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Monday, 25 February 1985
Page: 128

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs)(4.25) —Senator Chaney's amendment gives me both the opportunity and the need to re-enter this debate. The Government will not support his amendment for reasons that I will explain more fully at the conclusion of my remarks.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Evans, before you continue, you are obviously aware-I think I should explain the position to the Senate-that you are in fact speaking a second time in this debate, to the amendment, and you must confine your remarks to the amendment and not deal with the substance of the original motion.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I appreciate that.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There are other honourable senators who will be in the same position. That is why I am drawing your attention to this.

Senator GARETH EVANS —In dealing with the amendment it is necessary to establish enough groundwork to understand why we adopt the attitude not only to the Bill but also to the second reading amendment which purports to undercut it. I make it clear that I certainly will not traverse the same ground that I occupied in my contribution in September. Indeed, that ground was fully travelled again for me by Senator Chaney in the course of his remarks. However, it is important that we, as the Government, have an opportunity once again to explain in the context of this amendment why we adopt the approach we do to this whole matter.

The Government agrees with the Australian Democrats that there is no issue more important in today's world than arms control and disarmament because nothing less is at stake than the survival of the world. Where we differ from the Australian Democrats is on the question as to how best we in Australia and the Australian Government can contribute to that process. It is this particular matter to which the rival second reading amendments are in fact addressed. The essence of the Australian Democrats case is, I suppose, the demonstration effect, the symbolic effect elsewhere, of a decision to ban not only the presence of nuclear weapons on Australian soil or in Australian air space, which are already banned by present government policy, but also, going further than that, the entry into Australian waters or ports of ships which are carrying or may be carrying nuclear weapons and, indeed more than that again, the banning from Australian waters of any nuclear powered ships. The Government's position, which emerges clearly from the amendment that I will be moving, is that there should be clearly defined ground rules for access of nuclear powered and possibly nuclear armed ships of a kind set out by me in the debate on the Invincible matter on 15 December 1983 and again repeated by me in my first contribution to this debate on 11 September 1984. But we say that there should not be absolute prohibitions of the kind involved in this legislation.

I make it clear that the Government does not dismiss the Democrats' essentially moral argument lightly or superficially and in dismissing it we certainly do not invoke, as did Senator Chaney, the spirit of Munich. I do not regard the Democrats' contribution to the debate as being in any way pusillanimous or misguided to that extent. There are powerful emotional currents running on this issue. There is a role for morally and emotionally based stances as a way of demonstrating that people are no longer prepared to take the continuation of the nuclear arms race as simply a fact of life. Nor do we dismiss the Australian Democrats' Bill on the basis of some simple or perhaps simple-minded equation of self-interest with the kind of knee-jerk reaction that was more appropriate to political debate in the 1950s and 1960s in response to requests, whatever their character, from the United States. The world of the 1980s that we inhabit is a much more complex place and we simply do not put the argument on that basis, notwithstanding Senator Chipp's numerous attempts to paint us as arguing in those terms. We put the argument on the basis that, were Australia to follow the course proposed by the Australian Democrats and to follow New Zealand's recent example, this would be counter-productive to the achievement of those arms control and disarmament goals about which we care so passionately and which we have done more to achieve, let it be said, than any other government in Australia's history.

To fully appreciate the Government's position on this matter, I think it is necessary to stand back for a few moments and to get a perspective on the different possible approaches one can bring to the issue of the avoidance of nuclear war. Three basic approaches form part of the currency of debate, although they are sometimes not sufficiently clearly disentangled in public debate in this country. I am talking about, firstly, the mutually assured destruction approach; secondly, the mutually assured defence approach; and, thirdly, the approach of common security. Mutually assured destruction, or MAD, as it is known, is the approach which has formed the logic, if that is the right word, of the whole arms race for the last 40 years. It involves by its very nature a continuing upward spiral with the nuclear super-powers outbidding each other in the kinds of weaponry they can produce and bring to bear, all in the name of guaranteeing, by way of massive retaliation in the event of a strike by the other side, the destruction of the world and hoping that that will in turn constitute sufficient deterrence to ensure that nuclear war does not get started. It is an approach that involves massive dangers, massive uncertainties, and a massive misallocation of the world's scarce resources. Mutually assured destruction is not an approach to dealing with the danger of nuclear war that has any moral or, indeed, any other kind of justification except, I suppose, that somehow for the last 40 years it seems to have worked. There is a perfectly understandable concern that it may not go on working and that it is hardly a satisfactory basis on which to approach this whole extraordinarily important and extraordinarily difficult area.

