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Thursday, 1 March 1973
Page: 122


Mr MORRISON (St George) (Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories) - The motion of censure moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) talks about vacillating on Australia's troop commitment to the Five Power Arrangements thereby calling into question Australia's commitment. But who is vacillating; who has called into question Australia's troop commitment? Let us look at the record. The credibility gap - the Liberal Party's credibility gap - began at the Five Power meeting in Canberra. The start of this credibility gap and the start of the vacillations, were one very well remembered phrase of a previous Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, when he talked about a country called Malaya - a non-existent country. What he did in that ham-fisted way was to deny a substantial part of Malaysia the security to which Malaysia as a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangements was entitled. He spoke about Malaya, but did not include the other parts of Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah. It would be rather like the Americans saying: OK, the ANZUS Agreement relates to the continental parts of Australia but let's forget Tasmania'.

The Gortonian diplomacy went from strength to strength. When he got to London he was asked about the possibility of conflict between Asian countries in terms of the Five Power Defence Arrangements. In one of the great quotes of this century he is reported as follows:

The Tunku said he wasn't sure what I meant when I said Australia wouldn't help.'

Well', I told the Tunku, 'if you get into any sort of border fight you had better cope by yourselves because Australia bloody well won't be there.'

This may be the style that is used by the Liberal Party in faction fights but it is not the style that any responsible government adopts in dealing with other sovereign countries. It is not the style that Australia adopts under the new Government led by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who has been overseas, and by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), and it is not the style that any responsible country should adopt.

The next Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, in one of his more memorable remarks in an interview in Indonesia on 12th June 1972 said the Five Power Defence Arrangements did not really matter because it is only an obligation to consult and it doesn't take us any further'. For once the former Prime Minister was right. The Five Power Defence Arrangements are a consultation mechanism. They are not an arrangement which leads to immediate action. However, what the former Prime Minister said at that stage runs right across the fiction that the present Opposition tried to create when it was in government. Prime Minister McMahon at that stage made a most remarkable observation on the meaning and significance of the Five Power Defence Arrangements He said:

A situation might arise, a battalion, a station somewhere in Singapore would give him- that is, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Razak - the degree of confidence they'd need in the event of the possibility of trouble between Malaysia and Singapore. . . .

So here we have the extraordinary situation where an agreement is intended to keep members of the agreement apart. This is a most extraordinary concept of an international agreement.

Let us get back to the one correct statement that former Prime Minister McMahon made - that the Five Power Defence Arrangements are a mechanism of consultation. I quote from a statement by a former Minister for Defence following talks in London in 1971. The statement reads: . . 'in the event of any form of armed attack externally, organised or supported, or the threat of such attack against Malaysia and Singapore' the five governments 'would immediately consult together for the purpose of deciding what measures should be taken either jointly or separately in relation to such attack or threats'.

I think that this clears up a basic point - that ANZUK is of a consultative nature. But what has been the problem? It has been the woolly thinking of the previous Government. I think what we have to get down to is whether the efficacy of the Five Power Defence Arrange- [ ments is dependent upon having a handful of people in Malaysia and Singapore. We have to decide whether the efficacy of this agreement requires more than 2 jumbo jets full of troops. I think we have to be concerned also about the predicament in which we place Austraiian forces if they are on the ground in Singapore. We are not talking in 19th century terms although the previous Government, which had this 19th century garrison mentality, did. It is impossible for any force on the ground not to become involved in internal disorders or in racial disputes in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. It is all very well saying that it is understood by Malaysia and Singapore that the troops will not get involved.

When I was Deputy High Commissioner in Malaysia we had strife in Penang. The difficulty was that Australian families were on the island of Penang. When the riots broke out we had to move those families across to Butterworth. Fortunately no Australian lives were endangered. But think of a situation which is not external aggression or internal subversion but is a civil disorder, and Australian forces willy-nilly become involved. We do not accept that proposition. We will not accept that proposition. Let us have a look at the forces in Butterworth, where 2 Mirage squadrons are stationed. They are there because there is nowhere to put them in Australia. There are no bases in Australia for half of our fighter force. What an extraordinary indictment it is of a defence policy when half of the fighter force of Australia is situated thousands of miles away from Australia. In the event of a crisis, and the countries of this area were either hostile or neutral, we could never get these aircraft back to Australia to carry put their basic function, the defence of the Australian continent. It is fundamental to the Labor Party's approach to defence that not only must we be able to defend ourselves, but we must be, seen to be able to defend ourselves, Unless we are capable of securing Australian soil, notions of forward defence and of commitments to other countries north of us are a complete nonsense. Our whole credibility as an ally is a nonsense unless we are in a position to safeguard our own territory.

Let . us look at the previous Government's record in defence. The Defence Review that was brought down by the previous Government last year stated explicitly that our involvement in Vietnam had weakened Australia's defence position. I quote from page 52 paragraph 26 of the Defence Review. It reads:

The opportunity to give greater weight to long term strategic considerations in the shaping' of our forces has until recently been restricted by 'the immediate demands of our combat deployment in Vietnam. That opportunity is now restored.

