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Wednesday, 8 May 1957

Mr CRAMER (Bennelong) (Minister for the Army) .- The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has not changed in any way the tenor of the debate or the case of the Opposition. I understood that he was to have Jed for his party in this debate, but, unfortunately, he was ill. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) took his place. When I heard that the Leader of the Opposition was to speak to-night, 1 thought that we would hear the Labour party's policy, but nothing that he has said has changed the statements which have been made. Those statements do not indicate that the Labour party has any defence policy. Significantly, the right honorable gentleman did not mention the United Nations at any time during his speech; and that is extraordinary. Neither the Leader of the Opposition nor any of his colleagues has mentioned the total sum of money proposed to be spent on the scheme of defence announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).

I have carefully followed the speeches of honorable members in this debate. Some good suggestions have been made, and I want honorable members who made those suggestions to know that they will be considered by the Ministers whom they affect. However, there have been very few new ideas. I speak, of course, for the Army. In criticizing the Army, some honorable members have asked for two brigade groups, some have asked for a division; others would be satisfied with the brigade group but wanted a bigger Citizen Military Force; some wanted to abolish national service training, some did not; some spoke very vigorously about atomic weapons, saying that they should be used at once, and others suggested that they should be treated in a different way.

The Prime Minister's statement dealt very effectively with the assessment of the possibility of war - it was necessary for the people to know that - and the probable task this country will be called upon to perform in the probable conditions that might arise. It pointed out, among other things, that our sphere of interest is principally in South-East Asia and that we cannot stand alone in defence or in the matters which concern us in South-East Asia. Therefore, our planning must be with our allies in Seato and in other organizations in which we are interested so that the deterrent to war can be built up. The Prime Minister pointed out that the possibilities of " global " war were remote and that most danger existed in the possibility of " limited " war or " cold " war. The honorable member for Parkes made great play upon building up friendship in South-East Asia and on the elimination of war. The Leader of the Opposition said that the policy of the Labour party was to prevent war. Of course, we agree with that. We want to eliminate war. Why are we doing all the things we are doing to create friendship in SouthEast Asia, if not to eliminate war and to maintain peace? But thai must not blind us to the fact that we must adequately prepare within our capacity so that peace may. be maintained. As has been pointed out in this debate, had it not been for the steps that have been taken, God knows what would have been our position to-day, judging from what has happened in other parts of the world.

The Opposition apparently accepts the idea of the brigade group, but criticizes the C.M.F. and wants to abolish national service training. I remind Opposition members that in 1947, Mr. Dedman, who was then Minister for Defence, introduced a five-year plan for defence and said that the plan envisaged a brigade group with a ceiling of 19,000 in the Regular Army, of which they obtained only 14,700, and a voluntary citizen force of 50,000. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned again to-night his belief in the voluntary system. Of course, the effectiveness of our Army depends still on a voluntary basis. What happened with the Labour party's plan? It did not want national service training at all and has always opposed it.

Mr Calwell - That is not true.

Mr CRAMER - That is so. Of 50,000, the Labour party, under its scheme, obtained only 13,000 members of the

C.M.F. That was the position when we took office. The honorable member for Parkes made the brilliant suggestion that the Australian Army should become part of the United Nations. In a world of reality, could anything be as pathetic as that? I do not want to deal at any great length with that matter, but it confirms what the Leader of the Opposition has said on many occasions outside this House. He did not mention it to-night, but we know his view on the efficacy of the United Nations organization. We must remember that, when the United Nations organization unsuccessfully ordered Communist powers to cease murdering people in Hungary, we did not hear the Leader of the Opposition raise his voice in protest. Now, the Labour party wants this country to put itself completely under the United Nations. That was the official suggestion made by the honorable member for Parkes. That would be an absurdity!

The Government believes that the minimum size of the Army must be, as we have stated, first - and this is the No. 1 priority - a regular field force ready to act and fully trained, and, as the Prime Minister said, modernly equipped, mobile and hard-hitting; and, secondly, a citizen force which could be mobilized and expanded to provide follow-up forces and home defence. That is the basis of our Army structure. Under present conditions, it is an effective force. I remind the House that for the first time in the history of this country we will have, in peace-time, a field force trained to the minute and ready to act at the drop of a hat. The C.M.F., as we have organized it in the new scheme, will be up to two-thirds strength, with a total of 50,700 men, and will be set up in three divisions. It will form a training ground for officers and non-commissioned officers, and will be available for expansion in time of war.

