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
Thursday, 17 August 1972
Page: 398

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - I should like to make a couple of general comments before I begin my speech. Firstly, my speech, of necessity, will be the first off the cuff speech in this debate. It will not be a read speech. Unlike the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay), members of the Opposition do not have the advantage of having the Public Service behind them to hand out ministerial speeches. This defence statement was made yesterday and we have to debate it today, when those of us who are interested in questions like the DDL destroyer programme have most of our files in our electorate offices. There is no notice given of these major debates but there ought to be. We are left in the position where we have to scratch information together from scant resources so as to answer speeches which are handed by departments to Ministers to be read.

Dr Mackay - That is absolutely untrue.

Mr KEATING - It is right, and the Minister knows it. The Australian Labor Party welcomes any effort by this Government in the area of defence. It is common knowledge that over the last 23 years this Government has failed totally in this area. The 5-year rolling plan, which is very high in the Government's list of election ploys this year, was introduced by a former Minister for Defence, Sir Allen Fairhall, years ago. But every 3 years the 5-year plan gets a shot in the arm, and that is invariably in an election year. The Government has failed in issues like foreign policy. It has introduced a Budget which is purely and simply designed to catch votes. The foresight of the Budget will end in about November, just in time for the election.

The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) ran all over South East Asia in the parliamentary recess in order to create an issue out of defence and foreign policy, only to find that the Malaysian Government said that it did not care whether or not we retained Australian troops in that country. So the forward defence concept fell apart on the Government once again. The Prime Minister tried to cause some problems in the oil industry in order to create an industrial confrontation situation, but that also failed. So with his election strategy in tatters the Prime Minister has only 2 things left: The Budget with which to buy votes and the good old well worn issue of defence. So out comes the 5-year rolling plan again.

An amount of $7,000m is to be spent on defence in the next 5 years. It is worth remembering that the amount of $7,000m is no more than the amount spent in the past. It represents 3.4 per cent of the gross national product with an annual increase, on the Minister's own figures, of 4.7 per cent on 1972 prices. Looked at in that context, it will probably mean that less will be spent on defence in the next few years than has been spent on defence in the past. This Government has an appalling record in defence, and this whole thing is again a ploy to catch votes.

I should like to refer to a couple of points which the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) made in his speech. He said:

We are developing forces specifically capable of acting in the broad maritime and archipelago surrounds of the continent if this should be needed no less than in defence of our beaches and our hinterland. We reject all policies which would, whether by doctrine or by the de facto denial of external facilities or suitable equipment, confine our Services to no more than a continental role.

That is the policy of the Australian Labor Party. In my 3 years in this Parliament I have never seen such a dramatic change. I could hardly believe what the Minister read out. The Government has adopted our policy. The Minister talks about forward defence but, as I said today to the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison), there is not one over-shore assault ship in the Services of this country. So it is ridiculous to talk about forward defence. Basically, this is a Fortress Australia approach - keeping our own defence strong and having the capacity io work in the archipelago environment. This is what the Australian Labor Party has been advocating for many years.

Let us now look at the whole position surrounding the DDL destroyers. Basically, the 5-year rolling programme is designed to provide capital equipment for the Services. It is to provide capital equipment for the Services. There are 3 new DDL destroyers. There is the modernisation and updating of the Charles F. Adams DDG guided missile destroyers. There is the extended refit of the River class destroyers. Anti-submarine helicopters are being obtained together with the acquisition of the Nomad aircraft for the Army and what was formerly the Australian made Victa aircraft, is now being purchased from New Zealand for the Australian Army also. On the question of the DDL destroyers, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) as reported at page 205 of yesterday's Hansard described the destroyers in this way:

The new destroyers will have an area air defence system, a medium range gun, ship-launched antisubmarine torpedoes, appropriate sensors, an automated command and control system to ensure the effective integration of these weapons and sensors, and they will be able to carry 2 helicopters fitted with armament and surveillance equipment. This weapon fit, the requirement for good endurance and prudent allowance for later development, dictate a ship size of about 4,000 tons.

