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Thursday, 7 November 1985
Page: 1776


Senator SANDERS(8.06) —I rise to support the Nuclear Weapons Prohibitions Bill 1985. Frankly, I find it shocking that there are so few honourable senators in the chamber when we are discussing a Bill of such monumental importance.


Senator Elstob —To whom? To you.


Senator SANDERS —Monumental importance to the world, to Australia and to my children. If the honourable senator does not care about his children, I feel sorry for him. I care about my children and I am sure many other people in this country care about their children. I am annoyed, as I think the people of Australia will be annoyed, that the Senate chamber is so empty at this moment when we are discussing this major issue. We heard the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Gareth Evans, present the Government's expected case, which basically amounted to a rather fatuous verbal tap-dance to cover the Government's embarrassment that in fact what the Australian Democrats have brought forward is Government policy, Australia Labor Party policy.


Senator Chipp —Word for word.


Senator SANDERS —It is word for word and I will get into that a little further down the line. The Minister talked about credibility, that somehow if this Senate and the parliament passed this Bill we would lose our credibility in overseas forums. I put it to the Senate that our credibility is at an all time low at the moment because of our lack of action on legislation such as the Bill now before us, because of our actions allowing nuclear armed and powered vessels of any nation into our ports and because of our support for foreign bases on our soil. That credibility would be increased markedly if in fact we passed this Bill.

The Opposition also took a predictable tack. Senator Durack said that he would vote against the Bill, which I think was no surprise to anyone. He brought up the question of unilateral disarmament which he said was not appropriate. He also brought up the situation in New Zealand. If he actually took the time to study what has happened in New Zealand, I think he would find that his words would ring false in his own ears. The unilateral action of New Zealand has spread a message around the world that we do not have to go all the way down the road to nuclear war; that we can stop short of doing that; that we do not have to go over the precipice; and that we can take action which is a signal to the world that we do want to participate in this insane, devilish race towards destruction.

Senator Durack also stated twice, so he must believe it to be so, that America would not like it if we adopted this Bill. He said that we would be in the same position that New Zealand finds itself in, that ANZUS would tremble if we in Australia exerted our independent sovereign rights and said that we did not want nuclear weapons on our soil. I think that is a firm commitment to the United States on his part-an unthinking commitment that rightly or wrongly he will go all the way with Ronnie Reagan. Senator Durack said that he is concerned about the dry docking of nuclear ships. I suppose that might be of concern to him. If we had our way we would not have those nuclear ships in our ports anyway to be ported or dry docked. Senator Durack concluded by saying that it would be a great threat to our defence and to the security of Australia if more people thought the way the people who are supporting this Bill think. I say it is just the opposite; the only way we will maintain a secure Australia is if all people completely turn their backs on anything to do with nuclear warfare.

What is this Bill and why is it important? Some would say, and in fact Senator Evans said, that this Bill is just the formalisation of the already existing situation. There are no nuclear weapons on our soil right now that we know of. We are still not sure what the B52s are carrying into Darwin.


Senator Chipp —That is right. We don't know.


Senator SANDERS —We do not know, but we hope that there are not any nuclear weapons. We do not know for sure that there are not any. There is really no point in legislating not to have nuclear weapons on Australian soil if they are already here. This Bill merely rules out the presence in Australia of nuclear weapons now or in the future-a perfectly logical action in a rational society. I do not see how anybody could argue against that. Why should we have this statute? What about the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty or the Treaty of Raratonga which this Government signed and supported, rather cynically insofar as this Government also refuses to adhere completely to the tenets in banning nuclear-armed and powered ships from out ports? We say that it is a nuclear free Pacific zone, but that it is an option for local governments, and this local government, namely the Hawke conservative government, to have the ships and bombs. The Treaty preamble says that:

. . . convinced that all countries have an obligation to make every effort to achieve the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.

Eliminating nuclear weapons on own soil is an obvious starting point. Article 3 of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty states:

Each party undertakes:

(a) Not to manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or have control over any nuclear explosive device by any means anywhere inside or outside the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone;

(b) Not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture or acquisition of any nuclear explosive device;

(c) Not to take any action to assist or encourage the manufacture or acquisition of any nuclear explosive device by any State.

Article 5 of the Raratonga Treaty states:

1. Each party undertakes to prevent in its territory the stationing of any nuclear explosive device.

That is what the Bill is about. We say that each party undertakes to prevent in its territory the stationing of any nuclear explosive device, which is exactly what the Bill states. The word `stationing', as defined in the Raratonga Treaty, means:

. . . emplantation, emplacement, transportation on land or inland waters, stockpiling, storage, installation and deployment.

Article 6 of the Raratonga Treaty says:

Each party undertakes:

(a) To prevent in its territory the testing of any nuclear explosive device;

(b) Not to take any action to assist or encourage the testing of any nuclear explosive device by any State.

I will not go on, but merely point out that all these things explicitly spell out what is required under the Treaty. The wording of articles 5 and 6 is `Each party undertakes to prevent'. How does one undertake to prevent? Well, one does this by passing preventing legislation. We find that the Minister, our honourable senatorial colleague, Senator Gareth Evans, a Queen's Counsel, appears not to understand the law. In the second reading speech he stated:

Compared with these two treaties-

that is the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons-

to which we are party, Senator Chipp's Bill is an ill-drafted and inappropriate means of achieving the objective of ensuring that Australia remains a nuclear weapons free country.

