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Wednesday, 8 May 1957

Mr DRUMMOND (New England) . - We are discussing now, and have been discussing at considerable length, the defence policy of Australia. I should like to say at the outset of my speech - and 1 say this with great respect to the overwhelming majority of the men who sit on the Australian Country party benches - that I have, perhaps, one special qualification to speak on this subject, inasmuch as I have never had any practical experience in any arm of the fighting services. 1 do not say that disrespectfully, but because, even if it causes me to be ignorant of certain aspects of defence, I think it may enable me to approach the question with a detached mind.

I find, as I look back over the years, that the attitude of my friends who sit in Opposition towards the defence policy of this country has not greatly changed in some respects, if I may take the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) himself as a case in point. On the first occasion on which, as far as I remember, I ever asked a question of a Labour speaker at an election meeting - and the incident to which 1 refer occurred during a federal election nearly 40 years ago - I asked the following question: - " You are a supporter and an advocate of white Australia? " He said, " Yes ". I asked. " And do 1 understand that you are opposed to compulsory training? ". Again he said, " Yes ". Then I said, " Supposing the Japanese decided to come here, how do you suppose to stop them? ". He waved his arm and said, " Legislate against them ". Well, I must confess that when I listen to some of the arguments put forward by the Leader of the Opposition and some of his supporters on the subject of what is to be the proper defence for Australia, it seems to me that their idea is to link our defence with reliance on the United Nations, plus legislation against potential invaders of Australia. With due respect to those who hold that point of view, I feel no great confidence in legislation against people who are determined to use force against us. We have an every day example of the futility of such an attitude. We have plenty of legislation in this country to control criminals, but it is still necessary for us to have police forces. It is necessary, in certain circumstances, to have reserve militia forces to deal with certain elements in our own community. The world in general is not so advanced, on the average, as the Australian people are. So, in respect of world affairs, we could rely to an even smaller degree on legislation to control criminals in the world sphere. Consequently, we are faced with the necessity to ensure that we have an effective defence policy within the limits of our power.

The Prime Minister's statement obviously poses a dilemma which is common to every nation that thinks on the subject of defence to-day. We are in a position of great transition and, in addition, Australia has problems arising from its long coastline, its vast area and its responsibilities outside its immediate borders which, in themselves, give governments a great amount of concern. The dilemma with which the Government is faced may be expressed in the following questions: To what degree can we depend upon atomic or thermo-nuclear weapons to be a deterrent against any really large-scale warfare? In what proportion should the use of conventional military forces be combined with the use of atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons? Alternatively, in what degree must we depend on conventional forces? Those questions must concern those who are planning our defence, and must create anxiety in their minds, because, to a large extent, they deal with the realm of the abstract. They deal with the realm of possibilities and certainly, in some cases, of probabilities. So, I can quite understand that when the Prime Minister made his statement on defence there was much that he said that could be open to misconstruction. For instance, his statement might be open to misconstruction when compared with a statement that he made a few months ago to the effect that we had probably never before been as ready for the defence of this country as we were at that stage. But that statement is not inconsistent with the necessity to have a new assessment of new forces and of their impact on our defence.

I know that the business of the Opposition is to engage in a certain amount of constructive criticism. It may be criticism that is justified, or criticism that is purely exploratory. In this kind of debate it is also reasonable that members on the Government side of the House should engage in constructive criticism. In considering such a matter as defence we cannot dissociate ourselves from our experience of World War II., and the lessons of that war. The outstanding lesson of World War II. was that there was, on the side of the Allies opposed to Nazi-ism, Fascism and the eastern policy of the Japanese, a tremendous time lag in realizing the form of warfare we would be forced to meet. Since the war, I, no doubt like many others, have made it my business to read the best works that have been produced on this subject, such as " The Struggle for Europe ", by Chester Wilmot, the Churchill series which is itself most revealing, " Festung Europa ", which is the Eisenhower contribution, the translations of the German General Staff records, "The Rommel Papers", "The Other Side of the Hill", by Liddell Hart, and the recent book by our own GovernorGeneral. These books, particularly the German approach to the history of the last war, show that we nearly lost the war in its early stages because our thinking was not imaginative enough to envisage the possibility of what became known as " blitzkrieg ". It is quite true that the blitzkrieg strategy was copied from the famous charge of our own 40,000 horsemen, who swept over the Turkish lines; but the conception was translated into the use of tanks, dive bombers, motor cycle troops, and merciless and ruthless warfare generally. Our people were not ready for that. They had not thought in those terms, and, as a result, we nearly lost the war in the early stages. Later, however, when our people had had time to organize, quite apart from the tremendous industrial power of the United States, there was one fact that emerged, which was that although the unconventional blitzkrieg method of warfare had completely disorganized our defences, and enabled the Germans to overrun whole countries, good staff organization and careful planning on our side, plus adequate equipment, enabled us to overcome the forces arrayed against us. But there is a further lesson that we may learn from this.

