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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2858

Senator COLLARD (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(11.04) — I am drawn into this adjournment debate briefly by the remarks made earlier by Senator Reynolds--

Senator Gareth Evans —We will forgive you.

Senator COLLARD —It is only the second time that I have spoken in the adjournment debate. Senator Reynolds raised a few of the problems associated with the joint user base at Garbutt in Townsville. I am drawn into the debate because I am concerned about the alarm that could be generated by such remarks in a forum such as this. I do not think that raising the alarm in the community, unnecessarily or otherwise, does any good. Townsville is not the only joint user base in Australia. Indeed, Fairbairn in Canberra is one, as are Darwin and the Mirages' home base of Williamtown. While Richmond is not a joint user base, the aircraft there come in and take off over built-up areas. So the problem, insofar as there is a problem, is not peculiar to Townsville. I think it reprehensible that we can build up unnecessary alarm in people's minds. If these people do not want the Royal Australian Air Force base-Senator Reynolds said that they do-they should remember that they cannot have their cake and eat it. Obviously, it is of great economic value to any community to have a base that size with exercises and transiting crews. If a community is going to have that and the economic benefits which flow from it, it has to live with the fact that, if the defence forces are to be any use at all, they have to train regularly.

One of the problems that I worry about is that, because of Budget restrictions, our defence forces do not train hard enough and often enough. If there is a problem, I would much rather it were dealt with a bit more judiciously and quietly than by raising unnecessary alarm in people's minds. Mention was made of bombs falling off aircraft. I guess that there would be more danger from a civilian airliner with full fuel tanks crashing into a built-up area than there would be from explosive bombs which are not armed falling from a military aircraft in a built-up area. The whole purpose of not arming bombs is that they will not explode in a situation such as this.

Let me deal now with low level operations over airports. Our F111s at Amberley are very close to a major population centre. They train all over the Lockyer Valley and the Darling Downs area using their terrain following radar at very low altitudes. We have an agreement with the United States of America in regard to the B-52 bombers. Admittedly, these aircraft fly over very sparsely populated areas but they train at very low altitudes at Cape York. I have travelled in one of those aircraft on a exercise such as this.

I do not think it does anybody any good if we raise unnecessary alarm in one city where our defence forces are training-they are not getting enough training overall-because this happens to be a joint user base. When the Garbutt Airport was first established I do not think there were any houses under the flight paths of these aircraft. There certainly are not any houses under the flight path over the common out towards the sea. There are houses inland and that is unfortunate but it is a case of caveat emptor. Those people built their houses well after the airport was established.

I end as I began. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. We have a Defence Force which has to train. It has to use bases where they are established. Nobody would suggest-in fairness, I do not think even Senator Reynolds suggested this-that we should spend a massive amount of money in building a base a bit further away and for the town to move towards it. We have very limited bombing ranges in this country and our defence forces have to use what sparse resources they have.