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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 923


Senator MacGIBBON(5.58) —I speak in opposition to the Australian Waters (Nuclear-Powered Ships and Nuclear Weapons Prohibition) Bill. My opposition is based on two broad grounds: First of all, it destroys the ANZUS Treaty and thereby diminishes Australia's security; and, secondly, the argument on which this Bill is based is both fallacious and untenable.

The United States has made it clear that it cannot accept a nuclear free zone concept in Australia and still maintain the ANZUS alliance as it now exists.

ANZUS is our principal defence treaty. It is the most important treaty that this country has. As we on this side of the House made clear yesterday, ANZUS is certainly not an absolute guarantee in all circumstances of our security. The difficulties would arise principally in low level contingencies, when quite certainly Australia would have to look after itself. There is also the possibility of a genuine conflict of interest in the United States. If we were to take a very hypothetical and very unlikely case of a conflict between the Philippines and Australia, the United States would be in a very difficult position in aiding either partner against the other.

The fact remains that the Treaty is very valuable not only for Australia but also for the whole South East Asian region, as the countries of Association of South East Asian Nations have affirmed.

Quite apart from the benefits that would derive to Australia in a direct conflict, ANZUS has many peacetime benefits. Mr Deputy President, you went through those with great lucidity a few minutes ago. I mention them because it is not generally appreciated that in peacetime ANZUS provides very considerable benefits for the Australian defence forces and the Australian community. The benefit of joint exercises, the intelligence sharing capability and the equipment and logistic support which we receive from the United States-all contribute by making the ADF more effective and thereby bring greater stability in this part of the world. Over and above everything in a military sense, the politics of the situation are very simple. The majority of Australians do want ANZUS maintained and they want the United States alliance maintained. There is no argument about that.

The United States is moving into a situation in which most of its naval ships are nuclear powered. In fact 67 per cent of the United States Seventh Fleet is now nuclear powered and that figure will certainly go up in the future. Probably a number of those are nuclear armed. If this Bill were passed, the United States would find that it had no harbour facilities and no havens south of the equator in the Pacific region because many island states now embrace the nuclear free concept in the South Pacific. New Zealand has gone down that path. It would be an absolute tragedy if a government in Australia accepted the doctrine that Australia should be a nuclear free zone, because Australia's ports would then be denied to the United States. It is a simple fact of life that if we are not prepared to help ourselves and give support to our ally, why should that ally help us?

Yesterday Senator Chipp argued that the ANZUS agreement was irrelevant and that the United States, out of the self-interest, would always be driven to help Australia in a conflict. Quite apart from the cold-blooded mercenary approach to foreign affairs that is involved here it is also very wrong. On many occasions, the United States would just write us off and would not be bothered to come to our aid.

Treaties have a very human side. One cannot treat the United States like a dog. One cannot kick it in the ribs, tell it to get out of the house and then expect it to savage a burglar.

The Liberal Party accepts that ANZUS places obligations on Australia-the Australian Labor Party does too-and that some risk is inevitable for Australia in honouring that agreement.

The presence of the joint defence facilities has certainly come to our attention. Many people say that those facilities may bring some risk to Australia. The important word there is 'may'. They certainly contribute to the maintenance of peace, but in a war, a major conflict, Australia inevitably will be involved, either directly or indirectly, and the presence of those joint facilities will not affect one iota the amount of damage we suffer. We are mature adults. We accept the obligation that ANZUS places upon us. We are prepared to pay our dues and we will honour that treaty.

The second point I come to regarding the Bill is that it is based on an incorrect argument. With the greatest respect to the Democrats, it is an intellectually barren argument. The Democrats simply do not understand the complexity of the present nuclear state. They have never thought through what the policies they are proposing would mean to this complex situation. I respect completely their sincerity, but they are being totally naive in this matter. Everyone in this chamber recognises the profound dangers of nuclear armaments as clearly as the Democrats do. We all recognise the instability in the world and the way in which those nuclear armaments, combined with instability, can lead to a sudden extinction of the whole human race. Furthermore, we recognise that mankind is going to be forever frightened by nuclear weapons. Whatever we do in the future, whatever achievements we make with respect to disarmament, those fears of a nuclear holocaust will live with mankind forever. When we develop those systems and practices which will lead to a safer world we are faced with the endless task of maintaining those systems because of the eternal presence of nuclear weapons. Where I and most of those who have spoken to the Bill differ from the Democrats is that we do not believe extinction of the human race is inevitable. None of us has any illusions about the difficulties that face us in avoiding that fate, but we do believe it is possible to avoid that annihilation.

Since 1945 we have lived in a nuclear age. All of us stand in fear at both the number and the power of nuclear weapons and the consequences that the possession of those weapons entail. No one believes in a limited nuclear war. Certainly, none of us believes any of us would survive a total nuclear war. We all seek security. None of us wants to end our days in a pointless blinding flash.

The argument is not as the Democrats put it-the nuclear race or the human race. However appealingly that glib, trite statement runs off the tongue, it is just not relevant to the great problems that face us today. It is a variant of the old nuclear escapism argument. The nuclear escapism argument is one that is absolutely intellectually bankrupt.

It comes in many forms. It ranges from the belief that knowledge once gained can be lost, that somehow or other nuclear physics can be unlearned, right through to the belief that small nations can cause two hostile insecure super- powers to embark on a path of total nuclear disarmament.

