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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 144


Senator HILL(10.44) —I wish to speak to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Bill 1986. The Senate has again this morning listened to a tirade of abuse against the United States by the spokesman for the Australian Democrats, Senator Sanders, who used the occasion to again call for Australia to withdraw from ANZUS, which is, of course, the position of the Australian Democrats. In effect, he indicated that we should withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons because he condemns the export of uranium and because one cannot have it both ways under that Treaty-either one complies with the provisions that one will assist other nations in the development of peaceful nuclear power options or one does not comply with the terms of the Treaty as a whole. We listened to him indicate to us that he is more at home discussing these matters in the Kremlin. Perhaps we were not surprised to hear that. It is of some worry to us that the Australian Democrats, who will again put forward a Senate team at the next election, are adopting such extreme positions-positions which make the Left of the Australian Labor Party appear moderate.


Senator Durack —He outdid Senator Coleman.


Senator HILL —I say with respect that Senator Coleman's views were much more balanced. Senator Coleman was prepared to acknowledge the fact that the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan is doing nothing to contribute to world peace. I would much prefer to hear the Labor Party supporting Senator Coleman's position that the Soviets should get out of Afghanistan and that we might look towards a cooling of super-power rivalry and progress in the areas of disarmament, which we would all applaud.

This Bill will establish for Australia a system for the imposition and maintenance of nuclear safeguards. It is really putting into domestic law practices that have existed in the past in the form of practices rather than law. It is acting in accordance with Australia's obligation under a number of international treaties and agreements, particularly, of course, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly referred to as the NPT. That Treaty works primarily because those states which are prepared to renounce nuclear weapons-trust to the International Atomic Energy Agency the responsibility for monitoring nuclear facilities and nuclear materials, to ensure that there is no diversion into weapons production. In other words, it is designed primarily as a confidence boosting mechanism for those who are prepared to become parties to the Treaty. It gives them confidence that, in giving up the option of nuclear weapons, that is not a course that is being adopted by others who are parties to the Treaty. Of course, there are now 130-odd nation states which are parties to this Treaty, making it probably the most extensive of all the arms control treaties, and perhaps the most durable.

Mr Acting Deputy President, what I want to say today is that although this Bill deals with mechanics it does not address the real deficiencies of the NPT system. I suggest to you and to other senators that Australia can do much more to contribute to non-proliferation. In some circles the NPT has become a little motherhood; it has become improper to criticise it. In 1985 the Third Review Conference of the Treaty took place in Geneva. Diplomats from, I think, 84 countries attended the Conference. They came away from that conference feeling happy, and we read that it had been a great success. Why did they conclude that it had been a great success? It was because they had reached a final document of consensus, which they had not been able to achieve five years before. Those of us who are not in the diplomatic world would have thought that consensus-particularly the lowest common denominator consensus, in the language of that final document-was not something to boast about around the globe, and that more could be achieved. Nevertheless, the diplomats returned. The Australian Government reported with an inner glow that a lot had been achieved.

It seems to me that most of the basic criticisms of the NPT system still remain. However, to put it in context, we on this side will accept, of course, that horizontal proliferation has been kept to a minimum. But we wonder whether that is because of the Treaty or whether, rather, it is because the majority of nation states do not see it as being in their security interests, fortunately, to have the nuclear weapons option. Certainly, the Treaty has had some effect of giving confidence to states that others will comply, notwithstanding the alarm that we all experienced in 1981 when Israel-by the way, Israel is not a signatory to the Treaty-with its very sophisticated intelligence system, concluded that an Iraqi reactor, a safeguard reactor, was going to abuse its position. I guess that that, to some extent, undermined the confidence that we and other nation states felt. Nevertheless, I understand that some 900 facilities around the world are monitored by the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. So far there has been no proven misdirection of materials for nuclear weapons purposes. I guess that that is pleasing.

Let me deal briefly with the major shortcomings of the system which are not addressed by this Bill and which still exist. The first is, of course, the problem that not all nation states are parties to the Treaty. Two of the five nuclear weapons powers in the world, France and China, are not parties to the Treaty. Of course, others which seem to be, unfortunately, on the path towards becoming nuclear weapons powers are not parties to it. India, as we know, a non-party, has exploded what it has referred to as a peaceful nuclear device. It therefore has the capacity to become a nuclear weapons state at very short notice. It would appear-and I think we should give credit to Prime Minister Gandhi-that that temptation presently is being resisted. However, its neighbour, Pakistan, because of the perceived threat of India's capacity in this area, is developing a nuclear weapons program. Both nations, as I indicated, are non-signatories to the Treaty. They are not obliged by its obligations and have not renounced the option.

