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Thursday, 17 August 1972
Page: 410

Mr BRYANT (Wills) - One does not need to turn back to the Hansard debates of 1937 to look into this matter of defence. One has only to listen to the remarks of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). I do not suppose anybody lives more effectively in the past than does the honourable gentleman. He sneers at my colleague the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison). It eats deep into the heart of members of the Liberal and Country Parties that someone who has had a long and dintinguished career in the Diplomatic Service has chosen to serve in the Labor Party. Take the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), who is sitting at the table. His greatest contribution to politics is to sneer at everybody else. I know that he can sneer at people who have served this country as has the honourable member for St George. The point about this whether one agrees or disagrees is that they served their country in reasonably senior positions in many parts of the world. I do not believe that there is anything to be gained for this Parliament by constant sneering at people for what they have done in the past. The argument tonight is what we are doing now and how we should consider the question of defence.

The honourable member for La Trobe consistently and constantly pours scorn on people on this side of the House. The honourable member has deep convictions about all things that have been raised in this discussion. I believe, as 1 said earlier, that he lives in the past. I will not scorn his remarks on that account. I believe that there is a big difference - and the honourable member said so too - in the general concept of defence as we on this side see it and as honourable members opposite choose to speak about it. I presume they see it that way. There is a clear-cut division between us.

Mr Fairbairn - Thank God.

Mr BRYANT - That is right, you can thank God and the people of Australia will be able to thank God and they will be able to thank the Treasury when we start to make some practical application of the finances of Australia towards this question. This Government is facing a new world with old shibboleths. Government supporters talk about expansion of military defence and all the rest of it at a time when the rest of the world is slowing down the aggressive tendencies between nations. The honourable member for La Trobe talked about our potential enemies. Who are they? Is he referring to China? Is there any evidence anywhere that China has that kind of an ambition? One cannot see it anywhere. A few months ago I attended a conference in Melbourne conducted by the Australian Institute of International Affairs. One of the American experts at the conference said that he did not believe - that nobody believed - that the People's Republic of China could even successfully launch an assault upon Taiwan. To whom was the honourable member for La Trobe referring? Was it the people of the Khmer Republic?

Mr Cope - Monaco?

Mr BRYANT - Monaco, that is right. All I ask is that in a matter which concerns some SI, 300m per annum. 2 or 3 times the total cost of the Victorian railway system or one and a half times the cost of the Snowy mountains scheme, we should apply rational common sense and an Australian approach. None of us is going to say that we have absolute answers. I do not. But I believe that in the world military tensions are diminishing. Our closest foreign neighbour has about 300,000 men under arms. In general its military and naval capacity is almost nil. Is that a threat? Does anybody suggest that Indonesia poses a threat? Nobody on this side of the House and probably nobody in this country would say that we should wipe our defence capability on that account. However, I am certain that you have to look at it in a totally different way from that of honourable members opposite.

The question of sea defence has been raised. My colleague the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) questioned the value of our destroyers, as did the

DeputyLeader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). None of us knows the answers. I would like to see Australia embarking on an ambitious project in a manufacturing sense. Is this the answer to the deep scientific question of how to find submarines in 6 million square miles of sea? I believe that the greatest scientific effort which could be mustered in this country should be directed to that question. If a threat can come only by sea - and I think that is the case - it can be a viable threat only if it is by submarine, because I presume that we can locate surface vessels thousands of miles away. We have to find a system of locating submarines on the surface or under water. Nobody has yet found it but it should not be beyond the wit of men who have developed radar and other such equipment. In my view, the hundreds of millions of dollars that may well be spent on destroyers would better be spent on the development of scientific techniques to locate submarines under wat,-r because I believe that a submarine located under water is a submarine potentially destroyed. 1 turn now to the concept of the Government announced by the Minister for Defence. He used the terminology that Australia does not now need the full air warfare capability necessary for a major combat burden. I agree with him. But this also means that in the other Services we do not need a full commitment of a major combat burden. In this regard we question national service as a military necessity. We on this side of the House - and, I believe, the great majority of Australians also - question national service in a moral sense. I believe that the present national service system is a piece of mindless militarism. It is something that has flowed down through the last 20 or 30 years, ad hoc sometimes, here and there, developed by Vietnam and sponsored and maintained by the terror of the preference votes of the Democratic Labor Party. I believe that it is economically wasteful. I understand that national service costs about $90m a year and in my view it is militarily unnecessary.

At this time of night in a debate such as this one cannot develop an argument at great length but I ask: Why 9 battalions? Suddenly we are told that we need 40,000 men. Why 40,000 men? Is it something out of the past related to the 40,000 horsemen, or what is it? At the height of the Korean conflict we had 27,000 men in the Australian Army. Why do we now need 9 battalions? I challenge the way in which they are trained. I believe that the whole concept is wrong. J believe that Australian soldiers are probably the world's best men on the ground - in the jungle. I have no complaint about the effectiveness of their training on the ground but I cannot be convinced that the 9 battalions of young men who are standing around, sitting around, painting the stones around the officers' mess, peeling potatoes for lunch or whatever else they are doing are gainfully employed, usefully employed or necessary in a military sense.

