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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 686

Senator SANDERS(12.55) — Today I propose to speak about the anticipated movement of the Royal Australian Navy fleet base to Jervis Bay. Jervis Bay is a beautiful area which has somehow been spared the rampant development of the rest of the coast. Actually, it has been spared because of the Federal ownership, which has kept the area somewhat free of excessive development. But now, of course, the Navy itself is anticipated to move in and cause great changes in the area.

There are two areas of concern to the local people of Jervis Bay. One is in the northern part, where the ammunition depot is going. The other is in the southern part, where the RAN fleet base will be located. The ammunition depot will be installed at a place called Green Point. Green Point is not only a beautiful area but also the most sacred of the sacred sites of the local Aboriginal people. It has great significance for their origins, their legends and their whole culture. To emplace an ammunition depot there would be like putting a sewerage works in the middle of St Paul's Cathedral. It would be an act of total desecration. The mere placement of an ammunition depot anywhere flies in the face of reality in terms of modern warfare. The Navy's planners must still be thinking in terms of World War II ships, which required massive stores of ammunition and shells for ballistic weapons. In fact, modern warships are equipped with smart weapons. They do not have as many munitions on board simply because the weapons that they do have are far more accurate and the guided missiles with which they are equipped carry far less explosive material and can, of course, do far more damage. The other thing, I have been informed by knowledgeable people in the Navy, is that these ships require munitioning approximately only every two years. In that case it would make perfectly good sense to be able to just load the munitions needed where the ships are. They could be hauled by rail, truck or even air to other ports such as Newcastle, even Wollongong which is quite close, or up and down the coast, for instance Cairns. The Western Australian area will be used for munitions loading. These things should be taken into account. There is probably no real reason at all to put an ammunition depot at Jervis Bay.

The other consideration relates to the RAN fleet base. This will be put down near a stretch of beach called the Green Patch, which is in one of the most beautiful areas of the New South Wales coast. It is an area of coast which has great significance, fond memories, for many. The people of the area and visitors from as far away as Canberra have used the beach for years and yet it is now planned to put a $1 billion development there. That would, of course, massively affect not only the beach but also the ecology of the bay itself and the total development of the region.

It would seem that the Government is running a major scam in relation to this project. I have it on good information that tomorrow a $1m contract for a project, one which does not yet exist, will be granted to a firm to conduct an environmental impact study. I say that the project does not exist because no plans have been drawn up for facilities upon which one could base an EIS. There are simply no plans in existence. As far as we can determine no staff resources are engaged in master planning work or investigation for either the fleet base relocation study or the armament depot project. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment (Mr Cohen) has not, up to this time at least, given any formal notice, or tabled any papers, involving a notice of intention for the fleet base relocation project. Also he has not outlined any guidelines developed by his Department for the conduct of the EIS. No notice of intention has been given. Yet tomorrow, we are told, a firm will be awarded a $1m contract to conduct an EIS on this project. It would appear that the firm will conduct some sort of an EIS, will determine that Jervis Bay is indeed the place to put the ammunition depot and the fleet base relocation project and then, since $1m has already been spent by the Government on the EIS, the project will go ahead. It looks to me as if the EIS will be a sham. It will be merely an excuse for the Government to do what it wants to do anyway, which is to desecrate what is presently a relatively unspoiled patch of the environment.