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Thursday, 1 August 1946

With the consent of the House, I incorporate the following statement in Hansard : -

As a result of election to the Security Council by the General Assembly of the United Nations last January, Australia has been given an opportunity to play a prominent part in discussions relating to the future of atomic energy, and to share in one of the most responsible tasks ever placed upon a group of nations. In accepting that responsibility the Australian Government is conscious both of the need for removing the danger of destruction which . is threatened by the atomicbomb, and also of developing to the full great possibilities which this scientific discovery holds for the benefit of mankind. This second aspect is particularly important for Australia, where development of new sources of power may show the way to great material progress and removal of substantialdisabilities.

Recognizing this responsibility and opportunity, the Australian Government thought it desirable that a senior Cabinet Minister should be present at the inauguration of the work of the Atomic Energy Commission, and the Government therefore arranged for the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) at the close of the British Commonwealth talks in London last May, to go to New York to represent Australia on the Commission. At the same time it was arranged that two distinguished Australian scientists, Professor M. L. Oliphant, world authority on Nuclear Physics, and Dr. G. H. Briggs of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, should accompany Dr. Evatt as technical advisers. The Delegation was completed with permanent Australian officials already available at the United Nations head-quarters and had the advantage of consultation with the leader of the Australian Military Mission at Washington, Major-General

John A. Chapman, who himself attended a number of the commission meetings or was represented by deputies.

Dr. Evatthad the honour to be selected as the first chairman of the commission and was thus able to exercise a decisive influence on proceedings and ensure that the commission started work quickly and practically. I now propose to give to the House some account of the work of the commission and of the Australian contribution during the first month of its existence.

The Atomic Energy Commission was set up by resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 24th January, 1946. It consists of all members of the Security Council together with a representative of Canada when Canada is not a member of the council. The terms of reference of the commission require that it " shall proceed with the utmost despatch to inquire into all phases of the problem ". In particular the commission is to make specific proposals -

(a)   For extending between all nations the exchange of basic scientific information for peaceful ends.

(b)   For control of atomic . energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes.

(c)   For the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons, adaptable to mass destruction.

(d)   For effective -safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying states against the hazards ofviolation and evasions.

The General Assembly resolution provides that the work of the commission is to proceed by separate stages in order that the successful completion of each stage may develop the necessary confidence of the world before the next is undertaken. The reports and recommendations of the commission will be submittedto the Security Council, to which on matters affecting security the commission is accountable. These reports and recommendations are to be made public unless the council in the interests of peace and security directs otherwise. Wherever appropriate, the Security Council must transmit these reports to the General Assembly and other appropriate organs of the United Nations. The commission is required not to infringe upon the responsibilities of any organ of theUnited Nations.

The commission held its first meeting in New York on the 14th June. It was decided that it would follow the provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council in accordance with which the chairmanship rotates monthly in the English alphabetical order of the countries represented. The Australian Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Evatt, therefore, became chairman for the first month of the commission's work.

At the opening meeting the United Slates of America representative, Mr. Bernard Baruch, proposed the creation of an International Atomic Development Authority to be entrusted with control over all phases of development and the use of atomic energy. He declared that when an adequate system for control of atomic energy, including renunciation of the bomb as a weapon, had been agreed upon and put into effective operation, and condign punishments effectively prescribed for violation of rules of control, then the manufacture of atomic bombs should stop, existing bombs should he disposed of pursuant to the terms of an international treaty and an international atomic authority should be placed in possession of full information regarding the production of atomic energy. In other words, given an adequate system of control, the United States of America was willing to surrender its virtual monopoly in atomic activities. This was a most liberal offer and a hopeful start to the commission's work.

The Soviet representative made a different approach. He asked that the first step should be an international convention for the renunciation of atomic weapons and a total ban on their production, this step to be followed by sharing of atomic secrets. Both of those steps were to be preliminary to theestablishment of a system of control providing severe penalties for violations of the convention.

For obvious reasons those in possession of atomic knowledge were not disposed to share it until they had some certainty of control with adequate safeguards against violation. Thus as foreseen in the General Assembly resolution, the Atomic Energy Commission was immediately confronted with the problem of how to define successive stages by which atomic control should be introduced.

