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Tuesday, 20 October 1970

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - In commencing my speech I must express my absolute disgust at the display of ridicule to which members of the Government subjected this debate during the course of yesterday evening. Had I intended to carry on in the manner in which the 3 Service Ministers were acting, I would probably have said that the whole Royal Australian Navy ought to be in Lake Burley Griffin with the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) overseeing operations white being kept aloft by the Captain Cook water jet. or something of that nature. However, we have heard a great deal in the debate which has been only riducule. If we are to deal properly with the matter of defence we ought to display a much more serious attitude than that which has been displayed to this point of time.

The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) typified the Government's attitude when he saw fit to quote something that was said by the late John Curtin in 1938. One could quote things that were said by Sir Robert Menzies in the early 1930s in praise of Hitler or one could make a comparison by saying that Chamberlain had an umbrella and the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) had a bat, or something like this. What ought to be asked in this debate is: What are we getting for the tremendous amount of money that has been expended on defence over recent years? The Government, along with the British Government, is talking continually of the Indian Ocean because it is still mindful of what Mr Freeth, a previous Minister, said on 14th August last year. Government supporters attempt to intrude the matter of the Indian Ocean into debates on defence all the time. The Government in its thinking and in its expenditure of money has not realised the change of conditions which Australia faces from a defence point of view.

Members from this side of the Parliament have been able to state what the attitude of Malaysia is today, whereas they could not have done so 3 months ago, because there has been a change of govenment in that country. If we want to continue to talk about defence weaponry and so on, in the manner in which we have been talking, we should realise that Australia is in no different position from many other smaller countries of the world - indeed we cannot measure ourselves as a great world power - and that our whole thinking on defence has to be completely changed.

This leads me back to the matter of the Indian Ocean. What threat does Russia have for us in the Indian Ocean in anything other than a global war, and what possibility is there of a threat from Russia in the Indian Ocean if there is to be a conventional type of weaponry used, with a conventional type of ship? Other honourable members know as well as I do that if that type of engagement commences it will be only a prelude to a world wide conflict with all the nuclear arms and their horrors. Tn speaking of defence why should we not think in terms of perhaps having a look at the other side of the coin? We have reached the stage in the world today at which we can ill afford our present attitudes as people who populate this earth. Either we get away from the old thinking of national boundaries and what-have-you or we burn together. Has anyone on the Government side ever thought of this? Has any honourable member opposite ever thought of the fact that there is the equivalent of 10 million tons of TNT stored up in nuclear weapons for every man, woman and child on this earth today. One could go back to the Suez debacle in which a previous Prime Minister was involved. Of course, this resulted in a situation which members on the Government side have been critical of, or worried about, and which is now with us in the Middle East. The seeds of the situation in the Middle East today were not in fact sown by loss of arms on a battlefield but by the stupidity of diplomacy, if one could call it that, or by the stupidity of those who withdrew from the Aswan Dam project and let the Russians come in. I fully agree with what was said by the previous Opposition speaker on this subject.

I refer now to the proposed sale of arms to South Africa and the stupidity of the British Government in proposing it, because the moment it does that it will force the other African States into an untenable position; they will be getting arms from the Eastern Bloc countries in the time it takes Ilyshun aircraft to fly from Russia down to Africa. Where is the sense in that? I suggest to honourable members opposite that they turn their minds, when considering matters of defence, to matters of survival. When honourable members opposite start talk of defence and the capability of the defence force that this country can supply itself with, they are conning themselves that it will defend them. They virtually leave themselves defenceless.

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