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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2689

Senator Rae (TASMANIA) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

(   1 ) What was the cost of the abortive transport, within the past ten weeks, of a substantial quantity of RAAF bombs from Sydney to Towns ville and back to Sydney.

(2)   Who was responsible for the fiasco which required three days of dithering for a decision to be made as to whether the bombs were to be sent to Darwin or back to Sydney.

(3)   Who authorised and directed the transport of the bombs to Townsville, and why was the direction countermanded after the trucks arrived in Townsville.

Senator Bishop - The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)   and (3) The cost of transporting a quantity of bombs from Kingswood, New South Wales ( 1CAMD) to Townsville and return was $6,860. This amount includes salaries, allowances and vehicle transport costs. The decision to place high explosive bombs at Townsville was taken by Headquarters Operational Command. Mirage aircraft were deploying to Townsville in support of an Army exercise and it was intended to take the opportunity for the Mirage to undertake practice bombing near Townsville, an area which has one of the RAAF's two live bombing ranges on the eastern seaboard.

More stringent safety orders were introduced into the RAAF in July, 1973, the effect of which is to increase the distance of aircraft armed with high explosive bombs from other aircraft, facilities and personnel New works had commenced at RAAF Base, Townsville in the area usually available for the arming of aircraft, and Operational Command believed a substitute area would be available. Subsequent investigation showed that no substitute area could meetthe new safety criteria. In the event, Operational Command proceeded on the assumption that a waiver of the new safety criteria could be given in the circumstances obtaining at Townsville. However, a relaxation of the new safety standards could not be justified for a routine peacetime exercise. Because permanent HE bomb storage is not available at Townsville, the bombs were subsequently returned to 1CAMD, Kingswood.

(2)   At no time was it contemplated that the bombs would be sent to Darwin.

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