House of Representatives Committees

Contents


Foreword
Membership of the Committee
Resolution of appointment
List of abbreviations
List of recommendations
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Agreement with the People’s Republic of China on the Transfer of Nuclear Material
Chapter 3 Agreement with the People’s Republic of China for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
Chapter 4 Impact of the Agreements
Chapter 5 Safeguarding the use of Australian Uranium
Chapter 6 Committee comment and recommendations
Dissenting Report by Senator Andrew Bartlett, Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, China Australia Uranium Agreement
Appendix A - Submissions
Appendix B - Exhibits
Appendix C - Witnesses

Foreword

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties was established to review all treaty actions tabled in Parliament, assessing whether these treaties are in Australia’s national interest and recommending whether the Australian Government should undertake binding treaty action or ratification of these treaties.

In this report, the Committee has reviewed two topical treaties:

The Committee advertised its inquiry in the national press, on its website and wrote to uranium and mining companies and their industry representatives, State and Territory Governments, Parliaments, indigenous land councils and communities and individuals with an interest in the treaties. The Committee received 33 submissions from across Australia both in favour of and against the treaties. These included submissions from: uranium mining industry representatives, environmental organisations, anti-nuclear organisations and private individuals. The Committee also received 84 form letters all against the treaties. The Committee then conducted public hearings where there was the most interest in the treaties, namely: Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne.

In addition to the Committee’s review, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry and Resources inquired into developing Australia’s non-fossil fuel energy industry: Case study into the strategic importance of Australia’s uranium resources, and the Prime Minister’s uranium taskforce inquired into nuclear energy and uranium mining and processing in Australia.

The Committee believes its review has highlighted the main issues surrounding the sale of uranium to China and its broad estimated impact on Australia. This includes the issue of safeguarding Australian uranium and nuclear technology once it reaches China and ensuring it is used only for peaceful purposes and in accordance with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s nuclear safeguards system.

The Committee has weighed up the evidence it has received through its inquiry and concluded that the sale of uranium to China is in Australia’s national interest and that the safeguards agreement offers adequate assurance that China will use Australian uranium and technology for peaceful purposes only. The Committee has made recommendations to strengthen some aspects of the safeguards arrangements.

The Committee sincerely thanks all the community and national organisations, peak industry organisations, State Governments and individual citizens who committed their time and effort to provide submissions and appear at public hearings for this inquiry.

Dr Andrew Southcott MP

Chair

Membership of the Committee

Chair

Dr Andrew Southcott MP

 

Deputy Chair

Mr Kim Wilkie MP

 

Members

Hon Dick Adams MP

Senator Andrew Bartlett

 

Mr Michael Johnson MP

Senator Carol Brown

 

Mr Michael Keenan MP

Senator Brett Mason

 

Mrs Margaret May MP

Senator Julian McGauran

 

Mrs Sophie Mirabella MP

Senator Glenn Sterle

 

Mr Bernie Ripoll MP

Senator Russell Trood

 

Hon Bruce Scott MP

Senator Dana Wortley

Committee Secretariat

Secretary

James Rees

Inquiry Secretary

Stephanie Mikac

Research Officer

Serica Mackay

Administrative Officer

Heidi Luschtinetz

Resolution of appointment

The Resolution of Appointment of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties allows it to inquire into and report upon:

  1. matters arising from treaties and related National Interest Analyses and proposed treaty actions presented or deemed to be presented to the Parliament;
  2. any question relating to a treaty or other international instrument, whether or not negotiated to completion, referred to the committee by:
    1. either House of the Parliament, or
    2. a Minister; and
  3. such other matters as may be referred to the committee by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and on such conditions as the Minister may prescribe.

List of abbreviations

AA

Administrative Arrangements

ACF

Australian Conservation Foundation

AMEC

Association of Mining and Exploration Companies

ANAWA

Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia

ANSTO

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

AONM

Australian Obligated Nuclear Material

ASNO

Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office

AUA

Australian Uranium Association

CAEA

China Atomic Energy Authority

CTBT

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

CO 2

Carbon Dioxide

DFAT

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

FDI

Future Directions International

FOEA

Friends of the Earth Australia

GDP

Gross Domestic Product

GNEP

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

HLW

High-Level Waste

IAEA

International Atomic Energy Agency

kWh

Kilowatt hours

MAPW

Medical Association for Prevention of War ( Australia)

MCA

Minerals Council of Australia

MUF

Material Unaccounted For

NGO

Non Government Organisation

NIA

National Interest Analysis

NMTA

Nuclear Material Transfer Agreement

NPP

Nuclear Power Plant

NPT

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

NSG

Nuclear Supplier Group

OECD

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

OPAL

Open Pool Australian Lightwater Reactor

PNDWA

People for Nuclear Disarmament Western Australia

RIS

Regulation Impact Statement

SF

Spent Fuel

UK

United Kingdom

UNSW

University of New South Wales

US

United States of America

WILPF

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Australian Section)

List of recommendations

6 Committee comment and recommendations

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government provide funding for intensive research and development in the area of energy generation using thorium reactors with the purpose of comparing its waste and energy generation capacity to conventional nuclear reactors.

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government through its membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) calls for an urgent review of the IAEA’s funding requirements and that Australia sets a lead by increasing its voluntary contributions and lobbies other governments to do likewise.

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government lobbies the IAEA and the five declared nuclear weapons states under the NPT to make the safeguarding of all conversion facilities mandatory.

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government increases funding allocated to the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office’s safeguards support and international outreach programs to ensure that effective safeguards are being applied in regard to the treaties.

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government continue its dialogue with the Chinese Government about governance and transparency issues with a view to the Australian Government offering practical support where appropriate.

Recommendation 6

The Committee supports the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Transfer of Nuclear Material and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.

Recommendation 7

The Committee supports the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.

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