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: 195

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(4.51) —The Government fully supports the motion put forward by Senator Hill, although we have to say that we do not believe that the Opposition's credentials on peace and disarmament questions really quite justify the degree of self-congratulation that we heard in the course of Senator Hill's speech. However, we fully share the view that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is fundamental to Australia. That view is clearly articulated in the preamble to the motion. Beyond that we believe, as Mr Hayden, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said in a Press release on 15 August setting out the Government's approach to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference-a release which Senator Hill does not seem to have caught up with-that the NPT has made a crucially important contribution to international and regional security and stability for the past 15 years.

The NPT is the centrepiece of efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries. It provides the essential framework for international co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and is a major element of Australia's nuclear arms control policy on the basis of our strict bilateral nuclear safeguards policy applied to uranium. Perhaps the Treaty is best understood as fundamentally constituting a deal between nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states. Under its terms there were three basic elements. The first element was that non-nuclear weapons states which became party to the Treaty gave up the option of acquiring nuclear weapons. They undertook to accept strict safeguards on the civil nuclear fuel cycle in order to ensure that materials used in that cycle were not diverted for military use. The second element was that the nuclear weapons states promised under Article VI that they would make significant progress towards arms control and disarmament. I will come back to Article VI in a moment. The third element was that all parties to the Treaty agreed under article IV that they would facilitate the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful purposes of nuclear energy. This included, of course, the supply of raw material such as uranium.

As was pointed out in the earlier debate, Article IV is obviously the stumbling block for the Australian Democrats in terms of their response to this motion, but it has to be understood that Article IV was an integral component of the basic balance of responsibilities and obligations that lay behind the very theoretical foundation of this Treaty. To try to talk about the Treaty in the absence of that commitment to the peaceful uses of nuclear technology is to misunderstand the cement that in many ways holds it together.

As to this forthcoming conference, Mr Hayden has said that Australia will aim to use the conference to defend and strengthen the effectiveness of the Treaty. Disarmament and nuclear safeguards questions will be given the highest priority and attention by the Australian delegation, with the review conference affording another major opportunity to advance the Government's nuclear arms control and disarmament objectives, particularly the objective of a comprehensive test ban treaty. To that extent I indicate, as I did earlier, that I have no difficulty at all with Senator Chipp's desire to write into the terms of our resolution today some specific commitment to that objective. The major Australian intiative we will be taking at the conference is one that is entirely consistent with what Senator Hill was talking about just a few moments ago, and that is that we will seek conference endorsement of an initative to require the application of NPT or International Atomic Energy Agency full scope safeguards to the supply of all nuclear items. Endorsement of this initiative, which if I have time I will explain in more detail later, would constitute a major additional step in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The other major element of the Treaty, as I have said, concerns co-operation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. On this matter Australia's position is and will remain one of seeking to foster a positive and practical discussion stressing the essential link between safeguards and co-operation. IAEA and NPT safeguards provide the necessary confidence that the results of co-operation will remain peaceful, particularly if they are upgraded to the extent we would like to be the case. The other thing that I guess we will be doing at this conference is, in common with the other South Pacific Forum countries, informing it of progress achieved in establishing a nuclear-free zone in the South Pacific. We will be saying how proud we are of an agreement of so much practical significance, so compatible and expressly compatible with the objects of that Treaty.

Senator Chipp —It would be a free zone through which Cruise missiles sail.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The cynicism and scepticism of the Democrats on this matter are well known. However, one can say that their objectives are praiseworthy in wanting to ensure a genuine nuclear-free zone in the South Pacific. Regrettably, one cannot say that of the Opposition's stance, which has also sought to attack the achievement of a nuclear-free zone, but from the other side of the coin. It has to be said that the Opposition has adopted a divided, a divisive and, I believe, a very dangerous approach to this Treaty. On the 15 May the honourable member for Goldstein (Mr Macphee) said this of such a Treaty, a putative Treaty as it then was:

We are committed to it, we always have been. It was the Fraser Government which was at the first South Pacific Forum meeting which agreed that a draft treaty should be drawn up.

What has happened since, of course, is that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) by contrast has taken a characteristically negative, small-minded view on the same issue and in so doing has effectively dumped on this instance, as on a number of other instances, his spokesman on foreign affairs. Back in September 1984 Mr Peacock referred to the zone as a Mickey Mouse proposal; an elegant phrase which was repeated by the Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair) just a few days ago on 5 August.

On 7 August 1985, again just a few days ago, the Leader of the Opposition attacked the Government's support for the Treaty now agreed to at Raratonga, allegedly because it indicated a wrong sense of priorities. In that statement the Opposition's vaunted interest in peace, arms control and disarmament really was exposed for the sham that it is. On 7 August 1985-almost 40 years to the day after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima-the Opposition Leader chose to indicate not only that he would not rule out but that he supported the installation and storage of nuclear weapons on Australian territory. The context of his statement of course was home-porting, which he alleged was inconsistent with the Treaty and which certainly is against Australian Labor Party policy. We believe that the Opposition's position on this, its willingness to contemplate its preparedness to install and store nuclear weapons in Australia, demonstrates in a dangerous and really very irresponsible way the situation that the Liberals have got themselves into. One hopes that the Liberal Party is divided-

Senator Hill —What statement is that?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The statement of 7 August on the response to the South Pacific nuclear-free zone. I would be delighted if Senator Hill looked it up and saw for himself the enormity of the position to which he has been committed by his Leader, unless he is now prepared to stand up and resile from it. I think it is one of the more disgraceful contributions to public debate on this issue and a demonstration once again of the very clear choice, the clearest possible choice, that now exists between the major parties on these fundamental questions of peace and disarmament.

Let me get back to the issues about which we seem, at least for the purposes of this debate today, to be able to agree. The motion before us has four specific elements. I will deal quickly with each in turn. The first element is a renewed commitment. I suggest that we endorse a renewed commitment of all existing members to the principles of the Treaty. I was a little surprised to note the omission of that expression from the Democrats' preferred motion today, but of course once again the spectre of Article IV clearly stood in their way. I repeat the points I made earlier in this respect. From our point of view I simply reiterate that the principles of the NPT continue to be of central importance to international peace and security. They have become a clear yardstick of responsible international behaviour and the Australian delegation to the review conference will certainly be working to see that the Treaty parties reaffirm at the conference their commitment to the important principles of non-proliferation and disarmament embodied in the NPT.

The second element in the motion before us is that we should seek to achieve a vigorous effort to attract non-member nations to become signatories to the Treaty. That is something about which it appears everyone in this chamber is united, and properly so. There are now 130 members of the NPT. This is a substantial increase, in fact, since the last review conference in 1980. The NPT is now, by far, the most widely adhered to disarmament treaty that has ever been written. Australia has been very active over past years in contributing to this increase in membership. We have urged non-members in all five continents to adhere to the Treaty. There have been successes in our immediate region. Brunei, Kiribati and the Seychelles have all adhered to the NPT this year. In our own region, all the Association of South East Asian Nations countries and all the South Pacific Forum countries, with perhaps the surprising exception of Vanuatu, are now members of the Treaty. This is a very important element in the security of the region and we certainly hope that Vanuatu will shortly join in.

Mr Hayden raised the NPT issue during his recent visits to India and Pakistan-two very important non-NPT states, as we all know. We have also made approaches to Israel, Argentina and South Africa in this respect. Particular attention has been given to the attitude of Spain. Australia has recently engaged in bilateral disarmament consultations with that important non-party. Representations have also been made to a number of African countries. It is clear beyond doubt that the Government has been very active in this area and will continue to be so. The Australian delegation to the review conference will be taking the opportunity to discuss with other members of the Treaty renewed efforts to attract non-member states.

The next matter dealt with is one that apparently causes the Democrats some embarrassment, but one to which the Government is very strongly committed-that is, the strengthening of the monitoring, surveillance and safeguards powers of the International Atomic Energy Agency so as to secure universal acceptance of its functions. The role of the IAEA in verifying the non-proliferation commitments of Treaty members is really crucial for the effectiveness of the NPT. The Australian delegation to the conference will work very hard and very vigorously to enhance support for and effectiveness of IAEA safeguards.

As I mentioned a little earlier, Australia will pursue a specific initiative to seek a new political commitment from NPT parties to require the application of NPT of full-scope IAEA safeguards to all nuclear transactions with non-nuclear weapons states. I can explain in just a little more detail what that is about. Our supply policies at the moment require non-nuclear weapons state customers to be members of the NPT and to have IAEA safeguards apply to all their nuclear facilities at all times. Several major uranium suppliers, however, require IAEA safeguards and other controls and conditions on supplied nuclear items but do not require recipient states to be members of the NPT or to accept IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear facilities at all times. Australia simply does not consider this approach satisfactory and I am glad to acknowledge that Senator Hill does not seem to think it is either.

