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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 917


Senator HAMER(5.19) —The Senate is discussing a private member's Bill introduced by Senator Chipp, the Australian Waters (Nuclear-Powered Ships and Nuclear Weapons Prohibition) Bill, which is designed to prevent any nuclear powered ships or ships or aircraft which might be carrying nuclear weapons from visiting Australia. I must say that the position of the Australian Democrats in this area is clear and consistent. I think it is totally wrong-headed and extremely ill-informed, but nevertheless it is a credible position to take. What is not credible is the position of the Government on this. The Australian Labor Party is muddled and divided on the issue. Twenty-eight members of the Parliamentary Labor Party have publicly criticised the attitude of their Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) towards defence relations with the United States. Eleven of the 25 senators have publicly criticised the Prime Minister on that issue. The Senators are: Senators Childs, McIntosh, Coates, Giles, Coleman, Georges, Hearn, Primmer, Zakharov, Reynolds and Bolkus. In this debate, no less than 17 senators are listed to speak, but I note that of those eleven rebels-the 'rebel eleven'- only one, Senator Georges, has been listed to speak. I think the Government probably has severe trepidation about what Senator Georges will say because, as I said, the Government is confused and divided on this issue.

Its confusion can been seen most clearly in the very poor handling by the Minister for Defence, Mr Scholes, of the visit of HMS Invincible and the request by that ship to be permitted to dock just before Christmas last year. The basis of the confusion of the Minister is almost impossible to understand in retrospect, but certainly he caused a great deal of alarm and concern both in Britain and the United States about the integrity, the honesty and the common sense of our actions. As a result of that fiasco, the Defence Minister has revised his policy, which really took it back to what everyone understood it was at the time the Invincible arrived and asked to dock. When I asked the Attorney- General (Senator Gareth Evans), the Minister representing Mr Scholes, whether, in view of the new, revised, enlightened policy, the Invincible would be permitted to dock if it arrived in exactly the state it had in 1983 and asked to dock, the Attorney-General said he would not answer hypothetical questions. What the Government has done is sew confusion, doubt and a certainty that the present Australian Government does not know what it is doing.

The purposes of the Democrats' Bill are admirable. The purposes of the hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrate against nuclear war are admirable. No rational person could conceivably want to have a nuclear war. There is no such thing as a winnable nuclear war. I do not believe there is any such thing as a limited nuclear war because any such war would inevitably escalate into a global nuclear war. The consequences of such a war would be destruction of world civilisation; whether a total ecological wipeout or something slightly less does not seem to be relevant. It would be the end of civilisation on earth and it does not really matter whether we are an immediate target or not. If such a war breaks out it will be the end of present civilisation. Therefore, we must do everything we can to deter the outbreak of such a war. It is no use wringing our hands and saying that we hope it will go away. The ability to wipe out civilisation is here now. If we fail to make the contribution we could and should make to prevent such a war we would be failing in our duty to the human race.

What would Senator Chipp's Bill do? The first thing it would do, without the slightest doubt, is destroy the ANZUS alliance. I totally disagree with what Senator Mason said on that issue. The action by New Zealand has not totally destroyed the alliance; New Zealand is essentially trivial both in the size of its defence force and in its strategic location.


Senator Jack Evans —So is Australia.


Senator HAMER —No, Australia is very much more important than New Zealand. Australia, both in the larger size of its Defence Force and, far more importantly, in its strategic location, is a key element in the maritime strategy of the Western alliance. We must remember that 40 per cent of the combatant ships in the United States Navy are now nuclear armed.


Senator Macklin —Fifty-one per cent.


Senator HAMER —In the Seventh Fleet the figure is about 70 per cent. It depends how Senator Macklin defines a combatant ship. I will not get into that argument. But 40 per cent and 70 per cent are realistic figures. All or most, I have little doubt, carry nuclear weapons. The policy which is accepted by the present Government was introduced by the previous Government. It ensures that if nuclear powered ships come into Australia, precautions and arrangements are made so that there is no risk to the community. That policy has been continued by the present Government and I accept that. Nuclear weapons in their stored condition are the only truly safe explosives. There is no way they can be exploded by fire or a bomb or anything like that. They cannot be exploded. They are the only completely safe weapon available in the world. But if the Democrats Bill were enacted, it would mean that no warships of the United States would ever be able to come here because they will never, as a matter of policy, declare whether or not they are carrying nuclear weapons.

The Democrats are therefore saying that no United States, British or French combatant warships should ever come to Australia. That seems to me to put Australia in a state of pathetic isolationism. It would seriously damage the ability of the United States and its Western allies to deploy their sea power around the world-in particular, in the Indian Ocean and also north into the area between Australia and Asia. Much more, it would call into question all the Western alliances. If a country such as New Zealand-and, much more so, Australia -can opt out of the responsibilities in the alliance and still expect to have the benefits of it, it would call into question the validity of all the alliances with which the Western world is presently protected. That is an absurd proposition. Such an action would be very damaging to the stability of the Western alliance and, therefore, to the prospects of world peace. It would be totally counter-productive to what the Democrats claim to be seeking.

Senator Chipp and Senator Mason seem to accept with equanimity the certainty of the destruction of the ANZUS alliance if their proposals were adopted. We must then ask what the value of the ANZUS alliance is. What contribution does it make to our security and to world peace? The origin of the ANZUS alliance goes back to 1951. It was designed to quell Australian and New Zealand fears about a resurgent Japan and was an inducement to those two countries to sign the Japanese peace treaty. Despite the remarks of Senator Mason, no one on this side of the House pretends that the treaty is an automatic guarantee of support. We do not have such a guarantee, nor do we have any rights to expect it. The United States will come to our support if it considers it is in its strategic interest to do so. If we think about it, it would be quite improper for it to come to our aid on any other basis. I am not saying that it is not important, but that it is not a guarantee of support. No one in the Liberal Party has ever pretended that it was.


