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Defence: Government-ALP differences

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EMBARGO ; Not to be published/broadcast before 2.00 p.m. M a y , 1. ·


FOR PRESS: MAY 1, 1972


Notes from an address by the Minister for I Defence Mr. David Fairbairn, M.P. to a Liberal ' Party Rally, Wannon Electorate, Hamilton, Victoria.

If some of the A.L.P.'s major policies were put

into effect Australia's long term security and well being

would:suffer. .

Despite Labor efforts to show otherwise, there

are areas of irreconcileable differences between the Government

and the Opposition over Defence and other areas vital to

Australia's future well being.

' Minister for Defence, Mr. David Fairbairn, said '

. Labor was still committed by its Party Policy on Defence to ■

withdrawal of forces that were overseas. ' .

o By this "firm" Labor Policy, Australian advisers in .

. . Vietnam, and troops in Singapore would have to be recalled to

Australia - despite any smokescreens now being espoused about

"consultations". ;

Such a move by a Labor Government would damage any

confidence -that existed today between Australia and her S.E.

4 Asian neighbours and evidence of this followed public outbursts

by the Shadow Labor Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. W. Morrison. « ■ , ·

■ M r . F a i r b a i r n s a i d it m u s t b e c o n f u s i n g t o t h e L a b o r

, P a r t y s u p p o r t e r w h o s o u g h t t o r e c o n c i l e L a b o r P o l i c y , as e n u n c i a t e d

a t L a u n c e s t o n , w i t h t h e c h a n g e s i n p o l i c y n o w b e i n g e s p o u s e d b y

l e a d e r s o f t h e P a r l i a m e n t a r y L a b o r P a r t y . 1 \

The confusion that surrounded Labor's conflicting sbatemen

on Defence- had a damaging affect on the morale of our forces

stationed in the region because of the uncertainty it engendered.

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. A Labor Government.was committed to a course of

opposition to the "existence of foreign-owned, -controlled or

-operated bases and facilities in Australian territory".

(ALP Platform - Launceston).

Again, leaders of the Parliamentary Labor Party -

disregard their Party policy. They seek to convince the

electorate that they would not really oppose these bases. More

confusion for the Labor supporter.

, Mr. Fairbairn said it was obvious that Opposition

leaders realised the stupidity of the ALP policy and were

seeking to align themselves with the sane and realistic

Government Policy that was in the best interests of future .

national security. ■

Messrs. Whitlam and Barnard, both realised that

implementation of ALP Policy could lead to closure of bases and

that the result would considerably weaken the strength of the

ANZUS Treaty with the U.S. and New Zealand. ; '

° Labor's policy of abolition of National Service

was one of the few Defence issues that the Opposition was "not

seeking to change, or cloud. '

■ The Opposition's inflexible stand on this issue

was a matter for regret to the Government because abolition

of National' Service would be detrimental to Australian Defence

at this point of time.

' We have heard the Opposition pin their faith on

recommendation of the G-ates Commission - that the draft or

national service in America and Australia wafe not necessary.

It was significant that the U.S. recently reactivated

the draft system for a period of two years in order to have time

to allow a volunteer system to be evolved.

;Opposition leaders .blithely say that they would get

an all-volunteer Army. It was significant that their detailed

plans to achieve this had not yet been revealed to the Australian


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Labor's abolition of National Service would reduce

the size of the Army by one-third at a time when Australia was

looking towards greater self-reliance and development of our

defence infrastructure. Labor's policy would undermine this

necessary objective. °

The Government believed that the continuing Soviet

Naval presence in the Indian Ocean posed a long term threat to

peace and stability of the whole area. Britain and America .

. agreed with the Government and welcomed our decision to proceed

with development of the Cockburn Sound Naval Facility.

. 1 The Labor Party apparently saw no threat at all to

Australia's long term security and took the line that it would

discourage an arms race and buildup in the Indian Ocean.

■ · > The ALP rested on supporting an Indian-Ceylonese

■motion at the United Nations. 1 ”

. Mr. Fairbairn said there might be merit in this,

subject to littoral States and the Great Powers co-operating.

The Government supported the principle. But it should be

understood that the safety of Australia seldom rested on paper

resolutions. .

»â– ' * ■

' O p p o s i t i o n l e a d e r s c l a i m t h e y w o u l d n o t r e d u c e t h e

l e v e l o f G N P n o w b e i n g s p e n t o n D e f e n c e i n A u s t r a l i a .

■ } i

Mr. Fairbairn said that while the ALP pretend they

would not cut the Defence Vote if they came into power, it

was unlikely that this could be achieved. Because;it would be

the only possible means of financing their domestic policies

without imposing a grossly increased burden on the'Australian

tax payer.


He said that one of the k e y .differences between

the Opposition and the Government on Defence was Labor's

apparent lack of realisation that collective security implied

obligations on Australia's part if it expected benefits in the

future. ■ ■ -"

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Australia could not expect to receive;assistance

unless it was prepared to help others - commensurate with its


Mr. Fairbairn said that the Government's regional

concept of Defence and security highlighted this and made -4._

nonsence of the ALP's deep-rooted and almost xenophobic desire

for isolation. '

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