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Friday, 13 November 1964

Senator MATTNER - Then it is the first time for some years. I thank Senator Hendrickson for the correction. The present Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), with his war experience and great knowledge of civic affairs, is well equipped to carry out our wishes with despatch and to leave the Government in no doubt as to what the Senate desires to be done. It is because we have the Minister for Defence in this chamber that many of the views that have been expressed here have been brought under notice in the correct quarters with the result that these proposals are before us now. If the Opposition were sincere, it would both support and welcome them. Both Senator McKenna and Senator Kennelly denied that there was any national danger either within: or without Australia.

Senator Ormonde - That is what the Prime Minister said.

Senator MATTNER - I repeat that both Senator McKenna and Senator Kennelly said that we are in no real danger. The Leader of the Opposition reviewed past happenings by offering destructive and unsupported criticism. Surely he is able to offer some concrete suggestion as to what should be done. Senator McKenna referred to the B47 bombers. His leader in another place told us what was happening to them - that they were being bulldozed into scrap in the United States of America. Senator McKenna criticised national service, but he did not compare what is proposed now with what was done some years ago.

Senator Hendrickson - This is conscription.

Senator MATTNER - The honorable senator calls it conscription. 1 call it national service. The Opposition believes in compulsory unionism to protect the rights and jobs or workers.

Senator Ormonde - We do nothing of the kind.

Senator MATTNER - Then let the honorable senator tell his followers that he does not believe in compulsory unionism. He is not game to tell them that. If it is good enough to have compulsory unionism, if it is right that every man in every occupation should be a unionist, then it is equally right for every Australian to do his share in defending his kith and kin and his country.

Senator Hannan - Ask members of the Opposition how many of them are financial unionists.

Senator MATTNER - I do not want to associate anyone else with what I am saying. I am only stating my own view. I have never wavered from the opinion that we should have national serviced - call it conscription if you like. Even in 1916 and 1917 when we had votes in France, I supported it.

Senator Hendrickson - The soldiers voted against conscription.

Senator MATTNER - I did not say they did not. I thank the honorable senator again for helping me.

Senator Hendrickson - You might have voted for it, but we voted against it.

Senator MATTNER - All right. I voted for it, and I will stand up and tell everybody that I voted for it. I wanted to avoid the unfair, horrible slurs and implications that were hurled at people who did not go - the kind of slurs and insinuations that we heard on the last, occasion. That kind of thing is not fair to the. people who did not go to the war and the introduction of com pulsory service will protect the ordinary man in the street from being looked upon as a kind of leper.

Senator Branson - Or a second class citizen.

Senator MATTNER - Or a second class citizen. I believe that all the old volunteers do not want to see slurs cast at these people. What did annoy us during the 1914-18 war was that the so called statesmen who came to France, saw what was happening, and knew how important it was that the volunteers should have support, came back to Australia and hid behind the skirls of a referendum. Honorable senators opposite say that what we propose is a political stunt simply because there is to be a Senate election. If the members of the Labour Party are so terribly anxious to get back to the Treasury bench, if they are so terribly anxious to assume a bit of responsibility, they now have the chance. I commend the Government for its proposals. I am in favour of compulsory national service. It is the fairest and most equitable system that has ever been evolved.

Again I ask the Opposition: Can wc get aeroplanes simply by plucking them out of the air? On the subject of bombers, the following article from the " Sydney Morning Herald" of 26th June 1964 should be of interest to honorable senators -

Nen' Bomber in Service Ry End of 1968.

The R.A.A.F.'s new supersonic bomber, the Fill A, would be in squadron service before the end of 1968, the year the first of the bombers was to be delivered from the U.S.

The article continues -

The permanent head of the Department of Air, Mr. A. B. McFarlane, said this in Canberra today on his arrival from a ten-day visit to the U.S.

Reports that the bomber would not go into service till 18 months after delivery were incorrect, he said.

I could quote many more such articles, but my time is running out. 1 am interested in this question of the aircraft . carrier, to which Senator Kennelly referred. I suppose Senator Kennelly recognises that to build or buy an aircraft carrier would cost an enormous amount of money. We must consider the strategic justification for our expenditure. We must take into account certain factors. For instance, we must take info account our present defence arrangements with our allies. We must look at how they propose to defend us. We have to consider the threat presented by potential enemies. We can assess those things by making a close examination of all relevant intelligence available to us. We have also to consider the ability of the forces available to us to deal with any threat that might confront Australia. All our plans have to be integrated with those of our allies. Consideration was given to whether we should build an aircraft carrier in Australia. It was decided that this was impracticable. For Senator Kennelly's information, I point out that to have an aircraft carrier built overseas would cost £100 million, without the aircraft, and that it would take at least five years to build.

