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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1440


Senator BOLKUS —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether it is a fact that Article 1 of the Antarctic Treaty provides:

Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only.

There shall be prohibited, (inter alia) . . . the testing of any type of weapons.

I also ask whether it is a fact that Article V of that Treaty provides:

Any nuclear explosions in Antarctica and the disposal there of radioactive waste material shall be prohibited.

Is it further a fact that the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources 1980, the signatories of which include South Africa, recognises that it is in the interests of all mankind to preserve the waters surrounding the Antarctic continent for peaceful purposes only? I refer the Minister to recent reports suggesting that South Africa has used Antarctica and surrounding waters for nuclear testing and that South Africa is planning to build an air strip on Marion Island enabling the island to be better used for nuclear testing. In view of these reports, will the Australian Government take measures to review South Africa's position as an Antarctic Treaty partner?


Senator GARETH EVANS —As to the first part of Senator Bolkus's question I point out that it is the case that the texts of the Antarctic Treaty and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources are in the terms that he indicated. On the question of reports about planned testing at Marion Island, the Government has no evidence that South Africa has used Antarctica for nuclear testing but the Government would certainly be happy to examine any information which Senator Bolkus may have on this subject. Marion Island is a South African possession which is outside the Antarctic Treaty area, that is to say, it lies north of latitude 60 degrees south but within the CCAMLR area. We have no evidence to support the claim that South Africa may be planning to test nuclear weapons there or that any South African plans to build an airstrip on Marion Island may form part of a nuclear weapons or missile testing program.

South Africa has an established program of environmental and scientific research on the island. I am not quite sure what Senator Bolkus means by the suggestion that the Government take measures to review South Africa's position as an Antarctic Treaty partner. There is no provision to expel a country from the Antarctic Treaty. Moreover, if South Africa were no longer a party to the Antarctic Treaty, it would not be bound by its present obligations under the Treaty. Accordingly, we do not see that there is a case for the Government to take any action against South Africa within the Antarctic Treaty system because, among other things, we have no evidence that South Africa has violated or intends to violate its provisions.