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Wednesday, 10 October 1956


Dr EVATT (Barton) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I wish to refer to the speeches of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The nub of the question is to be found in the concluding sentences of the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar. I believe that the true inference to be drawn from the minute, almost contemptuous vote for civil defence which has been referred to, is that the Government does not envisage the possibility of war, especially nuclear warfare, reaching our shores. Apparently, the Government believes that it has some justification for its belief. Otherwise, it would be a most recreant act not to make provision against nuclear warfare.

Equally - and I think that this is implied also in the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar - if we are to have so contemptuous a vote for civil defence, there must be an all-out effort by the Government to ensure that a firm and binding agreement is reached in relation to nuclear weapons and nuclear experiments. My complaint against the Government is that it is doing nothing in this direction.

The honorable member for Mackellar, in referring to Russia in this chamber, called the Russians " the enemy ". I do not think that he should do that. I am not saying that merely as a point of order. Surely the situation has eased to a substantial extent since the summit talks. They were delayed long enough. Sir Winston Churchill suggested them in 1953. That was the new hope of the world. They were not held until two years later but, undoubtedly, the general climate has greatly improved. It is in that connexion that I want to urge again activity by this Government. Unless some initiative is taken by Australia, I do not believe that the great Powers - Russia, Great Britain and the United States of America - will take the initiative soon enough. They have all expressed willingness to ban experiments with nuclear weapons, but an agreement to that effect must be entered into by all of them. All have expressed their willingness. The Russian Foreign Minister did so twice. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Sir Anthony Eden, as recently as 24th July last, when speaking of the multiplication of experiments, said -

We would have preferred to deal wilh this ih the context of a disarmament convention, but we are quite ready now to discuss that matter separately from a disarmament convention.

Yet it has been said, in this debate and elsewhere, that we cannot deal with nuclear experiments unless we have a firm, binding agreement covering all nuclear weapons, and their use in war as well as conventional weapons. I believe that is the. approach that should be made. I do not believe that the United States of America requires any-, thing more than some firm, binding assurance that if it gives up nuclear weapons, Russia will do so as well. That is evident from statements that have been made on behalf of the United States of America. Could that not be made certain? Is it not a fact - as I believe it to be - that no nuclear experiment of any significance can be conducted in any one of the three major countries without the other two knowing about it immediately. If such an experiment is made, it is readily detectable. Therefore, in a sense, we could get to the situation quickly if there were any breach of the primary undertaking.

Sitting suspended from S.S9 to 8 p.m.


Dr EVATT - During the time remaining to me, I should like to summarize as quickly as I can what seem to us to be the salient points in this great controversy over experiments with the atomic and hydrogen bombs, experiments conducted, of course, on the assumption that in some circumstances they will be utilized in warfare. The Opposition has sought to reduce the proposed vote in order to demand of the Government that it take some action other than that which it is taking in connexion with these experiments. We demand of the Government that it bring the matter before the three great powers which are the sole possessors of atomic and hydrogen bombs; and I remind the Government that the leaders of each of those countries have expressed their willingness to agree to the banning of the experiments subject to reasonable safeguards for the protection of them all. I have referred to the statement by Sir Anthony Eden that he was quite willing to separate the experimental use of these bombs from the general problem of disarmament and to treat that as the first step towards major disarmament. The same offer has been made twice by the Foreign Minister of Russia and by the authorities in the United States of America, again subject to certain safeguards. I point out that it is a vital part of our case that we have a safeguard in the fact that, because of the marvellous -instruments available to scientists, it is possible to detect from a great distance whether a bomb has been exploded. By this means, any of the three powers can detect whether the agreement has been breached or honoured.

