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Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 1436

Mr BARNARD (Bass) - The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) sees a profound and unbridgeable difference between the defence policies of the Government and those of the Australian Labor Party. There is little evidence of this in the defence review compiled by the Department of Defence and presented to the House by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn). On the evidence of this document the 2 streams of defence policy are converging very rapidly. Quite plainly this document has been cunningly contrived with 2 basic objectives in mind. In the first place it had to be made more palatable to the government of the day.

Beyond this it had to take into account the implications of an imminent change of government and the content had to be expressed in terms which would not be overly distasteful to the alternative government. Assessed on the basis of these criteria, it is a very skilful document indeed. The Minister for Defence has been at pains to give to the House his own summation of the paper, playing down certain features and playing up others. This is a valid enough exercise; the Minister has been able to throw into relief what he sees as areas of difference with the Opposition.

It would be possible for me to perform a similar exercise, drawing out the features of the report which the Labor Party finds most congenial and putting them in frankly political terms. Another alternative would be to put before the House an exhaustive review on the same subject matter. In effect this would mean putting a Labor Party defence White Paper to the Parliament. This is hardly a necessary exercise; wherever one opens this White Paper whole paragraphs hit the eye which could have been lifted intact from the Labor Party platform. In one sense the paper is a compliment to the evolution of Labor Party defence thinking and the work done by the Party un defence and foreign policy in recent years. I do not say that the paper is completely derivative; what I do claim is that the Department of Defence in analysing a vast range of defence policy has got to much the same position as the Labor Party. The Labor Party's implacable opposition to the Vietnam war has allowed it to look at strategic issues and troop deployment through glasses un clouded by Vietnam. Once the Department of Defence lifted its eyes above Vietnam and looked dispassionately at future policy it reached broadly similar conclusions to those of the Labor Party. The only difference is that conclusions reached by us much earlier are only now being grasped and adopted by the Department; the Government is even further behind. This is the basic reason why the review contains so much that is acceptable to the Labor Party. Furthermore, much of what is not acceptable is phrased so reasonably and moderately that it can be used as a framework for sensible debate. An example is a reference to the war in Indo-China contained in the paper. I quote as follows:

The long war in the Republic of Vietnam, though posing now a reduced threat to national survival, has spread territorially elsewhere in Indo-China.

The same theme is expressed again as follows:

The war in Indo-China is likely to go on though perhaps at a lower level of intensity. These are, however, situations which are now, or expected to be, within the competence of local forces or, as in Vietnam, are tending increasingly to be so.

Implicit in these statements is an acceptance of the policy of Vietnamisation as a remedy for all the ills of Vietnam. A claim of this sort may have had some substance when it was drafted. Its fallacious nature is surely exposed now to the events of the past week in Vietnam. I do not believe for one moment that the Department of Defence is the victim of illusions or delusions about Vietnam. I believe that it understands the dicey character of Vietnamisation and the very strong probability that it will not succeed. But because the Government of the day is wedded to Vietnamisation the Department has to pay homage to the concept and forgo giving it the sort of critical analysis it warrants. There are other examples of shying away from rigorous treatment of cliches dear to the heart of the present Government. I do not blame the Department of Defence for this; the Government has an accumulated record of many years of error and miscalculation to overcome. But this sort of sensitivity to the political dogma of its masters detracts from the overall value of the review.

In tone the White Paper is consistent enough to warrant the belief that the final draft is largely the work of one man. There is ample evidence that the mass of material contained in the paper has been worked over carefully and put into coherent form by a single guiding and unifying comptroller. The style has a certain tag to it. This does give the report a certain coherence but it does have the disadvantage I referred to - of shaping the material to blend with the prevailing policy patterns of two conservative political parties. The principal defect of the White Paper is that it defers too much to the conventional wisdom of a LiberalCountry Party government. It represents a considerable step towards an objective and impartial view of defence policy but it does not succeed in throwing off the constraints of conventional Government policy. It was probably over optimistic to expect a really hard-nosed look at Australia's defences. Now that a start has been made it should be possible for the Department of Defence to use the White Paper format for regular and objective assessments of defence needs and developments.

