Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 1452

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - Before I commence my own address I wish to make a few comments on the speech by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer). He referred to what the Australian Labor Party regards as the territorial limit of Australia. I want to make this point clear: The. Labor Party is not prepared to garrison troops overseas. However it would protect Australia's coastline far beyond the 3-mile territorial limit. The honourable member for Isaacs talked about building up the Australian Navy to protect our sea lanes in the Indian Ocean. If the Australian Navy had to protect our sea lanes from the menacing of Russian naval vessels, does the honourable member seriously suggest that the Australian Navy would attack Russian vessels, invoking a probable nuclear response. Australia is the most urbanised country in the world, with its population concentrated in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Five nuclear strikes from conventional or nuclear powered Russian submarines would wipe us out as a Nation. Does the honourable member for Isaacs seriously suggest that the Russian Navy would be. dealt with by the Australian Navy, regardless of the policy of Russia in response to such action? That is what he is suggesting. It is no good the honourable member shaking bis head. That is what he has just said. It is a lot of humbug, and he knows it.

The Government is playing politics by bringing on this debate when the. proceedings of the House are being broadcast. Any debate that can possibly give political mileage for the Government is always broadcast. The other political consideration is that this defence review and the defence statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) come in an election year. The only time the Liberals ever talk about defence is in an election year. They never discuss it at any other period. A defence statement was made in this House, by the then Minister for Defence, Mr Malcolm Fraser, in 1970 and was never debated.

The Minister made, a long dissertation followed by a reply by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), but the Parliament had no chance to debate the statement. The Liberal Party professes to be concerned about defence, but the Government has not initiated any defence debate during this Parliament until today, when only 6 to 12 members will be able to speak on the matter.

The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) says that defence will be an issue in the forthcoming election. How he can regard defence as being an issue which can gain support for the Liberal Party and its policies is beyond me. In every aspect of defence the Liberal Party has failed Australia. The key difference between the policy of the, Opposition and the policy of the Government on defence is not in relation to the ANZUS Treaty or this business about territorial limits because the Government knows that these issues do not matter. The key area of difference is defence preparedness. As far as the Opposition is concerned, defence preparedness means defence specifically. The Labor Party has always had a solid gold record in the matter of defence. The Labor Party's defence policy, as set out in the platform and rules of the 29th Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party, which the honourable member for Isaacs mentioned, states:

All defence policy rests ultimately upon the possible deployment of the armed forces. Labor's policy is to provide a strong regular and citizen defence force which can be rapidly and efficiently, mobilised in time of need.

That suggests to me that the Opposition would plan a defence force that could defend Australia at any given time. I turn to the Australian Defence Review prepared by the Department of Defence and presented concurrently to the Parliament when the Minister made his defence statement. Paragraph 3 on page 16 of the Defence Review states:

.   . Australia's force structure should be built partly to meet evident and foreseeable needs, some of which are referred to below, and partly to provide readiness against threats of varying orders of probability or intensity which cannot be predicted so far ahead and are, therefore, best described as estimated contingencies. To fail to allow adequately for contingencies, and to wait for tangible threats to emerge before commencing to train manpower and to acquire equipment, would transfer an unfair and perhaps calamitous burden of risk upon the next generation.

Ten pages further on appears a statement that has been quoted already by the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison). Paragraph 53 states:

Opportunity to give greater weight to long term strategic considerations in the shaping of our forces has until recently been restricted by the immediate demands of our combat deployment in Vietnam. That opportunity is now restored.

What that document says is that the Government, by its Vietnam commitment, has left Ausralia in a state of insufficient preparedness. At the same time, 10 pages earlier the Defence Review states that if we - do not train manpower and acquire equipment before the need arises we are failing to defend the country. So where does that leave the Government? The Department of Defence is repudiating the Government's policy.

I would like to mention a couple of other matters. Since the announcement of the Nixon doctrine and since the Government failed in its commitment in the war in Vietnam, the Government is now talking about a role for Australia in achieving greater self-sufficiency in defence. It is talking about a fourth arm defence concept by assisting our defence industries. This is a vital field. The only way a country can have an independent defence capability is to have a strong industrial back-up. This Government has never attempted to salvage or assist defence industry. I would like to make one very simple point on this. During 1970 I asked the then Minister for Defence a question upon notice in relation to the value of military equipment purchased overseas during the years 1954 to 1970. As a percentage of the total amount spent on defence, the amount spent overseas on military equipment for Australian forces in 1958 was 32 per cent, in 1969 it was 39 per cent, in 1960 it was 81 per cent, in 1961 it was 47 per cent, in 1962 it was 47 per cent, in 1963 it was 55 per cent, and in 1964 it was 52 per cent. Expenditure overseas reached a high point of 61 per cent, of total defence expenditure in 1967 and a low point of 45 per cent in 1969. So at least half of the expenditure on defence equipment has gone overseas during that period. I seek leave to have this question and answer incorporated in Hansard.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Isleave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows):

Defence Equipment (Question No. 1486)

Air Keating asked the Minister for Defence upon notice:

(1)   What was the total value of military equipment purchased overseas in each of the financial years 1954-55 to .1969-70 inclusive.

(2)   What are these figures expressed as a percentage of the total amount spent by, the Defence group of departments on equipment procurement during each of those years.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:


Mr KEATING - I thank the House. In his statement in this House on 28th March the Minister for Defence said:

It is also clear, I suggest, that we should not found our defence policy, or our willingness to engage ourselves to assist others, on a simple faith in the success of diplomatic efforts of mighty powers or on the benign intentions of rivals for ideological supremacy among communist powers.

