163 Council of Defence [1] Minute

Agendum 1/1947 (extracts) CANBERRA, 12 March 1947


[matter omitted]


3. The following is a summary of the observations of the Prime Minister:-

(1) Observations on the Defence Vote

(i) A Defence Vote of 90,000,000 based on the Defence Committee's proposals, cannot be provided. It would represent 25% of the Government's income and it was not possible to provide funds for Defence purposes to this extent. The most that can be made available for the overall requirements of the ultimate Post-War Forces is 50,000,000.

(ii) The amount provided for Defence and Allied Services this financial year is 147,000,000. For some time there will still be special war-time commitments to be disposed of, but the Services should now shape their organisations and plans with the knowledge that, except for these special and additional commitments, the maximum Defence Vote to cover the Navy, Army, Air Force and the Defence and Munitions Departments will be 50,000,000.

(2) Observations for the Guidance of the Services and the Defence Committee

(i) The general basis of the Government's Defence policy was outlined in the Governor-General's Speech on 6th November last. It is a blending of participation in the collective security provided for by the Charter of the United Nations, including Regional arrangements, co-operation in Empire Defence, and the forces to be maintained by Australia to provide for the inherent right of self- defence. This Policy must, of course, be realistic in regard to the degree of reliance to be placed on each of these three safeguards.

(ii) The Prime Minister briefly summarised the general position as he saw it, as follows:-

(a) A new attempt is now being made to establish another collective system of security. A great advantage this time is that the United States is a member.

(b) The strength of a system of Empire Co-operation is now greatly weakened, for the following reasons:-

The United Kingdom has not the capacity and strength she formerly possessed.

Our strategic position in the Middle East has been greatly weakened. India appears to be on the way out.

Canada and South Africa are non co-operative.

Britain, Australia and New Zealand alone are prepared to take measures and co-operate in a plan.

(c) The British Commonwealth could not fight a major war without United States co-operation. A world system of collective security must be made effective and supplemented by a series of regional arrangements. It is in respect of a regional arrangement in the South-West Pacific (including strategic parts of South-East Asia), that Australia can play a leading part in Empire Co-operation and in collaboration with the United States and also other Nations with possessions there.

(d) Should the world system of collective security fail, the regional arrangement should stand its participants in good stead.

(e) Australia is the main support area for the strategic region of which it is the heart.

(f) The Australian Machinery should be used for the development of the defence aspect of regional security. This development should also include the decentralised development and distribution of British Commonwealth resources in Australia as proposed by the Prime Minister's Conference.

(g) The development of a Defence Policy along these lines will enable the nature and strength of the Forces and the resources to be provided in a balanced form to the extent to which provision is made in the Defence Vote.

(h) This approach to the determination of Post-War Defence Policy is also in harmony with the principle of Australia acting from time to time on behalf of the rest of the British Commonwealth in External Affairs matters relating to the Pacific.

(iii) The Minister for Defence has mentioned the stages through which we must pass before the ultimate Defence Policy is reached, and the factors influencing it, which must be resolved in the meantime.

(iv) The Government has noted the great emphasis placed by the United Kingdom Government on research and development. Australia has agreed to undertake extensive commitments in connection with the Guided Missiles Project and it notes that the Defence Science Conference has made recommendations relating to other avenues of research by Australia.

(v) At the Prime Ministers' Conference in London last year, the importance of arranging for the strategic development and resources of the British Commonwealth by decentralisation was also greatly stressed.

(vi) Finally, the Prime Minister expressed the view that, as there is a large body of trained men in the country, the immediate need is for concentration on research, development and decentralisation rather than on training large numbers. The Services should be small and highly efficient, with machinery to allow for rapid expansion in an emergency. With the early determination of the new conditions of service, it should be possible to get the numbers required at present by voluntary enlistment. To enable recruitment for the Permanent Forces to proceed, the future strengths can be authorised as soon as the new proposals under the 50,000,000 Vote have been submitted and approved by the Government.

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6. The following conclusions were submitted by the Prime Minister and concurred in by the Ministers on the Council:-

(1) General Basis of Defence Policy

The general basis of Defence Policy is outlined in the Governor- General's Speech on 6th November 1946 (see Appendix).

