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Tuesday, 20 September 1994
Page: 965

Senator MARGETTS —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer the minister to the Lateline program on ABC television of 15 August 1994 in which Mr Phillip Shirvington, a director of Energy Resources of Australia, stated that his company was fulfilling some of its company's contractual obligations to supply uranium with ore mined in Kazakhstan, and I ask: can the minister advise whether the uranium sourced from Kazakhstan in order to fulfil low priced sales contracts is to be transported to Australia prior to supply to ERA's customers?

Senator Kemp —Do they have a three-mine policy in Kazakhstan?

Senator MARGETTS —If so, what volume of nuclear material is transferred through Australia in this manner? If not, is Kazakhstan a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and therefore is the uranium subject to the same safeguard conditions as apply to Australian sourced uranium?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Kazakhstan is outside the scope of the three-mine policy, those opposite will be pleased to know. The truth of the matter, I am advised, as to the first question is that the uranium that ERA sources from Kazakhstan is not shipped to or through Australia. Most of ERA's purchases from Kazakhstan are shipped to the US for use in the civil power industry.

  As to the second question, Kazakhstan has been a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the NPT, since February this year and has signed the requisite safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. As an NPT party, Kazakhstan is required to ensure that any uranium exported to a non-nuclear weapons state is used for peaceful purposes and is subject to IAEA safeguards. To this extent, Kazakhstan sourced uranium attracts similar safeguards conditions as Australian uranium does. However, in the case of Australian sourced uranium, longstanding Australian uranium safeguards policy imposes additional stringent conditions which reinforce the safeguards obligations which are laid down in the NPT.

Senator MARGETTS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. I ask further: in relation to an answer that the minister gave to question on notice No. 1608 that the government is considering the introduction of legislation in the area of non-proliferation which would have extraterritorial effect, and considering the amount of concern there currently exists in the world about proliferation issues and the trade in nuclear material, can the minister point out how far this planned legislation has gone so far and what would be the intention of such legislation?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The main thing would be to extend the reach of the safeguards legislation beyond Australian territorial boundaries, at least to the extent that it was within our practical competence to apply some discipline—for example, so far as Australian nationals were concerned. I am not sure where the detailed consideration of that has got to. I will get a further answer in that respect and make sure Senator Margetts has it as soon as possible.