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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 1016


Senator CROWLEY(6.30) —I rise to make some comments addressing an excellent paper, circulated by the Department of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), which states very succinctly and splendidly this Government's position on the question of peace and nuclear disarmament. It is particularly appropriate tonight because next Sunday is Palm Sunday, and I believe that in every capital city in this country-certainly in my State and in Victoria and New South Wales-there will be significant marches on that day to acknowledge the importance in which this community holds the question of peace and nuclear disarmament. I note too that today the Premier of Victoria, Mr John Cain, has alluded to the symbolic importance as well as the significance of the Palm Sunday rally in his State. I certainly hold the same view in regard to the rally in my State of South Australia. I wish to refer to a comment Mr Bill Hayden made last year in Moscow to the Soviet Foreign Minister, Mr Gromyko. He said:

The choice is no longer between peace and war but between peace and extinction. We must therefore learn to live together or we will surely die together.

I think we are changing our understanding of the nuclear age question throughout the world. The only safe world any of us would acknowledge is a world without nuclear weapons. However, debate seems to continue about the steps that we need to take to arrive at the state of a world free of nuclear weapons. The wide community concern about this issue is certainly exemplified by the Palm Sunday rallies that I commented about a moment or so ago. The question that people wonder about is: How can we arrive at a world free of nuclear arms? Certainly we are clear that the nuclear powers do not intend to disarm unilaterally. Sadly, we have to admit that there is no easy path to disarmament. The race towards nuclear arms and increasing nuclear arms seems at the moment to be a marathon, not a sprint. Arms continue to pile up in those countries that are building them and stockpiling them. The rest of the world, no matter how it protests, sometimes seems to face the conundrum of having no effective voice.

Fortunately, I am a member of an Australian Government that is taking its voice on this question into the international fora. We have to understand that even if Australia should unilaterally opt out of this dangerous and depressing state of affairs it would only be opting out of having any influence over this question. Even then, given the current understanding of the consequences of a nuclear war, we would not escape the consequences of such an event. As a consequent of that understanding, the Australian Government has set in train an arms control and disarmament program that addresses the issue and all its complexities in a way that is positive and practical. This program recognises and utilises three realities. Those realities are nuclear deterrence, the verification of arms control agreements and the existence of uranium in Australia. The Labor Government supports deterrence, exactly as the Palme Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues and the National Conference of United States Bishops do, as an interim step only toward the ultimate necessity of complete nuclear disarmament. While we move toward that step, we hold to the only process that is rationally available to the Australian Government to achieve that goal. It is quite clear, and the Government is unequivocal about it, that it wants nuclear weapons abolished altogether; but until we can achieve this, deterrence is the only mechanism which is holding these weapons apart.

It is the Australian Government's considered view that the joint Australian-United States defence facilities contribute to our defence because they provide early warning of developments that threaten our peace. They also provide, very importantly, verification of arms control agreements. These agreements will not work if either nuclear super-power is unsure of whether the other is cheating or whether it is even able to cheat. The importance of the verification cannot be overstated. Neither nuclear super-power currently accepts on-site inspection, so the only alternative left to the world, and left to us as part of that world, is through the national technical means of verification, such as the joint facilities we have in this country.

Australia is using its position as a major and responsible supplier of uranium to promote and defend the only effective arms control and disarmament program in existence; that is, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That Treaty is supported by the super-powers. Its principal aim is to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons. It is important to distinguish here between horizontal proliferation of weapons-that is, to those countries currently without them-versus vertical proliferation which is going on within the super-power countries. No matter what we say about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we have not yet been able to find ways of requiring the super-powers to reduce their increased arms supply. There are people who would argue that it would be better to abdicate from our position in the world, that it would be better to withhold the sale of our uranium and to take no part in the international debate on this very important question; that is, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its consequences. If Australia were to withhold its uranium supply, that Treaty would be weakened and so would the Treaty's safeguards system. As a consequence of that sort of step, this Government might, in fact, hand to the Opposition exactly what the Opposition claims it does not want; that is, the undermining of an effective arms control arrangement.

The Government can, I think, hold its head high in what it has achieved in this whole area in two years in office. It has taken the initiative in creating a nuclear free zone in the South Pacific. It has kept alive efforts to create a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean. It has taken the lead in pushing the super-powers towards a total ban on all forms of nuclear testing. It has proposed the establishment of a fully operational global seismic network to monitor a ban on nuclear testing and to upgrade our own seismic monitoring system. It has initiated action at the Geneva conference to prevent the arms race spreading into outer space. It has opposed French nuclear testing in the Pacific, including banning uranium sales to France as a protest against those tests. It is working actively for a freeze in the arms race and has urged on both the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics the need for deep cuts in nuclear arsenals. It has been deeply involved in negotiations for a treaty outlawing chemical weapons and it has made available to the United Nations expert help in investigating allegations of the use of chemical weapons. It has ratified the inhumane weapons conventions. Further, Australian Government participation in arms control and disarmament has been upgraded by, firstly, the appointment of our first ever Ambassador for Disarmament; secondly, the commitment of $2m for the establishment of a peace studies centre at the Australian National University and, thirdly, planning for the establishment of peace studies in school curriculums. Fourthly, the Government has established a senior disarmament adviser position and a peace and disarmament branch in the Department of Foreign Affairs and, fifthly, it has appointed Stella Cornelius to direct the Australian program for the International Year of Peace in 1986.

The foremost item on the Australian Government's agenda is the search for lasting peace through arms control and disarmament. The Government recognises that choices have to be made. Importantly, it recognises that those choices have to be made not in a moral vacuum but in an imperfect and dangerous world. The more passionately we pursue that task, the more crucial it is that we choose actions that are genuinely effective and do not become trapped, as others have, in rhetoric alone. I commend the Australian Government's support for peace and disarmament and the sympathy it has for the Palm Sunday rally.