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Thursday, 5 April 1984
Page: 1303

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General) —Yesterday a question was asked by Senator Boswell of Senator Gietzelt, as the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, concerning coastal surveillance issues. Since that now falls within the portfolio of the Special Minister of State, I am able to reply to him as follows: With regard to the first part of the question, the Government has not done a sweetheart deal with Skywest Airlines Pty Ltd. It is proposed that the areas to be covered by Skywest be extended but with retention of current flying hours. This is a matter for negotiation. It was deemed administratively more simple to vary the scope of Skywest's existing contract than to cancel all contracts and draw up a new one. The simple fact is that there is, as a result of the Department of Health's reduced requirements for littoral surveillance, necessity for less hours to be flown. There was therefore no need to recall tenders when existing contracts would suffice.

The second part of Senator Boswell's question related to alleged deficiencies in Skywest's strike aircraft radar system. The answer is that radar operates regardless of whether it is day or night. The Nomad aircraft did not conduct regular night surveillance either. It was used on trial night surveillance exercises and the Special Minister of State has said that the investigations of this will continue.

Senator Boswell's third question was premised on the assumption that search and rescue was one of the major puposes of the Government's coastal surveillance program. This is not the case. It is the responsibility of a number of State and Commonwealth agencies. Assistance will be given with this whenever it is sought.