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Wednesday, 25 November 1959

Mr CASEY - It is not possible for me to make any formal statement at this stage because the treaty is as yet a confidential document. It has not yet emerged from the Antarctic Treaty Conference in Washington. However, I think I can say there is every sign that the three principal purposes of the treaty - the purposes for which Australia took part in the conference - will be achieved in a satisfactory way. Those three principal purposes were, first, freedom of scientific research in the Antarctic; secondly, non-militarization; and, thirdly, protection of claims in the Antarctic. The great bulk of the remainder of the treaty is concerned largely with implementing those three principal purposes. There are other provisions in respect of accession, jurisdiction and inspection of all posts in the Antarctic to ensure that, in particular, the provision relating to non-militarization is being carried out.

I would think that the conference is now within a relatively few days of its conclusion, and that the treaty is likely to be signed within a short period, after which, of course, it will need ratification by the parliaments of the twelve countries concerned. As the Parliament is unlikely to be in session when the treaty is finalized, I shall take the earliest public opportunity to bring to the notice of honorable members and of the Australian people the provisions of the treaty and the extent to which Australia is involved. The southern coastline of Australia, which extends for some 2,000 miles, is within an average distance of not much more than 2,000 miles from the Australian sector of the Antarctic. So, from the stand-point of weather, defence and other considerations, Australia, I think, is the country most directly concerned with the successful consummation of a treaty of this sort. I believe that all Australia's interests have been adequately safeguarded, and at a proper time I shall develop that aspect of the matter in detail when I have an opportunity.

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