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Wednesday, 8 May 1968

Sir JOHN CRAMER (Bennelong) - The House is debating a statement made last Thursday night by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). This an annual event. A statement on defence is made by the appropriate Minister each year, giving honourable members, particularly members of the Opposition, an opportunity to state their attitude towards defence. In my view the attitude adopted on this occasion by members of the Opposition is pathetic and would be ludicrous if the matter were not so serious. Their approach to defence is not positive and gives no indication that they are aware of the dangers confronting this country. I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has not yet taken part in the debate. In opening the debate for the Opposition the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said that he resented the Minister's statement because it was sketchy and vague. I do not agree with the honourable member's description, but I will have more to say on that matter later.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not offer an alternative to the Government's policy. All he did was state something which we already knew - the Labor Party opposition to the war in Vietnam, particularly the bombing of North Vietnam, and its belief that Australia should not have any part in operations in Vietnam.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had unlimited time in which to state this case, but he spoke for only a short time, and almost the whole of his speech was directed to a criticism of the F111 aircraft and its cost. Then we heard from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who is the shadow Treasurer in the Labor Party. He sounded like a second-grade accountant. He spoke of defence as a matter of figures and money, not human lives. He had no regard for the country's security. He asked: 'Can we afford what we are spending?'

Mr Bryant - Can we?

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