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Monday, 16 November 1964

Senator LILLICO (Tasmania) .- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the honorable senators who have taken part in this debate. At the outset, I refer to a question that was asked in the Senate some time ago relevant to the issue of uniforms and boots to members of the Citizen Military Forces. If my recollection serves me correctly, the Minister gave a most effective answer to the question which was asked. I make the observation that discontent is one of the human characteristics that is to be found in every body of men and women in the world. However, when discontent is expressed by a persons who writes a letter to the Press under a nom-de-plume, it should be taken with a very big grain of salt. I would not regard it as authentic information.

I would say that if this measure had not been introduced until after the Senate election, the Government would have been charged with not having enough guts to introduce it before the election. For months past we have heard it said that the Australian Labour Party proposes to fight the Senate election on the question of the defence of Australia. I have seen that published in the Press on a good many occasions. When the Government does something to accelerate the defence programme, the Australian Labour Party says that that is not right. It makes me wonder just what the Government can do to win. If a person sits down and considers a statement in the frame of mind that he is going to disparage it for all he is worth, that he is going to be wholly and completely destructive in what he says about it and that it has to be wrong, that persons is apt to say some very remarkable things.

Some very remarkable things have been said during the course of this debate on the defence review statement. Senator McKenna even got down to quoting the opinion of the trouble maker to the north of Australia. He did not say a word of commendation of our allies. New Zealand is calling up 3,000 men a year. If we were to adopt the same ratio, we would be calling up double the number envisaged at present. So far as I am aware, the New Zealand Labour Party is not creating an uproar about this action by the New Zealand Government. Strangely enough, over the years it has never done so. Not a word was said about the commendation of this measure by the United States of America or Great Britain. Senator McKenna referred to the aggressor to the north of Australia and quoted what he said about the proposals. Then he continued with these words -

Of course, he smells -

Meaning the Indonesian statesman - . . sees and points to the completely political content of this defence statement which is directed, not so much at providing for the defences of Australia as at winning the forthcoming election.

I could refer to other statements that have been made by members of the Australian Labour Party, but they are scarcely relevant to the defence of this country.

Senator Kennellycriticised this defence statement because it referred to the aggression of Indonesia against Malaysia. He said that a reference to something which all the world knows is occurring is an incitement to war. Mr. Calwell criticised the Government because there had been five defence reviews in five years. Most thinking people would hope that there would be many more of them. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) commented critically on the fact that, as he said, the Service departments had had 35 Ministers. He said that there had been insufficient contact between responsible Ministers, and that the Australian Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) saw less of the chiefs of staff than did the Secretary for Defence in the United States and the United Kingdom. So it goes on - that kind of empty, innocuous, almost irrelevant statement that does not get down to the roots of the defence of this country in any way whatsoever. It is desirable to build up the armaments of this country. In a democracy it has always been a hard thing to do. It is notorious that right down through history those countries that have been in a 100 per cent, state of defence preparedness or readiness for war have been those which intended aggression.

It has never been easy for a democracy or for any country with peaceful intentions to place itself on a war footing. Leaving out this nation of 10 million people attempting to defend a continent, we. have only to consider Great Britain prior to the last two world wars, the United States, and France itself. It has never been easy for them to build up a sufficiency of armaments, because of prevailing public opinion which is often antagonistic, in a democracy which has no intention whatever of aggression. It does not matter what the condition of its armaments may be. I have no doubt whatever that ours are not as bad as the Opposition makes out. In my opinion there is another all important factor, namely, the will to resist of the people of this country. I can think of nothing more morale destroying, more calculated to make the spirit of resistance waver than the continuous reiteration over months and years that this Government has done nothing whatever to help the defence of Australia in any way, shape or form.

I go on to another aspect. If we tell that to the whole wide world - as has been done - surely it is an inducement to an invader to believe that here is a country divided against itself, which one of the major political parties says is defenceless. That is a most treacherous attitude for the Australian Labour Party to take up. First, it is not true; secondly, it is done purely and entirely for political purposes. I remember reading two books by men who used to be in authority in France before the fall of France in World War II. 1 was impressed by the fact that both authors said that with the enemy right at the gates, with the whole country just about to crash, the same old political game of intrigue and treachery was played right up to the end. The Australian Labour Party needs to look out that it does not emulate the example of a very considerable element of the French people prior to the downfall of France in World War II.

Defence should not be a party political matter; it should be a national matter upon which all parties co-operate and work together. My objection to the policy that the A.L.P. adopts is that it is only destructive. It puts up nothing to remedy the position. Is it not only a few years ago that the then Leader of the Opposition advocated that a considerable slice be cut from the defence vote and spent on something else? I believe that if Labour had been in office this country would have been very much less prepared than it is today. Surely it is time we got away from a wholly political atmosphere, this desire only to gain some political advantage from what should be a vital national matter.

The statement placed before us is a realistic one. It accepts the fact that the strategic position of this country has deteriorated. One phrase in it attracted my attention. It referred to the fact that the further we are away from the Communist dominated countries the safer we will be. For some reason or another, Communism is an aggressive force. I have often wondered why that should be. I have heard it said that if Communism is contained it must die, so it must be aggressive. There may be some truth in that. Consider the position existing in West Germany and East Germany. Contrast the prosperity and liberty on one side of the Berlin wall with the conditions on the other side, a comparison which the Communist hierachy does not want. Their own people cannot see it; they cannot mix with the people across the wall. For the first time in history to my knowledge a wall has been built not to keep an invader out but to keep a whole people in and enslaved.

