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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2445

Senator MAUNSELL (QUEENSLAND) - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Does the Minister agree that the serious situation which occurred in the Middle East recently and the uncertain truce which has existed since then increase the risk of a wider confrontation? Would he also agree that there is a danger of the present conflict in Vietnam spreading to other areas in South East Asia? With the threat of cutting off vital supplies held by fuel producing countries over consuming countries adding to world tensions, does the Minister agree that the Government's official policy as outlined by the Minister for Defence that there is no threat to this country for 15 years is now much out of date? Will the Minister ask the Government to reconsider its decision to run down our defence forces?

Senator BISHOP - The honourable senator knows that the information and advice given by the Govenment's advisers is always being brought up to date. The position, as has been stated most recently, is as far as I am aware the same now as it was previously. Senator Maunsell mixes up some economic matters with matters which are, of course, of importance strategically. Honourable senators can debate the advice given to the Govenment. If the honourable senator wishes, he can rise in the Senate and take sides on whether the expert advice from the Government's defence advisers should be questioned. The Government accepts the advice of its advisers. No doubt, they will keep the Government apprised of any situation which requires special consideration. The honourable senator will have seen statements made by the Minister for Defence that there have been some discussions with representatives of the defence Services in respect to requirements for hardware and equipment for the next 5 years. There seems to be a more satisfactory basis to be obtained in that regard in the near future. I would think that the Government has done all it should do and all it can do to obtain effective defence Services in the light of its other obligations. As the honourable senator would know, these include providing new and improved conditions for members of the Services. Only last week the Minister for Defence announced, in addition to the $60m that has been spent previously during our 12 months of government, that another $47m would be added to the payroll for serving members of the defence forces. I can say only this: While honourable senators can debate the matters, I am quite confident that the Government is getting the most expert advice. Largely, the advisers are those who gave advice to the previous Minister and the previous Government during its term of office.

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