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Wednesday, 19 September 2001
Page: 30988

Mr CAMERON THOMPSON (2:22 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence. I refer to upcoming Defence events, among them in particular the Amberley Air Show in the electorate of Blair. What is the impact on these events of recent decisions regarding the operational readiness of the Australian defence forces?

Mr REITH (Minister for Defence) —I thank the member for Blair and place on the record my appreciation of the very strong representative work that he does on behalf of the Defence establishments within his electorate. He is a very strong advocate for Defence in this place, and that is very important for the people within his constituency. Obviously the Australian Defence Force has been looking at its various commitments in the times ahead. I am asked what impact any examination of commitments has brought about. I can advise the House that late yesterday I had advice from the Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Barrie. That advice was in regard to both the Royal Australian Air Force's 80th anniversary Amberley air show and the centenary naval review.

I advise the House that, on the advice of the CDF, the government has decided to cancel both of those events. The Amberley air show was to be held at RAAF Amberley in Ipswich, Queensland, from Friday. The centenary naval review was to be held on and around Sydney Harbour from Tuesday, 2 October to Monday, 8 October. Obviously substantial support for the RAAF air show was to be provided by the US military; in fact, their provision of support was to be a centrepiece of that air show. The government has advice that that military support is no longer available, and that is a principal reason for the Amberley cancellation.

In respect of the centenary naval review, that decision has been taken by the CDF. That advice has been provided by him in the light of the RAN's involvement in existing operations and the potential for other operations in the future. Needless to say, we do have major naval commitments in the north of Australia to assist other federal agencies with the government's initiatives for intercepting illegal immigrants. I should advise the House that, in making these decisions, there has been no change in the government's publicly stated assessment of the security situation in Australia. It is also important to say that these decisions in respect of Amberley are not related in any way to CHOGM, which as members will know will proceed.

I do say to the member who asked the question that the we are obviously disappointed that we are not able to proceed, and we appreciate that this will have an effect on those wishing to go to both. I think many members of the House were particularly looking forward to the naval review, which was to be a great event. We are disappointed that the events will not be proceeding, and we appreciate the impact that that may have on local businesses that were looking forward to those great occasions. When all is said and done, and when all the circumstances are taken into account, we believe that it is right and proper to give precedence to operational requirements over ceremonial matters. I have taken the advice of the CDF. That decision about those two events is obviously effective immediately.