Bishop: India is the world’s largest democracy, an emerging Asian superpower, an influential regional power and a strategic partner for Australia. Australia’s growing collaboration with India on energy security and trade is an investment in the future of both countries.

Links between the Australian and Indian people have never been stronger, with over 450,000 people of Indian origin living in Australia. The 2011 census indicated Punjabi was the fastest-growing language in Australia. The Indian diaspora in Australia remains engaged in developments in India, shown by the reception Prime Minister Modi received when he visited Australia in November 2014. The nuclear cooperation agreement has delivered on a key priority for both our governments and I know is an important symbol to the Indian origin community here reflecting the great strides made in our bilateral relationship.

Nuclear power is an important part of India’s energy mix. It will help India reduce its carbon emissions and provide it with the secure supply of power it needs to underpin its ongoing economic development. The opportunity for Australia to supply uranium to India and to help to fuel that development is a significant one. Uranium mining companies in Australia are already negotiating the first contracts for what promises to be a significant trade.

As the fastest growing major economy in the world, with GDP growth rates consistently above seven per cent, India has a substantial and growing need for energy to sustain its development, and nuclear power will play a key role. Around 300 million Indians live without access to power. By 2050, when India’s population is expected to reach 1.7 billion, India aims to provide 25 per cent of its energy from nuclear power. Completion of the reactors already under construction will add substantially to India’s existing nuclear power generation capacity. To fuel that capacity, India will need up to 2,000 tonnes of uranium each year.

Negotiations on a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, to enable uranium sales to India, began under the Labor government in 2013 and were brought to a conclusion by the coalition government the following year. In 2015, members of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties from across the parliament indicated their support for bringing the bilateral agreement into force.

The Australia-India nuclear cooperation agreement is underpinned by a robust safeguards regime applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (the IAEA). IAEA safeguards ‎apply to the civil part of India’s fuel cycle, where Australian uranium and any nuclear material derived from it will exclusively remain. The measures in place to prevent the diversion of Australian uranium from the civil part of India’s fuel cycle are at least as strong as those in place for other export destinations. These include explicit commitments by India in a binding bilateral agreement with Australia, and robust inspection and accounting procedures enforced by the IAEA.

Successive Australian governments have pursued a nuclear cooperation agreement with India with attention to the fact that it is not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the NPT), including how the special case of India relates to Australia’s commitments under that treaty and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. Thus, when I introduced the Australia-India nuclear cooperation agreement to this House in October 2014, I noted that trade in uranium with India had only become possible in light of changes to international guidelines on nuclear supply to India in 2008, agreed by the 48 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (the NSG), including Australia. The NSG includes all of the major nuclear supplier countries and others that are active in nonproliferation efforts. The national interest analysis document that I tabled alongside the nuclear cooperation agreement noted that ‘in light of the unique framework within which nuclear cooperation with India is proposed, the government is considering legislation to clarify the legal basis for uranium transfers to India’. The Civil Nuclear Transfers to India Bill is the result of that consideration.

The bill provides that decisions approving civil nuclear transfers to India are taken not to be inconsistent with Australia’s obligations relating to nuclear safeguards under the NPT and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, if particular conditions are met. Those conditions relate to the application of nuclear safeguards under India’s agreement with the IAEA as well as the Australia-India agreement on civil nuclear cooperation.

Although it remains outside the NPT, bringing India into the nonproliferation mainstream has cemented its commitment to key nonproliferation initiatives. It has also paved the way for India to deepen its strategic relationship with the US, Australia and other Indo-Pacific democracies. An India, keen to work closely with like-minded countries, is clearly in Australia’s security and economic interests.

The evolution of international policies to enable nuclear cooperation with India and to draw it more fully into the nonproliferation mainstream was led by the United States between 2005 and 2008 with the support of Australia, and other countries. In 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group accepted that, on the basis of commitments and actions by India in support of nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear trade with India was possible. As part of that deal, the NSG recognised that there is no practical way for IAEA safeguards to apply comprehensively to nuclear activities in India while India retains nuclear weapons. Rather, India would negotiate a new safeguards agreement with the IAEA to apply safeguards to India’s civilian nuclear facilities, including those fuelled with imported uranium.

The NSG decision recognised India’s commitments to support international nonproliferation efforts, including continuing its moratorium on nuclear testing, to separate its civil and military nuclear activities and to accept IAEA safeguards on the former. In the years since 2008, India has met those commitments. India has brought its additional protocol with the IAEA into force. India has maintained its moratorium on nuclear testing and it is working with Australia and others to promote negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. As part of its separation of civil and military activities, India committed to designate 22 civil facilities for the application of safeguards by the IAEA. All 22 are now under safeguards.

The Civil Nuclear Transfers to India Bill reflects Australia’s decision to supply uranium to India on the basis of the NSG decision and the safeguards that India and the IAEA have put in place to implement it, as well as the conditions in the Australia-India agreement on civil nuclear cooperation. This will give legal and commercial certainty to uranium-mining companies in Australia so that they may fulfil contracts to supply Australian uranium to India with confidence that exports would not be hindered by domestic legal action relating to the scope of the nuclear safeguards that the IAEA applies in India.

Australia has a hard-won reputation as a reliable, cost-effective supplier of energy and India is a large and growing market. A number of Australian uranium companies are actively pursuing the new market opportunity that India presents.

Nuclear power unquestionably makes and will continue to make a significant contribution to the mitigation of CO2 emissions worldwide. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change observed in 2014 that achieving deep cuts in greenhouse gas will require more intensive use of a range of low-carbon technologies, including nuclear energy. India’s ambitious plans to expand nuclear energy generation are likely to make a valuable contribution to its pledged reduction in emissions intensity. India aims to raise nuclear capacity from six gigawatts today to 63 gigawatts in 2032, an increase that is comparable to Australia’s entire power generation capacity. Australian uranium will help to power this.

Given that nuclear energy is a zero-emissions source of baseload power, I said in October 2014 that I expected support for the Australia-India nuclear cooperation agreement from across the political divide. Trade under the nuclear cooperation agreement, together with the growing dialogue we have with India on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, will also help to reinforce the nonproliferation commitments that India has made in recent years, and will help Australia and India to build an enduring bilateral relationship.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.

Chamber House of Representatives on 9/11/2016Item BILLS – Civil Nuclear Transfers to India Bill 2016 – Second Reading Speaker: Bishop, Julie, MP/ Parliment Transcript used for Reporting News