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Thursday, 7 November 1985
Page: 1772


Senator DURACK(6.10) —The Opposition, in line with the Government, will certainly vote against the Nuclear Weapons Prohibitions Bill 1985 and will do so very substantially for the reasons which the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) has already given. It was very revealing that Senator Evans spent a good deal of time in his contribution to this debate detailing the Government's so-called record in relation to matters of disarmament and, in particular, reduction in the nuclear arms race.

Let me say at the outset on behalf of the Opposition that we, of course, are equally anxious to ensure that there will be effective nuclear arms reductions and controls, with proper surveillance verification and so forth. We must all give the greatest encouragement, as we do, to the efforts that are at present taking place and the new efforts that are being made by the United States, and the Soviet Union to come to some effective agreement in this direction. Let me also emphasise-and I am sure the Government would be of the same view, or at least that section of the Government that Senator Evans represents-that these efforts should be made on a mutual basis and not on a unilateral basis. That is really the nub of the argument that will take place in this chamber on this Bill.

The Bill which we are considering was introduced by Senator Chipp and has been described, I think in some detail, by Senator Evans, and I do not need to go over that. It is founded fairly and squarely on a completely unilateralist approach to disarmament and to nuclear arms reduction and control. Senator Chipp made no bones about that in the reasons he gave for introducing this piece of legislation. But the division on this issue is between, on the one hand, the Australian Democrats and, on the other, the Government-as Senator Evans expressed it-and certainly the Opposition, in that we do not see a unilateralist approach as in any way appropriate or responsible in solving this major question of nuclear arms reduction and, for that matter, reduction of conventional weapons.

That is what this debate is primarily about, although there are as well some other very serious questions which I will deal with later. If Senator Chipp's Bill became law it would, of course, mean the destruction of the ANZUS Treaty. Senator Chipp, of course, makes no bones about the fact that he does not-


Senator Chipp —Why would it do that? ANZUS does not even mention nuclear weapons.


Senator DURACK —If Senator Chipp waited until he hears what I have to say, instead of interrupting me, we might get somewhere. In fact, the approach taken in this measure would give the United States the clearest warning in relation to visits to Australia by its warships-which may or may not carry nuclear weapons-that they cannot visit our ports.


Senator Chipp —That is right.


Senator DURACK —Of course it is right. Why is Senator Chipp interrupting me and shouting his head off as he did a minute ago?


Senator Chipp —That is not even mentioned in ANZUS.


Senator DURACK —Senator Chipp wants to have another debate as to what ANZUS means. I will be very happy to debate that with him some day. If I have time, I will do so this evening. The fact is-it is accepted and we can see it with our own eyes if we are prepared to consider what is happening in regard to New Zealand and the United States-that that breach of relationship which has occurred between New Zealand and the United States in relation to ANZUS concerns that question. Therefore, one cannot consider the effect of Senator Chipp's Bill without giving consideration to the result it would have on the ANZUS Treaty. That does not worry Senator Chipp because he and the Democrats do not believe in the ANZUS Treaty. They do not want the ANZUS Treaty.


Senator Chipp —That is right.


Senator DURACK —Yes, of course it is. We have now got it straight. Fortunately, with the assistance of Senator Chipp's rather dramatic interjections, the issues before the Senate are fairly clearly defined, before we hear any further from the Democrats in this debate. I want to speak in more general terms, as I had commenced to do, before turning to the details involved in that type of argument.

I want to make perfectly clear on behalf of the Opposition our complete agreement with, support of and deep concern for the success of the nuclear arms reduction program and discussions which are taking place between the United States and the Soviet Union. We believe that only by effective discussions of that kind will the world become a safer place and will we have, if not entirely removed, at least alleviated, the tremendous threat which has been of such deep concern to so many people throughout the world and, of course, in Australia. The Opposition fully supports that approach, that is, mutual reduction of arms; not the sort of approach which Senator Chipp and his Democrats believe in. Senator Vallentine will no doubt tell us where she stands on this matter; I will not anticipate what she will say in this debate. Where they differ from us on that issue is that they want to see us make some grand gesture of support for unilateral disarmament by Australia, regardless of what may occur between the super-powers.

