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Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2374


Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(3.07) —Mr Speaker--


Mr Steedman —Take the smile off your face.


Mr PEACOCK —I raise as a matter of public importance:

The serious national implications of the Government's uranium decision.

I am being supported by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) but I am sure that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Steedman) who has just interjected would like to join me in support.


Mr Steedman —I have not heard the argument yet.


Mr PEACOCK —Is the honourable member for Casey not coming in today?


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Casey will cease interjecting and will not respond to the invitations of the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr PEACOCK —We have the possibility of a poor shadow seconder in the honourable member for Casey. I doubt whether this Parliament has seen a more unprincipled, more illogical and more discriminatory decision than that made by Caucus yesterday. The honourable member for Casey would agree with that, would he not? As the honourable member for Casey is saying nothing I will get on with my argument. The fact is that yesterday's decision is riddled with contradictions and dishonesty. But through all this let there be absolutely no doubt that the thrust of the decision-this the honourable member for Casey will not agree with- is anti-uranium. As Mr Bannon, the Premier of South Australia, said after yesterday's Caucus outcome:

The Labor Party remains an anti-uranium Party.

Hypocrisy, illogicality, discriminatory; you name it. I repeat what the Premier said after yesterday's Caucus outcome:

The Labor Party remains an anti-uranium Party.

The reality, of course, is that there are no new mines except Roxby, no new contracts except those recently negotiated by Energy Resources of Australia Ltd, and it means the possible revision of even existing contracts in line with the results of the proposed inquiry. To put that in perspective, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and Caucus yesterday voted for the loss of $1,100m of investment. The Prime Minister and Caucus yesterday voted for the destruction of thousands of jobs. The Prime Minister and Caucus yesterday voted to damage Australia's reputation as a reliable, long term supplier.

Caucus did vote for Roxby to proceed. We welcome this one significant pro- uranium part of the decision. Roxby has the potential to become one of the great mines of the world and underpin the recovery of a very depressed South Australian economy. But even the Prime Minister, with his instinctive impulse to be all things to all men, cannot hide the shameful discrimination in the decision against the people of the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia. He cannot hide the discrimination against the employees and shareholders in the projects which have been arbitrarily rejected. The fact is that the Prime Minister and his Government have set South Australia against other States and Australian against Australian in a betrayal of national unity and equity all for the sake of party political survival. For what reason could the Cabinet and Caucus possibly say yes to Roxby but no to the Jabiluka, Honeymoon, Beverley and Koongarra projects and no to all the projects in Queensland and Western Australia? Is the uranium from Roxby clean? Is the uranium from Jabiluka dirty? The Chairman of Pancontinental Mining Ltd, Tony Grey, said yesterday:

Does this mean that the Government has decided on a new kind of mineral? Good uranium when it's mined with copper, and bad uranium when it's mined by itself?

This nation is now saddled with a government which is trying to go in two directions at once on uranium. What could be the biggest uranium mine in the world could go ahead but the uranium industry as a whole is to be phased out. How ridiculous can we get? How can any government put this forward as a serious attempt to respond to a serious issue? The Government has adopted this policy because the Prime Minister has no firm policy direction and needs to salvage his credibility after his gaff to the Business Council of Australia when he announced an alleged Government decision to proceed with Roxby Downs. This policy aims unquestionably at propping up the sagging Bannon Government in South Australia. The Prime Minister, to cover his own inadequacies, to satisfy his own vanity and to save the neck of his immoral accomplice, Mr Bannon, has resorted to total and extreme hypocrisy.

In Caucus Paper No. 1 the Cabinet outlines, and correctly so, all the good reasons why uranium should go ahead. But then it supports a recommendation which , on moral grounds, allows some mines and not others. How can the Government reconcile a policy which calls for the phasing out of uranium and then say it will proceed with it at Roxby Downs? How can we go along with what was put in the Prime Minister's Caucus Paper No. 1 by the Cabinet, outlining all the reasons for uranium going ahead, but support a recommendation on moral grounds that allows one mine to proceed but not others? The Prime Minister has not only resorted to this low level, but he also went even deeper into the mire yesterday in obviously promoting leaks that the policy of the Australian Labor Party will be changed at the next national conference to allow any mine to be developed. When will this Prime Minister have the courage to come clean with the Australian people on what he actually plans for the future of the uranium industry? Instead , he seeks to have the best of both worlds while sacrificing the future of a potential major industry.

It was with the accession to the leadership of the Labor Party by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Hawke) that the industry in fact saw some hope that there might be a more moderate and more sensible uranium policy. That hope has been lost in the turmoil and confusion surrounding Labor Party decisions on this issue. Let us listen to a few. What do Mr Dolan and Mr Wriedt say? They say Australian Labor Party policy means the phasing out of the industry and the abandonment of Roxby. When the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) were asked for their views on this matter, they said they did not know what ALP policy means. The Prime Minister and the majority of the Cabinet say that ALP policy allows the development of Roxby and the uncertainty, confusion and the turmoil continues.

