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Tuesday, 9 December 1986
Page: 3580


Senator ZAKHAROV —Will the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs explain to the Senate the significance of Australia's ratification yesterday of the Treaty of Rarotonga?


Senator GARETH EVANS —Australia's ratification of the Treaty was accomplished by the Executive Council's endorsement last week following its passage through the Parliament and yesterday was the subject of a signature of instrument of ratification by the Prime Minister. That completes the process and it is now possible for that Treaty to come into force once the instrument of ratification is deposited. The coming into force of the Treaty will, of course, create a wholly new environment in the South Pacific. It is an environment that will involve the South Pacific being preserved as it is today, free from nuclear weapons stationed in the countries and territories of the region, free from nuclear waste dumping and, with the tragic and we hope temporary exception of French Polynesia, free from nuclear testing. All the countries of the region want to preserve these freedoms and manifestly their preservation will be very much advanced by the terms of this Treaty. They will be even more advanced, of course, by the signature to and observance of the terms of the protocols to the Treaty, which we are endeavouring to have the nuclear powers with a presence in the Pacific sign at the moment. It is an extremely important document and an extremely important stage in the evolution of policy in the South Pacific for all the reasons that were canvassed at great length in the course of the debate which I have no need to repeat.

I think the only other point that does need to be made is that our ratification of the Treaty and its entry into force would not have been possible had the Australian Democrats' amendment been accepted by the Senate and had the matter therefore still been the subject of endless further parliamentary debate both this session and in the autumn session next year. It is hardly necessary to emphasise just how significant is the step that has been taken and how much it would have rebounded to Australia's discredit had we not now been in the position, as we now are, to proceed immediately to ratification and to ensure the coming into force within the next few days of the Treaty itself.