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Wednesday, 8 May 1957


Mr L R JOHNSON (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- During the course of this debate the Government has failed to demonstrate to the Australian people that it has been successful, to even a reasonable degree, in providing an adequate defence for Australia. It has also failed to give any indication that it is impressed with the great cause of peace, or intends to gain world leadership in this great endeavour. There is much to indicate the confusion which exists in this country so far as defence requirements are concerned.

During the debate yesterday, I was impressed by the speeches of members on both sides of the House. I was especially interested in the speech of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) who, in view of his previous experience in the services, could be described as an authority on certain aspects of defence. Though I do not subscribe to everything that he said, 1 regard his opening remarks as significant and expressing a point of view which the Government would do well to take to heart. The honorable member, who was previously a high-ranking officer in one of the services, said -

I find myself dissatisfied wilh the Government's concept of and plan for the future defence of this country, ft seems to me that it is a plan formulated in the light of present conditions and that when it is completed in three years' time - if, indeed, it is completed in three years' time - will leave us in very much the situation in which we find ourselves to-day. It will be out of date and obsolete.

Surely, the Government will be impressed by the remarks of the honorable member. They are being echoed by many Opposition members, whose case, ever since the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) led the Opposition in this debate a few nights ago, has been presented most effectively.

This Government can hardly be accused of spending insufficient money; but it has squandered what it has spent on defence. The return upon the £1,000,000,000 that it has spent on defence preparations - or, if you like, on preparation for aggression - during the last six years is pitifully poor. It is pathetic, and has fallen far short of requirements. If any government needed to do something about defence, it is this Government. It should be apparent to the most casual observer that the Government's aggressive, and sometimes impertinent and bombastic, foreign policy is destined in the long run to promote international conflict in which Australia is bound to be a star performer. If one goes round continuously poking out his chin the time is bound to come when some one will be sufficiently provoked to take a swing at it. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the Opposition to caution the Government on its outmoded tendency to employ gunboat diplomacy and sabre rattling, and to bully smaller nations. International larrikinism and bodgie-ism is repugnant to enlightened people everywhere, who will no longer tolerate this technique.

It is now appreciated that military might should be replaced as an arbitrary factor in international affairs by recourse to the facilities offered by the United Nations organization.

The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on defence, which was delivered to this House on 4th April, conclusively demonstrated that, while the Government professes good intentions so far as defence is concerned, we are as unprepared to-day to participate in a war as we were in 1939. Soon after 1939, it will be remembered, in the most dangerous days of Australia's history, the anti-Labour government disintegrated, and Labour was called to the government benches to retrieve something from the chaos that existed at that time. Reference has already been made to the Wirraway era, and to the fact that our servicemen were equipped with rifles without butts. Reference has been made to " the Brisbane line ", and to the state of unpreparedness that prevailed. Justifiably, it can be said that nowhere in this defence statement, or in any statement issued by the government of any other country, has it been shown that there is a practicable defence against thermo-nuclear bombs. The United States of America, I am told, has 35,000 nuclear bombs in its possession. As this circumstance impresses itself on the world we should be renewing our determination to rejuvenate the United Nations organization as the only alternative to war, the only hope for mankind, and the only real defence against the threat of annihilation.

The Australian defence problem is infinitely more difficult of solution than those of Great Britain and a number of other countries that are smaller in area, and that have more concentrated populations. Britain has developed an efficient radar system, and has aimed at the ultimate production of a network of radar stations and missile batteries interlaced to provide a protective ceiling over the entire country. The enormous burden that this sort of defence preparation represents has badly crippled Britain's economy. The yearly expenditure of £1,500,000,000, which is necessary to finance this programme, has proved to be beyond the financial capacity of Britain, and completely incompatible with her expenditure in more essential fields. Consequently, the Defence Minister, Mr. Duncan Sandys, is currently in the process of slashing expenditure to a more realistic level.

It is doubtful whether any country in the world can afford the luxury of effective defence or even of strategic bases, let alone an extensive area of defence against radar and radio-controlled inter-continental missiles which, in the near future, will be developed to carry atom and hydrogen bombs. After all, if we concede the possibility that, in a surprise or concerted attack, even an occasional bomb might penetrate a defence system, we concede, in effect, the destruction of a city or some important strategic location. In these circumstances, it would appear that there is some prospect of the penetration of a defence system such as our own. The most effective way to prepare for this possibility is to think in terms of the only historical example that is available to us. It will be recalled that on 6th August, 1945, one atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. On 2nd February, 1946, the Supreme Allied Head-quarters in Tokyo announced that final casualty figures for the Hiroshima atomic explosion were as follows: -

 

Those figures are astounding and horrifying. A total of 129,558 citizens of Hiroshima were killed or injured as a result of the dropping of one atomic bomb.

On 9th August, 1945, a few days after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, a second one was dropped on Nagasaki. As honorable members know, the results in that city were just as horrifying as they had been in Hiroshima. I do not like talking about these horrifying things, but it is important that we should do so. If honorable members will listen to these facts they will be appalled at the prospects of a similar bomb being dropped in any other part of the world. Of the first 30,000 babies born in Nagasaki after the atomic bomb attack, 1,044 had degenerated bone structure, muscle or nerve systems, 730 had deformities, 47 had undeveloped brains, 25 were without brains and eight were without eyes and eye sockets. It is appalling even to talk about this, but at last, in Australia, we are starting to think about these things. At the Australian Civil Defence School at Mount Macedon, Victoria, instructors talk with authority of the possibility of bombs being dropped with destructive power 500 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. Where is there a defence against that kind of attack? It is hardly likely that the Government would claim that Australian cities could be adequately defended against such an attack. Our radar detection equipment is at present deficient in both quantity and quality. Supersonic missiles and sound barrier breaking aircraft are beyond the capabilities of equipment which is generally in service here.

