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Thursday, 31 October 1974
Page: 2188

Senator MAUNSELL (QUEENSLAND) - My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Will the Minister agree that the Neptune aircraft is no longer suitable for maritime reconnaissance and is too costly to maintain? As the question of a replacement for this aircraft has been considered for some time, will the Minister inform the Senate whether an aircraft has been selected and, if so, when it will be operating?

Senator BISHOP - As the honourable senator knows, the Government has considered the matter.

Senator Drake-Brockman - So did the previous Government.

Senator BISHOP - Yes, of course the previous Government did consider this matter, but it did not move any faster than we are doing at the present time. As the honourable senator probably knows, recently we sent a mission to visit other countries to consider the 2 types of aircraft to which the selection has been limited- the Orion and the Nimrod. But I undertand that the Boeing company has asked that its aircraft be placed again in the category for consideration. The Government has not decided which of the aircraft to select. The overseas mission to which I have referred has returned to Australia after considering what should be done. The report is not yet available. I understand that the report is expected to be given to the Government and that the Government will make a decision in this matter about the middle of next year.

In addition to the overseas evaluation team to which I have referred, an industrial mission is presently overseas considering to what extent the Barra sonar system might be used in both the aircraft under consideration. I do not know what has resulted from those investigations. I might say also that one of the considerations in relation to the selection of a particular type of aircraft will be the extent to which there is participation by Australian industry in the construction of the aircraft. If I can obtain any more information for the honourable senator I will get it and give it to him.

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