Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 26 March 1985
Page: 830

Senator TEAGUE(8.55) —I support the Address-in-Reply and the amendment moved by the Opposition. The Governor-General's Speech at the opening of Parliament on 21 February was prepared for him, as at the opening of all parliaments, by the elected government of the day and sets out that government's objectives, policies and programs for the course of this the Thirty-fourth Parliament. Accordingly, in the Senate in our speeches responding to the Address, we are responding to this presentation of the Government's program. I will direct my remarks this evening centrally to one significant item; the cause of peace, arms control and disarmament. The Governor-General set out the Government's program in these terms:

The Government remains deeply committed to advancing the cause of peace, arms control and disarmament. At the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be held in Geneva in August and September this year, the Australian Government will make efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and will continue to urge the nuclear weapon powers towards a complete ban on all forms of nuclear testing. It will actively promote programs for the International Year of Peace in 1986, and will advance the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone proposal . . . the Government expects to continue to enjoy a mature relationship of mutual respect and close co-operation with our major ally the United States of America. The relationship between Australia and the United States under the ANZUS Treaty remains as firm as ever, and Australia's rights and obligations assumed under the Treaty are undiminished.

As I see it, there are some seven commitments in that part of the Speech. The first is the general deep commitment to advancing the cause of peace, arms control and disarmament. That statement is entirely bipartisan because we on the opposition benches have a similar profound commitment to these goals. Secondly, we in the Opposition share the view that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should be strengthened. I add only the rider that we should not put our faith in princes. We should not put our faith in treaties. Every time a war has broken out over the last centuries it has been because of the arrogant abuse of a treaty. We must not get too bound up with the legalisms and phrases, however well thought out the terms of a treaty may be. We must still look at the strategic reality of our defence.

A third aspect is the commitment of the Government to a complete ban on all forms of nuclear testing. I concur with that and I believe it is long overdue that the French should desist from nuclear testing in the South Pacific. I would also like to see a complete end to any nuclear testing by the super-powers and China and, of course, any further proliferation to new countries, whether they be India, Israel, the Arab countries, or whatever. In these commitments is a bipartisan approach to the goals set out in the Speech. In the International Year of Peace, declared for 1986, there will be many initiatives. My remarks will look towards the argument, which I believe ought soundly to be put by the traditional strengths of the coalition parties, and which should have a profound grasp and understanding amongst the people of Australia.

The fifth point is the South Pacific nuclear free zone. What does that mean? If it means forbidding nuclear test explosions and forbidding the dumping of wastes from the uranium or nuclear fuel cycle, I concur; but if it means our allies' ships being unable to come to Australia and, for that matter even New Zealand and other countries in the South Pacific, I do not agree and neither does the Government. The Government has not clarified its terminology when it says it will advance a South Pacific nuclear free zone. There is no doubt that even the New Zealand Government agrees to its naval ships taking part in naval exercises that include United States of America nuclear-powered ships, and even nuclear-armed ships, and that have tactics in manoeuvres which are based upon the eventuality of nuclear arms being used. Mr Lange has not precluded New Zealand from naval exercises involving that country and no doubt these will take place in the South Pacific. Therefore, there is a need for definition. I suspect that given the stated policies of the Government they will not be very far from the policies of this Opposition.

The sixth point is the importance of Australia maintaining close co-operation with our major ally, the USA, and to build a mature relationship with mutual respect. Again, I concur with that, but I can only say that we in the Opposition believe that the present Government is not living up to those goals. I will come to that in a moment. With regard to the seventh aspect, that is the ANZUS Treaty, it is tragic to see the way events have swallowed up this Government in this area. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) is now on record as saying that ANZUS is hollow and that it is no longer effective. The Australian Democrats have gone much further and have said that ANZUS never was up to much and that, therefore, nothing is lost. I believe that the spirit of the ANZUS commitment which is calling for rights and obligations involving Australia, the United States and New Zealand has substance. It is tragic that the decisions of the Government, particularly over the MX testing in early February, have dealt such a major blow to the continuation of ANZUS. I concur with the Government in encouraging a continuation of the relationship between Australia and the United States.

Senator Grimes —Have you any comments on what Mr Fraser said in London last week about ANZUS and its problems?

Senator TEAGUE —My view is that we should continue to live up to the full meaning of all the words contained in the Governor-General's Speech and that this Government is failing in those respects. I agree with the commitments that I have mentioned, but I am sceptical about and disagree with the performance of this Government in the ways that I have mentioned. There are two matters in particular in which I believe the Government has let Australia down. The first is the failure to live up to our obligations as an ally to service United States ships and especially aeroplanes in the testing of the MX projectile that would have required Australian assistance recently off the coast of Tasmania. I believe that was an hysteria that swept the Prime Minister aside. I continue to support the views expressed throughout that time by the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley), the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) and other senior Ministers who wished to maintain the logic and soundness of the arguments which had led the Government to agree to live up to the obligations of being an ally in these matters. One of the arguments that was put by the left wing of the Australian Labor Party at that time and by hysterical minorities around Australia was that we should not be associated with the MX testing because it was an instrument of first strike, that it was a weapon of offence and that the acquisition of those weapons by the United States had given it a superior capability to initiate nuclear war.

