Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Page: 2164


Senator LEWIS(4.27) —During this debate on the Appropriation Bills I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to some of the problems concerned with Australia's coastal surveillance. In the Additional Estimates being considered by the Senate a figure of some $4m, an increase of 3 per cent, is sought for the Australian Federal Police. During the hearings of Estimates Committee E, Senator Boswell raised a question about this additional sum. Mr J. Ireland, the Executive Officer, Administration, of the Australian Federal Police, said:

As you are aware, Senator, we have recently assumed responsibility for coastal surveillance. The Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Coastal Surveillance has been meeting to consider the resources that will be required by the Federal Police to perform its role, particularly with the establishment of the Coastal Protection Unit.

So the situation is that a coastal protection unit is to be established within the Australian Federal Police to perform the role of coastal surveillance for this nation. I ask the Senate: How does that stand with the Australian Labor Party's 1982 platform, under the section relating to defence, paragraph C, point 14, which states in relation to the Labor Party in government:

Establish a Coastal Protection Force within the Defence Force, equipped and organised with air and sea capability to police in peacetime Australia's maritime zone against activities such as drug smuggling and illegal fishing.

So when members of the Labor Party were in opposition and that platform was being prepared in the years before we got ad Hawkery, they were promoting the view that coastal protection and surveillance arrangements should come under the defence forces and, now they are in government, this will be established in some way or other under the Australian Federal Police.

How does that happen? It all arises out of the volume entitled 'A Review of Australia's Peacetime Coastal Surveillance and Protection Arrangements', by Mr K . C. Beazley, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. It is this review which the Government has used-perhaps I should say misused-in order to come up with these arrangements. I suggest to the Senate that on any proper analysis of this review one would have to agree that it is a sloppy document. It is shallow and it appears to me to have been written to meet a performed conclusion. It fails to provide any meaningful cost benefit analysis. There is no financial impact statement or manpower audit of the intended arrangements under the Australian Federal Police. For example, it fails to explain how the Royal Australian Air Force will provide 1,500 hours per year of P3 Orion surveillance when the RAAF has stated that, given its new commitments to the Royal Australian Navy following the disbandment of the Fleet Air Arm fixed wing element, it can provide a maximum of 1,200 hours. The Minister has just ignored that statement and has said it will provide 1,500 hours surveillance.

The report fails to examine in any detail the user pays and Defence Force core arrangements which were adopted by the Canadians or the 1976 Norwegian Government decision to form a coast guard within the Royal Norwegian Navy as the most economic method of undertaking surveillance of the 200-mile Norwegian economic zone and continental shelf. In fact, the Norwegian solution does not even rate a mention in this document. Yet, like Norway, Australia is a relatively small country in regard to population, with a large coastline, a 200 nautical mile economic zone and off-shore oil field. Coastal surveillance of this nation is a matter of grave concern, and should be a matter of grave concern to this Government. I have my doubts as to whether it is a matter of grave concern to this Government but it is a matter of grave concern to the people of Australia.

This document fails to examine the possibility of a separate budget for coastal surveillance using defence equipment and while the review states the 1977 costs of a separate coastal protection force as being between $365m and $450m, it fails to detail the sort of force that was envisaged in that 1977 review. I suggest that that review was probably based on the big power US Coastguard concept-the usual Rolls Royce solution which is frequently offered to this nation and which this nation cannot afford. This review does not cost for comparative purposes the Canadian concept. However, it does note:

. . . there may be a need to equip the Coastal Protection Unit with additional inshore patrol craft or aircraft for operations in particular areas.

So the Minister is talking about providing additional inshore patrol craft and aircraft. The Minister considers:

. . . these operational matters be addressed after the new unit is established.

Is that not just typical of the sort of thing that goes on with members of the Labor Party in government? They have made up their minds what they will do, then they will implement their program and after that they will find out what it will cost the nation. Do we have some sort of blank cheque? Probably, once they get down the track and find out the cost and compare the cost of providing these sorts of facilities with the other costs of governing this nation, the Australian coastal protection unit will find itself frozen of funds. Coastal surveillance, a matter of grave importance and absolutely essential for the security of this nation with regard to the importation of drugs, illegal immigrants and perhaps diseases which might affect our animals, will go by the by because this Government has failed to give it any proper consideration in the preliminary stages. Parliament in fact is being presented with these new arrangements as a fait accompli, without knowing the financial implications, and the Government is unable to give any indication of the future size and shape of the coastal protection unit either centrally or regionally. As Mr Ireland said in answer to Senator Boswell, we have already started; we are already down the track. So it is a fait accompli. There has been no debate in the Parliament, no legislation introduced and no opportunity to question the Minister at any length about what is going on, but somewhere down the track hundreds of millions of dollars will be needed, and properly needed, to provide this service. However, there will be arguments about whether or not the funds will be provided. In introducing this review the Special Minister of State (Mr Young)-I might say that at the time he had the only copy of the review in the Parliament so no one else could have a look at it-said:

There is a high cost in using defence equipment and manpower, which has been selected and trained for tasks that have little in common with civil coastal surveillance.

