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ASNO on security, disarmament and non-proliferation

Estimates & Committees
Scott Ludlam 6 Jun 2013

Senate Budget Estimates - Thursday 6 June 2013 - Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee

CHAIR: We will move now to security, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Senator Ludlam has some questions.

Senator LUDLAM: Could you provide us with a quick update on the status of negotiations on uranium sales to India?

Dr Floyd : Thank you, Senator, for your question. The update is that we have had one meeting with the negotiating team from India. That was held in the third week of March this year in New Delhi. That will be followed up by a second session of negotiations which will be held in the last week of July. That will be here in Canberra. The first session was basically exploratory, looking at the range of issues that both sides were mindful of that the others then should know about. It was not going beyond just the airing of broad issues.

Senator LUDLAM: Could you describe for us in general terms what the broad issues are, of how the different categories or baskets of negotiations will fall out?

Dr Floyd : It is the basis of a treaty negotiation between two countries, so I cannot go into too much detail because of the sensitivity of those negotiations.

Senator LUDLAM: Keep it high level, if you like.

Dr Floyd : It is reasonable for me to say that we have the policy that we have in Australia for uranium exports. When we meet with India then we have uniqueness from the Australian side and they have uniqueness from the Indian side. We are wishing to explore and understand each other's positions in those ways. Really, it is looking at how those things come together. It is the normal elements, as you are familiar with from your time on JSCOT-the normal elements of an agreement that we need to go through, whether it is about IAEA safeguard measures that need to be in place, details of security, cessation, and all of the standard elements, Senator, that you are well familiar with in other agreements.

Senator LUDLAM: Is reactor safety one of the elements of the negotiation? Was that canvassed?

Dr Floyd : I cannot recall whether that was specifically mentioned at this first meeting, but that does fit within the broad range of issues that will be discussed in terms of safety; that is correct.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. As distinct from proliferation issues, which is not the framework under which these negotiations are occurring but normally would be?

Dr Floyd : The proliferation issues are clearly the major part of these agreements. There are other allied issues that are folded in often, to do with security, which may not be proliferation specifically, and then safety also.

Senator LUDLAM: So a second session in the last week of July. How many sessions after that do you anticipate will be required before there is some agreement that would then come to the treaties committee?

Dr Floyd : It would be cheeky of me to say I'll take that on notice, but I really have no idea. It just depends on how the negotiations develop. So I really could not answer that, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM: No way of guessing how long this is going to take to conclude?

Dr Floyd : No, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. Do these things have to go into abeyance when the government goes into caretaker mode in August?

Dr Floyd : When we go into caretaker mode, there can never be any entering into commitments in that period. So that clearly could not happen. There could be continued discussions, but it will all depend on what happens on the fourth week of July as to what the next steps would be. So exactly what happens next will not be clear to us until the fourth week of July.

Senator LUDLAM: Are representatives of mining interests present in these negotiations? Were they in Delhi?

Dr Floyd : No; it is negotiations between the two governments that take place.

Senator LUDLAM: Is there any update on negotiations on an agreement with China or has that stalled pending further decisions by BHP?

Dr Floyd : If you are referring to the concept that was floated some time ago about copper ore concentrates with uranium-

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, a sales agreement with China that would probably have required an amendment to our bilateral safeguards agreement.

Dr Floyd : That is correct. That is the situation. No, there is no progress on that. As you are aware, the Olympic Dam expansion project has been held in abeyance by BHP Billiton. We have no clarity at all as to whether or when that would move forward, and also any decisions BHP Billiton might make about how they would wish to process that ore. Until there is more clarity we would not be moving ahead on this issue.

Senator LUDLAM: Dr Floyd, I believe you attended the Oslo conference recently, at the invitation of the Norwegian government, on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Ms Millar, did you attend that one as well?

Ms Millar : No, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM: Dr Floyd, you were in attendance at that?

Dr Floyd : That is correct, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand there is now a proposal for Mexico to hold the next conference in this series. Will Australia participate in that one?

Ms Millar : We have not yet looked at the question of participation in that conference.

Senator LUDLAM: If negotiations for a nuclear weapons ban begin soon after the Mexico conference, which seems entirely possible, would Australia participate in those negotiations?

Ms Millar : That would be a matter for ministers.

Senator LUDLAM: Did any Australian representative make any presentation or representation of any kind at all at the Oslo conference, at which 50 other governments spoke?

