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Taking note of answer on Russia uranium deal

Answers to questions

Senator MILNE (Tasmania) (3.32 p.m.)-I rise to respond to answers to questions from Senator Trood and Senator Ludlam to the government in relation to the Australia-Russia uranium agreement. There is no-one in this chamber who can plead ignorance when this comes back to bite Australia very badly. Before the Australia-Russia agreement was signed last year, Garry Kasparov, who is a well-known and outspoken person in relation to human rights abuses in Russia, said very clearly that Australia should not assume Russia can be trusted with that uranium. He said that Australia would have to accept moral responsibility if Russia then on-sells the uranium to a rogue state or uses it for other than non-civil purposes.

"Should Australian uranium end up in the wrong hands-and it's not too far-fetched to suggest that Russia under Putin is already in the wrong hands-Australia will not be able to act innocent or to claim ignorance," Mr Kasparov said.

Last year I moved two motions in the Senate before this agreement was signed, pointing out the human rights abuses and that the then President Putin had acted to shut down NGOs and was engaging once again in punitive psychiatry. He is actually putting dissidents back in psychiatric institutions, just as during the Cold War.

I went to see the Russian ambassador about one of those people. I would urge everyone in the Senate to keep asking questions about Larissa Arap, a young woman who was put in one of these institutions. She was naked, bound by her feet, and then injected with drugs to keep her out of action. She is probably still there. I asked the Russian ambassador, ‘How is it that a dissident can be treated like that?' The answer was simply that they have ways of dealing with people with mental illness in Russia just the same as we do, which, of course, was a ridiculous answer in the circumstances.

I know of young NGOs who were bashed in an anti-nuclear protest outside the Angarsk nuclear enrichment facility, which is where Australian uranium is going. President Putin's response to that bashing was that they were neo-Nazi thugs and nothing to do with the government when in fact it is very clear that the government either pays them or organises them-or both-to go around dealing with dissidents for the regime.

Not only that, on the way to Australia last year, President Putin stopped in Indonesia where he signed an agreement to provide Russian military technology to Indonesia and guaranteed to the Indonesians that human rights considerations would not affect defence cooperation in terms of Indonesia, therefore allowing Jakarta to initiate a long-term modernisation of all fighting services. Going on from that, Russia has expressed strong interest in participating in Indonesia's national nuclear program.

So here we have President Putin on his way to Australia telling the Indonesians that he will provide Russian military assistance and nuclear cooperation. Then he came to Australia to sign up an agreement to get Australian uranium. Nobody in their right mind, looking at former President-now Prime Minister-Putin's reputation could assume that he would have any respect for treaties with regard to how he might use Australian uranium.

Professor Rothwell at ANU said last year in the lead-up to these negotiations to the Howard government at that time that at the very least Australia should seek the inclusion of what is known as human rights and democracy clauses in the Australian-Russian agreement, which would make the promotion of and protection of the respect for human rights and democratic values part of the agreement so that it would be a reason for Australia to suspend sales if there were abuses in those regards. The Howard government did not do it. Furthermore, there were additional protocols under the safeguards agreement, which Professor Rothwell argued ought to have been a condition of signing. That did not occur either. The Rudd opposition agreed wholeheartedly. Everybody in this chamber, except the Greens and the Democrats, supported this Australia-Russia nuclear deal knowing full well the human rights abuses going on in Russia, knowing Putin was taking Russia back to the old KGB days. Now is the opportunity to repudiate that agreement. I call on Prime Minister Rudd to do just that. Australia cannot bank the dollars from the uranium sales knowing that dissidents in Russia are back in psychiatric institutions and that the thuggery of the Cold War is going on in Russia as we speak.

Question agreed to.

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