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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2686

Mr JAMES - My question is directed to the Minister for Defence and it follows a question asked by the honourable member for Wimmera - it is a follow on. Will the Minister see that, if more naval personnel than the number required want to serve on the naval ship to visit the French nuclear testing area in the interests of all mankind, priority is given to the present crew now serving on the ship to be used?

Mr BARNARD - Perhaps the House might pardon me if I supplement my answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Wimmera and also reply to the question put to me by my colleague, the honourable member for Hunter. There is no doubt that there will be sufficient crew members to man the Supply' or the 'Sydney', whichever ship is used for this purpose. I do not believe that there would be any question of requiring any additional crew members, but in view of the fact that there has appeared a statement in the Press this morning which indicated that 12 crew members had sought to opt out under the conditions which I have laid down, I think I should indicate to the honourable member for Wimmera that I have had inquiries made since the report appeared and it is true that there have been 11 applicants for review under these conditions. Three have been approved and the remainder are under consideration. It ought to be, and I am sure it is, understood by honourable members that in these circumstances applications will be made, as they have been made on other occasions by servicemen to opt out of an exercise, and these crew members are exercising their normal rights. But there is no question that there will be sufficient crew members. I have sufficient faith in those who serve in the Royal Australian Navy to know that in these circumstances and because the question that is involved is one of very great significance to this country, there will be adequate numbers of naval men to man either the 'Sydney' or the 'Supply', whichever ship is used on this exercise.

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