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Wednesday, 30 May 1973
Page: 2868

Government's Defence Perspectives

Adequate provision for the security of this country is a fundamental objective of this Government. This security will be achieved by pursuit of a sound foreign policy supported by a strong economy and well organised defence forces which are structured for expansion and able to contribute to the maintenance of a favourable international environment. As is well known, our policy provides for the maintenance of a strong and valid defence capability to ensure Australia's territorial security security of its overseas trade, and its peaceful development as an independent nation; enhancement of this capability by continued participation in mutual defence arrangements with other nations in South-East Asia and the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas consistent with the requirements of the United Nations Charter and the objectives of existing treaties; assertion of the right of consultation in the issues of war and peace and of a right not to be committed to any course of action without consultation and agreement; and the conviction that war can and must be prevented and that Australia has a part to play in its prevention.

Pursuit of these objectives requires a clear definition of the future role that Australia is to play in our strategic environment and of the requisite size and structure of the armed forces. This also involves consideration of the capabilities, skills and conditions of service of the officers and men who, on a volunteer basis, will operate the highly sophisticated defence systems that modern technology makes available and demands. Since becoming Minister for Defence, I have taken a number of important decisions relating to the Government's defence objectives and have initiated some major investigations within the Defence Group of departments.

Decisions Already Taken

In accordance with Labor's electoral undertaking, within 10 days of assuming office the Government ordered the withdrawal of the remaining Australian forces in Vietnam, bringing to an end the Australian commitment in Vietnam and the Australian Army's 10i year involvement in that war. The Labor Party had consistently opposed the commitment of troops to Vietnam. While we pay tribute to the professional skill and high distinction with which Australian forces participated in this campaign, Labor has consistently believed that the attempts to force a military solution to this kind of war were wrong. Commitment of troops, including conscripts, to an immoral war against Australian interests was a monstrous offence against the people of Australia as well as the unfortunate people of Vietnam. The last of the Australian troops returned from Vietnam before Christmas with the exception of a small number of men remaining as guards and escorts for the Austraiian embassy staff in Saigon. Following the return home of these forces, the Government also decided that defence aid to South Vietnam would cease. Plans to undertake group training of Cambodian armed services personnel were also abandoned.

Again in accordance with our electoral promise, liability for call-up under the National Service Act was ended within a few days of the Government taking office. All national servicemen who did not wish to finish their term of service were released as quickly as practicable, with full knowledge of their entitlements for service. Additional entitlements in the form of war service loan benefits, and the right to elect for repatriation benefit for disabilities caused by war, were offered to national servicemen who wanted to complete their term of service. Soldiers who were serving with Citizen Military Forces as an alternative to full-time national service were also discharged at their own request. Persons imprisoned for breaches under the National Service Act were released and those undergoing periods of detention after lengthy absences without leave were discharged.

I am also now in the position to inform the House that the Government intends during this session of the Parliament to introduce legislation to abolish the obligation to render national service. In doing so, care will be taken to ensure that benefits flowing to persons continuing to serve voluntarily will be preserved. This Act imposed an intolerable burden on a small section of the community, distorted the structure of our armed Services, and enabled the previous Government to avoid its responsibility to provide justice to the men who are in the forces in terms of conditions of service. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his electoral speech, when a law divides the community and alienates some of its best citizens as the National Service Act does, the onus of proof for its retention lies entirely with those who support it'.

The Government also made an early announcement of the withdrawal of the Australian ground combat forces in Singapore, having regard to the electoral undertaking that such forces would not be replaced when they completed their current tour of duty. On the other hand, we have emphasised our commitments to the security of our region. We will support the Five Power Arrangement. The most effective way in which this can be done is by provision of assistance in training, logistics, technical assistance and through joint exercises - not by stationing combat troops overseas in the absence of treaty obligations and threat of external aggression.

