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Monday, 1 December 1986
Page: 3106

Senator COLEMAN(9.46) —We hear some quite incredible statements from Opposition senators when the Government puts up legislation which may not meet with their approval. I was interested in some of the notes that I took down from Senator MacGibbon's speech. For instance, he said that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has a much larger naval capacity in the Pacific area than does the United States of America. He said that there is increasing involvement in the Pacific; first of all, there was a fishing agreement and that would lead to greater military involvement. I have to question from where he has got his facts, or are they once again just a load of rubbish that he has dreamed up?

The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill 1986 is, like all such agreements, a compromise in a sense. Some of the activities that the Bill will allow are, to my mind, serious problems in relation to nuclear proliferation, even to the spread of military power, but most of those issues have already been discussed by others and I do not really intend to debate them, I want to address the spirit of this Bill, not its compromise nature. I believe that any agreement to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons and associated military activities is based on the belief that there is a higher level of interaction between nations than armed might, which I suppose one might call it. The arms control agreements allow for international co-operation to replace basic nationalistic orientations and the good of all to replace the chauvinism of the few. This is one of those pieces of legislation.

The decision makers who have drawn up this legislation, like the decision makers who drew up the Treaty, inhabit the world of ideas just as much as they inhabit the world of material things. They sit down to discuss questions of arms control and national security. Senator MacGibbon told us that the talks are going on very well at the moment. He obviously has not been told that the talks between Mr Gorbachev and Mr Reagan broke down some weeks ago and are not expected to get back to that level again. If they do get back to that level, it will mean that this Treaty will substantiate the basic aim of those talks, which is what it is all about. There are enough nuclear weapons in the world to destroy the world something like five times over. Both of the super-powers-the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics-have enough nuclear materials to destroy all of the members of each others countries about 16 times over.

I think it is important that Australia plays a role in getting rid of, or assisting in getting rid of, nuclear weapons. If we go back to the early 1960s and look at the talks that President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev arranged, and if we look at the reasons behind the agreements that they reached, we must recognise that mostly they were because of the Cuban missile crisis. Both leaders admitted that it was because of that crisis that they became determined to make improvements in their personal relations. I would like to think that we have passed the point where it takes the threat of imminent nuclear war to effect meaningful arms control and disarmament agreements. I would like to think that we have a solid basis for future disarmament agreements. There is, for instance, the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the SALT treaties, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Most of these have been discussed either in full or in part by honourable senators opposite tonight. No one has said how successful they have been.

In regard to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty legislation that we are discussing tonight, obviously Senator Walters was unaware of it because she said we would be creating world history, or words to that effect--

Senator Giles —She has never heard of Tlatelolco.

Senator COLEMAN —She has never heard of the Latin American nuclear free zone treaty, even though it came into operation in 1967. I would have thought that, because she was so involved in what was happening during the war, she would have at least made herself aware of the fact that treaties are in operation and some of them are quite effective.

Senator Zakharov —She has never heard of the Antarctic Treaty either.

Senator COLEMAN —She has never heard of that one either. I would like to think that the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty would lead to other nuclear free zones. I can think of a number-the Indian Ocean zone of peace, which most people in the Labor Party in Western Australia have been looking at very considerably. There is the situation in central Europe-the Baltic-and, as I said, the Indian Ocean. So there is plenty of room for treaties to be brought into operation.

It is true that there are serious problems in relation to arms control treaties at present because verification is still an issue. I think that only the most rabidly anti-arms control people would admit that it will be quickly solved by technical developments, and nothing more. But perhaps what is more worrying is the rejection of the SALT guidelines by President Reagan only a matter of weeks ago, when he sat down to talk to Mr Gorbachev, and the accelerating threat to the ABM regime, if the star wars program really does get under way. I believe it is important that we support any nuclear free zone initiatives because they provide us with the opportunity of allowing people to see that we have control over brute force, and because they allow smaller nations to have a say in the big issues of nuclear arms. I think that honourable senators opposite who are voting against this Bill on party lines-or so they say-have not read the Bill in any great detail. They are unaware of the restrictions that will apply even after the Bill comes into operation. There is no option to arms control and disarmament in the nuclear age except by such agreements as the nuclear free zone treaty that we are now discussing. By passing this legislation we are, in effect, telling the nuclear powers that it is time to sit down and get on with the job of disarming, that we want them to take into account the feelings of the people of Australia, that we want them to give us notice that they intend going ahead with their undertakings as far as treaties are concerned, and that we want that action to come about fairly rapidly.

Senator Sanders gave notice of some amendments he intends moving at the Committee stage. As he has given me notice I will give him notice that it is not my intention to support those amendments purely and simply on the basis that his is endeavouring to threaten certain members of the Government. He is endeavouring to threaten me by saying that he will publicise the fact that I am not voting for his amendments. His amendments will mean that there will be an unnecessary date line put on this agreement. Because that is a condition I will not be supporting them. I doubt that anyone on this side of the Senate would be supporting them. I suggest to him that there was action he could have taken that would have made me feel obligated to support the amendments, but under the circumstances I will not be. I will be supporting the Government on the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill.