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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 213

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) - The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has suggested that the Government has not been active in protesting against these tests. I think on that point I should make some remarks to the House because it is a misconception that is being put abroad. It is quite false. As far back as 1963 Sir Garfield Barwick. who was then Minister for External Affairs, on behalf of Australia condemned nuclear tests in the roundest terms in the United Nations. In that year we signed and subsequently ratified the partial nuclear test ban treaty. We have been endeavouring to get this treaty generally accepted by other nations including France and China, but, in the case of those 2 countries, so far without success. Year after year this matter has been raised in the United Nations and from time to time resolutions have been proposed and Australia has had to declare its position. I am riot going to weary the House by going through year by year the strong stand which we have taken in regard to nuclear testing. Let me give one illustration. Last year resolution No. 2828C, in favour of which we voted, commenced in this way:

The United Nations-

(1)   stresses anew the urgency of bringing to a halt all nuclear weapons testing in all environments by all States.

Australia voted in favour of that resolution and gave a strong speech on that subject. There have been 14 atmospheric tests conducted by China. I have not heard the honourable member for Reid suggest that we should break off with the People's Republic of China the diplomatic relations which we have not yet established or to cease the trade that we now have with that country. Nor have I heard the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), who is sitting opposite, suggest that he wants the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to assist by giving $5,000 from his political slush fund to permit the honourable member for Lalor to travel to China and place himself in the way of that country's nuclear tests in the atmosphere. Why not?

The Australian Government has been protesting against all atmospheric testing, not in a selective way excluding Communist countries and being soft with them. We have been protesting against both France and China. When it was suggested this year that the French would start testing in the Pacific we were the first country to lodge a protest. Subsequently at the environmental conference in Stockholm a resolution, which was much less appropriate than the one we voted in favour of and which also referred to the disarmament conference at the United Nations, was put before a committee at Stockholm. We were not satisfied with the terms of it and abstained from voting. Some people thought they could get a slight political advantage by criticising the Government for having abstained from voting on this proposal at the committee meeting. When the resolution came into plenary session at the Stockholm conference on the environment, because we could not get it framed in accordance with the procedures we thought were proper and consistent with our attitude up to that time, we voted in favour of it. But in the meantime those who were politically interested saw a chance to gain some advantage and for the first time began to take an interest in this subject.

The Government has been taking an interest - a solid interest - all along the line, yet the Press or the political people on the other side were suggesting that they had discovered the issue and were urging action on the Government. The Government was well ahead of them and had been for some years. Subsequently the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) wrote to President Pompidou protesting and various other steps were taken. A joint message from *he Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Marshall, and our Prime Minister was presented on this subject to the disarmament conference in Geneva. We have made protests through diplomatic channels. The honourable member for Reid has suggested that we should impose some sanctions or that we should break off diplomatic relations.

Mr Uren - I did not say that. 1 said we should take diplomatic action. That is, take the action and if that fails then impose economic sanctions.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I accept that. I am sorry if I have suggested that you said we should break off diplomatic relations because that would be entirely counterproductive. I agree with the honourable member for Reid that we should have diplomatic communications so that we can use them effectively as we in fact have done. I have not the slightest doubt from the information I have from France that what we have done has had a considerable impact on the manner in which France conducted its tests and the amount of money which it has spent in order to ensure that the tests were, as it is termed, the cleanest of any that have ever before been held. We have not so far succeeded in stopping France from carrying out nuclear tests. Nothing short of a powerful massing of world opinion will stop France. Sanctions will not.

We know what effect sanctions have even when the whole of the United Nations engage in sanctions against a country. How effective are they? How effective are trade sanctions? If Australia alone conducted trade sanctions what would be the position? We would hurt only Australia. Let us consider the balance of trade which is so much in our favour. Let us consider it, say, as it shows the position between Australia and the Pacific Islands of France. Our exports are worth $28. 7m and their exports to us are worth less than $lm. If we break off trade we throw Australians out of work and hurt Australian business and the French would laugh at us. This is what the honourable member is suggesting: Damage Australians and do not hurt Frenchmen. That would be the effect of cutting off trade. Now, that is a ridiculous suggestion. There may be other things that you can do but that certainly is not a sensible suggestion. As Mr Marshall, the new Zealand Prime Minister, put it, 'what we should do is take every practical and other effective step we can take' - doi impractical things, not gimmicks but practical and effective steps - and we should endeavour to marshal world opinion. This is what the Government has been doing. That is the policy which is followed and I can assure the Opposition that it has had considerable impact. It has not yet stopped the tests in which the French have millions of dollars invested - they regard them as essential to their defence. We have not stopped them yet but we have had a considerable influence and in fact we nave acted responsibly and properly.

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