30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because television and radio
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Government will amend the Broadcasting and Television Act, in relation to both national and commercial broadcasters, to legislate
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield, Dr Edwards, Mr Lucock, Mr McLeay and Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that no self regulation is implemented and Mr Gyngell be dismissed as Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Abel and Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we believe that laxity in the control of broadcasting standards has given viewers-
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Donald Cameron and Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That due to the new information on whale communication, behaviour and intelligence, and to the depleted state of most of the great whale stocks and the uncertainty associated with whale population estimates, that commercial whaling is no longer acceptable to the vast majority of Australians. It is urged that immediate steps be taken to end this activity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Cass and Mr Macphee.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That where whole or part of a deceased estate passes to the surviving spouse it should be free from Federal estate duty.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Lusher and Mr McLean.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardship as inmates of private nursing homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the private nursing homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner-while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Abel.
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens (students, parents, teachers) of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision by the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of Non-state Tertiary Institutions is in total conflict with stated Government education policy.
The decision will result in a shortage of places for training secretarial and clerical students and an inordinate demand upon the State Government education system.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to a serious worsening of the current employment situation, particularly school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Federal Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrBradfield.
Australian Broadcasting Commission: Radio Reception in Swansea Area
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a repeater station be installed at or near Swansea in Tasmania to improve the reception of ABC radio programs in the area.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Burr.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain members of the Australian Association for Better Hearing, and other citizens of Australia, respectfully showeth that a financial burden is imposed on hearing impaired members of the public in that the special telephone equipment, which is essential for such hearing impaired citizens to make telephonic communication, is subject to installation costs and rental charges.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government give every consideration to waiving the installaton costs and rental charges of the special telephone equipment required by hearing impaired members of the public.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Crean.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
The Department of Social Security current means test allows those over 2 1 years of age to earn $6.00 per week, in addition to unemployment benefits, and those under 21, $3.00 per week. Amounts earned in excess of these levels result in a loss in benefit of $1.00 for every additional dollar earned.
This policy discourages the unemployed from engaging in part time or casual work. Also this may mean that existing or potential opportunities for part-time work will not be taken up at a time when unemployment is a major social problem.
We believe that this policy is having a particularly unfortunate effect on young school leavers who are being denied valuable work experience and training so important for their entry into the work force.
Your petitioners humbly pray that this House request the Honourable Minister for Social Security to give effect to the recommendation of the recent Myers report on unemployment benefits and allow those receiving unemployment benefits to earn up to $20.00 per week before their unemployment benefit is reduced.
And your petitioners as in duty . bound will ever pray, by Mr Fisher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned are totally opposed to legislation now before the Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly which if passed, will permit the establishment of abortion clinics operated by Population Services International and Preterm Foundation in Canberra.
Your petitioners who are totally opposed to the legislation of abortion therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government act immediately to prevent the establishment of Population Services International and Preterm Foundation and other private clinics in the Australian Capital Territory.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Groom.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia showeth:
That the Charter of the United Nations clearly precludes it from interference in the domestic affairs of a country or from obstructing the free transmission of news and information between individuals and between nations.
That the United Nations, in apparent illegality, has imposed many restrictions and sanctions upon Rhodesia which has been remarkably free from the bloodshed and turmoil of Northern and Central African lands, even to the extent now of actively encouraging armed conflict against the legally elected Government of Rhodesia.
Lord Graham, as Minister of External Affairs and Defence, has said: ‘International communism is our enemy. All this talk of political advancement and majority rule is no more than a smokescreen in the early skirmishes of an assault upon the whole of Africa … It is even difficult to see this enemy because it is not merely attacking us, but on a broad front is attacking the whole world order, its standards, its law and order, its moralities, its churches, its patriotisms, its philosophies, and even much of its learning . . . ‘
That Communist Chinese infiltration in much of Africa over many years, and Cuban communist troops reported to number 25,000 are dominating nearby Angola, and possess modern missiles, et cetera.
It is urgent that Mozambique, now under communist domination and which has a common border with Rhodesia, does not receive any further aid from the Commonwealth Government of Australia, which has benefited mainly, the terrorist guerilla movements that are responsible for the deaths of many Rhodesian people.
It is urgent for the Australian people to determine for themselves the actual facts of the Rhodesian struggles.
It is urgent that the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, will observe common justice and proper humanity by inviting only authorised representatives of the present Government of Rhodesia to Australia, to do what they have been deprived to do previously, present their case fully and publicly so that this can be examined and tested, without interference, and so that the eventual impact on Australia’s own security and defence alliances can be gauged with better accuracy.
Your petitioners request urgent action to be taken immediately.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Katter.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Lloyd.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Sydney respectfully showeth:
That the financial guidelines given to the Australian Schools Commission have destroyed the independent nature of the Statutory Body and will, in the future, effectively prevent them from making recommendations to this and future governments on the basis of the educational needs of children.
That these same guidelines represent improvements to private schools, particularly those categorised as Level 1 and Level 2, which are to be financed at the expense of the government school system.
That the abandonment of cost supplementation to cover inflation in the building program and in the non-salary area of the recurrent program will seriously undermine the future building programs of all state government and must mean a drastic curtailment in the programs to update schools to acceptable standards in terms of accommodation and sanitary conditions.
That equality of opportunity has long been an important social goal in Australia and this could be defined as equal access to schools of equal standards. The guidelines impede any progress towards this goal. Only by pursuing the targets laid down by the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission in 1973 will this important social and educational goal be reached.
That the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled needs to re-examine the principles on which federal funding for education are based and restore to the Australian Schools its right to, under Section 13(2) of the Schools Commission Act 1973, report to the Minister on the needs of ‘. . . schools in respect of buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs . . . ‘
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of employees of the shoe manufacturing industry located in Ballarat respectfully showeth:
That we disagree with the recommendations of the IAC draft report on footwear.
That we are concerned about the future of our jobs and families if the report is implemented, as re-employment opportunities in Ballarat arc virtually non-existent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Short.
Mi UREN-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I preface my question by drawing his attention to the letter of resignation he wrote on 8 March 1 97 1 when he was Minister for Defence to the then Prime Minister. In that letter he said:
I regard your conduct as Prime Minister as one which indicates significant disloyalty to a senior Minister.
On Tuesday, 9 March 1971, in his resignation speech the former Minister for Defence, the present Prime Minister, said:
In plain words, the Prime Minister would prefer to allow a false and damaging report to be published about a senior Minister.
Does the Prime Minister agree that similar comments could be made about the role played by him in yesterday’s resignation of the former Attorney-General? Is it not a fact that his office not only allowed a false and damaging report to be published about a senior Minister but in fact aided the publication of such a report?
-My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Following the settlement of the industrial dispute at the Redfern Mail Exchange in Sydney, can Australians now expect to receive their mail without interruption?
-I hope that in the future Australians can expect to receive their mail without interruption. Regrettably, that has not been the case over a considerable period. The Redfern Mail Exchange has been the central element in the disruption of mail services and, because of its size, it impacts upon mail not only in Sydney and New South Wales but also throughout the Commonwealth. Therefore, what happens at the Redfern Mail Exchange is important and even critical. The negotiations, which appear to have settled the dispute satisfactorily, were very prolonged, they extended over a substantial period, and in the end I think were encouraged by the determination of the Government, a determination which was reflected by the Australian Postal Commission. When I say ‘encouraged’, the Act in regard to Commonwealth employees was one of the measures of encouragement -
– But the existing law was invoked.
– The Act was one of the measures of encouragement which made mail workers realise that the Government was quite determined to see that essential services were continued throughout the country in a proper manner.
-The existing laws were invoked.
-I want to make it quite clear- and it is interesting to note the sensitivity of the Leader of the Opposition who continues to interject- that the Government would not wish to use such legislation. We made it perfectly clear that we would not use it unless it was in the most extenuating circumstances.
-In serious circumstances. We made it perfectly clear -
– But you used the law as it had stood for years.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.
– The Leader of the Opposition is very sensitive about industrial relations because in this area his Government was quite dismally ineffective, just as it was in a number of other areas. This Government has demonstrated clearly that essential services- and the postal service is an essential service- will be maintained for Australians. So I say to the honourable member for Parramatta that now that common sense has prevailed, I hope it prevails in a permanent way. The Government is determined to see that its own employees discharge their responsibilities in a proper manner.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I ask about the case of Moore v. Doyle. I have asked him about it quite often upon notice and without notice. He will remember that 8 1/2 years ago in that case the Industrial Court stressed that a system of trade union organisation is urgently needed to enable the one body to represent its relevant members in both Federal and State arbitration systems. Does he remember that I asked him six months ago whether this issue had been considered by the Ministers for Labour at their meeting last February? Has Cabinet decided that questions should, except in special cases, be answered within a month? If so, what are the special circumstances which have delayed his answering this question which I have had on notice to him for six months? I also ask: Was it suggested two months ago in the guidelines which he endorsed for preparing his written answers that he answer even in monosyllables where appropriate along the lines often adopted by the Prime Minister? If so, why is it not appropriate to say yes or no to this question of mine which has been on notice for six months? Finally, did the Ministers for Labour consider the implications of the Moore v. Doyle case at their meeting last week?
-Part of the answer to the questions of the Leader of the Opposition is to be found in his last question. I have delayed answering until, in fact, the meeting of the Ministers for Labour was held. The meetings are held, as the honourable gentleman would know, only twice a year normally, and last weekend the meeting for this time of the year was held in Perth. I think the issue was raised again but I shall have to check this- that the unanimous opinion of the State Ministers was that they saw no reason to alter the existing situation. The amendments which the honourable gentleman’s Government introduced to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act- I think I have said this before in the House- provide a framework within which the States can operate if they choose to use them. The experience would not indicate that the States are prepared to move in this area.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a published statement that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he condoned violence by anti-uranium demonstrators? Does the Government intend to be deterred from carrying out its responsibilities by the actions of an anti-democratic minority?
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Under Standing Orders when an honourable member asks a question and names another honourable member, some support must be given to charges made in the question. I assure the House that at no time have I ever condoned violence under any circumstances. I do not even condone the violence of the Prime Minister in making violent decisions to export uranium.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The point of order is that the statement made in the question is not accurate. Does the honourable member for Petrie vouch for the accuracy of the statement?
– No, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statement. It is a statement -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Transport relates to the wide media coverage which has been given to proposals for cut price air fares between Australia and Europe and the considerable confusion that has arisen as to the possible impact of such proposals on the price, quality and frequency of international air services. I ask: Has the Minister been approached by the governments of the nations in which the proposers are located? If so, what has been his response? In the interests of air service consumers, will the Minister expand the current review of domestic air policy to embrace the price, provision and availability of international air passenger services? If so, will he ensure that the review be by way of a public inquiry so that all the facts involved can be made available to the community?
– Since the visit to Australia of Mr Freddie Laker of Laker Airways there has been a great deal of public discussion about the possibility of cheaper air fares to the United Kingdom. As I said in the House, I think the last week we sat, at this point of time there is no proposition before me in respect of Laker flying to Australia. He certainly had discussions with the Department and with me about it, but at this point I do not have a firm proposition. Nevertheless, as I indicated elsewhere, I have said to the board of Qantas Airways Ltd that it should take note of what is said by Mr Laker while he is in Australia so that I may be in a position to consider what the attitude of Qantas might be if Mr Laker should put in a firm proposition. That is where the matter rests at this point.
I would not propose to widen the review of the two-airline system that has been announced to take into consideration problems associated with international air fares. International air fares are governed by bilateral agreements between governments. Any change to the fare structure must be agreed upon by the two governments. I had discussions yesterday with the British Minister, Mr Clinton Davis, on a variety of subjects. Laker’s so-called proposals about coming to
Australia were certainly part of that discussion. I do not propose to go into details of the discussionthat is a matter between the visiting Minister and me- other than to say that we have agreed that under the bilateral arrangement nothing can occur without the agreement of him at his end and me at this end. I repeat that I do not think it proper to widen the terms of reference of the review of the two-airline system which relates completely to domestic fares by broadening it to take in international fares which would need to be dealt with separately.
-Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to Press reports that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is seeking a referendum on the question of uranium development? Does the Government propose to take up the suggestion?
– It would be very difficult not to see the reports of anything that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions does because he seeks to make himself very evident in everything that he does. The Government will not be taking up the question of a referendum on the mining and export of uranium because the Government has looked carefully and exhaustively at the Fox reportsthe two Ranger inquiries- over a long period. The information that has been made available to this House and to people outside generally indicates the thoughtfulness and the care that the Government has taken in this question, in keeping as closely as possible to the recommendations in the two reports and certainly in meeting the general thrust of the reports in everything that the Government has determined. The question of the referendum is one thing. The question of the implied threat at the end of two months if the call for a referendum is not heeded is quite another thing.
There are some odd circumstances in this. It was only a week or two before the Council’s executive meeting that the President of the Council, as President of the Australian Labor Party, was committed to a moratorium. He was not quite sure about it, so shortly after the Labor Party meeting he had to be disciplined, as I understand, and told to stick with Labor Party policy. Then I suppose at the executive meeting of the Australian Council of Trade Unions he suddenly became somebody else and did not have to support Labor Party policy. He supported quite a different policy. If the reports are correct, the Leader of the Opposition indicated from Cairns that he thought a referendum would solve nothing. Here we have a clear example of the Labor Party running in two different directions. It is worth noting that during recent times, when Mr Clancy has been trying to get a mandatory re-election procedure for the Council’s congress, I think every 6 years, the President of the Council has vigorously opposed it. I presume he wants the circumstance in which he will never have to stand for re-election. He will just stay there for life. He has opposed those moves for a mandatory election every 6 years. If he thinks a referendum in relation to uranium is a good way of resolving an issue, one would think such an election procedure would be a good way of making sure that the union movement gets the right President at reasonably regular intervals.
Two issues are involved. The first relates to what the Australian Council of Trade Unions has said in relation to uranium. I have indicated the Government’s reaction to that. The second issue involved in the attitude taken by the ACTU is the clear determination of the ACTU to set itself over and above the Government; to have the right of veto over policies of the Government. I believe that that issue is more important than the former one. There certainly will be no question as to the outcome.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and deals with petrol prices and taxation. Is it a fact that a person on a taxable income for the year 1977-78 of $8,000 will save 69c a week, which is equivalent to 6 litres of petrol, while a person on a taxable income of 20,000 a year will save $6.06 a week, which is equivalent to 55 litres?
– What does he pay in the first place?
– Just a moment. Does the Treasurer agree that the petrol price rise will inevitably affect people living in the outer suburbs, who are in fact from the lower income groups? If so, why did the Government fail to structure the income tax to compensate these lower wage earners rather than give assistance to the upper income earners who can afford to live in their penthouses in the inner city areas?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Enough of the question has been asked to make it intelligible.
-Mr Speaker, I bow to your indication that enough of the question was posed to enable an intelligible response. I had some doubt when listening to the honourable gentleman, I must say, because the honourable member for Hawker characteristically seeks -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Treasurer misrepresents you. You said that enough of the question had been asked to make it intelligible. It seemed to me that you purposely refrained from saying that enough had been asked to secure an intelligible response.
– No point of order is involved.
– The honourable member for Hawker characteristically seeks to confuse two very significant aspects of the recent Budget. In the first place, the petrol price and the associated package of measures were designed for a particular purpose, which I think all Australians will recognise as being inevitable. They were directly associated with an energy conservation purpose. Those measures have been accepted throughout the country because that purpose was inevitable. The Government does not resile from the measures which have been taken in that direction. They will advantage all Australians because of the incentive they will provide for further search and exploration activities.
As the Government has consistently made clear, the new standard rate taxation system will advantage all taxpayers, the biggest proportional gainers being in fact those at the low end of the income scale. As the Government has also made clear, because of the increase in the tax threshhold, that will include some 225,000 elderly people, including many age pensioners. The measure which has been brought down is equitable in that sense. It is a major area of social reform. In fact, the new standard rate scale is the most significant reform of the tax system in Australian history.
-Is the Prime Minister aware that the Government’s attitude to the Industries Assistance Commission in relation to the protection of secondary industry generally is causing concern to rural export industries? Does the Government’s attitude mean that a full and careful examination of the cost of protection to secondary industry will be restricted? Does it mean that the Government is not concerned about the costs being carried by rural export industries and the beef industry in particular?
-The Government is very much concerned with the general profitability of, and the costs being carried by, Australia’s rural industries. First, may I say that the Government has considered the proposals it wishes to make in relation to the Industries Assistance Commission?
It is my belief that honourable members will regard those proposals as being reasonable, sensible and designed to help achieve a better employment base in Australia. I think there has been some very wild reporting about what might have been in the Government’s mind in relation to these particular matters, but it should not be too long before people are able to find out what is the real nature of the Government’s proposals. I believe they will have widespread commendation as a result.
I well know the attitude that many people in rural industries have taken over the years to the old Tariff Board or to the Industries Assistance Commission. They believe that lower and lower tariffs are necessary to preserve the position of rural industries. I tend to think that rural industries would be well served if some of the attention that has been devoted to that particular question were devoted to other policies- to compensating policies- for rural industries so that they can operate within the Australian environment on a proper and competitive basis. Some of the views that are put would seem to be put against this background: ‘Are you going to start to have an industrial base in Australia?’ That question was decided decades ago, and it is nonsense to suggest that with the market base we have in Australia of about 14 million people we can have a widespread secondary industry without in some cases providing significant protection. To talk of putting the clock back to the days when there were rural industries and rural industries alone is not a practical proposition. If rural industries were more profitable they would not employ a great many of the people who are now out of jobs. I do not think they would. They might employ some but not a great many. Therefore there needs to be strongly based manufacturing industries if Australian people are to be fully and properly employed.
Having said that, I think it ought to be noted that many activities of the Government are directed towards securing a better situation for Australia’s great primary industries. In trade, which comes under the portfolios of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations, the thrust is to get better access to markets overseas- markets which in a sense should never have been lost, such as those in Europe. We have already better access to Japan, and there is a continuing struggle to improve that situation as well as to improve our access to the United States in relation to beef.
There has been more wheat sold to China, lamb and live sheep to the Middle East and cheese to Japan. That again is perhaps the most secure long term basis on which the profitability of Australia’s rural industries can rest.
A number of specific proposals have been introduced by the Government, and a number of them have been roundly condemned by the Opposition. The income equalisation deposits scheme is one of the most far reaching reforms for Australian rural producers that has ever been introduced, and it was condemned by the Opposition. We have liberalised and extended carry-on loans. The meat export levy was abolished. We have extended stabilisation schemes for other industries such as the dairy industry. The superphosphate subsidy was reintroduced and the nitrogen fertiliser subsidy has been maintained. In addition to that, the Rural Bank will be established by legislation in this session of Parliament. There might be some minor discussion about whether it is introduced in four weeks or six weeks time, but it is to be introduced. I believe it will be a statutory body which will serve Australia’s rural producers to great advantage. I think it is well known that my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, is now putting the finishing touches to proposals -
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is this: Does the Prime Minister have any special privileges in this place or are his rights equal to those of all other members? When replying to questions during question time his replies are very lengthy, and time and time again you have asked Ministers to keep their replies to questions brief.
-The right honourable gentleman is entitled to answer the question as he sees fit. It is a fact that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber are given, with the indulgence of the Chair, an extension of the rights that all other honourable members have in order that they can make their points in debate. I call the Prime Minister.
-We well know that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for the time being has no concern for Australia’s rural industries. This happens to be an important question. It involves matters in relation to which many thousands of people in country areas and in rural towns have a very deep interest and a very deep concern. I was indicating that legislation to establish the Rural Bank will be introduced. It will be an institution that will be to the great advantage of Australia’s rural industries. It is also well-known that my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry is putting the finishing touches to submissions which will enable the Government to make decisions concerning immediate relief for the beef industry which so sorely needs relief. This industry has not only been damaged by loss of markets in Europe during the time of our predecessors but it has also been damaged greatly by loss of markets in Japan, also during the time of our predecessors. They did nothing about it. The quota went from 120,000 tons to nothing in that time.
In addition, the industry in many parts of Australia is now threatened by drought. The Government will certainly waste no time in making decisions on these matters.
– I take a point of order. I shall confine my remarks on it to the length of the Prime Minister’s reply on this occasion. He has been replying for five minutes. Mr Speaker, your ruling time and time again has been that Ministers should keep their replies brief. I am asking you to request the Prime Minister to keep his answers to questions brief.
– I have already indicated that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are granted extensions in this House that are not given to other Ministers or other honourable members. I shall call upon the Ministers to keep their answers short. I am sure that that direction to Ministers will be observed by the Prime Minister.
-The honourable gentleman does not like it again. He is the greatest abuser of question time by taking false points of order as everyone in this House would know.
– I take a point of order.
-Before the honourable gentleman makes his point of order, I ask him to resume his seat. In the interests of Question Time passing with as many questions being asked as is possible, I ask the right honourable gentleman not to comment on the point of order.
– The Prime Minister has just made a reflection on the Chair in regard to the -
-There is no point of order.
-There is one other point that I ought to make. The reserve price for the wool industry has been substantially increased by this Government. Guarantees were given over a two-year period to put continuity and strength into the wool market which has not been there for over a decade.
– Thanks to Labor.
-The honourable member said: ‘Thanks to Labor*. It was Labor which sought to reduce the reserve price for wool from 250c a kilo to 200c a kilo. It was Labor which caused 5,000 farmers to parade outside Parliament House virtually all one night as a protest against this extension of the Coombs task force activities by the previous Labor Government. We ought to look at Labor’s record in office in relation to the rural industries. The Coombs task force was established to tear down the fabric of support that had been built up over 20 years. There was the abolition at the superphosphate bounty and the attempted reduction in the reserve price for wool. I think that Australia’s farmers are well aware of the general attitude of the Australian Labor Party to the rural industries.
– I address a short, intelligible question to the Treasurer. He will be aware that last Thursday the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister met the President of the Queensland National Party and discussed what that gentleman later described as a rural mini-budget. When will a decision be announced on the matters which were discussed?
– There will certainly be no minibudget. The honourable gentleman may be referring to the question of tax averaging; he has not made it clear whether that is in his mind. That will be a matter for announcement within the next few days.
-The Prime Minister will be aware of the violence which has just recently attached to the export of uranium. Will the Government allow violence to deter it from its policy to export uranium?
-No, it will not, and I very much hope that the report I have here in Sunday Viewpoint which said ‘Mr Uren told a reporter he condoned this violence on the grounds that it was a small price to pay in the fight against nuclear warfare is not in fact true. If it is true I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will denounce his Deputy just as he did over a recent statement concerning Timor.
- Mr Speaker, some remarks were falsely attributed to me in a newspaper -
– Order! The honourable gentleman will have an opportunity later -
– Yes, I know, and everybody hears the lie in the meantime.
-The honourable gentleman will withdraw that.
-I withdraw it. They will hear a misapprehension -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I will give him adequate opportunity to make a personal explanation at the end of Question Time.
– I need only 10 seconds to denounce the Prime Minister on this.
-The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
-The Press Council -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Hunter.
– My question to the Prime Minister concerns a discriminatory provision at the very top of our legal and constitutional system which offends millions of the subjects of Her Majesty the Queen. In view of my surname the Right Honourable gentleman will appreciate my own concern. I ask: Has the Government considered approaching the British Government to amend the Act of Settlement of 1 700 to remove that section which rules out marriage between the heir to the throne and any woman who belongs to a specific church on pain of his being excluded from the succession?
-We approach the British Government on many matters. I think it worth noting that Mr Harry Miller has arranged for some royal relics to be sent to Australia as part of the Silver Jubilee Year celebrations.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs concerns the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Woolcott. Is the Minister satisfied that Mr Woolcott is properly representing the interests of this country to the Indonesian Government?
-Mr Speaker, I assume that the question is prompted by Press speculation, to which my attention has been drawn over the last few days, which concerns Mr Woolcott ‘s performance as Australian Ambassador to Indonesia and speculation about his future appointment. As to the former, I have to say and wish to say that Mr Woolcott has been carrying out a very responsible job in difficult circumstances with the degree of professional skill and competence that might be expected from him as a senior and experienced officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I want to stress publicly that the Government is satisfied with Mr Woolcott’s performance in Jakarta and that he enjoys the Government’s confidence in his assignment there. I am not prepared to comment on the Press speculation, much of it mischievous, much of it personally wounding to Mr Woolcott, about where he might go after he has completed his term in Indonesia. But I want to make it clear that his next assignment will not only mark the Government’s continuing regard for him but will also reflect the Government’s view of the importance of the assignment itself.
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to ask for admissions. He is entitled to ask for facts.
-Is it a fact, Mr Speaker, that because of the way in which the 1976-77 Budget was designed the Treasurer’s prediction was in fact self-fulfilling and that unemployment did rise by one per cent in that year? Will he now indicate what section of the 1977-78 Budget contains a glimmer of hope for 400,000 unfortunate unemployed -
-Order! The honourable member has asked sufficient to make his question answerable.
-. . . Australians who were kept out of work by the 1 976-77 Budget?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-The Government has made it clear that the level of unemployment at the present time is too high. That has been stated on a number of occasions and I reaffirm that statement. I also repeat what I said in my Budget Speech- the point to which the honourable gentleman has drawn attention. The major disappointment of 1976-77 was in fact the continuation during that period of a position of high unemployment. But whatever is said about the present level of unemployment, I want the honourable gentleman to recall his own direct experience when he was a member of the former Administration because the trend in unemployment last year stands in sharp contrast to the increase from just under 2Vi per cent to over 5 per cent that took place under the administration of the past Government.
As the Budget Papers make clear, employment growth this year- that is to say, on a June to June basis- is likely to be something approaching 2 per cent, reflecting the projected product growth of over 4 per cent. The likely change in the labour market over that period is expected to be about the same as the increase in employment. The prospect, therefore, which the Government has made very clear in public statements, is for some reduction in unemployment over the year although on balance no significant reduction is likely unless there is further restraint in relation to wage and salary increases reflected through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Finally I want to emphasise that the Government’s new tax package provides very real reason for an expectation that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will be responsive to that package during the period ahead in providing the grounds for further wage and salary restraint. If honourable gentlemen opposite are serious about the problem of unemployment in this country they ought to look at their own policy of full wage indexation which is very unhelpful to economic recovery and to the prospects of additional jobs in Australia.
Mr Calder proceeding to ask a question of the Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is asking a question for which the Minister has no ministerial responsibility. The question as worded is out of order.
– I address my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is it a fact that approximately 15,000 young people have been assisted under the special youth employment training program since its introduction and that 8,500 were in training under the scheme at the end of July? Is the Minister aware that the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 147,400 persons between the ages of 15 and 24 were unemployed at the same time? Do the 8,500 people training under the scheme at the end of July represent less than 10 per cent of the young unemployed? Will he take urgent action to assist the 90 per cent of unemployed young people to obtain training and/or employment?
-The figures that the honourable gentleman quoted for those assisted under the special youth employment training program and those in training at the end of July, as I remember them, are substantially correct. One of the inhibiting factors in not getting more young people into the scheme is the lack of suitable vacancies. As the honourable gentleman would know, our training schemes are directed to those areas of skills which are directly in demand in the sense that employers have vacancies registered for people with those skills and are prepared to train them. As a result of the announcement made in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech, young people aged 20 to 24 years will now be eligible for the special youth employment training program in addition to the 15 to 19 years old group which has been benefiting for the last year or so.
– There is no money for it.
– Yes there is. I am glad that the honourable member for Gellibrand made that comment. I was not going to mention specifically all the inaccuracies of the honourable member’s remarks which appeared in the Press recently in contrast with the utterances of his colleague who just asked the question and who had the right figures. The honourable member for Gellibrand had the wrong figures. As the Treasurer made quite clear in his Budget Speech, whilst there is an allocation in the estimates for youth training and the National Employment and Training program as a whole the Government will not be constrained by that amount of finance if it is found that there are young people for whom vacancies are available and who can meet the labour market criteria laid down for the NEAT scheme. Already the scheme has been expanded and the announcement has been made that for those meeting the labour market criteria finance will not be a constraining factor.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. Did he receive a deluge of representations from me and from other members of the House of Representatives and senators expressing alarm at the proposed takeover of Queensland’s Provincial Traders Limited by the foreign owned George Weston Foods Ltd? Has the Treasurer examined how the Foreign Investment Review Board ever approved such a bid? Is he able to tell the House whether he regards the situation as such that he has no alternative but to use his reserve powers to overrule the Board ‘s recommendations?
– I am very much aware of the strong, vigorous and detailed representations which the honourable member for Griffith made on behalf of parties involved in this negotiation. I am able to inform him, with satisfaction, I am sure, to the constituents he represents in this House, that the George Weston Company has decided to withdraw its offer for a partial takeover of Provincial Traders. I am informed that the stock exchange has been advised accordingly.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Norfolk Island Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 35 of the Student Assistance Act 1973 I present the report on the operation of that Act in 1 976.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Curriculum Development Centre Act No. 41 of 1975 I present the annual report of the Curriculum Development Centre for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Commonwealth Department of Education for 1 976.
Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 I present an agreement in relation to the provision of financial assistance to New South Wales and
Victoria for Albury-Wodonga reimbursement to landholders 1977-78.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do. In reply to a question during Question Time the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) quoted from an article entitled ‘Sunday Viewpoint’ which appeared in the newspaper Sunday on 4 September 1977. The Prime Minister was good enough to give me the clipping so that I could see what was stated in the newspaper and could reply to it. The newspaper article said:
The Prime Minister’s call for dossiers on anti-uranium demonstrators has triggered over-reaction on a grand scale.
The Acting Premier, Mr Ferguson, was first cab off the rank with an ill-conceived order to NSW police not to cooperate with Commonwealth authorities.
And the Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition, Mr Uren, was close on his heels in an extraordinary radio news comment on last Friday’s wild demonstration at Sydney’s White Bay shipping terminal.
Mr Uren told a reporter he condoned this violence on the grounds that it was a small price to pay in the fight against nuclear warfare.
I claim that that newspaper article insofar as it reports my comments is completely false. I understand that the newspaper is a Murdoch publication. I draw attention to two articles in last Sunday’s -
-Does the honourable gentleman claim that he has been misrepresented in the two articles to which he is referring?
-In one article, and an apology appears in the other.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-I was libelled in the Daily Mirror on Wednesday, 31 August 1977, in an article by Trevor Kavanagh of the Murdoch Press. I rang the editor and an apology appeared in the Daily Mirror of 2 September 1977. I can assure the House that unless there is a further apology in regard to this Murdoch publication the publishers will be speaking to my lawyers.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been grievously misrepresented, and I seek to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– In today’s Press the Premier of Queensland is reported as having described those, including myself, who wish to visit East Timor on a parliamentary fact-finding mission as supporting the communists. I state to the House and to the nation that I am now and always have been totally and intransigently opposed to communism wherever it has operated throughout the world. For the first time in my parliamentary career extending over 1 1 years I publicly refer to my religious commitment by simply saying that it is absolutely impossible for a Catholic to also support atheistic communism.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not allowed to present an argument to support his claim. If he has been misrepresented he may state the misrepresentation and then deny it.
-I have only one further sentence to add, if I may. I deeply resent the Premier’s statements and express the wish that they will not herald in an era of McCarthyism in this country.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In today’s Australian the Queensland Premier is quoted as saying, in relation to myself and other members, that he was amazed that Federal members of Parliament on the same side of politics as himself were supporting communists in East Timor.
– Why did you not want to debate the matter yesterday?
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne has interjected persistently, consistently and without any purpose for the last hour. I warn him to cease interjecting.
– There are other similar statements. They are totally false. I have always opposed any form of communist expansionism.
– I have received letters from both the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, 1 have selected one matter, and that is that proposed by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, namely:
The complete failure of the Government to provide structural adjustment programs.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their placesMr YOUNG (Port Adelaide) (3.11)-This Government lacks completely any comprehensive program to deal with structural adjustment in this country. Instead, in its place, the Government believes in and practises complete tokenism. While plant lies idle and thousands more join the dole queues Australia waits for the Government to give a lead. Earlier this year the Opposition spokesman on employment and industrial relations, my colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), moved that a parliamentary committee be set up to look at the specific type of unemployment which we have in this country, its location and the skills and educational levels now inherent among the unemployed. But the Government refused this request. The Government refuses to accept overall manpower policies in this country. Continuing change will be taking place throughout our community and within our industries. No level of abuse of the Industries Assistance Commission will prevent that. But how do we deal with this change? That is a test of good government. This present Administration lacks all will to recognise the problem. It merely says that when we get inflation down all will be well.
