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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 272

Mr PEACOCK —I refer the Prime Minister to Premier Wran's misconception that the Fraser Government in 1982 passed an Act giving the Commonwealth Government power over ports in relation to visiting defence or warships. In light of this misconception, and given the fact that no nuclear ships have visited Victoria since 1982, can the Prime Minister give an assurance that neither the Victorian Government nor the Commonwealth Government will place any impediments in the way of such visits? Will the Prime Minister consider introducing legislation to give the Commonwealth Government power to guarantee visiting nuclear ships unimpeded access to all Australian ports?

Mr HAWKE —The Government regards access to Australian ports for United States vessels as being essential to the effective functioning of ANZUS. It is important also--

Mr Peacock —That's the end of Cain then.

Mr HAWKE —I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition should not jump to the conclusion to which he has so readily. We will see on Saturday. It is relevant that I should also say, quite unequivocally, that this Government understands and accepts the 'neither confirm nor deny' formula with regard to the possible carriage of nuclear weapons. Nuclear powered warships are permitted to visit those ports where the necessary contingency safety regulations could be met in the unlikely event of a reactor accident. In respect of the position between the United States and ourselves, as I said yesterday, there is complete amity between us on the basis of the current arrangements for ships' access. As the Leader of the Opposition will appreciate, the question of port access is a function of operational requirements on the part of the United States. It is quite clear, as again the Leader of the Opposition would appreciate, that there is no operational requirement for every type of United States ship to visit every Australian port.

Finally, I say to the Leader of the Opposition that both the Premier of Victoria and, for that matter, the Premier of New South Wales, to the extent there has been some question on that matter, accept that on this issue the decision in these matters is that of the Federal Government. The decisions of this Government will be made in light of the clear principles that I have stated to the House.