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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2281

Mr HALVERSON —My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. He will note that we do not feed off misinformation contained in the Press. Will the Minister confirm that Sweden is a neutral country and plays no part in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance? Will the Minister also confirm that during the Vietnam conflict the Swedish Government placed an embargo on the provision of ammunition-made only in Sweden-and spares for the Carl Gustav anti-tank weapon with which Australian forces were equipped, thereby rendering the weapon inoperable? If the submarine contract goes to the Swedish company, is it not a fact that, first, logistic support must be provided from Swedish sources over the lifetime of the submarines and, secondly, our Vietnam experience showed that it is quite impossible to rely on assurances that this support will be forthcoming?

Mr BEAZLEY —I suppose the honourable member could have also asked me a question on what I thought about World War II and we could have run through that. The first point I want to make is that obviously there is a time to consider in detail in the House, if it is the desire of honourable members, the question of the Government's final source selection of a submarine. A week or two short of Cabinet consideration is not the time to do that. With regard to the more general points that the honourable member raised about the Swedish position, it is true that Sweden is a neutral country. I will return to that point in a moment. There were troubles with weapons supplied by Sweden during the course of the Vietnam war. For that reason we have negotiated an extensive set of agreements and sought assurances in a variety of forms from the Swedes, if they get the submarine contract, to ensure that such an event would not occur again as far as they are concerned. But more important than that--

Mr N.A. Brown —Have they got the job then?

Mr BEAZLEY —No, we have also got that assurance from the Germans. We get those these days from every country which supplies us with weapons. We act differently these days from what occurred in the 1950s and 1960s when other people were running defence policies. We do not necessarily operate on the basis of complete trust. We like agreements. We like to sign those agreements and we like to make people stick to them. It does not matter whether we are dealing with the Swedes, Germans, British, Dutch, Americans or whatever. We do it across the board. That is the first point that I want to make.

The second point is the question of logistic support. The submarines will be built in this country. I will not announce the actual percentage now, but it is substantially in excess of that which the Government sought. A very substantial proportion of the submarines will be built in this country, for one very important reason-that is, we wish them to be capable.

Mr Spender —The weapons?

Mr BEAZLEY —I will refer to the weapons system in a moment, because it is not Swedish, nor is it German-in either case. The point that I make about that is that our intention is that we will be able to support these submarines here, away from any other centre of supply. We consider that to be fundamental to defence self-reliance. In the final analysis, when the submarines are constructed, it does not really matter what anybody else thinks; we will use them in an unfettered way. Of course, the combat systems for the submarines will be drawn from either Signaal, the Dutch-based consortium, or Rockwell, which is essentially an American-based consortium. We have sought those guarantees of resupply from both the Americans and the Dutch. This Government operates in this area, as in all others, in a prudent manner.

I would like to say one other thing in regard to the Swedes, because I was in a position to visit both Sweden and Germany during the course of last year and had a chance to talk to both the Swedes and the Germans about their plans. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Swedes take very seriously their relationship with NATO and with the Americans and protect the positions that they develop in the markets that they are seeking in NATO countries, including the United States. Indeed, Kockums, the company involved as far as Sweden is concerned, has had an involvement with the United States naval shipbuilding program at Newport News. The United States has a considerable respect for Swedish technology, as it has for German technology, in this area. All the necessary protection will be taken. This Government values independence and self-reliance highly. We will not make the mistakes of conservative governments in the 1950s and 1960s.