This simplistic view ignores the great structural changes which have already taken place. It ignores the relationship and dependency between the various sectors of industry. The Government’s continued refusal to come to grips with these problems provides an insight into the Government’s miserable mental attitude which is to overcome inflation with massive unemployment. This is not the first conservative government to foster such antiquated attitudes. But like others this Government’s policy will also fail. It should be condemned for its inhumanity because the problem of adjustment must be met by government. This is one area which cannot be thrust onto the States, local government or anyone else. There are great differences between the attitudes of the Liberal-National Country Party coalition and the Australian Labor Party. The Government sees structural adjustment programs as too much interference by government irrespective of the plight of the chronic structural unemployed and the machinery which may be going to rust throughout the country. The Labor Party says that not only is government intervention sensible but it is inevitable.
Let us ask ourselves a few simple questions about the massive unemployment rate in this country. The Government says, as I have already stated, that to get inflation down will solve the problems. That means that the Government has reached the conclusion that all the problems of a boilermaker, an accountant, an unskilled person, a school leaver, a migrant or a business person, wherever he may live- whether it be Bundaberg, Dubbo, Adelaide, Port Hedland or Sydney- irrespective of his educational standard, of his age, whether he owns a home, will be solved once we get inflation down. This is not so. The fact is that many of the structural problems which we have in Australia now will be with us unless we adopt programs to deal with them, irrespective of the level of inflation. We have chronic structural unemployment. People in various locations have far greater problems than people in other locations. A boilermaker in Newcastle, where there are 13,000 or 14,000 people registered as unemployed, will have far more difficulty finding employment than an unemployed boilermaker in the inner suburbs of Sydney. Because of the decline in the manufacturing industries a migrant living in Fitzroy in Melbourne has far more problems than a migrant living close to where work may be available in the inner suburbs of Sydney. It is ludicrous to suggest, as the Government does, that one fell swoop of getting down the inflation rate will overcome all these problems. A business person with a small group of employees in a country area, watching the decline in his industry, has no hope of utilising the machinery in that area or not as much hope as a person in a similar position in the western suburbs of Sydney. These things must be analysed.
Let us look at the migrant female work force in Australia and at the growth in it. Looking at the shift in the work force in the various sectors in Australia, it is ludicrous to suggest that we do not have unique problems at the moment. In 1975 there were 6,500 unemployed migrant women between the ages of 1 5 and 1 9 years. Today there are 8,600. There were 4,700 unemployed migrant women between the ages of 20 and 24 years in 1975. Today there are 6,400. In 1975 there were 9,600 unemployed migrant women between the ages of 25 and 34. Now there are 10,600. The vast majority of these people worked in the ever-declining industries which will not be restored, irrespective of the inflation rate in Australia. All the Government can do is perhaps to consolidate the present work force in those industries.
The total number of females unemployed in Australia is 143,000. Not all of them are unemployed for the same reason. The Government refuses to recognise the reasons for these people being unemployed. Let us look at what the government instrumentality, the Commonwealth Employment Service, says as to why they are unemployed. Forty-three thousand are unemployed because there are simply no jobs available; 19,000 are unemployed because there is no work available in the line of work which they normally do; 17,500 are unemployed because they have insufficient work experience; and 7,700 are unemployed because they lack education in schools. Coupled with that would be language difficulties. The Government must recognise the specific structural unemployment problems in this country before we are able to do anything about them. The Government is moving in strange ways to deal with 15,000 unemployed between the ages of 15 and 24 years. As my colleague the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) exposed at Question Time, 145,000 people in that age group are unemployed. So the Government ignores the plight of the other 130,000.
There are different methods by which the Government ought to make circumstance a package. The classic example was the decision in relation to Fraser Island. The Government decided, with a great deal of support from environmentalists throughout Australia, that sand mining on Fraser Island should stop. It was not a view that everybody held, but it was a view that prevailed. There was no thinking about the plight of the person on Fraser Island who lost his job. In the past few weeks each of us has perhaps received correspondence from people who are still unemployed in the towns and cities in the area. When the Government decided to stop sand mining on Fraser Island it should have decided to make available finance to relocate people, to retrain them and to make work available for them. Anybody who lost his job as a result of direct government decision should have work available to him. When we were in government and introduced the tariff cuts we had the income maintenance provisions by which a person who lost his job as a direct result of the tariff cuts, on producing a certificate signed by the employer, could receive his full wage for up to six months.
When we ask ourselves these questions we can readily see the fallacy of the Government’s philosophy. All will not be well if, in the unlikely circumstance, the rate of inflation is halved during the next 12 months. We can recall quite vividly hearing the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) say in this House, on more occasions than the former Attorney-General said he was a man of principle, how beneficial the investment allowance was to industry. I wonder whether anybody on the government benches told the Treasurer that together with the benefits that the investment allowance may have brought came one distinct disadvantage- more unemployment. The investment allowance, which was reintroduced by this Government, assisted industry to re-equip itself with greater labour saving devices. The Government should have been alert to this problem and should have had programs to deal with it. No, not this Government. That would be expecting too much. Naturally many units in the work force, observing these practices, started to fight against the introduction of this urgently required equipment. So industry, with the Government standing on the sidelines like a boundary umpire, was faced with this dilemma. Industry, to work towards becoming internationally competitive and to maintain its share of the Australian market, desperately wanted to exploit the availability of the investment allowance and purchase new equipment. On the other hand, the employees saw this process as a means of putting more people out of work. That was a classic example of the need for government intervention. Not this Government. It is completely devoid of ideas. It spends more time in this House talking about cattle than it does about an unemployed person. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) may be interested to know that the illustration which I have given was enacted in the largest industry in Warrnambool.
Now the Prime Minister has appointed a committee to study structural adjustment. It was hoped that the committee would report in August 1978. We have witnessed the first public utterances of the chairman. Whilst I have no wish to dwell on his address, he is to be congratulated for his exposition of the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister in his attack on the Industries Assistance Commission. While great joy has been expressed in industrial circles and in trade union circles about the Prime Minister’s stand, no one knows better than the Prime Minister that he was talking nonsense. I would like to quote from an article which deals with what the chairman of this new committee on structural adjustment said last night. Sir John Crawford, when referring to the Industries Assistance Commission, is reported to have said:
The Commission has a duty to perform, given it by Parliament. I believe it has tried to meet its obligations.
The article continues:
In outlining a possible structural adjustment scheme Sir John said it was important that the Government provide assurances for industries to be restructured.
He said that the position in ‘sensitive industries should not be drastically changed for, say, a two-year period while inflation is further reduced, some economic recovery is achieved, and, most important, while the measures for adjustment assistance to the affected industries are devised’.
The scheme, he said, would have to be clear on such things as the treatment of capital, manpower adjustment policies and the period to be provided for phasing down over-costly protection.
However there is no doubt that the suggestion has not gone far enough, because until the Government makes clear its position on structural adjustment the committee will operate in a vacuum. Many other matters ought to be referred to this committee. They are subject to government decision. They will have a bearing on the report and recommendations of the committee. Education levels, migrant intake and population projections for this country are vitally important to any committee that is asked to carry the responsibility of making recommedations on structural adjustment.
The Government is obviously not interested in a total investigation of all aspects of change. Its commitment to research and development, an area in which Australia is looked upon as a derivative economy, is to say the least pitiful. Jackson and others have pointed out the extent to which we have derived our advanced technology. It depends on decisions of companies doing their research in some other country. Whilst this can be an advantage, it can work against the country’s best interest because the same companies can, as they almost certainly do, decide the level of technology that Australia should have. That level of technology which they decide we should have always falls into line to make sure that we are not competing with the parent company outside this country.
In addition to these matters, the country’s investment in education will bear heavily on the structural adjustment programs which are needed, but this Government acts as if it expects school leavers in 1977 to go into the same occupation that school leavers might have gone into in 1957. We have a duty to analyse in far greater detail the aspirations and ambitions of our school leavers. We are the first Parliament for decades to look at school leavers who will not only not have the benefit of choosing occupations, as we did, but will not have jobs at all.
Much of the blame for this lies with the Government’s refusal to have adjustment programs. The aim of teachers, parents and good governments such as the South Australian Labor Government is to see that children fulfil their respective educational ambitions.
We are doing too little too late. The announcement by the Government last night of its intention to hold a further survey of those young people who have been unemployed for a long time, as has been reported in the Canberra Times, is not striking at the problem where it starts. We ought to start to cope with the problem at the school level, to understand the ambitions of the school leavers and what they want to do. We ought to explain to them what might be available to them when they go into the work place and to explain to them the change that is taking place. But this Government rests on its laurels with this tokenism which it keeps talking about in this House. This in no way overcomes the massive problem which this country is facing for the first time for many decades. This Government on its performance in this area stands condemned.
-If the matter raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) was a matter of public importance we have once again seen him launch a damp squib. To remind the House, the matter of public importance raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide was as follows:
The complete failure of the Government to provide structural adjustment programs.
He mentioned some areas in which structural adjustment problems are evident. In each of these areas the Government has been active in developing policies and programs to overcome the problems. The House should be reminded that these problems emanated from the period of the Whitlam regime. They were caused in the three years of Labor government from 1972 to 1975. The problems resulted directly from the policies of that particular Government.
Once again, the honourable member for Port Adelaide is late on the scene. I do not know whether he devised his proposal to discuss this matter of public importance prior to last night, but he certainly was beaten to the punch by the announcement last night by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) concerning the establishment of an inquiry to be headed by Sir John Crawford. This inquiry is being established specifically to look at the problems of structural adjustment. It is to be headed by Sir John
Crawford, that eminent gentleman who has particular expertise in this area. There will be other people on the inquiry with expertise. It should be noted that one of the people is Mr Robert Hawke, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and, no doubt, a would-be colleague of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. There is also the Managing Director of the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd, Sir Brian Inglis, and the head of the Department of Industry and Commerce, Mr Neil Currie. So we find that it was announced last night that an expert body is being set up by the Prime Minister to look into these specific problems which were raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
It is worth considering the terms of reference that have been given to this study group by the Prime Minister. Firstly, it is to undertake a study of the nature and extent of adjustment problems of Australian manufacturing industries, with particular reference to the most highly protected industries, arising from changes in the internal and external environment. Secondly, it is to advise on the essential elements of a long-term policy to deal with these problems, having regard to the implications of the likely patterns of industry’s growth and employment prospects and the capacity of the economy to sustain changes in the industrial structure.
Sir John Crawford will begin this work late in October. It is expected that the group will submit its report by August 1978. The Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs are both to provide support and secretarial services for this study. The group will have access also to other departments and institutions to obtain information and views on the matters under study. So there the Government has taken a significant initiative to overcome the problems of structural adjustment- problems to which the honourable member for Port Adelaide was attempting to direct attention, although I believe he failed to do this in the way in which he brought this matter to the attention of the House.
Quite apart from the study group which has been established, the Government has also taken initiatives in a number of other areas. But I think we should refer back to the basis of the problem that is being faced, that is to the policies that were administered by the Whitlam regime which was in government from 1972 to 1975. There is absolutely no doubt that the problems that are currently faced by manufacturing industry in particular and industry in Australia in general can be directly traced to the policies of that
Government. I refer particularly to the policies of the Whitlam Government in relation to government spending, encouraging a wage explosion and various other matters, including the development of the tremendous deficit, which was heading towards $4,000m when the Labor Party went out of office. All these policies which were promoted and fostered by the Whitlam Government have directly contributed to the problems which manufacturing industry and industry in general are currently facing.
Therefore, the policies of this Government have been directed first and foremost to overcoming those basic problems. The major policy of this Government, if we are to solve the particular problems which industry in general faces, is directed towards solving Australia’s basic economic problems.
We are all aware of the budgetary measures which this Government has taken, both in the 1976-77 Budget and in the current Budget introduced a fortnight ago, to overcome those problems. The Government as a result of its poll- ‘cies has been successful in substantially reducing the rate of inflation. We have seen a turn-round in the economic sphere. We have seen industrial growth restored. The statistics show that quite clearly. We have seen a turn-round as a result of two Budgets, the general economic policy and the general approach by the present Government. Economic recovery is under way. That is the first and foremost advantage which must be restored to industry if the problems of structural adjustment are to be overcome.
Quite apart from that, the Government has directed attention to specific policies in respect of specific areas. The honourable member for Port Adelaide mentioned the unemployment situation. He ignored completely the positive approach which the Government has taken through its involvement in manpower programs. In the current 1977-78 Budget the Government has allocated $109m to manpower programs. This is an increase of some 33 per cent over the figure for the previous year. The strategy of the Government is to direct assistance to those people who are most in need in this particular area. Since taking office the Government has developed existing manpower programs and has introduced new ones. It has taken new initiatives in this problem area. The aim of those initiatives is to enable the work force to operate to the maximum extent possible and to assist in the overall economic recovery of Australia.
There are a number of programs in this area which the Government has been administering and administering well. First and foremost is the National Employment and Training scheme. We are aware that this scheme was introduced by the Labor Government, but we found that when that Government was administering this scheme it was not helping those who needed it most; it was being used by upper middle class affluent people to take all sorts of study courses. There was total abuse in the application of the NEAT scheme at that time. When this Government came to office it ensured that the NEAT scheme was directed to those people in most need of assistance. It provided a funding system to meet the broad aims of assisting unemployed people to obtain stable employment and providing opportunities for upgrading the general skills of the work force.
During 1976-77 training assistance was directed to those people who were unemployed or at risk of losing their employment. Assistance was not available immediately to those who had reasonable prospects of obtaining suitable employment without training. It should be noted that during the past 12 months the number of people being assisted in training on the job under the NEAT scheme has grown from 2,400 to some 16,000. The percentage of trainees being assisted, therefore has changed from 32 per cent to 76 per cent. That shows very clearly the benefits that have been derived from this Government’s approach in administering the NEAT scheme.
As a result of this shift in policy we have seen a most dramatic growth in the number of people receiving training assistance. It has risen from 7,300 trainees in July 1976 to 20,600 trainees at the end of July 1977, a growth of some 180 per cent.
Over the past months the Government, because of its deep concern for the large number of young people who have not been able to establish themselves in the work force, has expanded the use of the NEAT scheme in other specific and significant ways. It has been directed particularly towards helping young people to find employment and a specific niche in the work force.
We introduced the Special Youth Employment Training Program. It was introduced as an adjunct to the NEAT scheme in October 1976 to provide assistance to school leavers aged between 15 and 19 years who had been unable to obtain stable employment. As honourable members would be aware, it was announced in the Budget that this has now been widened to include in the program young people aged between 20 and 24 years. In the first nine months of the operation of this program some 15,000 young people have been placed in employment. At the end of July the total number of young people in training was 8,518. It is important to note that some 68 per cent of those young people sampled were found to be in employment several weeks after completing their training under this scheme. That once again shows the effectiveness of the Government’s programs in this area.
I also mention the education program for unemployed youth. Here the aim is to improve the skills and motivation of young unemployed people, particularly those with low or inadequate educational attainment which may be a barrier to their obtaining employment. That program also has proved to be effective. So the Government has introduced and is administering a number of specific measures in the manpower planning and training area which are directed particularly towards young unemployed people. Of course, this has particular relevance to structural assistance for the unemployed. It is an area in which the Government is taking the initiative and in which it is proving effective in its administration and policy.
It was interesting to see that the honourable member for Port Adelaide in his remarks this afternoon completely ignored the plight of people in rural areas. This shows very clearly once again, as we are all aware, that as far as the Labor Party is concerned Australia ends at the boundaries of the metropolitan areas; it has absolutely no care and no concern for people in rural areas and people involved in primary industry.
However we find that the Government has introduced and is administering structural adjustment programs which have relevance to primary industry. It has also introduced programs which are effective in the secondary industry area and which are of relevance to metropolitan areas.
The new rural adjustment scheme which the Commonwealth Government introduced at the beginning of this year embraces not only assistance to help people leave their land, if that is what they want, and assistance to build up holdings so that they can be more efficient and effective in their operation but also, very significantly, it provides household support. This scheme was introduced by the present Government for the first time at the beginning of the year. It was introduced to help farmers, whether they be beef producers, fat lamb producers, dairy farmers or fruit growers. In whatever particular rural industry farmers find themselves with structural problems, this scheme will assist them. Of course, the household support which is provided under this scheme is aimed at enabling farmers to stay on their properties and to continue in the farming business.
The scheme commenced on 1 January 1977 and it replaced the scheme which had been in operation at the end of 1976. The new scheme combines into one comprehensive scheme various forms of rural assistance previously provided under separate legislation. For rehabilitation, it increases the loan limit from $3,000 to $5,000. So we can see that, whether you are looking at the metropolitan area or at the rural areas, whether you are looking at the problems of manufacturing industry or those of rural industry, the Government has taken initiatives; it has introduced policies and is administering those policies effectively in overcoming the very real problems of structural adjustment.
I emphasise once again that the Prime Minister has taken us a step further by last night announcing the setting up of a special study group to investigate further the problems of structural adjustment. So the Government is already administering policies in this area. It has set up a study group to look at the problems, to look at the way in which the situation will develop in the future, and to come up with recommendations on how to solve further problems which will occur in the future. The Government is administering specific programs and is looking to the future.
However, we must come back to the point that the only ultimate solution to this problem, the only way in which ultimately we are going to stabilise the industrial situation is through economic recovery. That is an area in which the Government has taken steps which far outweigh the performance of the previous Labor Government, and it is an area in which the Government’s policies and administration far outweigh the proposals which we have heard in recent weeks from the Labor Party in Opposition. The Government’s policies are achieving success in that area. They have achieved success in reducing the rate of inflation. They have achieved success in restoring real economic growth and investment activity,
Even though we find that unemployment remains a problem, we find that the actual number of jobs available has increased. Industry, even in the current situation, is expanding. So the Government by no means stands condemned for its approach in this area. The matter of public importance brought on by the honourable member for Port Adelaide must fail. The Government’s approach is rational. The Government’s approach is one of care and concern about structural adjustment. I believe that the Government will overcome the problems.
– I must congratulate my colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) for having brought forward for discussion this very important matter. If he had not done so I am certain that no honourable member on the Government side would have bothered even to speak on the issue. Government supporters are quite uninterested in it, as is proven by the fact that not one of the Ministers who should be concerned with this problem has bothered to speak in reply, nor has one of them bothered to sit in the chamber and listen to the debate. So completely apathetic is the Government to the problems raised by the honourable member that not one of its Ministers has bothered to make a contribution to the debate.
Instead, it selected one of the most junior members of the back bench, one who is not noted for having any special knowledge of industrial relations or of structural assistance to speak on the matter, thus showing its absolute contempt for the issue that has been raised by my colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide. Where is the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife)? Where is the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee)? Where is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street)? Where is the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)? Listening to the platitudes that he utters over the media one would think that he had some passing concern for structural adjustment, but when tested it is found that apparently he does not have even that.
We heard from the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) that the Government has decided to set up an expert body. It was set up last night, he said. Yes, after almost two years of being in government, the Government has decided to set up an expert body. This Government is always setting up expert bodies and interdepartmental committees, sending manpower missions overseas and calling for reports from somebody else. But it never does anything positive. That, of course, is the principal problem- words but no action.
If we really want to solve the problems arising from structural change we need to match the efforts of the Swedish Government in relation to manpower problems and structural change in that country. It is a very much smaller country than ours, but if we were to match on a per capita basis the amount of money that the Swedes are spending on this problem we would not be spending a miserable $109m which is the proud boast of the honourable gentleman who has just resumed his seat; we would have to spend no less than $ 1,200m. Their constant objective is to make manpower training available to no less than two per cent of the whole Swedish work force, but we would not be providing manpower training for even 0.02 per cent of the work force in this country. That is the trouble.
Mention was made of the National Employment and Training scheme. Of course, the NEAT scheme in its infancy was subject to all kinds of abuses. That did not last for long, but it is true that when NEAT first introduced it was subject to abuses. It was a completely new scheme and something that this country had never thought of until I became Minister for Labour. The very first thing I did when I became Minister was to send a manpower mission overseas to study the problems of manpower training. It is true that because it- was a new scheme which this country had never ever seen before it was subject to some abuses. I am sorry to say that the abuses came from the middle class sections of the community, the more affluent people to whom the honourable member for Kingston referred. I notice that the honourable member has now left the chamber altogether, leaving only four members of the Liberal Party in the chamber to listen to what I have to say, despite the fact that I am a former Minister for Labour.
The fact is that the scheme was abused by the middle class affluent people. It was not abused by the ordinary people, the people whom we represent. I am sorry to have to admit that some of the chief offenders came from within my own Department. They were Second Division officers in some cases. In other cases they were class 10 and class 1 1 officers who could see an opportunity to get their wives into NEAT and to sponge on the taxpayers’ money with no intention of their wives, relatives or friends whom they had met at cocktail parties ever entering the work force.
– What did you do about it?
-What did I do? That is a good question. I stopped it immediately. I issued an instruction to the head of my Department that from then on nobody was to be given tertiary education under NEAT unless he had my personal approval. I needed to have from the Department an itemised statement showing the qualifications of the person and what his chances of getting employment would be once tertiary education had been supplied to him. The Department knows perfectly well that I refused approval to anybody unless those particulars were supplied to me.
We will never have a proper manpower training policy unless we can match it with on-the-job training as well. It is no good teaching somebody technology and giving him technical training in a highly skilled trade unless he has a chance to go into industry and receive on-the-job training. A person cannot get this sort of training in a period such as the present time. Employers are not interested in putting on trainees when they can get ample supplies of skilled labour which does not have to be trained. We ought to be spending a lot more money on technical education and not so much on university education. As I have said on so many occasions now that I am sick and tired of hearing myself say it, we have too many experts on the breeding habits of the white ant and not enough people who can tell us how to make a machine or a decent motor car. That is the trouble. There are too many historians and experts in algebra, geography and all the other kinds of useless subjects and not enough technologists.
I heard the John Laws show on radio this morning. I heard John Laws telling somebody that he ought to get off his backside- those were his words, not mine; I am merely repeating them- and get out and do a job of some kind whether he liked it or not. The young school leaver at the other end of the telephone said to John Laws: ‘I do not like doing that sort of work’. John Laws said: ‘I do not care whether you like it. You have to do it whether you like it or not’. That is an attitude with which I disagree. Young people ought not to be forced into doing work they do not like. Everybody has the right to be given a job he likes. All honourable members like the job we are doing. Most people like the work they are doing. It is only if we like the jobs we are doing that we will perform them properly. There are some jobs which people will never like doing. I could never imagine anybody liking a job as the driver of a night cart in some country town. Therefore, these people ought to be given a decent salary so that if they do not like the job the salary is an incentive. We expect people to do rotten, filthy uninteresting, tedious jobs and receive virtually no salary for them.
The Government is always looking at problems but never finding solutions. Even if the
Government had any real concern for the unemployed and for industry that is overtaken by the advance of technology in the countries with which we have to compete, it has done nothing at all to equip itself with the implements of action needed to cope with the problems of structural change. We need a computerised Commonwealth Employment Service, something which I authorised when I was Minister for Labour. What has happened to my authorisation for the computerisation of the Commonwealth Employment Service? What has happened to my decision, approved by Cabinet, to set up a bureau of labour economics? Both of these things are absolute necessities. A bureau of labour economics ought to be established immediately on the lines that 1 recommended to my Government to make short term, medium term and long term projections of labour needs right up to the year 2000, as the Americans and Russians are now doing; to measure and record movements in productivity and productivity trends in particular industries and branches of industry; to study the incidence of industrial accidents and and occupational diseases; and to conduct research into ways and means of reducing these. We are losing twice as much production through accidents and industrial diseases than we ever lose through strikes. That is something people always seem to overlook.
We ought to be in a position to provide information to employers, trade unions and industrial tribunals on matters relating to industrial relations. We need the computerisation of the offices of the CES for the purpose of providing a selfservice to persons seeking work and to employers seeking employees.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The proposition advanced by the Opposition has probably been one of the weakest submissions to this House as a matter of public importance, certainly in this session. The evidence submitted has been lamentable. I am surprised that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) were so unprepared in putting forward a matter which they apparently had the support of their party so to do. One can conclude only that this part of a current campaign: Thank the Lord for South Australia. I believe that there is an election campaign in South Australia. Of course, the disaster in South Australia is directly related to the failure of the Labor Government of South Australia to handle its own affairs. Now that the Premier is running scared in an election campaign he has no doubt directed his colleagues from that State to try to put a case in this House. They have failed completely.
I believe that the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) answered very effectively. He gave a most detailed account of the Government’s approach to this matter, the implementation of Government policy and the on-going approach to the important question of structural adjustment. I commend him for it. I think he did a better job than a Minister could have done. He was answering honourable members from his own State. He knew exactly what the case was. He put it very well. I remind the honourable member for Port Adelaide in particular of the awful mess that his Government made in its endeavours to clutch at some kind of structural adjustment a little over two years ago. Let us remember the massive funds, shooting from the hip, poured into corporations like Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. I think the amount given to try to sustain employment in one major corporation in this country was about $3m or $4m. In so doing the Labor Government ran almost totally against the philosophy of its party. Total failure was the outcome. Then there was the great scheme of support for six months known, I believe, as income maintenance. This scheme was to provide funds for wages to enterprises that had run out of business and for the people employed to sit down and do nothing. What a disaster that turned out to be.
– No, it was until they got a job.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh said that it was until they got a job. There has been an increase in the unemployment figures of November 1975. No one denies that. It was seen that this would occur but the cause and effect were already there. The Labor Government attempted the Regional Employment Development scheme and then cancelled it. It tried all sorts of patch-up jobs on this matter of structural adjustment. They all failed. Yet Labor spokesmen this afternoon are criticising the present Government for not having some ready-made scheme to pick up every failure that occurs.
Let us recall the real reason for the downturn in the economy. Let us recall the trend that set in immediately the Labor Government occupied the treasury benches. Inflation shot up into record figures. What did that do? It increased wages in some industries by as much as 1 10 per cent. Industry just could not carry that kind of stepping up of its costs and we priced ourselves out of the market place- out of the domestic market place and particularly out of the overseas market place. Many industries sought to move off-shore, to set up outside this country, to challenge our own industries, because of the cost structure introduced by the people here this afternoon who are criticising the present Government for failing to provide structural adjustment.
Let us recall what was said by the honourable member for Kingston who spoke for the Government in this matter a short time ago. He outlined very clearly the sensible approach that is being taken. There has been a return of confidence. There is now a preparedness on the part of industry to again invest in new plant and equipment. The reason for that is the Government undertook in 1975 to introduce such measures as the investment allowance. It was introduced promptly. This has been a boon to industry. Who took it away previously? Who caused the downturn in industry? It was the previous Labor Government. Yet the honourable member for Hindmarsh tells us that we have not kept up with technology, we have not enough trained men, we have not done the job we should have done. He should look at his own failures in that direction.
Of course, he tells us in glowing words that what we need are trained technicians. Let me remind him that in the allocations for education in the present Budget there is particular emphasis on technical education. The greatest percentage increase in outlay for all sectors of education is in the technical education field. It is specifically for that purpose. Of course we need people trained. Of course we need to step up the standards in that field. We are doing that successfully. These are the people who will be the first to return to employment. Because the Government has recognised this it has placed special emphasis on youth employment schemes. The allocation in the present Budget for that purpose of over $ 1 00m represents an increase of 33 per cent and is evidence of the Government’s positive action in this direction.
Let us think for a moment about some of the other aspects of what has occurred. The Government has been under tremendous pressure because of the disturbance to the system that had occurred. We recall that overnight the previous Government cut tariff rates by 25 per cent. We remember what that did to industry in Australia. The present Government has had the difficult task in the last 24 months or so of restoring confidence in many directions. I instance the approach that is being made in this matter in relation to the activities of the Industries Assistance Commission. It has been effective and I believe that it has been the basis upon which the whole problem has to be tackled. Certainly there has been criticism of the Commission. There has been heavy criticism in the last fortnight and there has been a response by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). This is politics. These are the facts of life.
Let us recall what happened when there was a 25 per cent across the board cut in tariff rates and let us recall the criticisms and comments that were made at that time. Today people have their feet on the ground but at that time people were thrown into deep confusion. They did not know where they were going and they did not have the slightest idea what to expect next. This Government has set about restoring a situation in which there can be reasoned confidence. The inquiry announced yesterday and referred to earlier in this debate is a positive approach. It is a follow through. It is not just an overnight or spur of the moment decision. The honourable member for Hindmarsh, despite his criticism, knows that all too well. We are going through one of the toughest economic periods that this country has been through- a time when there are massive problems in world trade with the disposal of productivity, a time when productivity has been shaken to its very foundations because it has not kept pace with cost rises. At this time the Government has established a basis for real restructuring. That is occurring. It is evident. The facts and figures are to be seen, to be listened to and to be understood. I am sure that those concerned, particularly those in industry and finance, understand that very clearly. I believe that the Opposition has done itself a disservice this afternoon by its very poor approach which obviously, as I have said, is related directly to politics in the State of South Australia. All I can say is: God help South Australia if the same tragedy that one finds there today is to continue.
-Order! The discussion is concluded.
– I have received the following notices from the Minister for Construction that on the next day of sitting he will move:
This is a Bill to amend the Family Law Act 1975 to fix a maximum retiring age for judges of the Family Court of Australia. Honourable members will be well aware that one of the alterations to the Constitution that was approved by the referendum in May this year, and has since become law, introduced a maximum retiring age forjudges of the High Court and other Federal courts. The effect of this Constitution alteration is that any future appointee to the High Court or any other Federal court will have to retire by the age of 70 years. In the case of Federal courts other than the High Court, the Constitution alteration also enables the Parliament to prescribe by law a maximum retiring age for judges that is less than 70 years. This Bill seeks to exercise that newly acquired constitutional authority to prescribe a maximum retiring age for judges of the Family Court of Australia of 65 years.
In 1974 the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs brought down a report on the Family Law Bill, then before the Senate, that was responsible for the insertion in the Bill of provision for the Family Court of Australia. In recommending the creation of a family court, the Committee expressed concern that if it were a Federal court the judges would have to be appointed for life, because it felt that judges of a family court should not continue to adjudicate when of advanced years. As a possible solution to the problem of life appointments to a Federal court, the Committee suggested the exercise of jurisdiction under the Act by judges appointed by the States, who could validly provide for the appointments to expire on the judges attaining a prescribed retiring age. Subsequently, arising out of this recommendation, an amendment was carried to the Family Law Bill to provide for the opportunity for the establishment of State family courts. Under this amendment, which is now section 41 of the Family Law Act, a State family court created pursuant to this provision may not exercise jurisdiction under the Family Law Act unless, amongst other things, judges of the court are to retire by the age of 65 years. Accordingly, judges of the Family Court of Western Australia, which has been established pursuant to section 41, have a retiring age of 65 years.
Honourable members will recognise that this requirement, having been approved by both Houses of the Parliament, provides a compelling reason for prescribing an identical retiring age forjudges of the Family Court of Australia, now that the Constitution alteration has made this possible. Further, the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on a retiring age for Federal judges, which led to the Constitution alteration, specifically recommended 65 years as an appropriate age for judges of the Family Court. After the proposal to amend the Constitution to provide for the retirement of Federal judges was raised, and before the referendum on the Constitution alteration in May, the former AttorneyGeneral made known his preference for a retirement age of 65 years for judges of the Family Court of Australia. The vote in the referendum on the Constitution alteration should therefore be seen against the background of his publicly stated preference for a retirement age of 65 years for judges of this particular Federal court. Honourable members will also, of course, be well aware that 65 years is the maximum retiring age for the great majority of employees and office-holders in Australia, including the holders of non-judicial offices of comparable status to that of judges of the Family Court.
