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French Nuclear tests

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French Nuclear Testa

I wish to inform the House that I have seen the French

Ambassador to Australia this afternoon. I have presented to

the French Ambassador a letter from myself to President Pompidou

of Franco expressing the adamant opposition of my Party and of

the Australian people to any further nuclear weapons tests in

the atmosphere.

I believe that the people of Australia and the people of

the Pacific region are unanimous in their opposition to the

continued testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. For

this reason I believe that political parties in Australia should

present a united front to the French Government in opposing

those tests. For all parties the main issue is to preserve a

safe and secure environment for the Australian people.

My Party opposes atmospheric nuclear tests by any country,

anywhere. When in Government wo ratified the partial test ban

treaty and supported moves for a more comprehensive treaty.

Our position has not changed. We must condemn all countries

carrying out atmospheric nuclear tests which are contrary to

the interests of all nations, contrary to the interest of mankind.

When in Government the Liberal Party, with its coalition

partner, took the initiative as the first government to oppose

Franco's resumption of tests in 1972. This protest, as with

similar protests in previous years, was conveyed in the strongest

terms, and the French·nuclear weapons tests at Mururoa Atoll

were repeatedly deplored and condemned by tho Liberal Party.

Vie joined with other nations in opposing tho tests and asking

the French Government to cease testing. Mr. Bowen, tho Member

for Parrammatta, and the previous Foreign Minister, arranged .

for a meeting in Now York of l6 Pacific nations during the

last General Assembly of the United Nations. He chaired this

meeting jointly with the New Zealand Foreign Minister. As a

result a resolution was ultimately passed by an overwhelming

majority in the General Assembly,

2 .

vie took all possible action by the appropriate diplomatic moans and in accordance wit'·- proper international action. In

rejecting these reasonable representations and this expression

of United Nations opinion, by continuing atmospheric testing

in the Pacific and by announcing that further tests arc yet to

be held, the government of France has shown xzhat I can only

describe as an inexplicable disregard for the welfare, well-being

and trie clearly expressed views of the people of Australia, the

Pacific and the littoral states of the re-rion.

Iiy Party endorses the statement by the countries of the

South Pacific Fortin issued on the 20 April, 1973, that they are

"unanimous in expressing their deep concern at the apparent

continuing failure of the French Government to comprehend the

extent of opposition to the conduct by France of its tests in

the Pacific area and to respect the wishes of the -isoplos of the

area. They reaffirmed their strong opposition to those tests i which exposed their peoples as ivoll as their environment to

radioactive fallout against their -wishes and without benefit to

then, and which demonstrated deplorable indifference to their

future x/oll being. They urged the Government of France to heed

the call of the United Nations General Assembly and its obligations

under International Law by bringing about an immediate halt to

all testing in the area. Members expressed their determination

to use all proper and practicable means open to them to bring

an end to nuclear testing particularly in the South Pacific."

Under the present circumstances xve do not dissent from

the Government's action in taking this matter to the International

Court of Justice. Franco lias rejected the jurisdiction of the

court in this matter and the practical effectiveness of any

decision it might make in such a case must be d ubtful. However,

xze support any responsible action, and in terms of the South

Pacific Forum resolution proper and practicable moans which

might serve to. curtail French nuclear testing in the atmosphere in the Pacific. But it must be responsible, proper and practic­


There is evidence available from several sources that the

nuclear tests which France has carried out in French Polynesia,

and which it now proposes to continue, have added to the

radioactive fallout to xzliich people in this region aro exposed.

The fact that the level of additional fallout night bo small


cannot make the tests acceptable no matter bow effective

safeguards may be, and we rssume tliat the French Government is ' i

planning to take the most effective precautions. Further

nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere remain unacceptable.

The Australian Academy of Science has produced a report

on "The Biological Effects of Nuclear Exp losivcs Fallout"

which the Prime Minister tabled on 2nd Hay. This report does

not question earlier estimates of radioactive fallout from the

French tests on the· basis of which we, when in Government,

advised this House and the people of Australia. The Academy of Science has concluded that:

"Though the average loveIs of radiation due to the French

explosions are unlikely to make a statistically detectable

increase in the cancer or genetic effects in Australia,

wo emphasise that there should be no unwarranted exposure

to radiation. Further, with the long-lived isotopes

produced as the result of nuclear explosions in cither

the Southern or Northern Hemisphere, the effects on the

. Australian population, though small, would be cumulative."

The last word cumulative should be stressed. The Academy

has suggested that:

"Australia, as the result of tlic French tests which have

already taken place, could have one case of thyroid cancer

per year due to the isotope Iodinc-131 and 1 to 4 other

ca.icor cases per year due to 3trontiur;-90, Caesium-137 and

Carbon-14" .

He are faced with a situation in which there could, according

to the Academy’s Report, be adverse effects on future Australian

generations as a result of the French tests.

While it is to be recognised that these are possibilities

and that the conclusions reached are subject to qualification,

nevertheless, it should bo self-evident that any pollution of the environment canying with it the possibility of endangering

human life and welfare, should be avoided.

It is regrettable that one nation should regard its own

interests to be so overriding as to neglect or ignore the physical

well-being of people everywhere.

Such an attitude is unreasonable. We would thoref -re

ask the Government of France tc take a responsible attitude in

this matter and to treat their follov men with dignity and


vie have always valued our relationship with France. We

have bonds of friendship which we wish to bo strengthened.

We share with then membership of the free world. My Party's

policy is directed to preserving our role in the· free and

democratic world. But we cannot acquiesce in any compromise

effecting the welfare or safety of the Australian people. We

must condemn the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere

at the same time that we continue to seek the co-operation of

the French Government.

The French Government's action in continuing nuclear

weapons tests in the atmosphere in the Pacific is contrary to

the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

which states that ail poople"should act towards one another in

the spirit of brotherhood." All wo ask is that the French

Government does notact in contravention of this Declaration.