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Tuesday, 7 May 1957

Mr BEALE (Parramatta) (Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production) . - It cannot be said that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is not entertaining, but he disappointed me to-night because he has disproved the proposition I was going to put to this House, which was that the debate in this House on the defence statement has been on a high level on both sides. I am afraid the honorable gentleman, in his speech to-night, has not bothered to make even a nodding acquaintance with the truth. His statement about Sir Frederick Shedden can obviously be disproved by any one who takes the trouble to read the evidence which Sir Frederick Shedden gave before the Public Accounts Committee. His statement about the F.N. rifle was a gross distortion of the facts, as I shall take an opportunity to tell the House on another occasion.

In this debate on the Prime Minister's defence statement, there have been some extremely interesting speeches. 1 believe it to be true that, on matters of defence and international affairs, the House has the benefit of the best kind of speeches we hear in this place because, by and large, honorable members on both sides have a sense of responsibility and make contributions which are, I think, a credit to the House and to the people they represent. Sir, I commend in particular the speech delivered just before the suspension of the sitting by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who, I thought, made a most moderate, thoughtful and constructive contribution.

In his defence statement, the Prime Minister dealt with the possibilities of global war and with the deterrent effect of nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons. It is on that subject that I wish to speak to-night, as many other honorable members have spoken. Again, I say that 1 thought that on all sides, and in almost all cases, there was the clearest evidence of real interest in this matter and a real consciousness of its importance. One speech was made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who urged us to drop our politics in discussing this matter of atomic bombs and to talk about this subject in an objective and rational way. But he did not take hisown advice, because his own speech wasvery much the opposite. However, I shall accept his invitation to-night. I want to say something about the kinds of atomic weapons with which we are concerned in. this discussion, the kinds of tests that we carry out in Australia, the forthcoming tests in the Pacific, and the vexed, but very important, question of the suspension of atomic tests throughout the world. Quite obviously, in matters of this kind a Minister must be dependent upon the advice he receives from the Government's advisers. No Minister would pretend - he would be foolish to do so - that he spoke from his own original knowledge. In Australia, as in Great Britain, we have the benefit of the advice of scientific men of high repute and of great patriotism, with a great sense of responsibility and a great scientific knowledge. It is upon them that we rely. In most of the things I am saying to-night, I am relying upon what they have advised the Government.

The three kinds of bombs with which we are concerned have been classified by Professor Titterton. He saw that a great deal of confusion was caused by the misuse of technical terms and he sought to simplify the matter. As the House knows, he is the Professor of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University, and at present he is the chairman of the Atomic Weapons Safety Committee, which advises the Government.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Does the Minister agree with the classification?

Mr BEALE - The scientists will not disagree with this classification. Professor Titterton says that, first of all, there is the nuclear fission bomb, sometimes loosely called the atomic bomb. Usually it uses uranium. There is a radio-active fall-out as the result of it, but it is in fact of a small yield. There is, comparatively speaking, a small amount of energy released, with the result that the radio-active fall-out is local, not global. When I say comparatively, 1 mean compared with the big bombs of which I shall speak in a minute. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who is interjecting, is not interested in what I am trying to put before him as a factual presentation of this matter, he should get away from the table and stop speaking into the microphone to interrupt the proceedings. If, when I have done, the honorable member feels that he is in a position to correct Professor Titterton, I invite him to do so. For the moment, let us deal with bombs of that type. Those are the bombs that we have been testing in Australia and which have been tested in Nevada. They are the low-yield bombs by comparison. They give rise to local but not to global fall-out. That is important because this controversy about discontinuing tests has arisen because of the anxiety felt in certain quarters about the hydrogen bomb and its global fall-out.

The second type of bomb is what is known, so the scientists say, as the true thermo-nuclear bomb. It is, ironically enough, described as a " clean " bomb, for the reason, apparently, that there is no, or very little, radio-active fall-out with this type of bomb. The menace and danger of this weapon arises from its intensity, from the energy released, rather from the radio-active fall-out. It is one of the types of bomb that has been tested.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is reasonably safe, in other words?

Mr BEALE - It is reasonably unsafe from the point of view of its devastating effect, but it is not so dangerous from the point of view of its radio-active effects.

The third type has an awkward name. It is called the fission-fusion-fission bomb. It is a mixture of the two processes. It has a very high radio-active fall-out. It is usually of a very high yield.

Mr Whitlam - It is a dirty bomb?

Mr BEALE - It is a very dirty bomb, as the scientists call it, which releases the dangerous strontium 90 of which we have heard so much. I have taken the time of the House to distinguish between these three types of bomb, because arguments are adduced and generalizations are made with respect to one type as if they were all the same, although generalizations affecting one type are false and invalid when applied to another.


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