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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2116

Senator HILL(4.09) —I am pleased to follow Senator Sir John Carrick in this debate because he was part of a government which played a much more significant role in the disarmament debate and in international disarmament fora than it was given credit for. I also am a Liberal and, like all my colleagues, I am com- mitted to a reduction of tension in the world, committed to finding ways in which Australia can better contribute to the peace process and committed particularly to reducing the possibility of a nuclear exchange, the consequences of which would be too horrendous to contemplate. I also attend international disarmament conferences, I monitor Australia's contribution and suggest initiatives; I speak on the subject to United Nations and other groups whenever possible; I am a member of the multi-party disarmament committee of this Parliament; I march in nuclear disarmament rallies and I am quite happy to stand here and say so. I do so because it is important to be well informed. In turn, it is important to inform others and it is important to encourage public awareness and participation. But I do so as a Liberal and, as I indicated, I am not unique. I say that because our commitment as Liberal parliamentarians is not as well known as the commitment and participation of some others. In that same way, the contribution of the former coalition Government may not be as well known as it might otherwise be.

I am pleased to contribute to this debate also because it enables me to comment on the Australian Democrats' policy. I do not question the motivation of the Democrats; I think that they are well intentioned. But their policy, particularly as it has developed in recent times, appears to be swinging like a pendulum between the naive at the one extreme to something that is positively dangerous for Australia at the other. By coincidence, it is a policy which in some ways is similar to that of the left wing of the Labor Party and I will not speculate on the motivation of that group today. Fortunately at the moment it does not quite have a majority of seats in the Federal Labor caucus. The Democrats are pursuing for electoral fortune the joint goals of an anti-uranium mining position for Australia and an anti-nuclear weapons policy. They seek to link the two and that is what today's matter of public importance is all about. They appear to say that if Australia does not mine uranium, we will strike a blow against the use of nuclear weapons. That position is totally naive.

The largest source of uranium in the world is in the Soviet Union. Certainly we will not be striking a blow against the Soviet nuclear force if we leave uranium in the ground. The United States has more than adequate sources of uranium for weapons. France has its own sources in France itself and considerable reserves in Africa. At times when the Democrats are inclined to accept that reality they then say: 'Ah, but to leave it in the ground would act as a signal to the world' . In some ways it would be symbolic. As the original argument is fatuous, our signal would only be interpreted as an indication that we are out of touch with reality. The rest of the world does not see mining uranium for peaceful purposes as part of the nuclear weapons debate. Only recently I participated in a debate on this subject-the arms race and nuclear disarmament-at a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. That conference was attended by more than 40 different nations, mainly from the Third World. They put many different arguments and solutions, but no one suggested that leaving uranium in the ground would provide a solution to this complex problem. I have read to the Senate before part of the final communique of the Second United Nations special session on disarmament, what is known as the 'Bible of Disarmament', which specifically acknowledges the legitimacy of states utilising uranium as a fuel source for peaceful purposes.

I hold the view that Australia can play a significant role in halting and reversing the arms race but it will not do so by leaving uranium in the ground. In fact, the Democrats' policy would be positively counter-productive, First, it would build resentment, particularly among Third World countries, which in the spirit of the North-South dialogue are looking to the developed world to be more ready to share its resources. Not only, therefore, would the Democrats' policy be seen as naive; it would also be seen as economically selfish with the undesirable consequences that would follow in our international relations. Secondly, it would be counter-productive because, as was indicated by Senator Sir John Carrick, we would lose our specific entree to the positive disarmament process. As a supplier we have a significant input to the international protection regime which we would lose as a non-supplier. We would be reduced to the same position as those middle nations of the world, middle powers that do not supply uranium and can provide very little input to that process.

The Democrats then continue to say: 'Leave uranium in the ground because it is not environmentally clean'. The reality is that the world has a continuing and growing need for power. We know the state of the world, with billions of people who are economically not well off; many millions are hungry, and many thousands, if not millions, are starving. This will be overcome only by greater economic growth in the world which will only be achieved by an adequate supply of comparatively cheap power. We hear the arguments that the Democrats put to the contrary. They say: 'But with greater conservation, with the use of wind power and sea power, alternatives are available'. But those foreseeable alternatives, if they can be developed-and the process is proving very slow-will meet only a minute share of the world's power needs. That is what the Democrats never seem able to grasp. There will always be a significant demand for conventional and nuclear power.

