Tabling and Statement in Parliament - Australia-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement

  • Speech, check against delivery

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (12:00): by leave–On 5 September of this year Prime Minister Abbott and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessed the signing of an agreement to pave the way for the supply of Australian uranium to India for its civilian nuclear power needs. I have pleasure in tabling this agreement, the Australia-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.

India is the world's largest democracy, an emerging Asian superpower, an influential regional power and a strategic partner for Australia. This agreement signals a maturing of the Indian and Australian bilateral relationship, which was upgraded to a strategic partnership in 2009 and which has continued to deepen and strengthen in so many respects since then. It is also a sign of our mutual confidence and trust in the relationship. Changes to international guidelines on nuclear supply to India in 2008, agreed by the 48 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, have opened the door to cooperation with India in the field of civil nuclear energy.

The 2008 Nuclear Suppliers Group decision was based on a number of significant commitments from India; commitments such as separating its civil and military activities; accepting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards at its civil facilities; putting in place an IAEA additional protocol on safeguards with respect to civil nuclear facilities; continuing its moratorium on nuclear testing; and working with others towards conclusion of an international treaty to end the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and to prevent the spread of sensitive materials and technology.

In the years since 2008 India has met these commitments. India's additional protocol with the IAEA entered into force in July of this year. It has not undertaken any nuclear tests, and it is working with Australia and others to try to start negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.

Since 2009 India has progressively placed its civil nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, and plans that by the end of 2014 it will have completed that process–marking a clear separation of civil nuclear facilities from military programs. Were it not for the promise of increased international cooperation, India may have had little reason to move closer to the nonproliferation mainstream in this way.

As with each of Australia's 23 other nuclear cooperation agreements, the terms of this agreement tabled today commit India to ensure that all Australian uranium, and nuclear material derived from it, is used only for peaceful purposes and will remain within India's civil nuclear facilities. The IAEA applies safeguards at those facilities, which will ensure that nuclear material supplied to India by Australia will remain in peaceful civilian use only. In addition, India will ensure the security of Australian nuclear material in accordance with relevant broader international conventions and standards–the same conventions and standards that apply in Australia's dealings with other bilateral nuclear partners including the United States, Japan, Canada, and the EU.

Australia has a strong record on nuclear security. In the new agreement, both India and Australia have reaffirmed their respective commitments to ensuring that the use of nuclear energy is safe, well regulated and environmentally sound. India is party to the international Convention on Nuclear Safety and other nuclear safety treaties, and has supported international efforts to enhance nuclear safety following the Fukushima incident, including by inviting the IAEA to review aspects of India's national nuclear safety arrangements. Australia expects India will follow international best practice to ensure safety in its nuclear industry.

The Australia-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement will provide a framework for greater cooperation between our countries on a broad range of nuclear-related areas, such as nuclear safety, production of radioisotopes and regulatory and technological advances in the nuclear fuel cycle. A senior officials' level dialogue between Australia and India on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, covering a wide range of issues including nuclear doctrine, disarmament and nonproliferation and export controls, offers a valuable opportunity to better understand and influence India's policies in these areas.

Australia steadfastly supports nonproliferation and disarmament and our policy towards India is aligned with other major uranium suppliers in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The terms of the nuclear cooperation agreement also align with Australia's uranium export requirements and will ensure our supply of uranium to India is consistent with Australia's international nonproliferation objectives and obligations.

Exports of uranium to India will not commence until the agreement is brought into force and the administrative arrangement that will allow us to implement the agreement has been settled. The administrative arrangement will cover technical aspects, including the processes required to account for all Australian nuclear material in India. For Australia, nuclear cooperation with India provides an opportunity to increase exports and employment over the longer term. India is already an important trade partner with two-way trade worth around $16 billion.

Australia has a hard won reputation as a reliable, cost-effective supplier of energy and India is a large and growing market. It is estimated that by 2015 India will be the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide and its primary energy needs will double by 2030. Nuclear power is an important part of India's energy mix to help it reduce its carbon emissions and to provide it with the secure supply of power it needs to underpin its ongoing economic development.

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