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Wednesday, 26 March 1969


Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) - The Labor movement has raised as a matter of urgency the desirability of Australias signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This afternoon Senator Cormack said on behalf of the Government that consideration of the signing of the Treaty is not a matter of urgency for Australia. Obviously that attitude of supporters of the. present Government explains the delay and procrastination that has taken place in consideration of the Treaty. Both Senator Cormack and Senator Withers strongly implied or suggested, as did Senator McManus of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, that it would not be in Australia's interests to sign such a treaty because, amongst other- reasons, China is now a nuclear power and other countries such as India, Pakistan and West Germany, to name some of them, also have not signed the Treaty to date. Last week in the House of Representatives the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) said that in principle the Australian Government believes that a treaty of this kind is desirable. It appears that that statement is now being disowned by some of the backbench supporters of the Government and is not getting the sideline support that the Government generally receives from the Democratic Labor Parly.

Senator Witherscould not understand the reason for the motion being moved and said that by raising this very vital subject today the Opposition was wasting the time of the Parliament. But I remind honourable senators that next week the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) will go to Washington for discussions with President Nixon. Because the United States Senate recently discussed and agreed to ratification of the Treaty by the United States, we want to indicate to the American President, who himself supported the signing of the Treaty as quickly as possible by his own country, and to indicate to the rest of the world, that many people in Australia are urging the Australian Government to expedite its long-winded, drawnout and searching examination of the

Treaty, and to make up its mind finally one way or the other. The late President Kennedy once said that every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when it may no longer be inhabitable; that every man, woman and child lives under the nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by miscalculation or madness. The Labor movement completely agrees with that expression of opinion. No longer can nuclear weapons or armaments be regarded as the defence of one nation against another. No longer can they be regarded as a test of the future industrial capacity or potential of one country compared with another.

We are now engaged as citizens of the world in a battle for the future survival of man and the right of future - generations to determine their own destinies rather than to allow the generation of our time to set the world on fire and possibly to start the greatest ever and final holocaust; to allow us to swallow up everything so much like the piranha fish of South America. The two honourable senators opposite who have opposed the holding of this debate might consider that that statement sounds dramatic. Indeed, it is meant to be dramatic, because the threat that is facing mankind is of complete and absolute extinction. The late Pope John once said: 'Nothing is lost by peace but everything may- be lost by war'.

Let us look at the present- situation. In 1964 - 5 years ago - it was reported that radiation sickness had struck many Eskimos in the Canadian Arctic. Plant life had been polluted and caribou herds, which supply the staple diet of Eskimos, had been poisoned by the atmosphere. Sir John Cockcroft, British Nobel Peace Prize winning physicist, reported in 1964 that at least during the preceding 2 years it was necessary to halt the supply of fresh milk to children in Great Britain due to: poisoning caused by atmospheric nuclear tests. There was more than a two-fold increase in physical abnormalities in children born between 1959 and 1961. In 1964 the United Nations World Health Organisation, reported that the highest single cause of death to American children aged from 4 to 14 years was leukemia. The second highest cause was congenital deformity.


Senator Greenwood - When was that?


Senator MCCLELLAND - That was the position in 1964, according to the World Health Organisation. All honourable senators know of radiation effects on Japanese fishermen in the Pacific as a result of the nuclear testing in that area. All honourable senators will remember the panic that started in Spain when a United States bomber went down off the Spanish coast, loaded with nuclear bombs. Since that time of 4 or 5 years ago other nations have acquired nuclear weapons and are further polluting the atmosphere. Is it any wonder that while scientists experiment with weapons of extinction, trying to get bigger and better bombs, greater explosions and more destructive weapons, the really great statesmen of the world today are facing up to the perilous course on which this generation has embarked and are trying to bring sanity and reality back into the world situation. Eighty-eight countries to date have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nine of them have ratified it, including the Soviet Union and Great Britain. As I said earlier, the United States Senate has recommended ratification of the Treaty. Because President Nixon has urged ratification by the United States as quickly as possible, it is fair to say that that is now a mere formality.

Next week the Prime Minister will go to Washington for discussions with President Nixon. All that the Prime Minister will be able to say is that the Australian Government has been considering the Treaty. It has been considering it since March 1968, over a period of 12 months but, despite this long-winded and drawn-out consideration, whilst the Government agrees in principle with a treaty of this nature it is still examining the matter from the point of view of industrial and defence safeguards. In short, this is the gravamen of the complaint by the Opposition, and the reason why we have raised this as a matter of urgency. If that is all that the Australian Prime Minister will be able to say to the American President on behalf of this country, then we want to show, by raising this matter of urgency, that there is a large body of opinion in Australia that wants some action taken by the Australian Government; that so far as the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty is concerned, we, the Labor men, are prepared to give a lead in

Australia and are anxious to see Australia, in turn, give a lead to the other small nations to come and join us in this document of humanity.


Senator Young - That would include China, I suppose?


Senator MCCLELLAND - We sincerely hope it will include China. We hope that all nations will come into this Treaty, but I am not going to be impeded, in making my speech, by the honourable senator in the short time left to me. This is what Professor Norman Harper said in an address over the Australian Broadcasting Commission on 10th February, about 7 weeks ago:

When the Treaty was adopted by the General Assembly, the United States and the Soviet Union held such similar views as one delegate commented, I quote 'the only thing they didn't do was hold hands'. American ratification has been delayed by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, an event which has brought to a stand-still nearly all fruitful discussions about further disarmament in the United Nations.

Of course, the American Senate now has agreed on ratification of the Treaty by the United States. Professor Harper continued:

President Nixon's request, likely to succeed, will help to break the deadlock. France has agreed not to violate the Treaty which she declines to ratify. Peking still regards it as, I quote 'a fraud jointly hatched by the United States and the Soviet Union' and part of an anti-Chinese plot. Few of the 126 members of the United Nations share this view.

So now, Mr Deputy President, the United States has taken the bit in her teeth and we of the Labor movement suggest, as Professor Harper has suggested, that other nations are likely to follow in the near future. The Labor movement urges the Australian Prime Minister to go to the United States next week and to say to President Nixon: 'We, the Australian Government, acting on behalf of the Australian people, will join you in the signing of this Treaty. We will encourage all the other smaller nations to join in this quest for sanity and humanity'. Wars begin in the minds of men and so it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace have to be constructed.

Government supporters have raised questions about sovereignty in defence of their negative and lethargic attitude on this matter but the real cause for hesitancy, according to a recent report in the Canberra Times', is a conflict between the

Government's diplomatic and defence advisers on the one hand, who want to accept the Treaty, and its scientific advisers on the other hand, who still have some reservations about it. But if the Australian Government genuinely believes that there are defects and deficiencies in the Treaty document, let it say so here and now. Let Government supporters say what those things are. Let them suggest alterations, deletions or amendments, but for goodness sake, I urge the Government, stop saying: Despite the fact that we have had the document for some 12 months, it is still being examined; although we have had it for this period of time we are still examining it from the point of view of industrial and defence safeguards'.

This matter certainly is one of urgency. lt is a matter of vitality and importance not only to our own beloved nation but to the continuation of mankind generally. I support the raising of this matter of urgency.







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