The second general approach to questions of overarching nuclear strategy is the more recently fashionable approach of MAD II, as I suppose it can be described-mutually assured defence, rather than mutually assured destruction. I refer to the notion that each country, or at least each super-power, should erect barriers around it that make it impenetrable to nuclear attack from the other side. This is the logical foundation of the strategic defence initiative, or the so-called Stars Wars concept, in the United States of America, although this has been much misunderstood in public discussion. Morally it has to be said, and it has been acknowledged by Mr Hayden, that it is an infinitely more defensible and justifiable approach than mutually assured destruction. The only difficulty, however, with this view of the world, and it is a huge difficulty, is that, put simply, it seems quite unworkable. Indeed, worse than that, it seems likely to create in practice an even more unstable situation than the one it would be replacing. It is for this reason that profound scepticism about this approach has been voiced all around the world, not least by the Australian Government, which has rejected it as a viable approach. Much more can be said about this, but the extraordinary level of technical perfection that would be required to produce impenetrable defences, the non-applicability, even conceptually, to cruise-type missiles and bomber-delivered weaponry as distinct from ballistic missiles, the fact that it would have to be implemented simultaneously by both the super-powers to have any effect, and, of course, the continuing massive costs associated with it, are in essence the reasons why this approach has been so widely rejected in the form in which it has been espoused by the Reagan Government.

That leaves the third approach, which has gained a great deal of currency, and properly so, since it was articulated very carefully and very thoroughly by the Olaf Palme chaired commission reporting in 1982. This is the approach described as common security, the essence of which is the development of a network of bilateral and multilateral treaty arrangements by which the nuclear powers can confidently embark upon a downward spiral of arms shedding, leading ultimately to complete nuclear disarmament, the contradistinction being very obvious between this approach and the logic of the mutually assured destruction approach which involves one, conceptually and logically, in an ever increasing upward spiral of spending. Australia sees-this has been carefully articulated on a number of occasions by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden-common security as the only approach to the avoidance of nuclear war which is both morally sound and realistic. What makes it realistic is the recognition that disarmament cannot be secured overnight. As I have said before and was quoted as saying by Senator Chaney today, in the short run deterrence and all that goes with it, including the deployment of both counter-force and retaliatory nuclear weaponry, is a necessary part of the process. We all want a freeze in the arms race as a necessary prelude to arms reduction, but we have to acknowledge the reality that any such freeze, if it is to occur, has to be on the basis of balance, verifiability and obviously, following from that, agreement between the super-powers. Whatever any other country in the world might be minded to do unilaterally, it is perfectly evident and will remain so that neither super-power will ever disarm unilaterally.

What, then, is Australia's role if common security is the only approach that makes any kind of sense conceptually? What is the role of non-super-power countries such as our own? That is at the very heart of the debate on this Bills and that is why I have spent a little time tracking over more abstract territory before getting to the immediate issue. It is against that background that many of these issues become a little more clear than might otherwise be the case. The Government's argument is that action of the kind proposed in the Democrats' Bill may from one point of view be pointless but is certainly, in our view, likely to be counter-productive. The pointlessness argument depends on the view that one adopts about the likelihood of a nuclear exchange of a significant scale resulting in a nuclear winter, as the description has it. If it is the case that any major nuclear exchange in the Northern Hemisphere will create the kind of climatic conditions which world-wide, globally, will produce the phenomenon described as a nuclear winter, that makes very starkly the point that nothing we can do unilaterally, or even by way of creating a nuclear free zone in the South Pacific, is likely in itself, unless accompanied by many other measures, to help much the insulation of Australia from the events we are talking about. I am well aware that the whole concept of a nuclear winter is scientifically controversial and that one cannot, as a result, erect too much of a debating edifice upon it. I simply point to the fact that, in my awareness, the Democrats have been very keen constantly to talk about nuclear winter as one of the numerous awful consequences of nuclear war. I remind them that, to the extent that they hold that view, there is an element of contradiction involved in any sort of new unilateralist position or one that seeks to insulate Australia from the effects of nuclear war. We simply cannot have it both ways if that is a real world likelihood.

