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Thursday, 9 May 1957

Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Every one in this House welcomes a contribution from the honorable member for ChisholmSir Wilfred Kent Hughes) on any matter relating to the defence of this country. When he said in the latter portion of his speech that there should be no misunderstanding between friends, he touched upon a very important issue. He said, in effect, that we should not slap a friend in the face and do something behind his back. I say to the honorable member for Chisholm and members of the Government that, if that is the policy on which we are to build our future, it is a very wise one. But it should not be restricted to one spot because it is thought some assistance may be obtained from that spot. We should be big enough to extend that policy to red China and to other people adjacent to our doors to try to get some understanding, instead of looking for war.

This debate is fast drawing to a close. To the extent that honorable members on both sides of the House have agreed on one salient feature, some value has been derived from it. That feature is the determination of every honorable member to see that Australia is defended to the maximum of its capacity. I do not think that there is any division of thought on that problem. Whilst we all agree on that point, there appears to be very wide divergence of thought on what is the best for the defence of this country and on what part we should play in world affairs not only on the level mentioned by the honorable member for Chisholm but also on the defence structure if world events should prove that we cannot make friends with the Communists - and that cannot b. decided lightly - and if the Communists determine, as we to some extent have determined, that there cannot be co-existence in this world. Two features emerge. We have to consider whether we believe that there is no possibility of co-existence and, therefore, that the Communists are moving step by step to place us in a position where we will be at a disadvantage if they attack at the weakest point in the strategy of the Western world. If we believe that, we look at our own nation, keeping in mind all the time that every one believes that Australia must be defended to the maximum of its capacity.

We have all agreed that war could take one of three forms. The first is the "' global " conflict. Australia is in a peculiar position. I say " peculiar " because our global position is unique. No other country has such a vast continent populated by a mere 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 people, and no country has the prospects for future development that exist in Australia. We must always keep that picture in mind. No other country has the obvious possibility of development, with good food and everything that goes with a decent standard of living, so close to millions of Asiatics who are crying out for some improvement in their standards. Whether we like it or not, that is the reality of Australia's position. We should not believe that we can look to America for aid or that the fleet of Great Britain is standing in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The true position that confronts this nation must be kept in mind when we think in terms of defence.

I mention those features because in this debate there seems to be the thought that we are confronted with a possible threepronged attack. It is the responsibility not merely of the Government but, indeed, of the Parliament to defend this nation; and it is on that basis that I propose to speak. The question arises of the part Australia will play in the event of a " global " war. Secondly, we must consider our situation in what is regarded now as " limited " war. Lastly, of course, is our position in a * cold " war. Let us take what I believe to be the defence requirements and the likely outcome for Australia in the event of such a stark tragedy as a " global " war. If such a war is to be fought with atomic or hydrogen bombs - and that is too terrible to contemplate - we must remember that the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6th August, 1945, killed 70,000 people and wounded or maimed as many more. We know that the hydrogen bomb is now a thousand times more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

If a " global " conflict were to take place involving the use of thermo-nuclear weapons, we get the picture that New York, London or Moscow could be annihilated with only one hydrogen bomb, if that devastating instrument were used. If that is the future of the world - and I say this quite frankly, having given it a lot of thought for a long time - Australia can forget about defence; because the commencement of a world conflict on that level would leave starving, broken humanity in a position in which defence would be no longer necessary. If that ever happens, all we are talking about now on defence does not mean anything. If we believe that that is the ultimate, our effort has been wasted and we should be using the money now spent on defence to develop our nation and to help feed the people close to our doors, and be done with it! On the other hand, I believe - and the honorable member for Chisholm touched on this point - that self-preservation will prevent the tragedy I have mentioned. I do not believe that the politicians in Moscow, whether they are called Communists or something else, or the politicians in London or New York, would tolerate the launching of a hydrogen bomb to destroy an enemy city, because they know that within the following hour their own cities would be destroyed.

