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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2433

Senator KILGARIFF(4.38) —I would like to make a brief comment on the two 707 aircraft. Of course, some little while ago in the days of the Fraser Government there was much ranting and roaring in regard to the purchase of 707 aircraft which supposedly were always claimed to be part of the VIP fleet. But, of course, over the years they have been used in many ways by the Royal Australian Air Force, including the transport of troops and refugees.

Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle —That is why they were bought.

Senator KILGARIFF —That is why they were bought. Over the years they have been extremely useful aircraft for the previous Government and for the present Government.

The two 707 aircraft, which were purchased some year or two years ago from Qantas Airways Ltd for use by the Royal Australian Air Force, have proved very beneficial for the RAAF in the performance of its very many duties, including the transport of refugees and troops which I mentioned a moment ago. Eventually, of course, these two aircraft will have a tanker configuration. Australia will then have the ability to increase the range of aircraft such as the FA18s in operations off our north coast. As a result these new aircraft, and of course the present aircraft, will be able to play a much more valuable role. The Americans, of course, have the ability to refuel B52 aircraft which operate out of Darwin in the Indian Ocean by using KC135s. This allows them to keep aircraft aloft for anything up to 30 or 32 hours. These two 707s, purchased by the previous Government and being used now, are proving very beneficial to the RAAF and will have even more important roles in the future when they become tankers.

In our consideration of the estimates in Group B I did begin to discuss briefly Department of Defence housing and that was not the appropriate time to do so. The appropriate time is now and I will be brief. I made complaints about housing at the Royal Australian Air Force base in Darwin in the second reading debate on the Appropriation Bills, when I went into this matter fully. The situation as I understand it now is that the departments of Defence, Housing and Construction and Administrative Services have been giving formal evidence on Defence housing to the Joint Committee on Public Works. So it is not my intention to intrude into that area now that it has been taken up officially. I hope that out of that will come an appreciation of the enormous task ahead in bringing Defence housing up to scratch. It requires an enormous amount of money to bring about the balance I spoke about in the appropriation debate.

Today, very quickly I wish to refer again to the RAAF base because it is in a most difficult situation. I have been there as a member of Federal parliamentary committees and I have received representations there. Of course, with the other senator for the Territory, I am responsible for the base. The other day I was out at the RAAF base after receiving a request to go there. The present situation is that 80 to 90 houses on the RAAF base are in very bad condition. They were badly damaged in Cyclone Tracey and no cyclone debris limitation work has been carried out for a number of years. In one case the only work that was done was that the main bedroom was sealed and the other bedrooms were given only partitions to separate them from other rooms. This means there is no privacy at all. With the partitions there is nothing at the top or the bottom, therefore it is impossible for families living in such accommodation to entertain without disturbing their children. They have been told that there is no money available for repairs. The roof leaks, the house has been through two wet seasons now and it has suffered badly. Sewerage pipes have burst. Families have been told that only minor repairs-fix-it jobs-can be carried out, and that no major maintenance can be carried out because no funds are available. It has been suggested that there will be no funds if Tindal is to go ahead. I have referred to that once before and pointed out that we must have a balance.

Very minimal work has been carried out in debris limitation. I stress the importance of this work, because all houses in the Darwin area are now cyclone- proof except the Defence houses and those are mainly at the aerodrome. If we have a cyclone in the next wet not only will the women, children and RAAF personnel be in danger of their lives, but people in the neighbouring area will also be endangered. Much of the damage in Cyclone Tracey was caused by airborne debris which also killed many people.

The authority must do something to normalise the situation. They cannot expect there to be two laws, one applying to the townspeople, who have had their houses cyclone-proofed, and one applying to Defence personnel who find that the cyclone regulations are being ignored in respect of their homes. I realise the problems in making money go around, but I can only suggest to the authorities that they should lease more houses and allow the personnel from the Darwin RAAF base to go into these leased houses. Then the houses on the RAAF base could be brought up to scratch. The problems with houses on the base include leaking roofs, poor water pressure, leaking sewerage pipes and holes in the floor. I have seen houses on the base that are half ant eaten and it is impossible to live in them. There is also a problem with sewerage blocks, leaks and breakages in the base area and this makes the area very open to disease. As everyone knows, in the tropics one must be extremely careful. If open sewage floods on to the ground, it can result in typhoid. The matter is extremely serious. I appreciate the problems that the authority has, but it cannot take such a narrow viewpoint that in developing Defence facilities in other areas it fails to recognise its responsibilities here. I suggest the authority does something about it very quickly and I ask it to do so before the next wet.