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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 78


Senator CHIPP —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question about the MX missile affair. In November 1984 did Australia vote in the United Nations for a Nuclear Freeze? In August 1984 did Australia support a Nuclear Free Zone in the South Pacific? Did not the Nuclear Freeze resolution include an agreement that Australia would not assist in testing or monitoring new delivery systems as well as weapons? I emphasise that the delivery systems were included. Is it true that one year before the Government voted in this way the Prime Minister of this country and other Ministers had already agreed to assist in monitoring the testing of the MX missiles with the Americans? How did the Government reconcile its vote for no further testing in the Nuclear Freeze resolution while it had secretly agreed with the Americans to do the opposite? How does the Government propose to explain this duplicity and massive untruth to its partners in the South Pacific Forum when it is asked for an explanation, as it surely will be, at the next meeting?


Senator GARETH EVANS —In November 1984 Australia supported a resolution in the United Nations calling for a mutual and verifiable nuclear freeze. Similarly, in that session we supported-in a very important resolution moved by Australia-the immediate resumption of discussions with a view to negotiations of the comprehensive test ban treaty. I take it Senator Chipp acknowledges that our sincerity in pursuing those particular courses is not in issue.

As to any alleged incompatibility of that support with the initial support that was given to logistical backup for the MX test in the South Pacific, the Government took the view that it was not incompatible with our stance in the United Nations that we should acknowledge the possibility of some continuing testing of delivery systems for weapons either of a counterforce or retaliatory nature until such time as the freeze, which we all want, is in place. This is really a position based on considerations of elementary realism. There is simply no evidence that the Soviet Union, for its part, is standing still so far as its weapons, delivery systems and developments are concerned. The reality is that a freeze and the downward arms spiral that we all wish to see following that-in pursuit of the Palme Commission type of concept of common security as distinct from continued deterrence and the mutually assured destruction, which we unequivocally stand for-is not something that can be reasonably achieved or that we can reasonably expect any nuclear power unilaterally to start of its own accord.

I make the further point-this is something that the Government has had regard to-that the kind of testing which was involved by the United States was not incompatible with its obligations under the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II treaty. Having said that, I make it clear that Australia's initial agreement to give minor logistic support to the proposed test firing of the MX delivery system was not to be taken as approval for the MX itself-Mr Beazley has made this perfectly clear-any more than it is to be taken as amounting to approval of any other aspect of the strategic modernisation program.

Our attitude to the strategic modernisation program, of which the MX is but part, was clearly spelt out by the Prime Minister and subsequently the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the last week. To ensure that our logistic support-which we regarded, until relieved of that obligation by the United States, as being an incident of our position as a member of the alliances-was not to be taken as approval of the MX itself is the very reason why the initial decision by Mr Hawke and other Ministers was taken to give that support only on the basis that the splash down occurred outside Australia's territorial waters, because to allow it to take place within territorial waters would no doubt have been construed, and possibly correctly so, as support for the MX itself.

As to the compatibility of all of this with our position on the South Pacific nuclear free zone, again I make the point that it is the Government's position that there is no basic inconsistency in its very firm and unequivocal commitment to a nuclear free zone in the South Pacific, and its having agreed last year initially, until relieved of the obligation by the decision of the United States, to provide minor logistic support. We have noted in this respect that the treaties establishing existing nuclear weapon free zones in Latin America and Antarctica, and the half dozen or so proposals now extant to establish such zones in other parts of the world, do not envisage a ban on activities such as that involved in this instance-despite what Senator Chipp put to the Senate, in my understanding-nor do the principles for a South Pacific nuclear free zone adopted by the South Pacific Forum last year cover a test of this kind.

As a matter of policy-this has also been made clear in a number of recent statements-the Government saw the United States approach about the MX tests as essentially a one-off exercise. We would certainly oppose regular testing of intercontinental ballistic missile systems in the South Pacific and we would, of course, continue to oppose unequivocally testing of explosive devices of a nuclear kind or of any kind in the South Pacific. The circumstances which led the Government to reconsider its position, after having made the original decision on the bases I have outlined, have been sufficiently explained in the last couple of days publicly by the Prime Minister. I have nothing to add to that.