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Thursday, 27 June 1946

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for "the Army) (12:18 PM) . - It appears to be the function of the Opposition to ask for inquiries into all aspects of every campaign in which Australians have fought. All of us know that the Japanese moved southward so rapidly that they very quickly overran the Philippines, Sumatra, Malaya, Singapore, the Netherlands East Indies, , and nearly all of the islands in the Pacific. That was because the Allied forces did not have sufficient fighting strength and equipment to hold them. At this stage no good purpose would be served by ordering an inquiry into the campaign in each of those territories. I remind honorable members- opposite that the strategy of sending a certain number of troops to Rabual, Ambon and Timor, was not decided upon by this Government, but was planned by the military advisers of the Commonwealth before this Government took office. It is futile for honorable members opposite now to try to lay the blame at the door of this Government. They might as well ask for an inquiry into the whole subject of defence of Australia with a view to discovering why this country was sp unprepared that, to use the words of my predecessor in" office, one division of Japanese troops could have gone through the whole of Australia because our defences were inadequate. We . know that all the democracies were caught napping. They did not have trained and equipped forces t.o withstand the attack of a wellprepared enemy like the Japanese. Therefore, we cannot set up commissions, of inquiry to find out why this island or that was overrun. Strategy was in the hands of the operational command, and the Government's military advisers planned the sending of a certain number of troops to Ambon, Timor and elsewhere because they did not have enough men or equipment to send divisions. Our divisions were in the Middle East. When Australia and New Zealand were threatened, and this Government found that we lacked the men and the equipment to defend ourselves, it arranged with the British Government to bring back to Australia two divisions of troops as quickly as possible. The bringing back of those divisions was opposed by certain honorable members Opposite. Some suggested that they should be. sent to Burma, while others said that they should be sent somewhere else. However, the Government, after consultation with its military advisers, decided that it was essential that the two divisions should be brought home to stop. the southward thrust of the Japanese and to protect the lives and homes of the" people of Australia. Therefore, for the reasons which I' have stated, no good purpose would be served by holding inquiries to determine why certain forces were overwhelmed.

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