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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 440


Senator CHILDS(10.16) —The Governor-General indicated the Government's serious concern, in his opening Speech, when he said:

The Government remains deeply committed to advancing the cause of peace, arms control and disarmament. At the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be held in Geneva in August and September this year, the Australian Government will make efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and will continue to urge the nuclear weapon powers towards a complete ban on all forms of nuclear testing. It will actively promote programs for the International Year of Peace in 1986, and will advance the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone proposal.

I endorse that Government commitment, which is fully in line with the Government's platform:

There can be no higher priority than nuclear arms control and disarmament.

I am aware that there is a mounting concern in Australia and all over the world at the lack of progress being made on this question of disarmament. Bill Hayden said in Geneva:

It would be wrong to conclude that among the general public there is an inexhaustible well of patience with the slow pace of the work being done in the cause of disarmament here in Geneva.

The concern that the Australian Government expresses reflects the anxiety of Australians from every walk of life. In just a few weeks time, on Palm Sunday, 31 March, a record number of Australians for Nuclear Disarmament will march through the main cities of Australia. They will express their views in countless banners and statements. Although they will have different emphases, there will be a common affirmation of a zest for life-that is the common experience of all the rallies that have been held in the last three years on this topic-in a world that could so easily be destroyed. This is the background in Australia as we look at the super-powers commencing their new current round of negotiations.

I would like to draw attention to the most disturbing escalation in the arms race at this moment, that is, Star Wars. I shall use sources that are moderate and responsible but are, nonetheless, alarmed at the thrust of President Reagan's Star Wars program. The first person I refer to is Denis Healey, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer in the British Labour Government and currently shadow Foreign Minister. In a Fabian pamphlet entitled 'Labour and a World Society', Mr Healey said that his main concern in his over 30 years of political career had been to create a world society where one could establish some collective, democratic control over power. He examined the Eastern bloc, particularly the decline of Soviet dominance of the Eastern bloc, and then went on to refer to the United States of America. In the last 30 years Denis Healy, of all people, has certainly been a friend of the United States. In the Fabian pamphlet he stated:

Meanwhile, however, the United States has changed beyond recognition as an actor on the world stage. It is no longer a reluctant participant in the game of nations. It is actively and enthusiastically involved in every continent. The danger today is not that the Americans will retire into pre-war normalcy, but that they will opt for a policy of global unilateralism under which they intervene all over the world without trying to win the consent of understanding of their allies or of the countries in which they operate.

This danger is increased by the fact that political power in America has followed economic power to the southern and western states where the traditional links with Europe, so important in the eastern states, are weak or non-existent. Moreover, the increasing immigration into the 'sunbelt states' of Hispanics from Latin America and of Asians from the Western Pacific is bound to shift the regional balance of America's international interests. In any case, the post-war generation of American leaders who built up the Atlantic Community and helped to devise the framework for world economic order which collapsed in the seventies has now passed from the scene.

He then referred to the Reagan Administration:

The Reagan administration has been greatly influenced in its foreign and defence policies by anti-Communist ideologues who reject the post-war settlement with the Soviet Union, want to overturn the agreements made at Yalta and Potsdam and believe that America can and should build up sufficient military superiority over the Soviet Union to compel it to make concessions to American hegemony. This trend in recent American policy has shown total indifference to world opinion in areas like Central America and the Caribbean, which have been unilaterally designated as of vital strategic importance to the United States. Though Grenada is further from the frontier of the United States than London is from the frontier of the Soviet Union, it is nevertheless treated as part of America's backyard.

Mr Healy went on to talk about the arms race and, I think very significantly, stated:

. . . the United States is developing and hoping to deploy a system of defence against ballistic missiles which might render it invulnerable to a retaliatory attack and therefore might seem in the Soviet Union to be the prelude to an American first strike. Meanwhile, both American and Russia are developing anti-satellite weapons which, if successful, could destroy the main means on which each side depends for warning of a surprise attack.

These new and dangerous developments in the arms race are under way just at the time when scientists in the USA, Europe and the Soviet Union have concluded that if even a fraction of existing nuclear arsenals are used by either side, they might generate fires which throw up so much soot into the upper atmosphere as to blot out the sun over the Northern Hemisphere for a period of months. During this so-called nuclear winter, human life, and even plant life, might become impossible north of the Equator and in large areas south of the Equator. So even a successful first strike would condemn the population of the aggressor country, no less than of its enemy and of neutral countries, to a lingering death in conditions of Arctic night.

I have read that article because I think that Mr Healy has summed up the concern that so many friends of America have about their current position. I refer now to the English magazine entitled New Statesman. In an editorial entitled ' ''Star wars'' Maggie goes to Washington', it is stated, in part:

The present posture of the Reagan Administration on the international nuclear arms race is a disaster. It is based on a complete failure of perception about how the rest of the world-friend and foe alike-sees the inexorable onward drive of the US military-industrial complex. The reality is, as it always has been, that the United States has an enormous technological lead over the Soviet Union in every significant sphere; that the Soviet economy is hugely strained by the current arms race; and that the US has by a factor of hundreds enough credible 'second strike' capacity to destroy civilisation in the Soviet Union, so that the Soviet 'first strike' would be an act of insanity.

Yet time and again, behind the argument of some supposed 'missile gap' or 'window of vulnerability', the military-industrial complex persuades the White House and the Congress to support yet another development.

In the short term the Star Wars initiative is so obviously destabilising to the psychology of superpower disarmament negotiations that the prospect of substantive progress at Geneva is nil. In the longer term, as the initiative moves from pipedream to something more concrete, it will begin to undermine the foundations of NATO. It is not unduly cynical to believe that there are some Fortress America adherents in the Administration who would be content on both counts.

In referring to those sources I draw attention to the fact that there is criticism of the American President which I think is of great concern. Of course, the American President is blindly following a strategy that is highly dangerous. The other significant editorial I refer to is from the most prestigious New York Times. The editorial sums up a criticism of the American President which is inescapable and states:

President Reagan has a wish about 'star wars', the new missile defense system to which he gave his energetic blessing two years ago without any public debate whatsoever. 'I wish whoever coined that phrase would take it back again because it gives a false impression of what it is we're talking about'. The administration is obsessed with the search for a name that can make this radical weapons program palatable. The problem with 'star wars', however, is not semantic. It is conceptual.

The President and his aides have been selling 'star wars' on four different, incompatible grounds: (1) It is the only moral defense in the nuclear age. (2) It is only research for our grandchildren. (3) It will soon be useful, indeed indispensable, even if imperfect. (4) It is a proven stimulus to arms control.

All four arguments fail, even the moral one, because a 'star wars' defense becomes moral only when it becomes practicable. Yet merely pursuing it looks to be highly dangerous.

That is a general statement by the New York Times. The editorial then goes on to refer to the four headings mentioned above. Firstly, it refers to the moral way to prevent the nuclear war argument. It states:

Mr Reagan offered one noble rationale when he sprang 'star wars' in March 1983. He said he wanted to rise above the ugly reality of defending the United States by threatening the existence of all life on Earth. He was therefore ordering the preparation of a foreseeable missile defense that would make America and its allies invulnerable, eventually rendering all nuclear weapons useless and dispensable.

Debate interrupted.