, 7 May 1957

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) .- lt was expected that to-night at 8 o'clock we would hear the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). However, 1 understand that he has not been well, and perhaps that prevented him speaking. I hope that he will soon be fully recovered and back in this House, because we like to hear him, although we do not necessarily agree with him. As he did not speak at 8 o'clock, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke, and I want to say something about his speech. In the first portion of my contribution to-night, I wish to rebut some of the statements he made. I am not one of those who come into this House with a prepared speech, determined to make it no matter what happens. One or two things that have been said to-night should be rebutted. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking, I interjected, and asked, " What did Mr. Curtin say " ? I asked that question for the simple reason that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted Mr. Curtin as an authority. He had prepared some statements, but goodness knows upon what authority or where they came from. He read them from notes that he had with him.

I want to read one or two statements that Mr. Curtin really made. I was not in Australia at the time, I am pleased to say, although 1 do not mean that to be an expression of opinion against Mr. Curtin. I was away while he was Prime Minister not because 1 did not want to be here but for other reasons. However, as I was not here, I want to refer to " Hansard ", the Parliamentary record. As honorable members on both sides of the House know, I. could not refer to a more authoritative document when I wish to recall statements that have been made in this House. Honorable members will recall that the Labour Government came into office on 7th October, 1941. On 28th May, 1941, Mr. Curtin made a speech in this House. That was about five months before the Labour party was elected to office. In that speech, Mr. Curtin said -

I claim that the war has been prosecuted to the maximum of Australia's capacity and I doubt if any great improvements could have been made upon what has been done by the Government working in collaboration with the Opposition.

Mr Killen - Who said that?

Mr TURNBULL - Mr. Curtinsaid that on 28th May, 1941, five months before the then Government, which was virtually a Liberal-Australian Country party government, was defeated and Labour was elected to office. Time went on.

Mr Ward - Of course it did.

Mr TURNBULL - It always does, as the honorable member for East Sydney has indicated. The Labour party was elected to office as the Government on 7th October, 1941, and the first session of the Sixteenth Parliament was opened on 29th October, 1941. I turn again to "Hansard", the document of authority, to see what Mr. Curtin said as the Prime Minister of the day on 21st November, 1941. This is what he said as the Prime Minister -

The policy that has been applied in Australia has brought about an increasing war effort and Australia was never before so well prepared for war as it is now.

Mr Bowden - Who said that?

Mr TURNBULL - Mr. Curtinsaid that just after he was elected to office as the Prime Minister in 1941. No one in this chamber will suggest that between 29th October and 21st November - approximately three weeks - the Labour Government had changed everything! Even if the Labour Government had maintained the situation that existed before it was elected, Mr. Curtin might have been said to have been referring in the " Hansard " report to the preparations by his predecessors. So everything that has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition falls to the ground when we consider the logic or the truthfulness of the statements that were made by Mr. Curtin as the Prime Minister. I am informed, although I have no knowledge of

Mr. Curtinpersonally, that he was respected on both sides of this House then, and that he still retains that respect in the memory of those who knew him.

Let me go a little further. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition struck at the real crux of the situation, so far as the Australian Labour party is concerned, when he answered a question that had been put to him by way of interjection to-night. I invite honorable members to refer to the " Hansard " report to-morrow to test the truth of my statement. The question came from the ranks of Government supporters. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking about how bad things were in connexion with defence, and he was asked, " What would you do? " It was a reasonable question. The immediate reply of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was, " I would get rid of this Government ".

This Government came into office in 1949. The honorable member for Melbourne made the same statement in 1951, but not in this House; he said it during an election campaign. He made the same statement in 1954 and 1955 and he will make it again, but he should add a few words to that remark. He should say now, " I would get rid of this Government and introduce democratic socialism ", because, according to press reports, he said that Labour would fight the next election on the principles of democratic socialism.

