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Monday, 30 November 1998
Page: 830


Senator MINCHIN (Industry, Science and Resources) (1:32 PM) —In general terms, it does distress me to see parties on the left arguing so vociferously about government legislation. But in this case—again, for the reasons so well put by Senator Schacht—we are opposed to these amendments, particularly in relation to military purposes, for the reasons set out by Senator Schacht. To say that the condition applies to every launch permit that it cannot be issued if there is any possibility of it being used for any military purpose would mean huge definitional problems.

I do not know, but the Australian Defence Force may well, for the defence of Australia—which I would have thought we are all interested in—and for national security reasons want to use a commercial launch to put up a defensive satellite of some kind. It may be the military that actually commissions the launch for purposes that relate to the security of every single one of us and for the defence of Australia. To put this clause in means that could never ever occur—that would be completely and utterly prohibited. So there is a question there about national security. There is also the verification issue that I think Senator Schacht very sensibly raised. There are a whole lot of reasons this clause would be a ridiculous limitation on the regime.

As we have said before, the minister can only grant the permit if he is satisfied that there is no risk of substantial harm to public safety and it does not contain weapons of mass destruction. We think there are enough protections in the system as it is. If it appears that a problem is emerging, there may well, as Senator Schacht has said, be a need for the parliament to reconsider the regime. But we see no purpose in these amendments, particularly that amendment in relation to `any military purpose'. It may be that anything relating to communication satellites, global positioning systems and things like that would get caught up in that and severely hinder the development of the space industry in this country for no purpose, particularly given, as I say, there are adequate safeguards already in the legislation to ward against any reasonable risks associated with the emergence of a space industry.