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Tuesday, 2 December 1986
Page: 3169

Senator COONEY(4.40) —I have listened to the debate so far with interest. It seems to me that we are moving away from the issue, which is the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill. People have got up to declare that they are interested in peace. I accept that everyone who has said that is sincere. The process by which people believe peace can be achieved varies. Senator Sir John Carrick's record proves his sincerity in proclaiming an appetite for peace. The Australian Democrats have demonstrated again and again in this chamber that they are sincere in desiring peace. Along with everybody else, I sincerely desire peace. People have criticised the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill and said that it has shortcomings. No doubt it has, but at least it is some attempt to proceed down a path that would enable peace to come to this world. It may be insufficient; it may be capable of improvement and what have you, but at least it is a concrete contribution towards a better world. That is the Bill we are debating. People want to extend into this debate their own particular recipe for peace. The banning of uranium sales to France may be a way of doing that. This should be debated at some time in the future.

Senator Georges —This afternoon.

Senator COONEY —I am a great respecter of Senator Georges but at least if we get this Bill through today it will be some attempt to move along the path to peace, whereas if the amendments are carried the Bill will be put off into the future. If that happens the Bill may well suffer the fate of many other Bills. For example, the Cheques Bill has been 2 1/2 years in being passed. We can certainly sit around here making all sorts of debating points, but if we want to give the people of Australia something in this International Year of Peace we will pass this Bill before Christmas. I greatly respect Senator Sanders. He has raised some debating points, as he is entitled to. But say I said that we would pass this Bill as long as a provision to abolish sections 45d and 45e of the Trade Practices Act were included-an abolition I am very much devoted to. He would say that this was irrelevant and off the point. Perhaps he would say that, although the abolition of those sections was a crucial issue, it was not appropriate to be debated in the present context.

Senator Sanders —How about a meaningful treaty next year?

Senator COONEY —Senator Sanders has a good point. It is in the Australian Labor Party policy, as stated at the last conference, that there will be no sale of uranium to France unless and until it stops experimenting with nuclear weapons in the Pacific. There is no doubt about that being in the policy, but it is also in the policy that there shall be a South Pacific nuclear free zone treaty. That is what this Bill delivers.

Senator Haines —Even if it doesn't do anything.

Senator COONEY —Senator Haines wants absolute perfection. I believe that we will get peace in the world but only by taking a step at a time. There will not be a dramatic flash of light and suddenly peace thereafter. At least this legislation is a measure by which we on this side of the chamber can say that we have made an attempt to get a peaceful world. People may say that we should have done more. Of course we should have done more but at least we have done something practical, whereas every other suggestion made here today does not lead to that. The passing of this Bill as presented at least will do something towards peace. It is in conformity with the Labor Party policy. The Democrats want to attach other things to it. They are entitled to attempt that. In my view their amendments are not relevant to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill. Uranium sales to France can be discussed later. I advise honourable senators to get back to what is before the Committee and to pass the Bill. The other issue can be debated later, when the Labor Party policy can be pointed to and all the aspects of that issue can be raised. I do not say this in any condemnatory fashion because I understand what the Democrats are trying to do subjectively, but objectively the approach they are taking is delaying a Bill which makes some contribution-it might be only small compared with what is ideal-towards peace not only in the South Pacific but throughout the world generally. Some concrete contributions to peace are better than an ideal still-born.