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Wednesday, 13 May 1970

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - I had intended tonight to deal with a statement on the Fill aircraft which was made last night by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Before I deal with this subject I wish to refer to the speech of the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) in this debate tonight. I understand that he has since left the chamber. He saw fit to refer to the deplorable living conditions of age pensioners, who number about three quarters of a million. They live on the poverty line. 1 address myself to the few honourable members who are present on the Government benches at this hour. I cannot understand why the honourable member for Herbert made a plea for these people tonight. Perhaps he was speaking to impress the people in his electorate. He deplored the very small pension upon which age pensioners are forced to live. That position is the result of the disgraceful way they have been treated by honourable members opposite. The honourable member for Herbert is a member of the Government party. Surely he can make his voice heard. Perhaps he would bc a voice in the wilderness in seeking better conditions for the people about whom he so hypocritically states he is concerned.

I now direct the attention of honourable members back to 1963, the year of the charge against the Labor Party Executive of having 36 faceless men and the year in which President Kennedy of the United States of America was assasinated. Sir Robert Menzies, who was then Prime Minister, saw fit to go before the people of Australia and to lie to them in a most blatant fashion. He prevailed upon the electors of the Commonwealth to believe that their lives were at stake.

Mr Giles - I rise on a point of order. I do not think that the honourable member for Sturt should say that a previous Prime Minister lied.

Mr SPEAKER - I would suggest that the honourable member for Sturt use a little more temperate language in the balance of his speech. I would suggest to him that temperate language is of the essence of good debate in this Parliament.

Mr FOSTER - He most certainly stretched the meaning of the word ambiguity' because he went before the people of Australia and implied that their very lives were at stake unless they were prepared to re-elect this Government to the Treasury benches. His Government wanted to provide the Royal Australian Air Force with a type of aircraft which would defend us from the hordes of Indonesia and from the hordes of China. Since that date various Ministers for Defence have no doubt sent little notes to Mao Tse-tung saying: 'Wait a little while. We are not quite ready yet'. But today Malik is the No. I pin-up boy with the Government, although this was not so in those days because he was not in the position in those days that he is in at this point of time.

I also want to say that this is one of the most shocking scandals that has ever been put before the Commonwealth of Australia. I hesitate to surmise what criticism would have been levelled at honourable members on this side of the House if during the period when they were responsible for saving this country from invasion they had wasted money in such a scandalous fashion. It is all very well for the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) to laugh. He evidently sees fit to deride the capability of the armed Services to defend the people of this Commonwealth. I laid a wreath on behalf of fallen members of the services during Coral Sea Week, and my mind went back to the first occasion on which the Japanese were ever repelled. It was at a place called Milne Bay, and they were repelled by Australian troops. Let us not forget that.

Had we on this side of the House been in government we would not have put this country to such shockingly wasteful expenditure for no result whatsoever as that for which members on the other side of the chamber must accept irresponsibility. Not only have they wasted this amount of money in the most shocking manner but they have infact denied this country any form of defence from the air. They have not even provided us with any capable reconnaissance aircraft. They are as guilty as their opposite numbers in the United

Kingdom Government were just prior to 1939 and let them not forget that they bear as much guilt. The amount of money that this Government has expended on defence since it has been in office in comparison to the amount of hardware we have to defend this country with is nothing less than absolutely scandalous. It is shameful. The Government goes into the highways and byways of the world to get foreign exchange to develop this country, but it has wasted more money than has ever come into the country.

Members of the Australian Country Party may well laugh because they suffer from an inferiority complex in regard to this matter. They are just as guilty because they are members and supporters of the Government. Not only have they failed this country in the matter of defence but they have failed the very people whom they purport to represent, that is, the members of the farming community of Australia. They have failed them dismally. They have led them by the nose and have in fact misled them and treated them in the most shocking fashion. Their day will come.

Do honourable members opposite ever stop to reflect? The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser), this tall, aristocratic, wealthy gentleman from Victoria who never has to pay any regard to his own personal budget sees fit to pay less regard to the budget of the taxpayers of this country. That is what it means. It can be measured in no other terms. Have honourable members opposite ever stopped to think of the needs of most people in our community, to consider what could have been provided for them with the money which has been wasted on the Fill aircraft, how many schools could have been built, how many pre-schools might have been constructed or what burden could have been lifted from the pensioners, to refer to one narrow field of welfare?

In this place today I heard a question directed to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who said in reply: 'It is the policy of the Government'. I say to him that if that is the policy of the Government, it needs to have a long hard look at its policy. I have said before in this House, and I repeat for the benefit of honourable members opposite, that if they had any shred of feeling at all they should get out of this establishment when the House is in recess and look at the poverty that they have inflicted and continue to inflict on many members of the community. I ask them to consider the miserly amount of money that the Government pays to a widow with a couple of dependent children and to consider the educational needs of the children and the pittance that the Government keeps them on. I ask honourable members opposite: Where is your sense of equity? You do not have any. Why he so hypocritical as to pay lip service to it? You dodge your responsibility as men and you dodge your responsibility as politicians. I have been in this place a short time only. I have sat here rather quietly listening to some of the greatest tripe that one ever could be expected to listen to. I wind up on this note and hope that perhaps I can continue with the subject tomorrow night and draw attention to even more areas of dire need in this community. Honourable members opposite should go to bed tonight and think about the $500m that they have wasted for nothing and how well they could have spent it.

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