They were his words. I put it to the Senate that that is not a very convincing argument given the Norwegian solution or indeed the Canadian solution for surveillance of their economic zones. No mention was made in his statement of the possibility of a need to equip the coastal protection unit with additional patrol craft or aircraft for operations in particular areas. That is hidden in the review, in the Minister's recommendations at the bottom of page 6.

One fact that does emerge is that the Government has written into the report an attempted justification for the disposal of the Navy's Tracker aircraft. It states the obvious, that Tracker aircraft are more costly to operate than unsophisticated civil aircraft. But are they really? It does not mention the fact that the Tracker aircraft have been paid for but the civil aircraft will have to be bought. It does not mention that these Tracker aircraft are being manned by highly skilled pilots and aircrew who have already been trained and who need flying hours to make sure that their training is kept up. They are a valuable defence asset. I quote what the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, said:

The task of policing Australia's new maritime zone is an enormous and continuing one. It should be handled by the defence forces, thereby utilising effectively for peacetime purposes the resources we are compelled to devote to our preparations for war . . . We will establish within the Defence Force a coastal protection force.

I suggest to the Senate that that proposition had much merit. That statement was made by Mr Hayden when he addressed the Australian Institute of International Affairs on 9 November 1981 when he was leading the Labor Party. Now, with this typical ad Hawkery that we get under this Government, that proposition has been relegated to the scrap-heap and we are now going down the track of establishing a coastal protection unit not knowing what the ultimate cost will be, and indeed not knowing very much at all about where it will take us. I just wonder whether Mr Hawke cannot bear the idea of adopting any initiatives made by Mr Hayden.

It may be that the Australian Federal Police has a proper capability, or should be given a proper capability, to control coastal surveillance in peace time but I do not believe that we can afford the sort of separate organisation that must be envisaged under this proposal. With the limited funds available, the utilisation of existing resources and the development of resources that have a dual peacetime and war capability appear to be essential. Are we to have yet another burgeoning bureaucracy? Will this concept lead to the purchase of ships and aircraft designed specifically for the peacetime surveillance role, ships and aircraft that are incapable of rapid conversion to a useful military role?

Much is made in the report of existing police networks and communications, but are they compatible with defence communications in wartime? I think not. I ask whether this proposal will lead to separate logistic, administrative, communications, repair and other support facilities and, if so, at what cost? Will they train their own mariners and aviators? That would be a waste in duplication.

We really need a coastguard service within the Defence Force along the Norwegian lines, one which is separately funded but which utilises both Navy and Air Force logistic, communications and administrative facilities and equipments that have a wartime role. The manpower could be auxiliary to the regular forces being drawn from Navy and Air Force trained personnel who have completed at least one engagement in the defence forces. Such a service would provide significant economies in scale. The coastguard service would be an effective active reserve to the defence forces with specific dedicated wartime roles. We simply cannot afford the luxury of specifically designed ships and aircraft for the peacetime surveillance role; nor can we afford the cost of training mariners and aviators solely for that role. For example, is there any reason why the new catamaran hull which is being developed for Navy minesweepers should not also be developed as the hull for surveillance patrol craft? It could be fitted for, but not with, a minesweeping capability. In war we would need a huge minesweeping force for this nation. That would be one of the roles of the coastguard service in war. Why do we not give consideration to the new generation of airships being developed overseas? Why are they not being developed in this nation? These airships are economic, have long endurance and could be fitted with dunking sonars in time of war.

It is natural that the Defence Force chiefs do not want their funds for equipment essential to their primary role diluted by involvement in peacetime coastal surveillance, but it should not be beyond their wit to evolve a strategy that would provide them with an active and cost-effective reserve within a coastguard service which would have an important and vital wartime role. Such a coastguard service would need to compete separately for budgetary funding of its surveillance role and the provision of services by the defence forces in support . Some of the charges might, however, properly be offset against the 'for but not with wartime capability' in their ships and aircraft.

The review by Mr Beazley does not provide persuasive argument in favour of the Government's conclusions and recommendations. The disposal of a valuable and existing asset such as the Fleet Air Arm's Tracker aircraft, on the ground that their operating costs are greater than those of civil aircraft, is specious. The conclusions are clearly written to a specific brief which has little in common with good government or the effective use of existing assets. In my view it is yet another example of the dictatorial pressure exerted by the Prime Minister on his Cabinet colleagues. It is simply another case of ad Hawkery.