Many people come to the southern part of Tasmania to view the ruins of Port Arthur, I suppose to have their share of morbidness. They express horror at what happened 100 years ago when malefactors under the law as it then was were sent out to that place to endure penal servitude. By comparison with what is happening in other parts of the world, where a whole population is kept imprisoned, where a wall is erected to keep them in, Port Arthur and similar places fade into insignificance. The Chinese form of communism probably is, or it appears to be, more aggressive than ' the Russian form. Undoubtedly the force of communism is being felt in Indonesia. There has been a very great deterioration in South Vietnam where Communist agents have deliberately ambushed public servants, even schoolmasters, in the execution of their duties so as to prevent the country from functioning as an economic unit, to cause as much chaos and disruption as possible, and to bring the country to such a condition that the Communists will be able to take over. I mentioned a moment ago what is happening in Indonesia. I have never been able to understand just why Sukarno is committing the aggression that he is committing. What is the reason for it? What does he hope to gain? He must know that he has nothing to gain. Is it that he is being dragged at the heels of the big Communist Party which comprises part of his Government and believes that willy nilly he must embark upon a policy of aggression?

Only last week the Australian delegate to the United Nations was under attack. The opinion was advanced that the Communist countries had come to regard New Guinea as the key to the Pacific. In ali probability it is the key to the Pacific and as such it could be one of the greatest menaces which confront Australia. So it behoves us to try to act as a cohesive force. It may well be that there are amongst us those who will live long enough to see that the Governments proposals are not a political stunt but that they are quite the reverse and are of vital importance to this country. If our allies are able to adopt national service training, as far as I am aware without complaint - if little New Zealand can call up a greater percentage of her work force for military training than we can, and if the United States and the United Kingdom can adopt this principle - surely it behoves us, who have so much at stake and who are closer to the danger that threatens than are these other countries, to accept this burden. Ultimately this means may have to be used to defend our country.

I have heard a lot of adverse comment about the Government's proposal. Senator McKenna referred to the method of selection as being like Russian roulette. However, I have gained the definite impression from comments public and otherwise that the great majority of the Australian people believe that to oppose the Government's proposal as vehemently as it is opposed by the Opposition will not make the issue the election winner that Labour thinks it will be.

Senator Ormonde - That is not why we are opposing it. We are doing so as a matter of principle.

Senator LILLICO - Of course it would not be for that reason. I have lived long enough in politics to know that the real test of any issue is not so much its merits but whether the Opposition can make the people believe that the Government intends to bring in conscription holus bolus, that Australia is defencless, and that the members of the Labour Party are the people who can place Australia in a state of .preparedness. Labour Party members think that if they can make the people believe that, they may gain the treasury bench. That is all there is in it - nothing else. I have in my hand a statement issued by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, who are in a position to know the effect on industry of national service, which reads -

Contrary to the many reports now circulating there is no reason to fear any serious disruption to Australian industry or the economy as the result of the Government's realistic decision to increase Australia's defence commitments and to embark on a scheme of selective national training.

The Chambers of Manufactures then give their reasons for adopting that point of view.

Wc all have heard a lot of statements made in this place for the purpose of party political advantage. Senator McKenna referred to the "Voyager" disaster in his speech last Friday. It was a remarkable speech. It was a 50-50 speech. Half of it could be used to refute the other half. Senator McKenna devoted a full column of " Hansard " to disparaging the Government over the disaster involving the " Melbourne " and the "Voyager". When discussing this disaster on 23rd September, the honorable senator, after referring to the fact that there was a clear moonless night, that visibility was approximately 12 miles and that there was not another ship within 8 miles, said.

I say with great deliberation that the fact that there was a collision at all under those circumstances is, on the face of it, the result of plain gross negligence. There are no other terms in which to describe it. The thing speaks for itself. I repeat that it under those conditions vessels come into collision there must be negligence and that negligence must be, as I have described it, gross. That is the view 1 put on behalf of the Opposition.

I repeat that that is what Senator McKenna said some time ago when he spoke about the " Voyager " disaster, to which he referred in this place on Friday last in an attempt to make much capital out of the fact that 82 people had died. The Royal Commissioner said in this report -

There can be no question but that the two ships were suitable for the task in which they were engaged. Indeed they were the very vessels required for touch and go exercises at night.

It was declared at the hearing that that was the first exercise in the book. Both ships were in a fit and proper condition to perform the exercise. Senator McKenna said that the collision was caused by negligence. Surely it is clear who was responsible for that negligence.

I believe that the statement is most realistic and that it expresses in concise terms the position in which the Commonwealth finds itself at present. Unfortunately, that position could deteriorate in the near future. I hope that national unity and co-operation may develop towards this measure. I believe that we have as Minister for Defence a man with ability, drive and initiative to equip him capably to do a job equal to that which could be done by any man in this Parliament, and better than the great majority. If the Minister is left alone and given the necessary opportunity, he will go ahead and do all that any human being can do in the interests of our defence. I have no doubt whatsoever about the capacity of the Minister. I support the statement and the legislation that will flow from it.

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