It should be possible to analyse defence without the need to look repeatedly over the shoulder at the responses of the Government. This has been done successfully in other countries, for example, Britain, Sweden, West Germany and Canada. Each of these countries has adopted a different approach. The British White Papers are weighted heavily towards special areas of defence policy and administration which have been the subject of special studies. The West German model organises a mass of descriptive material into a coherent picture of the organisation of the armed foces within the framework of the security of the Federal Republic. The Swedish Ministry of Defence breaks the subject into a number of compartments analysing national security policy, the execution process planning, goalsetting procedures, programming and budgeting techniques. It is by far the most adventurous in content and easily the most demanding in the degree of effort expected from the reader. The Canadian White Papers on defence bear the closest resemblance to the document before the House. The Canadian model is superior in the avoidance of any sort of political comment, overt or implied. It provides the objectivity that the Australian paper strives for without fulfilment.

I do not want to be unduly critical of this side of the document but it is a White Paper issued by the Department of Defence. It is not a White Paper issued by the Government, the Liberal Party or the Country Party. For this reason the Opposition finds the document defective but by no means without value. If the political bias and content can be eliminated in future reviews it will bc a most valuable innovation for the analysis and debate of defence issues. There is a great amount of work being done within the Department of Defence which in the past few years has built up its special projects and systems analysis divisions. Much work has also been done by interdepartmental committees on specific issues affecting servicemen. Much of this material is never disclosed. The Kerr reports on Service pay and conditions released material which could not have been collated or divulged otherwise. There are repeated references in the White Paper to studies which the Department of Defence is undertaking. Examples are the future role of Australian forces in New Guinea and the development of the Papua New Guinea defence forces. These are issues of defence policy which will have enormous importance as the Territory moves towards independence. It would be reasonable to expect that some account of the progress of these studies be included in future defence reviews or supplementary defence statements. The studies on rationalisation of the services referred to in the paper should also be summarised and included in future instalments.

Criticism of secrecy in government is extremely relevant to the Department of Defence where far too much is restricted and excluded from scrutiny. In keeping tabs on this sort of material and giving precise information about the progress of special studies the British statement on the Defence Estimates and its supplementary statements provide excellent models for our Department of Defence. With the reservations about form and content I have expressed, the concept of Defence White Papers is a welcome one. The paper before the House shows a marked advance on the last full-scale defence statement made in March 1970 by the then Minister for Defence, who is now the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In substance this earlier statement was a political comment, although it contained some excellent material. It filled much the same role as that statement made by the present Minister on tabling the White Paper. The divergence between the Minister's statement and the White Paper is a measure of the greater confidence and maturity developed by the Department of Defence in formulating a defence review of this scope. If the present model is further refined it will fill the gaps in our defence structure left by the absence of regular and detailed defence papers.

I want to concentrate my remarks on specific issues raised by the White Paper on the 3 broad areas of commitments and alliances, manpower and administration, and procurement. On the first topic a most notable source of disappointment with the paper is the emphasis it puts on the moribund South East Asia Treaty Organisation. It says with masterly understatement that some of the signers of the Manila treaty are inactive but the treaty still retains value. The paper is hard put to make any case for SEATO beyond its usefulness as a framework for military exercises. It points vaguely to new directions for SEATO without giving anything of substance. No doubt SEATO exercises have been of value for the countries that have participated, including Australia. But if this is the only justification for maintaining SEATO it should be wrapped up straight away. Joint exercises do not need such an elaborate and empty shell as SEATO; they can be organised on a bilateral basis or through co-operation of a number of countries in the region. lt is true, also, that SEATO has made a useful contribution to defence assistance and economic assistance to a number of Asian countries. Again, this sort of aid is not dependent on SEATO; it can be channelled through other agencies or put on a bilateral basis. These arguments for SEATO do not counter the criticism that it is useless as a vehicle for assuring security. It has never been invoked for defence purposes for the simple reason that even its members acknowledge its impotence. The paper stresses that the Philippines and Thailand are members, and their security is of major strategic significance in the region as a whole. If the security of these major Asian nations were threatened they would face a very grim pospect if SEATO were their only prop. It is acknowledged everywhere in Asia that SEATO has long outlived its usefulness and should be scrapped. The Asian nations are evolving their own treaty arrangements. Even Thailand in particular is putting much more stress on ASEAN - the Association of South East Asian Nations - which is the most encouraging of the regional arrangements in Asia.

