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Thursday, 9 May 1957

Mr MORGAN (Reid) .- The new proposals of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on national defence are an indication of the Government's confused thinking and of its lack of constructive ideas and of any real plan of defence. They constitute a vindication of the criticism of Opposition members and other sections of the community, and even of a number of Government supporters, in regard to the Government's defence policy, or lack of a real defence policy. The previous appro.ach of the Government in regard to defence was more in terms of providing a certain amount of money for defence than of having a real policy. Its practice was to allocate a good round sum for defence and leave it to the services to expend that amount of money, whether or not it was warranted. That attitude was typified by the Prime Minister in 1954, at Hobart, I think, during an election campaign, when, dealing with the allocation of the defence vote, he said, " It is a case of £200,000,000 or nothing ". In effect, that meant " Take it or leave it ".

Since then, the Government has had to modify the annual expenditure on defence to £190,000,000. Now, after it has spent some £1,200,000,000 on defence, the Government is giving some real thought as to how the defence vote should be spent. To continue the Government's past practice of allocating money for defence and leaving it to the services to spend, provides too much temptation to the services to spend the amount provided, whether or not its expenditure is warranted. The St. Mary's munitions filling factory is a classical example of that. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) has already referred to that to-day. That undertaking was entered upon, apparently, without any proper inquiry as to whether its establishment was warranted, and particularly as to the suitability of the site. The Government has been very vague as to the experts, if any, who advised it on the proposal, as to whether any proper inquiry was entered upon before the decision to establish the factory was made and, for instance, as to whether due inquiry had been made on what has been done in that regard overseas. Not so long ago, the Government sent the Director of Civil Defence overseas to ascertain what was being done in other countries. According to what he told us on his return, he and those associated with him in his investigation were impressed with what was being done by Sweden in regard to underground munitions factories. The whole of this £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 being spent at St. Mary's could prove, in the long run, to be entirely wasted, not only in regard to the undertaking itself, but also in regard to many other munitions factories and other industries in its proximity; because, obviously, the existence of those factories in that area make it a prime target in the event of an atomic war. It could happen that, as a result of an attack on the area, we would have not only no factories, but also no munitions supplies.

The responsibility for this state of affairs is certainly the Government's responsibility, but it also devolves on the whole Parliament, because it is not just sufficient for us to castigate the Government on this matter. Rank and file members should be taken into consultation by the Government. We know only too well that when the Estimates come before us each year there is insufficient opportunity in debate to elicit any real information regarding the various arms of the services. I commend to the Government the establishment of an all-party committee on defence, especially in regard to defence expenditure, thus emulating the example of governments during the war, when we had in existence the War Expenditure Committee. I was on that committee for a time, and I saw something of the waste that can occur in war-time when there is a lack of proper supervision. In fact, it got to the point where the mere existence of that committee acted as a deterrent against wasteful expenditure. I recollect one occasion when it was arranged that the committee inspect a large undertaking - a well-known organization. We were to make our inspection on a Wednesday. On the Monday of that week the organization concerned suddenly announced that it had discovered that it had overcharged the Government by an amount of £100,000 and was making a voluntary restitution of that amount. When we got there on the Wednesday our job had really been done. We did not have to do anything other than be entertained by the management.

Millions of pounds were saved by that committee. I think it is high time that the Government established something of that nature. After all, there is an old saying that everybody's business is nobody's business. It seems to be assumed that we are dealing with peace-time requirements; but we are being continually reminded that the cold war is still in existence, and surely the same prudence and the same care should be exercised in the cold war as would be necessary if the war became a hot war. It would be much simpler to exercise the necessary supervision now than it would be in time of actual war, because we know that in wartime the key people are preoccupied in one of the fighting services or in other aspects of war administration. Perhaps, many honorable members on both sides of the House could be better occupied in that connexion than in being preoccupied with many of the unnecessary and controversial issues that arise in this House.

