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Thursday, 2 May 1957


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) . - I would like to mention something which, I think, should be engaging the attention of the House. I refer to the negotiations which are taking place on what is known as the " Open Skies " proposal, originally made by President Eisenhower some years ago in an attempt to obtain some world-wide and watertight inspection system of atomic facilities. 1 believe that is of prime importance to every person in the world and to every member of this House; and it seems to me extraordinary that the House is spending its time on matters of less, or little, significance, and not turning its attention to this main thing which is happening in the stream of human history.

It is now years since the American President made his proposal, adoption of which has been thwarted at every turn by Soviet intransigence. Now it would appear, in the last few days, that there is some rift in the clouds and a little light corning through. I feel, and I believe my opinion would be shared by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), that this, unfortunately, does not betoken any change of heart on the part of the Soviet Government; but it does, perhaps, imply some recognition of the new state of affairs that is coming into existence, because bomb stocks are now becoming so large that, in the event of a major war in which all the bombs in stock were detonated, the very existence of the human race would be imperilled.

If honorable members will study the issue of the " New York Times " of 17th

April last, which is available in the Parliamentary Library, they will find there recorded some remarks by a Mr. Van Zandt a member of the United States House of Representatives and of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy. Mr. Van Zandt estimates that the stock of bombs held by the United States is 35,000. That is not an official figure, but it comes from a good source. Furthermore, it is not a figure which is without substantiation from independent sources. We know, from published figures, that something like 20,000 tons a year of uranium is passing into the isotopic separation plants and reactors, in the United States, and if that uranium contains 1 part in 140 of fissionable material, and if 1 part in 200 of that is recoverable, which is the right figure, then you get something like 100 tons of fissionable material being produced annually from those reactors and separation plants. That is enough for a production of not far short of 10,000 bombs a year, so that an accumulated stock of 35,000 bombsin the hands of the United States, which a member of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy refers to as reported in the publication that 1 have mentioned, is not an unreasonable estimate.

The same source, and I think with reason again, although with perhaps less surety, talks of Soviet bomb stocks being of the order of 10,000 bombs. Have honorable members any idea of what those figures imply? Do they not see that they outmode in many respects our strategic and international thinking? Is not the existence of those bomb stocks perhaps the reason why the Soviet, faced with the stern atomic facts, is now becoming a little more reasonable, not through any change of heart, but because the Soviet, equally with us, does not have any desire to see a depopulated planet? If the last contradiction in the dialectic should result only in universal death then, from the Marxist point of view, that would be unsatisfactory because from the Russian point of view, to advocate it or to advocate a course leading to it, would be a crime against Marxism. For that reason, I think, and not from any change of heart in the Soviet or because there is any greater goodwill towards us on the part of the Soviet, Russia is now perhaps being a little more reasonable. It is up to us to exploit this position, to make the best of it for our own sakes and for the sake of humanity as a whole, including the Russian people.

I feel that the free world was guilty of a grave dereliction of duty in the years when it held the atomic monopoly in not using those golden years to assure universal world control of atomic energy, universal peace and permanent prosperity for the human race, lt is no good, however, crying over that spilt milk, because those opportunities have now been lost; but there is still, perhaps, if we approach this wisely and fairly, an opportunity for solution. I do not believe that the Soviet offer, made the day before yesterday, is a bona fide offer, or a fair offer; but I believe the fact that it has been made is perhaps evidence of some weakness in the Soviet intransigence and of the possibility of our having some justifiable hope that the Soviet will be a little more reasonable.

It is up to us to start thinking about ways and means whereby we can get this " Open Skies " system in a reasonable form. The Russian offer is a loaded offer; it pretends to give a great deal more than, in point of fact, it does give. But in criticizing its unfairness, and in drawing attention to the fact that this is a loaded offer, do not let us make the fatal mistake of believing that no composition is possible, because either composition or death is certain. Those are the only alternatives between which we have to choose; not only between which we have to choose, but also between which the Russian people have to choose. Their weakness is our weakness, and our weakness is their weakness. It cuts both ways. If we are firm and just, then there is no longer the hopelessness that nothing can happen. 1 suggest that we think in terms of starting with a limited area of inspection and extending it according to a pre-set formula, so that within two, three or four years there will be complete inspection. It will be the test of Russian good faith if they are prepared to accept some such plan as that. Our leaders have let us down because they have allowed the Russians to confuse the issue and to present it in a confused way to our people. Our cause was right, but the presentation "of it has been very bad, so that we have got off wrongly on what is called the peace front. We were completely right, but our presentation was completely inept. To some extent, we lost the sympathy of our own people.


Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER

Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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