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Thursday, 17 October 1985
Page: 1401

Senator CHIPP —I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the possibility that the United States of America may, in the foreseeable future, be moving its military bases out of the Philippines, is the Government now prepared categorically and unequivocally to give an undertaking that under no circumstances whatsoever will it agree to the relocation of these bases in Australia?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The United States Government has indicated that it intends to maintain its facilities in the Philippines although the situation there is sufficiently threatening for it to consider alternatives. In testimony before the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee's Sub-Committee on Asia and Pacific Affairs hearing on the Philippines on 4 October-I am not sure whether that is 1984 or1985; I will need to check that-Mr Richard Armitage, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs stated that the United States Government had leased 18,000 acres on Saipan and Tinian in the northern Mariana Islands. He said that although this real estate, even with heavy capital investment, would hardly match the facilities at Clark and Subic, it provided an important fallback basing area for a re-deployment from the Philippines, especially when used in context with facilities in Guam and Micronesia.

The United States bases in the Philippines occupy a vital geostrategic position in South East Asia. They cannot be replicated anywhere in any single location. Any relocation would be extremely expensive and probably less desirable strategically. Although the United States is known to be continually reviewing options and assessing the costs of redeployment, I am advised that the Minister is not aware of any information to the effect that the United States is contemplating moving its bases from the Philippines in the foreseeable future. In response to a question as to whether the United States has contingency plans to shift the bases to Australia, a State Department spokesman said on 15 October 1985, two-days ago:

We do not intend to move our facilities out of the Philippines. With regard to alternatives, it is axiomatic that a great power such as the United States develops contingency plans and maintains a wide range of options, but there should be no mistake about our present resolve to maintain our facilities at Subic naval base and Clark air base. These facilities play a key role in ensuring the security and stability of our allies and friends in the east Asia and Pacific region,

There has been no serious suggestion then that relocation of the bases to Australia is proposed. I do not believe it is profitable under those circumstances to respond further as to purely hypothetical issues. I mention only in that respect that the Government's policy is quite explicitly against home porting facilities being made available to allied countries and, in that respect, is significantly opposed to the position that has been taken by the Opposition.