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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 3658


Mr BALDWIN —by leave-This report, entitled `Disarmament and Arms Control in the Nuclear Age', which ended up being extremely voluminous, covers some of the most contentious material that any recent report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has had to deal with. It is not surprising, therefore, that consensus was not reached on a number of the key recommendations. In fact, we have three dissenting reports representing various parts of the political spectrum which were described by the first speaker in this debate, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Charles), as extremist. I join with the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) in rejecting this characterisation, at least so far as my own dissent is concerned.

The report was finalised in September. Since then, of course, we have had the Reykjavik summit. I suppose that the outcome of that summit has had a key bearing on some of the conclusions in the report, particularly in what we say about the strategic defence initiative. At various times the argument has been that SDI has been instrumental in forcing the Soviet Union back to the negotiating table. At least, that is one defence that has been advanced for SDI. It is impossible really to state with any degree of certainty whether that is true because we cannot re-run history and see what the Soviets, under the new leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, would have done in the absence of SDI. It is impossible either to confirm or deny that proposition. However, one key problem with that argument is that, for it to be a valid argument, SDI would have to be a genuine bargaining chip as perceived by the United States Administration. The difficulty is that Ronald Reagan does not see it as any sort of bargaining chip but has so far affirmed an absolute commitment to SDI proceeding. So whether or not it has been instrumental in getting the Soviets back to the negotiating table, the fact is that it is now an insuperable obstacle to the conclusion of an agreement to limit seriously or reduce the stocks of strategic nuclear arms. That is the basic reality we have to contend with. Therefore, I would say that the generally anti-SDI tenor of the section report dealing with this subject has been vindicated by subsequent events.

As I have said, the report deals with the whole gamut of issues relating to arms control and disarmament. It does not deal simply with nuclear arms; it deals also with the conventional arms race and chemical and biological weapons, and it would be quite impossible to review all the conclusions in it. I might just speak to the dissenting report which was presented by me and which was also signed by the honourable member for Calwell (Dr Theophanous) and the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Kent). Part of the argument in the report relates to the weight or significance we attach to the differences in the social systems prevailing in the East and the West. Some of the members of the Sub-Committee were of the view that the fundamental differences in those social systems have certain key implications for the feasibility of meaningful arms control agreements. Reference is made in the report to the closed nature of Soviet society and that is contrasted with the relatively open society of the West.

I have no quarrel with the proposition that the Soviet Union is a closed society in the sense that its citizens have minimal rights to scrutinise, debate, or influence government decisions. I have no argument with that at all; but what do we infer from that? One of the key inferences that is made from that in the report and also in both of the other dissenting reports is that that aspect of Soviet society tends to make arms control verification tremendously difficult, if not unfeasible, and that therefore there is a great obstacle in the way of concluding agreements with the Soviet Union. The point I make there is that, if we are talking about verification, the key thing is not whether general political freedoms exist in the Soviet Union; the key question is whether the United States and the Soviet Union have the technical capabilities to ascertain whether the other side is cheating on the agreement.

The Soviet Union might be seen as a closed society as far as most of its citizens are concerned, but it is certainly not a closed society as far as the United States military intelligence establishment is concerned. It has access to highly sophisticated methods of signals intelligence, satellite reconnaissance and various other types of surveillance. It has the computerised techniques that are necessary to analyse minutely that sort of intelligence so it can eavesdrop on thousands of telecommunications transmissions. In that sense, the Soviet Union is far from being a closed society as far as the United States is concerned.

A legitimate concern in the area of verification is whether we need on site verification. I suspect that, ultimately, we will need at least some degree of on-site verification but that again is an issue separate from the issue of whether general political freedoms exist in the Soviet Union. I think it is spurious to confuse the whole verification question by linking it to the existence or not of meaningfully democratic institutions. The effect of public scrutiny is not to be disregarded totally, but those other aspects, such as the technical feasibility of verification, are far more important. In that area we believe that the United States, according to the best evidence we receive, retains a significant advantage in terms of the sophistication of its computerised techniques, which are integral to analysing intelligence, and its surveillance and electronic capabilities continue to be ahead of the Soviet Union. I do not think that is seriously disputed. So in that sense the United States, arguably, has an advantage over the Soviet Union in terms of verification.