Later this year another SEATO conference will be held in Canberra with all the fanfare the Government can muster. On the evidence of previous conferences, this Parliament building will rival the Kremlin for security, and honourable members and other people who work here will be harried in doing their jobs. It will be a futile charade designed to foster the myth that SEATO flourishes and retains meaning and relevance. Ultimately SEATO will have to be dismantled. This is a reality which should have been acknowledged in the White Paper.

The second commitment I want to look at is Australia's contribution to the fivepower arrangements covering Singapore and Malaysia. The White Paper is somewhat ambivalent on this issue. At one point the Paper refers to the deployment of Australian troops in the following terms:

Australian military support can be exercised by the selective forward deployment of forces, and indirectly by the existence of a credible capacity to deploy forces in the region if required.

This juxtaposes rather neatly the respective attitudes of the Government and the Opposition. The old policy of forward defence is now labelled the selective forward deployment of forces. The only difference from the old policy of forward defence seems to be that under selective forward deployment we have far fewer troops in the region. The once far-flung battle line that carried Australian troops to north east Thailand and the demilitarised zone in Vietnam has contracted remarkably, but the principles remain the same.

The Minister for Defence puts this up as an area of major difference between his Government and the Labor Party. This is correct but the Minister for Defence should perceive that the area of difference is shrinking very rapidly. It is another example of the time lag built into Government policy. The whole pattern of deployment of Australian troops in the past 2 years has been to concentrate our forces in territorial Australia. Only a handful of men remain in Vietnam as a contribution to the official policy of Vietnamisation. There are Army units in Malaysia-Singapore and the Mirage squadrons at Butterworth in Malaysia, but the trend has been to a gradual return of all Australian military units to Australia. The Government has implemented this policy without fully understanding what it is about. It retains the jargon and the addled logic of discredited commitments while acting in a completely contrary way.

Because this question of the future of units in Malaysia and Singapore has been the subject of considerable debate in recent weeks I would like to outline briefly Australian Labor Party policy and what a Labor government would seek to do. It has been stated quite falsely by the Minister for Defence that a Labor government would immediately pull out these units from Malaysia-Singapore. This simply is not true. It is a great pity that the Minister for Defence, who claims to show such interest in these matters, is not in the House for the resumption of the debate on the statement which he made to this Parliament and to the nation and which he said was to be an important document. Where is the Minister for Defence? Surely he has sufficient interest in one of the major statements made to this Parliament to be present in this House when the debate is resumed. But with the Minister's usual arrogance and his complete disinterest in these matters he fails to take up his position as any responsible Minister should when an important document is being debated in this Parliament and for which he was responsible.

As I have already indicated, the trend has been towards a gradual return of all Australian military units to Australia. The Government has implemented this policy without fully understanding the logic or the reasoning behind it. Because this question of the future of the troops in Malaysia and Singapore has been the subject of a great deal of debate not only in this Parliament but also outside it, and as the Minister for Defence claimed that under a Labor government the troops in Malaysia and Singa pore would be returned immediately to Australia, I want to say emphatically that this is not the situation at all. The Labor Party did not even stipulate immediate withdrawal from Vietnam in the 1969 election, campaign. Even honourable gentlemen opposite will recall that the proposal put to the electorate allowed an interim period of 6 months for the withdrawal to be completed and for alternative arrangements to be made.

