Australia could help discourage nuclear weapon proliferation: Opposition

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A finance spokesperson for the Australian federal opposition has said that Australia could use its power as a large uranium exporter to discourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Australia has the largest known reserves of uranium but is the world's third largest producer behind Canada and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Lindsay Tanner told Channel Ten that: "We could play a much stronger role as a uranium exporter as part of a relatively small number of major uranium exporters, in using that influence collectively for good on nuclear weapons proliferation".

Mr. Tanner said Australia could join forces with other major uranium exporters to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons. "We don't seek to collectively use our influence, along with the influence of other countries like Canada who are major uranium exporters, to try and restrict the proliferation of nuclear weapons," he said.

The Australian Labor Party is said to be divided about its uranium mining policy. The debate within the party has come to the forefront following a decision earlier this month to export uranium to China. At present, Labor opposes the opening of new uranium mines. The party's resource spokesperson, Martin Ferguson is calling for the policy to be thrown out.

Peter Garrett, another member of the ALP said last week he did not support any changes to the party's uranium mining policy but refused to rule out doing so in the future.

Mr. Tanner said that it is "perfectly reasonable" to reconsider the party's policy as "the world has changed". He said that the issue of nuclear proliferation should be at the centre of any change to the party's policy.

"So there's a number of things we could be doing, but we aren't doing yet, and I think (that) should be central to the debate about the future of Labor's policy and the future of Australia's approach" said Mr. Tanner.

Opposition leader Kim Beazley has deferred discussion of the issue until next year's national conference.