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
Wednesday, 18 September 1985
Page: 663

Senator VALLENTINE(11.24) —Mr President, fellow senators and people of Australia, it is with both pride and humility that I rise to make my inaugural speech in this chamber as the first peace activist in the world to be elected to a national parliament on the single issue of nuclear disarmament. The Senate fulfils a useful role in our democratic process by enabling a wide spectrum of the electorate representation in the parliamentary system.

I should like to congratulate the two previous speakers. Honourable senators will note some points in common with what Senator Sanders had to say, but these points are so important that they bear repetition. Indeed, I have an awesome task before me, but not one that I undertake alone. Apart from the excellent staff I have working with me and the always helpful Senate staff, I wish to commend and encourage the hundreds of thousands of Australians who voted for nuclear disarmament, the most urgent need of humanity, in the last Federal election. I feel their support with me right now and I value it greatly.

I would like to thank all the hard workers around the country who made it possible for Australian voters to make that choice towards nuclear disarmament and especially to the campaign committee in Western Australia, competently organised by Annabelle Newbury. They co-operated really well in a fantastic team effort. I must also mention other Senate candidates, in particular Jean Melzer and Peter Garrett, who have done so much to further the cause of nuclear disarmament in this country, and also Michael Denborough whose idea it was to run political candidates on a peace platform. I give thanks also to Peter Fry, without whose loving support I would not be in a position to do this job. I take it on gladly, not only on behalf of our Katie and Samantha but for all children everywhere and, I hope, for all time.

In consideration of the recent Budget the contradiction between government pronouncements and actual policies is highlighted. There is a real increase of 3.1 per cent in the defence allocation and, of that, 71 per cent of the capital equipment allowance is being spent on hardware from outside Australia and far too much of that on the FA18s. At the same time, foreign aid was reduced to 0.45 per cent of the gross national product, moving further away from the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent, despite our membership of the United Nations Security Council. What aid we do give should not prop up oppressive regimes, as it does in the Philippines.

Another unfortunate indication of the Government's priorities is that specific areas of education have suffered from Budget cuts. There has been a 50 per cent reduction in the participation and equity program and funding for pre-schools has been terminated. Yet the defence budget increases while an infinitesimal amount is spent on positive peaceful initiatives such as the International Year of Peace and the newly established Peace Research Institute here in Canberra.

As well as a genuinely defensive defence budget, we should have a peace budget, incorporating government funding of peace groups around the country, administered by people at the grass roots level.

I believe that I am here right now because the major political parties have dismally failed to address the issue of nuclear disarmament to the satisfaction of an increasing number of concerned Australians. It is easy to say that everyone is in favour of nuclear disarmament and that nobody wants nuclear war. They are the ultimate in motherhood-or perhaps I should say parenthood-statements. I assume that no one here or in the other place would disagree with those statements. Yet the reason I am here is that that political rhetoric has not been matched by action. More and more Australians are calling on their politicians to put their ideals into practice-to really give peace a chance.

A very important concept escapes many Australians, including some politicians. It is that our country, knowingly or unknowingly, is engaged in preparations for fighting a nuclear war. There can be no mistake, no delusions and no cover-up about this very disturbing fact.

I wish to clarify my position to those who deliberately misrepresent it as being unilateralist. What I am advocating are independent initiatives to promote world-wide disarmament. I have never advocated unilateral Western disarmament.

Successive Australian governments have been able to satisfy themselves that we were involved in deterrence, according to the policy of mutually assured destruction. I believe that that was a myth all along. Evidence now available shows that as early as 1948, before the Soviet Union had even acquired the bomb, planners in the United States of America had targeted 20 Soviet cities for total nuclear annihilation. Each super-power has been responsible for a massive fraud ever since as it has build up its nuclear arsenals.

It is necessary to make clear to you, Mr President, and to the listeners that, although many of my remarks will be directed at the United States, it is only because of Australia's very close, and in my view very damaging, alliance with that country. I totally reject anti-American or pro-Soviet labels. What I am, unshakably and unequivocally, is anti-nuclear and pro-survival. I am critical of both the United States and the Soviet Union insofar as the military industrial complexes within both these nations are rolling on like huge juggernauts. They must be stopped.

All nuclear weapons are evil, no matter from which state they emanate, and the threat to use them is evil. The nuclear powers are the ultimate terrorists, holding the world's people to ransom. They also include China, Britain and France. In the case of the latter, continued testing of nuclear weapons in our region is abhorrent, as is France's disregard for the rights of indigenous people in the Pacific. The bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior by French Government agents was a blatant act of terrorism. However, the spirit of Greenpeace lives on. One cannot sink a rainbow!

