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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 926


Senator SIBRAA(6.16) —We have just heard from Senator MacGibbon, who is one of the Liberal Party's cold war warriors on foreign affairs and defence issues. But this afternoon I am on his side in opposing the Australian Waters (Nuclear-Powered Ships and Nuclear Weapons Prohibition) Bill. I must say that at times he scares me because of his attitude of unthinking support for the United States of America, and that is the sort of thinking that involved Australia in the Vietnam war. I do not believe one is a good ally if one never questions one's ally's motives. What is good for the United States might not always be good for Australia. If one wants to be taken for granted and not kept advised, one should follow the line that Senator MacGibbon often puts in the Senate.

We also heard from Senator Mason this afternoon. Besides entering the tautology stakes when he said 'President Reagan said publicly in his own voice', he also posed a preposterous situation. He said that Australian cities would be a nuclear target because we host United States bases and facilities and allow US warships to visit Australia, yet somehow New York and Boston would be safer because they stop nuclear powered ships entering their harbours. Maybe he did not mean it to sound that way, but that is certainly the way I heard it this afternoon.

Senator Hamer said that the Australian Labor Party is divided in regard to this Bill. Members of the Labor Party, like members of all parties in the Senate, have different points of view. They argue on the matters, vote on them at Party conferences and adopt the Party conference decision. Of course, that is what we have done on issues similar to this. But the reason that this Bill is before the Senate this afternoon is that it is another link in the Australian Democrats' coalition to win additional seats at the next election. I am not saying that Senator Chipp is not genuine in his abhorrence of nuclear war and the dangers that are involved in the use of nuclear power. I remind him that I and all of my colleagues are similarly concerned. I dealt with this issue and put our position in a debate yesterday. I think Senator Chipp is misguided and naive about the chances of complete nuclear disarmament and the role that the US-Australian joint facilities in Australia play in avoiding nuclear war. I fully support the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) of 6 June when he said, in effect, that the general purpose and function of the facilities were to provide information which contributes, firstly, to deterrence of nuclear war by enabling timely knowledge of developments that have military significance. A specific example of this is the provision of early warning information received from space satellites about missile launches. The second function is monitoring as part of verification of compliance with the provision of arms control agreements , for example by providing information about the occurrence of nuclear explosions, which assists in nuclear test ban monitoring and supports nuclear non-proliferation measures.

The Democrats are aware that the Australian people overwhelmingly support the US alliance and overwhelmingly support the visits of foreign warships, whether or not they are nuclear powered, to Australian ports. They know that the major parties' research supports that view. They therefore know that neither of the major parties will support the proposal that Senator Chipp is putting forward today. The Democrats do not have to worry about getting 50 percent of the vote; they are attempting to appeal to those genuine people in the Australian community who are opposed to the visit of nuclear powered ships and also to those people who are opposed to the US alliance. They hope that these people, together with some conservationists, anti-uranium groups and a number of other single issue groups in the community, will provide them with the percentage of votes that they require to obtain a Senate seat in every State. One has only to listen to the number of single issue causes that are being embraced by the Australian Democrats at the moment, including the Lindy Chamberlain case, to realise what their tactics are. If one is looking for a first-class example of the Democrats' woolly headed thinking on the subject of nuclear warfare, one need only to turn to the question asked yesterday by Senator Mason during Question Time and addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, the Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans. Senator Mason asked:

I say in preface that the Australian Democrats are greatly disturbed by the failure of the Government to react decisively to the question of United States preparedness to undertake a nuclear first strike and that is why we press the matter with the Minister. Does the Minister agree that while the question of first strike preparedness in a nuclear versus nuclear weapons conflict may be justified as a deterrent suggestion, in the case of nuclear versus conventional weapons, which could well be the case in a European based conflict, the concept of nuclear first strike as a deterrent is quite nonsensical and very dangerous to the world? Does the Government feel any responsibility as a middle power and as an ally of the United States of America to attempt to influence that nation's policy formulation on this critical issue? How would the Government assess the dangers to the Australian community of a United States nuclear first strike in a situation where the Warsaw Pact nations were using conventional weapons only?


