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Tuesday, 27 October 1964
Page: 1313

Senator CANT (Western Australia) . - 1 am not satisfied with the answer given by the Minister. I knew that the Canberra bomber would not be phased out until the FI IIA came into operation. That is well known and I think I intimated that when I spoke earlier. Although the Canberra was declared obsolete in 1955 it is not to be phased out until 1968 or until the F111A comes into operation. That is what the Minister tells us, but it seems from' statements by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) that the need for a replacement is more urgent. It is so urgent that the Prime Minister even brought a B47 to this country and had it on exhibition during an election campaign. Since that election any agreement to take delivery of the B47 has been repudiated.

We are told that the Australian armed forces are designed as mobile forces, that is, they are stationed in particular areas and are able to move quickly to any part of Australia. In an exercise only a few weeks ago, which the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) claimed was satisfactory, it was revealed that the movement of troops by air was quite unsatisfactory. I take honorable senators back about six or seven months when there was an exercise of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation in which the Special Air Service was to take part. A section of that Service that was to participate was to come from Western Australia. Two Hercules transport aircraft were sent to Western Australia to pick up the S.A.S. unit. The first failed to pick up any troops because it broke down and there were no replacement parts in Western Australia. The other aircraft was then sent to Western Australia to pick up the troops but an oil pump broke down and it had to wait 24 hours for a pump to be flown from eastern Australia to be installed.

If this is an example of the mobility of the Australian forces, it is time the Government did something better. If the Government cannot see its way clear to establish some of our forces on the Western Australian seaboard it should see that there are parts there for aircraft so that they can be put into service again in the case of a breakdown. The present situation is not good enough. The Government talks about mobility of the armed forces but at the same time it limits everything associated with the forces to one particular point. If the Government plans to have mobile armed forces, it must be able to keep its forces mobile from point to point. The units should not have to return to base every time something goes wrong. These are things about which the Australian people are asking questions. It is time the Government made provision for these requirements. If there are insufficient transport aircraft and if the transport planes are not capable of carrying out the work they are designed to do, it is time the Government got more transport planes and made sure that our so-called mobile forces are in fact really mobile.

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