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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1527

Senator VALLENTINE —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, who has had a pretty light time so far today. Can the Minister provide the Parliament with a copy of a defence facilities plan which takes into account the disposition and location of naval facilities in Australia and which accommodates the moves forward of naval defence into the twenty-first century, as intimated by both the Dibb Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities and the Defence White Paper? Where are the detailed and published plans which indicate exactly what facilities will need to be moved from Sydney in order to accomplish the relocation of major elements of the fleet, firstly, to Cockburn Sound and, secondly, possibly to Jervis Bay or some other location in south-eastern Australia? Finally, can the Minister provide an independent and objectively prepared report on the suitability of locations on the Australian coastline for naval facilities? Does such a document prove that there is no feasible alternative for locating facilities on the south-eastern Australian coastline other than Jervis Bay?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The basis for major changes to the disposition of the fleet and location of naval facilities is contained in the fleet base relocation study report which was tabled, together with the statement of the Minister for Defence relating to it, on 25 February this year. The essential changes are: Development of HMAS Stirling to take half the fleet and commencement of planning for relocation of the other half from Sydney. Relocation of individual fleet units and timing are matters that are still under consideration. Implementation would take place progressively. Facilities to be moved from Sydney to accomplish relocation of major elements of the fleet are the naval fleet bases, HMAS Platypus and HMAS Waterhen. These were indicated in the joint statement of the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales of 17 November 1985. A mine countermeasures capability will be maintained in Sydney Harbour.

The Minister for Defence indicated in his statement tabling the fleet base relocation study report that Jervis Bay has been clearly established by defence examination as the most suitable alternative base in the east for the fleet. Under the procedures of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974, Defence will, of course, be required to justify that position. There is no suggestion that Jervis Bay is the only feasible alternative on the east coast but other locations have substantial problems and costs and in some cases also raise major environmental issues.