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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1214

Senator ELSTOB —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As the Australian Government has indicated to the United States Government that it will not participate in the Strategic Defence Initiative research program, is the Minister able to confirm whether Australia will, in any case, receive ongoing information on the program? Does the Australian Government consider it necessary to monitor the strategic defence initiative program in order to maintain and streamline Australia's disarmament policies?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Government has said on a number of occasions that it does not endorse the United States Administration's strategic defence initiative, or SDI. There are a number of reasons for that. They have been spelt out by, among others, myself in this place in an answer on 21 March, when I pointed to the Government's view that the SDI program would, far from being a saviour to the world so far as the avoidance of nuclear war was concerned, be likely by its very nature to contribute substantially to a destabilisation of the present nuclear environment. The arguments were more fully set out by me on that occasion and in particular in the booklet circulated last year by Mr Hayden entitled 'Uranium: Joint Facilities and Disarmament and Peace'. I believe that the rationale for our position is well-established and clearly articulated.

The Government has not yet responded to Secretary Weinberger's invitation to express interest in participation in the SDI research program but will reply in due course. The Government has every confidence that the United States Administration will continue to keep Australia informed of United States initiatives in this area. The strategic defence initiative and the comparable Soviet weapons research program have fundamental implications for the nature of deterrence and thus for the strategic balance between the super-powers.

As Senator Elstob's question suggests, these matters are of enormous importance to Australia's security, including our disarmament policies. For these reasons the Senate can be very confident that the Government will continue to monitor closely all relevant developments in this area.