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Thursday, 26 September 1974
Page: 1436

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has seen newsagency reports that the French Foreign Minister announced in the United Nations General Assembly on 23 September last that France has finished atmospheric nuclear testing and would conduct further experiments underground. Is this true? Also, is Australia still pursuing its proceedings in the International Court of Justice concerning atmospheric nuclear tests by France?

Senator MURPHY - From the reports I have received, it appears that what the French Foreign Minister actually said was:

We have now reached a stage in our nuclear technology that makes it possible for us to continue our program by underground testing, and we have taken steps to do so as early as next year.

Honourable senators will note that this statement falls far short of a commitment or undertaking that there will be no more atmospheric tests conducted by the French Government at its Pacific tests centre. Radioactive fall-out has now been positively identified as resulting from the latest series of French tests. The Government has protested against this action by the French Government which is in breach of the order of the International Court of Justice of 22 June 1973.

There is a basic distinction between an assertion that steps are being taken to continue the testing program by underground testing as early as next year and an assurance that no further atmospheric tests will take place. It seems that the Government of France, while apparently taking a step in the right direction, is still reserving to itself the right to carry out atmospheric nuclear tests. In legal terms, Australia has nothing from the French Government which protects us against any further atmospheric tests should the French Government subsequently decide to hold them. The judicial proceedings are therefore as relevant and as important as when the Australian application was filed in May 1973. The stage reached in those proceedings is that, after the presentation of major argument on behalf of the Australian Government on the questions of jurisdiction and admissibility, the Court is considering its judgment on these questions.

I especially want to assure honourable senators that, so far as the Australian Government is concerned, there is no basis for a report which I understand is being carried by some of the news agencies and which quotes 'Normally Wellinformed Sources' as saying that Australia and New Zealand may ask the International Court to strike the case off its roll in the light of the French Foreign Minister's statement. The New Zealand Government no doubt can speak for itself on the matter.

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