Development of Volunteer Forces

Consistently with our fundamental policy that members of the defence forces must serve under financial terms and conditions that are no less attractive than those available to the general community, and that the Services must be manned on an all-volunteer basis, the Government has taken a number of major decisions. Let me highlight the more important of these: We have adopted the Joint Select Committee recommendations (with minor modifications) for the introduction of a new defence forces retirement benefits scheme. We have accepted the final report of the Committee of Inquiry into Services' Pay, thereby introducing substantial reforms to earlier pay policies and practices and providing a range of improved salary rates and conditions. We have introduced a bounty of $1,000 for volunteers prepared to re-engage for a further period of service. We have increased from $9,000 to $12,000 the defence services homes loan and have extended eligibility to members who serve for a minimum of 3 years. We have extended the range of resettlement benefits available to serving members. We have provided that repatriation benefits will be available to members for disabilities due to their service, which does not have to include was service, where those benefits are more favourable than Commonwealth employees' compensation. New machinery is being developed to determine pay and conditions of service that are both soundly-based and compatible with the position of serving personnel in contemporary society. We have decided to appoint a defence forces ombudsman to deal with individual grievances of servicemen and servicewomen.

A number of these decisions have already become law. Others are being dealt with in this current autumn session. They are all designed to give practical effect to our policy to develop modern volunteer forces. The Government is committed to an all-volunteer, professional force with the motivation, capacities and skills to employ the most modern defence systems. A serviceman is a citizen as well as a member of the defence force, and whilst he must undertake certain commitments and obligations not ordinarily accepted by others in the community, his standing as a citizen must not be entirely subordinated to his membership of the forces. The decision and measures already referred to demonstrate in a practical way our dedication to this policy. Its success in the few months in which we have been in office is plain for all to see and is a complete vindication of the views expressed over a period of years by the Labor Party.

The result of these policies has been to demonstrate that an all-volunteer army can be raised during peacetime if the Government is so determined. Between December and April, Army volunteer strengths have grown by 1,121; this compares with a total increase of 1,219 during the whole of 1971-72. Recruiting has improved and at the same time relatively fewer soldiers have left the Army. I should add that all the indications are that the target I set of 31,000 (that is, a growth of 1,674 during the current financial year) Army volunteers to be reached by the end of June will be achieved.

Future Size and Shape of Army

It will be recalled that last December I announced approval, as an interim measure only, of retention of the existing Army structure of 9 battalions. I also announced that I had requested a detailed study to be undertaken of the size and shape of the Reguluar Army required. This study has now been completed. At my request, it has also been considered by the Defence Force Development Committee (which comprises the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Chairman Chiefs of Staff and the 3 Service Chiefs of Staff) in the context of the defence program.

I undertook this step because surprisingly such a comprehensive review of the desirable Army strength and organisation had not been undertaken by the previous Government. The cost of manpower is a heavy drain on the limited resources available for defence.

Against this background, I wish to announce the Government's decision on the future shape and size of the Australian Regular Army. This decision implements the recommendation of the Defence Force Development Committee. The Chief of the General Staff would have preferred a larger Army than that which the Committee as a whole recommends. The Committee assures me the Force levels decided are sufficient to meet our strategic needs during the period covered by the decision. The previous Government claimed that it was advised that an Army of 40,000 or more was necessary even after Vietnam. It never received such advice from the Defence Force Development Committee which it established to give the Minister advice on such force structure matters.

The divisional structure is to be maintained, but is to be re-organised on the basis of 6 battalions each with appropriate combat and logistic support forces. Battalions are to be manned to an effective operational training strength. The 3 task forces are to be located at Townsville, Enoggera and Holsworthy, with Townsville being built up to an operational training force first. The Australian Support Area is to be placed under a ceiling of 21,500 service personnel which is consistent with the support required for a field force of this size. Re-organisation of the Regular Army along these lines is being carried out on the basis that total Army strength is to grow at a figure in the vicinity of 1,000 per annum and to reach 34,000 by 1976. Army's organisation and career structure, however, is to be based on an Army planning strength of 36,000. We believe an Army at these strengths is adequate in the strategic situation as presently foreseen.

Growth to 36,000 will occur if the need is determined by a major review of our ground force capability which is to be carried out in 1976. It is intended that this review will encompass both the Regular Army and the CMF and will, of course, be made in the light of the strategic situation then existing. Re-organisation of the Army along these lines will provide the Army with an adequate basis for expansion should the need ever arise. Should such a need arise it is clear, as I have previously mentioned, that more independence is required in the development of Australia's defence capabilities. The new Army structure is consistent with this policy and will enable in particular the development of the necessary doctrines, operational concepts and techniques for the defence of Australia. The new Army structure will provide a deployable capability which will adequately enable Australia to meet any international obligations, including a capacity to assist the United Nations if requested. It will be able to conduct meaningful unilateral or multilateral exercises with the armies of other countries within our region.