It is true that the Constitution alteration prescribes 70 years as the maximum retiring age for judges of the High Court, and forjudges of other Federal courts unless and until the Parliament otherwise provides. It is also true that 70 years is the maximum retiring age forjudges of the great majority of State supreme courts and other courts. However, it is generally conceded that in family law, more than in most other areas of the law, judges adjudicating over disputes should be aware of and keep abreast of current social values and attitudes. For this reason, and also because of the demanding and arduous nature of at least some of the disputes- notably, defended custody disputes- there seems to be good reason for requiring judges of the Family Court to retire at least by the age recognised as the maximum retiring age for most other occupations in the community. Accordingly, this Bill prescribes the age of 65 years as the maximum retiring age for judges of the Family Court. The Constitution alteration relating to judges’ retiring ages provides that the maximum retiring age applies only to judges appointed after the alteration became law. Since all the existing judges of the Family
Court of Australia were appointed before that date, the maximum retiring age prescribed by the Bill will apply only to future appointees to the Court.
The Bill makes two other amendments to the Family Law Act. One is a formal amendment consequential on the passing of the Constitution alteration. The other is an amendment consequential on the prescribing of the retiring age. By virtue of an amendment earlier this year to the Family Law (Judges) Regulations, up to six additional judges may be appointed to the Family Court. The Attorney-General expects up to this number to be appointed within the next 12 months. Since some, if not all, of these additional appointments are needed urgently by the Court, I ask honourable members to give this Bill a speedy passage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 September, on the motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the House take note of the papers.
Upon which Mr E. G. Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘This House rejects the Government’s precipitate decision, without sufficient public debate in Australia and negotiation overseas, to renew the mining and export of uranium by Australia in the absence of:
commitments by customer countries to apply effective and verifiable safeguards against the diversion of Australian uranium from peaceful nuclear purposes to military nuclear purposes,
international safeguards which will ensure that the export of Australian uranium will not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increased risk of nuclear war,
c ) procedures for the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes which will eliminate any danger posed by such wastes to human life and the environment, and
adequate measures to safeguard the environment and national parks and protect Aboriginal rights and interests’
– I want to continue the remarks I began last night concerning Labor’s action with regard to uranium policy when it was in government. On 28 October 1975 the then Prime Minister Whitlam signed a memorandum of understanding with Peko-EZ. At that time Mr Connor, the then Minister for Minerals and Energy, made a classic remark. He said:
When Australia negotiates further sales it will do so as a willing seller seeking willing buyers. In particular we will ensure that our major trading partners-Japan, Italy and
West Germany- obtain an equitable share of the uranium we have for export.
Concerning that matter he also said:
The Government’s policies that I have outlined today are based on the recognition of the economic and strategic importance of uranium and our obligations to the owners of the uranium, the Australian people, as well as to those members of the world community with limited access to energy resources.
This came, mind you, from members of a Party which now, out of sheer political expediency, states that it will not honour contracts for the sale of uranium. That Party now stands for a policy which means leaving uranium in the ground.
The agreement reached by the Labor Government was signed by none other than the then Prime Minister, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, and the late Mr Rex Connor. All of this happened in 1974-75. Now in 1977 that former Prime Minister the prime signatory to this memorandum of understanding has come out and done a 1 80 degree turn. He says that the decision to mine and sell uranium is premature and precipitate. Also he accuses this Government of being committed to the export of uranium regardless of the contribution the nuclear power industry can make to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the risk of nuclear war.
Why have these statements now been made when two or three years ago the same man trumpeted about the large scale development of uranium in the Northern Territory and stated that the exploitation of Ranger, followed by the development of Nabarlek, Jabiluka and Koongarra, would be of tremendous benefit to the uranium industry. I would like to read from the memorandum of understanding signed by the then Prime Minister. It stated:
The parties to this memorandum desire to procure the development and mining of uranium ore deposits in the Ranger Project area in the Northern Territory and the production and sale of uranium concentrate from that ore.
I note that the proposed board of Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd was to consist of four directors, two to be appointed by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and one each to be appointed from Peko and EZ Industries. So the then Government was showing more than a small interest in the uranium industry at that time. Now the Labor Party is in Opposition it is completely opposed to the mining of uranium.
This is a most hypocritical situation. The Labor Party when in office was in favour of the mining of uranium. Its policy today is one of sheer hypocrisy. The main considerations of the then socialist government in respect of the uranium deal were the economic benefits to be derived from the supply of this vital energy source to our overseas trading partners who faced grave difficulties in securing their energy requirements, These considerations were stated in October 1974. But now in September 1977 we have the same men saying that the present Government’s policy is a marketing policy and nothing else, a triumph of greed over reason. The Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) have said that not a sod shall be turned. Why the change? Is it due to expediency- votes and left wing pressure?
The Opposition’s attitude is surprising in view of the fact that communist countries have a commitment to nuclear power, Russia and China are now in the nuclear energy business. There has been no complaint about them. Yet there is a complaint about the use of nuclear energy in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, America and elsewhere in the free world. It is a case of double standards.
On 16 October 1975 the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said proudly that uranium exports could mount to 100,000 tonnes by 1990. Yet two years later on 25 August he said: ‘The Government which led Australia into the disastrous position in Vietnam is now recklessly flirting with the dangers of uranium’. This is another example of the great turnabout by members of the former Government. We should bear in mind that these people have completely altered their opinions and statements because they can see something in it to their political advantage.
I want to quote again from a statement by the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs when talking about uranium. He spoke of something which threatened the destruction of Aboriginal culture. This former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said that the spindly legged people would be wiped out like flies if the white community was able to penetrate the area of the uranium province near Jabiru and Oenpelli. What consideration did he give then to the Aborigines than to impose on them the most divisive piece of legislation ever inflicted on people in the Northern Territory, either black or white? However, I am talking about Aborigines. There is a report that out of their royalties from one mine alone in 30 years they will get $ 100m. I am not deriding that concept at all. I am just saying that that is out of one mine. There could be many more millions in royalities from other mines. I am saying that this money should be used for their benefit. It should be used to develop their interests, their health, their schooling and so on. The money now being poured into Aboriginal affairs, money provided by this Government and previous governments, could be used for other developments. Honourable members opposite need not try to tell me that the establishment of a township in the Jabiru area will do any more harm to the Aborigines who live on the Arnhem Land escarpment or the Arnhem Land plateau than the alcohol which was introduced to them some years ago. I think they will benefit from the fact that people are there. There is law and order and there will be health and educational facilities available.
I would like now to mention waste disposal. The technology for handling solidification and safe storage does exist. The protesters seem to forget that the production of uranium is four years away and there is time for that technology to be developed.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I immediately refute the claim of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) that technology exists to dispose of nuclear waste. That is the same irresponsible claim that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during a national broadcast on 28 August. It is completely untrue. The honourable member for the Northern Territory, the Prime Minister, the Government and its supporters know it to be untrue. That claim is indicative of their approach to the quality of this national discussion on what is in reality the most important subject ever to be discussed by politicians or parliamentarians in the history of the universe. The discussion about uranium is about survival, about whether there is to be a human race in the years to come; about whether the people who now live on this globe and who have access to control over uranium resources and the benefits which may flow from the mining and marketing of them are to benefit in their lifetimes at the expense of the survival of generations in the future.
The remarks made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory were in line with the hypocrisy of the National Country Party members when talking about left wing pressure. It is claimed that every view that the Opposition takes which differs from the National Country Party view is the result of left wing pressure. I do not know how the honourable member for the Northern Territory would describe the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). Is he a left wing communist supporter of the Government? He sat on the Government side. He was a Minister in a Liberal and National Country
Party government. Perhaps a Government supporter will answer that question for us later in this debate.
– He is just as ignorant as you are about the situation.
– The honourable member for Hotham is far more humane than any member of the National Country Party. At least he has some concern for people and the possibilities for this globe in the future.
The Opposition has developed its policy in the light of increased knowledge and understanding and a reassessment of national objectives in relation to uranium. How do the National Country Party and members of the Government explain away the election issue on uranium in Sweden? There was a change of government in that country. Uranium and the development of nuclear power stations was an issue at that election. It was not a socialist government that survived; it was a socialist government that was defeated. Where was the left wing influence, the smearing that is advanced in place of sensible argument, on the result of that election? Where is the explanation of developments in France? If there is one nation which is said to be dependent on the use of uranium it is France. How do Government supporters explain away the development within France where there is so much higher national awareness of the need for new energy resources? How do honourable members opposite explain away opposition in France to the expansion of nuclear technology?
How do they explain away the development in West Germany, one of the most industrialised nations, of the campaign against continued use of nuclear power? The Labor Party does not hold the power in that country. We are not influencing the German community. That debate has been developed and carried on in Germany not by the rabble-rousers, as the National Country Party in this place would like to call all its opponents, but by people who can reasonably be classified as the upper middle class, the intelligentsia of West Germany. Why is fear being expressed by that level of the community, not by the uneducated but by those who are articulate and have access to education and access to information? They are leading the movement in West Germany against the development and continued expansion of nuclear technology. Why is the debate developing in the United States of America on similar lines?
If in each of those nations public concern and fear is developing about a continued expansion of nuclear technology then surely in Australia we should be re-examining all the factors involved in the mining and usage of uranium and the disposal of nuclear waste. A Country Party leader in earlier years warned the Country Party to stop selling the farm, but the attitude of the National Country Party in respect of uranium at present still conflicts with that advice from one of its former leaders, Mr McEwen. Members of the National Country Party would still sell the farm. They would still sell this land as long as they could get a dollar out of it in their lifetime. They are not concerned about the long term benefits to the people.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) which said:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: this House rejects the Government’s precipitate decision, without sufficient public debate in Australia and negotiation overseas, to renew the mining and export of uranium by Australia in the absence of:
commitments by customer countries to apply effective and verifiable safeguards against the diversion of Australian uranium from peaceful nuclear purposes to military nuclear purposes,
international safeguards which will ensure that the export of Australian uranium will not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increased risk of nuclear war,
procedures for the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes which will eliminate any danger posed by such wastes to human life and the environment, and
adequate measures to safeguard the environment and national parks and protect Aboriginal rights and interests.
I want to draw your attention, Mr Deputy Speaker, to a remark made by the previous speaker, the honourable member for the Northern Territory. He referred to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs as the Department of Ab. Affairs. The title he used was not correct, but the National Country Party seems to have little regard for Aborigines. Like other honourable members I have agonised long and hard over the advantages and dangers of the mining and use of uranium. On balance I believe that the policy adopted by the Australian Labor Party, the Opposition, is sound and that it puts the interests, particularly the long term interests, of all people of our country and the world before the material interests of the relative few who stand to benefit in the short term from the mining and use of uranium.
On 25 August we witnessed a ministerial extravanganza when various Ministers presented their policy statements. I have no doubt that the majority of the community would have liked to have known much more about the dangers of uranium before the Government made a decision. The course followed by the Fraser Government has been to pre-empt adequate public discussion by announcing its decision to authorise the export of uranium. In the iterim we have seen an extensive media campaign mounted by the Uranium Producers Forum in an attempt to convince people that there are no real dangers involved in the use of uranium, that it is just another energy source, or in the disposal of nuclear waste: that the mass of the people will benefit from uranium by increased employment opportunities, by social welfare benefits and economic activity. Much of what has been broadcast has been downright deception and downright dishonest. It does little credit to the public figures who allowed themselves to be used in those advertisements put on by the Uranium Producers Forum. To add insult to injury it is probable that by one means or another the cost of those advertisements will be claimed as tax deductible expenses by the companies concerned. In effect the taxpayer is paying 42Vi per cent to 46 per cent of the cost of the campaign being waged on television and in the newspapers by the UPF. The uranium debate boils down to the simple conclusion that it is the greed for material gain of a small number of people in their lifetime taking precedence over the risk to survival of the human race. It is as simple as that, and to the people in the street who have taken the time to think about it, it is as simple as that. Increasing numbers of Australians are recognising the issues.
There are serious hazards involved in the peacetime use of uranium. It may be that the peacetime use of uranium is inevitable but before that decision is taken we must identify and overcome those hazards. The Fraser Government along with the industry have sought to play down the dangers associated with the peacetime use of uranium. They have by means of” jazzy advertisements sought to lull people into a false sense of security. ‘It is no different from switching on an electric light’ is the kind of thing one is asked to consider when comparing uranium with electricity. That is the impression that advertisements seek to give. The Government has made the choice of material gain for a few in their lifetime at the risk of the lives of many in generations to come providing, of course, that the present generation survives. Honourable members opposite have adopted a sell now, worry later policy
One of the most serious problems in the debate is the disposal of nuclear waste. The Minister for the Environment, Housing and Community
Development (Mr Newman) abdicated completely any responsibility he had in this matter when he said on 25 August in this chamber, as recorded at page 670 of Hansard:
The disposal of nuclear waste and the potential environmental problems which this could pose have been matters of public concern. The responsibility for disposing, in an environmentally responsible manner, of waste arising from nuclear power generation in countries abroad, is a matter for those countries which generate electricity by nuclear means. There is no intention of Australia storing other countries’ radioactive waste.
In other words, we will take the money and they will take the worry. We are not concerned with the problem of disposing of the waste. If they want to buy uranium they can worry about disposing of the waste. It is a most irresponsible attitude for the Minister to take. He has wiped his hands of concern for the future of humanity. However, the Prime Minister went one step further in his national broadcast on 28 August when he said in relation to nuclear waste disposal:
Let me emphasise as forcefully as I can that here the scientific knowledge does exist. The technology does exist. The scientific knowledge and technology have been applied to the problem of waste. The technology is known.
That was a deliberate untruth. It was a selective quote from the Commission’s report. He has deliberately sought to misrepresent the true position regarding the disposal of nuclear waste. The disposal of waste from the use of uranium is an issue which goes to the fundamental survival of the human race, but the Prime Minister is prepared to deliberately misrepresent the facts on this subject. His claim is refuted by the finding of the Commission which stated:
There is at present no generally accepted means by which high level waste can be permanently isolated from the environment and remain safe for very long periods.
Like the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Prime Minister emphasised that Australia would not store nuclear waste. As I said earlier, we are prepared to take the money from the sale of uranium but we are not prepared to accept any responsibility for the disposal or neutralisation of the nuclear waste from the use of uranium.
I turn now to some of the fallacies that have been developed in the case put by the Government and those in the UPF. A great deal has been said about the position of Japan. It is said that Japan must have nuclear energy if Japan is to survive. I think that the most important consideration on this globe is that humanity survives. That has to be the predominant consideration. Certainly Japan would like to buy nuclear energy but what Japan is really seeking to do is to diversify on the one hand her types of energy and on the other hand the sources of those various types of energy. Nuclear energy happens to be one of those types of energy. Some may ridicule what I am saying in this regard but I base my views on information I gathered on a recent visit to Japan. There are 11 nuclear power stations in Japan, only three of which are operative. Let us place ourselves in Japan’s position. After having been through the 1973 energy crisis when Japan was held to ransom by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Is it not reasonable and responsible from the Japanese point of view that Japan should seek now to diversify her types of energy so that she will not be too much dependent on any one type of energy or on any one country or group of countries for a particular type of energy? That is what Japan is seeking to do. It is responsible and we can understand it. But it is irresponsible to try to put a case in this country that we have to market and mine uranium because Japan has to have it and cannot survive without it. It is just one of the options available to Japan and other countries but there is a much wider decision to be made and many other factors have to be taken into consideration.
I deplore the statements made by members of the National Country Party in this Parliament to the effect that if we do not sell uranium to Japan, Japan will come and get it. I am sorry for the members of the National Country Party because that is not the view that was taken by other members of the National Country Party m years gone by. It is a reversion to the views of governments similar to this Government in earlier years when we had statements such as ‘AH the way with LB J’, and the statement of former Prime Minister Gorton ‘If I lay down and you tickle my tummy you can have whatever resources or investment in this country you want’. The Opposition does not subscribe to that view. We believe that Australia has to put a view in relation to our resources that best protects the interests of Australians in the future. To propose that if we do not sell uranium to Japan, Japan will come and get it indicates such a degree of subservience and such a complete lack of national character that those who make that suggestion ought to have a good look at themselves.
It has been said that underdeveloped countries need uranium. Underdeveloped countries may need energy but uranium will be a high priced form of energy, so it is fallacious to suggest that we will be helping underdeveloped countries by mining uranium. The profits from uranium mining will not go to underdeveloped countries. Such countries will not be able to afford to buy it, so that argument is fallacious. I have been impressed over recent weeks by comments made to me by ordinary people. I have been surprised that they have come generally from people in the higher age group who tend to be conservative in their views. They have expressed their very serious concern for the welfare of their children and their grandchildren and for the future of humanity. I am influenced to a great degree by their views.
Notice of Presentation
The Deputy Clerk- Notice has been received from the Treasurer of his intention at the next sitting to present a loan Bill.
Notice of Presentation
The Deputy Clerk- Notice has been received from the Minister for Health of his intention at the next sitting to present a national health amendment Bill.
Ministerial Statements Debate resumed.
- Mr Acting Speaker -
-Mr Deputy Speaker will do.
-I was not aware that they were mutually exclusive but I am very happy to give you the title that you wish to have bestowed upon you. Mr Acting Speaker -
-Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Mr Acting or Deputy Speaker, whatever your role I will bow to your ruling. Many would argue about that, with great respect, but I will bow to your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker.
In announcing its decisions to proceed with the mining and export of uranium, the Government was motivated by a high sense of moral responsibility towards all Australians as well as to the world community at large. This flowed from a number of fundamental considerations. I shall elaborate two of them today. They are: The need to supply essential sources of energy to an energy-deficient world; and the need to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation. This debate on Australia’s uranium policy is not simply a national debate. It is part of a global debate which is taking place against the background of an impending world energy crisis of unprecedented and potentially disastrous dimensions. It is not a crisis which lies in some indefinite future. Unless rapid action is taken it will be upon us within a decade. If it is allowed to occur the consequences will not only be economic and industrial, but there will be profound social, political and foreign policy consequences, particularly for the energy-reliant Western countries. The recent experience of the New York blackout provided a vivid reminder of how dependent our whole social fabric is on adequate supplies of energy.
The need for Australia to act now is a result of the ever mounting demands upon us from energy-deficient nations, who are desperately aware of the energy supply difficulties they face over the next few decades. The risks of a world energy shortage during this period are real. If action is not taken urgently by energy producing nations to expand their production and export of energy sources, the repercussions for the world economy will be severe. While Australia has been relatively insulated from the effects of the oil crisis thus far, we must not formulate policies which ignore the world energy problem and the difficulties which face energy deficient countries, many of which are major trading partners of ours.
It is generally recognised now that by the mid-1980s the expansion in world demand for oil will exceed the rate of new discoveries and that, thereafter, the world’s oil reserves will become increasingly depleted over a relatively short period- perhaps only decades. The major oil producing and consuming countries are fully aware of this situation and will increasingly want to reserve oil supplies for non-substitutable and non-energy uses. There is, therefore, a very real prospect of both oil supply contraction and further price increases during the 1980s and beyond. In June this year I attended the final Ministerial meeting of the Conference on International Economic Co-operation in Paris. This Conference saw the first international discussions on energy between the industrialised nations, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and oil-importing developing countries.
I draw to the attention of honourable members a number of the conclusions agreed by Government at CIEC, that is the Conference on International Economic Co-operation. Energy availability and supply are major determinants of economic growth in both advanced and developing countries. It is in the interest of the world community that the present oil-based energy mix give way to an energy mix based on more permanent and renewable sources of energy and that this situation precede the depletion of oil resources. During this transition period, the world community should expand, develop and diversify its energy resources and implement adequate conservation policies for oil and gas, while ensuring that sufficient supplies of energy are available to meet demand. Failure to implement this program will lead to serious consequences for the world as a whole. They were among the conclusions of the meeting of the CIEC.
Only the Opposition seems unaware of the international community’s concern that energyrich countries play their full part in co-operating to avoid the impending energy supply problems. The prospects for expanding world oil production are not great, except in the very short term. Although coal is plentiful and world production can be expanded, this will bring with it associated environmental difficulties as it has done in the past. Alternative renewable and nondepletable sources- solar and geothermal- are exciting prospects for the future but it is unlikely that any of these can be brought into widespread commercial use in the short or medium term. The fact is that nuclear power is essential during the next few decades at least. Energy-deficient countries are looking to Australia- which possesses about 20 per cent of the Western world’s low cost proven uranium reserves- to become a regular supplier and to assist them through this period of transition. Australia has the potential to become a net energy exporter, in thermal terms, of equivalent size to Iran. Bearing in mind the world energy situation and Australia’s role as an energy-rich nation, is it responsible to talk, as the Opposition does, of Australia withholding its uranium supplies from the world community? The Government considers it is not.
It is quite evident from the recent speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) and the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) that the Opposition is totally confused on the question of safeguards. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition gave as clear a demonstration as possible of his own misunderstanding of the Government’s safeguards policy in his broadcast of 4 September 1977. I think it is important that the Government’s nuclear safeguards policy be restated, not only for the benefit of a confused Opposition but also for the benefit of those in the community who have not yet grasped the comprehensive nature of our safeguards policy. Briefly, the Government’s safeguards policy is an eleven-point program which requires: Continual review and improvement of international safeguards standards; the considered selection of customer countries according to strict and comprehensive criteria of eligibility; the application of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards; the prior conclusion of bilateral agreements to ensure that nuclear material supplied by Australia is used for peaceful and non-explosive purposes; the provision of fall-back safeguards to cover the possibility of IAEA safeguards at some time ceasing to apply in a customer country; prior Australian consent to re-export; prior Australian consent to enrichment of Australian uranium beyond 20 per cent uranium 235; Prior Australian consent to reprocessing; adequate physical protection of the nuclear industries in customer countries; the inclusion of safeguards implementation provisions in commercial contracts; and Australian contribution to constructive multilateral efforts to strengthen safeguards.
The bilateral measures which Australia is taking, together with existing multilateral arrangements, will adequately and effectively guard against misuse of Australian-supplied uranium. But, as the Prime Minister said on 24 May, the wider the consensus amongst nuclear supplier and nuclear importing countries concerning controls to apply to the world nuclear industry, the more effective these controls will be as a barrier to nuclear proliferation. The Government will therefore be working with like-minded countries to have the bilateral controls imposed by Australia, which in a number of respects are similar to those of the United States and Canada, accepted multilaterally and incorporated in revised multilateral safeguards arrangements. The Ranger Inquiry identified a number of defects in existing safeguards arrangements. The Government has overcome these in its safeguards policy by introducing measures going beyond existing multilateral safeguards arrangements. From its vantage point at the heights of confusion, the Opposition represents the safeguards that will apply to all deliveries of Australian uranium under future contracts as being the same as those that the Ranger Inquiry criticised. They are not. It is time for the Opposition to get the facts. It is time for the Opposition to cease its criticism of existing multilateral safeguards arrangements. It is time that the Opposition realised that the Government has strengthened the safeguards arrangements to apply to deliveries of Australian uranium under future contracts.
The Leader of the Opposition claims that the incentive towards safeguards comes not by supplying uranium, but by withholding it. This is absurd. By permitting exports of uranium under stringent safeguards, Australia will be in a better position to strengthen safeguards. It is only as a secure supplier that Australia’s voice will be listened to seriously on the subject of improvement of safeguards. To leave Australia’s uranium in the ground until multilateral safeguards are improved, as suggested by the Opposition, is a policy of weakness and inaction. It is irresponsible. It condemns Australia to powerlessness on this subject. It would be left to the rest of the international community to determine safeguards. Built into our safeguards policy is a requirement for review and improvement. This is a consequence of the Government’s firm conviction that international safeguards standards are not only capable of improvement but that increasingly effective safeguards will be introduced. But this is not to say, as the Leader of the Opposition said on 4 September, that the present international nuclear safeguards are ‘completely inadequate ‘. If one is to take at face value the Leader of the Opposition’s recent remarks on the IAEA safeguards systems, one can conclude only that the Opposition regards the safeguards administered by the IAEA as static as well as ineffective.
The Leader of the Opposition seems to regard the delay in implementing the EURATOM/IAEA agreement, which provides for the safeguards obligations assumed by the nonnuclear weapon states of EURATOM when they ratified the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as proof positive of the general ineffectiveness of the Agency safeguards as a whole. This, of course, is nonsense. As I pointed out on 22 July 1977, IAEA ad hoc inspections are already taking place, additional to EURATOM ‘s own safeguards activities. The Leader of the Opposition has also claimed that international safeguards do not apply to the 300 nuclear facilities in the EURATOM countries. This is also nonsense. These nuclear facilities are fully covered by the EURATOM system- an independent and effective safeguards system of long standing. What the EURATOM /IAEA agreement does is to co-ordinate the EURATOM system with that of the IAEA. This is the purpose of the subsidiary arrangements, which define the more permanent technical details of the IAEA’s implementation of its safeguards. The Government attaches great importance to the urgent finalisation of these subsidiary arrangements so that the IAEA can effectively discharge its independent verification as required by both the NPT and the EURATOM/IAEA agreement. At the most recent meeting af the IAEA Board of Governors in June 1977, the Australian delegation welcomed the commitment made by the representatives of the EURATOM states to reach early resolution of the subsidiary arrangements. The Government’s goal is that there should be universal adherence to the NPT: It follows that the Government expects parties to the NPT to conclude promptly all the arrangements necessary to give effect to the IAEA safeguards obligations that are assumed by parties on the NPT. The Ranger inquiry concluded that the defects of the existing safeguards arrangements do not ‘render valueless the concept of international safeguards’. The Ranger inquiry said, and the Government agrees, that ‘it is both essential and possible to make safeguards arrangements more effective’. The Government’s safeguards policy does just that.
-The shallowness of the Government’s argument and its naivete on this whole question have never been more exposed than they were during the 15 minutes that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) spoke to the House on this question. He almost led us to believe that if somebody intended to rob a bank he would contact the police and invite them to inspect the drawing board on a daily basis. The Minister overlooked the fact that the very dangerous by-product of the use of uranium for power production is plutonium, which becomes the core for nuclear weapons. Does he honestly think that he can say to any nation to which this country decides to sell uranium: ‘Do you spit and promise to die if you tell a lie that you will not use this for violent purposes?’, and the nation will abide by that promise forever more if it has nefarious thoughts in its mind? Does he think that will be binding? If he does he is far more naive even than I thought he was when I rose to speak.
– You should not say that about my colleague. You hurt my feelings.
-Far be it from me to hurt the feelings of the Minister for Defence. If he had spoken before me he would have got a serve too.
– Now you hurt my feelings.
-I am sure the honourable gentlemen can withstand my vicious criticism of them. The question evolves into two arguments. It starts with a point which the Minister for Foreign Affairs mentioned- the question of the provision of energy for, as he put it, an energy deficient world. One of the unfortunate things about this debate which, of necessity, in the community must be charged with high emotion because of the consequences of the mining, enriching and using of uranium is that the matter has been brought into this Parliament with rather indecent haste. It has been dragged up by a government that is discredited on its last legs and has already been renounced by its former Attorney-General. The dogs in the town are barking that the next person to go will be the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) because the present Budget is known as the Lynch Budget. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) does not want to be associated with it. The Government is in such bad shape economically and cannot straighten out the mess into which it has got the country that it feels it must have some sort of issue on which to have an early election. It has brought forward this matter with indecent haste to try to provoke the community into committing violence, as it has done on one occasion, to ensure that there is an issue on which the Government can go to the people at the appropriate time.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs made one very curious statement. He talked about coal as an alternative source to oil for energy production. He said that coal brings about environmental problems; therefore it was desirable not to use coal. It seems to me, from all I have read and from all I have heard, even with the unbiased mind that I have on the question, that the use of enriched uranium for the production of power or for any other purpose will create far greater environmental problems than the use of coal. There seemed to be some anomaly in the argument on that point. The Minister said that the Opposition is not aware of the difficulties being faced by a world that is aware of the fact that it is running out of renewable sources of energy. The Opposition is very much aware of that fact but is quite prepared to weigh up the difficulties and not be panic-stricken into taking rather draconian measures on this whole question.
The House knows and the people of Australia know that it is not all that long ago that the Fox report on the Ranger proposal came into this Parliament. It was felt by the Opposition, it was certainly said by the Government, it was recommended in the report and it was believed by the community that a considerable time would elapse to allow proper and informed debate in the community on this whole question. Suddenly the Prime Minister and five of his Ministers marched into this House almost a fortnight ago and treated the people of Australia to statements of what they intended to do. Everybody thought- in fact the daily Press the next day gave the distinct impression- that as of one week from then, perhaps the end of this year or perhaps early next year uranium would start to be mined and the economy would start to boom because we would be exporting something like 2,000 or 2,500 short tons of this material. One newspaper which I read stated that 500,000 people would be employed. By February of next year that will just about equate with the number of unfortunate people in Australia who cannot find employment.
Nobody, least of all the Prime Minister, bothered to say that none of this will really happen for about five years. He certainly did not highlight the fact. That is his usual technique. It will get started then. In fact, nothing much will happen until 1994-95. 1 quote from the speech of Mr Anthony of almost a fortnight ago:
The Ranger Inquiry’s forecasts also indicate that development of a national uranium industry will result in the creation of considerable direct employment opportunities. Based on the assumption that construction of the first project would commence in 1977-78, with production and sales commencing in 1981-82 at an average rate of around 2,000 short tons uranium oxide, increasing at about that rate until 1994-95 when total output would reach 27,300 short tons, the Ranger Inquiry forecast that a total work force of between 2,000 and 2,500 would probably be directly employed in the industry. Additionally, the Inquiry forecast that construction activities associated with any such development could provide direct employment for up to 1,500 workers at any one time.
How the figure of 500,000 workers was arrived at is beyond my comprehension. I think every person who drives a power turbine anywhere must have been included and regarded as being employed because somebody was mining uranium in Australia. The Government, having done all of that with great and indecent haste, decided that perhaps it would not get sufficient milage out of this decision unless it were able to provoke somebody into taking some violent action.
Contrary to the advice of the Inquiry, the whole issue was then brought within the scope of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1947-1973 and the Atomic Energy Act 1953-1956. If I read some excerpts from those Acts honourable members will see what I am driving at. The Approved Defence Projects Protection Act, which was brought in in 1947 and amended in 1973, provides penalties for any person who acts as follows: … by boycott or threat of boycott of any person, property, work or undertaking prevents, hinders or obstructs, or endeavours to prevent, hinder or obstruct, the carrying out of an approved defence project
That carries a pretty substantial penalty. The Act further states: … if the offence is prosecuted summarily- a fine of not more than One thousand dollars or imprisonment for not more than six months; and … if the offence is prosecuted upon indictment-a fine of not more than Ten thousand dollars or imprisonment for not more than twelve months, or both.
In those few words an ‘approved defence project’ was mentioned. As I understand it, a uranium mine would not be an approved defence project per se. The Government knew that. It then whipped out the Atomic Energy Act 1953-1956, which just happened to contain a clause which suited it. That Act states:
The Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1947 -
That is the Act from which I just quoted- applies to and in relation to all works carried out by or on behalf of the Commission as if those works were approved defence projects within the meaning of that Act.
So if the Atomic Energy Commission carries out any works they will be, by definition, approved defence projects and will carry with them the penalties previously mentioned. So the Government tied that one up pretty neatly. But it did not have to go to all that trouble because it already had the amended Trade Practices Act. Section 45D of that Act, as amended, carries a penalty of a quarter of a million dollars against anyone who threatens boycotts.
The Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Bill, which has passed through this House and the other place but has not yet been proclaimed, lies as a great waddy which is ready to be used to beat any Commonwealth employee who decides to withdraw his labour or to perform work in a way different from the way it is normally performed. So we find that there is not just a double-barrelled shotgun pointed at the heads of the community on this one; it is a triple-barrelled shotgun, and it is loaded with buckshot. This is the ploy of the Government on this issue.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in particular, has quite a reputation in this House and outside for the way in which he can connive and bring about situations. There is no doubt that he wants to bring about a confrontation in the community. That man, supported by those who sit behind him on the other side of the chamber, is quite content to tear in half the fabric of the Australian community and Australian society generally to serve his own nefarious ends.
