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Thursday, 14 June 1984
Page: 3023


Senator HILL —My question is directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy. Does the Minister share the belief of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, as reported in today's Age newspaper, that there is very little prospect of the Australian Labor Party National Conference agreeing to lift the ban on uranium exports to France? Does the Minister believe that Mr Hayden is correct in assessing his position favouring lifting of the ban as a minority of one within the Party? If the French embargo should remain, will that threaten more than $ 100m worth of coal trade with France alone and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of trade in other commodities with that country and member nations of the European Economic Community? What plans does the Government have to compensate Australians who would suffer from such trade retaliation?


Senator WALSH —I have seen the report of Mr Hayden's comments. I also have in front of me now a Press statement from Mr Hayden, dated yesterday, in which he expressed his serious concern that France has exploded its third nuclear device this year at Muroroa Atoll. The statement went on to say:

. . . this latest detonation could only add to the widespread indignation in Australia over the continuation of the French testing program in the South Pacific.

I do not think that was widely reported. Indeed, as far as I know, it was not reported at all. It ought to be noted that Mr Hayden has also lodged a protest about what the French are doing. All of his remarks about trade were very carefully put in the context of his expressing a personal opinion.

In condemning the detonation of the third nuclear device this year, Mr Hayden was fully in accord with the strong opinions which are held inside and outside the Australian Labor Party that the French behaviour ought not to be accepted by the international community as acceptable behaviour. Many people believe that that protest should be taken to the point where a gesture is made by way of maintaining an embargo on uranium exports to France for as long as that country continues to test nuclear weapons or at least for as long as it continues to test them in the South Pacific, and to do in the South Pacific what everybody knows it would not dare to do in Europe because of the protests from the rest of Europe. The rest of Europe certainly would not accept the detonation of atomic weapons in Europe by France as acceptable.

Mr Hayden added, and I believe that this is a fair point to make, that there could, however, be consequences-trade consequences, economic consequences- flowing from a decision to maintain an embargo on uranium exports to France. I believe also that it would be foolish not to consider the possibility of that happening and that essentially was the main point made by Mr Hayden which was reported. The question then arises: Is that price-if there is an economic price- an acceptable trade-off for the protest gesture contemplated? That is a subjective judgment, I suppose, but I would certainly hope that if that ultimately happens those people who are expressing the most morally upright, or what they would claim to be the most morally upright, views on the nuclear industry in general will also be willing to participate in sharing the economic costs of such a decision, if indeed there were to be any economic costs, which is something which is yet to be demonstrated.


Senator HILL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I remind the Minister that I asked whether the Government has made plans to compensate Australians who have suffered and, if so, what are those plans?


Senator WALSH —No Australians have suffered and there are no plans.