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Monday, 1 December 1986
Page: 3091

Senator CHILDS(8.15) —We are debating the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill 1986 and the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment Bill 1986. In the brief time I have to speak-I must speak briefly because it is very important to the Government that this legislation be passed tonight-I would like to make a few points about the development of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. Australia first raised the matter of a nuclear free zone in the South Pacific at the South Pacific Forum in Canberra in 1983. The broad outlines of the Treaty were discussed in the 1984 Forum meeting in Tuvalu and the Treaty was finally presented to the heads of government of the Forum members at the Rarotonga meeting in 1985. It is significant that the Treaty has been developed at all, let alone in such a relatively short period. It is yet another sign that, even with difficulty and reservations, agreements on arms control and nuclear matters can be reached. Such is the case with the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty.

I have looked closely at the amendment proposed by the Australian Democrats and find that I cannot support it because it seeks to make the passage of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill conditional. The second amendment states:

Sections 1 to 7 (inclusive) shall come into operation on the day on which the Customs Amendment (Prohibition of the Exportation of Uranium to France) Act 1986 comes into operation.

I find that condition which the Democrats are placing on the legislation puts me in a position in which, although I personally strongly believe that Australian uranium should not be exported to France until such time as France ceases to test nuclear weapons-that is the platform of the Australian Labor Party and I strongly support it--

Senator Sanders —Then why don't you support the amendment?

Senator CHILDS —It is because the Democrats, as usual, have been just too monkey cunning. As Senator Siddons pointed out recently, being too opportunistic puts one in a position in which one mixes up two concepts. I belong to a party that strongly believes that this Treaty should be endorsed. At our national conference in Hobart we urged countries in this area of the world to sign the Treaty. However, I am critical of the Government because I believe that the decision to sell uranium to France was a mistake; it was a major error. It was the most insensitive and stupid decision that this Government has made since it came to power.

A great deal of the good will of an Australian community that is universally opposed to French nuclear tests has been lost because of the Government's decision. However, I believe that the Government can learn from its decision. The Government should escalate actions of retaliation against France should it seek to test further nuclear weapons. I believe this very strongly. It is a view held within the Labor movement, held very strongly within the peace movement and held by many members of the Government. I feel certain that the Government, when it considers the overall position that we face in Australia at the present moment, will see the need to move in this direction. I share with, I think, all members of parliament an abhorrence of the arrogance of the French Government that continues to test nuclear weapons in this part of the world yet dares not test them in mainland France. I think that in the light of that arrogance we have come to the position where we should say: `No more'.

However, I do want to refer to the Treaty itself. It is, of course, the three protocols annexed to the Treaty, which restrict the activities of the nuclear weapons states, that are particularly significant. Protocol I is open to those states with territories in the region; they are, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Protocol I relates to the prohibition of manufacture, stationing and testing of nuclear devices on those territories. Protocol II is open to all the nuclear weapons powers. It relates to the prohibition of the use or the threat of use of nuclear devices against another state within the region. Protocol III relates to the prohibition of the testing of nuclear devices within the region. The 1985 Forum meeting also asked for the inclusion of a withdrawal clause of three months, which is somewhat shorter than the withdrawal time needed for other treaties.

The Treaty is certainly worth Australia's signature. Even with the reservations which some governments and some commentators outlined, it is a step in the right direction, especially when very little else is happening. That has been demonstrated, unfortunately, in the last couple of months by the failure of the super-powers to make progress. There have been no concrete disarmament initiatives from the super-powers in recent times. The Treaty should not be ignored simply because some of those commentators do not think its terms go far enough. This is an important point, because many people are critical of the Treaty. They do not see the significance, the qualitative change, that this first step makes in this region of the world. Indeed, this Treaty becomes an example to other parts of the world for them to try to come together in a similar way to the way in which the countries in this area of the world have come together. I believe that the crux of the problem that we face in the South Pacific is not necessarily the terms of the Treaty, but the willingness of those states involved to abide by the spirit of the Treaty. It is only concerted international pressure, with the formal backing of the Treaty, which will stop nuclear activity in the South Pacific, or anywhere else for that matter.

I would just like to say that I think that some of the advantages of the Treaty can be summarised as follows: The Treaty promotes regional solidarity; the Treaty is a step towards world disarmament; the Treaty prevents the stationing and acquisition of nuclear weapons in this part of the world; it prevents the threat or use of nuclear weapons; it prevents the use of nuclear devices; its protocols still allow for the sovereignty of the member states; most importantly, as I said earlier, it will put pressure on France to stop nuclear testing in the Pacific; I believe that it will also have the effect of minimising the rivalry between the two super-powers in this part of the world-although it is only a small part of the world in terms of the number of people, it is nevertheless a significant development which, of course, links up with other nuclear free treaties that now touch this part of the world, such as the Antarctic Treaty and the treaty covering South America, to extend gradually the area of the world that has begun the process of becoming nuclear free; finally, I believe that the Treaty will have the effect of fostering stability in one part of the world and I think this has to be the way the world goes if it is to have stability. Countries in the various areas of the world will have to come together and agree to minimise the danger of confront- ation. To that extent, I believe the Treaty is a very effective and important step in the direction of world peace.