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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Mr JESS (La Trobe) - I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). I feel - perhaps nol quite as strongly as other honourable members - that what we are hearing in this debate is the Australian Labor Party's defence policy. That policy could, not have been more effectively put than it has been by the defence spokesman for the Labor Party who is not in the chamber at the present time. That policy has been and continues to be nil. When analysed it shows confusion and the most amazing lack of consideration that I have ever heard propounded by any Labor Opposition in this country for some considerable time.

Mr Beazley - Like the Fill.

Mr JESS - Possibly like the Fill. Going back into the pas[, 1 remember listening to some of the defence spokesmen for the Opposition, in particular the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) assuring us when he came back from one of his many travels - I think it was through Mongolia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - that Australia could defend itself, that if the Australian militia were recruited it could put men around the periphery of Australia and that it could withstand the might of any attacking force. The statement received headlines in the Press. That seemed to be the thinking of the Labor Party. I remember hearing the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who speaks with such authority on behalf of the Labor Party, speaking about the Fill the delivery of which, I agree, seems to have been delayed. I am not putting the case for the Government in support of it but I am putting the argument that the Deputy Leader of . the Opposition used at that particular time. As I understood it, he said that Australia did not need a strategic aircraft. When pressed by the radio interviewer he said: 'We have got the Mirage. We could use the Mirage.' Even if we have a fortress Australia policy and even if we decide that the defence of this country should be governed by such a policy, I think it is wise to attack the enemy or at least to endeavour to put the enemy out of action at a greater range than that covered by a fighter aircraft. The supremo of the Labor Party's defence forces would be waiting for the enemy to arrive off the shores of Australia before he would take any action. I am reminded of Sir Walter Raleigh who said: 'Let us finish our game of bowls and then we will press down to the beach and put the ball into the muzzle of the gun and assail the Spanish flotilla.' Surely that is not a reasonable defence policy for Australia.

I do not wish to take the matter further but I would like to refer to the point which has been made clear by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his statement on the Fill this week. The Minister gave reasons why Australia required a strategic aircraft. T support them wholeheartedly. If someone decides to attack

Australia or her allies, or the areas which are essential to Australia's trade and defence, unless those people know that we have the ability and the equipment to offer some threat to their own homeland or cities they w 11 not be particularly impressed by anything that Australia may say with respect to alliances, defence or anything else. There is nothing like showing that you have the muscle to stop somebody threatening you. I suggest to the Government as well as to the Opposition that if Australia is going to enter into treaties, if it is going to have diplomatic arrangements with countries, and if it is going to have regional security agreements, the best thing it can have is the capability to do the things it Says it will do.

I support most wholeheartedly the proposition that the priority of the Cockburn Sound base should be raised. I am critical, because I feel that the committees have had a considerable amount of time in which to consider establishing a naval base on the western shores of Australia. We have known for a considerable t me that the United Kingdom was going to withdraw from Singapore. We have had a considerable time in which to work out the options that may or may not be available to us in Singapore. Although Singapore has a friendly government and has good relations w th . Australia at the present moment and although we and our allies will be able to use the base at Singapore, we have no assurance that this will operate forever. There could be changes of government and changes of policy. It is essential for the Australian Government to decide that we must have a base at Cockburn Sound and that the base must be a fairly substantial one.

As other honourable members have said, whether we like it or not - I am not suggesting that Australia alone can or should do much about it - the Soviet Union ;s building up its Indian Ocean fleet. As the honourable member for Chisholm said, Russia has bases on the Red Sea, it has moved into the Mediterranean Sea and from the Mediterranean into the Indian Ocean. From the Indian Ocean it may well move further afield. Russia now has one of the strongest naval forces in the world. It is carrying out a propaganda war by showing to the small nations that its ships are there while the British ships are withdrawing. The United Kingdom formerly maintained a peaceful situation in the Indian Ocean in conjunction with other countries. But the United Kingdom is withdrawing and now the Soviet Union is there. The Soviet Union will endeavour to gain bases in countries with which it can establish relationships, it will use the might of the Soviet fleet to bring about trade and diplomatic relations with those countries. These things must be of concern to Australia. If, as a counter to this, Australia is prepared to say only that it will build a causeway which may ultimately become a naval base, I do not think that that would be particularly effective. We in Australia have to look at defence much more strongly and substantially than we have in the past. Honourable members on both sides of the House have been thinking that we have time unlimited. They think that by stating that Australia is getting an oceanographic ship or some other ship this will terrify anybody who may be a threat to us at this time.

After all. we have to realise that if Singapore was not available to Australia or to any friendly navy that may come to our aid or be prepared to play a part in the defence of the Indian Ocean area, the only alternative base where ships could receive major servicing and repairs would be around on the east coast of Australia. In any situation in the Indian Ocean where major repairs have to be undertaken the ships would have to be taken out of that area completely and sailed around the coast of Australia to Garden Island. We would then hope to goodness that the industrial situation there would be adequate for them to obtain some maintenance. If we hope that our allies or friends which have substantial naval forces will come to our aid, surely to goodness we have to show that we are prepared to make some sacrifice of expenditure in building a base in the area where we ask them to take some interest.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - As it is now 2 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House the debate on the motion is interrupted.

Motion (by Mr Killen) agreed to:

That the lime for discussion of the notice be extended to 12.45 p.m. today.