A section of the Australian community- I deign to predict it will be a large section of the Australian community-will take great offence on this issue. A great number of Australian people, as they understand the situation more, will oppose this measure and will find themselves in no end of difficult situations because of the Acts which now cover this sort of thing. The legislation which this Government has been bringing into this Parliament, having it passed through this place and the other place, and having it receive assent, has been enacted with one purpose in mind, namely, to divide the Australian community.
I ask honourable members to cast their minds back to the 1960s when there was a war in Vietnam in which Australia was involved. In the early stages this war did not receive much opposition from the Australian people, but as the story began to be told, and as the dangers of that situation unfolded and became apparent to the people in the Australian community, their voices grew and grew to the point where the Government had to take some action. In fact, it finally lost office through that issue. The same sort of situation exists today. There is a danger, a threat and a risk not just to the Australian community but to the whole world community in the use of this nuclear material.
The background papers which were supplied with the copies of the speeches made by the Prime Minister and his Ministers concerning the Government’s decisions on uranium are very interesting. It contained a document entitled: ‘Your Questions Answered’. Frankly, I should need somebody to answer questions better than these questions have been answered. That document contains the following question:
How will the waste be permanently disposed of!
For a start, that is not even good grammar. The answer given is as follows:
It is proposed that the solidified wastes will be encased in steel cylinders and buried deep in stable rock.
The answer goes on from there. But nowhere in that document are we told of the half-life of the material that is to be disposed of- to use the same kind of grammar as is used in the document. This material is lethal for something like 250,000 years. It is less than 2,000 years since the crucifixion of Christ, the time which we regard as the commencement of our particular period of civilisation, although I realise it goes back further than that. But how far back does it go? The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) will be able to tell me that because he is quite knowledgeable in history. But it does not go back much beyond the Phoenicians. It does not go back much more than 5,500 years. An old Chinese proverb states that time is like a crack in the ground under a speeding horse.
When one considers the short time that man has been recording his existence on this planet and the enormous time that represents the halflife of this material one starts to realise the dangers involved, as we see them. It is not we who are acting irresponsibily in this matter; it is the Government, because it has no firm safeguards to offer the Australian people apart from its own rhetoric. That will not protect the people of Australia and of the world from the dangers that emanate from this material. Until that problem is solved, until appropriate technology is evolved, I believe uranium should remain in the ground. I do not say that it should remain there forever more, but that the technical problems associated with it should be solved before any thought is given to making it available to those people in the world over whom we will have no control, irrespective of the fine words used by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
-This democratically elected Government has made a decision regarding uranium. This Government has considered this matter in more detail and at greater length than it has considered any other matter that has come before it for decision. Uranium has been the subject of lengthy parliamentary debate on at least three separate occasions. On one occasion, unfortunately, the debate closed early one evening because the Labor Party did not have enough speakers. As I understand the matter, the debate on this issue will nonetheless continue to enable, if possible, all Labor members who wish to participate in the debate to do so. So the debate in the Parliament has been and will be very extensive.
The debate in the community has been extensive over a period of 12 or 18 months. Very importantly, the people who appeared before the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry provided a vast range of viewpoints and attitudes towards the matter and a vast amount of factual material. So it is totally inaccurate for anyone to claim that there has not been deep consideration of this matter.
The question boils down to this: What is now to be the future practical implementation of a decision made by the Government? I believe that this decision has been made primarily in order to satisfy Australia’s duty to the world community, bearing in mind the serious energy shortages that the world now faces. I have thought very seriously about this question, as have other members of this Parliament, for a long time. I think almost every member of this House has taken the time to equip himself with a huge amount of detailed knowledge. Honourable members have had to become expert in many scientific matters. They have had to acquaint themselves with a vast array of complex environmental problems. They have had to consider the economic implications. They have had to consider the moral implications. They have had to ask themselves whether or not in all the circumstances it is reasonable that the Government should allow the mining, milling and export of uranium. I believe that honourable members on both sides of the House have put themselves to the task in a responsible fashion. As I see it, some honourable members opposite have attempted to make political propaganda and have not analysed the issues properly. That is most unfortunate.
I want to remind the House of statements made by members of the former Government, now members of the Opposition, on the question. First of all, let us remind ourselves that the late and respected Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, on 31 October 1974 produced a statement to this House in which he said:
This statement is to outline the Government’s program for the rational development of uranium resources in the Northern Territory; a program which will return substantial economic benefits to Australia from our supply of this vital energy resource to our overseas trading partners who face such grave difficulties in securing their own energy requirements.
At the 1975 Australian Labor Party Conference at Terrigal that party made a number of decisions. One of them was that Australia’s uranium resources should be developed. Another was that the development should include a uranium enrichment plant. A number of speakers at that conference supported a call for a moratorium. They were four Victorian members only. Indeed, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), who was at that time a prominent member of the Government, spoke in support of the establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in South Australia, but bis concern was whether or not the South Australian water supply was adequate for the enrichment plant.
The proposal for the moratorium was flatly rejected by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the former Prime Minister, on the grounds that it would jeopardise Australia’s credibility and delay the negotiations that his Government was conducting for the sale of uranium to Europe. He said that Australia had done all it could to see that other countries adhered to the International Atomic Energy
Agency guidelines. This had been preceded by and was followed by actual action by the former Government which gave undertakings, upon entering office, that previous contracts would be honoured. That Government also made arrangements for the recommissioning of the Mary Kathleen project, the development of the Ranger project by Peko-Wallsend Ltd and for subsequent development of other mines in the Alligator Rivers region.
The former Government led by Mr Whitlam obtained a 42 per cent shareholding in Mary Kathleen mines, announced a program of large scale uranium development, which I have mentioned, and entered into an agreement with Peko-Wallsend for the development of the Ranger deposit by the Commonwealth and by those companies. So the Government entered into a statement of intention which, I understand, had the effect of a binding agreement. The former Prime Minister, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the former Minister for Minerals and Energy were signatories to that agreement, as were the leading persons in the Peko-Wallsend group. The policy of the former Government made it clear that it intended to mine and export uranium.
Some of the statements made by supporters and Ministers of the former Government are very interesting. The former Minister for Minerals and Energy said:
Australia will ensure that our major trading partners . . . obtain an equitable share of the uranium that we have for export.
The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), after visiting Iran, said:
Iran would be given access to supplies of uranium from Australia under favourable conditions.
The former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Les Johnson) said:
International assurances have been provided by Ministers that Australia will meet the uranium requirements of our major trading partners which could amount to a total of about 100,000 tonnes of uranium by 1990.
The present shadow Minister for Minerals and Energy, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), said that Japan was interested in our fuel and said that instead of selling just yellowcake at bargain basement prices ‘we want to get the profit that comes from enrichment’. On 9 October 1975 he also said:
Since we have taken over the administration of the policy in this area, particularly in respect of uranium, we have said that we intend to export as much of it as we can.
In February 1975 the former Prime Minister (The Hon. E. G. Whitlam) said:
In Brussels, London, The Haig, Paris, Rome and Bonn as well as in Moscow, I consistently asserted Australia’s wish to develop her own enrichment capabilities so that as much uranium as possible should be exported in an enriched form.
On 27 May 1 975 the former Prime Minister said:
Those uranium deposits which do not concern Aboriginal lands and the mining of which complies with proper environmental conditions into which public inquiries are about to take place will of course be available for export and in due course for processing within Australia.
There are further quotations which I could read and which demonstrate the attitude of the former Government. In particular I remind the House of the attitude of the former Minister for Minerals and Energy, namely, that ‘Australia at all times will honour its contracts, even those negotiated by a previous Government’. So that is the track record of the previous Government. What do we find now? We find a total volte face. We see the Leader of the Opposition in a television appearance simply ignoring everything he has said for two years and pretending to the Australian people that this Government has not gone into the matter in very considerable detail and with a very considerable conscience about the matter.
I am of the opinion that the broad approach adopted by President Carter is a reasonable approach, and the Australian policy links into President Carter’s policy. The President had to face two facts. Firstly, the nuclear industry has been in existence for 20 or more years. A large amount of nuclear waste has already accumulated. Huge numbers- 200 or 300 or more- of nuclear plants are already operating and more are planned. The President had to face the fact also that there is a very serious energy shortage. I believe that he had to walk a balanced path between the two problems.
A world wide nuclear war could develop out of the energy situation because of economic deterioration. The energy shortage could well lead to war. On the other hand, the wrongful use of nuclear power could in its own way also lead to war. The President said that there would be no reprocessing. He said that the strictest safeguards would be applied in regard to the international responsibilities towards non-proliferation. He has chosen a balance and brought us away and back from what I believe could have been a move on either front towards a deteriorating situation. This could possibly have led to international consequences which might even have included war.
The Australian Government’s policy is tied into the broad approach of the President and also that of the Canadian Government. The Australian Government’s nuclear proliferation safeguards have been described by the American President as being the strongest determined. Certainly they are stronger than those recommended by the Leader of the Opposition some time ago. I think it is very important to realise that the Government’s policy is that a fundamental prerequisite to any uranium export is adequate safeguards. The Government sets out its safeguards, but much detail still has to be worked out in the application of the policy. It is perfectly true, as other honourable members have said, that there will be no mining for about five years. The proceeds from the whole project do not become available for some six or seven years. What is contained in the Government’s policy in relation to fundamental prerequisites on the matter of safeguards and on the matter of waste disposal has been totally ignored by the Opposition. In fact, a seven or eight year moratorium is applicable. We are told that it will be a fundamental prerequisite that the safeguards should be properly operable. I have no doubt that Australia, the United States, and Canada will ensure that these detailed safeguards will operate.
It is quite clear that methods of waste disposal have been provided in pilot form. I think that the Government’s statements could have gone into a little more detail on the actual technological methods being used. The statements said that technology is available but the public would perhaps have benefited from more detail on the technology. The glass solidification process and other processes have been used in pilot form. There seems to be no reason why they should not work commercially. Nobody will put them into commercial operation until there is full scale commercial development. That would be wasting money. Therefore, one can see that with the six or seven year moratorium that we, in fact, have the waste disposal problem will be translated from a pilot proposition to a commercial proposition in the meantime.
I make it quite plain that as a member of parliament I will be observing and monitoring these matters in my own conscience to be sure that the Government’s policy goes into operation in practice. We do not want any resiling in the passage of time from the strict standards that this Government has laid down and will continue to maintain. I know that people in the community worry about these matters. All honourable members have searched their consciences. I am not saying that we are through with the whole set of problems but the policy is valid. There is a de facto moratorium. I am reminded that in the last century people said that the railway would produce terrible blights upon mankind. That has not happened. We now need an overall national policy for energy to include the development of all our resources in a planned and proper way so that we balance them against each other in our own setting. We are told that we will not have nuclear power in this country. But the world setting of energy policy must be considered so that a sensible energy program is developed in Australia and throughout the world. I am looking forward to the development of this Government’s full energy policy in the very near future.
-The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) spent the greater part of his speech referring to the previous Government’s policies on uranium. I believe that it is to the great credit of the previous Government that it had a flexible viewpoint and was able to change its policies when it realised the growing indignation of the Australian people in connection with the mining of uranium. The honourable member for St George failed to point out to this House that it was the Labor Government that created the Fox inquiry to go into the details, the scourges and the advantages of the mining and marketing of uranium. It is not to the credit of his Government that in certain respects it has ignored some of the fundamental recommendations of the Fox inquiry in connection with uranium.
I believe that this debate has to be conducted in a non-offensive, non-insulting way without any mud slinging. This matter concerns not only the present generation but also generations to come for thousands of years. That is why I passionately believe in the Labor Party’s policy that a moratorium of at least two years should be maintained until the world can overcome the unknown, unsolved problems regarding the successful disposal of atomic waste. The honourable member for St George pointed out that there are in operation pilot schemes which have been successful in the disposal of atomic waste. That is not enough. The Government is worried about the growing public concern and indignation at its decision to mine and export Australia’s uranium. In my view, public indignation will grow more intense as the Australian people learn more of the detrimental results uranium mining can have, not only on the environment and on fish and tree life but also on the health of our nationals, particularly those who mine it and the unborn, not to mention the raping of traditional Aboriginal lands and sacred dream areas.
The mining interests have announced that there is $30 billion worth of buried treasure in the form of uranium in Australia. Some people grasp at this as a solution to overcome the economic problems of today. The Fox commission, set up by the Australian Labor Government as I said, emphasised that the mining of Australian uranium would create significant economic advantages for most Australians. However, in my view the consequences of uranium mining are so serious that they outweigh any possible material gain. I know this is not an argument that is easily made attractive to some people, particularly in today’s rip-off society. They tend to compound the profitable with goodness and happiness.
We hear talk of jobs for Australians, the profits uranium mining will bring and the foreign exchange it will earn. Only recently I was reminded that the same argument was paramount in Great Britain just after the turn of the 19th century, in 1807. There was agitation when an idealist politician, William Wilberforce, I think seven times put his Bill before the House of Commons for the purpose of abolishing slavery. It was said that he denigrated the name of Great Britain which professed to be a Christian country. William Wilberforce was told the same things that the Tories are telling us today. He was told that his Bill would minimise jobs for British seamen, both the men building the ships and those who went to sea. He was told that it would affect Britain’s foreign exchange. When he pointed out that Britain should hold its head in shame because it was exporting slaves to other parts of the world, manacled together under the decks of ships virtually on starvation diets, he was told to disregard it.
Things have not changed much since 1807. We are thinking today more of the profit and the jobs that uranium mining will bring than of the effect that it will have on cur community as a whole. This is more serious to the people at large than what the slave trade was to Great Britain in 1807. However, after years of agitation Wilberforce was able to get his Bill through the House of Commons and abolish slave trade by Great Britain. The Bill was not effective until about 1833 when it cost Great Britain £20m to buy off the slaves indentured to a life of slavery in the West Indies. The argument by the Tories and those who support them is much the same today. They say that uranium mining will create jobs and foreign exchange. The Fox commission was set up by the Australian Labor Government. It made significant findings which have not been observed by the Fraser Government. However, the economic advantages must be disregarded when the detrimental effects that uranium mining will have on society and the people of the world are taken into consideration.
Uranium mining in the Northern Territory, commonly referred to as the Top End of Australia, will destroy the physical environment on which the Aborigines depend for the survival of their culture. It will introduce adverse social effects such as drunkenness and prostitution that usually flow from the establishment of camps such as those that will be set up as a result of uranium mining and the loss of Aboriginal land. But it is common knowledge to every man who has participated in this debate that the radon gas released increases the chances of those unfortunate miners digging the uranium from the ground contracting lung cancer. I have a document- many of my constituents have been asking for copies of it- which points out that one in six uranium miners in the United States develops lung cancer.
– That is underground. We are open cut.
– Yes, that refers to underground mining. I agree that the risk may be reduced considerably. The honourable member for Isaacs has properly pointed out that those statistics apply to underground mining but the risk is not totally eliminated by open cut mining. It will still be a dominant factor and it will be a tremendous risk to those engaged in uranium mining. The United States Government has reduced the levels at which miners must have an examination for lung cancer.
I turn now to reactors, the use of nuclear fuel and the dangers through explosion or leakage of radioactive waste materials. No country yet has the answer for the effective storage of waste materials. I believe that they are not close to the answer. The rapid spread of nuclear weapons constructed from nuclear fuels increases the dangers inherent in the expanding police powers necessary to protect the various stages of the nuclear fuel cycle. I applaud those self-sacrificing peaceful demonstrators who are making great personal sacrifice in endeavouring to arouse public concern to the massive evils that will be created to mankind should the Government’s policies go on without impediment. Truth is truth and it shall prevail. What does it matter if man gains the whole world but loses his soul in that endeavour?
It is believed that there are more than 300,000 tons of uranium in Australia. At current prices, we are told that our reserves could provide a bonanza in profits for those few companies which have found uranium deposits. Not surprisingly, these companies have exerted and are still exerting strong pressure on the Fraser Government as they did on the Whitlam Administration. They are similarly exerting pressure on our trade union movement to allow full-scale mining to go ahead. They have been somewhat successful in both fields. But a widely based opposition movement has grown up and is increasing. The movement which includes eminent scientists, church leaders, trade unionists and conservation groups has become so influential that there is considerable doubt as to whether the plans of the companies will be realised.
Uranium first became an object of interest in Australia in 1944. As with the nuclear industry elsewhere in the world, its beginnings were rooted in military application. Exploration in Australia began at the request of the United Kingdom Government which wanted uranium for its nuclear weapons program. Discoveries were soon made at Rum Jungle in the Northern Territory, Radium Hill in South Australia and Mary Kathleen in Queensland. Then under the supervision of the new Australian Atomic Energy Commission subsidiaries of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd at Rum Jungle and Mary Kathleen and smaller companies in other places quickly began mining. Over the next 20 years some 7,000 tons of uranium oxide were mined and exported. The Atomic Energy Act makes provision to gaol anyone who impedes its production and export. It is to be expected that the Fraser Government will implement the provisions of that Act to achieve its goal- the mining and export of this mineral.
Following the 1963 treaty on the testing of nuclear weapons, due in my view to the dangers of radioactive fallout of strontium 90, Linus Pauling, a leading American physicist, pointed out that some 7,000 to 10,000 American children had died as a result of leukaemia during the period that these tests were being carried out. I believe that it was one of the major factors that contributed to the great powers ceasing to explode nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. Linus Pauling was supported by an additional 12 prominent American nuclear scientists who agreed with his research and findings. The demand for uranium fell dramatically after about 1963 or 1964. The mines were closed. Employees were cast on to the economic scrap heap. No provision was made for alternative employment for them. By 1964 the only treatment plant operating in Australia was at Rum Jungle. The plant continued to stockpile ore until 197 1 when it was dismantled and sold. However, residues were left behind which, according to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission estimates, will continue to pollute the local environment at Rum Jungle over an area of 100 square kilometres for at least 100 years.
For over a decade official complaints were made about pollution at Rum Jungle. In November 1960 an officer of the Norther Territory Administration reported that trees along the banks of one of the streams were dying and that waterholes were devoid of all fish life. In 1965 a meeting of interested parties was convened to discuss the problem. At the conclusion of the meeting the AAEC gave an assurance that it would make every possible endeavour to minimise the pollution. I am reminded of a poem- I think it was written by Thomas Bracken- that I learnt at school which said: ‘Not understood, we move along asunder, our paths grow wider as the seasons creep, along the years we marvel as we wonder, why life is life and then we fall asleepnot understood ‘. Society does not understand the evils of what may occur in generations to come. I believe in the Labor Party’s policy that there should be a cessation of the mining of this mineral until we are more conversant with the problems it creates and of ways in which they can be overcome.
-We have been treated to an interesting exercise by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) relating to the incidence of leukaemia and accidents that may occur in uranium mines. The honourable member does the House a disservice by not relating the average incidence of leukaemia in the population of the United States of America. An examination of that would reveal that there is no change in the incidence of leukaemia whether or not atomic tests are being carried out. If the honourable member investigated the accident level in coal mines in Australiahe should well know that- he would find that in the early days of coal mining in this country there were far more accidents than there have been in uranium mines in the United States. Let us have some relevances and some sense in this argument. It seems to me that one can be too easily impressed with emotive arguments that are completely unconnected with the issue before the House today. One can quote out of context all sorts of things relating to cancer and leukaemia but if one tracks down the authenticity of those comments one finds that they are not connected in any way with the problems of uranium and nuclear energy.
Leaving that to one side, one must admit that there is concern in the community about this matter of nuclear energy, where we are going as a nation and where the world is going in relation to energy sources. Above all it is my opinion that we must conserve transportable fuels. The world’s capacity to maintain productivity and a level of economic co-operation is such that transportation and the movement of goods and services internationally and within countries is connected with scarce commodities that are quickly running out. If one refers to the Ranger inquiry one can see that the life of the world’s oil reserves is roughly 39 years and that of gas, 55 years. These figures, of course, are dependent on an equal capacity for every nation to gain a supply relative to its needs for those commodities.
The Australian scene, however is one of concern. There are only about 14 years of known supplies of oil left in this country. If we are to continue to operate economically, if we are to continue to trade and if those countries dependent on trade for their wellbeing are to remain viable, the conservation of transportable fuels must be the number one priority when one looks at the world scene. The concern of the President of the United States of America was such that on 18 April he was prompted to announce a national energy policy. The President warned of a national catastrophe unless the Administration’s energy policy was accepted by the nation. The President detailed the specific goals he wanted to achieve by 1985. The goals were: To reduce the annual growth in energy demand to less than two per cent; to reduce America’s gasolene consumption by 10 per cent; to reduce by 50 per cent the proportion of oil which is imported into the United States; to establish a United States petroleum reserve of one billion barrels of oil; to increase coal production in the United States; to insulate 90 per cent of homes and new buildings in the United States; and to use solar energy in more than 2.5 million United States homes. That is the concern that the American people have for the value of oil and oil products.
If one is to do an equation, if one is to evaluate from where the world is to obtain its energy, one is left with the problem of a shortfall in the static supply of energy for the next 20 to 30 years. Under the circumstances the only alternative for industrial development, industrial wellbeing and in fact the progress of industrial nations and with them the progress of developing countries is the development of uranium as a fuel source. Australia has a great responsibility to the rest of the world to see that its progress and development is not hindered by a restriction in energy sources.
One can look at a country close at hand. Japan is dependent absolutely on the importation of fuel and one can assess very readily what would happen if fuel supplies to that nation were cut off. Japan has only its manpower and technology to sell to the world. It is dependent on its technological capacity and the skills of its people to remain a viable and prospering country. If that country cannot keep the wheels of industry turning, if it fails to continue in the direction in which it started in 1950, Japan will have to make a choice of either acquiring fuel by force or being prepared to adopt a gradual lowering in its standard of living. This is the judgment we must face as a nation: Are we prepared to be party to a decision that will in fact encourage a lowering in the standard of living of developed countries? The moral judgment is not whether to use uranium but whether we dare retain to ourselves the use of uranium and whether we should use it as a vehicle of diplomacy to prevent the development of other countries?
The energy policy that is now being formulated and presented by the Government is a most comprehensive one. It takes not only the aspects I have canvassed into consideration but it also considers the wider aspects of conservation, the wider aspects of alternative fuel sources and the wider aspects of the wellbeing of the Australian community. The Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony) announced that the Government, in co-operation with the States, is considering an offer from the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and German private companies to share the cost of a $3m study of the economic and technical feasibility of a plan to convert coal to 10 per cent liquefied petroleum gas, 45 per cent motor spirit and 45 per cent diesel oil. That is a recent initiative by this Government.
The Government has also decided that as resources flow from the development of uranium additional funds will be allocated to the development of effective solar energy alternatives. This is an area in which our scientists and technologists are to the forefront in world terms. The use of uranium and the additional capacity to develop alternative fuel sources that uranium will give us is something that must be encouraged by this Government and something which all members of this House should applaud. I hear nothing from the Opposition of the Government’s commitment to alternative fuel sources, its commitment to develop solar energy and its commitment to develop pollutant free energy sources.
The Government is also conducting a survey of Commonwealth Government departments and instrumentalities. The survey has already commenced. State governments, universities and private companies will be approached so that the most effective use of the nation’s research resources and the most effective way in which we can proceed to conduct research into alternative fuels can be detailed. In regard to energy conservation, the House will be aware that the Government took an important step in the Budget to raise the price of indigenous crude oil to appropriate levels. It is hoped that by this measure the use of Australian oils will be modified to purposes that are of proper value to the nation. It would seem to me that the practice of wasting oils, as we do in Australia, has to be curtailed. Our program to conserve fuel, together with the sale of uranium, has given us a potential to play a part in the world forum. We could stand on the sideline, so to speak, and not participate. If we do we cannot expect to influence or to control. We cannot expect our voice to be noted if we are to stand back in the world forum. As a participant in the production of energy and as an important production source we can in the world forum present to other nations a responsible attitude in respect of the control and the non-proliferation of uranium for harmful purposes.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) recently spelt out his stand as to what sort of international controls he would view as being necessary for Australia to enter into world markets. Although the Leader of the Opposition did not oppose mining at that time, he put stringent conditions on exports which he said would at the very least include certain features. The Government has in fact exceeded those features and requirements placed on the export of uranium by the Leader of the Opposition. In fact the Leader of the Opposition presented a very faulty proposal comprising five points that Australia should adopt for the control of uranium and nuclear fuels. The Government in its presentation has decided to exceed all those requirements in bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements which absolutely preclude the possibility, as far as is humanly possible, of the wrongful use of uranium. In fact energy deficient countries are looking to Australia. We possess about 20 per cent of the world ‘s low cost proven uranium reserves. To become a regular supplier and to assist these countries through this period of transition Australia has the potential to become a net energy exporter in thermal terms equivalent to that exported by Iran. Bearing in mind the world energy situation and Australia’s role as an energy rich nation, is it responsible to talk, as the Opposition does, of withholding this capacity from the rest of the world?
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) set out the key points in his announcement to the House when he said that Australia should not deny to the world the potential that we have here. Australia has an effective voice in strengthening safeguards and non-proliferation measures and we should use it. We should accelerate moves to prevent the development of the plutonium economy and its proliferation and we should not abandon the world’s energy-poor countries, some of which are our major trading partners and near neighbours. We should not deny Australia significant economic possibilities and benefits.
It has been interesting to watch the Opposition dealing with this matter of uranium. In this Parliament in May 1 975, just over two years ago, the then Prime Minister (Mr E. G. Whitlam) said this:
Those uranium deposits which do not concern Aboriginal lands and mining of which complies with proper environmental conditions into which public inquiries are about to take place will of course be available for export and in due course for processing within Australia.
In February of the same year he said:
In Brussels, London, The Hague, Paris, Rome and Bonn as well as in Moscow, I consistently asserted Australia’s wish to develop her own enrichment capabilities so that as much uranium as possible should be exported in an enriched form.
The Australian Labor Party has changed its view. It has changed its view without participating in a public debate. It has hardened in its point of view from the time when it was saying that there should be a public debate. From the beginning of this year, irrevocably, step by step, the Labor Party has decided to oppose this issue without proper debate.
– I find it a little difficult to understand the logic of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman). In his last statement he said that the Labor Party had changed its view. Is he suggesting that by not opposing a public debate-by making that decision- the Opposition has changed its view? It has not done so. The Labor Party has a very explicit view. I am speaking with moral conviction about this issue, one about which I have thought very deeply. The whole basis of our case is that there must be a public debate and that there must be a moratorium until that public debate has occurred. That is the principle behind the stand which we take on this issue. I could not quote exactly what the honourable member for Mitchell said but he went on to say in effect that the Australian government must act responsibly and provide energy resources to the world. In that way he believes Australia can influence world opinion. The only way in which we are going to influence world opinion on the question of proliferation and nuclear waste is to withhold the necessary uranium until such time as science and the governments which utilise uranium have faced up to the issue.
I support the amendment moved by the Opposition. Basically that amendment draws attention to the fact that the policies of this Government, if carried through, amount to assistance to those countries and organisations, even terrorist groups overseas, which want to utilise uranium for the purposes of war. The amendment draws attention to the danger of the Government’s policy on the question of proliferation. It draws attention to the fact that no answer has been found to the fundamental issue of the disposal of nuclear waste. It draws attention to the fact that we must safeguard the environment of the national parks and in particular we must protect Aboriginal rights.
This Government has made a decision to export uranium without the required debate called for in the two Fox reports. It made that decision without public debate occurring. I would ask my friends on the Government side to give an example showing where this Government has provided the necessary finance to permit public dissemination of the pros and cons as far as uranium is concerned. This Government has utilised all the forces of government, all the resources of government, to put forward only one side of the debate, the side for the mining of uranium. It has not put forward the opposing case as called for in the concept of the Fox reports. Therefore there is a need for a moratorium to allow that debate to proceed. That is the only answer and that is what is advocated by the Australian Labor Party. That is the only way to force science and the uranium users, both here and abroad, to find an answer to the disposal of waste.
At present science adopts the attitude that it has 100 years to find a solution to the problem of neclear waste and that in the meantime it can be stored. In a previous debate in this House, during the last session of parliament, I referred to a proposal put forward by an officer of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. In fact it appears that he is now very upset, judging from the correspondence I have received. In effect he put forward the latest proposal for disposing of nuclear waste. The idea is that there be a platform 2,000 feet under the ground with a mine going down to it.
-In an earthquake-free desert.
– He made the point that this should be in a very secure area geographically. The idea was that the waste be placed in various containers, about 8 feet to 9 feet high and roughly 2te to 3 feet wide and sunk into this plaform 2,000 feet under the ground. The containers were to be sealed with concrete. He made the point that whilst the waste would last for a quarter of a million years, it would be damaging to human life for only a thousand years. He maintained that we would only have to make sure that the waste was not used for a thousand years. It would only have to be guarded for a thousand years. Who can tell what will be the political situation in this country or throughout the world in 50 years let alone 100 years, 500 years or a 1,000 years hence, yet these are the types of proposals being put forward for the disposal of waste. It was suggested in the Press only this morning that nuclear waste should be buried in the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean. It would take many, many years for waste to float to the surface and a lot of it would be buried under the silt. This was put forward by American officials. The idea is that you can take the risk.
– Put in your electorate.
– I would not put it in the honourable member’s electorate because I would not wish it on the next honourable member for Riverina, Johnny FitzPatrick. I want to refer to one other matter which I think is very important. There is a fundamental right of any individual to demonstrate. There is a fundamental right of people to join together in free speech, to express an opinion. That is one of the most important rights which should be guarded by all men and women. I want to mention some of the most important examples which show how peaceful demonstration has had an impact on policies not only in this country but throughout the world.
– They gave women the vote.
– The honourable member for Hunter mentions the point I was about to make, the right of women to vote. My own grandmother was one of the leaders in that move.
– That is where we went wrong.
– The erstwhile honourable member for Riverina says that that is where we went wrong. I ask the women in the Riverina electorate never to forget that statement- the quote of the week. The honourable member for Riverina has just handed over his seat to the present honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick). He has insulted every woman in the Riverina electorate. Then there was the suffragette movement, the movement for women’s rights. The women of Ireland today are working for peace in Ireland. Possibly the honourable member for Riverina would not like it. Then there were the demonstrations against the Vietnam war. I think the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) would agree that when there were attempts by agents provocateur and those who did not understand politics and the ways and means of influencing people to introduce violence into those demonstrations, those who realised the immorality of our intervention in Vietnam found it very difficult to convince the public. However, once violence was removed from those demonstrations and emphasis was placed upon peaceful demonstration the tide of public opinion changed. Finally we had the situation where the vast majority of the people in Australia and in the world realised the immorality of the situation and the right behind the cause which Labor was then advocating. I make that point today and appeal to the over enthusiastic who tend to get over excited in a demonstration. I would not appeal to the agents provocateur because most of them are employed by this Government, but I suggest to this Government that it should not advocate violence by assisting agents provocateur to create that violence.
There is a fundamental right to demonstrate and it must be guarded, but at all times demonstrations must be peaceful. In that way we will convince the vast majority of the people of the correctness of our cause. I wish to refer here to a good example of provocation of violence, in this case by the Premier of Queensland, Mr BjelkePetersen. He was repudiated by honourable members opposite only today. He accused members of the Liberal Party, such as the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), of being communist dupes because they wanted to go to Timor to investigate the Timorese situation on the spot. That man, whom these honourable members had to repudiate today in their personal explanations by saying that their actions were not communist inspired, is deliberately provoking violence in Queensland by refusing people the fundamental right to demonstrate on the question of uranium. The right to demonstrate and to explain is a fundamental issue. However, it must be done peacefully.
This Government by its attitudes and by assisting those agents provocateur to create violence and the Queensland Government by its attitude of confrontation and provocation are the ones creating the situation that we have today. The fact is that this is a government of confrontation. This Government has deliberately made a decision to export uranium without the necessary public debate. It is a government of violence because it is deliberately invoking violence and creating confrontation and provocation in the hope that it will get some minor electoral advantage out of it. The issue goes far beyond politics. It is an issue involving the safety of many future generations not only of Australians but also of other people. The Australian Labor Party stands on the issue of morality. The Government is immoral in its attitude.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-There has been a tremendous clamour and a tremendous demand from the Opposition for debate on the all-important topic of the mining and export of uranium which is something this Government proposes to do. The speeches which have been made in the House have been so repetitive that I think that if one were to appeal to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, about the Standing Order on repetition, some sort of an interesting verdict might be produced from you. Hence, it is rather difficult to stand in the debate and say something new. Perhaps I have an advantage because I represent and in fact live in an area which has the only mine which is producing and exporting yellow cake. It is interesting to note that yellow cake is not yellow; it is a sort of khaki green. That is a technical item which I am sure is of interest to the House.
