Navy cuts hit surveillance
1 October 2001

THE Federal Government yesterday refused to confirm it had cut the number of navy ships and planes used to detect people smugglers to Australia's north.

Australian Defence Force reports claim the original deployment a month ago of five navy vessels and four PC3 Orion surveillance aircraft had been more than halved.

Operation Reflex is now understood to involve two frigates and two Orions. The supply ship HMAS Westralia also has been withdrawn.

Defence sources say the scope of the operation was being scaled back because of the heightened Australian Defence Force readiness in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the US.

Defence Minister Peter Reith sidestepped questioning about the scaling down of Operation Reflex, saying a "sufficient military capability" was being maintained.

"I've had military advice as to the level of military capability required to meet our objectives and that's what we're doing," Mr Reith said on Channel 9's Sunday program.

But Mr Reith said the Government was not going to "advise people smugglers" which ships were being used and where they were.


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