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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 226


Senator DURACK(10.08) —When the Committee reported progress last night we were discussing, if discussing is the right word, the definition of `associated technology' in clause 4 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Bill. I had been particularly concerned about the situation of private nuclear research by academic research workers in a university, particularly in relation to a matter of great difference between the Government and Opposition, namely, Australia's role in the development of the nuclear fuel cycle, and particularly the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes. The Government's policy is very much opposed to that. It has directed that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, soon to become known as ANSTO, in short, should not pursue enrichment research in Australia or pursue the subject of enrichment with any commercial development in mind. The Opposition has a fundamentally different view from that of the Government about that matter. When we were in government we actively pursued the development of the uranium enrichment industry in Australia and considerable progress was being made in that direction when we went out of government in March 1983. The concern that we in the Opposition have about this legislation is that this Bill, under this Government's policies, may be used to prevent private research in this respect in Australia, either in universities or in companies which may be interested in the future. On our return to government they may wish to resume this development, which is of great economic significance to Australia. Great economic benefit is being denied to Australians by this Government's irrational policy dictated by its loony Left and encouraged by people in this chamber such as Senator Sanders and Senator Vallentine and a few others of that ilk outside the chamber. It is a very important issue that I have raised.

I am very pleased that, despite a certain irritation that the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) seemed to feel last night when I raised this matter, he did say very clearly on behalf of the Government that the Government's policy would be to permit this type of research and development activity to take place in Australia, provided it was within the confines that I have mentioned, namely, for peaceful purposes and not in any way a covert means of diversion to purposes such as the development of nuclear weaponry, to which of course the Opposition is totally opposed. I applaud the answer that I received last night, albeit with some difficulty, from Senator Evans.

My other concern is that people in that situation, probably in universities-the most likely place where this might occur-should be aware of the possible application of this legislation to them. They should be aware that they should apply for a permit and that the Government will, in accordance with what Senator Evans has said, grant the permit providing it is satisfied that the research is all genuine. We also had the assurance from Senator Evans last night that the Government would not be bureaucratic and would not hold people up, that the administration would be smooth. All these things, hopefully, would be carried out if this matter was put to the test.

However, in the light of the answers I received from Senator Evans, I still have some concern. He was somewhat reluctant to give a clear-cut definition of what the Government meant by the wide definition of `associated technology'. He hedged his bets a bit in the answer he gave me on that. It may be that if the Government were to inform universities or people interested in this area in similar terms, they would not be very must assisted in knowing what to do. Apparently the universities have all been advised of this Bill and its application to them. I would be interested in seeing the terms of the Government's advice, the document that has been circulated to them. If such a document is available I would be pleased if Senator Evans would table it, either in this debate or as soon as possible, so we can see just how they have been advised on this matter. It may well be that they should be advised further in the light of last night's statement by Senator Evans in answer to my questions.