In view of this attitude to Vietnam which was a matter of the deepest principle, why should a Labor government get out of Malaysia and Singapore within seconds of the declaration of the polls? These troops are not engaged in combat and there is no likelihood of their being engaged in combat. They are performing routine administrative and training functions in Singapore. To train effectively, the units in Singapore have to go to Malaysia because Singapore has not even sufficient training space for its own Army. This emphasises the futility of the continued stationing of a battalion in Singapore. A Labor government would take these units out but it would negotiate this withdrawal with the governments of Malaysia and Singapore. It would allow an adequate breathing space to readjustments could be made. I could not predict how long this period of grace would be; one solution would be to leave the battalion in Singapore until its term of duty expired and then not replace it. This would give a breathing space of 7 or 8 months after an election. The scheme of non-replacement proposed for Vietnam by the Labor Party in 1969 was subsequently adopted as the basis of the Government's withdrawal.

The future of the Mirage squadrons at Butterworth is a rather come complex issue. Until the Malaysian Air Force is built to effective strength the squadrons fill a role iri providing air surveillance. Australia has accepted an obligation to assist in forming the Malaysian Air Force and a Labor government would honour this agreement. There are also doubts about the capacity of Air Force facilities in Australia to cope with 2 additional squadrons, and this is an added complication. The removal of Australian units from Malaysia and' Singapore would need careful negotiation with the governments of these countries; it would not be done with a single sharp stroke. The reactions of Malaysia and Singapore have also been overstated. It is our conclusion from a careful testing of opinion in Malaysia that it expects the five-power arrangements to be only transitional. Defence co-operation with Australia would then revert to a bilateral basis. I do not pretend that the Government of Singapore in particular would be enthusiastic about Australia's departure, but I do not think it would be unduly concerned. As a pragmatic Government I am sure it understands the realities of Labor's policies and how they would be applied, even if its acceptance of them was somtwhat grudging.

With regard to Malaysia the situation is rather more fluid with the development in that country of a strong feeling for the neutrality of South East Asia. This concept of neutrality has yet to be clearly articulated, but there is no doubt that there is a strong feeling, backed by Indonesia, that ASEAN should be developed as a security medium in a context of neutrality for the countries in the region. It is not possible to predict with any accuracy what Malaysia's attitude to Australian troops in the region would be in even a year's time. I would like to make it quite clear that the removal of these units from MalaysiaSingapore would not mean an end of military assistance to the region. In simple terms a Labor government would provide training and technical and logistics assistance to these countries but it would not station permanent forces there. This approach has the added merit that it is capable of extension to other countries in the region beyond the five-power arrangements such as, for example, Indonesia, which the Government wants to help but cannot quite accommodate within its present formula.

Whatever the character of the Australian Government, it is likely that the five-power arrangements will prove transitional and be supplanted by bilateral defence arrangements with South East Asian countries. A Labor government would give effect to the overwhelming feeling in the ranks of its members and supporters that it is no longer proper for Australian troops to be stationed on the ground in South East Asia. But it would do this responsibly and with adequate time for alternative arrangements to be worked out. One of the arrangements we expect to initiate is regular joint training exercises, possibly of 3 months duration, in which our troops would gain invluable experience in other countries and in our own.

The White Paper referred at a number of points to Australia's defence links with the United States. The Minister chose to make this the high point of his commentary on the White Paper rounding off with an impressive appeal to American patriotism. The honourable gentleman at this point sounded more like a candidate in an American primary than an . Australian defence minister. He did make certain comments on the imposition of doctrinaire conditions on United States defence policy and somehow or other equated carping and criticism of American policy with treachery. The Minister makes it quite clear, that he wants to exploit the question of American bases and facilities in Australia as one of the few remaining areas of defence policy difference between the Government and the Opposition.

It is worth asking which is the dogmatic or doctrinaire party: Is it the party which steadfastly refuses to discuss the issue or to make available any information on which a debate could be conducted? Alternatively, is it the party which wants to debate the issue and wants the information on which it can assess its policies, but is hamstrung by the attitude of a Government which contemptuously refuses to inform the Parliament and the public on crucial issues of defence policy? The Labor Party's platform is quite explicit on this subject. It is opposed to the existence of foreign-owned, controlled or operated bases and facilities in Australian territory, especially when such bases involve a derogation from Australian sovereignty. The policy states further:

Labor is not opposed to the use of Australian bases and facilities in war-time or in periods of international tension involving a threat to Australia, provided that Australia is not involved in hostilities without Australia's consent.

