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Friday, 30 March 1984
Page: 968

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(10.32) —The statement which I now make on behalf of the Government goes directly to the question of the content and authenticity of the National Times article and although short is as much as the Government proposes to say on the subject. As has been indicated, the statement will not address the steps taken by the Government to keep the document in issue secure, but I will certainly undertake to ensure that the Government gives consideration to some appropriate statement that can be made in due course on that subject matter. What I am able to say is this: The Government will neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of the purported extracts from the document 'Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy 1983' published in the National Times yesterday.

To the extent that a document of that title was considered by Cabinet last year , it was simply endorsed by way of guidance for the purposes of review of defence planning and for the development of Australian defence policies. It is not a policy document but to the extent that any policy prescriptions were contained in it these were not specifically endorsed.

Senator Chipp —Are they generally endorsed?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Not generally endorsed except as a guidance for the purposes of review of defence planning and for the development of Australian defence policies. The National Times article is totally mischievous and misleading on the particular question of nuclear capability. I can state categorically that the Government has never made any decision to acquire or develop a nuclear capability, whether in the short, medium or long term, or in response to any particular contingency. Nor has the Cabinet or any Cabinet Committee even discussed the question.

The commitment of the Australian Government, like its predecessors, to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is complete and unequivocal. That treaty creates a permanent and binding obligation on Australia not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. We will not only honour that obligation, but support all efforts to strengthen its application. I present the following paper:

Document entitled 'Strategic Basis of Australian Defence Policy 1983': Publication in National Times'-Ministerial Statement, 30 March 1983.