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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 237


Mr BARNARD (Bass) (Minister for Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply) - by leave - The defence vote for 1973-74 is$1, 345m. This compares with an actual expenditure during 1972-73 of $1, 285m. My purpose this evening is to set out some of the Government's thinking on defence, with particular reference to the strategic situation we now find, the capabilities which exist in our forces, and in the light of these the financial and other provisions which should now be made for defence.

The nation's security is the Government's first responsibility. Labor policy calls for a strong and valid defence capability that will demonstrate beyond all doubt the nation's intention to defend itself and its vital interests. There can be no neglect of defence. In determining policy regarding the shape and size of the defence force and its capabilities, at any time the government of the day will give first consideration to the strategic prospect facing the nation. It will assess the possibility of military pressure or threats against Australia and of other situations which might require evidence of defence strength or some involvement of the defence force.

Given the long lead time necessary to acquire and develop many of the capabilities of the force, it is necessary to assess not only the immediate situation but the likely situation in future. Shortly after taking office I called for such an assessment to cover the next 15 years. There are bound to be uncertainties about the future, particularly about the later part of such a long period. The principal findings, however, are clear and I believe that they allow us to plan our defence policy with a good measure of confidence. We shall regularly review the asessment made now to allow timely decisions for the development of the defence force should future assessments indicate a requirement for this.

At the present time, however, it can be said that Australia's situation is favourable and that various important factors and trends in the international situation support Australia's security into the longer term. We and our advisers do not at present foresee any deterioration in our strategic environment that would involve consideration of the commitment of our defence force to military operations to protect Australia's security or strategic interests. This view of Australia's long term security was, I may remind the House, the view accepted by previous governments in recent years. Yet they continued to commit Australian forces to unnecessary operations in Vietnam which were not only unwarranted, but counter-productive. They did not cease that involvement until the United States withdrawal with under way. This Government would, of course, be. prepared to consider the use of Australian forces abroad in support of United Nations peace-keeping operations, if this sort of situation arose and we could make a useful contribution.

Let me indicate briefly the nature of the factors and trends to which I have just referred. Australia is not a global power, but we have twice this century become involved in world wars and could not remain unaffected, and probably uninvolved, were global conflict once more to threaten. At present, however, there is a very strong trend away from this prospect. The ability of the 2 super powers, the Soviet Union and the United States, to destroy each other by nuclear exchange has placed substantial restraint on direct military confrontation. There is significant movement towards detente between them and co-operation in the handling of situations that could lead to critical confrontation. China for its part has effected some rapprochement with both the United States and Japan, and has strong interests in the avoidance of major international conflict.

Another important factor in the global situation is in the economic field. In particular, the growing dependence of large industrial economies on the uninterrupted, world-wide flow of raw materials places increasing importance on the stable management of international relations. This consideration is of particular importance to major economic powers such as Japan and the West European countries.

Political competition among the major powers can, of course, be expected to continue. Nor can we rule out the possibility of limited local conflicts during the years ahead in various parts of the globe. But present trends generally point to a prospect of relative stability in the global order. Any major, protracted conflict, drawing nations into general war, appears remote.

In South East Asia, any risk of military confrontation between the major powers has substantially receded. Fighting continues in Indo China, but in our view only the people of that region themselves can reach the political settlements necessary to bring an end to military conflict. This Government has ended completely all Australian military involvement in Indo China, and we have no intention of involving the nation there again.

The countries forming the Association of South East Asian Nations - Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia - have made substantial advances in nation building and regional co-operation. There continue to be many problems of development and areas of local insecurity. We can, and do, try to assist development, by our aid and co-operation programs. But we understand that the regional governments see internal security questions as their own domestic concern and are not looking for external involvement in internal security situations.

The ASEAN governments have been discussing proposals for a 'zone of peace, freedom and neutrality' in South East Asia that would preserve their security and independence and allow them to pursue their national and regional development free from disruption by military confrontation in the region. Such proposals have obvious interest for Australia and we have made clear our support for this initiative. Australia has an abiding interest in the security and peace of South East Asia and we welcome moves that can further reduce the likelihood of military confrontation there.

