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Thursday, 14 November 1985
Page: 2187


Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(4.43) —in reply-I am disappointed at the response to this Nuclear Weapons Prohibitions Bill 1985, both from the Liberal Party of Australia and from the Australian Labor Party. I compliment Senator Sir John Carrick on his speech because I think it eloquently sums up the view of his Party and the view of the Labor Party. I do not think anyone could have done it better or more completely than he just did. For the part of the Australian Democrats, we do not agree with a word of what he said, except that we acknowledge that he is just as interested in peace as we are.


Senator Sir John Carrick —Surely. I acknowledge that.


Senator CHIPP —Let us not score political points off that. Senator Sir John Carrick was gracious enough not to and I acknowledge his point. Just for the record, I would like to correct one small thing which he said. He was in error in saying that this Bill would preclude the visits of ships with nuclear installations or nuclear bombs. I have another Bill which does, but just for the record I point out that sub-clause 3 (2) of this Bill says:

In this Act, a reference to Australia shall be read as not including a reference to any part of the territorial sea of Australia that is below low-water mark, or the airspace above, that territorial sea.


Senator Sir John Carrick —The other Bills will?


Senator CHIPP —The other Bills will. That is not a big point but I make it just to clear the record. We do not agree with any of the thrust of what Senator Sir John Carrick said. I suppose we have gone into that before, and I will not repeat those arguments but one thing on which he concentrated today and which brought forth some reaction from my friend and colleague Senator Sanders was that any first strike would inevitably mean the end of the world. I think that is probably one of the big areas of difference between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party on the one hand and us on the other hand. We are dismayed at the reports coming from the Pentagon in particular-I have no doubt that reports are circulating in the Soviet Union as well, although we do not see them-that a limited nuclear war is possible to win.


Senator Sir John Carrick —The Pentagon say it isn't.


Senator CHIPP —There are people in the Pentagon who have been quoted as saying the opposite. In fact, now that freedom of information records are becoming available-I think it is after the 30-year period-we are now finding the terrifying number of times that the American chiefs-of-staff have recommended to successive Presidents of the United States of America that the nuclear option be taken up.


Senator Sir John Carrick —Not in recent times.


Senator CHIPP —We do not know. During the Vietnam war there were several times-I forget how many, but in the teens anyway-that the chiefs-of-staff placed recommendations before American Presidents to use the nuclear option in Vietnam.


Senator Sir John Carrick —The Reagan Government has said that there cannot be a limited war.


Senator CHIPP —Mr Deputy President, I thank you for your indulgence in allowing Senator Sir John Carrick and me to have this friendly interchange. There are leading figures in the Pentagon who have said, on record, that it is possible. I suppose it depends on what one says is a limited war. My latest information is that certainly the 500 bomb level is it. Beyond that there will be a nuclear winter for sure. Even if there was a 500-bomb exchange in the Northern Hemisphere, there is no way that any sort of life could survive south of the Equator, including everything in Australia. I am not advocating that. What I am advocating is that some maniac on either side-the Soviet side or the American side-might decide that a limited nuclear war is possible to win and have a go at it. If that is contained as a limited war and if, by not having bases, we are not involved or made a nuclear target, there is a chance-I put it no higher than that-that life could survive in Australia. What the Democrats are putting is that we as politicians do not have the right to mortgage the future of our children by making them nuclear targets. I made a statement the other day, which I make again, that it is the Democrats' view that Australia is more of a prime nuclear target because of the installations we have on our soil than are the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries in Europe which in fact have the bombs. What one does in a time of nuclear attack or feared attack is claw out the eyes and the brains of the enemy. As it happens, the eyes of the enemy, namely the United States as far as the Soviets are concerned, are not on American soil. They are not chiefly in NATO countries although there are some there. The significant eyes and brains of the enemy as far as the Soviets are concerned are located in Australia.


Senator Robert Ray —If you take them away you may increase the chances of war.


Senator CHIPP —That is a respectable argument. We do not accept it, but is a respectable argument. What we say is that if the Soviets and the United States want to pursue this insanity, we cannot do too much to stop them. What we say as Australian politicians is that we do not want a bar of it. We say that we have not got the right, as far as our children are concerned, to mortgage this country. It is as simple as that. I have never heard anybody say that the actions of the United States and the Soviet Union are not insane. Only insanity could have produced a situation of 50,000 nuclear bombs in the world. Only insane men and women could have done that, men and women who have lost their balance, who have totally lost their sense of proportion.

As I have said before, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 and killed 200,000 human beings is by today's standards a toy. The average size of those 50,000 bombs I mentioned, 30,000 of which are owned by the United States and 20,000 by the Soviet Union, is about 30 or 40 times more destructive than the Hiroshima bomb. Therefore, in theory at least, the average bomb today could kill in one hit something like four or five or six million people. That is the magnitude of what we are talking about. Yet they have built 50,000 of those bombs, and they are now talking about building more. If that is not a classic case of insanity I do not know what is. All I am saying to people such as Senator Robert Ray, who I acknowledge is absolutely sincere in this, is that if they want to do that over there and destroy the Northern Hemisphere in a limited nuclear exchange, there is nothing we can do about it. What we are saying is that they should not involve Australia. We should not be politicians who involve Australia--


Senator Robert Ray —You want to wash your hands of the whole affair.


Senator Sir John Carrick —How do you limit retaliation against a limited strike?


Senator CHIPP —Normally I like interjections. However, I did not hear either of those interjections and am not paying either one--


Senator Sir John Carrick —How would you limit the retaliation against a limited nuclear strike? Since the target would not have been wiped out, would that retaliation not have to increase to stop further first strikes?


