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Monday, 16 November 1964

Senator PROWSE (Western Australia) . - When the debate was adjourned I was examining the situation that would have arisen if a decision had been made eight to ten years ago to purchase equipment of the sort and quantity that is now contemplated. Senator Murphy interjected that I should apply that reasoning to 1964.

I do so gladly. The decisions made eight or tcn years ago were made in the light of the situation at that time. A judgment was made that perhaps calculated risks had to bc taken to arrive at the correct apportionment of our resources to defence and other requirements of this country. Today, wc are faced with making a similar decision, a decision of calculated risk perhaps, but one to be made in the light of the known situation. This situation today indicates that certain equipment should be bought and planned for and our defence programme geared as has been suggested. There is no measure to determine in advance how correct any decision may be. We are a non-aggressor nation. Aggressor nations can plan ahead for programmes of aggression but it is not so easy to plan programmes of defence. I believe that Australia is planning, not for aggression, but for defence. Because of that fact there is always the possibility of misjudging any situation. But 1 believe the Government has made a decision in good faith and in the light of the knowledge available to it.

Senator Kennellytried to make some sort of constructive contribution to the debate. When challenged he said that the Government could buy an aircraft carrier. I do not know just where one buys aircraft carriers or whether they are available. But even if the type of carrier suitable for Australian requirements were available - if we could buy one - it is almost certain, that we could not buy the men to man it. If we could have another aircraft carrier in Australian waters within a matter of months it is certain that it would take time to train the skilled men to operate that vessel.

Senator Kennellyand other Opposition speakers made much play on the fact that there had been many defence reviews. I think he said that there had been five reviews in five years, and this is so. The Government has said that defence requirements are under constant review. This is perfectly correct and absolutely desirable because world conditions are not static. Does the Opposition want the Government to have some fixed and irrevocable policy and programme of defence that cannot be altered? Docs the Opposition want us to have this fixed programme - some sort of Magi not Line in thinking - so that we can lay down a programme that cannot be altered? I am sure that if the Government did adopt a policy such as that we would be heading for a disaster as great as that which followed the adoption of the Maginot Line in France. I believe that the present proposals put forward by the Government are warranted by all the relevant facts. The Government is politically honest in submitting them before the Senate election rather than afterwards and they are in conformity with what is known of the international situation today. I believe that these proposals deserve the support not only of this Senate but of the Australian people. I believe that the proposals will receive that support.

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