Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 28 February 1973
Page: 67

Mr BARNARD - Mr Speaker, the question of the number of speakers is a matter for arrangement between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House. I give to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition an unqualified assurance that this matter will be the subject of debate next week.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Is leave granted?

Mr Lynch - The Minister did say 4 speakers.

Mr BARNARD - No. That is a matter for you to arrange.

Mr Lynch - That is our expectation. We will give leave on that basis.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! No, I am sorry. There is no qualification. Leave is either granted or not granted.

Mr Lynch - I am giving leave, Mr Speaker, not on the basis of arrangements that may be a matter between myself and the Deputy Prime Minister, but I make it clear to the Deputy Prime Minister that an arrangement was made during the course of this afternoon. On that basis, I give leave.

Mr SPEAKER - Leave is granted.

Mr BARNARD - I wish to advise the House of some decisions that have been taken in respect of certain installations with defence implications which have at one time or another been established in Australia following an approach to the Australian Government by the United States. I say at the outset that it is not our intention to repudiate any treaty. We must, however, insist on seeking renegotiation of certain treaties where this is necessary to obviate the complete exclusion of Australia from any effective control over a defence installation on Australian soil or to obviate any possibility that Australia could be involved in war - and a nuclear war at that - without itself having any power of decision. I shall be speaking later about problems of this kind in relation to the United States Naval Communications Station at North West Cape. But I want to refer to other installations first.

Some joint Australia-United States installations are public and well-known, like the installation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. There are other installations which are related to defence. For example, there are 2 installations which have been in Australia for many years at Amberley in Queensland and at Alice Springs, both of which have operated with a degree of secrecy which has led to quite unnecessary speculation and mystery about their purpose. The United States Air Force detachment at Amberley has been described as 'measuring the physical effects of disturbances in the atmosphere or in space, with particular emphasis on the effect on radio communications'. The installation is equipped with sensitive devices which can detect very low pressure waves in the atmosphere. Information so obtained has defence and civilian application in the study of ionospheric and auroral disturbances in the upper atmosphere. The essential point I wish to announce tonight is that it has proved possible, through use of these research devices, to monitor the Partial Test Ban Treaty in respect of the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere andon the surface.

The Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station at Alice Springs has been described as conducting 'long term geological or geophysical studies including studies of earthquakes and attendant phenomena'. The Bureau of Mineral Resources receives recorded information obtained at this installation, which assists with its studies of the seismology of Central Australia. But among the attendant phenonema' the. installation studies one has proved to be of special importance. This station can aid in distinguishing between natural and man-made tremours in the Earth's surface. The man-made tremours are of course made by massive explosions, particularly by nuclear devices underground. The progressive development of this scientific capability to distinguish nuclear tests from natural seismic occurrences is of course an essential basis to the development of an effective comprehensive test ban treaty. Australia supports the acheivement of such a treaty.

The object and value or having these installations at Amberley and Alice Springs in Australia will be now evident. They make contributions towards the acheivement and monitoring of nuclear disarmament. The Australian Government has access not only to the product of these 2 installations but also to the other wider assessments to which they contribute. We see no reason to keep our participation in these matters confidential. The Government has already made clear its real and active concern that Australia take a positive role in disarmament matters. We have ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the treaty prohibiting the placement of nuclear weapons on or under the seabed. We are pleased to have in Australia stations monitoring disarmament. We will take a greater interest in their activity in future.

I wish now to speak about 2 joint installations in Central Australia which have long been matters of concern and debate in the Parliament. These are known as the Joint Defence Space Research Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, and the Joint Defence Space Communications Station at Nurrungar near Woomera in South Australia. As is well known, previous Australian governments chose to exclude the Leader of the Opposition from those who were briefed on the activities and functions of these stations. It was therefore necessary, as I have said in the past, for us to wait until we became the Government before we could develop a policy in respect of- these stations founded on a knowledge of- what they do, how they can be used, how they are controlled, and whether Australia has properly preserved its national interests in the arrangements entered , into by the previous Government. This unfortunate situation, which the previous Government forced upon us in the past, has been rectified. A week ago I offered the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) the opportunity of being fully briefed on the activities of both these installations. He has accepted my offer and has been briefed. The review that the. Government has made has started from the fact that these, installations are established and operating and that their presence is covered by formal international agreements between sovereign states. In the case of Pine Gap the agreement runs to 1976 and thereafter until terminated; in the case of Woomera to 1979, and thereafter until terminated. One year's notice of termination is required. We continue to disapprove of the manner and the secrecy with which these agreements were entered into by the Liberal Party-Country Party Government. Although we are going to make changes, we are not making a fresh start. Our responsibility has been to consider whether the . national interest and independence are jeopardised by the continuance of the agreements. .The Government will, from time to time, inform the Parliament and make public all the information about these activities as would be consistent with national security. But, of course, the Australian and United States Governments have given undertakings to each other to protect from unauthorised disclosure classified information which we share about these stations. The Government will respect all classified information shared between us and the United States, as well as with Britain, New Zealand and other powers, including our friends in Asia. Defence co-operation cannot be conducted on any other basis.

