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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2095

(Question No. 699)

Senator Peter Rae asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 6 March 1984:

Why is the cost of using Royal Australian Air Force Orion P3C and Royal Australian Navy S2G Tracker aircraft for coastal surveillance over four times more expensive than the Shrike and Nomad Searchmaster aircraft.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

RAAF Orion P3C and RAN S2G Tracker aircraft are designed and were purchased for a sophisticated defence role including anti-submarine, anti-shipping and maritime reconnaissance operations. They are maintained and operated in accordance with defence requirements at defence establishments which provide extensive maintenance and spares support and are manned by highly trained crews. The associated costs are reflected in the flying hour rates for these aircraft.

The requirements of civil coastal surveillance operations are quite different. The majority of coastal surveillance flying consists of low level visual searches and can be accomplished satisfactorily by light twin-engined aircraft such as the Shrike Commander and Nomad Searchmaster. These aircraft are less sophisticated and less costly to purchase and operate. These differences were highlighted by Mr Beazley in his recent review of Australia's peacetime civil coastal surveillance and protection arrangements, particularly in his consideration of the possible use of RAN Tracker aircraft for those tasks. Mr Beazley's report was tabled in the House on 30 March 1984.

The involvement of Defence Force aircraft in routine coastal surveillance operations is limited to offshore surveillance of the Australian Fishing Zone by RAAF P3 Orions, a role to which the capabilities of these aircraft are more suited.