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Wednesday, 8 May 1957


Mr McIVOR (Gellibrand) .- In many respects, I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Having in mind the honorable member's attitude towards communism, I want to explode here and now the theory that all those who advocate the banning of nuclear weapons are Communists or have Communist sympathies. I want also to emphasize the Government's attitude towards civil defence. If anything was neglected and completely thrust into the background in the defence statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) it was the Government's policy on civil defence, if it has one. Perhaps it regards as a policy the view that any one who wants to learn a little about civil defence can ballot for admission to a course at the Civil Defence School at Mount Macedon, in Victoria.

Last Thursday, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) said -

This Government's policy is that nuclear defence must be maintained by all countries that are in a position to maintain it, unless and until there is an internationally agreed scheme for the limitation of both nuclear and orthodox armaments, accompanied by a rigid and water-tight system of inspection so that, once the scheme has been agreed upon, neither side can depart from it and, in popular parlance, do the dirty on the rest of the world. The most strenuous possible efforts to achieve disarmament have been made, in particular by Great Britain and the United States of America, for a number of years now. I commend those efforts and the many proposals that have been advanced for the attainment of this end to the attention of not only the Leader of the Opposition . but also of Opposition members generally.

It is strange that the Minister did not mention the' Government's actions in this regard. The Opposition desires to inform him that the Australian Labour party has never decried the efforts of Great Britain and the United States to achieve an international agreement on nuclear weapons; nor has it ever advocated complete disarmament. Its efforts will always be directed towards achieving control of hydrogen bombs, and even the total banning of such weapons. Opposition members support the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that high moral gestures are now more than ever necessary to obtain agreement on nuclear weapons.

The greatest concern of Opposition members has been the futile and reckless spending of £1,250,000,000 on outmoded defence measures although the pattern of future warfare was set from the moment that the first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima. The destruction that took place at Hiroshima, compared with the pattern of destruction that can be caused by present-day atomic weapons, was a mere bagatelle, to put the matter in terms of cold logic. The Opposition asks whether it is worth-while to proceed with a programme calling for the reequipment of our Air Force with new fighter aircraft when missile interceptors are now the order of the day. Is it necessary to maintain a large Army or to equip our Navy with aircraft carriers when, for all practical purposes, it is admitted that conventional means are no defence against atomic warfare?

The Prime Minister stated that it would be the Government's policy to use our defence forces in localized conflicts. But where are these localized conflicts? I think it reasonable to ask whether the Government has committed Australia to participation in any of the so-called localized conflicts. We are informed also that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) is to go to America in an attempt to obtain Starfighter jet aircraft or their equivalent, transport planes, and 105 mm. field guns. The Minister will try to secure the American equipment on the best possible terms. If he is unable to do this the only other alternative is for Australia to purchase this expensive equipment outright; yet we learn that this country is so devoid of money that the programme it is entering into is probably more than our financial resources can bear! We learn further that it is probable that America will despatch a highly qualified technical mission to Australia to tie up the defence changes. The Opposition is entitled to ask the reason for this haste - the reason for the abrupt departure of the

Government from its former policy. The Opposition is also entitled to ask whether the visit of the Minister for Defence to America means that Australia is to be tied to the coat-tails of that country. Most of all, the Opposition is entitled to ask what this Government is doing to bring about the abolition of nuclear weapons.

That leads me to say that if ever there was need for extreme concern, it is to be found in the progress of national rivalry for the possession and command of nuclear weapons. The lack of trust between the major powers, and the apparent lack of desire to reach agreement on the banning of further nuclear tests have brought protests from all parts of the universe with the realization by the people of the frightful death-dealing potentiality of atom and hydrogen bombs in peace or war. It is true to say that as America and Great Britain will not trust the word of Russia, Russia retaliates by refusing to trust the word of anybody else. This lack of confidence is further accentuated by the knowledge that nuclear tests have apparently reached the stage where they can be conducted in secret, especially when the test is spread over half a continent. One only has to think of the great open spaces of Russia, of North America, and of Australia to confirm his thoughts in this regard. There are those who advocate the manufacture of more and more weapons of terror. They say, " Let us show Russia that anything she can do we can do better ". They use this as an excuse to advocate that the value of nuclear weapons lies in their threat, not actually in their use.

I submit that the opinion is general that, further tests or no further tests, the nuclear weapon undeniably is the potential complete destroyer of mankind and civilization - that is, if one can find in this supposedly Christian world, with all this mistrust and conspiracy, the much desired thing called civilization.


Mr Pearce - Get your delegates at Peking to tell them that.


Mr McIVOR - And perhaps they could tell you a few things, too. Has humanity learned no lesson from the blood bath of 1914-18 or the legacy of destruction, misery, disaster and death of 1939-45? The need for all the occupation areas, all the buffer zones and all the satellite countries that were the outcome of the last great conflict, fades into insignificance with the knowledge that the use of the H bomb renders any country on which these weapons of total destruction may fall unfit for occupation for time unlimited, since the effects of radiation do not disappear. The very act of one country or another using nuclear weapons will be tantamount to signing its own death warrant. There can be no benefit to any nation from the use of nuclear weapons.