One would be most unkind to suggest that the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) was anything but a kindly and fairly well informed honourable member. I have seen him make only one glaring mistake in the House. One night he went to sleep during a division and voted with members, from this side of the House. However, he had himself exorcised the following day and he is back in the fold. Today he went on with a lot of platitudes. He talked about leukaemia and made great generalisations as members of the Opposition are prone to do. But I am not aware of one single shred of specific evidence which can point to any person in any part of the world who is suffering a disability or an illness as a result of either the mining of uranium oxide or ore or from being associated with its treatment. The challenge has gone out. I repeat it again. No doubt many speakers are still to come from the
Opposition side. Let them produce one shred of evidence.
I refer to another matter. Quite unashamedly I am dealing with generalities because everything has been said that has to be said about the technical side of uranium. I live with it day and night. I live within a few miles of Mary Kathleen. I refer to the involvement of Mr Bob Hawke. There is a media mania about the land which gives the impression that any current affairs program is fairly limp unless it shows this gentleman. So he becomes a sort of continuing commercial. But for what is he a commercial? Mr Deputy Speaker, you could well ask what has this to do with the uranium question. It has much to do with it because Mr Hawke has bought into the argument. He had to do a bit of side stepping because of a major conference. He is the National President of the Australian Labor Party and it decided that it would oppose the mining and export of uranium. It talked about a moratorium and about time for debate. All these were delaying factors. As we all know, he is also President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He must get dizzy changing his hats. He changes from the hat of the Australian Labor Party to the hat of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He looks desperately for some sort of a side step. He talks about a referendum which is a delaying factor.
The democratic processes of this country are still extant. If that man wants to take a decisive part in government, I am sure there will be an opportunity for that. We know that the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) is departing this House. There will be an opportunity for Mr Hawke to come into the House. Then will come the moment of truth. The great figure which the media builds up and pushes down our throats every day and night of the week will suddenly become the pathetic figure which any Australian Labor Party would-be Prime Minister of Prime Minister must eventually become. If the major figure who has bought into the argument on uranium has a loyalty to his unionists will jump when the radical left wing unions crack the whip- I am not a union basher; quite the reverse- then the rest of the nation will ask: ‘Who rules this country? The Halfpenny’s and all that group?’ So it is an impossible situation. Mr Hawke should keep well and truly out of this argument or stand for a seat and then take his place in the House. He should put up or shut up.
In relation to the actual mining and export of uranium, let us look at the whole concept of mining and its contribution to this nation. While we look at that, let us not be deceived by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) who has a new tune. I understand that the Labor Party is desperate for arguments. It has some sort of an illusion that there will be an opportunity to get back into office. As we know, that is a farcical illusion. Do honourable members opposite think that people in rural areas are absolute idiots? Time and again I have sat here and heard the people in my area described as galahs and cows. I have been asked: ‘Do sheep vote for you? Does grass vote for you? Do trees vote for you? ‘ We do not forget that-not by a long shot. If the honourable member for Blaxland comes into the House and suggests that country people will abandon their loyalties and their common sense, which is even more important, and be deceived by the suggestion that the mining industry now occupies the minds of members of our party more than the rural people he is making a mistake and honourable members opposite will be as soundly defeated as they have been in the past.
Nevertheless we must face up to the reality of what the mining industry represents to this nation. It provides over 40 per cent of export income and that figure could probably grow to half by the 1980s. We are a major world supplier. We make our mark in the world at the present moment because of our mineral resources. That influences our trade and our international political relationships. It affects the strength of the currency. It contributes to national development. That is the subject on which I would like to dwell for a little while. How much hypocrisy is there in the world? I suppose that any honourable member on either side of the House- let us forget politics for a momentcould not be content if one person deserving of employment were out of work. It must worry all of us in the House that there is a growing number of unemployed. It is completely and fundamentally hypocritical for people on the Opposition side to say that the Government is contributing to unemployment and that its economic policies are not working; that half a million will be unemployed by the middle of next year. Honourable members opposite hope that for political reasons. They hope that that will be the case.
Honourable members know full well that supplier after supplier throughout the world, even among the countries for which they have a great affinity- the communist countries- can provide uranium ore to the countries which are crying out for it and they will provide it if we do not supply the goods. So let us get rid of this humbug and hypocrisy. It has been suggested that we would be creating all sorts of difficulties and that half the human race could be wiped out. The Government is asked what it is going to do and how it will dispose of this and that, and so on. Let us set that hypocritical attitude to one side. We know full well that if we do not supply the goods someone else will. One could well be misled if one considered this to be an issue which is at all in the balance in this nation. That opinion is a great illusion. I guarantee that if people in this country were only half informed about the realities of the advantages of exporting uranium, an overwhelming number of people would support the decision which this Government has made. The decision was made after we had made the most minute examination of the safeguards associated with the mining and treatment of uranium ore.
Other speakers will follow me. I am sure they love a challenge. Therefore I challenge them to answer this statement in the document ‘Nuclear Safeguards’ which sets out the policy of safeguards which this Government has adopted. ‘This is a policy of great stringency’- this is the point- ‘more rigorous than that adopted to date by any nuclear supplier country but following a very similar approach to that of the United States and Canada’. If that is an exaggerated statement, if the policy on safeguards is not a strict one, let the speakers who will follow prove it. I refer now to some of the advantages. First and foremost, there is immense wealth for this nation. With that wealth there will be employment for thousands of people, not for the few people associated with the digging and the exporting of the uranium ore- not for a moment. There are all the by-products and all the subsidiary industries associated with the operation.
I speak with a little authority, because I live in the area in which the only mine in Australia is producing and exporting yellowcake. We know that the Labor Party has for years used the pensioners and the Aboriginals purely for political purposes. The pensioners and the Aboriginals know this. Those who care to take an interest in these matters know this. Again I speak with a little authority, because I have lived among Aboriginal people for most of my life. There is a great advantage to them, not only in dollars and cents. The Labor Party likes to build up this concept that there are a lot of nomad Aboriginals standing around, third, fourth or fifth rate citizens, utterly neglected who would get a few dollars, to get slightly better clothes, go to the pubs and grog up. That is not the situation at all, because the income to the Aboriginal people in the adjacent areas would be quite immense. I hope and trust that the Government will assist the Aboriginal people to gain real and fundamental advantage from the sudden flow of wealth that will be available to them.
There would be the advent of community areas, not just those associated with the mining of uranium- not for a moment. Out in my part of the world, when one gets into the backblocks, it is remarkable how one thing leads to another in relation to this type of development. It is badly needed. I do not want to get off the subject, but at the moment we see the prospect of the third largest copper producer in this nation closing at least temporarily.
-Yes, Gunpowder. It could be faced with a situation in which at least the best we could hope for some time would be a sort of caretaker situation. I have been discussing with the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) the possibility of some assistance in this matter. The whole subject is being closely examined. There is absolutely no danger associated with this. The safeguards will be applied. They will be applied effectively and completely, in the same way as other nations are applying safeguards. I think it is interesting to note that this aspect is not being questioned. Members of the Opposition who talk about a moratorium and waiting for another year or another 10 years are not concerned about those who are already mining and exporting uranium to countries which have no particular affinity with ourselves. I say very decisively- I feel I speak for about 99 per cent of the people of Australia -
– You must be nuts.
– In my area, in the areas where this mining operation occurs, I mean. I have no hesitation in saying that 99 per cent of the people there would thoroughly support the immediate mining and export of uranium.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). I listened very intently to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) and the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) who made speeches that related to analogies that one would have to be half mad even to accept as having a relationship to the real and dire problems involved in this matter.
– Ha, ha.
-The honourable members who laugh their heads off, including the honourable member for Higgins, might do well to reflect on part of a resolution passed by a group of church organisations. Referring to ‘we’ as individuals, it stated:
We are charged to be caretakers of Creation not only for ourselves, but for future generations.
I put this part of the resolution to members of the House:
Even if tonight were the world’s last night . . .
It may be - the decisions we take should be such that future generations would have no cause to curse us.
That ought to weigh heavily on the shoulders of members of this House. The way in which this Government has rushed in to make a decision, with indecent haste, will stand very much to its detriment in future. I sincerely hope and trust that the course of future events does not bring about terrible and horrific consequences that result from the decisions that the Government has taken. I have heard a great deal about the debates that have ensued on this issue. Let me put it to the House that the debates that have ensued have been in this ivory tower, here in the abstract, pouring words of wisdom over the great unwashed, telling them what they will be committed to in future. The reality of this matter has never reached the stage at which an informed electorate- informed people- could judge for themselves what they wanted to do about the development of this industry in future. We are about to enter a plutonium society.
– The electorate will judge you.
– If the electors have the honourable member for Higgins to advise them, Christ help them. They will finish up with a darn in their tie, two heads or something or the other. He is about as ill-informed as those whom we ask to accept our decisions- the decisions of parliamentarians, legislators who deem to know all about the plutonium society. I believe that members of this House do not know. If we reflect on the first reactor that produced the bombs that fell on Hiroshima or Nagasaki- those who have seen the result and the terrifying concept of what can develop out of this industry would know- I wonder whether honourable members opposite might have a second thought about the decisions taken, with great haste, in the immediate past and about to be taken this evening when the vote is taken. I worked in the industry. I know something about the isotopes that was not known at the time they were used in industry. There was no protection from radiation for the individuals involved.
– Is that what happened to you? Mr Connolly- Ha, ha.
-I will answer that question. The hilarity of the honourable member for Bradfield, who is a complete and utter idiot -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I will withdraw the remark.
-Members may not reflect personally on another member. I remind the House in general of that.
-I will let others be the judge.
-I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I feel that you should rule on this. It is a tradition- it is also in the Standing Orders- that members may not interject at any time, least of all when they are not sitting in their proper place. The honourable member for Bradfield is not sitting in his proper place.
– I accept the point made by the honourable member for Banks. I did not see from where the interjection came. I did not insist that the honourable member for Melbourne withdraw.
-The honourable member for Bradfield did not interject; he just laughed.
-That is all you can do.
– I think the honourable member for Melbourne would be well advised to get on with his speech.
-Two or three points ought to be made. Can we say with certainty what results will flow from the mining of uranium? There is no need to disbelieve the reasons for apprehension which have been projected in articles time after time, on which honourable members can reflect and to which they can be referred. Honourable members opposite cannot hope to salve their consciences when they read that 8,000 pounds of uranium was lost in the United States. Surely that relates to the questions of protection and safeguards.
One could pose the question: Why would we be so anxious to ensure that the waste did not return to Australia if we were convinced that there was no problem? The Government is saying: ‘Buy it and take it away- all care, no responsibility. We do not care if it kills people over there, but do not bring it to Australia’. The Government is absolving itself of its obligation to protect individual human beings, wherever they might be. That is something that the Government is not prepared to face up to, but it is something that it must face up to in all conscience.
Honourable members opposite should ask themselves about the medical consequences of these issues. On the evidence available they can never be satisfied that there is adequate protection against the waste of the plutonium industry. Why are honourable members silent right now? The Fox reports refer to the Atomic Energy Act and state that it cannot be used. They advise against its use. Yet that is the Act under which the Government says it will operate in respect of uranium mining. It is going to use this Act to bludgeon people into submission in respect of mining uranium. We see the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) stating unequivocally that that is what the Government is going to use. The giggler, the honourable member for Bradfield, is at it again. All the poppycock that appears in the statement made to the House by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) clearly indicates that point. That is beyond question. Appeals will be made to the High Court concerning the use of that particular Act for this purpose.
Have not honourable members opposite enough guts to present appropriate legislation in this House concerning the appropriate penalties which should be provided, so that that measure can be debated in the various arenas? The Government is running away from the issue. Once again, it is proceeding with indecent haste. We have seen the individuals sitting opposite trying to legislate to provide the wherewithal for the people who run them, that is, the mining interests in this community. The Government is providing these interests with an out because it can see what would result from a further debate on the realities of the introduction of this particular measure.
Another point relates to the so-called bonanza that is going to provide the ‘pie in the sky when you die’ in the form of jobs for individuals. The fall in demand for nuclear energy in Europe, Japan and the United States is well known. The reality is that throughout the industrialised countries nuclear power programs are being cut back. This is happening for two reasons, the first being that a growing number of citizens are opposed to nuclear power in those countries. I tabled a petition yesterday from 2 1 ,000 signatories who were in opposition to the decisions that have been taken by the Government. In Spain last month 200,000 people turned up at an anti-nuclear rally. In West Germany nearly two million people belonged to anti-nuclear groups. The opposition in Germany has become so important that the Social Democratic Government will soon announce a moratorium on nuclear power station construction.
Secondly, there is the uneconomic nature of nuclear power. For example, Japan’s reactors operated at only 30 per cent efficiency during 1975. After an improvement last year, efficiency was down 31 per cent in the first three months of this year. The reduction in nuclear power programs can be seen in figures illustrating nuclear capacity in the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1985.
The claim concerning the jobs that will be provided as a result of the mining of uranium are fallacious. The Government is building up this fallacy as another election gimmick leading up to a general election in May next year. The Government is claiming that this will be the saving grace of the economy. The Government cannot do anything more than that about the economy. It has to have a gimmick. It has to have something because there is nothing in the barrel. It has this great individual, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), who stands up here every day and does a song and dance act, but he can never answer a question on the economy.
We have heard ridiculous claims by the uranium lobbyists. For instance, on 26 August
last the Murdoch Press carried the claim that 500,000 jobs would be created by the uranium mining bonanza. An expansion of the uranium mining industry of that scale would bring profound problems to the manufacturing industries of Melbourne and Sydney. Uranium mining on that scale would produce vast export revenues which compensating imports or revaluation of the dollar would have to insure. If the claims which are being made are true, it would create a great economic problem, but they are completely untrue. They cannot be justified, nor can they be substantiated.
I draw honourable members’ attention to the fact that something like 16.9 per cent of the kids aged between 15 and 19 years who were born overseas are currently unemployed. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have the tables outlining these statistics incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
(Source: ABS Labour Force May 1977: 9)
-An examination of those tables indicates that by 1981 somewhere in the vicinity of one million jobs will have disappeared. If we project forward to 1981 the current unemployment figures, which would be in real terms nearly half a million people, we can see from this what the situation will be, with the ongoing problem of the unavailability of jobs for kids who will be coming out of schools, if we are not going to do -better than what the uranium industry can do in providing jobs. We will have a permanent pool of unemployed which the Government will have to do something about.
All the issues of concern are outlined in the proposed amendment to the motion which is before the House. Insufficient safeguards are contained in the measures which have been decided upon by the Government. As I have pointed out already, the Deputy Prime Minister has misled the people in terms of how these measures will be introduced. A whole range of jobs will disappear in the future. Time after time scientists, who have a far greater capacity to understand this matter, have outlined the problems that can be envisaged for the immediate future.
The honourable member for Bradfield, for God’s sake, talked about an individual walking in front of the motor car when it first found its way on to the Australian market to ensure that people understood that it presented some dangers. He compared a vehicle that runs off the road- and that is that- with the development of nuclear energy whereby isotopes have been developed over a period of time, some of them previously unknown isotopes that could have terrible and horrific consequences without proper technological advances to satisfy the safety requirements of this country. What a comparison!
If we are going to sell lethal weapons, surely we have to place ourselves in a position of responsibility. This debate has taken place with indecent haste. It is not a question of whether we are going to sell our mineral resources for the benefit of honourable members opposite to try to retain them in government, because they are not going to remain in that position. The consequences to human beings, both here and overseas, will be horrific. If the Government makes this decision to mine uranium it will regret it.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-How delighful it is to follow the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) in the debate. I totally and unequivocally support the Government’s decision to allow private enterprise to mine and export uranium. We are approaching the end of what has been really a long and in some respects, if I take into consideration the contribution of the last speaker, a tedious and exhaustive debate in this House. I must say that the debate has had no real influence on my state of mind. I made up my mind on this matter more than 20 years ago. That was about the time of the great TellerOppenheimer debate in the United States. Those two great nuclear physicists who held opposing points of view debated publicly much the same matter as we are now discussing. Needless to say, Teller convinced me then, and he convinces me now, of the absolute necessity to develop nuclear power as a help to mankind in its ceaseless struggle against nature.
Oppenheimer took a view similar to that of the Opposition. In other words, do nothing; it is unsafe; we do not know anything about it, and so on. Who was right? My opinion is that Teller was right. Teller was right; of course he was. The last 20 years of safety in the nuclear industry show the enormous benefits that nuclear power has been able to bring, and they show also why it is that nuclear power needs our uranium.
I want to be quite candid on this particular matter. Much has been said by many speakers over the last couple of days in this debate. I thought initially that the Government of which I am a supporter was mistaken in going on with the Fox Commission. However, we made the decision when we came into office to go on with it. As far as I was concerned there was no real need for it. Nuclear energy was well enough proven everywhere else and it seemed to me that we were wasting a lot of time in going on with the inquiry. However, now Fox has finished his deliberations and he has produced very good arguments for our going ahead. It seems to me that those arguments are not really original when we consider what has been available for the last 20 years. Anyway, I am glad that Fox has reinforced the basic principle that uranium should be mined and should be sold and exported. I am less happy with the enormous restrictions on mining and export. The companies concerned seem happy enough with that; they are happy enough just to get the go ahead.
I think I should say a few words on some of the recent contributions of other honourable members in this debate. I shall comment on the ones that I have heard, anyway. I refer in the first instance particularly to the contribution of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). He believes that there is a comparison to be made between this debate on uranium and the debate on the Vietnam War. It is quite obvious where he sees the comparison. He believes that the same mob rule and violence which caused so much upset some time ago is going to force the Government to change its mind. I hope that the honourable member for Burke, every other honourable member in this House and everybody in the country heard what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said at question time today. I asked him a question about this particular matter. He was quite unequivocal in his reply: Violence is not going to worry this Government one iota. We are going on with the job. We have got to do it. We have made the decision and we are going to proceed with it. The mobs that are stirred up by people like the honourable member for Burke will not change the mind of the Government.
Then we had the contribution of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). He seems sincerely to hold the belief that the earth is flat. Almost every exaggerated, panic stricken supposition of the Friends of the Earth and the Australian Conservation Foundation about radon gas and other things was adverted to by the honourable member. He comes from a mining community. He dug up these things and I think the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) who followed him was able nicely to put away again most of them.
The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), who I thought I would be following in the debate immediately after the dinner break, advocated a moratorium also. He did so on the sort of ideas expressed by the honourable member for Burke. He wants a moratorium for one reason, and that is so that the street mobs can get into the act and try to influence government policy. The same comment can be applied, I suppose, to the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne. He said one or two other things to which I will come in a minute. I think it is important to dispose of those charges and misconceptions uttered by honourable members from the Opposition who spoke previously. It seems to me that they are well disposed of if I read from the report of the fastidious Fox. I think he is able to show us how to jump over the opposition. On mining and milling he says in his report:
The hazards of mining and milling uranium, if those activities are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to develop Australian uranium mines.
That is quite fundamental. On conversion, enrichment and fabrication, he said much the same thing:
Hazards to members of the public and the general environment arise at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle.
They do in most other fuel cycles also. He went on to say:
However, few problems seem likely to arise from conversion, enrichment or fuel fabrication plants.
On reactor safety, he said:
The conclusion with regard to thermal reactors is that there is a very small but finite probability of a serious accident with release of highly dangerous radioactive material. 1 repeat the words ‘small but finite probability’. It is infinitesimal.
– Tell us about waste disposal.
– I am always delighted to respond to the honourable member for Melbourne. On radioactive waste disposal he said:
While we do not think that the waste situation is at present such as to justify Australia wholly refusing to export uranium, it is plain that the situation demands careful watching, and, depending on developments, regular and frequent assessment.
On terrorism, he said:
We do not believe that this risk alone constitutes a sufficient reason for Australia declining to supply uranium. It does however provide a further reason why the export of our uranium including what is proposed to be done with it, and where, are matters which the Government should keep under constant scrutiny and control.
On nuclear weapons proliferation, he said much the same thing: … a total renunciation of intention to supply designed to bring an end to all nuclear power industries or all further development of them would in our view be likely to fail totally in its purpose, if the purpose were simply to draw international attention to the dangers of and associated with the industry, that purpose might be achieved, but it is most unlikely that any worthwhile action would result.
We are of the view that total renunciation of intention to supply is undesirable.
Those words were written by a man who was appointed originally by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) to produce a report. What I have read are extracts from his report which I think give the answers, if not the direct lie, to everything that has been asserted right through the long course of this debate. So it is clear to me that the man who was appointed by the present Opposition to do a job has done that job satisfactorily. Whether I approved of that appointment originally does not matter. He has done that job and his conclusions support the Government’s decision.
How does the sort of nonsense that our friends of the Opposition go on with help this debate? If honourable members opposite hold their convictions sincerely, nothing will ever be possible in this country. Nothing will be tried. There will be no progress at all. We will ignore developments that occur in the world and Australia will become a turgid backwater. I am sure that that proposition worries some sensible people opposite. They can see that we cannot fly in the face of progress, that what we propose is necessary. I could be wrong about this, but I feel that many honourable members opposite do not really support the policy adopted by their party on this particular matter. The electorate feels the same way. The electorate is worried also about the way in which the Labor Party is conducting its affairs. That is why it is in opposition.
The majority of Australian people have consistently supported the mining and export of uranium. They will support the Government in its decision. They know that the Government has bent over backwards to provide the public with maximum information and to allow maximum debate. I would like Opposition members to listen very carefully to this. All sections of the media have been running uranium stories for months and months. There have been special television programs and talkback shows on the topic. News people to whom I have spoken have said that they are heartily sick of the word ‘uranium’. Honourable members opposite keep saying that there has not been enough debate. There have been debates in this House. As I said earlier, the Government went on with the Fox inquiry when it need not have done so. It should not be forgotten that most of the vocal opposition from outside this House has come from radical groups such as the Friends of the Earth and the Australian Conservation Foundation. Who has been funding those organisations? Our own Federal Government has been funding these groups. So how can the Opposition say that we are unfair? The most vocal opposition to uranium mining has come from the radical groups funded by this Government. This Government has bent over backwards to see that there has been a fair, reasonable and continuous debate. How much further are we expected to go? Could anything be fairer than all this public discussion? A decision has been made. It was made, I believe, in the breast of the previous
Government. Because its members are now out of office they have changed their minds. There is no sensible man amongst them who is against uranium mining. They agree with it. They have much the same views as I have. Those views are quite simply that energy is the keystone of modern civilisation, not only for industrial use and the provision of human comforts but also for the very sustenance of life on this planet.
People do not seem to realise, particularly people on the other side of the House, that modern agriculture is one of the big energy consumers today. The productivity of our arable land is many times what it used to be. We pour more and more energy into the ground by the use of fertilisers, tractors and other farm equipment. A hundred years ago the major sources of energy were coal and wood with some hydro power. There must have been thinking people then who wondered whether the harnessing of renewable resources such as the sun, the wind and the tides would sustain the world after the non-renewable resources were exhausted. But then came the oil discoveries which must have seemed at that time inexhaustible. The world entered a new phase of euphoria. Today the oil and gas reserves seem only too finite. What there is of them is less available than we have become accustomed to.
In 1973 there was the oil shock with the world frantically looking to the development of alternative sources of energy to alleviate its dependence on oil and gas. The world must replace oil requirements with nuclear energy and other developments of new alternative fuels. There will be a new energy crisis. With the passing of the recession and a return to economic growth, with people becoming dissatisfied with continuing to accept a lowering of their standards of living and with a few harsh winters we will once again be short of the precious and essential energy commodity. Talking of harsh winters reminds me of what is perhaps the greatest summation of what should happen to the extreme ecologists of this world. I read about it in a newspaper. I do not recollect which one. A reporter said that he had seen on the desk of that great mining industrialist, Lang Hancock, a wellprinted slogan. It said: ‘Ecologists- let the bastards freeze in the dark’. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am quoting the slogan. I am not using improper and unparliamentary language. It seemed to me that this slogan summed up a lot of the difficulties we have with extremists.
Current world energy production is 128 million barrels of oil a day. The 1985 estimate is 200 million barrels a day. This is a staggering amount of new energy. Once again, we will have the problem of it diminishing. If the diminishing of oil resources leads to an energy shortage, obviously in the chain of events nothing will solve our problem, except nuclear energy. Those optimists who talk about solar energy, tidal power and harnessing waves are kidding themselves. It would take a field of approximately 20 square kilometres to produce any sort of energy from the sun at this stage. That is with a massive and sophisticated array of collectors. In all common sense we have no alternative except to turn to nuclear energy.
– What a load of tripe!
– There are enormous power stations in every country. Even some of the countries favoured by the honourable member for Melbourne have nuclear energy. I do not know why he is trying to deny us the benefits of it. If the world is to depend on nuclear power stationsthere are enormous increases in these- we are in the market to supply them with the fuel. To do anything else is to be unreasonable and to shut our eyes to what is going on in the world.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I must confess that I am amazed that so few speakers in this debate have attempted to evaluate Australia’s energy needs both in the short term and the long term. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out Australia’s increasing dependence on Middle East oil.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
AUSTRALIA’S INCREASING DEPENDENCE ON MIDDLE EAST OIL
Domestic crude oil production
Average barrels /day 1976-77-421,000 1 980-8 1 -396,000 (estimated ) 1 984-85-30 1 ,000 (estimated )
Proportion of Australia’s likely petroleum products demand met by domestic crude oil 1974- 75-65 percent 1980-81-48 percent 1984-85-33 percent
Likely cost of imported crude oil 1975- 76-$805m 1980-81-$ 1,500m 1984-85-$2,500m
Availability of various petroleum products from indigenous crude oil ( 1 974-75 ) motor spirit- 93 percent distillate- almost 100 percent fuel oil- 20 per cent lubricants- 0 bitumen- 0
Dependence of transport on petroleum products Transport is the largest user of petroleum.
Per cent of total petroleum fuels used
1984-85-63 (estimated) (in UK 1976 19.6 per cent petroleum for motor vehicles, 6.4 per cent diesel fuel ).
Dependence of States on petroleum for energy requirements
Average Stock holdings of key petroleum products during the 2V4 year period following 1973 Arab oil embargo
Effects of a long term Oil Embargo
If supplies were interrupted for more than 3 months estimated 500,000 unemployed- most affected areas- industry which depends on furnace oil, e.g. cement production, processing of non-ferrous metals, also transport, motor industry- shortages of lubricants would have effects across industry and commerce.
Dependence on Middle East for fuel oil 70 per cent at present; 88 per cent by 1980-81; special difficulties for shippingfuel oil constitutes about 85 per cent of total shipping fuel usage. Shipping provides 40 per cent of domestic nonurban freight.
Recent studies by the OECD, the CIA and other organisations suggest that by 1985, if present consumption trends continue, world demand could reach 45 million barrels a day against a total Opec output of 35 million barrels a day, setting off a scramble for oil and a sharp rise in prices.
-The figures ought to be studied by all honourable members and the public. One cannot evaluate the real factors in this issue unless one comes to the realisation of how critical Australia’s liquid hydrocarbon situation is. Equally, any reasoned evaluation must come to grips with the world energy needs. Regrettably, the energy vision of State politicians is in many cases restricted to borders fixed by imperial legislators 150 years ago. The vision of many Federal politicians fades out at low water mark.
Australia has more than 500,000 tonnes of uranium reserves. This Government intends to supply half of these reserves, 250,000 tonnes, to world countries for power generation by the end of this century. The world has already produced more than 250,000 tonnes of uranium. Most of this has been converted into weapon material in multi-million dollar plants. The dangers hanging over us from this are clearly evident. To produce and export the equivalent quantity without proper environmental safeguards, designed to minimise the further potential risk from proliferation, is not acceptable to the Australian people. Australia does not need uranium for electricity for the next 25 years. In providing 250,000 tonnes of uranium to the world countries it is recognised that Australia will be providing electricity, an essential requirement for living.
By the year 2000 it is estimated that electricity will comprise about 50 per cent of the total world energy supply. The quantities required are estimated in millions of gigawatts. To many countries of the world there is no alternative choice but uranium as a fuel for generating electricity essential to their needs. We ought to remember that 1 oz of enriched uranium releases about the same energy burning as 100 tonnes of coal or 168,000 gallons of crude oil. It is often said that coal will meet the shortfall in the world’s dwindling liquid hydrocarbons. In the last speech I made to this House I referred to chapter 9 of the Fox report and said:
Chapter nine investigates the benefits and costs of exporting and not exporting Australian uranium. It goes so far as to advocate: . . . exports of steaming coal by Australia could minimise any fuel shortage which would otherwise arise if other countries decide to reduce their reliance on nuclear power below present expectations.
The concept of Australia becoming the quarry of the world is thus promoted by the report.
Australia needs to consider the ramifications of the policy of steaming coal exports replacing uranium exports. By the year 1985 Australia will easily be able to export 1 5,000 tonnes of uranium oxide a year. The equivalent in black steaming coal amounts to 200 million tonnes. We ought to remember that in 1 976 exports of black steaming coal amounted to 3.5 million tonnes.
Already Australia is suffering from the environmental effects of a fossil fuel powered economy. Environmentalists ought to cogitate upon that problem. The nature of coal places limits not only on how much can be recovered but also on how much can be burnt. The energy policy which appears to be emerging in the United States is much more a strategy of hard saving in oil and gas and general energy conservation than one of burning coal as a substitute. The United States has recoverable reserves of about 256 billion tonnes. Coal is to have its role gaining some 400 million tons a year, or 40 per cent, above the current extraction rate of 665 million tons. By 1990
under Carter’s scenario a total of 1,000 million tons of coal a year will be extracted but under rigid environmental strictures. The reasons for this are plain. Uncontrolled coal mining has wrought environmental havoc in the United States. Never again is government likely to permit the rape, ruin and run strategy of strip or surface mining for coal. Strip mining has grown so much since the 1950s that today half the 665 million tons of coal produced in a year is mined by moving the earth from the top of the seam rather than by burrowing the coal from within the earth.
In the Appalachian Mountains, from Pennsylvania to Alabama, strip miners have left more than 20,000 linear miles of scars. Carter’s energy policy calls for a large amount of strip mining on a huge scale. There has already been an outcry in that country following a spate of mine disasters. It is a startling fact that the United States is still a long way from stamping out black lung disease caused by inhalation of coal dust. Death and sickness benefits have been as high as billions of dollars a year for this disease. Having decreed that a billion tons of coal a year will be burnt by 1985 or 1990, Carter’s difficulty unquestionably is how it can be done. The answer is not a simple one. A billion tons of coal a year can be burnt if some of it is uranium. Carter himself used coal as a surrogate for uranium in his energy statement. He said:
We must be sure that oil and natural gas are not wasted by industries and utilities that could use coal instead. Our strategy will be conversion from scarce fuels to coal where possible. Although coal now provides only 18 per cent of our energy needs it makes up 90 per cent of our energy reserves.
As far as the electric utilities are concerned, Carter’s policy could just as logically be called a nuclear policy. It could be summed up quite succinctly. For these two fuels- coal and uranium- in a head to head competition for the electric utility market governmental power is critical. Carter has gone a far way towards providing an answer to the dilemma in energy planning raised in the following terms by the Federal Energy Administration:
Costs of nuclear and coal electric power generation are close enough and uncertain enough that they might be considered substantially the same. It appears that there is a nuclear coal trade off where the economics may make little difference where the decision between the two and the proper mix of the two may depend therefore on an assessment of the environmental and social costs and risks associated with them.
Mr Murphy, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Mines, had this to say:
Estimates of the US coal production must increase 7.S a year to meet Carter’s 1983 goals. Already in areas where coal reserves are held local people are raising a hue and cry.