Pending neutralisation, this Government will continue to honour the Five Power arrangements. We do not accept that these arrangements require the stationing of forces in Malaysia and Singapore indefinitely and we have already arranged for the phased withdrawal of Australian ground forces from Singapore. However, a Royal Australian Airforce detachment of some 1,500 and our Mirages will remain at Butterworth at least until we review the situation again in 1975, and we shall continue to maintain a small naval presence in the area.

Closer to home, our largest neighbour is Indonesia. Honourable members will be well aware of the friendly relations we enjoy with that country and this Government's intention to give central emphasis to the further development of these relations. We are maintaining the defence co-operation program with Indonesia begun under the previous Government and I have said that we shall support a successor program. Close defence understanding with the Government of Indonesia is at all times important to Australia and I much welcome our fruitful and friendly exchanges with Indonesia in this field.

In Papua New Guinea there is now a clear movement towards final independence and we are closely involved with the Government there in discussions about the development of its defence force. The process of localisation is proceeding effectively and at an increasing pace, although Papua New Guinea is likely to continue to require assistance from Australia for some time to come. No threat of external military attack against Papua New Guinea is foreseen and we see no major risk to Australia's security arising there. Regarding internal security, honourable members will have noted the important statement on 20 August by the Minister for Defence and Foreign Relations in the Papua New Guinea Government, Mr Kiki. The Minister said that 'Papua New Guinea was determined to look after its own security problems in the future' and:

No country can lightly contemplate either the dispatch of their own forces or the acceptance of foreign forces to deal with an essentially domestic situation'.

I can say that Mr Kiki's views are very much in accord with those of this Government, and, I am confident, those of all members of the House.

The favourable developments in the strategic environment that I have outlined strongly support our view that Australia is unlikely to come under strategic pressure or military threat. This is the current assessment. As I have said, we shall review it regularly so that as any changes are discerned they can, as necessary, be reflected in defence policy and in the development of our military forces. We can, however, at this stage responsibly look to the future in reasonable confidence that no significant requirement is likely to arise for the operational commitment of our forces. We believe that any change would take time and would allow us to develop the response necessary. We shall certainly maintain Australia's security association with the United States and New Zealand under the ANZUS Treaty. We place much value on this association. It would be of the utmost importance to Australia should a major threat ever develop again in the Pacific area. In the meantime, it sustains contact and co-operation in a variety of practical defence fields and in consultations about defence and security matters that are of advantage to all 3 partners in the alliance.

This assessment of the situation Australia is likely to face in the next decade does not, of course, mean that Australia can dispense with defence strength. I have already referred to uncertainties in the longer term. In matters affecting the nation's security it is necessary to move with prudence. I wish to stress also the extent to which Australia nowadays and in the future must accept the primary and independent responsibility for safeguarding our security and strategic interests. We are no longer simply a junior partner whose activities are largely shaped by the strategic and military policies of more powerful friends. We shall maintain our co-operative relations with them, which we greatly value. But we cannot assume that their interest in local and regional situations will necessarily be the same or as close as ours. Nor is it our wish or intention simply to sit back and rely on them to safeguard and protect us. We must maintain a defence capabilty that accords with our foreign policy.

The modern situation requires Australia to be more self-reliant than in the past, and this is very much in accord with this Government's view of our independent national status. We must have forces in being for the surveillance and patrol of the environs of this continent. We must maintain our ability to be a source of military advice, technology and training which are helpful in the development of the defence capabilities of other countries in our region with whom we maintain defence co-operation and aid programs. There can be scope for further Service assistance to community tasks beyond what is already done. This is now being explored. Above all, it will be important to maintain in being sufficient skills and capabilities to allow timely expansion of the forces, should this again become necessary.