Senator Childs is in the chamber tonight. I remember in early February he made that view known publicly and within his own Party, arguing that this was a principal reason why Australia should not, in any way, be associated with this test flight. I will only acknowledge that if there were at least 280 MX missiles in the United States armoury they could be used as an instrument of first strike. Twenty-one of these MX missiles have been approved in the US. Negotiations by the President this week in Washington are to gain the concurrence of Congress for a further 21. It would be madness for the United States to fire the 42 MX missiles at the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or any other country as a first strike. Each MX missile has 10 warheads which are designed, as I understand it, to land in a concentrated way on one target. They are highly accurate, some 70 feet long and 7 feet wide or, in modern language, 20 metres long and 2.3 metres wide. With their 10 warheads they can create a huge impact which will break hardened areas around missile launching sites in the Soviet Union. They are certainly the most powerful weapon that the United States owns in terms of strategic defence. If the United States were to fire all 21 MX missiles or if, should Congress approve the acquisition of another 21 as expected, it fired all 42 it could not eliminate the more than 1,000 strategic weapons, the SS18s and others, which are aimed back at the United States. I assert again that it would be madness for the United States to use such a weapon as an instrument of first strike. Therefore, I regard that claim by the left wing of the ALP as irrelevant, wrong and misinformation. The Australian public, and indeed the Government parties, were led astray by the claim which has been made by the left wing.

The second offence occurred one year ago when the Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden, threatened the United States in Geneva in a very lame, immature and ineffectual threat. It does not live up to the words of the Governor-General's Speech, which I have applauded already. Immaturely he put the view that if the United States did not concur with the demands of Australia we would ban the United States bases in this country. I regard that as a nonsensical statement by our Foreign Minister. What are the American bases doing? It is well known that Exmouth is a means of communication with United States submarines, but that Pine Gap and Nurrungar are essentially satellite receiving communication stations. What are the satellites primarily doing? They are monitoring any kind of nuclear test and deployment of strategic arms.

Insofar as it is essential that there be verification of the agreement between the super-powers-indeed, between any nuclear armed countries-these satellites are an essential part of deterrence. So what a nonsense it was when the Foreign Minister said to the United States: 'If you do not agree to our present demands we will deny you'. We would be denying ourselves by taking away the extra arm of deterrence of verification through the satellites provided by these bases in Australia. Australia and the world would be worse off. There would be potential for the destabilisation of the present relationship in strategic arms between the super-powers. When one looks at the nonsense of the Government's decision on the MX missile or the nonsense of the Foreign Minister's statement about the bases, one finds that we are right to move by way of our amendment to the Address-in-Reply:

At end of motion, add: ', but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government's program outlined in the Governor-General's speech fails to address critical problems facing Australia in that-

(a) it fails to reassure the Australian people that the country's defence arrangements within the western alliance will be preserved and strengthened following;

(i) the Prime Minister's capitulation to internal party pressures on the issue of Australia providing logistical assistance to the United States for its testing of the MX missile, and

(ii) increasing uncertainty as to the future of the ANZUS Treaty fuelled by members of the Labor Government, including a Cabinet Minister . . .

Senator Ryan —Oh, yes?

Senator TEAGUE —I hear Senator Ryan's interjection. It is no secret that the Cabinet Minister referred to is Senator Ryan. I shall briefly note the situation of the disarmament debate in Australia. The nuclear race in armaments began in 1945 when the United States, having developed the bomb, dropped it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I note that the bomb's use in 1945 is the only use of nuclear weapons that has ever occurred in the world. Forty years of non-use of nuclear weapons have followed because of the commitment-bipartisan in this Parliament and in most countries of the world-to take every step towards arms control and disarmament. The only use of nuclear weapons was to end a war. The sense of gratitude and relief in Australia and, indeed, throughout the whole of the Pacific was enormous when hostilities came to an end in 1945. Does anyone doubt that that war would have continued for months and months had there not been that, however tragic, loss of life in Japan as a result of the dropping of those bombs?

A few years later the Soviet Union developed and tested such a bomb. In the 1950s France and the United Kingdom did so. Indeed, Australia was involved with the United Kingdom as an ally in the testing of its nuclear bombs in this country. In the mid 1960s China developed a bomb. At that point it was possible to see the nations of the world, not least Australia, limiting the so-called horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons to a few countries. There was potential for more countries but, nevertheless, it stopped with the five countries I mentioned: The United States, the USSR, France, the UK and China. Whilst speculation about India, Israel and other countries existed, horizontal proliferation has not continued since the efforts made towards its end in the 1960s. What we have seen is a continuing vertical proliferation, especially at the hands of the two super-powers.

