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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 1970

Senator MASON —I am glad to be able to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In many respects it bears on the long answer we have just had from Senator Grimes. It concerns the United States bases in Australia and the United States Central Intelligence Agency involvement in them. Is the Minister aware of comments made yesterday by Dr Desmond Ball of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University that 'Pine Gap is a C.I.A. base, there is no doubt about that'? Can the Minister confirm that the Government is aware of that fact, or has the Government not bothered to find out? Is the Minister aware that Dr Ball described the period since the Labor Government took office in March 1983 as one in which a significant expansion of activity occurred at the United States bases in Australia? Can the Minister confirm that new antennae have been erected at North West Cape and that major extensions to the computer rooms at Nurrungar and Pine Gap are under way? If so, when did these major changes begin? What is their purpose and has the Australian Government been fully informed of these changes?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Government is certainly aware of Dr Ball's remarks as they have been reported in the media. In my answer yesterday, given on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the honourable senator's question about the CIA and Pine Gap, I referred to the Prime Minister's parliamentary statement of 6 June describing the general purpose and functions of the joint Australian- United States defence facilities at Pine Gap and Nurrungar. I reminded the honourable senator of the Prime Minister's explanation that the Government would not be commenting further upon speculation or assertions about these facilities. Obviously it remains inappropriate for me, on behalf of the Minister, to confirm or deny such assertions. However, I am able to reiterate the point that these facilities are jointly managed and operated by the Australian and American governments. I also restate the Prime Minister's assurance that the Government is satisfied that all functions and activities at the joint facilities require and have its full knowledge and concurrence and that the operations of the facilities in no way derogate from Australian sovereignty.

In respect of Senator Mason's question about changes at the facilities, I can confirm that a replacement satellite terminal was installed at North West Cape in January 1984. This proposed installation has been public knowledge since 1978 when, as some honourable senators may recall, it was the subject of some controversy in this chamber. In respect of changes at Pine Gap and Nurrungar facilities it is, as I have indicated, the Government's policy neither to confirm nor to deny claims about the operation of those facilities. I would, however, draw the honourable senator's attention to the fact that the former Minister for Defence announced on 5 July 1982 the installation of new computers and research equipment at Pine Gap, and on 8 July last year Mr Scholes announced the construction of a new antenna at Pine Gap. I also inform Senator Mason that replacement computer equipment was installed at the Nurrungar station during 1983. Finally, I can assure him that the Government continues to be kept informed and properly consulted about United States plans for the joint facilities. We are satisfied that the operations of the facilities are in accord with agreed arrangements between Australia and the United States and that these operations support our mutual security interest.