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Thursday, 20 September 1973
Page: 1310

Mr HAMER (ISAACS, VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Does the Minister recall making a statement last year that he was aware that the cancellation of the destroyer program would be a blow to the morale of the Royal Australian Navy? Has that drop in morale which he predicted in fact occurred? Is it a fact that the defence policies of the present Government, coupled with the breaking of its clear pre-election pledge to maintain defence spending at 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product, has caused a drop in morale in the 3 Armed Services?

Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) (Minister for Defence) - If the honourable member had read the article which appeared under the name of the correspondent Mr Denis Warner, he would have seen that LieutenantGeneral Sir Mervyn Brogan, the Chief of the General Staff, had indicated that there had been no drop in the morale of the Services. The honourable member raised the question of the DDL program. I made my position on this perfectly clear when in Opposition, and my position was then supported by a number of honourable members who were then in government but who are now on the Opposition side - notably, of course, the honourable member for Wentworth. The DDL program has been deferred and the Royal Australian Navy fully understands that it has been deferred pending further investigation. Cabinet has agreed to a further destroyer program and this has been accepted in principle by the Department of Defence. A destroyer program will be proceeded with as soon as the additional information is available to the Government. We could not agree to a situation in which this country would be faced with the proposition of building 3 destroyers at a cost of S355m before those destroyers were on the drawing board. We believe that further investigation overseas of appropriate vessels should be undertaken. I have not deviated from the decision that I made when in Opposition and to which I still adhere that whatever destroyers are purchased for the Navy will be built at Williamstown in Australia.

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