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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4469

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (18:21): I rise to speak on the motion, moved by the Prime Minister on 21 March this year, on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. I speak as a member of a government that has sought to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and that has played a very constructive role in global disarmament discussions, negotiations and engagement. I also speak as a long-time antinuclear activist and someone convinced that the risks posed by nuclear weapons and materials are grave. I have long argued that our efforts in Australia to advance the cause of genuine binding nuclear disarmament need to be as strong as possible.

It is in our national and global interests that the world rid itself of weapons that are so powerful so that they can never be used. Indeed, I do not think that deterrence, as we once knew it, any longer holds the weight or the coherence that it may once have done. We are a respected middle-size power and our contribution can be substantial and positive to disarmament efforts, especially at this point in the history of global nuclear disarmament politics. The fact is that, four decades after the nuclear non-proliferation treaty came into being, we are at a logjam. As former UN Secretary-General, Koffi Annan, phrased it, 'When it comes to effective nuclear disarmament, the world is at a stage of mutually assured paralysis.' Iran's nuclear ambitions are self-evident, as is the dangerous, quixotic behaviour of North Korea and the threat of the terrible use of a nuclear device by terrorism, given that increased access to and knowledge of nuclear materials is growing. At the same time, within the nuclear non-proliferation treaty regime, parties have not been able to find common ground on agreeing to advance concrete, timely actions for disarmament.

Over a decade ago a review of the non-proliferation treaty saw parties agree to 'reduce nuclear weapons globally with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons'. Since then, virtually nothing has happened. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, long seen as a reasonable bulwark to increased nuclear proliferation, still does not include a number of recalcitrant states—North Korea, Pakistan and India, the latter being a country we are now contemplating selling uranium to.

The motion we are debating calls for ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty by all states yet to do so and follows the 8 December 2010 UN General Assembly resolution, sponsored by all five nuclear weapon states, urging all states to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty. And with 179 in favour and only one against, I think the message is clear.

US President, Barack Obama, has indicated that the US will consider immediate and aggressive ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty. The International Court of Justice has unanimously held that states have an obligation to pursue and bring to conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects. Following vigorous debate, the 2011 ALP national conference decided to create a special exception of allowing export of uranium to India. I acknowledge and respect that that conference has made that decision, but I observe that this does not mean that such export ought to happen immediately. I think we have a window of opportunity to further press for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty by all those countries that have not ratified it, as expressed in clause 3(C) of the motion under debate, and consider that any sale to India could be deferred in the meantime.

I note that although nuclear cooperation agreements have been reached between the US and India, India, whilst maintaining its current moratorium on nuclear testing, in subsequent statements has reserved its right to test a nuclear weapon if it so chooses. This issue is challenging due to the actions of Pakistan and its unwillingness to accede to nuclear disarmament agreements. Of course, Pakistan is a very near neighbour to India. But it remains the case that as a valued neighbour, an increasingly important economic power and a democratic nation, India's ongoing rejection of this treaty is highly regrettable. Australia is well placed to be a strong supporter and an important actor in the realm of nuclear disarmament politics. I think the motion before us means that there should be reconsideration of ratification of the treaty by India now.

There has been recent debate around expanded approaches to nuclear disarmament. I will come to one of those shortly, but the fact remains that the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, along with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, still represents the foundation of the global nuclear disarmament framework. Greater participation enhances the cause of disarmament. The motion before us also affirms support for a world free of nuclear weapons and recognises that we are closer to the unthinkable, the possible use of even a crude nuclear device that would cause untold misery and destruction.

In order for us to play a full and proper role in multilateral disarmament, not only should we continue with the endeavours underway—which now include additional actions identified by the Prime Minister at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul—but, as the motion notes, Australia should participate fully in a more comprehensive global approach to disarmament. The motion calls for an exploration of a legal framework for the abolition of nuclear weapons, including the possibility of a nuclear weapons convention. This would be a positive step, but I believe we should now move more quickly to lead the efforts to secure a new nuclear weapons convention.

This would recognise that every country must disarm and that a decisive circuit-breaker is needed to get the world onto a structured path to genuine total disarmament. A draft model for a nuclear weapons convention has been in place for some time. Indeed, it draws specifically from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and there is international and civil society support that has continued to grow from the mid-90s to the present. On moving to break the logjam, the treaty to ban landmines provides a clear example of what is possible in a relatively short period of time. Likewise, the chemical weapons treaty is an example of what is achievable when major powers buy in and take action.

To repeat, Australia is well placed to be a strong supporter of a nuclear weapons convention following speedy consideration of legal issues and a convention framework. We are parties with Japan and the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. We have contributed substantially through the first Canberra commission and subsequent engagements in policy. We are a member of the seven-nation initiative. We contribute our fair share to the International Atomic Energy Agency and there are a host of other important constructive actions that we are involved in. We are also a major exporter of uranium, the fuel of nuclear weapons.

While assorted multilateral negotiations move at a snail's pace, the need to completely eliminate nuclear weapons in a highly globalised world where terrorism opportunities are considerable has never been greater. The five-step approach laid out in the draft nuclear weapons convention would see the prohibition of developing, testing, stockpiling, threats to use nuclear weapons as well as the prohibition of the production of weapons-usable fissile material. Importantly, it applies to all states without exception. By the way, India has indicated a willingness to join. As the momentum builds internationally, it is very important that Australia not only gets on board but leads the way; continues to press for the remaining nations, who have not yet done so, to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and commits to a nuclear weapons convention as an essential major step to abolishing nuclear weapons. The safety of our world and our future demands nothing less.