We say that, acknowledging that there will always be difficulties. Oil is too expensive at the moment, and I think it can be argued that in many ways it is too valuable to be used as a base resource purely for electrical power. Coal in the land-locked regions of the world has transformed the environmental debate. One only has to look at the problems that have arisen with acid rain in Europe and the destruction of the forests by what is being emitted from coal-fired power stations. So there are problems in the use of coal. With regard to nuclear power, the problem is that it leaves a waste requiring careful management. But low level wastes are now being permanently and adequately handled and high level wastes are in temporary storage until a final long term solution is found. Obviously, the international community is putting a great effort and a great deal of money into finding that final solution, because it is desirable for all countries to find the ultimate answer. What the Democrats do not understand is that the world is not willing and not able in the meantime to cease utilisation of nuclear power, because in so many cases now, and in more cases almost every year, the fact is that there is no better alternative, taking into account all economic, social and environmental matters.

Again, the Democrats want to find a simple answer to a complex issue and it is simply not there. They are out of touch with reality. They forget that as a supplier, we can demand the highest international safeguards in the peaceful use of uranium and the peaceful production of nuclear power, and the highest international safeguards are what we demand. Under the Democrats' policy our influence in that area would be lost.

But it is when the Democrats shift from nuclear power for peaceful purposes to nuclear weapons that their policy swings from the naive to the arguably dangerous. The need to restrain and reverse the arms race-all arms, but particularly nuclear because of the immense potential they hold for destruction- is not in dispute. The question is how best to achieve that goal or contribute to achieving that goal whilst meeting the obvious major government responsibility of providing for the defence of Australia and her people. We say that the best way to protect our freedoms and values from those who might wish to deprive us of such benefits is in an alliance with like nations. We on this side of the House believe in collective security. We recognise that against a superpower we cannot have effective security without a notion of collective security. How effective that alliance will be as a deterrent in part depends on our dedication, our determination and our commitment to that alliance, as with the commitment of other members-in other words, whether it is a real alliance or simply a paper alliance. It depends so much on what we are prepared to put in, not simply what we are prepared to take out.

So we run into the problems with Mr Lange, the new Labour Prime Minister in New Zealand, who says he wants to change the rules. We have it with the Australian Democrats, who want, unless they can be satisfied about various factors, to withdraw the United States-Australian communications stations from Australia. The Democrats are now saying they will also want to negotiate a new non-nuclear ANZUS treaty; as simple as that. The deterrent will be effective only if it has military as well as political clout. I would have thought it was obvious that the Western alliance would not be a deterrent to an opponent with nuclear weapons unless it had a nuclear force. We in this place accept that the real challenge, consistent with maintaining Western security, is not that proposition , which should already be accepted, but to reverse the process of nuclear proliferation.

Both sides have massive excess capacity, excess to that which is reasonably needed for deterrence. How can warheads be reduced yet deterrence be maintained? So we get the whole of the mutually verifiable reduction debate, the intermediate nuclear force debate and the strategic arms reduction talks, and so on. How can the enormous expenditure on vertical proliferation to ensure the quality of one's nuclear weapons system exceeds that of a potential enemy be diverted to more worthwhile causes? Talks break down because neither party trusts the other, but of course, if they trusted each other there may be no need for nuclear weapons.

Under the previous Government, Australia took the position that whilst there may be what is seen as an impasse between the superpowers, we can nevertheless make a positive contribution. We said that it is possible to break down the barrier by a brick by brick approach. Thus, we concentrated on things that could be achieved-upon, for example, the verification techniques. We argued that the Australian-United States bases provide a positive contribution to that, and we provided technical expertise to further improve verification. Additionally, we said: 'Let us limit further experimentation. Let us enter into a comprehensive test ban treaty'. That was the policy of the previous Liberal Government, which has, of course, since been taken up by the Labor Government. We supported talks in all the international fora by the use of our good offices. I have seen it in the United Nations, my colleagues have seen it there, and I am sure that Senator Sir John Carrick witnessed that good office in the recent tour he made.

Apart from vertical proliferation, the other great challenge that we had to face and still have to face is that of horizonal proliferation. How did the previous Government address that question. It did so, again, through the policy of a comprehensive test ban treaty, and it did so through its support of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, its urging of other states to join, and its urging of compliance with that treaty, which remains the key point to limiting horizontal proliferation in the future.

That brings us to today. As I have said, the Democrats' policy will weaken ANZUS and the Western alliance. The Labor Party has largely adopted our policy except that it has been put with a little more window-dressing. We are told that the agenda has been lifted and upgraded by Mr Butler being made an ambassador and by a nuclear free Pacific, which one finds from study is little more than what we had previously. Occasionally, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, gets carried away in an effort to attain international publicity and makes implied threats to the United States. But apart from that, what has been adopted is principally the Liberal policy. The Liberal Party policy for this election, developed over the last 18 months, is about to be released and will be a further worthwhile contribution to this debate from my Party.