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Thursday, 17 October 1985
Page: 1408

Senator CROWLEY —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence aware of Press reports that the Department of Defence has made a bulk purchase of 541,000 condoms for the Australian Army? Will he comment on the reported suggestion by an Army spokesman that the condoms `can be placed over the end of a rifle during wet weather . . . then you can shoot straight through them without having to remove anything'? What is the cost of this item? Can he justify the expenditure for this purpose?

Senator GARETH EVANS —My attention has been drawn to Press reports in the Daily Telegraph and the Melbourne Sun of 15 October covering the matters raised by the honourable senator. My advice is that whilst the practice of placing condoms over rifle barrels is not formally recommended in any Army documents, it is understood to be an effective means of waterproofing. Condoms do not offer a significant obstruction to rifle projectiles.

However, the Senate should not be misled by references to being able to `shoot straight through' the condoms which the Army has purchased. This is not a reference to product defects of the kind which might attract the interest of the inquiry into defence project management by Senator Georges's Joint Committee of Public Accounts. On the contrary, I am assured that the contract for the purchase of these condoms was placed after independent leak and burst tests in which the condoms were inflated to a volume of more than 12 litres. This would ensure that they could waterproof such items as the gun barrels of tanks. A total of 34 tests were conducted on each of the condoms in the test program. I am not advised as to what testing procedures were employed.

As to other known uses for these devices, I am advised that they also have a degree of functional utility in relation to population control and the regulation of a variety of potentially epidemic diseases. It was also believed, at the time of the abortive Australian Secret Intelligence Service `raid' on the Sheraton, that they might have had a further use in that context as regulation headgear for the operatives in question. But beyond that, I have no further information as to the uses for this very large defence purchase.