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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1427


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(3.18) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This report of the Australian Delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in 1984 is a rather gloomy document and reports the comparative lack of progress during the calendar year 1984. I quote from the conclusions of the report:

As the outcome of the 1984 Session showed, however, the scope for the Conference to make substantive progress on the important matters on its agenda is determined by the general state of the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union.

A little later it is stated:

The prospects for making progress in 1985 may not be any brighter than they have been this year. The Conference will, once again, be subject to the state of the superpower relationship.

It is, of course, disturbing for all people who are concerned with the issue of disarmament to read this report and to note some of the facts of life which face Australia in the international field when it pursues the goal of disarmament. In order to illustrate the comments which I will make later, I particularly draw the attention of the Senate to a paragraph on page 5 of the report which talks about the attitude adopted by the Soviet Union and its allies during the negotiations. The report states:

The inflexibility of the Socialist countries on the mandate questions contributed to the inability of the Conference to embark on substantive work on some of the important nuclear items. Despite their protestations of wanting to see progress made, the Socialist countries appeared to attach primary importance to engaging in polemics and in blaming the West for the state of the Conference.

There is some comfort in the accompanying statement which has been tabled and which was laid down in the House of Representatives when last we sat. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) reported in that statement that there is some cause for hope in 1985 that there will be some movement in the multilateral disarmament process. In his statement, Mr Hayden again emphasises the fact, and I quote his words:

Despite the evolution of the multilateral disarmament process, the influence and attitudes of the United States and the Soviet Union remain of crucial importance.

A little later in the statement there are some other words of Mr Hayden which I think are important. He said:

We believe the conference can, without prejudice to any country's position, take substantive steps towards a comprehensive test ban treaty by giving detailed consideration to the key issues of scope, verification and compliance and to the establishment and operation of a global seismic monitoring network to verify a comprehensive test ban treaty once it comes into being.

It is important to note the concern about the key issues such as verification and compliance which are, I think, too easily forgotten in some of the debate which takes place on disarmament.

In the few minutes which I have available to me I wanted to draw the Senate's attention to the fact that there is a temptation in this debate to fudge over the fundamental differences which separate those who engage in the debate on disarmament. The fundamental difference does not lie in the desire for peace or the desire for disarmament. The fundamental difference lies in the attitude of some who would pursue that course by supporting unilateral disarmament and those who believe that we must in fact pursue peace and disarmament by maintaining the Western alliance to balance the Soviet Union and its allies and, within that balancing arrangement, pursue multilateral staged mutual and verified disarmament. If we could get an honest appreciation of that difference into the debate, I believe that the cause of peace would be well served and certainly we would get a better quality of debate in Australia.

I notice that there have been recent Press reports of statements by Senator-elect Jo Vallentine and Senator Colin Mason of the Australian Democrats which suggest that both of them are anxious to distance themselves from the allegation that they might be unilateralist. Senator Mason was quoted in the Western Australian paper, the Sunday Times, as saying that he is definitely not a unilateralist and has no sympathy for such a political dogma. He might, when he contributes to the debate, tell us whether that is an accurate quote. He also said that he believed Senator-elect Jo Vallentine was a multilateralist and that he and his colleagues hoped that she would emulate the example of other members of the Nuclear Disarmament Party by joining the Australian Democrats. Senator-elect Vallentine is also quoted as saying that 'being a unilateralist does not make sense because we don't just want one side disarming'. The important thing, I think, in the debate which we will no doubt be having during this session and at later times is for the Australian Democrats and ultimately Senator-elect Jo Vallentine when she becomes Senator Vallentine, to spell out just how they propose to convert themselves into being the proponents of multilateral disarmament. The reality is that Senator-elect Vallentine campaigned on the policy of the closure of United States bases and the stopping of visits by United States ships.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The Leader of the Opposition's time has expired.