House debates

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Questions without Notice

Uranium Exports

2:10 pm

Photo of Kevin RuddKevin Rudd (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

It is good to have Gareth back in the chamber—a foreign minister with experience.

Government Members:

Government members interjecting

Photo of David HawkerDavid Hawker (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Members on my right!

Photo of Kevin RuddKevin Rudd (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that the Indian Prime Minister told his parliament this week that the US-India nuclear agreement does not in any way affect India’s right to undertake future nuclear tests? Is the Prime Minister also aware of a statement by India’s chief scientific adviser, saying:

Whatever reactors we put under safeguards will be decided at India’s discretion.

We are not firewalling between the civil and military programs in terms of manpower or personnel. That’s not on.

Prime Minister, given this, why has the government of Australia decided to sell uranium to India?

Photo of John HowardJohn Howard (Bennelong, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I preface my answer by observing that it is interesting that the Leader of the Opposition places a premium on experience. Can I say to the Leader of the Opposition that I will be speaking to the Indian Prime Minister later today about issues relating to the possible supply of uranium to that country, and I can inform the member that we would only supply uranium to India for peaceful purposes and if proper safeguards are in place, as we have with China. I think many Australians would find it rather strange, on reflection, that this country might sell uranium to China but not sell uranium to India.

India does have a very good non-proliferation track record. It has indicated that it does not intend to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, so we think it worthwhile to find practical ways to bring it into the non-proliferation mainstream. Of course, one of the conditions that would be involved if sales were to take place would be the negotiation of inspection arrangements with the international agency, the IAEA. I remind the House that, when in office, the Labor Party had no difficulty with uranium sales to France before it joined the non-proliferation treaty in 1992.

India is a major and rapidly growing emitter of greenhouse gases. And, unlike the doctrinaire, illogical position being taken by the Labor Party, we believe that uranium ought to be part of the solution and that nuclear power has to be part of the solution. India is the largest democracy in the world. It is a country that has stoically maintained its commitment to democracy since securing its independence from the United Kingdom. Sixty years ago yesterday, 15 August 1947, India received its independence. Over those 60 years, despite many challenges to democracy in that country, it has magnificently maintained it.

India is an influential regional power and a potential strategic partner for Australia. In those circumstances, we think that it no longer makes sense under proper conditions, in proper circumstances and subject to proper safeguards for this country not to contemplate selling uranium to India in the same way that we have contemplated, under proper conditions, selling uranium to China. That is how the government intend to handle this matter. When, after my discussion with the Indian Prime Minister, I have further things to say to the Australian public, I will.