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Transcript of doorstop interview: Austal Shipyard, Henderson, WA: Wednesday 17 December 2003: patrol boat, Labor’s coastguard.



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TRANSCRIPT SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

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DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

Austal Shipyard, Henderson WA

11.30 am, Wednesday 17 December 2003

E&oe_______________________________________Patrol Boat, Labor’s Coastguard

Journalist

Senator what role will these patrol boats have in coastal security?

Senator Hill

Well they will be covering our territorial waters. They will be dealing with illegal people movement, our fishing beaches, transnational crime. They are an important part of protecting our sovereignty.

Journalist

How will they enhance it though?

Senator Hill

Longer range, more capable, faster, heavier weapons. Really a very capable vessel.

Journalist

Will they be working in addition to the current fleet?

Senator Hill

They will follow on from the current fleet. The first will be produced in 17 months time. They’ve then got a 15 year contract for these boats with DMS. They will be based in Darwin and in Cairns and as I’ve said they will basically cover our territorial seas and protect our sovereignty.

Journalist

So this replaces what we’ve got or is it in addition to what we’ve got.

Senator Hill

No this is the new generation. This is an enhanced capability. It actually - we get more hours at sea with these boats. They can stay at sea longer. As I’ve said they are faster, they’ve got a 3,000 nautical mile range. They can handle much heavier sea states. We’re very confident and the Navy is very confident that this is the vessel that they need to protect Australia’s territorial waters for the next 15 years.

Journalist

What about the North West Coast and the issue of refugees and also the issue of the North West Shelf? What about security there?

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Senator Hill

They cover that. They cover it in conjunction with our maritime surveillance aircraft and also with the customs service. So we’ve really got a number of different layers. We - our surveillance is from the air. In more distance waters it’s through these Navy Patrol boats. Closer in waters it’s through the customs boats which are also produced by Austal here in Western Australia.

Journalist

But how can they cover it from Darwin and Cairns?

Senator Hill

I said they’ve got a 3,000 mile radius and they obviously refuel and replenish in other ports as well. I simply said that the bases are in Darwin and Cairns. It’s economic reasons, you don’t want too many bases. You’ve got to maintain obviously maintenance support staff and the like.

Journalist

So is this in lieu of a Coastguard that the opposition is talking about?

Senator Hill

Well their so called Coastguard, if they’re recycling Simon Creans’ Coastguard which I understand they are doing, is really taking what we already have in customs, adding what we’ve got here with the Navy and renaming it. So it doesn’t actually give you any more capability at all. You know we’ve found through a combination of Air Force with our P3 Orions, these boats that are operated by the

Navy and the Customs boats that are obviously operated by Customs, that we can more than adequately protect our waters.

Journalist

It is just a reluctance for you to call it a Coastguard because it was the Oppositions idea?

Senator Hill

Well they call it a Coastguard but what I’m saying to you is that it is really nothing more than what we have already. They rename it. It seems that it’s a recycle of their previous policy and then they try to kid the Australian people that they are more secure. We already have the capabilities in place. We have a good working relationship, well established relationship between Customs, Airforce and Navy and it’s demonstrated that it does the job well. So today, here we are, we’ve signed a contract, $550 million for a new generation of patrol boats. The Prime Minister on the other side of Australia has announced enhanced surveillance of the Southern Ocean as well through another capability. We’ve already got it in place and it’s doing the job well.

Journalist

How many of these patrol boats do you anticipate on the waters at one time?

Senator Hill

The obligation is to provide us with the hours that we need. So they’ve worked out that they need 12 patrol boats to be able to do that job. 12 patrol boats of this type with this range, with this capability.

ENDS