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Tuesday, 21 June 1994
Page: 1780

Senator MARGETTS —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In light of the current crisis on the Korean peninsula and in light of Australia's role both as a supplier of uranium to the region and as chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors, will the minister inform the Senate how the decision by Australia to support any UN sanctions was reached? Was the issue debated by either the Labor parliamentary caucus or cabinet? If the matter was not debated at either level, who made the decision to support UN sanctions and on what basis? Will the minister release details of the role played by the Australian chair of the IAEA's board of governors in the North Korean stand-off? Did Australia's position on the IAEA require the Australian government to agree to UN sanctions against North Korea even at the risk of war on the peninsula? Would the minister explain why Australia, as a nation concerned with the preservation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, supports US efforts to impose UN sanctions on North Korea? (Time expired)

Senator GARETH EVANS —The question of UN sanctions in relation to North Korea remains hypothetical at this stage. Hopefully, in the light of the recent developments that I talked about yesterday, it will not be necessary to go down that particular path. But, if UN sanctions ever are applied in this situation, Australia has an obligation as a UN member to support those sanctions. It would be quite unthinkable for us to do otherwise. In the event that mandatory measures are adopted by the Security Council, Australia, like every other member of the UN, would be bound to implement them.

  Support for the UN in these respects has been a longstanding pillar of Australian foreign policy and there is absolutely no need in that context to have any formalised approval procedures as new situations evolve. If they are consistent with established principle and established approaches—as this is, as I have just described—there is no issue that needs to be considered case by case.

  So far as our role in relation to the International Atomic Energy Agency is concerned, we played the very responsible role that one would expect us to be playing as a longstanding member in good standing of that particular organisation and as chairman of it during the recent troubled period. We are a country with a very strong commitment to the IAEA and to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. We do take the view that it is appalling for any country to walk away from its obligations under that particular treaty and we will always, as a result, be among those willing to apply appropriate measures in situations where countries do not discharge their obligations formally and solemnly entered into. That, regrettably, was the situation so far as North Korea was concerned.

  Senator Margetts was impliedly asking me about the situation in relation to Japan and other countries that might be closer perhaps to possessing nuclear weapons. I just say, in anticipation of that, that in the case of Japan it is a country with very good standing as a member of the non-proliferation treaty and the Atomic Energy Agency. It is not a matter of Australia ignoring anything in relation to Japan's nuclear conduct in this respect. We have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the only nuclear activity in which Japan has been engaged, or is likely to be engaged, is in relation to peaceful purposes.

  In the case of other countries that may have nuclear weapons possession potential—Israel, India, Pakistan are those that are most commonly mentioned in this respect—the situation is that, regrettably, they are quite outside the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. They are not parties to any of these international obligations and, as such, there is no basis on which the international community can effectively respond to any new development. That is a situation we would very much like to change and have been working actively diplomatically for a very long time to try to change, not least in the context of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty review conference which comes up next year.

Senator MARGETTS —Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question. Does this mean that Australia will be jumping on the bandwagon with any particular country that the United States of America thinks is a good mark in relation to nuclear non-proliferation?

Senator GARETH EVANS —That is not quite the way in which I would put it. When a country is in flagrant and deliberate violation of its solemnly entered into treaty obligations under something as important as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, it is very difficult for the United States, Australia or anyone else in the international community to simply stand back and say that that kind of behaviour should go unresponded to. At the same time, of course, in a very delicate situation of this kind where we are trying to take into account not only the effect of past actions but possible future actions, it does make sense to try, so far as humanly possible, not to make the situation any worse and to go down the path of a rational and negotiated solution. That, as I said yesterday and elsewhere, is the way we believe this situation should evolve if it possibly can.