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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3190

Question No. 282

Senator Bolkus asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs , upon notice, on 24 August:

Will the Australian Government write to the United States Government expressing its deep concern at all expenditure on chemical weapons in view of a report in the Washington Post that the Reagan Government is seeking a total of $114m for binary chemical artillery shells and equipment and chemicals for Bigeye binary bombs.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The United States Administration's request for funds for the production of binary chemical weapons has been one of the most controversial aspects of its proposals for defence funding for FY 1984. In mid-September, Congress approved the 1984 Defence Authorisation Bill which provided $114.8m for the production of binary chemical munitions, including artillery shells and aerial bombs. In the final consideration of the 1984 Defence Appropriation Bill in mid November, however, this item was deleted, which means that the Administration will not be able to proceed with its plans for binary nerve gas production in FY 1984.

United States spokesmen, including Defence Secretary Weinberger in his Fiscal Year 1984 Report to Congress, justified the Administration's wish to proceed with the production of binary weapons in terms of the need to reduce the Soviet Union's incentive to use chemical weapons against the United States or its allies by rebuilding and maintaining an adequate US chemical warfare capability. Secretary Weinberger's report states that the Soviet Union possesses a considerable advantage in chemical warfare capabilities and that notwithstanding a unilateral decision by the United States in 1969 to halt production of chemical weapons, efforts to achieve a bilateral agreement between 1977 and 1980 with the Soviet Union to ban chemical weapons were fruitless. It notes that current efforts to obtain a ban on chemical weapons are centred in the Committee on Disarmament and reiterates that a complete and verifiable ban on chemical weapons remains the United States goal.

The Australian Government finds the concept of chemical warfare abhorrent and the use of chemical weapons repugnant. It is committed to the conclusion of a fully effective and verifiable convention that would outlaw the use of chemicals as weapons in armed conflict and would ensure the destruction of all existing stocks of chemical weapons. It is actively pursuing this objective in the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva. Australian views on chemical weapons have been made known to the United States and other governments on a number of occasion both bilaterally and in multilateral fora such as the Committee on Disarmament.