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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1644


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I do not want to restrict the honourable member but I do think that he should keep to the terms of the Bill.


Mr KEATING - I think I am keeping to the spirit of the Bill and the general debate as it has developed. I was not going to speak on the National Service Bill. I was impelled to do so because last night the basis of the speech of every Government supporter was that the Labor Party cannot be trusted with defence, and as we know the very converse is the real position. This Government has failed to defend Australia adequately. We have had to enlist men for national service because the Menzies Government had allowed Australia's defences and the strength of our forces to run down. I will accept your ruling, Sir, and conclude my remarks because my time in this debate has just about expired.

In every field of Australia's defence, looking at the defence industries and at the general premise on which our defence organisation is based, we find there is an ad hoc approach. There has been no consistent policy by this Government. Its foreign policies have been designed and tailored towards a political end and that political end has been well served in the past by the Government's tying itself to the defence umbrella of the United States. The whole point now is that, after the Nixon Doctrine announced in Guam, Australia has to stand on its own two feet in relation to its defence. The Labor Party believes it can do this without conscripting young Australians for national service. We believe that we could as a government encourage Australians to enlist voluntarily in a volunteer Army if they were well paid. If they were highly trained and if the Army were sufficiently mobile we would have sufficient strength to suit Australia's defence needs.

The whole emphasis on Australia's defence should be on mobility, speed and hitting power. Basically all of our defence requirements and Services should be tailored towards a defensive and not an offensive role. For instance, by this I mean that the Fill aircraft is plainly an offensive aircraft. It is being purchased for 5400m to drop nuclear bombs in places a couple of thousand miles away. Obviously this is an offensive type of aircraft. We should be looking for aircraft that are less sophisticated and are of a defensive nature and which the Australian aircraft industry can manufacture. Similarly with our Navy the Australian shipbuilding industry could manufacture ships equipped with arms and electronics so that we could have a firm industrial base and therefore be able to supply our troops with Australian manufactured equipment. We should not depend upon the resources of other nations.

While ever there is no consistent defence policy there will always be malaise in Service thinking. It is because of this lack of policy that we had to conscript boys and the guilty men opposite have sent 300 Australian boys to their death. As I said, this Government has been manipulated by a South Vietnamese President who introduced a constitutional amendment that forced every other candidate out of the presidential field. So what sort of Government have we defended in Vietnam? What sort of Government will we leave and how can Australia rely on that Government when we know that it is not securely based and does not have the popular support of the people? I think the whole National Service Act was a response to political pressure from the United States and it is an Act that destroys the Government's credibility in the eyes of the Australian people.







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