Senator CHIPP —I acknowledge that we have no control over what happens on the other side of the planet. I do not think I am being oversimplistic when I say that there is a concept, at least in the Pentagon and probably in the Kremlin, that a limited nuclear strike is possible. If that happens and it is pre-emptive-


Senator Robert Ray —Is it possible to have a limited response? That is the question.


Senator CHIPP —If it is pre-emptive, then the question asked by Senator Sir John Carrick and Senator Robert Ray is irrelevant. If the strike is pre-emptive, then there is no question of a response. That is the sort of logic exercising the minds of those military people in both places.


Senator Robert Ray —I agree with you that they are insane if that is what they are thinking.


Senator CHIPP —Yes. The Australian Labor Party has disappointed me with its response to this Bill. It says that there is no need to enshrine its policy in legislation. Member of the Labor Party agree that this Bill before the chamber is Labor Party policy, yet they say, by some extraordinary process of logic. that they will not vote for it. They go further and say that they will vote against it. I am sorry that people who have the intellectual capacity of Senator Robert Ray-I regard that as high-have not stood up in this debate and explained how they can live with that dilemma. If honourable senators opposite believe that this is their policy-it is accepted by their Party-and that nuclear weapons should be prohibited from Australian soil, how in the name of God can they sit in the national Parliament and vote against the Bill when the division bells ring? It it were not in accordance with their policy I could understand it, but to stand up here and say `It is our policy but we are not going to vote for it' is beyond my comprehension. If it were a matter of interest rates or the redistribution of wealth or something else there would be no conscience matter involved. This Bill is concerned with the survival of life on this continent, and for honourable members opposite to vote against their principles and their policy on a matter such as this is something I cannot understand.

On the other hand, the Liberals are honest about the whole thing. They have said before-I hope I do not misquote them-that they would in certain circumstances entertain the prospect of having nuclear weapons on Australian soil. I do not agree with that but at least it is honest. I imagine that is the sort of stuff we could look forward to if and when a Liberal government returns to office in this country.


Senator Durack —Only if most unlikely circumstances of that kind arose.


Senator CHIPP —Yes, but members of the Liberal Party do not rule out that possibility, and they are honest about it. Surely that in itself is enough reason to put the sentiments expressed in my Bill into Australian law. If it were the law of Australia, any future Liberal government, finding itself in such circumstances, would have to repeal the Act. I think this is where the value of my Bill lies and why it is a tragedy that this Parliament will refuse its passage. It would be one thing for the Liberal Party, if and when it regains office, surreptitiously to sneak in a nuclear installation somewhere. That would be one thing. I am not an expert in these things, but possibly it could be done by regulation; possibly it could be done by treaty which would not need ratification by this Parliament.

A nuclear weapon could be installed on Australian soil without reference to the Parliament. What the Democrats are trying to do is to bring down legislation and put it on the statute books to ensure that a future Liberal government would have to repeal that Act. One can imagine the marching in the streets, the protests and deputations to members of parliament, if the Liberal Party were to try to overcome that sort of obstacle? That to me is probably the greatest value of this Bill. At least it would give a safety zone for the future. At least it would prevent any future Liberal government-the Liberal Party quite honestly concedes its intentions-from acting because it would have to face the anger and the rage of those people out there who care about nuclear proliferation.

There is another reason why this Bill must be passed. A nuclear weapons prohibition Act would make it illegal for B52 bombers to carry nuclear weapons into Australia. At the moment there is absolutely no guarantee that these bombers are not coming into Australia loaded with nuclear bombs. In the very near future they could be coming in loaded with cruise missiles. It was the policy of this Govenment when in opposition that the private agreement, which had no legal validity at all, between Foreign Minister Tony Street and the United States Secretary of State Haig that United States bombers were possibly carrying nuclear weapons into Australia was unacceptable. It was the Labor Party which said that. It was Mr Lionel Bowen, as spokesperson on foreign affairs, who said that. This Bill of mine would make it illegal for B52s to carry nuclear weapons into Australia.

Another Bill in the package of Bills would make it illegal for B52s to carry nuclear weapons in Australian airspace. Mr Deputy President, I feel quite strange standing here today and confessing to you that I cannot get from Senator Gareth Evans a guarantee that those bombers are not now carrying nuclear bombs. I am only a member of parliament. I asked him the question. I gave him two days notice. His Defence Department briefed him to say: `Don't tell Chipp whether those B52s are carrying nuclear bombs'. I would have thought that I was entitled to know that. I leave it to the judgment of the Senate to decide that.

There is one aspect of Labor policy which I cannot understand, and I mention this in passing. The Labor Party passionately states that it will not allow nuclear bombs on Australian soil- it will not vote for this Bill but it is still passionate in its statements that it will not allow them-yet it will freely allow nuclear bombs in Australian ports. Again, I would have been grateful for someone of the intellectual capacity of Senator Robert Ray to have explained to me the logic of that. We have been denied the privilege of hearing his good mind on this. This Bill is important. The security of this nation and its basic standing in a nuclear world must not only be of interest to Parliament but also be subject to the laws of this land. Many honourable senators know not only that this Bill is good but also that it is the right thing to vote for. Many honourable senators look forward to the day, at some time in the future, when such a Bill becomes law. I hope that it is a Bill introduced by the Australian Labor Party.


Senator Robert Ray —A good possibility.


Senator CHIPP —If that is so it will have our total and vigorous support. All I hope is that that day will come very soon because, notwithstanding what Senator Robert Ray thinks of the performance of his Government, the chances are that it will not stay in office forever.

Question put:

That the Bill be now read a second time.