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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 170

Senator Brown asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 16 November 2004:

With reference to the Salt Ash Air Weapons Range near Port Stephens, which is used by aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force Base, Williamtown, and to studies by PPK Consultants of an alternative range site using land at Mungo Brush (Tea Gardens):

(1)   Is a second study by PPK Consultants, commissioned by the department in response to deficiencies in the initial study, a classified document.

(2)   Has the Defence Inspector-General refused to release the study to the Australian National Audit Office.

(3)   Will the study be made publicly available.

(4)   Given that in media release 328/03, dated 13 November 2003, the department stated that, ‘Under the conditions attached to the introduction of the Hawk fighter, Defence is required to engage with local and state planning authorities to establish guidelines to ensure proposed developments near both sites are compatible with Defence operational and training requirements’, what consultation has since taken place with local and state planning authorities.

(5)   Will the department also consult with these authorities in relation to the impact upon existing communities.

(6)   In examining the environmental impact of the range, have the effects of exposure to aerosol jet fuel spray been investigated.

(7)   Will the department commission on-going studies to determine the actual, as compared to the predicted, impact of the range upon local communities.

(8)   Has there been any study of potential dangers to nearby residents arising from the use of live munitions in proximity to their homes.

Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   No, the Monkey Brush, Air Weapons Range Study, November 2002, is not a classified document.

(2)   No.

(3)   Yes, on request.

(4)   The Williamtown Community Consultative Forum established under the conditions attached to the introduction of the Hawk Lead-In Fighter aircraft, provides a forum for the Department of Defence and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to exchange information with stakeholders on issues related to RAAF Williamtown and the Salt Ash Air Weapons Range. Members include the Hon Bob Baldwin MP, Senator John Tierney, representatives from Port Stephens Council, Newcastle City Council, Newcastle Airport Limited, Hunter Water Corporation, NSW Government and the Department of Defence. The forum meets quarterly. In addition, Defence liaises with state and local planning authorities to provide input to both strategic regional planning documents, urban settlement strategies and individual development applications in the vicinity of the RAAF base.

(5)   Yes.

(6)   Yes.

(7)   Yes.

(8)   Yes. The safety templates for Salt Ash Air Weapons Range are now all fully contained within Commonwealth land.