But the favourable strategic prospect allows us an opportunity to review and rationalise, to promote more efficient and economical defence capabilities. After the more or less continuous defence expansion of the last 10 years, it is a time for taking stock, for pruning back activities whose original purpose has changed and for eliminating redundancies that have crept into our force structure. We intend to make full use of the opportunity presented to us. Where savings can responsibly be made, we shall make them. Where new acquisitions of equipment and other costly defence expenditures can be reduced or deferred without prejudice to the essential capabilities of our defence forces, we intend to use the resources for higher community priorities. Balanced judgments must be made of the kind and extent of forces that would permit expansion in the time available if changes to the strategic position become apparent to the Government. The feasible rate of expansion would depend essentially on the size and nature of the base force - the core force - and the resources the nation would be able to put into the development of this force. The core force would not be a manpower intensive force. But it must have sufficient modern defence components and skills and be of the size and organisational framework that would permit expansion in time of need.

We should all be conscious of the fact that Australia has developed over the past decade a very significant level of defence capabilities. There has been a very substantial growth in manpower and equipment, and in some forms of defence facilities, although not in others, Much modern and complex equipment has been introduced or is on order. We are now self-sufficient in many areas where we were not so before. We have consequently reached a stage of force development where we should appraise the forces we have in being as a whole in relation to likely tasks. We must consider whether replacements of capabilities in the Air Force or Navy, or Army, or Supply establishments are all essential at this stage and whether they need to be on a one-for-one basis. We must be alert to the prospect that new needs will emerge for capabilities not now in existence. Along with this, we ought to reduce or retire any defence capabilities which we believe have a lower priority in the future or which can be readily re-developed. In our strategic situation, there can be military, economic and technological benefit in extending the life of some of the types of equipment we already have, so that advantage can be taken of foreseen improvements in technology later on. There can be some general reductions in the tempo of Seivice activities. All these considerations are leading to a thorough re-assessment of our defence forces.

I turn now to the current provision that is being made for maintaining and developing the capability of our defence forces. I shall review the position on a functional rather than a Service basis. The main elements of the maritime force are the ships and other vessels and maritime aircraft which provide for maritime defence, surveillance, patrol and other maritime roles. The present maritime force is centred around eleven effective fleet destroyers; one aircraft carrier backed by 19 fixed-wing attack aircraft and 15 fixed and 2 rotary-wing anti-submarine aircraft; 2 Royal Australian Air Force long range maritime patrol aircraft squadrons totalling 22 aircraft; 15 patrol boats (an additional five operate in the Papua New Guinea Division); and four submarines.

The maritime force will in due course be complemented by current projects for 2 additional submarines under construction and for anti-submarine - cargo helicopters which will replace some existing rotary-wing aircraft. A variety of naval vessels complements the main fleet units, including support craft, landingcraft, a destroyer tender, mine countermeasure vessels, survey and oceanographic ships and so on.

In line with our aim to achieve desirable economies, I have already announced the decision I have taken to pay off the ageing fleet transport HMAS 'Sydney', which would otherwise have required considerable expenditure to maintain her through to the end of her life projected for 1974. This expenditure would have been quite unjustified. It has been decided that the second training ship, HMAS Anzac', can be paid off when HMAS Duchess' completes her conversion refit in 1974. The naval component of the force provides a substantial force is being. From this could be developed a very much larger Navy should it be required. The Navy is most unlikely to be out-classed in strength or quality by countries in the Australian region of strategic interest within the time scale of the present strategic review. It must be noted, however, that substantial capital investment is necessary to maintain this comparative effectiveness. The distances involved in our area, and the lack of ports and naval bases, make long range and sea-keeping attributes an important part of the naval force component. This requires the maintenance of a core of substantial ships.