This is the framework of Labor's policy. At this stage it is impossible to say how these principles would be applied by a Labor government. The main obstacle to making any sort of projection is lack of information about the functions of these bases.

The present Government has restricted information on Pine Gap and Woomera in particular to people described by the Minister for Defence as 'those with a need to know*. Those with a need to know' do not include the alternative government or members of the Australian Parliament. On the basis of the above principles, it would be certain that no future bases would be allowed on the conditions now applying to Pine Gap and Woomera, by a Labor government. The principles I stated earlier would be rigidly applied. These existing bases are covered by treaty arrangements. Until these arrangements are examined we do not know what could be done to vary the terms covering the bases to make them acceptable to the principles contained in Labor policy. The Labor Party, the Parliament and the electorate were presented with a fait accompli on Pine Gap and Woomera. Quite obviously these bases are related to the United States early-warning and surveillance systems of Russia and China. It is just as certain that Russia at least is aware of what these bases do, and that it has its own early warning and surveillance systems.

What is not clear is how much the bases in Australia contribute to nuclear stability in terms of mutual deterrence between the United States and Russia. These are questions that would have to be looked at carefully by a Labor government. By stifling public debate on these great issues the Government has done itself and the United States a disservice. It also seems to me to have been a bad blunder in political tactics. By refusing to make available any information on which a logical debate on the bases could be conducted, it has made it impossible for the ALP to be specific on the subject. This absurd and obsessive secrecy can only rebound on the Government.

There is the other point that developments in the state of the art will make the bases in Australia unnecessary, that more sophisticated early-warning and surveillance developments will be developed. It is possible that space-tracking stations on the ground could become redundant through the development of satellites which would perform their function. As deeper penetration into space is achieved, much greater surveillance of the earth can be made by satellites. The use of synchronous satellites to provide command and tracking information and to relay data from other satellites is a distinct possibility. It would be of immense benefit for the United States to have a world-wide early-warning network that would not involve the cost of maintaining tracking stations outside the- United States and subject to changes in domestic policy. This could bring a voluntary removal of these facilities from Australia so the United States could concentrate all its nuclear deterrent systems within its own borders.

Another matter on which the Government has signally failed to give any information is whether the Pine Gap and Woomera bases could be adapted for peaceful uses. There are many ways in which satellite surveillance can be used for detection of resources, for agriculture, for geography, geology and hydrology, and for a wide range of other scientific applications. Australia has long passed the stage of sophistication when all that a government needed to do was point to a defence installation, whisper 'Top Secret' and watch the votes pour in. If it refuses a debate on these bases and facilities then it can only blame itself if the old response is not raised in the electorate. Politics in this country no longer runs on the basis of mindless appeals to secrecy and security. If the Government wants to debate this issue then the Opposition is quite prepared to match it. But let us have no more of this assumption that security plus secrecy is a vote-winning combination and that the electorate is neither to be trusted nor informed.

On the question of manpower there are significant differences within the Government over the future of conscription and what the composition of the Army should be. We have the golden words of the Minister for the Army in this House of 28th September last year when he said that national service could be reduced even further to 12 months. He went on to say that even if everyone possible were conscripted it would not be terribly effective. With reservations of this sort about national service among the Government ranks, the opposition of the Labor Party to conscription is amply reinforced. The attitude to future manpower policies, in particular to whether a volunteer army can be sustained, is a particularly disappointing feature of this White Paper. It is most regrettable that studies of future manpower trends and the composition of the Armed Services have been done mainly outside the Defence Department. This area of manpower projections is an obvious one for the systems analysis techniques the Department has built up over the past few years.

The Opposition's policy on this crucial issue is quite explicit: A future Labor government would abolish the draft immediately it gained office and would work to establish an all-volunteer army. This is one area of defence policy where a Labor government would be committed to immediate action.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - What size would your army be?

