Prime Minister Julia Gillard can use her trip to India this week to undo the damage she has done to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

A helmet just isn't going to be enough…

Until the December 2011 Labor National Conference, the government maintained Australia’s long-standing position of banning uranium sales to countries that refuse to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT is the central pillar of the global nuclear regime − it commits nuclear weapons states to pursue disarmament and other countries to refrain from building weapons.

Kevin Rudd explained the previous position: “No-one in Australia wants a nuclear arms race aided by us in the Indian sub-continent or between India and China because we’ve failed to properly ensure the upholding of the NPT and the [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards regime under it.”

An alternative option would be to open up uranium sales to India but to insist on meaningful commitments from India in return, such as stopping the production of fissile (explosive) material for nuclear weapons, ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and an end to India’s development and testing of nuclear-capable missiles.

Prime Minister Gillard chose the third of two options − opening up uranium sales to India with no meaningful conditions whatsoever. Instead of some tough diplomacy, we’ve been fed lies, in particular the lie that India has a good track record on nuclear non-proliferation.

India is a nuclear weapons state, tested weapons in 1974 and 1998, violated its pledge not to use a Canadian-supplied research reactor to produce plutonium for weapons, refuses to sign the NPT or the CTBT, has a history of illicit nuclear procurement and inadequate nuclear export controls, and continues to expand its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities. If that’s a good track record ...

We’re also told that strict safeguards will ensure peaceful use of Australian uranium. Another lie. Information about the safeguards agreement between India and International Atomic Energy Agency is on the public record and it provides for a safeguards inspection system that will be tokenistic at best. Safeguards will only to that part of the nuclear program that India considers surplus to its military ‘requirements’. There is no restraint on India building new reactors or other facilities for its weapons program.

All is not lost. Over the coming months India and Australia will negotiate a bilateral uranium safeguards agreement. Thus Australia can still insist on conditions such as CTBT ratification, an end to the production of fissile material and an end to the development of nuclear-capable missiles.

That is the test for the Prime Minister − will she insist on any meaningful commitments from India? Or will she trot out tired old lies?

The alternative is a slippery slope of proliferation. The claim that India can be treated as a ‘special case’ has already gone down the gurgler. Since the US signed a nuclear supply agreement with India in 2008, China has used the Indian precedent to justify plans to supply more reactors to Pakistan, another nuclear weapons state outside the NPT.

Nuclear trade with India also increases the risk of other countries withdrawing from the NPT and building weapons with the expectation that uranium supplies and nuclear trade will continue. Retired Australian diplomat Ron Walker – who was Chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1993-94 – notes that: “If you make exceptions to your rules for your mates, you weaken your ability to apply them to everyone else. How could we be harder on Japan and South Korea if they acquired nuclear weapons? Could we say Israel is less of a mate than India?”

Since the US-India deal, and partly because of it, Pakistan has obstructed international efforts to establish a ban on the production of fissile material − the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Israel has made noises about securing a deal along the lines of India’s. South Korea is trying to squirm out of previous commitments not to enrich uranium, just as the dust settles on revelations about South Korea’s secret nuclear weapons research from the mid-1980s until 2004.

North Korea and China continue to pursue nuclear weapons programs. Japan’s Defence minister Satoshi Morimoto noted earlier this year that the country’s nuclear power program has “very great defensive deterrent functions”; i.e. it provides Japan with a weapons capability. Japan’s enrichment and reprocessing programs − and its huge stockpile of plutonium − greatly complicate efforts to prevent South Korea from pursuing these weapons-sensitive technologies.

Kevin Rudd is well aware of the fracturing of the non-proliferation regime and the implications for Australia. He said in 2006: “The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty disintegrates before our very eyes … the current non-proliferation regime is fundamentally fracturing. The consequences of the collapse of this regime for Australia are acute, including the outbreak of regional nuclear arms races in South Asia, North East Asia and possibly even South East Asia.”

The situation has worsened considerably since 2006. When the issue surfaced ahead of Labor’s National Conference last year, Rudd was Foreign Minister and not at liberty to speak his mind. Perhaps, as a backbencher, he will speak plainly this week even if the Prime Minister does not.

Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth and author of a detailed briefing paper on uranium sales to India.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

Most commented


Show oldest | newest first

    • acotrel says:

      05:10am | 16/10/12

      If we sell uranium to India would we still be justifed in complaining about the Taliban selling heroin to the rest of the world ?

    • Blerghhh says:

      08:48am | 16/10/12


    • morrgo says:

      09:56am | 16/10/12

      Total bollocks, as usual from you, acotrel.

      India’s nuclear program is similar to Tasmania’s production of opium poppies: controlled, for a strictly circumscribed purpose, not proliferated.  Israel ditto.

      On the other hand, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty gave us the nuclear weapon states of Pakistan, North Korea, Iran in a year or so,  and very nearly Libya and Iraq.

    • Gary says:

      05:56pm | 16/10/12

      Morggo, most nuclear programmes are controlled. Also the NPT has nothing to do with Iraq and Libya.

    • Trevor says:

      06:27am | 16/10/12

      Its a funny old world when Ms Gillard talks up the prospect of selling yellowcake to India while supporting the US/Israel on sanctioning or even attacking Iran for the exact same thing.

      Maybe this will bring the real reasons for Iranian antagonism into the spotlight…

    • acotrel says:

      06:52am | 16/10/12

      Dinner Jacket cannot even tie his own boot laces.  That is the reason for Iranian antagonism.

    • andye says:

      08:21am | 16/10/12

      @Trevor - If Iran gets nukes the Iranian people are the ones who will suffer the most. The regime can then feel safe from the external threat on 2 borders and focus on the biggest threat they have. Iranians.

    • Achmed says:

      07:27am | 16/10/12

      With Russia and America already holding enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world it would appear a little pointless to be trying to prevent others.
      Its a case we can have them but you can’t because we will be responsible in our use of them but you wont.

    • Alex says:

      07:56am | 16/10/12

      Its no longer the cold war… Where as in southeast Asia with China, Japan and North Korea with India in the mix it’s a recipe for disaster… ALP seems to be trying to get surplus first, and since ALP is getting booted out next year, they will leave this mess for someone else to clean up.

    • Alfie says:

      12:48pm | 16/10/12

      Difference is, Russia and America are not ruled by nutters. Mind you, Obama and Putin are close to it.

    • Lindsay says:

      04:09pm | 16/10/12

      @Alfie Putin, yes. Obama… no? What is your reasoning for that?

    • Susan says:

      05:23pm | 16/10/12

      Putin isn’t a nutter either.

    • Tell It Like It Is says:

      07:54am | 16/10/12

      I hope she brings back that helmet she is wearing. She is going to need it. My, my she certainly is…..adaptable….in her policies.

    • L. says:

      08:00am | 16/10/12

      It galls me that we will sell our uranium, with Gillards blessing, but she is Ideologically opposed to nuke power for us.

      The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

    • andrew says:

      08:56am | 16/10/12

      It seems a budget surplus more than compensates for a moral deficit.

    • Mattb says:

      10:33am | 16/10/12

      So, let me get this straight, it galls you that a party that it’s quite obvious you would never vote for doesnt move from it’s “ideological” position just for your sake.

      Yet the party you probably vote for had 11 whole f*cking years, in three of which they held control in both houses of parliament, to bring in nuclear power and were too gutless to do anything about for fear of a few little greenies. I’m really interested to hear how this made you feel…

    • Alfie says:

      01:32pm | 16/10/12

      Don’t tell me, you are surprised that Gillard is a hypocrite?

      Just add this case to the long list of double standards, back-flips and bare-faced bloody lies.

    • L. says:

      03:07pm | 16/10/12

      ” I’m really interested to hear how this made you feel… “

      Not bad, considering there was no anti-coal power sentiment in the government and we were not looking at a power generation shortfall, and that our government is back power that can’t provide baseload.

      Hows that for starters?

    • Mattb says:

      03:33pm | 16/10/12

      “Not bad, considering there was no anti-coal power sentiment”

      thats funny, the Howard government had a climate change policy he took with him to the 07 election, a carbon tax if i remember rightly. Why wasnt there a nuclear power policy?

      try again..

