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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1824

Senator MASON(5.35) —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I will take that one minute that is available to me. The Australian Democrats support this initiative, which we see as a promising continuation to an effective industry to build small naval ships in Australia. Of course, we are building the two FFG frigates here, and they are not small ships. However, the Fremantle class patrol boats and the Australian Shipbuilding Industries ships we are discussing now are small vessels. This is not to say that they lack in importance. Indeed, the development of modern Smart missiles which are lethal virtually regardless of the platform from which they are launched, must profoundly change any reasonable attitude towards naval priorities. Missiles like the Harpoon find their target, unerringly, if used in sufficient numbers. Even Phalanx and similar quick firing systems which provide protection by putting up a large barrier of lead in the path of an incoming missile can deal with only a limited number of missiles at the same time. Hence, success in some critical naval battles will depend to a considerable extent on the number of missiles that can be fired simultaneously. Hence, the cheapness of the platforms, both in terms of money and crew numbers, becomes vital. It is in this context that the Democrats, sponsoring as we do the concept of a strong independent Australia, strongly support a heavily armed, fast and lightly manned, small ship navy with a major missile component. That missile, in the interests of compatability, reasonably should be Harpoon. I would like to see, as the next step, a missile ship built under licence in Australia in hydrofoil configuration.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time allotted under Sessional Orders for the consideration of Government Papers has expired.