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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1192

Senator VALLENTINE —My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, concerns paragraph 4.4 in the defence White Paper referring to Government plans to build a satellite communications station near Geraldton in Western Australia. The Minister said that the station will be totally Australian owned and manned-I change that to `staffed'-and operated by the Defence Signals Directorate. But will he say whether the intelligence will be shared with the intelligence agencies of our partners under the 1947 United Kingdom-United States of America agreement, in particular the National Security Agency of the United States? Could he also say why the station will be monitoring up to eight Soviet geo-stationary satellites sending diplomatic, trade and military information back to the Soviet Union when the Katter report on threats to Australia's security in 1981 and other reports later have acknowledged that the Soviet Union is not a military threat to Australia? Does the Minister not concede that the presence of such a spy base in Western Australia also poses a threat to our neighbours, who know that the station can be used to listen in to their communications as well? Finally, why is the Government spending up to $20m of taxpayers' money on a project which is not connected with the defence of Australia and at a time of economic cutbacks in so many other areas?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The questions in Senator Vallentine's opening paragraphs all relate to intelligence matters and as a consequence I do not intend, on behalf of the Minister or anyone else, to provide detailed responses other than to confirm that Australia does collaborate with the United States on intelligence matters. In respect of the final question, as was stated in the White Paper, the Government places the highest priority on our ability to understand strategic developments in our region, and this ability is fundamental to our self-reliant defence posture.