Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 19 September 1973
Page: 1230

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Kooyong should explain why Standing Orders should be suspended. He is now speaking to the substance of the matter.

Mr PEACOCK - I take your point, Mr Speaker, and return to the urgent need for a suspension of Standing Orders so that this topic can be developed. The need for this move to suspend Standing Orders today in order to debate this matter is really twofold. Firstly, an invitation has been extended to me to move it and, secondly, there ought to be an opportunity in this House today to discuss the statements made publicly by the man for whom the Government almost took out their mats and faced east in 1969 over defence policies - Major Peter Young, who was projected by the Government as its senior defence adviser and who was hailed by the Government as an intelligence officer who had resigned from the Services to contest the seat of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon). My reason for moving the suspension of Standing Orders is that yesterday morning, on a television program from Channel 7, Major Peter Young said:

I owe almost a public apology for having misled large sections of the Services into believing things would be so much better under Labor.

He said that yesterday and it was reported today; ipso facto there is a need for me to move for the suspension of Standing Orders. Mr Young said that morale in the Army was very low. I repeat that he said it yesterday on the Channel 7 program 'Today', hence the need for this motion today. He said: 'If it is not at rock bottom it is about 2 inches off it'. He said that this was because the Army had no real role and that soldiers were becoming show pieces. I can think of further reasons for moving this motion now. I am not moving it merely for the reasons I have given. If one of the Government's senior Party advisers says that the Army is fast becoming a show piece and nothing more, how urgent is it that we discuss this matter? After all, if Labor

Party speeches throughout its period in Opposition were so frequently based on advice given by Major Peter Young, clearly he is a man of some substance and influence. I assume that the Government would not have him on the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee unless it thought that he could make valuable contributions to the defence thinking and the defence posture of Australia.

Morale has been affected not only in the Services but also amongst those people who are working at defence establishments. Honourable members do not have to rely on my word, they have only to ask the President of the Australian Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions who saw the Minister for Defence in a deputation a couple of days ago. He indicated that workers are alarmed at the effects of cutbacks not only on Australia's defence capacity but also on their own vocations. The outcome of these measures is clear. Despite its many words in Opposition concerning the need for an increased proportion of defence procurement to be carried out in Australia, the Government is cancelling many orders that were placed by the previous Government. So that is a need. We have Mr Young's viewpoints, Mr Hawke's viewpoints and, of course, the urgency of discussing the matter about the confusion over Galston. I am only signalling the reason for moving this motion. The substance and thrust of the Opposition's attack will be observed when the motion I am moving has been agreed to.

There have been significant reductions in all areas of defence activity. Major Young referred to this. The size of the Army has been slashed, the Navy's destroyer reequipment program is in limbo, the replacement order for the RAAF has been deferred, one Mirage squadron has been disbanded and flying hours have been reduced overall. No wonder the Government prize possession on its foreign affairs and defence committee says that the morale is only 2 inches off rock bottom. What about the Governments statements that it would retain defence expenditure at 3.5 per cent of gross national product? It is now at 2.9 per cent and with the rate of inflation that the Government has permitted to occur in this country the position will be further exacerbated.

Another reason for moving the suspension of Standing Orders today is that I believe we cannot continue to allow this to occur without complaint from the Opposition. Fortuitously, we have been granted the opportunity for a full scale debate on a censure motion today. I assume that the Minister for Defence will support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. He does not answer at this juncture. That is just another example of going back on his word. We have had enough of that this year. We have had it since December; we have had it throughout this year; we have had it today in this Parliament. That is all the more reason for testing the Government. Honourable members will recall that the Army intelligence officer, Mr Young, was a candidate for the seat of Lowe in the 1969 general election.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I doubt whether the fact that he was a candidate has anything to do with the suspension of Standing Orders.

Mr PEACOCK - I abide by your ruling, Mr Speaker but, with respect, the fact that he was a candidate and was associated with the Australian Labor Party was one of the reasons why he is a member of the ALP's Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee and makes recommendations to it. My motion today is based on the statements he made yesterday. I moved it today rather than tomorrow because I was specifically invited to do so by the Minister for Defence, and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) joined in, to the best of my knowledge.

Mr Whitlam - What was that?

Mr PEACOCK - In support of my moving this motion. The consequences of the Minis,ter's lack of knowledge over Galston and the way in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) discovered it were bad enough. The statements of Mr Young were bad enough. The concern of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Government's own party President, prefacing the remarks of another party contributor, Mr Young, illustrates the concern in the community today not merely by members of the Opposition but also by the ACTU and prominent members of the ALP. For that reason the Opposition has moved, in the light of the Government's undertakings, that the Government is damaging the morale of the armed forces and is significantly reducing Australia's defence capacity.

The Minister says that he wants a more independent defence policy. How can he have a more independent policv if he is reducing defence expenditure? The effect of that is that, rather than being more independent we will obviously be more dependent on other powers. This is quite inconsistent. It follows the performances of this Government in contrast to its promises - the performance of the Government in contrast to its words in government. There is a great yawning chasm between the two. The Opposition wants to expose it in detail by moving urgently today that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving that this House condemns the Government and the Minister for Defence for damaging the morale of the armed forces and significantly reducing Australia's defence capacity. We have the support of the Government for the motion. We have the support of Mr Hawke and the ACTU for the spirit of the motion, and of Mr Young, all members of the Opposition and so many members of the armed Services themselves. If the Minister visited defence establishments he would know it to be true.

Mr SPEAKER -Is the motion seconded?

Suggest corrections