This Government's objectives for the size of the Australian Army make an interesting comparison with the record of the previous Government. I have already referred to our success with volunteer recruitment. I also recall for the benefit of honourable members that in 1964, when Australia was faced with a deteriorating strategic situation, including difficult times with the then Indonesian Government, the size of the Australian Army was only 22,600. To remedy this situation, the previous Government introduced a crash program of national service. This performance should be compared with the objective of the present Government to increase the size of the Army, on a volunteer basis, to 34,000 by 1976, with a further growth to 36,000 if required. We are doing this in a strategic situation much less dangerous than in 1964 and when our foreign policy and defence relations with Indonesia have undergone a most favourable transformation. Finally in respect of the Army, I wish to emphasise the Government's total approach to determine the ground force capability required. At this stage, I wish to remind the Parliament of the inquiry recently initiated by the Government into the CMF. This inquiry which is being led by Dr Millar will examine in detail the role and scope which citizen forces can and must play in our defence forces. It is long overdue. We are determined that the people who serve in the CMF play a significant and satisfying part in our national security system.

Review of Australian Strategic Outlook

As announced earlier, I have asked the Department of Defence to review the strategic assessments and policies on which the action of earlier governments has been based. This review has been proceeding in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and will be finalised in the next few weeks. It is the Government's opinion that circumstances at this time particularly favour this review. With the movement towards 'a detente' between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States and China and the growing multi-polarity of political and strategic power in the world, there has been a relaxation of the military confrontation that has so dominated the world's affairs over the last 2 decades.

The review will look critically at the strategic assumptions of the past. We are less apprehensive concerning the social and political changes that are taking place in the envir onment to our north, and Australia will no longer concern itself with military arrangements for the mobilisation of forces to intervene simply because of the prospect of change. This Government favours programs of political conciliation and co-operation rather than military intervention and we believe that the time is ripe for this. We are, however, in a transitional era and there are still many uncertainties in the longer term. We recognise - this is made clear in our Party platform - the need for continued defence preparedness for national defence and for defence association with our friends in South East Asia and continued co-operation in the development of their defence capabilities. Our defence relationship with the United States and New Zealand and the ANZUS Treaty remains important to Australia's security and to the development of our defence forces.

Defence Consultations Abroad

I am carrying through an extensive program of consultations with other governments, beginning with those in our immediate neighbourhood. I have in sequence visited Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia and I will shortly be visiting the United Kingdom. While in Papua New Guinea I discussed with the Chief Minister, Mr Somare, and members of his Ministry, significant defence matters relating to their country. I emphasised, as I emphasise again today, that it is the Government's firm view that it is for the Papua New Guinea Government ultimately to decide what security forces should be maintained there after independence, and their roles and capabilities. I agreed in discussion with the Chief Minister that officials from both countries should commence consultations on defence matters as soon as possible.

These consultations commenced in March this year. Arising from these, and as announced by the Papua New Guinea Chief Minister on 17 May, the Papua New Guinea Cabinet has agreed on policy guidelines on which planning is to proceed for Papua New Guinea's defence arrangements after the achievement of independence. Based on these guidelines, a further round of official discussions involving officers of my Department and the Department of External Territories and Papua New Guinea officials, was successfully completed last week. These discussions will greatly facilitate the further planning and practical measures being undertaken by Papua

New Guinea and Australia, working in close consultation, to develop before independence forces which meet the Papua New Guinea Government's policy guidelines. Meanwhile the process of localisation is continuing steadily and effectively.

In Indonesia I was received by the President. My talks with him and with senior members of his Government mainly concerned the situation in South East Asia and the program of defence co-operation between our 2 countries. I participated in a ceremony at Ishwahudi airfield in East Java where the Australian gift of 16 Sabre aircraft was formally accepted by the Indonesian Air Force. Particular attention was given to the longterm development of an Australian project of assistance towards Indonesia's maritime surveillance requirements. Future exercises between forces of the 2 countries were discussed. The Indonesians agree that such exercises will be of value to us both. My visit, following that of the Prime Minister, underlined the common interests that join Indonesia and Australia in close and friendly relations. Speaking from my particular responsibilities as Minister for Defence, I am convinced that the program of practical defence co-operation and defence contacts is of considerable benefit to both countries.