We know that the United States of America has a considerable capacity to influence Pakistan through its aid program and through its conventional weapons program with Pakistan. We would urge the United States to do all within its resources to dissuade Pakistan from proceeding down that nuclear weapon path. Unfortunately, at the moment the United States appears to be turning a blind eye. We recognise the difficulties and the important role that Pakistan is playing in relation to the Afghanistan problem-the fact that it has been prepared to take so many refugees-and that the United States, in many ways, sees it as the point at which the Soviets are being held at bay. Nevertheless, we would urge the United States to use its best endeavours to dissuade Pakistan from developing nuclear power.

It seems to me that that South Asian problem-there has been a history of wars between Pakistan and India, and continuing animosity and distrust exists-makes it one of the most worrying regions in the world. Concern can only increase if it heads down the nuclear weapons path. There seems little doubt now that Israel has nuclear weapons. I refer to the so-called `bomb in the basement' program. In regard to even the small tactical weapons the mind really does boggle at how such nuclear weapons could be used within the restrictive confines of the Middle East. I think that nothing is more striking in the Middle East than how close everything is to each other. One must wonder what possible defensive merit can come out of the development of such a program. Again, if there is one nation in the world that has the power to influence the Israelis, principally because of its enormous aid program, it is the United States. We again urge the United States to influence Israel away from the nuclear weapons option.

If Israel has such weapons, it is reasonable to assume that South Africa, similarly, does. We remember the test site in the Kalahari desert that was discovered in, I think, 1977 and the mysterious flash, which was referred to earlier, over the South Atlantic on 22 September 1979. It appears that South Africa has gone down the nuclear weapons path, and why is difficult to comprehend. The greatest threat faced by South Africa, as all would realise, is that of internal violence and disorder, and how the nuclear weapon option could possibly be utilised in those circumstances is beyond comprehension. But regrettably there are probably few states in the world that could have any influence over South Africa towards a sounder policy in this area.

Unfortunately, the pattern continues when we look at South America with both Argentina and Brazil appearing to build themselves up to have the capacity to move into nuclear weapons at short notice. That must be a concern. It must be of concern when states, for reasons of status or perceived threat, feel it in their best interests to move down the nuclear weapon path because we are aware that that does not make the world a safer place. So although we may not have acknowledged proliferation by those states which are outside the treaty mechanism, proliferation is occurring, and that is one of the major shortcomings of the treaty system.

I suggest that Australians can do a lot more in this area. Through diplomatic and other measures, sometimes aid sometimes trade, Australia can, where appropriate, contribute to reducing tension spots throughout the world. We can play a role in the Middle East. Under the Fraser Government we were prepared to go into the Sinai and add to the multinational observer force to play a small but worthwhile role there in the only treaty that has lasted in the Middle East between Egypt and Israel. It was welcomed by both countries and had the effect of reducing tension. Regrettably, the Hawke Labor Government withdrew our forces. There was one modest example of a way in which Australia could contribute to reducing tension and therefore the perceived need by the states for nuclear weapons but which in this instance was abandoned by the Hawke Government.

In the case of Pakistan, through our alliance with the United States of America-an alliance which the Australian Democrats would like to tear up-we have some potential to influence Pakistan to a more sensible policy. With regard to India, we still have ties through the Commonwealth and in other ways. Even in South America it is possible for Australia to play a modest role. When we look at the economic impoverishment there which leads to stresses and governments desiring to attain status in other ways, it becomes obvious that through trade policy, reform of trade policy and sensible aid policy we can in a small but worthwhile way contribute to a sounder economic environment there and less of the stress that leads to nations heading down the nuclear weapon path.

The second great weakness in the NPT system is that it distinguishes between the haves and have-nots of the nuclear world and attaches to them different status. Under article 6 the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are obliged:

to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.

Regrettably this has not occurred. So we see such nations as India, an important nation of 800 million people, the largest democracy in the world, saying: `Why should we be limited forever to second class citizenship in the world power stakes?'. There is nothing that so distinguishes a world power than having nuclear weapons. Again I suggest that there is a role for Australia to play. The continuing nuclear arms race between the two super-powers is not in Australia's best interests. The record of nuclear arms control is not good, and it is easy to understand the disappointment of the non-aligned and others who are prepared themselves to forgo nuclear weapons but yet who feel threatened by others in the super-power race.

It would appear that the Soviet Union is in breach of the anti-ballistic missile treaty. The United States of America has now passed the limits of the unratified SALT II treaty. We hope that it will come back within that treaty. The Soviets testing moratorium brought no positive response and now the Soviets are about to recommence testing. Reykjavik has come and gone and brought a flutter of hope, but it was all somewhat unrealistic. So it is back to the hard grind of the Geneva negotiations. In that area Australia can play a role, particularly through verification. Verification remains an obstacle in the debate but Australia can play a role in a world seismic network. We on this side of the Parliament would urge the Australian Government to do so. With verification can come an increase in confidence between the super-powers and with it a reduction in tension, and hopefully then some progress.

