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Tuesday, 22 March 1966

Mr HOWSON (FAWKNER, VICTORIA) (Minister Assisting the Treasurer) - The Australian Government ordered the Fill aircraft early to ensure that it got early delivery. The aircraft will be delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force earlier than to any other air force with the exception of the United States Air Force. Also, in ordering this aircraft the Government had in mind that it was entirely suited to the needs of the R.A.A.F. The Air Force will get at the earliest possible date the best aircraft available for its purposes. Obviously certain additional important factors had to be considered. The first was price. When the aircraft was ordered it was still on the drawing board. A number of estimates of ultimate price had to be made, taking into account cost of research, development, manufacture, ground installations and ground handling equipment. As I said to the honorable member for Capricornia ;n answer to a question last September, we will not know the final cost of this aircraft until it has been delivered to the Air Force. That is still the position. 1 made it clear at the time that the price was liable to variation. Honorable members who were in the House on the occasion in September last will remember my remarks.

I have now been able to tell the nation that we have a more up to date estimate of the cost than we had in 1963. I have still not said that we know what the final cost will be. This will depend on the size of the total order. The more aircraft ordered, the lower the price. The fewer ordered, the higher the price. I made this clear to the House before and I say it again. The main thing to remember is that we are getting an aircraft that is vital to the needs of the defence of this country and we are getting it early in its production life because we ordered it early. I hope that these points will not be lost on honorable members. As I have said, we will get the aircraft before any other nation except the United States of America. For instance, we will get it before the Royal Air Force gets it. We will still pay the same price as will be paid by the United States Air Force or any other air force. I do not think anybody in our position in 1963 could have made a better guess at the cost of these aircraft than we made. I firmly believe that we are getting an extremely valuable aircraft at a damned fair price.

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