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Friday, 5 May 1989
Page: 1946

(Question No. 905)


Senator Sanders asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 9 March 1989:

(1) For each study of possible locations for a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) fleet base and armament depot on the east coast of Australia performed since 1975 by or for the Government, what are the: (a) title; (b) name and designation of the author(s); (c) date; (d) cost; (e) terms of reference; and (f) findings of the study report.

(2) For each study of possible locations for a separate RAN armament depot on the east coast of Australia performed since 1975 by or for the Government what are the: (a) title; (b) name and designation of the author(s); (c) date; (d) cost; (e) terms of reference; and (f) findings of the study report.

(3) What locations have been proposed by the Defence Department for strategic and ready use armament stowage in Northern Australia to support naval operations in contingent circumstances in that area, in its study which was reported by Robert Cooksey in `Review of Australia's Defence Facilities' (p 76).

(4) What is the status of this proposal.


Senator Richardson —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

In providing this answer, ``study of possible locations'' has been taken as referring to studies into location options for a fleet base or an armament depot.

(1) (a) (i)

``Garden Island Modernisation-EIS''

(ii)

``Jervis Bay Zone Plan-Report on the Identification of Preferred Site Options''

(iii)

``Navy Shore Support Facilities in South East Australia''

(b) (i)

Garden Island Modernisation Planning Team-Department of Defence

(ii)

Navy Office Working Party

(iii)

Defence (Navy) Working Group

(c) (i)

1979

(ii)

1984

(iii)

1984

(d) (i)

Costs not available-internal study

(ii)

Costs not available-internal study

(iii)

Costs not available-internal study

(e) (i)

The Environmental Impact Statement describes the proposed modernisation of the naval dockyard and fleet base at Garden Island in NSW. The main part of the EIS contains all the basic information relating to the proposals and its expected impacts on the environment.

(ii)

To determine the preferred site options in the Jervis Bay area for:

An armament depot

A Fleet Base.

(iii)

To evaluate ports between Cairns (Qld) and Port Eyre (SA), including Tasmania, to determine their suitability for the location of naval support facilities in south east Australia.

(f) (i)

Having regard for the infrastructure and capital investment, there is no satisfactory practicable alternative to the modernisation of Garden Island Dockyard.

The alternative to modernising the fleet base facilities in the Garden Island area, which form only part of the fleet base in Port Jackson, would be to relocate the fleet base. At an estimated cost of $230m, this would be vastly more expensive than modernising fleet base facilities at Garden Island (costed at $50 to $60m) and cannot be justified at this time.

The appropriate course of action is to modernise Garden Island Dockyard and the fleet base facilities in the Garden Island.

In the long term it may become necessary to relocate some of the fleet base from Port Jackson. This should be to Jervis Bay as it has outstanding advantages over alternative locations for a fleet base in south-east Australia. Initial possibilities are an armament depot and wharf.

(ii)

The recommended site for an armament depot is 4km north of Callala Bay.

The recommended sites for the fleet base are:

Between Murrays Beach and Bristol Point

Between Murrays Beach and Captains Point.

(iii) Strategic considerations suggest that the best location for major naval shore support facilities lie in the south-east and south-west of the continent.

The existing arrangements for handling ammunition in Sydney are unsatisfactory and require replacement as a matter of urgency.

Other facilities for Fleet Units in Sydney have many shortcomings, in particular there is insufficient room for growth of the Fleet Base at Garden Island and the Submarine Base at HMAS PLATYPUS. In the long term these facilities which are already under pressure will become quite inadequate and will have to be relocated.

Facilities for replenishment of stores (ammunition, fuel, food, etc), should be collocated with facilities for maintenance (for fleet base) so that ships can return to their operating areas as quickly as possible. It is therefore highly desirable that a new armament depot be built as close as possible to Sydney to allow it to be used in concert with other existing facilities.

Nevertheless, the armament depot should if possible be located in a port with the capacity to accommodate a fleet base later.

Jervis Bay, 160km south of Sydney, is an ideal site for an armament depot and has the space available for a fleet base. From the naval operational point of view Jervis Bay is clearly the most practical site for both these facilities.

The only other ports on the east coast of Australia which are at all suitable for the construction of an armament depot are Port Curtis (Gladstone), Brisbane, Westernport, and Hobart. Provision of an armament depot at Port Curtis, Brisbane or Westernport would be much more expensive than Jervis Bay, and construction time would be substantially longer because of the need for long access roads and bridges or viaducts. Because of their long approaches these three ports are susceptible to mining and mine clearance would produce a prodigious task. An armament depot at Hobart would present unacceptable logistic problems.

Reports by Parliamentary Committees are not addressed.

(2) (a) Navy Ammunition Handling in the Sydney Area.

(b) Department of Defence (Navy)

(c) 1979

(d) Not Available

(e) To study the handling and transport of naval ordinance in the Sydney area.

(f) The high risks involved in transporting ammunition through built-up areas of Sydney require that ammunitioning activities be relocated from the Sydney area as soon as possible.

Jervis Bay is the only suitable alternative location in NSW.

(3) (4) Consideration of these issues is not yet finalised.