The Raratonga Treaty, which this Government is party to, actually requires that we pass this legislation. He says it is not required under this law. Article 12 of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty stipulates that the Treaty shall be subject to ratification, that is passed through the legislatures of each country. Once again, this is what we are trying to do. In so doing Australia undertakes to establish the international agreement in its own law. This is standard for United Nations international convenants. Article II states:

Each non-nuclear-weapon State party to the treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

This is all treaty stuff. It is all spelled out. It is the sort of thing that we should be doing if we really believed in our obligations under international law. What about Australian Labor Party policy? This Bill is consistent with Labor Party policy. In fact, it is Labor Party policy almost word for word. It is not consistent with what was Labor Party policy, or what ought to be Labor Party policy.


Senator Tate —That is why it is not good enough.


Senator SANDERS —The honourable senator says it is not good enough because it is Labor Party policy. He will have a chance to speak on this matter. I would like him to take the opportunity to explain that.


Senator Chipp —He will have a chance to vote on it too.


Senator SANDERS —Yes. The 1984 Platform, Constitution and Rules under the heading `Foreign Affairs' states:

A Labor Government will . . .

Oppose the development and acquisition of nuclear, chemical, bacteriological or other weapons of mass destruction for Australia's armed forces; nor permit any foreign government to station such weapons on Australian soil.

Oppose the storage of nuclear weapons on Australian territory and the staging of operations involving nuclear weapons from Australian territory.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation and the Raratonga treaties do not provide sufficient guarantees. Governments change and all the assurances that Senator Gareth Evans gave about his Government's commitment to this matter will be as nothing if in fact his Government loses the next election. If this Government is really interested in its party policies and in the treaties it has signed it will put this into law so that it will not be able to be changed by any succeeding government. This Government will try to evade and avoid its responsibilities by saying, no doubt, as it has said and as it will say over and over again, that it has done more for disarmament than any other government in the world. We heard Senator Evans say that. What have we done? We are in the United Nations. We attended the United Nations conference on disarmament. Australia is involved in the United Nations study of nuclear weapons free zones. Why is Australia not then a nuclear free zone? The Government is all talk. Australia is involved in the 1986 International Year of Peace and is involved in peace and development and peace and disarmament reports and programs. It is tokenism unless we are prepared to act. The Australian Government voted for a nuclear freeze during the election campaign last November. What did it actually vote for? It voted for not only a freeze on production, but also a freeze on deployment. The Bill before the chamber today will stop any future possible deployment of nuclear weapons on Australian soil. What about the reality of the Government's peace and disarmament policies? We sell uranium. We are developing uranium in Australia. We are proposing to lower the floor price on uranium at Roxby Downs to make it more saleable. This Government has a policy of opposing uranium mining. We hide behind the pretence of safeguards. We have seen how uranium-


Senator Tate —We would like you to speak about this Bill. There is a very short time for us to speak on it. Do you realise that?


Senator SANDERS —The honourable senator has a point. I point out, however, that the Government's peace and disarmament policies are not being upheld. There is a genuine fear on the part of the Government and the Opposition about how the United States would interpret such action. Frankly, I do not think the United States would interpret it in as negative a light as our very timid Government and timid Opposition seem to think it would. It should be a matter for Australian sovereignty. It should be a means of expressing our concern, and let the United States adapt to it. If we make a noise like a rug we get walked on. We continually make noises like a fine Persian carpet and the United States walks all over us. It is time we took some action to show that we are a sovereign state. Do honourable senators think that the United States is now taking more or less notice of New Zealand than it did before New Zealand banned the presence of nuclear ships? It is taking far more notice. New Zealand is now on the map.


Senator Walters —Shultz said that they had forgotten their address.


Senator SANDERS —Shultz may have forgotten the address but I am sure that he has not forgotten where New Zealand lives in the world, and its significance in the example it has given to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries and the rest of the world. Underlying any perception at all of Australia's defence is the fear of how the United States interpret such a move, which is not what we in the Senate chamber should be interested in. We should be interested in what is good for Australia and not in how the United States might perceive it. If the Government does not act on this issue, as looks likely, it is saying to the electorate and to the members of its own Party that the peace movement has no electoral clout, that there are no votes in the peace movement, and that the Government does not fear the electoral consequences. I am here to tell the Government that if it takes that stand it will be in big trouble.

Perhaps the most realistic way to look at the Government's rejecting this Bill is that the Government has taken a calculated guess that, even though to vote for the Bill is the right thing to do, electorally the clout of the peace movement is not enough to motivate it into doing so. The last election should serve as a warning-the presence of Senator Jo Vallentine in this chamber should serve as a warning-that the Government is tampering with very great and deep feelings in the community and that it neglects them at its peril. The peace movement at the moment is completely underwhelmed by what this Government has done on peace. Honourable senators sitting here today know that many of them will be members of the unemployed after the next election, as will members of the other place.


Senator MacGibbon —You will be with them. You will know all about it.


Senator SANDERS —If I am unemployed it will be because I have done my job. I will no longer have to be a politician. This Senate will have seen the light and will then be taking up its responsibility towards the people of Australia. Over and over again in this chamber in the last few months we have seen the lengths the Government goes to to support its `All the way with LBJ' sentiments. We have heard the Geosat argument and the Trident II support. We have seen over and over again that this Government is not serious about disarmament, peace, or any of the other issues for which the ALP is supposedly famous.

I conclude by quoting the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, at the opening of a conference on the future of arms control earlier this year. Mr Hayden said:

Peace is the most crucial issue of our time, not only for this Government and for Australians but also for all human beings . . . This Goverment therefore intends to pursue its policy for peace in the knowledge that success will be won through small and careful steps and not miracles, with dedication to taking pains, with passionate concentration on what is possible . . . It is self-evident that the best way to get rid of nuclear weapons is to go the direct route . . .

That is a very clear, concise statement of purpose. The passage of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Bill 1985 is a small step, but it is possible. It is the direct route towards the elimination of nuclear weapons from our planet. I commend the Bill to the Senate.