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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3131


Senator CHIPP —Can the Minister for Resources and Energy give a concise and unequivocal assurance that Australia will not export uranium to France, given that nation's continued detonation of nuclear bombs in the South Pacific? Does the Minister consider that the equivocation of this issue by Mr Hayden seriously damages the opposition Australia must show to the detonation of nuclear bombs in our region? If the Government is not prepared to maintain a permanent embargo, how will this country ever be able to take a principle stand if the world believes we will buckle at the mere threat of losing some dollars?


Senator WALSH —I have made clear my views on this question here, in other places and also directly to both official representatives of the French Government and French journalists that I have met in the last year. More importantly, however, the Government made its view very clear in a Cabinet decision taken last year, which was subsequently endorsed by Caucus, the last paragraph of which reads:

the existing suspension on uranium exports to France will remain and will be further considered in the light of the report of the inquiry or any progress towards cessation of French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

The purpose of that decision is to put pressure on France to cease testing in the South Pacific. Senator Chipp sometimes appears to share the naive, simplistic or even mystical belief that withholding Australian uranium will overcome all the problems which concern not only him but the Australian Labor Party and every responsible Australian. With regard to the major concern, the possibility of nuclear war-and since he referred to Mr Hayden, I think it ought to be noted that no Minister in any Australian Government has done more than Mr Hayden in an attempt to stop that happening-he has made his own views on it very clear.

As I indicated a couple of days ago, I have had preliminary discussions with Mr Hayden regarding the possibility of using Australia's influence on the International Atomic Energy Agency with a view to having all nuclear power plants under continuous IAEA surveillance. So if any nuclear power plant is used for any purpose other than the production of electricity in the most efficient way, that would be immediately detected and reported. The offending country would then face wide-ranging sanctions from a number of countries. I think it would be more realistic to acknowledge that action by one country in isolation is not likely to be terribly effective. The important thing is to maximise the degree of international pressure which can be brought to bear on France. It is towards that objective that the decisions the Government made on uranium exports to France and all other government policies are directed.


Senator CHIPP —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I was interested in the document from which the Minister quoted. I think he said it was a Cabinet minute or a decision of the Government.


Senator Walsh —It is the same as a Caucus decision.


Senator CHIPP —I thank the Minister. As I heard him, the document was certainly not unequivocal. That was some time ago. I am asking him now in very simple terms whether the Government can from today, 15 June, give an unequivocal assurance that Australia will not export uranium to France while France continues to detonate nuclear bombs in the South Pacific.


Senator Tate —That is not a supplementary question; it is repetition.


Senator WALSH —Yes, I think Senator Tate is correct, Mr President. That is repetition rather than a supplementary question. I do not think I have anything to add to my previous response.