Now, I believe that the whole life of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and of most of the members of the Opposition is engrossed with the idea of getting rid of the Government. When they speak in this chamber, they do not debate what is right or wrong but whether they can get back to the treasury bench. That over-rides all their thinking. If honorable members read " Hansard " or listen to the debates they must be impressed by the methods that members of the Opposition are using in trying to intimidate the people or get their support, but any chance they had of getting support from reasonable thinking people has passed away, now that they have adopted a policy of democratic socialism.

I am pleased to note that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has returned to the chamber. I ask him to read the report of my speech in " Hansard " because I do not like to speak against any honorable member when he is not present in the chamber. I do not know where the honorable member has been, but that does not matter.

We have just listened to a speech by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He makes a great show in this House of what should be done and what a great patriot he is. I do not believe in going back into history, but it is necessary to do so sometimes in order to rebut statements that are made by members of the Opposition, and so I remind honorable members of several statements that were made by the honorable member for East Sydney quite a long time ago. The honorable member was reported in " Hansard ", volume 151, at page 269, to have said this on 17th September, 1936 -

I strongly protest against the expenditure of even £1 of Commonwealth revenue on implements of destruction.

The honorable member for East Sydney is reported in " Hansard ", volume 154, at page 766, to have stated on 8th September, 1937- .

Personally I do not share the fears of honorable gentlemen opposite that Australia is in danger of an attack from a foreign power.

The honorable member is also reported in "Hansard", volume 187, at page 1149, to have stated -

It is amusing to hear people say that we shall not give up New Guinea. To these people I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our mandated territory, they should defend it themselves.

Honorable members who compare those remarks with the statements that we have heard to-night from the honorable member for East Sydney would not believe that they were made by the same man. The honorable member also has a complex about getting back into office. He does not care what he says in debate. His first object is to get the reins of government.

We have heard other speakers to-night, and I do not wish to confine my speech to statements that have been made by members of the Opposition. I want to say something about supporters of the Government. Their speeches should be criticized when criticism is justified. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) said quite a lot. Perhaps one of his most striking statements was his suggestion that to suppose that the United Kingdom or the United States of

America would come to our aid was unreal. The honorable member said that, in fact, it would be immoral and dishonest for them to do so. He said that if they came to our aid in a nuclear war, they would suffer bombing in their own countries and we could not expect them to help us.

Let us analyse those statements which were made by a man who has had wide experience. I honour his experience although 1 do not honour the views that he has expressed to-night. If we cannot depend upon our allies and friends among the English-speaking and other free nations of the world to assist us, we cannot assist anybody. It cuts both ways. That means that we are isolated. Naturally, in those circumstances, we could not assist any other nation. We would be isolated and the cold war would turn into a hot war. Australia would be defeated by Russia because no nation would come to our help. Then some other country is attacked in the same way with bombs and no one will come to its aid, and finally there will be only the United Kingdom in the British Isles, and the United States on the mainland of America with which Russia has not dealt. Does any one seriously suggest for one moment that all the great promises which have been made by the Secretary of State and other great leaders of the American people as well as the leaders of the peoples of the British Commonwealth of Nations, from Canada to New Zealand and even the United Kingdom itself have been just idle talk? 1 cannot accept that suggestion at all. 1 believe that when the representatives of those great English-speaking nations and others make such statements, and that when nations join such organizations as Anzus and Seato, they will stand firm under their flags - especially the members of the British Commonwealth of nations - to protect those countries which have been attacked. As has been suggested to-night, some of the other countries may be unable to come to our aid for the simple reason that they have their hands full of a global war. If they are so engaged, then, to the extent that Russia or some other country is subjecting them to onslaught on the other side of the world, perhaps tn Europe or America, we shall be relieved of the pressure of attack. Whichever way it goes, I believe we enjoy the confidence of all those people whom we regard as out allies. I am confident that if war came to this country, we would have the help of the people with whom we have co-operated in the past with such great success, and I am equally confident that with their co-operation we shall be just as successful in the future.

