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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3128


Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(3.16) —As far as the Uranium Advisory Council went and could go, because of its constitution and charter, it did a useful job. The Australian Democrats expressed concerns from time to time that it could no prevent diversion of uranium into use for nuclear weapons, it could only detect such a diversion or any lack of safety and report on it. What good is that? Once a diversion is detected, it is too late. Sometimes I wonder what good it is to know that uranium is already on its way to being used to make a nuclear bomb. There is very little comfort in being told that.

Because of what Senator Chaney has so adequately said, I wish to confine my remarks to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The UAC urged the previous Government to provide a new legislative framework for the AEC's research establishment. Such a review needs to be wider than the UAC recommended. The Atomic Energy Act as a whole is a draconian piece of legislation which needs to be substantially redrafted. In fact, the kinds of provisions in this Act are mind boggling. For example, as honourable senators know, the Act renders people liable to a heavy fine or a prison sentence of up to 20 years in the event of hindering or obstructing uranium mining. Search and arrest are permissible without warrant. The burden of proof is on the defence. The accused can be convicted on the basis of conduct or charter which suggests disloyalty, even if the offence cannot be proven. Evidence of the defendant's past and guilt by association are all admissible, contrary to all the principles of justice. I will read into Hansard the infamous section 47 (a), which states:

On a prosecution of a person under paragraph (a) of section 44, section 45 or section 46-

(a) It is not necessary to show that he was guilty of a particular act tending to show an intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth and, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, his conduct, or his known character as proved, it appears that he acted with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth-

I do not know of any more draconian provision in any Act on the statute books of this country. I do not know of any greater invasion of civil liberties than this . The Fox Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry recommended that the Atomic Energy Act not be used as the legislative basis for uranium mining, but the Fraser Government ignored that advice. In 1977 it introduced the repressive amendment I have just read. Since 1980, again as part of the Fraser Government's manic desire to develop uranium mining and the nuclear industry, an interdepartmental committee has been examining the legislation required to regulate and control any nuclear industry. Senator Sir John Carrick, the predecessor of the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh), announced on 5 June 1982 that the Fraser Government 'foreshadowed far reaching changes to Commonwealth legislation on nuclear matters'. No such changes eventuated before 5 March of this year.

We believe that this Government should make the Parliament aware of its intentions concerning the changes which have been recommended to the Atomic Energy Act. The Democrats believe that this Act needs to be reshaped drastically to remove its repressive elements and to remove the substantial conflict which exists between the promotion of uranium mining and the regulation of uranium mining. It is wholly inappropriate for legislation to defend the interests of mining companies conducting profitable operations at the expense of civil liberties. We implore the Government to have an urgent look at this weakness in the legislation, which even the Fraser Government acknowledged when it was in office.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collard) adjourned.