That leads me to national service training. Unfortunately, time does not permit me to deal with this matter fully. It is essential in our scheme for the C.M.F. that we have at least 12,000 national service trainees. If that number of national service trainees are flowing through each year, the total strength of the C.M.F. will be kept at 50,700. If we do not have that number, we cannot depend upon keeping the C.M.F. at the required strength. Experience has shown that the necessary number of trainees cannot be obtained exclusively under a voluntary system. Therefore, national service trainees are essential. Talk about wiping out national service training is impossible if we are to maintain the framework of a defence structure in the Army.

It has not been pointed out in this debate that, at this stage of the development of Australia, it is very difficult to provide more than £190,000,000 for defence each year. That is why the defence structure is framed within that figure. Some people have suggested that they would be prepared to vote more money for defence. For my part, I should like to see more money spent in that way. But this is a Government decision and I do not cavil at it, because everybody in this country should know what is still required in the way of development. There are matters which are necessary to the development of the country, some of them even related to defence, such as transport, which are essential to our economy and which must be carried on. The Government, therefore, has decided that expenditure on defence shall not exceed £190,000,000. If that is regarded as the top level inhibiting factor, then I defy any one to produce a better scheme for the defence of this country than that which the Prime Minister has put before us.

After all is said and done, we must take our place with our friends and contribute our share to the defence of South-East Asia, and we must meet our commitments under the various treaties into which we have entered. That objective calls for more than we have done already, but our friends understand our position as a relatively young nation, with a population of only 10,000,000, and our great need of development. I do not want any one to think that, so far as the Army is concerned or, for that matter, so far as any of the services is concerned, because I can speak for all of them in this regard, our thinking is static. It certainly is not. Great changes are taking place in the world. We have been criticized by the Opposition for the fact that the Prime Minister announced this complete review, and although it was said that we had no effective defence policy, we are criticized for changing our policy. Every country of the world is changing its defence methods in view of the circumstances that exist to-day. In the United Kingdom and the United States of

America, great changes are taking place, particularly in relation to the Army. Substantial changes are being made in regard to military formations, and this country is looking very closely at these developments. The possibility of land forces being exposed to tactical atomic attack in the field has led to the need for fundamental rethinking regarding the best type of formation to operate in those circumstances. It is obvious that, to guard against the effects of atomic explosion, an army must be dispersed into small groups which can rapidly be concentrated to impose an effective blow on the enemy; but at the same time, each must be capable of operating as a small, self-contained group in a terrain which has been subjected to atomic bombardment. Consequently, in the United States and the United Kingdom, there is much experiment with the form of tactical formation which should be the basis of the Army organization.

In the United States, they have evolved what they call the " Pentane " which, briefly, is a division of 12,000 troops organized into five independent and selfcontained regimental combat groups, quite different from the old order of things. Each group has its own infantry, artillery, armour and maintenance units. In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, military thinking is turning more to the brigade group of 4,000 to 5,000 troops as the largest fixed formation in the Army. The Australian Army is watching these developments with close attention. Only recently, I attended an exercise conducted by the Chief of the General Staff at Queenscliff. This is an annual exercise to study this problem, and it was most interesting to see how it worked out. It seems inevitable that there will be a change in the traditional form of Army organization.

The House will see that the United Kingdom and United States formations that I have mentioned are small numerically compared with those of World War II. Greater emphasis must therefore be placed on equipping them in order to give them maximum fire power and mobility. It is on that basis, of course, that we are working. The developing trend in the armies of the world is less towards front-line manpower than towards greater fire power. That is the basis upon which the whole of our defence structure rests at the present time, and that accords with the practice in other countries of the world. This means, of course, that in the future we must give greater attention to equipment. The FN rifle and the 105-mm. gun are the first moves in the plan to increase fire-power.

Mr Calwell - Who wrote this speech?

Mr CRAMER - I wrote it myself. The adoption by the United States of the T.44 rifle, reference to which has been made in this chamber, is in line with our policy, as announced by the Prime Minister, that our troops should be equipped with weapons which are standard or compatible with those of the United States. As honorable members may know, the T.44 rifle fires the same round as the FN rifle.

