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Wednesday, 15 May 1957

Mr BEALE (Parramatta) (Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production) . - The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) has obviously spoken with sincerity on this matter. He disappointed me a little because, having commenced with the announcement that we should make this a non-party matter and having appealed to us to conduct the debate in a lofty tone, he then proceeded to attack me and to suggest that I had been changing my ground on this matter, which is not true.

Mr Haylen - It was just a phrase.

Mr BEALE - All right, it was just a phrase. The honorable member for Darebin then suggested that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had never had any real appreciation of this problem, which also is not true. With 90 per cent, of what the honorable gentleman said we on this side of the House are in agreement. I have stated on several occasions that it is our wish, especially in relation to the big yield megaton bombs, that there should be speedy agreement between the nations on the control and subsequent cessation of tests. The big problem is how to bring it about. I shall speak on that subject later.

First, let us examine the proposal which is supported by members of the Labour party who have risen with such spurious solidarity and see what it really means. I say " spurious solidarity " because the Opposition is not solid on anything else and I have grave reason to doubt whether it is solid on this matter. The proposal submitted as a matter of urgency reads -

The urgent necessity of the Australian Government initiating action on an international basis for the purpose of suspending immediately, with a view to termination, all nuclear bomb tests wheresoever and by whomsoever carried out.

I take it that this would mean the suspension of Great Britain's Christmas Island tests.


Mr BEALE - The cat is out of the bag! Immediate suspension of the Christmas Island tests! Apparently, it would also mean the immediate suspension of our own small tests in Australia, which we are carrying out on behalf of the British Government and which, in the view of our own scientists, are harmless to this country. Obviously, the proposal is directed at Great Britain, the senior partner in the British Commonwealth, insofar as it relates to the suspension of the Christmas Island tests. It could only be justified on the ground of proven serious danger to the human race, arising out of this immediate series of tests. The Government is just as sensitive of the welfare of the Australian people and of the people of the world as are honorable members opposite.

Mr Cairns - We- do not concede that.

Mr BEALE - The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) will not concede it. He takes the Communist line, so I overlook him entirely. I do not say that of all members of the Opposition. On every occasion on which a subject of: this kind arises the honorable member for Yarra seems to be the mouthpiece1 of the only persons who have ever offered, any threat to this country.

Mr Cairns - I rise to order. That is an unfair misrepresentation. The Minister has twice made a remark of that nature. It is most offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn.


Order! The Minister is in order. He may proceed'.

Mr O'Connor - I rise to order. Is it not correct that, under the Standing Orders, when a member rises and objects to a statement on the ground that it is personally offensive to him, the Chair should ask that the remark be withdrawn?


Order! I listened very carefully to the remarks of the Minister. He did not make any particular accusation against the honorable member for Yarra. He is quite in order.

Mr BEALE - I have no desire to be offensive, but I have a right to give my impression of the facts in this House.

Mr Cairns Mr. Cairnsinterjecting,


Order! The honorable member for Yarra will keep quiet or he will find himself outside the chamber.

Mr BEALE - Our best advice from eminent experts in Great Britain and in this country is that there will be no immedate danger from these tests if they are properly conducted. I make the point, however, that there is a difference between immediate danger and ultimate danger from high yield megaton tests which may be carried out in future. In these circumstances, I say that the proposal, directed as it really is against Great Britain, represents a very grave and serious blow at that country and her attempt to improve her defences by developing the deterrent weapon which is the only factor which is keeping the peace in the world to-day. I hope that

P do not interpret the minds- of all' honorablemembers on the Opposition side of the House-

Mr Haylen Mr. Hayleninterjecting,

Mr BEALE - It is the old story. They do not like the truth. They reserve the right to scream abuse at everybody else, but if we retaliate with a few facts we are subjected, to this chronic interjecting which is designed', to prevent a member from having his say in silence. This Government will not be a party to action designed to prevent Great Britain from conducting the forthcoming tests at Christmas Island. We believe that it is essential in her own interests and indeed in ours, now that she is on the threshold of a successful atomic H-bomb test, that she should be permitted to prove to the world that she can make the hydrogen bomb.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Will the Minister guarantee that there will be no ill effects from it?

Mr BEALE - 1 do not guarantee such things because I am not a scientist, but very eminent British, scientists and men of high responsibility have asserted that they are confident that there will be no ill effects to the population from these tests, either at present or in the future. Opposition members may quote other authorities, but our own eminent Australian scientists, as well as British scientists, have said that there will be no ill effects, and by their advice we must be guided.

On the wider question of international agreement on the- limitation and abolition of thermo-nuclear tests, we are in agreement with the honorable member for Darebin. We think that these tests should be regulated and then abolished, but they must be abolished in a way which, will give protection to this country and its allies. Unless we can achieve some sort of control and supervision, what guarantee have we that tests will not continue, in which case our last state would be worse than our first?

The suggestion has been made, by implication, that so far we have not been trying to bring about the cessation of these tests or to bring about agreement in relation to them. Some weeks ago, I mentioned this matter in this House, and I should like to mention it again. Away back in 1953 and 1954, Great Britain, America and France, with Australia playing its supporting- part, made strenuous efforts to get agreement for the cessation of nuclear and thermo-nuclear tests. In 1954, at the General Assembly, India put forward its proposal for a " standstill ", and it is significant that on that occasion Russia's voice was not heard. In 1955, when the question of disarmament came before a sub-committee of the United Nations, Russia put forward a set of proposals for the cessation of tests, coupled with a proposal for the limitation df conventional arms. That would have suited Russia very well, because she has an enormous preponderance of conventional arms. Russia also proposed the liquidation of foreign -bases. She has no foreign bases, so that proposal was directed only at Great Britain and the United States of America. Russia wanted a simple promise by all parties not to use the bomb, with no machinery for inspection, control or supervision. It is not surprising that that proposal got precisely nowhere before the disarmament sub-committee.

This was followed by President Eisenhower's " open skies " declaration, which again was not replied to or responded to by Russia. In December, 1955, Sir Anthony Eden offered to engage in any discussions with Russia and the other powers - his words were " at any place and at any time " - on the regulation and cessation of nuclear tests. There was no reply by Russia. Between March and May, 1956, Anglo-French proposals were discussed by the disarmament sub-committee. They were coupled with comprehensive disarmament proposals, but they did involve the abolition of tests. Those proposals lapsed. More recently, Sir Anthony Eden indicated that he was prepared to separate disarmament from the question of the cessation of tests and to engage in discussions, but again Russia, has not responded.

Dr Evatt - Was not he repudiated by his own Government?

Mr BEALE - That remark is not worthy of the Leader of the Opposition. Sir Anthony Eden fell ill and ceased to be Prime Minister. He was not repudiated by his own Government. I commend this point of view to honorable members: If we are going to discuss this matter divorced entirely from the problem of disarmament, let us watch carefully lest we find ourselves in a position in which tests and nuclear development have ceased, but Russia is left in charge of the field because she has a vast preponderance of conventional arms.

Mr R W HOLT (WANNON, VICTORIA) - We must call Russia's bluff.

Mr BEALE - Somebody wants to call Russia's bluff. I think that the time is ripe for another conference. In fact, one is going on at this very moment. The disarmament subcommittee is discussing British, American and French proposals that have been put forward. As I said the other night, I believe that the climate for agreement on this matter is improving. We would welcome agreement. As a country, we would play our part. We do not believe that it is good for us, as a small nation, to try to initiate things which it is outside our power to initiate, but we will use our weight and our influence. As 1 said the other night, we hope that it will lead to agreement, and certainly all of us will do our best to bring it about.

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