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
Thursday, 22 August 1985
Page: 192


Senator HILL(4.31) —I move:

That in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The fundamental importance for Australia, at the Third Review Conference in Geneva of the members of the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to seek to achieve-

(a) the renewed commitment of all existing members to the principles of the Treaty;

(b) a vigorous effort to attract non-member nations to become signatories to the Treaty;

(c) the strengthening of the monitoring, surveillance and safeguards powers of the International Atomic Energy Agency with universal acceptance of its functions; and

(d) a positive commitment by all and specifically the nuclear weapons power States, to meaningful multilateral disarmament and surveillance.

As I said a moment or two ago, it is not surprising but pleasing that the Opposition parties, the Liberal Party and the National Party, are leading this debate, giving us an opportunity to restate our commitment to peace and security and to remind the Senate of the comprehensive policy that we have put down in this area-a policy which reflects principles which we have held for years, and positions which we have put into practice when in government, positions which we are confident are right and still deserve the support of the Australian people, but which perhaps we did not always communicate adequately for domestic consumption. This debate also gives us the opportunity to press the Government towards real and substantive contributions towards world peace. I do not mean just cosmetic contributions such as giving a senior diplomat a new status in the Department of Foreign Affairs by calling him an Ambassador for Disarmament although he continues doing the same work, or negotiating a so-called nuclear-free zone in the Pacific which might be making some people feel secure but which upon analysis gives no security whatsoever from nuclear warfare.

There is a chance for the Government to make a real contribution at the third five-yearly conference on the NPT which starts next week. We are urging the Government, in the best interests of all Australians, to meet that responsibility. The Australian Government and the Australian Parliament can have no greater responsibility than to work for the peace and security of their people. Because what was a tyranny of distance is no protection in a world of modern armaments, it is a challenge we must take beyond our shores. True peace and security for Australia can come only with world peace and security. No longer can an island continent be regarded as a protection. In playing our part in the world order to achieve peace and security for Australians we will contribute to the same for others elsewhere.

What I have touched upon in those statements incorporates a number of concepts critical to the understanding of the Opposition parties' position in the nuclear weapons debate. The first is that we cannot have peace, that is, real peace, without security. History shows us that without adequate security there will not be peace. We mean, of course, peace with freedom, so we reject all notions of unilateral disarmament. Those political parties or party factions in this country, veiled or unveiled, which advocate unilateral disarmament as providing security are either mischievous or naive. There will be no safety for the neutral countries in a nuclear war. We have, therefore, a responsibility to maintain adequate security. Obviously, the maintenance of that security is necessary to deter a potential aggressor. We believe in deterrence. It may be a term that in becoming somewhat out of fashion, but we believe it to be both proven and effective.

We further believe that nuclear weapons are still so much a weapon in their own class that the only effective deterrent against a nuclear weapons state is another state or an alliance with an equivalent capacity. Abhorrent though that may be conceptually, we believe it to be a reality. Policies and decisions in this area must be made in the light of the real world. As much as we might want to change attitudes, as much as we might make efforts to change them, the history of the world has been one of aggressive conquest. To give one state the option of using nuclear weapons because it does not face a nuclear deterrent presents a far greater risk than to maintain a balance of such weaponry.

Under our policy Australia will not become a nuclear weapons state, nor will it act as a base for nuclear weapons. That is not necessary because of our place in an alliance which has that capacity. It is through an alliance which has that capacity that we contribute to the deterrent which is necessary to provide us with the security, first from subjugation by nuclear threat, which is sometimes forgotten, and also from nuclear attack or being incidentally enveloped by the consequences of a nuclear attack upon another state. I remind honourable senators that it is the Western alliance, which is committed to peace, with its strength, its capacity and its resolve, which best secures the world against the incomprehensible, horrific consequences of a nuclear holocaust. That is why that alliance and our linking into it, formally through ANZUS and informally through our common political values and ideology, is so precious to us. That is why we are so concerned when it is so recklessly and arrogantly abused by countries such as New Zealand or by the similar path advocated by the Australian Democrats, or flouted by the Labor Government to retain the domestic pleasure of its left wing faction.

