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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2187


Senator ZAKHAROV —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Convention for the Protection and Development of Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region come into force and is Australia a signatory to that Convention? Further, is the Australian Government satisfied that France is respecting Article 12 of the Treaty referring to pollution resulting from nuclear tests?


Senator GARETH EVANS —The situation is that the Convention has not come into force and will not do so until 10 parties have ratified it. Eight countries have signed the Convention so far and a number of other countries will examine the question of signature in accordance with their normal constitutional procedures. Australia is not yet a signatory to the Convention. France has signed it and the two protocols but has not ratified it.

As to the question of French compliance with Article 12 of the Convention, in 1983 scientists from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea visited the Mururoa test site at the invitation of the French Government to investigate and report on possible radioactive contamination of the environment at and around Mururoa and the consequences of any contamination. The report of that team, which is known as the Atkinson report, was critical of some aspects of the French testing program, but overall found that there was no immediate cause for alarm. The Atkinson report expressed some concern about the possible long term consequences of continued testing, particularly radioactive groundwater leakage into the Mururoa Atoll lagoon in the next 500 to 1,000 years. France claims that this conclusion is based on a premise that presumes five times the level of testing that has actually occurred over the past 10 years.