A principal worry among mining companies is that the requirement to treat vast amounts of ash and noxious gases can add up to 25 per cent to capital costs of new power plants. The costs involved are seen as probably the main barrier to Carter’s plan. The President of the National Coal Association said:
I have warned Carter that he is sailing on a collision course if he wants more production, more environmental purity and more safety regulations. It just won ‘t work.
When we come to make decisions on uranium we have to consider what are the alternatives. We can be very self-righteous in Australia but other countries are not in our fortunate position. I am reminded of the situation facing Nigeria. We want a reasonable standard of living and we expect to maintain it. Nigeria has but one export. Ninety-four percent of its income comes from the export of its crude oil. So are we to make a moral judgment and say to Nigeria when all its liquid hydrocarbons have been depleted: ‘Bad luck. You can go back to what is fashionably called a camel dung economy’. We ought to reflect upon that point. As I understand it Nigeria is already on the way to developing a nuclear capacity because at this time it has no alternative.
Some 500 nuclear electricity power stations are now operating. It is estimated that by the year 2000 there could be 2,000 such power stations. Australia would be providing one-tenth of them with their uranium supplies. Whether one welcomes or deplores the fact, electricity generation will become more and more dependent on uranium over the next 50 years, or at least until a further abundant source of energy without radioactive or otherwise dangerous environmental waste is available. Australia, in choosing to supply uranium to the extent of about one-tenth of world requirements for electricity, has to accept terrific responsibilities in making sure that it progresses human existence and does not destroy human existence. The whole question of supply arrangements has not been satisfactorily stated by the Government. Information has not been detailed on the supposedly proven methods of handling waste. Above all, the non-proliferation proposals are vague and far from convincing on this most vital matter of safeguarding human existence.
Australia has to put its house in order with much more definitive decisions. Australia has to treat uranium as the most important global commodity that man has been challenged to handle and use. I have been pleading with the Government ever since it initiated this debate and I want to put forward a number of cogent points. Uranium has to become a commodity to be handled only by the Government, supplied only by the Government and priced only by the Government. These three criteria are essential. Mining companies can work within government controls and produce yellowcake. Thereafter it becomes a government-owned commodity to be used for electricity generation only by world governments so disposed to accept the uranium on terms that will meet all government safeguards.
The Fox report made particular reference to the need for the findings and questions involved to be resolved by this Parliament. This prime recommendation cannot be ignored. In my view it has been completely ignored. The Government has not given the public or parliamentary representatives the information for this further study on the issues involved. White Papers are badly needed to be tabled in this House so that we can make a balanced evaluation. The time is long overdue for the public to be fully informed by the authorities advising the Government and not by ministerial statements- I emphasise thatand vague documentation of procedures which are premature until the full policy issues have been explained in a much more detailed, methodical and rational way.
– Although I do not agree with everything that the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) has said, I think that the House will agree that his speech tonight stands out as a shining exception to the high-powered hysteria which has characterised the speeches on this matter of honourable members from the other side. We have heard from them- I make that exception- an almost unadulterated farrago of absurdities. What they had been saying is factually untrue and exaggerated out of all reason. I think it should be a subject for ridicule were it not so serious. I would like to incorporate in Hansard- I do not have time to read it out now; I do have the permission of the Opposition to incorporate it- a sardonic little comment which appeared last month in Atom News, an English publication. I ask leave of the House to incorporate it in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– No. Who agreed to it?
– It has been agreed.
– By whom?
-The honourable member for Melbourne. Leave was granted.
– There is nobody at the table with authority to grant leave.
– You have no authority to refuse.
– No, not granted.
– Leave was granted, Mr Deputy Chairman.
– Well why don’t you speak up.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)The Opposition side of the House has concurred in the honourable member’s request. Leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
A new fire-righting agent has been discovered. It will be known as WATER- a wonderful resource which augments rather than replaces existing agents such as dry powder and BCF (Bromine, Chlorine and Fluorine) which has been in use from time immemorial. It is particularly suitable for dealing with fires in buildings, timber yards and warehouses. Though required in large quantities, it is fairly cheap to produce, and it is intended that quantities of about 1 million gallons should be stored in urban areas and near other installations of high risk ready for immediate use. BCF and dry powder are usually stored under pressure but WATER will be stored in open ponds or reservoirs and conveyed to the scene of the fire by noses and portable pumps.
Proposals to use WATER are already encountering strong opposition from safety and environmental groups. Professor Connie Barrinner has pointed out that, if anyone immersed their head in a bucket of WATER it would prove fatal in as little as three minutes.
Each proposed reservoir will contain enough water to fill 500,000 2 -gallon buckets. Each bucketfull could be used 100 times so there is enough WATER in one reservoir to kill the entire population of Britain. Risks of this size, said Professor Barriner should not be allowed, whatever the gain.
If WATER were to get out of control, the results of the accidents at Flamborough and Humberside would pale into insignificance by comparison. What use was a fire fighting agent that could kill men as well as fire?
A local authority spokesman said that he would strongly oppose planning permission for construction of a WATER reservoir in his area unless the most stringent precautions were followed. Open ponds were certainly not acceptable. What would prevent people falling in them? What would prevent the contents from leaking out? At the very least the WATER would need to be contained in a steel pressure vessel surrounded by a leak-proof concrete wall.
A spokesman from the fire brigade said he did not see the need for the new agent. Dry powder and BCF could cope with most fires. The new agent would bring with it risks, particularly to firemen, greater than any possible gain. Did we know what would happen to this new medium when it was exposed to intense heat? It had been reported that WATER was a constituent of beer. Did this mean that firemen would be intoxicated by the fumes?
The Friends of the World said that they had obtained a sample of water and found it caused clothes to shrink. If it did this to cotton, what would it do to man? In the House of Commons the Home Secretary was asked if he would prohibit the manufacture and storage of this lethal new material. The Home Secretary replied that, as it was clearly a major hazard, local authorities would have to take advice from the
Health and Safety Executive before giving planning permission. A full investigation was needed and the Major Hazards Group would be asked to report.
– I thank the House. We have heard from members of the Opposition about nuclear waste. The truth is that nuclear waste can be controlled. Recently when I was in Europe I verified that provisions had been made there. There is no doubt among scientists that the vitrification process, among other processes, will work. Even if that process were not 100 per cent successful it would not be a matter of very grave consequence.
We have heard about the fear of radiation. But every one of us here is subjected throughout our lives to radiation far more intense than that which is spoken of so much by the Opposition. Cosmic radiation constantly streams down from the sun. If members of the Opposition want to talk about the added burden of radiation they should consider that the added burden of living in Canberra, 2,000 feet above sea level, is 100 times as great as the added burden projected from the worst kind of nuclear proliferation. People lose all sense of proportion. One would get more radiation sitting in front of a coloured television set. This is also the case if one wears a wristlet watch. If one is worried about the genetic effects of radiation one should not put one’s hand and watch into one’s pocket. The danger has been blown up deliberately out of all sense of proportion.
We have heard about the operating dangers. The truth is that nuclear energy is the safest and cleanest method of producing electric power yet devised by man. We are told that sometimes a fatal accident can happen. However, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), who should know, told us nothing about the fatal accidents which must occur all the time in coal mines and in the transport and combustion of coal. The dangers are 100 times more lethal in a coal fired station than they could be in the worst nuclear station. I do not know whether all sense of proportion has been lost or whether the facts have been deliberately distorted- let the Opposition answer that question if it will. No human activity is completely safe. One cannot go on the roads without endangering one’s life. The truth is that nuclear energy is the safest and cleanest form of power yet devised and those who are saying to the contrary are either ignorant or badly motivated.
It is true that in the nuclear process there is a danger of proliferation. What is not said is that the program for nuclear power adds nothing at all to that danger, which is a dreadful danger and already exists. But it is irrelevant to what we are now discussing.
There will be a world shortage of energy because it is on energy that the raising of living standards throughout the world depends. It is true that we are all right in Australia. We have plenty of sources of energy. Are we sufficiently racist to deny to the rest of the world the opportunity to raise its living standards, because it will be on the production of energy that that mainly will depend? Is India always to be poor? Are the people of the East always to starve? We are all right here in Australia; we have plenty. But are we to deny those countries the power to go ahead and the energy which alone can allow them to raise their living standards?
I hope- we all hope- that other sources of electrical energy will appear. Let us study them. Let us try to develop these sources by every means in our power, whether the source be solar energy, geothermal energy or whatever it may be.
The brute truth of the matter is this: There is no other conceivable form of generating electrical energy which is at the present moment practicable. Let us try in every way to get other sources. Let us try in every way to improve our nuclear devices, to go into fusion as well as into fission. All right, let us do all these things. But at the present moment there is nothing else on which we can rely.
I would like to speak very briefly about the oil position because this is a crucial matter particularly since many of those countries which depend on oil are looking for nuclear power as the only possible substitute. It is not very long ago since the Arab nations- I refer particularly to the Iraqis- were going out on a campaign to prevent nuclear and other alternative sources of energy being developed so as they could put up their oil prices. They have now changed their minds in that regard. The strategy of the Arab oil countries is now quite different and quite understandable. It is the strategy I think first devised by the Shah of Persia and spoken of some two or three years ago. Their idea now is to limit their oil production so that they can spin out their reserves and so they will last them longer. Oil, as the Shah says, is the noble fuel. We will find soon, in the next year or two, not that the Arab countries cannot produce the oil but that they will not want to produce it in unlimited quantities- and who shall blame them. It is their oil and they are being conservationists in a reasonable way. Because of this the oil shortage may bite rather sooner than people expect. Of course, oil is a finite resource which will not last indefinitely, whatever one does. Sooner or later there will be an absolute oil crisis. But there may be a mini crisis before that time.
In the short time that remains to me I want to talk about two mysteries that arise in this nuclear debate. The first one is: Why has there been this world wide orchestration of opposition to nuclear power? It is not happening only in Australia. It is part of a concerted propaganda move financed with a great deal of money and carried out at the highest level. The hidden persuaders are at work all over the globe. Just who are these people? That is the first mystery.
The second mystery is related to the first and it is this: Why has the Labor Party in Australia changed its tune? It is only two or three years since it advocated uranium mining and development. Why the change? There is a Ciceronian phrase ‘cui bono’ which means: ‘Who got the cop; to whose advantage was it?’ There is, I am afraid, one answer It is to the advantage of the communist world to see that our world is handicapped and hobbled. That is what the communists are doing now and what they are using their friends in the Labor Party and elsewhere to do for them. It is no coincidence that so many people who are concerned with the nuclear protest here in Australia have left wing links. Look at the left wing links, for example, of the socalled academics who are foremost in this antiuranium campaign. Look at the number of communist unionists and communist led unions who are in it. There is no doubt about this.
It is a clear contrast with the situation in Russia and other communist countries where nuclear development forges ahead all the time. The communists are conning us into hobbling ourselves while they go forward. They laugh at us. Cui bono? Answer it for yourself. The communists need a crisis, a crisis of energy in the world, and if they succeed in this campaign they will succeed in creating that crisis.
But what of the other side of the mystery? Only a few years ago the Opposition was supporting nuclear development enthusiastically so why has it changed its tune? There is one simple explanation. One knows the extent to which communist influence in the trade unions and elsewhere sways the thinking of the Opposition. We know that the Opposition is the pawn, sometimes the unthinking pawn, of the communists from time to time and perhaps that is the explanation. But is it the whole explanation? I want to refer back to what happened a couple of years ago when the Arabs had another kind of oil policy and the
Iraqis were trying to sprag nuclear development throughout the world and throughout Australia. There was a breakfast. There was a time at which the Iraqis were in cahoots with the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) who asked them for half a million dollars and may well have got it. What happened at that breakfast? Did the Leader of the Opposition, for half a million dollars, agree to sell out Australia and change the policy of his Party? It is a question which the country might well ask. It is a question which is well worth answering.
– I begin by congratulating the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) on an excellent address. Without doubt the honourable member is the best informed member of this Parliament on the question of nuclear energy. He is a long way ahead of me and I say in advance that to the extent that my views might differ from his I would say that the difference is represented by my lack of knowledge compared with his knowledge. I make that explanation of any future conflict that may exist between what I say and what the honourable member for Hawker said. I want it known in advance that the conflict is due to my ignorance of the situation rather than to his. That leaves me free to lash out now and say what I think ought to be said. Firstly, it is nonsense to suggest that nuclear energy is a permanent answer to the world ‘s energy crisis. It is not.
– It is not permanent.
– I am pleased to hear the honourable member for Holt admit it. Of course it is not. If we were to rely upon nuclear energy to produce all the energy that we are now consuming, the whole of the uranium resources of the world would produce less than 10 years supply of energy. Then we would be left without any energy at all from nuclear sources. We would be left only with the radioactive waste which would render the genes of the human race liable to distortion and mutation for the next 500,000 years. So we would have no permanent solution to the energy crisis; all we would have would be a permanent poisoning of the whole of the earth’s surface and a permanent risk to future generations yet unborn, for thousands of yearshundreds of thousands of years- to come.
We ought to be spending more time trying to discover the secrets of fusion energy. We ought not to be bothering about nuclear energy because there is no answer yet to the question of how to deal with the radioactive waste from it. If we were to spend our energy on scientific research and the technology associated with discovering the secrets of fusion energy we would be in the position of not having to worry about the radioactive waste that will come from the use of uranium. That is what we ought to be doing. I am certain that we are more likely to get the answer to fusion than we are to find some safe way of storing the radioactive waste from nuclear energy. That is what we ought to be doing.
In the meantime we ought to be doing a lot more than we are in the realm of solar energy. When I was Minister for Science I took it upon myself to direct my department to step up solar energy research. We were responsible for the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation stepping up its research in this area to the point where, believe it or not, most other countries looked upon Australia as being the most advanced country in solar energy research. I was very proud when I visited the Academy of Science in the Soviet Union and the Indian Academy of Science to hear leading scientists from around the world say that our country was leading the world in solar energy research. There was a time when people who studied solar energy believed it would be a great thing if we could convert the sun’s rays and heat water for bathing purposes. They said the big drawback was that it would be possible only to heat water during the daytime but not at night. Whatever hot water was stored during the day would be stone cold by the next morning.
Australia has already discovered at the Australian National University a means of storing solar energy. It can now be stored in ammonium. It can be concentrated and compounded to the point where not only are we able to bring water to boiling point and store the energy necessary to ensure water at boiling point right throughout the 24 hours of the day, summer and winter alike, but also we can now produce heat from solar energy by compounding the stored up energy to the point where we can melt steel. The tragedy is that this Government has decided to cancel the research project that was being carried out at the ANU. That project, which was leading the world in solar energy research, was scrapped because of this Government’s lack of interest in solar energy.
In the meantime we ought to be using our coal resources. There is at least 300 years supply of coal resources in the world. That is sufficient to maintain the present rate of energy use until such time as we are able to discover the secrets of fusion. After all, when we are looking at the sun we are looking at the fusion of hydrogen atoms. If we can discover how to fuse hydrogen atoms there will be an unlimited supply of the source material in the water and in the atmosphere and there will be no contamination at all. All we have to do is discover the means of generating sufficient heat to trigger off the fusion in the first instance. Once that is done we have a permanent answer to our energy crisis.
We hear all this nonsense about the poor Third World and about how we are trying to help the Third World. It is the Third World for which we are weeping; our hearts are bleeding for the poor black people in Africa and South America. Honourable members opposite are not worried about the Third World at all. It is nonsense. Nobody in this Parliament is capable of being hypocritical because that is contrary to the Standing Orders but the people outside the Parliament who talk about the Third World are blatant hypocrites of the first order. They do not care about the Third World. They know damned well that the Third World has not the resources to provide nuclear reactors to get nuclear energy. Those countries cannot even buy enough coffee to make a cup of coffee for themselves let alone provide nuclear reactors. So do not be such hypocrites by talking about the needs of the Third World.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! Is the honourable member calling members of the Government hypocrites?
-No. I was talking about people outside the Parliament. I am also surprised to hear people talking about the need to help other people for our own sake. One would imagine listening to them that we are losing money by not selling uranium now. When the late Mr Connor became the Minister for Minerals and Energy in late 1972 he said to me in the Cabinet room one day: ‘This crowd ‘-and he did not mean the crowd of which he was a member; he was so used to calling the previous Government, the McMahon Government, ‘this crowd’‘had entered into a contract under which they were going to sell all our uranium resources on a long term contract basis at $6 per lb when by 1976 it will be worth $40 per lb and by 1980 it will be worth $100 per lb’. And so it will. The longer it is left in the ground the more valuable it will become. I would like to wager the proposition that the pro-uranium lobby that is now spending so many millions of dollars to try to con the media and the public of Australia into the belief that we have some special bounden duty either to the Third World, if that is the argument that the lobby thinks will appeal to the people to whom they are addressing their remarks, or to ourselves because we ought to sell our uranium before it goes down in price, would not be spending a single cent in pushing the point of view it is now putting if uranium were owned and controlled by the Australian people and mined and exported for the benefit of the Australian people. The uranium lobby is concerned only with the profits it will make out of uranium. That is all it is worried about.
People like Sir Ernest Titterton, Baxter and these harlots of the pro-uranium lobby are prepared to sell their souls to the highest bidder. They are prepared to do anything for the 30 pieces of silver that might be thrown in their direction. Unfortunately Titterton has addled the mind of the great thinker, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). That is the man who has got hold of the honourable member. It is not the corns who have ruined his thinking process, it is Titterton and Baxter- bosom pals of the honourable member. It is no secret that yesterday the two of them were huddled together in the lobbies working out what the honourable member was going to say tonight. We do not want foreigners like Titterton coming to us and telling us what is best for us.
I want to refer now to the proposal of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Already the proposal to the ACTU Congress is a dead letter. Even if the Government had been prepared to accept that proposal for a referendum, what position would Bob Hawke have taken in the referendum? Would he have been in favour of mining or in favour of the Australian Labor Party’s policy for a moratorium? He would have had to decide which hat he would wear on the occasion of a referendum. He would then have had to decide whether he would wear the Australian Labor Party hat and be in favour of the Labor Party’s policy or wear somebody else’s hat. I have not yet heard anybody tell us what those in the ACTU who have recommended the referendum propose to do. I know that Edgar Williams of the Australian Workers Union, who behaves as though he is the AWU, is prepared to poison and distort the genes of the 130,000 of his members to keep less than 2,000 of his members in a job in which they will lay themselves open to death from cancer caused by the radioactive effect of uranium mining. Everybody who has studied uranium mining knows that those who are engaged in the industry sell not only their labour but also their lives. It is all right for Edgar Williams in the safety of Dunstan House to say that he is prepared to put at risk the lives of members of his union for the sake of keeping up his falling membership and to appease the mining lobby.
The honourable member for Mackellar talked about a propaganda campaign that is being run by the opponents of uranium mining. Apparently he has not seen the millions of dollars that have been spent by the pro-uranium lobby, by people who respond to the decisions that are being taken in their names from the board rooms of New York and London. He does not say anything about that. He talks instead about the communists. He said that this is a foul communist plot designed to immobilise the Western world so that the Soviet Union can forge ahead with ample power while we will have no power at all. How does the honourable gentleman account for the fact that there is a very serious rift in the ranks of the Communist Party of Australia over this matter? From what I can gather there are more members of the Communist Party supporting his view on uranium than there are against it. I know that Mr Pat Clancy is a notable exception. It is extraordinary that when the ACTU Interstate Executive was considering what it would recommend to the ACTU Congress, people who are members of the Australian Labor Party put up a proposition that was opposed to the Labor Party’s policy. Mr Clancy and others moved an amendment asking the ACTU Executive to support the Labor Party policy for a moratorium. When a vote was taken it was the members of the Labor Party in the main who were responsible for defeating an amendment that was in line with Labor Party policy. So just where is the trade union movement going?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that I had been talking to Sir Ernest Titterton and getting my speech from him. It is true that yesterday I had lunch in Parliament House with Sir Ernest Titterton, and I thought in my innocence that this kind of meeting would not have been the subject of comment in this House or elsewhere. Of course, some people have no sense of propriety and I do not expect it. I discussed atomic matters with Sir Ernest Titterton -
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar made an inference against an honourable member when he said that the honourable member lacks propriety. Will the honourable member for Mackellar withdraw that statement?
– Yes, sir, certainly. The honourable member for Hindmarsh is always a very proper person. It is perfectly true that I discussed nuclear matters with Sir Ernest Titterton It is not true that in any respect Sir Ernest Titterton wrote -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Mackellar is not entitled to debate the subject. He has claimed that he was misrepresented. He said that Professor Titterton or Professor Baxter did not write his speech but that he did talk to them. I think that settles the matter.
– I do not wish to restrict the honourable member for Mackellar too much in his personal explanation but I refer him to Standing Orders 64 to 66 which mean, in effect, that in making a personal explanation he should not debate the matter. He should restrict his remarks purely to explain where he has been misrepresented. I ask the honourable member to do that.
– Indeed, I am doing exactly that. It is not true to say that Sir Ernest Titterton wrote or dictated in any way the speech which I made in the House. It is true that I discussed nuclear matters with him because he is a scientist of great renown on whose advice I place a great amount of reliance.
-The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) is to be sincerely congratulated on the speech he made tonight. From his understanding of the energy requirements of Australia and of the world it is apparent that he has studied the matter for a great length of time. He told us eloquently how there had to be a shift from the present sources of energy and of power to the utilisation of nuclear energy and nuclear power. But a gap developed between his understanding of the position and his understanding of the policy which has been foisted upon the Australian Labor Party, particularly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). In all the statements which were made in Perth and from the statements which have been made subsequent to the Perth meeting it is quite clear that the ban on uranium mining and upon the development of nuclear power was to be long term and was to be permanent. It was not to be a passing fad. The understanding of the honourable member for Hawker is that the decision is something of a temporary nature to which he is not philosophically opposed.
The abiding tragedy of this debate is the way in which the mind of the Opposition has obviously been captured by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I believe he has trapped his colleagues into reversing the policy which his Party enunciated in 1974 and in 1975. The clue to the mentality and psychology of this reversal of policy is given in the little booklet which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition produced recently. The booklet is entitled ‘Uranium, No Bonanza, No Solution to the Economic or the Unemployment Problem’. Over and over again in every description of the uranium policy which the Opposition has had it has claimed that uranium contains very little or no real economic benefits. The Opposition is taking refuge in a state of psychological despair. It wants uranium to be useless. It wants it to confer no benefits. Every opportunity is taken to cry and to complain that uranium and nuclear energy offer nothing.
I can only reflect historically how different that is from the party background of so many of their forebears. There is none of the hope of the big developers. Once upon a time the Australian Labor Party was the party of Australia’s big developers. It had a large vision of what could be done for the country. It had a vision that the country could engage in grand development. If the present mentality had permeated and pervaded so much of the past the Snowy Mountains scheme, for example, would never have been commenced. It would have been refused on environmental, ecological or any grounds whatever. I believe that that is the clue to what is involved. Members of the Australian Labor Party have become blinkered by the minutia of events. They have used those events as an excuse to refuse reasonable and decent development for Australia and for those countries with which we trade.
Let us look at the mining development and the way in which Australia will, through uranium mining, become a source of energy to the world as, a few years ago, it also became a new source of energy to the world in terms of coal deposits. No argument is being produced today which was not produced them. In the middle 1960s the great Queensland coal deposits began to be utilised and developed. Contracts were written with the rest of the world. Those contracts were opposed by every means possible. The reasons were similar to the reasons produced in respect of uranium. I refer to them. The contracts were opposed because it was said that we were depriving Australia of a limited resource. They were opposed because it was said then that the price which was obtained and which was obtainable was not a fair and adequate price. They were opposed then- I go back to the years 1967 and 1969- because coal would be a source of carbon monoxide development in the world, that there would be hothouse and environmental effects, and so on. Nothing new has been stated in opposition to uranium mining which was not also stated in opposition to the development of coal mining, that other source of energy and power. That situation is separated by a gap of seven, eight or nine years. We say there is no point in having blinkers on with respect to Australia’s capacity or her obligation to the rest of the world.
I have been fascinated also at the contrived despair and the false economics which have been adduced to show that even if we developed uranium mining, even if we developed all that was possible, the effects would be very smallthey would be quite minute. It is suggested that 20,000 people or 100,000 people might be supported in the long run. That is a piece of nonsense. One knows that for every person involved in mining another 4.5 people would be kept in employment feeding that process and utilising the products which come from that process in Australia. Four times that number of people are then supported in Australia in terms of the population support effect of the mining. So, at least in the first instance, we are looking at uranium mining to assist with living conditions and to support the living conditions of up to half a million people directly.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has a scowl on his face because he knows that in South Australia certain mining processes have been stopped or it is proposed to prevent them occurring. He may be interested to know, if he is concerned, about the wages and living conditions of workers in Adelaide at the Chrysler Australia Ltd car plant. Subsidies go to those employees because the industry operates under tariff and quota protection. Those subsidies will be enabled to be paid because of the viability and the strength of an industry such as the uranium mining export industry. There is no other way. The honourable member will realise that the wages paid both to management and to the workers are in excess of the net value of their efforts in the production process of motor cars. That is what is meant by tariff and quotas. The difference of several thousand dollars per worker per year is made up from industries such as uranium mining which will be able to earn the export income and thus enable the transfer to occur. I suggest to the honourable member that when he stands outside the Chrysler car company in Adelaide and he wants to preserve the economic conditions of the employees he should confess that in other parts of Australia he wants to participate in the debauching of an industry which ultimately enables those workers to enjoy the standard of living which they have. That is the precise lack of understanding which the honourable member has concerning the restructuring of Australian industry. Not a furrow is crossing his brow. I do not think he understands the position even now. I am all the sadder for it.
There is another way in which one has to look at this matter. Australia’s contribution to the world will be in terms of its contribution in trade. Australia cannot live as an isolated island. The miners at Croydon and Etheridge in Queensland in the 1880s at first ejected the people who came on to the minefields. From then onwards it became obvious that Australia could not live unto itself. We had to trade. If I could use a courtroom analogy, if a mistake is made in a courtroom it might mean injustice and squalor for one person, but if a mistake is made in terms of economic development and the ability that this country has to develop trade it might mean degradation, squalor, poverty and misery for millions. This was so beautifully and clearly pointed out by the honourable member for Hawker when he said that uranium mining, the development of nuclear power and the use of uranium as a source of power in Nigeria just had to be, otherwise Nigeria would have gone back to a camel economy. That is related to the trade of which Australia will be a source and which Australia will allow to develop so far as Nigeria is concerned, so far as South East Asia is concerned and so far as India is concerned.
People who come into this place with bleeding hearts and say that of course we must be careful and that we must stop have been sold a bill of goods. The tragedy is that they have been sold a bill of goods by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He was always an anti-development Minister. He has always been an anti-development member of the front bench of the Opposition. He has been one for years. He has been a zero growth man for years. The tragedy is that he has been able to thrust upon his colleagues that very distorted and short term philosophical view of Australia and its relations with the rest of the world. The rest of the world will not revolve around Australia as the satellites do around the sun. The rest of the world does not owe us anything. It knows that. We can make a contribution to the rest of the world, as it can make a contribution to us. That contribution will occur if we are sensible and use our head in respect of our resources.
I am fascinated that members of the Opposition have engaged in a frenetic activity in respect of this debate. They have made charges concerning genetic engineering. They have made charges concerning waste disposal. They have made charges concerning the price at which uranium is available. They have made charges that all the energy needed can be developed by means of solar power and that we do not need to mine uranium to develop power. The noise, the frenetic activity, the short term misguided activity of the Opposition in respect of this matter remind me of the mating habits of the marsupial mouse. They last for only a short time and the results are too numerous to mention, but they certainly are not long term and will not be long term. I say that members of the Opposition do themselves and their Party an injustice by engaging in such a blinkered and narrow conception of what the world is about and of what Australia’s contribution to the world can be.
The argument about low level waste has always been phoney. The argument about toxic waste, the fissionable waste, has always been phoney. It is soluble. The problem can be solved. It is quite clear that all the high level waste in the world from the weapons program is greater than all the high level waste that could possibly be adduced from all the generation of power projected for the world between now and the end of the century. All the high level waste in the world which would be available in the foreseeable generation of nuclear energy would fill only this chamber. To say that the world will not have the skill and will not be able to utilise on a larger scale the skill it presently has to take care of the waste, I believe, is an abuse of what human ingenuity and human rationality can produce.
We say that the mining of uranium should proceed, and should proceed carefully and with sense. We do not agree with those who suggest that because there may be difficulties we should do nothing. If that philosophy were to have been adopted in the past neither Australia nor the world would ever have done anything. To slip into that position does us an injustice and condemns unnecessarily to misery, squalor, degradation and despair those countries and the millions of people who are dependent upon Australia for an improvement in their standard of living. No government with any kind of heart could make itself a party to that kind of outlook on the world.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). One of the peculiar features of this debate has been the absolute certainty with which every Government supporter has made his contribution. I find that, on an issue such as the development of uranium, truly extraordinary. It was, I suppose, the issue which precipitated the resignation of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) from the Liberal Party of Australia. It should nave been expected that there would be persons in the Liberal Party and in the National Country Party of Australia who had reservations about the decision to develop uranium at this time. Beyond that, certainly there could have been expected to be differences of opinion about the economic value of the decision to Australia and the rest of the world. But all we see coming from them is this extraordinary example of unanimity. I find that quite remarkable.
The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) set up a couple of hypotheses and then proceeded to knock them over. They were quite false hypotheses. As he knows very well, they were not supported by all honourable members on this side of the House. On this side of the House there are differing views about the economic value of uranium development to Australia, to the world. What we have unanimity on is the question about the precipitate decision at this time to renew mining and export of uranium from Australia. That is completely different from what the honourable member for Lilley said.
– You must know that you can destroy economies by putting them out of time.
– If the honourable member will bear with me for a moment and if he addresses himself to the terms of the amendment against which he spoke so vociferously, he will see that none of the propositions about which he spoke are dealt with in the terms of the amendment. Three elements of the amendment are concerned with safeguards. The last element is concerned with Aboriginal lands and national parks. It is quite apparent in this debate that there is a fundamental disagreement between the Government and the Opposition on the question of safeguards. We would have a much better and productive debate in this House if at least some honourable members opposite would concede that that is a genuinely held belief and that persons on this side of the House are not acting as some kinds of stooges and that in the present state of the knowlede that we have of the potentials of uranium development they are convinced that it is too early yet to mine and export this material.
Certainly that view is consistent with a considerable body of expert opinion. The question of uranium development is a great area for persons to go shopping for an opinion that suits them. Everybody will find one to his taste. It is precisely because of this very grey area of agreement that I have no difficulty in supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in his address to the nation on 28 August, talking about the question of waste disposal, said:
Let me emphasise as forcefully as I can that here the scientific knowledge does exist. The technology does exist. The scientific knowledge and technology have been applied to the problem of waste. The technology is known. It has worked on a trial basis, and plans are now under way to adopt it on a much larger scale.
Notice the phrase ‘it has worked on a trial basis’. That is as far as the Prime Minister was prepared to assert. It is extraordinary to see the materials used in this very slickly put together kit that the Government was able to produce overnight and to foist on the Australian public at the bargain price of $1 when most government publications of that kind cost a good deal more than that. The background paper titled ‘Health and Safety Aspects of Nuclear Power Generation’ which was published with the documents outlining the Government’s decisions quotes from the British Royal Commission on Environmental Pollutionthe Flowers Commission. It deals particularly with this issue of nuclear waste disposal and contains the terse sentence:
We are confident that an acceptable solution will be found.
But why did this background paper which was published by the Government omit the crucial finding of the Flowers Commission, which appears in paragraph 4 of that Commission’s report? It states:
We have described in Chapter VIII the problems associated with the management and disposal of highly radioactive wastes arising from the nuclear fuel cycle. Such waste will remain active over immense time scales, and unless continuously isolated will present dangers to our descendants long after nuclear fission technology has ceased to be used as a source of energy. We believe that a quite inadequate effort has been devoted to the problems of longterm waste management, and that there should be no substantial expansion of nuclear power until the feasibility of a method of safe disposal of high level wastes for the indefinite future has been established beyond reasonable doubt.
