PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 4445


Photo of Fraser, Malcolm

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983

More information about Fraser, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 18/07/1977

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 4445

FOR PRESS 18. JULY, 197 7
It is ' very good to be here tonight and a particular pleasure to
speak at a dinner organised by Andrew Peacock's Electorate
Committee. Andrew is a very effective and hard working Foreign
Minister. He was so heavily engaged in the drawn out final
stages of the negotiations at the Conference on International
Economic Co-operation that at one point he got only one hour's
sleep. But then he has had a very hard act to follow Mr. E. G. Whitlam.
Mr. Whitlan as you will remember said of himself " I have been the
greatest Foreign Minister that we have had for a generation."
Mr. Whitlam was in some respects the Mohammed Ali of Australian
politics. He knocked out the ALP. He left the Australian economy
reeling, and he gave the Australian political system a battering.
He recently retained his leadership of the ALP on points
two points. When someone asked him whether he was a spent
force, he answered modestly " I am one of the driving forces
of the party as I have been for some years and I suppose I shall
continue". Mr. Whitlam is certainly trying to make a comeback
at the Perth ALP Conference, he made an astonishing speech
promising that he would henceforth be economically responsible.
Mr. Hayden said that the speech must have been written on the
road to Damascus. It got wide press coverage, but when an
important ALP delegate was asked what he thought of Mr. Whitlam' s
new found responsibility he shrugged and said " I don't bother to
listen to him any more". But perhaps Mr. Whitlam will lead the
ALP a little longer.
One of the chief contenders, Mr. Hawke, goes around making such
statements as " My heart says no, but my head says yes," and
refuses to throw his two hats into the leadership ring unless
he is guaranteed victory. What a vote of confidence in Mr.
Whitlam that is.
The Government is currently considering one of the most important
and far reaching problems which any Government has had to face.
Whether to permit the mining and export of uranium, and, if so,
on what terms. This is not a simple yes or no issue. There are
a number of inter-related issues, all of which require the most
careful consideration. one thing is clear a large number of
countries have reached the conclusion that to satisfy their / energy
F77/ 153

energy requirements over the next two decades, they must
increasingly rely on the use and development of nuclear energy.
Already many European countries are heavily dependent on nuclear
energy. They have indicated that their reliance on nuclear
energy will increase substantially within the next few years.
Australia holds 20% of the world's uncommitted reserves of
uranium. We must seriously consider whether we have the right
to withhold such significant supplies from a resource-hungry
world. The benefits of uranium mining would of course be
considerable, particularly in relation to the economy of the
Northern Territory. But, before making any decision on mining,
the Government must be absolutely satisfied that the interests
of the aboriginal people are fully protected. We must be
assured that the environment will be protected.
The Government has already decided that if new export contracts
for uranium are permitted, they will be subject to the most
stringent set of safeguards announced by any country. There
will also be a continuing effort to find ways of strengthening
these safeguards, and we have indicated that we will participate
in the international nuclear fuel cycle evaluation programme.
We are satisfied that this policy represents a practical,
reasonable and effective package of measures.
The Government appreciates the significance and complexity of
the uranium issue, and is giving detailed consideration to all
the argument on both sides of this debate.
At Perth, the ALP decided in 45 minutes to place an indefinite
moratorium on the production and export of uranium, and to
repudiate any uranium contracts entered into by a non-Labor
Government. This was not a moral decision, not even a victory
for hearts over heads. Morality does not change overnight
the stand taken by the ALP in Government was diametrically
opposed to the one it has now adopted.
When the ALP was in government, its thinking on uranium was
dominated by commercial considerations. Labor's uranium statements
were punctuated not by moral dictates, but with dollar and cent
signs. In October 1974 the Minister for Minerals and Energy said
the ALP would " ensure that our major trading partners, Japan,
Italy and West Germany, obtain an equitable share of the uranium
we have for export." In October 1975, the Minister for Aboriginal
Affairs stated that " International assurances have been provided
by Ministers that Australia will meet the uranium requirements
of our major trading partners which could amount to about 100,000
tons of uranium". In March 1975, the then Deputy Prime Minister,
Dr. Cairns, and the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt,
issued a joint statement with Iran that " Iran would be given
access to supplies of uranium from Australia under favourable
conditions". On 2 June 1975, the present Shadow Minister for
/ Minerals

Minerals and Energy, Mr. Keating, said " Japan is interested
in moving into nuclear power and enriched fuel. We are prepared
to give the Japanese any amount of fuel that they need..." " The
only thing is that we would like to do the enriching. Instead
of sending just yellowcake at bargain-basement prices, we want
to get the profit that comes from enrichment." At Terrigal in
February 1975, ALP delegates stood and cheered as the then
Minister for Minerals and Energy urged the go ahead for
uranium mining.
At that conference, the ALP decided to develop Australia's
uranium resources and build a uranium enrichment plant. The
conference totally rejected a motion to halt * uranium development
for twelve months while a full scale government inquiry into
nuclear technology was conducted. At that time Mr. Dunstan,
the Premier of South Australia, one of the men who now advocates
an indefinite moratorium, was promoting the establishment of a
uranium enrichment plant in South Australia. Mr. Dunstan admits
that he has changed his mind " quite markedly" on the issue of
uranium. Whatever else may be said about Mr. Dunstan, no one
would question that he has mastered the craft of understatement.
On October 28, 1975, Mr. Whitlam signed a Memorandum of
Understanding with representatives of Peko Mines and
Electrolytic Zinc for the development, mining and sale
of uranium from the Ranger area in the Northern Territory.
Mr. Whitlam said, that " The Government believes that the Ranger
project will be a major export earner and it will be working..
to bring this mining project to fruition."
In Government, the ALP's stand on uranium was based completely
on commercial considerations. In Opposition, it was the
product of cynical political manoeuvre. Those who think
the ALP's position was based on moral considerations should
ask themselves " what morality is there in a decision that
ignores the world's energy needs?" / What morality