The more substantial point I wish to make on behalf of the Government is that, viewed against the common security approach we so warmly espouse, the kind of prohibitions contained in this legislation would be counter-productive so far as our contribution to the achievement of peace and disarmament is concerned. The reality of the matter is that the fact of the Western alliance and, indeed, the Eastern bloc alliance for that matter, is crucial to the common security concept and the move we all want to see occur towards arms reduction and, ultimately, disarmament. The networks of alliances that exist around the world are crucial from this point of view. They are a stabilising factor politically and in security terms. They are the kinds of phenomenon that give the super-powers the confidence as a necessary precondition to moving into that downward spiral of disarmament and arms reduction we are all so anxious to see occur. So the mere fact of the alliance, quite apart from the content of each particular alliance relationship, is of importance, viewed in that global context.

Secondly, of course, the particular alliance that Australia is party to with the United States has elements which are of quite crucial and immediate instrumental significance in the maintenance of that mutual deterrence and strategic stability which now exists. I am referring in particular not so much to the role of North West Cape, which has been rather overstated-it is, as we all know now, simply a communications relay station-but more particularly to the role of Pine Gap and Nurrungar in early warning and verification.

The more specific aspect of the alliance which comes in question in the context of this immediate debate is the port access that is involved in our alliance relationship at the moment and which is regarded, it has become apparent, by the United States as an integral part of that alliance relationship with its ANZUS partners. One appreciates that the point that is being made is that port access is of some operational significance in American fleet operations in the South Pacific. The more important point which probably lies behind the American concern and which has been widely articulated is, of course, the symbolic impact upon an otherwise healthy alliance relationship of one partner in the alliance denying the other logistic support of this kind, at least on an involuntary basis. It is not a matter that I particularly want to emphasise in purely strategic terms. I think it is the larger questions of principle which are involved and which are probably of the essence when one is focusing specifically on the question of ship visits. So, for a whole variety of reasons there are a number of dimensions at a very general level and at a quite specific level from the point of view of which it is possible to say that the stability of the particular Western alliance relationship to which we are a party would be put at risk were we to go down the track involved in this legislation.

The other particular point that needs to be made under the general heading of the counter-productivity of the Democrats legislation is simply this: To get ourselves into a position where that alliance is put at risk is not only debilitating for all the reasons that I have mentioned already but also it would undoubtedly have the effect of removing entirely such clout or such influence as Australia does have with the United States both in terms of bilateral discussions and perhaps more immediately obviously in the context of debates and treaty negotiations in international forums. Australia has played in recent times a very significant role in multilateral forums in particular, encouraging the United States to adopt positions which are seen by us as helpful to the longer term cause of disarmament. It is a recipe for rendering oneself impotent to go down the particular track that has been mapped for us now by the Democrats.

Australia's activity in this respect has been constant and very evident. I spelt it out in considerable detail in my speech in September and I do not want to track over that ground again. All I do want to say for the record is that having spent, a fortnight ago, two or three days in Geneva at the multilateral disarmament conference, having spent time in the company of our Ambassador for Disarmament, Richard Butler, and having spent a lot of time talking to ambassadors from other countries, including the super-powers, I am extremely impressed by the quality and the dedication of the work that is going into Australia's effort and I cannot help but be impressed, as we all should be, by the role, the stature, the visibility and the credibility that Australia now has in these forums. That activity, however, has been premised on the whole common security set of principles that I have spelt out and on Australia's role as a key member of the Western alliance through, in particular, its membership of ANZUS. It would not assist Australia's credibility, it would not assist Australia's effectiveness, if this Bill were to be adopted.

