Senate debates

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Treaties Committee; Report

5:25 pm

Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I present the 137th report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, the committee's first report of the 44th Parliament, together with the minutes of proceedings of the committee and the transcript of evidence.

Ordered that the report be printed.

by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The report contains the committee's views on the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United Arab Emirates on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. This proposed treaty was first referred to the committee in the 43rd Parliament but lapsed following the proroguing of parliament. During that inquiry the committee held two public hearings and received nine submissions. The proposed treaty was referred to the current committee on 15 January 2014 and, as all the relevant issues had been aired in the 43rd Parliament, the committee resolved to report without taking further evidence.

The Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United Arab Emirates on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy will enable Australian uranium miners to export uranium to the United Arab Emirates, the first country to implement a civilian nuclear power program in 27 years. The agreement will ensure that Australian uranium, uranium products and related materials are subject to the highest standard of safety and security available. For example, the agreement will prohibit the use of Australian nuclear materials in weapons and will enable Australia to impose penalties on the UAE, including stopping the supply of Australian nuclear materials, if the UAE fails to comply with the highest international safety standards.

The committee was pleased to note that the UAE's approach to developing a civil nuclear program is a model of openness and transparency. The UAE is making considerable use of international expertise to construct its reactors to ensure that international standards are met. Further, the UAE accepted an International Atomic Energy Agency regulatory review mission in 2011, which found a number of good practices in the UAE regulatory system while also recommending a number of improvements. Finally, the UAE has appointed an international advisory board to oversee the regulation of its civil nuclear program. The board includes a number of eminent international experts in nuclear power and its reports will be made public.

The committee is aware of the dangers posed by nuclear power and has made some recommendations to ensure that the safety and security standards applying to exported Australian nuclear materials remain the highest in the world. The recommendations are that, prior to ratification of the proposed treaty, the IAEA undertake physical inspections of UAE facilities that will handle Australian obligated nuclear materials; that the government report to the parliament on what action it has taken to implement the recommendations of the United Nations System Wide Study on the Implications of the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant; and that the government explore and report to the parliament on mechanisms to strengthen the resourcing of the IAEA.

The committee is of the view that the highest international standards for transparency demonstrated by the UAE in developing its civil nuclear program ought to be encouraged and replicated elsewhere. The committee considers that, subject to the above recommendations, binding treaty action should be taken.

On behalf of the committee I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.


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