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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Mr HALLETT (Canning) - When considering the importance of a debate of this nature, I find it rather remarkable that I am the third honourable member on the Government side to speak when there has hot been a single speaker from the Opposition side. 1 take it that by its actions in relation to this debate, which is extremely important in view of the position in which we find ourselves in the world today, tho Opposition is not interested in a naval base in Western Australia. As is well known by the members of the House and the people of Australia, the Australian Labor Party has the opportunity of being represented in debate by every second speaker. I am the third speaker on this matter and still the Opposition has not taken the opportunity to speak. I draw my own conclusions from that situation.

As we turn into the 1970s, in my book, we will find ourselves in a most unfortunate situation in the world. I would have thought from the experience of the world that at this stage of its history people throughout the world would be prepared to stay at home in their own territories and develop their own countries and cease to endeavour to capture territory belonging to other people. But what do we find? At this stage both in the Far Bast and in the Middle East we find a very dangerous situation indeed. This debate today is very relevant to the very unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves. Therefore the development of a naval base on the Indian Ocean at Cockburn Sound is of major importance not only to this country, not only to Western Australia and the Indian Ocean but to the free world generally. I believe that this is recognised not only by the people of Western Australia but also by the people of Australia, and I would hope and believe that it is also recognised by friendly powers overseas.

This important base which we hope will be developed in the near future will be situated in a very good harbour indeed. Cockburn Sound is a tremendous place from the point of view of a waterway. I claim to know something of the activities within this area. The Garden Island site is a natural port. It is well protected. There is deep water running up to Garden Island itself. With the development of the causeway between the mainland and Garden Island, it certainly will have access then to the mainland, and that is the first stage of this development. No doubt the naval authorities will be working in co-operation with the authority of the port of Fremantle, because they have already drawn up extensive plans looking well into the future in developing a naval base in that area. 1 think that the authorities responsible for the port of Fremantle are looking into the future and endeavouring to make plans now so that there will not be a disruption at some future time due to lack of access to this very important base and the harbour facilities which will be required in the future in the State of Western Australia.

With the rapid development that is taking place in that area, it is obvious that this natural harbour at Garden Island has the potential for a major shipping port in the years to come. The Western Australian authorities have endeavoured to lay down plans and advise the Government of that State on future planning as they see it at this point. I would hope, as I said and as I repeat, that the Commonwealth will work in full co-operation with the State authorities. One may ask whose responsibility it is to establish the base. I say that it is Australia's responsibility in the first place to make available suitable bases. I have no doubt that our allies would come to our assistance if necessary and would use the facilities supplied by Australia.

This base is of major importance to this area. Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate the number of ships that would come into this area is to look at the trading activities in this area. The port of Fremantle has for a number of years been the largest bunkering port in the southern hemisphere. With the closing of the Suez Canal the situation will perhaps change to some extent because South Africa will be receiving a tremendous amount of shipping tonnage at its various ports. Large tonnages would now be bunkering at South Africa and, because of the distance between the 2 areas, also in Western Australia. So here in the Indian Ocean we have the 2 largest bunkering centres in the southern hemisphere. There is tremendous activity in Western Australia at the moment, as we all know, but it is being increased for various reasons best known to many other people as well as to ourselves. So it is of major importance that some development take place at Cockburn Sound.

As is so often mentioned, Great Britain intends to withdraw from east of Suez, It will return its troops to the British mainland as we all know. But 1 have no doubt whatsoever - and 1 say I have no doubt because of discussions which 1 had back in 1968 at Westminster with leaders of the British Government and Opposition - that Britain has no intention of turning her back on this area of the world when this area of the world, including Australia and New Zealand is in trouble. I would think it would be reasonable to assume that under these circumstances, with Britain's experience in the naval world, she could greatly assist this country and New Zealand if in fact her assistance were needed. This is where I return to the responsibility of this country to build and maintain necessary bases if we expect - and in fact we would expect - the British and others to be with us in any time of crisis. 1 have no doubt whatsoever, regardless of what might be said in relation to the withdrawal of Britain from east of Suez, that Britain will be here in strength if required, but we cannot expect Britain to be here in the Indian Ocean or anywhere else if we are unable to supply her with the necessary bases and resources for that support.

Cockburn Sound is a natural harbour. It is a large harbour and is well protected. It has available to it the necessary land area and other resources which will be developed and which are being developed very rapidly. For example, there are steel mills around this area and in other parts of the Stale of Western Australia. There is no other part of the world today that has greater natural resources than does the State of Western Australia. They are tremendous and we are only just starting to find out how much we have in this country, lt would be a sorry day for Australia in future years if our balance of payments did not have the advantage of the wealth of the western seaboard of this country. This is the area in which the great mineral, agricultural and industrial wealth is to be developed in this country, because in that area we have everything. The natural resources are there and development is taking place very rapidly. To go with that development I believe that for the protection of the people of this country there should be a naval base and other facilities in that area. 1 have every confidence that the Government will look at this matter in the way it should be looked at and will go ahead at the earliest opportunity with the development of this naval base at Cockburn Sound. I have every confidence that the base is being placed in the right area, lt is being placed in an area that has a natural harbour that affords good protection and in an area which has plenty of room. I have every confidence that our allies will come to our assistance if necessary and will stand by us if necessary. I repeat that it is the responsibility of this country to supply the bases necessary for the use of those resources which no doubt will be available from other parts of the world.

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