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Thursday, 17 October 1974
Page: 1811

Senator STEELE HALL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I address my question to the Postmaster-General representing the Minister for Defence in this House. In view of the Government's decision outlined in the Minister's statement today to follow up its economic squeeze of the weapons research establishment through reduced Budget allocations, with direct action taken to place the defence facility in a mothballed, run down condition after 1976, will the Minister ask his Government to have this matter re-examined by an independent investigatory authority which will consider among other matters: (a) the concern widely felt overseas at the developing instability due to resource availability and its financial implications; (b) the need for Australia to maintain a developing scientific defence capacity independent of international sources; and (c) the retention in Australia of highly qualified scientists who may be lost to this country if the weapons research establishment- one of the finest facilities of its kind in the world- is dismembered because the Government considers the purchase of 'Blue Poles' and glass birds as more important than this country 's security?

Senator BISHOP - My answer this morning to Senator Donald Cameron related to what was going to happen at the Woomera rocket range. I pointed out that there would be no crisis until the end of 1976. In fact it depends largely on the negotiations between our Government, the Department of Defence and the United Kingdom authorities. It may well be that, resulting from those discussions and negotiations with our United Kingdom partners, we will not take any action which will prevent the range from being re-activated. The clear position is, as everybody knows, that unless there is a consistent involvement by the United Kingdom in the use of the range project the Government will have to spend many millions of dollars to keep it in the state of activity that we are used to and that we have liked in the past. That does not mean, of course, that the capability of Australian defence scientists and our defence abilities will be reduced. It is rather a question of seeing to what extent in the future there may be further involvements. As I have said, at the present time it is intended that the full instrumentation and other general backup facilities will be kept there. We must have them there because of the involvement with Narrunga. As to the other question Senator Steele Hall has asked, I will see whether I can obtain some additional information from the Minister for him.

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