Let me also state, in light of the lengthy pleading by Senator Evans on behalf of the Government as to the so-called actions that it has taken in regard to these questions, that it was the coalition Government which signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty on behalf of Australia. Let there be no appropriation by this Government of all virtue in regard to that Treaty. Certainly, it was ratified by the Whitlam Government and certainly this Government has properly participated in the recent five-yearly review of that Treaty. But it was the coalition parties when in government which signed that Treaty and we have the strongest and firmest adherence to it. We wish to see the widest possible adherence to it by the nations of the world. It will be only by world wide support for this treaty that the people of the world will have some greater assurance of security from the threat of nuclear destruction. So clearly, we in the Opposition fully support that treaty. We welcome and are pleased about the success that the recent five-year review of that treaty achieved. That is today: There could be another debate on another day. Indeed, all reports-we have not yet had the opportunity to consider them fully-indicate that it was a useful and successful meeting.

I come now to the very unpleasant and quite unjustified accusation made by Senator Evans in this debate today. It was a quite gratuitous accusation in the light of the sort of debate we are having on this important matter-namely, that the Opposition is completely opposed to the line the Government has been taking in relation to the development of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone and, indeed the then Leader of the Opposition indicated that it was the policy of the Opposition, presumably, even to encourage the storage of nuclear weapons on Australian soil. In the statement of 7 August this year, to which Senator Evans referred, Mr Peacock pointed out that one effect of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty which the Government has entered into was to raise the issue as to whether that treaty, if given full effect by Australia, would prevent home porting in Australia of allied warships and particularly United States warships. Mr Peacock said that such a situation may well be required if Australia were under the sort of threat to which the ANZUS Treaty would apply and if, in putting into effect the obligation of that treaty or of the American alliance on a broader sense, home porting of that nation's ships or any other nuclear powered warships in Australia were required for the defence of Australia. In fact, Mr Peacock said:

. . . the Prime Minister must give a categorical assurance that the agreed nuclear free zone will not rule out any possibility of future United States home porting within the zone or Australia.

That was because the provisions of the treaty will prevent the storage in Australia in any way of nuclear weapons. That brings me to the issue we debated at great length in this Parliament nearly two years ago about the dry-docking of the HMS Invincible in Sydney. We can recall the ambiguities, the confusions and the contortions that the then Minister for Defence as well as the Government, as represented in this chamber, were making about that very vital issue-namely, whether the Invincible could be dry-docked in Sydney because it had a major problem. Of course, the British Government was not prepared to say whether it was carrying nuclear weapons. That is a sort of situation that could occur at any time, even without a situation of conflict or threatened conflict. It could occur with our nuclear allies, either Britain or the United States. This is a problem which undoubtedly arises under the terms of that Pacific treaty and of any legislation, if the Government is going literally to give effect to the treaty, as Senator Evans has been talking about. It is a problem which, as I have already indicated, arises under Senator Chipp's Bill.

That is certainly a concern which the Opposition has expressed. But to use that to indicate that somehow the Opposition is in favour of Australia becoming a storage point for nuclear weapons is quite unjustified and untenable and cannot be in any way concluded from the statement Mr Peacock made, to which I have referred. That is tantamount to alleging that the Opposition would, presumably, denounce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. I do not know whether that is the extent of the allegation Senator Evans was making. If it is, let me nail it as a complete and utter misrepresentation of the Opposition's position.

Mr Acting Deputy President, I am sorry that I had to divert from the terms of the Bill before us in order to deal with that unpleasant and, as I have said, unjustified accusation by Senator Evans on behalf of the Government. I must say that I was rather amused by Senator Evans's defence of the Government in opposing this Bill. He said that there did not need to be any legislation to give effect to the Government's high moral stance in relation to nuclear weapons. Senator Evans has expressed a somewhat welcome degree of maturity in this regard. Of course, until now he has always expressed the most tender faith in the solution of problems by legislation. It seems that he has had either a conversion or, for the purpose of answering his back bench disquiet in relation to the stance the Government is taking on this matter, he is having to put forward an argument which comes very strangely from his lips, at least on his past attitudes and performances in this chamber.

