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Wednesday, 8 May 1957

Mr HAMILTON (Canning) .- Most members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate have dealt with the banning of nuclear weapons tests. I have not heard any one of them adopt the course, either in this debate or previously, of directing his attack to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In my view it would be completely foolish and, as has been said before, suicidal for the democracies to discontinue such tests so long as the Soviet continues to carry out tests of nuclear weapons, as it has been doing. The Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) told us recently that in the last few months about twelve such tests had been conducted by the Soviet. Until the Russians are prepared to make a definite gesture as regards cessation of tests I am on the side of the democracies in believing that we should continue to carry on tests of nuclear weapons so that we shall possess the same amount of knowledge on these matters as the Soviet possesses as the result of its tests, and so that we shall also be as ready for the eventuality of nuclear war as the Soviet would be.

To a degree I support the theory advanced by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) - but only as a theory. I shall not be one who will pit his knowledge against that of the defence chiefs or the Defence Committee just because some people have made certain statements. The honorable member for Indi said yesterday that nuclear bombs could be bought for £5,000.000 a dozen. To-day the honorable member for Mackellar was asked, during his speech, how many such bombs we would require, and he said he did not know. I have some knowledge of the use of bombs, and I think that we would require, in the first instance, 500 bombs, because stocks of these weapons would have to be held not only in Sydney, or Canberra, but also at various strategic centres, where aircraft could load them and set off on their missions. One problem that faces us is that of the purchase of the requisite aircraft to do the job with such weapons. It is no good our thinking that we would be able to manage with a flight or a squadron of atom bombers. Such a force would be knocked out of the sky before it knew where it was. To-day, as a result of the development of guided missiles that can home on an attacking bomber, unless we had a sizable number of bombers operating we would not achieve very much no matter how many bombs we had.

Arming ourselves for nuclear warfare would be a most expensive business; and if our service chiefs, or the Defence Committee, say our role in a war would be such and such, in my opinion they would not say so without having first consulted their opposite numbers in the forces of our allies. We may have a definite role to play in a future war. I do not know the latest appreciation by the Defence Committee on that matter, so I do not intend to engage in a discussion of it. However, I repeat, I support the theory advanced by the honorable members for Indi and Mackellar.

Now I turn to civil defence, in respect of which there has been some criticism. I realize that the Government should be subject to some criticism in respect of civil defence but I think that, whilst we may be prepared, on the one hand, to accept the advice of our experts in this field, we cannot, on the other hand, tell them that they are wrong and do something off our own bat, unless we sack them. If we keep them, then, implicitly, we are satisfied with them, and must accept their advice. If we cannot accept their advice we should gel rid of them and get new advisers. I am not prepared at the moment to discount the information and the advice that our advisers give us in favour of the views expressed by a few laymen. Personally, 1 think the Army should take complete control of civil defence, but that is another matter, and I shall leave the subject of civil defence there.

One argument advanced on defence by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) to-day, and last night by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt), is that we should pay more attention to the building of roads, the unification of rail gauges and our transport system generally. I do not deny that; but 1 want to say to members of the Opposition that last night their Deputy Leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), trenchantly criticized the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for using the same argument in 1939. The words of the Treasurer, who was on that occasion speaking as a private member, which were criticized by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, were as follows: -

Some honorable members have become so proEnglish that they are now anti-Australian, although they do not recognize it. We must give serious consideration to our defence responsibilities, and do everything in our power to reduce expenditure on the defence programme, even though we may be told by our experts that it is essential.

Those words appear in " Hansard ", Volume No. 159, at page 632, in the report of the proceedings of 23rd May, 1939. Later, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition again quoted the following remarks made by the Treasurer on that occasion: -

Naval and military experts often seek to take advantage of critical times in order to urge expenditure on projects calculated to advance the interests of the professional sailors and soldiers rather than those of the country.

I am not denying those statements, but I want to remind the House that when they were uttered the Parliament was debating the second reading of the Supply and Development Bill 1939, which had been introduced by the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). Before the right honorable gentleman had said one hundred words in his second-reading speech on that bill he observed -

.   . the long title refers to the " survey, registration and development of the resources of Australia." lt was a survey of the whole position. I remind honorable members opposite that that speech was delivered in May, 1939, some four months before the outbreak of hostilities, when Hitler walked into Poland. I do not know whether it was by accident or design that when the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) quoted in his speech last night an extract from a speech of the present Treasurer in 1939, dealing with the professional soldiers, he finished at the word " country ". In that speech, the right honorable gentleman said this also -

We must benefit by experience and lake full advantage of the knowledge that is in our possession in order to ensure that Australia obtains full value for every pound expended, and that a pound is not expended if a shilling will be sufficient.

