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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2432

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(4.30) —I will certainly undertake to get a further answer than the one I am capable of providing as to the underlying policy. I mentioned the cost-effectiveness factor. Undoubtedly there are other factors involved such as security and, no doubt associated with that, the kind of inconvenience to other commercial passengers that might be involved in security measures being taken on commercial flights of the kind that are appropriate for senior level major ministerial travel in areas of great sensitivity. No doubt there may be other considerations that come into play from time to time on a major overseas trip such as the appropriateness of the country being seen to be represented, as it were, by aircraft flying the livery of the country in question.

I am not sure what the current policy considerations are. It needs to be appreciated that once one has actually purchased aircraft and has them lying on the ground no doubt considerations as to cost-effectiveness and justification for use are likely to be rather different from those which one would apply in making the original decision as to whether to purchase them. It should not be assumed that exactly the same criteria are relevant in each case.

But these are matters which I think it would be appropriate for the relevant Ministers to comment upon. I will treat that as a question on notice and answer it in the normal way that questions on notice are answered, that being perhaps the best way of ensuring that an answer is received expeditiously. Whether we can do that by the end of next week, as Senator Townley requests, I am not sure. I should imagine there would be enormous difficulties in doing that.

While I am filibustering in this way I am waiting for information to arrive about any new purchases. A Defence officer rang unprompted by my office, being fascinated by this exchange on the air, to tell us that the actual numbers of VIP aeroplanes in the fleet at the moment are three Mysteres, two Hawker Siddely 748s and two BAC111s. There are two 707s as special purpose aircraft on top of that. They are not part of the VIP aircraft fleet as such. We do not believe that there have been any purchases while we have been in government. However, if Senator Walters will wait, I will inject the answer to that into the consideration of the next estimates.