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Tuesday, 9 November 1971
Page: 3163

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) - We are to spend $l,255m on defence this year. Apart from questions of whether the amount is enough or too much, there is the very important question of whether we shall get good defence value from the money. One of the very important costs in defence expenditure, of course, are those associated with the training and employment of personnel themselves. I understand that it takes about 62 per cent of the defence budget just to maintain the machinery as it is without the purchase of any new equipment. I want to raise questions tonight of the defence training methods, some aspects of defence administration and, if time permits, the issue of conscription.

The former Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Henry Bland, raised some very important questions in a talk in Perth in September 1970 during the 21st Roy Milne Memorial Lecture when he called for a review of military training. He reminded us that a very large proportion of our defence forces is devoted to the training of others and large numbers are always undergoing training. A general is reported to have said recently that in his whole career one-fifth of his Service life had been devoted to training. On the matter of the training of people in the higher ranks of our defence forces, apparently Australia still looks to other countries, chiefly the United Kingdom, in regard to its most senior training. This is seriously questionable. Sir Henry Bland is one of those who would know about this aspect. He says that we should call this practice into question. He has questioned how relevant it is to our particular needs to have the higher echelons of our defence personnel being trained overseas. He suggests - and it might be well for this Committee to take notice - that:

We ought not delay too long doing this for ourselves.

Very much more importantly, Sir Henry went on to question how extraordinary it is that with all the training that is done in our defence forces there has been no real examination of training methods for quite a number of years. Possibly the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), who is at the table, might answer this when he gets up to speak in this debate. He might be able to tell us what review there has been of training methods in the defence forces of Australia.

Sir Henrysays that despite the plethora of reviews of training in many other fields such as universities, technical colleges, schools and industry itself, little has been done in the defence forces. He suggests that we ought to be looking at the character of the training, its value, what methods are used, whether they are up to date, what resources are devoted to training; what continuity is provided in the way of instruction, what the content is of the courses, and whether it is relevant to those defence needs. These are very important questions that ought to be asked in a defence estimates debate. Therefore, I ask the Minister - and I hope that he will answer - to inform me what has been done to answer this query raised by the former Secretary of Defence in regard to a review or re-examination of training methods in the defence forces.

Sir Henrywent on to say there are other factors of concern such as those associated with recruitment policies. Here he raised the question of 3-year Army engagements. He asked how feasible these are; whether they could be of distinct value to the Services: and what the defence departments are doing in respect of recruitment of graduates from outside as officers in the Services. He questioned also the use the defence forces are making of normal civilian establishments such as universities, technical colleges and colleges of advanced education. He asked: Are the defence forces making adequate use of those facilities for their professional and subprofessional training? He also went on to question - and so do I - some aspects of personnel management philosophies of the Services.

According to Sir Henry it is said that the present or prevailing philosophy is to give an officer training and experience over as wide a field as possible. He suggests that one of the immediate consequences of this is a succession of postings. In order to give an officer this wide experience a rotation of postings is provided for him and this is criticised very much overseas as being excessively costly, very wasteful and contributing to inefficient management. This is the criticism that has been made in respect of trying to give an officer all round experience. In addition, the constant rotation of officers' duties involves frequent new postings and transfers with all of the consequent disruption of family life, the schooling of children and so on. It has been pointed out in other reports that this system often leads to an abnormally high number of resignations and failure on the part of many defence personnel to reengage after their term has expired.

This all points to the need for modern, up to date management concepts in the administration of our Services. Interestingly enough, the former Defence Secretary also referred to the 'quasi monastic life' led by military men separated in their training and everyday living apart from the ordinary flow of community life. These men are living in military establishments divorced from contact with community life. Sir Henry wondered whether this is such a good thing. He asked whether it would not be better for people who are concerned with defence to be more associated with the ordinary run of community life. He thought that this in the long run would make for a better serviceman and would be more beneficial for his all round development.

Sir Henryalso questioned , and this has been questioned in this House plenty of times , the business of Army procurement - the obtaining of military hardware, if I can put it that way. He said that the problems arise from our insistence on compatibility of weapons and equipment with those of the United States of America. This has been a cardinal principle. We have tried to integrate our defence hardware with that provided in the United States. He seriously questioned this and wondered whether in the long run this might not be a great disadvantage to Australia. He pointed out that invariably the equipment is complex and is integrated into an even wider complexity. As a result we find that we are committing ourselves to equipment which is more likely to be designed for theatres of war and operations in which we are unlikely to be engaged. We are committing ourselves to equipment which is inevitably horribly costly.

Therefore the questions of training, research, procurement and management have all been raised by no less a person than an expert in the field - the former Secretary of the Department of Defence. I trust that the issues that he raised about a year ago are now being researched by the political heads of the defence forces.

I turn ever so briefly in the few minutes I have left to the matter of conscription. I have indicated that manpower is a very important part of our defence budget. Indeed, 62 per cent of our defence grant goes simply in maintaining the defence structure. What do other countries do in respect of voluntary forces as against conscripted forces? Great Britain and Canada, just to name two, have relatively successfully used an all-volunteer system. We know now that the United States aims to do likewise. That country agrees that one of the reasons why it has not been able to get the volunteers is that it has asked for standards that are too high. In our own country 70 per cent of those who apply to join the regular forces are rejected. Are we asking for too high standards? Are many of our young men who go into the defence forces being essentially undertrained and underemployed? I have some evidence of this especially in the case of the Navy, of young fellows who went in with high ambitions of service and found themselves employed in routine types of tasks. As a result they have become absolutely discontented and are doing everything they can to get out of the Navy. We can ask of ourselves whether we are demanding such high standards that lead to this 70 per cent rate of rejection.

I think that conscription has been identified as a form of tax in kind. This is one of the few such taxes that still exist where people are expected to pay a tax by service on the cheap. It is inequitable because only some have to do it. Somebody has estimated that national service, this service on the cheap, is equivalent to an average income tax rate over and above what everybody else has to pay of 48 per cent. It is about time, it is suggested, that we had a cost benefit analysis to show the value of mixed forces, that is, volunteers and conscripts, such as we have now as against an all volunteer force. Some attempts have been made to do this. Roy Forward of the University of Queensland has pointed out that 4 times as much time is spent on conscripts entering and leaving the Army, 4 times as many conscripts need training and 4 times as many Regular Army men are needed to train them. I cannot continue in the time left to me to point out that whether conscript forces are in fact the cheapest in the long run is seriously questioned.

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

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