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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (19 May) . . Page.. 307 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

It is the case that neither India nor Pakistan has bothered to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty. It is also the case that neither India nor Pakistan has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. I think one very significant step that we can take, as a nation, is to maintain pressure on the Indians to sign those treaties. It is also the case that we should specifically illustrate the level of our displeasure and the level of our condemnation by joining with the international community in any sanctions which the international community might seek to impose. There are perceptual difficulties, I think, in us - the wealthy and lucky country that we are - seeking to impose sanctions on a country such as India, with the appalling poverty that exists there. There is a perceptual difficulty in us seeming to punish, perhaps, those people in the world who have perhaps less than anybody else. I do not think that argument is sustainable on an issue such as this very reckless action by the Indian Government in the testing of nuclear weapons, which has heightened tensions in that part of the world. I think some of the arguments that would be thrown in in relation to that are not justified, because of the enormous resources which the Indian Government is wasting in the development of its nuclear capability. There is every good reason why we, as a nation, should take and support every possible action, and should do everything possible to express our absolute opposition to nuclear testing.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (11.30): I rise to support the motion which is before the Assembly at the moment. I also join in expressing sadness and regret that there is a nuclear nation which appears to be contemptuous of the feelings of the rest of the world and apparently desires to continue to extend and strengthen its nuclear capability. The testing of five nuclear devices in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan should be condemned in the strongest terms by all members of this Assembly. Obviously, the newly elected Indian Government has made the decision, apparently for internal political reasons as much as anything else, to build up its capacity in that regard. Its actions are viewed by its neighbours - China and Pakistan - with considerable concern. No doubt this step will lead to some reaction - if not by China, then certainly by Pakistan. Indeed, discussions have already taken place about when Pakistan will make some kind of matching gesture to India's tests.

Mr Speaker, that is a very vivid illustration of why nations around the world have supported and signed comprehensive test ban treaties and nuclear non-proliferation treaties, because the temptation by one country to acquire weapons inevitably leads to fears and pressures on neighbouring countries to similarly acquire such weapons. The threat of a domino falling and affecting many nations is increasingly real. We need to indicate that our world has changed, that today we live in an environment where, in theory, the threat of nuclear war ought to be receding, not increasing in likelihood. As a result, steps should be taken to strengthen the process begun many years ago to have all nations of the world sign both of those treaties - the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the comprehensive test ban treaty. Australia is a signatory to both of those treaties, and I believe we need to encourage those in our region, indeed in the whole world, to similarly become part of that process. The ending of the Cold War was a period of much hope for many people that the threat of nuclear war would recede.

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