Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australian governments’ sorry history of deception over India uranium deal, revealed by Wikileaks

India-uranium1Australia will now contribute to spreading nuclear weaponry as India will be able to use Australian-supplied uranium for civilian purposes and reserve its indigenous supplies for its nuclear weapons program.

Moreover, India has a poor nuclear safety record.

secret-dealsWikiLeaks exposes gov’t lies, shifts on India uranium deal, Green Left  December 8, 2014 By Linda Pearson Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed an agreement in September to allow sales of Australian uranium to India for the first time. Uranium sales were initially approved by then-Coalition PM John Howard in August 2007 but Howard’s successor, Kevin Rudd, reinstated the ban.

Rudd’s action was in accordance with long-standing Labor Party policy that uranium should only be sold to countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). A 2008 Lowy Institute poll found that 88% of Australians supported this policy.

By the end of 2011, however, Labor had switched to the Liberal Party’s position at the behest of Rudd’s successor, Julia Gillard.

As US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks show, both parties were ultimately willing to change Australia’s long-standing nuclear policy to aid the Australian uranium industry and match strategic US objectives…………..

The US Embassy in Canberra regarded Rudd as a strong supporter of the US alliance. But there was concern over whether Labor’s nuclear policy would stop Australia supporting the US position at the NSG.

The cables show that pressure on the Rudd government to back the exemption came from the Australian High Commission in India as well as the US. They reveal how Labor’s official position on nuclear matters differed from the private views of individual members of the government.

This made the government’s support for the exemption and the party’s eventual approval of uranium sales in 2011 all but inevitable……………..

Secret support

The Rudd government’s public position before the NSG meeting in August 2008 was that it would consider the arguments on both sides and then decide whether to support the exemption. On July 24, 2008, Smith stuck to the official line during a joint interview with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying “we haven’t made a decision”.

However, the cables suggest the government had already decided to support the exemption……………

After several days of deliberation and more intense US lobbying, the NSG approved the exemption on September 6, 2008. A cable reported that Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, Marius Grinius, said “most NSG members ‘gave up’ and ‘joined the bandwagon’ rather than fully supporting a nuclear agreement with India”.http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/05/09USUNNEWYORK497.htmlhttp://wikileaks…

The NSG decision opened the door to uranium sales to India. But while the Rudd government supported this exemption, its public position remained that Australia would not sell uranium to India unless it joined the NPT. On a visit to India shortly after the NSG decision, Smith said this policy “remains unaffected by the NSG decision”.

However, US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks suggest Labor leaders were already preparing to change its policy………………

[2009] According to another cable from Canberra, federal resources minister Martin Ferguson confirmed to US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich that the ALP’s policy could change.

Bleich wrote in November 2009 that in Ferguson’s view, “the recent expansion in uranium development in Australia reflected a shift in willingness to consider nuclear energy”.

Additionally, according to the cable, Ferguson had said that the Australian government might have to revisit the issue of nuclear energy if other technologies “failed to develop commercially quickly enough” for Australia to meet its “clean” energy goals.

Moreover, Ferguson had told Bleich that he had “personally supported the US-India nuclear agreement” and believed that “a deal to supply India with nuclear fuel could be reached in 3-5 years”.

These comments contradicted his party’s official position at the time, but Ferguson’s support for the uranium industry was no secret. He led efforts to overturn Labor’s three-mines policy at the party’s 2007 conference.

After his comments on India in this cable were divulged by Fairfax in February 2011, Ferguson side-stepped questions and repeated the official line, saying: “We will only supply uranium to countries that are signatories to the NPT and have signed a bilateral agreement with Australia.”

Corporate advice

US diplomats in Australia also consulted representatives of mining giant BHP for their views on the industry and the prospect of uranium sales to India.

In April 2009, a cable from the US Consulate in Melbourne reported that BHP manager for integrated planning Barry Hewlett had told the consul-general that “India represents a potentially massive market” for the uranium in BHP’s Olympic Dam mine.

However, in November 2009, another cable from the consulate in Melbourne reported comments by BHP CEO Marius Kloppers that suggested the renewed international nuclear cooperation with India permitted by the NSG waiver was more important to BHP than the Australian government’s position on uranium exports.

“As long as someone can sell to the Indians,” Klopper said, “the world market will continue to expand, which helps us.”

Ferguson’s prediction in relation to uranium sales turned out to be true. In November 2011, Gillard announced she would push for the ALP to change its policy at its December party conference.

Gillard’s decision was motivated in part by a desire to help the uranium industry recover from the effects of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Demand dropped in the wake of the disaster and the price of uranium plummeted.

Smith publicly backed Gillard ahead of the vote. Smith said Rudd also supported the policy change. With the help of Ferguson and Australian Workers Union head Paul Howes, Gillard was able to overcome the opposition from the party’s left and the conference voted narrowly to allow uranium sales to India.

The decision was not supported by the Australian public. A 2012 opinion poll by the Lowy institute found that 61% of Australians opposed uranium sales to India, with only 9% strongly in favour.

Nevertheless, the Gillard government began talks with India on a bilateral nuclear safeguards agreement in March last year, which were concluded by Tony Abbott in September.

India’s record

Both Labor and the Coalition claim India has an “impeccable” record on non-proliferation and therefore deserves an exemption from the rules that apply to other states. This is not true.

India’s new status as a “responsible nuclear state” is more a reflection of the power of the US to influence international bodies, like the NSG and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to do favours for its friends and punish its enemies.

India chose to stay outside the NPT so it would be free to develop nuclear weapons. India’s first nuclear test in 1974 was carried out using plutonium from a nuclear reactor supplied by Canada strictly for civilian purposes.

The US and Australia imposed sanctions on India after it carried out another series of nuclear tests during its escalating arms race with Pakistan in 1998.

Australia will now contribute to spreading nuclear weaponry as India will be able to use Australian-supplied uranium for civilian purposes and reserve its indigenous supplies for its nuclear weapons program.

Moreover, India has a poor nuclear safety record. In 2012, the country’s auditor-general warned that a Fukushima-like disaster could result from the absence of effective industry regulation…………..https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/57962

December 10, 2014 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, secrets and lies

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