The naval component has the type of units which contribute - especially in conjunction with maritime patrol aircraft and aircraft providing strike attack and defence - to meeting the appropriate fundamental requirements for the protection of Australia and its immediate environment. The naval force can assist in coping with any intrusions into territorial waters and fishing and resource zones. It provides considerable support to civil authorites. It could, in the present strategic environment, deter to a great extent any minor harassment and interference with Australian sovereign control. As I indicated while in opposition and again earlier this year, I have been giving particular attention to the escort strength of the RAN and the need for new destroyer construction. The two Daring class destroyers in the fleet have recently been modernised.

A decision was taken by the previous Government to proceed with the modernisation of the 3 Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyers. This will cover the overhaul and modernisation of the S-inch guns; updating the Tartar missile system to enable it to use the more advanced Standard missile; and installation of a computerised automated command and control system. Further, and in line with maintaining our existing destroyers as operationally effective fleet units, it is the Government's intention to proceed with the refit and modernisation of some, at least, of the older River class destroyers during the latter half of this decade. The extent to which these ships should be updated is being critically reviewed, taking into account the assessed importance of the individual weapons systems to our likely strategic situation in the 1980s, the costs involved and the manpower and maintenance savings that can be achieved. Work is continuing on the Australian development of Project Mulloka - a new improved sonar which may be part of the update of these anti-submarine warfare ships.

The need for new destroyer construction has been examined against this background. The Government recognises the importance of naval strength to Australian defence preparedness, and has endorsed the need for a new destroyer acquisition program for the Navy to maintain its strength in the 1980's. But before any specific decisions are reached on this important matter, more detailed study is necessary into a number of aspects. There is the question of timing and priority and looking to the best opportunity. The provision of 3 Australian designed and built destroyers for the RAN under the DDL program - has been estimated to involve $355m project cost over the next ten years, but experience of ship construction shows a strong tendency for costs to escalate. We have to bear in mind that a high proportion of defence expenditure is already committed to strengthening our maritime capability rather than other needs. After thorough consideration of all the circumstances the Government was not satisfied that the previous Government's decision to acquire light destroyers of the particular Australian design and characteristics is the most appropriate solution. In the light of that decision I have directed the Defence Navy investigators to examine naval development overseas, taking into account also the current strategic assessment to which I earlier referred. The position will be further reviewed next year.

I realise this decision will come as a disappointment to many who have been closely involved in the DDL proposal. I would like to express the Government's appreciation of the work of all the many participants in the project, in Government and industry, both in Australia and overseas. To date some $1.7m has been spent on the project, principally on design investigations and management consultancy. This work has been valuable and will provide a firm basis for the continued study of the requirement for a new destroyer construction program. The Government has decided to proceed with the construction of a new oceanographic ship. This ship will provide capability which will be of much benefit in both the military and civil fields for work in ocean research, including resource exploration. We have decided that there is no need to proceed at this time with the construction of a fast combat support ship, capable of underway replenishment of the fleet. It has been assessed that such a ship would not be required before about 1980, when HMAS

Supply' is expected to be retired. I believe that a less sophisticated and less costly ship than .that originally proposed at a cost now estimated at around S69m might be more suitable. This is being further examined.

The need in the future for the acquisition of maritime surveillance aircraft continues to be examined. We have at present one squadron of Orion aircraft and one squadron of Neptune aircraft, the latter reaching the end of its life later in the decade. We are considering what is needed to meet projected military and, in conjunction with civil authorities, civil off-shore surface surveillance tasks. The Naval air power study will assist in this examination. That study will also contribute to the consideration of the possible future need for a seaborne aircraft platform when HMAS 'Melbourne' goes out of commission. But these matters are not for decision now. With the paying off of HMAS 'Sydney, and other economies, savings in both Service and civilian manpower can be achieved. These are being put into effect- I shall refer to this again later.

I turn now to our ground force strength of which the Army naturally provides the major and essential component. The Navy and Air Force contribute associated support for sea and airlift and ground attack by land and sea based aircraft. Following the recent review of the Army, there is to be a better balance between the field force and the Australian support area. This has led to a planned increase in the field force of about 2,000 men this year with a corresponding reduction in the support area component. This increase will enhance our capability to provide effective ground forces should any low level situation arise to which the Government may decide it is necessary to respond; and it will provide a sound basis for expansion should our strategic circumstances change. As previously announced, the divisional structure will be retained for the Army, with 3 task forces, each 2 battalions.