Mr BARNARD - Interpretation of the policy statements would not permit of any delay in eliminating the draft as quickly as possible. I shall shortly come to the matter raised by the honourable member by way of interjection. However, I am sure that he will not understand what I have to say.

The elimination of the conscript element in the Australian Army would leave an Army of 28,000 men, all volunteers. It is an Army that is growing steadily each year, even allowing for an official lack of enthusiasm to voluntary recruitment which has at times amounted to discouragement of voluntarism. According to Army figures the volunteer component of the Army is increasing by around 1,000 a year. Last year the Army cut the draft from 16,000 to 12,000, giving an effective strength of 40,000.

According to the Government's logic Australia would be vulnerable and undefended if this 40,000 were cut by even a platoon. Forty thousand men constitute defence preparedness and deterrence, 32,000 or 36,000 or even 39,000 are equated with treachery and betrayal. It is overlooked that a substantial part of the volunteer component in the Army is engaged in training national servicemen and servicing and training conscripts. There are many others who are employed in duplicated or redundant jobs. The Government is moving to replace 6 command functions based on the States with a single integrated command structure on the lines recommended in the Hassett Committee Report. If this is done effectively it is obvious that there will be substantial savings in men needed for routine functions. In very many cases one or two men will be doing what 6 did before.

To take one example, the Western Command which formerly administered the Army in Western Australia had a third of its total strength engaged in command and administration functions. If these jobs were eliminated then more men would be freed to fill combat or specialist functions. This pattern would be repeated with the elimination of the other State commands, particularly the major Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland commands.

It is Labor's argument that if the need to administer national service were eliminated, and if a proper reorganisation of the Army commands were carried out, then an Army strength of much less than 40,000 would be adequate for our defences. Even if only 4,000 jobs were eliminated in this way, a target strength of 36,000 would be needed. If the rate of present recruitment could be doubled, this would be achieved in 4 years. By setting a modest recruitment rate of an extra 2,000 men a year, we could get an adequate volunteer Army in an acceptable time span. This sort of argument is reinforced by the recent improvement in the recruiting rate which has been conceded by the Minister for Defence. With proper policies an end to conscription would have little impact on the basic strength of the Army, that is the ranks of specialist and combat soldiers.

In the years ahead there is likely to be much greater movement between the military and the civilian workforce. The United States Army has reached a plateau of organisation where only one man in 10 is a combat soldier. The rest have specialist functions or are absorbed in the long administrative tail which supports the relatively small fighting head. The same pattern is emerging in the Australian Army. There is likely to be much more emphasis on shorter terms of recruitment for the Services. More flexible enlistment policies with men enlisting for a specific task or military project are a definite possibility.

Much more fluid patterns of service organisation and administration will emerge with much closer inter-relationships between the civilian and the military. It will become increasingly futile to look at the Army in the hard-and-fast pattern of volunteer and national service elements. We want a highly effective professional Army with none of the in-built wastage of manpower and duplication of jobs that survive in the present structure. It is Labor's argument that conscription is not necessary in manpower terms and that an all-volunteer Army is feasible; at the very least it should be given a try.

According to the White Paper and the Minister, the Department of Defence is currently analysing some 70 major items of defence procurement. It is an old cliche of Government defence policy that only the best is good enough for our defence forces and that we buy only the best whatever the price. Of course this is nonsense; if it were not we would be buying nuclearpowered submarines or squadrons of aircraft carriers or Galaxy transport aircraft at enormous cost.

For a second string power such as Australia, procurement is a matter of compromise and bargaining; it involves tradeoffs between sets of alternatives and tough analysis of proposed purchases in costbenefit terms. According to the White Paper, decisions would be made on these 70 items in the 5-year period from 1972- 1977. Some of these items can be identified easily; for example the DDL destroyer programme, the Mirage replacement and the requirement for maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Others are listed in the paper. Tn the procurement of defence equipment techniques of evaluation have made giant strides in the past few years.

