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Wednesday, 10 September 1958

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) (12:30 PM) . - It was rather strange to hear the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) who was formerly Minister for the Navy, objecting to the defence estimates being considered at this hour. The honorable member began his speech at approximately 12.15 a.m. He knows very well that in 1946, when I first was elected to this chamber, and in the years following, the expenditure of millions of pounds was passed in. this chamber between 3 o'clock and 6 o'clock in the morning. At that time the Chifley Labour Government was in office. I remember leaving this chamber and arriving at the Hotel Kurrajong as the breakfast bell was rung. Honorable members on the Opposition side know that that is quite correct and the honorable member for Kennedy was a Minister at the time, and yet he has complained dramatically at 12.15 a.m. that it is ridiculous to discuss the defence Estimates at this hour.

I think reference should be made to the difference between the attitude of the honorable member for Kennedy and that of the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). The honorable member for Leichhardt referred to Australia's two aircraft carriers. He said that they were useless and that the Government had let the people down in buying them. The honorable member for Kennedy, who is a former Minister for the Navy, referred to the aircraft carrier " Sydney ". He said it was right up to date and had done a remarkable job when it came to Australia. It arrived here in May, 1949.

Mr Riordan - That is what I said.

Mr TURNBULL - I know that; but the honorable member for Leichhardt took the Government to task for bringing that aircraft carrier here. I point out that it was brought to Australia when a Labour government was in office. If there was anything wrong with it - and I do not think there was - it was not this Government's fault but the fault of the Labour government of the day. The " Sydney " had Sea Fury and Firefly aircraft and it did a good job. The honorable member for Leichhardt is retiring from the Parliament. We give him credit for what he has done in the past, but he should be careful what he says in the last few days that he occupies a seat in this chamber; otherwise, he might spoil his record.

H.M.A.S. " Melbourne " was brought to Australia in March, 1956. It has Sea Venom and Gannet aircraft. It is an uptodate aircraft carrier equipped with modern aeroplanes. Fancy an honorable member saying that this Government had acted wrongly and wasted the money of the taxpayers in obtaining these aircraft carriers which are necessary in modern war.

The honorable member for Leichhardt found fault with this Government for sending forces to Malaya to join the Commonwealth forces there in fighting the Communist terrorists. He said that women and children should not have been sent there if there was any danger. There was no danger o'f a widespread war in Malaya. Every one knows that the danger came from the -Communist terrorists in the jungle. The wives of our servicemen who went to Malaya were perfectly safe, but the troops did excellent work in clearing out the Communist terrorists. Only recently when some of them returned to Australia, the representatives of the Malayan people sent words of thanks to the Australian Government for the fine work that this force of men had done in Malaya to help rid the country of the scourge of communism. The Communists were murdering people in the country whenever they had an opportunity. Of course, members of the Australian Labour party objected to the Australian force going to .Malaya. Our men were going to fight the Communists. Since the Malayan authorities expressed appreciation of the work of the Australian force, the Australian Labour .party has gone quietly on the subject, until the honorable member for Leichhardt spoke to-night. The British Commonwealth forces cemented the prevailing goodwill between the Commonwealth countries,

The honorable member for Leichhardt referred to the Woomera rocket range and said that Australia was getting nothing out of it. Previously, he had complained that Australia was unarmed. Through the Woomera rocket range, Australia is keeping up-to-date in scientific warfare. Opposition members have referred to obsolete weapons and aircraft, but apparently it will not be very long before most of these weapons are obsolete. When that time comes, the scientific discoveries at the Woomera range will be of great value to us. The honorable member for Leichhardt said that the United "Kingdom and the United States of America were getting all the benefit from the trials at the range. Who should benefit from them? Those countries are our allies.

I suppose the honorable member objects to Seato, but that is .one of the great bulwarks of Australia from a defence point of view.

Many speeches that have been delivered on the Opposition side to-night have had no basis in fact. I compliment the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) on his statement to .the committee. He has given us information of a comprehensive nature and has set out at the back of one pahmplet just how our money is being spent, how these estimates for the year were worked out and the actual expenditure that has taken place, If honorable members peruse this document they will discover that much has been spent on wages and the upkeep of the troops. I compliment the Government on 'having increased the pay of the personnel in our armed forces. That will attract more men to the ranks of those who protect us.

I -believe that this Government is doing everything possible in peace-time to keep our defences strong. With -the close cooperation of the countries of the free world, Australia is being well served. We never hear any request from the supporters of the Australian Labour party for the fostering of close co-operation with the United States of America. We hear from them only criticism of such things as Seato. Supporters of the Labour party always criticize the United Kingdom and the United States of America and other countries which we must regard as our best friends in peace and war. The closer we can co-operate with those countries, the better our position will be. If we keep our defences strong, we shall be ready at any time to co-operate in an emergency with those stronger nations as we have done in the past.

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