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Tuesday, 2 December 1986
Page: 3167


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(4.29) —One cannot help but be drawn to the conclusion that these amendments by the Australian Democrats, which call for the cessation of the export of uranium to France so long as it continues to test in the South Pacific zone, are nothing more than an empty gesture-in fact, a token gesture which will have absolutely no effect. It seems to me that it is typical of the pathetic, pious amendments that more and more we are finding the Democrats seeking to move in a desperate attempt to hang on to what small constituency they still have within the community. One would have thought that if they were genuine, serious and real in their wishes, hopes and ambitions for the cessation of sales of uranium from Australia they would have widened their amendment. Why do the amendments, as they stand at the moment, refer only to the export of uranium to France? Clearly the Democrats' intention is to seek to embarrass and highlight the dichotomy and difficulties for those on the Left of the Australian Labor Party. From my observations I would say that so far they have failed badly. One is moved to feel that they are rather irresponsible rascals. They love to spend but they hate to cut. One might be moved to observe that perhaps the Democrats are the biggest spending, lowest taxing party in the Parliament because they do not have the responsibility that others have. They do not have the need to balance judgments, considerations and competing interests.

In rebuttal, in part, of the argument that has been put to us by the Democrats, I refer to the report entitled `Disarmament and Arms Control in the Nuclear Age' put down by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, perhaps the most definitive report put down in many years on this and a whole range of matters relating to the nuclear cycle. In doing so, I recall that the one party which did not appear before the Committee to give evidence was the Australian Democrats. We heard not a word from them. We wrote to the then Leader of the Democrats, Senator Chipp, and asked him whether he would appear to give evidence and justify his arguments. Would he support his arguments? Would he in any way make a contribution to this report by way of evidence? But his response was deafening in its silence. We hear them here in the Senate, but not before a committee where they would be required to give evidence and be cross-examined.


Senator Sir John Carrick —And where the facts would come out.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Where the facts would come out and their superficial arguments would be pricked like a balloon and collapse around their ears. At least at that stage the People for Nuclear Disarmament gave us evidence. I make no judgments about that; people who are concerned to make judgments can read the evidence and draw their own conclusions. At least they gave us evidence, inadequate as it might have been. I notice that the Democrats are at least present today and I ask honourable senators, as I asked earlier: Where is Senator Vallentine? Why has she abrogated her responsibilities and abandoned her constituents from Western Australia who in good faith voted for her-those 53,000 who gave her their primary votes? Where is their representative today? She led them to believe that she would represent them in this Parliament, in this chamber, with her voice and more particularly with her vote. Where is she? We now have the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill 1986 before us, the one piece of legislation that is her reason for being here. It is the reason for the very existence of her Party. It is her piece de resistance. This piece of legislation is what she is all about. Where is she? She is on a private trip to New Zealand and she has 53,000 voters in Western Australia hanging on every single word that she is not saying.


Senator Gareth Evans —That's more than you've got, mate.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —The vast majority of her second preferences went to Noel Ashley Crichton-Browne, so obviously some of the Western Australian voters are schizophrenic. I find it absolutely disgraceful that Senator Vallentine took their faith, confidence and goodwill, used it to get into this chamber, and has now flitted off to New Zealand at a time when she should be standing up and articulating the aspirations and wishes of those people whom she purports to represent. No wonder they feel disillusioned and deserted.


Senator Georges —They will still vote for her.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —They will not vote for her next time in enough numbers to have her returned in either a double dissolution or a half Senate election. I promise you that. Last time we were too busy getting rid of the Democrats in Western Australia; next time we will settle on her.


Senator Georges —Is that a threat?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —That is not a threat; it is a promise.


Senator Georges —She got elected; you got appointed. There is a vast difference.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I did not get appointed. I was elected.


Senator Georges —You were appointed to a place from where you could not be defeated.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Of course I could. She was No. 1 on her ticket and I was No. 1 on mine. What is the difference?


The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Crichton-Browne and Senator Georges, please cease your dialogue.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I refer the Committee to page 545 of this profound report. It says:

The arguments in favour of Australia continuing to mine and export uranium were generally supported by the report of the ASTEC inquiry, which concluded inter alia that:

(a) Australia is best able to make a significant contribution to the cause of non-proliferation if it is actively involved in the nuclear fuel cycle.

Australia is needed in the non-proliferation debate to a greater extent than one would normally expect. This is due in part to the considerable reserves of uranium within Australia and Australia's record as a reliable supplier under strict controls and in part because Australia has continually sought to provide practical solutions to problems facing the non-proliferation regime.

This report is attested to and signed by the Government and the Opposition-both. The report goes on to say-with the support of the Government and coalition members and senators:

There will continue to be market opportunities for Australian uranium, and withdrawal of Australian supply would make little difference to the continued nuclear energy industry.

The report continues:

The Committee accepts that there is no shortage of uranium in the world to supply fuel to the civil nuclear industry and that the industry can proceed whether or not Australia is a supplier. It therefore supports the view that cutting off the supplies of uranium will not have any effect in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world.

That is a direct reflection of the views that have been put by Senator Sir John Carrick so far. He is quite right and so is this report. The report continues:

The principal impact of withdrawal of Australian uranium-

and I hope that the Democrats are listening to this-

will be felt by Australia; through the loss of potential and existing export earnings and through our diminished influence in the International Atomic Energy Agency and other related bodies.

I recall that we are one of the founding board members of that agency. That is where we have our influence. The report goes on:

The Committee supports the conclusion of the ASTEC report that, on balance, the non-proliferation regime is better served by Australia remaining a supplier of uranium ore. Australian uranium is supplied under very stringent safeguards. As noted by the ASTEC report, there is reasonable evidence that the imposition of these safeguards has not deterred prospective purchases of Australian uranium. Indeed, their acceptance may encourage other suppliers to insist on comparable conditions.

The very fact that we have those safeguards means that we are able to sell our uranium. In no way are people inhibited in their purchases as a result of those conditions. In fact, the opposite is true. Perhaps other suppliers will be encouraged to provide the same safeguards. I will read the last paragraph of the Committee's report on this aspect and I recommend it as bed time reading for Senator Georges. It says:

Australia's role as an exporter has enabled us to play an important role in establishing and developing the present nuclear non-proliferation regime. The Committee accepts the view of both ASTEC and the Government that withdrawal from the nuclear fuel cycle would reduce our influence in the IAEA, which plays a key role in the non-proliferation regime.


Senator Georges —What does the minority report say?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —There is a minority report at the back which Senator Georges is welcome to read. I am seeking to put the view of the majority of people, embracing both the Government and the Opposition.


Senator Georges —How about waving the minority report around now?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —If you look deep in the report you will find it there, Senator Georges. I am seeking to reflect the views of the majority of members of Parliament, either senators or members. That view clearly is that Australia and the industry generally are advantaged by the mining and export of uranium, whether it be to France or any other country. There is an abundance of uranium ore available and, whether it is supplied by Australia or anywhere else, it will in no way inhibit France's capacity to receive the ore, process it and ultimately use it for whatever purposes it so desires. As long as Australia uses its safeguards to that extent France is inhibited. I put it to the Committee that this amendment does nothing for this legislation. The legislation in itself is inadequate, incompetent and does not do what it pretends to do. The very title of the legislation is misleading because the South Pacific is not a nuclear free zone; it is not even a nuclear weapons free zone. In fact, it is simply a zone that in some part puts some inhibition on the United States and nothing else. The essence of the Bill is that it prevents home porting for American forces. I see no merit in the amendment and I have no doubt that it will be defeated.