On the other hand, there is little point in our airing our views here while the Government simply digs in its toes, stands on its dignity, and turns a deaf ear to any suggestions, constructive or otherwise, that may be made by honorable members.

Mr Duthie - It has a closed mind.

Mr MORGAN - That is so. After all, even experts can be wrong. The Government reversal of its defence policy is sufficient evidence of the truth of that statement. Surely to goodness we can pool our brains as well as our material resources. Honorable members on both sides of the House have their ears to the ground, and observe many things and form many ideas in regard to defence as well as other aspects of administration. Many honorable members on both sides have had practical experience of defence matters. They may be right or wrong in their ideas-, but the fact is that under present conditions they have no access to the experts. The humblest member of this House may be able to put forward some constructive suggestion.

I was on the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. " Melbourne " with other honorable members on the occasion on which the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) was good enough to arrange a sea trip for us. What went through my mind when I was on that ship was the question whether that very craft might not be out of date already, and the expense involved, not only in capital outlay, but also on upkeep, might not be justified. Recently, I was at Norfolk Island and the thought that went through my mind there was that that island might well be used as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. It could be established as such at less expense and with a lower cost of upkeep than can the huge floating aircraft carriers which are really sitting ducks for enemy bombers. With Phillip Island used in conjunction with it, Norfolk Island could well be an unsinkable aircraft carrier, lt is one mile long and one mile wide, and there is a huge hill under which a hangar could be constructed to accommodate aircraft. With a breakwater across to Nepean Island, a submarine base could be established there. Norfolk Island was used as a submarine base during the last war by the American forces. That is something I commend to the Government's consideration, because it could constitute part of a huge air umbrella from New Zealand to the north of Australia.

I think that honorable members in general are quite sincere in this debate and are concerned as to the position in respect of our defences. I hope the suggestions that have been advanced will give the Government food for thought and that the Government will take some notice of them, even if only a little notice. It seems to me that one thing that has been overlooked is that we are now confronted with a warfare different from the kinds we have known to date. It is generally accepted, or, at least, stated, by the Government that the immediate enemy is international communism. Let us consider the matter from that point of view without going into the question of whether or not there may be a resurgence of totalitarianism from the right. International communism does not confine itself to shooting wars alone. Certainly it encompasses force in all its phases, if necessary, for the attainment of its objectives. But military war, for which it seems to be well prepared, is only one aspect. Direct action on the industrial front is another. It is on the propaganda front that it uses its most potent weapons, and it is well organized, prepared and continually active on that front. Communism well recognizes that we are engaged in ideological warfare. Its continual changes of front to meet changing situations is evidence of that. The so-called " cold " war, the debunking of Stalin, the cult of the individual, the de-Stalinization process and various goodwill missions of Messrs. Khrushchev, Bulganin, Chou-En-lai and others are all part of the plan. But the objective is always the same - world revolution and the imposition of the Communist ideology and form of government on the whole of the peoples of the world.

What are we doing in Australia to counteract this and to unify the nation? The Communists have unity of action, even though regimented, but we were never more divided among ourselves, politically and otherwise. There are some interests in the community that are bent on spreading disunity. Preparing to use force to meet force is not sufficient, especially if we are a divided nation and do not know where we are going. Nor is it sufficient to leave the matter to those who have a vested interest in war, munitions and the things that demoralize a nation - some people engaged in the fighting services, the production of munitions and so on. When the last war was over, an attempt was made to keep the war going, as it were, under the points scheme. Under that plan, it might have taken two or three years to demobilize the forces and those people who had vested interests in keeping the war going would have benefited. Likewise, there are some sections of the community that are concerned only with selling those things and encouraging those habits that debase, demoralize and disunite the nation. They are not concerned with propaganda to lift morale and spread positive ideas throughout the community.

We must first ascertain if we are really united in our opposition to revolutionary communism and sincerely regard our way of life as better than that which the Communists have to offer. I am not sure tha! we are not divided on that question. In some quarters there seems to be an attitude that communism will inevitably come to this country, as it has come to other countries, and, therefore, it might be just as well for us to give in and swim with the stream because, after all, the Communists may have something better to offer than we have. In my opinion, that is a very dangerous frame of mind, but it is quite understandable because the fact is that the other side is beating us on the propaganda front. Public opinion is the greatest force on earth. An enlightened public opinion. working for truth and justice in the open, will always prevail against a regimented one and forces working in darkness. That was well illustrated the other day when an attempt was made to set up a totalitarian dictatorship in Haiti, in the West Indies. The plan was nipped in the bud because the whole of the people in the community rose up at once and struck at the would-be dictator. He was defeated without a shot being fired. That was done, although the people in the community had no newspapers or means of propaganda such as we have. They passed the facts round by word of mouth to each other and were able to prevent the coup d'etat that was contemplated by the President of Haiti, who wanted to set up a dictatorship in that country.

In order to meet the problem of communism in Australia we must ascertain whether we are united and also do everything possible to acquaint the public with the facts. What real effort is the Government making in that regard, and what are other responsible sections of the community doing to ascertain the truth of the situation and get it across to the people? The people behind the iron curtain may have the truth kept from them, but are we getting it completely in this country? A good deal of doubt seems to prevail in the community, and there is much uncertainty in the public mind. I venture to say that if we were attacked suddenly, chaos would result because we are totally unprepared, ideologically.

Our approach to the question of communism is purely negative. The Government is spending £1,000,000 a year on the security services, but what for? Have we seen any results whatever from that expenditure? Has there been any disclosure that subversive elements are operating in this country? If there are, the people should be told the facts; but if not, the Government should scrap an organization of that nature and use the money now spent on it to spread positive items of news and mould public opinion in the right direction. For example, the Government might well consider reconstituting the Department of Information, which operated during the war for the purpose of building up public morale and of obtaining the co-operation of the people generally in regard to defence and other matters that vitally affected the community as a whole.

One honorable member to-day raised the question of civil defence. Recently, 1 attended the Civil Defence School and 1 heard the complaint of the Director of Medical Services. He had been waiting for about six months for authority to publish a little booklet on first aid, which he intended should go into every home in the community. The total cost would have been only £10,000, but because he had not been able to obtain the necessary authority to publish it, nothing had been done. Recently, I submitted a question to the Minister foi the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is in charge of civil defence, about this matter, but he did not seem to know anything about it. If that little booklet were published and distributed throughout the community, it would have a vital effect, not only by making available knowledge about first aid, but also by informing the public what to do in the case of an emergency. It would also play an important part in building up the morale of the community and generate a spirit of team work among all sections of the people.

In conclusion, I suggest that we should give our consideration to dealing with the things that create communism. A fine example in that regard was given by President Magsaysay, who showed how to cope with communism in his country ai the end of World War II. I have here a newspaper published in Manila, containing a full-page statement about communism. Publication of propaganda of this son should be undertaken by this Government. If the press is not prepared to bring the facts about communism before the people and build up their morale, the Government should publicize matters of this nature. J wish to read this statement as an illustration of the sort of approach made by President Magsaysay to international communism. It is headed, " War against Communism ". and is as follows: -

We are called upon to fight a new enemy in a new kind of war. It is a war over the loyalties and allegiance of men. It is a war that cannot admit of neutrals because it involves every one

Let us identify this enemy clearly. Our enemy is: Communism. Its ranks comprise communists, pro-communists, communist spies and communist agents.

Communism, the new enemy is an idea, a system and a military force. It should not be confused with liberalism, socialism, or any democratic philosophy or program.

Our objective is clear and definite. We want to eliminate communism from any role in the conduct of our public affairs.

How do the agents of communism seek to obtain their ends? Through open rebellion or aggression, through infiltration and subversion, through propaganda and diplomatic pressure, through political and economic warfare.

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