But here is the clincher:
There are promising ideas for the disposal of these wastes, but it may take 10 to 20 years to establish their feasibility.
That is taken from the report of the Flowers Commission in the United Kingdom, from which the Government chose to quote selectively. It omitted one of the most crucial findings of that Commission. We see that technology does not exist, at least in a feasible form, at this stage. The first report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry also dealt with this question. On page 110 it states:
There is at present no generally accepted means by which high level waste can be permanently isolated from the environment and remain safe for very long periods. Processes for the conversion of high level waste to a relatively inert solid are being developed. Permanent disposal of high-level solid wastes in stable geological formations is regarded as the most likely solution, but has yet to be demonstrated as feasible. It is not certain that such methods and disposal sites will entirely prevent radioactive releases following disturbances caused by natural processes or human activity.
The question is not free from doubt. I should have thought that in those circumstances most prudent people would delay at this time a decision for which we can see no good reason. The honourable member for Lilley, who spoke before me, and who is something of an expert on economics- certainly he interests himself consistently in this House with economic issues- set up the whole question of markets and demands around the world for uranium. But he is out of date. The requirements for uranium as a source of energy are changing very rapidly. They are changing all around the world in the markets which the Government claims are crying out for Australian uranium.
I noticed an excerpt today from a German newspaper called the German Tribune, which is a weekly review of the German Press and which is distributed by the German Embassy. An item from the Nordwest Zeitung dated 10 August- as recent as that- carries an account of movement within the coalition parties in Germany on this very question of nuclear energy. The article concludes by referring to the FDP which is one of the coalition parties. It states:
The FDP main federal committee decided several weeks ago that building permission for atomic power stations should be refused until permission had been granted for the first stage of building for an atomic waste re-processing plant.
They are taking stock of this in Germany, which is one of the largest markets that the Government constantly claims is crying out for Australian uranium. Let us be in no doubt about this. As is clearly shown in the terms of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition opposes the Government’s precipitous decisions on this issue, principally on the questions of safeguards from consumer countries, nuclear weapon proliferation and waste disposal. They are the main reasons. If those reasons provide any doubt as to the wisdom of this decision, we have to examine very closely the reasons for the Government now moving ahead and its unwillingness to postpone a decision to develop uranium in Australia until such time as the technology is proved and until the processes have become feasible.
When we look at the reasons that the Government constantly puts forward as being necessary to get on with making this decision now in relation to the markets and the demands, we see that these are changing very rapidly indeed. They are changing in ways that the Government is not bringing to the attention of the Australian people.
The honourable member for Lilley went on from talking about the requirements for nuclear energy in the developed industrial world to refer to the so-called Third World. He said again that Australia could not afford to stand aside as a selfish uranium province unwilling to share with the rest of the world this vital resource that would so raise their living standards. That seems to me to be quite apart from all the irrelevant rubbish he put forward in claiming that members of the Labor Party were anti-development or pro-zero population growth. That is quite incorrect.
One of the newspapers which did at least pick up this very smartly on the day after the Government’s decisions were announced was the Canberra Times. In its leading article on 26 August, the day after the Government’s decisions were announced, it dealt very clearly with this question in relation to the Third World, the developing nations and their supposed requirement of Australian uranium. The newspaper stated:
The assumption that the rich countries’ consumption of energy must continue to increase expontentially is belatedly being questioned. The relevant question should be: growth for what? For the wasteful use of resources in the packaging industries? So that we remain hooked to technologies that are too highly centralised or which we are unable to control? Because we cannot face the need to do without some of our innumerable energy-consuming gadgets?
The argument then that nuclear power is necessary because the poor need energy for lighting, heating, industrial uses and transport looks like a balm to uneasy consciences when it is realised that nuclear power cannot serve vast and scattered rural populations because the prior demands of privileged elites and of urban skilled work forces in poor countries are locked into the existing political power systems. Small-scale, decentralised technologies that can be controlled by the people who use them and which are the maximum they will be able to afford for a long time is what the stagnant rural masses of India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria and many other countries need. It is likely, on the other hand, that Australia will have at its disposal as a result of its revenue from uranium more funds to spend on development aid . . .
That last reasoning is not the sort of reasoning that the Government is adopting. It is putting forward the proposition that the poorer countries are crying out for Australian uranium so that they can develop their standards of living. That is nonsense. Anybody who reads consistently foreign magazines about energy questions and about questions of market demand will know that the position is as described by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), namely, that there is no great demand for Australian uranium at the moment in these developed countries. In relation to developing countries it seems to me that it is not required at all.
Uranium and nuclear energy mean nothing to developing countries. Current plans show that they expect to get less than 10 per cent of their energy needs from nuclear energy this century. Nuclear energy is high cost energy. It relates to the high energy use patterns of developed countries. The real way ahead for all countries is to use existing fossil fuels, such as coal, of which we have plenty in Australia, and to research as hard and as fast as we can on new forms of energy, including solar energy. Solar energy would be an ideal form of energy, quite obviously, for developing countries.
Let us make no mistake about the fact that the Government’s decision is quite precipitate. Safeguards have not been established in relation to those things itemised in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The amendment deserves the support of the House.
– It is interesting to follow the reasoning of members of the Labor Party in this debate. It is hard really to work out why they are being hypocritical in what they are saying now when compared with what they have said over the past few years. Let us have a look at the record of the Australian Labor Party when it was in office. In 1972 the Whitlam Government gave a firm undertaking that export contracts obtained by Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd, Peko-EZ and Queensland Mines Ltd for the delivery of 11,757 short tons of uranium ore would be honoured. That was in 1972. The Whitlam Government made arrangements for the recommissioning of Mary Kathleen, for the development of the Peko-EZ project at Ranger, and for subsequent development of other mines in the Alligator Rivers region. The Whitlam Government obtained a 42 per cent shareholding in Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd.
The Whitlam Government, in a statement tabled in this Parliament on 31 October 1974, announced a program of large scale uranium development in the Northern Territory of Australia, commencing with the exploitation of the Ranger deposit. It also tabled an agreement with Peko-EZ for joint development of the Ranger deposit by the Commonwealth and those companies. The Whitlam Government also announced in October 1974 its policy that ore from the Government’s stockpile at Rum Jungle would be used to fill contracts until Ranger and other projects came into production. The Whitlam policy statement made it clear that the Whitlam Labor Government believed that the economic benefits to Australia were paramount and that the energy needs of other countries had to be considered.
-It was in favour of it?
-It certainly was in favour of it, as the honourable member for Darling Downs said. Let us look at some of the statements which emanated from the Australian Labor Party during its term of office. In 1975 the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Les Johnson, said:
International assurances have been provided by Ministers that Australia will meet the uranium requirements of our major trading partners which could amount to a total of about 100,000 tonnes of uranium by 1990.
-Who said that?
- Mr Les Johnson. The then Minister for Minerals and Energy, the late Mr Connor, on 31 October 1974 said:
Australia will ensure that our major trading partnersJapan, Italy, and West Germany- obtain an equitable share of the uranium we have for export.
The then Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, and the then Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, in a joint statement issued after a visit to Iran said in March 1975:
Iran would be given access to supplies of uranium from Australia under favourable conditions.
The present Labor Party shadow Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Keating, on 2 June 1975 said:
Japan is interested in moving into nuclear power and enriched fuel. We are prepared to give the Japanese any amount of fuel that they need, enriched if we can do so. The only thing is that we would like to do the enriching. Instead of sending just yellowcake at bargain-basement prices we want to get the profit that comes from enrichment.
Again Mr Keating on 9 October 1 97 5 said:
Since we have taken over the administration of the policy in this area, particularly in respect of uranium, we have said that we intend to export as much of it as we can.
Mr Hurford, the Labor Party shadow Treasurer, said in 1972:
Uranium exports, in whatever form, could be highly profitable for this country. With the proper taxation policies there could be enormous economic benefits for everyone who lives here.
Mr Hurford said that in 1972. The then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, said in Parliament in February 1975:
In Brussels, London, The Hague, Paris, Rome and Bonn as well as in Moscow, I consistently asserted Australia’s wish to develop her own enrichment capabilities so that as much uranium as possible should be exported in an enriched form.
We then jump further forward to July 1976 when Mr Hayden said this:
After talks with members of all Japanese political parties, including Communists, over the use of Australian uranium and necessary protective measures associated with it, I am convinced they would only use it for practical purposes.
That is what the Labor Party had to say at that time, but let us up-date to July 1977. It said in Perth that it would place an indefinite moratorium on the mining and treatment of uranium in Australia. That decision was made after a 45- minute debate in which very many prominent people did not take part.
– When was that?
– That was in July 1977.
– Who did not take part in the debate?
- Mr Whitlam, Mr Hawke and Mr Hayden. Mr Hawke declared 24 hours later
My personal view is that out of that decision there will ultimately come a condition in which mining and export occurs.
That was said by Mr Hawke, the President of the ALP and associated organisations. On 25 August 1 975 Mr Tom Uren, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, had this to say:
A future Labor Government will not permit the mining, processing or export of uranium under agreements which are contrary to ALP policy.
Our policy is not a string of polite, meaningless words.
We say to the uranium mining companies that if you go ahead and sink your $250m or so into uranium mining in defiance of Labor policy, then don’t expect any mercy from the next Labor Government.
How honourable members opposite have changed over a short period of time. All the remarks we have heard in the debate today have hinged around safeguards and protecting our way of life. Last night we heard one honourable member on the Government side mention how dangerous the motor car is. We have not heard one word from the Opposition about the motor car. It would be interesting to look quickly at what the motor car has done to Australia. Since 1951 some 74,000 persons have been killed on
Australia’s roads. An additional 1,801,902 persons have been injured. Nobody at all is condemning the petroleum industry. Nobody is saying that it ought to be banned. If we look at the world wide situation we find that as many as 26 million people throughout the world have been killed as a direct result of the petroleum industry. Some 200 million persons have been injured. That is not taking any account of the fact that a great number of people have been poisoned from the lead gases that emanate from motor vehicles. No one has mentioned that. No one has taken that into account. All they are doing is totally and absolutely condemning the use of uranium for peaceful purposes. They are saying that all these things may occur. How many of these people were around and how many politicians with this philosophy were around when the petroleum industry came into being? How many of these people then stood up and advocated that we should not use the petroleum industry?
-I would be 125 if I had.
– We tend to think that the honourable member for Robertson is about that age now.
– What does your wife think about this?
-My wife agrees with the Government’s decision, like the rest of us good Australians. I guarantee that if honourable members opposite asked their wives they would probably find out exactly the same thing. The previous speaker for the Opposition gave figures on which countries are not now proceeding with the development of nuclear energy. He rattled off quite a few in an editorial from an overseas newspaper. It is interesting to note what Sir Brian Flowers, Chairman of the United Kingdom Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, said in a report on the nuclear power industry published last September. He said:
There are few subjects in the field of environmental pollution to which people react so emotionally as they do to radioactivity. One reason for this is certainly the association with the destructive uses of nuclear energy . . . The development of reactors to harness nuclear energy for the generation of electrical power stemmed directly from the weapons programs.
Sir Brian went on to say that in many people’s minds these historical facts are sufficient to make the whole concept of nuclear power deeply distasteful. He has stated clearly that attitudes related to nuclear power tend to be emotional rather than rational. Honourable members opposite are condemning the Government. They are saying that it ought not to be entering into an arrangement whereby we can mine and export uranium. Why have 40 nations with nuclear power programs demanded uranium? Forty nations with a total population of 2,000 million people have announced nuclear power programs. I have not included the People ‘s Republic of China. China is reported to have announced its intention to develop nuclear power for peaceful use. Why have 40 nations throughout the world decided upon nuclear power programs? The standard of living of nations today is highly dependent on the amount of electrical energy and other forms of energy available for use by industry and in people’s homes and daily lives. Our food, clothes and homes are all products made by processes involving large consumption of energy. In our daily lives energy from petrol drives our cars. Energy from electricity or sometimes gas heats our water, drives our washing machines and cools our refrigerators.
We in Australia owe our high standard of living largely to the fact that we have extensive resources of cheap fuel- coal, natural gas and limited quantities of petroleum- to produce our power and energy needs. Prior to 1973 about 25 nations had embarked on nuclear power programs. The United Kingdom has been using nuclear power since the early 1950s. By 1975, 34 countries had announced nuclear power programs. In 1976 Cuba, Peru and New Caledonia, to name a few, also announced plans for nuclear power. By 1976 the 20-year old nuclear power industry throughout the world had installed a capacity of nuclear power stations four times the total of all power stations in Australia or 40 times the capacity of Western Australian power plants. Five times this amount is under construction or on order.
To sum up, currently more than 40 nations with 2,000 million people have decided that they need nuclear power and will need uranium to fuel their stations. An attitude by Australians and by the Australian Labor Party in particular not to export uranium says in effect that we know better than them what they should have and that we are prepared to deny them resources from our country although we are a country which enjoys a high standard of living based on high energy usage. Why is the supply of uranium from Australia important to the world’s needs? It is important because at this time Australia has a high percentage of the known high grade reserves of uranium ore. In talking about those reserves it is hard to give figures which are both meaningful and accurate without a whole series of qualifications of statistics, et cetera. However, I can best give some idea of Australia’s position in relation to the rest of the world by saying that Australian deposits would contain about 30 per cent of high grade known reserves which are not yet committed, that is not yet sold for future use. If we talk about total known reserves, including low grade reserves, on the same basis uncommitted Australian reserves would probably be about IS percent.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to recount all the remarks that have been made by honourable members opposite. If the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) had incorporated in Hansard the document which he circulated to every Government supporter it would have saved us the time of listening to all their individual speeches. All the speeches from the Government benches have been exactly the same. Like the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) I find it rather amazing that 91 members of the Liberal and National Country Parties all agree on the same policy. In spite of the accusation that this is just a communist plot which was the theory put to us tonight by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) which he always does on a full moon -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw. It is impossible in the Australian community, judging by the professional surveys which are being taken in this country, for 91 people to agree on this subject. It is impossible for their wives to agree. The mining and export of uranium is the first political issue that has been surveyed in 20 years to which more women are opposed than men. On almost every other political issue surveyed in this country men voted differently to women by between 6 per cent and 10 per cent. More than SO per cent of the women in this country who have been surveyed are opposed to the mining and export of uranium. Their opposition speaks for itself. They are concerned for themselves and they are even more concerned for their children.
I shall recount the history of their major concern. In the document given to honourable members opposite so that they could speak in this chamber little reference was made to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Apart from the honourable member for Mackellar who spoke about it for three seconds and said that it was an enormous problem, no other honourable member opposite mentioned the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The claim that safeguards in relation to the selling of uranium can be guaranteed once the uranium leaves this country is absolute nonsense. All honourable members opposite could have had an article made available to their offices two weeks ago if they had required it from the United States Information Office situated in the Press building in Canberra. The article showed how impossible it is for the policy of President Carter to be carried out. Within one week of President Carter’s talking to some of the European political leaders about the need not to sell the fast breeder technology to countries other than those which already had it the Germans and the French said that they were going to proceed to sell the technology to those countries which could supply their uranium in order to maintain that supply. Within two weeks West Germany signed an agreement with Brazil. In the very near future Brazil will have the ability, with the aid of the West German technology, to build a nuclear weapon.
Back in the early 1930s there was a flight of European scientists to the United States of America. That came about because Adolf Hitler had taken charge of Germany. Those scientists from Germany, France, Italy, the Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom, together with scientists from Russia, had been working on nuclear energy in the early 1930s. They knew what it could do. When those scientists went to the United States they convinced the then President Roosevelt that it was possible that the German scientists who had stayed in Germany would be able to build the atom bomb. The atom bomb in the hands of Hitler before it was in the hands of the allies during the Second World War would have given the Germans an enormous advantage. Roosevelt gave the full steam ahead signal for the production of the atom bomb in the United States. There was no talk about safety, no talk about safeguards, no talk about care with the waste. They had to build the bomb before the German scientists could do it. It was done. It was carried out in the United States.
When the first test was carried out in the United States it led one of the very famous Italian scientists to ask: ‘What have we started?’ It was then said that the Americans would never have a monopoly on it. There was a great debate in the United States as to whether the military or civilians ought to be in charge of atomic energy. The view of Congress prevailed, that the civilians should be in charge. The military said: ‘We want to keep a complete monopoly on nuclear weapons because we are the only country that is going to have them.’ The scientists said: ‘You are mad. We were working with Russian scientists 10 years ago. They will build the bomb within a few short years of the end of World War II.’ The Russians exploded the bomb in 1949 as predicted. It sent a scare through the Western world. The Western world, particularly the United States, went quite mad. This led to the persecution of thousands of people in the United States and ultimately the deaths of the Rosenbergs. Now what we are doing when we say that all these countries can have the fast breeder reactor is saying that the detente that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union, which detente has perhaps played a leading role in the world’s living in peace, is now to be broken. All the skirmishes like the Korean war and all the Middle East conflicts in the not too distant future may well be fought with nuclear weapons.
When the former Prime Minister of Israel was asked whether that country possessed nuclear weapons he said: ‘All I can say is that we will not be the first to use them.’ Israel, Egypt, Brazil, all the European countries, India, China, the Soviet Union, the United States of America, all the countries in eastern Europe if the Russians allow them to build the same sort of nuclear reactors, will have the ability to build nuclear weapons. This is what concerns me as a person who has listened to the debate going on in Australia over the past few years. It is no good alleging that it is a communist plot or that unthinkingly the Australian Labor Party has turned its back on speeches or statements which have been made by former Ministers or members of the Labor Party. We all acquire a little more knowledge with age. We all become a little more aware of the dangers.
I ask honourable members to look seriously at the way in which people are judging this issue. Honourable members opposite say that it is just the Labor Party or a few long haired kids from the universities. But if they look at the people who are involving themselves in the discussion and if they look at the outcome of the polls and surveys taken in Australia they will see that a lot of people are interested and involved in this issue who have never been involved in politics before in their lives. They are going to fight against the export of our uranium because it will tie us in to a world in which there is a proliferation of nuclear weapons. If 40 countries have nuclear weapons there is 40 times the chance that war will break out with the use of nuclear weapons, and we will be playing a part in it. Honourable members opposite say that we are being greedy because we will not export our uranium to an energy hungry world. How much more greedy are they to say: ‘Take the uranium away from here and blow yourselves up on the other side of the world if you like, but we are not doing it.’ There has not yet been any government decision to start building nuclear reactors in Australia. Perhaps that will be the next step. But this is the sort of thing honourable members opposite are saying they want to do.
Tonight the debate was elevated by the suggestion that we should perhaps be concerned about the Third World countries. This has not previously been an expression of concern from the Liberal and National Country Parties in this debate, but tonight they are tearing at the strings of our hearts by asking us to consider how desperately the Third World countries might need our uranium. I ask honourable members opposite to consider how desperately a lot of those countries with irresponsible governments do not need the technology to be able to build nuclear weapons. That is the crucial point of this debate. If the debate takes place in the streets, in the towns, in the cities of this country that will be the crucial point of what we put to the people. Honourable members opposite will be asking them to vote in support of the Government so that more countries in the world will have nuclear bombs. Perhaps some honourable members opposite ought to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki and perhaps some of them ought to read more closely the concern that President Carter expresses about this issue. Why do honourable members think that he is intervening in the negotiations between countries such as Germany and Brazil? How often have we seen in Latin America or in the southern part of Africa violence associated with a change of government? Give a regime nuclear weapons and try to change it. Obviously that regime will use its nuclear weapons. It may be using them by being able to barter to buy the technology by selling its resource of uranium. Obviously South Africa will have the ability in the not too distant future to build nuclear weapons. This is the focal point of this debate.
Honourable members opposite say that it is only a view. The polls say that almost 40 per cent of the Australian public are now opposed to it. We have not had the advantage of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the uranium forum on television, in newspapers and on radio trying to brainwash the people of Australia into believing that there is some enormous advantage. We heard a crazy economic argument from the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) who said that everybody at Chrysler Australia Ltd in South Australia will be all right and that tariffs will be higher because of the value of the selling of uranium. What a crazy economic argument to put to those people. Can one imagine telling some of the women in Australia who are opposed to this policy to drop their opposition to it because the Government is going to look after the workers at Chryslers and General Motors-Holdens Pty Ltd? People are not taking a stand on the issue because of that factor; they are taking a stand on it because of what I have said. They are desperately concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Would honourable members opposite stay there and put up their hands tonight knowing that the Arab states and Israel had nuclear weapons and that the next time that war breaks out in that part of the world they could well be used? Would honourable members opposite put up their hands and say that the South African regime or some Latin American states could have nuclear weapons? That really is the argument. It seems to me that a lot of honourable members opposite ought to understand why people are concerned about the matter. It is not just members of the Labor Party who are concerned. People have changed their minds over the last one, two, three or four years. The debate is going on around the world. The Labor Party does not agree with what the Soviet Union is doing in the proliferation of nuclear reactors throughout eastern Europe. We do not agree with the proliferation of nuclear reactors throughout western Europe. It was a conservative government that was elected in Sweden, and part of its platform was to stop the spread of nuclear energy development in that country. So the argument is a very broad argument and it has no political lines. There are people on both sides of the fence. A lot of people in the Labor Party believe it right to mine uranium.
– Many people believe it is right to mine uranium- many people with a lot more knowledge on the subject than Bob Hawke. But there are many people who support the Liberal and National Country Parties, who believe it to be terribly wrong to mine and export uranium, not that it is so wrong but that there is time to make a proper decision.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March last I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker, I require the question to be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the negative.
Ministerial Statements Debate resumed.
-I speak very much as someone who has observed in a very simple fashion the way this debate has developed in Australia over the last three or four years. It seemed quite a simple matter to me a few years ago when someone said: ‘You have the resource of uranium, mine it and export it’. I happened to be the organiser for the union at Radium Hill when uranium was being mined and exported from that centre. But I am telling honourable members that now in Australia many more people are thinking deeply about this question. It is not so simple as to say: ‘Just mine it and export is and get rid of our responsibilities and overcome some of our economic problems’. We have an international responsibility and nothing will happen to the uranium if we leave it in the ground until safeguards are provided.
We should understand the rush that has taken place from the early thirties until now. The first rush was to build the bomb; the second rush was to provide the energy. There has been no rush yet to provide the safeguards. By Australia taking this stand we can put more pressure on other countries, and more pressure on academics and scientists involved in the industry, to provide the proper safeguards for humanity.
-The speech made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) sums up everything phoney about the uranium debate that has been carried on by the Opposition in this House. The phoniness of the proposition put by the bomb happy honourable member for Port Adelaide is to try to relate as closely as possible for emotional and I would say totally political purposes our uranium with someone else’s bombs. The essence of this debate, if it is to be related in these terms, is to establish, I believe, the closeness of such a possible link. I believe that the Australian public has a right to know on what basis the emotional nonsense being presented by Opposition members with a bomb in each pocket can really be defended in this House. There is no evidence. There has been no attempt to do anything but frighten the Australian public on an issue which is of major significance to them.
The campaign of fear and terror being presented by members of the Opposition is one of the most disgraceful and cynical campaigns that that disgraceful Party has presented in this place. It is a campaign aimed solely at political expediency, a campaign which differs so dramatically from their attitudes when they had the opportunity to state a policy about uranium that could in fact be effected. The irresponsibility of the Labor Party in Opposition is being once again manifested in this debate. Of course, that suggests that members of the Opposition are less irresponsible in government and strangely enough on this occasion, on the matter of uranium, they were slightly less irresponsible in government than they are now proceeding to be in opposition.
What is essential to establish if we are to listen to this nonsense coming from the other side of the House is this: What countries that we would be selling our uranium to would not get their uranium but for us? That is the issue. Is there any country to which we would be selling uranium to which no one else would sell it? Is there any nation that would not have access to this bomb making material, this material that the honourable member for Port Adelaide is telling this House will create a wider and more serious risk to the world? The facts are that this material will be available, particularly from those nations which the honourable member for Port Adelaide has just demonstrated to the House are nations which should not have uranium. He said would it not be terrible if South Africa had a nuclear capacity? For heaven’s sake, South Africa is a major potential producer of uranium. What arrant nonsense even for the honourable member for Port Adelaide, who has a reputation for arrant nonsense, to come into this House and present -
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the words ‘arrant nonsense ‘, Mr Speaker. Can I say ‘ nonsense 1
– I think one ought to use better terms in debate than either of those words.
– Well, Mr Speaker, can I say ‘ patent transparencies ‘?
– I will accept that.
-Thank you. I recognise, sir, that you also realise that the comments made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide were patently transparent. The South African threat that was hung over this House and which has hung over the Australian public along with the pattern of general threat and general terror is totally absurd. It will not be increased or diminished one whit by what Australia does.
Let us have a look at the nations of the Middle East. Egypt is already committed to nuclear power. It has already arranged its sources of supply. Egypt will not be influenced one way or another by Australian supply. Iran and Israel already have this capacity. What is the nonsense that is being presented and being hung over the heads of the Australian public by these people on the other side of the House? The facts are that the bulk of the terror countries that are being held over our heads as countries that present a threat to us either already produce immense amounts of uranium or are already well and truly committed to programs of nuclear power.
Of course, it is all very well for the honourable member for Port Adelaide to say he does not support the fact that the Eastern Bloc countries are well and truly on the way to a very strong nuclear construction program. He said he is not in favour of such development. Yet what does he seek to achieve in this House by preventing our exporting uranium? Let us look at what is hap- pening behind the Iron Curtain, or, as theonourable member for Port Adelaide would like to call it, the ‘nuclear curtain’. He wants us not to sell to the Western World. What can he do to prevent the Eastern Bloc from proceeding? Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics already have major nuclear power plants in operation while Hungary, Poland, Rumania and Yugoslavia have a commitment to nuclear power and are proceeding with that commitment.
For heaven’s sake, the moral persuasion- and that is the only weapon the honourable member for Port Adelaide is trying to encourage us to use- we will have in the world by refusing to export our uranium will affect only the Western World, those nations that are open to moral suasion. For heaven’s sake, are we to influence the Western World not to proceed with this major source of power while we have no impact whatsoever in moral or any other terms with the Eastern Bloc? As I said in a similar debate that took place earlier, I would be grateful if the honourable member for Port Adelaide could let us know to what extent -
– I rise to order.
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur will resume his seat.
– I wish to correct the honourable member. Yugoslavia did not get its reactors from the Eastern Bloc; it got them from Westinghouse.
-There is no point of order.
-I would expect that type of interruption from the honourable member for Reid who knows perfectly well that there is no point of order. That sort of tactic is, I would submit, a pathetic one.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will cease referring to the point of order. I give the ruling; I do not need the assistance of the honourable member.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. The interesting point is whether moral suasion has any impact in the Eastern bloc. I wonder what effect the moral suasion which the honourable member for Port Adelaide wants had on the tanks and guns in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. No doubt he can use his moral suasion when the Eastern bloc is using its nuclear power.
The issue presented to the House in the amendment is extraordinarily dishonest politically. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) says that the House rejects the Government’s precipitate decision without sufficient public debate in Australia. Without sufficient public debate? There was immense public debate duing the Fox inquiry. The second report of that inquiry, dealing with the principle of whether we should mine uranium, came out on 28 October last year and there has been 10 months for public debate. There have been three debates in this House and on every occasion in those debates members of the Opposition have not felt any great moral pressure to continue the debate. A small number of them spoke and in each case the Opposition ran out of speakers. That illustrates how strongly moved are the members of the Opposition about this matter.
The next part of the amendment says that there is an absence of commitments by customer countries to apply effective and verifiable safeguards. For heaven’s sake, this toying with the issue is totally absurd. The safeguards that the Government has instituted follow basically the lines of the Ranger inquiry. In fact the Government’s policy on nuclear safeguards is more stringent that that recommended by the Ranger inquiry. This kind of motion follows clearly the similar pattern of terror that we find throughout the cynical campaign against uranium power.
I found it fascinating that the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) should have said that this Government’s policy of proceeding with the supply of uranium for nuclear power purposes will do nothing to benefit the underdeveloped nations of this world. That was a major distortion of the case being put by our side. The facts could be recognised even by people who have an emotional commitment or a cynical political commitment against uranium. The simple fact is that uranium provides an alternative fuel source. It is an alternative to fossil fuels in many areas although not all areas. The use of that alternative in the Western developed nations will diminish their reliance on oil to a degree. That degree of diminished reliance on oil must have market impact affecting the price of oil. Oil supplies, and consequently the price of oil, would no longer be subject to the pressures that would exist if uranium were not used. In other words, those underdeveloped nations which depend solely on fossil fuels, particularly oil, would have access to those fuels at a cheaper price than would have been the case had the Western world not gone nuclear. The honourable member for Grayndler certainly has the wit to know better.
We have also had church groups writing and attacking our side for having raised the point that the Third World clearly will benefit, not directly but indirectly in terms of the price of their fuel, as a result of the Western world going nuclear and as a result of Australia providing a cheaper source of uranium for nuclear power stations than would otherwise be available.
There is a risk, and I want to stress this risk, in our decision and the way in which it was madeThere is a risk that an oppressive and overwhelming bureaucracy will emerge because of the degree of safeguards and the degree of governmental involvement which this Government has been forced to accept as a result of its recognition of the concern of the community. There is a risk that this oppressive bureaucracy may well diminish the scope for Australian uranium to meet world demand and for Australian uranium to be developed as quickly as could take place otherwise. I am fearful of the multiplicity of bureaucratic structures now being imposed upon this industry in order to meet some objections which I believe are either frivolous or misguided. That does not deny that there are many people who hold, as the honourable member for Grayndler said, a sincere belief that they are not stooges of some kind. I agree that there are many people who have been terrorised by a concerted campaign of arrant bomb-happy nonsense being spread around the society and which will continue to be spread around the society by people motivated, I believe, in the main not by any real concern for Australia or for the environment but by a desperate search for an issue which somehow will transport them back to the political Elysium from which I hope they have been banished for ever.
-This is the first time I have ever risen in this House reluctantly. I rose for one reason and that is because the members of this House are playing a pathetic game with the most serious subject debated in this House since Federation. What is happening reminds me of the game ‘Drop the Hanky’ played by children. Neither political party wants to provide the second last speaker in this debate. I would have thought, Mr Deputy Speaker, that it is pathetic for members of this House to behave in that way.
I would like to put certain things on record. I wanted to speak earlier in this debate but representations were made to me. I said that already I had had more than a fair go on the uranium question. I think I have spoken four times. I said I would forgo my place in this debate because my position is well known. I understood from the Government side that the Government wanted a vote on this matter tonight and I was prepared to forgo my place. This is worth putting on the record for the benefit of students of the way in which this Parliament behaves. I hope I do not do either the Government Whip or the Opposition Whip any injustice. At 10.10 p.m. tonight the Government Whip approached me and said: ‘Oh, you are not speaking.’ I said: ‘Yes I am’. He said: ‘I heard that you were not speaking. We were hoping to have a vote this evening.’ I said to him: ‘If you want to have a vote this evening I am prepared not to speak.’
– I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, let me quite clearly point out that that is not quite correct.
– Yes it is.
– I was told by the Opposition Whip ‘s clerk that the-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat. There is no substance to the point of order he raised. However I would suggest to the honourable member for Hotham that if he desires to speak in this debate he should address his remarks to the statements on uranium which are before the House.
-I would have thought, Mr Deputy Speaker, that as the guardian of the rights of members of this House you would have accepted debate on the performance of the House.
-Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Hotham that he not utter a reflection on the Chair regarding the rights of members of this House. The rights of the honourable member have been defended and he knows that his rights will be defended. Even the honourable member for Hotham cannot break the Standing Orders. He has been a member of this House long enough to know that.
– Are you suggesting to me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I should not continue my remarks in this vein? This is a very important point.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Hotham that he make his remarks on the subject before the House.
-In deference to the Chair I shall contain my remarks.- We were due to have a vote on this question at 10.20 p.m. Now we are playing out time until 1 1 p.m. I am told by the Opposition Whip- I am not suggesting that the Government Whip said this-that the Government Whip went to him and said: ‘Seeing you have no more speakers to put up on this we will have a vote at 10.20’. The Opposition then acted quite naturally and said: ‘If you are going to put it in those terms we will put up propositions’. So the debate goes on. This is a filibuster debate. Honourable members on the Government side have been asked to prepare hurried speeches and they will be accommodated on this side of the House.
