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Statement by the Senator V. C. Gair ( Leader D.L.P.)

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Senator The Hon. V. C. GAIR

Leader Democratic Labor Party Phones: Canberra, 705 Ext. 523 BrIsbane, 510101 Ext. 436

15th December, 1968

•.The D.L.P. is encouraged by some of the Prime Minister's recent statements on Defence policy. In partic1lar his renunciation of the left-wing concept of "Fortress Australia" with its isolationist and neutralist overtones is reassuring, if long overdue.

For too long Mr. Gorton has allowed the view to develop that his Govennment was abandoning the well-proven and accepted policy of preserving Australia's security through our military alliances with friendly countries.

His dissociation of himself and his Government from the neutralist policy of Dr. Cairns is very welcome.

However, the D.L.P. feels bound to express unease at the confusion which never-theless continues to surround Mr. Gorton's defence policies.

On Wednesday, at his Press Conference, the Prime 1.;inister led newspaper corres-pondents to believe that the Government had made its decision on the really crucial question of whether the request of the Malaysian and Singapore Govern-ments for an Australian military presence beyond 1971 should be acceded to.

Mr. Gorton told newspapermen "we have made decisions" but went on to say that he would not announce the decisions until Parliament resumed.

In his T,4 Corners" interview on Saturday night, Mr. Gorton seemed to backtrack from his Press Conference by saying the Government had merely taken decisions on the capability it requires of the Armed Forces, leaving the all important

question of their disposition as unresolved as ever.

This dithering cannot go on. The Government has the responsibility to make decisions and to communicate them clearly to the people at. the earliest opportunity.

Our allies need to know what Australia is preparing to do, and the Australian people must be informed.

The D.L.P. believes that Australia must take a greater responsibility for the security of the region, so that hostile influences are kept well away from Australi'a ts shores.

It believes that the British withdrawal increases the importance of Australia's military presence in the Malaysia-Si ngapore region, and that future American guarantees of ultimate Australian security will be dependant upon Australia playing such a peace keeping role.

The force of events will almost certainly pross a responsible Government into such commitments.

Delay is seriously erroding confidence in Australia in Kuala Lumpur, in Singapore and 4' Washington.

(Further information from J. T. Kane, Phone. 71.6663)