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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2928


Senator MICHAEL BAUME(9.09) —I want to relate my remarks specifically to some matters relating to this year's expenditures. What on earth is HMAS Success doing in dry-dock? It was commissioned in, I think, April this year. It is now in drydock, having gone to sea once. This is one of the most extraordinary stories of misadventure. The ship cost God knows how much more to build than it should have cost. I simply want to know whether this is a routine normal dry docking after such a short time in the water or whether there is something basically wrong with the ship still-or should I say again.

The other question I want to ask relates to the decision to replace Macchis and other Royal Australian Air Force aircraft in fleet support activities. I draw the attention of the Committee to a study entitled the `Hire of aircraft by Defence-study for Senate Estimates Committee E' dated 18 September which dealt with the possibility of this happening. The report states:

Areas currently under study or foreshadowed cover 34 Squadron operations, fleet support now performed by lower performance military aircraft (such as Macchi), transport and photo-survey.

That was in the context of the report earlier saying:

Some support flying provides benefit to Defence air-crew for operational training and development of skills, but other air support flying is routine and makes no such contribution to Defence Force effectiveness. It is not, therefore, necessary to perform all air-support tasks with military air-crews.

I just say by way of observation that that totally ignores the benefit to the Royal Australian Navy. There may well be a need for the Navy to have professional Defence Force personnel doing what may well be described as routine flying. It may be of much more significance to the Navy. Certainly the Navy's concerns appear to have been totally ignored in this paragraph. In the next paragraph it says:

Given constrained resources, priority should be accorded to operational capabilities and activities. Defence should not undertake tasks which might appropriately be undertaken by Australian Industry with suitable aircraft. . .

I ask: To what extend do the new flying arrangements in which civilian personnel fly civilian aircraft diminish the scope for activities which would involve operational training and the development of skills for service airmen? Also, to what extent does it diminish the benefit to the Navy of having exercises which are aimed at improving their skills and capabilities and which involve simply non-professional Defence airmen pretending to attack ships and trying to provide simulated operational environments?