Senator Chipp —What is wrong with that?


Senator SIBRAA —I am getting to that, Senator Chipp. Quite correctly Senator Gareth Evans, in answering the question, said:

NATO's deterrence policy is based on the doctrine . . . of a flexible response which leaves open the possibility of the first use, if required, of nuclear weapons in response to an overwhelming . . . attack by the Warsaw Pact so as to deter such an attack.

The doctrine of flexible response has been the cornerstone of NATO's deterrence policy for almost two decades and has been endorsed not only by successive United States administrations but also by all 16 Western governments which constitute the NATO alliance.


Senator Chipp —Do you agree with it?


Senator SIBRAA —Of course I do. Just let me finish. Regardless of whether they have had socialist, Labour, Social Democratic or Conservative government, all of them have agreed. He continued:

. . . NATO spokesmen have stressed repeatedly that the NATO alliance is a defensive one, that its weapons exist to deter, and that none of its weapons will ever be used except in response to an attack. In that sense the question of a pre-emptive strike does not arise.

Senator Mason, and Senator Chipp, by his interjection this afternoon, are asking NATO to say to the Soviets that NATO will remove the one deterrent that it has at its disposal. Nothing could be more calculated to increase the risk of nuclear war than that proposal put forward by Senator Mason. The Australian Labor Party platform is quite clear on the issue that this Bill covers.


Senator Chipp —I cannot believe that I would ever hear a member of the Labor Party say what you have just said. I cannot believe it.


Senator SIBRAA —Senator Chipp, I have said exactly what Senator Evans said yesterday in reply to a question.


Senator Chipp —You are right.


Senator SIBRAA —Well, do not question my motives. In 1966, when the Labor Party was getting hammered from pillar to post about the Vietnam War, and I was a candidate opposing that war, where were Senator Chipp and his colleagues? If I remember correctly he was a Minister in a Liberal Party government that was sending Australians to fight over there.

The Labor Party platform is quite clear on the issue of this Bill. We say Labor will:

Not oppose the use of Australian bases and facilities by allies in war-time, or in periods of international tension involving a threat to Australia, or in so far as they are involved with verification of treaties, agreements, and understandings on disarmament and arms control, such as the various SALT accords ; provided Australian authority and sovereignty are unimpaired; and provided that Australia is not involved in hostilities without Australia's consent.

Whilst we oppose the home porting of foreign warships we do not oppose their visits to Australian ports. Our attitude can be summed up by the following six points: First, visits will be for purposes such as crew rest and recreation and not for fuel handling or repair to reactor plant necessitating breach of reactor containment. Secondly, visits will be subject to satisfactory arrangements concerning liability and indemnity to provision of adequate assurances relating to the operation and safety of the warships while they are in Australian waters. Thirdly, movement of vessels must take place during daylight hours under conditions where visibility is not less than three quarters of a mile. Fourthly, navigational controls on other shipping will be applied during the time that nuclear powered ships are entering or leaving ports. Fifthly, there must be a capability to remove the vessel either under its own power or under tow to a designated safe anchorage or to a designated distance to sea within the time frame specified for the particular berth or anchorage and in any case within 24 hours, if an accident should occur; and finally, an operating safety organisation competent to carry out a suitable radiation monitoring program and able to initiate actions and provide services necessary to safeguard the public in the event of a release of radioactivity following an accident must exist for the port being visited.

There is also a long standing bipartisan policy initiated by the previous Government And continued by the present Labor Government that we do not ask our allies either to conform or deny whether nuclear weapons are being carried.

One of the things that concern me with Senator Chipp's Bill is that I believe the North West Cape communications station would have to be closed down if this Bill were passed, because there is no doubt that it can be used for communication between surface ships, civil and military, besides its underwater role. On the subject of the North West Cape, considerable concern has been expressed--


Senator Chipp —Is it a nuclear target?


Senator SIBRAA —Yes, I think it probably is.


Senator Chipp —Your Foreign Minister says it is.


