Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2676

Senator TEAGUE(3.49) —`A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought'. These are words from the November 1985 summit meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev. These words are echoed in the very foundations of the report by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which has today been tabled in the Parliament. It is the view, which the report consolidates through the enormous amount of evidence we have been able to gather and evaluate, that a nuclear war cannot be won. The report is dedicated to the goal of ensuring that nuclear weapons will never be used and that there is peace and security not only for Australia and our region but throughout the world. These are wonderful concepts but they require concern on our part for foreign affairs and defence matters, enormous concentration on detail and a genuine sense of strategy and not just soft-headedness and warm-heartedness as we approach goals that we all seek to achieve-peace and security.

In this International Year of Peace we have this important bench mark put before the Parliament to which the 28 members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence have subscribed. As Senator Sibraa has said, I had the privilege of being Deputy Chairman of the sub-committee that carried out the inquiry and brought our draft report before the Committee. I join with him in thanking the Chairman, David Charles, a member of the House of Representatives, other members of the Committee and our staff for the effective way we went about the inquiry. It was a three-year inquiry. It required an enormous amount of concentration and goodwill on the part of all those concerned. There were days and days of evaluating together the material that had been submitted to us and that we had sought out.

The extent of the report has already been referred to and is manifest in the very large book before us here. There are 22 chapters in five parts, more than 700 pages and about 60 specific recommendations. Nevertheless, all this is summarised in a volume about one-tenth the size and can easily be handled by an Australian reader-it is pocket-sized. The 22 chapters deal comprehensively with disarmament and arms control in the nuclear age. The first part deals with the extent of nuclear weapons in the world and their deployment. It also deals with the deployment of and unfortunate trade in conventional weapons. It sets out clearly the extent of budget allocations in various countries for military programs and the acquisition of conventional and nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons account for less than 10 per cent of the military spending of the United States and the Soviet Union but that does not mean that they are a minor matter. We are concerned with not only nuclear weapons but also the full range of military capabilities. The report contains a chapter on the important and centuries old concept of deterrence which is analysed most carefully in terms of the development of that concept over the last 30 years. The second part deals with Australia's role in these matters and examines and evaluates our policies, including a criticism of Australia's current policies-not only those of this Government but also those of preceding governments.

The third part concentrates directly on some global issues of importance to Australia. There is a chapter on strategic defence-the strategic defence initiative program in particular-and on the importance of verification. There is also a chapter on the comprehensive test ban. The fourth part deals with regional issues, including the joint Australian-American facilities, particularly at North West Cape, Nurrungar and Pine Gap. Other regional issues dealt with concern the South Pacific, uranium and peace education and research.

The last four chapters conclude by looking at options before us and the world in strategic thinking and set out the Committee's conclusions on all the matters that I have tried to summarise. The basis of the report is that Australia has a contribution to make and we should act in concert with our ally, the United States, and in co-operation with the other nations of the world, including nuclear-armed nations-the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, China and France-and some so-called threshold states such as Israel, which do not publicly profess to have nuclear weapons but which have or are near to gaining a nuclear capability. We reject the notion that we should leave these important strategic matters that make for the security and peace of the world to those in the nuclear club. We assert most strongly from the very beginning that Australia has a constructive role to play. The contribution is evaluated so that we can give some guidelines on what we can and should be doing.

The focus of the report is on nuclear weapons. It is interesting to note that our conclusions and all the recommendations were formulated in the 12-month period between the two most recent summits when President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev met in Geneva in November 1984 and in Reykjavik in October last. In the interval between those two summit meetings the conclusions and recommendations of this report were formulated. It is important to note that we have given every constructive support to the 50 per cent cut in nuclear weapons that was foreshadowed and, in large, agreed to in principle by the President and the General Secretary at the summit meeting a year ago. We looked towards the benchmark proposals put down by President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev at Reykjavik on strategic inter-continental ballistic missiles-in particular on their complete elimination-and the importance of seeing significant reductions, aiming towards the elimination of intermediate nuclear weapons and the reassurances that would be necessary in terms of reductions in conventional military capacity to make that outcome feasible. Also of importance is the strategic defence initiative and, finally, the absolute importance of verification of all these matters on that agenda. In this report we welcome the progress that has been made in those important summit meetings but, nevertheless, we are impatient to see genuine action and results flowing from those discussions-not just more words.

