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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1591


Mr O'NEIL —My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I noted recently in the Minister's White Paper on defence that the Government acknowledges that the joint defence facility at Nurrungar near Woomera in my electorate is a potential nuclear target. In light of this, and to allay the fears of people within my electorate, I would like to know what steps the Minister has taken to provide appropriate civil defence in the event of a nuclear attack.


Mr BEAZLEY —I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. He has in fact raised the issue with me several times, as befits an effective local member concerned with the situation of his constituents. I have noted his concerns and I am happy to take his question on board. The first point that I ought to make in answer to his question is that there is virtually no likelihood at all, of course, of global nuclear war. That is the first thing that needs to be said, and it also needs to be made clear to his constituents. The damage that both sides would suffer in such a conflict massively outweight any conceivable gain. There is no intent on the part of either of the super-powers to introduce nuclear war as a rational element of policy. That is the first point I want to make.

The second point is that it is true that the Government has acknowledged that, in the extraordinarily unlikely event of nuclear conflict, there is a finite possibility that the three joint facilities-the two classified joint facilities and North West Cape-may be nuclear targets. We cannot be absolutely certain about that because we obviously do not have access to the Soviet target list. But that seems to be at least a finite possibility. In those circumstances the Government believed that it was necessary to do several things. The first was to acknowledge the types of functions that those joint facilities perform. The honourable member, who has a very considerable capacity to convey accurate information to his constituents, should do this-that is, point out that the functions that the facilities perform in terms of early warning and arms control verification are absolutely critical to ensuring that the favourable circumstances that would prevent any likelihood of the outbreak of nuclear war are maintained. Those are critical functions performed by the joint facilities. Without them, there would be a materially less stable world. To call for their removal is to make a serious contribution to the possibility of that less stable world being created. However, having decided that there is that finite possibility that they may be targeted, the Government has decided that it is fitting that we should enter into discussions with the emergency authorities-in the case of the honourable member's constituency, that is, of course, the South Australian Government-to plan for the protection of the population in civil defence terms. A paper to that effect has been prepared. That paper will be discussed with the relevant State authorities and appropriate plans developed. We are confident that, given the early warning that we could anticipate of that very unlikely conflict, very substantial measures could be taken to ensure that the interests of the honourable gentleman's constituents would be fully protected. I must again thank him for raising the question. I take it as a very serious one on his part. He is well motivated in asking it.