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Wednesday, 28 February 1973
Page: 84

Mr FAIRBAIRN (Farrer) - First of all, Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will pass on to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his election and that you will also accept my congratulations on your appointment as Chairman of Committees. You and I have one thing in common. We both follow the same football team and with a new coach this year we are certainly looking for an improvement. I agree with the interjection which came from behind me that the last speech we heard was a shocking speech. It really was the greatest of claptrap. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) started off by chiding members of the Opposition for not discussing Labor policies and not bringing forward new Liberal policies. Then he proceeded to clown for 5 or 10 minutes reading out quite irrelevant cuttings from newspapers. Is this any sort of contribution to make to a serious discussion of the programme brought forward by the Government for the next 3 years? He said: 'You know, all they are doing is kicking the communist can'. All I can suggest to him is that there is no need to kick the communist can. The Australian Labor Party is beating it for everyone to hear, loud and clear. Then followed a most stupid statement. I wrote this down because I thought it was so incredible. The honourable member said: 'One of the most unjust, pieces of legislation ever introduced in a .so-called democracy'. This was his reference to conscription. Yet what happened in 1944, when not only was his Party in office but the honoured name of the electorate he represents was the name of the then Treasurer. At that time the Labor Party . brought in conscription which, according to the honourable member, is one of the most unjust pieces of legislation ever introduced into a so-called democracy. Members of the Labor Party know that their Party used it too.

If I may coin a phrase, it's time for the Government to come down to earth and get its feet on to the ground, and by the ground I mean Australian ground and not Chinese ground. The Government has been active since it was elected in December, But active in whose interest? In a number of major matters, certainly not in the interests of the Australian nation. Some of its - actions on the domestic side have merit. Of course, the Government must be right some of the time. But this is the case only when viewed in isolation. Taken together, its decisions are fanning the. flames of inflation like a hot westerly pushes along a bush (fire, and it might be in my electorate or in the electorate of the honourable member for Chifley. In fact, the Government has been trying to create the impression that it is energetic and governing the country well just because it is churning out decisions with great speed, and in many cases with reckless abandon.

Mr Mackellar - And with little thought.

Mr FAIRBAIRN - Yes, and with little thought. Certainly, in many instances Ministers have been behaving like the prodigal son who, suddenly finding himself in possession of vast sums of money, seeks to distribute largesse without any thought for the future or how these gifts are to be paid for.

I recently went through a list of the socalled 'achievements' of the present Government - I use the word in inverted commas. Basically the so-called achievements can be put into 3 categories. The first, of them is announcements of decisions which were initiated by the previous government or promised by the previous government. In some cases, of course, these are slightly different. They may have been broadened; they may have had a bit more money added to them. But one could go through a long list of announcements made by the, present Government for which it wishes to get kudos for repeating policies which had already been initiated by the previous government.

Mr Enderby - List them.

Mr FAIRBAIRN - If the honourable member wants me to list them, I shall go through the list. I did not want to bore the honourable member because it is quite a long list. First, we have additional grants to the arts; more aid for Indonesia - 1 think that the Government has promised an amount of Sim more than the $60m which the previous government had promised; then there is the announcement that the purchase of the Fill will proceed. Well, if ever there was a joke this is a joke, because there has never been any party which has denigrated a machine to such an extent as the Labor Party did that one. Then the first thing that Party does on gaining office is to announce that it will proceed with the purchase of this aircraft. Other announcements include the maintenance of the present 9 infantry battalions for the Army. But of course everyone knows that this will be at a much reduced strength. I understand that some of the battalions comprise less than 100 men. The Government has also made announcements about drawing up a plan for the development of the aircraft industry, portable pensions, preference for Australian firms where other aspects of tenders are equal. Of course, it is recognised that the previous government had made decisions of this type long before the Labor Party announced them. There was also the announcement to close up Norfolk Island as a tax haven. The previous Government had taken action there. The Government has also made an announcement about decentralisation. The previous Government set up NURDA and this Government has murdered NURDA. The Government intends to decentralise tertiary education facilities. We have been doing this for years, of course, but Labor does not even realise it is going on because it has hardly a member from the country. The Government has also announced the provision of boarding allowances for isolated children. This was a policy announced by our government which was not included in the 140 promises of the Labor

Party. However the Labor Government has now picked it up and has said what a great thing it has done. So one could go on.

