5 Jan 2011

MP wanted Antarctic flights from Tasmania - cable

5:34 pm on 5 January 2011

An Australian politician suggested the US Air Force should move its base for Antarctic flights from New Zealand to Tasmania, according to a document released by WikiLeaks.

Documents released by the whistle-blowing website show Peter Garrett, the Australian Environment, Heritage and Arts Minister at the time, said it would be faster to fly from Tasmania than Christchurch.

The document is part of a 250,000 cache of US diplomatic cables being released by WikiLeaks.

The US ambassador to Australia stated in the cable that Mr Garrett said flights from Tasmania would take four hours instead of the eight it takes from Christchurch.

However, Mr Garrett seems to have made a mistake as Christchurch is about 220km closer to the US base in Antarctica than Tasmania.

New Zealand Hercules are slower than the planes Australia uses but American expeditions to Antarctica usually use a US Air Force plane that travels at the same speed.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says he can not blame Mr Garrett for pitching the Australian facility, but the Government values the co-operation it has with the US at the Christchurch base.