Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Julia Gillard looks to bait the Greens

End India uranium ban: Julia Gillard urges Labor
Labor plans to lift its ban on uranium sales to India as Julia Gillard puts her stamp on foreign policy in the "Asian century" and imposes her authority on the ALP conference next month.
The Prime Minister will move to dump the anachronistic ban on uranium sales to India for nuclear power generation because it has been hurting Australia-India relations and stalling trade and security development.

The change, expected to be opposed by Labor's Left and the Greens, is likely to dominate Labor's national conference in Sydney early next month and push the contentious issues of same-sex marriage and offshore processing of asylum-seekers into the background.

As part of the pre-conference negotiations, Ms Gillard is hoping to secure a policy win on uranium and a compromise "conscience vote" on same-sex marriage. Writing in Fairfax newspapers today, Ms Gillard says she supports maintaining the Marriage Act in its current form and that the government will not move legislation to change it. However, she adds that a conscience vote on the issue is "appropriate".

ALP sources last night warned that while Ms Gillard as party leader could expect organised support on her policy stance, nothing could be taken for granted at the conference. Ms Gillard, who was returning from the APEC summit in Honolulu last night, wants the policy changed because it has been hurting ties with India, sends the wrong signals as her government develops its "Asian century" strategy and will help create jobs, particularly in remote areas.

Australia earns between $750 million and $1 billion a year from uranium sales to countries including China, Japan, the US and Taiwan. It has agreed to sell uranium to Russia and endorsed international agreements allowing other countries to sell uranium to India. Ms Gillard believes the existing ban on India introduced by the Rudd government in 2008 in a bid to force it to sign the NPT is redundant because of accords between India, the US and Canada on exports.

In 2007, the Howard government agreed to sell uranium to India under a system of safeguards negotiated by the US to ensure uranium sold to India would be used only in civilian nuclear power stations. In 2008, the Rudd government reversed the policy on the grounds India was not a signatory to the NPT, citing the potential for a deal to increase tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours of India and Pakistan. Since, Mr Rudd and Mr Ferguson have pushed for a lifting of the ban.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth two weeks ago, Indian business leaders complained about the uranium ban and Indian officials have cited it as a reason for the slow pace of trade and security talks.

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