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Wednesday, 8 May 1957


Mr FORBES (Barker) .- The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), contrary to his own opinion, has, like most other Opposition members, made a completely destructive speech. Honorable members opposite have criticized the defence policy of the Government without advancing hardly a single constructive suggestion as to what should be substituted for, it. I suspect that the reason for this is that they have not a defence policy, unless the erosion of our defence effort and a reduction in the money spent on it is considered to be a policy. As one who takes the view that our present defence effort is not great enough, I find the diametrically opposed views expressed by most of the honorable gentlemen opposite most alarming.

This is not a new tactic on the part of Opposition members. It has been their reaction to every defence plan that has been put forward by the present Government since it took office. It was also their reaction, whatever the government of the day may have done, to the question of defence in the crucial years before the outbreak of the last war. Their tactics seldom take the form of advocating outright a reduction in the defence vote, though they have done even that on occasions. More often, their tactics involve revolutionary suggestions in relation to defence, which miraculously have the effect of reducing the monetary level of the defence effort. We are told that, in anuclear age, all defence is useless and that, therefore, we should resign ourselves to the inevitable and make hay while the sun shines. We are told that the defence vote should contribute to a national roads plan or to the construction of railways. We are told that Australia can best play its part by concentrating on the development of its own resources.

All these theories, and others that havebeen advanced by Opposition members, have in common the fact that they capitalize- on the natural yearning of people everywhere to have done with this vast, so-called unproductive expenditure. To advocate such theories is, therefore, I suppose, good politics. These theories have also in common - though it is seldom stated by the Opposition members who put them forward - that they imply that the greater part of the defence of this country is to be left to other people. I am one who believes that, if we are to maintain our national selfrespect and if we are to have our views listened to and respected - in other words, if we are to create the framework within which we will be certain to have the support of powerful friends should war break out - our defence effort should be increased rather than reduced. We cannot ignore such figures as those cited by the honorable members for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) and St. George (Mr. Graham) and other honorable members on this side of the House relating to the respective defence efforts of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. They speak volumes about the burden being carried in the defence of the free world by individual men and women in the four countries. That is what counts - the individual burden, whether it be in terms of taxes paid or of service in the Defence Forces. 1 sometimes think that, in one of its aspects at least, we forget the very close connexion that exists between foreign policy and defence. Our foreign policy is, or should be, as much as our defence preparations a weapon for ensuring our national survival. Yet, without a level of defence preparations which commands respect, the additional margin of security which comes from a wise foreign policy will not be available to us. Our views, however intrinsically sound they may be, will not be listened to, nor will they be implemented. This is particularly true in these days of superpowers in which anything but collective defence is unthinkable. We are vitally concerned with the peace and security of the Pacific area and we have joined in a number of collective defensive agreements to achieve that purpose. The political and economic policies pursued by the parties to those agreements are at least as important as military measures in ensuring the continued peace and security of the area. Wisdom in these matters is no particular monopoly of the great powers. Indeed, it is probably true to say that we, who are geographically a part of South-East Asia, are better situated than even the United States of America to judge the policies that the free world should pursue in that area. Certainly, because we are small and live there, we are even more vitally concerned with the continued peace of the area.

It is one thing to hold these views about the policies to be pursued in South-East Asia; it is another to have them accepted. The degree to which they will be accepted will depend upon our influence on our partners, particularly on the United States of America. That influence will be in direct proportion to the relative contribution we make to the defence of the free world, and particularly of the Pacific area. Moreover, because our allies are democracies, our defence effort must be framed in terms which ordinary citizens of those countries understand. So far as individuals are concerned, there must be comparable sacrifices. The American boy, who is called up for two years' service in the defence forces, will not appreciate the reasons, however good they may be, why his Australian equivalent serves for only three months or not at all. Arguments about developing Australia's resources, however sound they may be, will mean nothing to American taxpayers, who contribute £106 a head for defence. It may be regrettable that individuals think in this way. but they do. I hope that we will remember that, in the United States, democratic control of foreign policy is more advanced and means more than it does in any other country. If we wish to exert our influence in a dangerous world, we must contribute; and, while it remains dangerous, we must contribute in the ways that hurt most.