I turn now to the " limited " war, because that is the feature we should be considering. A " limited " war can become a very important factor for Australia. If the Communists have all the techniques that we are led to believe they possess, they will look for the weakest spot in the defences of the Western democracies to commence a drawing-off process. In my view our own country is that weak spot. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said on 4th April that limited war would always be possible. We have seen it in the Middle East and in Indo-China. Our voice may be heard in respect of a limited war, but in respect of the cold war, the third possibility mentioned by the Prime Minister, it would not. The cold war policy will be decided by the Great Powers. It is because I believe that a country of 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 people cannot hope to exert an influence in the cold war, that I propose to devote the remainder of my speech to a consideration of our part in a limited war. If we are to be of any assistance to the Western Powers, we should be looking at the Middle East and SouthEast Asia. I do not say that without first giving the matter some thought. The South-East Asia area represents the weak link in the defence chain of the Western democracies, and if the Communist is as bright as we are led to believe, he will work night and day to strike at that weak link.

We have two alternatives. The first is to become a friendly power - to try to win South-East Asia from the Communists by friendly means. The Government believes that that is not possible. History will reveal whether or not the Government is right. However, if the Government does not believe co-existence to be possible, we want from it a plan for the defence of this country - a plan to strengthen this weak link in the Western defence chain.

I was surprised that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) should have been so ready to accept the plan that is before us. I thought that when he had finished speaking I should not be left very much to say. I could not believe that a great soldier would express himself as satisfied with a plan such as this, which will give us in 1960 11,000 men in the Navy, 20,000 men in the Australian Regular Army, and 16,725 men in the Royal Australian Air Force, a total of 48,725. If we believe that, finally, the Communists will force war upon the world, any one who stands in his place and says that he is satisfied with the present plan for strengthening this weak link is rendering a great disservice to the future of democracy.

The total man-power in the armed services represents only one man for every quarter-mile of our coastline! If, as has been suggested, the Communist can convince the people of South-East Asia that his philosophy and form of government is preferable to ours, we cannot with any conscience accept a figure of 48,725 men, by 1960, as enabling us to play our proper part in the Western defence system. If the Government believes what it says about Communist infiltration, there is no evidence of it in our defence preparations. The prospect of a limited war in South-East Asia is very real, so let us be frank about it. Under the Government's plan, which the honorable member for Chisholm accepts, we shall have neither the man-power nor the financial capacity to wage even a holding war in this area-. Our task is to protect this country, not for ourselves, but for posterity. Our task is to strengthen the weak link in Western defence. If the Communist is as bad as this Government says, we must not merely go to America, find out what they will give us and come back, finally, with twelve or even twenty planes. If, as the Prime Minister has said, the part-world war, or small war, can lead in the ultimate to global war, let us be realistic about it. If the Communist is going to start the small war in preparation for the global war, he will attack the weakest part of the Western defence chain. If that is so, and if America and the United Kingdom are sincere, let us accept the fact that we are trying to defend this country for Western democracy as a whole. We are not fighting for ourselves alone, but also for those who live around us and can protect our way of life, and for our children and grandchildren to come.

Let us be big enough to go to our allies and say, " We have not the means with which to purchase or build the " black sky " of planes that may be necessary for the ultimate defence of this part of the world. We believe that the Communist cannot be trusted, and so do you. We believe that, finally, he will strike and that when he does he will direct his attack at the weakest point in order to draw away your strength from the vital areas. Let us have lendlease now ". Let the future citizens of this country pay for the security that we are now ensuring. If what Government supporters have said about Communist technique is true there is no time to lose. After all, if we embark upon lend-lease and, after blackening our skies with planes find that there is to be no world war, our allies will still have made the best possible investment - an investment in freedom. Let us not say, merely because our population is 9,000,000 and we can afford to spend only £190,000,000 each year on defence, that we shall be satisfied with fewer than 50,000 men as our contribution to the defence of Western democracy. If we believe that ultimately the Communists will strike, let us not be ashamed of the fact that we have a population of only 9,000,000. Let us say to our allies, " Give us lend-lease, and let us have the equipment that we need ". Let us also build up our own potential. Let us develop our aircraft factories, and the other industries that we need, in order to maintain ourselves in this country. If the Government believes in the principles that it has put forward, it will do two things: It will try to create friendship with China and the rest of SouthEast Asia; at the same time, it will show our allies that we are resolved to become a strong link, and not the weak link, in the Western chain of democracy and of world freedom.

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