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Tuesday, 2 December 1986
Page: 3173


Senator MACKLIN(5.01) —The amendments moved by Senator Sanders are pertinent to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Bill, which establishes a South Pacific nuclear free zone. They seek to free a particular zone in the world from the use of nuclear weapons, the possession of nuclear weapons and the transportation of nuclear weapons. I must admit that I have serious reservations about the Bill in its entirety. Modifying this Bill with Senator Sanders's amendments would seem to me to bring some integrity to the exercise. A large number of nations in the South Pacific have expressed concern at the activity of France in this region. The reason the amendments specify France is that we are talking about the South Pacific region. We are talking about a power which possesses nuclear weapons and which still engages in testing those nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. This is the specific reason for singling out France. France is the relevant party in this Bill. By its exercises in this region it has shown that it does not care for the sensibilities and aspirations of the people of the South Pacific.

Not too long ago a conference was held in Parliament House, sponsored by a committee of parliamentarians. There were representatives from the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and France. It was made very clear that these countries between them possess the major stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world today-at least that is what we hope. From an answer to a question I put to the leader of the French delegation, it was fairly obvious that France's response is to pay no attention to the feelings, understandings and desires of the countries of the South Pacific region. That is why this amendment is couched in this way; that is why it is directed at France. It can be said to be a gesture but, in international terms, gestures are often very important. We are not necessarily talking about stopping the production of nuclear weapons in France; we are quite specifically talking about the attitude Australia has to France and to the French activities in this region. I remind honourable senators that Australia took France to the International Court of Justice over this very matter. It is a matter which still concerns the vast majority of people in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Fiji and all the other South Pacific countries. The amendment has been moved specifically to look at that. Australia, as one of the main proponents and instigators of the Treaty, needs to take a very firm attitude on French activities in this region. Neither the Bill nor the amendment has been debated widely in the community, but as a number of people have pointed out it has been discussed in the Senate on innumerable occasions, including during debate on other Bills. It is a highly specific Bill and this is a highly specific amendment to it.

It is interesting that when these issues are debated unfortunately the debate generally tends to be one of personal invective. It is a pity that that should be so. I understand the feelings that people have on this matter. I have a very passionate concern about the problems of peace in the world. For this reason I support very strongly the creation of nuclear free zones, such as the South Pacific nuclear free zone. Ultimately our hope is that with the creation and linking up of enough of these zones around the world we will have a nuclear free world. We all know that we cannot achieve everything we wish to achieve in one stroke, but that does not mean that we ought not to do what can now be done. Even though it may be a small and seemingly insignificant step, the hope is that over time these steps will build. To restore integrity to this legislation, which lacks a decisive move towards the creation of a nuclear free zone, we believe that at the very least the Government should prevent the export of Australian uranium to France. This would be a gesture and a direct call to other countries in our region that we are willing to sacrifice economic gain for a particular end; that is, the solid and sure establishment of a nuclear free zone and the hope that other such zones around the world will be created by like-minded countries.