In New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia, my discussions covered a number of subjects. In New Zealand these included the French nuclear tests, SEATO and defence cooperation. In Singapore and Malaysia I had talks about proposals for further defence cooperation in such areas as training and joint exercises. In these 3 countries my main concern, however, was to outline the Australian Government's thinking on the overseas deployment of our forces, and on the Five Power Arrangements, and to consult about proposals we are formulating for the implementation of Labor policy on these matters. These will also be the principal subject for discussion when I visit the United Kingdom next month. At the conclusion of this round of consultations I shall be reporting to my colleagues in the Government.

Defence Program

The decisions of the Government on future defence programming will be taken in the context of the first Budget to be brought down by this administration. The program will be a detailed planning framework for the 5 years to 1977-78 and will not involve spending authorisations except for the first year. Actual authorisation and commitment of funds for the financial year 1973-74 will come in the context of the Budget discussions and the submission of the Estimates to Parliament. Basically, the task is to develop a defence program which protects Australian security and vital interests and ensures that Australia will have the opportunity of meeting whatever national or international responsibilities may fall upon her. I emphasise that we will not be thinking in terms of an isolationist policy. We have an announced policy of concern with the security as well as the welfare of other nations, particularly those in this part of the world. But planning of our defence capabilities can not continue any longer against the concepts of the 1950s. Planning for military involvement abroad has had a quite disproportionate effect on the planning of our defence capabilities.

As part of this new emphasis on national defence, an inquiry has already been commenced concerning the future disposition of bases and facilities within Australia for our defence forces. The study will assess the locations which are most suitable militarily for the defence of Australia, for the protection of its interests, and for the support of its external commitments. The study will also take into account the need to satisfy the dependence of some elements of our Services on complex industrial and technological support, joint training between the Services, and proper access ' to amenities for Service families, consistently with our approach to modern all-volunteer forces. Environmental and urban concerns will be taken fully into account. This will be the first time such a comprehensive review of our national defence infrastructure has been undertaken.

I might refer here to the 2 fellowships which I have decided my Department will endow in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University, as already announced. I see great value to be obtained in a greater exchange of views with non-government defence scholars and more generally in stimulating wider discussions of Australian defence problems. One of the fellowships will be specifically in the field of conflict avoidance and resolution, for there is nothing more important to our continuing way of life than how to avoid war and maintain peace. The second fellowship will be in a field of study specificed by the Strategic and

Defence Studies Centre. Both posts will be non-tenure posts to be held for 2 to 5 years, and 1 believe they will lead to valuable research for both academic staff and practical decision makers.

The Defence Organisation

The Government's policy on re-organisation of the Defence group of departments is to merge into the Department of Defence the 3 Service departments. We also propose to reassess the place in the defence structure of the procurement and production activities and of the Australian Defence Scientific Service, now in the Department of Supply. Labor has had a rationalisation of the Defence group of departments as its objective for some considerable time. We believe that such an objective recognises the growing inter-dependence of the Navy, Army and Air Force as part of what the Defence Act describes as the defence force. We also believe that a single Department of Defence would be the most effective and certain method of concerting responsible policy decisions at the level of Cabinet or Defence Minister into active performance by the 3 Services, as well as promising greater efficiency in the use of resources. As I have previously stated, however, the 3 Services - Navy, Army and Air Force - will retain their separate identity.

It is appropriate for me, while referring in the Parliament to the question of Defence reorganisation to advise the House that I now intend to table with the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), for the information of members, the 2 reports of the advisory committee of officials led by Sir Leslie Morshead which were completed in 1957. This is in accordance with our wellknown intention that as many reports as possible will be made publicly available. It was never clear to me while in Opposition why these reports were not made available to the public in the 16 years since they were produced. It is not clear to me now. The relevance of these reports to the re-organisation of the Defence group of departments now proceeding is a matter of assessment, but there is no reason why they should not be released forthwith to the Parliament.