Until the mid-1970s mutually assured deterrence was the official line. Then there was the major shift in nuclear strategies to flexible options, formalised in presidential directive 59, articulated in 1979 during Jimmy Carter's term of office. It clearly states an option to use nuclear weapons in a limited nuclear war with an acceptable level of casualties. Of course, various Presidents have considered many times the use of nuclear weapons to solve problems in various parts of the world and no doubt their threats have been matched by the Kremlin, although we know less about Kremlin strategies.

However, the election of President Reagan removed the smoke-screen of deterrence. We have moved from mad to nuts-nuts standing for nuclear use and tactics strategy, `use' being the operative word.

Pentagon planners are now committed, in their words, to nuclear war fighting capability, a position that presupposes a nuclear war can be kept limited, survivable and winnable. It is indeed horrific stuff and we, the Australian people, are involved in this up to our eyeballs. We are implicated as an integral part of the Reagan Administration's command, control and communications systems via the bases at Pine Gap, Nurrungar and North West Cape.

These bases are the eyes and ears of the United States strategic command. Through them we collect and transmit valuable information, allow the targeting and tracking of missiles and facilitate the sending of orders to ships and submarines of the United States fleet, which could include orders to launch nuclear weapons.

One of the most disturbing things I discovered on a visit to North West Cape earlier this year was the cool detachment of the base operators, who likened the functions of the base to a post office-`Messages come in and go out, but we do not know what they are'. So who does know? Who takes the final responsibility? I asked a series of questions of the United States State Department and the Australian Defence Department in May about the operation of that base at North West Cape, questions which still remain unanswered. As a representative of the people, I have a right to know so that I can disseminate that information. Successive governments tell us that these bases are good for us because they help to deter nuclear war. I put to honourable senators that they are good for the United States in its preparations for nuclear war.

Significantly, no Australian government has ever acknowledged the nuclear war fighting capability of these bases. The Australian people will be deceived no longer.

We can agree with successive governments which, since 1969, reluctantly and only through the pressure of growing public concern, have admitted that several of the 20 or more United States bases on our soil are prime Soviet nuclear targets. As if it is not bad enough to have those bases as prime Soviet targets, we invite more trouble in the form of nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons on board ships which frequently visit our ports. May I remind you, Mr President, of the frequency of these visits, particularly in Western Australia. These have increased threefold over the last eight years. On average a United States warship or submarine threatens Western Australia by its presence every one and a half weeks.

As I speak, the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier bearing 75 aircraft, and the USS Jacksonville, a nuclear powered hunter killer submarine, are in Perth waters. They are accompanied by 10 support ships which altogether could be carrying around 100 nuclear weapons. About 8,000 sailors have been disgorged into Fremantle and other ports, bringing with them the generally acknowledged adverse social consequences. Once again for a whole week large areas of the densely populated south-west corner of Western Australia will be high on the Soviet target list-a thought which many of us who live there find unnerving, to put it mildly.

We are alarmed that Australia allows the oceans surrounding our country to be militarised more rapidly than any other area on earth. The Pacific rim is not only the world's growth area in economic terms. The Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles are being deployed on 150 different surface ships and submarines in our region. They are new generation nuclear or conventionally armed weapons of great accuracy which escalate the arms race by drawing forth the inevitable Soviet response in the form of newer and deadlier weaponry aboard their warships. The recent declaration of the South Pacific as a nuclear free zone does nothing to prevent this militarisation, nor the use of Pacific waters for testing of nuclear weapons delivery systems such as the MX missiles-euphemistically and hideously misnamed the peacekeeper-to be followed in the next couple of years by the testing of the even more destabilising Trident IIs.

On the western side of the continent, where the concept of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace has been under consideration for 15 years, it is the United States which refuses to carry on dialogue. So much for Australia's often quoted influence with our ally.

Also, discussions on a comprehensive test ban treaty, strongly promoted by the present Government, to its credit, have been consistently held up by United States negotiators at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Despite recent American agreement to reconsider the comprehensive test ban treaty, the super-powers are in a stalemate situation because technical arguments over verification, which are in fact political, are being used to block further progress. Failure to achieve agreement on a CTBT will surely mean the continued failure of the super-powers to abide by the key provisions of article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at present under review in Geneva, calling on the United States and the Soviet Union to reverse the arms race. While this talking goes on and on, so does the frenetic production of more and more nuclear weapons.

The third major area of Australia's complicity is of course uranium mining. The reversal of Australian Labor Party policy on this issue was a sell-out which created enormous disillusionment, providing a catalyst for the huge growth in the peace movement; a growth which continues to reverberate. No matter what safeguards are in place, the inextricable link between civil nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons proliferation is undeniable. Nothing that the Government or the Opposition say can change that.

