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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 2024

Mr HODGMAN(8.00) —Madam Speaker--

Mr Tim Fischer —There is no member of the Government in the chamber.

Mr HODGMAN —No, there is not. That is unfortunate. I am about to address the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill and use what I thought was a very timely phrase-that Australia today is Australia asleep, because in defence terms the Government is undefended. I do not want to spoil the remarks I was going to make; but, if ever there has been a government which has adopted the policy of `she'll be right, Jack', it is the current Hawke socialist Government. If ever a country has been left underdefended, it is Australia today.

As we speak in this chamber today-just 23 days before Anzac Day 1987, the seventy-second anniversary of Gallipoli-it is a matter of great shame and regret that, in my humble opinion, this great country of ours is not properly defended. I am in good company because the latest opinion poll I have seen demonstrates that 73 per cent of Australians do not believe that this country is properly defended. As I said in the debate on the defence White Paper, it is only in the last six weeks that the Hawke socialist Government has discovered that Cam Ranh Bay actually exists and that the Soviet presence in the Pacific poses a major threat to our national security. The great Sir Winston Churchill said that, of all the duties thrust on the shoulders of a parliamentarian, none is more pre-eminent than the duty to defend the nation.

I have to say, from bitter experience, that far too often today I see the symptoms which were prevalent in the world in the 1930s and the years leading up to World War II. I see people who joke about defence; I see people who say that there will be no threat for 15 years; and I see people who say: `Let's take the easier course, the course of appeasement'. I feel in my heart right now that Australia is going through a period in its history like Pearl Harbour all over again.

Mr Cunningham —But you are in uniform. We'll be right.

Mr HODGMAN —I am very proud of the fact that I am back in uniform; but I have to say that I am sad, as is my colleague the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly)-and I think all Australians are sad, including the honourable member for McMillan-to know that last year the number of defence forces personnel in uniform dropped below 70,000. I am sure that the honourable member is as sad as I am that in January 1,056 persons resigned from the defence forces.

This is a curious debate because we have a Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) to whom I owe and will give allegiance under the Naval Defence Act of 1910-and a Minister, I might say, who has the respect of a very significant number of the members of this Parliament. I think he is a very good Minister. That does not mean that I agree with him on everything and it certainly does not mean that I agree with the decisions that are forced on to him by Cabinet colleagues who may take a less conscientious view towards defence than they should.

This Defence Legislation Amendment Bill is very wide-ranging and, whilst the Opposition does not oppose the passage of the Bill, I want to place on record my support for the amendment moved by the shadow Minister for Defence and Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair) with respect to proposed section 50f, dealing with call-out provisions for the reserves, and join with the views that have been expressed that that provision ought to be widened so that if a situation develops where the Governor-General deems it appropriate, following the proclamation of the Governor of a State or the Administrator of the Northern Territory, the Governor-General may by proclamation call out at any time any part of the Reserve forces for continuous full time service.

Many Australians would be surprised to know who the Commander-in-Chief of Australia's Defence Force is. It is not a matter of an Act of Parliament or a regulation; it is a matter of the Constitution. His Excellency the Governor-General of Australia is the Commander-in-Chief of the defence forces of this country. That is a very significant constitutional appointment and demonstrates dramatically the difference between the situation in this country, where the representative of Her Majesty the Queen, the Governor-General, is the Commander-in-Chief and the situation in the United States, where the President is the Commander-in-Chief. As I said, the legislation is very wide-ranging and would permit of a wide-ranging debate. I do not intend to indulge in such a debate; I just want to pick out some of the implications of the main provision of the legislation.

Once again I find it sad that we have amendments to the Defence Act of 1903 dealing principally with the term of appointment of officers and the resignation of officers. I think the saddest memory I have as a Minister in the Fraser Government is of attending at Yarralumla and, at an Executive Council meeting, presenting a long list of names to His Excellency the Governor-General who then had to formally approve the resignation of officers from Australia's defence forces. We are losing our best young men and women. We are losing young men and women in whom this country has invested millions and millions of dollars. When this inane, stupid Hawke socialist Government decided to destroy the Fleet Air Arm and disposed of one of the most viable and valuable parts of our Australian defence component, what did we find? Australian Fleet Air Arm pilots were valued in the United Kingdom at over $1m apiece. That is how much they were worth in training and experience. If one wants to meet someone who was in the Fleet Air Arm one should go to the United Kingdom, where one will see them and be told that they were worth $1m apiece. Is there anything we can think of more tragic than disillusioned men and women in their mid-30s getting out of the forces because they do not see a future? The loss, the brain drain, the waste is something which would sadden honourable members of both sides of this Parliament.

I have a brother who is a serving officer. We are never allowed to mention that because we must never mix the forces and the Parliament. That is precisely why I was in uniform yesterday-so that there was no suggestion that I was in the corridors of Russell on some parliamentary activity. I was there in my Naval Reserve cadet capacity. That is very important. In that capacity, as I said a moment ago, I owe total allegiance to, and I give it to, the Minister for Defence.

In passing, I draw attention to clause 67 of the Bill. We have curtailed the time for debate but I just want to say again that I regret the fact that the word `Royal' seems to be disappearing almost all the time. I cannot completely blame the Hawke socialist Government for this because I have looked at the Naval Defence Act. If one looks at clause 67 of the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 1987 one will see the words `service of the Australian Naval Reserve'. It is the Royal Australian Naval Reserve. If one looks further back in the Bill one will see reference to `service of the Naval Emergency Reserve Forces', which again goes back to the Naval Defence Act 1910, amended as recently as 1971 with the establishment of the Naval reserve cadets, and again in 1975. There seem to be little gremlins around trying to take the word `Royal' out of our defence forces.

I am not saying that this is an ambush, but if there is anybody in the Hawke socialist Government who thinks that he will try with the defence forces what that Government tried with the oath of allegiance when it tried to take out reference not only to the Queen but also to God-and the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West) who is responsible is at the table, upon whom vengeance will be wreaked before he is much older-from the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and the 3rd Royal New South Wales Regiment, he should not think for one moment that Australians are very enthusiastic about becoming a republic. The Royal Mail, as the result of the actions of extremist feminists and others who dominate the Hawke socialist Government, will finish up being called the Royal Person. We really have reached a ridiculous situation. What it does to my name and the name of my electorate is unspeakable. They say that Hodgman is sexist, so it becomes Hodgperson. I point out to them that `son' is sexist, so my name becomes Hodgperper. My electorate of Denison becomes Deniper. This demonstrates how the English language is being raped in front of our eyes by these extraordinary people.

In conclusion, I do not often do this but I compliment the Minister for Defence. I think he is a very good Minister, but I also have to say that I think he has forgotten that sometimes in one's parliamentary career the stakes become so high that one should consider resigning. Frankly, if I were in the Minister's shoes, I would resign because I believe that he is being short-changed by a government which pays lip service to defence but which is not prepared to back it up with the real and fundamental necessity of funding. If people genuinely believe that Australia is worth defending, we have to realise that we will not get that defence at bargain basement prices on a shoestring budget. We will have to double defence expenditure over the next three years to give the defence forces of this country the chance of defending Australia in the event of the outbreak of war.