General debate followed and revealed a large measure of support for the broad lines of the United States proposals. But this general discussion might easily have drifted into a repetition of lofty aspirations and constant assertions that great problems had to be faced, without much practical progress. Therefore, Dr. Evatt, as chairman, in concluding the general debate, underlined the dangers of delay and stressed the possibilities of beneficial development of atomic energy as well as its dangerous uses. He directed attention away from the difficult question of successive steps by which control should be introduced and stressed the importance of consideringthe problem as a whole. He pointed out that underlying the whole discussion there was -

(a)   The idea of some form of international atomic energy authority, and

(b)   The idea that all nations should accept certain obligations regarding the use of atomic energy.

At his suggestion the commission then established a working committee comprised of all members to examine various proposals that had been made and discover the main principles. I append to this statement the text of a speech made by Dr. Evatt on the 25th June, 1946, setting out in detail the views of the Australian Government.

Under the leadershipof Dr. Evatt the working committee quickly proceeded to comparative study of the various proposals and appointed a sub-committee of six to discuss in greater detail areas of difference. The meetings of this subcommittee, which were held in private, were most useful. It was not possible, nor was it attempted, to draw up immediately an agreed statement acceptable to every member of the commission. Indeed, if such an attempt had been made a great deal of time would have been lost and the result would probably have been a document crowded with qualifications and provisos. Instead, the committee accepted their chairman's suggestions for a practical approach to the problems involved. Dr. Evatt also gave a clear lead on constitutional problems surrounding the creation of the atomic authority.

The nature of the problems considered by the sub-committee and progress made are indicated clearly in the series of working papers presented by the representatives of the United States of America, France and Australia, and particularly in the general report made to the working committee by Dr. Evatt on the proceedings of the sub-committee. This report draws attention to three important questions of principle, detailed consideration of which will be essential before the plan of atomic control can be drafted.

The first of these was whether it would be desirable to negotiate an international convention dealing solely with the outlawing of " atomic weapons " and the destruction of existing stocks, or whether on the other hand an obligation not to make or use such weapons should be included within the framework of a broad general plan, an essential part of which should be an effective system of controls to ensure that atomic energy would be employed only for peaceful purposes. Dr. Evatt's report indicated that the opinion of the majority of the comrnittee favoured the second alternative. The second question was the general type of international controlsand measures necessary for inclusion within the framework of the general plan, including in such controls the establishment of a special international agency vested with executive power to determine and enforce controls and also to promote development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The third principle requiring consideration was the relationship between organized measures for the international control of atomic energy and the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.

There was general agreement by members of the sub-committee that, at a stage to be determined, an international agree ment not to produce oruse atomic weapons for purposes of war should be entered into. The majority view, however, which included that of the United States, held strongly that a mere convention to outlaw the use of atomic weapons was inadequate in view of past experience of the inefficacy of certain international pacts. Moreover the majority considered that atomic weapons could and should be eliminated by direct measures of inspection and control and, further, that such a control system would make the proposed convention largely superfluous. What was required was the detailed preparation of an adequate system of international control such as would in fact ensure the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes only.

The United States view, which had considerable support in the subcommittee, was that an international agency wielding such control would need to have power to obtain complete control over or own uranium, thorium or other potential sources of atomic energy; to own or rigidly control all facilities for production of U.235, plutonium and such other fissionable materials as it determined to be dangerous; to control such other facilities and activities in the field of atomic energy as might be dangerous in other hands ; to have unhindered access to and power to control, license and inspect all other facilities which possess, utilize or produce materials which are the source of atomic energy, and to carry out other related functions.

There was general support in the subcommittee for the view that the system of control should be established by a single treaty which would define the obligations to be accepted by member states and at the same time, establish the control agency, define its form of organization, functions and powers, and, so far as necessary, its relationship to the various organs of the United Nations.

