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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 105

(Question No. 2119)

Mr Staples asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 10 October 1985:

(1) Does the agreement ratified on 9 September 1966 on Pine Gap expire in 1987.

(2) Was the agreement ever ratified by the US Congress and is the agreement binding on the US Government.

(3) Is the Pine Gap facility operated on behalf of the US Government under contract by TRW Incorporated and F Systems Incorporated.

(4) Are these organisations independent of the Australian Government and in what way are they accountable to the Australian Government.

(5) Has his attention been drawn to the reported statement of Mr Kealy, an F Systems employee, in the Canberra Times on 11 May 1977, that `some Australian Politicians had been through the place and believed they knew what it did and that he doubted if a politician would understand the place even if he was told everything about it'; if so, does this statement have any substance to it.

(6) Is the Joint Defence Research facility at Pine Gap a satellite control station able to detect and track launched missiles and nuclear explosions in the atmosphere or space.

(7) Does this facility relay to North West Cape data from orbiting satellites; if so, is this information processed by the US military command.

(8) Did the United States refuse an Australian request not to use North west Cape for ordering submarine missile arming after the Cape facility had been put into a ``red alert'' in October 1973, without the knowledge of Prime Minister Whitlam.

Mr Beazley —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Agreement relating to the establishment of the Joint Defence Space Research Facility at Pine Gap was signed on 9 December 1966. The agreement did not require Australian ratification, and does not expire in 1987. I refer the honourable member to the answer to question no. 48 given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 31 May 1985, Hansard, page 3268.

(2) The agreement did not require ratification by the US Congress. It entered into force for both Parties on signature and is equally binding on both Parties.

(3) No. The Facility is operated by the two Governments through the Australian Department of Defence and the United States Department of Defence as co-operating agencies.

(4) TRW and E-Systems perform certain designated functions at the Facility under contract to the US Department of Defense. As is appropriate for an equal cooperating partner, Australian Government concurrence is required for all activities at the Facility, including those conducted by contractors. I am satisfied that the consultative and organisational arrangements in place, and the extensive involvement of Australian Department of Defence personnel in all levels of the management and operation of Pine Gap, ensure that the Australian Government is fully informed of all activities at the Facility.

(5) Yes. Relevant Ministers and senior members of the Opposition are fully briefed on all aspects of the operations of the Facility. I am satisfied that all briefed Ministers understand those operations clearly.

(6) & (7) On 6 June 1984, the Prime Minister explained to Parliament the general purpose of the joint defence facilities at Pine Gap and Nurrungar. He said that among the functions performed are the provision of early warning by receiving from space satellites information about missile launches, and the provision of information about the occurence of nuclear explosions.

(8) Searches of records in the Departments of Defence, Foreign Affairs, and Prime Minister and Cabinet have not revealed any evidence that such a request was made.