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Thursday, 26 May 2011
Page: 4879


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (16:49): Mr Speaker, you and others in this place may have seen the front page of the Age this morning, with its lead story headlined 'Australia investing in nuclear arms'. Australia's $74 billion Future Fund has been found to be investing our tax dollars in companies that manufacture nuclear weapons components. Utterly shamefully, this includes companies based in countries that are not signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Fifteen companies are receiving $135.4 million from us to build medium-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-armed submarines, and to test launch systems of nuclear missiles in India. This is absolutely shocking in the face of the valuable and internationally recognised work on nuclear disarmament that our government has progressed in recent years. Whilst the government continues to state its vision for a future free of nuclear weapons, the Future Fund is enabling, aiding and abetting those who make weapons of mass destruction—weapons that kill millions of people. This investment must cease immediately.

Today in Senate estimates, my colleague and the Greens spokesperson for nuclear issues, Senator Scott Ludlam, after questioning the Chief Investment Officer of the Future Fund, ascertained that the fund had not sought legal advice before defending its investments in nuclear weapons manufacturers. It was also revealed that the fund had been of the position that the treaties Australia had signed on to did not preclude the fund's investment in nuclear weapons manufacturing companies.

Let me be absolutely clear: the treaties that Australia has signed on to are disarmament treaties, and these treaties disallow the fund's investment decisions. To take but one example, under article 3(c) of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty of 1985, Australia has undertaken:

(c) not to take any action to assist or encourage the manufacture or acquisition of any nuclear explosive device by any State.

Let me also be absolutely clear that the investment decisions of the fund are questionable at best, and in my opinion overtly disallowed in the context of Commonwealth law. Section 13 of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Act 1986 explicitly states that:

A person who does any act or thing to facilitate the manufacture, production, acquisition or testing by any person (including a foreign country) of a nuclear explosive device (whether in or outside Australia) is guilty of an offence …

Yet, even today, it was revealed in Senate estimates that the fund has, to date, presumed its actions were legitimate, despite its own stated policy not to finance companies involved in activities that are unlawful in Australia.

I strongly suggest that this matter is not simply a technical issue of whether or not this fund is breaching Australia's legal obligations. First and foremost, the fund should not be in the business of financing nuclear weapons as a matter of moral imperative and should cease all such investments immediately. That a decision was taken in the first place to assist the Indian nuclear program—India not being a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty—is, in my eyes, a serious error of judgment on both legal and moral grounds. Larsen & Toubro, a company that the fund invests in, tests India's nuclear missiles and builds India's nuclear armed submarines. Under no circumstances should Australian tax revenue be used for such a scandalous purpose.

It is certainly not too late for the fund to alter its investments, and I commend its representatives for undertaking today to seek the necessary legal advice on Australia's obligations under the non-proliferation treaty and other treaties that it is signatory to. With some urgency, but also goodwill, this matter can be rectified quickly and the fund can continue its important role in Australia's economy without these damaging investments. As was pointed out in estimates today, the Norwegian pension fund and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund have both deemed it unethical to finance nuclear weapons companies and have both ceased investing in nuclear weapons manufacturing companies. Again, I commend the representatives of the fund for resolving to explore a similar path.

Nuclear weapons are the ultimate tools of destruction. Their use has enormous and catastrophic humanitarian consequences. They cause unimaginable suffering across communities and generations. The Future Fund has recently done the right thing on ceasing investment in cluster bombs, and it now has the opportunity to do the same on nuclear weapons. I welcome its commitment today to consider its position, and I hope that sanity prevails such that Australia's tax revenue is no longer used to finance the proliferation of nuclear weapons. (Time expired)