In the period from 1945 until now, Australia has gone through three phases. First, it was the benefactor of the dropping of the bomb which ended the war in the Pacific. Secondly, we were a facilitator of UK tests during the 1950s. Thirdly, we became, to quote again the Governor-General's Speech, 'deeply committed' and, in a bipartisan way, an initiator of arms control and disarmament. However, the urgency is unrelieved. We must continue to take every initiative towards maintaining the urgency of achieving arms control and disarmament. I am on record in the past for welcoming the appointment of Ambassador Butler as a representative of this country, so ably putting arguments by way of public statements all of which I concur with. I agree with the goals of this Government in terms of the nuclear test ban and the renewal of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty set for this year.

However, what has transpired, particularly in the last Parliament, has been the formation of a parliamentary disarmament group-a voluntary, informal association of persons from every party. The fact that I have spoken in this way and the reference to disarmament in the Governor-General's Speech demonstrate that the disarmament debate has become a reasserted debate in this country over the last year or so. In my first six years in the Parliament I have made a speech on disarmament, having done so in March of last year, and I was the Liberal representative and co-convener of the disarmament group. We sought to alert the Parliament to disarmament issues. However, it has been only in the last six months that this alert has been taken up.

Despite the long record throughout the Menzies period and the Fraser Government's period of Australia having been an initiator in the area of arms control and disarmament and despite moves by individuals in all parties during the last Parliament, a new factor emerged during the last election, which was the enormous Press coverage given to one tiny element of the disarmament debate. That tiny element was the battle among the Nuclear Disarmament Party, the Australian Democrats and the left wing of the Australian Labor Party for some four, five, six or seven per cent of the public's vote. The attitude of each party to this issue was: 'We will unilaterally act to create a practical agenda of so-called disarmament which will outdo all the others'. In that battle and what I think was a very superficial but highly publicised debate we had the NDP, the Democrats and the ALP Left all clawing at the same ground, saying to each other, 'We will toss the American bases out quicker than you. We will stop nuclear ships quicker than you. We will do all that we can to make sure that the MX missile is not acquired by the United States', and so on. I believe that that clawing at the ground, that minority aspect of the disarmament debate, has, by its prominence in the last election, led to a skewing and a distortion of the public's perception of what this Parliament is saying about the way ahead for arms control and disarmament. I, along with the Opposition, continue to advocate a responsible approach to arms control and disarmament and the prevention, by better information and argument, of the misinformation and nonsense that has been put about by the NDP, the Democrats and the left wing of the Labor Party as the way of salvation ahead.

Therefore, I draw attention to the policy statement of the Liberal Party on disarmament and arms control which was put forward in October last year during the election campaign. It referred to confidence building measures, verification and compliance, strategic arms reduction talks, intermediate range weapons, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-Warsaw Pact force reduction, chemical weapons, radiological weapons, the importance of a comprehensive nuclear test ban, arms control in outer space, nuclear non-proliferation and, indeed, the importance of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. In this statement the Liberal and National parties addressed themselves to the importance of United States facilities in Australia and related them to armaments and the prevention of war.

We maintain that it is not armaments in themselves that create war; it is the decisions to precipitate conflict that do so, and these are made by men. We should not put our trust in treaties, the lack of armaments or any unilateral arms reduction as the ground for a secure peace. Rather, we should get to the causes of war and ensure by deterrence, mutual reductions in arms, encouragement of mutual understanding and, indeed, by realistic measures to prevent the use of any nuclear weapon, that we prevent war and the destruction of the world.

In the statement we also mentioned community involvement, the Western alliance and the high world costs of defence. This was the most comprehensive policy of disarmament and arms control put forward by any party during the recent Federal election yet, as I have said, the whole debate was distorted by the media concentration on the superficial aspects of this three-cornered clawing at the ground between the NDP, the Democrats and the ALP Left. As one member of the coalition and a Liberal senator from South Australia I wish to say that we must go a long way to more detailed and specific statements in this area of policy than even this, the most substantial of the policies that were put forward in the last Federal election. We must go on to take up the strengths in the Governor-General's Speech and the references to this area with substance and argument.

In this brief half-hour I have had the opportunity only to introduce that subject. I would have liked to go on to analyse the use of words, the rhetoric used by the Democrats and the left wing members of the ALP in the recent debate in this chamber on nuclear ships. I certainly welcome the acceptance by both the Government and the Opposition that the initiative from the Democrats is nonsense. It is appropriate for us to live up to our obligations under the alliance with the United States of America. Had I the time I would have referred to the central argument that Senator Chipp put forward at that time, which was that the United States must take the initiative to disarm. He claimed-I believe falsely-that this is the initiative which led the USSR to disarm. I believe that thesis is wrong. History in the 1970s in terms of SALT I and II shows that while the United States was restrained and involved in those negotiations the Soviet Union took every opportunity to build up its stockpiles, to develop its research and to create new weapons, culminating in the deployment of the SS18s and SS19s as strategic weapons and the enormous departure from the spirit of those arms negotiations with the deployment of the SS20 as an intermediate weapon in Europe. One could go on to talk about the details of the MX, the lessons to be gained from the 1970s arms control and so on. This will be the subject of future discussion and debate in the Senate.