House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2018


Treaties Committee; Report

4:26 pm

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (McMillan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the committee's report, incorporating a dissenting report, entitled Report 184: nuclear cooperation UK.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

by leave—Today I rise to make a statement concerning the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' Report 184.

The report deals with the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.

The Australian government has an export policy for Australian nuclear materials that permits Australian nuclear materials to be used only for peaceful purposes.

Australia's policy also requires the safe and secure storage of Australian nuclear materials, and imposes an accounting framework to ensure that Australian nuclear materials are always subject to Australian standards.

The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 29 March 2019. Subject to final agreement between the UK and the EU, a transition period during which the UK will be subject to EU laws may apply up until 31 December 2020.

When the UK leaves the EU, it will also leave Euratom, the European Atomic Energy Community.

Australian nuclear materials in the UK have until now been covered by the Australia-Euratom nuclear cooperation agreement.

When the UK leaves Euratom, that agreement will cease to apply to Australian nuclear materials in the UK.

Consequently, a new nuclear cooperation agreement with the UK is necessary to enable the uninterrupted transfer of Australian uranium to the UK and to maintain smooth commercial operations for Australian mining companies.

The proposed agreement will ensure that Australian nuclear safety standards continue to apply to Australian nuclear materials in the UK post-Brexit.

The UK and Australia have an extensive history of nuclear cooperation, and the UK has a reputation for supporting nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. The UK also has an established and expanding civilian nuclear industry.

The UK holds a third of Australia's nuclear materials in the EU, and is a significant international manufacturer of nuclear fuels.

This means that Australian nuclear materials exported to the UK are regularly transferred to third parties following processing into nuclear fuel.

Third-party transfers of Australian nuclear material from the UK can only be made to countries with which Australia has a nuclear cooperation agreement.

As an added precaution, third-party transfers from the UK can only be made with Australia's prior consent.

This means that Australian nuclear materials exported to the UK will always be subject to Australian standards and can be accounted for through their life span.

The committee believes that the Australia-UK nuclear cooperation agreement is in Australia's interest and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.

On behalf of the committee, I commend the report to the House.