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Wednesday, 26 June 1996
Page: 2794


Mr LIEBERMAN —My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel representing the Minister for Defence. Has the minister heard reports this morning concerning discussions between the Minister for Defence and Secretary Perry? Can the minister inform the House about these talks?


Mrs BISHOP —I thank the member for his question. Yes, I am aware of the comments that were passed this morning concerning the talks which are being held today our time between Minister McLachlan and Secretary Perry. The government has consistently maintained that the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region is to be enhanced as a result of an active US presence within our region. Accordingly, we stress that the centre point of our alliance is, indeed, the ANZUS alliance. The government aims to strengthen that alliance with these talks.

In order to encourage and facilitate the continued presence, the government has made it clear that we are prepared to offer increased opportunity for US exercises in Australia, a position which Secretary Perry acknowledged this morning our time was to be discussed with Mr McLachlan today.

You will recall that my colleague the Minister for Defence said in this House on 30 May that he would be talking to our American allies about the possibility of the use of facilities or ranges or training areas on a part-time basis. He also said and I quote from Hansard:

In the next month or so I will be talking to the Americans about new possibilities in the area and about pre-positioning some equipment in Australia—although, I might say, there have been no definitive propositions put to us.

You will recall, as I said, that Minister McLachlan came and told the House that he was interested in discussing this but that there was no firm proposal. That is precisely the case. However, what is to be discussed is the enhancing of our relationship, including the important Ausmin consultations to take place here in late July.

We maintain our commitment to the operation of the US-Australian joint facilities. We will increase the Australian-US exercising and training opportunities. We will continue to offer access to Australian facilities for US naval and air forces on deployment in the region. We will continue to offer the use of the Delamere range and make available other training and live-fire areas where these suit the requirements of the US and meet the needs of our own defence forces. We aim, very simply, to enhance our strong relationship, which is ongoing and dynamic.