I ask, therefore: Why should this mad race, with death and destruction as the trophy, be allowed to continue? There is little earthly satisfaction in nominating your own country for doom in order that you may destroy your enemy. I say that if we are actuated by the vindictiveness that was displayed by the interjection a little while ago, and not deterred by the awful threat of atomic warfare and the certainty of retaliation, then the nomination of our own country's doom is the recompense that can be expected.

The hope that the possession of nuclear weapons can be confined to the powers now possessing them has passed beyond recall. To be assured of this, we have only to consider what appeared in the press yesterday about Formosa. It is reasonable to assume that other powers, such as western Germany, France and Japan, will not be denied forever possession of atomic weapons. And they will not lack ready suppliers. This has already been emphasized in the Middle East in the supply of conventional weapons. Even the remote possibility of other powers obtaining such weapons could be sufficient cause for general hostilities.

Just how short is the step from the old style conventional war to total atom war, new style, was indicated by Russia at the time of the Anglo-French intervention in Suez. Whether the threat of Soviet rockets was merely an empty one, or a gesture to encourage others, matters little. The salient fact emerged that if war is inevitable and if we are to escape total destruction, the continuing need of the nations for conventional arms is obvious.

But let it be remembered that in every conflict of the old conventional style there resides with the Great Powers the plausible excuse for a war with nuclear weapons, with its mass murder and mass suicide of mankind. Consider the position of any country, possessing nuclear weapons, and facing defeat in a conventional war! What would the reaction be? Most certainly the total death-dealing agent would be brought into play. Only the total banning of nuclear weapons can avoid this. Nuclear weapons rely not on their quantity for effect, as has been emphasized more or less by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), but on their potency. Two or three bombs could just as effectively wreck a nation as could many, for it is not the explosive effect alone which has to be feared: it is the contamination by radiation, and we are ignorant of the duration of this contamination.

It was truly said by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that the New South Wales coast, from Newcastle to Wollongong, offers itself as the perfect atom target. It is also true that the British Isles are a perfect nuclear target. It leaves little to the imagination to realize what would happen if a nuclear bomb fell on either of these places, regardless of the retaliation that might come from one of our allies on the country that was responsible for this destruction. Retaliation, no matter how successful, cannot bring the dead to life, or repair the fabric of a centuries old social and economic civilization. The frightening and alarming fact is that powers of retaliation are of little use after the damage has been done. If the threat of retaliation does not deter, retaliation cannot repair. The only hope for the survival of our civilization is in the total banning of atomic warfare. This is the demand of people all over the world.

The inability to supervise and inspect atomic tests justifies this demand. Whichever way one may argue, the nuclear weapon has but one purpose, and that is attack. It is true to say that Russia has as much right to suspect the Western Democracies as they have to suspect Russia - as much right but not as much justification. But whatever the justification for distrust of Russia by the United States of America and the United Kingdom, it cannot be denied that during the United Nations Disarmament Commission's meeting of May-June, 1954. Russia, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, whilst differing on the conditions to be laid down for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, agreed in principle on the proposal. The dreadful uncertainty of the effects of radiation, coupled with the decided certainty of the terrific damage from atomic blasts, and the definite knowledge that there are no civil defence measures to cope with this monstrous scientific invention of destruction, make it imperative for agreements between nations for its total elimination.

I believe we have reached a stage in world history when force has become too dangerous for the good of civilization, and, therefore, every effort should be directed to seeking an alternative to nuclear war. We cannot take the risk of a nuclear war occurring as a result, to use the words of the Prime Minister, of " sudden passion or miscalculation ". I firmly believe that the intervention of the United Nations in the Suez crisis started a chain of events that could easily become the pattern for the settling of future international disputes. If force is to be eliminated as a means of settling international disputes like that of Israel and Egypt, diplomacy must enter into a new era, and I firmly believe that it has already embarked on that course. Is it not logical to think that if military force has become too dangerous for civilization, then moral and political factors must prevail to produce strong positive inducements for reasonable settlements?

There must be a centre of gravity of all these forces, where stability can be found and equitable adjustments made for all parties. Many so-called carrots can be held out, in the form of economic aid, to encourage reasonable behaviour. The moral factors, and world opinion, can also be tangible, and even decisive. In this regard, as I have said before, I agree with the statement made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) on a previous occasion, and I think it is up to us to start thinking about ways and means whereby we can have the " open skies " system in a reasonable form. I submit that there is one thing that this debate has revealed, and that is the vindication of the Labour party's attitude on government aircraft factories and munitions establishments. The bungling of the Government in this regard is highlighted by the proposed visit of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to America. The attitude of this party has always been that these establishments should be used to their fullest capacity in the manufacture of modern aircraft and modern weapons. Contrary to this, we find that highly trained personnel have been dismissed, or discouraged to such an extent that they have left these plants for employment elsewhere. The sum total of all this bungling is that Australia has to face up to the same set of circumstances, if there is to be a third world war, as it did in 1939 when there was a government in office of the same political flavour as the present one.

In actuality, instead of going forward, we are slipping back. Red tape and top-heavy administration are largely responsible for the chaos. I conclude by repeating that I agree with the attitude of the honorable member for Mackellar. The greatest urgency that exists in this country or any other country with respect to defence is conciliation and agreement on nuclear war. This can only be brought about by moral, political and diplomatic force and the will to give to the not-so-fortunate nations some of the benefits we now enjoy. While animosity exists, and the mad race for nuclear supremacy continues, civilization stands on the threshold of destruction.







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