This country, with every other country throughout the world, is vulnerable to the modern techniques of mass murder and destruction, and stands to benefit, with the rest of the world, by the substitution of an effective international court of justice for war and conflict. The Australian Civil Defence School at Mount Macedon takes into account the prospect of a bomb being dropped on the capital cities of Australia. In dealing with the likelihood that a bomb might be dropped on Sydney, it is said at the school -

If a 500-X bomb were dropped on Sydney, say somewhere a few miles west of the Harbour Bridge, in daylight hours, a million people would die almost immediately. Four hundred thousand more would be injured, of whom 40,000 could also be expected to die. If the bomb were dropped at night, the figures would be reversed. Four hundred thousand would die immediately and tens of thousands more would die later. A million would be injured. The centre of the city would be a radio-active crater, a mile or so across, impossible to enter for a long time. Outside it. to a radius 3 miles or so from the centre, buildings would have been flattened, streets would have disappeared, and nobody would be alive, except by the most freakish chance.

An article on this subject states that radioactivity would be extended, as a result of fall-out, throughout the country areas. So, even the adolescent males in country areas, who are being exempted from national service training as a result of the legislation recently introduced, would ultimately be caught up by the dropping of a bomb on Sydney or any of our capital cities. Statistics have been produced in regard to cities other than Sydney. I have had a great deal of correspondence from a variety of churches that are agitating for greater effort to be made to outlaw nuclear weapons.

The Opposition considers that it is time that this Government took into account the representations made on behalf of the churches and other organized sections of the community. I, together with other members of this Parliament, have received a letter from a representative of the Church of St. Jude, Brighton, South Australia. I do not know what denomination controls the church. The letter is typical of those sent to most members of this Parliament. The letter from the Church of St. Jude deals with the prospect of an atomic bomb falling on Adelaide. The writers of the letter say -

In the event of an Atomic attack on the City of Adelaide, the estimated casualties could be as high as or even higher than 50% killed, 40% wounded and sick, which leaves 10% of the remaining survivors to tend to the needs of casualties, restore services and dispose of the dead. It is estimated that with one Doctor, treating 25 casualties, 10,000 Doctors and 20,000 Nurses would be required, far more than the Commonwealth of Australia could supply. All major hospitals would be destroyed and as the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science in the heart of ihe City is responsible for blood grouping, immediate supplies of blood which is of vital necessity for the treatment of Radiation sickness would not be available.

They went on to recommend certain precautionary measures. I commend the letter from the Church of St. Jude, Brighton, to the attention of the Government, lt is appalling to note that last year the sum of £88,000, which was made available for civil defence in the preceding year, was reduced by £18,000 to £70,000. It is difficult to imagine a more ridiculous state of affairs than that which exists when £190,000,000 was spent on defence last year, but only a paltry £70,000 could be raised for civil defence. I suggest to the Government that, if it considers war to be such a distinct possibility, the need to increase expenditure on civil defence is clearly apparent. In any future global war, cities, large towns and civilian concentrations generally would attract hostilities on an unprecedented scale.

Extravagance and waste of money have characterized the Government's approach to defence. It is clearly both possible and practicable to associate Australia's developmental programme with defence. Hospitals, roads, bridges, airports and harbour installations would be the order of the day. if proper consideration were afforded to the real defence requirements of Australia. If any kind of conflict developed around the Middle East, we would suffer great difficulty in obtaining supplies of oil, which are necessary for the conduct of commerce and industry. Is it not then a fair and real defence measure to encourage the development of oil from coal, a process which is already operating overseas and one which, if introduced here, would allay the alarming tendency to wholesale unemployment on the coal-fields? In the event of war, Australia's oil supplies would be dissipated in a matter of weeks, and the oil from coal process would become an urgent consideration.

In the short time left to me, 1 want to refer to matters associated with the Government's approach to service organizations. Of a large number of service planning blunders, the case of H.M.A.S. " Hobart " is the classic. Since 1950, when the Government decided to modernize this cruiser, there has been a constant shifting of attitude on the role she would serve in the Australian fleet. In the intervening period, she has been considered as a cruiser to support the light fleet carrier, a role which is now filled by the Daring class ships. She was then intended to replace H.M.A.S. " Australia " as a training cruiser. In 1954, the Naval Board considered that H.M.A.S. " Hobart " should be developed as a headquarters ship for the Commanding Officer, Reserve Ships. Then, she was diverted in another developmental direction. This time, she was considered as an engineering training ship, but, by April, 1955, this scheme was also abandoned. By 30th June, 1956, the expenditure on the modernization of H.M.A.S. " Hobart " had amounted to £1,430,000, and more than £1,000,000 needs to be spent on conversion and modernization if she is to become a convoy cruiser. She has now been placed in reserve and is likely to remain there until she is scrapped, although a large sum of money has been spent on her.

Let us look at the Daring class destroyers. This is incredible. A recent Commonwealth naval order has been issued in regard to the Daring class destroyers. This appears to me to be the most colossal naval blunder of all time.







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