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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1642

Senator MACKLIN —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that the United States base at Watsonia outside Melbourne is the single link between three transmission intercept stations in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, and the United States Pacific Fleet Ocean Surveillance Centre in Hawaii? Is it true that information from these bases passing through Watsonia can be used for targeting of nuclear weapons? Does not this targeting information contribute to the technical capacity of the United States to launch a counter force nuclear first strike against the enemy, thereby increasing the risk of nuclear war? Does Australia have any knowledge or control over the information passing through the Watsonia base? Given the crucial information passing through Watsonia and given that the base is the link between intercept stations and Hawaii, is it not reasonable to assume that Watsonia is a nuclear target?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Given the fact that Watsonia is in the electorate of Jagajaga, I am perhaps slightly less passionately concerned with the last part of Senator Macklin's question than I might have been three weeks ago. As to parts 1, 2 and 4 of that question, which sought detailed information as to the function of that base, I have to say that this Government, as have previous governments, will neither confirm nor deny details relating to intelligence matters. The problem in dealing with claims is that, if they are accurate and the Government confirms their accuracy, potential enemies will be provided with valuable military information. Conversely, if they are inaccurate in part or in whole, denial of such claims will over time allow potentially unfriendly governments to build up a picture of which intelligence capabilities are or are not possessed. I am sure that Senator Macklin will appreciate the good sense of that proposition, even if he will not concede it publicly in this chamber.

As to the third part of the question, I refer Senator Macklin to the 1984 fiscal year United States defence report, which states quite unequivocally that United States strategic policy is defensive and excludes the possibility that the United States would initiate a war or launch a pre-emptive first strike against the forces or territories of other nations. As to the remaining part of his question, part 5, which relates to nuclear targeting, if global nuclear war were to occur we cannot exclude the possibility that Australia would come under nuclear attack since we cannot know the strategic targets of Soviet planners. However, there would clearly be many targets of higher military priority. It is the Government's view that there would be no reason for Watsonia to be selected as a nuclear target.