The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) referred to the Prime Minister's statement and suggested that the Government was scrapping its whole defence programme. I have not had time to check his quotation, but he said that the Prime Minister had stated on 2nd October, 1956, that our defences were never better, and that two days afterwards he said there would be a complete and thorough investigation of them. There is nothing wrong with that. Even though our defences are never better on a certain day, it is still necessary even two days after that desirable position is achieved, to make a thorough investigation in order to ascertain the best ways of keeping our defences in that excellent state. I believe that investigation is necessary not only two days afterwards but continually. It is essential that we maintain eternal vigilance. That suggestion is not made merely from any whim; it has a sound foundation. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Eternal vigilance is essential if we are to keep our armed forces and defences at the highest state of excellence possible in Australia. That being so, the Prime Minister was correct in what he said.

The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also mentioned the fact that we had a new kind of rifle and said that there is not the same interest in rifle club training to-day as there was in the past. I believe that his sole reason for mentioning that was to give him an opportunity to refer to the rifle range at Williamstown. That happens to be in his electorate and he wants to keep on the good side of his constituents, who are urging that the land now occupied by the rifle range be used for housing. Those are the facts.

Let me point out the true position in connexion with rifle clubs. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that they lack support, that no interest is being taken in them. I contradict that :by quoting the following report of a statement made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) on 12th March, 1957, which is not so long ago, under the heading " More Interest in Rifle Shooting ": -

An increased interest in rifle shooting in Australia had developed during the last financial year, with an improved membership to 43,822 in Australian rifle clubs.

The report went on to say -

There had been an increased membership of 859 members.

The Minister said that the efficiency of these clubs was higher than ever before. He pointed out that the highest standard of efficiency was enjoyed by Queensland, where it was 97 per cent., that the average for the Commonwealth was 94 per cent., and that the amount of money made available by the Commonwealth Government to assist rifle clubs was £45,249. He also pointed out that additional money had been made available for administrative costs and travelling. Under those circumstances, it will be readily appreciated that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was a long way off the mark when he said that there was no interest in rifle shooting clubs to-day. As I pointed out earlier, his only purpose in saying that was to obtain the opportunity to refer to the Williamstown rifle range. I do not wish to enter into a debate as to whether rifle shooting should continue at Williamstown. My sole purpose is to approach all questions on a sound basis. As this debate has been in progress for some time, honorable members will appreciate that it is difficult to introduce new matter, and here I pay tribute to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). In my opinion, he made the best speech I have heard during this debate on this subject. He introduced two vital questions. He asked: " Why does Russia want such a vast submarine fleet and such a huge navy; and why does she want such a tremendous army if she is looking for peace all the time " ? Those are pertinent questions, and the honorable member for Hume certainly made a most important contribution. After all, he is a man who has gained his experience under the most adverse conditions, in Malaya and other places, and whenever he speaks on military matters we must respect his opinions.

The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) said, " Let us hope, trust and pray that we will never have another war ". He reminds me of a statement made when

Napoleon was captured and imprisoned on the island of Elba. That statement was, " Now is the time to beat our spears into pruning hooks and our swords into ploughshares ". A few days after that statement was made, Napoleon had escaped from the island of Elba and the whole world as it was known then once more was aflame. We cannot rely on any indications one way or the other about war.

The honorable member for Lang said he opposed the use of nuclear weapons. He is not alone in that stand. I, too, oppose their use, but unless the ban on them is world wide it will add to the threat to world peace. Here. I suggest, it is pertinent to refer to a statement made by the Duke of Wellington. When asked by a lady, "What is a great victory like? " the Iron Duke said, " The greatest calamity in the world, madam, except a great defeat ". In war, irrespective of whether we win or lose the conflict, we always lose. The honorable member for Lang might express the hope that we shall not have another war, but I cannot see any foundation for hope of continued peace under a doctrine that suggests that the free nations ban the use of atomic weapons while Russia is allowed to continue perfecting them. Such a course could only give Russia world supremacy in this field, and divest us of our freedom. I believe in peace, but I do not believe in peace at any price.

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