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Thursday, 6 March 1980
Page: 627

Senator WALSH (Western Australia) - by leave- I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I wish to speak briefly to the motion. The judgment of the Opposition on the commercial viability, and the pure economics, of uranium enrichment in Australia- I leave aside the question of whether we should be involved for other reasons- was expressed yesterday in the House of Representatives by Mr Keating when he said that our assessment of the situation is that because of the declining number of reactors which are likely to be built there is a glut situation and it is highly unlikely that uranium enrichment would be viable in Australia on economic grounds alone and should not be proceeded with. The Government has been non-commital. When one reads the statement brought down by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) yesterday one can see that the Government clearly is asserting that it will leave the question to industry. That sentiment is expressed in this passage in Hansard where Mr Anthony said:

It is industry which is being asked to make the commercial judgments whether a uranium enrichment industry is an attractive commercial proposition for Australia.

I want to query whether that is in fact likely to happen; that is whether it will be left to the commercial judgment of firms like Peko- Wallsend and the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. I submit that at least one State Government is likely to arrogate some power to itself in this area. I would be less worried if I could believe the Government's statement that it will be left to the commercial judgment of the private firms. It is no secret that the Premier of Western Australia and his former Minister for Industrial Development, who was sacked earlier this week but not, I think, for this reason, are determined to establish an enrichment plant in Western Australia if they possibly can.

Senator Thomas - Did you say sacked?

Senator WALSH - Mensarsos was sacked as the Minister for Industrial Development.

Senator Thomas - He was promoted in the ministry to a different portfolio. Mensaros is still senior to Jones in the ministry.

Senator WALSH - He was put down so that Jones could be put up. But I do not want to go into that at this stage. Prior to Jones ratting on what is now called the National Country Party and officially joining the Liberal Party -

Senator Thomas - Mensaros is still senior to Jones.

Senator WALSH - He is senior in the order in which their names are listed but not senior in respect of the importance of the portfolios which have been allocated to them. The point I am making is not the machinations within the Liberal-National Country Party- or whatever it is called these days- Cabinet of Western Australia. The point I want to make is that a decision on the establishment of a uranium processing industry is not likely to be left to the commercial judgment of the firms concerned because people like Sir Charles Court will interfere in that process. Because of the abdication of responsibility by this Federal Government on 7

December last year, Sir Charles Court is likely to transform his pipedreams into some sort of reality as he has been given unlimited access to overseas borrowings. One of the most alarming decisions of all the decisions which the Fraser Government has made was that of 7 December last year when it declared open season for overseas borrowings by State governments for what it called development projects. Sir Charles Court is not the only State politician who displays these attributes but they have developed to an alarming degree in him.

The reality behind that decision by the Fraser Government is that the politicians who irresponsibly borrow overseas for uneconomic projects will receive the credit for being great developers in their lifetimes and the bill will be picked up by the next generation. Sir Charles Court's growing belief that reality can be bent to conform with his will has been the subject of comment by senior public servants in Western Australia. That is most unusual because in Western Australia the Public Service is highly secure in a sense compared with what it is and has been for some time in Canberra. Public servants are aghast at the propositions wheeled up to them by the Premier and which he expects them to implement. There is little doubt that unless something is done to curb this man's megolomania the proposition to establish a uranium enrichment plant in Western Australia will be wheeled up by him. It is likely to be uneconomic even if a cheap supply of electricity is available and there will be no cheap electricity in Western Australia for projects of this magnitude. To complete the circle of irresponsibility, Sir Charles Court would probably then argue that a nuclear reactor would have to be built to supply the electricity for the enrichment plant which could then supply the fuel for the nuclear reactor.

The point, and it is terribly important, is this: Because the Commonwealth Government has abdicated its responsibility in the area of overseas borrowings, or at least asserts that it has, and has declared open season for borrowing by any irresponsible or megolomaniacal State Premier, there is a real danger that a whole host of wild, uneconomic and irresponsible projects could be funded from this source. When the condition has developed to the point that it has in Sir Charles Court, where he actually believes that reality can be bent to conform to his will, obviously the dangers are sharpest. In closing I would like to observe that that particular mental condition, that reality can be bent to conform to the will of the individual, was lucidly portrayed in Albert Speer's book Inside the Third Reich and was manifest according to Speer, in Adolf Hitler in his declining years.

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