In accordance with the Government's policy. I assumed charge in December last of the entire Defence group of departments with my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, Senator Bishop assigned by the Prime Minister to be the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence in respect of the defence forces. Reorganisation of the Defence group of departments is to take place in stages. The first stage has already been implemented in which the Department of Defence acting on behalf of its Minister is to have greater authority in its direction of the execution of defence policy and approved defence objectives by each of the three Service boards and by the defence production, procurement and scientific areas of the Department of Supply. This is already giving the Department of Defence more effective means of control of spending in individual departments and in the direction of the total defence program towards national objectives and policies.

Development of the second stage of reorganisation required, first, the issue with Government authority of clear objectives which are beyond dispute and, secondly, painstaking inquiry among those experienced in the administration of defence activities and the running of the Army, Navy and Air Force into the most effective way of establishing lines of authority on a more centralised basis. The policy objectives were laid down by the Government on 19 December last. The Secretary of the Department of Defence, assisted by the Secretary of the Department of the Army, is now engaged on the second task.

There is a wide range of activities which needs careful examination and assessment before the organisation proposals can be formulated. A study group is preparing a report. It is anticipated the report will be considered before the end cf the year and the Government's decisions will be announced to the Parliament. In the meantime, the Secretaries of the Service and Supply departments continue to exercise their statutory functions, but under guidance of the Secretary of the Department of Defence, who is now the principal adviser on policy resourses and organisation to the Minister for Defence, Navy, Army, Air and Supply. The Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, who is directly responsible to the Minister for Defence, is not only the principal military adviser to the Minister for Defence, but I have directed that he is to be consulted by the military members of the Service boards on major matters relating to organisation, training, and operational deployments in each Service so that he may exercise greater influence in the development of the Services towards integrated national defence objectives. That concludes my review of achievements and initiatives to date in furtherance of the Government's new defence policy. Some important matters on which I have directed in-depth examination such as the proposed light destroyer project for the RAN and the future of the Australian aircraft industry are still under study. They will be the subject of announcements as the Government takes its decisions.

In summary, the 4 main lines of advance in defence by the new Labor Government are these: Firstly, greater authority in the direction of the execution of defence policy and approved defence objectives; secondly, a marked improvement in the conditions of service to give the servicemen and servicewomen of this country the status they deserve in a modern community; thirdly, a program of defence cooperation with our neighbours in South East Asia and the Pacific which emphasises training, technical assistance, joint exercises and continuing consultation; and fourthly, a commitment to promoting participation by Australian industry in production for defence needs.

These stand as the 4 objectives of the Government's defence policy, the achievement of improvements in policy co-ordination, in conditions of service, in regional co-operation and in defence industry capability. I have, I believe, demonstrated considerable advance in a short period of time. We shall go on in the same way. We see our defence forces as designed to ensure our security and independence, and, further, as an important element in the furtherance of a foreign policy based on a true perception of Australia's national interests in a rapidly changing international environment.

I present the following paper:

Australian Defence Policy - Ministerial Statement, 30 May 1973

Motion (by Mr Stewart) proposed:

That the Mouse take note of the paper.

Br FORBES (Barker) (4.37)- I find this first statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) since taking office rather disappointing. I think I can demonstrate what I mean by referring to the penultimate paragraph of his statement in which he described the 4 objectives of the Government's defence policy. The first of these was the achievement of improvements in policy co-ordination. I listened to the Minister's statement carefully, but it consisted of nothing more than a mass of generalisations and statements that the Government is working on it and we will get the details later. However, I will have something to say about this later in my remarks. The second of the 4 objectives of the Government's defence policy, according to the Minister, is improvements in conditions of service. I make the point that the only 2 substantial improvements in conditions of service, that is in pay and in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, were both set in train by the previous Government, despite the credit that the Minister takes for them. Perhaps they would have been implemented before this if there had not been a change of government.

The third objective is regional co-operation. I, and I am sure the House, will take note of the fact that this Government has withdrawn or announced its intention to withdraw Australia's forces from our region. Most of the governments in this region believe the maintenance of Australian forces in the region is the most substantial contribution that Australia can make to defence stability and cooperation in the area. The fourth objective the Minister mentioned was industrial defence capability. The only remark I make about that is that it was the first and only mention of it in the Minister's statement.

