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Tuesday, 19 February 1980
Page: 56

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) -The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made a fairly broad announcement on defence measures which are under consideration by the Government. In the period available in this debate it is not possible even to attempt to canvass all of those measures. I understand that it is the intention of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) at a subsequent time to make a detailed statement setting out what the defence program will be, as announced or outlined by the Prime Minister. However, there are a number of things in the program which the House has to understand and to which the attention of the House should be drawn. The first and the most significant is that the program as announced today, as a response to what the Prime Minister has said is the greatest threat since the Second World War, does not restore the five year defence program to that which was announced in this House in 1976 as the Government's five-year defence program.

Mr Kevin Cairns - Tell us about your own cancellations.

Mr SCHOLES -Many of the items which are contained in this defence statement have been deferred since 1976 and before. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) mentions cancellations. I suggest to the honourable member that he read the 1969 defence statement of the honourable Mr Fairhall, the then Minister for Defence. He should then read the program for 1970, under the present Prime Minister, where 50 per cent of that program was cut, and then he should read what in fact was done between 1973 and 1975, not the rhetoric and words which the honourable member uses as a subterfuge for defence debates, but what was actually done. This was to re-order the equipment for defence which the present Government was talking about cancelling in the name of economy.

Mr Kevin Cairns - Tell us about the three DDLs.

Mr SCHOLES -I might suggest that the honourable member talk to his colleague,

Senator Hamer,about the three DDLs. They were never going to be built because the Government was unable to control the planning program. The cost structure was well beyond the capacity of any government. No ships would have been delivered had they stayed on the stocks. You are a man who prides himself on being an economist. I suggest that you read the record on those and then get up in this House and apologise for your irresponsibility.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman -I suggest to the honourable member for Corio that he address his remarks through the Chair.

Mr SCHOLES -I am entitled to make my speech. I suggest that you might protect me.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I will protect the honourable member for Corio-

Mr SCHOLES -If you take two minutes I will walk out of the House.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -But I suggest that he address his remarks through the Chair and not across the chamber.

Mr Yates - I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member, the former Speaker, who is addressing the House surely must refer to the honourable member for Lilley in the correct terms.

Mr SCHOLES - It is pointless trying to speak in this House while you are in the Chair.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I am sorry, I did not hear the honourable member for Holt because of the remarks of the honourable member for Corio.

Mr SCHOLES -Excuse me, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is pointless speaking in this House if you are going to interrupt me for five minutes in a 15-minute speech. You do it every time I speak when you are in the Chair.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -That is a reflection on the Chair. I ask for a withdrawal.

Mr SCHOLES -I will withdraw from the chamber.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I ask for a withdrawal. I name the honourable member for Corio.

Mr SCHOLES -You had better do something about it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I ask for a withdrawal.

Mr SCHOLES -Mr Deputy Speaker,I will apologise to you, but I ask the Chair for fair treatment.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -You are getting fair treatment. I ask for a withdrawal of that remark also.

Mr SCHOLES - What remark?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I ask for a withdrawal of that remark.

Mr SCHOLES -I withdraw.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I point out to the honourable member for Corio that he was addressing his remarks across the chamber and that was the matter on which I called him to order. I ask him to direct his remarks through the Chair. As a former Speaker, he knows as well as I do that that is the correct form.

Mr SCHOLES - I also know that interjections are out of order. I have never heard you call to order an interjecter against an Opposition speaker. If I may continue my speech -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I allow reasonable interjections, as you did when you were Speaker, provided that they do not interrupt the person who is speaking. I do not want to take up your time. As you have now apologised, I again call you.

Mr SCHOLES -Some of the Prime Minister's remarks in the defence area are so outlandish as to be almost ludicrous. Recently, the director of recruiting for the armed forces said that one of the serious problems in maintaining a skilled Defence Force in Australia was the turnover of 8,000 persons per annum from the Defence Force. That was said within the last seven days. In 1978 in this House the Government withdrew the re-enlistment bonus, which had been made available during the period of the Labor Government in order to encourage members of the defence forces, who had been trained at extremely high cost to the Government and the taxpayer, to remain within the Defence Force. As the Minister said in this House, the bonus was withdrawn because there were no recruitment difficulties for the defence forces. Yet some 8,000 of the most skilled and highly trained servicemen are being lost every year. We find that there are not enough crews to man the Orion aircraft for the increased surveillance announced by the Prime Minister. We do not have sufficient crews to man the Oberon submarines when they are all in service. We have insufficient crews to man the new ships we have ordered, and we are now ordering another one.

In an even more ludicrous statement, the Prime Minister suggested that the reserves will be expanded by 8,000 over a five-year period.

