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Monday, 1 December 1986
Page: 3092


Senator SANDERS(8.25) —I have sat here and listened to Senator Sir John Carrick's remarks on the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill and allied Bill and he has repeated his theme over and over again-he only has one speech-and that is that somehow nuclear power is good for you and, by inference, nuclear weapons are good for you. His view is that we must maintain a balance of terror and of mutually assured destruction. He believes that nuclear non-proliferation treaties are the only way, this is the way we should be going-not signing treaties for nuclear free zones. Under Sir John's enthusiastic non-proliferation regime we now have 50,000 nuclear weapons in this world-50,000! What good has the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons been? We are on the verge of a nuclear war. All the scientists in the world who worked on the original atomic bombs are worried about a nuclear war, and this has come about with Sir John's favourite Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He says that it is the only way. It is the way to destruction. People who do not wish to sign the Treaty happily build nuclear weapons. People who do sign it happily build nuclear weapons. It has not stopped the flow of nuclear weapons at all.

Sir John says: `Well, look what happened at Chernobyl. Look at all the nuclear free zones in Europe that the radiation drifted over'. He neglects one important fact-if Chernobyl itself had been in a nuclear free zone there would not have been a reactor there; there would not have been any radiation leak at all. What we should do is to make the entire world a nuclear free zone. He also said that there were no nuclear weapon states in the South Pacific and therefore the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty is not worthy of signing. He went on to say that, if we did sign it, it would somehow limit the passage of nuclear weapon armed ships in the United States Navy. He cannot have it both ways. In fact he pointed out, rightly, that this is a nuclear zone insofar as the weapons of the United States, British and French navies are carried into it.

Sir John is correct in one way: This is not a nuclear weapons free zone about which we are talking tonight. There is only one prohibition involving the deployment of nuclear weapons, and that is the ban on stationing them on land. That is highly desirable, it is great, but it does not affect the nuclear weapons activities which are now happening-the movement of nuclear weapons through our region on ships and aircraft. We see over and over again in our harbours the presence of nuclear armed and powered ships. The Treaty has breathtaking double standards. It allows the firing of nuclear weapons to be ordered from bases in countries within the zone, that is North West Cape, yet it has a protocol that commits the nuclear weapon states not to use nuclear weapons against these countries. North West Cape could be used to order a first strike against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and yet we would expect the USSR to agree not to use nuclear weapons to destroy North West Cape.

The other nuclear activities which the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty prohibits are the dumping of nuclear wastes at sea and underground testing of nuclear explosive devices. The main effect of both prohibitions is to free the South Pacific of nuclear pollution, which of course is a desirable goal, but the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty fails to meet any of the key objectives of a nuclear weapons free zone. It does not ban the United States, or indeed the Russians, from deploying nuclear weapons in one region. It does not provide a useful model for zones elsewhere in the Pacific, and puts no pressure on the super-powers to disarm because it is too weak to be taken seriously. After the Treaty was first brought up there was an article in the Australian newspapers to the effect that the United States Government was saying: `We view with relief the fact that the Treaty is as weak as we were told it would be by the Australian Government'. It is a weak Treaty and and should be strengthened.

The use of the term `nuclear free zone' to describe this Treaty is a deliberate attempt to convince the public of the Labor Government's sincere desire for nuclear disarmament, while allowing United States plans for the nuclearisation of our region to proceed unchecked. It is an attempt to hide our nuclear bondage beneath an embarrassingly thin veneer of independence. It has been left to smaller, more vulnerable nations to expose the inadequacies of the Treaty-Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have all said that the Treaty does not go far enough. In fact, Papua New Guinea may not ratify it, while the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have not signed. In banning nuclear warship visits despite United States pressure, New Zealand has shown by its actions that the Treaty is a pathetically small step. We could and should go much further. We should follow in New Zealand's footsteps. Australia, as the principal architect of the Treaty and the most powerful nation in the South Pacific Forum, is responsible for a dangerous charade.

Australians should not be lulled into a false sense of security by the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. It does nothing to end our involvement in United States plans for global war. It will not alter our status as a prime nuclear target because that status depends on the presence of the United States bases and United States nuclear armed and powered ships in our harbours. The Treaty will ban only one nuclear activity that is presently occurring in the zone-the testing of nuclear weapons by France at Mururoa. Yet that is the activity to which Australia has just given moral assent by resuming uranium sales to France. It is no wonder that the Forum states and the Australian public consider the Hawke Government's action to be a sell-out.

