Page 5332 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2011

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Uranium—proposed sale to India

MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (5.29): I rise today to speak about the possible sale of uranium to India. It is not something obviously that I was planning to speak about, but from today’s headline in the Canberra Times and many other newspapers this appears to be a subject that is back on the political agenda again. I was shocked to go to the Age and take part in their poll on the subject. When I was there I saw that 63 per cent of the people who had voted were in favour of Australia changing its requirements and being prepared to sell uranium to India.

My speech has got nothing against India. I think India is a wonderful country. My daughter lived there for about 10 years. I think it is one of the great democracies of the world—all of that. What my speech is about is the real dangers of nuclear proliferation. Previously Australia has always decided not to sell uranium to India because it is one of only four countries in the world who have not signed the only nuclear treaty that puts restrictions on the proliferation of nuclear material and weapons; it also has nuclear weapons. So the issue for Australia is that we really cannot have confidence in the safeguards regime.

India did acquire its nuclear weapons in the past by breaking its promises on nuclear materials. What confidence can we have that this will not happen again? For those people who saw Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, one of the things that struck me from that was that he was saying at the beginning that in his days as vice-president of the United States he saw a number of countries all get into nuclear from an energy point of view and almost without exception they then moved into nuclear from a weapons point of view. The two are related, nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Where do nuclear weapons get their fuel from? It is generally nuclear power.

We have not sold uranium to India and Pakistan in the past because they are not in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; neither, of course, are North Korea or Israel, and both of those of course now have nuclear weapons. These four are the only ones outside. Are we going to be likely to sell to India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel in the future?

According to the paper and the radio this morning, Stephen Smith said this morning that the reason we should sell to India is that it is a growing superpower. Something is really not totally clear to me: if you are a superpower, does that mean you are so big we should just do what you say? That is the only logic I can see to that argument, because I cannot see how being a superpower suddenly means you are not likely to do anything different with uranium. Clearly, the Greens would prefer to see Australia not selling uranium at all, but if we do sell uranium at the very least we should not be selling it to countries that have nuclear weapons.

The other furphy that is often raised with selling uranium is that if we have power from uranium this will be good from a greenhouse point of view. The analyses I have seen of greenhouse and uranium all say that if you take the full life cycle into account it is not actually that brilliant. It takes a lot of energy to dig it up and it takes even more energy to look after the radioactive by-products of nuclear power, which will be

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