    • PJ says:

      08:03am | 16/10/12

      Isn’t it ironic. On the list of Existential threats to continued human life on earth, Nuclear war is right up there in the top 3. Whereas Climate Change only just makes the top 10.

      The Government imposes the highest of carbon taxes ‘to save the planet’, but plans sales of uranium into a region that will cause tension.

      Everything this Government does is double standards.

    • PJ says:

      08:04am | 16/10/12

      Isn’t it ironic. On the list of Existential threats to continued human life on earth, Nuclear war is right up there in the top 3. Whereas Climate Change only just makes the top 10.

      The Government imposes the highest of carbon taxes ‘to save the planet’, but plans sales of uranium into a region that will cause tension.

      Everything this Government does is double standards.

    • Curious says:

      10:05am | 16/10/12

      What is Peter Garretts view on this?

    • L. says:

      10:21am | 16/10/12

      “What is Peter Garretts view on this?”

      I suspect he has been put firmly in his ‘box’, where the Labor party have told him to be on this issue.

    • Joe Blow says:

      10:21am | 16/10/12

      Watch the lefties all of a sudden have some argument that justifies this decision, despite being against it for years.  George Orwell’s ‘Newspeak’ is a living language.

      Will Labor and its supporters ever ever stop being hypocritical?

    • Geronimo says:

      10:26am | 16/10/12

      This Prime Minister looked more comfortable in her Radar Rig than the Deputy Sheriff did on his very first adventure outside the Draft Dodger Bunker.
      Packing side irons, a pocket full of Dr Atomic Pills, flak jacket-n-all, he trotted out ready to take on Oakes` 6pm News Camera all dolled up like a Pox Doctor’s Clerk in Battle Dress.

    • Leigh says:

      10:35am | 16/10/12

      India could simply sign the the Treaty to get the uranium. But then, it shouldn’t really matter because the West is sitting back and allowing Iran to do as it wishes with uranium and, eventually, nuclear weapons. If India wants our uranium, it should have it. Remember that they are right next to Pakistan.

    • morrgo says:

      11:57am | 16/10/12

      India cannot sign the NPT, because then it would have to give up nuclear weapons. 

      You mention Pakistan as a troublesome neighbour, but India was also attacked by China before and lost territories.  China still claims parts of today’s India, and China is building up strength in conventional weapons way beyond India’s capabilities.

    • DS says:

      06:07pm | 16/10/12

      Pakistan only has nuclear weapons because India has them. If any nation has a right to nuclear weapons, it’s Pakistan.

      As for Iran, they will get nuclear weapons regardless of what the world does. We aren’t ‘allowing’ them to do anything. If they want nuclear weapons, they will get them. Furthermore, they aren’t our child.

    • Swamp Thing says:

      10:53am | 16/10/12

      Pity she didn’t don a burka to visit her mate in Kabul
      That -would have been priceless…...

    • MD says:

      12:49pm | 16/10/12

      I love how everyone criticises India for not signing the treating, but completely forgets Israel hasn’t signed it, yet are ok with one having nukes and not the other. India eve has a No First Use policy which states they will never use a nuclear weapon unless attacked by another nuclear weapon. This is a giant beat up over sweet f.a.

    • Ian1 says:

      02:28pm | 16/10/12

      Does Australia export Uranium to Israel?  WTF? Sombody tell the Greens if they do…

    • The cat has steak! says:

      02:43pm | 16/10/12

      I hate that the PM uses a visit to India to criticise TA (ABC radio 702 Sydney at about 15:00]... to say TA is a coward and then the same station at 15:30 . . . . oh bugger it, why bother t oeven complain. Juist get rid of the pom “media advised” + trainers and see how that person (non gender specific language) copes..
      I am so over that and any other piece of work.

    • chuck says:

      03:22pm | 16/10/12

      So she is going to be seeing a slum - guided tour no doubt. And yet we can sell Uranium to this dodgy country. At least they provide an alternative to their mates Nth of the border .

    • marley says:

      03:40pm | 16/10/12

      Yeah, and we sell coal to China, which is every bit as dodgy.  At least India is a democracy.


Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more



Read all about it

Sign up to the free newsletter