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Tuesday, 7 May 1957

Mr CHANEY (Perth) . - I assure the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) that I would have a far greater faith in the future of mankind if the words which he used in closing his remarks had been spoken in some country other than Australia. I do not think that even he would doubt the sincerity of any honorable member in this chamber, who sought a formula for world peace. As in the past, we have not the alternative of saying whether there shall or shall not be peace. The mere fact that this is a debate upon an Australian defence statement is sufficient indication of the fact that in Australia we always talk in terms of defence, never offence. Any one who believes in freedom, and also believes that he can live in peace for the rest of his life without taking adequate defence precautions is doomed to disappointment and extinction. it surprised me, during this debate, to hear so many honorable members opposite citing so openly the findings of the Public Accounts Committee and of the AuditorGeneral. Obviously, that body and thai individual are placed in their positions by the Government to do the very thing that they are doing. Far from expressing surprise that they have found deficiencies or lack of planning, we should appreciate their findings because they all add up to efficiency for the future.

I suppose that honorable members opposite will acknowledge that while they were in government the various service Ministers themselves could not be the highest authority on the department over which they had jurisdiction. They had to be led in their decisions by submissions from the top service people in whatever service was concerned. Because there is a most healthy rivalry between the services and because each service chief tries to get the most that he can for his own service, one can never have one over-all defence plan to satisfy everybody, as is indicated by the tenor of remarks in debate by members on both sides of the House.

Only a fortnight ago, I was privileged 10 hear a talk by Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry, who, as most honorable members know, was head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Air Force in the European theatre. He said that he believed that we were lulling ourselves into a false sense of security by believing that we were still at peace. He said that there was no such thing as peace. He said that the " cold war " was really a war of politics and a war of economics. He said that the scientists of the world had almost reached the stage at which war would be outlawed because of the terrors that it would conjure up to mind. This brings me back to the point that even if war or thermo-nuclear war, that terrifying thing, could be outlawed one would still have to take into account the type of police action or local war that has occurred.

The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in the speech which he made to-night, said that it was ridiculous to talk about training infantrymen in 1951 when it was obvious what type of war would come if it arrived. A year or two later the conflict in Korea broke out in which conventional arms were used and manpower was an important factor. The casualties suffered by the Americans alone in the Korean war were greater than the casualties that they suffered in World War I. Yet, conventional weapons were used in Korea. In 1941, the infantryman was as important as he has ever been. Conventional weapons and troops will still be needed by this nation and the nations of the world where there is still a threat of local action.

Mr Whitlam - What are conventional troops?

Mr CHANEY - I know that the interjector is an extremely learned gentleman and I imagined that he understood what I was trying to convey. The defence of a nation is dependent on the area and population of that nation. I have heard in this House certain criticisms of the expenditure of various countries on defence per head of their population. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), in a very forceful speech, said that the United States of America was spending £109 a head on defence whilst Canada was spending about £54 a head and Australia about £20 a head. We must realize, in Australia, that an adequate defence force must centre round what the economy of the country can stand and what we can hope to achieve with what we have at hand. We can never get the type of defence force in the Army, Navy or Air Force, which would adequately cover the whole area of Australia which has a coastline of about 1 2,000 miles. We have some 9,000,000 people against America's 159,000,000 and Great Britain's 50,000,000. Great Britain has a national income of £15,000,000,000 whilst Australia has a national income of about £3,714,00,000. The national income of America is about 300,000,000,000 dollars. It will be seen that we cannot hope to do more than is set out in the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).

Our area, in itself, in a thermo-nuclear or atomic war, might be one of our best sources of defence because it is obvious that the destructive power of thermo-nuclear weapons increases as the density of population increases. In Australia we have only three people to the square mile as against 539 to the square mile in Great Britain. 52 in America and 25 in the Soviet Union. This fact alone might be of advantage to us. I realize that the majority of our population is in the cities, but perhaps in this atomic age we should give serious consideration to a system of decentralization which will have two results, one of very good defence value and the other of value to the economy of the nation as a whole.

Since we have reached this atomic age, in the interests of defence, we have to look at the training that is going on in the sciences and engineering. It is interesting to note that last week Professor Baxter, who I believe comes from the University of Sydney, expressed alarm that only 10 per cent, of students in our universities were taking engineering. He said that we were slipping behind in our technological skills and technological information. The United States of America in the next ten years will school 900,000 scientists and engineers. Soviet Russia, in the next ten years, will school some 1,200,000 scientists and engineers which is far more than it needs for its own purposes; and it will be in a position to export technical assistance to other countries.

