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Thursday, 26 March 1998
Page: 1394

Senator MARGETTS (1:10 PM) —The Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Amendment Bill 1997 is not considered to be controversial. I want to put something in perspective in relation to Australia's view and the international view on chemical weapons. I guess part of the pressure for the amendments in the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Amendment Bill is because of the international issues relating to Iraq, but that perspective should include reference to a report which was written by Alan Friedman, from New York, entitled The Middle East: Washington gave green light to Iraq sales . The report stated:

The official admitted that the equipment went to IRAQ because the policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations permitted trade and were aimed first at bolstering Mr Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 war with Iran and later (in 1988-90) at selling the Iraqi president technology in an attempt to encourage him to be more moderate.

There seems to be some evidence that the Iraqi crisis in 1990 had some very important commercial considerations for the United States. The reason I mention this is that I do not think those commercial considerations are a thing of the past. I would like to read from a small, half-page article written by Paul McGeough, from the West Australian newspaper, on 26 February 1998. He said:

While the struggle for control of chemical and biological weapons intensifies in the Gulf, another arms race has already been decided. The United States has a dominant role in the region's thriving arms bazaar, though Britain and France have also cornered a reasonable slice. The end of the Cold War in the 1980s heralded a slump for arms dealers, until Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Since then the region has spent more than $130 billion on the most sophisticated weapons available. The Washington-based International Institute for Strategic Studies rates oil-rich Saudi Arabia as the region's biggest arms buyer . . . Second was Egypt, with more than $3 billion. The institute's figures show the US controlled almost 43 per cent of the international arms trade in 1996, more than the combined sales of the increasingly competitive Britain and France. More than two-thirds of US weapons sales are in the Middle East, where tension has been high through the 1990s because of setbacks to the Israeli peace process, concern about Iran's nuclear and missile programs, Iraqi intransigence and fundamentalist violence in Algeria. The White House has helped protect the interests of American defence contractors and their workers. Bill Clinton has become the first President to order expressly that the evaluation of proposed arms deals includes their impact on the defence industry. Under Mr Clinton, US contractors have consolidated their stranglehold on the world market. Contractors such as Lockheed have pressured the Pentagon for permission to upgrade the technology on offer to would-be buyers in the Middle East. The Washington Post reported last year that Mr Clinton urged United Arab Emirates leader Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Nahayan to buy American when he wanted 80 new jet fighters in 1995. A Pentagon team was dispatched to a big arms fair in the UAE. The US Army assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, Gilbert Decker, worked the American pavilion to support big US contractors. Mr Decker told the Post: "If we don't deal, someone else will, and it might not be in as controlled a Manner."

Gosh, have we heard that before? The article continued:

But the UAE placed its first-batch order for 34 combat aircraft with the French dealer Dassault Aviation. The deal was expected to be worth $8 billion. US enthusiasm for the arms trade belies historic ironies. In the l970s, Islamic revolutionaries in Iran acquired US weapons, so the US and its allies armed Iraq—only to be facing their own weapons in the Gulf crisis. The renewed tension since then has prompted a flood of arms imports. Saudi Arabia is estimated to spend about a third of its budget on defence. Oman spends about half.

I would just like to make it clear that there are three countries in the world which are acknowledged as having chemical weapons. They are the United States, Russia and Iraq, but there may well be lots of other countries that have not come clean.

I just wonder when was the last time UNSCOM demanded to inspect the Pentagon in the United States. With all the hand-on-heart statements that we have heard about the outrage when United States weapons inspectors were not originally welcomed into the presidential palaces of Iraq, I just wonder whether or not this perspective has been put to the community of the world and the community of Australia. I think there is a lot that needs to be done and, if we are going to take any action in support or otherwise of international actions against weapons of mass destruction, we must make sure that our slate is clean and that the slate of our allies is in the same condition.