The question has been raised of the possible deterrent effect of atomic and nuclear bombs. I listened with the greatest of interest to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), and I think that all honorable members were impressed by his approach to the problem, although some of us may have differed from some of his conclusions. However, in this regard there is a lesson that we can learn from World War II. It is quite true up to a point, that poison gas was not used in the last war. but it is not true to say that it was never used. It was used against unfortunate people who had no means of retaliation, and that was the point made by the honorable member for Indi. If the aggressor knows that he will suffer seriously if he lets loose something like that, he will pause to consider. It was not any consideration of mercy that restrained the Fascists and Nazis from letting poison gas loose upon the rest of the world. It was the fear that they would have more than ordinary cause to regret having done so.

I remind honorable members of what was done to the unfortunate Ethiopians by the Fascists under Mussolini - the dreadful plastering of the countryside with mustard gas, when those unfortunate people had no means of retaliation. That is one of the foulest blots on the civilization of the Christian world. The lesson there is plain for us to read. If the Italians had thought that the Ethiopians were armed with mustard gas and could deliver it just as effectively as they could, they would noi have used it. There is one other nation which used gas in a most terrible way. It is said that the German nation did nol use it. It did not use it against those who could retaliate, but what about the millions of unfortunates who went to the gas chambers? A great deal of poison gas was used to destroy those unfortunate people. That was another four blot upon civilization. If Australians value this fair land and cherish their right to retain their homes inviolate and to control their country, they must take these terrible lessons to heart.

In considering this matter, I come to the. conclusion that the things which would piny a very big part in the defence of Australia are, first of all, radar on a scale big enough to provide sufficient warning, as far as it is possible to give it; and next, guided missiles. The guided missile is a defensive weapon that may, with development, become an offensive weapon effective over very long distances, but for our purposes it would be used, probably, as a defensive weapon. Then we would need aircraft of a kind that would enable us to retaliate effectively against those who attacked us. I assume that our scientists and our naval, military and air force planners have thought of these things.

There are one or two other factors which, to me, as a layman, may be of significance. A short time ago, we learned that abnormal sunspot activity had sent the whole radio arrangements of the world haywire. Cosmic disturbances could paralyse radar systems and destroy their effectiveness as a warning of destructive missiles launched by an enemy. We all remember the story of the Spanish fleet that was approaching the English coast centuries ago. More of that fleet was destroyed by a storm than was destroyed by the English Navy. An unpredictable factor such as that, over which, I believe, man will never have any effective control - because there are forces which will always be greater than man - may destroy, in a few minutes, apparently effective means for the defence of a country.

The Government, in its wisdom, has decided that it will modify the national service training scheme. 1 want to say that two things are required to enable that, or any other, system to function effectively. The first is that we must have people who are physically fit. If honorable members examine the financial provision made by the Government for the National Fitness Council, they will find that it has been static, notwithstanding the rise of costs, at the rate of £72,500 per annum for the whole of Australia. 1 recall that, after World War II., the Commonwealth, greatheartedly. appointed two men to go through all the schools of New South Wales and instruct the scholars in what was called physical fitness. That was a truly magnificent gesture, which was withdrawn as soon as the depression hit us. We must have a population that is physically fit, and one of the means which has been conducive to that end has been the national service training scheme. That scheme will be largely discontinued, for reasons at which

I do not propose to cavil, but I wish that some of the money saved by the curtailment of the national service training scheme could be diverted by the Government to the National Fitness Council. I suggest an initial sum of £100,000, in the succeeding year £150,000, and in the following years £200,000. Such financial assistance would enable the national fitness movement to provide a really effective system of young civilian training to be carried on. At the present time, the work is being hampered by lack of essential finance. Judge Adrian Curlewis, the head of the National Fitness Council of New South Wales, has constantly, as have others, brought this matter before the Government.

The other point 1 want to make is that in all these matters it is necessary to have a complete picture of what is required for the proper defence of this country. To-day, the demand is for technologists and trained scientific workers, and for more finance to enable the universities and the senior schools to discharge their responsibilities in the training of those people. I shall not cover those matters to any extent to-night. I simply say that if the population lacks physical fitness, although there may be mental skill and scientific training, its defence will be the poorer and less effective. That is emphasized by the fact that the constant trend, as we know by this change in the defence plans, is towards higher, more extensive and more effective technological training.

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