Let us be realistic. Let us take stock of our position. Let us not take counsel of our fears. Let us learn from our successful survival over the last 40 years. In the last 40 years, we have had no nuclear war. We have had no major conventional war because of the existence of the nuclear strike capability of the super-powers. Nor have many of the gloomy predictions of many of the seers on the world stage in the last 40 years been fulfilled. I remember in 1963 the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, saying that in the 1970s there would be between 15 and 25 nuclear armed nations in the world. The period that he designated, the 1970s, was the last decade. In fact there are only two confirmed additions to the original nuclear powers, which were the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Great Britain and France . In 1964 China joined the nuclear club and in 1974 India joined. One has to include Israel in that because it is widely accepted in military circles that the possibility is high that Israel possesses nuclear weapons.

There has not been the dramatic explosion of nuclear weapons to other powers that was foretold by many of the prophets in the earlier years. Quite certainly, change can occur rapidly. In 10 years time we might find that there has been an explosion of another 15 or 20 nuclear powers. But it has not happened in the last 40 years and we can be reasonably hopeful that with prudent policies we can avoid that fate.

Undeniably, there have been very tense times in the last 40 years. I was living in London at the time of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. When I woke up each morning I used to look out the window to see whether it was a foggy day in the hope that if there was going to be a nuclear holocaust the blast would be attenuated a little by the fog. Very many people in Europe at the time were very worried because they saw themselves as being in the cockpit of any nuclear outbreak if the crisis did not go the way that it ultimately did. Many people had a lot of courage after the event that they did not have at the time.

On a more serious note, we have had many tense times. Undeniably we will have those in the future. The important thing is that we have survived. We have survived because of the intelligence of the men and women who have been making the decisions around the world that have affected the peace. What we must do is develop what we have learnt in the last 40 years with the clear intention of keeping us all alive for the term of our natural lives. During the last 40 years we have lived with not only nuclear weapons but also nuclear deterrence. While the concept of deterrence is a very old part of foreign affairs, nuclear deterrence is quite different. The hundred year peace that existed in Europe after Napoleon was defeated is quite different from the 40 year peace we have had in the nuclear age. In Europe we had a balance of power structure with shifting coalitions among six or eight major powers. But there is no parallel between that and the peace that we have through nuclear deterrence.

The three characteristics of nuclear deterrence are much the same as those of nuclear war. There is the great destructive power of the explosive material, with no defence against a direct hit. There is a multiple variety of delivery means, and there is no guarantee that all of them can be stopped. Those two characteristics mean that there is no effective defence against a major nuclear attack. Finally, of course, we are dealing with a time span which is incredibly short. We are dealing with minutes or hours of battle instead of the years involved in previous wars. I will not dwell on the problems that that entails in regard to military intelligence, threat assessment and command and control.

The other significant point about nuclear deterrence is that psychology plays a major part .Psychology cannot be quantified and measured like military orders of battle. The whole doctrine of deterrence is truly a balance of terror in the world. It is a highly dangerous way to live and our objectives must be to reduce the dangers inherent in the system. Maybe in the next 30 or 40 years we can develop a different and safer system.

My remarks are leading into a speech on disarmament. It is one of my regrets that the Senate has not dealt with disarmament, but there is not time for us to go down that path tonight. There are many dilemmas in the nuclear age and they are far more complex than the Democrats even perceive or understand. The point is that nuclear weapons do exist and, most importantly, they will not go away. There is no point in pretending that we can ignore them and they will disappear. As John Donne said: 'No man is an island entire of it-self'. I might paraphrase that to say that while any nuclear weapons exist, no man on earth is safe from them. We must learn to live with nuclear weapons. There is a totally new experience for mankind because they are not like any other military weapons system that we have seen in any period of history.

We must live carefully and vigilantly. We must be aware of other nations' fears and desires. Above all, we must live with the utmost caution in concert with the nations of the world. The policies we follow, of course, must include arms control leading to arms reduction. Despite the goals of the Australian Labor Party, as stated by Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, of total nuclear disarmament, we will never attain that goal in regard to nuclear weapons. But there is no reason why we cannot work conscientiously and as hard as we can towards it.

Any system of arms reduction-or arms control, which precedes arms reduction- turns on having an adequate system of verification and that does not exist at present. Without certain verification there can be no real progress in arms negotiations which take place around the world. But the quest for safety is not as simple as a reduction in numbers of arms. Given the present circumstances, we must preserve deterrence because if the deterrent credibility fails one side may be emboldened to move against the other. Above all, we must improve our crisis management capabilities. Whatever happens, there will be crises in international relations. There will be competing national interests, opposing ideologies, and alternative visions of mankind's destiny. Above everything else, we must add the fallibility of the human race. We must have more restraint and more co-operation in international affairs because in this matter we are playing for keeps. Our lives are on the line.

This Bill does nothing to improve the security we all seek. Its nuclear escapism provides nothing but a dead end in international relations. In so doing , it puts the ultimate resolution of our security further away. From the dawn of time man has sought security. He has never had it and he never will. But we certainly can be far more secure than we are at present. We can achieve that by reducing the likelihood of war. It is the most difficult task that faces us, a task that will never end.

I reject the assertion that we will all have to perish in a nuclear holocaust. There are many small, practical steps open to us which take time to achieve, but which cumulatively will take us out of the torrid, dangerous circumstance that we are in. This Bill is not one of those steps.