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Friday, 20 February 1987
Page: 384

Senator VALLENTINE —I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to documents released in January about 11 separate bases in Australia which are essential to the operations of United States Pacific Command based in Hawaii. Each of the bases is stated to serve some role in secret military plans. My question to the Minister concerns three that are named in the documents that were released under the terms of the United States Freedom of Information Act. Can the Minister identify the secret operations referred to at North West Cape in addition to the communications and other operations mentioned? Which agreement covers these operations and are they in the interests of Australia? In relation to Perth, can the Minister tell the Senate whether the Government is aware of the existence of a United States military facility in the city, identify the facility and state which agreement covers the secret operations involved? Finally, is the supply facility and Naval Control of Shipping Office referred to at Fremantle located there or at Cockburn Sound?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I should say right at the outset that there are no United States bases as such at all in Australia. Any media reports to the contrary are manifestly wrong. There are some defence facilities which are jointly operated, as is well known, by the United States and Australian governments, but there are no United States bases. If this document released under United States FOI is to be taken at face value it may be the case that someone in the United States Administration, has compiled a list of facilities which have been seen as being of potential assistance to possible United States military operations. But there would be no question whatsoever of any Australian facility being used without the full, informed and prior concurrence of the Australian Government. We are absolutely certain that there are no United States facilities or operations in Australia of which we are unaware. We are fully aware of, and concur with, all the roles and functions of all the facilities in Australia that are used by the United States of America including the joint facilities at North West Cape, Pine Gap and Nurrungar.

The document to which Senator Vallentine seems to be explicitly referring is a Pentagon document entitled `US Base Requirements Overseas'. From what the Government has seen of this document so far, although it is inquiring further as to its credentials, I am afraid that it can only be described as a load of codswallop. I suppose I can summarise the particular contents of that document which give rise to this assertion on my part, but let me deal first with the specific concerns about North West Cape and so on. Certainly, there are no secret operations at North West Cape. The function of that facility is to provide defence communications, as is well known, to United States Royal Australian Navy surface ships and submarines. Some of the messages which pass through the facility are, of course, classified, but that is the only sense in which anything that goes on there is secret.

Concerning the question about Fremantle and Cockburn Sound, which apparently is also referred to somewhere in the document, the Australian Government agreed in November 1986 to arrangements for United States Navy use of facilities at HMAS Stirling, for storage of diesel fuel and for the United States Navy to lease commercial facilities for the storage of aviation fuel. That was foreshadowed by me in this place on 10 April last year. There is also a small liaison office at HMAS Stirling whose function is to facilitate arrangements for United States ship visits to Western Australia but beyond that there is absolutely nothing there.

As far as Perth is concerned, things start to get a little more extraordinary. Regarding the alleged secret US base serving allegedly secret military plans said to be located in Perth, when one identifies the co-ordinates of that particular location from the document in question, I am advised that they are identified as being a patch of grass in the middle of Perth Airport.

As far as some other locations in this document are concerned, the alleged base at Ipswich-lest anyone be minded to think that Bill Hayden has something to do with it-appears to be co-located with the Royal Australian Air Force Base at Amberley. I can assure Senator Vallentine that the Government is not considering any proposal to move US Air Force assets from Clark Airfield in the Philippines to Amberley. There is no US base at Ipswich or Amberley nor is there likely to be one.

Finally I give another illustration of the credibility of this document. There is an identified location at Alice Springs-the so called secret air strip in Alice Springs-which when it is located turns out, I am advised, to be the golf course in that city. This is what we are confronted with. I do not know what the explanation is for the document. It may be that the taking of overdoses of valium is a little more widespread in the United States Administration than we had hitherto thought. All I can say is that the Department of Defence is examining the document a bit more closely trying to get a better fix on its status from the United States Department of Defense. Senator Vallentine ought not to give it any credibility whatsoever; it is as I have described it.