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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1165

Mr HAND —I ask the Prime Minister: What steps will be taken by the Government to ensure that there is an opportunity for the fullest debate within the Australian Labor Party concerning the future of the uranium mining industry in Australia?

Mr HAWKE —I am indebted to the honourable member for asking this question. Obviously I am particularly pleased that it comes from the honourable member for Melbourne. As distinct from the Opposition's approach to policy formulation-I would be quite happy to elaborate over a range of those issues at length-which is totally confused and contradictory, the process within the Australian Labor Party is an orderly and democratic one, a fact of which you are completely aware , Mr Speaker. The question of uranium mining and export is unquestionably a very controversial one. It is a controversial question within the Australian community as a whole and indeed within the Australian Labor Party. I make no attempt to disguise the fact-it would be futile to do so and it is a matter of public record-that there are elements within the Australian Labor Party that hold views different from mine on this matter. I accept that these views are sincerely held; they are views which should have an opportunity to be heard before further decisions are taken. That is what the democratic process is all about. It is particularly important, given that the issues relating to uranium mining and export are, as I have said, exceedingly complex and involve considerations which go to questions-I will not be exhaustive about it-touching nuclear proliferation, nuclear safeguard arrangements, other potential suppliers to the world market and environmental factors. The issues certainly involve the economics of the industry, both within Australia and overseas, and the effects upon the Australian economy and our balance of payments.

When faced with an issue which is transparently so complex and goes to so many important issues it is my wish and intention to ensure that discussion on these issues within the Australian Labor Party is rational and informed. As I have indicated, I will have a paper circulated in the near future to provide the basis for such a rational discussion within Caucus. The matter will go to Cabinet for consideration as soon after that as possible; I would hope, as I have indicated, by about the end of October. As I told the House yesterday, the timetable which I then indicated and which I repeat in this chamber today for Government and Party consideration will not adversely affect the prospects for the Roxby Downs project. That project is still in the final feasibility study stage which is not to be completed before December 1984. In conclusion, the joint venture partners have not yet sought developmental approval or negotiating licences from the Government.