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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 912


Senator MASON(4.51) —The Australian Waters (Nuclear-Powered Ships and Nuclear Weapons Prohibition) Bill 1984 is a private member's Bill brought forward by Senator Don Chipp on behalf of the Australian Democrats. The Bill proposes that we should follow New Zealand's position of not permitting nuclear powered or armed warships or military aircraft in our waters or air space. I was interested in what was said in the first part of the debate. Senator Gareth Evans, speaking on behalf of the Government, showed the degree of self-deception which is possible in this matter when he spoke about the Government's contribution to what he called a nuclear free zone in the Pacific region. The achievement at the recent conference was by no means for a nuclear free zone because one cannot without self-deception say that one has a nuclear free zone when ships armed with nuclear weapons can travel freely through it. That is an absolute and complete contradiction in terms.

I suggest to the Government initially that if it wants to say that it is dedicated to the cause of world peace and it wishes to make the total commitment that Senator Gareth Evans mentioned, it is very poor for it to come in here and claim that commitment and claim that those things are being done in circumstances in which ships which are nuclear powered-Senator Evans himself said that 40 per cent of the major American warships are nuclear powered-are travelling in the Pacific. We know that a large proportion of them are carrying nuclear weapons of one kind or another but we are not told whether they are carrying them. If that is the best the world and the Australian Government can achieve as a nuclear free zone, I suggest they had better go back to square one and start all over again. Senator Evans did not have a great deal more to say. His speech, perhaps necessarily because of the Government's policy, was severely limited by a lack of any ability to cope with the real issues behind the matter we are discussing.

Senator Durack's comments were in a sense more substantial, although I do not agree with most of what he said. The point I particularly want to look at is his statement that this Bill is part and parcel of the peace movement in Europe. I disagree with him there. This Bill is an expression of the disquiet and anxiety of probably the majority of Australian people about the drift of the world towards nuclear destruction. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. The march of hundreds of thousands of people in this country on Palm Sunday evidenced that . I think it was a bit strange of people in Government to say: 'What about the ones who did not march?' Obviously not everybody gets up and marches, but we can get a fair indication from those numbers that the degree of concern is much greater than it used to be. That merely followed the situation in the United States of America. Two years ago I was present in the march to Central Park in which nearly a million people took part. The New York Times, which is far from being a left wing newspaper, remarked in an editorial the following morning that that was the greatest single expression of grass roots opinion in the United States since the Declaration of Independence.

This feeling against nuclear weapons, this feeling that something has to be done and that even countries such as Australia must give some kind of lead, goes very deeply into the conscience of every intelligent and aware human being. It will become more so as time goes on, and necessarily so because it is part of a healthy self-protective instinct on the part of human beings to see that that is the case. I implore members of the Government and the Opposition to take that feeling among Australians seriously because there was nothing in Senator Evans's speech which indicated for one moment that the Government takes it seriously, otherwise it would have indicated some course of action. I agree with Senator Durack absolutely, as would the other Australian Democrats, that peace movements everywhere ought to attack Soviet missile deployment with the same fury and energy as they attack American ones. That has been a notable failure on the part of many peace movements and it is to be regretted. I assure Senator Durack that it does not include the Australian Democrats. We believe that all five nuclear powers are equally culpable in the eyes of the world. In effect the actions of the five nuclear powers are criminal and in an ordinary, decent, law abiding society would be perceived as criminal. Would it not be perceived as criminal if a group of five people came into the Senate and said: 'We have a weapon that can intimidate the rest of you and we will proliferate the number of weapons and bring the world to the brink of destruction'? Would not that be seen as criminal ? Of course it would. One must not quibble with that. All five nuclear powers are clearly indicted-France, China, the United Kingdom, Russia and the United States. They should share the opprobrium and contempt of the rest of the world for bringing to us the greatest single problem the human race has ever faced. All the talk about the balance of terror and deterrence and so on is so much nonsense and is perceived as such by most intelligent and sensible human beings.