I should like to give two examples from our own recent past of the point I am trying to make. Honorable members will remember that Australia entered the 1914-18 wai as a dependent portion of the British Empire. At the end of the war, through her tremendous exertions, she took her place at the Peace Conference in Paris as a proud and independent member of the family of nations. Not every one accepted this position without question. The President of the United States, for instance, took the view that the new status of the British Dominions was a kind of Machiavellian- trick by Britain to get five votes at the conference. At one stage during the conference the Austraiian Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, who was holding out for control over New Guinea as a measure vital to our defence, crossed swords with President Wilson of the United States. The President, in a tone which obviously denied Mr. Hughes the right to open his mouth, said, " And who do you represent, Mr. Hughes? ". The Australian Prime Minister snapped back, " I represent 70,000 Australian dead, Mr. President ". Australia's right to her say was never again queried by the United States or by any other country. The Australian Prime Minister had won his point. These were terms which every one could understand. They involved the right to influence, of which I have been speaking.

My second example, which has already been mentioned in this debate by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), comes from World War II. Honorable members will remember the campaigns in 1944 and 1945 against the hundreds of thousands of by-passed Japanese troops in the islands between us and the advancing American forces. These campaigns had no conceivable military value in the overall conduct of the war. They did not hasten the end of the war by a single minute. Yet honorable members opposite, who formed the government at that time, insisted on carrying them through, and they were right to resist the suggestions that were then made by our allies that Australia could contribute best, at that stage of the war, by producing food for the advancing American forces. They were right for the sound political reason that Australia's influence in the post-war world would depend not on calculations by her allies of the number of tons of potatoes she had produced, but on calculations of the fighting she had done. These were terms which could readily be understood. They are the terms in which sacrifice is measured and by which a country is judged.

We are all proud of the magnificent efforts of this country in two world wars, efforts which have brought great benefits to us through enhanced national status. Yet it sometimes seems to me that we have nol learned the lessons of those efforts. If we had, we would not wait until another world war came along in order to demonstrate our determination to play our part. Some of our allies have learned that lesson. Honorable members on this side of the House have learned it, at least better than we did after the first world war, but I fear that most honorable members opposite, to judge by their official policy, have learned it not at all. That lesson - and it has been stated many times - is that if, in peace-time, in concert with your allies you keep your defences at a level that hurts, you may never have to demonstrate what a magnificent contribution you can make in war. To do so may slow down our development and may even slightly reduce our standard of living. But is it not worth it? This, incidentally, I think is the answer to the honorable members for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), East Sydney (Mr. Ward), Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and other honorable members opposite who have said that all the money that has been spent on defence since the present Government came to office has gone down the drain. Such criticisms are not confined to this country. The counterparts of those Opposition members in Great Britain, the United States and Canada have said exactly the same things whenever a reorganization of defence has been undertaken in those countries.

A number of speakers on this side of the House have refuted such allegations most effectively by pointing to the specific installations, forces and equipment which are a legacy of this expenditure, but I am only concerned to point out that the defence preparations in this country, as well as in other countries of the free world, whatever honorable members opposite may think about their efficiency, have been efficient enough to prevent the outbreak of a third world war. Anything that has played its part in achieving that supreme objective cannot really be said to have gone down the drain.

Finally, sir, while congratulating the Government, and particularly the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), on the new defence scheme which goes further than any of its predecessors to meet modern requirements as we understand them, I must say that I do not think it goes far enough. I do not think that we are yet making a contribution that is comparable with that of our allies in the things that really matter. I believe that this, for the reasons which I have stated, reduces our influence in the political field where we have, I am sure, a valuable contribution to make. I believe that it increases our dependence on the United States and virtually excludes our moral right to press our views. It is for these reasons, Mr. Speaker, that I am sorry that the Government's proposals do not include the provision of at least one extra brigade group and long-term selective national service to provide the troops for it. It is for these reasons, also, that I regret the omission of any reference to nuclear weapons, whether they be tactical or strategic, and the means of delivering them. I take heart, however, from the hope that this is a beginning and not an end.







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