Mr Katter - You have not got a division. Be honest.


Mr BARNARD - You should not worry. I have not yet decided to change the name of the helicopters. They are still known as 'Katter's copters'. I shall be examining critically the various combat and supporting elements, the need to maintain particular military skills at particular levels, and their balance in relation to the likely strategic situation. With the cessation of active operations and the phasing out of national service, the support component of the Army, both Service and civilian, has now become excessive in relation to the field force and the level of capability required. Less essential activities are being curtailed and numbers will be reduced accordingly.

As part of ground force maritime support, the acquisition of 8 heavy landing craft will provide the capability to transport men and material in coastal movement. For air support of ground forces, the present substantial Mirage force has a ground attack role, and Navy's 19 Skyhawk attack aircraft, whether sea or land based, also provide an attack capability. Air transport support of the ground forces will be provided by 2 squadrons each of Hercules and Caribou aircraft and utility helicopters now in service, shortly to be complemented by the additional capability provided by medium lift helicopters. There are a number of armoured vehicle proposals now being studied including the replacement of the Centurion medium tank and the acquisition of fire support vehicles and bridging equipment. These and other proposals will be submitted to the Government for decision at the appropriate time.

Turning to our air capability, the main offensive and defensive units are 24 F111C strike . aircraft and 87 Mirage air defence and ground attack fighters. We have carefully reviewed the present provision for air defence capability. While recognising the dual role of air defence and ground attack for the Mirage fighters, and the need to maintain complex skills in both these areas, our strategic situation can no longer justify maintaining four squadrons of costly Mirage flying effort. Accordingly, it has been decided in the present circumstances to disband one of the Mirage squadrons. Two fighter squadrons will continue to be deployed for the time being in Malaysia, and the third squadron at Williamtown near Newcastle.

This will amply meet the present requirment. Our Mirage aircraft provide Australia with an air defence force that is very unlikely to be outclassed in our strategic area of concern. With the phasing out of one Mirage squadron, and the consequential reduction in overall flying effort, it is expected that the life of the aircraft remaining will be extended into the 1980s. This decision has the effect of deferring until later in the decade the need to acquire a new tactical fighter. The reduced flying of Mirage aircraft will also reduce the need for maintaining the present training effort on both the Macchi and the Winjeel trainer aircraft. Substantial manpower savings can be achieved. This decision also has an important bearing on the future of the aircraft industry to which I will refer later.

In support of our major air force elements, there is one Canberra squadron now being used for target flying roles and photographic tasks, and a number of other support and training aircraft. The acquisition of the New Zealand CT4 Air Trainer as a replacement for the Winjeel will proceed in the coming year. But as a consequence of the reduced flying training effort now required, there will be a reduction in the number of aircraft to be required. I have already referred to RAAF maritime and transport squadrons.

I turn now to the manpower position in the right of the Government's general policies, the need for some restructuring of our forces to which I have referred, and the manifest scope for economies. This Government abolished conscription soon after it came to power. It decided to depend fully on volunteers for manning the Army, and the Navy and Air Force. There has been no shortage of volunteers, and more Servicemen are re-engaging when their terms of service expire. As I have said on many occasions, this Government has already successfully demonstrated that allvolunteer forces can be raised during peacetime if the right policies are adopted. Central to the Government's policy on all-volunteer forces is the principle that terms and conditions for Service personnel should be no less attractive than those available for the community generally. This is essential if we are to have adequate forces with the necessary high level of efficiency and morale. I need not repeat here all that has been done by this Government in the areas of pay and conditions and in retirement, resettlement and repatriation benefits.