The Minister has made much of what he has achieved, what he instructed the Departments and the Services to do, the directions he gave and the orders he gave to X Y and Z. He has emphasised his personal role in the defence decisions of the Government to quite an extraordinary degree, not only in this statement, but also in almost every statement he has made since he has been Minister for Defence. It is almost as though unless he blows his own trumpet and emphasises his own role no one will realise he is around the place at all. Of course, he started off behind first base in a situation in which it was an open secret that the bullets he fired were the product of the able and agile mind of a Press secretary called Lloyd.

I can remember an occasion, when the Minister was the shadow Minister for Defence, when he had to mark time in the middle of a speech while he waited for the next few pages hot off Mr Lloyd's typewriter. It was because of this that even his own Party was prepared to believe that he was being run by Sir Arthur Tange when he got into trouble over the question of troops in Singapore. People of stature, people in control of a situation, people who command respect do not have to emphasise their personal part in the decisions for which they have responsibility. With people who have these qualities it is taken for granted, Only little men without these qualities have to blow their own trumpets and arrogate to themselves the exclusive and sole credit for decisions which any mature person knows are the collective effort of many people, including in this case the Minister's own colleagues in the Government.

I have made this point not because I enjoy saying harsh things about the Minister, whom I personally find amiable and inoffensive. I make the point because I find it rather frightening that a man holding this important position should demonstrate the characteristics I have mentioned. These arrangements were most hastily formulated by the Government - they were announced on 19 December only a fortnight or so after the Government took office - yet the Minister this afternoon boasts about them. As I say, I find it frightening that he is the Minister solely responsible for controlling, directing and shaping the defence effort of Australia. I would find it frightening to see any one person, let alone this Minister, in the situation which this Government has created, placed in this position. This Government has reduced ministerial control and direction of the defence forces, months, perhaps years, ahead of the administrative reforms, that is the. integration of the defence group of departments, designed to enable a single Minister to keep a proper grip on the situation.

It was in recognition of this that the Morshead Committee recommended a phasing in of the changed administrative and ministerial arrangements over a period. Common prudence would have dictated that it be done in this case. But no, so anxious was the Government to give an impression, an image, of change when it came to office, to substitute images for substance, so anxious was it to denigrate everything the previous Government had done, that it was and is prepared to take great risks with the security of this country and to put in jeopardy a fundamental principle of government, that is civilian and parliamentary control of the defence forces. Who really believes that in this situation, this betwixt and between situation, this ministerial and administrative and power vacuum, this Minister - any Minister for that matter - knows what is going on and is capable of being anything else but a rubber stamp for the decisions of officials and Service officers. How many honourable members even in his own Party honestly believe that in the situation that I have described the Minister is properly capable of being answerable to this Parliament for the activities for which he has nominal responsibility? The Minister has shown this by his failure to answer questions; his lack of grasp of details; his lack of knowledge of what is going on and his pathetic attempt to cover up. His own supporters, of course, protect him with their numbers. But it must be deeply worrying to Government supporters because I believe that they share with honourable members on this side of the House a deeply ingrained belief in the fundamental importance in a democracy of civilian controls of the armed forces through the elected Ministers and members of Parliament. By all means let us strive for greater central direction, for more effective operational control and efficiency and for the economies that these things will bring. But never let us achieve it at the expense of this fundamental principle. When the Minister brings down his final detailed proposals all of us, I hope, will look at them from this point of view. In the meantime the great maxim of ministerial control of the armed services has been put at risk by this Government.

The Minister has been less than frank with the House in what he has had to say about the Army. Again he has emphasised the personal decisions that he has made for reasons which are not difficult to divine. He has an almost compulsive necessity to do this. But what he has not emphasised and what he has not put in perspective is that all the flurry of activity, all these committees and all this cover-up resulting in his announcement today that Australia no longer has an Army which can be dignified with that name would not have been necessary if the Labor Government had not made the disgraceful, contemptible decision to abolish national service in one stroke without regard to the effectiveness, the efficiency and the credibility of the Army as a fighting force. I say 'abolish national service in one stroke' advisedly because it would have been quite reasonable and responsible to have committed the Government to phase out national service as sufficient volunteers became available when and if the measures introduced to stimulate recruiting became effective. That would have been the responsible course but this Government did not take it. It claimed that it had a mandate to abolish national service. That is open to doubt. What it did not have was a mandate to wreck the Army.

