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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2908

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(5.41) —First of all, I will draw to the attention of Senator Sir John Carrick's former secretary and mine his comments about the record of the Department of Defence in responding to correspondence generally and see whether we cannot get some more enthusiasm by way of direction from the top, from Mr Woods, than may have been the case in the past.

On the Cobar question of whether a decision has been made by the Government, the short answer is no. The Minister for Defence, Mr Beazley, is actively discussing the question now with the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of the General Staff in the light of a number of questions that have been raised about this enterprise in the aftermath of the report of the Dibb Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities. Obviously-I think everyone acknowledges this-the thing has been dragging on for a long period and the sooner it can be resolved the better. The question of whether there has been a change in user requirements links in with a question that has been asked by Senator Mason. A review of possible requirements in this respect has been done by the Army. That was something that Mr Beazley was awaiting before he responded to a variety of representations. That review has now been completed and is with the Minister, as I understand it. I do not know what its content is and even if I did know I probably would not be at liberty to reveal it. Clearly, some re-examination is going on, at least of user requirements, but as to further detail I am not able to say. As to the status of the assurances by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) about compulsory acquisition and so on, I am not able to give any further information on that.

Senator Sir John Carrick —Will you get it, please?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I will seek it. As to the question of provision being made for environmental impact effort by the New South Wales Government through the Western Lands Commission as well as the Commonwealth Government, I understand that there is some provision in the estimates for that purpose and it is anticipated that some activity of this kind will take place, contingent I presume on some larger decision to abandon the project not being made, but I repeat that no such decision has been made. As to the absence of provision for any purchase or whatever in this year's estimates, I just make the final point that that of course does not preclude necessarily the possibility of any such funding being allocated pursuant to Additional Estimates should a decision be made. I suppose it is not expected that that will happen, otherwise it would have been in the Budget proper, but it is not necessarily to be assumed that things will drag out to the next financial year if in fact some decision is made to go ahead. So no assumptions about timetabling should necessarily be drawn from the absence of a larger budgetary provision.