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Tuesday, 23 November 1971
Page: 3515

Mr HAMER (Isaacs) - The important statement delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) covered a wide sweep of the nation's affairs, not only our defence and foreign policies but also international trade and monetary problems. 1 was particularly interested in his discussions in America on environment control. There is much that we can learn from America's successes and failures in this field. The agreement on the maintenance of a continued British naval presence in the Indian Ocean Ls very welcome because this is a strategic vacuum which Russia is hastening to fill. For understandable reasons - his complete ignorance of the subjects being the most obvious - the leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said nothing about currency or international trade. Insofar as he talked about anything, he seemed to be discussing defence. 1 would like, therefore, to discuss some of the defence issues raised by the Prime Ministers statement and the reply by the Leader of the Opposition.

The defence of this country is of vital concern to all of us. In an ideal world we would not need defence forces and could devote the resources we now devote to defence to peaceful purposes. But we do not live in an ideal world, and Australia is situated in a particularly turbulent corner of this far from ideal world. The maintenance of adequate defence must be the first concern of any government. It is true that Australia's mainland is not faced with any immediate threat. This has been the result of wise Government policy in the past. Our neighbours to the north are independent and reasonably stable and surely it must be the first object of our foreign policy, and our defence policy which derives from our foreign policy, to keep them that way.

But although Australia does not face any immediate threat, I am concerned at the attitude of members of the Opposition who seem to deduce that because there is no immediate obvious threat, therefore defence is of low priority. It is always dangerous, when looking a long way ahead, to postulate specific threats. Who in 1931 would have predicted that in 10 years time Australia would be at war with Germany, Italy and Japan? Certainly no-one in the Austraiian Labor Party. What we need, bearing in mind the long lead time of defence equipment and defence organisations, is to plan forces now which could meet the conceivable threats running into the 1980s and 1990s. What threats might we face then? The first and most serious is that of nuclear obliteration. If a global nuclear war broke out it would be the end of world civilisation, including Australia, whether Australia wished to be involved or not.

The only sensible course for Australia is to do what it can to prevent such a war breaking out. This is the purpose of our co-operation with the United States with the North West Cape Naval Communication Station, Pine Gap or a possible Omega station. The Polaris submarines with which North West Cape is associated are essentially second strike weapons, designed to deter the launching of a surprise nuclear attack. Their existence, and Australia's contribution to them, thus reduce the likelihood of global nuclear war and therefore is clearly in Australia's interest. The Opposition would have us dismantle or emasculate these agreements with the United States; by doing so, it would increase the likelihood of global war, and thus increase the danger of Australia's nuclear obliteration. Such policies are the acts of thoroughly irresponsible people.

The next possible threat we may face is that of interdiction of our overseas trade, the overwhelming proportion of which goes by sea. Australia is the twelfth biggest overseas trading nation of the world. We send as high a proportion of our gross national product overseas as does Great Britain, which has always been regarded as a country peculiarly dependent on overseas trade. Considered as a proportion of gross national product, we are nearly twice as dependent on overseas trade as is Japan. We need to develop over the next decade a greatly expanded Navy so that we can counter likely threats to the. safety of our overseas trade and our coastal shipping. The Labor Party's policy is that our strategic responsibility ends with our territorial waters, which would deny us the right to protect our vital overseas trade. Such a policy is the policy of thoroughly irresponsible people.

The final possible threat that we mav face is that of invasion. While Indonesia is in strong and free hands we are not vulnerable to invasion. Therefore the maintenance of Indonesia's strength and independence must be a high priority of our economic aid, and our foreign and defence policies. To support this, we need to help Singapore and Malaysia to preserve and strengthen their independence. Our forces in that area, which are welcomed by the governments of Singapore and Malaysia, are designed to assist the stability of those countries. The policy of the Opposition would have us withdraw all our forces from the area. The Leader of the Opposition would, I think, like to withdraw our Army only, but he is of course not a free agent. The Opposition policy would have us retreat within our territorial boundaries and only take action beyond them if asked to do so by the Security Council of the United Nations, on which both Russia and Communist China have a veto. Is it conceivable that Russia and China would not veto action by Australia designed to keep a Communist threat away from our shores? This policy of the Labor Party - and I do not believe it is the true policy of many members of the Parliamentary Labor Party - is the policy of thoroughly irresponsible people.

It. is, of course, dictated by an outside body not responsible to the electorate - the famous 36 faceless men - although I believe they have added 11 faces to this body, or perhaps 12 if we count the 2 faces of the Leader of the Opposition on this issue. A prominent member of the Labor Par'y front bench has recommended that we should withdraw from all military alliances, including the ANZUS alliance, and retreat into isolationism. The former Secretary of the Labor Party in Victoria - a member of the group which advised Australian troops in Vietnam to mutiny - has recommended that Australia cut back its defence expenditure. This would be the policy of thoroughly irresponsible people, because the dangers in our area are growing.

Mr Foster - 1 rise on a point of order. Is it right for the honourable member to suggest what he is suggesting when he himself stood in the House recently and criticised the Government for its wasteful expenditure on destroyers?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order!There is no point, of order. I warn the honourable member that irrelevant points of order can amount to an obstruction of the business of the House.

Mr HAMER - We have had much discussion in this chamber on how the Russians are moving into the Indian Ocean. Much of the discussion has been irrelevant, for (he issue is not what number of Russian ships are there now, but how many are likely to be there in 10 years time and what is the object of their presence. Communist China too-

Mr Foster - Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.

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