We must also look at the consequences of uranium mining on Aboriginal people whose lands are being decimated by uranium and other mining and whose lives also have been risked by the testing of nuclear bombs, in particular at Maralinga. Along with others exposed to those tests in the 1950s, the Aboriginal people are truly Australia's nuclear victims. Rather than exacerbating their problems, as a nation we should be redressing past injustices. We should also put into perspective the unquestionable damage to workers' health in uranium mines. We should not be prepared to place short term monetary rewards ahead of the quality of life here or anywhere else.

It is ironic that a government which claims to be doing more for disarmament than any other government encourages the development of Roxby Downs, the largest uranium mine in the Western world. It is also disturbing that the South Australian Government has given the green light to the use of 33 million litres of water per day for that mining operation; this in one of the driest States in one of the driest continents on earth. It is to be hoped that in the case of Roxby Downs economic arguments will prevail against it, even if we fail on moral grounds, which gives an unfortunate clue to Australia's current priorities. As a last point on the subject of uranium, it is relevant to note that no uranium exporter will admit to its uranium being used to make nuclear weapons. All countries deny that responsibility. So, where does it come from.

It was the youth of Australia with whom I was in close contact last year, as a peace education project officer, who spurred me into the political arena. For them the future looks bleak indeed. In the short term it is the job problem and in the long term the uncertainty of the future around which to build their dreams. In Australia, the United States and the Soviet Union 73 to 75 per cent of young people fear that there will be a nuclear war in their lifetime. They are not as foolish as T. K. Jones, Reagan's Deputy Under-Secretary of Defence, Research and Engineering, Strategic and Nuclear Forces Division, who believes that if there are enough shovels to go around most people will survive to reconstruct the world in two to four years after a nuclear war.

I think our children and children everywhere deserve a more positive view of the future and their place in it. They display such disillusionment and despair because they do not see us, their elders, and the politicians in this place, doing enough to guarantee safe custody of our fragile planet to future generations. They see most adults as being too concerned with the immediate, with the dollar, and most of us with no vision for the future.

Being in this place without a party gives me a unique opportunity to share with all politicians of all parties my vision for Australia's future. It is a subject too important to be bogged down by party politics and petty point scoring. Australia's future in the global context should be beyond all that, so I look forward to genuine and peaceful dialogue with political colleagues and with the Australian people about our possible future course. I know that we share many more points in common than there are differences between us.

So, what will I be working towards? What is this vision for Australia's future? I am far from the first to enunciate it, but in a word it is independence. It is time that Australia as a nation came of age. We have been having trouble finding a national identity ever since Europeans first invaded this country, and no wonder. We have always been tied to another nation's apron strings.

As we approach the commemoration of the 200th year of European settlement in 1988, bearing in mind that it is no celebration for Aboriginal people, consider the fact that there will be no joy and no celebration for any of us if Australia is still involved in preparation for the most immoral act ever wrought by human beings on each other-that is, preparation for our own mass suicide. Fortunately, we still have choices; in fact, we have enormous opportunities. What a great lead Australia could give to the rest of the world by standing tall and making a moral decision to say `no more' to continued complicity in the nuclear arms race. Consider New Zealand's enhanced international status since it gave its historic lead by banning visits of nuclear armed warships. Australia needs to do likewise, but to do much more. We need to deny renewal of the leases on the bases; we need to stop uranium mining; and we need to work with our Indian Ocean and Pacific neighbours for genuine nuclear free zones, unfettered by an alliance which totally compromises our position.

That alliance was first formalised in 1951 with the signing of the ANZUS Treaty and ever since successive Australian governments have considered the Treaty a cornerstone of our foreign affairs and defence policies. Most analysts, including the present Government, would argue that the Treaty document is not the all-encompassing security blanket which people have generally believed it to be. It does not commit the United States to coming to our aid; but nor does it commit us to hosting United States bases on our soil, or United States warships in our ports, or United States bombers on our airfields.

It is the alliance which has sprung up in secret behind the spirit of the Treaty which now implicates Australia in the Reagan Administration's nuclear war fighting strategies. What began as a treaty to shore up Australia's fears about Japanese invasion has become a nuclear alliance directed against the Soviet Union. Undoubtedly, the principal beneficiary of the alliance is the United States. As a nation in our own right we are not threatened; we have no enemies. But, as a part of an alliance with the United States, the Soviet threat looms large because of the possibility of accidental, if not intentional, nuclear annihilation against which, the ambitious gadgetry of the strategic defence initiative not withstanding, there is and can be no credible military defence.