I think that is a very important point. As I have said, the problem is not in saying that there are major differences between the social systems of the United States and the Soviet Union. That is not an issue. It is certainly not an issue that whatever needs to be done to improve the degree of democratic freedoms in the Soviet Union ought to be done. I am contesting the sorts of inferences that have been drawn from the fact that there are those differences in the social systems.

I wish to deal with a number of other matters. I mentioned SDI in my opening reference to the Reykjavik summit. More generally, the Committee came to fairly negative conclusions on SDI. There is something of a contradiction in the report as it stands because paragraph 12.33 includes words which the honourable member for Prospect succeeded in having inserted to the effect that scientists make competing claims about its viability and we are not really qualified to say because we are not technical experts. Let me make just a couple of observations on that. If we take that viewpoint we might as well say that we are unqualified to have a position on just about every other major area of debate within the report because they are all highly technical. We might as well say that we need to be military strategists, nuclear engineers, or what ever, to be able to make judgments about the effect of nuclear weapons and various delivery systems. I do not accept that lack of expertise by people in the political realm is a reason for us not to form conclusions on these matters. Having incorporated that paragraph, the report goes on to make some fairly definite findings on the question of SDI. They were overwhelmingly negative. I will refer to a few of the points made. The Committee majority concluded that SDI is highly unlikely to provide perfect or near perfect defence against current arsenals. That is in paragraph 12.34. I just observe that, if that is true of current arsenals, there would be even less chance of developing effective defences against the sorts of upgraded, enlarged arsenals that the Soviet Union could be expected to deploy in response to SDI. The view expressed in paragraph 12.35 is that SDI, in combination with continuing US deployment of weapons with a counterforce capability, will engender Soviet fears of a United States first strike. It concludes that the most obvious Soviet response to this is to increase its ballistic missile forces. Paragraph 12.31 states that SDI may well be destabilising, even if it is temporarily technically successful. I observe there that the whole history of warfare suggests that neither defence nor offence has been successful in preserving a permanent advantage. The advocates of SDI really have to be able to say that the defensive shield will continue to work in perpetuity albeit with some upgrading. There is nothing in the history of warfare to suggest that that sort of thing will occur. One is more likely to see periods in which the advantage will shift periodically from the offensive to the defensive, thereby creating windows of opportunity at various times for the offence. I submit that that is precisely the sort of situation where the actual use of nuclear weapons is most likely to occur. We endorse those conclusions on SDI but we seek to toughen them somewhat by taking a harder line against participation from the non-official sector in SDI research while acknowledging that there are some difficulties in that with the question of dual use technology and so forth.

Another general point I make about the report is that there are chapters that contain a large volume of material supporting a point of view and supporting various aspects of the debate on strategic systems. At the conclusions of those chapters we see inappropriate inferences being drawn from that material. One example of that is in the area of the joint United States-Australian defence facilities. In one of the chapters we see a very extensive disquisition on the adverse consequences flowing from the shift by the United States to a countervailing theory of deterrence and away from basic deterrence. The essence there is the claim that it is viable to contemplate fighting a protracted nuclear war with each of the sides undertaking gradual controlled escalation. The report comes to overwhelmingly negative conclusions about the feasibility of that. The conclusions are not stated very explicitly at the end of the chapter but throughout the main body of the chapter dealing with deterrence there is very little doubt that, so far as the Committee is concerned, the evidence is against countervailing deterrence; that it is a dangerous and potentially destabilising doctrine.

In Chapter 15, the Committee majority, in its discussion of the joint United States-Australian defence facilities, effectively arrived at the conclusion that those facilities have a significant role to play in the whole matter of this new countervailing theory of deterrence. Paragraph 15.44 refers to the North West Cape. The point is made that, with the introduction of the Trident submarine launched ballistic missile system, the United States ballistic missile submarines will acquire a significant hard target kill capability; in other words, they will be able to participate in first strike and counterforce targeting which are integral to the new theory of deterrence which is prevailing.

