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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1931

Senator WATSON —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I ask: Is it a fact that most Royal Australian Air Force Mirage aircraft have exceeded the airframe safety standard in terms of flying hours as specified by their manufacturers? When questioned on the high number of accidents affecting Mirage aircraft, the Minister for Defence, Mr Scholes, replied that other countries had Mirages in service. In so doing, he overlooked two factors-the flying hours are not necessarily comparable and the other countries have more modern Mirage aircraft.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I suspect from Senator Watson's last comment that he is well aware of such information as I have from the Minister for Defence. But for the record, here it is. The hours flown by each Mirage pilot were: In 1981-82, 224; 1982-83, 194; and 1983-84, 209.

Senator Watson —I said the airframes.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The honourable senator was after the airframes?

Senator Watson —Yes.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The total number of Mirage hours flown by the aircraft, which probably only makes sense when one adds up the number of aircraft being flown, was 13,082 in 1982-83 and 13,280 in 1983-84. Willing as I always am to give honourable senators that sort of information, whether they want it or not, there it is. So far as crashes by Mirages are concerned, which is, I think, relevant to the question, there have been lots, but not an excessive number, I am told, by international standards. In 1975 there were zero; 1976, seven; 1977, two; 1978, one; 1979, one; 1980, two; 1981, two; 1982, zero; 1983, two; and in 1984, so far, there have been five. The Chief of Air Staff has, however, assured the Minister for Defence that aircraft are flown only if they meet strict airworthiness standards. Mirage losses have been 12.25 aircraft per 100,000 hours flown. I am told that this is comparable to or better than equivalent aircraft overseas. If in the middle of all that information Senator Watson has not had his request satisfied, as I suspect he has not, I shall do my best to ensure that he is so satisfied by the Minister as soon as I can.

Senator WATSON —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. If the Minister reads the Hansard he will note that I was not referring to the ability of the pilots but, rather, to the airframe of the aircraft. Perhaps the Minister will consider the question and give me a reply at a later date.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have acknowledged that there is a difference. Even I, with my inability to appreciate the finer points, can distinguish between an aircraft and a pilot. I am perfectly happy to find the information for Senator Watson and to advise him accordingly.