Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2104

Senator PRIMMER —I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Resources and Energy whether his attention has been drawn to a report quoting the Queensland Premier and Leader of the National Party of Australia as advocating the development of Australian nuclear weapons? Has his attention also been drawn to the proposal of the Federal Leader of the National Party that Australia acquire nuclear powered submarines? Can the Minister advise the Senate whether these proposals offer Australia any benefits?

Senator GRIMES —I have noted the comments of the Premier of Queensland, Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, and Mr Sinclair on the acquisition of nuclear weapons and nuclear submarines. Australia has reserves of uranium which will be developed under the present Government's policy, but only in a way which helps promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and nuclear non-proliferation.

Senator Mason —Absolute rubbish!

Senator GRIMES —It is only people such as Senator Mason who cannot make a distinction between these two things. Every other country in the world, every other party of the left in the world, can make that distinction. Unlike the Queensland Premier but consistent with the vast majority of nations and the vast majority of this electorate, the Government has repudiated the acquisition or use of nuclear weapons. Only, apparently, the National Party now has developed such a policy.

Senator Cook —Where are they? They are not even in the Senate.

Senator GRIMES —The National Party in both places apparently has now done so. I do not know where Premier Bjelke-Petersen developed his policy-I suppose in that fertile mind of his. It does not seem to have the support of many people outside Queensland, and certainly none outside his own Party. As for Mr Sinclair's proposal, I am surprised he has only now discovered that he supports the development of nuclear submarines in Australia. If this idea is so urgent and so imperative for Australia's defence, one can ask why Mr Sinclair did not review the Oberon submarine replacement and come up with the answer to acquire nuclear powered submarines when he was the Minister for Defence in the previous Government.

We have stated many times that nuclear powered submarines are not appropriate for Australia's use because of their initial capital cost and their considerable maintenance costs. Perhaps in government Mr Sinclair was deterred by the high cost of acquiring nuclear submarines at that time. Maybe he did not think he would get the support of the people of Neutral Bay where our present submarine base is. The element that puzzles me more than anything in this whole silly episode involving Mr Sinclair's extraordinary proposals is that the Opposition says that it is basing its policies in this country on the needs of Australian families. The only way the acquisition of nuclear powered submarines will affect the Australian family is that they will have to pay for their acquisition and their maintenance. No one takes Mr Sinclair seriously on this issue. No one would have taken him seriously if he suggested it when he was Minister for Defence not long ago. We believe this is another election stunt, but it is beyond me just which part of the Australian electorate this stunt is aimed at.