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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1948

Mr SHARP(1.36) —I rise to support the motion moved by the Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair). This motion goes beyond the question of just allowing ships and aircraft to use our ports and facilities. This motion bites at the very heart of our nation's defences. This Federal Government has the sole responsibility for defending all the men, women and children who make up this nation of Australia, and in order to do that it needs to give whatever support it can to our allies. This Government has a moral obligation to support and assist our allies, because without supporting and assisting our allies in times of peace, how can we expect our allies to come to our assistance in times of need. It is a simple fact of human nature that if we as individuals do not help somebody over a period of time, we cannot expect them to help us, and this is the same in international relations. We must assist our allies, and to deny them the opportunities to use our ports and our airfields in the normal operations of their own defence forces would be to deny future Australians the opportunity to have an adequate defence force for the defence and security of our nation.

The motion refers specifically to ships and aircraft using ports and facilities in this country. Looking back over the years, we have had a long and healthy relationship with our allies and they have used, in years gone past, our ports and airfields in the operation of their defence forces. It does not cost us as a nation, very much indeed. It does not cost us anything as far as finances are concerned. Looking at the possible cost about which people talk, of perhaps an accident occuring in one of our ports or near one of our airfields, we find, as the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) quite rightly pointed out, that there is no history of accidents in or near Australia, and of course, we have a very good, sound and stringent set of safety requirements established by the people involved in the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which were passed as legislation in this House during the previous Federal Government. It is because of those safety regulations and because of the history of no accidents, no mishaps, and no damage, that we as a Federal government should be sticking wholeheartedly to this policy.

We are privileged to live in a time of peace, and in order to maintain that peace we must have strength. In my own life, which has gone 30 years, I am of one of a very few generations of human beings who have been able to spend 30 years on this earth without having to fight any man's war, to join any man's army or to fire any shots in anger at anybody. One of the reasons why I, as an Australian, and the generations of Australians next to my age group and, indeed, below my age group, have been able to enjoy the privilege of peace, is that we have had the privilege of strong security-strong security greatly bolstered by the ANZUS Treaty.

The ANZUS Treaty was drawn up by men who knew the horror of war and who valued the privilege of peace. It is because of the wisdom and far-sighted nature of those who drew up the Treaty that generations of Australians like myself have been able to live in peace. But in order to live in peace we must earn that privilege; and like all privileges, we have to work for them. Our work to enjoy the privilege of peace is to give co-operation to our allies, who help to ensure that we live in peace. If we do not give assistance and co-operation to our allies, we will not continue to enjoy the privilege of peace.

Without the assurance of the ANZUS Treaty, Australia will be a weak nation. We will find ourselves reliant upon our own defence forces. In recent times we have seen the New Zealand Government go out on a limb and decide not to co-operate with the United States and fulfil its part of its commitment under the ANZUS Treaty. As a result of the New Zealand Government going out on a limb, an even greater responsibility has been placed upon this Federal Government to ensure that ANZUS remains as a sound and solid Treaty, because without Australia's commitment to the ANZUS Treaty there will be no ANZUS Treaty, and without an ANZUS Treaty, Australia's defences will be greatly weakened.

This Federal Labor Government has already greatly weakened the ANZUS Treaty. The MX missile fiasco has brought under question this Government's commitment to ANZUS and to our security. As a result of the MX missile dispute, we have seen the strength of the left wing greatly enhanced within the Federal Labor Party, and that, once again, reduces Australia's commitment to our Defence Force, a commitment to a defence force that is sound and secure and a commitment to a treaty that ensures a sound and secure defence force.

Australia is a small nation living in a big country. Because of that, we have a large area to defend but we have few resources with which to defend it. We also happen to live in the south-east Asian region, a region which, undoubtedly, is still politically unstable. To ensure that Australia, with its large area to defend and limited resources, and situated in a politically unstable region, has a sound defence, we must have strong allies. We will not have those strong allies unless we give firm evidence of our commitment to those allies by allowing them to use our ports and our airports for their ships and their aircraft.

