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Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2363

Mr STEEDMAN —Is the Minister for Defence aware of recent newspaper reports that the Defence Secretary of the United Kingdom stated that women protesting at the stationing of nuclear missiles in England risk being shot? Noting that hundreds of Australian women are currently marching to the United States spy station at Pine Gap for a rally this Friday, can the Minister assure the House that the Government would never contemplate such an action? Can he tell the House the Government's position in regard to citizens exercising their democratic right to oppose foreign bases on our soil?

Mr SCHOLES —Mr Speaker--

Mr Peacock —Do you regard Pine Gap as a United States spy station?

Mr SCHOLES —Does the honourable member want to answer the question?

Mr Peacock —I want you to confirm it. Why don't you tell us?

Mr SCHOLES —Would the honourable member let me answer the question and keep quiet?

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting. I call the Minister for Defence.

Mr SCHOLES —Firstly, I was not aware that there was to be a demonstration at a place which does not exist in Australia. I understand that a group of women are on the way to Pine Gap to protest. Pine Gap is a joint Australia-United States facility for which I am responsible to this Parliament. I should point out to the House that the application and administration of law in respect to the operations of the facility are in the hands of the Australian Federal Police. The surrounding area is the responsibility of the Northern Territory Police. The laws of the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory apply in the respective areas of jurisdiction. Commonwealth law, I would think, does not cover the sorts of situations to which the honourable gentleman makes reference. Certainly there are not special conditions or provisions in respect of Pine Gap which are not also embodied in existing Commonwealth law. There are no military personnel, either Australian or American, at Pine Gap. The application and administration of the law at or near the facility will be undertaken by the Australian Federal Police or Northern Territory Police according to the jurisdiction in which the situation requires that the law be applied. The Government is aware of the concern of Australians and, indeed, people throughout the world, at the level and expansion rate of nuclear weapons capabilities. It has taken positive action to contribute to a reduction in the level of tension between the super-powers and in the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

All Australians have the right to demonstrate, within the law, on matters about which they feel strongly. It is not the first time that statements like that of the British Defence Secretary have been made. I seem to recall that during the period of the Vietnam war, a Liberal Premier of New South Wales told his driver to 'run over the b...s' during a demonstration. I assure the honourable member that the application of Australian law at the facility-a joint Australia-United States facility for which I have administrative responsibility-will be in accordance with the manner in which the laws would be applied in any circumstances in Australia.