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Senator Robert Hill 2UE IV On Missile Defence

Senator Robert Hill IV On Missile Defence


Radio 2UE

10:45am, Friday 5 December 2003

missile defence


Australia is the first American ally to sign on board for one of the most expensive defence projects, this $80 billion missile defence shield program. Defence Minister Robert Hill has appealed to the Opposition to support it and Defence Minister Robert Hill is on the line. Good morning. Senator Robert Hill

Good morning.


In simple terms, could you tell us what this new defence shield means for us?

Senator Hill:

Well it's taking advantage of new capabilities that allow you to intercept incoming missiles, ballistic missiles. So basically in the Cold War days the defence was really deterrence - the threat of mutually assured destruction. But now with the changes in technology there is the capability to actually defeat a missile whilst it's in the air. And we're prepared to engage with the US in developing that capability. Journalist:

Right, now is that incoming missiles to Australia or to America? Or to both?

Senator Hill:

Well they could be incoming anywhere. It could be to forces on the ground, it could be to strategic assets, but the principles are the same.


Right now the Telegraph this morning had some sketches and make-ups of how it would work and that is our bases in Australia would detect a missile being launched from somewhere and there would be what ships out in the ocean that would fire off other missiles to shoot them down before they reach land. Is that basically how it works?

Senator Hill:

Yes, the scheme is developed to either be able to defeat the missile during the launch phase, or its cruise phase or then thirdly as it re-enters the atmosphere. And so you need tremendously sophisticated sensors to be able to pick up and track the missile during its, each of those events and basically have in place missiles with the capability of intercepting before it reaches its target. Journalist:

Right now where would these missiles be coming from?

Senator Hill:

Well, we don't know but there is a proliferation across the world in long range missiles and unfortunately proliferation of mass destruction warheads. And whilst you can negotiate in rational terms with sensible states, we now find rogue states that are very difficult to understand. They are developing these capabilities and the most effective way of answering them is to actually be able to defeat a missile if it was to be fired.


Right now of course those shoulder-fired missiles do not come into this do they? They're the ones that we're so worried about with the airlines at the moment in certain areas of the world. Senator Hill:

No that's a different issue. Journalist:

That's a totally different issue yeah. Now why has there been so much controversy over this idea.

Senator Hill:

There fear is, has been that it would encourage states to proliferate further. To develop missiles that are even more sophisticated and maybe proliferate in numbers as well. But the problem is that that's already occurring. And if, and what is the alternative? With a rogue state is the alternative just to hope it doesn't ever occur?


Right, some of our listeners have said this morning that by being a part of this defence shield, we're creating a threat when there was actually no threat to us. In other words we're stepping out into the spotlight again. Senator Hill:

Well this is a long-term project to develop the capability to be able to defend ourselves if ever the circumstance arose. Now I don't see that circumstance in the foreseeable future but it's going to take a long-term investment in science and technology to be able to deal with it in the future, you can't wait until the threat arises and then say what on earth do we do.


All right now given Mark Latham's new perspective, his new-found appreciation for the American alliance are you confident that he'll support this?

Senator Hill:

Oh well he bagged the idea in March of this year when we foreshadowed it. Journalist: Yes, but he said a lot of things early - that was then, this is now if you get my drift.

Senator Hill:

Well, yes - he wrapped himself in the American flag yesterday. But I think - you see this is defensive, it's a sensible, precautionary action. I believe it's not only - you mentioned Australia as the only state - well what the Americans will do is build up a coalition across the world that can help provide this security. I would have thought that he would see that something that's designed to protect Australia and Australians and Australian forces is something that is in the national interest and should be supported.


Right, were see him with that American flag at the press conference yesterday? Senator Hill:

Oh well I thought it was all a bit silly. You know you bag the President of the United States one day and then you wrap yourself in the American flag the next and say you didn't really mean it.


All right. So the bottom line for Australia in all of this is by taking part in it it also brings us under the defensive shield. Senator Hill:

In the first instance it gets us to the table. We start to understand the science and the technologies. We look for areas where Australia can make a contribution. And we've been doing that with early launch advice for some 20 years. It gives our industries the opportunity to get into niche projects. The Americans are quite interested in giving Australian industry an opportunity to contribute to what is going to be a huge ...


Will in mean American bases on our soil?

Senator Hill:

No, no.


American expertise. Australians doing the work, are you saying?

Senator Hill:

Australians will out of this program have an opportunity to contribute to the development of particular capabilities. And that's more work for Australian defence industry.


All right. Thanks for your time, good to talk to you.

Senator Hill:



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