This dream that I have of an independent Australia is neither impossible nor isolationist. It is quite possibile for Australia to move immediately towards an independent defence strategy incorporating appropriate and purely defensive capabilities to protect our northern shores. Our geographical separation and our long coastline, plus the arid conditions of much of the north and central regions of Australia, would make occupation by a foreign force a very difficult and expensive operation which would be unlikely to succeed.

We must look seriously at the concepts of neutrality and non-alignment, the possible cost and benefits and also the imaginative strategy of social defence which is currently being studied by defence planners in several western European countries. Although neutrality is traditionally associated with the continent of Europe, Australia could well develop a model relevant to our own unique geostrategic position. This would enable Australia to take a stand between the two blocs and yet permit us to take a constructive international role, much as Sweden has done successfully over the past 170 years, with a population half that of ours and in a far less secure part of the world, wedged as she is between the NATO and Warsaw Pact juggernauts. In considering the concept of non-alignment, I am using that term to denote our view of an independent Australia playing a constructive role in the Asia-Pacific region, and not as it is used by some so-called `non aligned' Third World states which are, like Cuba, clearly aligned. This would be a move out of the superpower blocs.

Social defence, or non-violent national defence, is another post-war concept designed to give national security while reducing threat levels in this age of potential nuclear overkill. It is based on the idea of total national non-co-operation in the event of invasion or occupation and has been used on a number of occasions throughout world history with varying degrees of success, and as much against totalitarian regimes as against any other political system. In Australia's case the concept would have to be adapted to cater for possible threats to our security which are, again, unique to our position. We could promote social defence from a position of relative international security. These models are presented as possible options for Australia, to be adapted to our own situation, bearing in mind that many other nations want to move `beyond the blocs' too, and that we would want to co-operate with other like-minded nations in our collective endeavours towards world peace.

We also need to consider the consequences of withdrawal from the American alliance. It would be an enormously uplifting experience for Australians to feel that, finally, we were to be in charge of our own destiny and that we could follow a path that is right and just and allow the spirit of Australia to flower. Of course, there would be a great deal of pressure exerted on us not to change the status quo, and there would be some economic ramifications. A price must be paid, but surely the price of independence could not be as devastating as the price of the nuclear aftermath. We might lose the military technological edge that we hear is one of the advantages of our involvement with the United States; yet we must also question the moral and political implications of accepting such technology and its relevance to Australia. I contend that the technological push-that is, scientists' constant research into bigger and more devastatingly accurate weapons systems-is very much part of the problem of arms race escalation. It is good to know that many scientists are now encouraging their colleagues to consider the social and moral consequences of their work.

Whilst the Government has publicly refused the Reagan Administration's invitation to participate in the research on the strategic defence initiative-the greatest and most expensive hoax in human history-it is a belated gesture, I fear, because, via the new DSP II satellite terminal currently being installed at Nurrungar, we are already involved. Another benefit of the alliance, we are told, is easy access to intelligence data provided under the five-powers agreement between Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Britain, most of which not only is of questionable benefit to the defence of Australia but also could be used against the interests of Australians, or our friends, such as Greece. United States intelligence personnel choose what they will tell us. We have no means, in most cases, of knowing what they choose to withhold or even whether things are being withheld. Despite being denied the juiciest titbits from the CIA's table, New Zealand shows no signs of sinking into the Pacific or of being taken over by enemies, foreign or domestic.

An independent Australia is not an isolationist policy either in political terms or in terms of the consequences of nuclear war. As we all know, the nuclear winter syndrome has eliminated the idea of any living thing anywhere on the face of the Earth being spared the aftermath. To that extent, all the Earth's creatures are in this pickle together. However, we are not alone in arguing for an end to the insanity of the nuclear arms race. It must be known that the people of the world are stirring against the tyranny of the nuclear terrorists.

Chinks are appearing in the NATO alliance, with Greece, Spain and the Netherlands currently, at the government level, displaying their displeasure at continued complicity in the nuclear arms race. And in the Warsaw Pact group, Romania refuses to allow Soviet weapons to be stationed on her territory. North Korea also refuses. There is also tremendous opposition in both Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic to the deployment of Soviet SS21s and SS22s. I salute the brave people who are prepared to stand up and be counted in these Soviet-dominated dictatorships. The `Swords into Ploughshares' movement and other Eastern Bloc independent peace groups are a wonderful symbol of courage, inspiration and hope. It is time for us all to turn our swords into ploughshares, to break our chains so that we are no longer nuclear hostages. As Petra Kelly has said, `Violence ends where love begins'. The time is approaching when the nuclear terrorists will run out of allies, spurred on by the people of the world who say `enough!'.

