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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1791


Senator ELSTOB —Can the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs clarify the present international disarmament situation whereby a great deal of attention seems to be directed towards the super-powers and very little to those countries regarded as significant threats to peace? Is the Government satisfied that enough attention is being paid to the potential misuse of nuclear power by technologically less sophisticated countries?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I think we all acknowledge that the threat of nuclear war is a threat to the existence of humanity. International efforts to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war are directed towards two separate but related goals. The first is the reduction of existing nuclear weapons stockpiles and hopefully their ultimate elimination and the second is the halting of the spread of nuclear weapons to those countries that do not already possess them. As to the first objective, it is widely accepted by the international community and by the super-powers that, in view of the overwhelming preponderance of their nuclear arsenals, the super-powers should lead the way in nuclear disarmament, although not without, of course, a continuing multilateral role for exercises such as the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. As to the second objective, the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the most widely adhered to arms control treaty in existence, is the cornerstone of international efforts directed towards halting the spread of nuclear weapons. So many NPT partners, including Australia, have made substantial efforts over the years to bring about universal adherence to that Treaty. It is not correct to say that very little attention is paid to potential proliferators. The very visit of Mr Hayden to India and Pakistan at the moment is testimony to Australia's efforts in this respect.

As to the second half of Senator Elstob's question about our being satisfied as to whether enough attention is being paid to the potential misuse of nuclear power by less technologically sophisticated countries, the answer is clearly yes. It needs to be underlined that most countries have seen it as in their interests to set their nuclear industries firmly in a non-proliferation context through adherence to the NPT. Adherence to it provides significant security benefits and facilitates nuclear trade and co-operation. It is the case, however, that some countries with significant nuclear industries, including the Indian sub-continent, remain outside the NPT, and we have been making strenuous attempts, in conjunction with many other countries, to now bring them within that umbrella.

I add finally that in preparation for the September 1985 third review conference of the NPT, the Government has intensified its efforts to bring membership as close as possible to universality. Our support for the treaty and for the effectiveness of the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards established under it is very evident in terms of the efforts of this Government. Once again, I refer to Mr Hayden's current discussions in India and Pakistan as evidence of our good intent and enthusiasm in this respect.