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Friday, 8 November 1985
Page: 1846

Senator TATE —Is the Minister representing the Mnister for Foreign Affairs aware that Australia signed the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty on 8 August this year and that it prohibits the acquisition, stationing, manufacture or testing of nuclear explosive devices in Australia? Will the Government give an undertaking to introduce into the Parliament legislation which fully embodies the obligations undertaken in the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty? Will the Government bring such legislation forward in the autumn session next year?

Senator WALSH —I must say that until a few minutes ago I was only vaguely aware of the fact that that Treaty was signed on 8 August. In my new and exalted capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs I have been supplied with a note on this question. That note says that it was signed on 6 August-and not 8 August, or so it says here-and that seven other members of the South Pacific Forum signed the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. Since then Papua New Guinea has also signed that Treaty. Parties to the Treaty undertake, among other things, not to manufacture explosive devices and not to permit them to be stationed or tested on their territory. It also prohibits the dumping of radioactive waste at sea within the zone and includes restrictions on the export of nuclear material in line with Australia's existing strong safeguard requirements for uranium exports.

The Treaty also recognises the unqualified sovereign right of countries in the zone to decide for themselves such questions as security arrangements and access to ports and airfields by vessels and aircraft of other countries. It also fully respects the principles of international law with regard to the freedom of the high seas. The prohibitions in the Treaty will be binding on Australia when it has verified it and the seven other countries have also done so. The Government is currently considering what implementing legislation will be required before Australia can ratify the Treaty. Preliminary advice is that legislation will probably be required to implement the Treaty's provisions on radioactive waste dumping and on verification, particularly access rights and privileges and immunities of inspection. No decision has been taken about the timing or form of the implementing legislation. Consideration is, however, being given to amending the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 to cover the Treaty's prohibition on the dumping of radioactive waste.

Senator TATE —I have a supplementary question. Will the Minister convey to the Minister for Foreign Affairs the need for the full embodiment of all the obligations of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty in legislation and not merely those which are technically necessary?

Senator WALSH —I will certainly convey that message to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.