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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 1969

Senator CROWLEY —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Resources and Energy been drawn to criticism of the Government's decision to purchase from Queensland Mines Ltd uranium that has been contracted for sale to France? Will the Minister re-affirm the Government's determination to refuse exports of uranium to France while that country continues to test nuclear weapons in the South Pacific? Will the Minister re-affirm the Government's intention to protect Queensland Mines Ltd's profit and cash flow following the implementation of this Federal policy?

Senator GRIMES —As Senator Crowley said, the Government decided that Queensland Mines should not send uranium to France to fulfil a contract with Electricite de France because, like every other country in the South Pacific Forum, Australia objects to the continuation of French nuclear testing in the Pacific. As a result of that, the Government quite properly is to come to agreement with Queensland Mines on purchasing the uranium which it would have sent to France, with the first shipment starting this year. We have to come to an agreement with Queensland Mines on purchasing that uranium and therefore compensate the company and the shareholders, with certain provisos that Queensland Mines will be able to repurchase that uranium should France stop nuclear testing should the situation change. Queensland Mines will still be able to sell its uranium to countries which have acceptable policies and acceptable safeguards in this area. I have noticed criticism of the Government from, amongst others, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, for, it seemed to me from the wording of the statement, compensating Queensland Mines.

Senator Chaney —That is rubbish and you know it.

Senator GRIMES —It might be rubbish, but I, as an individual and as a Minister of this Government, would much prefer to spend money making a gesture or, more than a gesture, to see whether we can cut down the production and testing of nuclear weapons in the world. I would much rather do that than spend the hundreds of millions of dollars that the previous Government spent on killing people, causing havoc and involving this country in the war in Vietnam. I feel much happier about being a member of a government that does this than I would about being in the position of so many honourable senators opposite who were young enough to fight in Vietnam yet did not volunteer. They were happy for the Government to spend all that money. They supported the Government in its activities at that time which rained death and destruction on people in Vietnam. Those honourable senators who were young enough and were not members of this place who vigorously supported the Liberal and National Country Party governments at the time demonstrated what I consider great cowardice. I would rather be a member of a government that takes the stand that this Government has .

Senator Button —Some people were infinitely eligible.

Senator GRIMES —Some of them were infinitely eligible to go to that war. I will give Senator Walters credit. At the time she was quite happy to send her sons to Vietnam if they were able or willing to go but she is the only honourable senator here who was. There were other honourable senators here who were eligible, old enough and of fighting age to go but they did not. They supported the Government's actions; they quite happily supported the Government spending that money. They now object to the Australian Labor Party Government spending money to try to cut down on the production of nuclear weapons in the world today . In view of the cowardice of honourable senators opposite in the past I am not surprised to hear criticism at all. I am amazed at Senator Chaney who, I suppose at that time, was marching up and down, opposing the Vietnam war. I wonder about other honourable senators who seem to be about my age and who would have been able to go to that war. I am fascinated at the cries from Senator Lajovic on this subject, but I will not go into that matter because it upsets the Opposition so much. However, I am quite happy to be a member of a government that engages in activities--

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order.

Senator GRIMES —It took a long time.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I will hear Senator Chaney on a point of order.

Senator Chaney —It is about the statement which the Minister has just made. 'It took a long time', was his final remark. The turning of Question Time into a farce by the Minister debating the question in this way is out of order and should be stopped.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister to confine his remarks to the answer and not debate the matter.

Senator GRIMES —I will, Mr President. Yes, we have made a decision to compensate Queensland Mines if that is necessary. Yes, we have made a decision not to allow the export of uranium to France for this purpose for the reasons I have stated. Yes, I have seen the criticism that Senator Crowley pointed out has come from members of the Opposition. I do not take it very seriously any more than I take the Opposition senators' bona fides when they talk about their concern for the economy of this country or for peace or disarmament in the world. They have demonstrated by their actions over the years that they are no strangers to hypocrisy. Therefore, I am happy to be a member of this Government which does not indulge in that activity.