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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 165


Senator VALLENTINE —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Like Senator Durack, I represent Western Australia and, while commending him on his concern regarding the possibility of French testing in the Indian Ocean, I feel that the Minister's answer to his question yesterday was somewhat inadequate. I refer the Minister to the speech made in Auckland at the Conference of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War by a French scientist, Abraham Behar, when he referred to the imminent move of the French nuclear test site to the Kerguelens, quoting contacts in the French military and scientific community. Can the Minister inform the Senate what steps the Australian Government has taken to ascertain from the Government of France whether it is indeed preparing to move its nuclear test site to Kerguelen, bearing in mind the outright lie made on an earlier occasion when the French Minister of Overseas Territories said in 1961 that `no nuclear tests will ever be made by France in the Pacific Ocean' at a time when work was already under way to prepare for such a program?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am sorry that Senator Vallentine found my answer yesterday inadequate. All I can do is return the compliment in relation to her question today. It is a question which adds precisely nothing to what was put to me yesterday by Senator Durack; nor can I add anything significant to my answer. The Government is not in a position to give any further information than I did yesterday. All I can say, as in effect I said yesterday, is that we take a keen and critical interest in the French nuclear program. We have, as a government, taken up the issue again in recent days through diplomatic channels. The French response when the matter was thus taken up was that the definitive French Government position on nuclear testing was incorporated in a statement by President Mitterrand on 3 February, to which I yesterday referred: `Mururoa exists and will continue to exist. We need to be able to carry out nuclear testing there'. We will continue to press the French Government for a more explicit and absolutely definitive response as far as the possible future use of Kerguelen Islands is concerned, just as we have brought to the attention of the French Government the recent scientific papers, among which I think are included the particular analyses to which Senator Vallentine refers, that question the structural integrity of Mururoa Atoll, and we will continue to seek further information, as I said yesterday, in relation to that. But we simply have no independent advice, information or evidence that would suggest that there is any current reality about the allegations that she and others have made, or the fears that she and others have expressed.