Australian Election Seen Likely to Speed Talks with India on Uranium Deal

Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
See more stories about...
Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
Sept. 11, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — Newly elec­ted lead­ers in Aus­tralia likely will push to con­clude a trade agree­ment aimed at al­low­ing urani­um ex­ports to In­dia, is­sue ex­perts told Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire.

While it was earli­er pre­dicted to take two years to con­clude the ex­port ne­go­ti­ations, a new Lib­er­al-Na­tion­al gov­ern­ment led by con­ser­vat­ive lead­er Tony Ab­bott likely will push to have trade dis­cus­sions fin­ished “with­in the year,” ac­cord­ing to Amit­abh Mat­too, dir­ect­or of the Aus­tralia In­dia In­sti­tute at the Uni­versity of Mel­bourne.

“The Tony Ab­bott gov­ern­ment will un­doubtedly give a new [push] to ties with In­dia,” Mat­too wrote in an e-mail. “There are few coun­tries in the re­gion which have more in com­mon by way of both in­terests and val­ues than In­dia and Aus­tralia, and the Lib­er­als re­cog­nize this much, much more than Labor did.”

Still, that does not mean Aus­tralia will ease off its de­mands for strong safe­guards in any trade deal that guar­an­tees its urani­um will not be di­ver­ted to In­dia’s nuc­le­ar-weapons pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to spe­cial­ists.

“Both Mr. Ab­bott’s Lib­er­al Party and the Labor Party now in op­pos­i­tion have in the past been care­ful to avoid ap­pear­ing soft on nuc­le­ar safe­guards, giv­en strongly neg­at­ive pub­lic per­cep­tions of nuc­le­ar power and weapons in Aus­tralia,” Chris­toph­er Krem­mer, a fel­low at the Aus­tralia In­dia In­sti­tute, said in an e-mail.

A strong show­ing by the Aus­trali­an Lib­er­al-Na­tion­al Party co­ali­tion in Sat­urday elec­tions un­seated the Labor gov­ern­ment, which has held power since 2007. The Labor Party was voted out of of­fice, in part, due to voter per­cep­tions that it was mis­man­aging the growth of Aus­tralia’s min­ing sec­tor, which in­cludes the world’s largest known urani­um re­serves, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters.

Rory Med­calf, dir­ect­or of the Lowy In­sti­tute’s In­ter­na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Pro­gram in Aus­tralia, told GSN in an e-mail he ex­pects the Lib­er­al-Na­tion­al co­ali­tion will place a high­er pri­or­ity on “the steady ex­pan­sion of Aus­trali­an urani­um ex­ports for ci­vil­ian pur­poses and un­der safe­guards.”

“Labor, on the oth­er hand, has al­ways been in­tern­ally di­vided on this is­sue,” he said.

In 2011, the Labor Party — un­der the ur­ging of its then-lead­er and prime min­is­ter, Ju­lia Gil­lard — over­came sub­stan­tial in­tern­al dis­agree­ment and ap­proved a policy per­mit­ting the sale of urani­um to In­dia. Op­pon­ents to the move ar­gued it could un­der­mine arms-con­trol ef­forts as In­dia de­veloped and tested nuc­le­ar weapons out­side the bounds of the Nuc­le­ar Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty.

As pun­ish­ment for its ac­quis­i­tion of nuc­le­ar arms, New Del­hi for years was black­balled by the atom­ic-ex­ports mar­ket. Then, in 2008, the United States con­vinced the in­ter­na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Sup­pli­ers Group to al­low sales to In­dia par­tially on the grounds that it had been a good stew­ard of its nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al. A num­ber of na­tions with ad­vanced nuc­le­ar-en­ergy sec­tors, in­clud­ing Rus­sia and France, have since struck bi­lat­er­al atom­ic trade deals with In­dia.

Aus­tralia to date has sold urani­um only to NPT mem­ber states. Un­der the Labor gov­ern­ment, Can­berra had moved slowly in open­ing urani­um trade talks with New Del­hi. The first round of trade talks was held in March.

Can­berra likely will con­tin­ue to in­sist that New Del­hi agree to provide it with form­al as­sur­ances that urani­um ex­ports will not be used to pro­duce weapon-grade nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al, ex­perts said.

“There is no ques­tion … of Aus­tralia al­low­ing its urani­um to be di­ver­ted to non-safe­guarded fa­cil­it­ies, nor has In­dia pur­sued this pos­sib­il­ity in its ne­go­ti­ations,” Mat­too said.

The Lib­er­al-Na­tion­al con­ser­vat­ive co­ali­tion in Aus­tralia “con­sist­ently” has favored urani­um ex­ports to In­dia ever since former Prime Min­is­ter John Howard changed policy in that dir­ec­tion in 2007, ac­cord­ing to Med­calf.

“But at no point have they in­dic­ated they would ac­cept any­thing be­low Aus­tralia’s stand­ard of safe­guards as re­quired of oth­er nuc­le­ar-armed re­cip­i­ent na­tions, such as China and Rus­sia,” he ad­ded.

What We're Following See More »
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
4 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
4 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
6 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
6 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
×