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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3498


Senator McINTOSH —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of reports that the Australian master of the vessel Southern Raider who is currently detained by the French authorities on Reunion Island claims to have been given firm indications that France is developing facilities for nuclear testing on the Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean? Taking into account what has been said before on this matter in the Parliament, does the Government intend to make further inquiries to establish what French intentions are with regard to Kerguelen-an area which, as I have said many times in the past, is capable of having a very direct impact on Australia's atmospheric and ocean environment?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am of course well aware of Senator McIntosh's very long-standing concern on this matter. As I recall, he first raised it back in 1981 and since then he has pressed it on behalf of his constituents in Western Australia. The Government is not aware of any evidence to support the claims being made by the two Australians, Mr John Chadderton and Mr Alastair Annandale, being held on Reunion Island on charges in connection with the apprehension of the trawler Southern Raider last October, that the French authorities are planning to move France's nuclear testing program to the Kerguelen Islands. The latest claim by Mr Chadderton, which is reported today, repeats the claims by Mr Annandale reported in the Press in October.

The Government would, of course, be most interested in any such development and is again checking the latest reports as it has checked previous such reports. But speculation along these lines is not new. In December 1984 comments by the French Consul-General in Melbourne that France might move its nuclear testing program from Mururoa Atoll to the Kerguelen Islands aroused considerable media interest. In 1985 the then French Minister for Defence denied that France had any such plans.

The Australian Government would, of course, be as strongly opposed to French nuclear testing in proximity to Australia in the Indian Ocean as it is opposed to France's current testing in the Pacific Ocean. Our assessment is that a move of the testing program from French Polynesia to the Kerguelen Islands would be unattractive to France on political grounds and in view of the considerable economic cost that would be involved in relocation of facilities.