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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 983

Senator SANDERS —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer the Minister to the situation of 16 January 1987 when two Australian fishermen, John Chadderton and Alistair Annandale, escaped from Reunion Island and with Australian consular assistance fled to Singapore. I ask: Firstly, have these men or any other crew of their vessel Southern Raider been questioned by Australian Government officials about French activities on Kerguelen Island? Secondly, if so, does the information indicate that the French are increasing their activities there, including the development of facilities for either nuclear testing or the storage of nuclear waste? Thirdly, following the approach by the Australian Ambassador in Paris, has the Australian Government obtained any categorical assurance that the French Government does not contemplate and is not involved with nuclear activities on Kerguelen Island, including nuclear testing and nuclear waste storage?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As to the first part of the question relating to the questioning of the two men concerned, Messrs Chadderton and Annandale, Australian Government officials have had contact with those two only in relation to their consular responsibility to them. The Government is aware of Press reports quoting Mr Annandale as claiming that France intends to set up a nuclear test site on Kerguelen. As far as the Government is aware, this claim is speculative and unsubstantiated. We are not aware of any claims or evidence that France could be planning to store nuclear waste on Kerguelen, which is the latest addition to the stock of claims made about French intentions there. As to the activities that may be planned by the French for Kerguelen, I cannot do much more than refer Senator Sanders to my responses to questions from Senator Durack on 17 February and Senator Vallentine the following day. I said on those occasions that the Australian Government is not aware of evidence to support these sorts of claims. The Government is not aware of evidence to support speculation that France is planning to move its nuclear testing program from Mururoa Atoll. I said then that as recently as 3 February, French President Mitterrand said: `Mururoa exists and will continue to exist. We need to be able to carry out nuclear testing there.'

To the extent that I can say any more about the third part of Senator Sanders's question, I point out that in response to our inquiries about persistent speculation that France is planing to move the Mururoa testing program to Kerguelen, French officials have referred to President Mitterrand's recent statement which I just quoted as the most definitive position. While the French Government has not given a categorical assurance on possible activities on Kerguelen, the Australian Government's assessment is that a move of the testing program there would be unattractive to France on political grounds and because of the considerable costs involved in relocating the testing facilities. The Government has made it clear that in any event Australia would be as strongly opposed to French testing in the Indian Ocean as we are opposed to France's current testing program in the Pacific. Of course we will continue to monitor carefully French activities and intentions, to the extent that we can discern them, on nuclear testing and on the storage of nuclear wastes.

Senator SANDERS —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. In light of the Minister's answer when he said that the Government would deplore any nuclear testing activities, I ask whether the Government has any position on the storage of nuclear waste in the Kerguelen area.

Senator GARETH EVANS —No, we do not have a formulated position on that. Clearly, there are quite different considerations that are applicable to that.

Senator Chaney —I take a point of order, Mr President. I suggest that that is not a supplementary question. It relates to a quite separate subject.

The PRESIDENT —Well, it referred at least to the same geographical area as the first question. That is why I allowed it. But the Minister has nothing to add to the answer.