In the few minutes remaining to me I note that the findings of the report are what I would describe as mainstream Australian conclusions. These findings are that the Australian-American alliance is of the utmost importance to Australia and that we must retain our link with our principle ally, the United States. ANZUS is essential to our defence and security. Also, the Australian-United States joint facilities, specifically at North West Cape, Nurrungar and Pine Gap, are of the utmost importance to the defence of Australia and our region and play a crucial role in verification and deterrence for the whole world. The report also accepts the importance of allied ship visits, whether nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed, and sees this as an important part of Australia playing its role within ANZUS and within the Western alliance and ensuring that that alliance is in place and that we contribute to deterrence. Deterrence, as it is currently understood, is the basis for ensuring peace in the current circumstances. There is a reiteration of the importance of deterrence. Amongst the other conclusions there is a consolidation of the view that Australia's uranium is required for the energy needs of the world and that its peaceful uses, and Australia's export of uranium for peaceful uses, should continue, with the safeguards that have been well established.

With regard to disarmament, as I have said, a mainstream conclusion of the report is that there must be action towards the goals of disarmament. There must be significant cuts in the number of nuclear weapons held by the nuclear nations, particularly the United States and the Soviet Union. But these cuts must be mutual and verifiable. This report endorses multilateral disarmament, not just by words, but by action. The report looks for disarmament in another area, that is-and it may be achievable in the short term-the complete elimination of chemical and biological weapons. The move in which Australia is currently so involved, to see a universal treaty to ban chemical and biological weapons, was very high on the agenda of the Committee in putting down this report. It is distinctive to Australia that all members of the Committee also call for a comprehensive nuclear test ban. Naturally, without any surprise, we also call for a strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that has served the world well for the last 15 years. We believe there should be even more signatories to it, and it should be seen to be actually followed, not only by the super-powers, but by all signatories. Of course, the Treaty is signed by Australia.

This report is meeting a particular need, that is, that there be a much higher profile in Australia, in debate, discussion and commitment by Australians, in regard to the goals of this report. There needs to be, in Australia, a better informed debate. The massive amount of material that is provided here will assist in that regard. Also, we need a more coherent Australian approach. There are criticisms in the report that the Australian Government-that is, the Hawke Labor Government-does not have coherence in the way in which it speaks about deterrence and the way in which its defence policies relate to the fundamental concept of deterrence. We call for more coherence. Similarly, there is a call for more coherence and more soundness in the way in which we go about education for peace, or peace research. In many areas we want not only a better informed debate in Australia, but also a more coherent outcome.

We are looking for actions, and not just words. A cynic could look at this 700-page report and say that it is adding 700 more pages of words. We could say that, I suppose, about any report and, indeed, all of our speeches in this place. But our sincere resolve is that this report, the debate and discussion that flow from it in Australia, and the inducements offered by Australia to nuclear-armed nations, will lead to the outcomes that we seek-that is, action in the short term to see the elimination of nuclear weapons in the world and the stable prevention of any use of nuclear weapons.

I conclude by saying that our resolve is to see Australia act realistically and effectively in this central area of disarmament and arms control, and to act effectively in regard to our own and the world's peace and security. To this end, some of the central steps that we have set out are the enactment soon of a complete ban on chemical and biological weapons, the enactment soon of a comprehensive nuclear test ban, and the achievement soon of the proposals that have been on the agenda of the summit meetings-that is, a 50 per cent reduction in the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and the Soviet Union as a first step towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. These achievements are all predicated on the basis that they are mutual, that is, multilateral, and that they are verifiable. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Leave is not granted as Senator Sanders wishes to speak.