Paragraph 15.51 mentions the United States maritime strategy, which has been published recently and which envisages, in the case of a nuclear war and, while the war is still conventional, the making by the United States Navy of a systematic attempt to reduce the Soviet submarine launched ballistic missile force. That strikes me as an extraordinarily dangerous doctrine because the Soviets would be confronted with the dilemma of either using their submarine launched ballistic missiles or risking losing them. Paragraph 15.51 goes on to state:

. . . the principal purpose of the facility has been extended from supporting basic deterrence to also encompassing extended deterrence. If this current form of deterrence is considered to be dangerous and destabilising, as its opponents claim, then so are the installations that support it.

From the discussion on deterrence in another part of the report, the Sub-Committee majority will have to be seen as opposing that new form of deterrence. But, in the discussion of the joint facilities, there has been very little attempt to weigh that sort of consideration in the balance in deciding whether we regard their overall effect as benign or not. Likewise, with regard to Pine Gap and Nurrungar, the conclusions refer solely to their potential as assisting arms control verification and strengthening basic deterrence by providing early warning. The material in the main body of chapter 15 significantly qualifies those positive conclusions. But, if we are to make a realistic assessment of the facilities, we have to ask ourselves what role they play in the development of strategic doctrines involving nuclear war fighting. Again, there is ample material in paragraphs 15.56 and 15.62 referring to Pine Gap and 15.69 referring to Nurrungar to suggest that they have a role in the strategic doctrines of which we take an unfavourable view. If we are to evaluate joint facilities, we have to weigh that against the claimed beneficial effects. So I think the report is inadequate in its treatment of that general area of the joint facilities and their link to the evolving strategic doctrine of the United States.

I will conclude by talking a little about the discussion on uranium, which is a matter on which there has been long standing debate within the Australian Labor Party. For example, on the issue of safeguards, paragraph 17.45 contains an extensive list of deficiencies in the multilateral safeguards regime when the need to assert the effectiveness of those safeguards is central to the position of those who advocate uranium mining. Paragraph 17.45 contains an extensive list of deficiencies which there is not time to go through. Likewise, in paragraph 17.53, a range of deficiencies in Australia's bilateral safeguards arrangements is discussed, but there is no real attempt to come to grips with those deficiencies. At the end the Committee simply endorses the finding of the Australian Science and Technology Council's inquiry that the safeguards that we have are the best available. There are two possible conclusions from saying that the existing safeguards are feasible or the best available. One obvious one is that the mining and export of uranium is inherently unsafe.

There are also some inconsistencies on the question of proliferation. I refer to paragraph 17.60, which I suppose contains the Committee's main conclusion on uranium mining. It states:

The Committee accepts that there is no shortage of uranium in the world to supply fuel to the civil nuclear industry and that the industry can proceed whether or not Australia is a supplier. It therefore supports the view that cutting off the supplies of uranium will not have any effect in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world.

I just make the observation that the second sentence in that conclusion does not follow logically from the first. I refer back to paragraph 5.71 in which the Committee, in the context of a discussion of the current oversupply of nuclear fuels, states:

Governments may be under pressure to facilitate the export of nuclear materials--

I emphasise the following words--

including into regions where proliferation risks are high.

In other words, in that paragraph the majority of the Committee is in effect saying that the oversupply of uranium is creating pressures to export it into regions where the proliferation risks are high. In an earlier paragraph in that same chapter the Committee also fairly explicitly accepted a link between the civil nuclear fuel cycle and the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. It is a little hard to reconcile the statement that by continuing to mine and export uranium we are exacerbating the over-supply situation with the statement that, to the extent that we are doing that, we are increasing the pressure for other countries to export nuclear materials to regions, `including into regions where proliferation risks are high'. There are a number conclusions in this report which I submit do not follow logically from the material in the main body of the report. I guess that is one of the central points I make.