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Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Page: 119

Senator MILNE (4:31 PM) —I rise today to support this urgency motion and to say emphatically that the Australian Greens are totally opposed to the sale of uranium to India because it is outside the non-proliferation treaty and for reasons which I will expand on in a moment, given that I have got only five minutes in which to speak. It is extraordinary to hear members of a government that constantly trade in fear suggest that the escalation of the nuclear fuel cycle can be managed in an extraordinarily safe way. The United Nations Security Council resolution 1172, passed on 6 June 1998, unanimously calls upon India and Pakistan to:

... immediately stop their nuclear weapon development programmes, to refrain from weaponisation or from the deployment of nuclear weapons, to cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and any further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The federal government decided to acquiesce to the Bush administration’s desire to ramp up India’s nuclear capacity. The Australian government went along with it. Up until then, Foreign Minister Downer had been one of the strongest advocates for saying that we should uphold the non-proliferation treaty. Once President Bush made his views clear to the Prime Minister, the Australian government shifted position.

Contrary to what Senator Payne put to the parliament, it is not true to say that the International Atomic Energy Agency will have coverage and oversight of all of India’s facilities. Many of the reactors, two of which are dedicated to making plutonium for nuclear weapons, and nine power reactors, including a plutonium breeder reactor that is currently under construction, will be outside international safeguards. Just to ramp up the tension in the region even more, Pakistan’s President Musharaff has declared that, ‘In view of the fact that the US-India agreement would enable India to produce a significant quantity of fissile material and nuclear weapons from unsafeguarded nuclear reactors, the NCA expressed firm resolve that our credible minimum deterrence requirements will be met.’ So, by agreeing to this, by sending Australian uranium to India, you are ratcheting up the degree of tension between India and Pakistan and significantly shifting the balance that is already there. It is disgraceful. It is based purely on an agenda to facilitate the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership set up by President Bush and to which Prime Minister Howard kowtows.

I am interested to hear Labor say today that it upholds this, because just a few moments ago in the Senate Labor voted with the government against a motion which called on the government to reject any sale of Australian uranium to non non-proliferation treaty states, to encourage India to join the NPT, and to use its position in the Nuclear Suppliers Group to block the submission to give India an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group rules, preventing the supply of uranium to non-NPT states. So it appears that Labor in government would be prepared to express their disapproval in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, to register their dissent, but they would not block. That is the key difference.

That is where I would like clarification from the Labor Party. If they are going into government, people have a right to know exactly what they would do. We have the shadow minister, Mr McMullan, saying that they would not block. In the Senate, Senator Evans is saying that they would oppose. ‘Oppose’ is different from ‘block’ with consensus decision making, and the Australian people need to know very clearly whether Australia would have the courage of its convictions in the Nuclear Suppliers Group—which interestingly was set up because of India exploding its nuclear test and so on. That is why they set up the group. Now they are going to tear it apart again and change the rules to facilitate India to ratchet up tension in that part of the world. Given India’s record—which is not good, contrary to the Prime Minister’s assertion—in managing nuclear technology and knowledge, there is no guarantee that terrorists could not access this material from India just as easily as they can from other states which have a poor record in this regard. What we see here is a very serious issue. (Time expired)