Overseas, the light aircraft is becoming increasingly an instrument for use by the Army for reconnaissance and communication purposes. This development also is under active consideration, in consultation with the Air Force. Additionally, the armies of the great powers have introduced, or are about to introduce, guided missiles, about which much has been said during the course of this debate. The adoption of these weapons by the Australian Army is being studied in this country, particularly at Woomera, and also by our officers overseas, and our plans for the introduction of guided missiles are well advanced. I just cannot understand why some honorable members contend that we should have guided weapons here in Australia at this stage. I am sure that the House will appreciate that that is impossible, because Australia, unlike the great powers, cannot afford too much for experimental purposes. We are bound to be guided by the experience of our Allies in these matters. I think that the House will see that this plan, which has been placed before the country, is not just a thing of chance. It deals with the question of the most effective type of defence that we can visualize, based on advice regarding conditions in a modern world, and designed within the limits of the money that we can afford to spend on defence.

Before I close. 1 wish to pay a special tribute to the personnel of the Army, both of the Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces, for the great loyalty, skill and devotion which have helped to build the Army into the organization that exists to-day. Under this new plan, there will, of Course; be revolutionary changes which must affect very much the lives of the men who are serving Australia in the Regular Army. It will disturb also, but perhaps to a less degree, the lives of the men in the C.M.F. lt is a big thing to ask these people to give their services, and I am afraid that the Australian people are not sufficiently aware of the sacrifices that are made voluntarily in the interests of the defence of this country. Too few people realize just what such service means. I know that when the re-organization, as announced by the Prime Minister, is put into effect, many of those serving in the forces will be faced with a great deal of difficulty, but I also know that we will still be able to depend on their loyalty at all times to ensure that this plan works effectively in the interests of Australia. I hope that the people of this country will try to appreciate just what those who are serving in the forces are doing.

I intended to say considerably more, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, and to deal with the question of National Service Training, but perhaps I shall have an opportunity to do that when the national service legislation is again before the House. I am eager to do so, because I want to dissipate the considerable degree of misunderstanding which has become evident on both sides of the House iti relation to the effectiveness of the defence plan which the Prime Minister has put forward. Let it be said without fear of contradiction that this Government is aware of its obligations, and its duty to protect the people of Australia. It will protect them by creating as effective a defence organization as it is possible to have, and, at the same time, developing this country as it should be developed.

Mr. LUCHETTI(Macquarie) [9.101.- If plans and the spending of the taxpayers' money could achieve a worthwhile defence programme, this Government could claim with every justification that it has an effective plan and that it is capable of defending this country. But plans, especially constantly changing plans, and the spending of large sums of money, are not enough. Much more is required. The most essential requirement is the support of the people for the Government's programme. It has been shown quite clearly to-day that this Government lacks the support of the Australian people, just as the anti-Labour government of the day lacked the support of the Australian people at the beginning of "World» War II. This Government is merely being tolerated. It is a source of regret to every patriotic Australian that, in these days, when we should be thinking seriously of the defence of our country, we have in office a makeshift government, with makeshift plans, which it changes from week to "week, and from year to year, amid frequent announcements that this will be -altered and that will be changed. We have -witnessed the recent amazing retreat by the Government from a full-scale national service training scheme to its plan :for lotteries to decide which youths shall be called up for training. This change involves a reduction of the intake of trainees from 37,000 a year to 12,000. The intake of 12,000 youths a year will comprise those who are selected according to whether they are lucky or unlucky in a ballot, and those who offer themselves voluntarily in the service of their country.

I am greatly concerned about the defence problem. The staggering problem of defending Australia agitates the minds of all honorable members. We all are aware that this vast island continent, which is so empty and so under-developed, must, at some time, under a government that really believes in defence, come to grips with the problem of development as a means of defence. Despite the assurances of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), nothing definite is taking shape as part of a programme for the development of this country. Many aspects of the problem must be considered. What is the Government doing about our empty north? Is it doing anything to develop it? Is it doing anything to develop the centre of Australia, and to people it with men of the Anzac tradition who will have the spirit and the will to serve and defend their country, and protect their fellow citizens? I see no evidence of it.