What of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill? My advice is that only Part IV, which provides for inspections within Australia at the request of foreign nations, is actually required for ratification. It is, in fact, the Government's response to the Australian Democrats Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Bill which the Government and Opposition combined to defeat last year. That Bill would have prevented the stationing of nuclear weapons on Australian soil. Part II of this Bill prohibits the stationing of nuclear weapons on Australian soil, as did our Bill. However, all similarities end there. Our Bill was part of a package of measures. Other legislation in this package prevented the passage of nuclear weapons through Australian waters or air space. This Bill specifically allows those activities to take place. Australians are aware that nuclear weapons enter our ports on British and United States ships. Recently the USS Missouri carried Tomahawk cruise missiles into Sydney Harbour. The tomahawk is the most dangerous weapon ever to enter an Australian port. It is well known that the Government supports visits by nuclear armed warships so it is not surprising that this Bill specifically provides for them. What is surprising and disturbing is that the Bill specifically allows aircraft to carry nuclear weapons through Australian airspace and on to Australian airfields. Both the Fraser and Hawke governments have stressed that the B52 bombers visiting Darwin are unarmed and carry no bombs. This Bill makes it clear that the Government expects that nuclear weapons will be brought into Australia on aircraft in some circumstances. The Australian public and the Parliament must be told of these circumstances as a matter of urgency. It is untenable to make provisions for such visits without public debate.

The Bill also makes explicit provision for the issue of firing orders for nuclear weapons from North West Cape by allowing control over nuclear weapons to be exercised from Australia. This means that North West Cape can be used for the issuing of nuclear first strike orders to US submarines deployed in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans. This is in direct conflict with Labor Party policy. In summary, the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty and this Bill are far more notable for the nuclear activities they permit than those they prohibit. The Bill provides a legislative framework for unfettered involvement by Australia in the United States nuclear weapons system, short of actually stationing nuclear weapons on our soil. The Australian Democrats are opposed to any Australian involvement in the nuclear weapons system of any nation. We are opposed to the nuclear activities which this Bill provides for. However, we seek to remedy only one of these gross deficiencies with an amendment to ban uranium sales to France until the Mururoa tests cease. The amendment will prevent--


Senator McIntosh —That means that you are in favour of sales elsewhere.


Senator SANDERS —Senator McIntosh interjects, but it is his Party's policy. I am quoting his policy to him. If he does not like his own Party's policies he will have a chance to vote on them very shortly. The amendment will prevent this Bill from coming into force until our Customs Amendment (Prohibition of the Export- ation of Uranium to France) Bill comes into force.


Senator McIntosh —You are being hypocritical!


Senator SANDERS —Listen to honourable senators opposite squawk. When I bring up their own policies and read their own policies to them about not exporting uranium to France, we then see this reaction. It is time for Labor senators to show their guts. They should stand up and say something. They will not cross the floor on this matter, of course they will not. We will see what happens. They will show the entire Australian public how serious those senators in the progressive wing of the Labor Party really are when it comes to the vote on my amendment. That will be the litmus test and I hope that they pass it. We are offering Labor senators the opportunity to vote for their own Party's policy. We hope that this move will significantly strengthen the Treaty which this Bill ratifies. If they do not take this opportunity, they will be signalling the fact that the Labor Party can offer nothing concrete to the nuclear disarmament movement in this country. The amendment specifically states:

. . . whereas it is the intention of the Parliament to give effect--


Senator Peter Baume —We have seen you people vote against your own amendments.


Senator SANDERS —Listen to them bleat.


Senator Coleman —You are moving it now, are you?


Senator SANDERS —No. This is what it says:

. . . will refuse to allow the supply of Australian uranium to France until France ceases testing nuclear weapons in the South Pacific region.

