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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 196


Senator SIBRAA(4.32) —I had not intended to speak in the debate on the Australian Waters (Nuclear-powered Ships and Nuclear Weapons Prohibition) Bill introduced by the Australian Democrats because I spoke on 12 September last year when the Bill was originally introduced and my views, therefore, are on the record. However, after listening to the debate yesterday and particularly to the contributions from the Democrats, I felt compelled to make some brief observations. I also want to make some observations about what Senator Walters has just said.

Senator Walters is one of the Liberals whom I described as Cold War warriors on foreign affairs issues. Unfortunately, I happen to be on her side this afternoon in opposing the Democrats' Bill. But in reality she is the worst sort of ally because it is her attitude of unthinking support for the United States of America that involved Australia originally in the Vietnam War. I put it to the Senate that what is good for the United States might not always be good for Australia. If one wants to be taken for granted and not to be advised one follows the line Senator Walters has been putting this afternoon. In fact, she has been guilty of quoting from only one side. She has been guilty of doing the very thing which she accused Senator Chipp of doing.

The Democrats are clearly facing a dilemma on how to restate the anti-nuclear credentials of their Party. That is why Senator Chipp moved to bring the Bill before the Senate at this time. That is not to suggest that the views being pursued by the Democrats through this legislation are not genuinely held views. Clearly, the contributions of Senator Chipp, Senator Mason and Senator Haines demonstrated otherwise. The last election showed, however, that the Democrats have a clear rival for that section of the Australian community which is in support of the aims and objectives that are embodied in this type of legislation. I refer, of course, to the Nuclear Disarmament Party whose first senator will take her position in this chamber on 1 July of this year.

The emergence of the NDP during the latter half of 1984 has put the Democrats in the position where there are now two parties competing for a minimal share of the vote-that is, the share required to elect one senator in each State. The harsh realities of this fact were brought home to the Democrats in Western Australia where Senator Jack Evans, an excellent senator in my opinion, was defeated. The Western Australian experience was almost repeated in my State of New South Wales as a result of the NDP clearly outpolling the Democrats in primary votes. Senator Mason was re-elected on Australian Labor Party preferences-a fact with which I am sure he is well acquainted. This need not, however, be seen by the Democrats as a permanent arrangement. In the context of the next election the situation could very well be different. The NDP may by then be an established political party with an identifiable party platform and the Labor Party could well direct its preferences to the NDP at the expense of the Democrats. In this last election we really had no alternative.

I just want to mention in passing one of the great lies of the last election campaign, and that is that in New South Wales the Labor Party gave its preferences to the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia and therefore defeated Peter Garrett. This has been stated repeatedly by Garrett and is nonsense. Every time he has said that, of course, it received coverage by the media. But at the declaration of the poll when I pointed out that it was nonsense, of course my statement was not reported. The fact is that the ALP preferences elected Senator Mason. I intend to spell out the situation in much greater detail in the Address-in-Reply debate.

The Liberal and National parties, in supporting the motion to bring this Bill before the Senate at this time, have also exhibited cynicism and a lack of principle. Of course, Senator Chaney was hoping that some Labor senators would support the Bill. However, as I stated on 12 September last year and as I repeat on this occasion, the Labor Party senators, like member of all parties in the Senate, have different points of view on a number of subjects. We debate various matters, vote on them at party forums and conferences and therefore adopt party policy. We have undertaken this procedure when determining matters such as those embodied in this legislation, the most recent occasion being, on the Federal level, our Party's 1984 National Conference. I therefore had to smile yesterday when Senator Chipp said:

. . . New Zealanders have responded to the magnificent and courageous moral leadership that Mr Lange is giving the South Pacific and Australia and they are totally supporting him.

I remember well that at the 1983 New Zealand Labour Party conference David Lange strongly supported a motion that would have allowed nuclear-powered warships to visit New Zealand.


Senator Chipp —What has that got to do with it?


Senator SIBRAA —The interjection from Senator Chipp is: 'What has that got to do with it'? He was at great pains yesterday to point out how this point of view on these issues had changed over many years. I was also pointing out to him that perhaps only a few years ago Mr Lange held different points of view on this issue.


Senator Chipp —So did your own Prime Minister.


Senator SIBRAA —When I look back over a period, say, from 1966, I can see that I have changed my opinion too. In 1966 Senator Chipp was a Minister in a government that I was opposing because it was sending young Australians to fight in Vietnam. Senator Chipp has changed his views, and I accept that. Perhaps in 1966 I was not as critical of the Soviet Union and its role as a super-power as I am now.


Senator Chipp —But I don't get your point. Why are you criticising Mr Lange for changing his mind? He is to be commended.


Senator SIBRAA —I was not criticising Mr Lange. I was making a point about how he was prepared to speak at a conference with one point of view and then adopt another point of view later. That is the same sort of thing that Senator Ryan has been getting attacked for this afternoon. She is entitled to stand at a party conference and say what she likes.