Permitting non-nuclear weapons states which have not made binding non-proliferation commitments to acquire nuclear items-I should have used the expression `nuclear items' rather than `uranium' a couple of sentences ago-on less stringent conditions than countries which have made such commitments lessens their incentive to join the NPT. So what we will be doing is pursuing the proposal at the review conference that no NPT member state shall ever supply nuclear materials, equipment and technology to any non-nuclear weapons state which is not a party to the NPT or which does not accept full-scope safeguards of the kind I have described under the IAEA. We believe that endorsement of this Australian initiative would constitute a major additional contribution to the non- proliferation regime.

Australia will also be seeking a reaffirmation of the importance of co-operation between parties to the Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency and the application of IAEA safeguards. We will urge all parties to ensure that the IAEA has the necessary human and financial resources to enable the agency to fulfil effectively its responsibilities in the future. A number of parties, including Australia, provide extra budgetary assistance to the development of improved safeguards equipment and techniques and we will be calling on all parties in a position to do so to undertake similar activities.

It is because of the central role that we perceive for the IAEA in this respect and because of our recognition of the fact that nuclear energy is a fact of life with some 297 nuclear power reactors in operation in December 1982, according to the most recent figures I have seen and with another 216 then under construction, that we believe it is absolutely crucial that we have in place this kind of safeguards regime which recognises the reality of the nuclear industry and seeks to do something about controlling it. The Democrats proposal, by contrast, which simply talks in terms of the development of alternative energy sources, as worthy an objective as that might be, is simply not a sufficient alternative to contemplate writing into this motion at the expense of any reference to IAEA safeguards.

Similarly, in terms of the particular organisation that the Democrats talk about-the development for energy fund-we would simply make the point that, as committed as we are to ensuring the development of alternative energy sources, a large amount of work is already being done internationally in this respect. A number of international institutions like the IAEA are working on it. We simply do not believe that there is much utility in contemplating additional institutional arrangements of the kind that are proposed in the Democrat version of this motion.

Finally, the motion before us seeks a positive commitment by all, and especially the nuclear weapons states, to meaningful multilateral disarmament and surveillance. I fully acknowledge that this is at the heart and soul of what the whole NPT process ought to be about. This will be, as it has been for years, a major priority for Australia and a major priority for the Australian delegation. We want to see a re-affirmation of the disarmament goals of the Treaty and, as I said during Question Time yesterday, we will be making it very plain in that respect that we share the disappointment of many NPT parties that there has been no evident process betweem the super powers towards nuclear disarmament since the last review conference. There has been a very disappointing approach to the obligations imposed by Article VI of the NPT, which is the commitment which primarily is as relevant-

Senator Chipp —That is our point. There are virtually no obligations under Article VI.

Senator GARETH EVANS —There are obligations to enter into bilateral and multilateral arrangements to pursue the cause of disarmament. The reality is that progress in that respect has been extraordinarily slow. We acknowledge that. We are disappointed about it. We will be saying so and will be joining in the framing and passage of a resolution at the conference which will make that point of view extremely clear. Beyond that, Senator Chipp, I do not think I can really be much more explicit. We will not be supporting or presenting a proposal for a timetable and program for disarmament at the review conference itself of the kind that Senator Chipp would like us to be contemplating and which in fact has been mooted, although not recently, by some of the Scandinavian countries. But we certainly will be supporting the inclusion of an admonition to the multilateral conference on disarmament in Geneva to expedite its negotiations on a comprehensive program of disarmament. We are very keen for that to be presented, as it is due to be presented, to the forty-first session of the United Nations General Assembly for adoption in 1986.

I think it is well known just how deeply Australia has been involved in those negotiations. We are extremely keen to progress them and to use every available opportunity to do so, including the forthcoming review conference. We have proposed, in the context of the Geneva multilateral disarmament conference, both a mandate and a program of work for resuming substantive work on a comprehensive test ban as well as the establishment of an international seismic monitoring network to verify any future treaty. We are also sponsoring with New Zealand a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly on the urgent need for a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

We accept that the NPT review conference itself does not present a forum for effective disarmament negotiations. They have to take place bilaterally between the super powers and multilaterally in the specific international body concerned in Geneva. But the NPT conference is certainly an appropriate forum for expressing the concern, which I think everyone in this chamber shares, that Article VI be implemented not only as to its letter but as to its spirit, both of which have been somewhat lacking so far.

So in summary, Australia will pursue its disarmament and safeguards concerns vigorously at the review conference. In doing so we are not going to endanger in any way the fabric or the integrity of the NPT itself, with all of its different dimensions. The contribution of the NPT to international peace and security is too crucial to jeopardise. It must be preserved.