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Friday, 11 October 1985
Page: 1094

Senator VALLENTINE —I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In answer to a question yesterday on the visit to Australia by United States warships, the Minister said:

There is currently a disproportionate number of visits to Western Australia by United States warships compared with port visits to the eastern States.

He also stated that Mr Beazley had raised with United States authorities the need to change this pattern. Given the implication in this answer that United States warships visists to Western Australia would be reduced, does this not contradict the response by the Minister for Defence that the proposed change will not necessarily reduce the frequency of visits to Western Australia?

Senator GARETH EVANS —In responding to Senator Vallentine I was reading a prepared answer from the office of the Minister for Defence. He subsequently advised me that that answer may have been ambiguous in some respects and is not to be taken as necessarily committing the Government to seeking a reduction in the number of ship visits to Western Australia. What we want to do is to get a better balance of ship visits between the respective Australian ports, which may have a reduction as a corollary, but that is something which remains to be sorted out as discussions proceed further. I will refer Senator Vallentine's question to the Minister for Defence to see whether he wishes to add anything more to this, but the answer I was giving on his behalf was not intended to be quantitatively precise. It was intended to give a general and indeed sympathetic Government reaction to the concerns that were being articulated by Senator Vallentine.