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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 2078

Mr ALLAN MORRIS —I draw the attention of the Minister for Defence to the article in Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald by Hugh White in which it is claimed that the Army's armoured personnel carrier, Project Waler, is to be shelved for five years and probably indefinitely. Firstly, how accurate is the article and what is the future of Waler? Secondly, is the Minister concerned about the possible motives of people in the defence area who leak information related to major contracts potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Australian and/or overseas companies?

Mr BEAZLEY —In regard to the first point the honourable gentleman raised, absolutely no decision at all has been taken by Government on the future of Project Waler. There is nothing to hand to Government on that matter at the moment and I do not expect there to be for some little time yet. As I indicated before in an answer to a question in the House, that project is undergoing evaluation in the Department of Defence. As soon as that process is complete I am anxious to have it brought forward to Government for decision as early as possible. On the more general question of leaking associated with defence contracts, it is very difficult to establish what would be a motive in any instance. I guess that motives could range from the malicious to the mercenary through to the altruistic-or a combination of all of them. I have come to discover that the leaking of information is a pretty general habit when multi-million dollar contracts are to hand. I notice that the right honourable member for New England, one of my predecessors, is grinning away on this subject. I am sure that in a bipartisan way we have both experienced the same problem.

Suffice it to say that in most of the cases I have come across there is frequently in the various leaks considerable variance from the truth. Sometimes unfortunately the leaks are accurate. But in the main there is substantial variance from the truth. It is a problem that simply exists in this area. In an area where a great deal of commercial activity is involved one is invariably going to be confronted with it. That is not to say that one likes it. One has to live with it. Where one can actually deal with it one does, and we do. To return to the honourable member's more general point, no decision on this matter has been taken by Government. When the advice satisfies me as being appropriate to go to Government there will be a decision by Government on the matter.