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Wednesday, 7 March 1973
Page: 328


Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (Minister for Education) - The 3 points of the Opposition addendum would be acceptable if the second point did not exist as a clear attempt to prejudice the negotiations that the Australian Government will have with the United States of America on this matter. I refer to an out-of-hand declaration made by the Opposition that the Australian national interest and independence are not jeopardised by the continuance of the agreements under which United States defence installations remain in Australia. The approach of the Opposition to this question contrasts with its approach during its period in government. There appeared to be very clear rights given to the Australian Government under Article 3 of the agreement between the United States and Australia about the United States Naval Communications Station at North West Cape. It states:

The 2 Governments will consult from time to time at the request of either Government on any matters connected wilh the station and its use. Except with the express consent of the Australian Government, the station will not be used for purposes other than purposes of defence communication, and appropriate

Australian authorities nominated by the Australian Government shall at all times have access to the station.

This article of the agreement was destroyed by an exchange of notes between United States Ambassador Battle and the former Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick. In the exchange of notes on 7th May 1963 the United States Ambassador wrote to the Minister for External Affairs as follows:

I enclose a copy of my memorandum of our conversation of today concerning the construction of Article 3 of the VLF Agreement. Whereas this construction is not intended to restrict the Government of Australia's right of consultation, it is intended to spell out clearly that consultation does not carry with it any degree of control over the station or its use. If this is in accordance with your understanding, I would appreciate your so indicating.

The reply which came from Sir Garfield Barwick was in the affirmative to the Ambassador's memorandum which read as follows:

After a full and complete discussion regarding consultation on use of the station with Minister for External Affairs, it was clearly understood that consultation connoted no more than consultation and was not intended to establish Australian control over use of station nor to imply any Government of Australia design to restrict at any time United States Government use of station for defence communications including, for example, communications for polaris submarines, lt is also understood that it was not intended to give Australia control over or access to the contents of messages transmitted over the station.

The Minister replied:

Thank you for your letter of today's date enclosing a copy of your memorandum of our conversation concerning the construction of Article 3 of the Agreement concerning the Naval Communication Station at North West Cape. Your memorandum is entirely in accordance with my understanding.

In other words, on that exchange of letters consultation, which appeared to mean something quite strong in the agreement, was whittled away until it meant virtually nothing. It is not true to say that it is impossible that this station can be an involvement of Australia in nuclear war without its consent and it is not true to say that the words the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) who led for the Opposition, quoted from the speech by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), are a sop to some sort of opinion in the Labor Party. This paragraph expresses exactly the view of all members of the Government, including myself: lt states:

We must, however, insist on seeking renegotiation of certain treaties where this is necessary, to obviate the complete exclusion of Australia from any effective control over a defence installation on Australian soil or to obviate any possibility that Australia could be involved in war - and a nuclear war at that - without itself having any power of decision.

Those honourable members who have been in the Parliament as long as I have will know that when honourable members opposite were in government it was a settled technique for them to suggest that this country was enormously important in the eyes of the United States of America and in the eyes of the United Kingdom.


Mr Whittorn - You say it is not?


Mr BEAZLEY - I certainly say it is not important in the eyes of the United States nor are the things that the Opposition, when it was in government, regarded as important by the United States. For example, both Australia and Holland were allies of the United States. The Minister for External Affairs in a Liberal government, Sir Percy Spender, went to The Hague to urge the Dutch to stand firm over West Irian. Sir Robert Menzies rejected the views of Subandrio that Indonesia had a valid claim on West Irian and indicated clearly that the whole area was strategically important to Australia. When Senator Robert Kennedy came out in a move of United States policy which sought to buy Sukarno out of the Chinese communist orbit by handing over to him West Irian, what the former government for at least 15 years when I sat in Opposition said was that a crucial Australian interest had been thrown to the winds. It was of no importance to the United States whatever nor was Holland, as a NATO ally of the United States, of any importance to the United States in its claim over West Irian. Factors other than the American policy brought Sukarno down, otherwise there could have been some significant confirmation of some of the views of the late government which it once held on West Irian.

