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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Mr STEWART (Lang) - by leave- Mr Speaker, the Opposition has no objection to the inquiry which the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has announced. As a matter of fact, I am informed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that we requested an inquiry along the lines that the Minister has approved at some time during the last Parliament. On 7th May of this year, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) asked the Postmaster-General: . . whether he would be prepared to appoint a select committee of this House, an ad hoc committee of independent persons or the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to conduct a public inquiry into the feasibility and desirability of introducing a system of frequency modulation broadcasting into Australia and to report to him on the matter and through him to Parliament and the public.

My Leader has just handed me a copy of the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives. This shows that on 6th June 1968 a ministerial statement was presented by the Postmaster-General on this subject. To the motion 'That the House take note of the paper', the Leader of the Opposition moved by way of amendment:

That the following words be added to the motion: 'and that in the opinion of this House a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into all aspects of frequency modulation broadcasting'.

This amendment was moved on 6th June 1968. The Postmaster-General has agreed now to appoint an inquiry in response to the request made on 7th May by the honourable member for Bradfield.

I remember that, on a number of occasions, the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) has spoken on the subject of frequency modulation broadcasting. Those who know anything about frequency modulation broadcasting will appreciate that it does give a far better presentation of sound than the techniques that are being used in radio at the moment. The Opposition approves of the appointment of this inquiry and hopes that it will not be long before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will present its reports and recommendations to the PostmasterGeneral. There is only one other comment that I wish to make. In the final part of his speech, the Postmaster-General said:

While the report will be made to me it is my intention to make the report available lo honourable members and the public subsequent to its receipt by me.

I would like the Minister to give an assurance to the House that, when he does make the report public, he will make arrangements also for public debate to take place in this Parliament on that report.

NAVAL BASE AT COCKBURN SOUND Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) fi 1.0] - I hope that in future ministerial statements will not be made on private members days. It takes up the time of members who might want to discuss important matters. I move:

That this House considers that the construction of the naval base at Cockburn Sound should receive high priority on the defence programme and that negotiations should be undertaken with the British Government to base two aircraft carriers on Cockburn Sound after 1970.

Judging by the question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) it would seem that for once both the Government side of the House and the Opposition are in agreement with regard to one particular item of defence on a very vital matter. I do not doubt that the reasons for the agreement may be somewhat different, although that yet remains to be seen. The subject of building up Cockburn Sound as a naval base was mentioned almost incidentally in the GovernorGeneral's Speech when he said:

Investigation into the construction of a causeway to the naval facilities to be built in Western Australia has begun, and construction on the development of Learmonth airfield in Western Australia will shortly start.

Investigations have been proceeding for a very long time and I feel that by now we should be in a position to get on with the job of the construction of the naval base itself. I speak subject to correction here but I understand that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech also made pointed reference to the importance of Cockburn Sound as a naval base, and in the second last defence statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this House there was a small reference, shall we say, to the question of the defences of the western coast of Australia. For this reason, in view of the fact that we seem to be in agreement on both sides of the House, even if it is for different reasons, someone might say: Why waste the time of the House by moving this motion today? My reasons are, firstly, that I feel that it has not been given sufficient priority in the light of the international situation that exists. Secondly, I rather feel that the Opposition desires the building of this base on account of its policy of Fortress Australia, as against the Government's point of view which I believe is a very much wider perspective.

The question of filling the vacuum that will be left in the Indian Ocean by the withdrawal of the British fleet east of Suez in 1971 is a matter of great strategic and tactical importance to the whole of the Western world. It is not only a question of Australian defence. It is also a question of the defence of our main sea trade route to Europe, which may well be the only sea trade route if disturbances occur which block the Panama Canal as effectively as the Suez Canal has been blocked and closed for years past. The route via the Cape of Good Hope is the only allweather route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian and Southern O Jeans and therefore the action taken for the protection of this route is of vital importance to us, not only from the point of view of trade but also from the point of view of defence. In that respect Cockburn Sound becomes part of the linking of the defence system with the Simonstown base in South Africa.

