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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2744


Senator MACKLIN(12.44) —I wish to take advantage of the first reading of the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill and cognate Bills to talk on a matter raised in part yesterday. The alleged landmark statement on disarmament and United States bases made yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) outlined very few specific measures to curb the nuclear arms race. Two items were outlined-a concern to prevent an arms race in outer space, and a desire for a comprehensive test-ban treaty. Yet from the information publicly available yesterday, this Labor Government is perpetuating a research program that will undermine those arms control initiatives and promote a nuclear arms race in outer space. Australia is involved in a collaborative program with the United States to develop hypervelocity and electromagnetic guns. This has been made clear by the United States Information Agency report of 30 April, which quotes Major Rogers of CINCPAC, Hawaii. In that statement Major Rogers says:

Australia and the U.S. have had a bilateral co-operative agreement for the technology development of hypervelocity and electromagnetic guns and launchers for approximately the three last years. This agreement is in the process of being reviewed. The agreement is between the Australian Ministry for Defence and the U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

To date, there has been an excellent co-operative effort. The Australian National University has developed a power source that has proved very useful, and the Materials Research Laboratory at Melbourne has helped pioneer the development of the technology.

I emphasise the point that it has helped pioneer the development of the technology. He continues:

This type of technology has many potential tactical military uses. It allows the launch of projectiles at speeds many orders of magnitude higher than possible with conventional chemical guns.

The Government has confirmed Australia's activity in the program in answers given to Senator Chipp in the Senate on 10 May and to Mr John Scott, MHR, on 2 May. In those Government replies, the fiction that we can be pioneers in this technology yet remain untouched by the devastating implications it has for the development of space-based ballistic missile defences is continued. Such a system would undermine the notion of deterrence in which the Government has placed so much faith. The Government has maintained, and I quote from the answers:

While not of interest to Australia in this respect, they-

that is the electromagnetic guns-

have also been proposed for strategic systems such as defence against ballistic missiles.

This kind of obfuscation is what we have come to expect from this Government on this issue as it proceeds to embrace the pro-nuclear philosophies of the previous Government.

Electromagnetic guns are a technology that employs electromagnetic projectiles at hypersonic speeds far beyond those obtainable by the chemical methods which are currently in use. As the United States Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency's April 1983 summary makes clear:

The primary purpose of this program is to demonstrate the feasibility of this technology for military application.

Since 1979 the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency has spent $150m on researching this technology, $10m of which has been spent in fiscal year 1984 alone. Research into hypervelocity and electromagnetic guns has a clear purpose. Consider these quotes from an article 'USAF Studies Hypervelocity Technology' in Aviation Week and Space Technology on 5 December 1983:

US Airforce is starting to develop hypervelocity electromagnetic railgun technology to provide space-based and airborne defence systems.

The Airforce would join the Army in exploiting this technology for ballistic missile defence.

Activity in this area has been given an enormous boost since President Reagan's space war speech on 23 March 1983, which proposed a ballistic missile defence system for the United States. Following that, the United States authorities commissioned a defensive technologies study team to prepare a report on how best to achieve a ballistic missile defence. It strongly favoured the electromagnetic gun technology and the hypervelocity launchers as the best option to follow up Ronald Reagan's space war scenario. The Aviation Week and Space Technology article from which I quoted earlier states in relation to that study:

. . . emphasised the application of electromagnetic gun technology as a relatively new-term ballistic missile defence capability that should be exploited.

In other words, we are not talking about something a long way down the track; we are talking about something very much on the drawing board now. It went on:

A hypervelocity launcher development program is expected to be initiated by the Pentagon for ballistic missile defence use . . .

It continued:

Hypervelocity guns appeared to be strong candidates for boost and post-boost phase intercepts of ballistic missiles in comparison with laser weapons.

While it certainly would be wrong to assume that ballistic missile defence is the only military application of electromagnetic gun technology, it is beyond doubt that the Star Wars application is the primary purpose for this technology. It is also beyond doubt that not only is Australia involved in this technology but also that we have a pioneering role in relation to it.

A report in Time magazine on 1 December 1980 stated in relation to electromagnetic guns:

Revival of serious interest . . . began a few years ago . . . at the Australian National University in Canberra . . . updated the old concept with some notable innovations . . .

As well as work at ANU, as I have already said, the Materials Laboratory at Maribyrnong in Victoria, run by the Department of Defence, has played a pioneering role. An article in Engineers Australia of 5 August 1983 entitled ' CSIRO Develops Projectile Launcher' stated:

According to the principal research scientist at Materials Research Laboratory this research has given Australia a world 'first' in this field.

The point I am making is that the Government currently is fudging this issue. Australia has played a pioneering role, an ongoing role, in a technology which has the primary purpose of attempting to make President Reagan's Star Wars scenario a reality. The Australian Democrats believe that the concept of a ballistic missile defence would undermine any notion of deterrence, encourage nations to build more and more nuclear warheads, and be advantageous to the developing nuclear war-fighting strategies America has now embraced and which make nuclear war more likely, not less likely.

It is crucial to note that any ballistic missile defence is illegal. The 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty between the super-powers all but outlawed these strategic defences. To proceed with their deployment will abrogate one of the most successful operative arms control treaties. We certainly have too few of these. The world needs more arms control agreements. To abrogate a successful one would be a disaster. Yet this Government has acquiesced in and perpetuated a research program the logical outcome of which will be the deployment of technology that will put the nuclear arms race into space and destroy current arms control measures.

The Labor Government's commitment to arms control runs deeper than the rhetoric on D-Day. They must not be involved in defence projects which are developing the very thing that they are saying they are seeking to prevent. Australia should be doing everything possible to seek an agreement to ban the deployment of weapons in space. In the process we must ensure that our domestic activities do not destroy our international credibility. To continue this electromagnetic gun program will make Australia's concern to prevent an arms race in outer space totally unbelievable in the eyes of other nations, but the statement put down in this place yesterday by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) precisely follows that train. It sets out in rhetoric that would be acceptable probably to most people in the world what this Government maintains it holds dear, but at the same time, in the background, the Government is progressing with a particular program which will bring into jeopardy anything that has been achieved to date. It seems to me that what we had yesterday, as I think I have spelt out conclusively here today, was another example of the hypocrisy of this Government on this particular matter.