It is no use trying to stop the expansion of Soviet Russia if we are not prepared to do something to beat that country at its own game. We in Australia, together with other Western powers, must send to those people who need technical assistance the scientists and engineers who are capable of giving it to them. In the atomic age, there is an urgent demand on the academic system, first, to train scientists and technicians who will keep us in the forefront of military and technological achievement; and, secondly, to understand human behaviour to enable us to prevent the suicide of civilization. In the training for development, under the heading of defence we must see that the maximum number of students in Australia is given the greatest possible opportunity to undergo technical training to fit them for this atomic age.

I must comment on two or three things that appeared in the statement of the Prime Minister. He stated -

The Citizen Military Forces itself is, of course, vital to the rapid expansion of our forces in time of emergency.

If it is proposed to retain the Citizen Military Forces as a part of our forces - and I know it is - the Government should make a firm gesture of the kind which I have suggested on previous occasions in this House. At the present time, the men of the C.M.F., whether noncommissioned officers, officers, or other ranks, do not receive a very great amount of money in return for the services that they render. It is a service which they render gladly, devoting many of their week-ends to the service of the country. Yet, when the end of the financial year comes they are expected to submit for taxation purposes the amount that they have received as C.M.F. pay. In many cases this means that it costs a man money to be a member of the C.M.F. because the little extra amount that he receives puts him in a higher income group and he has to pay a higher rate of income tax in respect of the whole of his income. The least that the Government should do is totally to exempt C.M.F. pay from taxation.

I now desire to comment upon that part of the statement that refers specifically to Western Australia. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) to-night give details of the part the Air Force played in our defence forces; but it would be hard to convince any one in Western Australia that the Royal Australian Air Force possessed any aircraft at all because the only aeroplanes the people see in the skies above Perth are an occasional DC3 and extremely antiquated Wirraways, and at odd week-ends a Vampire or two.

Mr Curtin - They are planes from the last war.

Mr CHANEY - They were built and delivered to squadrons in 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945. At least one of the squadrons to be formed in the new set-up of the Royal Australian Air Force should bc based in Western Australia where it would have an ideal situation and a permanent Air Force station ready to receive it. The defence of Australia, like some of its economy, is lop-sided towards the eastern half of the continent, and it is time that we in Western Australia - a State which has in the past, in war and in peace, shown itself to be extremely patriotic - saw some evidence of the defence forces of Australia. We see a warship once every six or twelve months when on its way to Malayan waters, it pays a visit to the port of Fremantle. Apart from that, one would not be aware there was a Navy in the possession of the Australian Government.

The Prime Minister stated -

Two other important new projects in Air Force preparedness will be the introduction of the first ground-to-air guided weapons unit and the settingup of mobile control and reporting units at Darwin and at Perth.

I take more heart from the last part of that statement because if we are to have a mobile control and reporting unit, obviously it will be necessary to have something to control and report upon. Perhaps in the near future we will see in Perth a guided-missiles unit or a squadron capable of being used to advantage for the work it will be asked to do.

It does not matter how much time is occupied debating this defence statement; the fundamental thing is that we, as an extremely small nation in size and economic capabilities, must to the best of our ability contribute towards the defence of the free world. The doubt expressed in this House as to whether we shall receive assistance from other nations in time of trouble will be dispelled if we are prepared to do our utmost. I remind the honorable member for Bonython and other honorable members on the Opposition side that if they have any doubt about the preparedness of Australia in 1941 they should read that excellent book entitled "The Turn of the Tide", which set out the shocking state of preparedness in Great Britain following the disaster, or near disaster, of Dunkirk, and also the shocking state of preparedness of the forces of the United States of America because for two or three years sufficient strength could not be mustered to open any sort of a front in Europe. If the state of preparedness of the free nations were compared, I am sure it would be found that Australia was not lacking.

All we can do is look as far ahead as we can and try to keep out in front in the development and possession of the kind of weapons that promise to contribute some important element to our security. The surest path to maximum security lies in the development of healthy competition amongst the services, demanding also that the services recognize their fundamental roles as members of the same team.

Debate (on motion by Mr. L. R. Johnson) adjourned.

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