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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11927

Mr Kerr asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 3 December 2002:

(1) Is the Minister able to say whether a visit of a US nuclear powered warship proposed for the port of Hobart in or around late December 2002 has been postponed or cancelled.

(2) Has there been any recent review of security issues relating to the visit of US warships to Australian ports since the (a) attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001 and (b) targeting and bombing of Australians in Bali on 12 October 2002.

(3) Have those events or other events of a similar nature affected the assessment of risk associated with such visits: if so, what is the new assessment of risk.

(4) Given Australians ` heightened security concerns since those events, if visits proceed will the docking arrangements remain the same as those applying in the past; if not, what will be the new arrangements.

(5) Will the exclusion area around any visiting vessel be the same as in the past; if not, what exclusion area will be established.

(6) Will the arrangements for monitoring any exclusion area remain the same as in the past; if not, without disclosure of the detail of operational security matters, what different arrangements will be made.

Mrs Vale (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) The US Navy had considered requesting a visit to Tasmania by a nuclear powered warship in December 2002 but did not proceed with the request. Consequently, there will be no US Navy nuclear powered warship visit to Hobart in or around December 2002.

(2) Security issues relating to US warship visits are continually reviewed, each visit being considered on a case by case basis. When a visit is planned, an individual risk assessment is carried out which takes account of all factors including the security environment post 11 September 2001 and 12 October 2002. Appropriate protective security measures are put in place in line with these assessments.

There is currently no known specific threat of terrorism in Australia. However, Australian intelligence organisations are continually monitoring the threat environment. All Commonwealth agencies, including intelligence, law enforcement and those controlling our border, are working continually to prevent terrorists operating in Australia.

(3) Events such as the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 and 12 October 2002 are considered in determining the protective security arrangements for visits to Australian ports by US Navy warships. The details of the risk assessment and protective security arrangements must remain protected to ensure their continuing viability. However, I can state that strengthened protective security measures are put in place for visiting US Navy ships, measures which also take account of US authorities' requirements. Relevant Commonwealth and State agencies have close working relationships with the US Embassy and other US agencies in implementing protective security measures.

(4) As stated in my reply to Part (3), details of enhanced protective security arrangements for Australian port visits by US Navy warships must remain protected. I can say that berthing/anchoring arrangements have been revised to take account of the risk of terrorist attacks and the consequent protective security requirements. These arrangements are determined on a case by case basis, involving consultation between Commonwealth, State and local government agencies, relevant US authorities, and commercial agencies for the port being visited.

(5) Control of access arrangements for visiting US Navy warships have been enhanced to take account of risks of terrorist attacks, and are determined for each visit on a case by case basis through consultation between agencies mentioned in my reply to Part (4).

(6) Similarly, changes have been made to monitoring access to the locations of US Navy ships. These changes have also been put in place through consultation of the previously mentioned agencies, and reflect the increased risk of terrorist attacks.