I believe that national service disrupts the whole system of national employment. It takes over highly skilled professional manpower, absorbs it and totally strangles it. It takes up space. Has any honourable member driven past the barracks at Townsville and had a good look at the establishment? What on earth do we want that establishment there for? There is no possible threat in the foreseeable future. Surely that is what my friend the Minister for Defence means when he says that we do not need this combat capability. Therefore those young men are waiting for something that can never come during their service. They are in for 18 months. They make extraordinary demands on materials and administration. I believe that national service ruins the Citizen Military Forces and divides the community. My friends opposite say that its abandonment would min the Army. The Army is only a part of the armed Services.

I have some doubts about the arithmetic. Honourable members opposite say that we cannot get volunteers. At present about 80,000 young men are serving as regulars, of whom on my arithmetic, based on the reports, 68,000 are volunteers. About 12,000 of them are national servicemen. We were asked to comment upon the statements of General Daly. He is now retired so that he can be quoted and we can try to refute his arguments. He had long and distinguished service. He said that to change national service would disrupt the system. He said that if we abandoned it and the 12,000 national servicemen went out of the Services we would have to dispense with 4,000 officers and non-commissioned officers. So that for every 3 national servicemen apparently we have to have one officer or non-commissioned officer.

The Minister for the Army (Mr Katter) implied that if we took that action the officers and NCOs would have nothing to train on. What an incredibly ruthless way to treat young Australians. We want 12,000 young men to train with - to fill the gaps so that others can become corporals, sergeants, colonels and generals. I think it is an incredibly ruthless and insensitive approach. We are using the young men of Australia as training and position-sop fodder. 1 do not believe it is necessary. I believe that the question goes back fundamentally to the citizen forces. 1 believe that we have abandoned the citizen forces and turned them into a Cinderella army. We have destroyed their capacity to be trained properly and we have destroyed the will of the young men who would join those forces.

I suppose I am saying the same thing as my friend the honourable member for La Trobe. We have always had citizen forces on the books. Back in 1938 or thereabouts the number of volunteers in the citizen forces was raised to about 80,000. I do not have the figures at hand.

Mr Jess - It was 87,000

Mr BRYANT - It was 87,000 volunteers. Admittedly there was the pressure of the threat of war, and all the rest of it.

Mr Garrick - And unemployed.

Mr BRYANT - No, we did not join the citizen forces because we were unemployed. I think they paid us 4 bob a day, 7 days of the year at that stage. The basis of national defence is national unity and national morale. They are the key to it all. It will not matter what sort of numbers you have if you do not have unity and high morale. Perhaps ' the citizen forces should be separated from the regular forces, at least in the Army. My belief would be - and it has not always been my belief - that the integration of these forces means that the citizen force loses its identity and it becomes in effect a Cinderella force. There ought to be a Citizen Military Force with its own command.

What are the essentials of citizen service? What can the amateurs do? The amateurs can do almost anything. One has only to study what the National Air Guard of the United States does. Its members fly Phantoms and other supersonic jets. I have seen them doing it. I have visited their bases and have talked to them. 1 think that we completely underrate the technical and other skills that lie dormant in the community and are not called upon in any way. If we created an efficient mechanised citizen force with a sense of purpose I have no doubt that we would have no difficulty in filling its ranks.

First of all, it needs good equipment. It has to have first class equipment. If a person is to give up his weekends for 7 days or 21 days a year to train, there is nothing so exasperating, frustrating and disheartening as to take over equipment and find that it will not work or that there is not enough of it. Perhaps an even more important factor is training. This is what those 4,000 men could do. They could be training young men who are much more capable in all the areas of ordinary human endeavour than our generation was. They live in a world of mechanics, machines and electronics. They can handle anything. I know they can. However, we have not yet found a way of getting them into the Services. I believe that that possibility has been destroyed over the last 7 or 8 years, particularly by national service. We have to do something about the public attitude, their employment and so on. What I have said is feasible.

Let us assume that in a city such as Canberra a large citizen force is based. We might, as the Swiss do, at an air base have half a dozen first class aircraft available for training purposes. I understand that this is the way the Swiss do it: When a person has free time he reports to the base and does his flying. In Switzerland the man is uphill. He cannot fly very far before he has to turn round and fly back. The Air National Guard does much the same as the Swiss. Let us assume that in Australia we had some basic armoured formation of perhaps 20 or 30 tanks, which was a local unit. Here, in this community, are the backdrop services - the workshops. We do not need to create new ones. Here in this community are dozens of young men who drive heavy equipment. I simply throw these ideas into the ring.

I believe that national service is on its way out. It inevitably must go whether the Government is running the show and ruining it or we are running it. I believe we must start to look at the question of defence in a totally different way. Before I resume my seat there is one matter I wish to mention, although it is not totally relevant to what I have been saying. I refer to the re-equipment of our Australian forces with armour. 1 think it is wrong to go traipsing around the world looking for somebody else's armour which will not fit Australian conditions. Australia has one of the world's largest automotive industries. Our defence services should plan and design armour and it should be given to our automotive industry to develop. This could be done in such a way that use is made of Australian transport services. We have thousands upon thousands of heavy vehicles which could carry the armour around. There are many ways in which the Australian Services and our civilian capacity could be integrated.

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

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