History tells us that throughout the period of mankind, at some stage or another, with not too great a distance between those stages, there has always been confrontation. There has been confrontation between man right through the ages. History tells us that it requires only one man to change what may be a passive nation into an aggressive nation, and to use the resources of that nation to fulfil its aggression towards others. It would be naive of anybody to deny that this is correct. History also shows us what happens when people try to deny what history shows us so clearly. For example, Neville Chamberlain assured the people of Great Britain that they would have 'peace in our time'. 'Peace in our time' proved to be wrong. Peace, in what Neville Chamberlain thought would be his time, turned out to be war. It turned out to be war because there were people who were naive enough not to believe that mankind can go to war.

It was not the peace movement that freed the Jews who were imprisoned in Germany. It was not the peace movement that won the war. It was not the peace movement that released our prisoners of war. It was done by those people who took a realistic understanding of human nature, and it was those people who saved what we know today as our own heritage, the British nation and our own nation, and, indeed, the United States.

History also shows us that any aggressive nation will always attack a weak nation first. The easy example of that, of course, is to remember Germany's attack on Poland at the beginning of the Second World War.

Madam ACTING SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! It is now 1.45 p.m. In accordance with standing order 109, as amended for this session, the debate on the motion is interrupted.

Motion (by Mr John Brown) agreed to:

That the time for the discussion of Notice No. 1, General Business, be extended until 2 p.m.

Mr SHARP —When looking at our defence forces, we must ask ourselves: How strong are Australia's defences? That question was answered last year by a report of the Sub-committee on Defence Matters of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, tabled in this Parliament, called the Cross report. I refer to a section of that report, which was reported in the Australian on 9 January of this year. It takes a quotation from the Cross report, saying that our defence forces are:

. . . inadequate in terms of short-term deployment capacity and combat sustainability, expansion potential and operational command structure.

That report was tabled by an honourable gentleman I see sitting in this chamber now, a member of the Labor Party. It points out that our Australian defence forces are not as strong as they ought to be. If they are not as strong as they ought to be, then we in Australia need a strong ally to ensure that our nation's defences are maintained.

I also refer to a letter that was tabled in the same Cross report, a letter that was sent to the then Minister for Defence, Mr Gordon Scholes, from the Chief of the Defence Force Staff, Sir Philip Bennett, in which he said:

I can no longer guarantee the Australian Armed Forces' ability to cope with even a low level threat, under the present cutbacks and economies.

He was referring to the fact that this Government is making cutbacks and economies in the defence forces of Australia and that this is causing our inability to cope with even low level threats to our shores.

If we do not have an adequate defence force, we must have access to a strong and stable defence alliance, an alliance which must, of course, come from the United States. If we are not prepared to co-operate with the United States and allow the Americans to have their ships and their aircraft using our ports and facilities, our defence forces will be as strong or as weak as is described in those two excerpts, one from the Cross report and one from a letter from the Chief of the Defence Force Staff.

The cutbacks that this Labor Government has made in our defence forces are quite evident at HMAS Albatross, stationed at Nowra, in the electorate of Gilmore, which I have the honour of representing. In the term of this Government, HMAS Albatross has seen the fixed-wing component of the navy's air wing axed. We have seen the personnel of HMAS Albatross cut from 2,000 to about 1,000. Despite the cutbacks that have been made at HMAS Albatross, which are indicative of the cutbacks and economies that this Government is imposing upon all Australia's defence forces, we find that the defence personnel at Albatross are still trying to provide a dedicated, honest, hard-working service to defend our nation. I give great respect and a great deal of compliment to the personnel of HMAS Albatross.

I would like to take this opportunity to quote from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and remind this Government of what you can do if you fiddle around with an albatross. As every Australian school child knows from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 'dreadful things can happen to people who kill an albatross'. If this Government is going to try to kill an albatross, this nation will suffer the consequences of that. We will find that we will be killing our defence capability and we will be reducing the security of our nation and its future.

This Government has a moral responsibility to protect every man, woman and child within Australia. This Government is, I believe, going about that in the wrong way. The MX missile dispute has weakened our defences and it has weakened our ties with ANZUS and our ties with the United States. The cutbacks and economies which are so well reflected at HMAS Albatross are indicative of what this Government is doing to our total defence capability. The only way to ensure that this nation and every man, woman and child within it will have a secure defence and a happy and prosperous future is to co-operate with our allies so that they can use our ports and our facilities to ensure a sound and strong alliance with them.