At this time I will turn to the Government's position in respect of visits by United States warships to this country, the matter specifically addressed in the Democrats' legislation. As honourable senators are well aware, it is not this Government's position to deny port access to visiting warships, regardless of whether they are nuclear-powered. We respect the view that our allies will not confirm or deny whether their ships are nuclear armed. It is the view of the Government that such a policy is clearly aligned with our obligations under the ANZUS Treaty. Of course, this view is not shared by David Lange and the New Zealand Government. However, the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, has advised the New Zealand Government of the views of the Australian Government and the Australian people on this matter. The Government has outlined, however, certain policies in respect of such visits. Our attitude can be summed up in the following points:

First, visits will be for purposes such as crew rest and recreation and not for fuel handling or repair to reactor plant necessitating breach of reactor containment. Secondly, visits will be subject to satisfactory arrangements concerning liability and indemnity to provision of adequate assurances relating to the operation and safety of the warships while they are in Australian waters. Thirdly, movement of vessels must take place during daylight hours under conditions where visibility is not less than three quarters of a mile. Fourthly, navigational controls on other shipping will be applied during the time the nuclear powered ships are entering or leaving ports. Fifthly, there must be a capability to remove the vessel either under its own power or under tow to a designated safe anchorage or to a designated distance to sea within the time frame specified for the particular berth or anchorage and in any case within 24 hours, if an accident should occur; and finally, an operating safety organisation competent to carry out a suitable radiation monitoring program and able to initiate actions and provide services necessary to safeguard the public in the event of a release of radioactivity following an accident must exist for the port being visited.

Honourable senators who have contributed to this debate, in particular Australian Democrats senators, have broadened the debate to include a questioning of the ANZUS alliance and its value to Australia, the role and functions of the joint facilities and the question of the Government's actions and attitudes towards nuclear disarmament and peace. I do not think it is inappropriate that such issues be raised in respect of this legislation, because visits by United States warships cannot be viewed as a single issue devoid of connection with those issues to which I have referred.

Let me put on the record that this Government and, indeed, the Australian Labor Party are committed to the ANZUS alliance. Our commitment to it has been reaffirmed on several recent occasions. As honourable senators would be aware, the Government conducted an extensive review of the Treaty in 1983 shortly after we came to power. In the words of the Foreign Minister (Mr Hayden), the review has led us to a firm and unequivocal reaffirmation of the alliance as fundamental to Australia's national security and foreign and defence policies. This was re-endorsed as recently as 12 February by the Cabinet and 17 February by the Caucus.

Senator Chipp and Senator Haines have both attacked the substance and the form of the treaty because, they say, it is an inadequate guarantee of defence assistance in the event of an attack and on the basis that its requirements or obligations, such as ship visits, make us a nuclear target. This Government accepts, as indeed all previous governments have accepted, that the Treaty does not automatically guarantee that the United States come to our military aid if we were subject to attack. However, following the ANZUS council meeting in 1983 the Americans spelt out their understanding of the requirements for prompt and effective fulfilment of ANZUS. Secretary of State Shultz noted that in the United States view any armed attack on an ally would require and would receive from the other allies full and prompt fulfilment of the ANZUS security commitment including, if necessary, military support.

In terms of obligations under the Treaty, the Government sees as integral the hosting of the joint facilities and allowing, when necessary, visits by ships. The Prime Minister made a detailed statement to the Parliament on 6 June last year outlining the role and functions of the joint facilities. These details are well known to all honourable senators and I will not take up the Senator's time by reiterating them this afternoon. Let me summarise, however, what I believe to be the most important functions of the joint facilities. Firstly, they contribute to the deterrence of nuclear war by enabling a timely knowledge of developments that have military significance, for example, the provision of early warning information from space satellites about missile launches. Secondly, they contribute to monitoring as part of verification of compliance with the provisions of arms control agreements, for example, assisting nuclear test ban monitoring.

The Government accepts those roles and functions as legitimate. They fulfil our obligations in relation to our alliance relationship with the United States and provide, we believe, the only practical basis on which to pursue disarmament and peace. This is a view which is not shared, however, by the Australian Democrats. The Democrats are of the view that hosting the joint facilities and allowing nuclear powered or nuclear armed ships to visit Australian ports make us a nuclear target and hence should be removed and stopped on that basis.


Senator Chipp —The Prime Minister says the same thing. He admits that. Your Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence and Bill Hayden admit that we are nuclear targets.


Senator SIBRAA —I admitted in the speech I made on 12 September that of course the facilities in Australia are nuclear targets. I accept what Senator Chipp says. However, I believe the Australian Democrats' view is naive. I believe it is a dangerous policy which ought not to be embraced by the Australian people. Yesterday Senator Haines gave Senator Chipp's sentiment new clarity. She espoused a policy which she says is 'Australianistic' but which is in fact an isolationist position. This Government rejects any suggestion that we can pursue disarmament questions in any meaningful capacity by opting out. Opting out of the policy of strategic deterrence would be inherently destabilising and in fact would increase the risk of nuclear war. Of course, opting out, or non-co-operation, clearly is contrary to a bipartisan policy of alignment for this country. The Foreign Minister has stated on several occasions that this country is not pacifist, not neutral and not non-aligned. We are committed to the alliance and accordingly must play our role. I therefore ask honourable senators to support the Government's foreshadowed amendment, which seeks to insert the following words:

(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.

I hope that amendment will have the support of the Opposition parties.