Indeed, the Government claimed when it was in Opposition and also during the general election campaign again and again that it would obtain the required numbers by voluntary means. The public accepted and expected that the Government would achieve an Army of effective size and structure. The people did not give the Labor Party a mandate to create the rump of an Army which the Minister has outlined this afternoon. What would have been the attitude of the public if they had known that the instant abolition of national service would produce the fragmented rump of an army which the Minister has outlined and some of the consequences which the Minister has chosen not to mention but which I will mention in a minute? What would their attitude have been if they had known that instead of an Army of 41,000 men we would have one to all intents and purposes of less than 31,000? Even 41,000 will produce only the framework of a division, the basic organisation which any Army worthy of the name must have. An Army of 31,000 is barely capable of putting a task force in the field and certainly not capable of relieving it.

Although an Army of 41,000 was capable of contributing a task force in South Vietnam and rotating it, it was only able to do so with a great deal of logistic and support assistance from other countries particularly the United States. It is not difficult to imagine how utterly and completely dependent on our allies is a task force or part of a task force produced from an Army of 31,000. Where, in this situation, is the military self-reliance to match our much vaunted independent foreign policy? Where is the capability of independent action in situations short of a major threat demanded urgently by the Guam or the Nixon doctrine - something to which the Minister has paid lip service on many occasions. In a situation in which a great all round capability was required - something that was acknowledged by the previous Government - this Government has instead produced greater dependence and greater weakness.

I am not impressed by the Minister's smokescreen about defence advice and changed situations. The strategic environment cannot have changed markedly since last year when the previous Government obtained firm advice that an army in excess of 41,000 was required. The threats position has not changed; the range of situations in which we should be in a position to exercise an option to intervene or take part has not changed. The only thing that has changed is the capacity of the Army to undertake a range of tasks which the Government may require of it. The Government cannot hide behind defence advice for that. The responsiblity is squarely that of the Government however much the Minister may wriggle and squirm and confuse the. issue.

The fact is that the Government, having taken the decision to chop off a third of the strength of the army overnight for purely party political and ideological reasons, set about giving this disgraceful action the imprimatur of respectability and responsibility. (Extension of time granted.) The Minister started talking about his great achievements in getting closer to a target of 31,000, whatever that may mean. He mentioned it again this afternoon. He announced with a great fanfare that he was setting up a Defence-Army committee - he told me this in the House - to tell him what size the Army should be. By including defence officials on that committee, as the Minister saw it, you would get an unbiased objective result. That is fair enough. But the answer must have been a sore trial to the. Minister in his search for respectability because the answer that came out was 38,000 volunteers. In other words, it was the same advice as the previous Government had recieved, making allowances for the training component for the national service scheme. The Minister has been notably silent this afternoon on the recommendations of that committee about which he boasted so much at the time of its appointment. He now has to rely on the statement that this expert objective recommendation was varied by the Defence Forces Development Committee. I am utterly unimpressed.

This Committee was faced with a fait accompli. The pass had been sold. The members of the Committee could do no more than pitch their advice not to the objective situation but to a compromise based on the numbers that the Army might hopefully be able to obtain. In any case the Defence Forces Development Committee consists of a civilian - the Secretary of the Department of

Defence - 2 sailors, one airman and one poor solitary soldier operating in an atmosphere of impending savage cuts in total defence expenditure to accommodate both the ideological proclivities of the Australian Labor Party and a vast uncontrolled civilian spending program. In this situation what else could one expect. It does nothing to alleviate the concern and uneasiness which the Opposition feels about the state and the adequacy of the Army under this Government's decision.

This concern is underlined and underpinned when we consider some of the consequences of the Government's decisions which have not been mentioned by the Minister. I can do no better than draw the attention of the House to a lecture delivered to the United Service Institute of Victoria last year by the Chief of General Staff, Lieut.-General Sir Mervyn Brogan. I do not have time to read what he said to the House. But the text of the lecture sets out in some detail the views of the Chief of the General Staff on the effects of the abolition of national service on the Army. Presumably they are still his views. To put it in another way, one could say that the Chief of the General Staff was expressing his views of the effects on the Army of a reduction in manpower and the extent to which these changes have been undertaken by this Government. The part of the speech to which I am referring is very germane to this debate and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.







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