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Wednesday, 10 October 1956

Mr BEALE (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. I said that the caucus had previously passed a resolution in favour of Australia abandoning tests. But to-night the right honorable gentleman is not prepared to go that far. I am not surprised that he is not prepared to go that far because on 22nd February last, in answer to an interjection by myself, he said, in this chamber, that no one seriously advocated the cessation of experimental explosions except by international regulation and by consenc. That is why he cannot now genuinely advocate unilateral abandonment. But he does want to have the proposed vote for the Department of Supply reduced as a direction to the Government to get the powers together. It all sounds very nice.

I suggest that it might be a good idea if the committee had the opportunity to run its mind over the history of this matter and realize what has been done by the great democracies to try to bring about some sort of agreement on this subject already. For Australia now to mount its white charger like a paladin, come into the arena, strike an attitude, and say, "We shall get the great powers together to achieve this thing which Great Britain and America have been struggling for since 1 954 ", is just childish nonsense, and everybody knows it. In 1954, at the United Nations General Assembly, a motion was put forward by India for what it called a standstill of atomic explosion. It is significant that Russia did not open its mouth at that session, did not advocate this course, and did not raise the matter in any form at all.

Mr Chambers - There was a later meeting in 1954.

Mr BEALE - I am coming to that. In 1955 Russia did bring forth, before a subcommittee on disarmament, a somewhat elaborate proposal for a cessation of thermo-nuclear tests, which in that context mean both hydrogen and atomic explosions, coupled with a freeze of conventional arms - which was very nice because Russia had 50 per cent, more conventional arms than all the rest of the free world put together - the liquidation of all foreign bases, and the acceptance of a solemn obligation not to use nuclear weapons. No enforcement, no sanctions, no control! It is little wonder that that proposal went by default and was not even raised by anybody at the meeting. It is worth mentioning that at about that time President Eisenhower came forward with his open skies proposal, which was a fair and honest proposal for inspection of all forms of armament, and that was turned down by Russia. So do not let us say that the democracies have not been putting up a struggle to try to bring this thing under control.

Mr Chambers - That proposal was for an aerial inspection.

Mr BEALE - It was for an open skies aerial inspection of armaments.

Mr Chambers - They did not agree to it.

Mr BEALE - Of course they did not. In December, 1955, Sir Anthony Eden said that the United Kingdom could not agree to the stopping of nuclear tests unless there were some sort of international supervision and control. He went on to say, " But my Government is prepared at any time and at any place to have discussions on the control and abolition of atomic bomb tests ". There never was a reply by Russia to that open offer. Between March and May, 1956, the disarmament sub-committees of the United Nations again had this matter under discussion, and again proposals were put forward. This time they were Anglo-French proposals for comprehensive disarmament, but they also included the abolition of the atomic tests. The Soviet replied with a proposal of its own, somewhat similar to its previous proposal, but again without any sort of supervision or control. For the democracies to agree to any proposal Which does not, somewhere or other, have a hope in it that the agreement could be supervised and controlled would be, of course, just folly. Russia entered that particular discussion with no better proposal than that there should be a solemn obligation on the part of all powers that they would make a solemn promise. It would be, if you like, ohe of those forms of words, but nothing more than that, with no sanctions to back it, no inspection of any sort, and it is little wonder that that proposal lapsed and went by the wayside.

Quite recently, Sir Anthony Eden's Government, like this Government, and like every other government, including, I believe, the Russian Government, has become concerned with the implications of the thermonuclear explosion, that is to say, a hydrogen bomb explosion, as distinct from an atomic explosion. This is a distinction which members on the Opposition benches Jo not seem to understand. I have heard three speeches this afternoon by Labour members. Two of the speakers obviously did not know the difference between an atomic bomb explosion and a hydrogen bomb explosion. Sir Anthony Eden said that although his Government would prefer to deal with the question of controlling atomic explosions in the context of a disarmament convention, nevertheless the question had become so technical, so bogged down in offer and counter-offer, in political and international diplomatic manoeuvre, that he now. made an open offer that hi*. Government stood immediately ready, at any time and at any place, to discuss a limitation of tests, separately or in any disarmament context whatsoever.

Dr Evatt - That is a big step forward.

Mr BEALE - I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that that is a big step forward, and it is one with which we heartily agree, because the hydrogen bomb offers sinister possibilities for the world unless mankind does something about it. I remind this committee that the Government will not permit such a bomb io be tested in Australia, but that is another matter altogether. The only reply bv Russia to that proposal was the letting off of another series of hydrogen bombs in Russia. And there the matter stands. All I say to the Parliament is that this Government will not yield to any one in its belief that the time must come when the nations will be compelled to agree among themselves to control and, if possible, to ban the holding of these tests. We have played our part in every discussion abroad on this matter. Our views are well known and we shall continue to assert them. If it is any consolation to the Leader of the Opposition, quite apart from the motion h? proposed to-night, this Government will take as foremost a part as it can take in future discussions, but that does not mean getting up on a post and bawling at the too of our voices and making fools of ourselves.

Mr Curtin - No wonder they call you " Paddles ".

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is entirely out of order in many ways, and he knows it. He will be out of the chamber if he does not behave.

Mr BEALE - 1 have spoken a little warmly on this subject, because I feel warmly about it. lt is a matter of great significance to all of us. I think that most honorable members of the Australian Labour party, excluding the gentleman who just interjected, think just as seriously about this matter as we do, but the one thing that seems to divide the Government on the one hand and some members of the Australian Labour party on the other hand - I know it is not so with all of them - is whether in the meantime, struggling and doing our utmost with our friends to get some sort of workable, enforceable agreement, which will diminish and finally bring to a termination the holding of these tests, we should go on with these very small atomic tests in Australia, helping Great Britain and helping ourselves. Does the Australian Labour party, or that little group of it to which I have referred, say that if a Labour government had been in power a year or two ago it would have said " No " if Great Britain had said, " We offer you all of the guarantees of complete safety in this matter. Yours is the only country in our world that has the vacant space in which these bombs can be tested. Will you help us by allowing these small tests to take place? " I do not believe that Labour supporters would have been so craven as to adopt that attitude. I do not believe that they have so little regard for Great Britain, for the Empire, or for themselves, ever to have done that. I do not believe they would do it.

Mr Davis - Their leader would have done so.

Mr BEALE - Maybe he would. I say in conclusion that we will do our utmost and play our part to the limit of Australia's capacity to bring about some sort, of proper working agreement in the matter of thermonuclear and nuclear tests, but that in the meantime we intend to go ahead and. subject to complete safety for the Australian people, which we have achieved and will continue to achieve, assist Great Britain, ourselves, and our allies in the conducting of these tests.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Supply, Department of Defence Production and Other Services, has expired.

Question put -

That the vote proposed to be reduced (Dr. Evatt's amendment) be so reduced.

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