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: 2119

Senator JACK EVANS(4.23) —Recent scientific studies into the ecological consequences of a nuclear war have produced devastating conclusions about the destruction that would result. The scenario portrayed has become known as the nuclear winter. These studies have agreed on the following broad conclusions based on a nuclear war involving 5,000 megatons, which is about 40 per cent of the total super-power stockpiles. With only 20 per cent of that yield expended on urban and industrial targets, the effects would be as follows. First, sunlight would be reduced to a few per cent of normal values. This would be too dark for plants to photosynthesise. Secondly, temperatures would drop to around minus 25 degrees centigrade and would stay at that level for some months, even if the war were fought in a summer period. Thirdly, one-third of the northern hemisphere land mass would receive a direct radioactive dose of greater than 250 rads-I interpolate here that 300 to 400 rads is fatal-and one half of the land mass would receive a dose greater than 100 rads. Fourthly, these effects would spread to the southern hemisphere with marginally lesser impact, within one month.

These consequences would be the result of nuclear explosions producing radioactive dust, smoke and toxic gases that would saturate the atmosphere. The effects would not be over once temperatures rose again. After the thaw disease would be rampant as the one billion-one thousand million-at least human bodies began openly to rot. Agriculture and animal life would be irreparably damaged thereby depriving humans of major food sources. Starvation would obviously be rife. So the problems go on.

The most disturbing feature of the studies is that the threshold of explosive power that would set off this chain of disasters is exceptionally low. A 100- megatonne war, which represents less than one per cent of the nuclear arsenals, would produce enough smoke from fires that alone would generate the cold and dark, almost as severe as the 5,000-megatonne war. These studies could render nuclear weapons even worse than useless. In these scenarios nuclear weapons are nothing more than instruments of national suicide. Dr Fred Ickle, who was Director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, wrote in 1976 :

. . . it now appears that a massive attack with many large scale nuclear detonations could cause such widespread and long lasting environmental damage that the aggressor country might suffer serious psychological, economic and environmental effects even without a nuclear response by the country attacked.

Ickle's conclusion would be shattering for nuclear strategists if they understood that we have now reached the situation whereby an aggressor nation can wipe itself out by launching a first strike on another country. Conclusions such as this make nuclear weapons useless even as deterrents because they are no longer credible. Who will believe the threat of nuclear retaliation if we know that that retaliation will certainly be an act of national suicide?

Into that scenario I project the post-Reagan climate in the world. I say 'post- Reagan' because I am working on the assumption that Reagan will be re-elected and that there will be another Reagan term, but this time without any concern about getting re-elected for a third term because as we all know, that cannot happen in the United States of America; a President is elected for only two terms. We have seen a fascinating little side step by President Reagan, but frankly it is no longer enough for spokespeople of the United States Administration simply to repeat that they are opposed to the concept of nuclear war fighting. Whatever they say, it is indisputable that the nuclear weapons which they plan to deploy are so accurate and so powerful that their only suitable role is in a nuclear first strike in a nuclear war fighting plan. These weapons include cruise missiles and defence cruise missiles; Trident II missiles ; submarines; Pershing II missiles; the MX missile and the Midgetman. The list goes on. Each one of those weapons has unprecedented accuracy. Each one of those weapons could fall within a circle of only 120 metres after flying thousands of kilometres towards its target. Therefore, each one of those weapons must be a first strike weapon. These are just the United States weapons.

There are two good reasons for concentrating on United States weapons for the moment. Firstly, Australia is an American ally and thus has good offices with that country which it can use. Secondly, our national security is directly affected by United States programs, because of United States bases in Australia and the visits of United States nuclear armed warships. These effects do not diminish the Australian Democrats' opposition to new Soviet weapons which we can expect to be deployed in the same period. We oppose Soviet nuclear weapons as much as we oppose American nuclear weapons.