It is not enough for Australia's force structure to be built to meet only needs or threats that are explicitily definable. We owe it to the community, and to the future parliaments and governments representing them, to have in our 3 armed services and in our industrial and scientific support an adequate readiness against contingent threats looking, in some types of equipment and works expenditure, as far ahead as the. late 1980s.

The Minister there is talking about defence equipment for the armed services. At this point I would like to put on record the policy of the Australian Labor Party as printed in its policy documents in relation to defence mobilisation and procurement. I would like the House to understand that the Labor Party is the only Party that publishes a comprehensive policy anyway, and specifically on defence. It is only short - but I think it bears report into the Hansard record. The Labor Party's policy states:

The defence capability of the nation depends primarily upon national development and the resulting capacity to manufacture, procure and maintain supplies and materials.

Labor shall -

(a)   encourage the procurement and servicing of defence supplies and equipment wherever possible from within Australia with the aim of promoting the growth of Australia's defence-aligned industries;

(b)   encourage Australian industries capable of conversion to defence production in time of war under an overall industrial mobilisation plan;

(c)   ensure that procurement which of necessity is placed abroad is obtained under contracts affording the maximum offset purchasing advantages to Australia and the maximum scope for manufacture under licence within Australia;

(d)   provide and develop ports, airfields, railways and roads which will contribute to the mobility of the defence forces as well as to the material development of the nation; and

(e)   ensure exclusive government control over the manufacture and export of arms and munitions. 1 ask you, Sir, does that sound like an irresponsible or short sighted policy - to encourage defence industries so that our armed forces may have a strong defence back-up? The Government has failed completely in this area. It has talked about the concept of the fourth arm of defence. It has talked about assisting industries. But in the areas of electronics, naval design, naval construction, aircraft design, aircraft construction and missile design and research Australia is sadly lacking. There is no naval design facility at all in Australia. I am quite certain most people do not realise this. Our naval shipbuilding is embryonic. Shipyards have little or no work. Need we say much more about aircraft design? There is a tremendous brain drain from Australia of aircraft designers who are capable of designing toprate equipment and who are going overseas because of lack of work and incentive. Our aircraft industry has retrenched a large proportion of its workforce. The industry is in such financial chaos that it will be lucky to sur vive, for the next 12 or 18 months unless there is some drastic change of circumstances.

The root cause of the problem gets back to the lack of a consistent defence policy. This Government has never been able to have the Services in such a position as to enable them to tailor their equipment requirements to a consistent defence policy. The position has always been that our policy has been bound in with great power treaties. Firstly the Liberals had a fetish about Great Britain. We entered all the wars back as far as 1918 and further in support of Great Britain. The same excesses apply to the USA now. We were dragged into Korea and Vietnam. All the time our defence reqirements have been tailored to suit great powers and the end result has been that the Australian defence industry has never had a chance to continually design and manufacture equipment for Australian forces. It is worth remembering that Sir Henry Bland, the former permanent head of the Department of Defence who retired only 2 years ago, said that it is folly that we should be tailoring our defence needs in with those of the US, and we should get back to looking at equipment that suits Australia. If we can get past the concept that we must have the best, and look to the equipment that is more suitable but less expensive, probably we will be doing the country a service.

Take the selection of the Fill. This was just a political decision. The Fill is a strategic aircraft. It is designed to carry nuclear weapons, over a range of 3,000- odd miles, to fly a supersonic dash at near ground level below ground tracking radar, drop a nuclear weapon and get out. This country does not have nuclear weapons. To what possible use could we put the Fill? If we finally get the aircraft it will be stationed at Amberley. There is no other base that could support the Fill. Amberley is thousands of miles from any theatre of war in which we are likely to be engaged. So in every sense the Services have had no encouragement to support local industries. There has not been a defence policy consistent for long enough to allow the Services to develop some sort of equipment plan.

Let us turn now to the current position with the latest programme that the Liberals have - the DDL destroyer programme. Let me give honourable members some idea of how equipment selection is made in Australia. We started off with a light destoryer of about 1,000 tons- Since the Navy has had a go at it, its displacement is now up to 3,000 tons. The DDL is nearly as big as the DDG destroyers we purchased from the US, and would have a crew of 2,000 people. We were after the concept of a small destoryer. and it has already escalated from 1,000 tons to 3,000 tons. The Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay) confirmed that the DDL would be worth something like $50m to $70m apiece. This is just too costly. With a coastline like Australia's, it is impracticable to talk about half a dozen or 10 ships such as these heavy vessels. As the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) said today, from Perth right around the extremity of the north coast of Australia to Townsville there is not any other naval base. So what is the point of having a couple of these things strung out over an area like this.

What Australia should be looking at is the concept of the fast patrol boat. Perhaps we could have something like a 350- ton displacement hull, with a capacity to mount surface to surface missiles. It would be basically a hit and run weapon, but it has been proved pretty well throughout the navies of the world that this type of weapon carries a strike power that could equal that of a well equipped destroyer. One of the prime criticisms of it has been that it does not have seakeeping capabilities and that its range has not been sufficiently long to make it suitable for this country. But these vessels have been developed with ranges of up to 3,000 miles, seakeeping for approximately one week. They can support a surface to surface missile system or an anti-aircraft missile system, and there are now some experiments being conducted using this platform for and with anti-submarine weapon systems. So we could have a great number of this type of vessel rather than have a few DDGs of 3,000 tons.

Suggest corrections