The second category of Labor's achievements is decisions requiring more money, in some cases a vast deal more money. Already decisions made by the Labor government in a little over 2 months will add $330m in a full year to the Budget. As I've said, I do not quarrel with many of these decisions individually. A good case can be made out for more spending in such fields as pensions, education, hospitals, dental services and housing. But the government is promising everything but salvation. The government itself has no money. While it can run deficits for a while, sooner or later the people have to pay for what an apparently generous government hands out. And what this Government is promising is not just hand-outs but a shower bath. Our taxes are already high by world standards. How much higher can taxes go before there is a disincentive to people to continue working, knowing the Government gets most of what additional money they would earn? Yet tax the Government must if it is going to carry out its 'boom and bust' policies. And do not think for a moment that the $330m represents the end of Labor's lavish spending. It is only a beginning. We know that the ALP made 140 promises at the last election in order to attract that extra 2.7 per cent of votes which has given it its present majority.

Already there are signs that the Government will not, or cannot, implement some of these promises. Such promises were just electoral bait, and will disappear down the unfortunate fish's throat now the fish has been hooked. But many decisions, even if they involve much less money than was promised, must add a vast sum to this and next year's Budgets. Some of these decisions are quite unnecessary. For example, we are told that the Australian Gaslight Co. is not to be allowed to build its pipeline from Gidgealpa - Moomba to Sydney - the Government will do it instead. We are entitled to ask why. Will the Government do it any cheaper, any quicker, any better? I am sure the answer in all 3 cases is certainly no. It is only to be done by the Government because it is part of its socialist philosophy.

We can see once again the sort of socialist thinking which has led in England to the nationalisation of the steel industry. Look at what a tragedy this has been for the United

Kingdom. A government-run pipeline grid will inevitably lead to inefficiencies and cost escalations which must be passed on either to the consumer or to the taxpayer. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) seems to ignore completely the fact that the Australian Gaslight Co., through its subsidiary to the Eastern Australian Pipeline Corporation, has already signed contracts and would lose millions of dollars if the Government tried to take over the project. So once again the taxpayer is to fork out - this time to the order of $200m. In fact we are now told that the $200m is to be only the first serving in a programme which will eventually cost anestimated $650m or perhaps considerably more - undoubtedly considerably more. As the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) said this afternoon, we have to make certain that our priorities are right. Are our priorities right in finding government money for something which private individuals are prepared and willing to do? Surely the Government money should be kept for those areas where it is needed and which are not attracted to private enterprise. So much for the so-called achievements of the Labor government in spending more of our money. And do not forget that because of revaluation there are going to be far fewer profits in the mining industry and other exporting industries which will be available for the Government to tax and therefore it will get far less tax.

But the third area of government decisions really horrifies me. This is in the area of foreign affairs and defence. Here the Government has started out by asking itself the question: 'What can we do to weaken Australia's defence forces, her security and her alliances with her traditional allies?' If this was what it set out to do, it has achieved their objective remarkably efficiently in a very short time. Support for communists and denigration of our allies, not only by the Prime Minister but by any of his Cabinet who choose to shoot off his mouth has become the accepted mean; If it was not so disastrous to the nation it would be humorous to recall the words of the - American Ambassador who, just before the last election said that he did not see any variation in Australian-United States relations if the Australian Labour Party won the election. Could anyone have been so naive?

I wonder whether he would be prepared to say that today? If he was so much out of touch it is no wonder that Mr Nixon has seen fit to replace him so quickly. And so Australia, which once was America's closest ally, has dropped in a few weeks to the bottom of the list, perhaps only slightly ahead of Cuba and Chile. Of all the actions taken to assist communists and fellow travellers, perhaps none was more flagrant than the action of immediately restoring a passport to the noted communist Wilfred Burchett. What an odd set of priorities it is that restores a passport to Burchett while on the same day it withdrawsthe Australian passport of Air Vice-Marshal Hawkins, a man who served this country with distinction and honour in the last World War.

Let us look quickly at Burchett's record. One could, of. course, spend all day going through the masses of evidence available about his assistance to the communists and to. Australia's enemies whom our troops were actively fighting. He is described in a United States Senate -hearing on security as an agent for KGB, the- Soviet Police. There are many records of his having participated in interrogations, of United States airmen shot down in: Korea. These interrogations were designed to produce confessions. During them many prisoners died or disappeared. They, were usually conducted with the utmost brutality and can. fairly be described as being carried out with extreme and prolonged physical and mental torture. Such cases include that of Colonel Maharen the World War II ace who was kept in solitary confinement for over 3 months until he signed a purported confession. Such people were victims of Burchett's germ warfare propaganda campaign. Quinn and Enoch were 2 others. It is noted that -Burchett joined their interrogation group 'by invitation'. When the Australian troops were fighting in Vietnam Burchett went into South Vietnam with the Vietcong and made a propaganda film of their activities. This film was later smuggled into America to be used against the allies. Burchett's activities were not simply the right to dissent but the physical participation in acts which could be regarded , as criminal and treasonable. There is no doubt mat he was a direct and active participant in the politicomilitary struggles waged against Australian forces in this field. Yet this man. is one of the first to be welcomed by the new Government. Surely this is enough to make any decent Australian vomit.