Apart from these undertakings, there is no doubt in our minds that details of the techniques employed, and of the data being analysed and tested in the stations, must be kept highly secret if the 2 installations are to continue to serve their objectives. At the same time I wish to announce that the Government has decided that members of this Parliament must have a special right of access to the 2 installations which will enable them to see something of the nature of their operations and be given more information than was provided in the past.

I shall not here describe in detail the 'Parliamentary access' arrangements proposed. I have looked at them on the ground at Pine Gap and Woomera and I am satisfied that they provide the maximum access which is feasible without prejudice to the high secrecy of the data being handled. At this point I want simply to announce that there will be special provision for access for members of this Parliament, as would be the case if United States congressmen were to visit the stations. This special form of 'Parliamentary access' will not be available to other persons. With the exception of the very few people directly associated with the central execution and control of the defence programmes of Australia and the United States, no person will have greater access. Honourable members will recognise that these installations are defence projects. They do have work programmes and commitments, and applications to visit them must be made through me. It will not be possible to make visits without prior notice, and there will be some conditions to observe.

I state clearly that neither station is part of a weapons system and neither station can be used to attack any country. My concern has been to ensure not only that these installations do not conflict with our defence interests, but also that they contribute specifically to the improvement and development of Australia's defence system. To date, some measure of this has been accomplished by the following: Firstly, we have access to the installations so that we know what is being done there; secondly, there is joint management of the facilities and participation by Australian civilians and servicemen in their operation; thirdly, all data available to the United States Government from these facilities is available to the Australian Government; and fourthly, we have the right to use either or both systems to meet specifically Australian requirements.

Notwithstanding these arrangements or opportunities for substantial participation, I am not satisfied that Australia has taken a sufficiently positive role in and share of the control of these installations in the past. I expect later this year, at a mutually convenient time, to visit the United States. When I go there, I shall further discuss these and other aspects of management and control of the installations with the United States Defence Secretary and his advisers. I believe that in these circumstances, should it be desirable, as I expect it will, we could expect that United States advisers would discuss the implications of these matters with officials in Australia.

I now turn to the matter of the United States Naval Communication Station at North West Cape. This installation was established under a formal agreement between the United States and Australia. The agreement runs for 25 years, to May 1988 and thereafter until terminated by 180 days notice. Title and sovereignty over the land occupied by the base remain vested in the Australian Government. Article 3 of the Agreement signed and ratified in 1963 provides that:

(1)   The 2 Governments will consult from time to time at the request of either Government on any matters connected with the station and its use.

(2)   Except with the express consent of the Australian Government, the station will not be used for purposes other than purposes of defence communication, and appropriate Australian authorities nominated by the Australian Government shall at all times have access to the station.

But as members of the House will recall the government of the day chose to restrict the meaning of this article. In an exchange of letters between the United States Ambassador and the then Minister for External Affairs on 7th May 1963, the Government publicly accepted the interpretation that the Australian Government's right of consultation in article 3 of the United States Naval Communication Station agreement did not carry with it any degree of control over the. station or its use. An agreement with the United States restricted in this way would not have been made by a Labor government. It was, as we said at the time, a derogation from Australian sovereignty. No responsible Australian government can accept such a situation. The agreement and the exchange of letters were entered into 10 years ago. The exchange, of letters applies and was intended to apply a restrictive interpretation of the agreement. We shall negotiate for the application of the actual terms of the agreement, as distinct from the qualifying exchange of letters.

The United States has told this Government that it is willing to enter into consultations and has said that it is prepared to make. North West Cape a joint installation. We will, of course, be examining whether this would be desirable. These aspects will form an important part of my discussions when I visit the United States. I present the following statement:

United States Defence Installations in Australia - Ministerial Statement, 28 February 1973.

Motion (by Mr Daly) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

Debate (on motion by Dr. Forbes) adjourned.

Suggest corrections