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Thursday, 8 June 1989
Page: 3660

Senator PETER BAUME —My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence concerns the request made to three large corporations each to prepare tenders for the Jindalee project and to put together a consortium of firms for that purpose. Has not Kel Aerospace, an Australian firm, designed and manufactured the best and cheapest practical apparatus to carry out over the horizon radar reception? Has it sold its products in 25 countries but not in Australia? Since it should be ideal for the project, having worked on Jindalee now for 10 years, given that it wishes to be part of the project and in view of the fact that at least two of the consortia have indicated no interest in this Australian manufacturer because of commitments made to potential overseas partners, I ask the Minister: Can he seek to ensure that, in the making of the contract with whichever prime contractor is successful, the Government will insist that manufacturers like Kel Aerospace not be excluded by the demands of overseas companies seeking to reserve to themselves elements of any successful contract for the Jindalee project? Will the Minister review the government furnishing equipment-or GFE-regulations in cases where government tendering works to exclude or limit the opportunities of qualified Australian manufacturers?

Senator RICHARDSON —Certainly, I would acknowledge that Kel Aerospace has done some very important work over the last decade on this and has certainly sold its expertise and equipment to a number of countries. I am not sure whether that number is 25, but I accept the honourable senator's word for it. The Government has asked three large corporations to tender for Jindalee. Those corporations are Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd, Telecom Australia and AWA Ltd, which are all Australian companies. These companies will take into account any Australian company that hopes to contribute to Jindalee. The Government is determined that Australia will have full technical control over this vital strategic asset. In relation to that vital control, obviously we hope Kel Aerospace will be an important part of the project. But its capabilities are on a small scale. It is not as if Kel Aerospace could have been asked to fulfil the whole contract. However, contrary to the information which the honourable senator has provided, I am advised that the company would be welcomed as a sub-contractor to the three companies that are bidding for the prime contract. In its approach to the project, the Government will certainly ensure that this company is encouraged to bid.