Concerning the relation between the proposed agency and the Security Council, Dr. Evatt expressed the view that it was legally and practically impossible for the functions of the Security Council to be enlarged so as to include the multiferous and detailed executive decisions involved in administering a treaty providing for the control and development of atomic energy. Under the Charter the Security Council, he argued, has no excutive powers of such a character. Its executive powers exist onlyin situations where a threat to the peace, breach of the peace of act of aggression have been proved to exist in accordance with Chapter VII. of the Charter. The essential and urgent problem was to devise means by which power might be given by treaty to an atomic energy agency to control and supervise the development of atomic energy in such a way that neither threats to peace nor any rupture of the peace could be caused by the employment of atomic weapons. In other words, Dr. Evatt emphasized that the objective must be to make the control system so effective that plans for violations or evasions, whether of a major or minor character, could be detected at the earliest stages and prompt measures taken for effective prevention. Such an objective would not be incompatible with the invoking by the agency of the machinery of the Security Council in a special situation or by a complainant state if the control measures provided by the agency were for any reason found to be inadequate.

The same report also drew attention to another major problem; namely whether -or not there should be a veto power protecting violators of atomic energy agreements. The constitutional side of this problem has already been referred to above. The Australian view expressed by Dr. Evatt on the general issue of the veto is that every party to the atomic -energy treaty would necessarily be subject to rules of conduct laid down either in the treaty itself or by an international control agency established by such treaty. It follows from this principle that no system of veto could be permitted in the procedure of the atomic energy agency because admission of the veto power would mean a right or privilege to claim a special immunity or exemption from the rules and regulations of conduct, thus subverting the main purposes of the overall plan for international control. It was emphasized that' the binding effect of any system of international controls could be evaded, either by including in the charter provisions for granting special immunity to one or more nations, or by conferring on the Security Council the additional function of administering the control system. Inasmuch as the veto power would be available to any of the permanent members of the council, the effect of the latter plan would be equally to confer special immunity on certain states and thus again' destroy the practical effectiveness of any system of international control.

Dr. Evatt'sreport concluded by stating that the problem appeared to demand for its solution -

(a)   . The establishment by multilateral treaty of a special international agency for atomic energy control and development.

(b)   The vesting of administrative and executive powers in such agency.

(c)   Establishing the responsibility of such agency to the signatory nations, and

(d)   Bringing the agency into special relationship with the United Nations.

The immediate result of the work of sub-committee No. 1 was the setting up by the Working Committee of three further committees which will immediately proceed to the detailed examination of problems of atomic control. Briefly,0 the terms of reference of these committees are as follows:-

(a)   Committee No. 2 is to examine and make recommendations on questions associated with the control of atomic energy activities ;

(b)   Legal advisory committee is to advise on all legal and drafting matters, to examine legal aspects of relationships with the United Nations and ultimately to submit a draft treaty or treaties to the Working Committee, and

(c)   Scientific and technical committeeis to advise the Working Committee and all other committees on the Commission on scientific and technical questions referred to it and to consider and recommend proposals for the exchange of information, for the peaceful use of atomic energy and on all scientific and technical matters.

It was agreed that each committee should consist of twelve members, i.e., a representative of each Government member of the commission.

The result, therefore, of the month's vigorous and purposeful chairmanship by Dr. Evatt has been to bring to the surface essential problems and to create organizational machinery bywhich the Atomic Energy Commission can proceed to work on those problems. At the close of his term of office, high tribute was paid to the outstanding contribution which the Australian representative had made to the inauguration of the Commission's work. Owing to the imminence of the Peace Conference in Paris, Dr. Evatt was obliged to leave New York, but in his absence his deputies at the Australian delegation will carry on along the lines laid down.

The difficulties ahead of the commission should not be minimized. Militarily and industrially atomic energy may prove one of the most far-reaching discoveries ever made by man. It can change world pictures of national power. Great national interests are at stake and only by tolerance, understanding, readiness to negotiate, and, above all, trust, can those national interests be made to yield to international co-operation. This is a great political problem as well as a scientific and organizational problem, and it would be foolish and blind not to recognize that after the first month's work the political obstacles seem far greater than the technical and organizational difficulties.

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