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Wednesday, 10 September 1958

Mr BRUCE (Leichhardt) .- The honorable member for Hume (Mr.

Anderson) apparently is quite satisfied with the defence position as he sees it to-day. Certainly, we have spent a considerable sum of money, supposedly on defence. We bought from Great Britain two aircraft carriers which cost many millions of pounds, but no sooner had they arrived in Australia than we found that the planes on the carriers were absolutely useless. In that case, we spent millions of pounds on something that was of no use at all. We have spent many millions of pounds on the St. Mary's project. When it is completed, the military materials produced there will be as out of date as the horse and buggy in modern transport.

We sent our soldiers to Malaya, and then we decided to send their wives and children also. We built homes for them at enormous expense. I submit that if there was danger in Malaya, the wives and children of the servicemen never should have been sent there. Has any one heard of anything so ridiculous as to send women and children into a fighting area? If there was no danger in the area, and if the wives and children of the servicemen were quite safe, surely the men were not required there in the first place. Some of the millions of pounds about which the Government supporters speak were spent in Malaya to build homes for the families of our servicemen. More millions of pounds were spent on the purchase of the two aircraft carriers that T have mentioned. Great Britain put a " swifty " over us there, because the planes were absolutely useless. When they arrived in Australia they were put in mothballs because there was danger whenever they were sent off the ships.

We find that we have not sufficient ships for the number of trainees who are called up to do national service in the Navy. Yet. the Government talks about defence! It is so much tommy rot. We have nothing. T admit that millions of pounds have been spent, but we have nothing to show for it. Reference has been made to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. I was down there on one occasion. The Americans had the job of supplying materials, but the second engineer told me that the corporation could not get materials when it wanted them urgently. At that time, in order to keep the men employed, they were making white enamel baths. I saw them doing it. The defence policy of this Government has been utterly ridiculous and ineffective.

Let us consider the position of the Woomera rocket range. Australia does not get one thing from that range. Great Britain has decided that it will let America have the benefit of some of the tests that are carried out there, and it will have the rest. If we are to judge by the information that the Government has given to this Parliament on the subject, Australia has not got one thing from the Woomera rocket range. If we are spending millions of pounds on that project, it seems that again we are the pigeons, and that we are putting the money in while other people are getting the returns, as with the aircraft carriers. I defy any supporter of the Government, any Minister, or even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), to tell the Parliament what we have in the way of real defences. I do not want hot air. I should like to know where our naval forces are, where our military forces are, and where our " Black Knights " are. Do we own any " Black Knights ", or do we control any of them? The Government should be ashamed of itself for its defence policy. Apparently, it is so ignorant of the position that it does not realize that it has left Australia with no real defence.

The Prime Minister has said that we will stand behind the Dutch if Indonesia dares to attack Dutch New Guinea. At the same time, our allies, the Americans, are supplying Indonesia with up-to-date arms and equipment, while we have nothing. Of course, the Prime Minister is all right here. As long as he has not to go to the front, it is all right. He is like a little puppy yapping at a bigger dog and running away when the bigger dog turns round. If we do not wake up very shortly, within less than ten years we shall be a province of China. We hear talk about fighting Communist China, which has 600,000,000 people. If 200,000,000 of them were killed, the living conditions of the other 400,000,000 would be much better than they are to-day. The Chinese have military equipment of much the same kind as we and the Americans have, and the white races could not afford to lose men at the same rate as could the Chinese. Surely no one with enough intelligence to keep out of a mental home would seriously suggest that we could possibly affect the situation in China, with its 600,000,000 people, a quarter of the world's population, and equipped along the same lines as those nations that might attack it.

Of course, Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 am as worried about our defence position as is anybody else in this chamber. Government supporters say complacently, " We are doing this, we are doing that and we are doing the other thing ". Yet, the Government has not done one substantial thing for the defence of Australia. We are in the most hopeless position of any nation in the world, great or small. The complacency of the Cabinet absolutely astonishes and amazes me. The Government apparently does not appreciate that in a future war it will not be a case, as it was in the past, of sending armies overseas, as you would send a football team or a cricket team. We shall all be in it. As sure as the sun rises, unless the supporters of the Government wake up they will pay the penalty, as other people have, for their crass ignorance.

Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12 midnight.

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