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Tuesday, 14 September 1971
Page: 1292

Mr UREN (Reid) - I rise this evening to answer the criticism levelled by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) against the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) who raised a matter of public importance in this House last Thursday night when he referred to the joint defence space research facility, as it was called I the Minister for Defence, at Pine Gap. On 3rd September 1971 the 'Australian' referred to revelations about this matter in the United States of America. The article is headed: 'Nuclear bullseye in the dead Centre'. It reads as follows:

Australia's silent Centre is now a target in global nuclear warfare - a giant 'sounding board' in the US cold war with Russia and China. The United States has been, quietly buttoning Australia into its global nuclear arc while, ironically, beginning to withdraw US troops from Asia. But its Australian arc remains very much 'go'.

The United States, in fact, has at least 28 secret bases in Australia and its territories - all planted during Australian Government evasions and protestations of 'joint control'. They include Pine Gap (approximate cost $200m), near Alice Springs.

This evening the Minister said that he would not give out any information about this matter. It is well known that this article was written by a very reputable and well-known journalist, a Mr Philip J. Klass who is a correspondent for the 'Aviation Week Space Technology' in America. Everything that this writer discloses was available in publications in the United States. There was no secrecy at all there. Yet this Government shrouds the matter in secrecy in this Parliament. The Minister for Defence said that the honourable member for Sturt wanted to raise the matter because he is a near pacifist. Surely in this day and age we have to take the secrecy out of government and we have to inform the people whether bases or installations are to be established in Australia that could threaten mankind. If this is an early warning system in defence of the United States it could involve Australia in a nuclear war. Fear has been built up. The United States and the Soviet Union have enough explosives to kill and overkill mankind 25 times. The honourable member for Sturt asked this Government to inform the people of the problems that could arise. The Australian' disclosed that there are at least 28 secret bases. We know about the North West Cape base because we sought details about the purpose of the base.

Dr Mackay - What is secret about that?

Mr UREN - At the time it was to be secret. The Minister who interjected was not a member of this House then. From March 1961 to 1963 I asked questions. All by the time evasive replies were given. We were trying to seek information and details about that base. Eventually it was disclosed - in journals again - that continuing messages had been sent from the United States by high frequency signals to that base. One of these messages could be an instruction to fire. There they were transferred to a very low frequency and sent to submerged submarines. Each submarine had 16 Polaris missiles. These missiles were not directed against military targets in southern Russia or China but were a population deterrent. If it were good enough for the United States to fire missiles at Soviet and Chinese cities, probably those countries would retaliate. I have no doubt that in the event of war our cities would be under threat.

Let us take the hysteria out of it. Let us take the name calling out of it. We are at least moving a little towards rational discussion. We should be taking the jingoistic attitude out of this fear complex about having to watch the Chinese and where do we draw the. line. Do we have a fight in Vietnam or a fight on our shores mentality? Do we bring out the propaganda, which has been brought out previously by the hysteria of the Liberal Party, of a good old digger in a digger's hat drawing a rickshaw containing an Asian with a nice blonde Australian girl? That mentality is out. Let us deal with this matter on a rational basis. If there are installations in Australia that may embroil us in a nuclear war or may be a target in a nuclear war, we have no guarantees. The Minister spoke about a joint defence space base. I would like him to give to the House any information which he has. We are entitled to know how we share the responsibilities of this joint defence space research facility. My Party wants this information. We want the secrecy taken out of it. We want to know what our responsibilities are. My Party at its recent Federal Conference carried a decision dealing with Pine Gap and Woomera in these terms:

Conference protests at the Federal Government's refusal to inform the Parliament and public of the general purposes and possible consequences of the joint defence installations and facilities at Pine Gap and Woomera. It deplores the Government's action in not offering or agreeing to deny access to Australian members of Parliament. Conference also protests that the full details and implications of the proposed Omega communications stations have also been denied to the Parliament and people.

This was a decision made at the last Federal Conference of my Party in Launceston. We are asking for information and details. We are asking that the secrecy be taken off. If these details are written about, talked about and explained in American technical journals it is good enough that the Australian Parliament b informed of the details. That is what we are seeking. All that the honourable member for Sturt sought was information. We do not want government by secrecy. We want to know what is happening. We want to know what our country is being involved in. We do not want to start any name calling or hysteria. All we are asking in simple language and in a low tone is: What is the Government doing in this year of 1971? Is it still a government of secrecy or are we to be informed of the details an J implications of matters in which we may be involved? That is all that the honourable member for Sturt wanted to know - nothing more, nothing less. But no information has been given to this House.

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