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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 3754

Mr BEALE —Will the Prime Minister advise the House why the Government has rejected a request by an African country, Botswana, for the Hercules aircraft presently on the tarmac in Cyprus to carry out famine relief work in Botswana? Is the Government denying Botswana this humanitarian assistance because Air Botswana, which would operate the Hercules through a company called Stridestar, has close links with South Africa? Further, will the Prime Minister give the House the details of an investigation being carried out on an officer and former officer of a government department into irregularities associated with the initial transfer of the Hercules to Ethiopia? Finally, when will the Prime Minister come clean on what is happening to all the Hercules aircraft with particular reference to the poor condition of the four aircraft at Laverton, the confiscation of an aircraft at Dothan, Alabama, and the million dollars worth of missing spare parts?

Mr HAWKE —Let me go over the recent events in regard to the question from the honourable member. The World Food Program, WFP, had formally requested use of the Australian Hercules aircraft to which the honourable member refers, initially for one month with a possible extension for famine relief in the Sudan or other parts of north-eastern Africa. The Government gave its agreement to this request and it helped to expedite arrangements for a hand-over to the WFP, which was to have taken place on 13 November. However, at the very last moment the Government received advice from the World Food Program that it had decided not to proceed with the lease of the Hercules aircraft. It was explained by the WFP that the sudden changed position had been brought about by recent news of surface transport now reaching several places in south Sudan and by news of considerable food supplies en route to the south.

In regard to that part of the question that went to spare parts, I am informed that an agent, Vision Air London, has been appointed by the Australian Development Assistance Bureau to reconcile spare parts in the Hercules with the Government's inventory of spares, and as I am informed there have been no reports to date of any missing spare parts. In regard to that part of the question from the honourable member which suggested that a request by Botswana had been rejected, I have no knowledge of such a rejection and the Foreign Minister has just come to the table to indicate to me that he is not aware of any such situation. That is all I can add. Immediately after Question Time has ended I will see whether I am capable of giving the honourable member any further information on any part of his question, as I have in the past.