I noted Senator Durack's point that peace activists did not get a very good run in the Soviet Union. I agree with him but I ask the Opposition not to try in any part of this debate to parallel the situation between Australia and the United States with that between the Soviet Union and its satellites. We know that the Soviet Union enforces its will on its satellites as a matter of course. I will not be told by the Opposition in this place that the United States has any such intention or desire. We are not subservient to the United States. I do not believe that country wishes us to feel that we are. I do not believe the United States feels that the cause of peace, friendship, reliance or strength can be served by that view. That is something we have to be very careful about.

Senator Durack said that peace activists have not succeeded. They have not succeeded yet, but from what I heard on the radio this morning one of the main peace activists in the world over the last 24 hours has been President Reagan, who said publicly in his own voice that he will go to the Soviet Union. He has said publicly that the greatest threat facing this world is the nuclear threat and somehow we have to come to grips with it and it has to be got rid of. I respect him for that point of view. I do not agree with every policy of the United States or with everything he has said, but I do respect his intention to do that. I do not see it reflected here.

Senator Durack also expressed the view that it would be destructive to the ANZUS alliance if we were not to allow American ships here for rest and recreation. That is one of the most puerile and extraordinary statements that anybody can make. How is it going to affect the strategy of the global balance of power whether an American ship comes into Sydney, Perth, Auckland or Wellington? Of course it has nothing to do with it. That is a matter I will discuss further because I do not think Senator Durack was as honest as he might have been in telling the Australian people just what the ANZUS Treaty is. There again, if the Opposition is going to take the view of saying to the Australian people that ANZUS is a piece of machinery by which the Americans automatically help us no matter what happens, they are doing a great and dangerous disservice to the people of this nation. They will have to be recognised and indicted for doing so. I disagree completely with Senator Durack on that point, and I will deal further with that later.

Senator Durack mentioned Soviet aircraft based in Cam Ranh Bay being able to attack Australia and waved that as some sort of inducement in support of his view of our Bill. It is a fact that the Soviets have long had the potential, with their nuclear submarines, to attack any part of Australia and there is no way that we can defend ourselves against that, nor can ANZUS defend us from such an attack by a submarine. There is no way that the United States can do it, although I do not question its will to do so. I have no doubt it would help us if it could. But the United States knows as well as I do and the Opposition knows, including Senator Durack, that that is the case, that there is no vague nuclear umbrella. There is no way that we can stop a nuclear submarine from launching missiles, submerged and concealed as it is in millions of square kilometres of sea. To begin with, the submarine could not be found. We do not have the means here to stop those missiles arriving. We have to think of a situation short of that, and that of course is what this Bill is about.

This Bill proposes that Australia adopt basically the sort of position that New Zealand has adopted of not permitting nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed warships or military aircraft into our waters or air space. I support without reservation this Bill proposed by Senator Chipp for the Australian Democrats. I see it, as I believe many hundreds of thousands of Australians will see it, as the beginning of the road back towards a sane world in which the continued survival of the human race can be reasonably guaranteed. At present the continued survival of the human race cannot be guaranteed. As we have heard so eloquently from the representatives here of the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia, there is not much in a practical way that they are prepared to do about that. They are prepared to let matters drift. But in this matter, as in so many others, it has been left to the Australian Democrats to make the running in a matter which I agree is controversial-not everyone will agree with us, of course-but which I am sure every Australian will agree is of basic and enormous importance to every human being. It is a cause of anxiety to every human being who has any brain and even a reasonably developed sense of responsibility towards his survival and that of his family.

This Bill is important. It raises serious matters-far more serious issues than the threadbare, outworn and morally unsound positions we have heard expounded by Senator Gareth Evans and Senator Durack would indicate. That too is important. The two old political parties-or perhaps we can say three old political parties because I gather the National Party of Australia shares the Liberal view here- are pretty much in accord on this matter. They have again taken up the position which the Democrats call the 'laborials'; in other words, the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the National Party all cuddle up together in the bosom of what they see as the Establishment view. They are not prepared to move out of that view or even to speculate outside it because they are afraid to do so. It is a matter on which they want to duck out, to shuffle off their basic responsibility to do something practical that might give pause to the madness of the nuclear arms race with all its dire implications for this planet.