The Minister said this evening that defence expenditure must not exceed £190,000,000 a year. If he had been discussing the Government's capacity to spend the taxpayers' money, I. would agree, because the spending of £190,000,000 a year by this Government in the manner in which it has regularly expended a like amount every year, is completely unjustified and unwarranted. Let us consider what the Government has achieved. What are the results of its naval programme? It has spent millions of pounds on aircraft carriers, which it has merely put in dock, in mothballs as it were, or used as training vessels. Surely that is an indictment of the Government! Despite the glib remarks of the Minister for the Army and other Government supporters about the FN. 30 rifle, the Government has a sorry record of neglect and delay in preparing for the production of that weapon. It is almost three years since Sir Eric Harrison, the former Minister for Defence Production, said in this chamber that this rifle would be mass-produced immediately. We are now told the sorry tale that it will not be in mass-production before 1960. On top of that, we have recently heard that the United States of America will not adopt the FN rifle. I do not want to criticize, nor do I criticize, the skilled Australian technicians engaged in munitions production. Ultimate responsibility, on the political level, rests with the Minister for Defence Production. If the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization could not come to a speedy decision on this matter, and if our American allies were not prepared to adopt the FN rifle, a definite stand should have been taken long ago to correct this state of affairs.

No one can say what weapons will be used ultimately, and I do not propose to attempt to say what weapons should be used by our services ultimately. But I do say that speed is the watchword. What would happen if a war involving Australia broke out to-morrow? I ask the Minister for the Army to note, if he has not done so already, that, as a result of the transition from one weapon to another, and the long delay in getting the Government to make up its mind to prepare blueprints for the production of new weapons, the Commonwealth Small A rms Factory at Lithgow is incapable of manufacturing a .303 rifle. It could not produce a Vickers machine-gun or a Bren rifle at the present time, and, of course, it could not manufacture the FN 30 rifle, and will not do so until 1960, on the Government's rosiest promises. This is the situation, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, after the Government has spent £1.200,000,000.

Some time ago, when these matters were under consideration iri this chamber, I advocated the establishment of a defence expenditure committee. In view of what has happened since, there is a greater need than ever for such a committee, first, to watch the spending of defence funds, and secondly, to ensure that the Australian people get value for their money. I want to pay tribute to the Public Accounts Committee. I think that honorable members in the past have expressed their pleasure and gratification at the good work being done by that committee. But it is not good enough for accounts to be examined only after at least twelve months have elapsed since funds were spent or misspent. A defence expenditure committee, akin to the War Expenditure Committee that existed during World War II., is needed. Such a committee should have access to factories, to departments, and to the service chiefs, and should ensure, on behalf of the Parliament, that money voted by the Parliament is spent to the best possible advantage.

The Minister for the Army spoke about the mobility of the Army, and supported the remarks on that subject made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In view of the condition of our roads and railways, where is there evidence of the mobility about which they spoke? Is there to be mobility only in the air and on the sea, or is there to be mobility on the land also? Those Government supporters who claim that there is mobility on the land should brush up their knowledge of our roads. If they do so, they will find that, despite the Government's alleged concern about defence, and the vast sums of money that it has spent on defence, not enough has been spent on our roads. Out of the funds provided by the petrol tax in the last three years for expenditure on strategic roads, no less than £692,210 remains unspent. I warn the Government that, in preparing the defences of this country, it should not waste time as it has done. How much time have we left? Do we know? I do not think that we do. All we can hope for is that fate and the gods will be kind to us; that we will have time; that the Almighty in His infinite mercy will bless us and keep us secure, because we will never be kept secure by this Administration which talks about mobility and in a period of three years fails to spend £692,000 which has been voted out of the petrol tax paid in this country. Surely this is an indictment of this Government for its failure to do a job of work.

The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) sits at the table. He, above anybody else, is aware of the great problems facing the Northern Territory, a vast area for which he is personally responsible. That money would be an important contribution towards having the north-south road resealed, or carried further south. But we should not be thinking in terms of spending only £692,000. We should be thinking in terms of spending millions of pounds on the roads of this country so' that there will be mobility; so that the heaviest types of vehicles will be able to traverse the country; and so that bridges will be strengthened to carry the great vehicles necessary for the security of our country.

