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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 189

(Question No. 857)


Senator Chipp asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 2 May 1984:

(1) Did the Minister for Foreign Affairs state in response to a question on notice concerning the nuclear freeze proposal (see answer to question of notice No. 140, House of Representatives Hansard, 26 May 1983, page 1108) that the Government was attracted to the concept of a nuclear freeze so long as it was mutually agreed, verifiable, a prelude to nuclear arms reductions and did not give advantage to one side.

(2) Did the Kennedy-Hatfield resolution, as amended and passed by the United States House of Representatives cover all the conditions specified in the Minister's answer; if so, does the Government endorse the resolution passed by the United States House of Representatives calling for a nuclear freeze; if not, why not.

(3) Did the Australian representative in the United Nations General Assembly in 1983 cease to vote against nuclear freeze resolutions, abstaining instead.

(4) What nuclear freeze resolutions have been introduced to the First Committee of the General Assembly since the Labor Government took office.

(5) What were the specific objection to these resolutions which prevented Australia from supporting them.


Senator Walsh —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes.

(2) It is correct that resolutions in support of a mutual verifiable 'freeze' of United States and Soviet Union forces were debated last year in the United States Congress. One such resolution was adopted by the United States House of Representatives on 4 May 1983 and an amended text was appended to other legislation in the Senate-the Kennedy-Hatfield amendment. These resolutions were directed at establishing detailed objectives for the United States delegation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks negotiations with the Soviet Union. From the text of the resolutions and the debate it is evident that the authors of the resolutions shared the views of the Australian Government, referred to by Senator Chipp, as to the need for such a freeze to be mutually agreed, verified, directed at arms reductions and not giving advantage to either side. However, an important dimension of the debate in the United States Congress on this issue was its party political aspect, as between Republicans and Democrats.

The Australian Government has not seen it appropriate to endorse the position of either the United States or the Soviet Union in the negotiations to which these resolutions relate. It would be even more inappropriate for Australia to endorse proposals to revise the United States negotiating objectives, especially as these proposals are politically controversial in the United States.

Australia's approach to nuclear arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union is to call for a resumption of negotiations and the conclusion of agreements to restrain the arms race, reduce arsenals and improve relations.

(3) Yes.

(4) The following three resolutions have been tabled in the First Committee of the General Assembly since March 1983:

(1) 38/73B sponsored by India, which called upon 'all nuclear weapon states to agree to a freeze on nuclear weapons, which would, inter alia, provide for a simultaneous total stoppage of any further production of nuclear weapons and a complete cut-off in the production of fissionable material for weapons purposes' .

Specific technical objections Australia had to this resolution were that:

(a) it lacked any reference whatsoever to verification, balance or the preservation of the security of each state involved in the freeze.

(b) if failed to call for a halt to nuclear testing, one of Australia's principal disarmament goals.

(c) its call for a cut-off of fissionable material production was restricted to 'weapons purposes' whereas Australia calls for cessation of the production of all nuclear explosive devices.

(d) it failed to call for reductions in nuclear arsenals following a freeze.

(2) 38/73E sponsored by Mexico and Sweden, which urged the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America 'to proclaim, either through simultaneous unilateral declarations or through a joint declaration, an immediate nuclear arms freeze, which would be a first step towards a comprehensive program of disarmament . . .'

Australia's objections to this resolution, were:

(a) it called only for a ban on testing of nuclear weapons, not for a comprehensive ban of the type sought by Australia, which would ban all nuclear tests, including so-called 'peaceful nuclear explosions'.

(b) it confined verification to those arrangements agreed in the SALT I and ( unratified) SALT II agreements and the inconclusive trilateral (United States/ Union of Soviet Socialist Republics/United Kingdom) talks on a nuclear test ban; these verification arrangements are clearly insufficient for a comprehensive nuclear freeze agreement.

(c) it also, like the Indian resolution (and unlike a Canadian resolution on ' cut-off', which Australia co-sponsored) calls only for a 'cut-off' of fissionable material for weapons purposes rather than for all nuclear explosive devices.

(3) 38/76 sponsored by the Soviet Union which urged 'all nuclear weapon states to proceed to freeze, under appropriate verification, all nuclear weapons in their possession, in both quantitative and qualitative terms . . .'

Australia's specific difficulties with this text were:

(a) it also called only for a ban on testing of weapons rather than all nuclear tests,

(b) it also restricts its 'cut-off' proposal to material for 'weapons' purposes rather than all nuclear explosive devices,

(c) it lacks any reference to the need to maintain balance between the parties.

(d) its reference to 'appropriate' verification is too weak and open to restrictive interpretation.

(5) As indicated above none of the three resolutions provided clearly and unequivocally for the principles of balance and verifiability crucial to the stability of nuclear deterrence and confidence in arms control agreements. The major reason why Australia could not support these resolutions, however, was that they did not take account of the realities which need to be addressed if agreements are to be achieved between the countries concerned. Last year-as is still the case today-one of the principal sources of tension between the Atlantic Alliance and the Warsaw Pact was the European INF issue. To endorse a freeze resolution in this context would have been to take the Soviet side against North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in that argument. Australia does not endorse the negotiating position of either party in the INF issue but it believes that the concerns of both sides will need to be reconciled and accommodated in an agreed solution. For Australia to support the position of any one side in this matter against the other would not, in the Government's view, be constructive.