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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 560


Mr WEBSTER(10.09) —As most honourable members would know, it is almost inarguable that I represent probably one of the most magnificent electorates in the world, the lovely electorate of Macquarie. In that particular electorate there are very lovely, wonderful, healthy people. Consequently it is with some sense of great responsibility that I speak on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Bill before the House at the moment. Springwood, where I live, is right in the middle of the City of the Blue Mountains, which has been declared a nuclear free zone-whatever that might happen to be; but it sounds good.

We have before us a Bill which deals with two issues of the greatest concern to all Australians. The first is our responsibility to share our energy resources with other members of our global community-a very important point to be made. The second is the role we can play in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons-a point of equal importance. The Bill is this Parliament's signal to all those countries which share membership with Australia in the Treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons of our good faith in fulfilling our obligations under that particular Treaty. That is the Bill's general foreign policy intent. Its primary purpose is to give a legislative basis to the Australian Safeguards Office, as a number of speakers have already outlined. That Office is the Australian link in an international system of nuclear safeguards designed to ensure that nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes only.

The Parliament, the Government and its predecessors have given much time and thought to the issue of how the development of our uranium resources might affect the peace of the world. As part of that process, for example, this Government, to its credit, commissioned a report by the Australian Science and Technology Council on Australia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle. ASTEC, as it is called, provided not only a thorough report, but one which asked and answered the questions at the heart of the matter. It asked, for example, what the impact on peace might be if Australia were to export its uranium as an energy resource-and that is probably one of the major questions that the people are asking about our export of uranium today. It concluded:

If international tensions are to be reduced and the prospects of a peaceful global environment enhanced, the importance of national and international energy security cannot be over-emphasised.

The report continues:

It is widely recognised that disruptions in the supply of resources of any sort have been a cause of international tension and, through human history, have led to war . . . It follows that, because of its substantial resources, Australia can make a significant contribution to the stability and reliability of energy supply through its uranium exports.

ASTEC then asked two related questions. The first was: Would our exports make any difference to countries wanting to make nuclear weapons? That is another very significant question. I will quote its conclusion, because I think it is important that we understand exactly what the ASTEC report says on these matters. ASTEC concluded:

There is no shortage of uranium in the world to provide the raw material for nuclear weapons. Uranium is distributed throughout the earth's crust and in the oceans so that most countries could locate adequate indigenous sources at costs that would be acceptable in terms of normal levels of military expenditure. They would not need to have deposits in commercial quantities. A country would therefore be able to develop a weapons program irrespective of whether or not there was an international trade in uranium for civil nuclear purposes.

The second question asked was: If a country did want to develop such weapons, would it use its civil nuclear industry and the resource we provided to produce nuclear weapons? ASTEC concluded:

Should a country decide to embark on a weapons program it is unlikely to use a civil power reactor to do so. This is because such a use would be inefficient, both in terms--

Debate interrupted.