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Wednesday, 10 September 1958
Page: 1083

Mr GRAHAM (St. George) .- I believe that this discussion of the Estimates should be treated seriously, and not in the party political fashion adopted by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I do find something to please me in what he said, because it is reasonable to point out that he used the term "an adequate and proper defence ", saying that this was fundamental to Labour's thinking on Australia's defence problems. Sooner or later, the Australian Labour party will have to make quite clear where it stands as a party in relation to defence policy.

Having said that, I shall now proceed to give some of my own views on the matters referred to by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). In the general sense the defence policy of the Australian Government is designed to achieve the ultimate objective of Australian security. This defence policy is prepared by the military leaders of Australia's defence forces and then, after much further consideration and analysis, it is finally adopted as a policy by the Government. During the last eight years the Government has set out to achieve certain objectives that are fundamental to the present defence policy. The first objective was related to foreign policy, and the intention was to arrange for Australia to become a party to collective security agreements. This matter, if seen in its proper perspective, can in my opinion be considered in this way: We must look back to 1949 and consider Australia's prestige in the great international capitals of the world at that time. We must ask ourselves whether Australia was completely trusted in Washington, for example, and I believe that there are honorable members of this Parliament who know the appropriate answer to that question. I content myself by saying that the Government, led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and assisted by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), has so restored Australia's prestige that to-day it is higher than it has ever been.

Australia sought to acquire powerful friends and to have them committed to a joint system of defence which would be of mutual benefit to all concerned. Thus the Anzus pact and the South-East Asia Treaty Organization have evolved and have played their part in forming Australia's defence policy. It must be understood by critics of our defence policy that it is fundamental to Australia's defence thinking that there should be confidence in the Anzus pact and in Seato. Destroy the validity of that premise and our entire defence policy falters.

Mr Whitlam - Does the Anzus pact commit Australia with regard to Formosa, or America with regard to New Guinea?

Mr GRAHAM - No, they are collective security defence pacts. They provide for assistance to repel attack. They are not designed to assist in aggression; that is, aggression by a treaty member.

There is a great deal of ill-informed criticism, concerning defence matters, and from time to time it would seem that some of the judgments expressed in some of the great Australian newspapers are deliberately intended to distort the facts and, for some ulterior reason, to mislead and confuse the reading public seeking to make a general appraisal of the defence position. No loyal Australian in 1958 can be unaware of the fact that the future security of Australia is completely identified with the future and security of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Nobody in this country to-day could be excused for being unaware that the Communist powers constitute a real threat to our security and1 are the only self-admitted potential aggressors on earth.

Honorable members have been told in a series of clear statements by the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister during recent years that Australia's aim is to provide balanced forces that will be able to co-operate with the forces of our allies in maintaining peace. We are aware that communism still threatens all the countries of South-East Asia and still threatens Australia. Nothing can help the enemy more than to have people talking of communism as an age-old bogy. It is not a bogy; it is a live, constant threat to the security and survival of this country. It could be that there is some truth in the contention that internal subversion rather than external aggression will be the pattern of Communist policy, but it should be borne in mind that the absolutely ruthless Communist leaders have announced publicly that they are prepared to commit themselves to enormous risks in order to achieve the world-wide domination that they declared they would seek so many years ago.

Most honorable members are familiar with some of the writings of Lenin, and all honorable members should be deeply conscious of the significance of the judgment passed by Lenin when he wrote that if in the final battles three-quarters of the people who live on the earth were to perish, it would not matter so long as the remaining one-quarter were Communists. To-day in Australia many people simply do not understand these things and will make no proper effort to comprehend them. They will make no effort to study the public announcements and writings of the Communist leaders, whose announced plan of world domination is clearly defined for anybody to read and to understand.

It is still generally believed that global war is unlikely to take place because of the deterrent created by the great strategic air command of the United States of America, and as long as the strength of the Western Powers' nuclear deterrent is maintained, this will probably be the case.

