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Thursday, 14 June 1984
Page: 3021

Senator MASON —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence aware of media reports this morning concerning the prospect of up to 50,000 troops of the United States rapid deployment force being permanently based in Australia, most likely in Western Australia? While it is obvious that this proposal is still in the formative stages is it a fact that, firstly, the proposals were conducted under a contract for the United States Army and, secondly, very senior former United States Defense officials were involved? Has the Australian Government been informed of the study? Does the Labor Government support the permanent basing of foreign military bases, including troops, in Australia? Will the Prime Minister's recent statement on United States bases and its outright and unqualified acceptance of those bases act as a precedent for accepting further bases such as this proposal for the rapid deployment force?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am aware of some breathless reporting to this effect occupying the Murdoch Press this morning under the by-line of Peter Samuel in Washington. The answer to it was sufficiently expressed in the terms of a Press release put out by the Minister for Defence, Mr Scholes, today, the terms of which I now quote:

The Minister for Defence, Mr Scholes, said today that no approaches have been made to the Government to base US troops in Australia.

Commenting on media reports about a United States study suggesting the basing of 50,000 US troops in Western Australia, Mr Scholes said the Government would not agree to such a request if one were to be made.

'There is no foundation for any suggestions that the Government is giving consideration to such a plan', Mr Scholes said.

'There has not been any proposal along these lines and I would be most surprised if one were to eventuate.

'It seems the reports in today's media are based on a paper produced by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University in Washington.

'Such a study has, of course, no greater authority than any other paper produced in an academic establishment there or elsewhere'.

'It is misleading to suggest that the study is the policy of the United States Government.

I think that is a sufficiently comprehensive reply to demolish even the enthusiasm of Senator Mason on this subject.