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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 227


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(10.16) —I am indebted to Senator Sanders for his contribution although I am not sure that it will serve any purpose in calming down Senator Durack. I do not think that I can add a great deal to what I said last night. As far as the definition of `associated technology' is concerned, obviously questions will arise in practice as to whether or not it is applicable to a particular situation. All I can do is repeat that the correspondence that has already gone from the Australian Safeguards Office to the universities-I am afraid I do not have a copy of it with me-was, I am advised, correspondence which spelt out the language of that definition and asked universities and others to whom it was directed to get in touch with the ASO if they thought there was anything in their possession in the nature of this kind of technology, as well as material and equipment, which satisfied the definition. In that case there would be further discussions, and decisions would be made as to whether a permit was required and, if so, in what terms.

As I have indicated, as yet there has not been any response to that letter, as far as I am advised, from anyone who thinks that he might come within the realm of the definition. If, as a result of this debate and the further stimulus that Senator Durack has given the issue, there is such a response it will be dealt with sensibly and in accordance with the spirit of the legislation-I assure him and anyone else interested-by the Government. I make the further point which I did not make last night that if anyone is unhappy about the application of the permit requirement to something which that person thinks does not come within the terms of the legislation, or is unhappy in particular if a permit should be refused in relation to something which clearly comes within the terms of the legislation, in either event appeal is available to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal under the terms of this legislation. So this is not just a matter of people being subject to the discretionary whim of the Government; there are appropriate administrative appeals procedures which will enable the issue to be resolved.

I do not want to get into a debate on the larger issue of uranium enrichment technology and whether it is appropriate for that to be pursued. I simply make the point, as I have done on other occasions, that the enrichment technology that was being pursued by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission was the centrifugal technology which may still have a continued use in the future notwithstanding the latter day enthusiasm for laser technology of enrichment. Even within the area of centrifugal enrichment technology the evidence seems to be that the Commission's research was lagging a number of years behind comparable research in other countries. For that reason it does not seem likely that there will be any chance of immediate commercial spin-offs, even in the absence of the Government's concern for policy reasons, to which Senator Durack adverts, about Australian participation in this kind of research. That is really a debate for another occasion.

This legislation clearly is designed not to inhibit research in any way but simply to ensure that if there is to be any research, and more particularly communication of that research, which is of proliferation significance and sensitivity, because of Australia's international obligations to supervise such matters it will be necessary for it to come within the terms of this regulatory arrangement. That is why the matter comes up. It is not because of any particular desire on our part to pursue other policy objectives through this legislation. On the contrary, the objectives of this Bill are as I have described them. I thank Senator Durack for his acknowledgment that I have answered as best I can the question he raised.