– I rise to order. Honourable members on this side of the House have prepared speeches. They were not hurriedly prepared. I have a long list of speakers in this debate, and I can supply you with a list from here until tomorrow if you need it.
-That is not a point of order. It is impossible for the Chair to know -
– I rise to order. Is it a fact that the list was prepared by the Prime Minister?
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows that that is not a point of order either. I call the honourable member for Hotham.
– I would like to know by receiving advice from some responsible Minister or officer in this House whether it is the intention to have a vote on this very important question tonight. If it is I will curtail my remarks. If it is not I will continue my speech. I am going to vote with the Opposition on this amendment.
– How surprising.
-I wonder why the National Country Party is surprised. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) is almost identical with the amendment which I moved in this House before the House adjourned for the winter recess, except that the amendment now before us is expressed in more detailed and more eloquent language than the simple amendment which I moved. Therefore I am being consistent. I am voting for the amendment because I agree with what it says. There is no known way of safely storing wastes from uranium mining. I have debated this question throughout the nation with the prouranium lobbies, the people representing the mining companies who, I must say, have conducted the debate with honesty, dignity and frankness. I do not accept the suggestion that the debate has been conducted by the mining companies other than in the way that I have said.
On every platform upon which I have debated this question I have challenged them on three points. I have said, as the Fox report said, as the Flowers Report said, as the Nader book said and as every shred of evidence on uranium mining anywhere in the world suggests, that there are three facts that have not been denied. The first is that uranium mining produces wastes which contain radio toxic materials, which cause cancer and which may cause gene mutations in future generations. That is a fact that has not been denied by any scientist or by any honourable member on the Government side, to my knowledge. That makes it not an economic decision that we are making tonight but a moral decision. The decision that we take tonight when voting on this amendment will not be an economic decision. We could be committing future generations to hideous congenital malformations and nobody on the other side of the House can give any palpable evidence to me that that is not so. That is what the reports say. The second fact is that the wastes from uranium mining last 100,000 years and remain dangerous for 100,000 years. No pro-uranium speaker with whom I have debated this issue has denied that. The third fact is that there is no way known to science of safely storing those wastes for 100,000 years.
– There is.
– My friend on my left says that there is. He would be performing an enormous service to science, to this Parliament and to the world if he could produce tonight the known safe way of storing radioactive wastes from uranium mining for 100,000 years. I have not heard it yet in the debate. They are the first of the objections that I have to mining, and for those reasons above I agree with the Opposition’s amendment.
The next point I make is in relation to safeguards. I ask honourable members in the Liberal Party whether they really and sincerely believe that the 11 magical points of safeguard suggested by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Government mean a damn. Do they really believe that the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty is worth the paper it is writ- i ten on? Do they really believe that any nation ‘ which buys uranium must necessarily because it has signed a piece of paper stick to its word? Can any honourable member on the Government side say in conscience that he believes that nations hold to treaties? There have been wars fought every quarter of a century because nations have broken their word for the sake of expendiency. Can any honourable member on the Government side tell me that trade is always conducted according to agreements between nations or pledges by nations? There is only one rule in international trade and that is that trade follows the trail of the almighty dollar.
Can any honourable member on the Government side who says that there are safeguards in treaties tell me how in the name of fortune trade with Rhodesia has almost quadrupled since the United Nations put an almost unanimous ban on trade with Rhodesia? Who is trading with Rhodesia if every nation has said that there is to be no more trade with Rhodesia? Is it the man in the moon or from some other planet or is it in fact nations doing it under subterfuge? Does anybody doubt that there is emnity between the Arabs and Israel? Can anybody deny that oil is being sold to Israel and being pumped through Israel in pipelines for the sake of expendiency because it suits nations to follow the trail of the dollar? If any honourable member on the Government side wants to dispute that I can produce evidence. I have seen it myself.
Let us be realistic when we talk about safeguards. There is no safe way of storing wastes. There is no way of guaranteeing that nations will honour treaties in relation to safeguards. Therefore I find the Opposition’s amendment entirely reasonable and couched in reasonable terms. I am not necessarily against the mining of uranium or the use of nuclear energy. I am saying that until the Government can tell us that we can prevent malformations from occurring in future generations and that it can ensure effective safeguard treaties between nations, we should wait. For those reasons I support the amendment.
-The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has raised a number of cogent points that need to be answered, but the first thing I should say is that I am told there will be a vote on this issue. This House is the proper place to make such a decision. A referendum is only an abdication by this House of its democratic responsibility. This House will vote tonight and will make a decision on an issue of great importance not only to this country but also to the world. I am sure that we will make the right decision. What we must consider is what we are proposing and discussing. It is only proposed that we mine, mill and export uranium. There is no suggestion that we should set up nuclear power stations in this country. There is no suggestion that we should store nuclear wastes. We are considering a narrow issue. We must consider this mater in the interests of both Australia and the rest of the world. So let us look at the matter in those lights.
The first question is: What are the advantages for Australia? Some estimates have to be made of the likely value of uranium. It appears that in the 1980s it will be worth an export income of about $ 1,200m a year. That is much more than the present value of the wool cheque and it is two-thirds as much as the total value of our present mineral exports. Further, that uranium export income will come at a time when our oil imports are rising rapidly. Unless we have some such export there will be a very severe balance of payment problem. Economically, the export of uranium is of great importance to the future prosperity and social welfare of this country. In addition, as a minor fact, the export of uranium will create about 5,000 new jobs. I do not think anyone can despise such a creation. A minor point which has been raised- I think by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) and others- is that uranium and nuclear power are not of great importance to Third World countries. Superficially, that is true.
It is unlikely that many of the undeveloped countries will use nuclear power generation. But the world energy resources must be looked at as a whole. If the Western world shifts emphasis to nuclear power that will release other fossil fuel sources- oil and coal- for use by the undeveloped world. Let me take a simple example. If Japan forgoes its present nuclear power generation program the immediate effect will be a rapid rise in the price of coal. A rapid rise in the price of coal will be of great disadvantage to the undeveloped world. So by exporting uranium, indirectly we can help the undeveloped world. We must admit that cannot be done directly.
But there are some problems associated with nuclear power generation as the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) and others have mentioned. The first matter, mentioned with great force but not, I think, with great accuracy by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), is the question of nuclear proliferation. It is a fact that the present Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is seriously defective. Three of the nuclear powers- China, France and India- are not members. The Fox report suggests and common sense also dictates, that our export of uranium will have no effect on nuclear proliferation. The cost of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems is so great that the cost of the associated uranium is trivial. If all else failed it would be economical to get some sea water to produce nuclear weapons. Australia, by its export or failure to export uranium, can have no effect on the problem of nuclear proliferation except that by exporting we do have some leverage to tighten up these admittedly defective standards. If we refuse to export, we have none. After all, America and Russia between them have nuclear weapons capable of destroying the world several times over. They have manufactured these weapons without any Australian uranium.
Surely now is the time to use uranium for peaceful purposes, for the benefit of the world. Terrorists are also a problem. By the way, it is most unlikely that terrorists will be capable of raiding a nuclear power station, carrying away spent fuel rods which weigh about 20 tons, setting up their own processing plant at a cost of about $3 billion and making themselves a nuclear weapon. That is not a thing which terrorists do in a backyard. It is true that if we go into a plutonium economy then terrorists might have a chance. The main aim of our policy in the interests of the whole world should be to try to delay the onset of a plutonium economy. What the Australian Labor Party proposes would accelerate the introduction of the plutonium economy which surely it is the aim of all of us to avoid.
The second risk associated with uranium mining is the risk of mining itself. We have considerable experience of this. In the past we have mined some 4 million tonnes of uranium ore. In that time the number of casualties and injuries as a result of radiation has been nil. The mining of uranium is very much safer than, for instance, the underground mining of coal. We need not concern ourselves that the actual mining or milling of uranium comprises any significant hazard to those involved in it. If the tailings are suitably dealt with there is no risk to the community. Dealing with tailings is not any great problem. Again, there are problems concerned with nuclear power stations. I think this matter must be put in perspective. Radiation is going on all the time. We are now receiving background radiation from the world around us.
If we plot on a scale what we receive from background radiation and what we receive from other sources we can see the position. If we give the normal background radiation, which all of us receive and which men have received since the beginning of time, a scale of 1,000 then what the average person receives from medical and dental x-rays amounts to 700. What the average person receives from all past nuclear explosions amounts to 40. What the average person receives from all existing nuclear power stations amounts to less than 0.06. As the honourable member for Hotham says, one can say that 0.06 from all existing nuclear power stations when compared with 1,000 from normal background radiation is virtually nothing. Any sensible evaluation will suggest that by any standards it is a negligible risk. There is also a minor problem locally from the nuclear power stations. These stations have been exhaustively examined and suffice it to say that a person living alongside a nuclear power station- which, by the way, is a local risk and there is no intention of setting them up herewould be 200 times as likely to be killed by a thunderbolt as he would by any radiation from that station. That is a risk which I think has to be kept in modest perspective.
Then there is the question of waste disposal. This is a subject which has been grossly misrepresented. As of now waste disposal is not a significant problem. All the waste from all American nuclear power stations could be stored in this chamber. Systems are being developed and have been successful in a pilot scheme to vitrify such products and bury them. I think that will be the future route which will be taken. One thing we must bear in mind is that if we become an exporter of uranium we will have the power, in association with other exporters, to impose on the users of uranium proper standards for the disposal of their waste so that in the disposal of that waste they do not affect others. I submit that the decision whether to use nuclear power is a local decision, to be made by the local community based on its assessment of the risk and the advantages to that community. That is true for that community if it does not affect the rest of the world. I believe we can impose those standards by becoming a uranium exporter. We have no moral, economic or social right to try to impose on other countries the system of power generation they should use, provided they do not affect other countries by their use of that power.
The final risk is that of the fast breeder reactor. There is no doubt that at the moment the fast breeder reactor poses substantial environmental problems. It uses uranium about 50 times as efficiently as the existing boiling water and pressurised water reactors. Surely our aim must be to prevent, until safeguards are enforced, the introduction of a fast breeder reactor which uses plutonium. The main thrust of President Carter’s policy is to stop the reprocessing of spent nuclear cores from existing reactors and the introduction of fast breeder reactors because they involve the use of plutonium. For his policy to work- 1 believe it is the proper policy- it would depend upon the free availability of uranium so the present reactors which are in use in more than 40 countries can continue economically. If we succeed in creating an artificial shortage of uranium all we will be doing is impelling the world into reprocessing and into fast breeder reactor generation. Surely this is something which a country must resist at all costs. We must consider that we are responsible for the consequences of our action.
I believe that there are enormous economic benefits to Australia in the exporting of uranium, but there are three moral questions that we must answer. I believe that some of us have been asking the wrong moral questions. The three moral questions that we must ask are these: Firstly, have we the right to impose on other countries or attempt to impose on other countries the system of power generation which they should use, provided that the use of the power-generating material does not affect other countries? Secondly, have we the right, like Pontius Pilate, to wash our hands of the whole affair and neglect our opportunities to impose on the rest of the world, through our agreements with other exporters, proper standards of waste disposal and safeguards? Thirdly, do we, as a country with 0.04 per cent of the world’s population, have the right to deny to the rest of the world 25 per cent of a most important energy source?
– I am staggered at this debate tonight. I listened to the absolute smug certainty of the 91 members on the other side of the House. There are no doubts at all in their minds- none whatsoever. I must confess that I have been one of the many members on this side of the House who have had to go through a great deal of reading, research, listening and arguments. We have considerable doubts as to what we should do on this question.
For this we have been attacked. We have been attacked by the conservative side of politics and by those who seek to mine uranium. They say that this is some sort of weakness on our part. I would have thought that discussing, debating, agonising and anguishing over a decision such as this were virtues. It is quite staggering to find not one person on the Government side who has any doubt about the mining and exporting of uranium.
From my readings on the matter I find it very difficult to decide. I find on one side nuclear physicists and scientists who tell me one thing. On the other side I find the same type of peoplenuclear physicists, scientists and environmentalistswho tell me the other. I am not a scientist. I do not have any special skills. I cannot tell which side is telling the truth. I have to work out my own decision. On the other side of the House, the same arguments are put to the same sort of people without the technical skills, and they are all absolutely certain. The experts themselves are in disagreement. So I say: If we are wrong, what is the loss? We have lost a little money- maybe a few million dollars. If honourable members opposite are wrong, the whole bloody world will go up in smoke. I am prepared to sit back and wait for a while because I am not sure. I would rather wait until I have assurances on things such as the storing of nuclear waste and the elimination of risk of gene mutation, because I think they are serious problems. It is not a problem for the chatter boxes in the National Country Party because most of them suffer from that sort of problem already. I have fairly good breeding stock on my side. I do not want to see my grandchildren finish up like members of the Country Party. So I am prepared to wait.
We on this side have been accused of being emotional. I would have thought that the destruction of the world was something to get emotional about. I would have thought that was a greater virtue than being worried about whether we would make a few miserable dollars out of this question. It is really heart-rendering to find the 91 members of the Liberal-Country Parties suddendly discovering that there is a Third World. For the 8 years that I have been a member of this place they have never shown any interest in the Third World. Suddenly they are concerned about it. One member on that side was concerned about it- the honourable member for Holt twice removed. He took some interest in it. He is out of the place and is replaced by a new member.
– The honourable member for Denison and the honurable member for St George have shown an interest in it.
-The honourable member for Hotham says that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) have shown some anguish. I will concede that there are two members opposite who have shown some interest in this matter. I withdraw my previous statement. There are only 89 members opposite who are absolutely sure that we should blow up the world. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) made some interesting points. He said that it was absurd for us not to sell uranium to the countries which he listed because they could get it anyhow. I said: ‘Why are we bothering to sell it if they can get it anyhow?’ The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) interjected and said: ‘Because they are running short’. If they are running short, one good way of stopping them eventually from using it is for us to make an ultimate contribution by stopping it now. Ultimately they will run out, and ultimately we will make a difference as to whether they will have nuclear power.
There is a sense of deja vu in this debate. I can recall that in 1971 the McMahon Government was running into all kinds of problems with the economy and was in one hell of a mess politically. It was patently obvious to everybody in Australia that it would be defeated at the next election. Suddenly we had an issue on the Springbok football team’s tour and the debate in Australia about apartheid. The public opinion polls were running something like 85 to 15 in favour of the Government. So the Prime Minister of the day suddenly thought ‘Here is an issue on which we can run and win an election ‘. I have no doubt that at that time he was right. He was prepared to do that, and to hell with the issue and the concern about the people of South Africa. A similar thing is happening here now. The present Liberal-Country Party Government is realising that it is in enormous political trouble. The public opinion polls show that it would lose an election if one were held tomorrow. The only thing that the Government appears to have going for it is the public opinion poll which shows a marginal percentage of people on its side in respect of uranium. So the Government believes that it can create a nice union bashing, Labor Party bashing issue on the question of uranium. That is the basest motive for this campaign. Of course, there is also the love of making a quid for some of the friends who contribute to the election campaign funds of honourable members opposite.
I sense that this issue is one that will be seen through by the people of Australia. The Australian people have been taken in from time to time by sudden issues. But when the people of Australia see what is an obvious phoney- they see a government being destroyed by its incapacity to handle the economy, and suddenly it switches the issue to the question of uranium, knowing what the reaction of sections of the trade union will be and knowing that it can create a climate of union bashing- they will see the hypocrisy and the absurdity of this as a major election issue. Perhaps I should not mention what I am going to mention now but it is something about which I am concerned because the question was raised earlier about the possibility of nuclear war breaking out in the Middle East. I do not think there is any doubt that both the Arab countries in the Middle East and Israel have nuclear weapons. I do not know how many honourable members are familiar with what one might call the ethos of Israel- the attitudes of the Israelis to what one might call group survival. But for those who are not familiar with the history of this area, I shall go back to biblical times.
– Well, keep it short.
-If the honourable member will just be a little patient he possibly will learn something tonight. Almost 2,000 years ago, at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, the last of the Jewish zealots held out in a place called Masada. They held out against the Roman legions in that spot for three years. Finally, when there was no chance of defeating the Roman legions or of surviving, the 600 Jewish zealots committed suicide.
The honourable members of the National Country Party, who are laughing, may think this is terribly funny and amusing. It is not amusing if one happens to be an Israeli. I am trying to make a point which I think is valid. If the honourable member will just be patient he will understand what I am trying to say. Those 600 zealots died at their own hands. Some 15 or so years ago Professor Yigal Yadin unearthed that archaeological site at Masada and it is now a national shrine. It is linked in the Israeli mind with the destruction of the Jews in the holocaust in which six million died. During that period, which is a tragedy in human history and in the history of the Jewish people, it was often said by those people who survived the holocaust: ‘Why did you let it happen? Why did you not at least take some of them with you?’ Except for the Warsaw ghetto, most of the Jews went calmly to their death. If one returns to Israel now one finds a particular attitude of mind there. Most of the people there now think that should worse come to worst there will not be any more walking quietly to the gas chamber; there will be another Masada. I believe that if the situation arises in which Israel is pushed to the point where its ultimate destruction is imminent we may well see another Masada. Honourable members might find that hard to believe, but that is the attitude I have found to exist amongst a section of Israelis. It is unfortunate but it is understandable. There will be no more walking calmly to gas chambers. They will go but they may take the rest of the Middle East with them. If we are contributing towards that situation by providing uranium which enables nuclear weapons to spread and proliferate I think we should stop doing so immediately.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Honourable member’s time has expired.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I understand that the House is likely to sit throughout the night. There are plenty of speakers on our side of the House, for a start. I was wondering what arrangements had been made for breakfast.
-That might be an interesting comment, but it is not a point of order.
– I rise to support the Government’s decisions concerning the mining and export of uranium and to oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). This matter is of great interest and concern to many people in my electorate. A large number of people have written to me and a number of people have come to speak to me about the issue. I have appreciated all the expressions of concern and the viewpoints that have been put to me.
Very early in the public debate that has been proceeding for some time I resolved that I would not come to a final veiw on the subject until after the presentation of the two Fox reports by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and after I had had the opportunity of assessing some developments overseas. Accordingly, on 2 June this year when this House was debating the nuclear safeguards policy which had been announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) I made a speech in which I outlined some of the conclusions to which I had come. Let me quote one sentence of what I said on that occasion. I said:
If a decision by Australia not to supply uranium would halt nuclear developments throughout the world i would probably be in favour of a moratorium on mining and exporting in order to resolve existing problems.
I referred in particular to the problems of the long term disposal of wastes. I then went on to say that we had to make a decision in Australia on the basis of a factual situation. Many countries already have gone nuclear in their power generation programs. Many countries less stable and with fewer scruples than Australia are already mining and exporting uranium. I was interested, therefore, in the oft-quoted letter which Sir MacFarlane Burnet wrote to the Melbourne Age, in which he indicated, if I might say so with respect, a development of ideas similar to mine. He said:
As a biologist I should have preferred that there had never been developed the military and industrial exploitation of nuclear power.
I certainly agree with that. I think every honourable member in this House would agree with it. He went on to state:
I believe that a majority of thoughtful people accept the inevitability for at least an interim period, of large scale use of nuclear energy in most parts of the world.
Things being as they are, nuclear power generators will be needed for the next twenty, or perhaps fifty, years in most of the developed countries, with Japan and Sweden in particular need.
I was interested to note that Sir MacFarlane Burnet mentioned Japan first when referring to those two countries.
I visited Japan in January. I was with a group of members from both the Senate and the House of Representatives who went to Japan to look at questions of trade, industrial relations and energy policy, amongst other things. I understand that Japan is in a situation similar to that faced by a number of other countries, to a greater or lesser degree. They are countries which have made a decision to develop a nuclear power generating program on grounds that are not necessarily relevant to Australian minds but are very relevant to the circumstances faced by those countries.
Let me outline two factors which were obviously very influential in the decisions which Japan has made over a number of years to develop a significant capacity to generate electricity from nuclear power generators. Firstly, there is Japan’s dependence on overseas supplies of raw materials and energy. One of the things that strikes one very strongly when speaking to Japanese officials- people in government circles, in the bureaucracy and in industry, either at management or union level- is the great sensitivity that Japan has towards her dependence on overseas sources of supply.
Wherever we went and talked about energy policy they kept referring to the ‘oil shock’ of 1973- the decision by the Arab oil exporting nations to hold up supplies of oil and then to raise the price. The ‘price hike’, as they call it in Japan, certainly is something that has been imprinted indelibly on Japanese minds. When talking to them about industrial relations we learned that they were acutely sensitive to Australia’s industrial relations problems because of their dependence on Australia for many of their basic raw materials. That affected iron ore and other products, including, of course, coal and other products supplied from other countries around the world. Australia, as an energy rich country, as a resources rich country, cannot quite understand the attitude of mind of the people of a country such as Japan which is highly dependent on overseas supplies of raw material and energy. So Japan is very sensitive to the need to ensure the proper supplies she needs to keep the wheels of industry turning and to light and heat the homes of her people.
One of the problems, therefore, that Japan faces with fossil fuels- with oil and with coal- is that those fuels are very bulky. They are very bulky to transport. It is difficult to stockpile large quantities of those fuels so that Japan can protect itself against the short term disruption to supply which might occur as the result of wars in various regions of the world or simply as the result of industrial disputation on the wharves of exporting countries. Therefore one of the attractions of nuclear energy to Japan is that she can stockpile or store quantities of uranium very readily. In terms of its size and compactness, it is a very efficient sort of fuel for Japan to stockpile in advance so that it does not suffer from the short term disruptions to supply which might occur as the result of war or industrial dispute.
That is clearly one advantage of nuclear energy to Japan. Therefore it is Japan’s resolve to develop a significant proportion of her electricity power generating capacity from nuclear sources. Japan believes that if she has some part of that capacity supplied from nuclear sources, some from furnaces fuelled by fossil fuels and some from hydro-electric power, and then tries to diversify the sources of supply of uranium and of the fossil fuels as far as possible she will have provided the greatest possible guarantee against disruption to the sources of supply of any one of those fuels from any one part of the world. So clearly the generation of power from nuclear sources is an important part of Japan’s policy to remain self-reliant and to insulate herself from troubles in the rest of the world.
A second reason for Japan favouring a nuclear power generation program is an environmental one. In Australia when we talk about the environmental problem as it relates to uranium mining and export we think in terms of the waste disposal problem. Australian minds concentrate on that problem. Japan has an enormous air pollution problem. In the context of that problem it sees nuclear power generation as offering a great advantage because furnaces which are fuelled by fossil fuels- by oil and by coal- have the disadvantage of adding enormously to the air pollution problem, an enormous problem in a small country geographically, such as Japan is, with such a huge population. Therefore the Japanese see the development of nuclear energy as contributing to the solution of her air pollution problems. Certainly when you talk to anyone in Japan involved in planning and in the sort of urban problems that the Japanese face, this matter of air pollution is one that comes up time and again.
Indeed, they find it difficult to understand that Australians are worried about air pollution problems in Australia. One of the Tokyo planning people whom we saw said that he visited Sydney on a number of occasions and that he could not quite understand why we in Australia debated the subject of air pollution, because in his view the air was delicious. That is the way in which he expressed it. He said that the air was delicious in Sydney. I do not know how many residents of Sydney would agree with that view. However, that certainly was a Japanese perspective on the problem. The Japanese Government has a very active policy of discouraging industries which rely for their energy on oil or coal fired furnaces.
So Japan is a very good example of a country which has made a decision to go nuclear in her power generation program for reasons which are very good to that country. Therefore Australia must face the question not of what Australia thinks ought to be the right decision in terms of the sorts of priorities that Australia has but what is our responsibility to the rest of the world in which many countries are energy deficient. We are in the fortunate position of having an energy surplus and, indeed, of having vast supplies of many resources which would be of use to many countries around the world.
What is the Labor Party policy which has been espoused in this debate? It really is a little difficult to discern it because, as I understand the resolution of the Labor Party Federal Conference, it resolved to have an indefinite moratorium on the mining and exporting of uranium. But then that resolution was slightly qualified by some people who chose to put a certain interpretation on it after the conference. Indeed, it was possibly on the final day of the conference that they said: ‘Yes, but we have a conference every two years. Therefore it is not really an indefinite moratorium; it will be for only two years, until we review it in two years’ time’. Of course, we know the attitude that the President of the Labor Party and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, took on this question. He was subsequently threatened with disciplinary action by the Victorian branch of the ALP if he did not toe the line.
I think all honourable members on this side of the House admire the sorts of comments that have been made by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) in a number of speeches that he has made over a period of months on the energy question and in the nuclear debate. He acknowledges the energy needs of the world and Australia ‘s responsibility in that context.
So I come back to the question: What is the real moral choice facing Australia? I suggest that the choice we face is not the choice between stopping nuclear developments or encouraging them by mining and exporting our uranium. That is the simplistic way in which it is often put. I suggest that what we are really faced with is a choice between allowing nuclear developments to occur in an unsatisfactory way, as they are occurring at present throughout the world, or of using our position as a responsible supplier of energy resources to bring about greater stability, greater certainty and greater responsibility in nuclear developments throughout the world.
I believe that the statements made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and a number of other Ministers outlining Australia’s decision indicates the depth of thought that the Government has given to this question and the responsible attitude which the Government has taken in resolving a number of the very real problems. The decisions which the Government had made have been made after a long period of consideration. Since this Government has been in office there has been effectively an almost two-year moratorium on a decision as the Government looked at all the facts and came to its view. I commend the Government on the very realistic and highly moral statements which were made in this House a couple of weeks ago.
-At the outset I place on record my indignation at the attitude of the Government in attempting to play politics on this issue. The time is twenty minutes to midnight. Apparently the brains behind the Government, be it the Whip, the Deputy Whip or the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair)- I know not which- has decided that he will test the Opposition out to see whether it has sufficient speakers to take part in the debate on this issue. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) raised the issue- he did it in a facetious style- of whether the Government would be providing breakfast. In other words, he was seeking to find out how long this Government will seek to play politics on an important issue. The issue is whether uranium should be mined and exported. I refer to a prophetic statement which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) made in this Parliament on 29 March 1977. He said:
The Fraser Government is continuing to mislead and confuse the Australian people on the issue of uranium mining and export. Naturally this deception begins with confusion and concealment concerning its own policy. The Government professes to have an open mind on this issue, but for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, its mind is made up. It is in favour of uranium mining; it is in favour of uranium exports; it wants to go ahead with them whatever happens. Its options are closed.
How prophetic was that statement remembering that it was made on 29 March 1977. ‘Its options are closed’ were the words of the Leader of the Opposition. How true this is. This Government has now come forward with a policy. Its options were closed then; its options are closed now. It has no concern for the world population. Australia should have an obligation to the rest of the world. It should have an obligation to humanity. It should have an obligation to future generations. At least the Australian Labor Party recognises that obligation. The Government does not recognise it. The Australian Labor Party in its recently determined policy realises that it has an obligation to the rest of the world, to humanity and to future generations.
To my mind it is sinful that any government, including this Government, would proceed to open new uranium mines in Australia and to export that uranium before adequate international safeguards on waste disposal have been established. Apparently this Government, having made up its mind many moons ago, has no concern about the important issue of waste disposal. I have six children. I am concerned not so much for those six children but for their children and their children after them. The effects of waste from uranium will not be felt in my time. They will not be felt in my children’s time. They will be felt in my children’s children’s time and in the time of their children thereafter.
I am not being emotive on this issue. It is a fact of life. As members of the Parliament- I am not playing politics- we have an obligation to humanity. Not only do I have an obligation to the people I represent, but also, as an Australian parliamentarian, I have an obligation to all Australians. I am not elected to represent only the people who voted for me. I am elected to represent all the people in my electorate. Collectively, we in this Parliament are elected to represent all the people of Australia, not just the people who happened to vote for us in the December 1975 election. They will not vote for honourable members opposite in the future.
I have a sign behind my desk in my office. It has on it a very true statement. I notice that a number of people when they come to interview me on a problem look at it almost as though they were looking at a crucifix on the wall. To some of them it must be a crucifix. The words on that sign are: ‘Don’t blame me- I voted Labor’. This is a very true statement. The Government should be thinking not just of the Tories, the conservatives, the tall poppies and the mining interests, but of all the people of Australia. It is not. If it was at all sincere and if it was thinking of the people of Australia, their children and their children after them it could not possibly come down with a policy such as it has enunciated.
We have had two reports from the Fox Commission of Inquiry. Should the Government and the whole of Australia ignore the findings of the Fox Commission? The Commission pointed out the risks of inadequate safeguards in regard to nuclear waste and the dangers of nuclear war. Apparently this Government hangs its hat on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and its associated safeguard agreements. It is interesting to note that the report of the Fox Commission lists no fewer than 1 1 major defects in the Treaty. Its exact words are:
The Non-Proliferation Treaty only provides an illusion of protection.
I repeat the words ‘an illusion of protection’. Australia occupies a special position on the nuclear scene. It posesses relatively large uranium reserves. It is in a position to influence world opinion by its actions. The fact which galls me is that this Government has made commitments, urged on by mining lobby, by its spokesmen in this Parliament and by the uranium forum with its false advertisements. The uranium lobby’s advertisements were false in many particulars.
Unfortunately, the mining lobby in this Parliament happens to be led by the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony). Following him in obedience like the sheep they are, are members of the National Country Party. I am certain that people in country areas, if they were asked whether they support the attitude of the Government as reiterated again and again by the Deputy Prime Minister, would say that they would not support that policy, not only from the economic point of view but also because country people are realists and thinkers. There is a tendency amongst city people to live for today. My wife comes from the country. She does not live for today. She has to live with me. But she is a thinker. I say that about most country people. They think not only of today; they also think of the future. They think of their children and their children’s children. If the members and the Leader of the National Country Party were to canvass the opinion of people in country areas I am certain they would find that those people would say that uranium should not be mined and sold outside Australia until there are adequate safeguards on waste disposal. What shocks me is that the Deputy Prime Minister has even suggested publicly that if Australia did not mine and export its uranium Japan would come and take it.
– That is an insult.
– As my friend the honourable member for Hunter said, it is an insult to the Australian people to suggest that we can be bluffed and bludgeoned into disposing of our uranium for fear that Japan will come and take it from us. I give the lie to that. I do not think that the average Australian thinks that way. The average Australian is a realist. He is no chicken. If it were put to him that Japan would come and take our uranium if we did not sell it, I think that the average Australian would say: ‘Come and have a go.’
– He would dig his toes in.
– As the honourable member for Hughes says, he would dig his toes in. The present Government is playing politics. Unfortunately it is playing politics with the lives of the people of Australia and of generations to come. It is playing this game for purely political purposes. The Government is hoping to create an issue. It is in dire financial trouble at the moment. The economy is rotten. Unemployment is rife.
We are going on the way to having half a million people unemployed. To try to divert the attention of the people of Australia the Government is coming up with this issue of uranium mining and export. I suggest to the Government that the people of Australia are not fools. It takes them a while to wake up, but they have woken up.
– They resent it.
– Yes, they resent being treated as fools. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) said today- I almost hate to quote it- that women should not have been given the vote. That was a shocking thing to say. It is on the record. It is an indictment of the women of this country. I hate to think that there is an indictment of the people of this country by the Government because it thinks that the people of Australia are fools. Australia is in a position to exercise responsibility in world affairs. It controls a significant proportion of the world’s available uranium.
– How much?
– It controls 13 per cent of the available and known reserves of uranium. It could well follow the example of Canada. More than IS months ago Canada declared that it would never again, under any circumstances, pass to another country nuclear materials or technology which could contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation. That policy by Canada is uncompromising and, in my view, it is right. Australia could well follow the example of Canada. Australia is in a position to influence world opinion. I only hope that at this late stage it is possible for the Government to recant, to change its policy. If some members on the other side of the House would come across and vote with us we would at last have a sensible decision, a sensible policy, for the people of Australia, not only for the present generation but also for future generations to come.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sainsbury) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 September 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770907_reps_30_hor106/>.