To ensure peace we must work at, and contribute to, a strong Western alliance. The price we are asked to pay, we would suggest to the Senate, is negligible against the benefits we gain. What do we do? The major contributions we make are to the international communications and monitoring system through the three joint bases with the United States of America, to allow overflight of northern Australia by unarmed aircraft and to provide visiting port facilities for allied shipping and rest and recreation for the crews. That, I would have thought, in anyone's language, is a small price to pay. Yet it is a price apparently far too high for the Australian Democrats, who want all the benefits of an alliance without a contribution. It seems too high a price for Labor to pay, although-I hesitate to say it-depending on its mood. We all recall the embarrassment of not so long ago when Labor was not prepared to offer the repair facilities of this country to the allied British vessel Invincible. So when Labor's rhetoric was put to the test it was found to fail.

An adequate deterrent means weapons of comparable capacity and, as the Soviet Union modernises its force, regrettably, but necessarily, that must be matched by the West. The fact that this Government refused recently to facilitate the testing of a more modern delivery system, by performing the small tasks it was asked to fulfil, such as refuelling United States observer planes, shows how shallow is its commitment to the alliance. It was an action which recklessly put at risk the security of this country.

We stress that we are partners in an alliance. We are not a compliant partner, but an active partner with a role to play. That gives us the responsibility to contribute to the direction of international foreign policy and safeguards. The position we argue is not always similar to the position adopted by our partners in the alliance. Thus, the Senate will recall that when we were last in government we argued strongly for a nuclear test ban treaty, which was not then the position of the United States of America, nevertheless it was the position we advanced because of our responsibility within the alliance. But we on this side of the chamber are realistic about Australia's middle power status. We recognise that there are some other nations within the alliance which pay a much greater cost than we do, and there are states which are more closely threatened, states which bear the burden of huge foreign military bases, or states which bear the burden of nuclear weapons sited on their soil.

However, having said that the deterrent must be adequate, we realise that the world has developed an enormous over capacity of nuclear hardware. The total of 50,000 nuclear weapons far exceeds what is necessary as an adequate deterrent-so many weapons, in fact, that the proliferation becomes a danger in itself. So we have consistently argued for balanced and verifiable reductions. In an environment of great mistrust between the super-powers, there is a role we can play. We must constructively contribute to the development of verification systems that will give the parties more confidence to reduce their weaponry. There are many other ways in which this can be done, such as continuing to advocate a comprehensive test ban treaty. We must contribute to better international trust and understanding. We can do this through continuing our work in the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva and by continuing our contribution in the various United Nations committees. We can also do so through the contribution of our research facilities which we can make available from Australia. In fact, we can do this in a myriad of ways, provided we approach our responsibility positively. If we simply reduce our contribution to abuse or to undermining our allies we shall simply be unhelpful.

Vertical proliferation-by which I mean the number and quality of armaments of the limited number of states which can be described as nuclear weapon states-increases pressure towards horizontal proliferation. That is what this debate is principally about: How best we can restrain other states not presently nuclear weapon power states from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Opposition parties see that as a risk and a danger at least as great as any vertical proliferation and as something we must work against. That is why we have been such strong advocates and supporters of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We realise that with horizontal proliferation would come a loss of that element of control within existing alliances. We realise that the deterrent would not have the same effect when such weapons are in the hands of more irrational regimes. We recognise that it would greatly increase the potential of regional conflicts to become nuclear conflicts and thus to escalate out of control.

