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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 769


Senator MASON —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I say in preface that the Australian Democrats are greatly disturbed by the failure of the Government to react decisively to the question of United States preparedness to undertake a nuclear first strike and that is why we press the matter with the Minister. Does the Minister agree that while the question of first strike preparedness in a nuclear versus nuclear weapons conflict may be justified as a deterrent suggestion, in the case of nuclear versus conventional weapons, which could well be the case in a European based conflict, the concept of nuclear first strike as a deterrent is quite nonsensical and very dangerous to the world? Does the Government feel any responsibility as a middle power and as an ally of the United States of America to attempt to influence that nation's policy formulation on this critical issue? How would the Government assess the dangers to the Australian community of a United States nuclear first strike in a situation where the Warsaw Pact nations were using conventional weapons only?


The PRESIDENT —I call the Minister representing the Minister for Defence.


Senator GARETH EVANS —The ersatz Minister, I think I was described as this morning, Mr President. Be that as it may, let me respond as best I can on the material available to me from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence. I believe it is clear from my answers yesterday to questions on this subject from Senator Tate and Senator McIntosh, and I think Senator Chipp, that the Government does not accept that the United States nuclear weapons policy envisages a disarming pre-emptive first strike. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's deterrence policy is based on the doctrine, it has been acknowledged, of a flexible response which leaves open the possibility of the first use, if required, of nuclear weapons in response to an overwhelming conventional attack by the Warsaw Pact so as to deter such an attack.

The doctrine of flexible response has been the cornerstone of NATO's deterrence policy for almost two decades and has been endorsed not only by successive United States administrations but also by all 16 Western governments which constitute the NATO alliance. I should add that NATO spokesmen have stressed repeatedly that the NATO alliance is a defensive one, that its weapons exist to deter, and that none of its weapons will ever be used except in response to an attack. In that sense the question of a pre-emptive strike does not arise. The recent statement by Mr Chapman Cox, General Counsel of the United States Defence Department, does not constitute a change in existing NATO and related United States policy as we read it. Accordingly, the Government does not propose to take up the matter with any of the NATO parties.

As I said earlier, the Government does not accept that United States policy envisages a first strike. In this connection I simply repeat my statement of yesterday, which drew attention to the Prime Minister's speech on disarmament in the House of Representatives on 6 June this year. In that speech the Prime Minister made a statement on the functions of the Australia-United States joint facilities. He made it clear that the highest levels of the United States Administration had been consulted and had acceded to the issuance of that statement, which contains, to quote again what the Prime Minister said, the following passage:

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.

As to ANZUS, the situation is clear. This matter was raised in Question Time yesterday, and I think this is an appropriate opportunity to add some further response, particularly to the matters raised by Senator Tate and Senator McIntosh. The first of the relevant articles of the ANZUS Treaty, Article III, states:

The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific.

Article IV states:

Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.

So the answer to Senator Tate's question as to whether a flexible response also applies to ANZUS is clearly no. There is no equivalent provision in the ANZUS Treaty of the long held NATO doctrine of flexible response, which is clearly based on circumstances quite different from those of the ANZUS context. Moreover , a reading of the most recent ANZUS Council communique will indicate the special attention given by the ANZUS partners to arms control and disarmament issues, including the great urgency for a substantial reduction of nuclear weaponry, to balanced and more stable levels.


Senator MASON —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. The Attorney has said, in essence, that the Government is assuming what the statements over the weekend by Mr Chapman Cox meant. It has reached certain assumptions on that basis. Do we take it from that that the Government intends to take the matter no further and to seek no further clarification?


Senator GARETH EVANS —To the extent that the Government takes Mr Chapman Cox's statements as not constituting any change in what has been the long articulated NATO policy of flexible response, then that is so. It may be that some more arcane meaning can be read into Mr Cox's statement, in which case there might need to be some further evaluation of it. Certainly I am advised that our reading of the statement is that it does not constitute any change of policy and as such does not justify such a further approach.