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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2579


Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (12:19): Mr President, I seek leave to make a brief statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator LUDLAM: This motion arose from the work of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties which is chaired by Mr Kelvin Thomson. The report that reflects this motion was a unanimous one. I thank all members of the committee for their work. Australia's advocacy for nuclear disarmament, which I think is agreed by everyone in this place, would have a lot more credibility but for two factors. One is that we include nuclear weapons in our security policy under the US nuclear umbrella. I believe that should be reviewed. We lend our infrastructure and our foreign policy to the idea that nuclear weapons have security utility when of course they do not. The second factor is that Australia exports bomb fuel to nuclear-weapon states around the world, and that is something that we cannot hide from. We sell the precursor material for nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons, and it is the policy of the government and the coalition to expand that trade. We cannot pretend that the safeguards regime under which we export uranium to nuclear-weapon states in any way prevents that material from being used in nuclear weapons programs. I would also note that a matter of only a week or two ago, as Senator Brown has reminded me, the entire chamber apart from the Greens and the Independents voted in favour of leasing nuclear submarines from the United States Navy, before reversing that position.

I would like to acknowledge that in this resolution we see the government taking the advice of the treaties committee to support a nuclear weapons convention. To date Australia has not had this policy, and so this shift is extremely welcome. I expect now that the government will join the majority of countries on the planet in the General Assembly of the United Nations by supporting the resolution calling for the commencement of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention. Like the landmines, biological and chemical weapons conventions, we need a systematic global framework for abolishing these weapons once and for all.