Follow the yellowcake road: balancing Australia's national interests against international anti-nuclear interests



    1. Director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.
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The question of whether Australia should change government policy to permit the export of uranium to India has divided Australians, arms control advocates and scholars. This article does not take a position for or against Australia's export of uranium to India. Instead, it argues that the concept of ‘the national interest’ is misleading as the analytical framework for assessing this important foreign policy decision, and leads to a distorted analysis and policy prescription. It is not all that difficult for the government to justify a decision to sell uranium to India as being in the national interest. But a more nuanced and complicated analysis results when the issue is discussed using a novel analytical framework of ‘a balance of interests’. ‘The national interest’ is erroneous as a description of the empirical reality, substitutes tautology for explanation and is unhelpful as a guide to policy. ‘A balance of interests’ is superior on all three counts of description, explanation and prescription. In addition, it captures human agency and allows for human error and multiple balances as weighed by different people reflecting their personal predilections, professional backgrounds, life and career experiences, party philosophy, and institutional interests and perspectives.