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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2067

Senator DENMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel. I draw the minister's attention to the report in the Age newspaper on 10 March this year that scientists in Italy are investigating new methods of detecting and destroying the millions of buried plastic landmines that kill or maim thousands of people each year in former battle zones. Is any similar research being done by Australian defence scientists, bearing in mind the threat posed by these mines not only to civilians but also to Australian forces deployed overseas?

Senator FAULKNER —The Defence Science and Technology Organisation is aware of what overseas agencies are doing in anti-personnel mine detection and destruction, and I can say to Senator Denman that it is doing similar research. Technically, of course, the detection of non-metallic mines is a very difficult task. DSTO is conducting research for the army in landmine detection, including the use of radar, as well as research into the disarming of mines using microwave radiation. Research so far indicates that airborne radar can be used to detect recently laid surface landmines and soil disturbance associated with laying a minefield. Location of individual buried landmines requires the use of ground probing radar.

  DSTO has a research program in conjunction with CSIRO to investigate the use of ground probing radar to detect buried plastic landmines. Research by DSTO on the use of microwave radiation to disarm plastic landmines indicates that this method may have application in mine neutralisation in dry soil conditions. DSTO is seeking to involve the Australian defence industry in its work in this regard and is looking at the potential for active collaboration with overseas countries in this important area.

  DSTO is sending a scientist to Sweden in June of this year to attend a United Nations conference on the issue. I think that is an indication of the seriousness with which this matter is being treated.