Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 16 November 1964


Senator MCCLELLAND - I am suggesting that the Government is being quite hypocritical in its approach, having regard to what the Prime Minister has stated. He has said that the defences of this nation will not be ready for a further four or five years. The Government proposes that H.M.A.S. "Melbourne" should undergo a refit in 1967. That will take a period of two years. Then what is to happen? The additional men referred to in this report will be introduced into service in 1968. I think that the TFX bombers are going to be in service by 1968. Of course, we all know what happened about the B47 bombers. As my friend Senator Fitzgerald said, immediately prior to the last general election they were brought to Australia and were shown on television landing on airstrips with parachute brakes. However, we found out subsequently that the B47 was considered inadequate for this nation's Air Force because we had only one airstrip on which the aircraft could land.

This ministerial statement on the defence of the nation is not based on the strategic situation today, but preparing for a situation which might exist in four, five or six years' time - as late as 1970. This is the case despite the fact that on 16th September last, when addressing the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures in Sydney, Sir Robert Menzies declared that Australia had never lived in a state of greater risk. What a ludicrous position we find ourselves in, after the Government has been in office for 15 years and after almost £3,000 million has been spent on the defences of this nation. We have the Prime Minister saying that Australia has never lived in a state of greater risk, yet this defence statement sets out the Government's attitude to, and caters for the needs of, the years 1968, 1969 and 1970. I suggest that if the Government were sincere it might have done what the wartime Prime Minister, John Curtin, did. He sent Dr. Evatt to the United States to discuss with

PresidentRoosevelt the international situation in which Australia found itself at that time. The only Minister we have sent over to the United States in recent times, to discuss any matter of this nature, was the late Mr. Athol Townley, who was sent to America to purchase bombers that will be coming to Australia in 1968 or 1969.

Let us consider the defence situation today. The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), during his contribution to this debate this afternoon, said that the Government had taken the military advisers into the closest consultation, but apparently it failed to take its junior Ministers into its confidence. On 26th October last, two days before defence was discussed in this chamber during the course of the debate on the Estimates, the present Minister for the Army had some very important and pertinent remarks to make about the debate which was ensuing at that time. Addressing the National Congress of the Returned Servicemen's League on 26th October he said -

As 1 have already stated publicly, the Government has not got a closed mind on the subject-

He was referring to conscription - and should in its judgment the circumstances demand it we would have no hesitation in introducing it.

This was less than three weeks ago. Might I ask rhetorically: What has taken place in the last three weeks? Cabinet certainly has not told Parliament or the people what it is. The Minister for the Army then went on to say -

I could perhaps say, however, that we have not introduced conscription up to this point in time because our military advisers have indicated in the clearest and most unmistakeable terms that it is not the most effective way of creating the Army we need to meet the situation we face.

He emphasised this by saying -

I stress that this is military advice. The reasons for rejecting conscription have nothing whatever to do with the political consequences of its introduction or its cost.

Yet we were told that this defence review had been taking place over a period of some three to four months.

Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.


Senator MCCLELLAND - Before the sitting was suspended, I had pointed out that the Minister for Defence said this afternoon during the course of this debate that this decision to call up for service both in Australia and overseas thousands of young Australians had been taken in close consultation with military advisers. I pointed out also that the Prime Minister in the opening part of his defence review statement said -

For some months the Department of Defence and the Service and Supplies Departments, in close collaboration with the Chiefs of Staff Committee, have been making a complete re-assessment of our defence needs and programme.

In other words, not only was this advice taken, according to the Minister for Defence, after close consultation with military advisers, but also the consultations, according to the Prime Minister, had been taking place for some months. But apparently such consultations were taking place without the knowledge of the present Minister for the Army, because only three weeks before this very day when the defence review statement was presented, the Minister for the Army was condemning this form of call up as being ineffective. I think I have already cited part of what the Minister said in his address to the Returned Servicemen's League Congress. The Minister stressed - and he used the word " stressed " in order to emphasise his point - that this method of recruitment was against military advice.

