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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3096

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(9.11) —by leave-I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

This Bill will place Australia in a role of giving strong moral leadership in the world on the most urgent issue of our time-disarmament and arms control. The world situation in 1984 is testimony itself to the need for arms control and disarmament. Superpower relations are abysmal. Communication is non-existent. The potential for crisis is great.

Waiting for a total breakdown of superpower relations is a stockpile of some 50 ,000 nuclear weapons in the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics alone. Britain, France, China, India, South Africa and Israel are also nuclear armed. Other nations are on the same devilish path. The destructive capacity of this stockpile is horrifying. The bomb that obliterated 200,000 people at Hiroshima in 1945 had a destructive capacity of 12 kilotons, 12,000 tons of TNT. Today, one 'average' nuclear bomb is equivalent to 42 Hiroshimas. The entire stockpile is equivalent to one and a half million Hiroshimas, and growing. The United States plans to build another 29,000 nuclear warheads in the next decade. The Soviets will undoubtedly match this insanity.

The nuclear arms race not only makes the extinction of humanity a probability, it wastes enormous sums of resources every day that could be put to humane use. For example, for the cost of one MX missile system every single person on this planet could be provided with food, water, clothing, housing and health care for three and a half years. It is time for those of us who can see a better way to say 'enough' to our leaders and demand action. This Bill would give the world a clear signal that Australia has had enough and wants the arsenals of death reduced drastically.

This legislation is the first step towards declaring Australia a nuclear weapons free zone. The Bill would prohibit the development, testing, manufacturing, transportation, storage or importation of nuclear weapons into Australia. Australia is defined in the Bill as being the land mass down to the lower-water mark including external territories. Territorial waters, harbours and airspace are thus excluded. The Democrats are considering making those areas subject to similar prohibitions in a future Bill.

The prohibitions in the Bill apply to the Commonwealth; a person on behalf of the Commonwealth; a corporation; the Government or Defence Forces of a foreign country or any person on their behalf. The Commonwealth is prohibited from entering into an agreement with a foreign country that would allow that foreign country to import, store, test or transport nuclear weapons within Australia. Remember that when we refer to Australia we are referring to the land mass of the continent and the external territories.

The Bill does not propose any penalties. It is not the Democrats' intention on issues of this kind to create vast systems of draconian penalties. Our interest is in preventing those actions we have labelled as prohibited. Thus the Bill sets out a system of injunctions to halt any activity that would breach the provisions of the Bill. An injunction can be taken out by a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or a person whose ordinary place or residence or work is situated in the vicinity of the place where the provisions of the Bill have been breached. The injunction would be taken out in the Federal Court.

The concept of nuclear weapons free zones can make an enormous contribution to disarmament initiatives. The absence of nuclear weapons from various regions increases the threshold between the use of conventional and nuclear weapons. Decision-making time in case of a conflict is increased, reducing the prospect that an outbreak of fighting would automatically escalate to a catastrophic and global holocaust. All these reasons would lead to an increase in confidence and stability.

The East-West border in central Europe is the region that most needs to be a nuclear weapons free zone. Australia will not have a great deal of direct influence on that issue. However, if we ourselves are a nuclear weapons free zone our diplomatic influence would be vastly increased because we would be an example of what we are asking for. This Bill would put our domestic affairs totally in line with our international concerns. If, as a unilateral initiative, Australia moved towards being a nuclear weapons free zone through the proposals contained in this Bill, we would be able to exert considerable influence towards establishing similar zones in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Nuclear war would be a more distant prospect if these zones were to be established.

This Government has renounced any desire for Australia to have a nuclear weapons capability and reaffirmed their commitment to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. The Democrats have welcomed that commitment, particularly given the publication by the National Times of the strategic basis documents. Such a commitment however has to be backed by concrete steps. This Bill is the guarantee that Australia needs to repudiate a nuclear weapons option for all time.

As Australia moves towards being a nuclear weapons free zone the risk of nuclear proliferation in our region would be all but removed. Given recent concerns and the increasing spread of sensitive nuclear technology in South East Asia all moves to remove the impetus to build nuclear weapons would be a major advance for peace and stability. The nuclear arms race has been going on for nearly 40 years, resulting in the stockpiling of 50,000 nuclear bombs. People have done nothing to date because the problem has appeared too large. It is an enormous problem, but the consequences of doing nothing could be catastrophic. Hard, courageous decisions are needed. The passage of this Bill would be one such decision. Australia would be taking a position of strong moral leadership as we become a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

Debate (on motion by Senator Robertson) adjourned.