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Tuesday, 9 November 1971
Page: 3148

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - The contribution of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) need hardly be dealt with by me at any length. The fact is that he has stated that his knowledge of what is going on at Pine Gap has been obtained by way of overseas articles. This is the very point that those of us in the Australian Labor Party have been making, namely, that we would like to know more and if it is possible to learn about it from the Government. In fact, we would like to know only as much as United States Congressmen are allowed to know of these sorts of things. We would like the same sort of opportunities as are given to United States Congressmen to visit these places so that we can be better informed on these defence installations in Australia.

I take this opportunity of speaking on the defence estimates to direct attention, of necessity very briefly in this debate, to matters surrounding which there are political differences, namely, the need for forward defence as it is called and the further integration of the armed Services and the subject of conscription. I hasten to add that the political differences surrounding these matters are within the Government parties. There are a number of sensible people on the Government benches who agree with the Opposition Labor Party's point of view on all these attitudes which I am about to outline. Also, before embarking on my opinions on these three subjects I want to state my disappointment that we seem to be no further advanced in instituting a sane, rational, detailed investigation of these important estimates. This, of course, cannot be done in a Committee of the Whole debating 'in the open' like this. We must have smaller, expert working committees to which we can call outside advisers and really seek information about the estimates rather than use the occasion to make some general points about defence as I am forced to do but which I would prefer to do in a general debate on defence if sufficient time were given in this chamber for such debates.

The first point I want to make concerns the argument about forward defence and fortress Australia' - both of them inadequate phrases as indeed the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) said only half an hour ago - rendering most of the arguments concerning them fairly irrelevant. I want to say quite clearly that, along with my colleagues on this side of the House, I am a strong proponent of a mobile defence force based at home. This is not 'fortress Australia'. This can be, and in my concept is, in itself forward defence. To drive home my point let me merely repeat the points made by the right honourable member for Higgins in his speech today. Unfortunately I was not able to hear all of it as I was called out of the chamber. But certainly at the annual dinner of the Imperial Service Club in Sydney on 18th June last he made clear a number of points. He made it clear in that speech, firstly, that the stationing of troops abroad is not the only way in which forward defence . can be achieved; secondly, that we must seek to achieve a Navy of worthwhile strength - I support what the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) had to say about this earlier in this debate this afternoon - and thirdly, that such a Navy must be properly and constantly covered by air power, and that means landbased airpower or airpower based at home to a great extent. The right honourable member for Higgins said in that speech:

And we can, and I think we must, keep an army in being which is capable of swift movement to the assistance of friendly nations if they are attacked. We can engage in joint planning with other countries who are willing to plan common defence. And all of these actions contribute to forward defence and would do so even if our forces were not actually stationed overseas.

These are not the words of a dedicated member of the Australian Labor Party; these are the words of a very recent LiberalCountry Party Prime Minister who is using his head and not playing politics or playing on the emotions and fears of the Australian people for temporary political expediency. In case it is not clear, I repeat the reasons for the fears of the Opposition of having troops stationed on the Asian mainland, whether in Malaysia or Singapore or elsewhere. That fear is based on the knowledge that there are underlying racial and other tensions in those countries. We do not want to get caught up in those tensions or in the politics of that region. Contrary to what is heard in this country, that point of view is well understood in influential quarters in those countries. Lee Kuan Yew is not the only person in the Asian region with views. I venture to say that there are other Asian Ministers who hold a different point of view and who understand the ALP attitude. I have had the opportunity to speak privately to some of those Ministers and to put our position on forward defence - not fortress Australia but forward defence - in a nutshell, and I quote from a defence statement of my leader as long ago as 5th March 1969 but which is still relevant today. He said:

A Labor government would re-organise Australian defences around highly-trained, highlymobile professional forces. Under a Labor government, Australia would acquire the capacity to deploy its military strength within 72 hours at any point within the South East Asian region. We -would maintain that capacity and affirm our involvement in regional defence by entering into joint training arrangements with our neighbour nations. We would expect our forces to train constantly throughout the region, and we would encourage the forces of other regional powers to train in Australia. A Labor government would, as a matter of the highest priority, negotiate arrangements designed to achieve a maximum standardisation of defence equipment throughout the region. We would enter into agreements with other regional powers to share the production of most of the necessary equipment, and to put procurement outside the region on a collective basis. These are policies more practical by far and more advantageous both to our neighbours and to ourselves than the pieties of the Prime Minister and the procrastination of the Minister for Defence.

Those remarks apply now just as much as they did when the statement was made in March 1969. The second point that I wanted to mention in the few minutes that I have was the integration of our armed forces. The debate on integration and restructuring which has made defence organisation more effective and economic in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and western Europe has barely touched Australia. Vague gestures have been made to defence reorganisation but little has been achieved. I remind honourable members that in 1957 a committee was established under the late General Sir Leslie Morshead to examine defence organisation. The committee's report was never made public and, quite ridiculously, 14 years later is still classified as a secret document. I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) to tell me whether it still needs to be classified as a secret document.

Mr Bryant - They lost it; they posted it to the Prime Minister.

Mr HURFORD - From what we hear about the present Ministry that could well be true. The Morshead committee recommended that the separate departments of Defence, Army, Navy and Air be amalgamated into a single Department of

Defence under one Minister. This would have restored the basic direction of defence policy which existed until World War II, the demands of which created separate Service departments. I believe that those demands do not exist today; that there would be better co-ordination and better forward defence planning if there was integration and that the Morshead committee's report should be public property and available to this Parliament as an additional aid in the thinking of this nation on defence.

The third point I want to mention briefly in the very few minutes left to me is the matter of conscription. Most people would agree that the loss of personal freedom entailed by conscription is an evil, but many believe it to be a necessary evil. Of course, these people are in the Government parties in this country at the moment. From an economic point of view the last belief is unwarranted. Under conscription men are inducted into the military forces without regard either to their civilian productivity or their personal preferences. Uncertainty as to whether they will be called up encourages potential conscripts to take hedging or evading actions which are costly to themselves and to society at large. The military services are encouraged to use manpower wastefully with respect to both quantity and quality. For all these reasons the real costs of maintaining a conscripted army are likely to be higher than those of maintaining a volunteer army. Unfortunately, conscription appears to be the cheaper alternative, but it appears so only because under it implicit taxes in kind on conscripts are substituted for explicit money taxes levied on all taxpayers.

It is understandable that governments should often take a narrow budgetary view of the costs of alternative action rather than a broad social view. The additional taxes required to raise an all volunteer army may weigh more heavily in the political scales than the additional civilian production foregone. I believe that these points have not been made often. We are hearing the alternative point of view, particularly from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch), at the moment which suggests the terrible cost that would be involved to have an all volunteer army. I believe that there is an alternative point of view and I am only sorry that I have not time to put it in this debate.

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