It would seem that Gorbachev does offer a better hope than we had in the past from his predecessors. We know that super-power security can be maintained at a much lower nuclear threshold than exists today. A total of 50,000 nuclear warheads around the world is beyond the level that ensures security. I urge Australia to continue to be active, and to be more active, in contributing to a building of confidence through assisting verification that might make progress in this area. But even if the super-powers were to meet their obligations under article 6 we still have the problem of countries such as France, which not only is not a party to the Treaty but also was the only country at the last session of the United Nations General Assembly to vote against a comprehensive test ban treaty. How we shall make progress in influencing such countries as France is beyond my imagination. All we can say is that we have seen countries change their policies in this area when it may not have been believed that it would happen. North Korea, for example, has recently come within the net of the NPT and that would not have been widely accepted a few years ago. China has changed its policy, although not within the NPT. It has changed now to basically acting responsibly and no longer exports nuclear capacity. So that there have been changes by some important nation states of the world. Hopefully eventually influence around the world will be sufficient to persuade France to take a different direction, although one cannot have a great deal of hope at present.

The third matter of which I wish to remind the Australian Government is that there is a halfway measure with states which are not members of the NPT, and that is to encourage them nevertheless to abide by International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. In recent years there has been a trend in that direction. It is not something that is encompassed by the Bill, but I urge the Australian Government to continue down that path because, although it might not be the best course, it is nevertheless a better interim position for us to adopt.

The fourth point that I wish to raise is the problem which still exists under the Treaty but which is not answered by the Treaty and particularly upsets Third World countries. I refer to the fact that nuclear weapon states are not bound by the NPT safeguards in relation to their non-nuclear plants. This again is a further example of the second class citizenship that exists under the treaty system for those who are not nuclear weapon powers. I urge the Australian Government to use all diplomatic and other measures at its disposal to urge the super-powers and the other nuclear power states to accept total IAEA safeguards over their non-nuclear weapon plants. There has been progress. Before the third review conference, four of the five nuclear weapon states had accepted by agreement that they would do this to a limited extent. At that conference the fifth state, China, likewise agreed. The problem exists that many plants that are non-weapon plants cannot be distinguished from weapon plants. The whole non-proliferation regime is premised upon separating peaceful nuclear power infrastructure from the development of nuclear weapons. I urge this Government to use its best endeavours hopefully to make it obligatory under the Treaty that such facilities be separated so that they could be properly safeguarded in the way that non-nuclear weapon states safeguard their non-weapon nuclear facilities.

Australia should also strongly condemn NPT members who supply nuclear technology and materials to non-NPT members. It should be made clear to member countries that such behaviour not only weakens member confidence in the NPT but is a disservice to the cause of international non-proliferation. Australia should recognise its responsibilities under the NPT to help non-weapon states with programs of technical assistance in the peaceful use of nuclear power. It is important that Australia make its own specific contribution towards increasing the advantages of being a member of the NPT. We can look in particular to increased regional assistance, possibly in the provision of expertise in nuclear physics or nuclear medicine. Additionally, we should look to expanding our participation in the nuclear fuel cycle beyond the mining and milling stages. In other words, Australia should develop an indigenous uranium enrichment industry to enable control of its nuclear materials to be maintained well into the nuclear fuel cycle. I would have thought that Senator Georges, who is trying to interject, would agree. He might have a different view of the use of nuclear power, but surely the longer Australia can control the process and the components of the process the more secure is our contribution.

In anticipation of the growth in uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities we should press for a safeguard system which places less reliance on the restraints imposed by bilateral agreements. The need for bilateral agreements points up shortfalls in the system. They might make us feel more comfortable about what we export, but we must be equally concerned about exports by third parties. Lastly, although there may have been something of a slowdown in the growth of civil plutonium stocks in recent times, that is likely to change. As I have in the past, I would like to see more consideration being given to the establishment of international storage plants for plutonium, as opposed to national storage facilities, and I again urge the Australian Government to take a positive lead in such projects.

In summary, Australia under the Fraser coalition Government set a high standard in safeguards. This Government is putting into legislative form some of those practices that were adopted by the previous Government. To that extent it is a contribution, although it seems to be more a contribution in rhetoric than in real benefit. I support the NPT and restraints. Most of the nations of the world have been prepared to take action to limit horizontal proliferation. That is desirable, and the fact that we are part of the system is desirable. I am anxious that Australia remain a member of the NPT and contribute to its further development and expansion. I trust that the Australian Government will continue down the path of helping to overcome the deficiencies that I have outlined in the system in order that we might all have the opportunity to live in a safer world.