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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1428

Senator CROWLEY(3.24) —I would like to take this opportunity to say something about the comments of our Foreign Minister (Mr Hayden) on the report of the Australian delegation to the 1984 Session of the Conference on Disarmament. It is true, as Senator Chaney highlighted, that this is a somewhat depressing report. I take particular heart from the first part of Minister Hayden's paper where he addresses the issue of optimism in the face of all that gloom and lack of progress. He asks the question why the Government would set store in a process which has borne so very little in terms of results in recent years. He takes us through the history of the establishment of fora for multinational disarmament talks, getting under way in 1945 and 1946, and then increasing over the next 10 to 20 years to become a much more multinational representation. The discussions about disarmament were no longer the province of those countries possessing nuclear weapons but were also the concern of countries without nuclear weapons. The emergence of the expansion in the United Nations membership and the rise of the non-aligned movement in those discussions is to the Foreign Minister cause for optimism. He urges us in his report to take heart from the same perception as he has. He says that this reflects that in the United Nations not only are there more seats on chairs which are concerned about disarmament but also that there is a growing perception that disarmament and arms control have to be matters of concern. This is so not only for the nuclear weapons states but also for the non-nuclear weapons states, precisely because nuclear war threatens the existence of life on this planet. It is not as though those with the bombs can throw them at each other and not harm the rest of us. Nuclear war has the potential of wiping out this world.

Secondly, he takes heart from the fact that those discussions continue, albeit in a very non-productive way to this point. Topics have been raised and are simmering on a back boiler agenda. Importantly, over the last couple of years we have seen the importance Australia sets by these talks, the importance it sets by its representation and presence at the talks and by its increasing participation and contribution to those talks. It is no longer the situation that Australia is interested only in seeing what others do. Australia is a very important part of those non-nuclear weapons states which are trying to push the discussion about such things as biological weapons control, environmental modification control, the whole chemical warfare consideration, onto the agenda so that they have to be addressed. One point of gloom is that no matter what the non-nuclear weapons states might agree-there are a number of countries, including Australia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, Japan and Poland which are particularly interested in looking at negotiations for a chemical weapons convention-no matter what they might be able to prepare, ultimately the approval or support of the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is critical for the ongoing discussions and also for the implementation and establishment of any treaty agreements that emerge.

Perhaps it is a burden for our Foreign Minister to remain optimistic in the face of a fair amount of reason for being gloomy. However, his report leaves me with a sense of optimism, or at least with the sense that things are happening. Even in the 1984 report, where very little concrete resolution emerged from the discussions, at least there are agenda items that will be taken up in 1985. Our Foreign Minister urges us to acknowledge that those things are occuring to maintain our awareness of them, to acknowledge their importance, and to acknowledge discussion at this international level and Australia's participation in such discussion is cause for optimism. To pick up a point Senator Chaney made, it acknowledges the importance of Australia in the world; that is, the importance of nuclear deterrents and the controlling of nuclear wars in that way, not unilaterally.