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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2908

The PRESIDENT - Are you taking a point of order?

Senator Bishop - Yes, Mr President. Without interfering too much with what Senator Sim will say, I suggest that it has been a convention in this place that when a report from a committee is presented and honourable senators do not know the conclusions or recommendations in the report, as far as I am aware only general comments are made. I suggest to Senator Sim that he is getting into an area that is obviously either part of the report or his own views. I respectfully suggest that such matters should not be debated until honourable senators have had a chance to read the report. Senator Sim is arguing some of the things that we have done. The point I make is that such matters should be best left until the report is available to honourable senators and we have had a chance to look at what the Committee said.

Senator Cotton - I speak briefly to the point of order. Senator Bishop observed that there is a convention in this place as to behaviour in relation to these matters. Perhaps it is a desirable convention but I can recall quite a number of previous occasions when it was not observed. I suggest, Mr President, that it is entirely a matter for Senator Sim, as a member of the Committee, to develop his argument as he wishes to do so.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Speaking to the point of order, I can say to my colleague Senator Bishop that I received an indication that the report of the Committee was to be presented. Frankly, I was automatically under the impression, although I certainly did not ask, that the appropriate Minister had been notified that the report was being presented. Senator Sim told me that he would like to speak for about 10 minutes on the contents of the report and that at the conclusion of his remarks he would seek leave to continue so that he would not be closing the debate. That would give honourable senators the opportunity to debate the matter on some future occasion.

The PRESIDENT - Senator Sim,I think Senator Bishop quite rightly raised that point of order. It has been the custom for the debate to be adjourned. I was under the impression that an arrangement had been made and, knowing of your very keen interest in this matter, that you may have had some remarks that you wished to make at this stage. If you confine your remarks and later seek leave to continue I think every honourable senator will be happy about the arrangement.

Senator SIM - Thank you, Mr President. I have no wish to raise controversial issues. I am referring to matters contained in the report. I accept your direction. The Committee reported its concern about the size of the Regular Army and made certain recommendations. It believes that a Regular Army of approximately 38,000 is the minimum necessary to ensure maintenance of a viable and efficient force, and that we should strive to achieve this goal as soon as possible. It warns against allowing it to fall below a minimum viable force. The Committee dealt with the deployment capabilities of the Regular Army and commented on that point. It also dealt with the nature and role of the Army Reserve and commended the report by Dr Millar which we believe is of tremendous value. We believe that the primary role of the Army Reserve should be to provide, with the Regular Army, a basis for expansion of the whole Army at times of mobilisation and in situations short of defence emergencies. Generally I believe we support the recommendations by the Millar Committee.

The Committee made a close examination of naval and air support for the Army and visited both Army and Air Force establishments. While concluding that the Royal Australian Air Force air transport support is adequate for the Army's likely tactical and medium range strategical requirements, we believe that some problems may arise in meeting the simultaneous needs of the Army and the RAAF in an initial deployment period.

Transport capability of the Royal Australian Navy is much less satisfactory. The Committee believes that we should acquire a multi-purpose logistic assault ship to aid the deployment and maintenance of the Army. The Committee was concerned at the lack of close air fire support from the RAAF and commented, and made recommendations upon, this field. The Committee also is conscious of the requirement that the Army may be needed to meet a guerilla type attack on Australia or terrorist activities, and made some comment upon these possibilities. We are also very conscious of the difficulties in maintaining a peace time army and make recommendations concerning adventure training, realistic training and imaginative training in the Army to maintain interest and efficiency. Comments are made in the report in relation to civilian-military relationships, and the Committee has expressed some quite serious concern in this regard.

The final matter on which I would comment is the concern of the Committee on the question of housing. I think that we could refer back to the lack of attention paid to this matter by previous administrations. The Committee is concerned at the overall problem of housing and the number of houses of sub-standard quality in which Army personnel have to live. This is a serious matter affecting morale and family relationships, and the Committee regards a substantial number of these houses as being of unsatisfactory standard. 1 am aware that the Government is taking an interest in this, but there are past deficiencies to be made up. The Committee has recommended that in future Service housing should not be built in military suburbs but dispersed throughout the cities and towns concerned. I believe that there is great value in the Army population mixing at all times with the civilian population. The Committee also makes comments in its report about professional military training of Army officers and the professionalism of the Army generally. 1 have dealt in a very limited way with some of the aspects of the report. I believe it is a very important report and I hope that at some stage during the next session an opportunity will be given for the Senate to debate this report, at which time perhaps other issues can be raised. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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