With regard to the railways system, I invite the attention of honorable members of this House to the situation in New South Wales, with its great population on the coastline extending from Newcastle in the north, through Sydney, to Wollongong and Port Kembla in the south. In that area there are targets waiting to be shot at by any marauding submarine hundreds of miles out to sea. What of our railway system? Of course, this Government adopts the attitude that it is a State responsibility, but whose responsibility is it in the event of war? It is the people's responsibility. Rail transport is vital and necessary to the people of Australia. One bomb on the railway bridge over the Hawkesbury River, between Newcastle and Sydney would disrupt completely our railway system between the north and the south. Many years ago a new rail link was planned from Sydney through the Hawkesbury area somewhere along the lines of the strategic road up through Putty linking Singleton. That alternative route would serve the nation in the event of hostilities. Has the Government done anything about it? No, it has not. Has the Government done anything to standardize the railway gauges so that there will be mobility in transportation? No, it has not. All these things cry out for patriots to do something about them, and I commend to honorable members a reading of the speeches made by the late John Curtin in 1936 and thereafter relating to the defence of this country. Mobility was the watchword. Action was taken subsequently by a Labour government to do something about these things, not under the threat of war but in the midst of war. We should not in any circumstances, permit that unhappy state of affairs to exist again. The need for mobility in transport must rank as one of the most important defence matters.

The Minister at the table made reference to the linking of the economic policy with the defence policy. Of course that is allimportant. This land of 3,000,000 square miles has fewer than 10,000,000 people. Of course the economic problem is allimportant, and those honorable members who had the privilege of going to the school at Mount Macedon were given valuable information of what would be required in civil defence. Has this Government taken any steps to deal with that, or with strategic supplies? That would be an expenditure by this Government on an essential matter. If this Government were really concerned about these matters, it would go ahead and build express highways out of the capital cities so that the people could move speedily throughout the country, and so that there would not be traffic bottlenecks such as we see on Sunday afternoons, with motor vehicles bumper to bumper for endless miles. What sort of a state of affairs would there be in the event of war? 1 am concerned about the problem of civil defence, including food storage, blood banks, and decentralization of industry. What is the Government's contribution towards decentralization of industry? 1 have made pleas in this Parliament in connexion with the production of ammunition for the new FN rifle - pleas that this ammunition should be produced somewhere in the country. I have asked specifically that my own electorate with its great valleys west of the Blue Mountains be considered. It is suitable country in which to establish a factory so necessary to our security. What will the Government do? I do not know. I do not think the Government knows itself what it is going to do about it, but it has ideas, lt is almost certain that this factory will be established either in Sydney or Melbourne, or very close to one of those capital cities. It will be alongside the atomic reactor, alongside the power station, alongside an oil refinery, or something of that kind. The time is long overdue for the members of this chamber to forget on which side of the Speaker they sit, and to think deeply about these questions in an honesttogoodness Australian way. This is a national problem.

I heard the honorable and gallant member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), a former ViceMarshal of the Royal Australian Air Force, speak last night. He made a statement, which had been made also by the late John Curtin. He said that we would have to fight our battles alone. Perhaps we will. We not only had to fight them alone for a considerable period last time, but we had to fight them under the gravest possible difficulties. Whilst we might have to fight our battles alone again, I suggest to honorable members that we have some good neighbours in the world. Above all, to thine own self be true. We have to build up among the people of Australia a national pride and a national patriotism, and the flow of new Australians to this country makes that all the more necessary. f direct honorable members to the words of our great poet, Henry Lawson - words which were echoed in this chamber by the late John Curtin -

And is it our fate to wake too late To the truth that we have been blind,

With a foreign foe at our harbour gate And a blazing drought behind?

Those words are challenging words at the present time, and rather than becoming involved in all the wrangles of the world and committing ourselves in every theatre, we should be concentrating on affairs in this particular region. We should look to our responsibilities here and cultivate to the utmost friendship with our neighbours. We should look to the problems of Indonesia and see if we can possibly get some sort of understanding with those people. Let us give them further aid if need be, make arrangements to buy their oil and other products, and make extended trade deals wit', them in which credits will be used. Above all, let us try to win the friendship of these and other Asian people. If we can do that, if we can get a screen of islands north of Australia right through from India to New Guinea, then we will have some chance of survival. We should seize that opportunity of making friends, remembering that we will never desert the people who have stood by us.

We are a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and we have a very good friend in this part of the world - the United States of America. We have much in common with the Americans, and I think that most of us were overjoyed to know that in the last few days a great aircraft carrier of the American fleet was in our ports. The visit of that warship was a sign of the friendship between us and America which was encouraging and worth while. It is the responsibility of the people of Australia, instead of looking for enemies, to look to our good friends, to cultivate them, and to play their part in ensuring the security of this great land of ours.

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