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Wednesday, 2 February 1994
Page: 207


Senator SANDY MACDONALD (3.09 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Faulkner) to a question without notice asked by Senator Sandy Macdonald this day, relating to the role played by the Defence Forces during the NSW bushfires of January 1994.

I wish to take note of the answer by Senator Faulkner concerning the generous and competent contribution that the Australian defence forces made during the horrific bushfires in January. The transportation of firefighters' equipment, fire-spotting and general support of the Royal Australian Air Force were commendable. The contribution by troops on the ground was very important. Governments should always remember the great deal of operational experience that military training provides. All our defence forces have considerable operational experiences in disasters.

  One aspect of military expertise that is now widely available and relatively cheap is satellite positioning of vehicles. I understand that there were examples of firefighting units not being utilised as well as they might have been because the technology to have a screen clearly identifying the position of each unit was not used.

  The technology is available, and it is essential to the further coordination of what was a magnificent effort. I hope that the minister takes note of the potential use of satellite positioning and makes a recommendation for its use to the New South Wales government's inquiry into fighting the fires.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.