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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1242


Mr KENT —Has the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to a report in the Australian of 11 March stating that Australia has softened its opposition to the United States plans to broaden the interpretation of the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty, which limits testing of the strategic defence initiative, after the visit to Australia of President Reagan's adviser on arms control Mr Edward Rowny? Can the Minister inform the House whether there has been any shift in the Australian Government's position on the interpretation of the ABM treaty and whether there has been any change in the Australian Government's opposition to SDI?


Mr HAYDEN —There has been no change in the Government's position in its concern about proposals to undertake the SDI program. Australia does not endorse that program. Nor should there be any suggestion that there should be a broader interpretation of the anti-ballistic missile treaty. We oppose it. On 2 March this year Ambassador Rowny of the United States of America was here to discuss with Australian representatives, myself included, the proposal that the anti-ballistic missile treaty may be interpreted more broadly than had been the case in the past. He made it clear, however, that at that point-and I presume up until this point too-the United States had made no decision one way or the other as to whether it would retain the narrow definition or move to a broader definition. Nonetheless, Mr Peter Samuel was moved to report in the Australian that Australia had softened its views on the ABM treaty. This caused a State Department spokesman to respond to the article in Washington on 11 March, saying:

The United States are under no illusion about Australia's attitude to the ABM treaty. Australia made its position eminently clear to Ambassador Rowny during his visit to Canberra.

The spokesman also said that he could not imagine anyone dealing with the issue coming out with the line such as reported by Peter Samuel. I would agree with that, with the caveat that I could not imagine anyone except Peter Samuel coming out with such a line. Our position was made abundantly clear, and that was acknowledged by the United States. Australia believes that the successful conclusion of agreements providing for radical reductions in strategic nuclear forces will be largely dependent on both sides being confident that the ABM treaty remains a reliable barrier to the pursuit of wide scale ballistic missile defences.

Testifying under the auspices of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate of 11 March, Senator Nunn was highly critical of the administration's legal justification for adopting any broad interpretation of the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Nunn, who over the past few months has conducted a complete and thorough review of the treaty, the negotiating record and statements of interpretation, stated that the record demonstrated beyond doubt that the traditional, restrictive interpretation was correct. He was, I might add, scathing in his comments on the State Department's legal advice. We agree with the Nunn interpretation of the treaty and the justification for a continuation of the more restrictive interpretation of the ABM treaty.