With the political will from the people behind them, the negotiators at Geneva could make nuclear disarmament a reality in a short space of time. They, the negotiators, and we, the people, need to think beyond the blocs. The world has not always been divided into two hostile enemy camps, and it is at its peril that that situation is allowed to continue. The Soviet Union has not always been an enemy. Most of us might not like its policies or its style of government, and we certainly do not have to adopt either. But neither are its policies and style of government an excuse for the West to contemplate nuking its people. Having just commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and especially knowing that the survivors are still suffering, it seems an act of gross inhumanity, gross immorality, that either superpower could conceive of using such weapons again. We must at least accept the fact that the two systems can co-exist peacefully: The alternative is a nightmare. The biblical injunction to `love one's enemies' has become the global imperative.

I ask you, Mr Deputy President, senators and listeners, to consider the fact that the Chinese endured `enemy status' from 1949 to 1973, when suddenly that status was transformed from being `the dreaded Red China' to being a sought after trading partner and tourist mecca. So, changes of heart are possible, and so is peace possible. My belief is that it will come about through the will of the people, determined to break down the barriers which presently exist not only between the superpowers but also between other nations and groups of people. The nuclear allergy, or the `Kiwi disease', so dreaded by the Pentagon, and probably by the Kremlin as well, is spreading rapidly. I hope that Australia, as a nation, has the guts to get infected and to spread the allergic `wellness' elsewhere. As a nation, we need to see the connection between militarism, social injustices and environmental degradation. We should be working towards a just, participatory and sustainable society in which all living things are valued. We know that this, too, is possible.

We need to be rid of the addiction of militarism, which is wildly excessive, out of control, and which must be confronted or surely it will annihilate us spiritually if not physically, especially because this excess occurs at the expense of present pressing needs of human beings. This militaristic addiction is the masculine model of the world gone mad. We live in a patriarchal and structurally violent society which perpetuates this aggressive model. It is time for the non-aggressive, caring and creative aspects of both men and women to flourish in our quest for survival. Women have an obvious role to play in the encouragement of these nurturing qualities, which are by no means restricted to them.

It is necessary to consider what we mean by peace as we work so hard to achieve it. Certainly it is much more than the absence of war, more than the absence of nuclear weapons. Their elimination definitely heads our removalists list, but we also seek to remove all forms of oppression and injustice, wherever they originate, to deal with the causes of our problems rather than merely to shore up the effects. There is an urgent need to consider the non-violent resolution of conflict at all levels in society, from the personal to the international. Because we are so conditioned to being surrounded by violence, non-violence is something we must teach our children.

This is the choice we have: To opt for a new way of looking at ourselves, our prospects for the future, our global role, knowing that the turning point towards sanity is being approached from all directions around the world; or to follow the same dreary colonial client's path to doom, as surely as night follows day. Do we want more of the same, peace through so-called security, as the Liberal Party recommends? Ask the youth of Australia, and they will give a resounding `No way'. We should listen to them.

As far as the major political parties are concerned, what we now have on the one hand is an Opposition committed to the cold war mentality of the 1950s, much more dangerous in the 1980s because of the notion of fighting and winning a nuclear war. Unfortunately, history proves that humanity has never developed a weapon that has not been used. Deterrence has to fail only once to be rendered 100 per cent useless. The promotion of Australian involvement in strategic defence initiative research, support for the testing of MX missiles, and the offer of home porting facilities to the United States Navy are the more frightening aspects of Liberal Party policy. On the other hand, despite important government initiatives at the diplomatic level, most of which are thwarted by our major ally, the gap between the Government's actions and statements is all too obvious, as I have already explained.

The immediate harm from the nuclear arms race is that it is killing us spiritually. Something has to be dead within us if we allow the gross injustices on this planet to continue. People need encouragement and hope, to know that they can effect change, to know that their views count. My presence here is testimony to that.

My job is to help turn Australia around towards a nuclear-free future. But to reach that turning point Australians need a great deal more information about all things nuclear. The shrouds of secrecy need to be lifted so that Australians can figure out the compromises that have been made on their behalf by successive governments, the deals that have been done in secret, and to discover who makes Australia's nuclear decisions. Information is power. It is an indictment of our government processes that we can find out more about United States Government activities in Australia and our own Government's actions through the United States freedom of information legislation than through our own legislation.

I believe that a well-informed Australia will opt for a bold new independent path because most Australians will want a fair go for themselves and their children. The people have great power, once activated, to give the politicians a push in the direction in which they want them to go. In other words, if the people lead, the leaders will follow.

Debate (on motion by Senator Robertson) adjourned.