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Monday, 2 April 1984
Page: 1021

Senator MACKLIN —My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, concerns the Government's complete and unequivocal commitment to upholding the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Why does the Government want to monitor nuclear weapons development in other countries to ensure our technological lead time to produce nuclear weapons is matched to developments in such countries, when the Government says that it does not ever want to produce nuclear weapons and that it never can because of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The status of the reports in last week's National Times, from which Senator Macklin draws that question, has been amply described in a statement by me in this place last Friday. There is nothing more I can usefully add to it. As to the level of commitment of this Government to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, again I can use very little language today that would be more unequivocal than the language I used on behalf of the Government last Friday. I can supplement it in at least a couple of respects just to get the record even clearer perhaps than it already is.

On 22 November last year Cabinet made the following decisions on arms control and disarmament which have in fact been announced but which I draw again to the honourable senator's attention. There were eight interrelated decisions. They were:

(i) to promote measures to halt and reverse the nuclear arms race;

(ii) to uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty;

(iii) to promote a comprehensive and verifiable ban on nuclear testing;

(iv) to develop the concept of a nuclear free zone in the South Pacific;

(v) to support the achievement of an agreement to ban chemical weapons;

(vi) to support the process of negotiation and the achievement of balanced and verifiable arms control agreements;

(vii) to take an active role in pursuing arms control and disarmament measures wherever possible;

that includes, of course, the establishment of the Ambassador for Disarmament-

(viii) and to affirm Australia's readiness to join a consensus to hold an international conference on the Indian Ocean zone of peace question.

I also mention for the honourable senator's benefit that the strategic basis document which was considered by Cabinet last year, and I make no comment as to whether Mr Toohey's version of it was in any way accurate, contained the following key sentence on the nuclear question:

Australia's interests continue to be served by the adherence to, and support for wider acceptance of, the treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and for strengthening nuclear safeguards measures generally.

That fundamentally important sentence does not appear in the purported excerpts from the document published by the National Times last week. Any attempt to draw nourishment from the alleged language of the document in the form in which that language is articulated by the National Times ought to take considerations like that very much into account.

I repeat what I have said before. Australia is a party to the non-proliferation treaty. It regards that as a permanent and binding obligation and it will honour that obligation in every conceivable way open to it.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I ask that the paper from which the Minister quoted be tabled.

The PRESIDENT —The Leader of the Opposition has asked that the paper from which the Minister quoted be tabled.

Senator GARETH EVANS —By all means.