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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 421

Mr SHIPTON(9.59) —In speaking in this cognate debate on a number of Bills to amend the Atomic Energy Act and create the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, known as ANSTO, the first thing I would say is that the Government is divided on the issue and is divided on nuclear matters. We have just had a speech from the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell) that proves the point I am making-that the Government is deeply divided, that there are deep divisions that go to the heart of the Australian Labor Party. I hear some laughter from the other side of the House. I see the honourable member for Phillip (Ms McHugh) and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie going through the charade of appearing to have a sense of humour because the Government has decided that the best way to deal with the subject tonight in this debate is to make a laughing matter of it, to treat it as a joke. But through the mist of the sense of humour of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie and the feigned laughter of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Scott), the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Milton), the honourable member for Phillip and the honourable member for Hunter the deep divisions are revealed.

The honourable member for Kalgoorlie decided that the best way to deal with the differences in his Party, the best way to attack his colleagues, was to take the so-called funny way, to regard the matter with cynicism and to treat his colleagues with complete cynicism. He has a perverse and strange sense of humour that is telling when one analyses his words. He started his speech by giving a backhanded slap to his colleagues in the Senate, Senator Gareth Evans and Senator Ryan, with whom he has fundamental disagreement. Then he laughingly referred to the honourable member for Hughes, the honourable member for Melbourne and the honourable member for Phillip, with whom he has fundamental disagreements. He relied on the sense of humour approach.

Mr Campbell —No, it was all good fun.

Mr SHIPTON —He interjects but he knows that it is not really good fun because he knows the Government is divided, that those in the Socialist Left and those in the Centre Left are against him. He would like to go a lot further than the Government has gone in its policy on these Bills. Whilst the Bills establish the new Organisation, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie would not agree with the restrictions government policy has placed on the legislation.

Mr Campbell —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask your advice. Is it allowable for the honourable member grossly to misrepresent my position? How can my position be relevant to the Bills before us?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Rocher) —There is no point of order. I do not see any irrelevance. It is a legitimate debating technique.

Mr SHIPTON —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your support. My comments have brought home to the honourable member and to the House the sensitivity of the matter and indeed the honourable member's sensitivity, and his real position, which is diametrically opposed to that of many of his colleagues in the House tonight, especially those on the socialist Left. The debate has brought out the differences in the Government. I said that it has tried the sense of humour approach but I do not know whether the honourable member's colleagues were laughing for him, with him or at him.

Mr Cunningham —What about getting on to the Bill?

Mr SHIPTON —As the honourable member has interjected, I repeat that the Government is deeply divided. Because of its division it has achieved a consensus and compromise which is irrational and which serves no one. I am sure the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, in his heart of hearts-sense of humour aside-would agree that whilst the Government has introduced this legislation it has placed so many restrictions on study and research by the new atomic energy organisation called the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation as to render it almost ineffective.

We sought in the Senate to amend the legislation to get rid of some of these restrictions, to make more explicit the educative responsibilities of the new Organisation, but unfortunately the so-called friends of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie-but people with whom he really disagrees-had the numbers and they saw fit not to support our amendment.

I think it would be useful to look briefly at the background of this legislation. Post-war, Australia developed a nuclear industry by mining and milling uranium. This required an understanding of the uses of nuclear material and preventative measures to stop abuse. This resulted in the Atomic Energy Act. During the 1950s, following increased understanding of the potential peaceful uses of nuclear energy, it became clear that Australia should not ignore these developments and the research establishment that we have been talking about this evening, the subject of this legislation, was set up at Lucas Heights. It was a purely research establishment which existed to train personnel such as science graduates and engineers to carry out research and development into aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and to carry out technical work in support of Australia's international obligations and interests in the nuclear field.

The old Atomic Energy Commission became more development oriented as the fuel crisis eventuated and worries were held about the long term supply of non-renewable fossil fuel. Lately we have seen concern and worry about pollution by coal-powered electricity generating stations, particularly the effects of acid rain in Europe and the damage and destruction of European forest resources, particularly the Black Forest in southern Germany. That has stimulated further appraisal of the usefulness of nuclear power. The development of nuclear energy for power generation is important but it is but one of the many peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The Government received an important report on the nuclear industry and Australia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle by the Australian Science and Technology Council, the ASTEC report. The Opposition has urged the Government to implement immediately all of its recommendations on the nuclear fuel cycle and to abolish the ban that the Government has in place on the development of further peaceful stages of that cycle in Australia. The Government has placed restrictions on the development of the fuel cycle and the further development of the peaceful processes in that cycle.

