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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2438

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(5.16) —All I can really say in response to all that is that a variety of technical matters have been raised by Senator MacGibbon that I am not really equipped to answer, nor, I suspect, are the officers here, although there is one point I will advance in a moment which may assist at least Senator Boswell if not Senator MacGibbon on this matter. All I can say is that these matters will be closely monitored and evaluated during the operational effectiveness evaluation of these aircraft over the next six months. If the picture proves to be as desolate or as unhappy as Senator MacGibbon has painted it, no doubt appropriate conclusions will be drawn. There is rather more optimism--

Senator Boswell —It is a damned expensive mistake, a $96,000 mistake.

Senator GARETH EVANS —We do not believe so. I make no concessions in that respect. There is one remaining technical point that, with all due trepidation due to my ignorance in these matters, I will raise in the hope that it does not generate another storm of protest by unhappy technocrats in our midst. I am told that references to a 150-mile radar radius are really quite immaterial in the context of coastal surveillance because the aircraft will fly between 1,000 and 1,500 feet; a horizon at 1,000 feet, I am told, is approximately 35 miles, I am not sure how many kilometres. That height of operation is well within the capabilities of SLAR, although I do not know what that last sentence means in that context. The point is, as I understand it, that radar horizon is the same as visual horizon. Over the horizon radar is only used with land based hook-ups and all the rest of it, which do not exist in this part of the world. In that context, as long as we have something effective within those sorts of horizon ranges, we are doing pretty well. Whether it is effective within those sorts of horizon ranges is the point that I took Senator MacGibbon to be making. I can only repeat on behalf of the Department and the Minister that these are matters that will be taken closely into account. They have not been ignored, they have not been overlooked; they have just been weighed in the balance against other policy considerations and a judgment made in good faith.