The Labor, Liberal and National Party senators here today have an even greater responsibility than they imagine-or perhaps in their hearts they understand that they have that responsibility. If they vote against this Bill they will vote for the proposition that Australia is to become a nuclear target. They will vote to expose every man, woman and child in this country, from the oldest of the old to the smallest baby, to the horrors of a nuclear attack, with the megadeaths, the hideous injuries and vast damage this would cause. I state that quite plainly because I want them to understand their responsibility. There is no compromise on that point in my mind and intellectually I do not think there can be.

If they continue to accept that view, that position, that risk on behalf of all of us, can their action be justified? They say that it is justified; that is an area that we need to look at next. Will the global balance of power be fundamentally disturbed because United States warships cannot pop into Perth or Sydney? When we see this appalling scale of risk to our own community, we see that of course it will not be that kind of situation. How could it be? In terms of the world balance of power, what happens in Australia and New Zealand will not matter. It there is a global war, whether or not there are ships here will not matter to the general balance of what happens to the world. But it will matter in what happens here. In other words, there is that one additional important thing: If those ships were here at a time of war-and we know we will not have warning of that war; it will come suddenly-not only would the United States bases in relatively remote locations in Australia become nuclear targets, which is bad enough, but also out major cities would become nuclear targets. That should be a matter of very deep concern to all Australians. It is a matter of the greatest concern to the Australian Democrats. That is why, as the citizen party in this country, Senator Chipp introduced this Bill.

Two major factors contribute to this situation. The first is the continued idiocy of having major naval bases in the heart of our cities. I will deal with that later. But I want to raise it for the people in my constituency of New South Wales and particularly in Sydney. It is a tragedy that we allow Garden Island to continue to exist in the heart of Sydney when we know that it is dangerous. It is even being extended with the approval of the Labor Government. I understand that when it came to office it okayed the idea that extra money should be put in to perpetuate that naval base.

Of course, the second factor is that United States warships of any size are now being fitted with sea cruise missiles. Sea cruise missiles are the sea version of the cruise missile-the things which streak across the surface of the air or water and which cannot be intercepted; it is a first strike weapon. Hence in the event of war any major United States ship, wherever it might be at the time, must become an immediate nuclear target. It would be essential for the other side to destroy those ships in a matter of minutes wherever they are. That is a very heavy risk to call on Australians to take in cities like Sydney and Perth.

We can ask: Does the American Government call on its major eastern seaboard cities to share that same risk? Perhaps it does; But in fact it does not. I repeat: The American Government does not call on its major eastern seaboard cities to share the risk that it wants us to take. No nuclear-powered warships of the United States Navy, or any other navy for that matter, are ever allowed into New York or Boston. They will never be allowed into New York or Boston because that is regarded as too dangerous. The Australian Democrats say that what is good enough for New York and Boston ought to be good enough for Sydney and Perth and that the United States has no right to ask our people to take risks it wishes to avoid for its own people. I dispute and renounce totally any suggestion that this Bill is anti-American. That is absolute rubbish. As the Australian Democrats, even our party name follows that of a great party in the United States. We constantly look to America for innovative-


Senator Messner —Copycats, are we?


Senator MASON —Yes, I think it is worth while to look at what other countries are doing. Both the Liberal and Labor parties should do it more often rather than thinking that we know everything here. It is absolute rubbish to even contemplate this as anti-American. We want our friendship to be a reasonable, rational and equal one.

