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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1315


Senator McINTOSH —I direct my question to the Minister for Resources and Energy. I understand that the Australian delegation to the ninth meeting of the London Dumping Convention in September played a leading role in securing a continuation of a moratorium on the ocean dumping of nuclear wastes. Did the Australian delegation give any consideration to supporting proposals for a total ban on ocean dumping of nuclear wastes? If not, why not?


Senator GARETH EVANS —As Senator McIntosh has said, the Australian delegation succeeded in its basic objective at that conference of maintaining the moratorium on ocean dumping. As to why we were not able to secure some more substantial prohibition along the lines of that sought by, for example, the Greenpeace organisation-that is to say, a total prohibition of the dumping of nuclear waste at sea-essentially the reasons are as follows: This would have meant altering the annexes to the Convention. However, amendments under the London Dumping Convention rules can be made only on scientific and technical grounds and need approval by a two-thirds majority.

An expert group was set up by the LDC in 1983 to consider the safety aspects of sea dumping. Its report, which was received this year, did not provide compelling scientific evidence in support of such a far-reaching amendment.

A total prohibition was considered by Australia and other countries opposed to sea dumping as very likely to fail on the vote under those circumstances. In the event of it succeeding, however, there was a danger then of pro-dumping countries withdrawing from the Convention, in which case the international regime for controlling dumping of radioactive and other wastes would have been weakened.

Based on this complex array of considerations, the Australian view was that continuing the moratorium would have significant advantages over trying to actually amend the text of the Convention and would provide the best practical outcome for the Government's policy of vigorous opposition to the dumping of radioactive wastes. This, in the event, was the view, as I have said, that prevailed at the LDC which carried a resolution, co-sponsored by Australia and 15 other countries, by a substantial majority-25 for, six against and seven abstentions.

That resolution, for the record, called for an indefinite suspension of sea dumping of radioactive wastes pending the completion of further detailed scientific and other studies. The terms of the resolution will make it extremely difficult to resume dumping in the future. In addition, political, legal, economic and social aspects will have to be considered in the future as well as merely scientific aspects.