Senator Jack Evans —So it is a one way deal.


Senator HAMER —No, it is not. I will come to the value of it both to us and to the United States in a moment. We may need the United States. The ones who most kick the Americans in the teeth will be the ones most abjectly pleading for their assistance if the going ever were to get really tough. I ask honourable senators to remember that it was a Labor Prime Minister, Mr John Curtin, who on 27 November 1941 said:

Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America.

That statement was made when we were threatened; we may be threatened again. If we were so threatened we would be very glad of the assistance that the United States is able to give us. The ANZUS treaty is important in this respect and valuable for reasons other than that it is a guarantee of support, which it is not. What ANZUS does for us is enable us to have joint defence exercises with the United States, New Zealand and other countries. These exercises are of very great importance to the efficiency of our Defence Force. Without those kinds of exercises in sophisticated techniques, the efficiency of our Defence Force would have been at a much lower level. Moreover, if we did not have those sorts of exercises we would have the situation we had in 1943 when America came to our assistance. The level of support and integration was then very much less effective, because there was no common doctrine, no common system of communications and no common tactical or command arrangements. These problems are corrected and avoided by the possibility of joint exercises. That is the first advantage.

The second advantage of ANZUS to Australia is that it enables an exchange of intelligence, and a very great deal of intelligence goes both ways. This is a very great advantage to Australia. The third advantage of ANZUS is that it enables us to send servicemen, officers and other ranks, to serve in specialised United States units to keep up with changing techniques. Again, this is a great advantage to our Defence Force. Fourthly-and this is perhaps the most important advantage-it enables us to link in to the United States logistic network. This is an enormous saving to our Defence Force and without it the cost of our defence effort would be much higher, or alternatively, if we tried to provide a logistic network ourselves at the current level of expenditure, our Defence Force would be much smaller and much less effective.

These are very substantial advantages that the Australian Defence Force and the Australian community which it serves get through the ANZUS Treaty. But there are also benefits to both Australia and the United States. I said earlier, and I repeat with all the emphasis I can muster, that it is our duty to ourselves and to the rest of the world to do anything we can to deter the outbreak of a nuclear war. All the American stations in this country are here under the ANZUS Treaty. The North West Cape communications station is primarily designed to communicate with submerged missile firing submarines which are second strike weapons designed by their invulnerability to survive a surprise first strike and be able to counter-strike from an invulnerable position. By their existence they are very strong deterrents to a surprise assault and the outbreak of a nuclear war. We, by providing a communications station at North West Cape, contribute the deterrent to the outbreak of a nuclear war.

The other two American stations are Pine Gap, which provides electronic intelligence, and Nurrungar, which provides early warning of such things as surprise missile launches from the Soviet Union or anywhere else. These are also great deterrents to the outbreak of a nuclear war. To refuse to have them would be to admit that we would be increasing the likelihood of the very thing that we are trying to avoid-a global nuclear war.

All these advantages to the Australian Defence Force and to world civilisation through deterring the outbreak of a nuclear war would be destroyed by the Australian Democrats' Bill. They would destroy ANZUS and, in the process, destroy all this. In this matter New Zealand is unimportant. New Zealand has a relatively small defence force and strategically it is not very significantly placed. Any benefits that it could get from ANZUS could almost as well be provided by bilateral defence arrangements with Australia. But if we wish to retain the very great advantages to us and the United States of the ANZUS Treaty , I believe we should renegotiate a bilateral treaty with the United States to replace ANZUS-a treaty which New Zealand could join when and if it was prepared to undertake the responsibilities of such an alliance. I have not listed all the advantages of the ANZUS Treaty and the United States facilities in this country which are the result of that treaty.

I agree with the apocalyptic remarks of the Democrats about what would happen in a global nuclear war and about the enormous dangers and the balance of terror resulting from 50,000 nuclear weapons being available. These weapons may be set off by accident or madness. There may be proliferation to other countries. As responsible citizens of the world, we must do all we can to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. That is what we must do if we can. We must also try to reduce the level of armaments-the 50,000 nuclear weapons. We must be very careful what we do here. For example, if the level were reduced and one side had none and the other side had 100-and that would be an enormous reduction -the country with 100 weapons would dominate the world. We must ensure that any reductions are balanced and verifiable. To both these concepts we can contribute . We can do something about proliferation. We have the ability, if we continue to be a responsible uranium exporter, to influence in a modest way the prospect of proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We have a chance to do something about the reduction in the level of nuclear weapons, both in numbers and in branching out into new areas, because there is no way that such reductions will be achieved unless the results are verified. It is just not practical to conceive that any country would accept the risk of these sorts of reductions unless it was sure there would be some verification of them. The United States is a very open society and it cannot take any secret measures for any length of time. The Soviet Union is a very closed society, so there must be some method of verification. We can contribute significantly there . Through the American stations at Pine Gap and Nurrungar we can provide a verification, which could not be provided from anywhere else, that any agreement on nuclear arms reduction is being implemented and not being broken. That is a very significant contribution to the prospect of a diminution of the threat of a nuclear war which is, of course, a matter of overwhelming concern to all of us.

I hope that those who long for a future free of nuclear war will open their minds to the facts and realise that for us to fail to make the contribution that we can make to the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons and to the deterrence of global nuclear war, to fail to take the steps that are within our power, would be a crime not only against Australia but against the rest of humanity.

Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.