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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 143


Senator COLEMAN(10.37) -There are two primary concerns about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Bill. The first, of course, is the proliferation of restraints, restrictions and punishments which we see in legislation related to all things nuclear. It is a world-wide trend and not something in which only Australia has become involved. I am not saying that those restrictions and punishments are inappropriate, given the damage that can be done with things nuclear; but I believe that they show exactly that nuclear materials are so inherently dangerous that special precautions have to be taken.

While the laws and individual legislation, because of the inherent danger of nuclear materials, may appear draconian, they are to dissuade dangerous criminal or politically motivated acts. There are also serious undesirable side effects. Our modern technological society is so complex that one action always has manifold repercussions, and a law to control nuclear materials affects many otherwise legitimately involved people by placing major restrictions on their actions. Those actions may in themselves imply no danger; but, because they might potentially aid persons who are aiming at criminal or other destructive uses of nuclear materials, they are outlawed. Information, however innocently purveyed, becomes dangerous property and becomes severely constrained by laws such as this one. I believe that restrictions on information, which amount to restrictions on public knowledge, have a habit of mushrooming. We face the situation of a growing regime of secrecy and draconian legislation to protect what is just a too dangerous technology.

The second concern is that one object of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act will be to carry out obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. As we have heard already, the NPT is considered to be one of the central pillars of Australian efforts in global arms control. It is also the main legitimate mechanism used to justify the sale and export of Australian uranium. Clearly, the NPT is a key treaty in the Australian foreign policy and resources policy environment, so I guess one has to ask what is this Treaty all about. Essentially, it is an agreement by non-nuclear weapons countries not to procure nuclear weapons, in return for some guarantees and promises by those who are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Those promises include `declaring their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament'. Instead of keeping to that promise we find that the most important nuclear weapons power-the United States of America-has actually announced its withdrawal from what was at that time considered and commonly acknowledged as the most effective existing arms control agreement, Strategic Arms Limitations Talks II. As well we found that the United States refused to negotiate on item 2 at the conference on disarmament in Geneva, which was titled `Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and Nuclear Disarmament'. Finally, when the two super-powers met face to face for bilateral discussions at the so-called summits, no concrete arms reduction decisions resulted. This is hardly keeping to the spirit or the letter of the NPT.

Another promise by the nuclear weapons powers was `to seek to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time and to continue negotiations to this end'. Instead we find that the United States is consistently ignoring unilateral efforts by the Soviet Union to achieve a moratorium on testing. The United States also rejected attempts at the Geneva conference to place the negotiation of a comprehensive test ban on the agenda. Finally, the NPT requires all states to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. Instead we find the Soviet Union continuing its military intervention in Afghanistan; we find the United States bombing Libya and attempting to bring down the Sandinista Government in Nicaragua through its paid agents, the Contras, and the constant threat of direct military invasion, as has occurred in Grenada.

What guarantees then do the nuclear weapon powers offer the signatories of the NPT? If the Non-Proliferation Treaty is not to become a pathetic monument to super-power cynicism, nuclear weapons states must be pressed to uphold their part of the bargain. I believe that Australia is doing so in introducing this Bill and that it should pass this chamber without amendment and as rapidly as possible to enable the Government to put it into place.