It is possible against this background to have a clear picture of what the Government has done since 1950-51. The Minister for Defence has told the House that a total of £1,385,000,000 has been spent on defence since 1950-51. He has pointed out that no less than 70 per cent, of the total figure is required for maintenance, expenditure, salaries, and general equipment associated with the serving personnel of the forces. Twenty per cent, of the total of £1,385,000,000 has been devoted to the provision of capital equipment, such as warships, aircraft, weapons, and vehicles. A total of £124,000,000, or 9 per cent, of the grand total, has been applied to capital buildings and works for the three services, the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Supply, including the joint United Kingdom and Australian guided weapons project at Woomera.

It is my view that the Commonwealth Government will have to give serious consideration to increasing defence expenditure within the next few years, but I congratulate the Government on the policy that it has evolved and on the work that has been done to date. The aim has been to provide regular forces which are highly trained, well equipped and mobile, to be supported by a sound basic defence organization, including adequate reserve forces.

During 1957-58, £185,000,000 was spent on defence, and this year the proposed vote is £190,000,000. I believe that members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) should ma'ke their position clear in relation to this problem of adequacy. Do they hold the view that the Australian forces are not large enough, and are they prepared to support the steps that would be necessary to have those forces substantially increased? That, after all, is the fundamental problem that must be faced. For example, in the Royal Australian Navy one aircraft carrier, four destroyers, five frigates, two general mine sweepers, and a number of smaller craft will be in sea-going commission this year. I think the honorable member for East Sydney should have indicated quite clearly whether he believed that those forces should be increased. The total strength of the Australian Regular Army is of the order of 20,200, including the 1st Infantry Brigade Group, which has now completed its initial period of collective training. This brigade group, together with the infantry battalion of approximately 1,200 men, which is at present serving in Malaya, is part of the "British Commonwealth's strategic reserve. The Pacific Islands Regiment, which was referred to by the Minister, comprises a 'Regular Army field force approaching some 6,000 personnel. These are, after all, personnel who are available now in the event of some emergency arising. There are, of course, the members of the Regular Army who are required for the Citizen Military Forces, cadres, national service training cadets and' ali training establishments, headquarters command, administrative and overseas establishment's. The Minister has referred to the 'Citizen Military Forces, and they comprise a considerable section of the Armed Forces. The total expenditure on the Army since June, 1950, has been £477,900,000, and the vote for the current financial year is £63,500,000.

I believe that, in relation to the Australian army, the members of the Opposition should make particular criticisms and should indicate whether they believe that this force should be bigger or smaller.

I turn now briefly to the Royal Australian Air Force, and refer to the operational force of one bomber and two fighter squadrons, with a mobile support force of a bomber squadron, two transport squadrons, a fighter reconnaissance unit, an air operations base flight and an airfield construction squadron. In addition to these forces, which are ready to operate at this present moment, there is an operational force comprising a bomber and fighter squadron, and the Citizen A'k Force Fighter Squadron based on all the capital cities. There are two maritime squadrons and an airfield construction squadron. There is a bomber squadron at present with the Strategic Reserve in Malaya, and it is planned that a fighter wing of two squadrons will join this Strategic Reserve in due course. The Government's policy, related as it is to the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, is such that Australia's forces are widespread to meet the threats of attack, as they come to light, at the source. There are 15,260 people in the R.A.A.F. at present. Since 1950, over 490 aircraft have been delivered to the R.A.A.F.. including Neptune's and Meteors from overseas source's, and Sabres, Canberras. Vampires and Winjeels from the Australian aircraft industry.

I should like to conclude by congratulating Sir Philip McBride upon the many years of service that he has rendered to Australia in the administration of this portfolio. I wish him well, as he is leaving the Parliament at the end of this year, and 1 express the hope that whoever takes his place will have the same devotion to duty, and will be as popular in his office as Sir Philip has been.

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