A central problem in developing an adequate force structure is to decide on the correct balance between manpower and equipment expenditures, capital works, communications and so on. During the last decade Service manpower, excluding national servicemen, increased substantially from 50,100 in June 1963 to 71,300 in June 1973. Civilian manpower increased from 36,600 in June 1963 to 51,300 in June 1973. Over this same period of a decade pay rates also increased substantially. In 1973-74 some $7 13m, that is, no less than 53 per cent of the $ 1345m appropriation for defence, is expected to be spent directly on Service and civilian pay. There is, of course, in addition, considerable expenditure on administration, stores, etc., which is closely related to manpower numbers. It is essential to make more money available for major equipments, for much needed improvements to Service accommodation, for improvements to defence bases and for other capital projects that will put Australia in a better position in future years to meet a threat should one arise. We have therefore decided to make way for capital programs to meet the uncertain future, by controlling expenditure on manpower in the present low risk period.

Flowing partly from the review of Service activities which I have already discussed, and partly from achievable economics in the use of manpower, reductions in defence manpower will be effected. Civilian manpower in the Defence group of departments will be reduced by about 4,500 or 9 per cent during 1973-74. Civilian employment in the Department of the Navy will fall by 880, in Army by 1,300, in Air by 400, and in Supply by about 1,850. These reductions will include the Defence Research and Developments Laboratories, supply factories and naval dockyards, to which I will refer later. The greater part of the civilian employment reduction will, however, be achieved through attrition; that is, by not replacing wastage. Terminations of employment will be kept to the practicable minimum and, where necessary, the Department of Labour and the Public Service Board will provide assistance with re-employment.

There will be a reduction of some 2,300 or 3.2 per cent in Service manpower. The Navy will come down during 1973-74 by 1,100 and the Royal Australian Air Force by 1,200. The Army, on the structure I have already indicated, will effect some economies in the Australian Support Area, which will be reduced by about 2,000 to about 19,600, keeping the Regular Army total strength constant at some 31,150 during 1973-74.

Almost all of the Service reductions will be made by not replacing wastage. Retrenchments of servicemen are unlikely to be necessary except for a relatively small number in certain ranks and musterings. Where they are in suitable categories they will be considered for inter-Service transfer. There will continue to be a need for a considerable number of recruits in 1973-74. I am satisfied that these cuts in manpower represent necessary and indeed in some cases overdue economies and will not impair the defence capabilities we need in present circumstances.

INDUSTRIAL ASPECTS

In association with the re-appraisal of our force structure a major re-appraisal is also being made of our defence industrial base. By their very nature defence industries are in large part sustained by the workload generated by the needs of the Defence forces. Much of our Government-owned defence production capacity was established in World War II and has been updated in part to carry out new tasks. It has capabilities for production on a scale far beyond that envisaged as necessary under current strategic assessments. It should have been reviewed by our predecessors in office.

In redirecting the activities of our defence industries there will be problems of adjustment. To a large extent these problems will occur because change has been avoided for too long. The changes in Service activity and equipment procurement which I have already mentioned will result in a lower level of orders being placed on industry and on naval dockyards and government factories in the next few years. Further, a major review is being carried out of the policies governing the Service's stockholdings of munitions and other items. I find that these policies have remained unaltered since 1963, despite the great changes which have taken place in Australia's strategic situation during the decade. In some cases unnecessary stockholdings, financed by the taxpayer, have been accumulated. The present review is expected to lead to a lower level of authorised holdings and the need to run down some of the existing holdings by reductions in orders covering peacetime usage. The Services have a combined stockholding valued at many hundreds of millions of dollars and more efficient management of a resource of this size is essential and long overdue. Because of these considerations, it is necessary to review and adjust the operations of the government munitions factories moving towards some definite longer term Objectives.