The whole of the right honorable member's remarks on that bill could be said to be an appeal for care in the expenditure of money if we were making a survey for the purpose of assessing the proper amount that should be spent on defence and the proper amount on other works. It ill becomes the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to make the charge that he made against the Treasurer - I think he made some other remarks when he did so - in an endeavour to gloss over the comments made by the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Curtin. It is rather strange to notice that while members of the Opposition to-day allow their Deputy Leader to criticize the present Treasurer for making such comments twenty years ago, they are offering their criticism of the Government's defence policy on the same grounds. I suggest to them that it might be a good idea if they got together some time - I do not think they have reached the stage in this Parliament that the Labour party in the Queensland Parliament has reached - while there is still a chance, and formulated a common defence policy.

In further criticism of the Government's intentions in respect of defence, honorable members opposite have dealt with the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1950. when he sounded a warning to the nation. Such a warning was given, not only by the Prime Minister of Australia, but also by the Prime Ministers of all the democracies of the world. They warned their peoples that if they did not get a wriggle on and endeavour to become strong within a period of a few years, they might face the danger of a global war. Fortu nately, the democracies did take heed of those warnings by their leaders. Australia's greatest expenditure was in 1952-53, when £215,000,000 was devoted to defence. But by spending that money we were able to build up our military strength. Nobody, particularly in this country, will deny that the building up of that strength by the Western democracies was the means of averting a global war.

Honorable members opposite want to know what has become of this money and where it has been spent. Have they forgotten that out of this £1,250,000,000, which I have heard honorable members opposite repeatedly mention, Australia's share of the expenditure on the Korean war was paid? Have they forgotten that part of this sum was used to establish the Woomera Rocket Range, and part to meet the cost of training the armed services? Members of the Opposition are bringing these matters to the forefront on this occasion in their arguments because the Government has seen fit. in view of the fact that the fear of a global war is retreating, to revise its defence policy. I think it was the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) who to-day charged the Government with advising the country that a global war was near at hand. That has never been said recently. It was said five or six years ago, but not in recent times. It has been said repeatedly, not only by the leaders of this country, but also by the leaders of other countries, that the fear of a global war has receded somewhat. In view of that opinion, and also of the forward trend in armaments, it has behoved the Government to make a re-appraisement and a re-alinement of its defence policy. Surely the members of the Opposition and those whom they say support them should realize that if we were faced with either a limited war or a global war, the United Kingdom could not come to our assistance as it has been able to do in the past. They must realize that the United Kingdom would have to fight for its own existence and, therefore, could not spare one ship, one soldier, one sailor or one aircraft or anything else to help us.

Mr Ian Allan - Australia has more troops in Malaya than Great Britain has.

Mr HAMILTON - That is so, but members of the Labour party would not appreciate that fact. They want somebody to do something for them which they are not prepared to do for themselves. It would be absolutely improper to ask the United Kingdom to come to our assistance. Therefore, if we have any real love for this country, and want to justify the confidence that the people have placed in us, we must look in other directions. What have we done? We have looked to the idea of alining our defence policy with that of the United States of America. To-day the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) pointed out that the rifles issued to American servicemen and those that will be issued to Australian servicemen, although not exactly the same, are the same calibre. Therefore, an interchange of ammunition will be possible. That is a great asset. Those who had some experience of hostilities in recent wars will recall the confusion that was caused by the supply of .303, .5 and .30 ammunition to the land forces and air forces. Australia's defence policy has been re-appraised and re-alined. Thank goodness that, at long last, we have seen fit to aline our policy with the defence strategy of the United States of America. Thank God, too, that the United States of America is prepared to accept our policy and to take us under its wing.

Honorable members opposite have criticized what has been done. Only last night the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) - I was somewhat surprised to hear him make such a statement - said that Australia will have a lot of troops, but it will not be able to move them. Obviously the honorable member had not read the Prime Minister's speech in which he told the Parliament and the people that we would buy aircraft of the C.130 type - great troop carriers that could move troops when the need arose. Honorable members opposite have asked, also, what has become of the £1,250,000,000. Do they think that men can be trained and fed and clothed and quartered for nothing? Apparently honorable members opposite think that all that is required to train men is to put them into camp, march them round the bull ring, and teach them to slope arms, present arms and to keep guard. They seem to ignore the fact that these men need food, clothing, accommodation and pay. Is that the idea of members of the Labour party?

An Opposition Member. - Nonsense!

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