The ASTEC report is an independent and objective audit of the policies and practices of the Australian uranium and nuclear industry. The Government responded in a doctrinaire fashion and rejected those recommendations relating to the mining and export of uranium and the further development of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia. This showed the total hypocrisy of the Government and the deep divisions within it on nuclear issues.

The Government's policy is irrational and it perpetuates a general lack of knowledge by failing to accept our amendments on the educative role of the new authority about the uranium industry, Australia's important role in the nuclear fuel cycle and the importance of inter- national safeguards. The Government's policy does not recognise the development of peaceful uses of the uranium industry from which we in this country stand to benefit enormously. It does not recognise the link between our uranium industry and global energy security and nuclear non-proliferation.

We in this country today are in economic crisis. In the last two days figures have been released on Australia's international indebtedness. I think they show a debt of $6,300 per head of population. We are in debt up to our neck. We are on the road to becoming like Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria and Brazil. The standard of living of all Australians is falling. We are desperately looking for export earnings to improve our balance of trade. We have few industries which offer such scope for growth and development as the nuclear industry. It is not only the export of uranium from those mines that is locked up by this Government. The Government's restrictions placed on this organisation, formerly the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, have also hampered the further development of alternative uses of nuclear energy in the nuclear fuel cycle.

We in the coalition endorse the nuclear fuel cycle recommendations in the ASTEC report. The Government rejects them. We support the mining and milling of uranium subject to stringent Australian health and safety safeguards. We would remove the veto-the Government's restrictions and limitations-on the development of proven uranium deposits at Jabiluka, Koongarra, Yeelirrie, Beverley and Honeymoon. The Government, by its irrational policy, is restricting the development of the Australian nuclear industry for peaceful purposes. It is denying Australian companies profits, it is denying Australian workers jobs and it is denying the Australian economy important and vital overseas earnings. Its policies are totally inconsistent and irresponsible.

Mr Cleeland —Where would you sell it?

Mr SHIPTON —We would sell it on the open market, because the figures show, I think in this ASTEC report, that there is enormous potential. But let the companies worry about that. The Government is obsessed with restricting people. It is obsessed with Government red tape, regulation and intervention. The honourable member interjects: `Where would you sell it?'. Let the companies be free to develop the mines. Let them to be free to find the markets. They will find them and they will sell the uranium. They will bring the export earnings to Australia.

Mr Hand —There are no markets.

Mr SHIPTON —The Socialist Left is coming in-the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Hand)-because he hates everything about the Government's policy, even the restricted policy he has been dragged screaming to accept. He really hates, loathes and detests it. He is on his feet because I have hit a sensitive--

Mr Hand —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I find the drift, or the drivel, coming from over there quite offensive. The last comments of the honourable member are totally untrue and I refute them.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr Hand —Andrew Hay is looking better every day because he is after the honourable member's seat, and the honourable member knows it. He is terrified.


Mr SHIPTON —I am not terrified of anybody.

Mr Hand —You are absolutely terrified.

Mr SHIPTON —I can assure the honourable member for Melbourne that I am not terrified of him.

Mr Hand —You are terrified of Andrew Hay.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Calm down. I call the honourable member for Higgins.

Mr SHIPTON —I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your support in telling the honourable member for Melbourne to calm down, because he gets very excited when we talk about nuclear issues. He does not agree with the Government's policy. As I have said, he has been dragged screaming-we can hear him screaming now-because he disagrees with what the Government has done. Yet he is responsible for all the restrictions that have been placed on the further development of nuclear energy and nuclear research in Australia.

The Opposition considers that the new organisation, ANSTO, should be able to participate fully in any future research and development on all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. Nuclear medicine is important as well as other nuclear developments, such as the development of synroc. We should be able to examine the feasibility of uranium enrichment.

Mr Cadman —Why not?

Mr SHIPTON —The shadow Minister supports me by way of interjection. We cannot, because the members of the Socialist Left in this deeply divided Government have put the shackles on what the Government, the right wing and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell) want to do. I have struck more sensitivity. I am hurting the honourable member for Melbourne.

Mr Hand —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The last remark is again totally untrue. There is no division on this side of the chamber.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! No point of order arises.

Mr Hand —We can see it. There is no one in the chamber to listen to the honourable member.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Higgins.

Mr SHIPTON —Not only have I struck sensitivity with the honourable member for Melbourne on the issue of nuclear energy, but he is upset that he is not in the Ministry.

Debate interrupted.