Where have we heard those words before? Those words are out of the Australian Labor Party platform resolutions and rules as approved by the 37th national conference in Hobart in 1986-a very recent document indeed. Before the ink was dry on these policies the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) of this country said: `Look, we want to make a lot of money. We do not care about our ideological purity. We do not care about the promises we made to the people. We do not care about our Party policy. We are going to flog uranium to the French as fast as we can.' He used a hubris not seen since Nixon's time, hubris being excessive arrogance or pride. The members of the Government are put in the very untenable position of having to support that hubris and support that policy, and I grieve for them. The fact is that they are going to have to put up or shut up. The hubris of Hawke is matched only by that of the French. France, we know, is the world's most irresponsible nuclear nation. The French have been testing their bombs at Mururoa, first in the atmosphere and now underground. They say that there is no damage being done and there is no leakage, but the authorities who actually live in Tahiti, such as Bengt Danielsson, say there is massive leakage and damage not only to the Mururoa Atoll itself, but also to the whole Polynesian way of life. We have also seen the French irresponsibly blow up a ship in a New Zealand harbour. These are the people to whom the Hawke Government is happily shipping uranium as fast as it can.

Another thing that France-this country which has won new-found favour with the Hawke Government-is apparently interested in doing is to actually start testing in the Kerguelen Islands. These are to the south-west of Australia and their position will strengthen the argument against testing because any radiation leak from there will be caught in the south-westerly winds and end up in Australia, first Perth and then across the country. We have recently discovered that the French have been sending up balloons to test the wind direction in the upper atmosphere at 33,000 feet. Balloons have been sighted above Australia and New Zealand. So here are the French, our friends, the Hawke Government's friends, getting set for more nuclear testing, probably using Australian uranium, in the Kerguelen Islands.

What is happening with the Australian Government's uranium policy? With the approval of the sales to France, in spite of the opposition of many of the members of the Labor Party, it looks as if it will be stepping up the shipment of uranium. A document was recently leaked, from BP Australia, over the signature of Bob Ritchie, who is in the strategy development department. Under the heading `Minerals-Major Issues, Olympic Dam Uranium Sales', it states:

With an estimated start-up date of October 1988, efforts are continuing to negotiate sales with Taiwan and France. We have approached the Department of Trade for their approval to commence negotiations with both these countries.

The main issues are-

this is BP Australia talking-

We will need an intermediary to sell to Taiwan because it is not a formal member of the Non-Proliferation Agreement. A proposal on how we intend proceeding with this customer is awaiting approval by the Federal Government.

So that company is expecting the Federal Government to approve a way around Senator Sir John Carrick's famous Non-Proliferation Treaty. The letter continues:

Olympic Dam Marketing has approached the Department of Trade for approval to negotiate sales with France.

To the credit of the Premier of South Australia, the letter states:

The Premier of South Australia, John Bannon, has restated his opposition to uranium sales to France and this issue will need to be negotiated with Bannon separately should sales appear likely. If sales are negotiated, there will also be a re-opening of the public debate within the ALP and in the community on the issue.

You bet it will be! It also states:

The decision to withdraw the ban on uranium sales to France is almost definitely a forerunner to a general freeing up of current restrictions on the number of uranium mines allowed to export. Main pressure is from Pancontinental. This debate should hot up in 1987 with an announcement likely during 1987.

This is from BP Australia; it knows what it is talking about. It is saying that the Hawke Government is getting ready to open the floodgates on uranium. In fact, in this very chamber we had a hint of that on 20 August 1986. I asked a supplementary question of Senator Gareth Evans about the policy of shipping uranium to France and its ramifications. I said:

The Minister mentioned that he hoped that Australia would soon have 25 per cent of the French uranium market. I ask: Have we signed any new contracts for uranium supply to France, other than the existing contracts which we all know about?

Senator Evans replied:

I simply make the point, and was making the point, in the context of the market for all practical purposes now being opened, that it is therefore possible for Roxby Downs and new supplier-

I repeat, `Roxby Downs and new suppliers'-

coming on to the market to now actively pursue the French market in a way that was not possible during the currency of this policy.

What he was talking about was opening the floodgates, with open slather on the shipping of uranium to France. What about uranium in France? How does it get there and what happens when it gets there? It turns out that we are already supporting the French nuclear weapons industry through our shipment of uranium overseas. It should be kept in the ground. But it is shipped overseas. It is shipped, nominally, to Finland. It has its end use in Finland, but it does not go directly to Finland. First of all it goes to France. It is shipped from Australia to France as yellowcake. The French break it down into uranium hexafluoride and ship it to the Soviet Union for enrichment, where it joins the total pool of uranium. It is a book entry. Our uranium goes to the Soviet Union, disappears into an enrichment plant, and we get out a certain amount of uranium-which is probably mostly Russian; it has to be mostly Russian on the statistics-which is then sent to Western Europe for processing into fuel rods, and ultimately it ends up in Finland. That is uranium 235. But what about the tails, the residue? It gets shipped back-guess where?-to France. The uranium 238 gets shipped back to France. We have shipped 159,000 kilograms to France. What is it used for? It is used as blankets in fast breeder reactors for the production of plutonium.