The Treaty which the Opposition supports so strongly is under stress. That places upon Australia, upon this Government which will reprersent Australia, a most important role to be played at the review conference starting next week. The NPT has lasted for 15 years. It now has over 120 signatories and, as part of the whole non-proliferation regime, it has played a part in restraining horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons. It has provided a forum for many non-nuclear weapon states to renounce the use of such armaments. It has made it more difficult for a non-nuclear weapon member state secretly to develop such weapons. It has therefore given some confidence to member states that other non-nuclear weapon states are not abusing their undertakings.

As I have said, it is under stress, and principally for three reasons. First, it was premised on the legitimate right of states to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. On that basis they are entitled to help and support from other states. In other words, there must be benefits in becoming a party and, in exchange, they are prepared to submit their installations and fuel stocks to international monitoring, which must be to our benefit. That incentive, which goes to the very heart of the Treaty, is threatened by those, for example in this country, who would deny such countries fuel stocks, who want the super-powers to meet their obligations under the Treaty but who conveniently forget our obligations. My Party and the National Party do not forget these things. That is why we support the export of uranium for peaceful purposes under the international safeguards regime. In doing so we positively contribute to horizontal non-proliferation.

The second reason the Treaty is under stress is that the quid pro quo for non-nuclear weapon states forgoing nuclear weapons was the undertaking that the United States of America and the Soviet Union would-and, for the benefit of Senator Chipp, I quote from Article VI:

. . . pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date . . .

That would continue to eventual nuclear disarmament. The non-nuclear weapon states feel let down. That only emphasises our responsibility to urge the super-powers, particularly our ally the United States, with which we have some influence, towards compliance with Article VI of the Treaty.

The third reason that the Treaty is under stress is that nuclear technology is advancing so rapidly that the capacity of the regime is severely pressed to keep pace with meaningful safeguards even with the goodwill of member states. So there is a clear role there which Australia could and should embrace. In fact, in our revised policy issued in May of this year we set out a number of steps that we advocate for Australia to contribute to a stronger non-proliferation regime. An obvious weakness in the system is that some states have failed to join. Australia can make a greater effort to explore the individual concerns of non-member countries and therefore seek to overcome those concerns and induce them to join. Where they will not join, we could strive to persuade them nevertheless to agree to International Atomic Energy Agency supervision of their nuclear cycles and to comply with IAEA safeguards. We can seek to persuade countries party to regional non-proliferation agreements to link such safeguards to the world-wide safeguards administered by IAEA.

We could look to much more work by Australia in the development of international agreements giving legally binding security assurances for non-nuclear weapon states. We, in government, would work, and argue that this Government should work, for the application of full IAEA safeguards on all civil nuclear facilities operated by all states including nuclear weapon states, whether or not they are members of the NPT. We advocate that this country should be working to ensure international agreement not to provide nuclear items to non-nuclear weapon states which are not members of the NPT or whose facilities are not under IAEA safeguards. We advocate that we should explore other ways in which Australia can increase the advantages of being a member of the NPT, particularly through regional assistance or in areas of our existing expertise, such as in nuclear physics and nuclear medicine. We argue that we should provide greater levels of scientific and technical support to the IAEA and in so many other ways that I have not time to detail today.

What is this Government proposing? To date we do not know. We hope that we shall hear the answer to that question. We hoped that today we would have forced them to put the Government position to the Senate, but I remind the Senate that the conference to which I referred is due to start only next week. Our proposals have been on the table for months. Rhetoric in this field is cheap. By contrast what the Opposition puts forward are constructive roles that Australia can realistically play towards achieving a safer world. The contrast can be seen no better than in relation to the United States SDI-a search for a non-nuclear defence against nuclear weapons, a search for a better alternative to deterrent and a more moral alternative to the security of a mutually assured destruction. What do the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democrats say? They say that they are opposed to it, that Australia will not help in any way. Members of the Liberals and the National parties will always be looking to search for progress in this critically important area. I commend our policies to the Senate and I urge the Government on this occasion, on behalf of the Australian people, to make a constructive contribution at the conference starting next week to further enhance nuclear non-proliferation.