Some of the themes that I have been mentioning are picked up in Senator Chaney's amendment. But it has to be said, coming now to the terms of the amendment, that the amendment in the form in which he has moved it can be described only as extravagant overkill. It cannot, the Government believes, be supported by any responsible participant in this very serious debate. Some of the language in the Liberal's amendment owes more, I believe, to political gamesmanship than to intellectual conviction on the part of the Opposition. But this is not a game the Government is minded to play. For example, let me make clear just some of the difficulties that we see with the language in Senator Chaney's amendment. Paragraph (1) (a) contains the proposition:

continued access by the US and UK nuclear powered ships, and of nuclear capable ships, is vital for the maintenance of peace and an effective stable deterrence. . .

We are readily prepared to concede that the continued access by at least United States ships may be vital to the alliance, and one notes in passing that ANZUS does not get a mention in the Opposition amendment, notwithstanding the emphasis that the Opposition apparently wants to place on it. But, while vital to the alliance, it is not necessarily vital to peace and deterrence as such. At least it is consistent with the objectives of the maintenance of peace and an effective and stable relationship. It is just stretching too long a bow to couch the language in those terms. The language is, as I have said, extravagant in this respect. Paragraph (1) (b) of the amendment states:

unilateral disarmament measures can only undermine the cause of peace and contribute to instability.

Again, it is much too extravagant a statement to suggest that unilateral disarmament measures can only undermine. Were by some miracle the major powers to determine simultaneously-not by virtue of multilateral agreement, but just to do it--

Senator Chaney —That would not be unilateral.

Senator GARETH EVANS —It depends on who is doing the disarming and in what context. It could be a country which is not party to an existing alliance network but which has been a candidate for joining the nuclear proliferation stakes. For such a country to decide unilaterally to disarm without prejudicing any existing alliance relationship in the process would not necessarily undermine peace and generate instability at all. On the contrary. The point can be made, without perhaps going so far as I sought to in respect of the super-powers. Paragraph (2) (a) of the amendment states:

expresses concern at the attempt unilaterally to place restrictions on the military forces of Australia and its allies . . .

This is a shaft at the Democrats for having the temerity even to want this matter to be debated. That is not a view, as I have made clear, that we in the Government adopt. These are terribly serious issues and it is entirely appropriate that this Parliament debate them in the way that we have been. It is not a matter of going down the Democrats path of invoking, as Senator Chaney said, the spirit of Munich. It is a matter of expressing genuine concern which is being voiced by many people in the community. It demands a rational response. It is not a matter of expressing concern, as this amendment does, that the Democrats should even have sought to go down that path. Paragraph (2) (a) further states:

. . . disarmament measures should occur only as part of a mutual and balanced reduction of arms with effective verification and compliance . . .

That, again, seems to us to put the matter much too highly. No doubt as a practical matter disarmament will occur only in that environment that I spelt out. That is a statement of realities put that way. But were there to be a chance in this context, if not the earlier one I mentioned, of the super-powers deciding to disarm without first wanting some balanced reduction of the kind that is here referred to, we would all utter, I guess, a hearty cheer in that context. So the exercise can continue. It is not especially productive, I think, to go into it in any more detail. It is enough to make the point, however, that the language, as I have said, owes more to political gamesmanship than to careful thought as to its consequences or to intellectual conviction. So far as I can see, there is nothing wrong with paragraph 2 (b)-it makes the point which I have made in the course of my speech and, no doubt, will again publicly-but the context in which it occurs would demand some rewriting.

To come to the terms of the Government's amendment, we believe a simpler and less extravagant way of making the point that the Opposition wants to make is in terms of the amendment to Senator Chaney's amendment which I foreshadow and will move at the appropriate time:

Leave out all words after 'That', insert:

'(1) The Senate is of the opinion that continued access by visiting allied war ships, within the framework of appropriate safety and environmental controls as laid down by successive Australian governments, is essential for the effective operation of the ANZUS Alliance.

(2) The Senate is further of the view that Australia's membership of the ANZUS Alliance has a significant role to play in advancing Australia's influence in disarmament forums'.

The language makes the point simply and succinctly, firstly, that to go down the track spelled out in the Democrats' legislation would put at risk the alliance of which we are part and, secondly, that that in itself would have a much wider significance than merely our bilateral relations with the United States or our own military self-protection. That would have consequences for our capacity to argue effectively in international forums for the cause of peace and disarmament which all of us in this chamber, whatever our views as to how they might best be achieved, universally espouse.