This VLF station has very important connotations for Australia. Of all of the weapons that Australia has perhaps least interest in seeing developed in the world, the Polaris submarine happens to be it. The Western world has great industrial cities sitting right on the coast. One can name them and see them as great conurbations right next to the water - 'New York, San Francisco, London, Liverpool, Yokohama, Tokyo, Bombay, Calcutta, Sydney and Melbourne. Any of the great western concentrations of industry and population - name it and it sits right on the coast. If a Polaris submarine controlled from the VLF station in the Indian Ocean sends a rocket from the Indian Ocean at a Soviet industrial complex, at least there are chances of interception in its flight of thousands of miles if the counter missile missiles mean anything. But if a Polaris missile with a nuclear warhead is sent from a few miles out of Sydney at Sydney or any of these great western concentrations of population there are no chances of interception.

It is not a weapon that we should be. enthusiastic about and I do not believe that if there were a development of tension in the world that caused the Soviet Union to attack the North West Cape installation, the United States would necessarily treat that as the casus belli and sentence to death 100 million Americans in retaliation for an attack on that station, lt could, in a certain diplomatic situation, be an area where a warning attack was made which may lead to a change in United States policy. In any event, it would not be an installation of sufficient importance to the United States for it to risk a very large section of its population. Of course, it is an enormous advantage to great powers to have installations which can direct a striking down of their enemies on other people's territories to give them time to decide whether the casus belli had arisen where they needed to risk everything.


Mr Giles - What are you talking about?


Mr BEAZLEY - I am speaking about the difference of interest between 2 countries in the creation of this North West Cape installation. There are enormous advantages to the United States. The advantages to Australia are extremely problematical if one postulates a situation of extreme tension where we may be moving towards nuclear war.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - What is the Government going to do about it?


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member for Griffith will not persist in interjecting from a seat that is not his own. He will be quiet or I will take action.


Mr BEAZLEY - 1 say that at the moment we are in a relatively lucid interval in international affairs and that lucidity began to develop at about the time when this agreement was signed. The lucidity began to develop when Khrushchev was a sensible coward over Cuba. He was taunted at the time by the Chinese as a coward but instead of risking a nuclear war with the United States he was prepared to withdraw. The Soviet Union was trying to develop the exquisite advantage of having the control of critical nuclear weapons on somebody else's soil. The United States reached the point when the presence of those critical nuclear weapons of somebody else's became an issue where President Kennedy was willing to risk a nuclear war. Iq the fact of that, Mr Khrushchev climbed down and the weapons were withdrawn, lt would, of course, have been a very dangerous position for Cuba to have been in to have consented to be used. We say that because of the disparity of risk this whole question should be renegotiated so that it can become quite clear that without our consent the VLF station in the north west is not used. The expression weapon of defence' has been used. Heavens above, what is defence with a Polaris submarine? Is it retaliation? I presume that would be defence. Or is it a pre-emptive strike? That also could be called defence. In this particular context the word 'defence' is a very difficult one to follow. We believe that this agreement should be renegotiated to give Australia some of this control which the former government pretended in its treaty it was giving to the Australian people and which it violated in a private exchange of notes between Sir Garfield Barwick and Mr William Battle. That watering down behind the back of people who were given this paraded agreement in the Parliament is something that the Government finds highly objectionable. To say that consultation will take place and then to say that consultation means nothing means that that section needs renegotiations. We want to be consulted. We do not want in a treaty words that say we will be consulted while a private exchange says we will not. We want to be consulted and as a bare minimum in re-negotiation we would want to reestablish the full meaning of Article 3. But, of course, that would not of itself be going far enough. We are harbouring on our soil an installation that could be critically important in a nuclear war. The Government rejects entirely the second clause of the amendment moved by the Opposition because we regard it as a deliberate attempt to prejudice negotiations which would restore Australian authority on its own soil in a defence installation in which it has every right to equality and every right to be consulted.







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