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Tuesday, 20 September 1983
Page: 982


Mr REEVES(3.45) —We have heard the ramblings and ravings of the National-Liberal Party representatives on the other side. We have heard of the newfound care and concern that the Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) has for Aborigines, a care and concern that is of only recent finding, I might add. This debate is a great example of the old saying, 'the best means of defence is attack'. The terms of the matter of public importance read:

The disastrous effects of the Government's confusion and inconsistency on the uranium industry.

We have heard two speakers from the other side. We have not yet heard one iota of evidence about any disastrous effect on the industry. Let us look at the industry. If one looks at the Olympic Dam project one finds that the feasibility study will not be completed until the end of next year and even if production were to proceed immediately after that it would not be ready until the early or mid-1990s. So, where is the disastrous effect on that particular deposit? If one looks at Ranger and Nabarlek one finds that they are continuing to produce uranium. If anything, they would benefit if we stopped further mines being developed because they would not have other competitors in a poor market. Narbarlek has contracts which will take it through to 1988. Ranger has contracts which will take it through to 1996. So where is the disastrous effect on those two deposits?

Let us look at Jabiluka. The Jabiluka deposit cannot start until Pancontinental Mining Ltd gets some contracts. The Leader of the National Party can go on rambling and raving as he has here this afternoon but the fact is that Pancontinental was negotiating for some 12 to 18 months before the Labor Party got into government. It could get only one contract, a small contract with the British Central Electricity Generating Board. What happened to that contract? The Leader of the National Party refused to allow the company to export under that contract-and he knows that-because it did not comply with the then Government's floor price policy. The fact is that Pancontinental cannot get any contracts because the world market for uranium is depressed. Are the National Party and the Liberal Party blaming us for the disastrous effects of free market forces? Is that what they are saying? Are they saying that because free market forces have applied, and because Pancontinental cannot get any contracts and cannot develop the deposits, we are in some way at fault? Let us look at the Ben Lomond mine in Queensland. The Total group of companies decided in June this year not to proceed with that development. Why? Because of the state of the world market for uranium. Again, free market forces have stopped that development. So the speakers for the other side have shown no evidence of there being any disastrous effect on the uranium industry. Indeed, the contrary is the case if one looks at the uranium industry as it is at present.

We now come to the question of confusion and inconsistency. Uranium is a very special mineral. As other speakers have said this afternoon, it has the potential to do immense environmental damage. It can be turned into plutonium and used to blow up the whole world. Indeed, we have enough nuclear arms at present to do that many times over. Our policy on the nuclear industry deals with all these sorts of questions in quite some detail. It says:

For example, any contract with the French government could only be contemplated subject to that government ceasing all nuclear testing programmes in the Pacific .

It says:

For example any contract with the Japanese could only be contemplated subject to them withdrawing from their intention to dump waste material in the Pacific.

It says:

For example any contract with the Finns would be subject to our being satisfied beyond all doubt that the supply of uranium was not being deflected into the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear arms programme of the USSR.

It says:

For example any contract with Great Britain would be subject to our being satisfied beyond all doubt that the supply of uranium was not being used to assist in developing nuclear armaments.

So it goes on. It is a detailed policy on this very special and important mineral and industry.

It is very important that a national government, and a national political party , has a policy dealing with all these important matters. So I went to look for the policy of the National Party of Australia and of the Liberal Party of Australia on this subject. Looking for the Liberal Party's policy took me quite some time. I have concluded that it does not have one. The written policy document of the Liberal Party does not mention the word 'uranium' once. The National Party is just a little better. It devotes a whole two lines to this very important question. The Labor Party's policy goes on for three and a half pages and deals with all the important matters that have been raised this afternoon. The National Party's two lines go as follows:

Development of Australia's uranium reserves to meet world demand, subject to high standards of safety and peaceful use in accordance with international obligations.

I should like to consider two aspects of that very lengthy policy on this important issue. Let us look at world demand. We have already heard from the Leader of the National Party that the uranium market throughout the world is depressed and that, at the very earliest, it will start coming out of that state of depression in 1988-most commentators say that it will be in the early 1990s- and that it will reach a stage at which it is a bullish market in the mid-1990s. So we are talking of some eight years to 13 years away. The world market was the subject of comment by the Uranium Institute, which published a document called ' The Uranium Equation' in 1981. At the end of that document it said:

To summarise, the present study endorses the conclusions reached in the Committee's February 1979 report, to the extent that the changes which have affected the market outlook during the past two years will not lead to a supply shortfall during the 1980s. Indeed, the present problem is one of excess supply.

That is the problem. There is no world demand for uranium at present. So we have the Leader of the National Party telling us that we should go ahead and develop all these mines. That conflicts with his own policy. His policy states that he will develop uranium to meet world demand.


Mr Anthony —That is right.


Mr REEVES —Where is the world demand?


Mr Anthony —The spot prices have come up. Haven't you seen that?


Mr REEVES —That is the confusion. That is the inconsistency. Let me point to another aspect of confusion and inconsistency in this policy. We must remember that the Liberal Party has no policy on uranium at all, so we can deal only with the National Party, because that is the only opposition party that has some policy. The National Party talks about international obligations in that two- line policy on this very important industry. In another part of the policy it talks of its support for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. During its term in Government it allowed some 2,400 tonnes of uranium to be committed in exports to France. Its members know as well as I do, and as well as everyone on the Government side of the House, that France is not a signatory to the Non- Proliferation Treaty. What is consistent about that? The National Party has a policy saying that it will meet international obligations, that it supports the Treaty, and yet it sends uranium to France while France is testing in our own region. How inconsistent and confusing can one get? This afternoon here are members of the National Party criticising the Labor Government for having a policy which spells out in some detail all of these different aspects and our approach to each of the different aspects of this important and controversial issue.


Mr Goodluck —First the dam, and now the uranium. There will be no fuel left soon ; nothing.


Mr REEVES —As with the sex discrimination legislation-I can hear the honourable member for Franklin squawking yet again-and as with the wages policy, we are finding yet again that the confusion and inconsistency exists on the Opposition benches.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The discussion is concluded.