The defence reserves, especially the Army reserves, have deteriorated to such an extent that they are almost a joke. Unless someone seriously undertakes a review of the role of the defence reserves and the means by which they operate, and what young men get out of the defence reserves as training for the future defence of this country, an announcement of an increase in numbers is not a serious proposition. We cannot expect young men to enter the defence reserves in the belief that they are going to do something for the future defence of their country if the Government treats the reserves as a joke and does not provide adequate equipment. To talk about national service for the reserves without first doing something to ensure that the reserves are relevant to our defence situation is to talk utter nonsense. To talk about the reserves when they do not have sufficient equipment for training is utter nonsense. They are not allowed to operate significant equipment within the defence training area and they do not obtain adequate training. A person of non-commissioned rank entering the defence forces from the reserves is considered by the permanent forces to have acquired two weeks basic training. That is the value of the defence reserves, although they have some value in officer training. In the existing circumstances it is absolutely laughable to talk about expanding the reserves before doing something to make what exists a workable and functional operation.

We could have expected the Prime Minister to announce the fourth FFG from the United States and to make nice noises about a future destroyer follow-on program. We have already had that announced twice before, once as an investigation and then as a positive program by the Minister, which he subsequently denied in answer to a question. There is only one way to overcome the problems which beset the DDL program, the problems of shipbuilding in Australia, and that is by tackling it on a long-term plan basis whereby continuous work loads are available and the construction authority is not part of the client. At the moment, the construction authority for destroyers in Australia would be the Williamstown Naval Dockyard and the client would be the Navy. During the course of construction the technical planning is likely to pass from the commander of the construction authority to the commander of the technical service undertaking the planning. That is not the way in which normal business operations would be conducted. It certainly would be to the benefit of all concerned, and the Australian industry in general, if the Williamstown Naval Dockyard could be established more along the lines of the Government

Aircraft Factories so that it could operate in a private capacity with civilian command and be answerable to the Navy for its response to orders placed with it. If it did not respond it would not get the orders. At the moment there is an inbred situation, and it is not good financially, politically, administratively or in any other way. The Government might at least look at the prospect of establishing a corporation or placing in a defence industry the construction authority for ships and offering to that industry the same sorts of incentives we would give to civilian shipbuilders seeking orders competitively within Australia. I am certain that, given long-term orders, given the necessary incentives, and given the proper management structure, something could be done. God help us if we go into a longterm program which turns out like the DDLs, where we started out with a specific requirement for a vessel and finished up with a light cruiser which was about to pass through to the Dreadnought stage at a time when that sort of vessel was way beyond any reasonable requirements.

There are a number of other matters in this program which ought to be drawn to attention. Firstly, I will have to wait for the Minister's statement to find out what is meant by a number of the Prime Minister's announcements. What are we going to do with the FI 1 ls by upgrading the missile systems? Currently the FI 1 ls have an analog computer which is not capable of handling modern precision weapons requiring digital computers. That is also true of the P3Bs, which are mentioned as being fitted with Harpoons. It is possible to put a converter on them, but no details are available in this statement and it is difficult to talk about the practicality or cost. It may well be that with the Orions it would be better to fit the Cs, which are capable of being fitted with Harpoons, and allow the Bs to serve out their life and be replaced with a more modern type of aircraft at an early time. It may even be cheaper and better for the long-term defence. We are not going to do these things tomorrow or the day after.

I want to mention one other thing. This is a debate on foreign affairs, and it seems that the world is going to survive for another 16 weeks. The Soviet Union is going to be overcome in 16 weeks. Nothing in this statement, nothing in what the Government has said or done, indicates that any action at all is contemplated 16 weeks hence, after the Olympic Games are held or not held. Once the time for the Games has past they will be forgotten, irrespective of how much it might hurt the dignity of the Soviet Union and how much the Soviet Union may suffer. I think that we should understand pretty clearly that in the past boycotts have not worked. When the Melbourne Olympic Games were held 20-odd nations boycotted them because of the Russian invasion of Hungary. Australia did not boycott the Games. But the hero of the Melbourne Games was a Russian, Vladimir Kutz. He was cheered by everyone in the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The 1976 Montreal Games were boycotted by over 30 nations. The Prime Minister talked about the Berlin Games but it was Adolf Hitler who walked out of the stadium in humiliation when Jesse Owens won his gold medal. The great Aryan race was humiliated, and everyone here knows it.

Mr Neil - But did Goebbels tell the people that?

Mr SCHOLES -Well, we have a network here which is getting very close to that of Goebbels. Press people are no longer admitted to briefings in this country if they criticise the Prime Minister. They are excluded from planes travelling overseas. The biggest propaganda network that has ever been seen in Australia is manipulating the news for political purposes and that is against any form of civil liberties in this country. I want to say one other thing: The West's record and our chances of maintaining the liberties and the freedom that we talk about so often and so glibly would be far better if we could name one case in the last 30 years where we have been prepared to support the majority of people in a country in their endeavours to govern themselves in the way in which they wish. Not one case can be named in 30 years where the West has supported a democratic, popularly elected government backed by the majority of its people. There are plenty that have been overthrown by the West.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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