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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6277


Mr RUDD (GriffithMinister for Foreign Affairs) (17:44): I thank very much the member for Page for her continued engagement in Australia's foreign policy broadly and its international development assistance policy more narrowly. She asked two sets of questions, one concerning non-proliferation disarmament and the second concerning civil nuclear safety. On the first, the honourable member would be aware that in 2008 the Australian government, together with the Japanese government, commissioned a report by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, which goes by the remarkably attractive acronym 'ICNND'—and if I ever track down the diplomat who gave it that acronym we will have an appropriate exchange! ICNND now has a certain international status and, of course, one of the co-chairman of ICNND was Gareth Evans, the former foreign minister of Australia.

For those honourable members interested in the whole challenge of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, this report represents the single most comprehensive bible on the non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament agenda worldwide. It is not just thoughtful, it is practical. Unlike many such reports, it goes down to the nuts and bolts of what changes need to be made through the established mechanisms of the international community—for example, the Committee on Disarmament et cetera. But most critically it contributed to the conference which the honourable member referred to, which was the 2010 review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The ICNND report was of great significance in focusing the debate at the NPT review conference, to the extent that it assisted in shaping 64 sets of recommendations adopted unanimously—remarkably—by the international community meeting at that conference.

Of course, the problem then becomes one of how these recommendations are to be acted upon and actioned in the international community—and those who have followed arms control and disarmament negotiations around the world will know that it often ends up as a process of 'watching paint dry'. However, together with the Japanese government again, at the last meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York in September last year we commissioned a new group made up of foreign ministers from middle powers—Australia, Japan, Korea, Germany, Poland and a range of others—to advance the recommendations put forward by the NPT review conference. We have met on two occasions—once in September and secondly at a meeting co-convened by us and German Foreign Minister Westerwelle in Berlin a month or two ago.

There are two specific outcomes that we are now working on, and one relates to the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. The FMCT is a treaty which deal specifically with how we bring to an absolute halt worldwide the production of nuclear fissile material and nuclear weapons material more broadly. That is what the FMCT seeks to do, and there is a reference for it to achieve this ambitious proposal through the Conference on Disarmament, which meets in Geneva. Enter, the Conference on Disarmament—at a gallop; it has basically been in a stationary position for 15 years. If you go into the Conference on Disarmament and ask what has been on the agenda recently, the answer is not much. In fact, it is one of the rolling disgraces of the international community. And the reason is that consensus has not been achieved in bringing specific recommendations from elsewhere in the international community, such as the NPT review conference, onto the formal agenda of that body. So what we have done, through the non-proliferation and disarmament initiative group of foreign ministers co-chaired by me and my Japanese colleague, is issue a statement making it plain to the rest of the international community that, if the CD does not achieve an outcome on this by year's end, we will formally seek to move the FMCT negotiations to a different forum. This does not often happen in the international community, but that is what we are proposing to do—whether it is the UN First Committee or elsewhere.

The second recommendation goes to the development of a standard nuclear reporting form by the nuclear weapons states so that, consistent with the international obligations they have given under various disarmament obligations around the world, they provide a regular report card on the current status of their stockpile. And we will be presenting that as a joint effort between ourselves and the Japanese soon.