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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 587

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to an article in the International Herald Tribune of 14 July which describes how the Australian requirement for prior consent before transfer or reprocessing of uranium is permitted has now been abandoned in favour of an 'encapsulated area'? I ask the Minister whether he agrees with the International Herald Tribune article which states in part:

Whereas 'prior consent' constitutes a real checking point ... the idea of an 'encapsulated area' would allow . . . a very generous margin of flexibility.

Does this amount to a change of Government policy? Does it also explain why the Government has been so secretive about negotiations with EURATOM?

Mr PEACOCK (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) - The answer to the first part of the question is that my attention has not been drawn to that article. I have not seen it.

Mr Young - Why not?

Mr PEACOCK - I do not read every publication in the world, but I seek to keep myself fairly well informed and generally I am able to indicate affirmatively that I have read a particular article. On this occasion I have not but I will take steps to look at it. But as the question is not--

Mr Les McMahon (SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - All right; don't get upset about it.

Mr PEACOCK - I am not upset at all; I am perfectly relaxed about it. I am so relaxed about it that I will remind honourable members of what the Government's policy is in regard to nuclear safeguards so that, notwithstanding what is in the article, honourable members will know the corner-stones of that most stringent policy that the Government attaches to the export of uranium. There are four corner-stones of Australia's nuclear safeguards policy. The first one, of course, is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which provides a formal legal commitment to non-proliferation. Our policy offers a tangible incentive to non-parties to adhere to the Treaty.

The second corner-stone is the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards that verify the commitment of countries under the NPT. They provide assurance that the uranium we supply for peaceful purposes is not diverted to make nuclear weapons. The IAEA safeguards--

Mr Uren - Haven't you read the third recommendation of the Ranger report?

Mr PEACOCK - In answer to the interjection from the honourable member for Reid I will say that the IAEA safeguards provide a sufficiently high probability of timely detection of any significant diversion so as to constitute a real deterrent to any country contemplating developing an illicit weapons program. The third element is the bilateral agreements that we enter into which contain, as I have said, stringent conditions on both the use and control of Australian uranium. Indeed, they are regarded as the most stringent in the world and the agreements require the application of IAEA safeguards as well as additional obligations.

Finally, the fourth corner-stone of the policy is support for international and multilateral improvements in safeguards and the non proliferation regime. The Government's nuclear safeguards policy, as I have said, will apply to all exports of Australian uranium under new contracts. Agreements concluded under this policy govern all subsequent shipments to the customer country concerned. I look forward to reading the article referred to by the honourable member. If it does not embrace those elements, it is not accurately reporting Australian policy.

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