We know of the very great division of opinion within the Government Party and particularly in the Senate over this whole question. We know that numbers of Labor senators-otherwise supporters of the Government-would be very much in favour of supporting Senator Chipp's Bill. We had the clearest revelation of that yesterday. I moved a motion to support the ANZUS Treaty, the American alliance and the maintenance of the joint facilities at the American bases in Australia. The Government, although it nominally supported my motion, as was evident from the remarks by Senator Evans, was not prepared to have a vote on it. Indeed, the Government squibbed a vote. I think that gives very great credence to the Opposition's concern that, whatever the rhetoric of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley) or Senator Evans might be on these issues, they are certainly not supported by very significant numbers of their back bench.

I presume that the same issue will arise for the Government in relation to this measure. It will be interesting to see to what extent the rhetoric of Senator Evans in relation to this Bill will be supported by his back bench. Certainly it would be a pity if the sound reasoning, as expressed by Senator Evans, is not supported in that way. We as an opposition would certainly feel much happier for the future security of Australia if we knew that there was a solid bipartisan view on matters relating to the ANZUS alliance-in particular to the ANZUS Treaty-and to the principles of bilateral, not unilateral, disarmament and reduction of nuclear weapons in particular.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.


Senator DURACK —I turn now in some more detail to the terms of the Bill which has been presented to the Senate by Senator Chipp and which we are now debating. The Bill is really designed to make Australia a nuclear free zone-that is its object-and it prohibits, amongst other things, the testing, transportation or storage of nuclear weapons in Australia by the Commonwealth, corporations, or other persons on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Bill, which is drafted in the widest possible terms, no doubt is designed to do so and, having regard to Senator Chipp's approach to these things, it is clearly designed to prevent the sort of situation which I have already indicated could arise in the performance of our obligations under the ANZUS Treaty and our American alliance. I have already explained how that could occur.

In general terms the Bill rather strangely does not prohibit anyone in Australia from storing, transporting or manufacturing nuclear weapons which seems to be an extraordinarily narrow view of the constitutional power. It prevents the Commonwealth, a corporation and so on from doing these things but not in the most general terms which I would have thought clearly would have been the desirable course to take and which clearly is within the Commonwealth's defence power. Senator Chipp has chosen to state it in somewhat narrower terms than the constitutional power would warrant, in my view, but that is by the way. The Bill also prevents the importation into Australia of nuclear weapons, or an arrangement with a foreign country under which a visiting force of that country is permitted to bring, to store or to transport nuclear weapons across or within Australia. The Bill prevents the Commonwealth from entering into an arrangement with a foreign country before or after this Act comes into force. Very clearly it applies to the sorts of situations that could arise in pursuance of the American alliance and the ANZUS Treaty. I do not want to go over all that again as we have had some discussion about it and it probably warrants a separate debate of its own.

If this Bill were passed, we would have the same confrontation with the United States of America in relation to the ANZUS Treaty as New Zealand is having at present. For that reason and that reason alone-apart from all the other reasons I have advanced-the Opposition will oppose this Bill. As I said earlier, it is based fairly and squarely on a unilateralist solution to the problems that we face throughout the world and on a unilateralist approach to the problems of nuclear arms and disarmament. Senator Chipp made that perfectly clear in his support of the Bill. Of course, we totally reject that approach. It is a view which fortunately so far the Government, by its rhetoric, has rejected. The Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) on behalf of the Government today rejected that approach on those grounds.

I think Australians, certainly those who would be broadly sympathetic even to the Australian Labor Party and its cause, would be most alarmed if they thought that their representatives in Parliament were sympathetic in any way to the proposals and objectives of this Bill. But, as we know, there are considerable numbers of Labor Party officials, members and senators who have a very basic sympathy with this legislation and the effect it would have on the ANZUS Treaty. I can only express the hope that we will not have a situation such as we saw yesterday when the Government supporters squibbed a vote on an affirmation of support for ANZUS because of the baleful influences within the back bench of the Labor Party and, I suppose, of some of the front bench closet unilateralists and left wingers who, because of the fruits of office, will remain there for no very honourable reasons. However, I think it is deplorable that this country faces a situation in which the Government is divided amongst itself, and this is probably the greatest threat to ANZUS. I am sorry to say to Senator Chipp that I think the Australian Democrats are perhaps not very significant as a party in this respect. But what is significant is the danger and threat to Australia's future defence security posed by the growing element in the Labor Party which sympathises with the objective of this Bill, which would be disastrous for Australia's future security and defence. For those reasons, the Opposition strongly opposes this measure.