Thursday, January 20, 2011



Following my expressing concern about reports in The Economic Times that Australia would be conducting a promotional campaign to attract skilled workers from cities in northern India, Australia’s High Commission has said the newspaper report was wrong, confusing a cultural promotion with immigration issues.  The Immigration Department says that it is not planning to hold ‘skilled migration expos’ in 2011-2012.
I hope my raising the matter has helped clarify this erroneous reporting, which also appeared in the Australian Financial Review.

I will continue to raise the need to reduce the level of our labour force migration program, which I believe is too high to be consistent with our humanitarian obligations to developing countries, our obligation to train young Australians and lift our workforce participation rate, and our obligation to focus on repairing our flood-damaged infrastructure rather than building new infrastructure to accommodate population increase.


Reports about India’s endeavours to persuade Australia to export uranium to it constantly gloss over the fact that India refuses to sign the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has developed an arsenal of nuclear weapons, which the treaty does not allow it to do.

In 2009 I chaired an extensive inquiry by Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties into nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and one thing I learned from that experience is that the friction between the nuclear haves and the nuclear have nots is alive and well. Throughout the history of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the nuclear haves have stressed non-proliferation – that is, making sure no other country gets nuclear weapons - and the nuclear have-nots have stressed disarmament – that is, obliging the nuclear armed countries to get rid of their bombs.

The non-aligned countries – essentially nuclear have nots – are extremely frustrated by the lack of progress on disarmament. Too often this difference of approach has led to international stalemate.  Clearly we need to have action on both fronts – disarmament and non-proliferation.

Given the precarious state of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)  there needs to be some carrot and stick – rewards for countries that observe it, and penalties for countries that don’t.

For Australia to export uranium to India would deal a crippling blow to an already fragile Treaty, and send a message to countries right around the world that we don’t take the NPT seriously.

Why would any rising nation – Brazil, Indonesia etc – stay away from developing nuclear weapons if countries  that develop nuclear weapons, in breach of the NPT, enjoy the same rights as countries which sign the NPT and abide by its provisions?

We cannot make decisions about nuclear issues in a vacuum. The United States and Russia developed nuclear weapons as a defensive strategy during the Cold War. Because they had nuclear weapons China, which at various times during the nuclear age has had poor relations with both America and Russia, developed nuclear weapons as well.  Because China had nuclear weapons, India felt threatened and developed nuclear weapons. Pakistan felt threatened and developed nuclear weapons. And the strength of religious fundamentalist terrorist groups in Pakistan has created an ever present and alarming risk that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of non-state actors – terrorists groups who have no respect for human life and will take no notice of ‘deterrence’ and ‘mutually assured destruction’ in the way governments might reasonably be expected to.

We must do all that we can to try to break every link in this dangerous nuclear chain.  This means supporting international efforts towards non-proliferation and disarmament, including the NPT. Exporting uranium to any country which is not prepared to be part of the NPT would be a step in precisely the wrong direction.

Member for Wills


  1. As training both our youth and mature students/workers is concerned, I am mindful that federal fiddling can have little or only partial impact on our production of tradespersons. Why?

    1. State governments own both building codes and the licensing of two key trades (they kill people) electricians and plumbers.

    2. One area of "hit" is the wage of those under training, Howard shafted the building trades as a policy, hence a plumbing apprentice might be paid as little as $10.80 an hour, regardless of age or "maturity" and RPL!

    3. Then, in those two key trades, State governments fund not the necessary courses for Contractor Licensing. As an example, last year WA trained only 30 plumbers as licensed contractors in drainage, and one does not need to be an actuary to calculate that this number will not even meet attrition.

    4. Trade training, to the soul of organised Labor is a bloody mess, and St Julia is in large part responsible for not acting when minister.

    5. In WA a further impediment to engagement of the sector is simple nomenclature. Once upon a time, the blue collar university was TAFE. Now it is TAFE, Institutes of Technology, and Advanced Technology?? What is any potential apprentice to do and to whom and where does he he/she now apply!

    6. Further, when an apprentice has an issue, there is the floorboard syndrome - too many gaps. They are under, Industrial Relations, Education, OHS, Training and on it goes giving oligarchs the opportunity to simply say "not my bailiwick"...

    I must conclude:

    One Federal Minister for apprentices please, and a federal takeover of all building codes, otherwise, we are - knackered, and 457 visas will ensure the complete de-skilling and dependency of our nation...

  2. While the NPT is flawed, it is all we have and we must abide by it if we are to have any hope of keeping nuclear power and nuclear weapons separate. First rule is not sell our uranium to non-signatories and that includes India. So well done Kelvin on your stance on this.

  3. Interesting that Iran is a big nuclear threat but India and Pakistan are no threat at all. Could this contradiction have anything to do with the ownership of oil in one of those countries and a lack of that resource in the other two? I think, yes.

    The threat of nuclear war is great but greater and much more probable is the threat of world overpopulation. Over population will likely lead to famine and wars yet we ignore it.

    I think the population issue is bigger than the nuclear war issue and deserves all the attention we can give it.

  4. In the middle of the last century, the nuclear age was launched with a bang upon the world. Since then, the use of nuclear technology, for both electricity generation and military armament has been a sustained contentious issue on the environmental agenda, yet the spread of nuclear wastes and weapons continues today with no effective mechanism to curb it anytime soon.

    There currently exists on the planet some 25,000 to 30,000 nuclear warheads in various states of deployment readiness ranging from minutes to weeks and new nations are constantly working towards nuclear strike capability. Around the world we are storing vast quantities of highly radioactive substances, waste and otherwise, some of it under circumstances of dubious security.

    The risk of harm from these nuclear sources will endure, effectively forever, and is currently being contained only by the dubious happenstance of political stability, which history tells us is never more than a short term condition. Bequeathing such a legacy of risk upon our children is difficult to justify and yet it has been done; brought about through the deliberate decisions of some of the most influential and respected leaders of modern times.

    The outcome of this nuclear story should have caused us to reflect a while before launching other irretrievable juggernauts like genetic engineering and nanotechnology to threaten the futures of our grandchildren, but it didn’t. Is commerce really so powerful a force within our culture that it overwhelms such things as democratic choice, common sense and parental responsibility?

  5. Obviously exporting uranium to India would breach every non- proliferation and disarmament principle in the book. It is also important to bear in mind India's stubborn refusal to offer anything in return.

    It refuses to accept IAEA safeguards on its most proliferation-prone facilities, namely uranium enrichment plants, reprocessing plants and fast breeder reactors. It refuses to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It refuses to agree to stop producing fissile material for weapons use. And the so-called Additional Protocol (AP) that it signed with the IAEA is a fraud. (It does not permit intrusive inspections of India's nuclear program, or any of the fundamental elements of APs signed by non-nuclear weapon states.)

    India also does everything it can to block scrutiny from the outside world. I personally am aware of journalists and academics who have
    been refused visas to go to India because the Indian government feared they would make critical remarks about its nuclear program.

    This is not a country that you can do nuclear business with.

    Philip White
    an Australian in Tokyo
    former coordinator of the Abolition 2000 Campaign on the US-India Deal