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Statement to parliament on the staging of B-52s through Australia for sea surveillance in the Indian Ocean and for navigation training



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PRIME MINISTER -■ --------- --------- · ....... . ■ M ill— .......... .............. ...... ........ ...... . ...... . ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■■ . . · : .

FOR MEDIA WEDNESDAY, 11 MARCH, 1981 . ·^ ■

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STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT ON THE STAGING OF B-52s THROUGH — ^ ; AUSTRALIA FOR SEA 'SURVEILLANCE IN THE INDIAN OCEAN AND _ ;

FOR NAVIGATION TRAINING * 1 I I

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Honourable Members will recall that negotiations on the staging of B-52s through Australia were temporarily suspended to allow the new Administration of President Reagan time to examine and consider the matter. » ----

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I am pleased to inform the House that in the course of his recent talks in Washington with Secretary of State,Alexander Haig, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tony Street, took this matter further and was able to bring it to a successful conclusion. I should like to pay tribute to the Minister for his handling of this important issue.

Agreement has now been reached between our two Governments on the terms and conditions which will govern US Air Force B-52 staging flights through Darwin. · '

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I am tabling the texts of the Notes exchanged between the \

Department of Foreign Affairs and the United States Embassy on II March 1981, which constitute this agreement. As Honourable Members will note, the agreement provides that: -

. the B-52 flights shall be for sea surveillance in the Indian Ocean area and for navigation training

.... .. the agreement of -the Australian Government would need to be obtained before the facilities at RAAF Base,' ~ - - - - Darwin could be used in support of any other category of operations *

. the B-52 aircraft on surveillance, flights will be -' supported by KC-135 tanker aircraft for aerial refuelling and the operations shall consist of periodic ' deployments of up to three B-52 and six KC-135 aircraft

. about 100 US Air Force personnel and associated equipment will support the staging operations and some of these may be stationed at RAAF base Darwin

. there will be no change in the status of RAAF base .

Darwin as an Australian facility under Australian control. As the terms of the agreement make abundantly clear, nothing in the arrangements governing these flights ^ o uld be regarded as in any way infringing Australian sovereignty

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the US will provide the Australian Government with full and timely information about strategic and _ operational developments relevant to the B-52 staging operations through Darwin.

The House will be aware that US Air Force B-52 aircraft are currently conducting low-level navigation training over Australia. As the Minister for Defence stated on 3 February 1980 these Λ ”

flights originate at Guam, the aircraft carry out navigational.- training over Queensland, and then return to their base at Guam* The operations will be an extension of these current operations’ : / λ - After, completing the low-level training exercises, the aircraft"" will land at Darwin and refuel. After appropriate crew rest the

aircraft will undertake sea surveillance and navigation training ‘ operations over the Indian Ocean - an area of great security, interest to both Australia and the United S t a t e s T h e f l i g h t s · will then return via Darwin to Guam. As is the case with the

current navigational missions, the flights landing at Darwin ■ · will be unarmed and will carry no bombs.

As there has been much speculation in the media and elsewhere about this matter, I should like to emphasise that it has been agreed between the Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State that the aircraft staging through Darwin under the arrangements . now agreed for surveillance flights and navigation training will be unarmed and carry no bombs. -

As I have also told the House the exchange of notes provides that the Australian Government's agreement would need" to be obtained before the RAAF facilities could be used in support of any other category of operations by the United States. In that regard let me state, so that there can be no grounds for question or doubt, the basis on which the agreement of the Australian · . ' government would be given to such other operations. Australia would need to know, firstly, what the strategic and tactical objectives are - and Australia would need to be in agreement with these; and second, what weapons are being carried and in

particular whether nuclear weapons are being carried.

The Australian Government has a firm policy that aircraft carrying nuclear weapons will not be allowed to fly over or stage through Australia without its prior knowledge and agreement. Nothing less, than this is consistent with the maintenance of our national

sovereignty. . . ‘

I am particularly pleased that it has been possible to reach ' finality on this question so soon in the term of the new Administration. Australia shares the US determination to,take ' all steps within its power to deter further Soviet expansionism. We stand ready to lend our ANZUS partner what assistance we can

in pursuit of our common aims. The provision of staging facilities at Darwin for these US aircraft will facilitate the surveillance and training operations they are carrying out in an area of prime security concern to Australia. It also affords a further example of the close practical co-operation which has been developed over many years between our two nations.

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