We want to dispense with those activities which have outlived their usefulness while retaining those of a continuing validity and providing for their future development in line with our prospective needs in the 1980s. Progressive rationalisation of activities and concentration in fewer sites will be examined. In the short term, the reduction in orders from the Services will mean an unavoidable contraction of workload in the munitions factories. Where possible the associated reduction in employment will be made by non-replacement of employees who resign or retire. But retrenchments will be necessary in some factories. In city areas the present full employment' situation should ensure quick reemployment of those displaced. Efforts are being made to lessen the effect on country areas.


Mr Sinclair - What about Lithgow?


Mr BARNARD - The honourable member will be pleased to know there will be no reductions at Lithgow. Early this year I announced that a study was being made aimed at rationalisation of activities in the aircraft industry. The Government has examined this question, but it was evident that the decisions which needed to be made on equipment for the Services and the level of service activity had a vital bearing on the future workload and size of the industry and hence on the direction of rationalisation. The Government has now taken these decisions and I will press for a rapid conclusion to the rationalisation discussions. Also there will be significant alterations to the pattern of future workload for our naval dockyards. The extensive modernisation of our 3 Charles F. Adams class destroyers was to have been carried out in United States dockyards. This work involves updating the missile fire control systems and the installations of new digital data systems. I have directed that ways be developed to do at least two of these modernisations in Australia. This work will be undertaken at Garden Island, and as a consequence, it will be necessary to transfer significant amounts of other refit and fleet maintenance work to the other 2 naval dockyards.

As I have already indicated, the Government will proceed with a project for the acquisition by the Royal Australian Navy of a new Oceanographic ship. Construction work will be undertaken at Williamstown Naval Dockyard to offset the results of the various decisions taken in reviewing the defence program on the workload of this dockyard. As a result, it will be necessary to decline all tenders submitted for construction of this ship.

Other new work of importance to the naval dockyards will include the refit of some of the older River Class destroyers to which 1 referred earlier. Planning is now underway to redirect the future development of the naval dockyards to these new circumstances. In the short term, there will be a need for some reduction in the work force particularly at Williamstown dockyard. Where possible this reduction will be made by normal attrition.

DEFENCE FACILITIES

In line with our across-the-board reassessment of the structure of forces a review has been made of the expenditure proposed on constructing, procuring and maintaining defence facilities. In present strategic circumstances, I have decided to extend the completion of the next phase of the Western Australian naval support facility, HMAS 'Stirling', at Cockburn Sound, by 3 years, that is, from 1975 to 1978. Some components of the project which can be regarded separately, the armament depot and jetty and the large ships wharf, have been deferred for later decisions as to commencement.

As previously announced, a comprehensive study is proceeding within my Department to assess the most suitable location for all Australian defence bases. The study will embrace not only considerations of strategic need but also the relationship of defence establishments to urban development proposals and the need for Service personnel to be integrated as fully as possible with the general community. The study will pay particular attention to the question of the Services' land requirements and to the identification of areas of land now held by the Services which might be released for other uses. The Government recognises that much of the living and working accommodation at the various defence establishments at the present time is old and substandard and that significant expenditure will be necessary to provide servicemen and service women with facilities that can be regarded as acceptable by today's standards. It is planned in future years to spend considerable amounts on replacing war-time facilities which are still in use.

In the same way, we will be diverting considerable sums towards the provision of adequate housing for Service families. In 1972- 73, expenditure on Service housing throughout Australia was some $6m. We are planning to more than double that amount in 1973-74.

Apart from new construction, we are looking at the possibilities of purchasing established dwellings, and we are pursuing a policy of upgrading and improving the older married quarters which were built to standards hardly acceptable today.

The persistent theme of my remarks this evening is the need for careful appraisal of our present force structure and defence activities in the light of present strategic circumstances. We must provide those capabilities which are essential at present and as a basis for possible expansion, prune those which are excessive or redundant, and be alert to the needs of the future. Adequate defence strength is necessary to the more independent posture of this Government. Vigorous management will ensure that the size and shape and support of our forces meet our real security needs with the maximum efficiency and economy. I present the following paper:

Australian Defence - Ministerial Statement, 22 August 1973

Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.







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