In order to show how stupid such a view is, I will pose a hypothetical case. Let us postulate at some stage a nuclear-powered Australian naval ship. Maybe that will come to pass if there is a Liberal government or another Labor government. Would we dispute in any way the perfect right of the United States authorities not to allow that ship into Boston or New York, and to use force to prevent that if need be? Of course we would not. What then is the difference when it is the other way round? If honourable senators do not accept that, what do they accept? Do the Liberals and Nationals, and the Government for that matter, assume that the relationship between the United States and Australia is in fact rather like the relationship between the Soviets and one of its satellites, for example, Poland? Will the opponents of this Bill say that we must concede everything that the United States requires of us without argument or demur, or will they concede that the relationship between us is one of an association of free nations which have the right to decide what goes on in their own countries? There is no middle ground on this one. I hope that later in this debate we do not have people from either side getting up and fulminating that this is anti-American and that we must automatically do what the Americans want. Is not that free relationship a much healthier and better one in every respect? Of course it is and it is what most Australians want.

We want to stand upright, to retain our self-respect as a free and self- governing people and to decide for ourselves what is in our best interests. I am absolutely confident that the United States Government would want that too. I am absolutely confident that Washington does not want to be another Soviet Russia prepared to force its will on the nations around it, suppressing any dissenting view from what it says. I cannot possibly accept such a ridiculous and cynical view of the world. Of course the United States is not like that. It has shown that in its attitude towards the courageous New Zealand decision not to accept nuclear ships in its waters for exactly the reasons I have dealt with so far in this speech. It is perceived by the United States that while it would like to send its ships into New Zealand ports, it is the right of New Zealanders to decide whether those ships should be there and it is not really an aspect that anyone outside their country has any right to contribute to.

When the HMS Invincible was here in Sydney, in my own constituency, we were not told whether it carried nuclear weapons. I sent a telegram to Mrs Thatcher. I asked her whether she would remove her ship as fast as possible until she could assure us and not place our city at risk.


Senator Peter Baume —That must have frightened her! She was terrified!


Senator MASON —Unlike Senator Baume and the cackling Liberals around me at the moment, I got a very civil, polite and pleasant reply from Mrs Thatcher. She said quite plainly: 'Senator, I agree with you. This is a matter for your own country to decide'. I was pleased enough to get that reply. It was what I would have expected from a civilised politician from another country. The response I got shows the attitude that we must take.

People are anxious because there is continual misrepresentation about ANZUS. Senator Durack has again told the Australian people that to deny United States nuclear ships entry to our ports would destroy ANZUS. That is absolute rubbish and I suggest it is mischievous rubbish. I think we should look at the facts on ANZUS. It is wrong and totally irresponsible to misinform the Australian people about what ANZUS actually means to Australia. It is a matter that is far too important for misinformation. I must take the Liberal and National parties to task for that. If they are touting ANZUS as the mechanism which will, without fail and without exception, bring the United States hurrying to our help if we are attacked, they are perpetuating a quite wicked and dangerous lie for political purposes. I urge them away from that tempting course of action.

ANZUS merely obliges Australia, New Zealand and the United States to consult together when faced with a common danger. Those words 'common danger' are very important. They mean that the United States would become involved in consultation with us-not fight on our behalf, let us make that quite plain-only if and when it felt its own interests were involved. Simply for the sake of argument, and no more than that because I do not want to say we will ever become involved in wars with our neighbours, if Australia became involved in war with Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, all countries which as it happens the United States regards as friendly nations, the United States would without doubt not come to our assistance in what it saw as a local squabble. There is no doubt about that at all. The United States has made that plain to us over and over again.

This aspect has been made plain by senior American politicians and servicemen. Indeed, that point was made to the last Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, as recently as 1982. We have been told in no uncertain terms that we should learn to rely on ourselves and not seek the United States assistance automatically, like some weak-kneed child seeking the assistance of an avuncular figure on its behalf. It behoves us as a civilised society and a modern nation to see that we do so, and the means are there for that.

Purchasing the FA18 aircraft is a good step in that direction. The Democrats have approved the enormous expense because we see their importance to Australia as a deterrent weapon against invasion of this country. We believe that fast missile platforms, hydrofoils, short range vehicles with a high speed-low cost items-could mount a presence in Australia as they have done elsewhere which would make it virtually impossible for this country to be invaded at small cost. We have the power to do it for ourselves. We do not have to be subservient to other people. While we are on this matter, I come to a very important point. One case in which the United States would obviously see its interests involved-let us go back to the point of ANZUS and the common interest-would be an attack on us in global nuclear war. I have no doubt that the United States would like to help us if it could in such a contingency. The real point is: Could it?

