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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2254

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct my question to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence. Has HMAS 'Supply' been ordered to sail to the French nuclear test zone? Does the fact that the ship is in dry dock raise any problems in carrying out this instruction? If the ship does sail to the zone, can the Minister give an assurance that the men who volunteered to make the trip will be fully protected against the dangers of radiation and its consequences?

Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) (Minister for Defence) - 1 did have discussions with the Prime Minister of New Zealand who, as the right honourable gentleman will be aware, had already indicated that, as a part of his Government's protest against the French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, New Zealand would be sending a frigate to the area. He asked for Australia's co-operation in providing refuelling facilities for that vessel. We as a government adopt the same attitude as that taken by the Government of New Zealand. During my discussions with the New Zealand Prime Minister, I indicated that Australia would be prepared to provide whatever support was possible. At that time, I indicated that it would be possible to provide HMAS 'Supply' which could carry out the refuelling requirements that would be necessary. It is true that 'Supply' is now in dry dock but, if 'Supply' is not available, another vessel will be made available and Australia will honour its obligations in this respect.

Finally, I want to say to the right honourable gentleman that I made it perfectly clear to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, as I make it clear to this Parliament, that the Australian participation would be to the extent that the vessel would be outside the fallout area, that the exercise would be regarded as a naval exercise and that those who sailed on the ship - that is, the members of the crew - if necessary, would be given the opportunity to opt out. There would be no question of volunteers; it would be a normal naval exercise. But anyone on the ship who, for political or for any other reasons, felt that he should not be a member of the crew would have the opportunity to opt out. We as a government believe that we have a responsibility not only to fulfil our obligations in cooperating with New Zealand but also to ensure that we make whatever protests are available and within the capacity of this Government. To that extent, whether 'Supply' is available or not, Australia will be co-operating with New Zealand by providing another ship, if it is necessary.

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