We should not on this occasion allow the discussion to be side-tracked on the racist questions and other things of that nature. Let us have a look at this matter from the strategic point of view whatever government there is in South Africa and let us hope that it is a friendly governmnent towards us for a long time to come. In southern Africa from a strategic point of view the Cape route is the back door of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and unless the Western world is going to wake up to the fact that this is of vital importance to the whole of it and not only to Australia, the position will be very dangerous. Already resolutions have been passed in the United Nations about the supply of arms to Africa. We have had the British Labor Government abrogating the Simonstown agreement, and as a result the shopping for hardware and the building up of munitions and defence requirements in South Africa have been considerably handicapped. With regard to the Australian position no Australian would for one moment suggest that we alone can attempt to fill the vacuum that will be left with regard to the protection of the Indian Ocean. On the other hand, if we expect other nations to come in and help us with the protection or to partly fill the vacuum, or to supply sufficient force to deter other people from using the Indian Ocean as a means of world conquest, then we have to play our part and stand our share of the cost of the defence.

In that respect the aerodromes at Pearce and Learmonth and the building up of the naval base at Cockburn Sound are of vital importance. We have been investigating this for a long time and now we propose to build a causeway, but I do not think that is good enough. I do not for one moment suggest that as a result of giving this a higher priority the defence expenditure on behalf of the Navy, or any other defence expenditure, should be curtailed. We have a long shopping list to fill in the gaps on the defence pantry shelves and it will' take some time before we receive the goods. Therefore, as I say, I do not want priority given at the expense of what has already been stated in the defence programme, but I do feel that we should take for granted that we will have to take on the burden of this extra expense by expediting the building up of a naval base at Cockburn Sound.

When we look around the world today all of us would like to feel that peaceful co-operation amongst the greater nations of the world was an established fact. Anybody who has been lucky enough to survive 1 world war let alone 2 longs for the day when peaceful co-operation amongst the great nations of the world will lead to a peaceful progress in the interests of all mankind. But today when we look around the world and find that brush/ire wars or wars of liberation are conceived in the dark processes of the Kremlin in Moscow and behind the Gates of Heavenly Peace - a modern misnomer in Peking - and are then born in a hospital branded 'peaceful cooperation' in order to deceive other people as to the strategy and tactics used for world conquest, unfortunately we still have to expend large sums of money on defence that could bc better expended on social services, both here and in other countries in this region. We must keep up our guard and we must take our share of ensuring that the Indian Ocean, particularly in this case, is not left as a vacuum to be filled by others. The Russian experts have been very definite in their statements for the last 4 or 5 years on why they are building up their naval forces and why they have built up the mercantile marine from being the twenty-first in the early 1950s to about the fifth biggest in the world.

When we survey the position, particularly that of the armed Services in America, we cannot sit down and feel quite happy that such a position will exist here that we have not to take any notice of what is happening around us. As I have said, I hope that it will not be advocated that this naval base be built merely from the point of view of Fortress Australia. Some honourable members opposite and some on this side of the House were in Fortress Singapore. Having been in one fortress I do not want a similar experience again.

The building of a naval base at Cockburn Sound has become of vital importance not only to Australia but to the Western democracies as a link in establishing a position in the Indian Ocean which will not lead to people thinking that they can dominate or overcome it. Not since Vasco de Gama sailed into the Indian Ocean have the Russians had a presence there, but in 1968 they had a small naval squadron touring around the northern parts of the Indian Ocean. The Russians have been trying to negotiate with India for rights to naval bases, particularly in the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, which would enable them to control the eastern approaches to the Indian Ocean via the Straits of Malacca. The Russians have tried to negotiate with Pakistan for another island off the Persian Gulf. Although the Suez Canal has been closed the Russians now control most of the northern littoral of Africa. They have been very active in Sudan where there have been more casualties in the fighting between Arabs and Africans than in the fighting between the Arabs and the Israelis, the Arabs in the former case being supported by Russia in a war about which we do not hear very much. The Russians have naval bases and facilities in the Yemen and Somalia on both sides of the entrance to the Red Sea. They now have facilities on the west coast of Nigeria as a result of the civil war with Biafra.

They have been steadily coming down the east coast of Africa. For the last few months their fishing fleets - we know the purpose of some of their fishing fleets - have been based on the port of Mauritius, from which they have now received a contract for oceanographic surveys in the Mozambique Channel between Malagassy and South Africa. It is obvious to anybody interested in the international sphere that the Cape route is the Gibraltar of the international situation and that the Communist strategy is firstly to take over the rice bowl of South East Asia and then control the Cape. Part of the attack on South African sport is designed to denigrate and undermine South Africa in the eyes of the world, lt is all part of the greater strategy.

Mr Cohen - What rot.

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