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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 3661


Dr THEOPHANOUS —by leave-This report entitled `Disarmament and Arms Control in the Nuclear Age' is one of the most important reports to have come before the Parliament. It is a report which is, however, uneven in its character because, although the introduction and many of the chapters contain very important material which I recommend to anyone who is interested in the subject, I believe that, as mentioned by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Baldwin), many of the conclusions do not follow from the material presented. We can illustrate this by dealing first with the very important issue with which the report tries to come to grips, and that is the issue of the possibility of nuclear war. The introduction to the report ought to make us all reflect on how serious the matter is. A part of the introduction states:

The number of nuclear weapons in existence now totals more than 50,000. Their combined explosive power is equivalent to around 13,000 million tons of of TNT. This is more than three tons of TNT for every man, woman and child on earth, or over one million Hiroshimas.


Mr Blanchard —A recipe for disaster.


Dr THEOPHANOUS —As the honourable member for Moore says, it is a recipe for disaster. The introduction to the report continues:

The vast majority of the world's nuclear arsenals is controlled by the two superpowers. If one of these nations were to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the other the results would be without precedent and truly horrific. A 1983 study conducted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences concluded that an exchange involving less than a third of the total number of nuclear warheads would kill approximately 750 million people and seriously injure a further 340 million. A considerable proportion of those who survived the initial effects of the exchange would suffer from acute radiation sickness resulting from exposure to radioactive fallout. The study noted that the economies of the Northern Hemisphere would collapse, commodities and services currently taken for granted would no longer exist, and those in the war zone would be confronted by severe food shortages that could persist for months or even years . . .

The results of the 1983 study were based on the then known effects of nuclear explosives. New calculations suggest, however, that several other effects could worsen these consequences considerably. By far the most important is the recently postulated `nuclear winter' effect. Scientists have calculated that the dust and smoke generated by even a relatively small-scale nuclear exchange would be sufficient to block out the sun from the earth's surface for extended periods of time. This would probably reduce temperatures in the war zones by several tens of degrees centigrade and produce lesser, but still significant cooling in the northern subtropics and the tropics. The resultant animal and crop losses could lead to mass starvation and higher death rates, both in the already devastated combatant countries in the Northern Hemisphere and in many parts of the Southern Hemisphere as well.

These latter findings in particular place the issue of nuclear armaments in an entirely new perspective. Nuclear war not only threatens the destruction of the warring nations, it also endangers the lives and welfare of those who are neither directly involved in, nor responsible for, the hostilities.

This is the basic premise from which we have to begin if we are to discuss this issue and decide how to come to grips with it. Indeed, the commitment contained in the report's introduction was a good one but, unfortunately, by the time one comes to the conclusions of the report the commitment to peace with which the report begins is lost sight of. The report loses sight of the importance of achieving a peace which will avoid a war of this horrendous nature. We have lost sight of that, and we have lost sight of that because, unfortunately, ideological and other aspects of the matter have interceded so that we end up with the kind of conclusion we have in the coalition dissenting report. I urge everyone to read this conclusion, after having read the introduction. The dissenting report says:

The coalition categorically rejects one of the primary assumptions on which this Report is based, namely the equation of the two superpowers on the same level. The adoption of such a spurious `even-handedness' defies history, morality and our basic national security interests.

Furthermore, meaningful arms control cannot be achieved without compliance, and compliance is impossible to determine in a closed society like the USSR without verification. Soviet violations of arms control commitments are numerous and cannot, indeed, must not, be minimized by the West.

The fact is that disarmament proposals must be developed against the background of the USSR's massive and sustained build-up over many years.

So the dissenting report goes on. Given that sort of approach, we might as well not have a disarmament report. We might as well call it an armament report, or a report about how we are going to destroy the evil empire and keep that attitude going along the lines of the statements made by Ronald Reagan and other such characters, because if we take that kind of approach we can never achieve peace and disarmament. If we have to take a serious approach to the issue of peace and disarmament, we have to look at the matter from the point of view of trying to foster good will and not simply say that we want to get superiority, not only moral superiority but also strategic and arms superiority. That is the approach which the whole dissenting report takes. It simply takes the view that, unless we can absolutely ensure that the United States has military superiority, everything else is not worth talking about. If that is to be our approach to disarmament, it is not really an approach to disarmament but to armament, to continuing to arm and to bringing about a situation of war rather than a situation of peace.

