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Wednesday, 9 October 1991
Page: 1543

Mr BEVIS —-My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and relates to the Ready Reserve, which was launched last week. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to press reports which appeared in the Canberra Times and the Sydney Morning Herald and which suggest that he has some doubts about the viability of the Ready Reserve, which was launched by the Prime Minister last week in Brisbane, a launch I was able to attend? Are the reports accurate, and can the Minister comment on that?

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —-The last part of the question is out of order. The Minister is not in a position to comment.

Mr BILNEY —-I thank the honourable member for his question. It is well timed because it gives me an opportunity to add some further comments to those that the Prime Minister has already made on our defence policy in general. I have seen the reports. They convince me that we ought not give long, detailed, honest and qualified answers to questions that are asked in press conferences. Major-General Sanderson, in outlining the Ready Reserve scheme, acknowledged quite correctly that introducing any new initiative involves some risks but that the Ready Reserve scheme had been so designed that those risks were negligible. I was asked to elaborate on that statement and identify those risks. I responded by saying that I thought the scheme would work very well. But I and the Chief of the Defence Force went on to nominate some possible risks, discounting each one of them in turn. We went on to conclude that we had minimised all those risks and I believed that they were nullified.

The suggestion in the articles to which the honourable member refers that I think the introduction of the Ready Reserves is a risky strategy is entirely false. It is a unique Australian initiative that will benefit Defence, individual Australian service personnel, employers and the nation's defence. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Young people know that this scheme is an excellent scheme and they are flocking to join it. Since the Prime Minister launched the scheme on Wednesday of last week, by the close of business on Friday we had 3,325 inquiries about the Ready Reserve. Young people are voting with their feet to join it. I have no doubt that the scheme will be an excellent success; nor should anyone else.

Mr Hawke —-Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.