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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12214


Mr GRAY (Brand) (12:08): I thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs for tabling this document. Today is a good day. This is a good agreement and it is the culmination of a decade of hard work that spans both sides of this parliament, a decade of hard work that spans many foreign ministers and prime ministers, a decade of hard work that has resulted in an agreement between Australia and India to not only allow the sale of Australian uranium to India but to do it through a better and stronger bilateral agreement than that which would otherwise have been available under the NNPT. Successive foreign ministers and prime ministers of both countries are to be greatly congratulated.

In just a few weeks, our parliament will be graced by a historic visit from India's Prime Minister, Mr Modi. He will speak to our parliament, and it is a good thing that he speaks to our parliament after we have, with good grace, completed this important piece of work. This important piece of work is not only helpful for Australia's trade relationship but extremely important for India's development. The great agenda which Prime Minister Modi has for the Indian people is an agenda for growth and wealth creation and an agenda to lift people from poverty and to give them better lives. Prime Minister Modi will achieve that by increasing electricity production in India. He will achieve that through a nuclear reactor build that will provide power for hundreds of millions of Indian families. He will do that to help Indian families to warm their homes in winter and to cook and chill their food. This nuclear reactor build will drive industry, drive jobs, create wealth and create better lives.

This is not simply a good agreement because it allows Australian uranium to be sold to India; it is actually an important part of an agenda which the government of India has to create better lives for all of its people. As such, this piece of work is not simply about a trade relationship; it is what we are all about. Australia is by any measure an energy superpower. We do not provide energy just to our neighbours in North Asia; we are one of the world's significant suppliers of uranium. But we are also more than that. We are partners in nuclear cooperation, in developing better industry and better standards in the countries with which we trade and with which we have partnerships. This cooperation agreement does just that.

In 2011 and 2012, when the former federal government began a long process of aligning its internal Labor Party processes to allow for the proper facilitation of this agreement, it took the great courage of former Prime Minister Gillard to bring the Labor Party platform to a point where it could happily, and in an inclusive way, embrace this agreement. Great diplomatic agreements, as significant as they are and as enduring as they should be, are built on pragmatic and practical local management politics.

Before agreeing to export uranium to India as a strategic partner for Australia, we needed to have commitments and responsible actions to support nuclear nonproliferation—and Australia obtained those assurances. We required that the agreement be consistent with international guidelines on nuclear supply and that it provided an acceptable basis for peaceful nuclear cooperation. In response to that the government of Australia was always prepared to negotiate the provision of Australian uranium.

Australia's existing stringent bilateral safeguards agreements with other countries specify that our uranium and the nuclear material derived from it must be used exclusively for peaceful purposes in civilian nuclear fuel cycles—and that is what this agreement does. Australian uranium and the nuclear material derived from it is also protected in accordance with strict internationally agreed standards for its physical security. These agreements ensure that countries to which Australia agrees to sell its uranium are committed to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and international nuclear security standards. Under those agreements countries receiving uranium must also report on their use of Australian nuclear material and seek Australian consent for any enrichment, reprocessing or third-party transfer.

This agreement allows for these critical elements to be in place. A bilateral nuclear safeguards agreement with India imposes high standards. It ensures that Australian uranium remains solely used for peaceful purposes. It ensures that Australian uranium will help burn the lights, support industry, cook meals, generate a better standard of living for generations yet to come in India. It ensures that our mines in South Australia, in the Northern Territory—hopefully soon in Western Australia—will be suppliers of safe uranium for safe and peaceful purposes, with a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuel burning, with a better industrial profile than other environmental fuels available in India, and with the capacity to provide baseload power to the world's most populous democracy.

We stand here today at the culmination of nearly a decade of effort that spans the combined wisdom and concentration of former Prime Minister Howard, Prime Minister Rudd, Prime Minister Gillard and, of course, today, Prime Minister Abbott. To have this agreement book-ended, if you will, in just a few days' time with the appearance in this chamber of India's Prime Minister, Mr Modi, is a good thing—a good thing for this agreement and a good thing for the way in which our nations have worked together to produce this agreement, which will not just endure but will strengthen our relationships and make industrial development in India safer, better and cleaner. I commend this agreement to the House.