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French nuclear tests



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FRENCH NUCLEAR TESTS

l l (W) mStatement by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr E. G. Vhitlam, QC, MP _______ , _____________ Thursday, 29 June 1972 __________________________In flagrant disregard of the opinion, interests and welfare of the peoples of the South Pacific, France appears to have gone ahead with her nuclear tests.The Australian Government should call upon the nations of the South Pacific to join with us in severing diplomatic relations with France if these tests continue. Peru's threat last August to break off diplomatic relations undoubtedly helped discourage France from conducting tests last year.On that occasion, Australia failed to consult with Peru or with Chile and the Philippines, which also made strong protests. Australia has made no attempt so far to collaborate with those countries in protesting against this year's tests.In the 1960s the African nations - mainly former French colonies - forced France to remove her tests from the Sahara to the South Pacific - from her own backyard to ours.Last year I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs to discuss protests against any renewed tests in 1972 with Chile, Peru and the Philippines as well as Japan and the South Pacific nations whom we consulted last year. Mr Bowen replied on 2 December : "The detailed action which the Government would take in the hypothetical event of a resumption of such testing would be determined in the light of all the circumstances at the time".In fact the matter never was "hypothetical". It is certainly not "hypoiftietical" now.The Australian Government's apathy last year has undermined the credibility of its belated protests this year.A month ago I asked the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs,Mr Sinclair, to get in touch with the French Government to repudiate the statement made by the French Minister of Overseas Territories,Mr Pierre Messmer, who had said in Noumea that Australia seemed convinced that the French nuclear tests in the Pacific were necessary. Mr Sinclair conceded that the program was detrimental to the interests of the people of the area.On 31 May I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs to obtain the text of Mr Messmer's statement, to make further representations and to discuss further protests with the nations of the area. I am still waiting for a reply.France's high-handed actions should not discourage either official or private protests. On the contrary, they become all the more urgent and necessary.I share the distress so finely expressed by Sir Marcus Oliphant that these protests should have to be directed against France, with -&er unpararl- ΐοlied-contribution to civilisatl~crn~~and freedom.I firmly believe that France, as a leading member of the reinvigorated European Community, has a valuable role to play in our region. But the alienation of the goodwill of the people of the region can only undermine her power for constructive co-operation.