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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 330

Senator GARETH EVANS —On 21 August I gave an answer to a question by Senator Sanders on the GEOSAT satellite tests issue. The questidon was in two basic parts. The first part remains unchanged but the second part certainly requires some correction which I am happy to put on the public record. Mr President, it is a long answer. I am perfectly happy to read it out, but if Senator Sanders and other honourable senators are content for me to incorporate it in Hansard and the Senate would prefer that, I am happy to do so. I am in the hands of the Senate.

The PRESIDENT —Is leave granted for the incorporation?

Senator Chipp —We would prefer it if the Minister could pay us the courtesy-

The PRESIDENT —Leave is not granted.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am just conscious of the length of the answer; I am not trying to do anything else. Senator Sanders asked a number of questions of me on 21 August but they can be summarised into two: Firstly, whether the Government was aware that GEOSAT satellite tests would collect gravitational data to improve the accuracy of Trident II submarine launched ballistic missiles? Secondly, was the Government aware that the GEOSAT satellite is being funded by the Trident II project? As I indicated, my answer to the first question remains unchanged but my second answer requires correction. As to the first question I said:

. . . the Geosat validation flight series that has just concluded is not directly related to any missile tests . . . The Government certainly does not deny that there is a wide range of uses, civil and military, for Geosat data but . . . our co-operation is provided on the understanding that that data will provide benefit for Australia.

In my answer I indicated what some of those benefits would be. I reiterate that all data from the GEOSAT validation tests is available to the Australian Government. I should further add in this respect that after giving the answer my attention was drawn to the DMS Market Intelligence Report material on GEOSAT which appears to have been the basis for Senator Sanders's question and which has also been the basis for a good deal of media speculation. DMS market intelligence report on GEOSAT is, however, deficient in that it portrays the sole mission of data collection as relating to the improved accuracy of SLBMs. It ignores the many military and civilian purposes for which GEOSAT data is collected. It is also the case that the DMS report is not quite up to date on funding arrangements. I will come back to that in a moment.

The Pentagon has described GEOSAT derived geodesy data as having broad civil and military application and only indirect application to programs such as the Trident II program. As Dr Ball of the Australian National University recently said of the P-3 validation flights, the relationship with the United States nuclear programs is so marginal that there is no reason for public concern. My answer to the second question requires correction. I stated:

The GEOSAT program . . . is not connected to the Trident program funding.

That aspect of my answer was incorrect in that it referred to what will be practised from October this year but it did not address earlier arrangements. As I have mentioned, under the 1985-86 financial year Budget request, which was submitted to the United States Congress in January this year, for the next four financial years from 1 October 1985 the GEOSAT program will be funded under the Defence Meteorological Satellite program-DMSP. This arrangement will be in keeping with the broad multifaceted nature of GEOSAT's function. That, of course, is the explanation of why I misled the Senate in giving my previous answer. I was confusing the future with the past. As a matter of budgetary convenience the previous practice was that the United States Navy requested and received funds for the GEOSAT program as a Trident II Budget line item. I regret that my previous answer on funding arrangements related to the Budget request currently before Congress and did not address the preceding funding arrangements.

Senator Sanders —Mr President, I seek leave to make a brief statement.

Leave not granted.

Senator Chipp —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Senator Sanders asked to make a brief statement on the correction that Senator Evans just made. Would it not be courteous for the Government to allow Senator Sanders to make it now, which is a more appropriate time, rather than later?

The PRESIDENT —Order! I sought the leave of the Senate for Senator Sanders to make a statement. As I read the situation, leave was not granted on both sides of the House.

Senator Chipp —Which Minister said `no'?

The PRESIDENT —Order! Leave was sought but it has not been granted.