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Wednesday, 27 November 1985
Page: 2342


Senator SANDERS(12.13) —I have two questions, the first of which relates to Jervis Bay. On 12 September the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Senator Geitzelt, provided an answer from the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) to the effect that Jervis Bay has been assessed as suitable on environmental and safety grounds for visit by nuclear powered and nuclear armed capable warships. The Australian Democrats wrote to the Minister for Defence on 18 September to obtain the assessment documents, or in any case as much detail as possible. We have not yet received a reply. This is not particularly surprising as the Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly in April 1984 passed a Labor member's nuclear activities prohibition ordinance to declare the Territory a nuclear free zone. No action was taken by this Government to acknowledge the expressed will of the Territory's representatives. I ask: When will the Democrats be provided with the relevant information on Jervis Bay?

The second question is specifically to do with the FA18 aircraft. It has been made public that the FA18 is suffering fatigue cracks in the fuselage and empernage assembly. More disturbingly, we have discovered that the aircraft will not be used for close ground support because of its expense. Apparently our military advisers have now learned the lessons of the Falklands war-that one foot soldier, or one small unit, with a ground-to-air or other missile can knock down a $30m aircraft. They have publicly stated that the FA18 cannot now be used for close ground support because of its vulnerability. My question is: If the FA18 has been found to be inappropriate for close ground support, what are the plans for future close ground support aircraft? How are we going to be able to co-operate with the Army, with our ground forces, in a close ground support role if the FA18, which was to assume this role, is found not to be capable?

I think this points up the difficulties that Australian defence finds itself in under the ANZUS Treaty. We are asked to buy American aircraft which meet American nuclear capable strategic roles, and to blend in with America's requirements, which in fact leaves us defenceless in a conventional sense against our only potential difficulty, which would be if Indonesia decided to move into East Irian, as that country calls it, or Papua New Guinea as we refer to it. If that did take place-I am not saying that it will-we would be very much in need of close ground support aircraft, transport aircraft-an airborne capability which we do not have because we are investing all our money in very high technology, state of the art aircraft such as the FA18, which we now find is not capable of meeting a ground support role. That leaves us defenceless in this area.