It is obvious that if this advice was taken in consultation with military advisers the Minister for the Army did not even know what was going on. I suggest that it is quite reasonable for members of the Opposition to be excused for gaining the impression that this proposal is no more nor less than a political stunt put on three weeks before a Senate election. I suggest that the people of Australia can be excused also for wondering what is going to happen between now and 1970 because the Prime Minister went on record on 16th September last as saying that Australia had never lived in a state of greater risk. I now refer to a statement made by the present Minister for Defence in this very chamber. On 26th August last, I asked the Minister about statements that he had made in Perth on 31st July. After setting out his statements, I asked the Minister for Defence whether he still maintained his view of 31st July or whether he had since had any reason to modify it. The Minister, in a very long reply, said that he hastened to assure me that he was not disposed to alter what he had said previously in addressing a Liberal Party meeting in Perth. Making certain comments about recruitmen, he went on to say-

The correspondent in question made certain comments about our forces.

This article had appeared in the "Sydney Morning Herald ". In it, the correspondent referred to some 6,000 men - less than half of the strength of our existing field forces in Australia. The Minister, in denying this situation to be the case, went on to say-

He made no mention- that is, the " Sydney Morning Herald " correspondent made no mention - as might be expected, of the measures that have recently been adopted by the Government to encourage recruiting.

Obviously, the measures which were adopted by the Government, despite the fact that the Minister for Defence on 26th August last was relying on the steps that the Government had taken to defend the Government's attitude after this article had appeared in the " Sydney Morning Herald ", were being put forward by the Minister to suggest that the steps taken by the Government to encourage recruiting would solve the problem.

How does the Government expect to get volunteers for the Australian Army in view of some of the conditions under which cx-servicemen are serving today? On 6th May 1964, an officer attached to the 1st Lancers Barracks at Parramatta went on record as saying that recruits beginning Citizen Military Forces training were often discouraged because of the long delay in the issue of their uniforms. He said - . . recruits and permanent staff were disgruntled because winter uniforms had to last for eight years, boots for four, and two pairs of woollen army socks had to be worn for four years before new ones were issued.

The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), in reply to me during the course of the - Estimates debate, said that an exserviceman, when he had worn his boots out, would be entitled to another pair. But he did not deny that members of the C.M.F. have to wait for a period of eight years to be issued with a second uniform or four years for a couple of pair of socks. How can the Government expect, with this state of affairs going on within the C.M.F., to get C.M.F. volunteers to enlist in the Australian Regular Army. As late as the 9th June last a retired soldier, Brigadier Meredith, in a letter to the "Sydney Morning Herald ", compared conditions today with the conditions during World War II, and said -

Today things are vastly different. In the past two years, over 3,500 men have refused to reengage. That has cost the country the best part of £5,000,000, which, roughly, is what it will cost to train their replacements. What is far worse is that over 100 Army officers or about 20 per cent, of the total officer establishment have either submitted their resignations or would do so if resignations were being accepted.

As this gentleman has suggested, something obviously is wrong somewhere. I suggest that before the Government plays around with this idea of conscripting a certain percentage of young Australians for service both in Australia and overseas, it should have a look at the conditions under which servicemen are serving.

What is the situation in regard to the Navy? Just recently, in the Sydney " Sun " there was an article which read -

Pressure on accommodation at the Navy's main training centre for ratings had resulted in a lowering of morale and a loss of highly-trained men.

There is the situation in Borneo today where the 7th Field Squadron - I have raised this matter from time to time in this chamber - are serving under very deleterious conditions and are receiving a lower zone allowance than troops serving in New Guinea, Darwin and Woomera. I suggest that the Government and its military advisers should have a close look at the situation and at the conditions of servicemen before they give some consideration to the introduction of conscription at the present time. Improve conditions, and you might get more volunteers.

