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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 232


Senator SANDERS(10.39) —The Australian Democrats also reject the Opposition's amendments because nuclear disasters respect no nationalities or national boundaries. Why should we exempt some nuclear material coming into our harbours simply because it happens to be American and have safeguards over others? The argument was brought up by Senator Durack that somehow this legislation would affect our defence arrangements. I do not know on what he bases his contention because I doubt very much whether he has had direct communication with the planners in the United States of America on this matter.

I have had occasion to write a letter to the Center for Defense Information-CDI-in Washington, DC, which consists of a group of retired admirals, generals and people from other military ranks from the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Army who have joined together in a campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons. They understand that nuclear weapons are not usable in modern war because once a person uses a nuclear weapon, he has lost the war, his country and, perhaps, the earth. They realised that they are not viable weapons. I asked this specific question: What is the strategic or military necessity for nuclear armed and powered ships coming into Australian ports? The answer I received was compiled by Captain James T. Bush, a retired United States Navy captain, who is Associate Director of the Center for Defense Information. He stated:

As a naval officer with 25 years experience in naval operations, including service as Executive Officer of two submarines and Commander of the USS Simon Bolivar, a nuclear-powered submarine, I can say with confidence that port visits have nothing to do with training naval forces for combat operations at sea. Port visits are wonderful opportunities for rest, recreation and personal adventures, but they don't contribute to military readiness.

I repeat: Rest, recreation and personal adventure. Maybe those sailors would like to see Kings Cross, but it is not necessary militarily or strategically for those nuclear armed and powered ships to enter our harbours. He continued:

I would like to add that the U.S. Navy's neither confirm nor deny policy cannot be justified on the basis of denying information to the Soviet Union. The extensive publicly available information about the U.S. Navy's nuclear arsenal plus Soviet intelligence capabilities means that if anyone knows which U.S. ships are likely carrying nuclear weapons, it is the Soviets.

The former captain in the United States Navy-and I urge Senator Durack to listen-stated:

Australia, like New Zealand, is more than entitled to exercise its right to make its nation a nuclear free zone if it wishes. This is particularly the case when this right can be respected without detriment to the military readiness or national security of any of the parties to the ANZUS treaty.

Those are the words of a former captain in the United States Navy. So the denial of the right of passage to nuclear armed and powered ships to our ports will have no strategic impact whatsoever. These amendments are not necessary; in fact, they are harmful. The proposed sub-clause which would close courts during hearings on these matters is particularly abhorrent. What we need is more information on nuclear matters, not less. Therefore, the Australian Democrats will oppose these amendments.