Senator SIBRAA —Well, I do not think it is in the same priority as Pine Gap and Nurrungar, but I really do not think it is worth arguing about the difference. I believe that considerable concern has been expressed that orders could be transmitted without Australian knowledge through the North West Cape centre to American fleet ballistic submarines carrying nuclear weapons and that these orders could be contrary to Australian interests and Australian government policy. There are two responses to this. One is that agreement has been reached between the United States and the Australian government on new arrangements to ensure that the Australian Government is able to make timely judgments about the significance, for our national interests, of developments involving the North West Cape. These arrangements are now in force.

The second response is a technical one. The submarine launched ballistic missiles on American vessels are not sufficiently accurate to be used for the purpose of a pre-emptive first strike designed to disarm the Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile force. Even if they were, they would still leave open the prospect that Soviet submarines would inflict enormous retaliatory damage on the United States. Furthermore, North West Cape is not a command and control centre. It is only a communication relay station. This means that its functions are essentially limited to defensive and deterrent purposes and therefore I believe it should not be closed down.

I now wish to deal with one of the main points which the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia are concerned about-they raised the matter yesterday and Senator Durack raised it again today-and that is that according to a recent New Zealand Labour Party conference decision New Zealand will withdraw from ANZUS. As I said yesterday, a New Zealand conference decision is not a government decision. The procedures of the New Zealand Labour Party conference mean that resolutions that are passed go firstly before a policy review committee and then, if they are approved, to the Parliamentary Labour Party, which has veto over the conference decision, and then finally to the Party's national council. Therefore the recent decision of the New Zealand conference may never see the light of day. Again, as I said yesterday, let us examine what a leading New Zealand Labour Party member of parliament said in Australia two days ago. That member of Parliament is regarded as being strongly anti-nuclear. Ms Helen Clark was reported as follows:

The New Zealand Government would maintain the ANZUS alliance, according to a member of the Government presently in Australia to explain her party's nuclear policy.

Further on the article states:

She said a conference decision was only the first step. The next was deliberation by the party's council which would, if it was in favour of the proposal, refer it to the parliamentary caucus and then to the party's national council.

. . . .

She said New Zealand had sought to renegotiate ANZUS.

It is interesting to note that David Lange, the present Prime Minister of New Zealand, at the New Zealand Labour Party Conference in 1983, strongly supported a motion that allowed nuclear powered warships to visit New Zealand.


Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle —He has changed his view though, has he not, Senator?


Senator SIBRAA —I do not know whether he has changed his view. I think we will find out when we see if the parliamentary party vetoes the decision of the conference. Senator Chipp stated this morning in his speech, when giving the reasons why this Bill must be debated today, that every Australian is now a nuclear target. He also said that the Labor Government had no policy on nuclear disarmament. This is nonsense. I am not going to repeat all that I said in yesterday's debate on nuclear disarmament. It is recorded in Hansard. If anybody wants to read the Labor Party's policy on disarmament, I suggest that he read what I said yesterday.


Senator Chipp —Part of it is to export more and more uranium. Terrific!


Senator SIBRAA —The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, has put out a very good booklet on nuclear disarmament, uranium and peace. I suggest to Senator Chipp that he get a copy of it and read it if he has any doubts about the Labor Party's platform on the three issues that I have just mentioned.

The Labor Government has been in office only since March 1983. In the time since then it has given energy, commitment and priority to the pursuit of arms control, disarmament and peace which no previous Australian government has done. The Government recognises that the only outcome which is ultimately acceptable is total nuclear disarmament. But it equally recognises that on the road to that ultimate goal it must support the most suitable available options which give the best prospects of contributing to the avoidance of nuclear war. For these reasons the Labor Government argues the principal position that until the goal of total nuclear disarmament is achieved, the presence of the joint facilities and the visits by nuclear powered ships to Australian ports will have a real and practical effect in contributing to arms control, disarmament and peace. A decision to abolish the joint facilities and to deny the passage of nuclear powered warships through Australian waters will not be neutral in its effect. Rather, such a decision would paradoxically have the effect of harming the very cause that all of us are trying to promote.

Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.