Only last Thursday night, a young fellow who attended a C.M.F. parade on the North Shore of Sydney told me that as a result of the Defence Bill recently brought forward in this chamber calling upon members of the C.M.F. to volunteer for service overseas those on parade who wished to volunteer for this overseas service were asked to step one pace forward. Only one third of his particular unit had done so. Why is this the situation? I suggest it is the situation because of the hopeless and obsolete equipment with which these fellows are issued to train. I have here a statement by someone who has declared himself to be a " Dinkie Di Aussie ". He says -

C.M.F. trucks are a disgrace. A little while ago, 10 trucks started up the coast in convoy, by the time the trip was over, all but one truck was broken down. Some radio equipment was on sale in British disposal stores, long before it was issued to the C.M.F.

At the annual 14-day camp, small units have to borrow equipment, such as rifles and trucks. Some units haven't enough weapons to go around.

This is the type of equipment that is given to these men for their training. How can one expect men who have volunteered for the Citizen Military Forces to volunteer for overseas service in those circumstances?


Senator Wright - Has the honorable senator anything on which he can base that statement about the condition of the equipment other than the Press statement?


Senator MCCLELLAND - I have no statement other than this but the letter was published in the Press and I assume that what was written is correct. If you talk to men serving in the C.M.F. they will tell you about the hopeless state of the equipment and. its obselete nature. I suggest to the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) that he should get his military advisers to have a private talk with the other ranks of the C.M.F. and get some information on the state of the equipment with which these men are supposed to train.

On 27th May the American magazine "Time" stated that the Australian Air Force was obsolete, its Navy a memory and its 23,000 man Army was smaller than that of Cambodia. What is the situation in regard to the Royal Australian Air Force? Recently I asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) by way of a question on notice whether major repairs to service aircraft were being carried out by private enterprise and I was told that major repairs to Sabre aircraft were being done by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and that certain repairs were being carried out by Trans-Australia Airlines and by a private company in South Australia. This is the state of the R.A.A.F.

We all know what has happened in regard to the radar service in Darwin. It was working Public Service hours until a couple of weeks ago. There have been six reports, according to the Minister for Air, of unidentified aircraft operating over Australia and not one of them was spotted or picked up by radar because none was available in any of the areas from which the reports " emanated. One of these areas was Cocos Island. The Government has sent a couple of Bofors guns to Darwin and now it is trying to give the Australian people the impression that because there are a couple of Bofors guns there, Darwin is defended.

What is the situation in regard to the Navy? Rear-Admiral Oldham said only last Friday night that it would be suicidal in future for units of the Navy to go within range of enemy aircraft. He was Flag Officer in charge of the Australian Eastern Area before his retirement and he attacked the new naval programme. Of course, this new programme will not come into effect today or in three months time to meet the urgent situation forecast by the Prime Minister; it will come into effect about 1968, 1969 or 1970. Earlier this year, Rear Admiral Oldham went on record as saying that in his opinion the Navy was inadequate, the Air Force was considered to be impotent and the Australian Army was immovable. I suggest that from all the reports we can obtain, and having regard to the Prime Minister's defence review, this is the exact situation at a time when, according to the Prime Minister, a serious international strategic situation has developed within the last 12 months.

This Government has been in office for 16 years. From time to time, we have had warnings from the Government that we must be ready to defend ourselves. As early as 1953 - 11 years ago - the Prime Minister went on record as saying that we must be ready for war within three years. Now, in 1964 and on the admission of the Government itself, Australia is not in a position to defend itself adequately and will not be in such a position before 1970. On 21st May I received a reply from the Minister for Defence to certain questions I had placed on notice asking for information about recruits. I asked the Minister -

1.   How many persons made application to join (a) the Royal Australian Navy, (b) the Australian Military Forces, and (c) the Royal Australian Air Force, in the period 1st January to 31st December 1963?

2.   How many were accepted as recruits in each service?

3.   How many were rejected (a) for medical reasons, (b) because of lack of a suitable educational standard, or (c) for any other reason?

I was informed that the number of persons who made application to join the Services in 1963 were -

 

That makes a total of about 25,000. The number who were accepted as recruits in each Service were -

 

Tn other words about 6,000 were accepted from 25,000 volunteers. The Minister said that a number had been rejected because of their educational standards. This afternoon, Senator Cormack told us that those who were rejected - and I think the number was about twice the number of those actually accepted - were rejected because they had an I.Q. equal to a child of only 10 years of age.