But as we glance through this list of decisions announced in the Speech we see more and more that the, guiding light behind many, if not most of them, is mat the Government should be seen by Labor's left wing supporters to be doing those things that undermine our security or assist the communists. Take the Services, for example. We heard tonight from some Government supporters about what this Government is going to do and how it is going to help the Services. By next June, or only 6 months after the Australian Labor Party came to office, the strength of the Army will be cut by about 10,000 to some 31,000. Not only are conditions in a chaotic state while things are sorted out in the Army but many servicemen must be wondering whether they are redundant and if so whether they will be retired. And how will the Royal Australian Navy fare? Is it about to lose the 3 DDLs for which it fought so hard and which I and the previous Minister for the Navy, Dr Mackay, supported so strongly? This project after all is designed only to maintain the Navy's current destroyer strength. Of course it is an expensive programme but defence is expensive and half measures are no good. Because of the defence environment in which we exist, the Liberal Party gave this programme the highest of all priorities. Now it looks like being scrapped or delayed as does also the Cockburn Sound naval base project, if rumour is to be. believed. What a tragic outlook this is for our armed forces which, only 3 months ago were at the highest state of efficiency and morale that we have ever known in peace time.

But even worse than this loss of efficiency and morale is the tragic blow to our security as a result of the incredible disclosures on our troops in Singapore. It would be almost impossible to imagine a more irresponsible action on the part of a Prime Minister, nor could one believe that a matter of this importance, could be handled so ineptly. As a responsible government we had a policy in the field of intelligence that, where national security was involved we did not confirm or deny any speculation about defence installations. This is a policy which previous Labor governments abided by. But now the present Prime Minister is rushing in to try to curry favour with some members of the, Press and Labor's left wing by making security leaks and disclosures about Australia's defence installations, even though he later admitted that some of the information obtained was extremely useful to Australia. It is time Mr Whitlam lost his preoccupation, indeed his obsession with China and became preoccupied with Australia. The whole shoddy incident of the so-called spies in Singapore only served to show the complete ineptness of the. Prime Minister's handling of the matter from start to finish. Why was this backgrounder given to some members of the Press and not to others? Why was it necessary for a government which allegedly believes in 'open government' to issue a D notice so soon after it came into office while previous non-Labor governments had not needed to do so for more than 10 years?

Now pressure is being brought to bear on the Government for a further disclosure of defence secrets - this time concerning the joint Australian-American bases. I hope that the Government continues to resist this pressure. Could anyone in his wildest dreams imagine the Soviet Prime Minister disclosing what the Russians are doing at Tyuratom, or Plesetesk? Can we see the Chinese Premier giving a Press briefing on what goes on at Lop Nor? Of course we cannot. Where will it all end? How can any of our allies ever have any faith in us any more? We must be regarded universally as a most unreliable ally. And while the Government has been gaily rushing into recognition of Red China - upon what terms we do not know, except that we know that China got everything that it asked for - welcoming North Vietnamese trade unionists, lifting the ban on travel to North Vietnam and establishing diplomatic relations with East Germany and North Vietnam - it has done everything possible to undermine our assistance to our allies.

What extraordinary double standards the present Government seems to operate. On the one hand North Vietnamese can be responsible for slaughter, murder and torture. Yet they are welcomed by the Labor Party with open arms. The same applies to Russia and China, both of whom operate a police state and both of whom in recent times have been responsible for committing mass murder amongst their own citizens. Yet their relations are on the up and up with the ALP. At the same time South Africans are treated like lepers. Their rugby team is not allowed to land here for fear it might contaminate us. The Rhodesians are not allowed to buy our wheat. The people who will suffer most by this ban, of course, will be the native Rhodesians - that is if the ban has any effect at all, as no doubt Rhodesia will be able to buy all the wheat she wants elsewhere.

Of course no government, however hard it tried, could be wrong all the time. Some of the recent decisions have been good. The reorganisation of the defence Services is one with which I am basically in agreement and in fact I had written to the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) suggesting to him a reorganisation along fairly similar lines to that undertaken by the present Government. But it is time Mr Whitlam lost his preoccupation - or is it obsession - with China and became preoccupied with Australia. In fact, it is more than time. 'It's time' has become a time bomb which has exploded and we are now contemplating the wreckage of our foreign affairs and defence policies.

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