(2) Transitional Policy

It is evident that we must pass through several stages before the ultimate ideal Policy can be determined. The reasons for this may be summarised as follows:-

(i) The British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan is an interim commitment which makes additional demands on the Defence Vote, though the Forces maintained there can be embodied as part of the post-war organisation to be provided.

(ii) The progress of world and regional security will have an important hearing on the nature and extent of our Defence preparations.

If an overall plan could be prepared in accordance with the principles of the Charter, it would indicate the nature and strength of the Forces, and facilities and resources to be provided by each of the parties to the arrangement. This would have a vital influence on our future defence organisation and the basis of our planning. It is essentially a long-term view, but is fundamental to any scheme for a substantial reduction in the burden of armaments. In the meantime, reliance must primarily be placed on co-operation in Empire Defence and the development of regional security in the Pacific with the United States.

(iii) In the short-term view, the development of co-operation in Empire Defence and regional security will have an equally important influence on the nature and strength of the forces and the resources to be provided by Australia as a main support area in the strategic zone of which it is the heart. This is also bound up with the strategic development and distribution of Empire resources.

(iv) Also, scientific developments will have an important bearing on the weapons with which Forces are to be armed, and their organisation to use them. This is also tied up [with] how the amount for Post-War Defence should be allocated between research and development, and the strength and composition of the Forces and their administration and maintenance.

(v) The amount for research and development can be determined by reference to the importance, cost and priority of these proposals in relation to other Defence requirements and the total proportion of the Vote that should be devoted to these purposes.

(vi) (a) The amount for the strength and composition of the Forces and their maintenance will be the balance of the Defence Vote after providing for the amount that should be devoted to research and development in accordance with (v).

(b) As stated in the Governor-General's speech, pending the evolution of the ultimate ideal Policy, 'Australia's defence effort will be the maintenance of the strength and organisation necessary with existing weapons, to provide for commitments in the interim period for the Australian component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and for forces on the mainland for administrative and maintenance purposes, as well as to provide a basis for carrying for-ward the organisation of the peace-time forces.' (c) As stated earlier, the realisation of the ultimate organisation of the Forces is a matter of evolution through stages, as progress is made in resolving the governing factors mentioned in (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) above.

(3) Ultimate Defence Vote

The amount of the Post-War Defence Vote for the total peace requirements is to 50,000,000. This is to include the full provision made under the votes for the Navy, Army and Air Force, and the provision made for Defence under the votes of other Departments such as Defence, Munitions, and Supply and Development.

(4) Procedure

(i) The Defence Committee is to take note of the high priority given by the Government to research and development, and the relation of this to the Prime Minister's statement to the Conference of Prime Ministers that Australia is prepared to undertake a greater obligation in the Pacific in respect of Empire Defence.

(ii) The Defence Committee will accordingly recommend an annual amount to be devoted to a programme for research and development from the Defence Vote. These amounts will necessarily be provisional and variable, as they are dependent on the Government's approval of the sum to be accepted as an Australian commitment in respect of the Guided Missiles Project and other proposals, and on the organisation of the measures necessary to undertake the research and development.

(iii)After provision for the research and development programme, the Defence Committee will then:-

(a) Provide for the vote required for the Defence Department, having regard to the approval given for the expansion of the joint-Service Machinery in the shape of the Joint Intelligence Organisation, the Scientific Advisory Committee, and the New Weapons and Equipment Development Committee.

(b) Provide for the vote required for the Munitions Department for Defence purposes, after provision for research and development as mentioned in (ii).

(c) Report on the strength and composition of the Forces which can be provided in a balanced scheme of defence if the remainder of the Defence Vote is divided equally between the Services, or with such adjustments as may be agreed between the Services.

The proposals of each of the Services will be a matter for consideration by the respective Service Ministers and Boards, the co-ordination and report thereon from the Joint Service aspect being a matter for the Minister for Defence and the Defence Committee.

The extent to which the peace organisation can be expanded in war must remain in abeyance until the preparation of plans for the allocation of manpower in an emergency. These will be undertaken in connection with the Commonwealth War Book.

(iv) The proposals of the Services and the reports of the Defence Committee will be submitted to the Council for consideration, and the recommendations of the Council will be submitted to the Government for approval.

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1 The full Council of Defence comprised, in addition to ministers, the three Chiefs of Staff and Shedden.

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