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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2136

Mr WALLIS (GREY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. I refer to a report in the Adelaide 'Advertiser' last week concerning the scrapping of the former National Aeronautics and Space Administration tracking station at Island Lagoon near Woomera. Were investigations carried out by the Department of Supply to see whether the facility could be used for scientific research in Australia? If so, what was the result of those investigations? Has the Department been approached by Australian scientific bodies seeking to have the facility retained for research? If so, what was the reply by the Department of Supply to those approaches?

Mr ENDERBY (Minister for Secondary Industry) - The developments at Island Lagoon are probably well known and have been referred to in the newspaper article mentioned by the honourable gentleman. The decision about the use of the facility flows from the decision of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, our American friends, to close down the Island Lagoon facility, or at least no longer to finance it, because of the decision it has taken to consolidate its enterprises in other parts of the world and Australia as part of a general economy drive, I understand. That leaves the facility in the situation now where it does not serve the purposes for which it was set up. A study has been undertaken and is continuing. The Americans have taken away most of the electronic equipment which they were entitled to do pursuant to the agreement. The fixtures, the big disc and that sort of thing, have been left there. The problem now is to find an alternative and proper use to which they can be put.

There has been consultation between the various Defence departments, the Department of Supply, the Postmaster-General's Department, the Department of Science and the Department of Minerals and Energy, and some of the universities also have been consulted. Interest is being expressed in the facility and the possible uses to which it can be put. One of the difficulties, of course, is that is located in a very remote part of Australia, 14 miles south of the Woomera township. The universities have expressed interest, but the amount of work that they can offer the facility is of necessity rather limited. However, the studies and inquiries are proceeding. I should tell the honourable member and the House that it is not thought that the lack of development at the moment will have any significant effect on the township of Woomera. Some 60 or 70 families were thought to be involved but the township of Woomera has other functions and it has been designed specifically for fluctuations of this sort.

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