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Tuesday, 6 September 1983
Page: 374

MR HOLLIS —Has the Minister for Defence seen reported statements in the Nowra newspapers by the Mayor of the City of Shoalhaven and by the former member for Macarthur about the future of HMAS Albatross? Can the Minister give the House any assurances that in the Government's reassessment of its defence priorities the livelihood of the people of Shoalhaven, who have for many years depended on the Service population in the district, will be protected?

Mr SCHOLES —I am aware of the statements which have been made in the area and I am at a loss to know why they were made because I cannot understand why local government or people prominent in the local community would wish to create uncertainty and depress local property values, especially for people who may be leaving the area. Like most areas, Nowra has economic problems which are general throughout the community. The honourable member will also be aware, as he was present at the meeting, that during my visit to HMAS Albatross I met with officials of local councils and gave them an absolute assurance that the levels of activity at HMAS Albatross would remain as they were at the time of the announcement relating to fixed wing aircraft.

I am able to inform the House that as a first step in maintaining those levels the Government will be transferring the Australian Army's Parachute Training School to HMAS Albatross in 1985. At present the school is at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Williamtown and its relocation has been planned as part of the development of Williamtown to accommodate the RAAF's new FA18 aircraft program. Nowra is a suitable location for the types of activities carried out by the school, and moving it will assist in maintaining the Defence Force population in that area. The new training facilities for the school, which has a peak staff and student load of approximately 160, being 70 permanent staff and approximately 700 graduates per year, will be around $5m.

In order to carry out the Government's undertaking consideration is currently being given to other defence activities which can be transferred to Nowra at times of any reduction in the current military personnel. I am somewhat surprised that without any justifiable reason a campaign such as that suggested by the honourable senator has been conducted in the area. I assure the people of that area that the honourable member for Macarthur has been diligent in ensuring that the undertakings that were given by me on behalf of the Government are and will continue to be carried out.