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Tuesday, 17 August 1993
Page: 93

(Question No. 110)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 11 May 1993:

  With reference to reports of a recent visit to Darwin by the nuclear powered submarine USS HOUSTON:

  (1) What plan and guidelines were used to brief staff at Royal Darwin Hospital in dealing with nuclear emergencies when only 24 hours notice of the arrival of the vessel in port was given.

  (2) Are such briefings adequate.

  (3) How often can the citizens of Darwin expect to be exposed to the potential hazards presented by visits from nuclear powered warships.

  (4) What representations has the Federal Government made to the United States Government in relation to the number and type of warship visits to Australian ports for 1993.

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

  (1) The Northern Territory Government was advised of the visit on 15 January and subsequently responded on 3 February that all the appropriate government departments had been informed. Medical staff at Royal Darwin Hospital were briefed in accordance with the Safety Plan for the Visit by Nuclear Powered Warships to Port Darwin.

  (2) The Safety Plan is produced by the Northern Territory Emergency Service under the provisions of the Northern Territory Disasters Act. The Northern Territory Government would be the appropriate authority to respond to questions on the adequacy of Northern Territory emergency procedures.

  (3) Visits by Nuclear Powered Warships are made on an irregular basis. The visit by USS HOUSTON was the first to Darwin by a Nuclear Powered Warship since USS POGY in March 1985. There are no Nuclear Powered Warship visits to Darwin programmed.

  (4) US warships, as do warships of other nations, conduct visits to Australian ports in accordance with individual national operational requirements. Australian Government approval is sought by the nation concerned for each visit by a foreign warship. Visits by Australian warships to foreign ports are conducted on the same basis.