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Tuesday, 12 November 1985
Page: 1964


Senator VALLENTINE —I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I refer to the answer given by the Minister to a question from Senator Chipp on 11 November concerning the role of United States bases in Australia in which he replied: `Pine Gap and Narrungar are not part of the United States war fighting machine'. In spite of the questionable nature of this response, I ask the Minister: Is the fact that he avoided making mention of the United States base at North West Cape an implicit admission by the Government that this base has a nuclear war fighting role, especially with the introduction of the Trident II submarines in 1989, which will receive orders via North West Cape to initiate a first strike, in the event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union? If so, will the Government immediately begin procedures for the dismantling of this nuclear war fighting base at North West Cape?


Senator GARETH EVANS —No, there was nothing remotely significant in my exclusion of a reference to North West Cape in my answer to Senator Chipp yesterday. The purposes of the facility at North West Cape were again spelled out quite explicitly by the Government in the Prime Minister's statement on 6 June 1984. Let me once again put that explanation on the record. It appears at page 2987 of House of Representatives Hansard for that day. The quotation is as follows:

The purposes and functions of the joint defence facility at North West Cape have already been made public. It is a communications relay station for ships and submarines of the United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy and serves as a key element in a complex system of communications supporting the global balance.

It goes on to talk about these circumstance which have been agreed between the Australian and United States governments to enable full participation by the Australian Government in what occurs there. I think the honourable senator will probably be well aware that the kind of communications capacity that exists in North West Cape is not such as to make it technically appropriate for targeting or anything else that is directly or immediately associated with the kind of war-fighting capacity that she seems to have in mind.


Senator VALLENTINE —If I may ask a supplementary question, I refer to the second part of the question; that is that in 1989 the Trident II submarines which will be on line will have a first strike capacity. In view of that, I want to know whether the Government has any plans for dismantling the operation, because it will become a first strike operation at that time.


Senator GARETH EVANS —I will be only too happy to refer that aspect of the question to the Minister for Defence and get a considered answer for the honourable senator.