The Minister proceeded to put to the House the theory that we would be better off with a couple of these very expensive vessels rather than with what the Opposition has advocated over the last couple of years, that is, the acquisition of more but less expensive vessels. The Minister said further:

The estimated comprehensive project investment cost, including these additional items, is $355m, in 1972 prices, for 3 ships.

That is in excess of $100m per ship. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said this afternoon, it would he impossible for us to look at equipment as expensive as this on a very wide ranging basis.

I wish to refer to what the Minister for the Navy said in the handout that was part of the naval briefing received by :he Deputy Leader of the Opposition on thi DDLs. The Minister stated that the DDL was a Daring class replacement. He said that it had to have a capability for area air defence, that is, surface-to-air missiles. He said that nowhere in the world were area defence missiles fitted to ships of less than 3,500 tons. The Minister said further that the same ship had to defend itself against submarine attack and had deckmounted torpedo tubes. It had a 5-inch gun to defend itself against cruise missiles. He also mentioned that the ship had to defend itself against the likes of the Russian Badger bomber and MIG fighters. In other words, this ship has to do everything. Yet, over the years, the Government has told us that it has bought different pieces of naval equipment for different purposes. The DDGs were basically area air defence vessels. Apparently they are now being viewed as inadequate because they do not encompass all of the roles envisaged for the DDL. The Daring class destroyers - that is, HMAS Vampire', HMAS 'Vendetta' and HMAS Duchess' - are basically anti-submarine craft. The River class vessels - that is, HMAS 'Yarra', HMAS 'Parramatta'.

HMAS 'Stuart', HMAS 'Derwent', HMAS Swan' and HMAS Torrens'- are basically anti-submarine vessels also.

Why do we now need a ship that has a mix of all these qualities when in the past we have purchased vessels with specific capacities, perhaps buying them at a lower price. The Australian Labor Party is of the opinion that we should not be investing in vessels as expensive as these are. But, by the same token, the Labor Party believes that if any vessels are to be built they should be built in Australia and designed here. We have no naval design capacity. Unlike the aircraft industry, naval shipbuilding should be given a chance before it disappears completely. The Minister spoke about the Russian Sverdlov cruisers and the Kashin class cruisers and then he went on to talk about the Osa and Komar class patrol boats. He said when speaking of the Labor Party's proposal for the Osa and Komar type vessels that one could not really think we would then have anything with adequate sea-keeping capability or effective strike power or endurance. But there is one vessel that the Minister has forgotten to mention. It is the 'Nanuchka' which is the NATO name given to the new Soviet vessel. 1 wish to read an extract from the United States 'Armed Forces Journal' which might be of interest to the Minister. It states:

Soviet ship-to-ship missile capabilities are being greatly enhanced by a new class of missile ship, NATO-code-named 'Nanuchka'. According to naval sources, 8 to 10 of the 230-foot craft have already been built in a Leningrad shipyard. 'Nanuchka' displaces 700 to 800 tons and has a speed of over 25 knots.

Main armament is 2 triple launchers for SS-N-9 surface-to-surface missiles mounted amidships. Characteristics of the new missile are not yet available, but in size - and presumably in range - it is between the 21 -foot, 25-mile Styx ... and the 36-foot, 450-mile 'Shaddock' mounted on destroyers and cruisers.

This vessel of approximately 800 tons has a missile with a range between 25 miles and 450 miles which would far surpass the capacity of the DDLs. This article continues:

Secondary armament consists of a 57mm dualpurpose twin mount aft and ASW rocket launchers. There is also a mount ring on the forecastle for a gun or, more probably, a new short-range surface-to-air missile still under development.

This vessel has surface-to-surface missiles as well as surface-to-air missiles. To use the Government's parlance, it would have area defence capability as well as defence against attacking aircraft. The article continues:

An ample suit of search and fire control radar and electronic counter measures is evident in the radomes, dishes, and blackboxes topside.