There is no doubt, given what I have read in the introduction and the facts that I have put before the House which are contained throughout this report about the horrifying extent of the nuclear arms race and the potential consequences, that we had better start rethinking some of our views on these matters. In rethinking the matter, as the honourable member for Sydney has pointed out, we should not go to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and say that we totally disagree with its system and that, unless it changes its system completely, there is nothing to talk about. To take that attitude is not to support the system in the USSR as has been claimed. Those taking our position are not saying that if we went over there we would therefore support that system. That is not the issue at all. The issue is to go there and to say: `The interests of humanity demand that something be done for us to reach an agreement, notwithstanding the differences in our social systems, notwithstanding the differences in our ideological perspectives'. That is the most important issue, and that issue has not been sufficiently addressed in this report. It has, indeed, been addressed to a certain degree, but it has not been addressed sufficiently in our view. This is why we have produced a dissenting report.

We want to say that if we really are going to take that approach and are really fair dinkum, to use an Australian expression, about peace, we have to go there and put all our cards on the table. We have to be ready to negotiate and discuss every aspect of the matter. We had hoped that in Reykjavik that would occur. Honourable members will remember that there was a massive buildup throughout the world-East and West; North and South-about the potentiality of an agreement coming out of Reykjavik. What was one of the fundamental stumbling blocks in the way of agreement? Would honourable members believe that one of the stumbling blocks was the strategic defence initiative-the very thing this Government has been saying is an obstacle to peace? We find when we read the report that all the Liberal Party and National Party Committee members put in a dissenting report saying that they support the SDI and its continuation-the very factor which was responsible for the breakdown in the negotiations at Reykjavik. Let us be clear about that.

Of course, this report examines the SDI in great detail. I congratulate the officers of the Committee and all those involved on the excellent section on the SDI. Anyone reading that section objectively could not possibly come away with any view other than that we are looking at a chimera, and that for the sake of that chimera or fantasy we are throwing away the best opportunity we have had for many years to achieve disarmament in the world. The concessions the Soviets were ready to make were amazing. Reading this report one would not believe that the Soviets would have been prepared to make those concessions. Yet they were prepared to make those very significant concessions. All that was needed was some movement on the issue of the SDI.

As I said, one is either committed to peace or one is not, and if one is committed to peace in the present situation in the world one has to be ready to talk to one's opponents, or to those whom one considers one's enemies and opponents, to lay it all on the table and give and take. Otherwise one might as well simply forget the future of humanity, because that is the choice we are faced with. Either we talk peace seriously or we have the potential of a war between the super-powers which will engulf everyone and destroy this planet. Those are the choices. If one is going to talk seriously, one has to give and take and not merely get on one's moral high horse and say: `Everything about our society is wonderful; everything about your society is rubbish. Therefore you have to give everything and we have to take everything'. That kind of approach will not work and it will certainly not lead to peace.

What about the contribution of Australia? As the report says, Australia is doing a considerable amount to try to get the super-powers together. It is playing a role. It is playing a role also in other initiatives such as the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. The Government is playing a role, as I mentioned earlier, in its rejection of participation in the strategic defence initiative and its attempt to persuade the United States of the folly of that approach. However, there is a certain aspect which must be discussed and questioned, and that concerns the role of the so-called joint facilities in Australia. Following what the report says, we have to ask ourselves whether, if there is insufficient progress towards peace, this country might not be able to make a better contribution by starting to question again the role of these facilities. Against those who say that the joint facilities have no aggressive role, the report recognises and makes perfectly clear that the joint facilities can be used in a number of ways to participate in the warring system. We have to ask ourselves what role they would play in the event of a conflict of the kind I have mentioned. Do we as a nation want to play such a role?

I know that our time for debating this report is limited, so I just urge people to read the whole report and to read our minority report. As the honourable member for Sydney has mentioned, we do not believe that the conclusions drawn, in particular on the joint United States-Australia facilities and also in relation to certain other aspects, are sufficiently strong, given the general thrust of the report and the way in which it began; that is, by pointing out the enormous problems we face in this world and the enormous dangers we would face if there were a nuclear war. So I urge people to read the report. I congratulate all the people involved in preparing it. I particularly urge people to try in their own actions and activities in the community to support the cause of peace. There is a section on peace studies in the report and what we ought to be doing about that matter. We recommend that peace studies and the cause of peace be promoted in the universities, in the colleges and in the schools. People ought to be aware of just what is at stake. We would say that if that were to happen this democracy could play a very significant role in the future in trying to bring about peace in the world.