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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 418

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —I remind the Minister representing the Minister for Defence that last week I asked whether the Government would confirm or deny the official American interpretation of the recent satellite photographs of Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, that interpretation pointing to a massive development of an air force and naval Russian base with modern long range aircraft, nuclear submarines and surface ships, all capable of missile deployment in the Australian region of influence. I ask: Has the Minister now the answer which he undertook to get? If not, what is the reason for the delay? Does the delay indicate that the Government is so unconcerned about Russian military involvement in this area that it did not bother to check immediately as to the accuracy of the information? When will the answer be available?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I do not yet have to hand the information that I sought from the Minister for Defence. I do not think there is any sinister explanation for that other than that the Minister has had his hands full in finalising the terms of the defence White Paper which will be brought down very shortly. I do not think there is any novelty or excitement about the matters to which Senator Sir John Carrick refers, but since he has stimulated me again in this way I will do my best to get an answer before the week is out.

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Do I understand that the Minister and the Government do not see any connection between the correct interpretation of the buildup of the base at Cam Ranh Bay and the preparation of a defence White Paper?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Whatever connection there may be, I do not think it is envisaged by anyone that an attack is about to be launched from Cam Ranh Bay within the next few days and, under the circumstances, I think it is reasonable for the Defence Minister to take his time and to produce a considered answer.