Advent of the 'Nanuchkas' has twofold significance. The numerous 84-foot 'Komar' and the 123-foot A..., boats are armed with the shortrange (23 mile) Styx missile and 30mm AA guns. Their small size limits their range and seakeeping ability. This, means they cannot operate on the high seas with the Soviet fleet, or as a long-range screen against American aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean, Barents, or Norwegian Seas. 'Nanuchka. wilh range and seakeeping qualities inherent in its larger size and its longer range missiles, can do both tasks. Thus, it adds a new dimension to Soviet miva! capability by filling the shiptoship missile gap between the inexpensive but numerous coastwise 'Komars' and 'Osas' and the expensive and fewer seagoing, 6,000-ton 'Kynda', Kresta', and 'Krivak' frigates with their longrange Shaddock missiles.

That information rather shoots the Minister's argument down in flames, does it not? It means that the Soviet Navy has developed a vessel which does all of the things that our DDLs will do, but the Soviet vessel does them using less manpower. Although it is of a smaller size it has the same strike power as the DDL. Yet we did not have the ingenuity even to look at this concept. We intend to buy a vessel of 4.000 tons, heavier than the DDGs, when our original design started at 2,500 ions. This is a classic example of the Government's lack of control over the area of defence planning. The Government appears as a pawn in the games of the Service departments and the Department of Defence.

While looking at the DDLs, we should consider the further concept of a platform ship. 1 have never heard this mentioned by the Government, but I know that a number of defence planners are thinking in the direction of a platform ship equipped with Harrier type vertical take-off and landing aircraft. Considering the lengthy coast that wc have and our capacity to produce Harrier aircraft in Australia, it would appear that the platform ship is a logical development for our maritime defences. The Harrier aircraft is a reasonably simple aircraft to construct and we would be well able to carry out its manu facture. These platform ships are of comparatively simple design and well within our shipbuilding capacity, lt would have adequate sea-keeping. We would have adequate strike power. At the same time, we could use land-based Harriers to work in unison with sea-based platform ship Harriers. This concept, I think, has more to recommend it than an expenditure of in excess of $100m for each of 3 destroyers of 4,000 tons. Probably most of the time one of those 3 destroyers would be in port for overhaul while only 2 would be on active duty. So, for a coastline of 12,000 miles we would have 2 DDLs on active duty at a cost in excess of $300m. We just cannot afford this sort of programme.

A few minutes only remain for me to speak. I wish to cover a couple of other matters. In his paper, the Minister for Defence mentioned maritime reconnaissance aircraft. It is worth while informing the House that only a month ago the Royal Australian Air Force was prepared to buy the latest generation of Lockheed P3 Orion aircraft from the United States to replace its Neptunes. Not all the cost comparisons, I believe, were taken out. Those that were taken out were used. I believe, in an unfair comparison with a fully equipped Hawker Siddeley Nimrod aircraft. This has apparently created quite a stir in defence circles. It has now gone back for a big rethink. It is another Fill story. The Royal Australian Air Force rushed straight to the United States and ordered the Fill with the Government signing on the dotted line. We nearly had the same thing over again. I would like to see the Parliament follow this aspect of reequipment in the future.

Let me refer now to the basic trainer. The 37 New Zealand CT4 air trainers that we intend to buy to replace the Winjeel trainer will cost S3. 248m. It is worth reminding the House that this aircraft was designed in Australia and manufactured in Australia as the Victa airtourer aircraft. It would still be an Australian enterprise and an Australian industry if the Government had had the foresight to help that company survive when it needed some assistance. The company went to the Tariff Board and was knocked back. That decision was ratified by the Parliament and by the Government. So the Victa finally disappeared from the Australian scene, IS was sold to New Zealand, and now we are buying the aircraft from there. It is all evidence to prove that this Government has not tried to do anything with Australian defence. Its aircraft industry is falling apart Its naval shipbuilding capacity is almost nil. The state of our defence preparedness is no better now than it was in 1941.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Suggest corrections