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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 764

Senator ELSTOB —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. What action has the Government taken to enhance collaborative arrangements and co-operation between Australia and New Zealand on defence equipment? Can the Minister outline the benefits which are likely to flow to our munitions and shipbuilding industries as a result of such action?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Senator Elstob's question is a particularly timely one. It is about a matter of considerable strategic, economic and industrial significance for both Australia and New Zealand. Long-standing recognition of the scope for mutually beneficial collaboration by Australia and New Zealand in the supply and support of defence equipment for their respective forces led to this Government signing a memor- andum of understanding between Australia and New Zealand on defence logistic co-operation in June 1983. Australian and New Zealand defence officials are negotiating a series of annexes to the MOU that address practical issues such as administrative arrangements for co-operative acquisition or support of selected major defence equipment. Common Australian and New Zealand communications requirements lead to close collaboration in the provision of strategic communications for their respective forces. Ongoing collaboration in this area includes exchange of information between project personnel and procurement of common equipment.

The Australian Army and its New Zealand counterpart have a common requirement for a wide range of munitions and equipment. In February 1987 this common requirement culminated in contracts by Australia's Office of Defence Production for supply to New Zealand of 24 105-millimetre light guns and 18,000 Steyr Aug-1 rifles at a cost of $A15.5m and $A24m respectively. For its part, Australian industry derives substantial benefit in terms of larger markets and longer production runs for specialised defence equipment. However, mutually beneficial collaboration in the supply and support of defence equipment depends importantly on equitable involvement in such activity by both Australian and New Zealand industry. Air New Zealand Ltd has, in the past, contracted for the maintenance of gas turbine engines used by the RAN's destroyers. New Zealand industry will be able to supply a significant number of components for the new rifles for both Australian and New Zealand armed forces.

In the 1990s, the Australian and New Zealand navies will need to introduce new surface combatants with similar characteristics. To facilitate exploration of the scope for potentially significant collaboration in this area, the respective Defence Ministers signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this month. If its potential is realised, the project offers exciting prospects for involvement by Australian and New Zealand industry in meeting a joint requirement for up to 12 ships. This trans-Tasman collaboration in the supply and support of defence equipment is an important demonstration of the practical substance of contemporary Australia-New Zealand defence relationships.