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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 174

Senator CHIPP —I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does he recall a recent statement by the Prime Minister that he had been given an unqualified assurance by Defence Secretary Weinberger that no United States facility in Australia would be involved in the United States strategic defence initiative or Star Wars plans? Could the Minister provide precise details of the assurance given by Weinberger? Is the Minister aware of the fact that leading researchers in this area believe that some of the facilities in Australia are irrevocably tied to the SDI and that in a sense Australia has no choice or option in the matter? In light of the 1980 project agreement between the United States and Australia on electromagnetic gun research, can the Government state what section of this agreement expressly prohibits any Australian research being used by the United States for Star Wars plans? Does the Government deny that electromagnetic gun technology is being developed by the United States Air Force for space based nuclear missile defences?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I think the best way I can answer that part of the question which deals with Mr Weinberger's assurances is to quote from the transcript of the Prime Minister's Press conference given on 19 February when the following exchanges occurred after the Prime Minister commenced by saying:

I received assurance that the facilities, the joint facilities in Australia, were not and would not be involved in such research.

Journalist: How can you prevent the joint facilities being involved in the testing and deployment of missiles under the SDI though?

PM: Well, following our accession to government in 1983 there was a review of the whole question of the facilities and the ANZUS relationship. We are in a position where we are involved in and know of the operations of the facilities. We have specifically put the question to the United States. They have given us an unequivocal answer and as distinct from some people, I am not in the business of questioning the integrity of the United States.

Journalist: Could I take your answer to mean . . .

PM: I specifically put to Mr Weinberger, and I thank you Mike for your question because it makes clear what did emerge, that firstly I received the assurance that facilities were in no way involved. And further than that I indicated that should there be any developments on the part of the United States which, on their part would contemplate the use of the facilities, then we would be required to be informed because it is not our position that we would be involved in the SDI.

I add that yesterday I did spell out, in the course of my speech on the Australian Waters (Nuclear-powered Ships and Nuclear Weapons Prohibition) Bill, some of the cogent reasons why the Australian Government takes the position it does on the SDI program, and I hope Senator Chipp will accept at face value what I said in that respect. As to that part of Senator Chipp's question which concerns the electromagnetic gun research, I do not have a full brief such as would enable me to answer in detail. All I can do is repeat the Prime Minister's assurance that was given during the election campaign, that no Australian research activity under that agreement with the United States will be directed towards the SDI program. I am certainly able to give that unequivocal assurance.