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Run-down of defence forces



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MEDIA RELEASE

THE LIBERAL PARTY OF AUSTRALIA FEDERAL SECRETARIAT

FROM DR. THE HON. A.J. FORBES, MP., SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

It is absolutely incredible that with the Middle East again reaching flashpoint, South East Asia reeling under renewed communist onslaught, Britain withdrawing from the Far East, and practically every nation on earth re-arming, the Whitlam Government

continues to run down our defence forces, playing pop-gun politics behind the posture of 1 no threat for 15 years'.

The Liberal and Country Parties have developed a defence policy which will compensate for the Labor Government's neglect and which' ' will provide a clear, coherent basis for the long term security of Australia.

The first question we asked in formulating our defence policy was "What are we defending Australia against?" Anyone who thinks he can see no threat for 15 years is„seriously deluding himself. Who can foretell the strategic effects 15 years hence of

developments such as the use of the oil weapon by Arab countries, the advent of a whole range of missiles which can be fired over inter-continental ranges with accuracies of 50 metres or less, ' economic crisis on a world scale.

Our answer is that we should prepare ourselves for contingencies which could arise. These include the collapse of detente; the possibility of economic pressure following a world shortage of raw materials; joint pressures from the great powers; a lessening of world order; friction in our region; and acts of terrorism at a

sub-national level from abroad.

Under a Liberal Country Party Government the defence forces.will be required immediately to plan to meet any of the above six . contingencies as they might be presented to Australia, recognising priority targets for each one, studying likely strategies and

tactics to be employed by an enemy in each situation, developing the . most effective counter strategies and tactics, proposing to the government the most appropriate forces structures and dispositions for each case including the remote north and north west coasts and

the necessary equipment to make best use of our limited manpower and economic resources.

Australia still awaits an enunciation of any positive defence policy from the Whitlam Government. The only defence policy we have . seen during Labor's term has been to achieve such reductions as the Government believes it could achieve without serious repercussions

from the electorate. 'To the Opposition this is a cause of grave ' concern, because it is creating a paralysis in our national defence . structure which will have ever-increasing consequences the longer it continues.

The prime defect of the present Government's defence policy is the absence of any strategic doctrine for the defence of Australia. There ' is no statement of how the Government sees our defence priorities, to what contingencies Australia ought to develop a response capacity,

what tactical doctrines the three services need for the future defence of Australia, what their dispositions within and around

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Australia should be, what their overall equipment requirements are to meet this task in a rapidly changing environment of military technology, and what defence infrastructure must be created to meet the essential operational requirements of the .services. Until such a strategic policy is developed which addresses all

these points and orders and integrates them into a concrete plan, the Mi itlam Government is playing games with national security.

For as long as the absence of policy continues, the people who make up our defence structure both servicemen and civilian, are as if they were trapped in the catacombs, blindly groping this way and that, colliding with each other and becoming lost as

they search for a way out of their plight. They need guidance and only a Government which has a clear.integrated and relevant defence policy can give it to them.

Defence people see no guidance in the vacuous and obscure utterances of Labor concerning the changes they are employed to prepare to meet, although they recognise the preposterous nature =of · Labor's prognostication that Australia faces no major threat in

the next fifteen years. They have no guidance for the structure and balance of the services because they do not know what their priority tasks are. They cannot develop single service and integrated joint service doctrines, let alone get on with the huge task of writing new training manuals and developing

appropriate training facilities, courses and exercises. They cannot prepare to relocate elements to the vast unguarded areas of Australia without any direction or rationale for doing so. /

There is no doubt that this neglect on the part, of the whitlam Government has created a future for Australia that is fraught with danger. ·

The Mi itlam Government has starved the services of funds.

The Defence planners under a Liberal Country Party Government would not be presented with an ever diminishing budget in real terms. It might be expected initially that defence expenditure would be slow to rise because money cannot be spent wisely without careful planning and major equipment items do not

materialise' overnight. However, in a few years we would make available substantially greater financial resources to increase steadily Australia's self reliance.

Nor would the planners feel that the Government treated them as pariahs, as appears to be the case at present. A Liberal Country Party Minister for Defence would seek to involve himself to the fulle: degree in the deliberations of his senior advisers, both servicemen

and civilians, partly in an informal way and partly through the creation of a defence Council linking the Minister in the policy­ forming process with his advisers.

Once the strategic planning of the defence force as a whole was underway, we would be concerned to achieve a better balance between maintenance and capital expenditure, between manpower and equipment than at present. We would not be anxious to increase unduly the

numerical sizes of the services · until their new strategic and tactical doctrines were developed and until the major re-equipment programme had been launched. *·

14 th January, 19 75 . * * * * *