The fact is that there is no way in which the United States could prevent nuclear warheads launched against US bases in Australia and perhaps even against Australian defence establishments in our cities from reaching their target. Those missiles could be fired from a stationary submerged submarine hidden anywhere within literally millions of square kilometres of sea. That submarine could be stationary, with its engines stopped. No sonar could find it. Nothing could prevent it launching its missiles. That submarine could not be traced or located by even the most massive search endeavours. It could easily be positioned well in advance of any hostilities. It is known that like American nuclear submarines, a single Soviet submarine of a certain size carries enough warheads to destroy every major Australian city. These submarines are at sea constantly and nobody knows where all of them are at any given time. A few can be traced but on the whole they operate in secrecy.

I have said that Australian military establishments are without doubt on the target list. These include Garden Island in Perth and Garden Island in Sydney- major naval bases. In the case of Sydney its naval base is in the very heart of the city-on the harbourfront between the business centre and the nearby eastern suburbs, Australia's area of highest population density. It is madness, absolute blind insanity, to perpetuate such a situation.

As it happens, the United States bases have nothing to do with ANZUS. That is another point we have to nail down. They are negotiated under separate agreements. The key point about them, and the ironic one, is that they are reasonably assumed to be on the target list for nuclear attack in the case of major war. So we have the deeply ironic situation in which these bases could attract a nuclear attack on us which the United States is powerless to prevent or avert. This then is the basic truth of the situation. This is why the US attitude towards nuclear war is so vitally significant and why last weekend's statement by Mr Chapman Cox that the US would use its nuclear weapons against a conventional attack mounted by the communist bloc countries in Europe, if it felt the necessity, is so important.

It is necessary to study what the likely results of that attack on Europe would be. By far the largest volume of world opinion is that the Russians could not just let that pass. If the United States used nuclear weapons the Russians would use them as an automatic response. This would no doubt happen first in Europe, and I happen to know that that is the view of the Minister for Defence (Mr Scholes) because I discussed it with him. The rate of escalation could be expected to be very rapid so that we could have missiles arriving in Australia within hours of their first use. When I put that view to Mr Scholes he merely threw up his hands and had no further contributions to offer. For this reason the Australian Democrats have tried to get the Government to clarify with the US the situation regarding the meaning of the Cox statement. It is deeply disquieting for us that so far it has refused to do so. We implore it again to go into this matter further.

The whole area of risk to Australia is intimately involved with the use of our major cities, mostly Sydney and Perth, as ports of call for nuclear powered and possibly nuclear armed warships. The facts are that a nuclear attack on one of our cities would be bad enough but an attack while any ship in port has other nuclear weapons or nuclear reactors on board would increase the damage, according to a range of opinions, from five to 20 times what it would have been if such ships were not there. So the ships not only would attract the attack in the first place but also would extend the consequences to a horrifying extent. In the case of Sydney it would mean the difference between perhaps 500,000 people killed and three million killed. The other aspect is that, because of the wide range of fission products in ship propulsion reactors the city concerned would be rendered uninhabitable for much longer ranges of time, in the estimate of some people for as long as 90 years.

Our governments are of course very neglectful of the interests of the people of Sydney and Perth by continuing to have these major naval bases in those cities. I cannot say that often enough. But if the Government also allows nuclear powered and nuclear armed ships into those bases it carries the situation to the stage where it has become criminally stupid. There is no excuse whatsoever for such a negligent, supine and dangerous state of affairs, and the people of Sydney and Perth in particular have every reason to have something done about it . This Bill can do that. It says that unless foreign governments tell us that their shipping entering our ports is not nuclear powered and does not have nuclear weapons on board, we do not want them here and we are prepared to assert that and force it as a matter of our sovereignty. That is the key bottom line on this Bill. It has been brought forward to protect the Australian people from a no-win situation which has made us a nuclear target without, in effect, giving us anything essential in return.