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Tuesday, 15 March 1966

Mr FAIRHALL (PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Defence) - There is no definition of the future E.L.D.O. programme. As the honorable member is probably aware, the United Kingdom in recent months has shown an inclination to consider very carefully whether or not its national interests would best be served by staying in the European Launcher Development Organisation. If the United Kingdom Government should withdraw from the project, one could well imagine either a great curtailment of or, in the extremity, perhaps the collapse of the E.L.D.O. project. I do know that the European countries which are members of the Organisation would be considerably upset about this, and I should think that they would have conveyed those views to the Government of the United Kingdom. There was to have been a general conference in Paris at the end of this month which would have settled the future of E.L.D.O., but in view of the fact that the British elections are coming on so soon it has been delayed for a month.

By the end of April we will have a pretty good idea of what the future of E.L.D.O. will be. If E.L.D.O. withdrew from the rocket range, this obviously would have some effect on the work load, although not a vital one. There are new projects coming to the range. I think the first part of the honorable member's question refers to these. One or two nations have indicated an interest, but this may take some time to develop. In the meantime, there is one pro- ject coming in in which there is a joint United States, United Kingdom and Australian interest. This will obviously take up some of the work load if the E.L.D.O. project is retarded. All in all, I do not think we need to worry about the future programme of E.L.D.O. It always has fluctuated. This will merely be another downward fluctuation, and one hopes it will be temporary.

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