The conversion to modern standards of the only American Essex class carrier available would cost £60 million. An investigation has shown that if this carrier were modernised and equipped with aircraft the total cost would be about £150 million. That would be the cost for one carrier only. It would be only a reconditioned ship more than 20 years old when the conversion was completed. Substantial additional expenditure would then be necessary to obtain a suitable number of escorts for the carrier and apart from the initial cost there would be the annual charges for maintenance and the cost of additional power. Yet that is the sort of proposition we have heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He asked why we did not get an aircraft carrier from the United States of America. There is the answer. One can go through the other defence proposals of the Opposition similarly and find an answer that knocks the validity out of all of them.

The geographical position of Australia is the determining factor in our defence plans. What will our neighbours do or what might they do? These are the relevant questions. What will China do? We remember how the Nationalist Government fell in China. There are dedicated Communists now inside China and it is their devotion to their ideology that is so important today. What has altered the whole situation there recently? We have very little knowledge of our near neighbours and their philosophy, but only the other day Communist China exploded an atomic bomb. Surely an idea of the possible effects of that event has seeped through to the minds of the Opposition? Recently I returned from a visit to the 17th Parallel in Korea, Laos and Vietnam. It is all very well for the Opposition to say that our friends in Vietnam should do this and that but with China breathing down their necks and brooding over them they are in a very difficult situation. All China's ideological aims are towards conformity.

Senator Hendrickson - What rot.

Senator MATTNER - My learned friend says: "What rot." Those within China and close to it who do not conform have very sad prospects. Senator Wright referred to an event in South Vietnam. Why did it happen?

Senator Hendrickson - Because they are starving.

Senator MATTNER - I give that the lie direct.

Senator Hendrickson - Don't talk rot.

Senator MATTNER - I am not talking nonsense but stating a fact. I have been there and I know that the economic position of the South Vietnamese is far better than that of any other country in that area.

Senator Hendrickson - Talk sense.

Senator MATTNER - I am not talking nonsense. The honorable senator cannot take it. He is so purblind and prejudiced that he cannot believe the truth. Recently a number of United States aircraft were destroyed in Vietnam. Opposition senators should not say that there was laxity on the part of the Americans because they do not believe in conscription. The only Americans in South Vietnam are volunteers. They have no army of their own to protect their installations. That is left to the Vietnamese. I know that Senator Hendrickson is patriotic and that he has a sound knowledge of military matters, but he must understand why it was possible for the insurgents to get within 2,000 yards of the American air base in Vietnam and blow it up with 2,000 bombs. There must have been a great deal of connivance with the insurgent forces.

It is a mistake to visualise these Vietcong boys as little fellows running around in black shirts. Those in South Vietnam are the most dedicated people in the world. Do not think they are not well equipped. They are equipped with the most modern conventional weapons. China has the most modern conventional weapons of any nation in the world. The Chinese went into India and they were seen to have the most modern weapons. Surely Senator Hendrickson knows that.

Senator Hendrickson - What rot.

Senator MATTNER - Unfortunately the facts cannot be wiped off the slate as easily as that. All these guerrillas in Vietnam have modern conventional weapons and they are organised into a formidable military and political force. There are 30,000 professional rebel soldiers well trained and armed and dedicated to the Communist cause in South Vietnam.

Senator Hendrickson - How does the honorable senator know that?

Senator MATTNER - I have been there.

Senator Hendrickson - Did the honorable senator ask them?

Senator Cormack - I rise to a point of order, Mr. Deputy President. Could I seek your protection for my colleague, Senator Mattner, from these continual interjections?

The ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Senator Wood). - Order! There is no point of order involved but I ask honorable senators to preserve order.

Senator MATTNER - I thank Senator Cormack but the interjections do not really disturb me. They simply underline the facts which cannot be challenged successfully. I should know better than to take notice of the interjections. They are part of the tactics of honorable senators who are unable to cope with the arguments in a debate. What I have said is factual. Let us pause and think what would happen if the Americans moved out of South Vietnam. Laos would go. Cambodia would go. We would have a new problem in Malaysia. Then there is Indonesia and there is one thought in that connection that I want to leave with honorable senators. The Communists can be trusted to do as they say and the latest Indonesian maps depict Australia as Indonesian territory - not only West New Guinea and East New Guinea but Australia itself. The Communists never lie. They can be trusted to carry out their proposals.

Senator Kennelly - Ask Senator Hannan whether he agrees with that.

Senator MATTNER - The Communists never lie as to their intentions to take over the world. They have said that they will take over Australia. Nobody has ever heard me say one word for or against the Communists but what worries me following my visits to South-East Asia, is the way in which the Communists are making inroads with their cells. I did not believe it until I saw it myself. I shudder when I think that within Australia we have Communists who are prepared to sell this country. That worries me. I wonder what would happen if a landing occurred now - and these landings that Indonesia is carrying out cannot just be wiped off. Would the Communists within this country tura against us? The Communists are sprinkled throughout our trade unions, particularly the most important ones such as the transport and waterfront unions. That is a real threat to Australia and the sooner we wake up to it the better. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion that the paper be printed.

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