One object, of course, in banning the use of bombs for experimental purposes is the banning of their use altogether for purposes of war, and in this connexion I desire to make a short reference to a statement appearing in the " Christian Science Monitor " of 29th June, as published in the United States of America. It sets out that official army estimates showed that a fullscale nuclear attack on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics could kill several hundred millions of people, including probably millions of America's own allies outside the Soviet Union, depending on which way the wind was blowing. That is an official statement that was published despite censorship in the United States of America. Senator Duff asked this question of General Gavin-

If we got into a nuclear war and our strategic Air Force made an assult in force against Russia with nuclear weapons so that the weapons exploded in a way where the prevailing winds would carry them south east over Russia, what would be the effect in the way of death?

General Gavin said he would answer, but he added that the question should be directed to the Air Force. He then gave this reply -

Current planning estimates run on the order of several hundred million deaths. That would be either way, depending on which way the wind blew.

That is surely ample evidence to support the assertion that the winds have a definite effect upon the area in which the greatest amount of damage and destruction and the greatest number of deaths occur. It is also supported by the Maralinga tests. We know that those tests were postponed because the wind was not blowing in the direction for which provision had been made. The weapon was not released until the signal was given that the wind was blowing in the required direction. I repeat that it supports the statement in the " Christian Science Monitor " that the direction of the wind does affect the area contaminated from radiation. In those circumstances, it is obvious that there is an dement of peril, and it is only probably because great, scientific achievement has -been favoured by chance that the experiments have been conducted so far without great damage and loss of life. We all know that loss and injury -did result from the Bikini experiment, but in that case an H-bomb, not an atom bomb, was exploded. Actually, I think it caused the deaths of a number of Japanese fishermen who were in the affected area.

That New Zealander, Lord Rutherford, the great mathematician and nuclear physicist, first saw the way in which this field of science could lead to inventions which, properly controlled, would bring comfort, happiness and power to thousands of millions of people throughout the world. What we want from the leaders of nations is a spirit of determination and humanity, without which these weapons must become the curse of mankind, because, if they are used for mass destruction during a war. there is no doubt that they could destroy the very fabric of the earth itself. We of the Opposition, therefore, ask what is being done in this connexion. Nearly two years ago, at the federal conference of the Australian Labour party, this matter was discussed and, among other things, this was said -

The development of atomic weapons has reached such dimensions that the peoples of the world are now faced with the stark and terrifying spectacle of a possible atomic world war causing a danger to ,the very .fabric of the earth. itf atmosphere and all its inhabitants, which is so real that distinguished scientists refer to the prospect with a sense of desperation.

Those were the words used by that great scientist -Einstein and his seven colleagues who .-signed the declaration published immediately after his death. The declaration of the -Australian Labour movement, to which I have referred, continues -

This desperation is partly -due to the vacillation and delay in arranging high-level political talks aiming at the effective prevention of the -use of atomic and "'hydrogen bombs 'by any nation, whether for purposes of war or experimental purposes.

That declaration was criticized, but it pointed the way to a solution, because, at the great meetings held after that time, the leaders of the three nations to which I have referred made to each other, and to the world, 'the offers to which I have alluded.

Nobody will deny that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) is very energetic in carrying out his duties, but the real responsibility lies not with him, but with the Government. It should point out that our country is being used as the place for conducting these experiments. We all realize that, originally, Woomera was never intended for atomic or hydrogen experiments; it was arranged between the Chifley Government and the Labour government of Great Britain that it should be used for experiments seeking to obtain an answer to the V-l and V-2 guided missiles which nearly turned the tide of war against us in 1944 and 1945. It is now being used for these other purposes.


Mr Beale - Maralinga had nothing to do with that. ,


Dr EVATT - 1 am not speaking about Maralinga; I am referring to the original purpose for which that great space at Woomera was to be used. What is being done about it now? In to-day's issue of the " Sun Pictorial ", Douglas Wilkie, who, like Russo of the " Argus ", is one of the best informed of any commentators in Australia on international affairs, said -

We're near to that point al which the peoples of the world will insist on putting an end to further nuclear test-explosions - A-bomb and H-bomb.

Let the Government take the initiative. It will get 100 per cent, support from the Opposition and, I believe, from those countries which are concerned with this question. Certainly, it will get support from suffering humanity.







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