France has already admitted that it depends on its fast breeder reactors for the production of its nuclear weapons arsenal. It plans to build 600 more nuclear weapons in the next 10 years. Amazingly enough, the fast breeder reactors can produce 60 weapons a year. Sixty times 10 is 600. So the Superphenix reactor in France will be used to produce nuclear weapons. Already our tails are there. But there is yet another route by which Australian uranium goes to France. It is through a contract with the West German firm RWE. I am sure that this is no surprise to the Government or anybody in the Government, but it may be a surprise to the people of Australia. The West German firm RWE has an 11 per cent interest in the Superphenix and a commitment to provide 11 per cent of the plutonium for the initial fuel assembly and uranium for the outer blanket for plutonium production. This is from Energy Resources of Australia.

The Government claims that the Superphenix fast breeder is safeguarded, thus preventing military use of the plutonium. But at no stage has the Government categorically said that France cannot use tails from Australian uranium for plutonium production in its fast breeders. It has said only that this has not been the case so far, to the best of its knowledge. To the best of its knowledge, it cannot guarantee that this material has not already been used for the French weapons that have been tested in the Pacific, at Mururoa. France is not even a signatory to the NPT which, weak as it is, still delights the heart of Senator Sir John Carrick. In any case, it does not prevent existing nuclear weapons states from using civilian plutonium for bombs. It is only the non-nuclear weapons states that are thus restricted. Acceptance of safeguards by nuclear weapons states is voluntary only.

France accepts what is called the `proportionality principle', not the contamination principle in safeguards agreements. This is important. This means that if, say, 10 per cent of the U238 fuel blanket in the Superphenix is Australian and we have stipulated that it cannot be used for weapons, France will simply set aside 10 per cent of the reprocessed plutonium 239 and use the remainder for bombs. The same thing happens if we send it uranium which may not be used in its Superphenix. It will liberate its own uranium, or uranium from other sources, for bombs. To say that we are not participating in its bomb effort is simply misguiding the public. So ERA is supplying uranium to a company which is assisting the French bomb program, so the contract should be stopped. The only way to ensure that our uranium tailings do not get into bombs is to bring them back home. France's intentions regarding the Superphenix are in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Article 6, committing nuclear weapons states to disarmament, and the spirit of our bilateral safeguards agreements, weak though they are. Under the terms of those agreements, the stuff should be returned to us and we should ship no more to France. No more uranium should be shipped to France. No more uranium should be shipped anywhere. Uranium should be left in the ground.

Senator Childs brought up the issue of the Bill to which the amendment refers, the Customs Amendment (Prohibition of the Exportation of Uranium to France) Bill 1986. That Bill could be passed at any time-it could be passed right after this one-if the Government were willing to grasp the nettle and obey its own policies, the policies put forward by the sincere, thoughtful people in the Australian Labor Party. All the Government has to do is pass the amendments and pass the Bill. Then the Government can hold its head high when it faces its constituents, its members and the electorate. It would give the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty some teeth. It was not and is not a useless gesture to avoid selling uranium to France, any more than it was a useless gesture for the New Zealand Government to ban nuclear powered and armed ships in New Zealand. These gestures are noted; they are seen around the world. If it was useless gesture, why were the uranium companies so eager to get rid of it, to start mining and selling uranium to France? It was not a useless gesture. It should be put in place.

I call upon the concerned members of the ALP in the Senate-there are many; I know their goals and aspirations, and I applaud them- to come out from the protective shell of-Senate party loyalty or parliamentary party loyalty and join me and the rest of the people in the country who are concerned about the nuclear issue and cross the floor to support their own policies on the shipment of uranium to France. If they fail to do so, if they do not support these policies, I am afraid that they will have let down the people of this country who voted for them in the first place.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bjelke-Petersen) —I remind honourable senators that the main Bill we are debating is the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill 1986. I thought Senator Sanders got away from it a little bit.