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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 621

Senator PETER RAE(9.59) —I support most of the remarks made by Senator Sibraa and will add one or two of my own. I agree that, irrespective whether it is a socialist French government or any other French government which wishes to see independence in New Caledonia, it is important to the south-west Pacific that the problem of independence for New Caledonia be sorted out much more expeditiously than is planned by the French Government at the moment. I encourage the remarks that have been made, but I doubt whether there is a difference in attitude to the fact that it is desirable to achieve that independence. I think it is a matter of how quickly it can be done without creating the sorts of troubles which have been created in a number of other countries where independence has been expedited without the due transformation processes being worked out.

As far as a nuclear free zone is concerned, I wish to be heard to be objecting as strongly as anybody else to the French tests. I do not believe it is a legitimate use of a vestige of colonialism for a European power to use its colonial areas in a completely different part of the world for the forms of testing of nuclear weapons which it would not be prepared to do in its own metropolitan area. I am concerned that we are not misunderstood.

Senator Sibraa —It would not go down well in the Mediterranean.

Senator PETER RAE —If one tried to do these things in one of the French Islands in the Mediterranean I do not imagine that it would be greeted with wild enthusiasm by people in the vicinity. As everybody in this chamber knows, I happen to be a supporter of nuclear energy as a clean and free-by 'free' I mean free from pollution and free from all sorts of problems-source of energy. I distinguish completely between the development of nuclear power and the development of nuclear weapons. I am commenting on the use of misuse of the historically advantageous situation enjoyed by France in being able to conduct nuclear weapon experiments where it should not be able to do so.

I believe Australia's future in the south-west Pacific and western Pacific region is obvious and clear. It should not be understood that we are other than keen on the development of closer economic relations and that we are keen to develop the south-west Pacific forum and relations with Papua New Guinea, in particular, and the other members of the south-west Pacific forum. One of the suggestions I have made, which unfortunately was not accepted by the committee which examined the future use of this Parliament House, was that Parliament House might be used as the Palace of Europe in Strasbourg is used-mainly as an international centre for the whole region. The Palace of Europe, which is the centre for the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Human Rights Commission and a number of other bodies, plays an important part in the development of international relations. I think it is important that we should develop such relations in our region.

I think one of the things Australia should do is help develop some degree of permanency and some degree of relationship without employing any big brother type attitude by providing a permanent home for the various bodies from the political to the agricultural, including fishing, and other matters which would develop a whole cross-section of related bodies. I refer to anything from the South Pacific Forum to the south-west Pacific, the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement and various other types of contacts-I have not time to name them all. I simply take this opportunity to welcome this report . One of the most important things Australia must do is to ensure that we make the most of the opportunity to play our proper part in our region. Our sub- region can play a proper part in our total region. Certainly the south-west Pacific area can play a proper part in the total western Pacific region.

Question resolved in the affirmative.