It is an instructive exercise to contrast the way in which the Fill was bought with the careful way the Government is now taking the DDL programme along stage by stage. In the area of defence procurement it is possible for an Opposition party to put forward broad concepts of what weapons should be bought. This we have done with the DDL project by putting strongly our view that the Navy would be wise to concentrate on smaller, faster and cheaper vessels armed with missiles.- In our view this is much more in accord with the development of naval equipment and naval strategy than putting resources into a few vulnerable and highly expensive destroyers. This lesson was hammered home in the recent naval exercise when the Singaporean patrol boats theoretically pierced the defence screen of the aircraft carrier HMAS 'Melbourne' and sank it. Beyond these broad concepts of what sort of weapons systems we should be acquiring, it is not the function of an Opposition party to put up shopping lists of defence purchases.

I would like to refer briefly to an issue raised by the Minister in his comments on types of weapons. This is the suggestion that Australia should acquire some form of nuclear weapons capability. The Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay), in a speech in Perth in January emphatically rejected any acquisition of nuclear weapons on the basis that they were unnecessary and too costly. The Minister for Defence has also rejected a nuclear capability though in less emphatic terms. The White Paper also sees no need for a nuclear weapons capability although it stressed the prudence of watching developments in nuclear technology. The Labor Party policy explicitly prohibits nuclear weapons for Australia and supports the immediate ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Our rejection of nuclear weapons is based strongly on principle. This is reinforced by our assessment of the diplomatic folly of moving Australia towards possession of a nuclear force.

There is the other argument of cost which is stressed quite strongly in the defence White Paper. A considerable amount of research work has been done on the cost and possible dimensions of a nuclear force for Australia. But I do not think this research has proved conclusively that a nuclear force is economically feasible for Australia. Nor has it shaken the basis of Labor Party belief that a nuclear force cannot be justified for Australia in any conceivable strategic circumstances.

The Labor Party policy which prohibits nuclear weapons extends the same prescription to chemical and biological warfare. The Government has always firmly indicated that it is completely opposed to chemical and biological warfare and that it has not manufactured these weapons nor has it trained its soldiers in this sort of warfare. This morning it was announced in the Press that Australia was among 47 countries which had signed a convention outlawing the use of biological weapons. This is completely in harmony with Labor Party policy, and I am glad that Australia was one of the early signatories of this convention. Nevertheless, lingering doubts about the sincerity of the Government on this very delicate topic remain. There have been reports in American journals that members of the Australian military forces have received training in chemical and biological warfare in the United States. I refer in particular to an article in the American journal 'Nation' of 11th October last year which claimed Australian officers had been given training for chemical warfare at the United States Army Chemical Centre and School at Fort McLellan in Alabama. According to the report training in chemical warfare at this school was conducted in the framework of a mock Vietnamese village.

In raising this delicate matter at this time, I would like to point out that I have had a question on the notice paper on this subject since 24th Febuary. The Minister for Defence has been given ample time to investigate these allegations and clarify them for the Parliament. He has not done so and I have been compelled to raise them in this form in the House. I emphasise that this has not been done for sensationalist purposes. If Australian troops have been trained in chemical warfare it is the clear duty of the Government to explain why, in view of its expressed abhorrence of chemical and biological warfare and its signature of the latest convention.

In summary, I have tried tonight to express the attitude of the Opposition to the concept of defence White Papers. This is an excellent innovation and the Opposition hopes it can be continued on a regular basis as an objective expession of the thinking of the Department of Defence, irrespective of party politics. In my comments on specific issues raised by the Paper I have concentrated on political differences between the Government and the Opposition which are extremely relevant at the moment. ' There are many other issues raised by the Paper which will concern this House in the months ahead.

Pre-eminent is the future role of Australian defence units in Papua New Guinea and the development of the independent defence forces of Papua New Guinea. This is a matter of sufficient importance to warrant a debate in this Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity. I would ask the Minister for Defence whether a supplementary statement on these issues can be prepared for debate before the House adjourns for the winter recess.

In conclusion we welcome the precedent involved in the distribution of this White Paper. We hope it will open the way for an independent Australian defence policy which will mean that defence policy is chained no longer to the chariot Wheels of the Pentagon and Whitehall.

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