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Tuesday, 9 November 1971
Page: 3156

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - First of all, I support the amendment. In so doing I want to draw the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) to a situation that is arising in South Australia. It was the subject of a question by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell) this afternoon. I refer to retrenchments that are about to take place at the Hawker Siddeley Electronics Engineering Division. I am prepared to supply the

Minister with copies of letters that have been posted up within the precincts of that establishment and also the names of a number of people within my electorate who are expressing grave concern that the Commonwealth Government is not measuring up to its responsibility insofar as the employment of Australians in defence projects generally is concerned. It is time that the Government realised its responsibility to Australians who are contributing to the defence of the country.

I want to deal briefly with what was said earlier by some of the speakers from the other side of the House. I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again. Honourable members on this side of the House get sick and tired of hearing honourable members opposite suggesting - we heard it again from the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) - that nobody on this side of the House has any regard for the defence or the security of this nation. It would appear that those who sit on the Government benches feel that they and only they have the God-given right to murmur anything about the defence of this country. We had a classic example of this from a Government supporter at question time this afternoon. May I remind honourable members opposite that the political party that has played the most important role so far as the defence of this country in its hour of greatest need is concerned is neither of the Government Parties and they should always remember that.

I also want to make some brief reference to the remarks of the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). He dealt with the amalgamation of the three Services into one on the basis that one day a fellow has an Air Force uniform and the next day may appear in a naval uniform. This is the wrong approach to the whole question of a united defence force. The ultimate in defence from a Service point of view - and I remind honourable members opposite of this - is a combined operation, and the proper concept of a combined operation is to have the 3 Services welded together. One of the greatest failures of combined operations during the early part of the last World War - in fact this occurred more or less during the whole of the war - was that they always seemed to be disadvantaged by the fact that-

Dr Mackay - That is exactly what he said as 1 understood him.

Mr FOSTER - No, it is not. Although you are the Minister for the Navy, do not interrupt on the basis that that is what you think he said. I am putting this proposition to the House. 1 am on my feet and you are sitting down, and you should remain so for the time being. What I am trying to point out to the Minister for the Navy is that the proper concept of a combined operation is a joining of the 3 Services. The honourable member for Moreton hoped that as far as training and identification were concerned the 3 Services would remain as they are at the moment. My reply to that is that we ought to get away from the concept of the 3 Services because the ultimate in a defence concept is that the 3 Services will work closely together. So why the hell should we continue to live in the past by keeping them separated from almost every purpose but the most crucial of ail from the defence point of view? That is the point I wanted to make.

I agree with the honourable member for Moreton that it is time the Minister for Defence made a statement on defence in this Parliament, so that it might be debated, instead of raising matters of defence during the adjournment debate. Instead of quarrelling with his officers, as he was last week, and perhaps being prevailed upon by some members of his Party to take the big stick to his Department, he should present in the Parliament a statement that could be properly debated. I would hope that such a statement would be different from that made by his predecessor, which covered some 46 pages. At the time all that Minister could do was drive a knife in the back of his chief executive officer and twist it. I hope that the present Minister will approach this matter in a different way.

This Government's defence policy is totally inadequate to the needs of this country even accepting, as I do, that at this point of time we will not be trodden underfoot tonight by a great horde of Asiatics. The way this Government has gone on in the last week in regard to the Cambodian situation is not only shocking but absolutely amazing. I believe, as many others in the community believe, that what Alan Barnes said in an article in today's

Melbourne 'Age' is correct. Somebody is telling lies to somebody else. If this is the way honourable members opposite approach questions relating to our defence how can they claim to be members of the only Party in the Commonwealth to whom the security of this nation can be entrusted? Here is a classic example. Let me turn to another which concerns every honourable member. I refer to the Press conference held by our Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) when he was in New York. A copy of that conference ought to be framed and given to every school child in this country to reveal to these people, who might live in an age when they will need to be defended, the type of situation which confronts this country today as a result of this Government's policies - a government that is absolutely divided on this issue. The Prime Minister was asked this question in New York:

Sir, wasthere a request from the Cambodian Government to our Government to train their men in South Vietnam?

This is the reply:

That I don't know. 1 don't think there was . . . What I am trying to do . . . you are "putting me through a crossexamination at a time when 1 have had so many tremendously important problems to deal with.

I have never heard so much trash in all my life. Honourable members opposite should take the Prime Minister to task on his return from overseas. Honourable members can go into the Parliamentary Library and obtain a copy of the Prime Minister's Press conference which he held before he left this country. Once again he was questioned by members of the Press. Surely they have a right to question the Prime Minister. That conference was a complete and utter shambles on a simple question. 1 want to take up a matter raised here last week. I hope to goodness that the House will listen to the honourable member for Moreton tomorrow on the matter which he gave notice of today. I want to draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that what was said in the 'Age' was not disputed, so somebody is covering up. This matter was discussed by the Cabinet of this country almost 6 months ago. Why was it hidden from this Parliament? The Minister for the Navy interjected earlier. He may nol have been a member of the Cabinet at that time but the question 1 pose to the present Minister for Defence is: Why did he stand in this House during the course of most of last Wednesday afternoon, along with other members of the Government, making excuses for this intolerable mess over the training of Cambodian forces in South Vietnam. The Cabinet itself had dealt with the question just after the Prime Minister became the Prime Minister, if he is one. The fact is that the Minister withheld it from the Parliament. He has not been honest in his deliberations as far as this Parliament is concerned. You do not play this matter down as easily as you seek to play down the guilt of those responsible for over involvement in Vietnam. We have never been fully informed as to how we became involved. The grovelling attitude of the Prime Minister on his trip overseas in regard to the defence of this country is nothing short of shocking and I do not say that because of the fact that we will not regard certain treaties as being on the basis on which they ought to be regarded. I do not think there is any need for any Australian to carry on in the manner in which the Prime Minister has carried on in an endeavour to make a cheap political point.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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