What morality is there in a decision that ignores the fact that
it would accelerate the move to the plutonium economy?
What morality was there is taking a decision that reversed
established A. L. P. policy in 45 minutes, and on which none of the
A. L. P.' s leaders spoke their mind? Mr Hawke, Mr Whitlam and
Mr Hayden, all sat silent during the debate. Some people may be
uncharitable enough to regard this as the great achievement
of the A. L. P. conference. Perhaps the fact that Mr Hawke's
heart said no, while his head said yes left him temporarily
paralysed. Mr Hawke found his voice after the debate was over,
after The resolution was passed.
The mining and exporting of uranium does raise moral issues
of fundamental importance Labor has always evaded them.
My Government's steadfast position has been that decisions on
uranium will not be based on the commercial considerations, that were
so transparently at the heart of Labor's approach. our
consideration of the issues has begun, and we have given first
priority to considering the impact of mining on the welfare of
Aborigines and on the natural environment, which is, in some
cases, both beautiful and exceptionally fragile. These are
basic issues, and there are many others including the adequacy
of international safeguards to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation;
the problem of the disposal of nuclear wastes, and the fact that
Australian uranium can defer the move to the plutonian econony
a deferal which would provide greater time for an international
solution to be found to the hazards of plutonium and high level
wastes; our obligation under the nuclear non-proliferation
treaty and particularly Article IV of the Treaty; the urgency
of the world's needs for uranium, to provide energy and the ethical
question of whether we are entitled to withhold them; the
world tension which would be created if we refused to supply uranium.
Our decision will form a proper and considered response to these
and to other complex moral and technical issues which uranium
Uranium was always the first issue European heads of Government
raised with me during my recent visit to Europe. This was
understandable since the Europeans like the Japanese are almost
totally dependent on imported energy resources to generate the
electricity necessary to keep their industries going and their homes
operating. I emphasised during my visit to Europe the need to
have major high level discussions on our trade relationships.
We desire to broaden the relationship between Australia and the
E. E. C. and Mr Peacock has already undertaken some moves to achieve
this result. There is a need for Australia and Europe to
recognise the common interest between us. It is these
considerations which provide the broad background against which
our trading relationship should be re-examined.

For some years, Europe has excluded Australian agricultural
products from her markets, and disrupted our traditional markets
in third countries by subsidising exports of her food surpluses.
Recently, these policies of exclusion have been applied not
only to agriculture but to Japanese manufactured goods and
steel from Japan and South Africa. The attempt was also made
to make Australia reduce our exports of steel to the E. E. C.
by 25 percent on the grounds that Australia was an unfair trader.
I would not voluntarily comtemplate such cuts and the request
has since been withdrawn.
The E. E. C. with its 260 million people is the world's largest
trading bloc, accounting for 40 percent of the world's trade.
If the problems in our trading relationship are to be adequately
resolved, Australia has to be represented at a high level on
a continuing basis. As you will have read, Mr John Howard
has been appointed Minister for Special Trade Negotiations
with the E. E. C. The appointment of a Minister for Special
Trade Negotiations, rather than a senior official, will indicate
to the Europeans the seriousness with which we regard the
negotiations. A sthe Constitution requires that a Minister should head a
Department, Mr Howard will head the new Department of the Special
Trade Negotiator, comprised of between 20 and 30 people
seconded from other Government Departments. Mr Howard
will be involved in high level negotiations with the nine member
states of the E. E. C. and the Commission in Brussels, on the
totality of Australia's trading relations with Europe,
a , ricultural items, industrial products and the supply of raw
materials. He will keep under close consideration the question
of developing and formalising a structural framework between
Australia and the E. E. C. in order to further the development
of trade between the two sides. And as a result of Mr Howard's
appointment there will be closer consultation with the E. E. C.
on matters of great Common interest. He will work closely in
conjunction with the MI'inisters for Overseas Trade and Foreign
Affairs, have immediate access to myself and have the full support
of the Government.
Finally, I would like to say something on racism. At the
Commownealth Heads of Government Conference, I strongly opposed
the policies of apartheid and white supremacy in Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe.
The Liberal Party's opposition to these policies is not new
in 1961 the Right Honourable Member for Kooyong said in the
House of Representatives: " I am against apartheid, because it offends the conscience,
against it as a basic policy, because it seems to be
to be doomed to a terrible disaster".
" The day will come when, conscious of their own human
dignity, their capacity and their strength,
( the blacks) will no longer tolerate the status of
second class citizens."

" And when that day comes they will demand their due,
not in an atmosphere of evolving friendship, but
with hostility, and for all we know, violence."
The ultimate conflict, as I said in London, may be bloody
and devastating. The doctrine that one race is superior to
another is repugnant to the basic beliefs of liberalism
an affront to human decency. Such doctrines provide the conditions
which communism can exploit, and every day that Mr Smith
delays majority rule strengthens communism and increases the likelihoc
of disaster in Southern Africa. If this is to be avoided, it
is important that the opposition of countries like Australia be
well known.
And one of the important ways of bringing this point home is
through our policy on sporting contacts with South Africa.
On this matter I would like to say that there is no question of
Australia introducing politics into sport. It is the Government
that tells a black that he cannot play cricket with the whites
just because of the colour of his skin which has introduced politics
into sport.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have as your local member an energetic
and dedicated Foreign Minister. Andrew's efforts are serving
Australia's national interests well, and I am sure that
despite the fact that his duty takes him out of Australia frequently,
he is serving his electorate as well as he is serving the country.

Transcript 4445