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Friday, 16 October 1970

Mr MORRISON (St George) -For 20 years this Government has deluded the Australian people into believing that it had a defence policy but for a policy it has substituted slogans; for information, lies; and for discussion, pronouncement. In the last few weeks the Malaysian Government, in pressing for accommodatios with China - Mainland or Communist, depending on whether or not wheat is being sold to it, as far as the Aus tralian Country Party is concerned - and the neutralisation of South East Asia, guaranteed by the United States of America, the Soviet Union and China, has shown a sanity and a maturity which is sadly lacking in this Liberal-Country Party Government. How absurd our policy looks when the countries we pompously pretend and presume to protect do not accept the fallacious patterns on which our policy is supposedly formed. This Government has been extraordinarily reluctant to disclose to the House and to the people of Australia the cost of maintaining our forces overseas. A superficial . glance at the Budget papers would show the amount of $21,846,000 under the heading of Department of the Army. Under the Department of "Air it is $22,025,000. The figure for the Department of Navy does not disclose any cost for maintaining the Australian commitment in Vietnam and in MalaysiaSingapore.

If we delve a little deeper we find that as from 1st July 1969. in an obvious attempt to minimise the expenditure related to the overseas commitment, the Government has transferred the expenditure on stores purchased in Australia and forwarded to Australian defence forces abroad from Division 666 'Forces Overseas' to Division 670 which deals with armaments and stores. This means that the Government has resorted to accountancy tricks to deceive the Australian people about the cost of maintaining our forces abroad. I challenge the Government to disprove that the total cost is not the sum of $43,871,000, which appears in the Budget, but is in fact closer to $1 00m.

We on this side of the House regard this expenditure as a waste. It distorts not only our defence expenditure but also the whole Budget expenditure. We would prefer to channel this money to meet more urgent needs in the defence vote and in the general Budget. For instance, with these funds we could, without raising taxation, increase the standard and married rates of pension by $2 a week instead of the piffling 50c that has been made available by this Government in this Budget This Government has also shown a marked aversion to putting in writing the understandings and commitments that we have with other countries. The F111 fiasco is a notable case. But there have been cases in which the Government has sought to raise its stupidity to the rank of a virtue. When speaking in this House on 25th September 1963 the then Prime Minister said, in relation to the commitment of forces to Malaysia and Singapore: . . our vital engagements with the United Kingdom are not written or in any way formalised. Yet we know and she knows that in this part of the world we look to her, and she looks to us. We each apply in' a spirit of mutual confidence a golden rule of mutual obligation.

This form of ingenuousness has cost the Australian taxpayers S20m. In June 1957 we agreed with the United Kingdom and New Zealand to share the cost of the construction of a Commonwealth base at Terendak and we paid 22.7 per cent of the total cost. This works out at nearly $6m. The Malaysian Government leased the site to the British Government. The British Government pulled out and, under the terms of the lease, the whole base returned to the Malaysian Government. But has this Government at any stage announced to the people of Australia and to this House what has happened to the $6m that we invested in Terendak? We have not heard one word from the Auditor-General. Regrettably this Government's gross imcompetence has been repeated with the Royal Australian Air Force base at Butterworth. Although it has been a predominantly Australian base in terms of. manning the United Kingdom again held the lease. The British Government has returned this base to the Malaysians along with $12m worth of Australian investment. I am at a loss to understand the apathy which condones this massive misuse of the taxpayers money. Furthermore, I am appalled at the lighthearted manner in which the Auditor-General in his report dismissed this misuse of funds. He said:

The rights of occupancy of the Air Force base, Butterworth, were transferred by the United Kingdom authorities to the Malaysian Government on and from lst April 1970. Included in the transfer were capital works and equipment which according to departmental records, had cost Australia in excess of $12,300,000.

The Auditor-General has made no further comment on this misuse of funds. There has been no examination of , the reason why safeguards were not written in to safeguard our equity in both the Terendak camp and the Butterworth camp. Why is not the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for the Army (Mr

Peacock), the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) and the Auditor-General carrying out their responsibilities on behalf of this Parliament and the people of Australia? As to the terms of occupancy when the leasing of these bases or the arrangements with the Malaysians or Singaporeans come up, why have we not. heard what the terms of our occupancy are to be? The Minister for Defence in response to a series of questions which I put to him on this subject has completely evaded the issue. When will our occupancy be regularised? What are the terms to which we will agree to stay in Butterworth and to stay in Singapore? What will it cost the Australian taxpayers? We in this House and the people of Australia have a right to know. For too long we have put up with this monumental incompetence of the Australian Government. I also want to know when the stationing of our forces in Singapore will be regularised. When will we get these satisfactory barracks we have been told about? When will we sign a status of forces agreement? How much money do we have to pay?

In the very limited time at my disposal in this debate I want to refer to a point which is of very great concern to all members of a democratic institution. I refer to a handbook that is made available to and which is required reading by Australian national servicemen and Australian soldiers going to Vietnam. This book is a deliberate attempt to brainwash members of the Australian forces. It is classified as restricted but members of the forces are encouraged to discuss it with, in the words of the handbook, 'your family and friends'. The Army has been used and is being used to propagate the political viewpoint of the Liberal Party. It is a cheap political trick. It is reminiscent of what happened when I was in the Department of External Affairs and that Department was required to send out an essentially propagandist publication called 'Questions and Answers on Vietnam* to Australian schools. To take a couple of examples of the kinds of lies, deceptions, innuendos and prejudices, it states in chapter 1, paragraph 3:

The 1954 Geneva Agreement . . . provided for the division of Viet Nam into two parts.

As I have said before and I will say it again in the hope that it gets through to honourable members on the Government side, that the final declaration of the Geneva Conference dated 21st July 1954 explicitly states in section 6:

That the military demarkation line should not in any way be interpreted as constituting a political territorial boundary.

Time and again we can go through these statements and repeat the lies and the deception of the Government, but one point that we should keep in mind is that our forces are enjoined in this document not to think for themselves. They are told: You will be kept informed regarding the true position of the war by your officers'. So we are setting up a system of political commissars when the soldier is told not to think but to take notice of what his political commissar in the Australian Army tells him to think. We finish up with the motto - this could well apply to honourable members opposite but not to any democratic institution such as the Australian Army - that they are required to live up to, namely, constant vigilance, eternal suspicion. This is the kind of attitude we are taking to the people we are sending abroad to fight in the name of democracy. We are denying them democracy and we are denying Australian people democracy.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired. -

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