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Tuesday, 14 May 1985
Page: 1875


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. My question refers to the development of anti-ballistic missile systems, including non-nuclear methods such as high energy laser and particle beams. I refer to the Hawke Government's refusal to help in the development of research into the strategic defence initiative system on the main ground that such United States research would destabilise the deterrent and increase the arms race. Since it is clearly established that the Soviet Union has already made great advances in both research and development in this field, including actual installations, why does the Government not see the Soviet actions as already creating major destabilisation of the deterrent and giving that super-power the opportunity and incentive to undertake a first strike in the knowledge that the United States of America would lack similar defensive capacity? Why are the Government's strictures directed only against the United States of America?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I think honourable senators would be well aware that this Government has never engaged in selective indignation when it comes to the behaviour of the super-powers on arms race matters. To the extent that it is or can be, as Senator Sir John Carrick says, 'clearly established' that research of this kind, which is directly and immediately applicable to an SDI kind of concept, is taking place in the Soviet Union, that is obviously something which we must very much take into account in making our judgment, as must the United States, on what kind of response is appropriate and what kind of strategic further development is appropriate. All I can say in that respect is that the whole history of the arms race since the Second World War has been littered by claims by one or other of the super-powers that the other side is stealing some kind of a march, and that, in turn, has led to rapid and often wildly excessive escalation of the arms race by the side so responding. I think it is a matter not for quick, emotional response, but for very cool and rational calculation as to what kind of credibility should be attached to these reports and what kind of strategic response is appropriate in reaction to them.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Am I to understand that the Minister and his Government are not certain whether the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has developed very extensively over some years now this kind of SDI situation? For example, are they not aware of the large radar system situated outside Moscow and the potential defence systems? Is the Minister saying that he is unable to give credibility to this situation?


Senator GARETH EVANS —Of course, we are aware, as the United States is aware, of the development and deployment of certain defensive systems. We can make guesses about the kind of further research that is going on in defensive matters to the extent that we do not know. I will refer Senator Sir John Carrick's question to the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to see what further information they might care to supply.