Let us not run away from reality. Two distinct and major threats are coming down the line. The first threat will be by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Cliff Dolan has clearly indicated that the ACTU will be fighting with every means at its disposal to reverse the Caucus decision. This must ultimately mean industrial action. The Prime Minister can hardly complain if the ACTU and its President use union muscle to pursue their own ideologies. The Prime Minister was guilty of using it to pursue his own personal views and yet in spite of the ACTU policy and in spite of Mr Dolan's confrontation comments, the Prime Minister continues to live in some sort of cloud cuckoo land and say: 'I don't anticipate any problems with the ACTU at all'. See the smiles on the faces of certain members opposite. The second major threat is the very strong possibility that the next Federal Labor Conference scheduled for July 1984 will overturn the Caucus decision. In a desperate bid to pre-empt the problem, the Prime Minister declared yesterday that Caucus members who are delegates to the conference will have to vote for the Caucus decision. He later admitted that this was not the rule. Some leader, some Prime Minister, who does not even know the rules pertaining to his own Party. That is the charitable view.


Mr Steedman —Your Party does not have any rules.


Mr PEACOCK —That may well be so, but that is the charitable view that we take. The reality is that to seek to pre-empt the problem, he thought he could use yet another device to keep members in harness behind him. In fact, the Prime Minister only continues to deepen the division and to deepen the indecision. With regard to the next conference, he stated:

I believe that by the time we get to the National Conference, it is very likely that we will have sorted out an accommodating position.

What does 'an accommodating position' mean? Does it mean that the details of the Caucus decision are still open to negotiation? Does it mean that the Government would disregard any rejection by the conference of the Caucus decision, or does it mean that the Prime Minister will continuously do deals with the various factions to buy their support? I will lay any money that honourable members like that that is what will be done. Time and again deals will be done with the Left to get programs through to ensure 'an accommodation' at the next conference. I will not embarrass the honourable member who shook his head then, indicating that there will be no deals with the Left.


Mr Hand —There won't be.


Mr PEACOCK —There will not be any more deals by the Prime Minister with the Left ? Are all bets off? There will be no deals with the Left, but there will be every endeavour to make such deals. I hope that the Left holds firm. I hope it holds firm for the better government of this country, because this man is primarily a manipulator of men and policies. To get his own way he will manipulate devices. He will do so simply to get his viewpoint through. The tragedy for Australia will be if, to try to get this so-called accommodation at the next Federal conference, he will seek to do deals with members all over the place. Perhaps the first deal, for all we know, was the watered down version of the National Crimes Commission Bill. It is nothing like the Crimes Commission Bill which we planned to introduce. We know the tactics of the Labor Party: Get rid of Costigan, get rid of Stewart, put forward a watered down version of the Bill to protect Wran and his rotten Government in New South Wales. They are the sorts of deals that the Government has been doing. They are the sorts of deals that will flow from the nonsense of the decision yesterday and the endeavour to reach an accommodation at the next Federal conference. He cannot any longer achieve true consensus, so now he must buy it. He buys it by misusing the programs that ought to be used for the betterment of the Government of this country.

The factions in the Labor Party cannot seem to get clear the facts about this so-called policy. Let me point out what this policy does not achieve. It is not a policy designed to achieve the sensible development of an important export industry. It is simply a policy designed to rescue the credibility of both the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia. It is not a policy which provides a framework for reasoned discussion of Australia's role in the world nuclear debate. It is a policy aimed at papering over growing splits in the Labor Party in this House and outside it. For all the moral outrage claimed by Labor on uranium, this decision will do nothing to advance these moral issues with which the Government claims to be concerned. Lastly, it is not a policy which aims at generating real development and real jobs. The sad reality is that this Government has now shown that on the really hard issues it can come up only with unprincipled compromises; compromises which continue the uncertainty; compromises which hold up Australia to ridicule.

Yesterday was no doubt a sad day for many honourable members opposite; indeed, a sad day for the Labor Party. Honourable members on this side of the House can see that from the expressions of honourable members in the chamber at present. No doubt it was a sad day for the Labor Party, but it was an even sadder day for Australia. The tragedy of it all is the destruction of an industry and the proclamation of moral motivations that people are opposed to uranium and the ALP wants to phase it out, but will let it develop in one state for but one reason- to prop up a diminishing government, namely, the Bannon Government in South Australia. Some morality! Some principle! Some Government which, on an issue as fundamental as this, providing as many jobs as it does, providing an industry which will grow, and providing the opportunity for greater purchase and leverage in non-proliferation issues around the world, ends up with a no to uranium around Australia with one exception simply to prop up the Government of South Australia. It is a sad day for Labor, a sadder day for Australia.