Of course it is restored because the Australian Labor Party argued and argued against the commitment in Vietnam. Not only did that commitment weaken us in general terms but also it made us completely dependent and wholly reliant upon the logistic support of the United States. Our task forces in Vietnam were completely dependent upon United States logistic support so our whole logistic structure within the Australian Army was depleted because of this continuing over.reliance on the United States.

Let us now look at the question of mobility and flexibility in order to understand why it was that under the previous Government we had no opportunity of meeting the obligations under the ANZUK agreement. Again I refer to the Defence Review brought down by the Government in the last Parliament. After 23 years of a Liberal government we were not capable of deploying more than one battalionone lightly equipped battalion - within a radius of 2,000 nautical miles, not from Australia, but from Sydney and that deployment was going to take us 8 to 10 days. This presupposed that whatever airfield was to be used for the ferrying operation the potential enemy or the enemy would be kind enough to leave it In operation. How can we possibly undertake a commitment such as the ANZUK agreement when we cannot move one lightly equipped battalion 2,000 nautical miles from Sydney? The Defence Review very profoundly pointed out that 2.000 nautical miles from Sydney would take us to the northern part of Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea. How can we enter into a commitment when the credibility gap is so wide and so obvious? In the event of a crisis, on the basis of the previous Government's attitude towards defence, we would not at any stage have been capable of undertaking and honouring our commitment. Now we are facing up to reality. We have inherited an appalling legacy and a great deal has to be done to rectify the errors of commission and sins of omission of the previous Government. We are turning our attention wholeheartedly to developing an Australian defence force which has as its primary objective the security of Australian soil. On the basis of the security of Australian, soil our defence force will have the mobility and flexibility to assist any allies with whom we have commitments. We regard our commitments much more seriously than the former Government regarded its commitments because we propose to be in a position to honour those commitments.

There have been references today to the spy base in Singapore. I find myself in a difficult position in this debate because I was one of the 5,700 who knew about that base and in fact it was in the area of my responsibility when I was in Malaysia.


Dr Forbes - Follow your leader and just spill it.


Mr MORRISON - The shadow Minister for Defence says: 'Let's spill*. Let us look at the whole question. There is a great deal of difference in security information on the part of public servants and people who are involved in the defence mechanism. They have a responsibility not to divulge information because the responsibility for examining national security - what really relates to national security - is not a matter for generals; it is not a matter for diplomats; it is a matter for the Government. Nobody in the Opposition in the previous Parliament, except myself, knew about that base. It was not until the Prime Minister assumed office that he knew of it. It is for the Government to decide what constitutes national security and how it should be interpreted. It is none of the business of those 5,700 or more to make any disclosures or to say anything about it because we have to take into account the British who are also involved. This is a government responsibility. The Prime Minister has made the statement and has made known the implications and the existence of that base. Let us look at what the Opposition members did when they were in power. They made a fetish of secrecy. They won a couple of elections on secrecy and spying - the Petrov case, for instance. But what did they do in regard to the North West Cape installation? There was an agreement with the United States Government which said in Article 3:

Except with the express consent of the Australian Government, the station will not be used for purposes other than purposes for defence communication, and appropriate Australian authorities nominated by the Australian Government shall at all times have access to the station.

But the Opposition when it was in power deliberately set out to limit the interpretation of that agreement and so we had the United

States ambassador asking for an interpretation of that agreement and getting it very willingly because the text of the agreement states: . . it was clearly understood that consultation

Referred to in Article 3 - connoted no more than consultation and was not intended to establish Australian control over use of the station nor to imply any Government of Australia design to restrict at any time United States Government use of the station for defence communications including, for example, communications for polaris submarines. It is also understood that it was not intended to give Australia control over or access to the contents of messages transmitted over the station.

This was the darkest day in Australia's history. It was the day on which the then Government sold out to another power the sovereign rights of this country. It refused to stand up for the right of the Australian people to know what installations existed on Australian soil and their purpose. The former Government used this in an election campaign by trying to mesmerise the Australian people with scraps of paper. This is a monumental indictment of honourable members who sit opposite. Yet they have the audacity to talk about us. This was a day that all Australians will remember. This is a day that we have sought to rectify. The Deputy Prime Minister made a statement last night giving to the Australian people for the first time the rightful knowledge as to what is happening on Australian soil.


Mr Malcolm Fraser - There was nothing in that that had not been previously made public.


Mr MORRISON - There was a lot in that which had not been previously said and because it had not been said there were so many wild rumours as to what the contents were. But let us take the position one step further. We have decided to make open government in terms of what is happening in Australia, How can we, without contradiction, not say what we are doing in other countries? The 2 things are caught up. The attitude of mind of the Opposition when it was in government was to shroud all these things in secrecy and it regarded this as its main purpose. It did not divulge to the Australian people what was happening on Australian soil. It did not divulge to the Singaporians what was happening on Singaporian soil. That is the record of the Opposition. This censure motion in fact applies to the previous Government which is now the Opposition. We have stated our position clearly. That is more than the previous Government ever did. It is more than the previous Government ever wanted to do. It is more than the previous Government ever intended that it should do.

We regard our responsibilities to the Australian people as paramount. That is the difference between the previous Government and the present Government.







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