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Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Page: 9203


Mr STEPHEN SMITH (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (3:12 PM) —by leave—The Australian government is deeply concerned at Iran’s refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing related activities as required by multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. As the House knows, Iran’s secret nuclear program was revealed in 2002. Since then, Australia has urged Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to take the steps necessary to reassure the entire international community about the nature of its nuclear activities.

The international community has responded through the adoption of four United Nations Security Council resolutions which require Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, and to meet the IAEA’s verification requirements. Three United Nations Security Council resolutions have imposed sanctions, including travel and financial restrictions against those engaged in Iran’s proliferation sensitive activities. Australia supports each of these binding resolutions, and has implemented these sanctions fully.

While the international community believes it is necessary to bring pressure to bear on Iran, it has also reached out to Iran. In particular, European Union foreign policy chief Solana on behalf of the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China and Germany has offered a generous incentives package in exchange for Iran’s suspension of its enrichment activities. Australia has strongly supported this initiative and has urged Iran to accept it. Unfortunately, Iran has refused to take up this offer and to provide the necessary assurances to the international community. To supplement these United Nations sanctions, the European Union decided recently to impose additional autonomous travel and financial sanctions.

Members will recall that on 15 September, the IAEA again confirmed that Iran had persisted with uranium enrichment and reprocessing related activities and had refused to give it access to all relevant facilities. The IAEA also reported it had detailed information suggesting Iran has conducted studies into nuclear weapons and that Iranian military entities have been involved in nuclear procurement. This information further deepened the government’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions.

As I told the House on 17 September, in light of Iran’s continuing failure to comply with its international obligations, the government would consider what additional measures it could take to bring further pressure to bear on Iran. In response to ongoing Iranian defiance of the Security Council and given the Australian government’s strong commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, the government has now decided to impose new financial and travel sanctions effective from today. The sanctions are targeted against 20 Iranian individuals and 18 organisations which contribute to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, or otherwise assist Iran to violate its Security Council obligations. These organisations include Iranian banks Melli and Saderat.

The new measures support and are similar to action recently taken by the European Union. The new measures are not intended to prevent legitimate Australian trade with Iran. However, the government will implement vigorously the Security Council’s call through Security Council resolution 1803 to be vigilant about providing financial support for trade with Iran, so as to avoid contributing to Iran’s proliferation-sensitive activities. To this end, Australia will not provide new financial support for trade with Iran under Australia’s trade promotion and trade finance programs; namely, through the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) and Export Market Development Grants (EMDG). The government will, together with the international community, continue to engage with Iran to urge it to suspend uranium enrichment.

I take this opportunity to address a separate matter relating to Iran. The Australian government has strongly condemned the statements by Iranian President Ahmadinejad calling for the destruction of Israel and questioning the Holocaust. These anti-Semitic comments were appalling by any standard. They have been rightly condemned by the international community, including the United Nations Secretary-General. Australian government officials in both Tehran and Canberra have also repeatedly made Australia’s abhorrence clear. We were appalled by the latest anti-Semitic views expressed by the Iranian President in his 23 September address to the United Nations General Assembly. Again, we condemn these remarks unreservedly. The Iranian President’s statements are unacceptable and do nothing to reassure the international community that Iran will act as a responsible international citizen. This is all the more troubling given Iran’s nuclear program.

The government has given exhaustive consideration to international legal action against Iran for these statements. Having now considered legal and other advice, the government, the Attorney-General and I have decided not to pursue international legal action against Iran. In doing so, we recognised the complexity of the issues involved and the high legal threshold required to bring forward such a case. As well, we determined to avoid pursuing a case which would give further profile to these obscene remarks. Most importantly, the Australian government would not want such legal action to complicate or distract from the international community’s efforts to address the serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s failure to abide by binding United Nations Security Council resolutions.

It is clear to me that the international community’s most pressing priority—indeed, its most compelling priority—in relation to Iran is to address Iran’s nuclear program. That is what the united effort of the international community needs to be directed to. My announcement today on new sanctions reflects the Australian government’s determination to support and reinforce the international community’s efforts to hold Iran to account.

I ask leave of the House to move a motion to enable the member for Wide Bay to speak for a period no longer than seven minutes.

Leave granted.


Mr STEPHEN SMITH —I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent Mr Truss speaking for a period not exceeding seven minutes.

Question agreed to.