Rudd firm on India uranium ban
October 28, 2011
"There is no problem in terms of a global supply" ... Kevin Rudd. Photo: Glenn Hunt
THE Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, say the ALP is free to debate a policy change to allow uranium exports to India but Mr Rudd remains opposed, saying India does not need any more of the mineral.
Indian officials and business are lobbying behind the scenes at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth for the government to change its policy and allow uranium exports.
The Coalition supports exporting uranium to India and it is believed the topic was raised when the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, also in Perth, met yesterday with the Indian Vice-President, Hamid Ansari.
But Labor opposes selling uranium to any nation such as India, which is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Speaking after a mining industry breakfast yesterday, Mr Rudd said India did not even need Australian uranium. ''Work out where India currently sources its uranium from around the world,'' he said. ''There is no problem in terms of global supply, let's just be very, very blunt about this. ''If you hear an argument from an Indian businessperson that the future of the nuclear industry in India depends exclusively on access to uranium, that is simply not sustainable as a proposition. Have a look at the data.''
Mr Ferguson, who does support selling uranium to India, said he was not proposing himself to move at the national conference for a policy change but he would eagerly join a debate if someone else did.
He stressed that, regardless of the policy, ''we've got a very strong relationship with India''.
Mr Ferguson revealed there were discussions in progress for a large investment in the Galilee coal basin in Queensland.
''Indian investors will be the key to the huge export opportunity for Australia,'' he said.
''The relationship with Australia is exceptionally good.''
Rudd targeted in push to sell uranium to India
October 28, 2011
PRESSURE is mounting on Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to join the strong push to change ALP policy to allow uranium sales to India.
The uranium debate is shaping up as a major issue for the December ALP national conference, with Resources Minister Martin Ferguson urging a change of policy.
Some Labor sources say Mr Rudd is sympathetic to change, although he has publicly stuck by the present policy which bans sales to countries that are not parties to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
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Last night, Australian Workers Union chief Paul Howes backed change, saying if there was a debate at the national conference, he would argue for sales to India. ''To oppose [exports to India] on the basis of a dead letter treaty that doesn't do anything is nonsense,'' he said.
Mr Ferguson and Mr Rudd yesterday appeared together at a mining breakfast in Perth.
Mr Ferguson said whether the policy would change was up to the conference but emphasised that Australia had a ''very, very strong relationship with India''. He said he was presently engaged in discussions about facilitating major Indian investments in a new coal base in Queensland.
''Indian investors will be key to that huge export opportunity to Australia,'' he said.
Mr Rudd said the uranium policy would be discussed at the national conference. He pointed out that India had no problem in terms of getting uranium supplies.
''If you hear an argument from an Indian businessperson that the future of the civil nuclear industry in India depends exclusively on access to Australian uranium, that is simply not sustainable as a proposition. Have a look at the data,'' Mr Rudd said.
Mr Rudd is in a difficult position on the issue because of his strong support for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. On the other hand, Mr Rudd had previously acknowledged the long-standing credentials that India has on non-proliferation.
In an article published last month, former ALP national president Stephen Loosley argued for changing the policy, writing that Mr Rudd was among the senior ministers who appreciated the importance of the issue in Australian-Indian relations.
Mr Loosley said that no one should imagine that all would be splendid in links between Canberra and Delhi once Australian uranium began powering Indian industry.
''But it will serve to place our bilateral relationship on a footing that will encourage greater political and diplomatic co-operation; more frankness and transparency in our dealings, including military to military contacts; deeper economic ties and broader collaboration in strategic challenges particularly in the Indian Ocean,'' Mr Loosley wrote. ''This is clearly appreciated in Canberra by senior ministers Martin Ferguson, Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith. The Prime Minister is alert to the challenge.''
Mr Howes said that Australia sold uranium to China which was a closed dictatorship, but not to India, which was an open democracy that gave Australia more ability to supervise how the uranium was used.
He said the non-proliferation treaty was a ''rubbish treaty'' that did not stop the manufacture of nuclear weapons. If it did, he would take a different view on the issue, he said.
Proposal of Commonwealth's "NAC :-
India against new rights group at Commonwealth
New Delhi says the 54-member group should focus more on development challenges instead of human rights
As India seems set to block an attempt by some countries to constitute a human rights monitoring group at the 54th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), international human rights groups have taken a strong exception to New Delhi’s stance.
The summit begins in the Australian city of Perth o Friday. Vice-President Hamid Ansari left for Perth on Thursday to lead the official delegation at the summit, which includes an executive session where leaders would make formal statements and a retreat during which they would interact informally without the presence of aides.
Australia and Canada are in the forefront of supporting recommendations of an eminent persons’ panel set up by the CHOGM. The 106 recommendations by the panel include creation of the post of Commissioner for Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights to monitor human rights situations in the member nations.
India has said that the group should focus on development challenges rather human rights. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has said that India’s reservations stem from the fact that the new office of Human Rights Commissioner would undermine the role of both the Secretary General and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. Secondly, he believes that the proposal is a duplication of what the UN is already doing through its rapporteurs.
“CHOGM’s real focus should be once again on the development challenges which are uppermost in the minds of vast majority of the members. So, while we support the important values of democracy, rule of law and human rights, we believe the Commonwealth should focus on strengthening existing institutions rather than trying to create new ones,” he added.
However, Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiatives Maja Daruwala believes that if the summit dismisses the eminent persons’ report, the Commonwealth will hits its very own stance on human rights. “Those who insist that the introduction of a Commissioner for Democracy, Human Rights and Rule of Law is too ‘punitive’ oppose the Commonwealth’s stated values are distorting the intent and importance of such a position. But values-based scrutiny must be a Commonwealth feature if the association is to claim that it lives up to its stated aims and principles,” she said.
Mathai said that the proposal to inspect human rights violations in Sri Lanka or elsewhere was ill-timed given that the Commonwealth was also facing funding problems noting that India was the fourth-largest contributor to the coffers of the 54-member group and also the largest member in terms of population to assert itself in the association. Mathai said that there was a “need for a more careful review” of the recommendations adding that he brought up the issue at a meeting of Commonwealth officials in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month. “A decision was taken in 2009 for the next two CHOGM meetings. That matter has been decided and does not need to be reopened.”
On Australia’s initial objections to the Vice-President standing in for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mathai said: “In our system, the Vice-President holds a position of great importance. He is second in the warrant of precedence.” Canberra had conveyed to New Delhi that Ansari wouldn’t be treated as a head of a state or government as Australia had no Vice-President. Ansari, it said, would be accorded privileges reserved for the Speaker of Australian Parliament.
The theme of CHOGM this year, chosen by Australia, is 'Building National Resilience, Building Global Resilience'. Australia has circulated a concept paper on the theme, which focuses on strengthening the Commonwealth, to enable it to more effectively assist member nations in dealing with current challenges as individual states, as members of the Commonwealth, and as members of the global community. The paper focuses on issues related to economic and social development, food and energy security, and the adverse effects of climate change.
Iftikhar Gilani is Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com email@example.com
What is the EPG?
The Eminent Persons Group was established by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their summit in November 2009.
In the 'Affirmation of Commonwealth Principles' agreed at their 2009 meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Commonwealth leaders called for the “creation of an Eminent Persons Group to undertake an examination of options for reform in order to bring the Commonwealth’s many institutions into a stronger and more effective framework of co-operation and partnership".Who's in the EPG?
At present, the members are as follows:
Dr. Emmanuel O. Akwetey (Ghana)
Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Malaysia, Chairperson)
Ms Patricia Francis (Jamaica)
Dr Asma Jahangir (Pakistan)
Mr Samuel Kavuma (Uganda) – (Commonwealth Youth Caucus)
The Hon Michael Kirby (Australia)
Dr Graca Machel (Mozambique)
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind (UK)
Sir Ronald Sanders (Guyana)
Senator Hugh Segal (Canada)
Sir Ieremia Tabai (Kiribati)
Now is the time for reform' declares Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group
23 March 2011
EPG issues statement following its fourth meeting before its report is sent to Commonwealth Heads of Government
“The Commonwealth is in danger of becoming irrelevant and unconvincing as a values-based association,” declared the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group in a closing statement issued at their meeting in London on 21-22 March 2011.
“To safeguard against this danger we will recommend to leaders the adoption of proposals that will strengthen the Commonwealth, both as an association of governments and of peoples,” the group said.
At the Commonwealth summit in Perth, Australia, in October 2011, the group will call on the Commonwealth’s 54 leaders to adopt a package of reforms, including the need for adequate resources that will include the following:
• A ‘Charter of the Commonwealth’ to be developed by and for Commonwealth citizens.
• Expanding the range of measures available to the Secretary-General and to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to better respond where Commonwealth values are violated.
• Creating a Commonwealth Commissioner on Democracy and the Rule of Law to advise the Secretary-General and CMAG on serious or persistent violations of the Commonwealth’s core values.
• Specific initiatives on HIV/AIDS around the Commonwealth.
• Establishing academies for democracy and election training.
• Broadening the remit to strengthen a culture of democracy, including post-election transition of governments and civic education.
Advocating for small and developing countries
• Placing development concerns at the heart of the Commonwealth’s work by campaigning on priority global issues, leveraging its strength as a convening and influencing body. This should build on the Commonwealth’s many achievements including its landmark anti-apartheid role, debt reduction work, and more recently, advancement of Commonwealth perspectives in the international climate change debate.
• Maximising the Commonwealth’s political influence through the use of high-level advocacy missions to advance Commonwealth perspectives in organisations such as the G20, IMF, WTO and World Bank.
• Providing extra financial support to improve training for small states in meeting the demands of international regulatory requirements.
• Refocusing the Commonwealth’s work with young people to strengthen policies to provide opportunities to all young people based on merit and stimulating investment in youth enterprise.
Institution fit for purpose
• A significant focusing of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work plan.
• Investment in the Secretariat to attract the best international talent.
• Maximising time for dialogue on the priority issues of the day at the Commonwealth summit and ministerial meetings.
• Giving the Commonwealth Foundation an explicit mandate to mobilise Commonwealth civil society around global issues.
• Expanding opportunities for citizens, such as scholarships and professional exchanges, and expanding the ‘footprint’ of the Commonwealth by creating incentives for Commonwealth organisations to re-locate out of the UK.