Monday, 1 September 2008
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Fowler for her question. There has been a safeguards agreement in place with Russia since 1990 for the limited use of Australian uranium, and that agreement continues in force. Last year, under the previous government, Australia entered into negotiations to complete a new bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the Russian Federation. That new agreement was signed in September 2007, during the APEC summit in Sydney, by the previous government. It was tabled in the parliament by this government in May of this year. The agreement is currently before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Indeed, the committee had one of its four public hearings on the agreement in Canberra this morning.
The government believes that the agreement meets Australia’s longstanding safeguards requirements and promotes the highest international standards in this area, including involvement and oversight by the international regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency. The government will, of course, be interested in the views of the committee and will consider the committee’s report and take that into account. But, once the committee has reported on the agreement, the government will then move to consider ratification of the agreement and the government will make a decision on ratification at the appropriate time.
I make clear to the House, as I have publicly stated today, and as government officials have stated privately to the Russian Ambassador to Australia, that when considering ratification the government will take into account not just the merits of the agreement but recent and ongoing events in Georgia and the state of Australia’s bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation.
Members will recall that last week I detailed to the House the government’s view so far as events in Georgia are concerned. I relayed those views to the Russian ambassador subsequent to that advice to the House. Without repeating them, all of those points remain current. And, as I have indicated today, at my instruction officials of the government have relayed to the Russian ambassador that, when the government come to consider ratification of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the Russian Federation, we will take into account not just the merits of the agreement but events which have occurred in Georgia, ongoing events in Georgia, and the state of Australia’s bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation.