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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 687


Senator TATE —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Government been made aware of the statement emanating from a senior Pentagon source to the effect that President Reagan has the constitutional power to launch a nuclear first strike in retaliation against conventional warfare, presumably launched by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries in Europe? What is the attitude of the Australian Government to this terrifying possibility of the unleashing of the nuclear arsenal without any consultation with Congress or its leadership? Is the Australian Government content that the triggering of the nuclear threshold, with uncertain escalation on both sides, should be vested in one person with whose nation we are in alliance and to which we provide facilities? Is the same power claimed by the President in relation to that country's support for Australia under the ANZUS Treaty should we be under conventional attack?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am aware of reports of an article in a recent issue of Foreign Policy Magazine by the head of the Federation of American Scientists, Mr Jeremy Stone, suggesting that the United States President could lawfully use nuclear weapons only after consulting Congress. I am also aware of the reports over the weekend of more recent remarks attributed to Mr Chapman Cox of the Pentagon General Counsel's Office, disagreeing with Mr Stone. I have not seen the full texts either of Mr Stone's article or Mr Cox's response. The Press reports I have seen, however, suggest that Mr Cox's remarks appear to have been a restatement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's policy of flexible response, which leaves open the possibility of resort to the use of nuclear weapons in response to an overwhelming conventional attack by the Warsaw Pact forces so as to deter such an attack.

The Government does not believe that United States defensive strategy envisages a pre-emptive disarming nuclear strike or 'first strike'. Indeed, American Administration spokesmen have frequently stressed that this is not United States policy. President Reagan and other senior Administration officials have reiterated on many occasions over the past year-the President as recently as last weekend in a reported interview in the Sunday Times-his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly in September 1983 that 'a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought'. On 6 May 1984 United States Defense Secretary Weinberger said:

It is definitely not in the intentions, in the plans, in the strategy or in the design of the American Government that any nuclear war be fought anywhere. We do not believe that a nuclear war can be won, no matter where it is fought.

These statements are, of course, in accord with the Australian Government's approach to these matters.

In his speech on disarmament to the House of Representatives on 6 June this year, the Prime Minister made a statement on the functions of the Australia- United States joint defence facilities. He made clear that the highest levels of the United States Administration had been consulted and had acceded in the issuance of the statement, which contains the following extract, which I quote from the Prime Minister's statement:

We do not believe there can be a winning side in a nuclear war. The notion of a nuclear first strike designed to disarm an adversary would be destabilising if it were to gain credence.

I should point out on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs that it is a fundamental element of Australia's foreign policy that the world's nuclear weapons stockpiles should be reduced and eventually eliminated. Australia has made clear that it would support a mutual and verifiable freeze on nuclear weapons stockpiles and urged that agreements should be reached which would lead to both qualitative restraints and quantitative reductions in nuclear forces. It has said on many occasions that there should be an early resumption of negotiations between the super powers on the limitation and reduction of nuclear weapons, and this position has been registered with both the Soviet and United States Governments. Australia is working actively in all relevant international forums for the achievement of these objectives. Finally, as for the view that the United States President could only lawfully use nuclear weapons after consulting Congress, this is really a matter for determination by the various branches of the United States Government and not one on which it would be appropriate for any representative of the Australian Government to comment.


Senator TATE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. With due respect to the Attorney, who I know is acting on a brief no doubt handed to him by the Department of Foreign Affairs, his answer misses the point of my question, which was not to accuse the United States of pursuing a policy of first pre-emptive strike in any exchange with the Soviet Union and its allies but of first use of nuclear weapons in retaliation or in defence. The crossing of the nuclear threshold was the point of my question. Further by way of supplementary question --


The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the honourable senator to ask a supplementary question, not make a statement.


Senator TATE —The Attorney's response was in terms of NATO's flexible response. I ask whether that also applies to ANZUS.


Senator GARETH EVANS —I will take Senator Tate's supplementary question on notice.