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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 1957

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Is the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence aware that Japan's Parliament recently authorised significant increases in the size and scope of that country's self defence forces? Is not this decision another example of the emphasis placed by Asian and South East Asian nations on the need for stronger defence capabilities? Does not the latest erosion of Australia's defence capabilitiesa fact which was not hidden in the Minister's statement delivered yesterday- further add to the deterioration in Service morale and effectiveness and place this country hopelessly out of step with its neighbours?

Senator BISHOP - I have seen the newspaper reference to the new defence targets set by the Japanese Government. I think that any comment about that aspect might well come from Senator Willesee. But, in respect of the general question of whether our defence advisers, in giving their advice to the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, and the Government, have been wrong in their assessment, I suggest that this is a matter which, as I said yesterday, has to be debated by the members of the Parliament. The Government is confident about the advice that it has received from its defence advisers. It is acting on that advice in the same way as previous governments did. On the basis of that advice, the defence planning of the Government has been shaped. Because of that, there is no thought in the mind of the Government that there is any reason to believe that our Services are not as adequate as they might be.

I challenge the honourable senator's statement in respect of morale. As I have said previously, this Labor Government has done more for servicemen in the short time it has been in office than was done during several periods of government -

Senator Drake-Brockman - Who introduced the -

Senator BISHOP - As the honourable senator well knows, we have spent massive amounts on salary increases, for example. We have spent $60m on salary increases alone. We have spent large amounts on the defence forces retirement benefits scheme. We also have made sure that for the first time servicemen are able, untrammelled, to have representational rights to their Government, to Ministers and to members of the Parliament Also, as the honourable senator well knows, the Government is on the eve of appointing an ombudsman for the Services. So, in respect of morale, it is clear that this Government has done more in the few short months it has been in office than was done during the years of office of the previous Government.

Of course, it is clear that the Services want the best equipment they can obtain. But the fact is this: As in any situation, the Government has to decide how much is to be spent on hardware. It is rather unusual to hear all these complaints from honourable senators opposite who also say 'You have to cut back Government expenditure', or You have to obtain effectiveness in the defence Services'. When we set about doing that, honourable senators opposite are apt to become very critical. The Government is mindful of what has been said by the honourable senator. Our advisers have given us advice which we think is proper, and the Government regards its policy as constructive and logical.

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