Senator Cormack - I did not say that.


Senator MCCLELLAND - That was the impression I got from the honorable senator's statement. If I am wrong, I am subject to correction.


Senator Cormack - Will the honorable senator allow me to make the correction? I said that a great number of them had educational qualifications of the level of 10 years.


Senator MCCLELLAND - The honorable senator now says " a great number ", but what number? Obviously others are capable of being trained for a period of 12 months educationally to enable them to serve for five years in the Australian Regular Army, but the Government prefers to conscript a batch of young Australians. It will call them up compulsorily and mix them with a Regular Army unit. What did the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) have to say on this matter? He said in a statement to the Returned Servicemen's League National Congress on 26th October -

T hasten to emphasise that all this means is that an Army composed entirely of long-term volunteers is a better one than one based on a mixture of volunteers and conscripts.

Obviously the Minister for the Army has an opinion different from that of the Government regarding young Australians being called up, being trained and then mixed with units of the Australian Regular Army. Senator Cormack, speaking as a former senior Army officer, said it took two years to train a soldier. These young Australians are to be called up for two years. I suggest that if Senator Cormack is correct in saying that it takes two years to train a soldier then, first, it is futile to call young men up for two years. Secondly, if they are sent on active service overseas within two years then on Senator Cormack's own admission they will be untrained Australian troops. The Government has said that it will defer calling up apprectices, university students and certain others. In other words, it will hold a lottery for those born on a certain date and call up a certain number of them. The first intake will be 4,200 next year and the second intake the year after will be 6,900. On the percentage ratio previously cited of one recruit accepted for every four volunteers, the Government will have to call up about 30,000 men to get the quota.


Senator Ridley - If they arc lucky, they might not be selected.


Senator MCCLELLAND - This could well be the situation. What is to be the position in regard to new Australians - people who came to Australia 16 or 17 years ago at the age of 1 year, 2 years or 3 years? They have been educated by Australians, and they have been given an opportunity to take a place in the Australian society. These people are to be exempted from this type of training if they have remained unnaturalised, as many have.

The Government speaks about the lack of education of men who have volunteered to join the Services but who have been rejected. Senator Cohen recently asked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) a question upon notice concerning the number of students who were eligible for admission to universities but had not been accepted. At the University of Sydney there was a total of 1.435: at the University of New South Wales, in the faculty of medicine, there were 120; at the University of Melbourne there was a total of 879; at the Monash University, a total of 578; at the Adelaide University, a total of 71; and at the University of Western Australia, in the faculty of music, there were 2. In other words, for every two students who have passed their matriculation examinations, one is to be admitted to a university and will have his training deferred.

The other will not be admitted to the university and if his number comes out of the hat he mast serve in the armed forces for a period of two years.

I suggest that the Government is putting on nothing more nor nothing less than a political stunt intended to arouse a fear hysteria among the electors generally. I believe that the Government is whipping up a fear hysteria in order to hide its maladministration and the deficiencies in the Post Office, in health services, in social services and in other matters such as the national economy. It is creating a fear hysteria preparatory to another smear campaign just before the forthcoming Senate election. Indeed, Senator Branson started one smear campaign last Friday when he made allegations against a man who has passed on and against another who is too ill to defend himself. That did not work, nor will any future smear campaign which is initiated by the Government because the people are awake to them.

In conclusion, I say that the Australian Labour Party stands for the defence of this country, based on adequate and satisfactory plans. I remind the Government that there is just as much loyalty amongst members of the Australian Labour Party as there is amongst members of the Liberal Party and of the Australian Country Party. We do not stand for hotchpotch methods. We do not stand for delays in implementing policies, such as the delay in the defence programme which will extend over six years. We do not set out to fool the Australian people. We believe that the action which the Government has taken is no more than a political stunt and that the Government will receive the condemnation of the people of this great nation at the forthcoming Senate election.







Suggest corrections