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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2887


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(3.25) —If, indeed, the Minister says that his policy is rational, no doubt he would do with uranium what is done with every other commercial export from Australia-that is, he would allow commerce and industry, the private sector, to go out in the world and test whether there is a market. The mining industry could set up a committee to go around the world to try to find markets and, if it is successful, to come back and tell the Government. I ask the Minister: Why is the Government determining that it is the authority that decides what the world market for uranium is? Why is it that the Government singles out uranium but yet allows private industry to go abroad and find markets in respect of all other commodities, be they coal, wheat, wool or meat? I ask specifically whether the Government will allow private industry to go in search of the market. Will it heed what in fact the industry says?

Secondly, the Minister has now said that maybe in future the Government will allow enrichment to take place. The Minister must know that we are now at a critical stage because what the Japanese market does and where it goes for enrichment will decide whether or not for the long term future Australia will have an enrichment industry. So it is not a question of saying: `We might have it in the future'. We now notice a retreat in ideology. The point made about enrichment was wrong. If we look at the second reading speech of legislation that is still before this Parliament we will see that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission will not in future even study enrichment and the centrifuge plant is to be closed down. So how can the Minister get up here now and say something quite in contradiction to what he said before? Quite clearly from what has been said before, enrichment is out-it has been opposed in the second reading speech of the legislation that is before us. But now the Minister says: `Maybe we will get around to it some time'. I put it to the Minister: Is there not a great possibility of Australia entering the market and is it not a fact that the Uranium Enrichment Group of Australia, UEGA, said that it could almost certainly arrange a co-partnership with Urenco if it could get the Japanese market to come in? Indeed, is it not a fact that the Japanese are looking elsewhere for enrichment and even setting up their own plans? Is it not, therefore, a critical time? So, I ask two questions: Will the Government allow commerce to find markets overseas? Is it not a fact that this is a critical time for determination on enrichment?