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The Rudd Government can today correct the serious snub to India by reversing its earlier decision to abandon uranium sales for clean electricity generation.
Today’s speech by the Foreign Minister, Mr Smith, about the importance of the Australian-Indian relationship is totally overshadowed by the Rudd Government’s stance on uranium sales to India, said the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Andrew Robb AO MP, today.
“One of the first foreign policy acts of the Rudd Government was to overturn a decision by the Howard Government to help India supply greenhouse gas free electricity to its growing population, provided certain conditions were met, under a agreement being negotiated between the US and India.
“This was the wrong decision by the Rudd Government and by the Foreign Minister telling India it was because of ‘party politics’ the offence was compounded,” Mr Robb said.
“India’s energy security and needs are the major issue in the relationship between our two countries.
“This issue can strategically make Australia a very important partner to India. It is the thing India really wants from us. It is the big issue.
“While Mr Smith rightly refers to India’s incredible economic growth, the fact of the matter is that for this growth to continue, India needs access to reliable energy supplies.
“And from a climate perspective there is overwhelming merit in addressing the reality of India’s energy needs by supplying the resources for clean energy – otherwise these resources will simply come from less environmentally friendly sources.
“As India grows it will rank third behind the US and China in terms of global energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
“If the uranium deal succeeds, and the existing restrictions on the import of nuclear technology and uranium for peaceful power sources are removed, by 2050 as much as 35 per cent of India’s total energy needs could be met by clean nuclear power plants.
“And the conditions that Australia placed on any sales of uranium to India would have seen global non-proliferation strengthened by including India, a country which has an exemplary record on non-proliferation, with the majority of India’s nuclear reactors coming under the strict coverage of the International Atomic Energy Agency for the first time.
“However, while the Rudd Government is saying to our Indian friends that we do not trust them with our uranium, at the same time Mr Rudd and Mr Smith say they have not yet made up their minds on whether to veto sales of uranium to India by the 44 other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
“This makes no sense. How can Australia refuse to sell our uranium to India, yet plausibly support the rest of the world supplying uranium? Either way, Australia will be adding insult to injury.
“The bottom line on all this is that by reversing Australia’s commitment to sell uranium to India, Labor did substantial damage to the Australia-India relationship.
“The national interest was not considered. Climate change was ignored. Nuclear non-proliferation was sidelined. A China bias was implied. Constructive US policy towards Asia was opposed. India’s feelings were trampled on.
“It makes absolutely no sense to sell uranium to China and Russia, and not to India.
“It makes absolutely no sense to claim climate change to be the great moral challenge of our time and then block the adoption of nuclear technology which is greenhouse gas free, and which already provides 16 per cent of the world’s electricity needs.
“The US-India nuclear agreement is good for India, good for Australia, good for the region, good for climate change and good for nuclear non-proliferation.
“The Foreign Minister should use today’s speech to announce a reversal of this bad policy. It is disastrous politics. It is a position that is unsustainable. It can and must be reversed.
Media Contact: Stuart Eaton, 0433 298 620
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