Dr Floyd : No, we did not take the floor at the meeting. The meeting was convened as an opportunity for greater understanding to be developed on this issue. It was certainly very helpful in that regard, both formally, then informally, with discussions with other participants at the conference.

Senator LUDLAM: But 50 other governments thought it worth putting a view. For what reason was Australia entirely mute as far as the official proceedings of the conference went?

Dr Floyd : As I said, the prime purpose of the meeting was for understanding of these issues. Certainly our objective was to gain understanding. That was our objective, and I think it was achieved.

Senator LUDLAM: If Australia does choose to send a representative to the Mexico conference, will we make any contribution to that one?

Dr Floyd : That is a hypothetical question because it is a significant step forward from this point in time. We would need to consider it at a time when that is on the table.

Senator LUDLAM: On 26 September there is a high level meeting on nuclear disarmament at the United Nations. That is only a fortnight after the federal election. Without knowing who the Prime Minister is even going to be at the time of that conference, what kind of preparation are we making? Are we planning on attending, at some level, that conference?

Ms Millar : I am not aware of the conference to which you refer.

Senator LUDLAM: It is being spoken of as 'the high level meeting on nuclear disarmament at the UN on 26 September'. Not something familiar? I will see if I can get a little bit more info for you. What proposals is Australia taking to the UN open-ended working group-that was set up last year-to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons? I understand Australia has made a few off-the-cuff comments responding to presentations, but we have not made any formal statements on that yet.

Ms Millar : Senator, I would have to take that on notice to get details for you. The issues covered in that open-ended working group are the ones that we have been trying to get progress on in a range of UN forums over many years. There will be nothing particularly new in our position. It will be just another forum in which to try and get some movement, given particularly the paralysis in the Conference on Disarmament.

Senator LUDLAM: So Australia still supports the eventual achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons, I take it; there has been no substantive shift in policy?

Ms Millar : No, there has not.

Senator LUDLAM: How do we reconcile that with the 2013 Defence white paper, which rather embarrassingly continues Australia's support of the use of nuclear weapons in our security policy?

Ms Millar : As the white paper states, as long as nuclear weapons continue to exist, the government will rely on the nuclear force of the United States to deter nuclear attack on Australia. Of course, our goal is a world without nuclear weapons-but we are not at that point.

Senator LUDLAM: But we will never be at that point while we continue to support deterrence theory and the benefits of Australia remaining under a nuclear weapons umbrella. It is rather contradictory, isn't it?

Senator Bob Carr: The logic of that position, Senator, would be that Australia withdraw from the US treaty relationship.

Senator LUDLAM: The treaty relationship is bound on much deeper foundations than simply the use of nuclear weapons, surely.

Senator Bob Carr: Yes, it is. But still the deterrent impact to a nuclear attack on Australia implied in that treaty is real. Therefore, to do what you have just advocated a moment ago would mean Australia abrogating the ANZUS Treaty.

Senator LUDLAM: Why would we not simply renegotiate the treaty, rather than unilaterally abrogating it? Does Australia still set its own foreign policy, Minister Carr?

Senator Bob Carr: Australian people still support-they have made this very clear over very many years-the security relationship with the United States, and implied in that is that America, as a nuclear power, represents protection for Australia against a nuclear attack.

Senator LUDLAM: By the threat of mass incineration of whoever has attacked Australia. So we are still playing with a 1950s doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction?

Senator Bob Carr: We are strongly committed to a world without nuclear weapons, as we on this side of politics have been since the initiative of the Canberra Commission.

Senator LUDLAM: Which was an extremely welcome initiative.

Senator Bob Carr: We remain committed to that.

Senator LUDLAM: While still supporting the existence of nuclear weapons in Australian security policy. Perhaps I am the only one in the room who sees the essential contradiction in that.

Senator Bob Carr: I am just asking you to follow through on branding it a contradiction and say that you favour a policy of armed neutrality for Australia-because that is the alternative to the American alliance. If you say Australia should abrogate the defence relationship we have with America-because that implies nuclear protection for Australia in the event of a nuclear threat to Australia-then the logic of that is that Australia must look after its own defences. That means armed neutrality, unless you are arguing for a disarmed and neutral Australia.

Senator LUDLAM: Minister, I am not sure whether you are deliberately or accidentally misconstruing my point. Are you aware that all five of the legally recognised nuclear states, as defined in the NPT, plus the others that we know of, are all actively renewing and upgrading their nuclear weapons arsenals, which you would have to view as being in violation of article VI of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which is one of the three pillars, so to speak, of the treaty?

