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Australia Media Coverage

Today in Australia Robert Amsterdam was featured as the keynote speaker at the Sydney Summit on Russia. Below is the coverage from the Australian daily newspaper The Age:

Voters oppose uranium sale to Russia More than half of voters are against the federal government’s plan to sell uranium to Russia, a survey has found. Prime Minister John Howard and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to sign a deal during this week’s APEC summit which would see Australian uranium sold to Russia for domestic use. Released at the Sydney Summit on Russia on Tuesday, the survey showed 66 per cent of Australians would vote against the deal if a referendum were held on the issue. The survey of 1,200 voters undertaken by Research International found 41 per cent of people were concerned the uranium may end up in the hands of terrorists or rogue states, while 20 per cent feared Russia would use the uranium for nuclear weapons. Summit keynote speaker and international human rights lawyer Robert Amsterdam said Australians were right to be concerned about the deal. “If the Australian uranium is only going to be used for civilian purposes, then what you’re doing is you’re freeing up the Russian uranium to be used, to be sold on, to Iran,” he told reporters in Sydney. “Mr Putin stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Iran. “If Mr Howard wishes to do business with Mr Putin, he needs to understand the kind of company he’s keeping.” Mr Amsterdam said without the rule of law there was no accountability. “There is no one that will check Mr Putin’s people when it comes to that part of the uranium that isn’t being monitored by the international nuclear organisation,” he said. “The additional point to all this is the dramatic challenge to Australia that Russia represents. “Russia is restructuring its economy in a very dramatic way, it is moving to creating massive corporations, particularly in the mineral sector, and they will be competing with Australia on many different levels. “There’s a lot of geo-political thinking that needs to go on and my question to the Howard government is whether due diligence has been done both in respect to the rule of law issue, but also even further with respect to the whole geo-political question of competition for Australian companies.” Australian Greens energy spokeswoman Christine Milne told the summit Australia could make the uranium sale conditional on clauses covering human rights, democracy and the rule of law. “The prime minister and foreign minister talk about global security but when they actually do have an opportunity to leverage, on the basis of a sale, some outcomes in terms of higher standards and verification of human rights and the rule of law, they have abandoned it in favour of maximising profits,” Ms Milne said. “The concern I have is that all these free marketeers say that by allowing business with these countries like China and Russia, we will draw them into international mores in terms of the rule of law. “However, that will only be the case if countries with whom they do business have a respect for the rule of law and if the countries like Australia actually require compliance and enforcement. “And they don’t, Australia turns a blind eye to human rights abuses in China every day and it will turn the same blind eye to what’s going on in Russia.” Russian journalist Grigory Pasko, who has spent 25 years working in his homeland, said Russia should not be blindly trusted. “I don’t believe for a moment that the Australian uranium is going to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes,” he said. “The Russian authorities have already so often deceived both the Russian people and the foreign community. “I honestly think it’s not a good idea to blindly trust them over something so serious. “I feel that Australia can and should be selling its uranium but before doing so, you should ask yourself, to who.”