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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 2028

Mr CONQUEST(8.27) —As the honourable member for Hunter (Mr Fitzgibbon) said, this has been a wide-ranging debate, but I did not think that it should have been so wide as to allow the honourable member for Jagajaga (Mr Staples) to raise such matters as shipments of pig iron from Australia just prior to the entry of Japan into the 1939-45 war. It may have been ill-advised at that time, but it certainly was not done so that it would be turned into manufactured items which could be used in the conflict against Australia. I do not think that the honourable member for Jagajaga could say to us, at this time, that the iron ore that is being exported today may not be used, recycled and then used against Australians in an area of conflict. The honourable member stated that he felt that his left wing faction of the Labor Party had a special and unique moral attitude towards conscription and the sending of our young people into areas of conflict. I have to remind him that it was the left wing, communist-dominated elements of the waterside workers who stopped loading ships that were taking supplies to Australians in a theatre of war.

Conscription was reintroduced early in World War II in Australia on a full-time basis. Eventually the area for service was extended to Australian territories in the Pacific. The distinction between the conscript and the volunteer remained a source of bitterness and tension throughout that war, despite the fact that conscripts and their units distinguished themselves in combat. The attitude to conscription by these Service people may be questioned, but not their courage once committed to the hostile environment of operational duties in a zone of conflict. It may be opportune to remind the House that on 3 October this year some 30,000 veterans from the Vietnam war are expected to be taking part in a `welcome home' parade-something, unfortunately, that they did not experience when they returned from that theatre. I congratulate the New South Wales Branch of the Returned Services League on being the sponsor.

At the end of World War II a brigade group drawn from the forces in South East Asia went to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. It became the basis for the creation of a standing army, known as the Australian Regular Army, which provided forces for the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, the war in Vietnam and the confrontation conflict between Malaysia and its allies and Indonesia. Citizen Military Forces were re-established in 1948 on the traditional part time basis of evening parades, weekend bivouacs and a fortnight's camp of continuous training with a regular Army cadre.

Volunteers, militia, citizens forces and citizen military forces have all been based on drill halls or training depots within the geographic area of recruitment. In 1964 legislation was enacted to permit the Citizen Military Forces to be called out for continuous service, by proclamation, in a time of defence emergency. This allowed the forces to be committed in circumstances short of war, but the provision has never been put into effect. The Citizen Military Forces are essentially a geographically based force in conditions short of mobilisation. This is in sharp contrast to the regular Army, where facilities can be sited in accordance with national priorities and members can be posted to any part of Australia or overseas at any time.

I note that in the second reading speech the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) indicated that the Army Reserve will be allocated vital installations and infrastructure in the north to defend in times of emergency. This single sentence indicating intent must, of course, be backed up with action. A low level threat would have a shorter lead time than a major attack and the commitment of reserve forces must be predicated on their being adequately equipped and trained to meet the threat. In addition, the force must be capable of being deployed speedily and in a state of preparedness to meet its commitment.

While these forces are readying for deployment, the regular forces will also be deploying to meet the threat. A former Army Reserve transport expert, Noel Tucker, argued that the C130 Hercules force is incapable of quickly positioning and then resupplying a battalion group of 1,000 with 112 vehicles under favourable conditions. It would take about 10 days to move the force from coast to coast, provided it did not have to go into action on arrival. Such a force could cope with a logistically complete enemy force of little more than 200 and would have supplies for about four weeks. No provision is made for bad weather, aircraft loss or unserviceability and it is assumed that fuel and servicing facilities will be available at the destination. Meanwhile, our reserve forces are mobilised and awaiting deployment. How is it to be done? The civil air fleet can be utilised. However, that capability can be limited, especially if suitable airfields and handling equipment are unavailable in the operational area.

Before any of the Reserve force roles outlined by the Minister can be relied upon to contribute to the total force-that structure of the Army to which he referred-they need to be examined closely and tested. The training of our reserve forces must be directed towards responding to the threat. For the training to be realistic and effective, it is necessary for those specific units to carry out their respective roles in simulated or realistic exercise situations. This would demonstrate whether that which is allotted as a role on paper is achievable in reality. It would also give planners a chance to iron out the operational and administrative bugs. The 13 lines devoted to the Reserve forces in the White Paper are, I hope, not directly related to the emphasis the Government places on the Reserve or its importance and relevance.

Historically, Australia has retained a small permanent military force, supplemented by a citizens militia, citizens force or Reserve force. The concept of an integrated force, for example one army comprising regulars and reservists, or total force as the Millar's Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces preferred to see it, must be thought out fully and well planned. They must also continue to train together on exercises. I think this is vitally important. Having served for some years, from 1951 to 1954, with the Citizen Military Forces, I know how important it is that they do go out with regular forces to get the required training.

A fundamental weakness in the concept is related to the fact that a part time citizen soldier is highly unlikely to achieve the degree of training available to his counterpart in the Australian regular Army. As I said before, if we are to rely upon a Reserve unit to meet its possible future commitment in time of low level threat, training must be adequate and related to the defined role.

There are factors which militate against efforts to achieve integration. The traditional strength of the Reserve forces-in this case the Army-is in their regional associations. The need to have the Army units located within the normal travel range does not lend itself to the Australian regular Army requirement for large unpopulated training areas and the desirability to be located in strategically important regions. This can be offset by more use of annual camps and participation in major exercises but, as the Millar report indicated, cost is a major limiting factor in integration, and we accept that. There is also the factor that employers would be required to give that time to their employees to take part. The new role of the reservists requires that they acquire skill at arms to a level sufficient to perform the allotted task. I believe that presents the biggest problem to the planners in converting intentions into achievements.

I recognise that time is limited and that it was required that we get this Bill through earlier today. I thank the Minister for allowing the people who had put their names down to speak to finalise their speeches. I will leave the rest of my speech, but I will just refer-because we are talking about legislation and about means by which we are going to introduce these amendments within the Defence Act-to a writing of the French War Ministry in the 1930s by General Andre Beupre. I will quote this to make sure that what we are doing will be achievable.

Mr Humphreys —This is General Beazley here.

Mr CONQUEST —The honourable member will like this one. General Beupre stated:

At the Ministry of War, the General Staff commanded in theory, but had not the money, the administration, the personnel or the equipment; the Permanent Secretary had the money and the administration, without the responsibility of command; the various departments had personnel and equipment, but neither money nor command. The Minister stood at the head of all this, but could achieve nothing without obtaining unison from the whole orchestra, the complexity of which helped to paralyse all initiatives. The ensemble possessed only one force-that of inertia.

It is to be hoped that we are not seen in the future as having followed a similar path.

Mr McVeigh —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I seek your guidance. The honourable member for Hinkler, who has just resumed his seat, was giving a superb speech, and we should congratulate him on that. My point of order is that he has got a great speech here which he could continue. He has had to curtail his very excellent remarks. Would it be possible to have the rest of his speech incorporated in Hansard?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) -That is not allowable. There is no point of order.