I ask: What will the Australian Government's response be to these weapon deployments? It will no longer be possible for Government Ministers to get up in this chamber and say that once first strike weapons are deployed this Government is endorsing only weapons suitable for deterrence but unsuitable for a first strike. The reality of these weapons will have to change that stance. If Australia is to oppose the increasing risk of nuclear war we have publicly to oppose these weapons.

Let us look at the world scene after the Reagan and Hawke re-elections. The potential for crisis has never been as great. Iran and Iraq are at each other's jugulars right at this moment. Afghanistan and the threat to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which threat is currently under containment in USSR terms, is as much of a hazard as is the Iran-Iraq conflict. That conflict could spread to international war at any time. Central America, which is in the proximity of the United States of America, must be having the same impact on United States strategy right at this moment. Korea and the north and south conflict is still simmering under the surface. There is the situation concerning Pakistan and India and there are the problems in Indonesia and the Philippines. These are all potential crisis areas involving relatively small nations. But each of those conflicts could lead to a nuclear holocaust if the larger nations became involved or even if those nations obtain their own nuclear weaponry. Several of them already have that. The crunch at this moment is the potential for war between the United States and the USSR. Maybe there is another one around the corner-the potential between China and an enemy.

At present we are looking at potential wars based on political philosophy differences. There is nothing to prevent that from changing in the near future. We could have a war based on religious differences. We have already seen the potential there with the attitude of the United States to the Ayatollah Khomeini . We could have a war based on race differences, such as that which we are currently witnessing in South Africa. We could have a war based on the difference between white and yellow, white and black and white and red-we have even fought Red Indians in the past. We could have a war based on geography-an intercontinental war.

I put to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, the potential there is for an unfettered Ronald Reagan, after November this year, lurching into his Star Wars. It was only a tentative pre-election plan which he had to put on the back burner while the election built up, but my God, the Star Wars have all the excitement that a Ronnie Reagan of the 1940s and 1950s in his B grade movies would have thrived on. One would think that Australia would resile from any involvement in such a gross strategy, but this Government is to be condemned for its duplicity in getting involved even in this area. The Government proclaims disenchantment with the Star Wars program but at the same time research that is playing a vital role in developing a technology suitable for a ballistic missile defence in space is going on right here, right now, in Canberra and Victoria. This Government has renewed a research agreement into electro-magnetic guns with the United States Department of Defense. That research, as is acknowledged by the agreement, is directly applicable to Reagan's Star Wars program. It is no justification to say that we have no interest in Star Wars technologies: The fact is that we are helping someone else who has an interest and who will use our work to further his aims. The end result will be an increase in the likelihood of that Star Wars scene. This Government is making us culpable.

What is to stop the United States, Reagan and the Pentagon? It is certainly not the United States Senate or the United States Congress because Reagan has ensured that there will not be time for consultation with anybody. It will not be the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or ANZUS. There is only one possible prevention, and that is by the uncommitted nations. That is why the Australian Democrats would like to see Australia as a leader in the anti-arms build up, not a coat-tailer which simply hangs on to the coat tails of the United States President of the day. We want to see an Australia with all the vigour and the integrity that the Australian Labor Party had before the 1983 election in terms of anti-nuclear and pro-disarmament policies.

The Labor Party was voted in with the support of people who were opposed to nuclear proliferation. One has to ask: Why the change? Why the change to allow unfettered mining of uranium? Why the change to allow United States nuclear powered and nuclear armed warships into Australian ports? Why the change to allow United States nuclear armed aeroplanes on to Australian soil? I put it to Senator Ray and everybody else in the Labor Party: The Labor Party comprises people of great courage. Its courage temporarily has been denied it by a slim majority within the Party. Why does it not stand up and fight, as the Democrats are doing, to make Australia a leader in this world, a leader in the campaign for reducing nuclear proliferation and this dreadful risk to the world? Surely pragmatism in getting re-elected is not so important that the well meaning people in the Labor Party are willing to sacrifice and risk the future of mankind.