Senator Bob Carr: Yes, it is. The treaty, agreed on in the late sixties and ratified in the years immediately after, carries an obligation on nuclear powers to commit to disarmament that has not been fulfilled. That was why a Labor government set up the Canberra Commission-to place on the international agenda the challenge of fulfilling what was specified as a goal of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Senator LUDLAM: Our ally, the United States-which continues not only to deploy nuclear weapons but to modernise and upgrade them-would appear to be, along with all the other nuclear weapon states, in direct violation of article VI. So what is Australia doing about that?

Senator Bob Carr: Australia is an advocate of nuclear disarmament. We want a world without nuclear weapons.

Senator LUDLAM: But we just wrote it back into our 2013 defence policy.

Senator Bob Carr: Australia, while nuclear weapons exist, has got to accommodate the possibility that we might one day be threatened by a state that has nuclear weapons. If you want to abrogate the possibility of us falling under the American nuclear umbrella in respect of a nuclear attack-not a conventional attack on Australia-you must follow through on that logic. That logic mandates abandoning the ANZUS Treaty, withdrawing from the ANZUS Treaty.

Senator LUDLAM: Or renegotiating it.

Senator Bob Carr: All right-renegotiating it to say that we would not seek the deterrent force of America's nuclear capacity in the event of a nuclear attack on Australia. Put that to the Australian people.

Senator LUDLAM: You have just told the committee, and I welcome the comment, that we do not support the continued existence of nuclear weapons and that we have been working towards disarmament for decades-the ALP on two instances with the Canberra Commission, and former Prime Minister Rudd's more recent initiative with the Japanese government on the joint commission on nuclear weapons-and yet you are not prepared to actually embed that in Australia's security-

Senator Bob Carr: While disarmament has not taken place, the defence of this continent has got to be taken care of. Hence my remarks. It is not remotely contradictory to say that we want a world without nuclear weapons. While the world has nuclear weapons, before a negotiated destruction of nuclear weapons has occurred, we still must attend to the future of this country. When I say this to you I am speaking to a representative-I say this politely-of a party that hasn't got a defence policy. You have not got a defence policy.

Senator LUDLAM: We do; I will download it for you. I will hand it over.

Senator Bob Carr: Okay. The comments you made a moment ago are the first time I have heard a Greens party senator say that we would withdraw or renegotiate, which is the same thing-

Senator LUDLAM: Which are two rather different things.

Senator Bob Carr: Which is the same thing.

Senator LUDLAM: No, it is not.

Senator Bob Carr: From the ANZUS Treaty.

Senator LUDLAM: Renegotiating the ANZUS Treaty to take Australia out from the nuclear weapons umbrella, which you have just acknowledged you would like to see dissolved.

Senator Bob Carr: How would you word that? This is an interesting exchange, a very important one, because I have never had a Greens party senator spell this out. How would you word that modification in the ANZUS Treaty?

Senator LUDLAM: Maybe, Minister, you will get to ask questions after the election from the other side of the bench, but right at the moment-

Senator Bob Carr: I want to ask them of a Greens party senator. I don't want to ask the others.

Senator LUDLAM: When I get to be the minister, Senator Carr, then you get to address the questions to me. In the meantime, I am trying to understand-

Senator Bob Carr: It's a Socratic dialogue. We advance the proposition by mutual questioning.

Senator LUDLAM: I thought it was an estimates committee.

Senator Bob Carr: Senator Kroger understands that. Senator Kroger is giving me an encouraging look.

Senator LUDLAM: I know Senator Carr is wearing all of us down, including me. I am trying to understand how you can square wanting the elimination of these weapons while writing it into security policy.

Senator Bob Carr: Chair, I think I have answered that. I have said now three times that, while we want a world without nuclear weapons, we can only get there by negotiation and that, before we have the nuclear weapon powers abrogate and abolish their nuclear weapons, we must tend to the defence of this continent, including the possibility that we could be threatened by a nuclear power.

Senator LUDLAM: All right. My final question is: which state presently threatens Australia with a nuclear strike?

Senator Bob Carr: I am not going to address that question.

Senator LUDLAM: Why is that?

Senator Bob Carr: There is no imminent threat to Australia. I refer you to the Defence white paper and the white paper on Australian security.


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