Mr JESS - As I was saying, if we were in a situation where we wished that our strong and powerful friends or whoever else it may be would come to our aid, in the event of Singapore not being available, surely it would be indicative of our concern for our own defence and for the role that we may have to play in the future that we had constructed an efficient naval base at Cockburn Sound on the western coast ot Australia. The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) very capably discussed the fact that a defence base on the west coat of Australia also has great advantage to Western Australia. It should be understood - and I do not know that is is by some people - that a naval base is not just a harbour to garage the car, to put the ships of the fleet and where there are a few night clubs at which the sailors and others can make up for lost time; it is a great industrial complex. I think it is a great facility that will be of advantage to Western Australia at this time. 1 have not gone into the cost but whatever the cost I think it would be worth it. It is an old adage but I and, I think, most of the people of Australia would like to be protected, not liberated, and there is a great difference. This is my defence policy and 1 put it in those words. However, let me say that in respect to a naval base - take Singapore for example - it is not only necessary to have an engineering complex and a great store complex; it is also necessary to have many facilities which are above and beyond just the naval establishment which is there. It gives great incentive to employment. It gives more incentive to development and it is something which everybody should support on the question of decentralisation. Therefore I would suggest that the Government should encourage tha committee to bring forward a report. 1 think it should come out with a much firmer statement leading to more development than just saying the causeway will be built. lt has been suggested by the honourable member for Curtin that the so-called naval base may garage only 3 or 4 frigates and 4 submarines. This is not a very effective force. I think when we talk about a 2-ocean navy we have to start thinking much further ahead than we have done in the past in respect to our defence forces. Furthermore, the establishment of a naval base in the Indian Ocean could be a great asset from the other viewpoint. We have been told that we will not get the Fill for some considerable time. The Minister for Defence was quite honest in saying that there could be other problems associated with it of which we do not know as yet. But if we do not have a strategic aircraft, if we cannot obtain a replacement with the required range or if something else should go wrong, it is an asset for us to have a naval base from which carriers can operate. If we do not have the strategic capacity in the air force the only alternative is to have our air capacity operating from a carrier. The carrier can move out of the base, it can bring the aircraft it carries within range of any target and it can in certain circumstances be the only alternative to a strategic aircraft.

It should be remembered that the Phantom aircraft in certain conditions can fly off a carrier. I am not saying the Phantom could fly off the 'Melbourne'. However, if we desired to increase the range of the aircraft we could bring a carrier nearer to the target and we would have a very effective strike aircraft which could take off in those circumstances. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, I feel at this stage there is a requirement, from the defence and other viewpoints advanced by honourable members who have spoken, for the Government to raise the priority of Cockburn Sound. I appreciate the opportunity that has been given to me by the non-existent defence policy of the Opposition to discuss the motion moved by the honourable member for Chisholm because 20 minutes ago I had no idea I would be given this opportunity. But as I said earlier, it does not concern me that there is silence from the Opposition because for many years we have known that, apart from getting an occasional clue on defence from what it may read in topical tabs in the newspaper or hear on 'Four Corners', it has not had any constructive defence policy. It has not made a constructive contribution to a defence debate in the 10 years I have been here. I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Chisholm.

Mr Bryant - Will you vote for it?

Mr JESS - Most certainly I will vote for it at any stage. As I have said, when the red badge of courage is worn by Opposition members and when I see them voting for something that may be of embarrassment to their great and glorious leader, I will be prepared to take off my hat to them and salute them. They always encourage honourable members on this side of the House to vote in this way.

Mr GRAHAM(North Sydney) [12.71- I rise to support the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and to take part in this debate on the motion he moved, lt is:

That the construction of the naval base at Cockburn Sound should receive high priority on the defence programme and that negotiations should be undertaken with the British Government to base 2 aircraft carriers on Cockburn Sound after 1970.

To give continuity to the debate and to follow on the comments of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) I would like to make some comments on the references he has made to the lack of a Labor Party defence policy. I think the honourable member for La Trobe looks at Labor's defence policy in terms of the Government's appreciation of the threat to Australia. If he were to appreciate that in the view, of the Opposition in this Parliament there is no substantial threat to the welfare, survival and development of Australia it might be easier for him to understand Labor's position. I believe it is fair to say, and I believe that members of the Australian Labor Party will in due course confirm what I am saying, that it is their view that the Communists in Moscow and Peking constitute no threat to the survival and the development of the Commonwealth of Australia. That is their view and it is upon that basis (hat their concept of a defence policy has evolved. They do not see any need at all to encourage Asian nations to believe that Australia in 1970 can be relied upon to be a willing supporter if they are invaded. The Labor Party not only does not encourage Asian countries to adopt this point of view but has gone to great lengths to make it quite clear that it is part of its defence policy that Australian forces should not be in countries like Malaysia and Indo-China, for their very presence in those countries, whether actually involved in operations or not, constitutes an aggressive military attitude and an expression of policy by the Commonwealth of Australia. For that reason the Labor Party disapproves of there being Australian forces overseas.

The Cockburn Sound concept, which has been very clearly defined by my honourable and gallant friend from Chisholm is part of the maritime strategic defence plan for the Indian Ocean. It can be argued by those people who see no threat at all presented to Australia's future by the Communists in Moscow and in Peking that the Commonwealth of Australia, in creating a great naval base over a period of a decade in the south western corner of Australia, is making an aggressive act that will encourage the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and mainland China to adopt a public attitude that will identify us with aggression. Fundamentally the Labor Party must admit that its entire approach to these matters is based upon the assumption that the Communists in Moscow and in Peking constitute no threat at all to Australia's survival.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is a most interesting misuse and mis-stating of Labor policy.

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